Palin vs. Murkowski….Another Epic Battle?

2 12 2008

athenaToday an article in Huffington Post has picked up on what could be, in Alaska, an epic battle come next year. In a tale worthy of Greek Mythology, Sarah Palin could be preparing to take on Senator Lisa Murkowski for her seat which becomes available in 2010.

Our story begins In 2002, when Frank Murkowski decided he’d had enough time in the Senate, and came home to Alaska to run for Governor. Murkowski, who had held the senate seat since 1981, won the gubernatorial bid. But who was to take his now vacant place in the senate? In his first wildly unpopular decision as governor, Murkowski appointed his daughter Lisa to the seat. It also became increasingly obvious over time that Frank was not cutting the mustard. Gas pipeline debacles and battles with the Legislature caused his popularity to plummet like a lead balloon. Adding insult to arrogance, he purchased a private jet to fly himself around the state and elsewhere. There was a radio contest to name the jet, and the winning entry was “The Bald Ego”.

Here’s where you picture Frank in a toga, being fed grapes, and fanned by his staff. Every once in a while, he’d make some bombastic proclamation that made the villagers angry, but other than that he had a pretty good life up on Mt. Olympus. Now and then, he’d wave over to the next mountain top where his daughter Lisa was actually not doing such a bad job being a senator according to the villagers. She wasn’t quite so conservative, appeared to be more ethical, worked harder, and actually seemed to care. Go figure.

Then came a young upstart from one of those outlying provinces from whence heroes always come. She was young, ferocious, and beautiful, and she had her eye on that throne. It was promising to be an epic battle. Troops on both sides rallied. Murkowski’s minions dropped their wine jugs and their platters of figs, and grabbed up weapons. They looked at the rag-tag team of outlanders, and decided that maybe this wouldn’t be so bad. All they had to do was keep the power they already had. They had the advantage. How hard could it be? But then the primary battle came, and in David vs. Goliath fashion, with one well-placed stone flung by her sling, Murkowski was struck smack between the eyes by the young woman from the village, and went down like a bag of dirt with a 19% approval rating.

After the stunned silence, the rejoicing began. We did it! One of US beat the grape-eating guy who was making everyone miserable! Sa-rah! Sa-rah! Sa-rah! And the Bald Ego went up for sale in the public marketplace, and Sarah reassigned the grape-peeler to another job, and the villagers loved her. They loved the idea of her. It was perfect. We needed a hero and we got one. Of course, over the months, many of the villagers began to see things they didn’t like. The new Queen started to pull people in from the obscure outlying province and put them in positions of power that they weren’t qualified for. People from the village started disappearing, banished to the hinterlands. She got rid of her humble toga, and started dressing more and more like a grape eater. She started visiting other kingdoms far away where people cheered for her, and attending parties far and wide, while her own kingdom suffered. Some of the villagers who were paying attention started to get a little nervous, and then a little disgruntled, and then downright mad.

But others remembered that humble young girl who flattened Murkowski, and refused to give up their dream. Heroes don’t come easy, and heroic tales must stay as they are written, otherwise it would just be too depressing. Alaskans have lost other heroes lately to greed and corruption and hubris, and this one would be just plain heartbreaking.

And now our Queen is looking around. She’s scanning the horizon, looking at other mountain tops, and new thrones, and new lands to conquer. She remembers Lisa, daughter of Frank the vanquished. Lisa rules the mountaintop over there, closer to all those parties, and cheering crowds. That throne might be nice…

But Lisa feels the gaze of the restless Queen, the one who flattened her father with a stone. She has been holding a white-hot hatred for the Queen who is now known as “Murkowski slayer.” It’s uncomfortable to live one mountain away from someone with that nickname when your own name is Murkowski. She’s been stifling her desire for vengeance, but this frontal assault on her own mountain would be just too much.

Murkowski says a run against her would be fraught with risk. If Palin lost, her stock would drop just ahead of a potential 2012 presidential run. And if she won, she’d be a backbencher in a chamber that is dominated by seniority — and would have to begin her presidential campaign as soon as she took office.

“If she wants to be president, I don’t think the way to the presidency is a short stop in the United States Senate,” Murkowski said.

Asked Monday to respond to Murkowski’s comments, Palin’s communications coordinator, Kate Morgan, said only, “The governor has never stated her intention or desire to run for that office.”

True, she has not stated her intention or desire to run for that office. But there’s an awful lot of activity on Mt. Olympus these days. The blacksmiths are busy, the horses are being counted, and the royal court has a strange glint in their eyes. And one thing we do know is that Queen Sarah’s restless nature is no longer content on her own mountain. Her destiny lies elsewhere. She likes the thrill of the battle, and the villagers know that Queen Lisa’s mountain is the most advantageous to conquer.

