Saturday, October 31, 2009
Media across the globe have been focusing on a "Twitter Revolution" in Iran as hundreds of thousands of street protestors purportedly mobilized their demonstrations using the microblogging service. So great has the notion of Twitter's role in the Iranian protests become that the U.S. State Dept. reportedly asked the company to defer some maintenance. Twitter says it rescheduled maintenance work from June 15 to later the next day, or about 1:30 a.m. in Iran. "It made sense for Twitter…to keep services active during this highly visible global event," the San Francisco company said on its blog.
Twitter has been used by citizen activists demonstrating for democracy in other countries besides Iran - Guatemala, Nicaragua, Cuba, Palestine and Moldova, to name a few. So what happens when demonstrators use twitter in the USA under the Obama administration?
An anarchist social worker raided by the feds wants his computers, manuscripts and pick axes back. He argues that authorities violated the U.S. Constitution and the rights of his mentally ill clients while searching for evidence that he broke an anti-rioting law on Twitter.
In a guns-drawn raid on October 1, FBI agents and police seized boxes of dubious "evidence" from the Queens, New York, home of Elliott Madison. A U.S. District Judge in Brooklyn has set a Monday deadline to rule on the legality of the search, and in the meantime has ordered the government to refrain from examining the material taken in the 6 a.m. search.
Madison, who counsels more than 100 severely mentally ill patients in New York, seems to have first drawn attention from the authorities at September's G-20 gathering of world leaders in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. There he was arrested on September 24 at a motel room for allegedly listening to a police scanner and relaying information on Twitter to help protesters avoid heavily-armed cops -- an activity the State Department lauded when it happened in Iran.
A week later, the Joint Terrorism Task Force, armed with a search warrant and backed by a federal grand jury investigation, raided Madison's house, which he shares with his wife of 13 years and several roommates. The squad seized his computers, camera memory cards, books, air-filtration masks, bumper stickers and political posters -- all purportedly evidence that the 41-year old social worker had broken a federal anti-rioting law that carries up to five years in prison.
But a closer look at the court documents leaves the unmistakable impression that Elliott Madison is yet another casualty of the government's nasty, post-9/11 habit of considering political dissidents as threats to national security.
Elliot Madison's attorney, Martin Stolar notes:
In this day and age, federally authorized agents entered the private home of a writer and urban planner and seized their books and writings. The warrant's vagueness and lack of specificity encouraged the agents to use their own discretion and their own views of the political universe to seize, or not to seize, items which they thought were evidence of a violation of the federal anti-riot statute. The law and the Constitution do not allow this. If there really is a grand jury investigation with possible future prosecution under [a federal anti-rioting law], the use of this statute as applied to demonstrations, demonstrators, and their supporters has profound 1st Amendment implications.
The Patriot Act was hastily created, and is, in most part, extremely ill-advised. Every time functionaries of the Obama administration act as has happened in the case of Elliot Madison, larger and larger doubts are raised in the minds of those who care about our freedom.
Here is a segment of Democracy Now from October 6th, that featured an interview with Elliot Madison:
image - composite of Iranian women demonstrating and Elliot Madison
I got up at 9:15 a.m, and the docks were gone. They're now resting against the shore in a nook my son named Hirsch Cove. I hope to bring them back tomorrow or Monday. I'll have to do it soon after the wind dies down, because the lake will freeze over rapidly once the winds stop.
It is the first time the dock has been torn completely away from its moorings in fifteen years at Neklason Lake.
We got out, picked up the upper end of the tree and moved it out of the way so that one lane was open. Judy was starting to clear limbs and foliage off the road, but I reminded her that it would probably be gone in ten minutes, from the winds.
Sometimes debris gets swept away. Sometimes you have to clean it up yourselves. Thus, this week, the Alaska progressive bloggers were stuck, having to remove more Alaska political debris, left untouched by our mainstream media:
I. The Bill Allen sentencing: Steve at What Do I Know? was there for the sentencing, as he has been for many of the trials that emanated from the FBI sting on Allen's bribery schemes involving Alaska legislators. Steve gave an eyewitness account of the sentencing hearing at the Anchorage Federal Courthouse.
Steve also wrote about how the parameters of an acceptable sentence had been arrived at by Judge Sedwick. He also wondered why the protections Allen had apparently gotten for members of his family from Federal prosecution weren't mentioned in the hearing:
In this case there was a lot of discussion about how Allen had agreed to cooperate immediately when he was taken in to the FBI headquarters and shown some of the tapes of him in his Baranof Hotel suite; about how much work he did for the prosecution; how he was important in getting the various convictions this investigation has gotten. So all this cooperation meant that he ended up getting more than the normal lowering of levels. OK, sort of.
But what wasn't mentioned was the agreement that was discussed in the press and at the Kott and Kohring trials, that part of his agreement to cooperate included immunity to prosecution for his children. Given that he thought they needed such immunity, I'd say this was a big benefit that he'd already gotten for his cooperation. It would seem to me that it should have been factored in. Perhaps in the agreement it was also not supposed to affect the figuring of what level he deserved. It just seemed like a glaring omission to me.
AK Muckraker from The Mudflats was also at the sentencing. She wrote a long, descriptive essay that leaves one with no doubt that, as sympathetic of a character as Allen and his attorney would have liked to portray him, it just didn't work. AKM writes:
It started off with Allen’s attorney Bob Bundy, talking about how Allen was known to be a generous person, so these bad bad legislators knew right who to go to for the money. His generosity and kind heartedness made him a…..”sitting duck.” Really. Those were his exact words. “When they came to him he responded,” the attorney tried to convince the judge. You see, it was because Bill Allen really believed that the petroleum profits tax that would benefit the oil companies was the best thing for Alaska that he did it. It was his love of this great state and the people in it that led to his downfall. He was vulnerable…he was weak. How could this good and noble man resist? His passion for the best interest of all people led to his downfall. The illegal activity only happened because of solicitation, you see. It was those others. They ASKED. What could he do, being so generous and selfless and all? Him with that big heart of gold. They played him like a fiddle. And, he explained, there was “no organization of the illegal activity.” Allen would never do that. And cash changing hands was “serendipitous as it occurred,” he explained. Serendipitous, indeed.
