Al Franken Draws the U.S….almost.

7 08 2008

This is really amazing.  Watch Al Franken draw an amazingly accurate map of the U.S., freehand in front of a crowd.  Well, actually, not ALL of the U.S.  He says right off the bat he won’t be drawing Alaska…not even as a big square island off the coast of California where we usually are.  No Hawaii either.

At the end, some guy asks what he’s got against Alaska and Hawaii.  “Is it that Bridge to Nowhere Thing?”  Franken laughingly answers, “Yup. It’s the Bridge to Nowhere.”

And once again we get to thank soon to be ex-Senator Ted Stevens and soon to be ex- Congressman Don Young for yet another 15 seconds of fame…. Sigh.





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.





Alaska Candidates on the Couch

21 07 2008

Just got back from the Alaska Women’s Political Caucus Debate for House candidates, aka the “Couch Conference”. In attendance – Diane Benson, Ethan Berkowitz and Don Young. Glaringly absent – Gabrielle LeDoux and Sean Parnell.

I arrived a little late, but walked in just in time to hear Don Young’s position on the Iraq War. Fumbling for a pen, I managed to scribble down “Fully supported ‘invasion of Saddam’ or we would be having a nuclear war with Iran and genocide the likes of which we have never seen.” Yeah, we know. And the smoking gun would have been a mushroom cloud. FYI Don, we actually invaded Iraq, not Saddam.

Most of the questions and answers went as you’d expect, and many were softballs. KTUU’s Megan Baldino was underwhelming as moderator and looked bewildered and unsure of the protocol and the questions most of the time.

And I confess, I kept hoping for one of those Don Young head-exploding moments that would end up on YouTube, but no such luck. There was lots of sighing, and puffing out of cheeks, eyerolling and muttering. A couple times you could hear him say ‘nonsense’ under his breath, and he did this really odd leg lift thing, over and over, while looking completely engrossed in his shoe. And he definitely turned every shade of purple while the Democrats talked about ethics, but that was about it. When it came time for Don to talk about ethics, here’s part of what he had to say:

“I will set on this bench…this couch…and hold my character. [Mudflats – OMG close your eyes!] Yes, there’s been a lot of writing in the paper. 18 months of writing….18 months….. But my ethics and my wife’s ethics…my family’s ethics should never be in question. You may think they should be, but they should not be.”

Oh reeeeeaalllly. And exactly WHY should they not be in question? Maybe we should ask the FBI.

Ethan Berkowitz did well, but answered a few questions in vague terms, including, “What can you do in congress for the state of Alaska?” He responded by talking about moving forward, looking forward, looking to the future, needing a congressman for the NEXT 36 years, not the past 36 years. But I wanted, and thought he was capable of giving a more substantive answer. Other than that, he was polished, energetic, and engaged. He specifically mentioned his support for Clean Elections (eyeroll from Don Young), which I was happy about.

Diane Benson was at the top of her game. She was witty, poised, and unintimidated. My favorite Benson moment followed Don Young’s proclamation that he is-was-and-always-will-be pro-life. She answered that she is pro-life too, which is why she doesn’t support the death penalty, and doesn’t think we should “go to war at the drop of a hat”, but that matters of a woman’s body are private, and between her and her doctor. Zzzing! Her only cringe-inducing moment was when in response to a question about how best to promote women’s issues and fair pay, she said, “Stop electing men.” This was met by a heckle from the back of the room that came from a young uber-Republican guy in a suit, sporting a giant LaDoux bumper sticker on his lapel, who called out in his best frat-boy voice, “Yeah…Vote for Gabrielle!” Benson’s comment may have been true, to a degree, but Berkowitz scored by saying that people should vote for a candidate because of their values, not their gender.

The most moronic question of the night? If you could make up a catchy one-line slogan to bring tourists to Alaska, what would it be? All three candidates looked at Megan Baldino and each other like, “Are you kidding?” Don Young even said, “Who makes up these questions?” No one had a good answer, and no one in the audience was surprised they didn’t.

Second-most irrelevant question, but one that surprisingly perked up the audience nonetheless – “What car(s) do you drive, and do you fly commercially or by private jet?” Just because I know you’re curious:

Ethan Berkowitz – 1993 Yukon. Toyota Prius. Commercial airlines, front of the plane, aisle seat. He quoted Bill Egan who said, “You get more votes in coach.”