So what will the villagers do when 2010 comes? Whose side will they choose? The discontented villagers who’ve been paying attention to Queen Sarah and seeing the same arrogance and hubris that took down her predecessor will rally behind Lisa who has been doing better than her father. Others, who love their heroes, will remember how Lisa got to be Queen of her mountain, and they will remember her father the grape-eater with the jet, and the epic saga of the battle won for the people by that unlikely girl with the sling.

And others of us are still waiting for a brand new, and as yet unknown hero to arrive, and slay them both.





How Palin Spokesman Got Me Nine Extra Weeks of Vacation Time.

1 12 2008

Yes, you heard Palin right. In her speech to the adoring masses in far away Georgia, she explained why she fled her responsibilities in Alaska. She explained why she used her precious time to stump for Saxby Chambliss instead of doing her job. She did it….for Alaska. (One hand on heart, one hand dabbing eyes, and an imaginary third hand waving the Alaskan flag)  She did it for me, and for the little children, and for their puppies, and for future generations, and for the country!  God Bless Amairca. (sniff)

I’m kinda selfishly lookin’ at this to tell you the truth.  It’s not just for Georgia, this is for folks in Alaska and in Hawaii, and in Maine and in Washington State and in Washington D.C.  I’m lookin’ at this you know I’m a mom with five kids.  This is for my kids and their future…

Meanwhile, Alaska Dispatch reports on the reaction by the Palin administration to the Democrats’ press conference this morning, decrying the governor for leaving the state to engage in partisan campaigning while vital Alaskan issues go unaddressed by our absentee governor.  They called a press conference of their own:

“It has been 27 days since the election and this is the fifth day (Palin) has not been in the state,” Bill McAllister, Palin’s spokesman, told reporters at the news conference. “State business is unaffected.”

OK… let’s do the math. Where is that calculator…..ah, there it is.  Let’s see….(punching buttons)…that….means that she’s been gone… 18% of the time since the election, and “state business is unaffected.”  That’s pretty interesting.  And there are some wider implications.

Using Palin standard, we can conclude that if you work 50 weeks a year, you can take an extra 9 weeks off this year, and your job would be unaffected because that’s only 18% of your work schedule!  Wow!   And if your child attends school full-time at 180 days for the typical school year, you can keep them home for over a month and their school work would be unaffected!  And if the Alaska Legislature shaved 18% of the days off the legislative session, that session would be whittled down to a mere 74 days instead of the current 90 day session, with no effect on the business of the state.  Just amazing!  

And if anyone tells you otherwise, you just send them to Bill McAllister at the governor’s office.  He’ll straighten them out.  Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go plan my three month vacation.  Nice.

 

 

 





Where’s Sarah? The Return of a Classic.

1 12 2008

wheres-sarah1

Back in 2006, the members of the Alaska State Legislature were doing their jobs in the place they were supposed to be doing their jobs, also known as the state capitol, Juneau. The governor, however, didn’t like Juneau much. She preferred to do her job from Wasilla and Anchorage, while collecting per diem payments and living in her own home. I know that the rest of the Legislature who live in the Anchorage area would probably love to do their jobs from home while collecting per diem payments. It’s hard to be away from your family for that long. Juneau can only be reached by plane. It can be difficult. But I’m guessing it would be frowned upon if they did it.

Double-standard aside, Sarah Palin was absent from her place of employment a lot. As a sign of protest, legislators from both sides of the aisle took to wearing a unique fashion accessory. They appeared at the Legislative session wearing buttons that said, “Where’s Sarah?” They realized that it was, in fact, impossible to be effective as a governor if you are not actually present.

This astute political observation couldn’t be more relevant today. Today, Sarah Palin is not in her office. She is not dealing with the affairs of state. She is not working on the gas pipeline, or the dropout rate, or trying to figure out why our gas prices are more expensive than anywhere else in the country. She’s not playing catch-up from all the work she missed while on the campaign trail, and she’s not trying to figure out what to do to keep Alaskans warm this winter. She’s not figuring out what to do about the budget which was finalized when oil was in the $60/barrel range, not the $45/barrel it is now.

So, where’s Sarah? She is on the stump for Georgia Senator Saxby Chambliss. She flew out to a private fundraiser last night, and is making four campaign stops in Georgia today. This travel comes on the heels of two months of campaigning out of state, and a recent trip to Florida for the Republican Governors’ conference. Yes, this is only two days (plus travel prep, speech prep, flying time, jet lag, etc.), but once again the Governor has missed the point. It’s what got her in the turkey video. She was unable to step outside the situation and ask herself, “How will this look to OTHERS?” How will it look that after months away trying to run the state from my Blackberry, and a return to a politically divided Alaska with lots of domestic problems that have been on the back burner, that I’m heading off to do more partisan political grandstanding for a controversial Republican candidate on the other side of the continent?” Because, if she had asked the question, the answer would have been, “Bad.”