At this point, the people in my row were looking at each other incredulously. As soon as the words “sitting duck” came out of the attorney’s mouth, there was a rapid-fire clacking on the keyboards of the laptops in the room. It was kind of fun to listen to the level of sound from the keyboards. You always knew when something really quotable was being said by the increase in the tap tap tapping. Kind of like when the shutters of cameras go crazy.
Fortunately Judge Sedwick piped up at this point. It was the only time I saw him look irritated, and justly so. He basically said, “You expect me to believe THAT?” but in longer and more eloquent sounding words.
AKM hastily drew a rendition of the courtroom atmosphere at this point in the proceeding:
Shannyn Moore from Just a Girl From Homer was also at the Allen sentencing hearing. She collected her thoughts fairly reflectively, finally posting an essay about the larger context of the Allen affair late Friday. She observes that the whole scam Allen got busted for involved money for his company, but a whole LOT MORE money for the big oil companies Allen served:
In Frank Murkowski’s Alaska, The Producers dusted off and resurrected Hollywood’s net profits scheme and changed the name to the PPT. The PPT would forever tie Alaska’s primary revenue stream to the efficiencies of the oil producers while simultaneously incenting them to be inefficient; that is, the higher their costs (INEFFICIENCY) they could deduct, the less their royalty payments would be (INCENTIVE) and therefore the less revenue for the state of Alaska (INDUSTRIOUS SCHEME).
Despite the tandem of strong-handed lobbying from Governor Murkowski combined with Bill Allen’s bribery of state lawmakers, and Ted Stevens yet-to-be-indicted son, Ben, presiding over the senate, the Alaska Legislature barely passed HB 3001 (the PPT) on August 10, 2006. Murkowski signed the bill into law nine days later. But, just like in Hollywood, the FEDS got involved and uncovered the plot. And, given the money at stake-hundreds of millions; in fact billions of dollars would flow either into state coffers or inflate the already record-high Producers’ profits. Had the PPT not been thrown out, the promised net profits would have literally become empty pipe dreams for Alaskans.
Just eleven days after the PPT became law, Allen was with Republican Senator Fred Dyson heading to breakfast when they were confronted by the FBI. Allen claimed during his sentencing statement to Judge Sedwick that after listening to the damning tapes he immediately decided to quit drinking and cooperate with the FEDS. The next day, August 31, lawmakers’ offices in Juneau were raided by the FBI.
Politics in Alaska forever changed.
One might hope this is the case, but listening Friday night to former Mark Begich super-fan Gini rail about her disappointment in Mark's conduct in the Senate, and knowing what I do, I sometimes wonder how long that "forever" was.
Moore's essay is so critical of our Alaska media on coverage of the 2005-2006 petroleum tax sessions, I almost felt I had written it. Except Shannyn didn't swear nearly as much as I do:
Remember the beloved PPT? That was the industrious scheme concocted by Murkowski and The Oil Producers behind closed doors. Alaska’s 4th Estate failed to explain it. Your morning newspaper, the Anchorage Daily News, never once called the PPT a NET PROFITS TAX! Nor did the ADN ever fulfill their social and unwritten pact to educate the public on something so basic, yet so vital!
II. Don Young is BACK. After being left fairly much alone for awhile, our lone Representative in the U.S. House again made the press and the Alaska blogs this past week. First, Young's name resurfaced in the Allen mess. There's a lot of speculation that Young's multimillion dollar criminal legal fees have been about Jack Abramoff ties, Coconut Road, other transportation earmark misconduct and his Veco ties. Early in the week I decided to write a summation of some of the more important past articles at PA and other blogs I have written about Young.
Friday morning, the Washington Post published two articles about a leaked memo from the House ethics body, one of which mentioned Young's Coconut Road 2005 earmark. PA posted an article linking the articles, and observing that Alaska civil rights and integrity activist Diane Benson had filed a complaint against Young on the Coconut Road earmark's illegal insertion into congressional legislation back in September 2007.
The Mudflats also covered this Friday.
III. University of Alaska Professor Rick Steiner. I was happy to see far more coverage of Prof. Steiner's case this past week than had been the case. He is the only National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration granted educator to have ever had his funding revoked by NOAA. Additionally, it was done with the connivance of Steiner's employer, the University of Alaska. And, within the past few days, NOAA has indicated that Steiner was right and that the people hounding him are wrong. But UAF and NOAA may not be backing down. We'll see.
The Mudflats posted two essays - one to accompany the Mudpups' live blogging of Moore's show with Steiner, the other one looking through some of the materials Prof. Steiner has released, related to his case. AKM noted in the second post:
The real issue here is bigger than the University of Alaska, bigger than Dr. Steiner, and bigger than oil. This situation asks if institutions of higher learning will succumb to pressure from moneyed interests at the expense of academic freedom. Is the integrity of our state universities for sale to the highest bidder?
This is true. And, sadly, as Shannyn Moore noted about Alaska mainstream media coverage of what PPT really entailed, our press hasn't had the courage or vision to call UA and NOAA out on what has happened here. Big oil was able to hide behind Allen on the Corrupt Bastards case, and Gen. Hamilton is quite willing to fulfill the role of cutout for big oil in the Steiner case.
Both PA and What Do I Know? have been following the progression of Rick Steiner's case for a while - PA since late 2007, What Do I Know? since early 2009. I hope to compile a comprehensive listing of these articles soon. Meanwhile, it appears UA President General Mark Hamilton may have accepted a joint appearance with Steiner on Alaska Public Radio's Talk of Alaska on November on November 24th.
