Ted Stevens Guilty? Not Guilty? We Don’t Care.

31 07 2008

 

Most people who commit a crime in Alaska plead to have the trial moved out of state because they know that the local jury will be biased.  After all, jurors live here, and they have felt the crime firsthand through the media, by knowing people who were affected, by water cooler gossip,…by osmosis.  It’s simply impossible, they claim,  for potential jurors to be impartial and give the suspect a fair trial.

And yet Stevens wants his case moved TO Alaska. He wants it close to home. Why?  Because in this case, not having fairness works to his advantage. Because he knows that Alaskans have been bought. If you’ve been elected to office, the majority of Alaskans don’t care what you do as long as you bring home the pork. We will throw the law, the constitution, our integrity and anything else under the bus if we feel like we’ve gotten free money out of it. Money we deserve, money we don’t deserve….whatever. If it’s green, our integrity is up for sale.

It’s ironic, isn’t it?  For a state that claims so many ‘conservatives’, how is it that they are so eager to take Federal money, take the permanent fund check, take all the pork that can be heaped on a plate and ask for seconds.  Isn’t that what conservatives say about liberals?  That all they want is free stuff from the government?  Someone explain this to me. 

If we give Ted Stevens a pass on 7 felony counts, and re-elect him we advertise loud and clear the fact that we prostitute ourselves for pork.  We don’t care if Stevens got bought by Veco, because we’ve been bought by Stevens. We walk through the shiny granite-covered Ted Stevens International Airport and we feel so darned important. Probably just like Ted feels when he hangs out on the wraparound deck, and fires up that Viking barbeque grill he got from Veco.  Here we stand with our collective hand out like Vic Kohring sniveling and groveling to the Federal Government.  We’re all so busy scratching each others backs, we simply don’t care about ethics….which is exactly why this state is in the condition it’s in, and why we need the FBI to shovel us out of our own dung heap.

Stevens knows he’s got a winning strategy if he can move the trial to Alaska. If you doubt me, check out some of the responses on today’s ADN blog:

“Guilty or not, Uncle Ted has done too much for us to be dragged through the mud. Alaska wouldn’t be what it is without him!”

“Go Stevens! Three votes in my household will be for the senior Senator. He’s going to fight this just like he’s fought for Alaskans for the past 40 years in the Senate.”

“Without his dedication to serve Alaskans and help protect a lot of bill of rights, Our state would not be in the position its in receiving a record high dividend we all love getting so much.”

There are dozens more but I don’t have the stomach to go on…

It has been said that in life, any situation, whatever form it takes, exists only because the circumstances were perfect for bringing that situation about. What does that say about the political system in Alaska? That it is structured perfectly to bring about corruption, so it has. That is why voting for Clean Elections (Ballot Measure 3, now renamed Bill Providing for Public Funding in Campaigns) is a vote equal to or greater in importance than a vote for any one candidate. The system needs to be voted out, or we are doomed to repeat this cycle until we learn the lesson.

We have no right to be disgusted or disappointed when we see the string of felons streaming out of our state government and into federal prison, because we have gotten exactly the government we deserve.  We have been bought off to look the other way.  Sound familiar?

We’ll find out whether the trial moves to Alaska on August 19th.  I maintain enough faith in the system to think that there’s no way it will be allowed to happen.  I hope I’m right.





Obama’s Speech for Begich

30 07 2008

I’ve been to several Obama events now, and inevitably the question arises – “When is Obama coming to Alaska?”  And everyone behind a microphone has the same answer, “The campaign knows how we feel.  They know everyone really wants him to come to Alaska.  We keep telling them.”  This is followed by hopeful smiles, shuffling of feet and occasionally a shrug.

Well, tell them  again and keep telling them.  (KNOCK KNOCK – HELLO Obama Headquarters in Alaska…ARE YOU THERE?)   The time is right.  The Stevens indictment is the next best thing to a hand-delivered engraved invitation.  While it’s fresh in everyone’s mind, an Obama visit would all but guarantee Begich the seat – and throw in Berkowitz or Benson for good measure.  And weren’t we promised a visit when those two undeclared Alaska superdelegates went for Obama?  And I believe that Alaska is the only state Obama has not visited.  The “49 State Strategy”?  Hmmmm….it’s missing something.  I know…ALASKA. 