I was glad to see the Democratic Party in Alaska stand up and say something today. This came from the Alaska Democratic Party:

Anchorage – While Gov. Sarah Palin is out of state again, this time in Georgia campaigning for incumbent Republican U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss on the eve of the runoff election, Alaska faces challenges including a lack of leadership from the Governor.

Palin will stump for Chambliss, the draft-evading incumbent Republican who waged a notoriously misleading campaign against a decorated war hero, at rallies Monday in Atlanta, Augusta, Savannah and Perry, Georgia. Palin has been back in Alaska at work for only a few days since running for vice president. “Alaskans need our Governor here earning her salary and working on key problems facing Alaska families,” said Alaska Democratic Party Chair Patti Higgins. Alaska is facing significant challenges, Higgins said, including:

  • Oil prices have dropped dramatically to about $45/bbl from the peak of $144/bbl in July, which threatens the state budget.

  • Alaskans are paying some of the highest prices for gas in the nation, averaging $2.87 per gallon, while the national average is $1.91.

  • The state’s oil production continues to decline, due to falling prices and mature fields.

  • The global credit crunch and falling natural gas prices threaten the Alaska gas line.

  • The State is failing to meet its constitutional obligation to take care of public education as shown by the high drop out rates and the low graduation rates.

  • Many Medicare patients cannot find doctors.

  • There is continued flight from rural villages.

  • Alaska faces the prospect of reduced federal dollars from Washington, D.C.

“Alaska’s challenges are significant, and there is much that needs to be done right now. Our Governor should remember that her primary job is to work on behalf of the citizens of Alaska, not engage in partisan politics in other states,” Higgins said.”Governing is more than creating photo ops. We’d like a commitment that the Governor is working, not just scheduling media appearances.”

Why the press conference? Is this one-day stump that egregious? Isn’t she going to be on the east coast anyway to join other governors as they meet with President Elect Obama on Tuesday? What’s the big deal? I’ll answer that question as my mother would. “Sarah, you’re really pushing it.” And she is. And each time she pushes, more and more Alaskans will push back, and her popularity will continue to slide, and she will continue to play “gotcha” with herself. In honor of the governor’s flight to Georgia, I have resurrected the “Where’s Sarah?” button. I have tried in vain to find an image of the original button, but have hopefully captured the spirit in this new incarnation of an old favorite. To get one, or several dozen, click HERE. And don’t worry Legislators, my customer list is strictly confidential…your secret is safe with me!





The Governor of Alaska and the Queen of Georgia.

29 11 2008

chess

Tomorrow, Sarah Palin, like all of us, will make certain decisions about what to do with her time. She, like all of us, will decide where to put her energy and focus and attention. She has a newfound power and ability to influence decision-making on a populist level. And she has made decisions about how she wants to do that.

Tomorrow, Sarah Palin will fly to Georgia to use her influence on behalf of Republican Senator Saxby Chambliss. She will appear at four campaign rallies speaking to thousands of voters on his behalf. The run-off election between Chambliss and his Democratic challenger Jim Martin has become an epic struggle, the outcome of which may decide whether Democrats walk away from this election with a filibuster-proof 60-seat majority in the Senate.

The holy grail of 60 seats has not only elevated the Senate race in Georgia to Olympic proportions, it has focused the magnifying glass on the laborious and exacting recount in Minnesota, and has kept Republicratic-independent Senator Joe Lieberman in his plum committee chairmanship for fear of making him mad and losing him to the dark side entirely. It is politics. It is a chess game. It is, as our current President would call it, “strategery.”

But, as political candidates, and strategists, and voters often do, we get deep into that dark forest of strategy and we no longer look at the trees. To many, Chambliss is a political pawn in this Senatorial chess game, who has suddenly made it to the other side of the board, and now has all the significance and power of a Queen. To others, including Max Cleland, the man who ran against him last time, he is more than that.

Matt Zencey was kind enough to do my homework for me today. In the Alaska Notebook, he reminds us:

Chambliss was elected to the Senate in 2002 by running one of the most reprehensible campaigns of modern times. He was up against incumbent Democrat Sen. Max Cleland, a Vietnam War veteran who lost both legs and his right arm to a grenade during that conflict.

Chambliss avoided serving in Vietnam. He got four student draft deferments, and when his number finally came up, he was medically disqualified with knee troubles.

In the best Karl Rove fashion, Chambliss the draft-evader attacked Cleland the war hero for being soft on terrorism. Distorting Cleland’s votes about workplace rules for the new Homeland Security Department employees, Chambliss portrayed him as a tool of terrorists like Osama bin Laden.

Here’s how the Almanac of American Politics (2006) described it:
“Chambliss ran an ad, much attacked in the press, showing pictures of Osama Bin Laden, Saddam Hussein and Max Cleland, and saying that Cleland ‘voted against the President’s vital homeland security efforts 11 times.’” (Those “vital homeland security efforts” Cleland opposed were intended to strip homeland security employees of union rights and other workplace protections.)