IV. The Crazy Woman's Incomplete Final Public Officer Disclosure filing. Linda Kellen Beigel posted two excellent essays on Sarah Palin's filing last week of expense and contribution information, at Celtic Diva's Blue Oasis. The Mudflats covered them in two parts. The Immoral Minority observed their importance in the context of the array of interests the Alaska progressive bloggers try to cover. AKM carried Linda's essays to The Huffington Post. PA carried them to Firedoglake.
Friday, October 30, 2009
Here's Brad's brilliantly understated, mini-documentary:
House ethics investigators have been scrutinizing the activities of more than 30 lawmakers and several aides in inquiries about issues including defense lobbying and corporate influence peddling, according to a confidential House ethics committee report prepared in July.
The report appears to have been inadvertently placed on a publicly accessible computer network, and it was provided to The Washington Post by a source not connected to the congressional investigations. The committee said Thursday night that the document was released by a low-level staffer.
The ethics committee is one of the most secretive panels in Congress, and its members and staff members sign oaths not to disclose any activities related to its past or present investigations. Watchdog groups have accused the committee of not actively pursuing inquiries; the newly disclosed document indicates the panel is conducting far more investigations than it had revealed.
Shortly after 6 p.m. Thursday, the committee chairman, Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), interrupted a series of House votes to alert lawmakers about the breach. She cautioned that some of the panel's activities are preliminary and not a conclusive sign of inappropriate behavior.
"No inference should be made as to any member," she said.
Rep. Jo Bonner (Ala.), the committee's ranking Republican, said the breach was an isolated incident.
The 22-page "Committee on Standards Weekly Summary Report" gives brief summaries of ethics panel investigations of the conduct of 19 lawmakers and a few staff members. It also outlines the work of the new Office of Congressional Ethics, a quasi-independent body that initiates investigations and provides recommendations to the ethics committee. The document indicated that the office was reviewing the activities of 14 other lawmakers. Some were under review by both ethics bodies.
Although the article cited above doesn't mention Rep. Don Young, another article in today's WaPo does that:
The House ethics committee sought information from Rep. Connie Mack (R-Fla.) regarding a $10 million earmark in his district that connects Coconut Road near Fort Myers to Interstate 75.
A document obtained by The Washington Post shows that the committee requested information from Mack and expected a response by Aug. 28.
The congressman said in a statement released Thursday by his office that the inquiry does not focus on him and that he had no involvement with the project.
"We've been told that we may be a witness to an investigation of others, but we are, of course, not the subject of any investigation," the statement said.
The highway project, which local officials did not back, benefited a Florida developer who gave thousands to Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska), who at the time headed the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.
On September 17th, 2007, Alaska ethics and civil rights champion, Diane Benson submitted the following to Rep. Lofgren's predecessor on the house ethics panel:
I call upon Representative Stephanie Tubbs Jones of Ohio, Chairwoman and Representative Doc Hastings of Washington state, Ranking Republican Member of the United States House of Representatives Committee on Standards of Official Conduct to consider opening an investigation into the conduct of Representative Don Young of Alaska in the matter of the insertion of an earmark for a major Don Young contributor into House legislation after that legislation had passed Congress. This change, unprecedented in nature, appears to be unethical in the most obvious sense of that term.
Under the rules of the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct, the general public, and particularly, constituents of a possibly unethical Member may inquire to the committee on matters such as this, and request that you consider the matter, to wit:
Inquiries from organizations and individuals outside the House. The Committee also attempts to respond to inquiries from outside organizations and individuals, whether written or oral. However, the Committee, pursuant to its responsibilities under statute and House rules, must always give priority to inquiries from House Members and staff.
I am requesting at this time that you proceed with determining the background of this insertion so that your committee can then decide whether or not an investigation of Representative Don Young on the insertion of this highly unethical legislative item is the most appropriate course for your body to undertake.
image - Sept. 17th, 2007. Diane Benson signing her letter requesting a U.S. House investigation of Coconut Road
I told her then that I wanted to concentrate more on getting state law pertaining to conduct of public officials to be more transparent. Alaska is the least "sunshiny" of states when it comes to oversight of elected officials, and I felt that her complaint would go nowhere, and might keep Alaska bloggers and other citizen activists from concentrating on more important issues.
I was wrong.
The ramifications of Linda's Arctic Cat complaint are still playing out, even three months after Palin quit her job, so that she could go out and start a third party movement or a new religion, or something else.
Linda's actions in the way the Arctic Cat complaint is playing out may have had more to do with Palin's resignation than any other set of events. Combined with activist Andree McLeod's continuing questions on chief executive accountability, Linda's relentless peskiness is one of the highest achievements of our notorious Alaska bloggers.
This past week, Palin's people have filed her final Public Officer Financial Disclosure. It is incomplete, dishonest and may be so rife with enough purposeful lies, to be material evidence for a Federal or State of Alaska criminal indictment.
Linda has written two essays at Celtic Diva's Blue Oasis on the disclosure report. The first concentrates on the omission of information about Palin's legal defense fund, the Alaska Fund Trust. Palin doesn't even list the Trust as a financial interest, yet it was formed within the reporting period. Kellen makes some prescient observations:
1) Palin "blew off" Investigator Daniel in July. By sometime in August, he should have "served a copy of an accusation" upon Palin. If he had, the Personnel Board would no longer be able to hide behind the "confidentiality" claim, as all further proceedings would be public.
2) If Palin and the Board, as Debra English may have hinted they were trying to do during the last Personnel Board Meeting, had reached a "settlement," that too would become public information and would have required an announcement.
According to the ADN [Anchorage Daily News], Kristan Cole (fund trustee) did not respond to their questions. Back in July, she said the fund would be "frozen" until the legal issues were "resolved."
