Sunday, December 27, 2009

What Has Health Care Reform Ever Done For Us? To My Liberal "Bill Killer" Friends: Krugman (with the aid of Monte Python) Sums It Up.

In his Op Ed piece in today's New York Times, Nobel Prize winning economist and Princeton  professor of Economics and International Affairs  Paul Krugman notes that many people who've "made careers by righteously demanding entitlement reform" are "running away now that the real thing has made an appearance."  Krugman states:
Health care reform does nothing, they cry — except for covering 30 million people, ending overpayment on Medicare advantage, making the first real attempt to use medical evidence to guide health care spending, starting up a wide range of pilot projects on cost control while empowering an expert panel to put the results of those projects into effect, providing financial incentives to limit excess coverage, and so on (emphasis mine).
But aside from that, you see, it doesn’t do anything.
Krugman then goes on to wryly note:

And my thoughts turn, as they so often do, to Monty Python:
All right… all right… but apart from better sanitation and medicine and education and irrigation and public health and roads and a freshwater system and baths and public order… what have the Romans done for us?

Right on, Professor Krugman.

One Fruit of the Loom® Bomber, And Joe Lieberman Goes Nuts! Well, Nuttier.

Senator Joe Lieberman (I-CT) is already on a number of people's shit lists, mine included.

By stamping his feet and holding his breath, Lieberman (along with a few Blue Dog Dems) managed to strip a lot of the good out of the health care reform bill passed by the Senate last week.  Hopefully, some of the good can be restored in the conference committee.

Now, Lieberman has declared that we need a "preemptive action" in Yemen.

You know, like our "preemptive actions" in Iraq and Afghanistan?  In other words, another "preemptive" war and military occupation of another country.

Here's a quote from Lieberman this morning:
"Somebody in our government said to me in Sana'a, the capital of Yemen, Iraq was yesterday's war. Afghanistan is today's war. If we don't act preemptively, Yemen will be tomorrow's war," Lieberman said, during an appearance on "Fox News Sunday". "That's the danger we face." (emphasis mine)
Yemen is planning on exporting an ARMY OF FRUIT OF THE LOOM BOMBERS!
Be Afraid!  Be Very Afraid!

What makes this lunatic comment really bad is that this hawk senator still heads the Senate Committee on Homeland Security, and still wields incredible power in the Senate.  That was demonstrated during the debate on health care reform.

What Lieberman says on Fox News will make headlines around the world.  Even in Yemen.  They don't understand that Lieberman's credibility should be considered only slightly above that of Glenn Beck's.

Unfortunately, Lieberman will remain in a position of power for a while.  The balance of Democrats to Republicans in the Senate won't change much after the next election, and the Dems think they require his vote on procedural issues.

As a result, they bend to the will of this pompous little ass.

Can someone in the Senate please put the lie to Lieberan's LOUD NOISES?
Perhaps someone in the White House?


h/t to Sam Stein, Huffington Post

Apparently, another Nigerian man has been arrested today on the same flight number as the Christmas Day incident.  He "becoming verbally disruptive upon landing," and locked himself in the plane's restroom.
More information as it becomes available, but so far, no indication that this guy was another Fruit of the Loom Bomber®.
According to CNN, the latest "disruptive passenger" scare was declared 'non-serious' by federal authorities.  You may cease any freaking out.  That includes you, Lieberman.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Christmas Day: Attempted Terrorist Attack

While most of us were enjoying the holiday with our families and friends yesterday, some Christmas day travelers were having the living bejeesus scared out of them.

A Nigerian man apparently attempted to bring down a Northwest Airlines flight on its way from Amsterdam to Detroit, and triggered his bomb as the plane was on final approach into Detroit Metro Airport.

The explosive device he touched off didn't detonate as planned, and instead, the suspect, 23-year-old Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, wound up with the burning device in his... well, his crotch.

Passengers helped subdue the man, and held him for authorities.  More details are forthcoming, I'm sure, but Mr. Abdulmutallab is currently in custody, being treated for second and third degree burns, and is "talking a lot" to the FBI right now.

(Photo stolen from AP/J.P. Karas)

Thursday, December 24, 2009

It's Christmas Eve. Here's A Bit Of Music From Two Of My Favorite Artists... Jackson Browne and The Chieftans. Enjoy!

I only wish there were a decent video available.

I wish you all a joyous holiday.

h/t to aixelsydyslexia.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Yes, Virginia.

At this time of year I try very hard to not get all maudlin, but I've always thoroughly enjoyed the following piece.

So sue me.

I've found that it's a great precursor to sitting down and watching Frank Capra's "It's a Wonderful Life," which tends to make real men like me mist up a little.