The man who couldn’t bring himself to serve in the military said a man who left three limbs behind in war was a weakling who would turn the country over to terrorists.

I have no doubt that our Governor is proud of her son Track, who recently enlisted in the army. She wears her blue star pin, and I’m sure there’s not a day that goes by that she doesn’t wonder about his welfare, and worry about his safety as all mothers would worry about the welfare of the child that first made them a parent. She thinks about the military differently than she used to, because she now has very precious “skin in the game.” So, I wonder. I wonder how it is that she, and so many others including John McCain who have a personal narrative that is touched by war and conflict, can stand next to Saxby Chambliss and see him as nothing but the shiny new Queen in the chess game.

And while America prepares to witness the most historic Presidential inauguration of our lifetime, and children of every color look at their TV screen at our new first family and think, “Yes, I can” maybe for the first time, we hear again from Senator Chambliss. Here’s what he said about the neck-and-neck race that brought about this run-off election.

“There was a high percentage of minority vote,” Chambliss told Alan Colmes on Fox a couple weeks ago, “but we weren’t able to get enough of our folks out on election day.”

“WE weren’t able to get enough of OUR folks out on election day.” Who is “we”? Who are “our folks”?

During the fall Senate campaign, Chambliss cautioned his followers that “the other folks” are voting. The senator added that the “rush to the polls by African-Americans” has “got our side energized early, they see what is happening.”

In Chambliss’ world it is “our side” vs. the African-Americans. Our folks vs. the minority vote. I am tired of Chambliss’ world. I am tired of racially divisive politics and the words that keep it alive. It was Gandhi who said, “Words become our deeds.” This country has had enough of those words, and those deeds. And this country has had enough of those who support them. This is not a chess game.

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Alaskans for Truth Makes a Splash!

25 11 2008

Alaskans for Truth has hit the ground running. I used the metaphor of the Creature from the Black Lagoon yesterday, and if we decide to hold to that metaphor, then we’ve got to say that the Creature made a splash! There was some good coverage in the Anchorage Daily News, albeit in the same article as the “Thank you, Sarah Palin” Thanksgiving ads that are airing in Alaska and soon across the country.

Alaskans for Truth was launched as an informal group this fall, organizing an Anchorage anti-Palin rally in October that drew more than 1,000 people and calling for Attorney General Talis Colberg to lose his job.

On Monday, group leaders said they want the state Legislature to follow up on an investigation into Palin’s firing of her public safety commissioner that found the governor abused her power in allowing her husband and top aides to push for the firing of her former brother-in-law, a state trooper.

That finding came from an investigator hired by the Legislative Council. After her selection as McCain’s running mate, Palin refused to cooperate, with her local campaign officials saying the probe had become a witch hunt by Obama supporters.

She did, however, give a statement in a subsequent investigation by the state Personnel Board, which eventually cleared her of wrongdoing.

Alaskans for Truth says lawmakers should stick with the original report and is pressing legislators to:

• Censure Palin for breaking state ethics rules.

• Seek contempt-of-court charges against Palin’s husband and others for refusing to honor legislative subpoenas.

• Hold hearings on whether the Palins committed perjury in their statements to the Personnel Board.

The message, on the Alaskans for Truth Web site, complete with e-mail addresses for each lawmaker, echoed across Alaska political blogs Monday.

Legislators need the push, said Camille Conte, radio host for KUDO 1080 AM and chairwoman of the group.

“My sense is that there is not the political will to do the right thing because it’s not comfortable,” she said. “It’s sticky. It’s about holding the highest office in our state accountable.”

Ms. Conte also appeared on KTUU, channel 2 News talking about the group’s mission.

And the Associated Press wrote a piece that has started to be picked up nationally. It also contains (drum roll) the official response from Palin spokesman Bill McAllister.

“There are a lot of questions in comparing the two reports,” said Linda Kellenbiegel, spokeswoman for Alaskans for Truth. “There needs to be some follow through, further investigation or follow-up on the fact that Branchflower determined there was an ethics violation by the governor.”

Palin spokesman Bill McAllister said lawmakers are more interested in working with the Palin administration on pressing state business, including the budget.

“Troopergate is over,” McAllister said. “It is our understanding from many legislators in both houses of the Legislature that they are not interested in prolonging this.”

“We are not hearing from them they intend to take any of these steps recommended by this far left wing group.”

Ahh. The dreaded “far left wing group” defense. I wonder sometimes, if we tallied up all the “far left wing” groups and “far left wing” blogs and “far left wing” politicians that the Republican claim are responsible for any and all criticism leveled against them, then the sheer number of them would have to mean that they really aren’t that far-left after all.

