Republicans Speak on the Stevens Conviction.

27 10 2008

Sarah who?  Today’s theme in Alaska has been “All Ted, All the Time.”  To be honest, it’s been sort of refreshing to have a break.  We needed to cleanse the brain with something completely different – a mental sorbet between courses of Sarah Palin. 

Let’s ask the obvious question.  “Senator Stevens, what do you have to say for yourself?”

“I am obviously disappointed in the verdict but not surprised given the repeated instances of prosecutorial misconduct in this case. … I will fight this unjust verdict with every ounce of energy I have. I am innocent. This verdict is the result of the unconscionable manner in which the Justice Department lawyers conducted this trial. I ask that Alaskans and my Senate colleagues stand with me as I pursue my rights. I remain a candidate for the United States Senate.”

That was quick, and it’s no surprise.  Stevens plans to blame the system, and appeal the verdict.  And, yes, he will continue his campaign to retain his Senate seat, and asks for the support of his constituents and fellow Senators.

So (rolling up sleeves) we’ve heard what Ted has to say.  What about those national Republican and Senate leaders for whose support he has asked?  What do they have to say about their colleague in peril? 

“This is a sad but serious day. Sen. Stevens was found guilty by a jury of his peers, and now must face the consequences of those actions. As a result of his conviction, Sen. Stevens will be held accountable so the public trust can be restored.” – Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.

OK.  Senate Minority Leader sounds pretty disappointed.  “Face the consequences”, “held accountable”…..Sounds like Mitch McConnell is thinking self-preservation and taking a giant step away from the convicted felon.  McConnell is running for re-election in a race that’s a little to close for comfort, and can ill-afford the Stevens albatross around his neck.

“This is a sad day for the United States Senate. Ted Stevens served his constituents for over 40 years and I am disappointed to see his career end in disgrace. Sen. Stevens had his day in court and the jury found he violated the public’s trust – as a result he is properly being held accountable. This is a reminder that no one is above the law.” – Sen. John Ensign, R-Nev., chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee.

Well, it’s pretty obvious that the Republican Senate leadership has pretty much thrown Ted under the bus.  And it’s not surprising, really.  Once the suffix “convicted felon” appears after a politicians name, any continued affiliation with them is pretty much political suicide.  Nobody, but NObody in the Republican Party would be foolish enough to snuggle up to Ted Stevens at this point.  I mean it would be like holding a big sign that said “I Pal Around With a Convicted Felon!”   Right, Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski?

“Given today’s verdict, it’s a sad day indeed for Sen. Stevens and his family as well as for Alaska. Ted Stevens is an honorable, hardworking Alaskan who has served our state well for as long as we have been a state….Ted has asked for Alaskans and his Senate colleagues to stand with him as he pursues his legal rights. He stood with Alaskans for 40 years, and I plan to continue to stand with him.” – Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska.

You guessed right.  Murkowski is NOT up for re-election this year.  But Rep. Don Young IS.

“I’m deeply disappointed. It surprises me. I don’t think he had a jury of his peers. That’s the way it goes. I’m sure there will be an appeal. If you watched the conduct of the court with the one juror leaving and going out and, of course, the actions of the prosecutors themselves, there definitely will be an appeal, and it will go for a long period of time.” – Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska.

Hit the brakes!  What’s this?  He didn’t have a jury of his peers?  What peers do you mean Rep. Young?  All the other members of Alaska’s infamous “Corrupt Bastards Club?”   Ohhh… that’s right, they are either in jail, testifying against Stevens, or are actually his offspring.  Guess that means he’ll have to settle for some other kind of jury…like the one selected by the attorneys on both sides.

What about that other Alaskan politician that’s been in the news lately?  What’s her name, again?

“This is a sad day for Alaska and for Sen. Stevens and his family. The verdict shines a light on the corrupting influence of the big oil service company that was allowed to control too much of our state. … As governor of the state of Alaska, I will carefully monitor this situation and take any appropriate action as needed. In the meantime, I ask the people of Alaska to join me in respecting the workings of our judicial system. I’m confident Sen. Stevens will do what’s right for the people of Alaska.” – Gov. Sarah Palin, R-Alaska.