"There is NOTHING in the official purpose of the AFT related to legal defense or legal proceedings or ethics complaints. In fact, the purpose of the trust is for any expense at all incurred by Sarah Palin "as a result of the fact that she is Governor . . . or as a result of the performance of her duties as Governor." Those are the only limitations instilled by the purpose clause.
So the purpose of the AFT is to collect money for...basically anything and everything, short of overt criminal activity. This includes legal expenses, of course, along with everything else under the sun. It also covers her family and staff, as well as 'any other person determined by the Trustee.'"
Linda continues, observing that the avoidance of listing the Trust, obviously valued at far more than $1,000.00 (it is worth hundreds of thousands of dollars), is a serious concern.
The initial premise of the trust was linked to Palin's being governor and expenses that might accrue because of that job. Its life was supposed to end when she ended that job:
The AFT's purpose, as ambiguous as it may be, is clear about one thing - the purpose was set up for Palin "as Governor." As soon as she resigns, the trust loses its purpose.
Linda Kellen regards this purposeful reporting omission as a severe test of the integrity of both the Alaska Personnel Board and the Alaska Public Offices Commission. I'll go further and observe that none of our press seems remotely interested in the depth of corruption and collusion Palin's submission of such an incomplete document on such an important issue indicates.
It gets better, though, in Kellen's second essay - regarding an issue she owns, the Arctic Cat snowmachine sponsorship of Todd Palin, and how that figures into Palin's final disclosure and into all of her previous ones. And this subject gets into why I think Linda is as courageous as she is persistent.
Linda brought this issue up weeks after last winter's Iron Dog snowmachine race. Soon afterward, during a fundraiser to raise the money the state had told her she needed to pursue a document request, Kellen was the first of the Alaska bloggers to get threatened with a SLAPP.
Essentially, the Palins may have lied for years about the material benefits of their relationship with Arctic Cat, the manufacturer of the snowmachine Todd Palin has used in all of his Iron Dog Race runs. Kellen observes that this final filing by Palin raises an entirely new set of questions regarding veracity:
The whole "Arctic Cat" issue began with:
This all led to a simple question asked by Andree McLeod during public testimony at an APOC meeting:
You (Sarah Palin) have reported a "discount on snow machines" by Arctic Cat for Todd Palin. Was this discount exercised during calendar year 2008 and what was the amount of it?
Ms. McLeod was referring to Palin's Financial Disclosure for calendar year 2008. The only thing disclosed as coming from the Arctic Cat sponsorship was a "50% discount" on a snowmachine and no actual monetary figure was included. This violates APOC's requirement that anything over $1,000.00 needs to include the value if it was higher than $1,000.00.
As a result, APOC sent that question in the form of a "letter of inquiry" to Sarah Palin and received a response back claiming the amount of the snowmachine discount was "50% of the factory cost" and was therefore a "trade secret."
APOC rejected that claim and gave Palin a deadline to report the information.
Palin/Van Flein responded, now claiming ignorance as to the details of the contract, even though some of the details were revealed in the previous letter and even more of the contract details were shared in this one. For example:
-The racers receive their Arctic wear for free while for others (through them) it was 50% discount and,
-Todd Palin receives a "sponsorship fee."
The APOC Staff made a recommendation, somehow coming to the conclusion that Palin had "revealed enough."
The Commission rather soundly rejected the staff recommendation during their September meeting and instead tasked them with finding out even more information from the Palins, including the amount of the "sponsorship fee" described in the last letter from Van Flein/Palin to the APOC.
This is where the investigation of last year's Financial Disclosure form stands at this moment.
This brings us back to Monday's "Final" Financial Disclosure.
Regarding the Iron Dog and sponsorship benefits for the Palins--according to the paperwork, the only mention of ANYTHING Iron Dog (other than listing Todd's "winnings" as $3,500.00) is identifying Arctic Cat as a sponsor. The only monetary value: "Arctic Cat discount on snowmachines is $3,252.00". So, the Palin's are claiming that the extent of Arctic Cat sponsorship value to Todd Palin is $3,252.
That's an interesting figure for a few reasons:
1) On Palin's Financial Disclosure for calendar year 2007, she lists the total value of the Arctic Cat sponsorship as $7,500.00. That was the year that Davis/Palin won the Iron Dog and the rewards for that win should have been reaped during the 2008 race...the year that Palin failed to attach ANY monetary value to the Arctic Cat sponsorship. 2008 was also the year that Sarah was the Republican VP candidate. The Palins are asking us to believe that
2) They have still dodged listing that pesky "sponsorship fee" that already has them under investigation for last year's POFD. During the September APOC meeting, the other Commissioners were enlightened by Commissioner Frederick, a lawyer from Wasilla who also happens to be a musher savvy about sponsorships
Linda Kellen's pursuit of the issues involving the Arctic Cat sponsorship stands out among the efforts of the rest of our citizen activists here regarding Palin's breaches of trust in her official duties. I have to honestly say that compared to Linda, I've been a dilettante.
Nobody knows where this might go next. There are many overflowing cans of stinky, moldering worms that the Crazy Woman left on our doorsteps. But Linda's approach, and her diligent attendance at personnel board and public office commission hearings and meetings serve as the best example in the North Country of what the earnest purpose of citizen blogging represents.
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
There must be hundreds of real Alaskan stories similar to those Rep. Grayson relates above. If you have one, please tell it, as hard as that may be. Our elected national congressmen and woman need to know them.
What people are buying, when they get their full-priced or price-reduced or free copies of the Crazy Woman's book, will not be her mind. What people get when they buy into her facebook posts isn't her mind or her ideas.
It is all fake.
She doesn't write that stuff. Somebody else does.
So what is it that people are actually buying when they buy into the Crazy Woman?
