Palin Stomps Out of Room and Slams Door. Won’t Empty Pockets.

5 12 2008

Indulge me in a little impromptu Mudflats Theatre.

Characters:

Mom & Dad – Well-meaning, but indulgent. Unsure of how this whole family dynamic works. They appear weary and run down.

Child – Cute as a button. Feisty, bold and confident.

Friend – (if actors are hard to come by, this part can be played by a bobble-head doll, and his one line can be cut)

(Curtain rises. We see an average American kitchen. Mom and Dad are standing in front of a child whose arms are folded indignantly. A large jar lies on its side, with the lid removed. Half a cookie sits on the counter.)

M&D – Child, we’ve got a problem here. Someone’s been stealing cookies from the cookie jar. We’ve done some checking, and due to the crumb trail leading to your room, the fact that nobody else was around, and the chocolate in the corners of your mouth, we’ve come to the studied conclusion that it was you. You know you weren’t supposed to be doing this. We haven’t decided what the consequences are going to be, but we are in complete agreement, and do believe you are the one who took the cookies. Do you have something to say?

Child – I do have something to say to you, but you’re going to have to wait a minute. (wipes chocolate from corners of mouth and clears throat) I’ll be right back. (brightly) I’ve done nothing wrong and I can prove it!

(Child runs out the door. Time passes and child returns with a friend.)

Child – (out of breath) I have decided to ask my friend to investigate this, and he has come to the conclusion that I did nothing wrong. So, I really think we need to move along here. I hope you feel better now, Mom and Dad. (smiles)

Friend – (nodding) She has done nothing wrong.

M&D – (tentatively, to friend) But….what about all the evidence? Did you see the crumb trail? It’s not like we didn’t check this out ourselves. And she said she was going to prove she didn’t do it!

Child – So, you’re saying you don’t trust me? (silence) What. Do you want to see what’s in my pockets? Is THAT what you’re saying? Because there are no cookies in there and I’ll show you to prove it. Do you want to know every single thing I told my friend to prove it? Is that what you want? That’s what you want, ISN’T IT?!

M&D – (looking at the floor) Yes. We would like to see that. You promised you’d show us, so go ahead and empty the pockets, and tell us what you said to your friend.

Child – This is rediculous. I can’t believe you won’t let this drop! You really don’t trust me….I can’t believe it. I mean I had my friend check this all out! You are just being unfair! Why do you hate me?!? (pause) You know what? Forget it. I’m NOT showing you what’s in my pocket because you are just being ridiculous! Dad, I know you’d agree with me if it wasn’t for Mom butting in! She just wants to ruin my life! We’ll I’m moving on. There are more important things going on in this house, like homework, and chores, and dinner!

(Child stomps out of room and slams door hard.)

Now, I bring your attention to today’s headline in the Anchorage Daily News:

Governor’s Office: Troopergate is Over and Palin Testimony Won’t Be Released to the Public

As far as Gov. Sarah Palin is concerned, Troopergate is behind her and she won’t provide a transcript of testimony she gave in an investigation into whether she violated ethics laws in firing her public safety commissioner, Walt Monegan. [snip]

“The people of Alaska — and of the nation — deserve to have a decision from the proper tribunal putting their minds at ease that suggestions of misconduct that have circulated on the Internet and in some media outlets are not true. I therefore am waiving the confidentiality that usually covers personnel board complaints,” Palin said in a statement released by her lawyer, Thomas Van Flein, on Sept. 2, just days after she was named John McCain’s running mate.

She gave her only testimony in the matter on Oct. 24 while on the vice presidential campaign trail. Van Flein said at the time that she wanted to release a transcript of her deposition. Reached Thursday evening, Van Flein said he hadn’t talked to Palin about releasing it since then. “That’s their call, I guess,” he said.

Palin is simply ready to move on, her deputy press secretary, Sharon Leighow, wrote in an e-mail exchange this week.

“This matter is closed. We see no public purpose in artificially prolonging this controversy.”

Sarah (child) who promised to release her sworn testimony (empty her pockets) which was given to Timothy Petumenos (friend), who performed the investigation of Sarah Palin, which she initiated herself, is now stomping out of the room.

Meanwhile, Mom & Dad (the Legislature) have been told that their work is meaningless, that they are impotent, that they are laughable. The kid just told Mom and Dad that they have no power. And unless we do something about it, Mom and Dad are about to say, “OK, Sweetie. You just go clean your room and we’ll forget all about it. I’m sorry if we upset you.”