Interesting.  So it’s the corrupting influence of big oil, not the corrupt compliance of politicians.  Subtle distinction.  It wasn’t Ted’s fault…it was those darn kids he was hanging around with that got him into trouble.   Then she tosses some word salad, with meaningless filler croutons.  And then “Respecting the workings of our judicial system” sounds good…but is she talking about the verdict we just got, or Ted’s upcoming appeal?  And what will Senator Stevens do that is “right for the people of Alaska?”  Does that mean step down, or continue to run?  In a nutshell, Sarah Palin said absolutely nothing with any substance.  How very…..Sarah Palin.

But, after all this, what is the official comment from the Republican Party of the State of Alaska?  THE most important Alaskan Republican in the history of the state has just been indicted on seven felony counts.  He has been tried by a jury of his peers, in front of the nation.  He has been held up to the world as an example of the degradation, rampant greed, and incomprehensible hubris of the Republican Party.  Ted Stevens, the longest serving Republican senator in history, once third in line to the Presidency,  has been castigated and rebuked by the national Republican Senate leaders.  He is the poster boy for how far, long, and hard the Republicans have fallen.  What say you, Alaskan Republicans?  How do you console and guide your stricken party members who are reeling from betrayal and humiliation.  Let’s face it…the last two years have been pretty tough on Alaska Republicans, and now the demi-God of the party has just poured salt in the wounds.   I’m sorry Republican Party…I had asked you a question.  You were saying?

“We need to continue to support Sen. Stevens. We need to vote for him because a vote for him is a vote for a conservative candidate, a Republican who best represents the interests and beliefs of Alaskans. … We don’t know what happens in the future. But if you don’t want Mark Begich, you vote for Ted Stevens.” – McHugh Pierre, spokesman for the Alaska Republican Party.

You heard it here, kids.  The Alaskan Republican Party has just reaffirmed their endorsement of, and told you to vote for A CONVICTED FELON!  You show ’em Alaska Republicans!  Hold your head high, walk in to the voting booth with the blessing of your political party, fill in that little oval, and vote with impunity for A CONVICTED FELON!  Drive home with a satisfied smile, kiss your spouse, and say, “What did you do today, Honey?  I voted for A CONVICTED FELON!”  Proudly call your friends and relatives out of state, and tell them how you, and all your buddies in the Republican party, puffed out your chests, and proudly hitched your wagon to the star of an 84-year old CONVICTED FELON!  Maybe you should call your local party headquarters and suggest a fundraiser…you could do t-shirts, and hats that say, “I VOTED FOR A CONVICTED FELON!” 

Then, put your feet up, and watch the national news, and watch a couple political talk shows, and wonder to yourself, “How did Alaska become a laughing stock?”

 

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A Tour of the Alaska Federation of Natives Convention – Surprise Troopergate Spottings!

23 10 2008
I went to meet a friend today at the AFN Convention in downtown Anchorage. AFN stands for Alaska Federation of Natives. Every year, Native Alaskans come from all over the state to meet in Anchorage. The event is cultural, social, political, and practical. Today was the opening day, and I was scheduled to meet my friend for lunch. I looked up the program online and discovered that our Governor was due to address the convention at 10:30, so I planned my trip accordingly.

The convention was held in the newly opened Dena’ina Convention Center, and it was the first sizeable event held there. The first actual event held there was the Sarah Palin Welcome Home rally which I attended undercover….but that was hardly sizeable.

The facility is quite impressive, and able to hold many thousands of people.

Beautiful hanging 2-story art featuring Alaskan critters.

Beautiful hanging 2-story art featuring Alaskan critters.

I slipped in a seat just in time to hear Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich deliver a nice address.  He had a big hand in getting the convention center built, and talked about the process of giving it an Alaskan Native name.  He also talked about his six years as Mayor, his past experiences hosting AFN Conventions in his city, “Alaska’s largest native village,” and his travels around the state.  He, of course, is campaigning heavily right now in his attempt to dethrone Ted Stevens, and take the Senate seat that Stevens has held….forever.  He finished up and was met with rousing applause and a standing ovation.  Enthusiasm factor on a scale of 1-10:  8

Then, the recorded announcement from Sarah Palin.  She was flanked by flags, and sat next to a big vase of white roses.  I can’t tell you exactly what she said, but you can probably imagine.  She went on about how Todd and her kids are part Native, and they “cherish their Native heritage” (a point disputed by several Native people I know), and talked about comin’ together, and seekin’ change, and energy costs, and her travels around the state, and her travel to Kuwait, and the Alaska National Guard.   Then there was a reminder of the $1200 energy rebate checks everyone got, and how they came out early this year. (Sounds awful “spread-the-wealth-around” to me…)  There was a strained reference to Native legend, trying to tie something in to a story about the Raven.  Then a folksy story about two frogs stranded in a pail of milk.  One gave up and died, the other kept kicking until the milk turned in to butter and then hopped out.  She learned this story from embattled Attorney General Talis Colberg, who is under pressure to resign becuase of his conduct in the Troopergate fiasco, when he told state employees they didn’t need to comply with legislative subpoenas.   I’m guessing this little fable is meant to let us know that no, he will not be stepping down any time soon…he’s just gonna be kickin’ away until unethical behavior turns in to butter.  As a matter of fact, Sarah told us, Talis Colberg himself will be heading up a sub-cabinet on rural affairs.