Tuesday, October 27, 2009
I. Rick Steiner vs Mark Hamilton.
University of Alaska President, Gen. Mark Hamilton has tentatively agreed to appear on Alaska Public Radio's Talk of Alaska with UA Prof. Rick Steiner on November 24th, to talk about freedom of expression on the UA campus, as long as Steiner agrees not to discuss Steiner's case.
Steiner's case is that he protested the lack of neutrality by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration at a workshop about oil development in Bristol Bay. The workshop was partnered and partially funded by Shell Oil.
The whole setup was pure advocacy - for an oil giant. Steiner, by objecting to NOAA's dirty act, was doing what he felt was best in the situation - restoring a semblance of even-handedness to NOAA's ill-considered advocacy position. The consequence for Steiner was that a Bush appointee, with help from Hamilton proteges, had Steiner's NOAA funding terminated.
Recently, NOAA has announced that they intend to not recommend oil drilling possibilities in Bristol Bay, or look at it for a long, long time. Steiner was right. NOAA, in their Shell Oil advocacy, was wrong.
So, Steiner has been de-funded by one of his position funders for having been right. Hamilton, who brags about his award for supporting freedom of expression on Alaska campuses, is OK with talking to Steiner on the air, as long as Hamilton is able to veto Steiner's freedom of expression during the hour-long program.
II. Rep. Alan Grayson called out for calling ex-Enron lobbyist a whore.
Insulting sex workers and prostitutes worldwide, maverick Florida U.S. congressman Alan Grayson called ex-Enron lobbyist Linda Robertson, who is now working for bankster-in-chief Ben Bernanke, a whore.
Grayson made the comment in a radio interview in September. It has just surfaced, as both Republicans and Democrats in Washington D.C. are beginning to finally show some bipartisan support on an issue - Grayson. They may have agreed on throttling the first Democrat in a generation to have seized the moment as effectively as did Rep. Newt Gingrich, back in the very early 1990s.
Nobody wants to talk about Grayson's demand for an audit of the Federal Reserve. Few want to point out that the GOP has been far more strident in their accusations of Democrats' policies than has been Grayson about the GOP's.
III. The CIA has had the kingpin of the southern Afghanistan opium cartel on their payroll for years. His brother is the Afghan President.
And the Obama administration may have known about it since day one. It just surfaced today. No doubt, this has been leaked by Rahm Emanuel, to give Obama even more maneuverability in determining where the course of this awfully mismanaged war will go next.
Why am I not shocked that the CIA is aiding and abetting a guy heavily involved in a serious drug epidemic in the European countries. And why am I not surprised that - once again - the CIA is tied to the fucking narcotics trade.
But the biggest problem here is that as this drug trade in southern Afghanistan has grown, so has the power of the Taliban there. While the press says that the Taliban is getting a lot of their operating funds from opium, our guy (your tax dollars pay his CIA paycheck) is helping them.
So how is the GOP going to spin this one?
Or the Democrats?
image - drug kingpin and CIA operative Ahmad Karzai
hat tip - Jane Hamsher, who will be discussing this on Maddow's show this evening
Monday, October 26, 2009
Dear President Hamilton,
I'm writing an open letter to you based upon recent disturbing developments directly related to the public responsibilities of your office.
The Attempted Gagging of Prof. Rick Steiner
Regard[ing] actions taken against Professor Rick Steiner, another University of Alaska educator, resulting from his participation in an open letter to you.
On March 18, 2008, several parties, interested in the long-term viability of Bristol Bay area ecosystems noted serious conceptual flaws in the North Aleutian Basin Energy-Fisheries Initiative, being implemented by the University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF) and Alaska Sea Grant. These concerned citizens, administrators, educators and science professionals noted that the Initiative's premise was flawed by its open advocacy of offshore oil development in Bristol Bay, and by accepting a partnership in the Initiative from Shell Oil.
One of the signers of the open letter, University of Alaska Prof. Rick Steiner, was bound by the standards of Sea Grant Program Neutrality Guidance procedure to criticize the fault. It was within his rights to write the open letter. Those procedures state, in part:
Advocacy of one position alienates those on the other side[s].
The Initiative, by advocating the position of Shell Oil, obligated Prof. Steiner to seek a remedy.
University of Alaska Dean of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences, Denis A. Wiesenburg, completely misread Steiner's obligations. Instead of lauding Steiner for his concern about Sea Grant neutrality credibility, Dean Wiesenburg began attacking Prof. Steiner.
On May 8, 2008, in an e-mail to Sea Grant administrator Paula Cullenberg, Wiesenburg appears to have appended the agent manual I have cited from above, taking an opposite view of Steiner's obligation on March 18, 2008. He was beginning to build a case against Prof. Steiner.
On May 7, in Silver Springs, Maryland, at a National Sea Grant meeting, Wiesenburg had been approached by National Sea Grant College Program Deputy Director Jim Murray. Murray stated to Wiesenburg that, "they had an 'issue with Rick Steiner.'"
On July 9, 2008, Dean Wiesenburg related this "problem" to University of Alaska Labor Relations Director, Kris Racina, in an e-mail that clearly indicated Wiesenburg was preparing to cut the Sea Grant fund to Steiner in the future.
On December 2, 2008, in an astoundingly unprofessional move, Dean Wiesenburg took the opportunity of using a 3rd Year Dean's Review Post-Tenure Review to characterize Prof. Steiner's participation in what clearly was Steiner's obligation under Sea Grant guidelines, as an "attack."
Wiesenberg's review concludes with a quote from UNAC CBA provision, section 6.2, which states:
"Academic freedom is accompanied by the corresponding responsibility to provide objective and skillful exposition of one's subject, to at all times be accurate, to exercise appropriate restraint, to show respect for the opinions of others and to indicate when appropriate that one is an institutional representative."