These are the kinds of parents that raise spoiled children with a sense of entitlement, who do whatever they want until someone stops them. I don’t want that kid running my state.

This entire situation, of course, is dripping with irony, as GovernorPalin just returned from a trip stumping for Saxby Chambliss on the premise that if Democrats managed to get a 60-seat majority in the Senate, it would be a disaster because “we would have no checks and balances”. And she wouldn’t want HER kids growing up in a country like THAT. Indeed.

Well, Alaska Legislature, I don’t want my children growing up in a country with no checks and balances either. Of course the Palin administration sees no purpose in finishing this process. Because the truth will hurt. Her testimony will open a big can of worms that we can all look at, and pick through, and figure out what she might have said that contradicts the truth. There’s a word for that……oh, yes! “Perjury.” Last time I checked, perjury was a crime.

So, if she really really did nothing wrong, then why won’t she empty her pockets?





Walt Monegan for Governor?! Can I Vote Now?

4 12 2008
Walt Monegan at UAA on 12/3/08. Photo by Linda Kellen Biegel.

Walt Monegan - Photo by Linda Kellen Biegel.

Has Christmas come a little early here in the North Land? I almost fell off my chair yesterday when the latest rumors broke. I was unable to attend a talk given by former Public Safety Commissioner Walt Monegan, but two of Alaska’s intrepid bloggers were there and they have some interesting news.

First, let’s hear from Phil over at Progressive Alaska:

Former Anchorage Police Chief and Alaska Public Safety Commissioner, Walt Monegan, speaking to a group of journalism students, UAA faculty, and community members, refused, when asked whether he might consider running for governor of Alaska, to rule it out.

When asked a third time about this, he stated that he had agreed with his faculty host, not to discuss his political future at the event.

I attended the talk to meet Monegan, a public safety officer I’ve long respected. There were a couple of questions I had hoped to ask, but they weren’t about his political aspirations. The questions on future politics and potential political considerations he might be pondering, took me completely by surprise.

And this, from Linda at Blue Oasis:

Mr. Monegan spoke on what he’s learned over the years about the relationship between the people and their government. “Basically, what I want to talk about, and what I’ve been invited to speak on, is the importance of the integrity of our government and its leaders.”

He discussed his appreciation of our Founding Fathers and how “the law of the land” includes an understandting that “If the government starts to become more oppressive, the citizens not only have a right but an obligation to alter or abolish the government.”

The third question on the subject was from APRN, who first asked if Walt was going to take any action against the State on being called a “rogue” and he said “I love the State of Alaska so the answer is no.” Then she asked for a firmer answer to the question about running for governor and he said he didn’t want to violate the non-political requirement of speaking at UAA. [snip]

As long as it’s not violating any rules I could honestly say that my wife and I are talking about it.

And a hush falls on the land. What’s this? Did someone actually address the importance of the integrity of our government and its leaders and MEAN it? Ears prick up everywhere. I’d recommend reading both posts in their entirety, and also check out the link to the audio of Monegan’s talk on Blue Oasis.

2010 could be very very interesting. I wonder what’s being chatted about at the Governor’s office today? I’m sensing another chapter in the Greek myth that is Alaska politics. OK, Mr. Monegan, you take the left flank, and Senator Murkowski, you take the right flank and Alaskans for Truth will head right up the middle. Someone blow a horn!

And if anyone wondered about what kind of support people feel for Walt Monegan, how many other former Commissioners of Public Safety could inspire someone who lives thousands of miles away to dress up like Sarah Palin and make the following statement:

Sarah...er...I mean Lila with a 2010 campaign sign!

Sarah...er...I mean Lila with a 2010 campaign sign!

Sarah Palin isn’t the only Alaska politician with national appeal! This is Lila from the Mudstock meetup in Chicago in October. It’s true…Mudflatters can see the future!





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!





I Saw Walt Monegan Today.

15 11 2008

I was running around town today, doing a few errands and who should I see, but Walt Monegan. I’ve met him before briefly, but I was sure he wouldn’t remember me. I was taken by surprise, and I felt like I had so much to say. I wanted to thank him for his service to the state. I wanted to tell him I though he really got the short end of the stick. I wanted to tell him that I appreciate all he was doing for the Troopers, and for rural Alaska, and that I was sorry he never had the chance to make his plans a reality. I wanted to ask him if he needed anything….I don’t know what it would be, but I, like so many others wish I could do something. He looked a little tired.