I hope you enjoy it, too.

Yes, Virginia, There Is A Santa Claus

By Francis P. Church, first published in The New York Sun in 1897.
We take pleasure in answering thus prominently the communication below, expressing at the same time our great gratification that its faithful author is numbered among the friends of The Sun:
Dear Editor—
I am 8 years old. Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus. Papa says, “If you see it in The Sun, it’s so.” Please tell me the truth, is there a Santa Claus?
Virginia O’Hanlon
Virginia, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except they see. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds. All minds, Virginia, whether they be men’s or children’s, are little. In this great universe of ours, man is a mere insect, an ant, in his intellect as compared with the boundless world about him, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge.
Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus! It would be as dreary as if there were no Virginias. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The eternal light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.
Not believe in Santa Claus! You might as well not believe in fairies. You might get your papa to hire men to watch in all the chimneys on Christmas eve to catch Santa Claus, but even if you did not see Santa Claus coming down, what would that prove? Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that’s no proof that they are not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world.
You tear apart the baby’s rattle and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man, nor even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived could tear apart. Only faith, poetry, love, romance, can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond. Is it all real? Ah, Virginia, in all this world there is nothing else real and abiding.
No Santa Claus! Thank God! he lives and lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay 10 times 10,000 years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.
Merry Christmas, Everyone!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Restraint Be Damned, I Must Comment. Sarah Palin Is The Biggest Dumbass On The National Stage. Ever.

This is Sarah Palin's latest Tweet.

Not being content to win Politifact's Lie Of The Year Award, Sarah Palin decides to resurrect her lie so that she can generate even more headlines.

I'm sorry, America, that Alaska and John McCain ever granted her celebrity status.

h/t to Broadway Carl.

Monday, December 21, 2009

There Were Many Candidates Vying, But The "Misinformer of the Year" Title Goes To... (drumroll)... Glenn Beck!

Congratulations, Glenn. Unfortunately, no hankies will be provided.

h/t to Media Matters.

HERE'S Why Sheldon Whitehouse Has Had Enough... Asshat Of The Week: Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.)

Yesterday, prior to today's 1:00 am crucial procedural vote on the health care reform bill, Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) made a statement that should make any person of conscience cringe.

In essence, Coburn asked the American people to pray for the death (or at least the medical incapacitation) of 92 year-old Senator Robert Byrd. What a sweetheart of a guy Coburn is.

From today's Washington Post:

At 4 p.m. Sunday afternoon -- nine hours before the 1 a.m. vote that would effectively clinch the legislation's passage -- Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) went to the Senate floor to propose a prayer. "What the American people ought to pray is that somebody can't make the vote tonight," he said. "That's what they ought to pray."

It was difficult to escape the conclusion that Coburn was referring to the 92-year-old, wheelchair-bound Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.V.) who has been in and out of hospitals and lay at home ailing. It would not be easy for Byrd to get out of bed in the wee hours with deep snow on the ground and ice on the roads -- but without his vote, Democrats wouldn't have the 60 they needed. (emphasis mine)

So, Senator Coburn, just when I thought the level of debate couldn't sink any lower, you manage to not only descend to the muck in the bottom of the barrel, you wallow in it.

Congratulations. You win the Asshat of the Week Award!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) Calls Out "The Party Of No."

This is the kind of Senator EVERY state needs.

Thanks, Rhode Island, for electing a senator with a genuine pair of cojones.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Thoughts On The Holiday Season

Every holiday season, we gather together with family and friends to share food, companionship, and laughter and joy, and to perhaps reflect on the past year.

It gives us a chance to appreciate the good things we have, and, if not-so-good things have befallen us, to realize that even in the face of adversity, there is almost always something positive to be found.

While giving thanks for our own good fortune, let’s remember that there are people in our communities who are homeless or hungry.

There are people who need medical care but cannot afford it.

There are people who just need a little help.

Yes, I'm aware that we should be thinking about this throughout the year, but many of us don't... and I'm as guilty as anyone.

So, in the spirit of the season, let us each try to do what we can to help someone.

Whether it's just dropping a handful of change in a Salvation Army kettle as you leave the store or Post Office, donating some canned goods to your local Food Bank, or the giving of your money or time at your place of worship or with some other charity... every effort we make, big or small, helps.

Sometimes the help doesn't even have to be monetary... or even material.

Often, just letting someone else know that are thinking of them, and that you care about them, will make a world of difference, and lend them the strength to help them get through tough times.

