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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Energy Emergency in Rural Alaska.

26 10 2008

The Alaska Federation of Natives on Saturday called on the state and federal governments to declare an energy emergency in rural Alaska, and to cap the price of heating oil and gasoline in villages across the state. 

Palin spokesman Bill McAllister said the governor will continue appointing Natives to state posts.

Some village residents pay twice as much as city dwellers for heating oil and gasoline, and rural delegates meeting for their annual convention in Anchorage voted to ask the government to pay the difference.

That should last until low-cost, alternative energy projects are up and running in rural Alaska, said Loretta Bullard, president of Kawerak Inc., a Native nonprofit operating in the Bering Strait region.

AFN delegates also demanded that Gov. Sarah Palin appoint more Natives to influential state posts and commissions, saying Natives have “suffered from inattention.”

“It was an extreme struggle to get an Alaska Native on the Board of Game,” Timothy Andrew, chairman of the Native village corporation in Marshall, told the crowd.

At her recorded announcement to the AFN convention on Thursday, Palin announced that she was creating a new sub-cabinet to deal with energy issues, and the related migration of rural dwellers into Alaska’s urban areas. Energy costs in rural areas can be as much as 40% of a family’s household budget, and many family’s are being forced to reluctantly relocate so they can afford to stay warm.   Heading up this new sub-cabinet will be Attorney General Talis Colberg.  And no, he is not Native.

Talis Colberg, you’ll remember is the Alaska Attorney General who was the subject of a petition submitted to Palin’s office last month, and a whopping giant protest rally – the biggest in state history.  More than 1200 “Alaskans for Truth”  signed a petition demanding the removal of Colberg from office for advising state employees to ignore legislative subpoenas.  What did the governor think of this loud and clear statement from her constituents?  Apparently not much, since Colberg just got this shiny new appointment.  I’m guessing he’s not fearing for his job.  I think Alaskans can confidently say we’ve been roundly ignored.

Back to Native issues.  Try to follow this very Palinesque thread of non-logic.  Natives say she doesn’t appoint Natives.  She says she will continue to appoint Natives.  And then she creates a sub-cabinet to deal with Native issues, headed up by a non-Native.  I have to believe that Alaskans are catching on to this.

So what will Palin do now?  Rural Alaskan families are facing a crisis this winter.  According to Senator Lisa Murkowski, fuel is being rationed, and prices are prohibitive.  Palin has been asked by her constituents to help.  So will she allow families in rural Alaska to go through a life-threatening winter without adequate heat?  Or will she be one of those dreaded socialists that she is constantly vilifying on the campaign trail? 

 

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Les Gara and More on KUDO Today. UPDATED! (Mike Doogan)

24 10 2008

Apologies everyone.  Sounds like there has been a last-minute change.  Rep. Mike Doogan will be today’s guest on The Demo Memo.  Mike is a popular former columnist for the Anchorage Daily News, a writer of mystery novels, and a current Alaska state legislator.  He is always entertaining, and will likely have an interesting take on the events du jour.

Link and times are still the same!

“Cutting Edge” with CC on KUDO progressive talk radio in Anchorage will be well worth tuning in to today. Rep. Les Gara will be hosting “The Demo Memo,” and CC will be talking quite a bit about the latest Palin issues from an Alaskan perspective.

Les Gara is well-known to Mudflatters for his various acts of chutzpah during the Troopergate fiasco, for facing down the worst of the McCain “Truth Squad”, and for recently requesting that the Alaska AG Talis Colberg hire an independent investigator to look in to allegations of potential witness tampering in the Troopergate investigation now under review by the Personnel Board.

You can hear KUDO streaming live by clicking >>>HERE<<<

The show runs from 3:00 – 6:00pm Alaska time. (7:00-10:00pm EST, 4:00-7:00 PST)





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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Possible Investigation of Criminal Witness Tampering in Troopergate!

20 10 2008

Well, well, well. Here’s yet another subplot in the saga that is Troopergate. Remember how witnesses, including state employees, Todd Palin and Sarah Palin herself agreed to cooperate fully with the Legislative investigation of Troopergate? If you don’t remember, it’s because that was beFORE August 29th, when Palin was selected to be John McCain’s running mate. It was a whole different world back then. That’s when this investigation made sense to Alaskans, and when we believed the word of our Governor. Now? Not so much.

