A Ballistic Missile Base to Call Your Own

By Al Kamen
Friday, September 21, 2007

Are you looking for that special gift for someone who has everything?

Well, how about a Titan intercontinental ballistic missile facility? Bet that special someone doesn't have one of those beauties. We're talking 45,000 square feet of usable space -- not including the tunnels -- in 16 buildings under 57 acres in the high desert near Moses Lake, west of Spokane, Wash.

And it can be yours for a mere $1.5 million, available right now on eBay!

Half the underground space has ceiling heights of 8 to 10 feet, we're told, and in the 110-foot-diameter control dome building they soar up to 65 feet. There are three 160-foot-tall missile silos -- enough to take out a major Soviet city! (Note: Missiles and nuclear warheads not included but can be purchased cheap in Pyongyang or Islamabad.)

"I think it would make a really neat resort/camp/retreat facility," says the seller, Bari Hotchkiss, who says he's a Los Angeles area entrepreneur.

Hotchkiss told us he bought the former Larsen Air Force Base complex about 10 years ago from folks who bought it when the federal government was decommissioning these older facilities in the mid-'60s and '70s.

Accept no substitutes. "None of [the other old missile bases] has useable electrical systems etc," Hotchkiss says in his ad. "Most all of them have major water problems -- either completely filled with water or gone to rust. Ours is one of the rare ones, and the only useable Titan that . . . is DRY!" So what are you waiting for?

Hotchkiss is open to working out a joint-venture arrangement. "I kind of wanted to develop it," he said, "but I haven't had the time, and it's 1,300 miles away."

The 1950s vintage installation will take a bit of work, Hotchkiss told us, depending on your needs and how much you want to restore. There is a private well and electrical power on the site, and propane can be trucked in. The five-story elevators need to be retrofitted, and you might want to fix up or rebuild the storage building and trailer homes. So costs for upgrades could range from several hundred thousand dollars to the millions.

But the possibilities are endless. A Golden Door salon? A paintball convention center? Star Trek headquarters? A new location for Dick Cheney?

Sticking to the Script

The Bush White House may be edging toward the door, but its legendary message control seems as good as ever.

Consider these internal e-mails between message manager and White House deputy press secretary Tony Fratto and Sean Kevelighan, press secretary to Office of Management and Budget Director Jim Nussle-- an exchange that, for reasons most unclear, was copied to our colleague Peter Baker.

In one e-mail, Fratto, talking about Nussle's appearance on television Tuesday, the day the Federal Reserve cut its prime rate by half a point, tells Kevelighan:

"We don't comment on FOMC [Federal Open Market Committee] decisions -- and neither should anyone else.

"The appropriate reaction is: 'We don't comment on Fed decisions. We respect the independence of the Fed in setting monetary policy.'

"If pressed: 'We have confidence in Chairman Bernanke.' "

Kevelighan replies: "Yep. Made that clear to Jim."

Then Kevelighan sends another e-mail to Fratto: "Jim just laid groundwork. She [CNBC'S Maria Bartiromo] was not happy."

In the interview, Bartiromo notes, "I realize you can't comment about the Fed, right?" and asks Nussle for a general comment about cutting interest rates.

"We don't like to comment on . . . the Fed policy," Nussle said, hailing "an independent Federal Reserve" and saying he has "a lot of confidence in Chairman Bernanke."

But, as we all know, message control begins at the top. So here's President Bush, asked yesterday about the Fed's move. "I do not comment on the decisions made by the Fed," Bush said. "I will comment on Ben Bernanke; I think he's doing a fine job."

Bipartisan Support for Craig

Idaho GOP Sen. Larry Craig's heroic legal battle to rescind his disorderly conduct guilty plea -- an issue heading for a showdown next week in a Minneapolis courtroom -- is picking up strong support from liberal and conservative legal experts.

The American Civil Liberties Union, for example, has filed a brief on his behalf saying, among other things, that the sting operation was unconstitutional. "Solicitation for private sex, regardless if it occurs in a bar or a restroom, is protected speech under the First Amendment," the ACLU says. Craig probably would strongly disagree with that, but no matter. This is no time to get picky.

Much more important, the Bush Justice Department is on record objecting to the tactics used by the Minneapolis airport police to ensnare the senator.

A 2005 Justice Department report, "Illicit Sexual Activity in Public Places," finds that using undercover decoys has "limited effectiveness" in such cases. The report, writes Slate's Bruce Reed, also says: "It is important to note that engaging in same-sex activity does not necessarily imply a homosexual identity; in fact, many men who have sex with men in public places are married or otherwise heterosexually involved, and do not consider themselves to be gay."

So there you have it.

The Unbureaucrats

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff are naming special representatives to coordinate their departments' sluggish admission of Iraqi refugees to the United States, tapping former U.S. ambassador to Haiti James B. Foley and Lori Scialabba, associate director of refugee, asylum and international operations for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, sources said.

State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said Rice is looking for a "bureaucratic brick-breaker" whose "full-time job and whose preoccupation" will be to clear logjams.

Nasty jobs even in the best of times.

Send In the IRS

Bushism of the midweek. From yesterday's news conference: "We dealt with a recession, a terrorist attack and corporate scandals. And we did it by cutting taxes."

One more cut in capital gains, and Osama's toast.

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