Signs of the Valley

19 08 2008

I found myself in a van with a load of kids on a road trip to the Valley today.  Needing a fun car game, I remembered Phil Munger’s Signs of the Times post from a few weeks ago.  So, I suggested we all count political signs and see who ‘won’ by the time we got back. We counted signs from ‘downtown’ Sutton to Eagle River.

So, as an homage to Phil Munger at Progressive Alaska, I present my own humble Valley version of Signs of the Times:

Ted Stevens (R) Senate: 2

Mark Begich (D) Senate: 4

Don Young (R) House inc: 4

Sean Parnell (R) House: 4

Ethan Berkowitz (D) House: 0

Diane Benson (D) House: 0

Linda Menard (R) State Senate: 7

Eric Cordero (D) State Senate: 0

And 1 each for Parks, Scott and Gatto for State House.

So, Palin-bot Linda Menard was our winner.

The big surprise here is not only did we see twice as many Begich signs as Stevens signs, but that there were actually signs north of Palmer for a Democrat without bullet holes in them!  Progress can be measured in many ways.

The other noteworthy observation was that one kid in the back of the van said, “Hey!  How come there aren’t any Obama signs? or McCain signs?”  They were answered immediately by an adorable little 8-year old girl with a big smile who called out matter-of-factly, and like she had just remembered something important, “Oh!  McCain sucks!”  Luckily I was not drinking my coffee at the time or I would have blown it all over the windshield.  It was all I could do to keep a straight face.  Signs of the times? Let’s hope so.

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.

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.

Exxcommunicate Exxon.

1 07 2008

I keep thinking that I’ve spent all my vitriol on Exxon, and that there’s nothing left. And I’m continually surprised. The well just never seems to run dry.

We all know the story. Jury awards $5 billion. Exxon appeals and the amount is reduced to 2.5 billion. Exxon appeals again and the Supreme Court reduces it to $507.5 million. Or so we thought. Exxon spokesman Alan Jeffers spoke from headquarters in Texas, and reminded us that they “set an upper limit of $507 million”, and when asked whether Exxon would argue for lower damages he said, “We are really going to wait and see what transpires through this process.”  Really.

I don’t know Alan Jeffers, and he may be a stand up guy, but if I were writing a screenplay, he’d be sitting in his big Houston office leaned back with his cowboy boots up on the desk, sucking on a stogie as he drawled, “We’re really gonna wayt’n see whut transpaaaahrs through this process.” He hangs up the phone, blows a smoke ring, and chuckles.

This $507.5 million the Supreme Court bestowed on the plaintiffs is for punitive damages. Punitive damages are awarded to punish defendants for reprehensible behavior. Their purpose is to be felt by the guilty party. So how punitive is this $507.5 million that may or may not be challenged by Exxon? Let’s put it into perspective. The median household income in Anchorage is $55,564 per year. That means 1/2 the households make more, half make less. We’ll start there.

Let’s say Mr. and Mrs. Exxon were an average household making $55,564 annually, rather than the largest and most profitable corporation to ever have existed on Earth, with net profits of $40.6 billion last year alone.  And let’s say they did something really bad to you and were ordered by the court to pay punitive damages.  They would have initially been slapped with a $6,839 punitive fine and ordered to pay you. They would have appealed it on the grounds it was excessive, and gotten it reduced to half the original amount –  now they owe you a $3,419 fine.  Still feeling this was way too excessive, they would have appealed it again and gotten it reduced to $694 the rough equivalent of one economic stimulus check…or half a permanent fund check for one of them. Punitive? Hardly. But now, after almost twenty years,  they remind you that $694 is the upper limit, and they’re not sure what they are going to do now. They’re not getting out the checkbook just yet.  They’ll have to see what ‘transpires’.

Oh, and by the way, Mr. and Mrs. Exxon both work for you, and they also rent a big room in your house.  What would you do?  Well, I’d probably start by firing them, and then tossing their stuff out on the street…but that’s me.   Our governor, and our congressional delegation pontificate about being ‘extremely disappointed’ in the Supreme Court, but are noticeably silent when it comes to confronting Exxon itself. 