By the time she wrapped up her saccharine-sweet, over-rehearsed, cotton-candy slideshow, my teeth hurt.  After it was done, I saw one non-Native woman bouncing, and applauding at about 5 claps per second, and the rest of the vast hall was very very lukewarm.  The applause was “polite.”   Enthusiasm factor on a scale of 1-10:  3.5

Then Lt. Governor Sean Parnell made a “surprise” appearance to present the first Shirley Dementieff Award to a Native woman who demonstrated exemplary public service.  Enthusiasm factor on a scale of 1-10 for Sean Parnell:  2   Enthusiasm factor on a scale of 1-10 for the winner of the award, Rep. Mary Nelson   :  9

Next up, Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski, appointed to the US Senate Seat by her Father, former Senator Frank Murkowski when he became Governor Frank Murkowski….the one who lost to Sarah Palin in the primary, garnering only 19% of the vote.   Alaskans then passed a law saying that the Governor can no longer appoint a vacant US Senate seat, and then proceeded to re-elect Lisa anyway.  Don’t ask me to explain that one.

That said, I will give credit where credit is due. Lisa Murkowski, who sits on the Indian Affairs Committee, knows her stuff, is intelligent, and actually seems to take her job pretty seriously.  There was an obligatory jab at Nancy Pelosi, but other than that, she was on good behavior.  She talked about the fact that milk is $10 a gallon in some areas of Alaska, that stove oil was already being rationed in some communities, that households in rural Alaska spend 40% of their budget on heating costs, that a woman had emailed her saying she was praying for a warm winter.  “Prayer is not, and should not be an energy strategy,” said Murkowski.  She talked about the fact that infant mortality for Native Alaskans is double that of non-Natives, and that 12% of Native deaths are in some way alcohol-related.  She talked about what she had actually been doing.  I sat for a moment marvelling at a woman holding high elected office in the state of Alaska who actually knows what she’s talking about.  Even though I disagree with Murkowski on a LOT of issues, and I have not and probably will not ever vote for her, I enjoyed the experience of not being embarrassed by a member of the Alaska congressional delegation. She was refreshingly un-mockable.  Enthusiasm factor on a scale of 1-10: 7 with a belated and not particularly enthusiastic standing ovation, but a standing ovation nonetheless.

This is the point where I started to feel like a birdwatcher. I should have brought a pair of binoculars, a better camera, and a Troopergate Field Guide so I could have checked off all the different species I saw.

It all started with a casual glance around at the crowd.  Lo and behold, 20 feet in front of me is Attorney General Talis Colberg himself!  He’s talking with someone….who is that?….It’s Palin’s Communications Director Bill McAllister!  AAACK!  Where’s my camera…which pocket??….must document this tete-a-tete!  Well, by the time I got the camera out of my pocket, McAllister had fled the scene.  I snapped a horrible blurry picture.  Then another horrible blurry picture of Talis Colberg….must fix the setting on the camera….  And by the time I fixed the setting, no more Colberg.  I submit these two awful pieces of photographic evidence  so I can check them off in my field guide.  The one of McAllister is like that photo of the Loch Ness Monster.  You’ll just have to believe me.

Bill McAllister is fleeing the interview!

A fleeting glimpse of AG Talis Colberg.

A fleeting glimpse of AG Talis Colberg.

 But wait, there’s more!  Out in the hallway, who should I spy, but Senator Lyman Hoffman of the Legislative Council that voted to release the Troopergate report! *clap clap clap*

Senator Lyman Hoffman of the Legislative Council

Senator Lyman Hoffman of the Legislative Council, and Mike Tibbles, former Palin Chief of Staff and current campaign manager for Ted Stevens.