Don Young – 2003 Cadillac. Saturn. Evaded the airline question.

Diane Benson – “Nothing beats 50mpg on my Harley” (the crowd approved). Honda Element. Dodge Dakota work truck. Also didn’t answer the airline question, but probably not for the same reason as Don Young.

There was another interesting Don Young moment during the break. While being serenaded with great piano music (the event was held in the Steinway Piano shop) he danced down the aisle holding an invisible partner with a giant goofy smile almost long enough for me to get it on tape….that would have been my YouTube moment! Oh well. He did seem to be in quite a chipper mood….perhaps he’s watching Lt. Gov. Sean Parnell, his biggest Republican threat, who hitched his wagon to Sarah Palin’s rising star. That star is starting to fizzle, big time, and it’s only good news for Don Young in the primary. More on that later.

But basically, Young’s strategy was to remind us all that he’s been in congress for a long long long time, and that he can drop lots of names. His other strategy was to be a puffed-up, condescending bully. It’s worked for him in the past, so he keeps doing it. He never missed an opportunity to mention that the other two Republicans weren’t there, which was ironic since, in May, Young blew off a promised teleconference at the Hispanic Affairs Council forum (attended by all four other candidates) with a flimsy excuse. The condescension continued with weird comments to Ethan Berkowitz, either under his breath about Diane Benson, or out loud with things like, “Well, Ethan, that was a very nice campaign speech” after every question he answered. (Note to Ethan – Try using a strategically placed throw pillow as a buffer zone to keep Don out of your ‘bubble’ if you have to sit next to him again)

After the first round of questions, each candidate was given a paper bag with questions on little slips of paper in it, that they drew out of the bag and asked their opponents. Ethan Berkowitz’s last piece of paper slipped under the flap at the bottom of the bag and he couldn’t find it. So Don Young booms out, “And Ethan wants to be a congressman….He can’t even find what’s in the bottom of the bag! HAHAHAHAHAHA!” This was met by crickets and uncomfortable shuffling from most of the room, uproarious laughter from the frat boy corner, and cascades of giggles from the Steinway piano lady, who spent the rest of the evening fawning over him like a lovesick schoolgirl.

The evening wrapped up with a 2 minute closing statement from each candidate. Don Young reminded us that even though some people think he’s done badly, he hasn’t done badly. He revealed the horrifying fact that he wants to die in office – “God’s going to replace me some day. I only hope it’s not the voters.” Voters…lightning bolt….either way, he needs to be gone.

If either Democratic candidate gets the seat, Ethan Berkowitz will get his wish to “elevate the quality and tone of politics in this state.”





Show Me the Money! Dems Clean Up.

16 07 2008

The second quarter fundraising is in, and the blue piggy bank is looking pretty fat. Let’s look at the House race first:

Don Young (R) – $106,616 (*Note – $103,521 was spent on legal fees by the Young campaign during the same time period.)

Sean Parnell (R) – $266,000

Gabrielle LeDoux (R) – $200,000 ($157,500 of it is her own money)

Diane Benson (D) – $52,606

Ethan Berkowitz (D) – $277,066 (Yowza!)

And now, the best for last….(drum roll please)…..Alaska’s Senate Race.

Ted Stevens (R) – $745,000

Mark Begich (D) – $1,034,600! (I give you Alaksa’s Million Dollar Man!)

This is good on so many levels. First, most of the contributions for Begich are $100 and under indicating strong grass roots support. Second, its not only more than the formidable Stevens money machine could raise, but it’s a LOT more. Third, being able to use the phrase “more than a million dollars” has to feel good to the Begich folks.

And just for fun, if you add together all the Republican fundraising this quarter (even including Gabrielle LeDoux’s gift to self) you end up with $1,202,616. The Democrats? $1,364,272. Nice. Considering the lobster-like redness of the state of Alaska, this is monumental.

What about Ray Metcalfe you are wondering? Couldn’t find any information on his fundraising, although it may exist somewhere. But I did notice that on his website he’d prefer Barack Obama for president, but would be willing to support Hillary Clinton if she gets the nomination. Does Ray know something we don’t know about a coup attempt at the upcoming convention, or did he just forget to update the website? Inquiring minds want to know!





