Friday, July 31, 2009
Thursday, July 30, 2009
I give summer school finals this evening at UAA's Eagle River campus. Then it is off to Washington, Oregon and California for a few days. Mom's 91st birthday celebration is this coming weekend. I'll try to post some entries about the travels and on any notable Alaska events.
Here are some of the books I'm now reading:
A Short History of Progress by Ronald Wright. This was recommended to me by somebody who was as impressed as was I by the book, 1491. Wright is a skeptic of many aspects of conventional thinking on what the term "progress" really means. Wright concentrates on civilizations that had "cashed in all their natural capital." I feel we are doing much of the same with our industrial farming, meat production, fishing and mining practices, among other things.
Bloggers on the Bus: How the Internet Changed Politics and the Press by Eric Boehlert. I'm almost finished with this book. Chapter 13, as has been observed, is about Alaska bloggers and their role in getting timely and accurate information out about Sarah Palin after she was selected to be Sen. John McCain's 2008 running mate.
Train Your Mind; Change Your Brain by Sharon Begley. Here's from a review by Nancy Fontaine:
Neuroplasticity is nothing less than the ability of the brain to grow new neurons and rewire itself, which neurologists and psychologists until recently believed impossible. Sharon Begley, as science columnist for The Wall Street Journal, takes a subject that could have been dry as dust or, conversely, simplified into self-help slogans, and turns it into a riveting story. Train Your Mind, Change Your Brain is as entertaining as it is edifying. This unlikely page turner fascinates, and suggests optimism about your brain's capacities.
Begley frames her story around the 2004 Mind and Life Institute meeting, whose subject was neuroplasticity. The Mind and Life Institute was formed in 1990 as a way for the Dalai Lama, leader of the Tibetan government-in-exile and spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhism, to both learn more about science and integrate it into Buddhism. Every few years, prominent scientists are invited to Dharamsala, India, to make presentations to the Dalai Lama, who discusses their findings with them.
Alternating between the scientists speaking to the Dalai Lama and a more general narrative, Begley begins at the beginning and lays out clues like in a detective novel. When the pioneers of the field found indications that the brain rewires itself, the establishment rejected the ideas by refusing to publish the findings in prestigious journals and rejecting funding requests. The investigators kept going and chipped away at the status quo, adding up studies of animals and people, discovering such things as why the blind have more acute hearing and amputees still feel their missing limbs. One-by-one, the tenets of the unchanging brain were felled, until it became official: even adults can achieve physical changes in their brains.
The Grammar of Conducting by Max Rudolf. The most comprehensive guide to conducting instrumental ensembles. This book has been around for generations, and is still widely regarded as the best. I'm re-reading it.
No spy books or light reading on this trip.
Wednesday, July 29, 2009
Are they watching Alaskans for Peace & Justice? The Unitarian Church? The Quakers? They are in other states, why not here. How about the Alaska Tea Party?
Should we file a Freedom of Information Act request like was done to uncover the illegal activities in Washington State?
Tuesday, July 28, 2009
His early inspiration partially came from the Northwest Alaska Native activism sparked by the threat of a thermonuclear experiment to be performed upon his homeland by the bizarrely named U.S. Department of Nuclear Excavation. His earliest well-known activist moment may have been his 1969 testimony on behalf of Alaska Native land claims, a speech since titled by some, "This is Our Land":
We are testing the American political system. We have found it responsive up to this time, and have hope. We know the history of our country in dealing with the American Indian, and want to see a final chapter not written in blood, or in deception, or in injustice. We are not numerous, and recognize the pitfalls in securing this unprecedented kind of legislation.
We are seeking an alternative to wardship. We seek to offer alternatives to Eskimo and Indian people, rather than a one-way ticket into the confused mainstream. We feel our people cannot convert to a cash economy overnight and will continue to fish and hunt for many years. On the other hand, we see that the young Natives seek education and new places. These should be available. We want to be able to live longer and more decently, without having to stoop in indignity because of a degrading welfare system. We feel this is possible, if we can secure the kind of land settlement we are proposing.
That was 40 years ago. Hensley has since been a member of both houses of our legislature, and has held numerous positions in industry, finance, Native governance and government. He was on the ticket, along with Tony Knowles at the top, in the strange 1990 gubernatorial race won by the Alaska Independent Party's candidate, Wally Hickel.
Hensley has recently published a biographical book, titled Fifty Miles from Tomorrow. I'm looking forward to reading it. I've met him a few times over the years, but we've traveled separate circles so far.
Hensley penned an op-ed in Tuesday's New York Times that is the most profound of post-mortems on the Palin administration so far, written from within our Native community. Here's an excerpt:
TEN thousand summers have come and gone here in Alaska and the village people are already preparing for another cold winter by drying and smoking salmon, rendering seal oil and drying the meat and hoping for a bountiful berry season. In the meantime, our governor has called it quits 18 months before the end of her four-year term. She leaves tomorrow, to be replaced by her lieutenant governor, Sean Parnell.
