Thursday, August 6, 2009

Thursday Miscellany - Pacific Northwest Volcanoes Edition

Today, as Judy and I work our way back to Seattle from Northern California, we'll cross over from I-5 above Mt. Shasta, to U.S. 97, so that we can see several of the volcanoes of the Cascade range, including Shasta, Mt. Hood, Mt. Adams (our daughter climbed it three weeks ago), Mt. St. Helens and Mt. Rainier.

The cynical corruption of Alaska politics and politicians continues to astound me.

I. Sen. Lisa Murkowki's statement regarding her vote on Judge Sonya Sotamayor is bothersome in the extreme. I'm tempted to write my response to her words en espanol (in Spanish), because those words are a slap in he face of Alaska and America's Hispanic citizens: Murowski's self-serving stance at time of vote, is veiled, borderline racism, spoken in coded terms to her 2010 Alaska GOP senatorial primary race prospects.

Alaska Sen. Mark Begich, who will probably vote for Sotamayor, is just as self serving in his cynical pretending to not having yet made a decision on his vote. Erika Bolstad
describes Begich's stance like this:

Sen. Mark Begich, D-Alaska, has not indicated how he will vote on Sotomayor, but he is one of several uncommitted senators going into tomorrow’s vote. He is unlikely to make his decision public until the actual vote, his office said. Like Murkowski, Begich said he also made it clear to Sotomayor how important Second Amendment freedoms are to the people they represent in Alaska.

The Southeast Alaska Conservation Council is continuing to provide me with information on how Sen. Begich and his staff decided to come out in favor of Kensington Mine's proposal to rape itself to short-termed profit and long-term ecological catastrophe. I hope to once again contact Mark's staff on this before writing, but I doubt the information I'll get will help alleviate my concern that Mark has all but sold out on this.

And his staff hasn't yet gotten back to me on any concrete plans to address the salmon run disasters of Westward Alaska on his summer recess rural visit to Bethel, or at any time in August.

Steve Aufrecht has written a new post on one of the most ridiculous monuments to Alaska political corruption hubris in existence - the Alaska Railroad Bill Sheffield Railroad Depot at the Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport in Anchorage. Steve's essay - with some great photos - links to one of his two earlier essays on the subject of background on the terminal's creation and use. As usual, Steve's architectural photography is among the best around. And - as usual - his analysis of the levels of corruption involved in the creation of this questionable landmark is scathing.

III. Attorney General-designee Daniel Sullivan has come out with what he terms "Analysis and Recommendations Concerning the Alaska Executive Branch Ethics Act." It is quite limited in its scope, tied mostly to the issues of confidentiality of complaints filed against public officials in that branch, and possible reimbursement of such officials, should they be "exonerated" in the findings resulting from the complaint.

Sullivan's analysis doesn't touch upon any possible remedy to the flaws in the investigative system that fail to immunize the process from the branch being investigated, a system many other states find to be unsatisfactory. And Sullivan mischaracterized the nature of at least one of the complaints that both the most recent ex-governor and others within the complaint process machinery seem to have characterized as either "frivolous," or as a "victory" for Palin - the Gwartney complaint, which resulted in the ex-governor having to pay back more money that she illegally took from Alaskans than Vic Kohring was serving time for having received illegally.

The plain fact that Sullivan's recommendation fails to take this into account, or observes ramifications of Andree McLeod's important work, or the ongoing implications from Linda Kellen's work in this area, demonstrates to me that Sullivan's footnote-heavy "analysis" is bullshit.

According to the reporting of Lisa Demer, both Sen. Hollis French (D) and Rep. Pete Ramras (R) agree:

Two key lawmakers -- Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Hollis French, D-Anchorage, and House counterpart Jay Ramras, R-Fairbanks -- were immediately cool to much of what Sullivan is proposing.
"Obviously, you start with the premise that every American, every Alaskan, has the right to complain about their government. That's a bedrock principle," French said.

