Friday, August 29, 2008
The pretty and principled Palin is a preposterous pick.
Don't get me wrong. I am a big Palin fan. Here in Kodiak she enjoyed early strong support during her unlikely run to unseat Frank "the Bank" Murkowski. She stood up for fishermen when the federal government tried to privatize Alaska's codfish. She stood up for Alaskans when oil companies tried to bribe and cajole the state into an unfair tax rate. But oil and fish corruption pretty much cover her areas of expertise, and she's still learning about them.
The fact is Sarah Palin might well be VP material. In about fifteen years. The Governor of Alaska can afford to paint in broad strokes. Alaska's issues tend to be big and wide, like the state. Even so, Governor Palin has made some expected rookie missteps: the firing of our top cop amidst a scandal surrounding a rogue state trooper who Palin's ex-brother-in-law is the latest. Sarah is still learning her chops. She is the former mayor of Wasilla, an entirely pleasant patch of near wilderness between Anchorage and Fairbanks. She walked out of the woods to become governor. Alaskans are happy that an outsider with very few connections and little experience is shaking up what had been a corruption encrusted state government.
But we are talking about someone who could be leader of the free world in the matter of an instant. The idea of our Sarah being suddenly thrown into a position that one rookie error could result in worldwide catastrophe is alarming indeed. McCain's campaign is centered on Obama's supposed lack of experience. But Obama is Churchill compared to Palin.
Because Sarah is not just voter provoking arm candy for McCain. She will be his replacement should that senior statesman fall to one of the many perils of his presidency. It is chilling to imagine the vacuum in the room as President Palin ponders her options to back down Russia or Iran.
Senator McCain has again shown he no longer possesses the judgement to be president.
Thursday, August 28, 2008
Mining companies dumped millions of dollars into their campaign against the Clean Water Initiative and somehow convinced us it was too much to ask a mining operation to not poison a salmon stream. I was called by a fake pollster whose questions were paragraph long arguments against the measure. Unbelievable. Maybe Don Young is right. We are the dumbest people on earth.
Case in point: the defeat of the Clean Elections Initiative, which allowed a candidate to trade shoe leather and signatures for a pittance of cash from the state to run a few ads. Opponents added up the maximum possible cost (12 million, I think) and waved it around like it was an Adak earmark. They forgot to mention it won't cost any of us a dime. We don't pay taxes in Alaska. In fact we get a nice goody package worth over twenty grand apiece from taxes we shake down from corporations- mostly resource extractors. The cost of Clean Elections would have shaved a couple of hundred dollars from your state gift basket. And it becomes one of the gifts in your basket. So big corporations are going to fund the candidates either way-- they would just rather hand the money over personally. Wouldn't it be nice to have a few public servants who don't start their terms of office in debt to a pack of lobbyists? The hard working Tim June deserves some help getting this back in front of voters so we can look at it again.
Sunday, August 24, 2008
The radio is on, hot with politics in these last days before the primary election. Alaska’s Rep. Don Young, whose relationship with the constituency seems increasingly hostile, recently called his fellow Alaskans the dumbest people in the world. His gripe at the time was foot shuffling over the pin cushioning of ANWR. He has also said he doesn’t feel obligated to represent anyone who didn’t vote for him. And he doesn’t really want to hear from most of the rest of us. Dick Cheney is more accessible. A handful of premier lobbyists dominate the short ironclad list of lucky citizens who are allowed ready access to Mr. Young’s office. Is there something about thirty plus years in DC that simply bleaches the love of humanity out of you?
He is certainly fed up with the red rumped baboons of the press. This week he abruptly ended an interview in DC when asked about the money that hemorrhages from his campaign fund to his criminal defense team. The question he didn’t answer was don’t the people who voted for you and gave you that money to campaign with deserve to know where it is going? (Reportedly the money goes to lawyers working to suppress potentially damaging evidence by arguing page by page with prosecutors over what is admissible.)
Mr. Young’s red faced silence is answer enough. Rep. Daddy Warbucks is sick of all these maddening questions from Little Orphan Alaska.
What he will say, publicly and repeatedly, is that he’s the bad ass who brings home the pork. So just eat your crispy bacon, kids and don’t ask papa where it comes from. You don’t want to know. And vote for me in the primary or I‘ll bite you like a mink, ingrates.
Senator Ted Stevens was on the statewide call-in radio show “Talk of Alaska” last week. Appalled by the inevitable questions about his own legal troubles, Senator Stevens said he had been traveling the state for a month and hadn’t taken so many questions on the subject. When it was pointed out that to that point he had only taken two questions Mr. Stevens said that’s more than he’s heard over the last month. What this says about the Senator’s staff is troubling. Is there a television in the closet where they store him?