The Inuit have a word, “qivit,” that you do not want to have applied to you. It means to quit or give up when the going gets rough. In traditional times, and that was very recent, if you gave up as a leader you were jeopardizing yourself and everyone around you. It takes a lot of effort to maintain life in the bitter cold of the Arctic.
Things weren’t much different when Alaska became a state 50 years ago. It was you and your family out there, hewing a living from the land and what little cash economy that existed.
We have high suicide and school dropout rates, and problems of poverty and alcohol and drug abuse. The Anchorage area faces an energy shortage due to declining gas fields and the villages face almost insurmountable energy costs; key resource development projects are languishing, and there is no revenue sharing for Alaska for offshore oil development even though we have 33,000 miles of coastline.
In short, Alaska had a governor who had the stature within the state, nationally and internationally, to deal with our problems. She could have used her position to find solutions to the high costs and financial insecurities of our far-northern state. Instead, she abandoned her role as the state’s leader in midstream, making her the only governor in our state’s history to "qivit" in the true sense of the word, at a time when we need strong leadership. Good luck, Governor Parnell — may the great Arctic spirits be with you.
Hensley is one of our state's most articulate and powerful - mostly behind the scenes - leaders. His perspective on Palin's short tenure, compared to "ten thousand summers" is almost unnerving.
This past Sunday, I was at an event where both Diane Benson and Terzah Poe were present. I've worked a lot with Diane since 2006, but only met Terzah this past spring. Diane is Tlingit. Terzah, like Willie, is Inupiat. Both women have worked with Hensley on one project or another over the decades.
I was struck by the power of Terzah's engagement with me when I showed my frustration at the high number of highly educated, pragmatic and visionary Alaska Natives whose solutions to rural problems seem to go unnoticed here. She was animated that I regarded this as quite obvious. I can't wait to talk with her more about this, because she's an important figure in Shell Oil's plans to drill offshore in the Chukchi Sea, a project I don't endorse.
But she knows full well how many scores of brilliant minds from all our Native heritages there are out there with pragmatic solutions to a time that takes into account not just "ten thousand summers" past, but that many in our shared future.
Both Hensley and Poe have sometimes been criticized from within the Native communities and the progressive community for being too cozy with mineral extraction companies. Diane Benson has not, to my knowledge.
Back in April 2008 Benson did propose opening a dialogue between Conoco-Phillips and their Denali natural gas pipeline proposal, with the Alaska Native community. I wrote about it then, at DailyKos. To me, the most important parts of Benson's proposal were those regarding a possible restructuring of how we educate rural Alaskans to do the resource extraction jobs in Alaska:
In your May 10, 2006 Project Summary for a Proposed Gas Pipeline Project, you outline plans to invest five million dollars in workforce training and related programs in Alaska. While I commend your commitment to investing in our education and vocational programs, I urge you to substantially increase the amount of your expected contribution for these programs. In today’s proposal, you outline $30 million to fund job training programs, in-state feasibility studies, and infrastructure upgrade studies. However, there is no indication of how the amount will be split among these three programs. Five million dollars is woefully inadequate to achieve the goals you set out in your 2006 proposal or in today’s presentation. As you know, Alaska’s workforce is exceedingly skilled, particularly in the fields of mineral exploration and extraction. However, in order to compete in the global economy, we need to boost our commitment to:
• Increasing Alaska’s role in downstream processing (both oil and gas);
• Investing in Alaskan programs in materials research, civil and chemical engineering, and related disciplines;
• Investing in Alaskan alternative energy programs, including reducing greenhouse emissions during all phases of construction.
In essence, I urge you to invest in Alaska’s educational programs immediately to ensure that the project has a highly skilled workforce for the start of construction. As an Alumni and one committed to the University of Alaska, I urge you to work with the University of Alaska’s excellent physical and social science departments to help form and fund a UA Center for Natural Resource Studies, which can serve as an interdisciplinary center for materials studies (extraction and conservation) and engineering, preparing Alaska’s bright students for promising future careers in the industry and beyond. I write this mindful of both BP and ConocoPhillips previous generous donations to the University of Alaska system and the strategic partnership which the industry has with the UA system. Nevertheless, in light of the massive scope of the Alaska Gas Pipeline project, I believe a greater investment in Alaska’s education system at this point is both necessary and wise.
As our experience with the TAPS made clear, despite Alaska’s adequate skilled workforce, the gas pipeline will bring thousands of new workers from out of the state. Consequently, besides ensuring that Alaska’s workforce training programs turn out highly skilled employees who will work on the pipeline, I would like to suggest a workable framework for involving Alaska’s trade unions in the discussion at this early planning stage, both to ensure compliance with federal and state labor regulations as well as to streamline labor relations – crucial on a project of this magnitude. Both of these proposals are plainly in the interests of both the Consortium and the people of Alaska.