So, we’ve heard from Bill McAllister about his understanding. But what does the Governor herself have to say? Let’s not bug her now, though. She’s probably really busy catching up on all the work she missed while she was on the campaign trail all that time. She and Piper both have some make up work to do! I mean we’re struggling with energy issues, the gas pipeline, the budget, and the general business of the state that needs some attention. We’ve been without a governor for a while, so she’ll probably be burning the midnight oil for weeks.

>>>>Hockey Buzzer<<<<<<

Actually, we’ve learned that Sarah Palin believes the best use of her time this coming week will be taking a little jaunt to Georgia to campaign for Republican Senate Candidate Saxby Chambliss. She jets off to get a fix of the adoring crowds and to get some real work done. Alaskans, don’t you feel special?





Thank You, People Saying “Thank You” to Sarah Palin!

22 11 2008

thank-you

As Thanksgiving approaches, it’s time to think of gratitude. I have a lot to be thankful for this year, but in particular I’m thankful to Sarah Palin. I was saving this post for Thanksgiving Day, but events have convinced me to say it now.

There are lots of things for which I’m thankful to Sarah Palin. I’m thankful for her interview with Katie Couric. I’m thankful she knows nothing about foreign relations or her native tongue. I’m thankful that she doesn’t know what she reads, because she doesn’t. I’m thankful she doesn’t remember any Supreme Court decisions like Baker vs. Exxon.

I’m thankful for her End Times, Evangelical witch-exorcising pastor. I’m thankful for her irresponsible fiscal policies. I’m thankful she and her daughter who both conceived children out of wedlock feel that abstinence only sex education is the best policy.

I’m thankful she thinks fruit fly research is silly, and that she wants to teach creationism in public schools. I’m thankful she tried to fire a librarian who found the concept of book censoring unacceptable.

I’m thankful that when the Legislative investigation found her guilty of violating ethics law, she said she was glad to have been found innocent.

I’m thankful she spent $150,000 on a wardrobe, and that she winked at the camera during the Vice Presidential debate. I’m thankful she took a prank phone call from “Nicholas Sarkozy” without telling anyone. I’m thankful she “went rogue” in the last weeks of the campaign.

And I’m really thankful she shared all four versions of the inspiring story of how she accepted the Vice Presidential nomination. I can’t decide which one I liked best. It’s a tie between “I didn’t blink”, and the one where she sat everyone down and had a family meeting and a vote to decide if it was the best course of action for the family. But, I digress.

Basically, I’m thankful that she felt so darn comfortable just bein’ herself. And I’m thankful she blew the election for John McCain. I’d like to believe he would have lost anyway, but it’s good to have an insurance policy.

But now, a new layer of complexity is added to my gratitude. I’d like to say thank you to the people who are saying thank you to Sarah Palin.

Behold!

At first, I thought this was a brilliant satirical masterwork by our friends over at The Onion, or perhaps another jewel from Andy Borowitz. But, no. It’s actually REAL. I haven’t laughed that hard in a good long while….and laughter is good for the soul.

My favorite part was:

“We thank you for your passionate, hopeful and articulate advocacy of common sense conservative values.”

The emphasis was not mine. He really emphasized that word. (Dabbing eyes) And they also somehow managed to find the only two African-Americans that didn’t vote for Obama.

So thank you crazy conservative Our Country PAC people! You made my day.





Ted Stevens Prosecution Witness Says He Lied. And Wait…There’s More!

21 11 2008

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Three days after Mark Begich was declared the winner in Alaska’s Senate race of the century, and the day after Ted Stevens yielded the floor of the Senate for the last time, a chief witness for the prosecution in his recent trial came forward with some more than interesting statements.

David Anderson, a witness who testified against Ted Stevens has said in a letter to the Judge Emmett Sullivan that his claims on the stand that he never had an immunity deal with the prosecution were false.  Not only that, Anderson said that the prosecutors coached him and “instructed me on how to sugar coat (the immunity deal) and get it swept under the rug during the trial.”  He also claims that all members of his family and friends, including former State Senator Jerry Ward  would be immune from federal investigation as a result of his agreement.

Ward appears to have been the beneficiary of an illegal campaign contribution by private prison advocate Bill Weimar, who was sentenced to six months in prison this week on a guilty plea to making the payment. Ward has not been charged. The recipient of Weimar’s illegal $20,000 payment was identified in charging documents only as “Candidate A,” but the description matched Ward.

Today, defense attorneys filed the letter from Anderson, a welder who worked on the extensive renovations on the Stevens home that totalled almost $250,000, and which Stevens did not disclose on his Senate Disclosure Forms, leading to seven felony convictions, and his defeat in the general election.

There are only so many times you can say, “You can’t make this stuff up” in one post, so I’m going to save it for the end.  Because there’s more to come.  Really.

In addition to the above, Anderson goes on to talk about being coached, and “groomed” for the trial, and being reminded of the events that happened.  He was shown pictures of the home, paper records, and other materials that he states he had forgotten in the years since the work was done.