I froze. Maybe, I thought, he just wants to have a Saturday afternoon running errands like everybody else. Maybe he just wants one small block of time without having to think about Sarah Palin, or talk to anybody about Troopergate. I know I have times where I just don’t want to think about Sarah Palin anymore….I can only imagine how he feels.

Then I started thinking that people are always grateful for kind words. Maybe I’d make it really short, so I wouldn’t interrupt his day, but so he’d know that there was one more person out there pulling for him, and doing what they could to support him. I wouldn’t engage him in conversation, but I ‘d let him know I was on his side. But what would I say? I stood there for a minute composing the perfect 10-second statement that would encompass all those things, and come out just right.

Of course by the time I had mentally composed my script, he was gone. I saw him with his wife off in the distance, and thought maybe I could still catch him if I ran…but then I decided it would ruin the effect of my casual quick 10-second support statement if I had to arrive there gasping and out of breath from running top speed down the street to catch up with him.

So, I hope Walt and his wife had a nice afternoon, and I hope they didn’t think about Sarah Palin.





Prominent Alaskans Demand an Apology from the McCain-Palin Campaign.

1 11 2008

One of the most interesting things about living in Alaska is that you get a true appreciation of how large and how small it is – large geographically, and small socially.  The fact that there are so few people means that it’s almost impossible to spend a day doing errands without running in to someone you know, it’s common to find out that two of your unrelated friends actually know each other, and that engaged citizens can really affect positive change in the political process.  Another consequence of this “smallness factor” is that those who hold public office, and do a good job, become very well respected in the community.  Everyone knows who they are, and when they have something to say, people listen.

People generally respect one another here.  You learn quickly that you’d better treat people well or it might come back to haunt you. The guy you just told off will undoubtedly end up being your kid’s soccer coach, or the guy who pulls over to help you change a tire when it’s 20 below zero.  The woman that just made you land on the horn in traffic is undoubtedly going to be standing next to you in line wherever you’re going, or will be serving you your lunch.

This is why Alaskans, regardless of their political affiliation, watched in horror as Megan Stapleton (former local newscaster turned Palin spokeswoman) and attorney Ed O’Callaghan (an ‘outsider’ hired by the McCain campaign) started giving press conferences, calling themselves the “Truth Squad”.  The Truth Squad’s purpose it seemed, was to sully the reputation of former Commissioner of Public Safety Walt Monegan.  According to the independent investigator hired by the Alaska State Legislature, Palin abused her power in his firing.  She wanted Monegan to fire her ex-brother in law, an Alaska State Trooper who she felt had wronged her family.  Monegan couldn’t legally act, because the matter was already closed.  Palin fired him anyway. 

It was either going to play out in the media that Palin abused her power, or that Monegan deserved it.  So the Truth Squad got to work, and they broke the cardinal rule in Alaska – treat people well.   Monegan is well-loved, and respected across the board.  So, for Palin’s story to stick, the McCain-Palin campaign had to make this look like Monegan’s problem.  Enter the Truth Squad.  According to them, Monegan had a “rogue mentality”,  and he committed acts of “outright insubordination”.  Try to get a job in law enforcement if the Governor of the state has called you an “insubordinate rogue”.

So, when Representative Les Gara, in an epic piece of video footage, demanded that Meg Stapleton (former news anchor turned Palin spokeswoman) apologize to Walt Monegan, and the other Legislators that had gotten smeared by the “Truth Squad”, he wasn’t kidding.  This wasn’t some quaint, old-fashioned request, nor was it just a PR stunt.  He really did think she owed them an apology.  So did a lot of other Alaskans.