"If you file a complaint and it turns out not to be valid or it turns out you were mistaken on one of your premises or you didn't know all the facts, the idea of somehow reaching out and trying to penalize a citizen that does that -- very strongly opposed to that," French said.

Ramras, who often collided with Palin on issues, said he agreed that most of the complaints against her were frivolous. Yet, he said, there's no reason to be reactionary -- state ethics laws got a major overhaul just two years ago. Palin signed the bill.

With her political rock star status, Palin became a magnet for complaints, but new Gov. Sean Parnell has a more measured approach to government, Ramras said.

"I just see this as premature and a reaction to a sensational circumstance. I'd like to see the executive ethics rules work in ordinary times before we endeavor to make changes," said Ramras, who listened in over the phone on Sullivan's press conference. He said he's open to discussions but thinks the matter might be better left for the Legislature to take up in 2011.

"We'll see where things are in January but I don't think it will make it out of our committee," Ramras said.

Andree McLeod, an Anchorage activist who has had multiple ethics complaints against Palin dismissed, said the government shouldn't try to muzzle critics, no matter how many complaints they bring. Who is to judge what's in bad faith or frivolous?

"Implying a motive is totally inappropriate," McLeod said.

Linda Kellen,
in a far more honest and comprehensive analysis written yesterday, of our current ethics malaise, tied together several elements of the awful mess our most recent ex-governor pushed and continues to push upon Alaskans.

Although I wrote yesterday about how disappointed I am in continuing "fetishization" of our most recent ex-governor, I am horrified at the sleaziness of Anchorage attorney Thomas van Flein's unprofessional moves while defending the ex-governor. My prediction last spring that the Alaska Fund Trust would be used for a SLAPP suit against Alaska bloggers gave van Flein's sense of honor and professional integrity far more credit than they have proven so far to merit.

At the rate this guy is slapping out toxic crap, and enabling others with even worse motives in their efforts, he's bound to go down as the sleaziest attorney in Alaska history.

By some margin.

images - Mt. Shasta - University of California; Mt. Rainier - Pacific Lutheran University


Blue_in_AK said...

I'm pleased to see that Mark remembered that he's a Democrat and voted FOR Sonia. Maybe it was the e-mail I sent him this morning. LOL.

Aussie Blue Sky said...

It's looking to me as though Begich's main priority is getting re-elected - by Republicans.

Gregg in Milwaukee said...

Pues, es obvio que esta senadora Murkowski es Republicana primera, Alaskana segunda, y Americana tercera.

Well, it's obvious that this senator Murkowski is first a Republican, secondly an Alaskan, and thirdly an American.

Seems to me that you friends of ours in Alaska need to vote her butt out of office the next time she's up for election. Confirming a Supreme Court Justice is not about race, it's not about regionalism, it's about doing the right thing.

Dump Murkowski.

Gregg in Milwaukee

Bones AK said...

As I said in an E-Mail to lisa (no caps,no 'senator', no respect).

I am very disappointed in her decision and that I would work for and donate to whomever runs against her

Anonymous said...


I thought in a post you made earlier this week that you thought it unimportant to blog about ANYTHING having to do with ethics or ethics reform...

Why are you breaking your own meme? I thought you thought it was "less then meaningless" to cover this stuff on ethics reform, etc...

Anonymous said...

"Well, it's obvious that this senator Murkowski is first a Republican, secondly an Alaskan, and thirdly an American."

As opposed to Sotomayor who is a "Wise Latina" first, a Leftist second, and thirdly an American.

Philip Munger said...

anon @ 3:43 pm -- You may need a remedial course in comprehensive reading. There may be public funding available to help you. email me, and I'll send you information on that.

Anonymous said...

"Seems to me that you friends of ours in Alaska need to vote her butt out of office the next time she's up for election."

Pfft...lost my coffee. The only way Murkie loses in Alaska is in the primary against a more conservative candidate. If it's Murkie against a Dem in Alaska it's a landslide.

There aren't enough lefties in Alaska to dump her.