When Benson wrote her query to Conoco-Phillips, and announced it to the press, there was no response. Yet it was the most reasoned and detailed of any look into the new proposal at that time.
Since then, I've observed too many instances of practical solutions to seemingly intractable problems in Alaska proposed by Native leaders going unnoticed.
This is not right.
This is not sensible.
This is just plain wrong.
images - Willie Hensley from his web site; Terzah & Diane - PA
Monday, July 27, 2009
Saradise Lost - Book One (about the McCain Palin campaign) - 181 chapters.
Saradise Lost - Book Two (the continuation of Palin's governorship, up to the resignation announcement) - 77 chapters.
Saradise Lost - Book Three (from the resignation announcement to abdication) - 31 chapters.
Saradise Found - 17 chapters.
Saradise Lost & Found - seven chapters.
I'm not going to write a post-mortem on the Palin administration yet. I've had the opportunity to speak to, correspond with or know all of Alaska's governors except for William Egan. Some expect or expected to be addressed as "Governor" after their terms of office, Wally Hickel in particular. I've had no problem with addressing him as "Governor." The last time I had that opportunity was at a fundraiser for Alaskans for Clean Elections, last year. Tony Knowles and Jay Hammond, as two-term governors deserve the honorific, in my mind. Bill Sheffield and Steve Cowper do not. I feel their administrations were, by and large, failures.
I will never call Sarah Palin "governor" as an honorific. Besides the obvious, that of her own volition, she failed to fulfill her duty of serving her term, she has repeatedly characterized people who disagree with her point of view as less worthy Alaskans or Americans than are those with whom she directly identifies.
The fact that the most famous Alaskan in our history has also been the most intensely polarizing figure in our state's or in our country's recent political events is disturbing. Not since George Wallace, has a person elevated to the level of a presidential contest final been so divisive. Although the attention Palin's national political aspiration has brought to Alaska has had its positive effect (more people down below seem to be more aware of Alaska's unique nature, for instance), the opposite side of that coin is that Palin is also the biggest political joke of the 21st century, and part of the joke is that she is such a caricature of aspects of what many of us hold to be important parts of our "Alaskan-ness."
II. Watching the adoration and rapture on the countenances of the crowd I saw at the picnic in Wasilla on Friday, and have seen in pictures of the Anchorage and Fairbanks events, troubled me too. As did her abdication speech's constant intermixture of military might & sacrifice, the sanctity of corporate power, and her version of "God." As his been Palin's habit of late, she seemed to be repeatedly accusing her opponents of "lies, stupidity and cowardice."
Many familiar with Adolf Hitler's rise between his release from Landsberg Prison and the 1933 German national election are unaware of the extent that Christian organizations supported him. Or of the extent of intermixture between the Nazi state and organized religion. As an example, here's a partial list of Catholic youth organizations alone that supported Hitler's rise from 1931 through 1933:
• The Catholic Young Men's Association of Germany
• The Central Association of Catholic Maidens
• The South German Association of Catholic Females
• The Association of Catholic Bachelors
• The Association of Bavarian Catholic Book Clubs
• The Association of Catholic Students in Institutions of Higher Learning
• Catholic Youth Alliance of German Working Girls
The membership of some of these groups reached into the high hundreds of thousands. Similar Protestant youth groups supported the rise of Hitler. And, of course, adult groups. During Wilhelmine Germany, the Weimar Republic and the National Socialists era, the German states ( Bayern, Baden, Nassau, and so on) directly supported the Christian church financially.
During the Third Reich, thousands of Christians served as chaplains in the Wehrmacht. Some fully supported the dehumanization of Slavs, the glorification of Der Fuhrer and the Holocaust of murder of Jews, Gypsies and homosexuals. The ideal of "blood sacrifice," alluded to so frequently in recent Palin speeches, was a constant fixture in Nazi pre-war and World War II propaganda.
Is this proto-Christofascist strain that has been ramped up so fully in Palin's recent speeches and twitters going to be key to her post-gubernatorial role? Whether or not she is striking out to start a third party, as some have speculated, I believe that she will draw more deeply into the well of dispensationalist Christofascism. She will, as many of us already know, attempt to hide this on some levels, but will be out front about it on others.
The Alaska media totally ignored this dangerous component of Palin's makeup, throughout her political career in Alaska. The tendency to ignore the dangers of strange and evil groups affiliated to dispensationalism, their infiltration of many of our military institutions and their units hasn't gone mainstream. Hopefully, as Palin is observed in her upcoming actions, this key aspect of her personality will not be ignored.
image - from Zina Saunders
This afternoon, on Countdown:
Sunday, July 26, 2009
Here are my two favorite Palin-inspired works of art. First, synced cocktail-style piano jazz:
And my favorite Zina Saunders Palin caricature:
Saturday, July 25, 2009
Saradise Lost - Book 3 - Chapter 30 - "God Bless Alaska" -- You Betcha! - Plus: Join Shannyn on KBYR
Carefully pausing between almost every word, very, very, very soon-to-be-ex Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin said "goodbye to Anchorage today. Goodbye, Sarah.