As far as I can tell Mark Begich is the only one putting any pressure on Exxon to actually sign the checks, and acknowledging the fact that they owe us.  The rest of the pack just keep staring at the floor and being all sad and disappointed. No pink slip, no eviction notice, no nothin.

OK, now I’m really done. 

This time.


Markos & Mark…BFF

18 06 2008

Yet another great summary of the Begich Stevens race in Daily Kos today.  Markos Moulitsas talks about how in each election cycle he has certain personal favorites he likes to keep a close eye on.  This time one of them is Mark Begich.

Usually listening to someone outside Alaska talk about their own local politics feels about as interesting as watching their 3-hour vacation slide show of the Bahamas.  We nod politely and hope it ends soon.   We get so caught up in our own little world up here, we forget that our local politics are SO outrageous, it  even appeals to those outside!  What’s not to love?  We’ve got it all.  Drama, deceit, greed, bribery, indictments, felony convictions, corruption, big corporations, environmental issues, nepotism….throw in some goodies like “Series of Tubes” and Coconut Road, and a few eccentric characters like Hulk-tie-wearing Uncle Ted, Don ‘the biting mink’ Young, and Lisa “Who’s Yer Daddy?” Murkowski, and it surprises me it’s not a made-for-TV movie yet.

It was great fun reading through the comments and getting some perspective on how closely many are watching this race, and how many are tossing $20 or $25 into the coffers.


Mark Begich is Running Against Al Franken!

16 06 2008

It’s true! The Progressive Patriots Fund, chaired by Russ Feingold, will be making a $5,000 contribution to one of 9 progressive senate candidates running this fall.

The field of hopefuls is: Mark Begich – Alaska, Vivian Davis Figures – Alabama, Erik Fleming – Mississippi, Al Franken – Minnesota, Kay Hagen – North Carolina, Scott Kleeb – Nebraska, Larry LaRocco – Idaho, Bruce Lunsford – Kentucky, and Jeff Merkley – Oregon.

I admit, I had a little pang. I like all of these people….but the gloves are off. This red-blooded Alaskan voted for Begich, and against 8 awesome progressive candidates who deserve it just as much.

I was at a progressive fundraiser recently, and the guy next to me leaned over and said behind his hand, “It’s going to be an expensive year”. Yup.

The Ted Stevens money machine is in full swing, and his war chest is formidable. So this little vote made me feel good about supporting Begich without having to pull out the checkbook again. Cast your vote HERE.

Senator Jon Tester Speaks to Alaskans

29 05 2008


Montana Democratic Senator Jon Tester spoke at a packed fund-raising lunch for Mark Begich today at the Egan Center. Nice to see so many supportive and engaged people turn out on a sunny Thursday afternoon. Notable figures in attendance in addition to Mayor Begich and Deborah Bonito were: Diane Benson, Sheila Selkregg, Elvi Gray-Jackson, and Matt Claman among others.

Senator Tester told of how he had won his previously Republican seat by less than 4000 votes, and discussed the work the new Democratic Senate has been doing for veterans, alternative energy, education and ethics reform.  He expressed frustration about the inability so far to deal with FISA, and the Patriot Act, and reminds us there is a lot more work to do.

“You’ve got the opportunity here today to put a quality guy in the United States Senate.  I’m going to tell you this, and this is a fact. There are a lot of folks who run for public office, but there are darn few people that I know that have the ability to think, and communicate like Mark Begich.  This guy, when he comes to the U.S. Senate is going to be an incredible assett for Alaska, and he’s going to be an incredible asset for this country.” 

The afternoon wrapped up with the impromptu auction of a pair of seventh row Elton John tickets that went for a cool $900 after a good-natured bidding war.