A. Academic freedom is accompanied by the corresponding responsibility to provide objective and skillful exposition of one's subject - Dean Wiesenburg, by characterizing Prof. Steiner's concerns about the Bristol Bay Initiative's neutrality as an "attack," failed to be either skilled or objective in his review.
B. to at all times be accurate - in all the correspondence on this yet made public, Dean Weisenburg has yet to observe the objective nature of Prof. Steiner's initial stance in the March 18, 2008 Open Letter.
C. to exercise appropriate restraint - Dean Wiesenburg's characterization of Steiner, Kelly Harrell, Bob Shavelson, Whit Sheard, Terry Hoefferle, the Chief Executives of Bristol Bay Native Association (BBNA), Bristol Bay Economic Development Corporation (BBEDC), Bristol Bay Native Corporation (BBNC), Bristol Bay Housing Authority (BBHA), and Bristol Bay Area Health Corporation (BBAHC) as "publicly attacking Alaska Sea Grant program activities," is quite inflammatory. Statements such as this by the dean do nothing positive to help craft working relations between UAF and the Alaska Native community.
D. to show respect for the opinions of others - the open letter concluded with:
We write this letter in the spirit of cooperation and sincerely hope that we can work together to devise solutions to our very valid concerns with the initiative.
E. and to indicate when appropriate that one is an institutional representative - Prof. Steiner signs off thus:
Rick Steiner, Professor
University of Alaska
Dean Wiesenburg has behaved unprofessionally toward a person many regard as one of Alaska's most distinguished citizens. Not only has Dr. Wiesenburg maligned Prof. Steiner, his funding cut-off request, combined with the extremely prejudicial Post-Tenure Review is not in keeping with your public statements regarding freedom of expression on our campus.
Here is what Prof. Steiner wrote about this and other ecological issues, just this week:
Update - 7:30 p.m: The Mudflats has posted an article on these same issues. The article includes Prof. Steiner's letter to the National Association of Scholars. The NAS web site published some very unprofessional, snarky material on the Steiner case a few days ago, in an article titled Sustainability Skepticism Has Arrived. Their site published Steiner's reply today, and promises that a reply to his reply will come out soon.
“The present crisis in our nation’s marine and coastal ecosystems requires a clear and urgent national response. But instead of responding to the ocean crisis, this new de facto gag order from NOAA Sea Grant will have a chilling effect on scientists who want to advocate for greater ocean protection and restoration.”
Steiner has invited Hamilton to "debate with me, openly and publicly, re: the issue of academic freedom, and the influence of corporate donations to the university."
Hamilton in an email to Steiner Sunday, wrote, in response to Steiner's debate invitation, "Dr Steiner, you have peaked my interest. Mark."
What Hamilton meant, until we know more, is debatable. But you can encourage him to accept APRN's generous offer, by calling his office at (907) 450-8000, or by emailing him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
II. Should Gen. Hamilton refuse to debate Steiner on this, either at the APRN venue, or elsewhere, or should he simply refuse to acknowledge any of the interest in this issue, Progressive Alaska and others will probably try to organize a statewide and national effort to try to get the National Association of Scholars to rescind the 2002 award they bestowed upon Gen. Hamilton for promoting so-called "Academic Freedom."
Sunday, October 25, 2009
University of Alaska President Accepts Prof. Steiner's Challenge to Debate Freedom of Expression on Campus - Or Does He?
"I would like to invite you to debate with me, openly and publicly, re: the issue of academic freedom, and the influence of corporate donations to the university."
Gen. Hamilton has replied - rather tersely, but positively:
"Dr Steiner, you have peaked my interest. Mark"
Gen. Hamilton might have picked a better choice of words, but I'm piqued by the possibility that these two distinguished Alaskans, both apparently about to leave our sometimes inadequate, sometimes dynamically impressive university system, might meet, debate and air not only the issues of Steiner's activism, but others as well.
Let's hope Mark and Rick can meet publicly, so we can all have a peek, and that the meeting becomes an opportunity to help Alaskans understand the complexity of accommodating a visionary such as Steiner in an academic environment as stifling as the one Hamilton has had to promote. That would certainly be a peak experience.
You can help Gen. Hamilton report for duty on this by calling or emailing him at his office in Fairbanks.
His office phone number is (907) 450-8000
His email is email@example.com
Here is Rick Steiner's challenge to Gen. Hamilton:
President Hamilton –Given recent circumstances, I would like to invite you to debate with me, openly and publicly, re: the issue of academic freedom, and the influence of corporate donations to the university.You have said many things in support of academic freedom over the years, but when push came to shove in my case, you made a decision in opposition to free speech.In 2002, you received an award for your support of academic freedom from a group calling itself the “National Association of Scholars”, who it turns out, actually opposes sustainability movements on today’s college campuses. They say that sustainability is “deceptive, coercive, closed-minded, a pseudo-religion, distorts higher education, shrinks freedom, programs people, is anti-rational, by-passes faculty, and is wasteful.” This group apparently supports free speech only when they agree with what is spoken, and opposes it when they disagree with what is spoken. Apparently this is your position as well. That you chose to accept an award fro this group calls into serious question the progressive character of the University of Alaska.All of this is an extremely serious transgression of the very role a university is supposed to fulfill in civil society.
I look forward to your reply, and to debating this issue publicly and honestly.
Sincerely, Rick Steiner, Professor
Otherwise, as others have observed, this was
Update - 8:00 p.m: Commenters are observing that the young reporter may have been doing a standard audio level check in the way she had either been trained to do one, or as she had learned some of her colleagues had done them.
Essentially, they contend the reporter was merely having Sen. Murkowski say words that would both identify the Senator for archive purposes and fulfill the audio check function. I had thought this practice had disappeared along with a lot of other pre-digital setup procedures. I may have been wrong.
Read through the comments to get some opinions on this.
Saturday, October 24, 2009
More on this at Media Matters. It is truly hilarious.