Join Shannyn Moore on KBYR between now and 7:00 p.m. today (like -right now), as she comments on this past rich week.
Here's the link to the webcast.
And at The Mudflats, the mudpups are live blogging the show.
I'm cleaning my house for a party.
Thursday, politico.com's Daniel Libit penned an entry titled Exiting the Sarasphere. Libit contrasted the mostly in-state political blogs that have been highly critical of Palin with those who defended her, and which are largely based in the Lower 48.
In his article, Libit takes up the issue of invective and trumped up legal action threats taken against Alaska's most meteoric and nationally prominent independent commentator, Shannyn Moore. But he failed to give Moore's ongoing saga the depth I suggested he find.
Libit does somewhat accurately describe the dilemma many of us will face Monday morning in a more-or-less post-Palin Alaska, and our realization that the Palin farce has brought worldwide attention to other Alaska issues we hope to now find more time to help solve:
For years, Moore has been fighting a proposed open-pit gold mine in the Bristol Bay Watershed, which would threaten Alaska’s salmon and trout. Now she has many more eyes watching her.
“I am grateful for that,” says Moore. “I have no problem saying, ‘Thank you, Sarah Palin’ for a lot of things.”
On July 14th, Eric Boehlert, Media Matters for America co-founder and author of the 2009 book, Bloggers on the Bus: How the Internet Changed Politics and the Press, updated his book's Chapter 13, with a weekly column at Media Matters, titled Saradise Lost: How Alaska Bloggers Dethroned Sarah Palin. Boehlert's article takes the story of our continuing efforts past the end of the 2008 presidential campaign.
As Time noted last week, "A more experienced, more familiar politician would have been ready for the ramping, but Palin seemed consumed by it. Instead of ignoring hostile bloggers, she combed the Web for their latest postings." And Wonkette recently captured the obsession with the snarky headline "Sarah Palin Will Soon Condemn, Bomb Entire Internet."
It was fitting, then, that the day after making her resignation announcement, Palin had her attorney issue a strange, over-the-top, four-page letter threatening legal action against any news organizations that picked up on the Palin resignation speculation that had been aired by influential Alaska blogger Shannyn Moore.
Appearing on MSNBC in the wake of Palin's stunning announcement, as observers tried to make some sense of it, Moore, searching for a possible explanation, pointed out that there had been a "scandal rumor" floating around Alaska for months about a possible corruption investigation centered on Palin. Moore clearly did not validate the claim of the rumor. She simply pointed out that it existed. Palin's legal eagle, though, then claimed Moore had stated the corruption charge as "fact."
By singling her out for public denunciation, all Palin did was turn the Alaska blogger into a media celebrity and guarantee that she'd be given a larger media platform to discuss the rumor.
How did the flagship operation of Alaska mainstream media react to Moore's courage? They certainly did not defend her. Here's what appears to have happened:
According to one of my sources at the ADN, editorial page editor Matt Zencey reviewed before publication (possibly even soliciting) a scurrilous, defamatory op-ed by a Republican Party operative, named JoAnn Grimes, or something else. Then, when people, some of them attorneys, complained about the defamation, the ADN removed the op-ed.
When I called Zencey to ask about the op-ed and its removal, he stated that it had been removed "voluntarily" by the author, and that she had "voluntarily" ended her relationship with the ADN. I next observed to Zencey that anyone with knowledge of the internet could still gain access to the "voluntarily removed" article. I also pointed out to him that Grimes' piece had spawned other articles on the web that continued to spread the false information Zencey had allowed to be published. After asking whether he or the ADN intended to apologize to Moore, or to any of the other Alaska bloggers mentioned in the articles spun from Grimes' ADN piece, Zencey hung up on me. I had been extremely polite, by the way.
The op-ed's removal was followed by a curious op-ed by local outdoors writer Bill Sherwonit, called, Whatever Happened to Joann Grimes? In the comments to the article, ADN senior vice president and editor, Pat Dougherty, took the unusual step of inaccurately jumping into the comments, falsely claiming that Grimes' husband, Jeff Pantages, had never written for the ADN:
ds55 wrote on 07/16/2009 07:50:42 PM: Are we allowed to mention that it was revealed Joann's husband, Jeff Pantages, writes for the Anchorage Daily News?
If you are going to mention it, you might also want to note that it is not actually true, unless you mean that he is someone who has written a letter to the editor or op-ed column.
Dr. Chill then responded with [edited for convenience by PA]:
If you are going to mention it, you might also want to note that it is not actually true, unless you mean that he is someone who has written a letter to the editor or op-ed column.
WT Heck!? Pat, if you frequently publish his opinion/editorial columns, and it gets a by-line and you print his picture, isn't it fair to say he "writes for ADN?"
