A week ago, on July 2, Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens held his first joint press conference with Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin.
Stevens has put forth a proposal, called "Energy Blueprint," that is geriatric political posturing at its most opportunistic and banal. He hoped to talk about that at the press conference. Gov. Palin hoped to show the media that Ted might be more helpful toward her plans for a natural gas pipeline that puts the major producers here in the back seat.
But a statement by Sen. Stevens in the press conference, which was videod, and is now up on YouTube, got me interested - more than the rest. Stevens recommended to the press and viewers that they read Canadian author Mark Steyn's recent hate screed, America Alone:
"Re, uh, read, uh the book, America Alone. A lot of people com, uh, complain about that book, uh, but look, uh, he's a democraee, uh, uh. Look at, uh, the demographic concepts, uh, of that book."
The press conference was a fairly feeble attempt to reconcile some of their past differences, and to bridge some of the enormous chasms in their approaches to dealing with the oil companies, energy policy and the future of oil and gas development in Alaska. We'll see where this goes.
I. Energy Speculation
My interest was already piqued, because information has been starting to come out tying Ted Stevens to the late January, 2000 Senate sessions that led to the "Enron Loophole." People are tying the loophole to important aspects of the current high price of fuel. That is an important issue in Alaska, where people in remote villages are beginning to expect they will be paying as much as $15 per gallon for stove oil this coming, long winter.
As covered by the Alaska Report's Dennis Zaki, here's what the Alaska Democratic Party's research team came up with in late June, just before Stevens launched operation "Energy Blueprint":
As headlines across the country decry oil speculation as the cause for the pain at the pump, Senator Ted Stevens is playing election year politics as he claims to be rescuing consumers by suddenly supporting regulation for energy futures market. However, Stevens has repeatedly done just the opposite. In fact, in 2000, Stevens was Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee when he allowed a provision to deregulate energy futures to be added to his appropriations bill without undergoing the typical committee process. With the current weakening of the housing market, many investors pulled money out of real estate and put it instead into commodities, like oil. This has led to a flurry of unregulated market speculation in the oil futures markets, thus driving gas prices to record highs.
"Now that Stevens is facing a real race to keep his Senate seat, it shouldn’t be surprising that he is flip-flopping," said Bethany Lesser, spokeswoman for the Alaska Democratic Party. "It’s nice that Stevens is doing the right thing now, but Alaskans shouldn’t have to wait every six years to have their senator on their side. When it comes to real issues like energy prices, Alaska families deserve better than election-year politics."
In December 2000, as Stevens oversaw the Consolidated Appropriations Act, a provision written by Senator Phil Gramm (R-TX), which recently has received quite a bit of negative attention in the presidential campaign, was added at the last minute to the final 11,000 page bill to deregulate the energy markets. Commonly known as the "Enron Loophole," the Commodity Futures Modernization Act exempted electronic energy trades from federal regulation. The provision bypassed the usual committee hearing and vote process and was streamlined into the legislation by Stevens.
Stevens has been a long time advocate for deregulation of energy futures. In 2002, Stevens voted against an amendment that would have provided regulatory oversight of energy trading markets. [Roll Call 61, S.AMDT 2989, 4/10/2002] In 2003, Stevens voted against an amendment to protect electric ratepayers from manipulation and contrivance of the energy market and an amendment that would have ensured that consumers and competitive markets are protected from false and misleading information. [Roll Call 439, S.AMDT 2087, 11/5/2003, Roll Call 436, S.AMDT 2083, 11/5/2003]
Just this month, Stevens continued his streak of voting against consumers by helping to block the Consumer-First Energy Act. The legislation needed 60 votes in the Senate to move forward but only received 51. The Consumer-First Energy Act would have taken several immediate steps to lower out-of-control gas prices, which now average more than $4 per gallon nationwide. [Roll Call Vote #146, 6/10/2008]
That was issued by the Democrats on a Friday. At the beginning of the next week, his campaign launched the "Energy Blueprint," hoping for support from the Alaska media, which often prints up press releases as they come in, without questioning the background. Here's his "plan":
• Targeting oil speculators who buy and sell barrels without ever intending to use them, which Stevens says has inflated gasoline prices.
• Trying once again to open ANWR to oil companies, and spending all the federal revenue -- which he estimates could be $300 billion over 30 years -- on alternative energy projects.
• Give the state more than a third of federal revenue from offshore leasing and production, with a quarter of that cash going to nearby coastal communities.
It is total bullshit, and is in competition to other legislators' similar plans. As the economy continues to deteriorate over the summer, some may get more radical in their claims, more cynical in their posturing.
II. America Alone
Here's a link to the YouTube of Stevens' endorsement of America Alone.
Most of the press conference was available on July 2, at the Anchorage Daily News web site, as a video. Watching the conference, I was disappointed that the reporters kept steering questions toward how the Senator and Governor feel about each other now. Back in early 2008, the Governor asked Stevens to go public with more information about ongoing Federal investigations into his conduct. He's the only sitting U.S. Senator to have had his house searched by the FBI, for instance.
But what blew me away was his addled endorsement of Mark Steyn's 2007 novel, America Alone. The book is dangerous nonsense. During the press conference, there wasn't any indication that anyone there but Stevens knew anything about this book, touted by right-wingers as a "best-seller." Is it?
I've been following Mark Steyn for a while, and picked up on Stevens' statement. I wrote an essay about the episode that evening at my blog. Another Alaska blogger, Celtic Diva, who also writes here and will be the Alaska blogger at the Democratic National Convention, soon wrote two essay on this, one for DailyKos.
On july 5th, David Neiwert wrote about it for firedoglake, and Howie Klein had me write a piece for Down With Tyranny! over the 4th of July weekend.
The Alaska media finally got around to acknowledging there might be a story here yesterday. The Alaska Newsreader at the Anchorage Daily News noted blogs were paying attention to this. Thursday, both the ADN and the Anchorage Press are covering it, but as an op-ed in the first case, and as a sidebar in the second.
I'm discouraged that there hasn't been more attention to Sen. Stevens' ever so senior moments in last Wednesday's press conference, or about his endoresement of Steyn's book. The campaign of Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich, which has been watching this closely, has yet to criticize or mention Stevens' endorsement of this hate literature.
My gut feeling is that if David Neiwert and Howie Klein think this is worth covering, it is. So, I've attached a poll.
Sen. Stevens' TOOBZ speech became famous. Is this as nutty, or not?