Once again Chris Weigan reads my mind.  He wrote another excellent post about Obama coming north ASAP.

Barack Obama’s Introduction Speech For Mark Begich

Thank you, Alaskans, for the warm welcome. And thank you for your support in the Alaskan caucus this year, as well. I am honored to get a chance to speak to you today in support of Mayor Mark Begich for the United States Senate.

The man Mayor Begich is running against just got indicted in federal court for corruption charges while he is sitting as your state’s senator. Alaska has seen more than its fair share of corruption these past few years from its Republican officeholders, so this news may not have been as shocking to you folks as it was to the rest of America. Alaskans already knew that the Republican Party up here has been in the pockets of Big Oil for a long, long time. Only now are we realizing, with all the indictments and court cases, just how far that corruption has spread.

Which is why I am willing to bet that you won’t see John McCain visiting Alaska before the election in order to support Ted Stevens. Think about that — the Republican nominee for president can’t afford to be seen with your senior senator right now.

It’s not because they disagree on the issues. I don’t agree with Mayor Begich on every issue, and yet I fully support his bid for Senate. One of the biggest issues we disagree on is where, and how much, to drill for oil. I know that, up here, drilling for oil equals jobs. But I will be honest with you about my stance, even if I know you may disagree with me — or not vote for me — as a result. And I expect that as senator, Mark Begich will fight for what he believes is best for Alaska, and for Alaskans. I would expect no less — that is the job of any senator.

Read the rest HERE.





Candlelight Vigil Tonight at AUUF

30 07 2008

The Anchorage Unitarian Universalist Fellowship will be holding a candlelight vigil tonight at 7:30 in solidarity and support of the Knoxville, Tennessee Unitarian churches affected by the senseless acts of violence that left two dead this past Sunday. Vigils have been held all over the country.

From the AUUF:

“We were all shocked and saddened to learn about the horrible events that took place at the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church in Knoxville.

Apparently a deeply disturbed man entered the sanctuary yesterday during Sunday morning service, shouted “hateful things” according to a witness, and opened fire into the crowd during a children’s program. Two adult members of the church were killed, and 6 others are currently in the hospital being treated for serious injuries.

Such senseless violence happening in a place of worship and peace is difficult to process. Especially difficult is the fact that this horrible incident is now being investigated as a hate crime after a letter was found in the shooter’s car indicating that his motivation was born out of hostility toward “the liberal movement.”

We invite any and all to attend who wish to be together in reflection, compassion and support.

 

The service leader will be Ruth Greenwood. AUUF is located at 3201 Turnagain Street, Anchorage.

UPDATED:

Thanks much to the blogs Bent Alaska and Progressive Alaska for announcing the event, and for asking the question – Do right wing hate pundits have some measure of culpability when their words are taken to heart by deeply disturbed individuals looking for someone to blame?

 





Mark Begich on the Ed Schulz Show

30 07 2008

Mark Begich just got interviewed on the Ed Schulz show, (broadcast on local Air America affiliate KUDO 1080am) and knocked it out of the park. He took the high road on the Stevens issue. He had to do it really, in order not to alienate centrists and fans of the ‘old Stevens’ in Alaska, but he did it well.

He also talked about issues which probably made many progressives in the lower 48 cringe (gun ownership, drilling in ANWR), but did so eloquently. Whether or not progressives in Alaska, and across the country agree, they will undoubtedly be seeking new information on directional drilling from the Sourdough field, and other issues not generally mentioned by the mainstream media. He explained that Stevens and other Alaska Republicans don’t talk about options in drilling because they like having a target to rail against – environmentalists. In this black & white battle, the middle way often gets overlooked in the discussion.

Begich summed it up by citing recent poll numbers that had him with a nice lead over Stevens, even before the indictment, and by stating that Alaska is ready for change, and he was confident of a victory.