And finally in this amazing Who’s Who of Troopergate, the former Commissioner of the Department of Public Safety, Walt Monegan!  Himself, part Alaska native, he was ready to implement some very important and comprehensive strategies to improve the lives of rural Alaskans, when Sarah Palin decided to give him the axe….you know the story.

Walt Monegan! *snappy salute*

Walt Monegan! *snappy salute*

On the way out, I made a quick pass through the downstairs room where some incredible Native Arts and Crafts were on sale.

   

Good thing I had no money.

On the way out the door, one last Alaskan politician had his chance to make an “impression.”  Ted Stevens had his name and website printed on berry buckets which were stacked by the door.  My companion had to tell me what they were.  Berries, of course, are an important subsistence food, and Ted wanted to be sure his name was toted around all over the state on a useful object.  Quite clever, actually.

Ted Stevens berry bucket.

So Ted Stevens had the last word, even as he sat on the other side of the continent, waiting for a verdict from the jury.  Or so I thought.  Turns out, the last word, in fact, went to Mark Begich.  He was standing outside on the sidewalk talking to people and handing out samples of a traditional Native treat which is known as “Eskimo ice cream”.  Someone asked what kind it was.  The answer?  “Bethel style without the seal oil.”  The original recipe consists of (I believe) snow, berries and seal oil.  Other versions I’ve seen are berries, sugar and Crisco, and now this one which tasted like Cool whip with cranberries and blueberries.

   

I asked Mark how he was holding up, and he said he was doing well.  I didn’t mention the trial, but everyone is thinking it.  I give him credit…he must have a stomach of iron.  If he can handle the last two months, I think the U.S. Senate is going to be a breeze.

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The Stevens Indictment Welcomes – Dick Cheney?

23 08 2008

We knew that there would be jewels aplenty in those 67,000 pieces of paper, and hundreds of taped phone calls and videos that make up the body of evidence to be used against Ted Stevens in his upcoming trial.  Here’s the latest.

There’s a new player in our cast of unseemly characters…none other than Dick Cheney.  Apparently a two year old letter from Cheney to the Alaska Legislature has surfaced from the pile o’ steaming evidence.  The letter urged the Legislature to speed things up and get the gas pipeline project settled.  Remember that?  When Frank Murkowski was foaming at the mouth like a rabid animal telling us we had to do it NOW NOW NOW or the WORLD WILL END I TELL YOU!!!

According to a Justice motion, Stevens told Allen, “I’m gonna try to see if I can get some bigwigs from back here and say, ‘Look … you gotta get this done’.” Two days later, Cheney wrote a letter to the Alaska Legislature urging members to “promptly enact” a bill to build the pipeline. The letter was considered unusual because the White House rarely contacts state lawmakers about pending legislative matters. It also angered state Democrats, who accused Cheney of pushing oil-company interests. The former executive director of Cheney’s energy task force had gone to work as a lobbyist for British Petroleum, one of three firms slated to build the pipeline.

Stevens confirmed to NEWSWEEK last week that he asked Cheney to write the letter. “We wanted the federal government to tell the state to act quickly on it,” he said. (A spokesman for Alaska’s other senator, Lisa Murkowski, said her office also had contacts with Cheney’s office.) A Cheney spokeswoman said his office does not comment on pending legal matters.

Interesting.  So our web has added two new strands, and names have been spoken – Dick Cheney and Lisa Murkowski.  Apparently the prosecution is not all that eager to bring up the Cheney connection, as the letter has strangely not been cited by the Justice Department.  Following this trail to the end might land the executive branch somewhere they don’t want to be, like under a magnifying glass.

But, you never know.  Dick Cheney could end up on the witness stand.  Maybe the reason they’re avoiding this is to keep him from making the Bible spontaneously combust when he’s sworn in… That could be really embarrassing.





5 Minutes 32 Seconds.

25 06 2008

After sitting here wallowing in despair and frustration about FISA, and our ‘quaint and outdated’ fourth amendment, it was such a relief to hear Chris Dodd and Russ Feingold speak up today.  Dodd eloquently said what so many Americans are thinking, and what so few of their elected representatives are.  He spoke for two hours on the floor of the senate today. If you have 5 minutes and 32 seconds, settle in and listen to a patriot. 

Gee, I wonder how Stevens and Murkowski will vote?  I emailed them both.  Not because I think it will change anything, but watching Chris Dodd reminded me that sometimes it’s just about saying what needs to be said.  So, a virtual pat on the back and a big thank you to Senator Dodd from a few thousand miles away.





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.

 





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. 





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!