Happy holidays, everyone!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Faux News - They Don't Do Irony, Either

Jon Stewart points out that even when it comes to citing a poll about "cooking the data," Faux News cooks the data (bonus - Gretchen Carlson "dumbs down," everyone).

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Gretchen Carlson Dumbs Down
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political HumorHealth Care Crisis

Why does Jon Stewart keep doing the job of, you know, actual journalists?

Monday, December 7, 2009

Back To The National Stage... To Reiterate Mara Liasson's "Toolosity."

Back in May of this year, I commented on the fact that National Public Radio (NPR) is pretty much my main source of radio news. I like to listen to, and am a member of, my local station, KDLL Radio.

Yes, like most of the radio/tv media, there are times when NPR annoys hell out of me... like when they spend many hours of air time on what I consider to be complete non-stories (like Tiger Woods' marital infidelity or Balloon Boy and his family).

Or when they have pretty much ANY commentary by Mara Liasson.

There are no two ways about it, the woman is a tool.

As I pointed out then, Liasson is a paid "political consultant" for NPR, and is also a paid "political consultant" for Fox News Special Report With Bret Baier and Fox News Sunday.

Well, NPR finally came to the same conclusion that I did: Liasson shouldn't be serving two masters.

As Media Matters has pointed out, "NPR executives (requested) that she reconsider appearing regularly on Fox News because of "what they perceived as the network's political bias."

"Requested?" Those NPR executives are far more polite than I would have been.

Ms Liasson's response? She "defended her work for Fox by saying that she appears on two of the network's news programs, not on commentary programs with conservative hosts."

Unfortunately, what I said back in May is still correct: The programs which Liasson regularly appears on are Fox News Special Report With Bret Baier and Fox News Sunday... both of which, as Media Matters points out, "echo Fox's right-wing opinion shows, often featuring smears, falsehoods, doctored and deceptive editing, and GOP talking points."

Then, as I noted in May, Liasson shows up at NPR and regurgitates the Right Wing talking points.

So, once again I beseech the executives of NPR:

I don't know what her contract with NPR looks like, but if you can find a way to dump this shill for the Right Wing Nuttery, do so posthaste.

Tell her to not let the door hit her ass on the way out.

She is damaging NPR's credibility with thinking people everywhere, and she sullies the reputation of the few actual journalists and legitimate news analysts still working out there.

h/t to Media Matters.

The Tempest Continues, A Larger Teapot May Be In Order

Back to (very) local politics. I apologize in advance, but it's hard to present a clear picture and be succinct at the same time.

You may have noted my earlier posts concerning Borough Mayor David Carey's less-than-truthful answers to the Borough Assembly (and to the public) concerning his unprecedented pay raises for his personal staff and a select few other administration employees.

If you've read the Peninsula Clarion, you are also aware that other less-than-transparent events have occurred, one of which was a no-bid purchase of used equipment by the Borough from Chumley's Inc., a company owned (50%) by Hugh "Scooter" Chumley, Mayor Carey's Chief of Staff.

As the Clarion has reported, Assembly member Gary Knopp, along with Assembly member Charlie Pierce, plan on giving Mr. Chumley a "redo," and thus make his failure to report his "intention to do business with the Borough" (as required by Borough Code) moot.

Their "mulligan" ordinance was introduced at the December 1, 2009 Borough Assembly meeting, and was placed on the Assembly's agenda for hearing at the January 5, 2010 meeting.

Prior to this legislative action, a number of people used their three-minute public testimony to extol the various saint-like qualities of Mr. Chumley.

It should be noted that pretty much everyone testifying were members of Chumley's family, his close friends and/or his business partners... and my guess, persons who all benefit when Mr. Chumley benefits.

The Mayor, who signed off on the no-bid purchase, claims he was unaware that Mr. Chumley needed to file such "notice to do business" forms... which is odd, because, as the Clarion noted, Mr. Carey was a member of the assembly when the body approved the ordinance that requires them in October 1983.

Frankly, if this $18,000 faux pas was the only event of this nature in Mr. Chumley's one-year career as a Borough bureaucrat, I'd be willing to give him a pass, and chalk it up to ignorance and inexperience (which contradicts the Mayor's justification for Scooter's $20K pay raise).

After all, Chumley essentially said "oops, my fault," and returned the $18,000 for the mechanic equipment, plus another $ 1,800 that nobody even knew about (I guess Scooter figured it would come to light sooner or later).

But it isn't.

According to the same Clarion article, the Kenai Peninsula Borough has, in the last fiscal year, paid out some $398,000 to companies in which the Mayor's Chief of Staff has ownership.

All without a single "Notice of Intent to do business" filed. This indicates a pattern of abuse or incompetence. Or both.