So if I may, I'd like to note that your statement is not actually true:
Baseball Has Some Hints for Government
Best answer for left-wing naysayers is to ignore them
New citizens feel optimism, patriotism here
John McCain should know: Getting old has its advantages
Permanent Fund's first guide kept future ... By JEFF PANTAGES. Published: May 24, 2008
Economy will take time to recover, but it's no Depression By JEFF PANTAGES 10/26/08
Legislature did OK with $1 billion energy relief measure: Opinion ... By JEFF PANTAGES. Published: August 15th, 2008
adn.com | compass : It's time to fix tax, get pipeline built By JEFF
and commentor (and commentator) justafarmer, responding to Dougherty's seeming defense of Grimes, wrote:
@ Pat Dougherty: If you are indeed an ADN editor, you need to take a course in journalism ethics. I am a journalist of 30 years and a retired university professor who taught journalism ethics. This entire Joann Grimes debacle is a nightmare and I can NOT believe you are excusing it.
Please note that I am a registered commentator here so you have my contact details. Please stop insulting those of us who are trained journalists.
I'm in receipt of a number of the letters sent to ADN editors and McClatchy management by people who were very disturbed at Zencey's course of allowing Grimes' piece to be published. Some were written by attorneys. To date, to my knowledge, none have gotten responses.
When it comes to dealing with people critical of Sarah Palin this past year, the ADN has been remiss other times too. The only coverage of Alaska Rep. Mike Doogan's "outing" of AKM at The Mudflats this past winter was a snotty, extremely hypocritical piece written by Sheila Toomey, the Alaska Ear, a writer who had pseudonymously sat across from or in the same room with Doogan, while she anonymously influenced Alaska politics to a similar degree as had AKM. Not once did a reporter or editor at the ADN take up the important issue of Doogan's having used state resources to wreak vengeance upon a citizen activist who had crossed him.
It took Progressive Alaska and other Alaska bloggers to get the ADN to "Tear down that shrine, Mr. Dougherty."
The ADN had the resources and archives to deal far more seriously with the Wayne Anthony Ross attorney general nomination than they chose to. Instead, the editors actually inaccurately predicted his confirmation the day before Ross was soundly trounced in a joint session of the legislature.
And now, this morning, the ADN has published an "Our View" editorial on how to deal with our totally dysfunctional executive ethics code, that totally misses the point. The editorial, which has some valid points, fails to realize that until the oversight of how the complaint process is handled - by taking the filtering and processing of such complaints out of the hands of people who are appointed by our chief executive - whatever is done about confidentiality and real investigative costs will remain at least as suspect as what we now have to endure.
Before the legislature faces this dilemma next year, I recommend we find a way to get an independent group of five Alaska attorneys to look at each of the rejected, negotiated or successful complaints, and assess whether or not they feel they were frivolous or had merit, and if so, how that reflects upon the validity of the current process.
But whatever the legislative solution, a rewrite of our executive ethics code needs to evenly and productively reflect all the lessons learned these past 14 months.
image - PA rendition of Pat Dougherty
Friday, July 24, 2009
Piper Palin serving, while her
Piper, Sarah and Joe Schmidt serving:
One of Palin's staff, eying me after somebody whispered in his ear:
Ray Metcalfe explaining his anti-corruption petition to Alaska Revenue Commissioner Pat Galvin:
The picnic, as seen from the Wasilla skateboard park. There were a lot of drunk ten to 14-year-old kids at the skateboard park and the BMX bike course:
Those were the words of voting rights expert Brad Friedman of The Brad Blog, in his preface to a long segment interviewing AK Muckraker on the radio last night. Friedman is filling in for Mike Malloy at Air America.
Friedman asked AKM to describe the history of The Mudflats, and walked her through her "outing" last winter by Alaska Rep. Mike Doogan, a subject that has yet to be honestly and fully dealt with by Alaska's mainstream media. AKM pointed out - as Alaska bloggers have observed since the "outing," Doogan used State of Alaska resources to wreak vengeance on a private citizen.
Friedman and AKM went on to discuss the ramifications, so far, of the leaking of the Daniel Report. They also discussed soon-to-be-ex Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin's attorney Thomas van Flein's careless threats toward Shannyn Moore, back on the 4th of July, and van Flein's even more careless characterizations of the complainant whose actions resulted in the Daniel Report. It is excellent radio.
You can listen to the entire hour HERE.
Alaska blogger and independent commentator Shannyn Moore (who can also be heard regularly on Saturday evenings, on Anchorage's KBYR Radio, from 5:00 to 7:00 p.m.), has been on national media also these past few days. This morning, Shannyn was on CBC (no podcast available yet). Shannyn has posted a new article on the Alaska Fund Trust at Huffington Post, called, Palin Caught in Naughty Monkey Trap.