Ten witnesses, including the Governor’s husband Todd, defied subpoenas to testify before the Legislative Council. When did this mysterious change of heart occur?

Once again, we need to rely on the courage and conviction of the bipartisan Legislative Council, and the likes of Representatives Les Gara to keep the Governor and her administration (including Attorney General Talis Colberg) honest. After the flock of McCain lawyers descended on our sleepy little hamlet, all the rules changed. Now, Les Gara and Audie Holloway want to know WHY. Good question.

ANCHORAGE — Today an Alaska legislator called on the State’s Attorney General to appoint an independent investigator to look into possible criminal witness tampering by McCain-Palin campaign staff in Alaska. Rep. Gara’s call came at the suggestion of the Director of the Alaska State Troopers, [Col. Audie Holloway], who called the potential of witness tampering matter “serious.”

But, as we know, these witnesses did eventually testify in writing, just days before the Legislative Council released the findings of Independent Investigator Stephen Branchflower. Does this make it all better? No.

Their later decision to submit to written questions, after failing to show up for their subpoenas, doesn’t cure this violation, or any criminal conduct by any person who attempted to induce those witnesses from showing for their subpoenas. Complying with the law after breaking it doesn’t excuse a criminal violation. If any person attempted to induce a witness to fail to show for a subpoena, that witness’ later cooperation, after failing to show for the subpoena, doesn’t cure the criminal conduct. (from attached letter to AG Talis Colberg from Rep. Les Gara)

Talis Colberg, who is under considerable public pressure to resign as Attorney General for how he handled these subpoenas, has something new on his list of things that won’t go away. Namely:

Alaska Statute 11.56.545 –

“(a)Tampering with a witness in the second degree: A person commits the crime of tampering with a witness in the second degree if the person knowingly induces or attempts to induce a witness to be absent from an official proceeding, other than a judicial proceeding, to which the witness has been summoned. (b) Tampering with a witness in the second degree is a class A misdemeanor.

AS 11.56.540 has similar elements, and is a felony.
The ball is in the court of the Department of Law.

Letter from Les Gara to Alaska Attorney General Talis Colberg: 10202008-witness-tampering-independent-investigator

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State Employees Will Now Testify in Troopergate Probe.

5 10 2008

The story goes that if you put a frog in a pot, and turn up the heat slowly enough, the frog will not realize it’s being cooked until it’s too late.  But if you turn up the heat suddenly, it will spring to its senses and leap out of the pot, thus saving its life.  I give you, Alaska State Attorney General Talis Colberg.

Talis Colberg, the erstwhile Mat-Su Valley lawyer specializing in worker’s compensation claims, found himself hitched to Sarah Palin’s rising star.  When she was tapped to be McCain’s running mate, his reaction was “Wow. I work for her.”  >>>>HOCKEY BUZZER<<<<<  Actually, the Attorney General is supposed to be working for the people of Alaska.  To help our Governor and our AG remember this, a grass roots group spontaneously emerged, calling themselves Alaskans for Truth.

This group, organized a rally in part to demand the resignation of Talis Colberg for telling state employees that they didn’t need to comply with legislative subpoenas issued as part of the ethics investigation that has become known as “Troopergate.”  This smacked a little too much of Alberto Gonzales and Harriet Meiers for many Alaskans, and 2000 signatures were toted down to the Governor’s Anchorage office and presented to Palin spokesman Bill McAllister, (when Lt. Governor Sean Parnell chose to remain in the comfort and safety of his office).

The rally and the petition drop-off were covered quite well by our local news media, and thanks to this and the efforts of several determined and ticked-off bloggers, it got some national play as well.  Multiple complaints have been filed against Colberg to the Alaska Bar, and despite a lawsuit claiming the subpoenas are illegitimate, a judge’s ruling this week said, basically, “I don’t think so.”  An emergency appeal was filed with the Alaska Supreme Court which will be heard this coming Wednesday.

So there’s the set up for you.  Talis Colberg = frog.  Pot of water = Blissfully lounging in Palinworld and feeling all invincible.  Flame turned suddenly up to the highest setting = Alaskans for Truth + media + the law.