Now, two other prominent Alaska lawmakers have joined in the formal request for an apology.  Gail Phillips, former Republican Speaker of the House of Representatives, and Chancy Croft, former Democratic President of the State Senate released a press release yesterday, that has already received wide coverage in the state, on radio and in today’s Anchorage Daily News.  This is one more thing that will be waiting on Governor Palin’s desk when she gets home.  It’s a good letter, and it sums up eloquently what many Alaskans feel.  Here it is reprinted, by permission, in its entirety:

October 28, 2008

Dear Senator McCain:

We are writing because we believe an apology is owed from your campaign to Alaskans and our former Commissioner of Public Safety, Walt Monegan. As former legislative leaders of both major political parties in Alaska, we haven’t always agreed upon political issues. However, we adamantly agree that Mr. Monegan, who is well respected in Alaska by people of all party affiliations, is owed an apology. The attacks against Commissioner Monegan for his role in administering a personnel issue, now known statewide as “Troopergate”, were unwarranted and wrong. Mr. Monegan is a former U.S. Marine, a front-line police officer, was Chief of Police in Anchorage, Alaska’s largest city, served as our State’s Commissioner of Public Safety and served both Republicans and Democrats with professionalism and honor.

This summer Governor Palin fired Mr. Monegan as Commissioner, which was within her purview. However, in July, the Legislature, through unanimous action by the bi-partisan Legislative Council, voted to investigate Commissioner Monegan’s termination and whether his refusal to fire Trooper Wooten played a role in his termination. The investigation had nothing to do with your campaign.

After Governor Palin was named as your running mate, your campaign stepped into the fray. In an effort to discredit and stop the bi-partisan legislative investigation into whether or not Governor Palin acted improperly in seeking the termination of her former brother-in-law, Trooper Wooten, your campaign engaged in a near-daily course of personal attacks against Mr. Monegan and members of the legislature. It’s obvious to many of us that you probably were not aware of these attacks by your campaign committee; however, since the final responsibility is yours, we feel Mr. Monegan is owed an apology from you.

In an effort to halt the bi-partisan investigation, your campaign staff tried to vilify Commissioner Monegan. Before Governor Palin was selected to your presidential ticket, she had agreed to the investigation; she publicly said it was justified and that she and her staff would cooperate with the investigation. She stated to the press that the public had a right to be concerned whether or not her administration may have placed improper pressure on the State Department of Public Safety to fire her former brother-in-law.

Following Governor Palin’s selection as your running mate, your campaign sent staff to Alaska to try to stop the investigation that Governor Palin had previously agreed to. Your campaign staff accused the legislative action as partisan in spite of the fact that the unanimous vote of the Legislative Council was bi-partisan.

Your campaign accused Mr. Monegan of being a “rogue”, of being insubordinate and other defamatory statements. To justify your involvement in this Alaskan issue and the Governor’s termination of Commissioner Monegan, your campaign continually changed the excuses for his termination. The various and changing excuses given by your campaign speaks clearly to the lack of credibility in its involvement.

Despite your campaign’s efforts to stop the investigation in court, and by public pressure, the investigation was recently completed. On October 10th the investigative report was released and the independent investigator, Steve Branchflower, concluded that the Governor had violated the State’s Executive Ethics statute by pressuring for the termination of Mr. Wooten from his position as an Alaskan State Trooper. The investigation also found that one of the probable reasons Commissioner Monegan was terminated was his refusal to fire the Governor’s former brother-in-law.

We acknowledge the authority the Governor has for terminating Commissioners; however, your campaign’s interference into this State matter and attempts to discredit Commissioner Monegan for campaign purposes is very troubling. Both the vilification of Mr. Monegan and the attempts by your campaign to stop the investigation were wrong.

We respectfully request an apology from your campaign to Mr. Monegan. He is a good man who has put his life on the line for Alaskans many times and he deserves better treatment from you and your campaign. Not only have the personal attacks from your campaign deeply affected and hurt the Monegan family, but also the people of Alaska who care and respect Mr. Monegan.

Sincerely,

Gail Phillips
Former Speaker of the Alaska House of Representatives

Chancy Croft
Former President of the Alaska State Senate

Alaskans for Truth, the organizers of the huge rally in downtown Anchorage last month, and the organizers of the petition demanding the resignation of the Attorney General Talis Colberg for his botched handling of the Troopergate investigation, has issued a call to action.

They ask that any and all people, from inside or outside the state, who agree with the above letter, and are disgusted by the treatment of this decent, hard-working man who has served his country and his state with honor, please send a postcard to the McCain campaign adding your name to those respectfully demanding an apology for their behavior.  Then, let Alaskans for Truth know you did (alaskansfortruth@gmail.com).  It’s a small act, but it may help to restore something important that was taken from a good man.

Postcards can be sent to:

Honorable Senator John McCain
John McCain 2008
P.O. Box 16118
Arlington, VA 22215

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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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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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