Mudstock II in Chicago!

2 11 2008

Today in Chicago, a group of dedicated Mudflatters gathered for the second, in hopefully a long line of Mudstock events!  I was so thrilled to get the photos and great write-up of yet another real-life get-together of the Mudflats community!  Here’s the writeup from ‘Bec Hussein of Illinois’ complete with pictures from Bec and Shikago! 

To make things interesting, three of the Mudflatters’ screen names are “Chicago”, “Chicago” and “Shikago”!  You can have fun figuring it out!

Well Chicagos, Shikago, and Chicagoans, the rest of us were with you in spirit!  Thanks for sharing your wonderful afternoon with us.

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I’m heading back to the burbs on a train packed with Bears fans (yay – they won today) and American Girl Place visitors. I just had the loveliest experience, thanks to Mudflats, and that was attending our impromptu Mudstock II – Chicago. With a “can do” attitude, Shikago, Chicago, and I (Bec Hussein of Illinois) decided that a pre-election meet-up was possible. Shikago jumped into the planning full force, and surprised us with many special mementos for the day.

The appointed hour was 11:30 AM, Sunday, November 2. The gathering place was by what we all call “The Bean” in Millennium Park, just west of Lake Michigan in downtown (The Loop) Chicago. The magnificent sculpture is actually named “Cloudgate.” But we all have come to call it The Bean because of its bean shape. It is fast becoming one of Chicago’s most famous landmarks. We opted for it over gathering at “The Picasso” in Daley Plaza, where in past decades such a meet-up would most likely take place.

First on the scene was Shikago, with his cart of equipment featuring a small American flag. My daughter (Mudflats lurker) and I were happily greeted by Shikago. I pulled on my newly purchased yellow boots, as Shikago told us how the lovely bouquet of balloons he had spent his precious funds on were ordered to the trash bin by a park security person roving around on a Segway. Something about park rules against balloons around the sculpture.  A big disappointment, but we still were quite the attraction with our signs and all. Chicago soon arrived, my yellow boot Mudflats nametags were distributed, and more Mudpuppies came on the scene.

We were joined by Carla, USABarbie, lurker Liz and her husband Walt, and Joe (sorry, didn’t catch his screenname). Next,  arrived our very special guest, Lila Bang-WalMart, fresh from her appearance at Mudstock I in Pittsburg! She was in town for a medical convention and we were so thrilled that she chose to play a little hookey from that to join us, and hold a record for participating in BOTH pre-election Mudstocks! How ironic that Lila was staying at the “W” hotel for her visit here. As a special treat, she transformed herself to a Sarah Palin impersonator, posing for a photo holding the “Elect Walt Monegan Governor” sign that Shikago had made.

Shikago had his tripod set up for the group shots, and we happily posed. There were people all around and we may have received some startling looks, but no one assaulted us. I had printed up a few business cards with the Mudflats address, in case anyone asked about us. I was sorry not one was handed out.

As we walked a couple blocks to the restaurant, we went past the forming lineup of network trucks setting up for the big Tuesday night election rally. Eurovision was doing a live shot of The Bean in one corner.

As we enjoyed lunch at Pizano’s, there was a great exchange about who we were, what we did, where we lived, and of course, all kinds of election thoughts.  Another Mudflatter, (screen name Chicago) found us at the restaurant and she joined in the conversation. A short while later, USABarbie’s boyfriend arrived, another distinguished guest. He is closely involved in the set up of the giant Obama rally for Election Night and shared what a massive configuration of sound and technical equipment is being put in place.

Shikago is sadly without a ticket for the event, but is totally psyched to be part of it and will find a spot somewhere in the massive surrounding vicinity of the tickets-only section. USABarbie will be there too, of course, and I hope some of the massive sound equipment will reach out to wherever Shikago lands. Most of the rest of us have decided we prefer the comfort of our own homes that night, with our TVs blaring and computers whirling on Mudflats and all other possible information-ready Websites.

As we all departed for our trains, busses, planes and automobiles, Shikago presented us with a lovely packet of items he had created – including a Mudstock II tee-shirt iron-on transfer. A very thoughtful and generous person, that Shikago!