In the letter, he states:

Without the preparation from the prosecution and the reminders from them about my activities and the agreement I had with them about my family and myself I would not have given the same testimony.  Without a shadow of doubt I believe this trial would have gone much differently.

Wow.  A belated birthday present for Ted Stevens?  But wait, there’s more.

Possibly the most bizarre allegation in Anderson’s letter is the claim that Bill Allen, (chairman of the oil services company Veco, who was responsible for the home renovations that Stevens was found guilty of not declaring) and his son Mark Allen had taken out a contract on Anderson to have him murdered.  Anderson is Bill Allen’s nephew.  Think I’m ready to say “You can’t make this stuff up?” yet?  Nope.

Stevens’ attorneys demanded a hearing be held to look into the matter. In a court filing Friday, they said the Anderson letter, dated Nov. 15, was new evidence of government misconduct in the case. They’ve already said they planned to seek a new trial or to overturn Stevens’ conviction on Oct. 27 of lying on Senate disclosure forms.

Government prosecutors responded Friday that Anderson’s letter, “simply put,” is untrue. They said that defense lawyers had ample opportunity to question Anderson about the March affidavit when he was on the witness stand, but chose not to.

In the affidavit, the main subject of Anderson’s Nov. 15 letter, Anderson said he agreed to cooperate with the government on condition that prosecutor grant immunity to Ward and his wife Margaret, Ward’s three daughters and their husbands, Anderson’s mother and son, and several others who couldn’t be identified. Anderson lives with one of Ward’s daughters, Kirsten Deacon. She was once Bill Allen’s girlfriend and that fact is the cause of much of the friction between uncle and nephew, Anderson has said.

OK.  Now I’m ready.  You can’t make this stuff up.





The Curtain Goes Down on Ted Stevens.

21 11 2008

Today was the end of an era. Ted Stevens took the floor in the U.S. Senate for the last time. The first time was in 1968, before most Alaskans were born.

He actually did get voted out of office, but it took seven felony convictions, a strong centrist Democratic challenger, and an Alaskan Independence Party candidate endorsed by Ron Paul to do it. This is a good thing, because my only options had he won were wearing a bag on my head, or moving to Canada.

Last night, in downtown Anchorage, at the Snow City Cafe, Mark Begich celebrated his very belated victory with supporters. How could it have possibly taken this long? How could the race have been so close?

Listen to Ted Stevens’ farewell address.

As an Alaskan, albeit a left-leaning one, there have been times, I’ve actually felt sorry for Stevens. As I listened to him recount his experiences taking Alaska from a fledgling state with little infrastructure, to where it is today, with a highway system, hospitals, airports, and other things that improve the quality of life here, I had a moment of sadness. What a way to end his career. What a stupid mistake. What a shame.

Lost in this flickering moment of nostalgia, watching this old, beaten man, I heard the words “radical environmentalists” come out of his mouth.  I immediately snapped out of it, feeling like I’d been hit in the face with a wet fish.  I suddenly remembered what it is I can’t stand about this guy.

Then, as he finished up and yielded the floor for the last time, his Senate colleagues did something I have never seen.  The violated Senate protocol and gave the man a standing ovation, for almost a full minute.  That’s right United States Senators from across the nation, rose to their feet, and applauded a man who is stepping down, not because he is voluntarily handing the reins to a new generation, but because his seven felony convictions blew the election for him.

It was like watching the villagers cheering for the head on the pike.

The Stevens love-fest went on for some time, with contributions from both sides of the aisle.

“May all the roads that you have built, Ted, rise up to meet you,” said [Sen. Robert] Byrd in a variation of the Irish proverb. Byrd, 91, whose age has made him prone to outbursts on the Senate floor, shouted out “Amen, Amen!” while Stevens’ friend, Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, spoke.

Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, an independent who caucuses with the Democrats, described the close across-the-aisle friendship his own wife and Stevens’ wife have. Sometimes, Lieberman said, people forget that senators are “normal people” with ordinary homes and lives in Washington.

During the tribute, Stevens’ wife, Catherine, and his daughter Beth sat in the front row of the upper gallery of the Senate, surrounded by nearly 100 friends and staffers. Dozens more crowded in the seats lining the Senate chambers.

As Stevens concluded his remarks, many in the Senate gallery and all of the senators and aides on the floor of the Senate offered a standing ovation. Many of his staffers and friends walked out of the Senate chambers with red-rimmed eyes, dabbing at their tears.

While they applauded, Stevens sat. Then he stood, shaking hands with the longest-serving U.S. senator in history, Byrd, and the top two leaders of the Senate, Reid and McConnell. Finally, Stevens embraced Inouye, a man he called “his brother” during his speech.

“The Bible tells us, the Old Testament, two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their labor, for if they fall, one will lift up his fellow,” said Reid, the Senate majority leader, referring to the friendship between the two men from the 49th and 50th states.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, after the Bible quote, called Stevens a “lion” of the senate.