As I write, Ed Schulz just threw out the question, “What do you think about this Alaskan candidate wanting to drill?” – then a commercial break. Reactions might be interesting.





Stevens Speaks. I am Irritated.

29 07 2008

We knew it would happen eventually, but it was still a shock.  I refer to the 7 felony counts of making false statements for which Ted Stevens was indicted today.  Stevens has now released a statement in response to the allegations:

I have proudly served this nation and Alaska for over 50 years. My public service began when I served in World War II. It saddens me to learn that these charges have been brought against me. I have never knowingly submitted a false disclosure form required by law as a U.S. Senator.
 
In accordance with Senate Republican Conference rules, I have temporarily relinquished my vice-chairmanship and ranking positions until I am absolved of these charges.
 
The impact of these charges on my family disturbs me greatly.
 
I am innocent of these charges and intend to prove that.
I keep reading this statement over and over…trying to really identify what I find so distasteful about it.  The simple facts are that the FBI has been investigating Senator Stevens for years.  They have determined that he lied about gifts he received from oil service company Veco.  The extent of these alleged lies has resulted in 7 felony indictments and unreported gifts of over $250,000.  And now what does Stevens have to say to the people of Alaska?
  • He has proudly served his nation and Alaska for 50 years.  He’s a World War II vet.

Yes, he’s been our senator for a long long time.  Yes, he’s proud of that.  And I respect his WWII service.  My father was a WWII vet, POW, and recipient of the purple heart.  I get it.  But that has squat to do with the fact that you lied on your financial disclosure forms.  WWII vets, or any other vets do not get special dispensation to break the law without consequences.  Neither do public officials.  Even ones who have been around a long time.  Longevity does not entitle you to break the law.

  • It saddens him that charges were brought.

I’m sure it does.  It does not sadden me.  It saddens me that our state government has been behaving so badly, and so contrary to the interest of Alaskans, that the investigations were warranted in the first place.  It saddens me that Alaska has been mired in this cesspool of political corruption for as long as it has.  It saddens me that the corruption was so extensive, and the influence so pervasive that we couldn’t do anything about this ourselves and had to rely on the FBI to intervene.  It saddens me that someone sent to DC to represent Alaska, who had the trust of the people,  succumbed to the temptations of power, and material comfort and forgot his higher purpose.  It does NOT sadden me that the boil of corruption is finally being lanced and that we actually may get another chance to start clean.

  • He never ‘knowingly’ submitted false statements.

Ignorance of the law?  Last time I checked, that didn’t wash.  And really….do we believe he forgot that Veco raised up his entire house and put a first floor under it?  You’ve got to do better than THAT.

  • The impact of the charges on his family disturbs him greatly.

Yes, I should think so.  But these are the things you’re supposed to think about beFORE you break the law.  This is the same thing I keep hearing over and over in reference to the Sarah Palin scandal.   Think of Chuck Kopp!  Think of his wife and kids!  Think of Mike Wooten!  Think of the children!  It’s really starting to hack me off because THEY are the ones who should have been thinking about their spouses and children.  Not the media.  This is Kindergarten stuff – If you do bad things, there will be consequences.  Throw in all the others who have whined about their families and what this is doing to them – Tom Anderson, Vic Kohring, Pete Kott…and on and on and on.  Yes!  It’s horrible that all the people that didn’t have anything to do with your behavior are suffering.  Perhaps…just perhaps..YOU should be apologizing to them, and not saying in effect, “If it weren’t for you damn people TELLING everyone I was doing something wrong, none of this would have happened!”  I feel tremendous compassion for the innocent victims in all this.  But zero guilt over placing the blame squarely where it is deserved.

And last but not least:

  • I am innocent!

And prisons are full of innocent men.

I keep hearing everyone trying to be politically correct, saying “This is a sad day for Alaska”.  Truth is, this is NOT a sad day.  The sad day happened when our politicians made the choice to betray the people they serve.





Stevens Indicted! No…the other one!

29 07 2008

Speculation was running rampant about who the next to fall would be in the ongoing corruption investigations by the FBI here in Alaska. The general consensus was that it would be Ben Stevens, son of Alaska Senator Ted Stevens, and former State Senate President.

