The Alaskan White Knights are Waffling, and We Have Homework to Do.

25 11 2008

waffle

I have a couple questions.

What do you do when your Governor is accountable to your Attorney General, and your Attorney General is accountable to your Governor, and neither one of them will either acknowledge or administer consequences for bad behavior.  It’s like a kid whose Mom says, “Go ask Dad,” and whose Dad says, “Go ask Mom.”  Neither one of them wants to be accountable, and neither one of them has any  intention of answering the question.  They are hoping the kid will go away.

Now I have another question.

What do you do when the Legislature, the voice of the people who hired the Governor, also refuses to administer consequences for bad behavior, and simply stands mute?  And what do you do when that silence then turns into statements that run not only counter to the expectation of the people, but to their job description, and the bounds of ethics and the law? 

What do you do when your “voice” no longer speaks for you?

I have a small understanding about how people with Tourette syndrome, or muscular spasms must feel.   It must feel like a betrayal of mind and body when the things that are meant, on the most basic level, to represent you  (your voice, and your actions) are hijacked by unknown forces, leaving you making declarations and gestures that have no connection with your true intent. 

When the Alaska Legislature starts talking about how we’re all weary of Troopergate, and Governor Palin, Attorney General Talis Colberg, and those who ignored legislative subpoenas should just be able to continue without facing any consequences for violating the Alaska Executive Branch Ethics Act, and the law,  I feel like shouting, “This is not me!  I’m not saying this!  I’m not doing this!”

I have often compared the Democrats of the Legislature to white knights. I’ve been blown away at times by their bravery, their conviction, and the fact that they put themselves out on a limb to do the right thing. And I’ve also given a pat on the back to Republicans who have planted themselves on the right side of the fence despite their party affiliation. In some ways the Repulicans had the harder job. When the bipartisan Legislative Council voted to make public the Troopergate report whose first finding was that Sarah Palin abused her power and violated the Alaska Executive Branch Ethics Act, I was amazed. I began to…dare I say it aloud….have faith in my Legislature.  All of them.

Now, after the election, as Sarah Palin gets back to the business of the state (when she’s in town), I am beginning to lose that faith.  The white knights are starting to pull their punches, the horses are rearing like they’ve seen a snake, and the villagers are getting a horrible sinking feeling. We are wondering what happened to them? We wonder if they are breaking their vows to us, and justifying the betrayal in the name of “moving forward and working together on the issues that really matter.”

Call me crazy, but I think ethics really matters.   If you polled voters and asked if they’d rather have an ethical politician or an unethical one, you’d get the obvious answer. And if you broke down the results of this poll by party affiliation, I don’t think you’d find much difference.  Everyone wants ethical politicians. So, why, after a candidate has been elected, would anyone want to stop a process that was designed to find out if that politician is corrupt?  Why would you budget $100,000 for an investigation to find out whether a politician violated the ethics act if you were going to ignore the finding?  And why, if the findings showed that the politician had indeed violated the ethics act, would you decide to give them a free pass?  And why, if witnesses, and perhaps the head of the Department of Law violated…..the LAW, would you be just fine with that?

For right now, I’m going to give our White Knights on both sides of the aisle the benefit of the doubt.  I, on behalf of the villagers, am going to accept some responsibility for their waffling.   Perhaps we just haven’t been doing a good enough job of letting them know we’re here, and that we’re going to back them up.  Maybe they really think people don’t care.  Perhaps they feel like they’re headed off to battle with no ammunition.  That has to be scary.

So here’s your homework Mudflatters…  As a Thanksgiving present to the Alaska State Legislature, I want you to give them some ammunition.  Every email you send, every letter you write, every phone call you make is an arrow in their quiver.  Phone calls count as two arrows…maybe even three.

I want our white knights to be armed to the teeth.  I want them to ride into battle feeling invincible.  I don’t want them to feel like they were abandoned by the village.  Let’s hang a garland of flowers around their necks, and sent them off with a full quiver of public outrage.

I’m not willing to throw them under the horse just yet.

For emails to all Alaska State Legislators – Click HERE – then cut & paste them all into your email address bar.

For phone numbers of the Alaska State Legislators – Click HERE

Giddyup!

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The Lyin’, the Witch and the Wardrobe – An Alaskan Tale.