This morning Linda Kellen posted a guest column at Celtic Diva's Blue Oasis, titled, The Alaska Fund Trust... an Analysis by One of those Dreaded East Coast Lawyers. The thoroughness with which this attorney, familiar with trusts, dissects the controlling documents of his scam beg the question, "If bloggers can get this detailed, why can't our vaunted Anchorage Daily News and other MSM Alaska outlets do likewise?"
Here's a bit from the article:
This is the most important clause in the AFT document (or any trust document). It is the reason for the trust's existence and necessity. 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."
Both the ADN and the Fairbanks News-Miner tiptoed around this issue in this morning's editions. The News-Miner editorial stated:
So, without a state-paid defense, any executive officer could be driven deep into debt by ethics complaints simply by showing up to work. Who would run for governor or take a top state job when faced with this very real personal risk?
Daniel, the investigator, said it seems unfair for state government to refuse to defend its officers while also prohibiting them from raising money for their defense. If nothing else, he said, the ethics act should be amended to require reimbursement when an official is exonerated.
The ADN editorial, fairly assertive on the subject of the trust, stated:
In Alaska, legal defense funds, if permitted, would be essentially unregulated. That would open the door to widespread fundraising abuse.
Gov. Palin insists she has done nothing wrong so far with the legal defense fund because she has not taken any of the legal defense fund money. Nonetheless, she is poised to benefit from a legal defense fund created specifically to help her. Merely lending her name to the effort to raise legal defense money for her own benefit is a "probable" violation, the investigator said. And if she does take any of the money, the investigator says it would violate Alaska ethics law.
It's an embarrassing turn for a governor who rose to power as a crusader for higher ethical standards.
Lucky for her, there's a relatively easy way out of this ethics jam, given that she is leaving office Sunday.
She can refuse to take any of the money raised so far, while encouraging this supposedly independent fund to return the money to donors.
But neither newspaper, nor Alaska's other MSM have so far looked into the details of the trust's controlling documents as closely as Moore, Kellen's attorney guest writer, or AKM:
Now, of course, despite all this mess, Tom Daniel has given the governor a nice way out of the sticky web. Give the money back, and withdraw her authorization for the trust to be considered the “official legal defense fund.” It’s sort of like a “Get Out of Jail Free” card, except it’s also got a “Do Not Pass Go, Do Not Collect $600,000″ stipulation attached.
But not only is the governor not giving the money back after well over a week, she’s still collecting it! You can imagine Kristan Cole sitting in a darkened office with a roll-top desk and one of those little adding machines with the cranky-handle, and stacks of $5 checks and $10 money orders saying “451,505….451,510…..451,520…” deep into the night.
So, what now? Will the governor skip town with the loot and say “I’m not the Governor any more, catch me if you can?” Will she shut down the trust and have to reimburse all those $5 donors? Will the Personnel Board throw their last shred of credibility to the wind and dismiss the complaint? Will Tom Daniel and every other person whose been thrown under the bus by Sarah Palin get together and form some sort of Super Secret Sarah Survivor Support System? Will I ever in my life spontaneously come up with a stunning piece of alliteration like that again?
Andrew Halcro continues to question the level of contact between fund trustee Kristan Cole and Palin or Palin's close associates, either in the administration, or at SarahPAC:
The political flash of the week continues to be the emerging questions about what the governor knew about her defense fund trust and when did she know it?
This week a report was made public that showed special investigator Tom Daniels had found probable cause that Governor Sarah Palin's legal defense fund trust represented a violation of state ethics rules. Daniels ruled that Palin would have directly financially benefited (i.e. getting her personal legal bills paid) which violated the prohibition against executives using their position to enrichment themselves.
As soon as the story broke, Palin's fund, the Alaska Fund Trust responded by saying the report was wrong because the governor was as never informed about the trust.
"The governor is not, was not and has not been involved in this trust," Kristan Cole of Wasilla said Wednesday in an Anchorage Daily News article.
Cole, a Palin friend and trusted appointee to state boards, told the press she had never talked about the trust fund with Palin until Tuesday, when a copy of Daniels report made it into the hands of the Associated Press.
Tuesday? That would mean the first time Kristan Cole spoke to Governor Sarah Palin about the legal defense fund was on July 21, 2009.
However when the creation of the fund was announced and written up in the press three months ago, Palin's closest advisor, Meg Stapleton, made it a point to talk about the active role the governor took with Cole during the initial development of the fund.
On April 24, 2009, Stapleton established the fact that Palin was well aware of what was going on with the fund from day one.
"When the Governor gave Kristan Cole permission to launch a legal expense fund, she had one request: keep it in Alaska," said Stapleton in the United Press International story. (link below)
"When the governor gave Kristan Cole Permission to launch a legal expense fund"?
This quote was given in April of 2009, three months ago. But yet today Cole is trying to sell the press that the governor didn't have a clue about the fund she granted permission for Cole to launch?