Is this the same Harry Reid that called for Stevens to step down and promised that if he were elected, and returned to the Senate, his colleagues would vote to expel him?

I’ve given up trying to figure out what kind of magic Ted Stevens has.  It’s like that old radio show….The Shadow.  It’s like Stevens has “traveled to the Orient and learned the secrets of clouding men’s minds.”  But I do feel better that it isn’t just Alaskans that have this cloud problem.  I just watched the majority of the United States Senate give a standing ovation to a convicted felon.

Why?  Only the Shadow knows……





Small Victory for Obama in Alaska

20 11 2008
US PRESIDENT
Total
Number of Precincts 438
Precincts Reporting 438 100.0 %
Times Counted 325054/495731 65.6 %
Total Votes 323820

Baldwin and Castle AI 1652 0.51%
Barr and Root LIB 1575 0.49%
McCain and Palin REP 192631 59.49%
Nader and Gonzalez IND 3757 1.16%
Obama and Biden DEM 122485 37.83%
Write-in Votes 1720 0.53%

Obama did not win in Alaska. Polls had him on an average of about 11 points behind in the weeks before the election. Alas, the numbers reflected in the polls turned out to be worse for Obama in the general election. At one point it looked like McCain-Palin took a whopping 65% of the vote.

With all the excitement of the Senatorial race, all anyone could think about was Begich vs. Stevens. First Stevens up, and Begich down. Then separated by 3 votes. Then Begich up and Stevens down. Begich more up. Uh-oh, Stevens gaining. Begich up again. It was dizzying, and everyone’s laser-sharp focus was trained on those returns.

But there’s one small victory that hasn’t been talked about much. After the whopping 90,000 votes that were counted in Alaska after election day, there was a shift in the presidential race. After the final tally, McCain-Palin won by 59.49%. LESS than 60%. And we can even round down to 59%! I’ll take it.

2008 McCain/Palin 59% Obama/Biden 38%

2004 Bush 61 – Kerry 35
2000 Bush 59 – Gore 28

Obama won the hearts of more Alaska voters than any Democrat in recent memory. And McCain-Palin, despite their surface appeal, with the Alaska Governor on the ticket, frankly, didn’t do all that well comparatively. I’m looking forward to 2012. I think we’re headed in the right direction.





Ted Stevens Concedes.

19 11 2008

They say it ain’t over til it’s over.

It’s over.

Ted Stevens conceded the Senate race to Mark Begich today.

Given the number of ballots that remain to be counted, it is apparent the election has been decided and Mayor Begich has been elected.

My family and I wish to thank the thousands of Alaskans who stood by us and who supported my re-election. It was a tough fight that would not have been possible without the help of so many Alaskans – people who I am honored to call my friends. I will always remember their thoughts, prayers, and encouragement.

I am proud of the campaign we ran and regret that the outcome was not what we had hoped for. I am deeply grateful to Alaskans for allowing me to serve them for 40 years in the U.S. Senate. It has been the greatest honor of my life to work with Alaskans of all political persuasions to make this state that we all love a better place.

I wish Mayor Begich and his family well. My staff and I stand willing to help him prepare for his new position.





Alaska’s Senate Race – The Morning After

19 11 2008

Alaska has a Blue Senator. Mark Begich has won the election.

So where do we stand, and what does this mean?

Mark Begich – It means that Mayor Senator Begich gets to pack his bags and head to Washington DC, with his wife and son, to start giving progressive Alaskans and centrists, and people who don’t want a convicted felon representing them in our nation’s capitol, a voice. If he’s wise, and smart, he will take the Ted Stevens debacle as a cautionary tale. If he plays his cards right, he could be there for a long long time, but the Republican party will have him in their sights, and be watching for every little slip-up.

If the Democrats in the Senate are wise and smart, they’ll be really nice to Senator Begich and give him a couple nice feathers in his cap to wear home to Alaska. They know the kind of bombastic, blow hards Alaska is capable of sending to the capitol, and they probably don’t want it to happen again. And they sure don’t want Sarah Palin gunning for an open senate seat in 6 years. Mark Begich will be like salve on a wound for many who have had to endure Ted Stevens for decades.

Who will fill Mayor Begich’s seat after he leaves? Anchorage Assembly Chair Matt Claman. Matt just took over the chairmanship of the Assembly when a surprise progressive majority took over the paralyzingly conservative Anchorage Assembly that had previously been populated by junior versions of the aforementioned bombastic, blow hards. When the Assembly shifted to the left, Claman was chosen. I know Matt Claman and he’s a good guy. He lacks the extroversion and charisma of Begich, but his principles are sound, and he’s a concensus builder, and a rational thinker. He’ll probably do a pretty good job. He’ll be there until April, when the mayoral elections happen. He may decide to run for the position officially at that time. There are several others who have thrown their hat in the ring too. And this may cause some interesting wrangling, since one of those candidates is Assembly Vice Chair Sheila Selkregg. Today’s Anchorage Daily News has an interesting article on these behind the scenes goings on.