A-Team vs. Wolfpack – You Make the Call…

13 07 2008

Remember as a kid when you used to guess which superhero could take the other one in a fight?  Spiderman vs. Aquaman,  Batman vs. The Lone Ranger, Underdog vs. Quick Draw McGraw….  The possibilities were varied, and dominated much schoolyard conversation between 2nd and 6th grade.  The latest Don Young rediculousness makes me wonder…who would win if the  A-Team took on the Wolfpack in a superlobbyist fight?  But then I realized that the nine lobbyists on the ‘A-Team’ were actually also IN the  29-lobbyist ‘Wolf Pack’.  So if you are on the A-Team, you are also in the Wolfpack, but Wolfpack membership doesn’t necessarily mean you’re on the A-Team.   So to have this hypothetical showdown,  the A-Team would have to defect FROM the Wolfpack, which could complicate things.  But still, it could be done.  After defection, the A-Team would still be outnumbered about 2 to 1, but they’re some heavy hitters with extra lobbyist superpowers…  I’m thinking it would be a close fight.

But of course, the greater issue here is that a 75-year old congressional representative, the one and only “Congressman for all Alaska” thinks it’s cool running around making up stupid names for his lobbyist buddies because….what….he’s frozen in time as a 12-year old?  What’s next, a handwritten sign on his office door that says “No Democrats Allowed”?  A secret Corrupt Bastards handshake?  A big Republican Treehouse in Washington?

Ooooo.  Maybe the Wolf Pack and the A-Team could reunite, and ambush John McCain’s “Truth Squad” on the “Straight Talk Express”!  They’d never see it coming.  A nickel says they could take ’em!  Are you in? (spits on palm)  Shake.

As we contemplate the new American “Bad Guy” (the lobbyist), in all its incarnations, enjoy this awesome offering from the satirical mastersite – The Onion.   You won’t know whether to laugh or cry, so do both.

And a note to Berkowitz, Benson, Begich and the rest of the Democratic lineup.  Please no ‘teams’, ‘packs’, or ‘squads’ – we’re all adults here.





I Pity the Intern! Don Young’s A-Team.

19 06 2008

Apparently a paid member of Don Young’s staff decided it would be a good idea to distribute a “Survival Guide” to interns on Capitol Hill. Frankly, I can’t imagine any survival guide getting me through being Don Young’s intern. Maybe if it came in a flask. But I digress…

This handy guide discusses phone etiquette, among other things, and refers to Don Young’s “A Team” a group of nine lobbyists with unfettered access, who are to be immediately connected to any member of the staff with whom they wish to speak. Seriously, it really did refer to these people as “The A Team”. Much to my dismay, fictional good-guy mercenary Mr. T, from the original “A-Team” was not on the list, but the following nine lobbyists were:

Rick Alcade, Colin Chapman, Randy DeLay, Billy Lee Evans, Jack Ferguson, Mike Henry, Duncan Smith, CJ Zane and Jay Dickey. “These people can talk to whomever they want.”

My favorite picks are Rick Alcade, the lobbyist at the heart of the infamous Coconut Road earmark, and Randy DeLay, brother of the equally infamous Tom DeLay. There’s also Jack Ferguson, former chief of staff to Alaska senator Ted Stevens – also under investigation. Please note that these nine get better treatment than “Other Members” “Government People” or “Other People”. You and I did get a mention, though. “Constituents – Call to voice their opinion.”

Other little gems discuss his wife Lu “Mrs. Y” Young’s interesting and sometimes bizarre idiosyncracies

  • Has good days and bad days, try to get people to warn you
  • Her orders are often disguised as offers, suggestions, or invitations – they are not. Do them.
  • Does not permit noise from computers
  • Don’t stand in her way – don’t stand anywhere I would suggest. Sit down or hide in the broom cupboard.
  • You should not put anything on her desk
  • You should not keep her waiting. She says you go – you go.
  • Eat when she tells you to eat
  • If you sneeze, it’s always allergies or pressure changes; stick strong to your case.

Apparently “Mrs. Y” has germ issues?

“The Boss” (Mr. Y)

  • Expects you to open doors for him (particularly tricky when he does not specify where he is going, make a guess).
  • Doesn’t like facial piercings
  • Doesn’t like people putting their hands in their pockets
  • Should always be referred to as “the Congressman” or “the Chairman”

The official response from Don Young’s office?