The Alaska blogs The Immoral Minority and The Mudflats usually live blog Shannyn's show, so there may be some interesting new information emerging in blog comments on comparable cases elsewhere, or on Steiner's. The Mudflats has done some disambiguation on which Rick Steiner and which Shannon Moore will be on the air.
II. There are some other interesting articles on the Steiner case emerging:
• Alaska blogger Celia Harrison has compared Steiner's treatment to that of Louisiana State University Prof. Ivor Van Heerden. Van Heerden was punished for being absolutely right about the dangers development in the lower Mississippi Delta brought with them, and for accurately predicting the kinds of damage that occurred during and after Hurricane Katrina.
• The outside blog Planet Thoughts has posted the transcript of Steiner's interview last week on America's best video news program, Democracy Now.
• There is now a Rick Steiner is Right! facebook group.
• KTUU-TV covered Steiner's resignation announcement yesterday evening.
• Back in February, I wrote an open letter to University of Alaska President, Gen. Mark Hamilton. He never responded. Apparently, Moore has invited him onto today's show.
III. Here is a timeline of actions against Prof. Rick Steiner or incidents that should raise the interest of people who care about academic freedom:
1989 – As university marine advisor for Prince William Sound (based in Cordova, Alaska), Steiner assumes public profile during Exxon Valdez Oil Spill response and issues following.
1990 – 1991 Steiner proposes settlement in spill damage case between Exxon and governments, and advocates using much of the restoration funds for protection of coastal habitat and forests in oil spill region. Others in university research community advocate use of most spill restoration funds instead for research.
1991 – 1994 University administrators begin pressuring Steiner re: his public statements, objecting to his “advocacy” regarding oil spill prevention, restoration, response, and oil/environment issues in general. They deny his promotion due to such “advocacy.”
1994 – University Regent (owner of an Alaska timber company) asks on-the-record at Regents meeting that Steiner be terminated from university.
1994 – University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF) Chancellor sends Steiner a letter criticizing him for inviting U.S. President Clinton to address the Exxon Valdez 5th anniversary conference in Anchorage, for which he was on the steering committee.
1994 – Regent sends the Chancellor’s (Steiner) reprimand letter to the Anchorage Times, who publish it in full in Alaska’s largest newspaper to publicly defame him.
2004 – Steiner proposes to university administrators that he be transferred into an environmental sustainability faculty position, to allow him to expand his environmental programming without continued pressures to constrain his academic freedom.
2004 – Selendang Ayu oil spill occurs in Aleutian Islands, a ship casualty Steiner had warned about and tried to prevent years before. Front-page story in main Alaska newspaper on this warning to government (“Disaster avoidable, professor says”).
2004 – In response to Steiner media comments, new dean of School of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences (SFOS) sends all faculty members in the school an email requiring them to clear all press contact and inquiries through the PR staff of SFOS. The dean orders Steiner news coverage removed from SFOS website.
2005 – The SFOS dean calls Steiner and tells him “to not criticize state government as that is where we get our money;”…that Steiner “should not advocate”….and that Steiner should not be listed as an information resource on a NGO website – the Alaska Oceans Program.
2005 – Anchorage Daily News runs front-page story “Professor seeks transfer after spill remarks draw fire” that discusses the obvious infringement of academic freedom. SFOS dean sends Steiner a threatening letter, warning him not to criticize him or the university in public.
2005 – Email sent from and to National Sea Grant officials stating the following: “Steiner is one of a handful of agents who has a reputation for crossing the advocacy line to become an environmental advocate.”
2005 – SFOS dean secretly plans to terminate Steiner’s office lease. An email to Steiner from a colleague divulges that they had overheard the dean saying that he intended “to punish” Steiner by terminating his separate office space in retaliation for him speaking publicly about the academic freedom issue and for criticizing the university. Grievance filed by faculty union – United Academics (UNAC). UNAC grievance asserts that main Marine Advisory Program (MAP) office is hostile working environment for Steiner. Subsequent investigation by SFOS associate dean confirms that, while there is no clear discrimination due to race, gender, etc. in the main office, the report found extensive hostility and unhealthy work conditions, particularly for Steiner, at that office. As a result, Steiner is left in his separate office as UNAC grievance requests (temporarily).
2005 – SFOS dean prohibits Steiner (but apparently no others in the school) from conducting any international travel without having outside salary for such (although he had always secured outside travel support).
2006 – Steiner takes 2-month medical leave due to continued harassment from university administrators.
2005 – 2008 – Many internal emails sent among university administrators regarding their concerns and criticism for Steiner and his environmental perspectives and public profile.
1/07 – MAP director calls staff for the Alaska Climate Impact Assessment Commission (a commission Steiner first conceived and proposed to the Alaska Legislature in 2005, and received unanimous vote in 2006 legislative session), prior to Steiner’s invited keynote testimony, without notifying Steiner, registering concerns over Steiner’s upcoming testimony. His testimony time subsequently cut from 1 hour to 20 minutes by the commission, and unusual questions being asked of Steiner by the commission chair at beginning of his testimony, broadcast statewide on Alaska public television.
10/07 – MAP director meets with Steiner, sends follow up email agreeing to his request to continue to be located in an office separate from the main office.
12/07 – 6/08 Governor Palin publicly states that the State of Alaska (ADFG) marine mammal biologists did not agree with the federal proposed rule to list polar bears under the Endangered Species Act, and invokes this claim to back the state’s opposition to listing. Steiner tries for 6 months to obtain the written review by the state biologists, and after several rounds of denials by ADFG to the document request (including a claim that it would cost Steiner $468,784 to search for the documents), the state refuses to release the document, using an Attorney General’s decision that the document was “pre-decisional.” Steiner finally obtained the state review through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request from the federal government. The state science review shows unequivocally that, contrary to the Governor’s public assertion, state marine mammal scientists actually did find that polar bears are at considerable risk due to climate change, and agreed with the federal findings behind the listing. Considerable media attention given to the lack of transparency and dishonesty of the Palin administration from this episode.
