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.

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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!)





Sarah-Gate Goes National.

22 07 2008

Finally!  Sarah Palin’s scandal gets picked up by the National Blogosphere. 

Here’s the link to Daily Kos,  and TPMMuckraker links to the Daily News article about the investigation.

In addition to my previous commentary, also enjoy these Alaskan offerings from Progressive Alaska, and Immoral Minority,  and Celtic Diva’s great coverage of the Chuck Kopp subplot to this whole sordid affair.

Just for amusement, here’s a clip from a FOX News article that came out on July 11, 2008.

JUNEAU, Alaska —  The wipeout in the 2006 election left Republicans in such a state of dejection that they’ve overlooked the one shining victory in which a Republican star was born.

The triumph came in Alaska where Sarah Palin, a politician of eye-popping integrity, was elected governor. She is now the most popular governor in America, with an approval rating in the 90s, and probably the most popular public official in any state.

Her rise is a great (and rare) story of how adherence to principle–especially to transparency and accountability in government–can produce political success.

Ah, what a difference a week makes.





Palin’s VP Prospects Circling the Drain

21 07 2008

After much speculation about what Sarah Palin actually meant when she said the reason she fired Public Safety Commissioner Walt Monegan was to take the department “in a new direction”, the governor has finally given us an explanation. Unfortunately, the explanation is feeble at best.  At worst, disingenuous.

Apparently the ‘new direction’ involves increasing recruitment and dealing with alcohol and substance abuse problems in the bush. ……ohh kay….. how is this different? And how was Walt Monegan not doing this? Palin’s “new direction” is basically a carbon copy of material released by Walt Monegan and Colonel Audie Holloway at the beginning of the year.  In other words, the new direction is the old direction.

So, what does this mean?  Several things, potentially.

  1. The ‘new direction’ is a lame attempt to explain why Monegan got fired, when, in fact, his firing had nothing to do with direction, and everything to do with not firing Palin’s ex-brother-in-law and Alaska State Trooper Mike Wooten, despite being pressured to do so.
  2. The governor thinks we are not paying attention.
  3. The governor thinks we are not very bright.

So, what does the Legislature think of all this? Buckle your seatbelts Alaska, and prepare for…..another investigation.

Senate President Lyda Green (fellow Wasilla Republican and Palin arch-nemesis), and Senate Judiciary Chairman Hollis French  have said that an investigation is likely, and Senator Johnny Ellis stated this weekend, “There will be an inquiry. Any use of public position for personal use or gain is wrong. We will get to the bottom of it.”  Same story in the House.  And the House and Senate are talking about holding hearings regarding the Monegan firing.  It’s only a matter of time before the can is opened and the worms come out.

This investigation will have a slightly different flavor than the others to date. So far we’ve had investigations (with accompanying indictments and convictions) of state legislators, and of oil service execs. We’ve got investigations of our congressional delegation, and likely an ex-governor.  But now we’re going to have an investigation of not only a sitting governor, but a potential Vice Presidential candidate. Until now, Palin has been the darling of the right, and on McCain’s short list for VP running mate.   She’s cute, she’s tough, she wears red suits, she’s a social conservative, she’s pro-life, she’s a woman, she’s a hockey mom with 5 kids, and most of all she’s squeaky squeaky clean!  …  Uh oh.

Truth is, her reputation for sweeping the state clean of corruption, and restoring ethics and transparency to government was the foundation on which all those other things rested. Take that away, and  it all falls like a house of cards.  McCain isn’t considering her as a running-mate to secure Alaska’s three electoral votes, that’s for sure.  He wants her image. And now, that image is sullied, which means right about now her chances for the VP nod are circling the drain.  In this election, no one can afford to be linked to another corrupt Republican….least of all a corrupt Republican.

UPDATE:  The Anchorage Daily news has linked to an interview with Walt Monegan that aired today on KUDO 1080-AM.  More discussion on KUDO was promised for tomorrow.

UPDATE #2 8/29/08:

Let me be the first to say I was wrong.  The choice of Sarah Palin as John McCain’s VP running mate proves how foolish I was for imagining that the Republican’s weren’t that stupid!