This election we are being asked to vote for the institution of Ted Stevens rather than the man, basing our allegiance solely on pounds of bacon delivered to the state. Very few Alaskans would deny that Uncle Ted has grown himself into a legislative behemoth over the years. But a question must now be asked. How much of the institution that is Ted Stevens now a hollowed out shell with staffers and lobbyists inside, pulling levers? How little does the Senator himself really understand, and what is his actual ability level, given his age? He has given “faith” as his reason to not worry about the prospect of spending his late eighties in a federal prison. Faith is what you have when understanding is beyond you.
Many Alaskans used the word “sad” to describe Uncle Ted’s recent indictment. It is sad. About a decade ago, at the time when our senior senator should have retired in honor and taken his place among the great Alaskans, his age made him susceptible to manipulation. Staffers and lobbyists (the line is hazy),as well as family members, began to run the institution of Ted Stevens as a cash cow, using it to steer wealth by setting up real estate deals and consulting contracts, distributing public resources and granting no-bid contracts. I do feel bad for the Senator. Like Britney, ultimately I blame his family for allowing, and even causing, Ted’s tarnishing. Stevens’ own family should have protected him and his legacy rather than taken advantage of him in his weakness. When the institution is out of office will he be abandoned by those misusing him now? When he was at his zenith Senator Stevens was a strong voice for Alaska, for her villages, her native people, building her infrastructure so Alaska can stand on her own two feet. But a Wormtongue whispers at Théoden’s ear.
At home in the Magnificent Shack I scrub at the paint tattoos on my arms as I watch John McCain on TV. McCain is holding a microphone uncomfortably against his chest in the middle of an open stage at a sport venue. His eyes are locked on the teleprompter set up in the middle of the stage. The downward gaze this forces on him makes him seem school boyishly ashamed.
Maybe he is.
Didn’t he seem much younger eight years ago? Many of us cheered as Annakin McCain used the force of straight talk to disarm darker opponents in the Republican primaries. Until he met up with Darth Rove and was left a smoking carcass to be stepped over by the child-man Bush. The creepy McZombie that rose from that scouring has literally embraced the dark side, falling lockstep behind Cheney and Rumsfeld in their folly. And now we see he has studied his Rove as well. His campaign is rapidly becoming more sinister. His primary offensive weapon is the unsupportable catchphrase, things like “My opponent would rather win an election and lose a war…” He is referring to the success of the “surge” in Iraq and Senator Obama’s opposition to it, along with everything about the invasion of that country. Mr. Obama’s position all along is that we would have profited greatly by focusing our efforts on Afghanistan and bin Laden. And, in retrospect, recklessly pursuing a second front war in Iraq based on lies and faulty information, without a long term plan, resulting in untold needless deaths and shattering families and farms and futures both in the middle east and America, well, it still seems like a sketchy idea. The fact that General Petraeus and the strong true men and women of our armed forces have endured to the point of success despite having been served so poorly and dishonestly by civilians like Rumsfeld and Cheney does not mean a civilian like Mr. McCain gets to take the credit. They are like the bumbling defense of a football team that got way behind, but was bailed out by a surging offense. In fact every member of Congress who was led like a dog to the WMD trough owes a debt to our soldiers. We owe them better plays and better players on our side of the ball. The second half is coming and it’s in Afghanistan. The offense is going to be tired. They’ve been on the field the whole game. McCain is just a loyal assistant coach using the same playbook and players. The fact that he has been saying the surge should be applied to Afghanistan and implying that Mr. Obama would oppose it since he opposed the first one does not bode well. Anyone in uniform can tell you the urban warfare of the surge will not work in the wilds of the Afghan bush. You can be sure that both the CIA and our Special Forces have been there long enough to know how to win. And if Mr. McCain is saying we need more of our overextended assets in Afghanistan then he is agreeing with what Mr. Obama has been saying all along.
Mr. Obama, on another stage (sans prompter), seeming tired and a little pissed off, looked up into the audience and pointedly promised to never question Mr. McCain’s patriotism. Obama is a thoughtful and dignified man, which I value, but I think many of us liked the look in his eye then. A definite what-did-you-just-say-about-my-mother look.
I watch McCain rush through his prompted lines as though he were giving a book report to the class. He pauses for emphasis only when he addresses Mr. Obama’s recent promise to never question McCain’s patriotism and his inference that McCain had questioned his.
“Let me be very clear: I am not questioning his patriotism. I am questioning his judgment. I am questioning his judgment.”
This is clearly not true.
Anyone who would rather see his country lose a war than lose an election himself is not exactly Sergeant York. If fact, he would have to be completely lacking in morals. I’m sure Mr. McCain knows this is not the case.
It doesn’t matter. McCain is throwing up fear bombs and hoping the voters will scatter. Divide and Conquer is Rule #1 in the Rove playbook.