“Rep. Young has welcomed dozens of interns into his office over the years and finds their assistance in the office invaluable. But interns are not staff. This incredibly outdated “survival guide” was pieced together by several former interns and not by staff. This “guide” in no way reflects the official policies of Rep. Young’s office.”

So…..why was it being distributed to prospective interns by Mike Anderson, Young’s Chief of Staff?

The internets are all a-buzz. For more on this latest PR disaster, check out Talking Points Memo, The Anchorage Daily News, Politico, The Hill, Think Progress and The Wall Street Journal with many many more to come, I’m sure.

This little bombshell is certainly not going to help in the current primary race against Sean Parnell. But think about it, people…if we don’t reelect him, the good ol’ boy from Ft. Yukon is going to be forced to (shudder) open doors for himself! Oh, the horror.

I wonder what kind of phone calls those interns are taking today? Should we all call, pretend we’re on the A-Team and see what happens? Nah, they’re probably all in the ‘broom cupboard’.





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.

 





Obama – The Last Frontier Strategy

17 06 2008

Chris Weigant at Huffington Post makes an excellent case for what we here in Alaska have known all along. I’ve been squawking for months now about Obama coming to Alaska, and how Begich and Berkowitz would benefit from the Obama bump. (No, not the ‘terrorist fist jab’ kind..the increase in poll numbers kind).

My neck is sore from nodding through the entire post, in which Weigant clearly spells out the advantages of a visit to the Great Land.

  • He might actually WIN here.
  • He would significantly improve the chances for Begich and Berkowitz.
  • He would force John McCain to come too, and stand shoulder to shoulder with Stevens and Young who are not only the earmark kings, but are up to their eyeballs in federal investigations. His only other alternative would be to stay home and let the chips fall where they may.
  • So far Howard Dean’s ’50 state strategy’ appears to be working, and Alaska is actually one of those 50 states.

And come on….would you want to have to work with those jokers for four more years??

Great to see this broader coverage, and that the idea has had a trickle-up effect. Obama camp, are you listening?





John Edwards Sees Dead People??

15 06 2008

After John Edwards dropped out of the presidential race, I was bummed.  He was my #1 choice despite the fact that my brain kept saying “please not another southern white guy”!  His message was spot on, and that’s what mattered.  So, imagine how jazzed I was when my significant other sitting at the computer calls out, “John Edwards is coming to Anchorage???” 

Me: (eyes bugging out of head)  What?  Are you sure? 

SO: (earnestly)  I’m looking right here at Craig’s list and someone wants a John Edwards ticket!

Me: Is it the Anchorage Craig’s list?

SO:  Yes!  Look!  John Edward ticket for $185!

Me:  Edward?  or Edwards?

SO: Oh. 

Me: (frantic Google search for “John Edwards Anchorage”.  Please let it be true…. A site pops up.  John Edward in Anchorage tickets available!) He has captivated audiences worldwide.  He uses his unique abilities to connect people with loved ones who have passed on. (HUH?)  Discover the comforting and hopeful message of this world-famous medium, best-selling author and renowned motivational figure.  AAAARGH!

Obviously a case of mistaken identity.  So much for that.  That was the shortest emotional roller-coaster ever. Up-Up-UUUP-splat. 

Well, there has been talk of Obama coming to Alaska, which would certainly give Mark Begich or any other Democratic Congressional hopeful a great bump.  If I were Obama, I’d come up here just to make sure I didn’t have to work with Stevens or Young.  Ever.  Maybe John Edwards could tag along for fun?

 





Ted Stevens – Thrifty and Ethical! (cough)

14 06 2008

Friday’s annual financial disclosure from Ted Stevens and Lisa Murkowski revealed a few goodies.  Uncle Ted has apparently forked out somewhere between $15,000 and $50,000 in legal fees to the firm Williams & Connolly, presumably for work connected to his ongoing federal investigation. 

While this may seem a pretty penny to most of us (unless we’re lawyers), it begs a question.   Why is Ted “My House Was Raided by the FBI and IRS” Stevens paying a paltry $50,000 or less, while Don Young has so far shelled out over $1.1 MILLION with no end in sight?!  Seems a tad off balance to me.  

Maybe Don didn’t price shop his legal firms very well.  Akin Gump Strauss Hauer and Feld must have seen him coming.  And yes, one of the partners in Don Young’s legal firm is named Gump.  I hope he’s the one that defends him in court.  You can’t make this stuff up. 