Meanwhile commenters at the ADN coverage of this, and at right-wing pro-Palin blogs, are writing that the many "thank you" letters from Palin to trust donors, have been photoshopped.
image - Darkblack
Thursday, July 23, 2009
I. It is being reported that since earlier in the week, soon-to-be-ex Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin's number of twitter followers passed the 100,000 mark. Given the growing knowledge on the left and among aficionados of the unintended internet humor produced by the seemingly clueless Palin, and her ability to come up with endless strings of inanities, it may be reasonable to assume that at least half of her twitter followers are there for the laughs.
This morning - like in the middle of the night - Palin provided more irrational inanity:
Four hours ago: This wk saw add'l violation of law:filer of friv ethics complaint leaks confidential documents out of context 2 create false headlines, pre-
Four minutes later: judge investigation,destroy integrity of process&strip rights;Abuse WILL cont til leaks r held accntble&press reports accurately [re the press - see below]
Seven minutes later: Legal Fees Fund trustee's press conf yest set record straight w/facts/truth re:recent complaint;read transcript in case press chooses not to
To me, twitter is - so far - fascinating from an outsider point of view, because I'm not yet ready to join the band. If blogging is addictive in a way similar to cocaine (as a loose example), twitter may be like crack. Palin just can't keep away from that
A commenter to a recent Media Matters article puts it this way:
Ms. Palin, if I deciphered her rambling comments correctly, resigned for the good of Alaska. I believe that she will have accomplished an improvement in Alaska's prospects, though not in the manner she meant. It is an addition by subtraction.
I think she can do the country a great, again unintended, service by keeping the lunatic fringe, which now seems to be 90% of the Republican Party, supplied with a regular dose of Palinphetamine. This will keep them from coming up with a serious candidate for the White House until it is far too late, if indeed they ever do.
II. The Media Matters article, referenced above, is by John V. Santore, and it deconstructs the recent Time Magazine cover story article on Palin. Totally. Santore's essay deplores Time's inability, in the article, to project any sense of reality into the ambience of Alaska politics, the state of American media today, and the article's writers' lack of good sense in their analysis of the current American political landscape:
Time's David Von Drehle and Jay Newton-Small go to immense lengths to create a story out of thin air. In this case, it's "The Renegade," a tale about an unconventional politician making waves with her unpredictable behavior. The piece is deeply flawed, advancing conservative narratives without challenge and ignoring obvious realities about Palin, her home state, and the problems she faces. It's an account that flies in the face not just of progressive criticisms of the governor, but of a growing chorus of conservative ones as well.
And it is exactly the kind of ratings-driven journalism that is, ironically, making magazines like Time less and less authoritative at a time when serious journalism couldn't be more needed.
In order to allow themselves to argue that Palin's decisions aren't as bizarre as they seem to many observers around the country, the article's authors begin by turning her home state into a land of mystery and wonder that inherently embraces the hands-off philosophy championed by the political right. Alaska is "remote, extreme, unfamiliar -- and free." It is a "land of self-invention, where no one bats an eye at a mom-deckhand-governor-whatever-comes-next." We are told that in Alaska, "you make each day from the materials at hand." The result of the unique realities confronting its citizens is an "ingrained frontier skepticism of authority -- even one's own." Indeed, a "person learns in the Alaska vastness that humans can respond to events but never control them."
Palin is, therefore, supposedly much like her homeland. She is "a modern-day version of the captive specimens hauled back to Europe by explorers of old," someone who "remains, on some level, unknowable." The conclusion becomes unavoidable. If you thought her resignation speech seemed strange, it's just because you aren't from Alaska, for "this was the place where her answer finally made sense."
In many instances, our local media seems to misunderstand us almost as much. Although local media outlets covered yesterday's "press conference" by Alaska Fund Trust trustee Kristan Cole, it has been the blogs in Alaska that have shot Cole's statements full of holes in the 18 hours since the "conference" and issuance of a written statement. First of all, Cole's claim that Palin has had nothing to do with the trust seems to be specious, at best:
Somebody must have written and signed the notes on $arah Palin's behalf, to thank the kind people who donated to that fund that has nothing to do with her, as the very first conversation between the fund's trustee and the governor happened only a couple of days ago...
And Palin's over-the-top string of accusations on twitter, combined with statements made in the past 48 hours by some of her closest advisors and legal counsel, are getting close scrutiny, because of the vitriol such accusations create:
Earlier, Van Flein, Palin’s personal attorney, threatened to sue Kim Chatman. Ms. Chatman had filed the ethics complaint in question.
I know what shrapnel comes with a “by-name threat” from the governor; a bunch of red and rabid kool-aid drinking emails and phone calls. It’s intimidating until you remember THEY ARE WRONG. Palin is the quintessential high school mean girl. Van Flein is the guy who cleans her lunch tray just to sit at her table. Meg Stapleton and Ivy Frye try to “out-mean” each other for the BFF status. I have yet to meet someone who has become their better self after working with Sarah Palin…she seems to bring out the worst. It’s no excuse. Van Flein knows what hellish dogs he unleashes when threatening individual citizens and facts be damned.