All at Mudstock II agree that our fascination and knowledge of Alaska has either been sparked or expanded, thanks to Mudflats. We learned that Joe has done extensive exploration of the State and he was eager to share suggestions of wonderful spots for us all to visit. I hope to head there during the next year. Others have already been, or, plan to return in the near future.

In closing, we send our very best Chicago greetings to all the other Mudflatters/Mudpuppies from Alaska and the other “49” states, Canada, Australia, and many places around the world. This has been a most welcoming, encouraging, and sanity-strengthening community during the election. Of course, we couldn’t be prouder to have the next president of the United States, Barack Obama, as a fellow-Chicagoan. We know the road ahead will still be rocky as the country pulls together. As Shikgao said in the special prayer/meditation he wrote and read to us before we ate — our country needs healing. Obama is the one to get this started.

Now that we found Mudflats, there is no way that we can stay away from those crazy Alaskan politics. We have to see a few other chapters of this story played out. Though we all need a little break from the all-consuming obsession that this election has become, we aren’t ready to leave Alaska on its own. So you are going to have Chicago, and all the rest of the Mudflats community, hanging in there to hear AKM report what happens next. We all know how we’d like the story to end! Let’s hope it includes a new Alaskan senator in Washington, an old one off to prison, a former state employee vindicated, and the brakes slammed on any notion that a particular Alaskan governor will be able to “rear her ugly head” in 2012!

Dutifully submitted by:

Bec Hussein of Illinois





Ted Stevens Update

2 11 2008

Our embattled Senior Senator Ted Stevens is facing the fallout of his seven felony convictions at every turn.  Here’s a semi-concise summary of where things stand.

Poll Numbers – The latest polls in Alaska, taken after the conviction, show Anchorage Mayor and Democratic challenger Mark Begich ahead with a commanding 22 point lead.    36% of Alaskans don’t mind voting for a convicted felon, but 58% do.  So that’s something.  The race was in a statistical tie just before the conviction, which makes you wonder why he pressed so hard for a speedy trial.  If he hadn’t requested it, he’d be in a lot better shape today.

Law License – Ted Stevens is an attorney, and last Thursday, the Alaska Bar Association sought to temporarily suspend his license to practice law.  Under the Bar Association rules, a conviction is considered to take effect as soon as the verdict is handed down by the jury. (Remember this for the next section).

Ability to Vote – The Division of Elections sought counsel from the Alaska Department of Law regarding whether Senator Stevens will, in fact, be prevented from voting on Tuesday.  Assistant Attorney General Michael Barnhill returned the opinion that Stevens may vote, and that the restriction of that privilege, due to felony conviction, comes at the moment of sentencing, and after the appeals process has run its course.  It’s interesting to note that the day this opinion was released by Barnhill, two callers in to progressive talk radio station KUDO in Anchorage, said that they were convicted felons and that they had lost their right to vote immediately upon the guilty verdict, despite the fact that they had appealed the case and were not yet sentenced. 

PFD Check – Because Stevens committed his seven felonies outside the state of Alaska, he will be allowed to continue to receive his Alaska Permanent Fund Dividend check.  Had the crimes been committed in the state of Alaska, he would have been ineligible to receive the annual check.  If Stevens’ appeal is tried in the state, and he loses, he would also lose his check.

Endorsements – Stevens still retains the support of Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski, Alaska Congressman Don Young, and his long-time close friend Democratic Senator Daniel Inouye of Hawaii.  Those on the other side who have rapidly distanced themselves from Stevens and have asked for him to step down are:  Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (KY), Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D), Republican Presidential nominee John McCain, and VP nominee and Alaska Governor, Sarah Palin.

In a statement released by the Stevens campaign, [Senator] Inouye argues that his longtime friend will be seated as a Member of the Senate next year if re-elected and that he believes the felony convictions will be overturned.

“As the Senate has done in every other instance in its long 220-year history, I am absolutely confident that Ted Stevens will be sworn into the Senate while he appeals this unjust verdict, I am certain that this decision in Washington, D.C., will be overturned on appeal,” Inouye said.

But Reid rejected that reading of Senate history and chastised Stevens for using his friend in a political campaign.

“While I respect the opinion of Senator Daniel Inouye, the reality is that a convicted felon is not going to be able to serve in the United States Senate. And as precedent shows us, Senator Stevens will face an ethics committee investigation and expulsion, regardless of his appeals process,” Reid said.