So one point to Ted Stevens for thriftiness.  And another point to Ted for paying for his lawyers himself, instead of pillaging his campaign donations like the Don.  How sad is it that I feel compelled to give a member of our congressional delegation ethics points for how he pays for the lawyers defending his own heinous corruption.  Welcome to Alaska.

And let’s not forget Lisa.  While nothing startling was revealed, it’s good that everyone is reminded about the “something’s-rotten-on-the-Kenai-and-it-ain’t-fish” land deal with campaign contributor Bob Penney.  If you recall, he sold her a parcel of land for a fraction of it’s actual worth because that’s not the same as a bribe, right?  Her snit fit after being found out was ‘FINE.  I’ll just give it BACK.  I hope you’re all HAPPY!’ (pout stomp stomp stomp)   Just because she’s less corrupt than the other two clowns doesn’t mean she’s clean.  In the land of the blind the one eye’d (wo)man is king.

When Murkowski was asked about the revision to her disclosure she proclaimed, “We’re completely done with that.”   Really.  Let’s hope others out there don’t share that sentiment.

Monday, Don Young’s report will be out.  Stay tuned…this oughtta be good.

UPDATE:  STEVENS LOSES POINT!…..NOT THRIFTY.

Seems that the disclosure from the Stevens camp reflects only the outstanding liability! (slaps self on head)  The universe is in balance after all.  So we have no way of knowing what the total bill may have been, only what he still owes.  He may be another million dollar man for all we know.  I confess I am relieved to have been corrected by those wiser and more inside than myself. 





The Bridge from Hell.

9 06 2008

Ah, another Alaskan bridge.

Will the Knik Arm Bridge be our next infamous ‘Bridge to Nowhere’? Seems like we’re taking steps in that direction. The unholy trinity of Rep. Don Young, ex-Senator/ex-Governor Frank Murkowski, and ex-mayor George Wuerch saw to it that the concept of a bridge across Knik Arm (directly to the land at Pt. McKenzie held by various family and friends) got a big influx of cash. And the planning began. They planned and they planned. They got paid to plan, and they kept on planning.

$41.5 MILLION later….

Enter new administration. Words like ‘pork barrel spending’ are heard. People start asking questions. Sarah ‘You Guys are in Big Trouble’ Palin now says the whole project needs reevaluation.

DUM-DA-DUM DUM.

Rats begin leaping from the bridge. First went Deputy Director of the bridge authority Darryl Jordan. (eeeeeee! Splash.) He said that since he believed this project wasn’t going anywhere soon, he thought it would be best to find a “real project”. Maybe getting $130,000 a year to work on a fantasy project was gnawing at his conscience? Right.

The next leaping rat was aforementioned ex-mayor George Wuerch. Before taking his own flying leap, he wrote a letter to Sarah Palin in which he explained, “It’s been a long, slow and expensive process.” Yes, George…we noticed. (eeeeeee! Splash.)

Now, all this may look bad, but we are assured by Mary Pease, spokesperson for the bridge authority, that “the project couldn’t be more on track in terms of trying to tie together the community and the administrative folks, than ever before”. So, we can rest easy. They are on track to try. They are more on track to try than EVER. There’s no way they could be MORE on track to try than they are right now. And, I bet if we keep throwing more money at them, they will continue to remain firmly and squarely on track to try.

Let’s see…that’s $600 million for the bridge…no wait..it’s more like $1 Billion now, plus $25 million a year for each year we delay, plus $200+ million for the Gambell St. access, plus $1.1 million in payroll for the planners every year…minus $130,000 a year for Darrell Jordan’s salary since they’re not replacing him. Ever wonder how much the toll is going to end up being? Will they take credit cards?





Corrupt Bastard Dominos!

30 05 2008

This is great!  Check out Ray Metcalfe’s website, and play corrupt bastard dominos!  He’s got a nice header, and when you click it, you can see a whole string of corrupt bastards starting with Bill Allen, and ending with ‘Uncle Ted’ Stevens who falls last, with a satisfying thwack, right on his face.  I did actually laugh out loud and confess to playing this little game more than once. Kinda like throwing darts, without leaving a hole in your wall.  It just feels goooood. Here’s the link –  Try it!