The question of why Palin attorney Thomas van Flein hasn't yet billed the state of Alaska for the time he spent dealing with aspects of Troopergate has been strenuously brought up in the comments at The Mudflats, Just a Girl from Homer and The Immoral Minority. Andrew Halcro notes this at the conclusion of his essay posted earlier today, questioning why there has been no billing:
The governor's private attorney hadn't sent in a bill to be reimbursed by the state, for work he did ten months ago?
But yet these folks are begging cash off fixed income seniors in Iowa through their legal defense fund?
It sounds like Van Flein doesn't need more billable hours, sounds like he needs a billing clerk.
And just a few questions; is the amount that the state has already agreed to reimburse Van Flein part of the $500k in fees his clients owe him? And how much of his $500k in bills includes the first dude's share?
Lets face it with Todd Palin grousing about his former brother in law to everyone who would give him three minutes; his impact on Troopergate legal fees must have been staggering. Think about it; no Todd Palin would mean no depositions from Bitney, Tibbles, Monegan, Glass, Bailey, Frye, and four thousand other state employees who had to endure Todd Palin's obsession with State Trooper Mike Wooten.
Seems to me it would be nice for to see an itemized bill but then again if public money isn't paying a dime, it's a personal expense.
Brad Friedman at the national blog, Bradblog, has noted something so far missed by Alaska media:
A brief, two paragraph statement [PDF] by the private attorney of Alaska's very-soon-to-be-former Gov. Sarah Palin was posted on the governor's official public state website on Monday.
Attributed to "THOMAS VAN FLEIN --- Personal Attorney for Governor Palin," the statement posted to the Governor's officially run state website at www.gov.state.ak.us decries the latest ethics complaint filed against Palin --- alleging the improper disclosure of gifts and the receipt of free services --- as an abuse of the state Ethics Act.
That the official state website would be used to publicize the private response of Palin on Monday to another ethics charge is somewhat ironical, given Tuesday's leak of a preliminary independent report [PDF] from a state ethics commission investigator finding "probable cause" that Palin's "official" legal defense fund violated the Ethics Act in that it made use of her "official position for personal gain."
Citing Alaska Statute 39.52.120(a) which states that a "public officer may not use, or attempt to use, an official position for personal gain," the state's independent investigator, Thomas M. Daniel notes that "personal gain" is defined by law as "a benefit to a person's or immediate family member's personal interest or financial interest."
Friedman goes on to speculate on the jeopardy Palin and her attorney may be in:
In attorney Van Flein's statement responding to the leak of the report, as posted on Palin's Facebook page yesterday, he may have defamed the complainant, Alaska resident Kim Chatman, by declaring, as fact, some action of hers to have been "illegal."
"All options are open in terms of legal remedies," Van Flein threatened, in response to his apparent belief, as ABC News characterized it, that Chatman is the one who leaked the confidential preliminary report. "It is a clear violation of Alaska law that Mr. Daniel explicitly reviewed with Ms. Chatman prior to her illegal actions. We will be contacting the appropriate authorities for review and action."
It's unclear whether Van Flein was asserting that the alleged "illegal action" of Chatman was the leak of the preliminary report, as ABC implies, and, if so, what his evidence is for that. None is given. But he has very clearly stated, as a fact, that Chatman committed "illegal actions."
By the time Alaska's mainstream media gets around to investigating the holes in Kristan Cole's statement, or get an answer from van Flein about why the state hasn't been billed for the time the attorney spent dealing with Todd Palin's involvement in Troopergate, Alaska's bloggers will have probably uncovered more questions about this affair.
Update: Linda Kellen has just posted a scathing analysis of the Palin-van Flein reaction to the leaking of the Daniel Report:
SHE WAS TOLD NOT TO SPEND THAT MONEY or the consequences would be that she WOULD be found to have done wrongdoing if the complaint went against her. She probably was ALSO TOLD to stop collecting money...probably around the time that SOMEONE had C4P do the dirtywork for her!
The reason I'm so sure of this is I have the emails between my investigator and Van Flein for my own (Arctic Cat) complaint, as well as the emails my investigator sent me. There is a constant dialogue that goes on, giving the Governor every opportunity to protect herself. I know this because of my experience with my investigator who, by the way, was Tom Daniel.
It's the same reason that I believe that she knew what was coming. Her glaring self-interest made her resignation far from altruistic; she resigned because SHE WANTS THAT MONEY. She resigned because little Sarah doesn't feel she should HAVE to spend her hard-earned book deal cash for the hours and hours Van Flein spent being her spokesperson on Eddie Burke, MSNBC, and for the time he was doing work she could have done but didn't want to do.
It's amazing! The more we see behind the curtain, the more we find that Sarah Palin isn't a mystery at all!
image - H&HT