3/08 – Steiner joins colleagues in Alaska marine conservation NGO community to publicly raise concerns about a University of Alaska and Sea Grant conference on offshore oil development in Bristol Bay Alaska, whose main sponsor was Shell oil.
3/08 – Deputy Director of National Sea Grant Program sends email to Chair of Sea Grant Advisory Committee telling him: “I have strong feelings about extension agents getting into advocacy and I would be happy to take Steiner to task if warranted.”
3/08 – Steiner learns of proposed meeting between Shell oil and UA officials, and asks university officials to be able to participate. University officials deny Steiner’s request, and conceal time/date/location of the meeting from him.
3/08 – UNAC files grievance on behalf of Steiner, re: his exclusion from Shell/UA meeting as violation of his academic freedom, the state Open Meetings Act, and university policy on open meetings. During grievance process, administrators deny that Steiner was singled out for exclusion, and ultimately deny the grievance. Documents obtained later (through public records requests) prove that administrators indeed singled Steiner out for exclusion from the Shell meetings. Weeks before the meeting, the UAF Chancellor had sent an email to SFOS dean regarding Steiner’s request to join the meeting, saying: “Rick is not on a need to know basis with these discussions.” Other emails discovered later reveal that administrators had expected him to be “a spoiler.”
7/08 – SFOS dean sends email to another university administrator (yet does not disclose to Steiner) citing a meeting he held with National Sea Grant Office (NSGO) in Washington DC the preceding May, in which they discussed Steiner. Among other things, the email states the following:
“Jim Murray (the Deputy Director of the National Sea Grant Program) advised me that they have an ‘issue with Rick Steiner.’ They felt he was acting as an advocate and asked if he was being paid with Sea Grant funds. I told them that he received one month of salary from our Sea Grant grant. Jim expressed concern about this and stated that ‘one agent can cause problems nationally.’ The suggestion was made that he not be paid with Sea Grant funds…they worry that his actions in Alaska could have negative implications nationally...Professor Steiner is receiving one month salary from our Sea Grant grant. It will be my recommendation that Professor Steiner’s salary not be included in the grant, and that he continue to receive his nine month salary from our Fund 1 budget as required by the CBA.”
9/08 – Steiner publicly criticizes former Governor Palin’s environmental policy during VP campaign, in particular her position on polar bear listing and lack of transparency with science.
12/08 – SFOS dean reviews Steiner’s 3-year post-tenure file, criticizing Steiner that he has:
“chosen to be a maverick and to work independently,” and;
“Mr. Steiner regularly takes strong positions on matters of public debate. The NSGO (National Sea Grant Office) has asked that we not support such with federal dollars….”
12/08 – Steiner requests internal documents from the dean to elucidate background behind the dean’s adverse review, pursuant to Alaska Public Records Act. University withholds 13 documents, and provides others after assessing a fee (the first ever paid by Steiner in his decades of using public records acts).
2/09 – Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) – a national NGO - publicizes the Steiner case nationally, and considerable media attention follows in Alaska and elsewhere. After being approached by the Associated Press regarding the Steiner issue, university administrators decide to replace (for one year) the federal salary they planned to remove from Steiner, using state funds.
2/09 – MAP director and SFOS dean host teleconference with SFOS and MAP faculty and staff, as well as Alaska Sea Grant external advisory committee members (dignitaries outside the university) to discuss the media reports on the Steiner matter. MAP director uses the public teleconference to criticize Steiner’s activities and work performance, scientific credentials, and denies media reports that Steiner’s federal funding is in jeopardy. One Alaska dignitary on teleconference says that Steiner should be reprimanded and should consider finding work elsewhere.
3/09 – Anchorage Daily News runs story: “UA professor in danger of losing federal grant funding.” Many letters to editor and opinion pieces printed in news and on websites in support of Steiner.
3/09 – Steiner invited to give a public presentation on free speech and ocean conservation in Anchorage. In question and answer period at end, MAP director stands up and contends that Steiner’s federal funding is not at risk, and that the media had reported the issue incorrectly.
3/09 – UNAC files grievance for infringement of academic freedom due to threats that Steiner’s federal Sea Grant funding is to be terminated due to his public statements. Provost officially informs Steiner and UNAC that indeed Steiner’s federal (Sea Grant) funding is to be terminated, but denies the grievance. This is the first time in Alaska and, as far as can be determined, nationally, where federal grant funding for a university faculty member was terminated due to the faculty member’s public comments. As such, this is a nationally historic event.
4/09 – UNAC appeals grievance to Chancellor of UAF.
4/09 – After a letter from PEER to new NOAA administrator on Steiner issue, Deputy Director of National Sea Grant Program is reassigned, removing him from any oversight responsibility for Alaska program.
4/09 – MAP director asks to meet with Steiner and UNAC, informs them that Steiner’s office lease is to be terminated, and that he was required to relocate into the main office, (which an earlier report found to present substantial hostility to him and his work).
5/09 – UNAC files additional grievance on office lease termination, and this grievance is combined with academic freedom grievance.
6/09 – UAF Chancellor denies both grievances. Steiner is required to move out of office space while off-contract for summer.
7/09 – UNAC files final appeal for combined grievances to President of University of Alaska.
7/09 – At request of Chancellor, adverse review of post-tenure file by SFOS dean from 12/08 is removed from Steiner personnel file.
8/09 – University President appoints university General Counsel to hear final Steiner appeal. PEER notifies University President that his legacy in support of academic freedom will be determined by his ruling on the Steiner matter.
10/09 - University of Alaska-appointed investigator Roger Brunner finds adversely to Steiner's appeal.