I almost ran off the road when I heard the announcement on CNN. Ted Stevens has been indicted. This is HUGE.

The Justice Department will shortly be announcing the 7 count indictment all dealing with statements that were not deemed truthful to investigators. The announcement will come at 1:20pm EST….that’s in just a few minutes. Stay tuned for updates!

UPDATE 1: The Anchorage Daily News has posted a pdf copy of the 28-page indictment is available HERE. Stevens was charged with 7 felony counts of making false statements. Stevens apparently didn’t admit on his senate financial disclosure forms to receiving gifts totaling upwards of $250,000 (including a new Land Rover, a Viking barbecue grill, and extensive renovations to his home) from Veco. Tomorrow is the one year anniversary of the raid of his Girdwood residence, referred to in the indictment as ‘the chalet’.

UPDATE 2: Just listened to a live press conference held in DC by the Department of Justice.  Here’s the gist.

As a member of the Senate Stevens was required to file financial disclosure forms with the Secretary of the Senate.  The purpose of these forms is to disclose conflicts of interest and maintain public confidence in the US senate.  Stevens is alleged to have received “substantial amounts of material and labor” used to renovate his residence in Girdwood from Veco Corp.  This included:  First floor multiple bedrooms & bathroom & full basement, architectural design, assistance in lifting the residence to add a first floor, electrical, plumbing and framing, the addition of a wrap around deck, a plastic roof, heat tape system on the roof, gutter repair,  and electrical work. In addition were household goods – furniture, a gas range, and a tool storage cabinet.  Also mentioned was exchanging an old vehicle for a new one worth much more. The total amount is $250,000+  These items were not disclosed on forms which he filed under penalty of purgery.  He didn’t reimburse or repay Veco or Bill Allen for any of these items.  This is only the beginning of the criminal process, and he is presumed innocent until proven guilty. The investigation began in 2004 and covers the years 1999-2006. 7 convictions – Kott, Allen, Smith, Bobrick, Anderson, Kohring

From the Q&A with the press:

He has not been charged with bribery. Bribery requires specific evidence of quid pro quo.

A summons will be issued and he will be allowed to turn himself in, and will not be arrested.  Where and when this will happen is being negotiated.

Stevens was informed when his attorney received a call earlier today.

They wouldn’t talk about sentencing or how Stevens’ age might affect that, nor would they discuss a potential plea agreement.

The final question asked about the timing of the indictment, during an election year, and close to the primary.  The answer? “We bring cases based on our evaluations of the law and when they are ready.”  “Politics should play no part either in charges or the timing of indictments.  Policy has been followed to the letter.”





McCain Joins Stevens in Time Machine

28 07 2008

I noted a while back that Ted Stevens’ photo on his website is a little…outdated. I’m guessing by 15 or 20 years. It’s not a crime, but it is (or should be) a little embarrassing. Age denial may be good for 3 or 4 years, but after a while, you just gotta deal with it.

Now, the phenomenon of age reversal has taken an interesting twist. While reporting on the McCain campaign, Fox News used a clip which features John McCain looking downright perky! “Wow”, I thought. “He’s holding up pretty well”. Turns out that Fox dug up 8-year old campaign footage from McCain’s 2000 presidential bid. This takes a giant leap past one man’s vanity, and lands squarely in a very scary place. We know Fox is nothing more than a mouthpiece for the current White House, and that ‘fair and balanced’ is Orwellian double-speak for ‘promoting the conservative agenda’. We’ve also seen Fox many many times “accidentally” put a D instead of an R next to names like Larry Craig. So this cheesy attempt to portray a really old candidate as less really old shouldn’t be surprising. Good for MSNBC for figuring this one out.





Don Young – Rat Head in a Coke Bottle.

27 07 2008

Not my words… Blame right wing lobbyist and draconian anti-tax activist Grover Norquist.