Senator Tester will be spending a few more days in the state talking and listening to veterans and others, both in Fairbanks and in the Valley.  See the Mark Begich Campaign Blog for details and video of the Senators listening session earlier today at the Mountainview VFW Hall.

Ironically, during the Begich/Tester lunch, a Ted Stevens function was happening in the same building right next door.  I was concerned that the proximity of these two forces might bring about some sort of matter/anti-matter explosion, but none occured.  Convinced that I wouldn’t rip a hole in space/time, I found temptation irresistable and made a little mischief on the way out.  


Ted Stevens Caves.

23 05 2008

This must have been a tough one for ol’ Uncle Ted. He’s been openly opposed to the GI Bill for quite some time. Despite the fact that he himself benefited from the GI Bill after World War 2 (or was it World War 1?), and despite his fellow senator Lisa Murkowski cosponsoring the bill, he’s held fast. But the climate in Alaskan politics must have gotten a little too hot for his comfort lately. Those recent poll numbers showing Mark Begich leading by 5 points in his upcoming senate race must have been keeping him up at night. Or maybe it was Shannyn Moore on progressive KUDO-1080am urging listeners (the KUdogs) to call his office and shame him into supporting the bill. Or maybe, like the Grinch, his tiny heart grew three sizes that day……(yeah, right). Whatever it was,  he didn’t quite have it in him to vote ‘nay’ to legislation that supports our troops who’ve been getting screwed by their government since 2003….at least not the day before Memorial Day weekend.

Ted Stevens – Time Traveler? Botox?

21 05 2008

Ted Stevens 2008 campaign photo

I was perusing Ted Stevens website (so you don’t have to), and got to the donation page. And who did I find there? A rakish Ted Stevens, dimpled grin, looking self-assured and quite dapper for his 84 years. Botox, I thought? Hardly. He must have dug down into the archives to come up with this picture from the halcyon days of …hmmm…what do you think? I’m guessing 1988. I don’t even think the Alaska DMV would let him keep recycling this picture. It does fit nicely into the general theme of denial that seems to be running rampant in the Stevens campaign, though. Mind you, I have nothing against the aged, just the delusional.

Above, please enjoy his 2008 campaign photo (left) vs. the shot taken last December (right).

Barack Obama Comes to Alaska!

11 05 2008

That’s the headline I want to read in the Anchorage Daily News.

Let’s pretend we’re Barack Obama, and weigh the pros and cons.

The Cons:

  • The state has been red for most residents’ living memory. No state has voted fewer times for a Democratic presidential candidate.
  • We have a paltry 3 electoral votes out of 538 nationally in the presidential election.
  • He’d have to use a whole lot of frequent flier miles and precious hours he could spend campaigning in those ‘big states’ that really count.

Granted, those are some pretty big cons, but let’s keep thinking…


  • Underneath Alaska’s frozen red political crust, lurks a bubbling blue pool of progressivism not yet seen, but percolating its way upward.
  • The Begich campaign is now touting the fact that national Democrats rate his senate race against Alaska’s State Fossil, Ted Stevens as one of the top four senate races in the country. Wouldn’t a little political love from Barack Obama go a long way in this race which is now a statistical tie in the polls?
  • And yes…there’s Don Young. If Ted Stevens is our aged dottering uncle, then Don Young is surely our embarrasing cousin whose very existence we’d like to deny. Ethan Berkowitz or Diane Benson could benefit from a little Obamamania.

Let’s face it. Alaskan’s get themselves pretty fired up about things that come to Alaska. Elton John springs to mind immediately. And any state that could get itself into such a froth about the opening of a K-Mart store would certainly be more than a little impressed by a pop-in from a political rock star.

We need to flood his in-box, or offer him a free halibut charter, or a tour of the musk ox farm….whatever it takes. Once he sews up the nomination, and presumably the presidency, we can appeal to his sense of self-preservation. Does he really want to spend the next eight years working with these two jamooks? Flipping two of Alaska’s Congressional delegation won’t take much at this point, and a visit from Barack could turn this very small, very BIG state blue!