26 10 2008

Sarah Palin has “fairy tale” written all over her.  From her humble beginnings to her humble middlings, to her swift Cinderella rise to fame as Alaska’s first female governor.  And now to the surreal celestial realm of national celebrity, riding around in her pumpkin coach with her glass stilleto-heeled slippers trying to be the second-most important person in the land!  I had almost convinced myself that this was the Palin metaphor, except for the one glaring problem.  Cinderella was nice.  Cinderella was humble, and sweet.  She loved the little creatures.  She sang like an angel.  Cinderella was not a diva, or a pitbull, or a hockey mom.  Not even close.  And she didn’t shoot the little creatures for fun.

The quest for the perfect Palin metaphor fell stagnant, until coffee the other day with a couple friends.  We were talking about how Barack Obama truly represents the American dream, but Palin is nothing but a fairy tale.  Quest for metaphor woke up again. “There has GOT to be a perfect metaphor for Sarah Palin,” I kept thinking.  What are her features…She’s beautiful, she’s seductive, she’s not what she appears to be, she sucks people in, she has an agenda that people don’t realize, she has no qualms about throwing people under the bus if it suits her, she’s manipulative, she has a lust for power, she is the center of her world……lights flashing, buzzers buzzing, whirring machine noises……..DING!  A small index card is ejected from the metaphor machine. 

“Sarah Palin, Queen of Narnia”.  Remember the White Witch?  Well…everyone else called her the White Witch, but she called herself the Queen.   Now close your eyes, and imagine…  After struggling through the world of Alaska political corruption, we suddenly find ourselves out in the fresh air, standing by a lamp post, in a strange new place.  We see a sleigh silently moving across the snow. Everything is glittering, and we can see our breath.   It’s been snowing for a long, long time.  The sleigh is pulled by six pure white caribou, (or polar bears…take your pick).  There is the silver tinkling of little bells as the sleigh approaches, and we see sitting there, wrapped in the furs, and clad in something fabulous from Nieman Marcus, is the White Witch.  Stunningly beautiful, icy cold, smiling.

She sizes us up.  She smiles, a radiant glossy, tattooed lip-liner smile.  She winks.  We feel warm and reassured.  She scoots over and pats the white furs on the seat, and we climb in.  We’re special, she tells us.  She’s here to serve us, to help us, to get ‘er done.  She knows what we want.  Even though she’s wearing a $3000 polar bear fur jacket and $400 designer snow boots, under all that, she’s really just like us.  Are we cold?, she asks.  We are offered hot cocoa.  “Thank you”, we say, “That cocoa is just like a breath of fresh air!” ” The last guy that asked us into a sleigh, kind of beat us around a little bit”, we confide.  “He told us we could trust him, but he was a bad bad man.” 

The White Witch bites her lip a little, in sympathy, smooths our hair, and tells us the bad man is gone forever…she saw to that.  He’ll never come back.  She even sold his sleigh on Ebay so we wouldn’t have to think about him any more.  We smile, and start to feel a little sleepy.

You seem so cold, she purrs.  Is there anything I can do for you?  “How about some Turkish Delight?” we timidly suggest…hardly daring to hope.  Her eyes twinkle…”I’ve got something even better.”  A beautiful tin box appears out of the snow.  She reaches down and gently takes up the box.  She sets it  in our lap, with a look that tells us it’s something special.  We coax the top off the box and peer inside….It can’t be!  It’s a check for $1200!  “That will keep you warm this winter, won’t it?” she smiles.  “Thank you!” we say.  “My family of four will be so grateful!”

“Family of four?  Well, gosh, why didn’t you say so?”  Three more $1200 checks suddenly materialize in the box.  We are speechless.  We kiss her cold white manicured hand.  She pats our head, and puts her hand back in the wolf fur muff.  “I killed it myself,” she confesses with a smile and a coy downward glance.  “Now, off you go!” We climb reluctantly out of the sleigh. “I ask only one thing.  Do you see up there between those two mountains?  Right past the big strip mall? That’s where I live.  The castle with the float plane out front, and the windows that look just like the ones in the sports complex next door.  And there’s my church over there.  And there is where I work.  All I ask is that you never ever come there, do you understand?  Do not ask any questions, do not use the freedom of information act, and do not question what I do in any of those places, am I making myself clear?”  Suddenly, her eyes flash.  We’re not sure we like it.  It makes us feel a little uncomfortable.

She tucks the four checks in our breast pocket and pats them.  She kisses our forehead.  We feel all warm and gooey inside.  “OK,” we hear ourselves saying.  We won’t do any of those things….Bye!”  We wave wistfully, ” Will I see you again?”  She turns around and winks as the sleigh moves silently on.  As we give one last look, and as the hot cocoa starts to wear off, we make out something on the back of the sleigh.  It’s….it’s people, but they are all grey and frozen like stone and stacked up in a little pile like cord wood. Like someone used a magic staff of evil to rob them of life and soul… Who are they? If we didn’t know better we’d guess it was our Commissioner of Public Safety, a State Trooper, and 3 or 4 members of the Narnian Legislature! Is it?  Should we tell someone? ….Nah….that’s crazy.  It couldn’t be.  She’s so wonderful!  And besides, we need to run to the bank.