TPMMuckraker has featured Don Young in three of its last four posts.  Seems Rep. Young claimed to have received a “Hero of the Taxpayer” award from the non-partisan reform group Taxpayers for Common Sense.  Only one problem.  They don’t have a “Hero of the Taxpayer” award.  And I don’t know of too many reform groups handing out awards to Don Young.  Oops.

What he meant to say was that he’d received a “Hero of the Taxpayer” award from Grover Norquist’s group Americans for Tax Reform.  Simple error. Corrected. All forgotten?  Not so much.

Even Grover Norquist has now turned on Young, ripping him over a recent vote for a new tax hike.

“Republicans that vote for tax increases are like rat heads in Coke bottles,” Norquist said. “They ruin the Republican brand for all members. It should be readily apparent to a former ‘Hero of the Taxpayer Award’ recipient that you don’t vote for tax hikes.”

The Don just can’t get a break….and it’s only July.  Read the whole story here.





Randy Pausch Dies at 47.

26 07 2008

Carnegie Mellon Professor, pioneer in the field of virtual reality, and author of the best-selling book “The Last Lecture”, Randy Pausch died yesterday of complications from pancreatic cancer. 

I first became aware of Randy Pausch when a friend sent me the YouTube link of the now famous lecture, recorded in September of 2007, that was to inspire the book.  All she said was, “You have to watch it.”  If I had seen how long it was, I might have hesitated, but I didn’t and I watched. 

When I finally looked at the time bar to see how much more there was to go, it was because I didn’t want it to end.  In 1 hour and 16 minutes, Pausch, who knew he was dying, took his audience on a journey through his childhood dreams, and the lessons they taught.  The impossibility of a dying man giving a lecture that was so joyous, so full of life, and so positive struck me, and more than 4 million others who have watched.

When the lecture ended, after I sat for a moment, I wondered if he was still alive.    After a quick Google search, I found his blog.  He was still here.  For months now I’ve been checking in once a week or so, just to see how he was doing.  On good days I smiled, on bad days I read with a lump in my throat. 

When the book came out, I bought it.   Dedicated to his children, it is filled with all the things he would never be able to say, and all the life lessons he would never teach.  He knew he would not see his three children grow, so he did the best he could, with courage, humor and love.  What he left was truly an amazing legacy.

If you ever need to be reminded to breathe the air, find joy in being, and walk the Earth in gratitude, listen to his story.  It’s rare that any person is able to help so many others see the world anew.  So, thanks and farewell to Randy Pausch.





The Great Alaska Kopp-Out.

25 07 2008

Word is out.  Chuck Kopp, the new Commissioner of Public Safety is now the new ex-Commissioner of Public Safety.  That was quick.

Yesterday, despite the outing of past allegations of sexual harassment, Kopp said he had absolutely no intention of stepping down,  and today a resignation?  Methinks there may have been more skeletons knocking on that closet door, or the Governor sharpened up the axe and handed him his head wrapped in a pink slip, with the opportunity to “resign”. 

The excuse reason given at the joint press conference today?  Play along.

A)  “This is too much of a distraction from more important things we need to be focusing on.” 

OR

B)  “This has been too hard on my family.”

The answer is both, but with a twist.

“The recent media firestorm has been detrimental to the Department of Public Safety mission, the citizens of Alaska and my family,” Kopp said. “While I have been portrayed in a negative light, my personal worth is now in the person of Jesus Christ.”

Ahh.  We’ve got a big helping of “Blame the Media” and a dash of Jesus thrown in for good measure.  Nice try.

The Governor’s thoughts?

“We’re going to move forward now,” Palin said. “This has been brutal on a good family.”   “This has been a tumultuous week in the Department of Public Safety, and as your governor, I apologize.”

Move forward?  I’m sure that’s Palin’s firm hope, but there are still investigations to come about why Monegan got fired in the first place.  This little diversion was not the main issue.  This was just the lesson on fully vetting potential commissioners before you hire them.   But, Sarah does win a style point for the apology.  More than I can say for Kopp.

Now, the question is…who’s next?  Hey, I hear Walt Monegan is looking for a job…





Good Cop/Bad Kopp? The Palin Train Wreck Continues.