Sarah Palin – Well, God sent a message to Sarah. She said if God opened a door, even a crack, she’d “plow through it”. But tonight, when Begich won a clear victory, and the four decade era of Ted Stevens ended, the door firmly shut tight. She will undoubtedly be looking for another door. The three that may open up next are:

  • The Don Young Door – Congressman Don Young will be up for re-election in 2010, but may be out before then. He’s already spend a whopping 1.2 million dollars on legal fees in anticipation of his own coming indictment. Alaskans have been waiting for that shoe to drop for a while now….and it’s coming. It’s just a question of when. Look for headlines coming soon to a paper near you, now that Alaska politics has wormed its way into the national consciousness. But even if Young survives this, his 19th term in Congress, I don’t think Sarah Palin is gunning for his job. I just don’t think Congress is her style.
  • The Lisa Murkowski Door – Now we’re talking. Sarah unseated Lisa’s father Frank Murkowski when she became governor in 2006. This would be the second Murkowski trophy head on her wall. Murkowski hasn’t done a bad job in most Republican’s minds, but she hasn’t knocked their socks off either. It’s not a sure thing by any means that she’d be able to hold her seat against Palin. And the Senate, as we have just witnessed, can be an effective stepping stone to the Presidency, which is what Palin is gunning for in the long run. That’s the door she thinks God will open for her – the big fat door to the Oval Office. She’s “wired for the mission” and would be ready to run in 2012, or 2016.
  • The Direct Door to the Presidency – If Palin can hold on to office for another term, she may be banking on her national celebrity, and name recognition, and her Christian conservative buddies in high places to take her from the governorship to Pennsylvania Avenue…or so she hopes. She’s up for re-election in 2010. And who knows…she may feel fully qualified by that point to throw her hat in the ring anyway.

And what about Ted Stevens, and his suddenly awkward and very visible namesake – The Ted Stevens International Airport. Before we break out the chisels and hammers, the Anchorage Assembly and the Public Facilities Advisory Commission, and who knows who else, will have to do some political soul searching, and have lots of meetings.

Stevens’ legal appeal process moves forward, and he’ll fight tooth and nail, like he always does. And amazingly, he is still eligible, despite his seven felony convictions, for his senate pension of $122,000 a year, courtesy of taxpayers. Although there is a recently-passed federal law that prohibits felons from collecting on these pensions, Stevens’ particular felonies were not on the list, and they were committed before the law went into effect. Maybe next time.





My State is 1/3 Blue for the First Time in Three Decades!

18 11 2008

tedmark7 

Well, the final tally today had Mark Begich leading convicTed Stevens by 3724 votes.  It’s a happy happy day on the Mudflats!

Mark Begich has officially won the Senate seat.  Alaskans have done something right. 

That means that my red red state isn’t so red anymore.  We have just elected a Democrat to the U.S. Senate for the first time in 30 years! OK, I know….it took running against a seven time convicted felon to do it, and it was still really really close… but nobody better snow on my parade!

I’m having a small-scale flashback to election night, when I felt, for the first time in a long time that there was someone out there who was representing me who was actually representing me!  I feel suddenly relevant…light in my heart…with something that feels like a golf ball lodged in my throat.

I truly never thought I’d see this day.  When I first moved to Alaska, almost 2 decades ago, I was told by my future spouse that the only thing that would get Stevens and Young out of office was the grim reaper.  Who could have known about those undeclared home renovations?   

I pause for a moment to salute the very excellent House candidate, Ethan Berkowitz who was unable to unseat Don Young.  He came closer than anyone ever has, and deserves our gratitude.  Who knows…when Don Young gets convicted, maybe Ethan will give it another shot.

Begich issued a statement shortly before 5 p.m. claiming victory.

 

“I am humbled and honored to serve Alaska in the United States Senate,” Begich said. “It’s been an incredible journey getting to this point, and I appreciate the support and commitment of the thousands of Alaskans who have brought us to this day. I can’t wait to get to work fighting for Alaskan families.”

 

The Stevens campaign has made no comment.

 

Begich more than tripled his lead today after the state counted about 23,000 absentee and questioned ballots from Anchorage, Southeast Alaska, the Kenai Peninsula and Kodiak. The state finished counting from other parts of the Alaska last week.

I take this opportunity to congratulate Senator Mark Begich!  I am proud to have him representing me in the U.S. Senate.  And I offer these humble words of advice, Senator, now that you have done the impossible, slain the political lion, and defeated the Republican Goliath. 

Don’t.  Screw.  Up.

(Now, pass the cake!)

 

tedmark6

To celebrate this amazing event, I have turned all the commenters into joyous little critters!  Change is in the air!