It seems as though the old adage has worked, because Colberg has suddenly launched himself out of the pot, and landed squarely on his soggy rump.  Seems like those seven state employees who were told by Colberg that showing up was optional, have had a change of heart.

All seven employees have decided, in light of Superior Court Judge Peter Michalski’s decision, to cooperate with the legislative investigation, according to a statement today from Colberg’s office.

“Despite my initial concerns about the subpoenas, we respect the court’s decision to defer to the Legislature,” Colberg said. “We are working with Senator Hollis French to arrange for the testimony of the seven state employee plaintiffs.”

How about that… Can a frog tuck its tail between its legs?

Meanwhile, Alaska First Dude Todd Palin is now back in Alaska.  He has agreed to testify to the other investigation into Troopergate by the State Personnel board.  Palin initiated this investigation of herself, claiming that the legitimate investigation which came about through unanimous, bipartisan approval had become “political” once she joined the McCain ticket.  Will the Supreme Court ruling have any affect on whether Todd has a change of heart and testifies to the Legislative Council?  And how much will this delay the report? Further developments are anyone’s guess.





‘Truth for Lunch’ Delivered to Sarah Palin’s Anchorage Office.

1 10 2008

Today at lunch time, about 30 Alaskans gathered downtown outside the Atwood building to “Deliver Truth for Lunch” to Governor Sarah Palin’s Anchorage office. The core group of organizers for Alaskans for Truth were there, talking to reporters, as the crowd gathered. At about 11:30, the group, led by Linda Kellen Biegel entered the building and rode the elevators to the 17th floor, where the Governor’s office is located.

Kellen Biegel asked if the group could speak with Lt. Governor Sean Parnell. The very efficient front desk lady said she’d see if he was “available.” After a moment, we were told that Palin spokesman Bill McAllister would be out shortly. (Imagine Sean Parnell pulling the blinds, locking the door, turning out the light and sitting behind his desk with saucer eyes until everyone left).

McAllister emerged, and listened as Linda read aloud the petition demanding the resignation of Attorney General Talis Colberg. He made some official, “I-am-accepting-the-physical-petition-but-not-what-it-stands-for” statement, and then stayed for questions, many of which came from Phil Munger of Progressive Alaska and local Air America Radio personality  Shannyn Moore. Alaskans want to know who, exactly, is running our Department of Law, why the Attorney General is telling state employees to ignore subpoenas, and what the Governor intends to do about it. Several news cameras and reporters were on the scene.

So, to all of you who signed the online petition, your names are now in Sarah Palin’s office. It’s kind of like when you sign one of those online NASA things, where they put your name on a chip and send it to a comet…OK, it may not be quite that exciting, but it’s much more important.  And to those of you who haven’t signed yet, click HERE so you can join us in spirit, and take a virtual journey to Sarah Palin’s desk.

Whereas, Alaska Attorney General Colberg has tampered with witnesses subpoenaed to testify in the Alaska Legislative Council’s independent investigation of Troopergate and the pressuring of Walt Monegan to fire Trooper Wooten.

Whereas Attorney General Colberg has an admitted conflict-of-interest in the Troopergate investigation due to his acting on behalf of the Governor to pressure Walt Monegan to fire Trooper Michael Wooten.

Whereas Attorney General Colberg is obstructing the ongoing Troopergate investigation being conducted by the Alaska Legislative Council’s independent investigator Stephen Branchflower, reneged on his written commitment to the Alaska Legislative Council to cooperate fully with the Troopergate investigation, and has instructed witnesses subpoenaed to testify not to appear or comply with their subpoenas.

Whereas, Attorney General Colberg has allowed outside influences from attorneys Edward O’Callaghan and others of the McCain campaign to influence the Attorney General’s Office in the Troopergate investigation.

This petition is to demand the removal of Talis Colberg from the office of Attorney General of the State of Alaska.

About 900 signatures were gathered at the two-hour Hold Palin Accountable Rally last Saturday.  Another 1200 were gathered online in the past two days.

An interview with Linda Kellen Biegel can be seen HERE, and more coverage will be out in the next few days.  I’ll post more links as they become available.

Alaskans for Truth are not finished yet.  Stay tuned for more information.


*Pictures may be used with credit and links to Mudflats. Thanks!