Expulsion – Expulsion requires a 2/3 vote of the Senate, and is likely should Stevens be re-elected.  As much of a lion as Stevens has been, and although he has built solid relationships in the Senate, I don’t believe that more than a third of the Senate will fall on their swords to support him.  Voters don’t like politicians that like to pal around with convicted felons.

Appointment to vacant Senate seat –

If Stevens does get re-elected and then expelled, Alaska law states that there must be a special election held to fill the seat.  Sarah Palin, as Governor, cannot appoint herself to fill the seat.  She cannot appoint anyone to fill the seat, either permanently or temporarily.  There has been widespread misinformation on this point, including information coming from the head of the Division of Elections.  Yes, really…

The Alaska Replacement of U.S. Senators Act, also known as Alaska Ballot Measure 4 was on the November election ballot in Alaska.  It passed, with 55.6% of voters in favor.

The ballot initiative related to how the state fills its U.S. Senate vacancies, which became an issue in Alaska after Republican Frank Murkowski appointed his daughter Lisa Murkowski his Senate seat when he was elected governor in 2002.

Prior to the successful passage of the 2004 ballot measure, the governor could appoint a replacement to a vacant Senate seat. The initiative was primarily sponsored by Democratic legislators. It abolished the practice of appointments and required a special election in all cases except when the vacancy occurs within 60 days of a primary election.

Lt. Gov. Loren Leman, the Republican chief of the Division of Elections, twice removed the measure from the Nov. 2 ballot but was ordered by the Alaska Supreme Court to put it back on.

He wrote the initiative’s ballot summary, which said the proposition would leave Alaska without full representation in the Senate for three to five months.

The group that petitioned for the initiative, Trust the People, sued for an injunction once it discovered the language of the summary on Sept. 21.

The language that appeared on the ballot:

This measure would repeal state law that allows the Governor to appoint a person to temporarily fill a vacant seat in the United States Senate until an election can be held and certified. Under this measure a vacated seat would remain vacant for three to five months, leaving Alaska without full representation in the Senate. Other provisions are identical to existing law and those parts of the law remain unchanged. Current law requires that a senate vacancy be filled by special election, or regular election if the vacancy occurs less than 60 days before the primary election for that seat.

If Governor Palin attempted to put someone in that seat without a special election, there would be legal action filed within hours. Guaranteed.

However, that said, nothing would prevent Palin from running for that seat against whomever else the Republican party rules allowed to run.

At this point, down by 22 points, Stevens stands next to no chance of winning his re-election bid.  So, at the risk of jinxing it, I think this is a shoe-in for Begich.  BUT, Lisa Murkowski, the Senator mentioned above, is running for re-election in 2010.  I think it wouldn’t be unreasonable to assume that Palin has her eye on that seat.  She already took down one Murkowski in a Republican primary, so why not try for another?  She’s caught a bit of the flavor of being in the national spotlight, and she likes it.

I’ll quote my Grandmother, just because I like to do that.  She would have said, “How do you get Nellie back on the farm, once she’s seen Par-ee?”





Take Back Your Vote.

2 11 2008

The big day is approaching.  Here’s a video worth watching about a very important ongoing project called Video the Vote.  There isn’t anyone reading this that doesn’t understand how the instantaneous sharing of information in the form of stories and images has transformed this political race. 

Everyone who goes to vote, and has the technology to do it, should document their experience.  Long lines? Vote flipping on touchscreen machines?  People being turned away because of missing registration information?  People leaving the line in frustration?  You can help to record what is going on, so that we have the evidence necessary to push for real election reform.

I’ve never had a problem at my polling place, and I don’t anticipate it this year.  But I’m taking a video camera anyway.

Video the Vote is a national initiative to protect voting rights by monitoring the electoral process. We organize citizen journalists—ordinary folks like you and me—to document election problems as they occur. And then we distribute their footage to the mainstream media and online to make sure the full story of Election Day 2008 gets told.

There’s another great video at videothevote.org .  I can’t embed it, but it’s worth watching.  You can also upload your video on the site where it becomes available for distribution.

Remember, if you have already voted, you can visit your usual polling place, or any others in your area where you anticipate problems.  So charge up those batteries and get ready for Tuesday.