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Let the Troopergate Fallout Begin.

14 10 2008

The second Troopergate investigation is still underway, but the karmic returns of the events which brought about the whole mess to begin with have started to manifest.

The rumor mill is churning, and the news today is all bad for Governor Palin. 

Trooper Mike Wooten is none too pleased at having his name dragged through the mud by the Palins.  What might be on his mind these days, we wonder?

Wooten, the state trooper, is prepared to sue Palin, her husband, and the state for spending the past three years trying to get him fired from his job, according to John Cyr, the executive director of the Public Safety Employees Association, the union that represents state troopers.

Also, a top Alaska State Trooper official who works with Wooten said Wooten has told several close associates that he will soon file a multimillion lawsuit against Palin. The official requested anonymity because Wooten, who has declined interview requests, did not clear him to speak about the plans.

“Trooper Wooten intends to sue Gov. Palin, her husband, and some people in her administration for slander defamation of character, and civil rights violations,” the official said. “His attorneys are considering filing in state and federal court.”

And what about Walt Monegan, Commissioner of the Department of Public Safety – one of the most highly respected public servants in the state, and an ex-marine that Palin said has a “rogue mentality” and committed acts of “outright insubordination?”   He has engaged the services of crackerjack Anchorage attorney Jeff Feldman.  Mr. Feldman has asserted that Palin’s charges have damaged Monegan’s reputation, and has laid the groundwork for a lawsuit by submitting a complaint to the State Personnel Board:

“Mr. Monegan does not challenge the Governor’s right to discharge him as the Commissioner of the Department of Public Safety,” the complaint said. “But the Governor is not entitled to make untrue and defamatory statements about her reasons for discharging a cabinet officer.

“Gov. Palin’s public statements accusing Mr. Monegan of serious misconduct were untrue and they have stigmatized his good name, severely damaged — and continue to damage — his reputation and impaired his ability to pursue future professional employment in law enforcement and related fields. This damage thus implicates his constitutionally protected liberty interests.”

Monegan’s attorney signaled that a lawsuit was in the offing, stating that “Mr. Monegan requests that the board declare, or secure a declaration from the Attorney General, that Mr. Monegan has exhausted his administrative remedies and may assert his claim in Superior Court.”

And last, but not least, the people of Alaska are not amused.  Yes, her support here remains strong, but the process of erosion has started.   A recall petition is now being explored… More details to follow.





Son of Troopergate.

14 10 2008

Let me start by saying we know nothing yet. However.

The “other” Troopergate probe into Sarah Palin’s abuse of power in trying to get her ex-brother-in-law fired, is taking an interesting turn. The investigation, sanctioned by Palin herself, stems from the Personnel Board. This board is composed of three people, all governor-appointed, two by the previous Republican governor Frank Murkowski, and one re-upped by Palin.

The Legislature, of course, had its own investigation and concluded that Palin was, in fact, guilty of abuse of her power as Governor. But Palin has been decrying the Legislative investigation as a “partisan circus” and a kangaroo court. The REAL investigation, she says, comes from the Personnel Board. So convinced of this was Palin, that she herself is the one who filed the ethics complaint against….herself, just to make sure this Board had the final say.

Timothy Petumenos was appointed as the independent investigator for the Personnel Board. The buzz around town is that he’s a good guy, a competent and aggressive trial lawyer, a straight-shooter, and will do his job well. Then came the awful revelation…Timothy Petumenos is…..a Democrat. (loud ominous chord plays on the Mudflats organ) And not only a Democrat, but one who had contributed to Tony Knowles 2006 gubernatorial campaign when he was running against Palin! (loud, slightly higher on the scale chord plays on the Mudflats organ)

Palin, who said she would cooperate with the Personnel Board’s investigation, is scheduled to be questioned by Petumenos next week.

We took a gamble when we went to the personnel board,” said a McCain aide who asked not to be identified discussing strategy. While the McCain camp still insists Palin “has nothing to hide,” it acknowledges a critical finding by Petumenos would be even harder to dismiss.

But wait, there’s more.

We learned, in the wee hours of the morning, that Timothy Petumenos’ job has gotten a little bigger. The nets are cast wide, and there are more fish than we thought.