25 07 2008

 

Just when we thought it couldn’t possibly get any more smarmy…  Prepare for the next chapter of Sarah-Gate. (sliding glasses down on nose, and opening book)  Are you comfortable?  Good.

When we last left the Governor, she was busy denying allegations that she fired the popular and beloved Public Safety Commissioner Walt Monegan becuase he refused to dismiss Alaska State Trooper Mike Wooten, her ex-brother-in-law of questionable character,  and currently embroiled in a nasty custody battle with her younger sister.  She said neither she nor any staff or family member pressured him to axe Wooten.  But Monegan said she, her husband, and staff members did.  Hmmmm.  Investigation by the Legislature?  Very likely.

The scene today features the Governor (again) and also the man slated to replace (Good Cop) Walt Monegan as Commissioner of Public Safety – Chuck Kopp.  It seems that Chuck Kopp has a skeleton in his closet in the form of a sexual harrassment complaint filed against him when he was Chief of Police in Kenai.  Despite his little gem of a quote, “I am not a sex harrasser”, what Kopp describes as “hugging a friend”, was apparently not interpreted as such by the woman on the receiving end.  She complained of unwanted hugging and a kiss, and the result was an investigation, an official letter of reprimand, and Kopp being removed as her boss.  One wonders in this day and age, how anyone doesn’t know that it’s not OK to hug or kiss people who work for you.  But I digress…

So, the people of Alaska asked themselves, “How could this be?  How could a man be offered up to the state to lead the Department of Public Safety, and deal with matters of….well….the LAW, and have this nasty accusation, investigation, letter of reprimand, and reassignment hanging over his head?  And this guy is supposed to replace the likes of Walt Monegan?  What was the Governor thinking?”

We hear the answer today from Palin spokeswoman Sharon Leighow.  Here’s how it plays out in my screenplay:

Leighow: The Governor didn’t know.

Chuck Kopp:  Yes, she did know.  She knew about the whole thing in 2006 when I was on her transition team.

Leighow:  Well, she didn’t know about the letter.  She knew about the other stuff but thought it went nowhere.  Nothing was said about a letter.  The Governor found out about it at the press conference on Tuesday, just like everyone else.

Chuck Kopp:  Well, no one ASKED me about the letter.  It just never came up in the interview. So, I didn’t mention it.

HUH?  Sooo…..no one bothered to ASK him, and he never offered.  When hiring people, doesn’t one generally ask about such things?  Don’t you do a background check?  Don’t you want to know if you’re going to have egg on your face, and risk public humiliation and scandal?  If the media managed to pry it out of him using the strongarm tactic of…asking…wouldn’t it have worked for the Governor?   The mind reels.

Back to Kopp. According to the ADN:

He does not consider the letter of reprimand a validation of sexual harassment. He considers it a “letter of instruction” for future dealings with employees.”

He does not consider the letter of reprimand a validation of sexual harassment. He considers it a “letter of instruction”???   Yeah, and Walt Monegan wasn’t “fired”, he was just offered a lesser position and turned it down.  And it’s not really a rainy summer….there’s just a lot of water falling from the sky.

Well, that’s all we have time for tonight (closing book).  We’ll see what happens in the next chapter.  Will the investigation into the firing of Walt Monegan be declared?  Will Chuck Kopp’s name ever actually be submitted to the Legislature for confirmation? If so, what then??  We’ll just have to wait and see.

 





Begich Breaks Away!

22 07 2008

The latest Rasmussen Report numbers are in, and finally, after watching Begich and Stevens neck & neck in the senate race…first Begich ahead by 2….then Stevens ahead by 2….  we now have a breakaway!  The latest poll has Begich leading by NINE points – an astounding net gain of 11 points since the last poll, and the largest lead by either candidate since Rasmussen began polling the race.

The last week has given us little to smile about regarding Alaska politics, so this was a welcomed surprise.

Begich even has a fun and creative new TV ad. 

I think we may need to recut that spot with someone else in line….hmm…maybe a woman in a red suit and glasses?  Just a thought.

(Hey!  We need more soap!)