The state Personnel Board investigation of Gov. Sarah Palin’s firing of Walt Monegan has broadened to include other ethics complaints against the governor and examination of actions by other state employees, according to the independent counsel handling the case.

Indeeeed….

Two other ethics complaints involving Palin are known. One, by activist Andree McLeod, alleges that state hiring practices were circumvented for a Palin supporter. The case is not related to Monegan’s firing. The other, by the Public Safety Employees Association, alleges that trooper Mike Wooten’s personnel file was illegally breached by state officials.

John Cyr, the PSEA executive director, said Monday the union plans to amend its complaint to be sure the board investigates “harassment” of Wooten as well.

There’s no way of knowing how long this will take, or what the results will be, but we may be in for some more surprises before this is over.





Newsweek Sinks its Teeth into Troopergate.

10 09 2008

Count among the few things that have cheered me recently, this excellent article in Newsweek on the Troopergate scandal. Despite the fact that I have been following every aspect of this sordid tale available in the Anchorage media, there were a couple things I didn’t know.

Court documents show that Judge Suddock was disturbed by the alleged attacks by Palin and her family members on Wooten’s behavior and character. “Disparaging will not be tolerated—it is a form of child abuse,” the judge told a settlement hearing in October 2005, according to typed notes of the proceedings. The judge added: “Relatives cannot disparage either. If occurs [sic] the parent needs to set boundaries for their relatives.”

and later in the article

As the divorce case dragged on, the judge’s concern about family “disparagement” appeared to deepen. In an order signed Jan. 31, 2006, which granted Palin’s sister and Wooten a final divorce decree, Judge Suddock continued to express concern about attacks by Palin’s family on Wooten. The judge even threatened to curb Palin’s sister’s child custody rights if family criticism of Wooten continued.

In monitoring how a joint-custody arrangement worked out, the judge said in his order that he would pay particular attention to problems noted by a “custody investigator,” specifically “the disparagement of the father [Wooten] by the mother [Molly Hackett, Sarah Palin’s sister] and her family members.”

“It is the mother’s [Hackett’s] responsibility to set boundaries for her relatives and insure [sic] they respect them, and the disparagement by either parent, or their surrogates is emotional child abuse,” Judge Suddock wrote. He added that: “If the court finds it is necessary due to disparagement in the Mat-Su Valley [the area north of Anchorage where Palin and her extended family live], for the children’s best interests, it [the court] will not hesitate to order custody to the father and a move into Anchorage.”

Judges and custody investigators don’t threaten things like that lightly.

It’s fascinating as stories begin to emerge from the national media. Alaskans are gasping a bit. They’re not used to the national attention, and they’re not used to what it sounds like to get an objective opinion. As an Anchorage resident, I can tell you it’s hard to be objective in a town with only 94,000 households. Everyone knows everyone, or knows someone who knows them.

There were a couple things, though, that the story didn’t say. One has to do with the infamous tasering incident in which Trooper Wooten is accused of ‘tasering his 11-year old son’. When you hear about someone tasering an 11-year old, or even ‘allegedly’ tasering an 11-year old, it’s pretty hard to give them the benefit of the doubt. That’s why I was glad that the head of the Public Safety Employees Association, John Cyr, was interviewed two days ago on KUDO radio, and explained the seemingly unforgivable tasering event.

First, the incident happened when the boy asked to see what it felt like, and prove to his friends that he wasn’t a “Mama’s Boy”. Wooten agreed to do it. According to Cyr, Wooten was a taser instructor, and used a training cartridge on the lightest setting and used alligator clips on the boys shirt, rather than the usual skin contacts. The burst was less than one second. Wooten’s wife was in the room at the time, and the entire family knew of the incident. It became an issue ONLY when divorce papers were filed. Wooten acknowledged bad judgment and was disciplined.

Another accusation that gets mentioned frequently is that Wooten was drinking beer in his squad car. This charge was investigated by an independent investigator who found the charge to be “unsustained”. However, Colonel Julia Grimes, who reviewed the investigation, decided to change the finding of the report to “sustained”. She changed the report on her own and gave no reason. When John Cyr, who, in 30 years, had never seen a member of the command staff change the report asked her why she did it. She replied, “Are you willing to call Sarah Palin a liar?” He said, “yes”. She didn’t respond, and the report stayed changed.

It’s interesting to note that Grimes had received a two page typed email from Palin in 2005, calling Wooten a ‘loose canon’ and a ‘ticking timebomb’, discussing his marital infidelity and a host of accusations which have since been investigated. All allegations were settled in 2006 after a thorough investigation. The investigation resulted in a misdemeanor game violation, and improper use of state equipment. No charges or complaints have ever been filed against Wooten by any member of the public, other than the Palin family and friends, according to Cyr.

Read the email Palin sent to Col. Julia Grimes – HERE.





Bailey Under Bus. Todd on Couch?

21 08 2008

Kerthunk… That was no speed bump, that was the sound of Frank Bailey being thrown under the bus. Frank ‘The Pressurizer’ Bailey was the one in the Palin administration whose phone call strongly voicing the displeasure of the Governor and her husband, that Walt Monegan hadn’t fired their ex-brother in law Trooper Mike Wooten. You know the whole story by now… This chapter of the Palin bad novel was recorded and retained by the DPS, so it’s aaallll on tape. Jeez. If it weren’t for all that damned recording equipment, Republicans would have a much easier time of it up here in the Great Land.

In any case, now that Frank Bailey has been ‘put on administrative leave’ (with full pay during the investigation), we have to ask ourselves, “What about the other times Palin’s people did the same thing. Palin, at first, denied that ANY of these contacts ever took place, but now apparenlty it seems to have happened over 20 times! And at least one of those times, the contact came from Todd Palin. Uh-oh. Does this mean Todd will be put on ‘administrative leave’ too? I know he’s not technically part of the administration, but since he’s been holding meetings in her office while she’s away, I just thought…. Maybe he’ll just have to sleep on the couch.





Palin’s VP Prospects Circling the Drain

21 07 2008

After much speculation about what Sarah Palin actually meant when she said the reason she fired Public Safety Commissioner Walt Monegan was to take the department “in a new direction”, the governor has finally given us an explanation. Unfortunately, the explanation is feeble at best.  At worst, disingenuous.

Apparently the ‘new direction’ involves increasing recruitment and dealing with alcohol and substance abuse problems in the bush. ……ohh kay….. how is this different? And how was Walt Monegan not doing this? Palin’s “new direction” is basically a carbon copy of material released by Walt Monegan and Colonel Audie Holloway at the beginning of the year.  In other words, the new direction is the old direction.

So, what does this mean?  Several things, potentially.

  1. The ‘new direction’ is a lame attempt to explain why Monegan got fired, when, in fact, his firing had nothing to do with direction, and everything to do with not firing Palin’s ex-brother-in-law and Alaska State Trooper Mike Wooten, despite being pressured to do so.
  2. The governor thinks we are not paying attention.
  3. The governor thinks we are not very bright.

So, what does the Legislature think of all this? Buckle your seatbelts Alaska, and prepare for…..another investigation.

Senate President Lyda Green (fellow Wasilla Republican and Palin arch-nemesis), and Senate Judiciary Chairman Hollis French  have said that an investigation is likely, and Senator Johnny Ellis stated this weekend, “There will be an inquiry. Any use of public position for personal use or gain is wrong. We will get to the bottom of it.”  Same story in the House.  And the House and Senate are talking about holding hearings regarding the Monegan firing.  It’s only a matter of time before the can is opened and the worms come out.

This investigation will have a slightly different flavor than the others to date. So far we’ve had investigations (with accompanying indictments and convictions) of state legislators, and of oil service execs. We’ve got investigations of our congressional delegation, and likely an ex-governor.  But now we’re going to have an investigation of not only a sitting governor, but a potential Vice Presidential candidate. Until now, Palin has been the darling of the right, and on McCain’s short list for VP running mate.   She’s cute, she’s tough, she wears red suits, she’s a social conservative, she’s pro-life, she’s a woman, she’s a hockey mom with 5 kids, and most of all she’s squeaky squeaky clean!  …  Uh oh.

Truth is, her reputation for sweeping the state clean of corruption, and restoring ethics and transparency to government was the foundation on which all those other things rested. Take that away, and  it all falls like a house of cards.  McCain isn’t considering her as a running-mate to secure Alaska’s three electoral votes, that’s for sure.  He wants her image. And now, that image is sullied, which means right about now her chances for the VP nod are circling the drain.  In this election, no one can afford to be linked to another corrupt Republican….least of all a corrupt Republican.

UPDATE:  The Anchorage Daily news has linked to an interview with Walt Monegan that aired today on KUDO 1080-AM.  More discussion on KUDO was promised for tomorrow.

UPDATE #2 8/29/08:

Let me be the first to say I was wrong.  The choice of Sarah Palin as John McCain’s VP running mate proves how foolish I was for imagining that the Republican’s weren’t that stupid!