When asked in writing (the only type of request to which he has been advised to respond) by the Clarion for comment on the above, the Mayor had this to say:
"I offer a Blessing to the Clarion staff for their coverage of this issue. It is not appropriate for me to be making additional statements to the press while this issue continues to play out. I will refrain from all additional comments to the press on this issue."
His holiness "offers a Blessing?" WTF? How about just some straight answers for a change?

My sources have told me that here will be many shoes dropping before this is over, so many that you'll think maybe a centipede occupies the Borough Mayor's office.

As I noted, a far larger teapot is likely in order.

Sunday, November 29, 2009


Mr. Wolfe Tone has graciously given me cross-posting privileges. Sarah Palin was in my neck of the woods one week ago and I made this little video. I hope you enjoy this preview of the Palin-Huckabee 2012 GOP nomination race.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

On The Palin Pillorying Of John Bitney

John Bitney has worked for the Alaska State Legislature for more than a couple decades. I knew him when I worked there, and though we didn't always agree on everything, I recognized back then that John had a solid grasp of what formulated good public policy, understood his role as a legislative aide in helping to achieve that goal, and (most importantly) was always a straight shooter. As a result, we became friends, both in and away from the Capitol Building.

In her fictional work memoir "Going Rogue," John Bitney was another one of the numerous people singled out and smeared by Sarah Palin as being responsible for her lackluster performance as a half-term governor of Alaska.

In today's Anchorage Daily News, there's an article about Bitney's reaction to this. Like many people who thought they were friends of Palin, he, too, was "thrown under the crazy bus."

I think it's particularly hurtful to John, because he was a friend of Sarah's back in high school, he worked hard to help her get elected governor, he actually believed in her potential... and he did nothing to deserve such shabby mean-girl treatment.

I'm not worried about any potential damage that crazy Sarah Palin may have done to Bitney's career. He's recognized by a number of people on both sides of the aisle in Juneau as being smart and capable, so he'll be just fine.

But as John noted when he was a guest panelist on Shannyn Moore's local television show, Moore Up North, "the rules of engagement have changed."

Note to Sarah Palin: You would do well to remember the adage: "Be careful whose ass you kick on your way up, as you may have to kiss it on your way back down."

Friday, November 20, 2009

Andrew Halcro Reads "Going Rogue," Part Trois

In which Sarah refrains from tossing her cookies... at those no-goodnick "big three" oil guys, that is.

The never-ending stupid saga of Sarah.

h/t to Andrew Halcro.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Andrew Halcro Reads From "Going Rogue," Part Deux

Once again, Andrew skewers Palin in a "Masterpiece Theatre" sort of way... and goes "off-script" to help Sarah make her point about the "Condescending Couric."

Keep 'em coming, Mr. Halcro!

h/t to Alaska Dispatch and Own The Sidewalk
Oh. And Andrew Halcro himself.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Andrew Halcro Reads From "Going Rogue"

It's almost like "A Night Before Christmas" or something, and it's far too funny not to share.

Not bad for an "effete limo driver," Mr. Halcro!

I hope there are more installments to come!

h/t to Alaska Dispatch and We're Not That Stupid!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Somebody Just Shoot Me. Please.

I know, I know, I've said (repeatedly now) that I'd shut up about Sarah Palin.

But she just won't go away.

She's like genital warts or something.

Sarah's on a promotional tour for her book, "Going Rogue," and as such is the darling of the talk show circuit right now. After all, she's outrageous, so therefore makes good copy.

In addition (also through her book), she has gained a lot of maybe not so complimentary publicity... for instance, the Associated Press assigned a few fact-checkers to it, and they found out that in the "Truth Department," Sarah has been found seriously wanting (something that's been well-known to most Alaskans).

As a matter of fact, she accuses the AP of "Opposition Research" for taking the time to verify claims in her work of fiction memoir.

But hey - the only bad press is an obituary, I guess.

Between her comments to Oprah about the father of her grandchild "doing porn" (though not a word about her BFF, Carrie Prejean and her 7 or 8 "solo" sex tapes - I guess Jesus approves of those) to the revelation in her book that that she only did the Couric interview out of pity (to bolster Katie's self-esteem, you betcha) she's definitely a headline grabber.

How long will it take before the media will stop providing the pole for this attention whore's dance, and relegate her to the same category as Balloon Boy's Parents?

It's getting harder and harder to keep my head from exploding.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

After A Year In Office, There's A Pattern Of "Inherent Weaselity" With Kenai Peninsula Borough Mayor Dave Carey's Administration

"Inherent Weaselity" has been vulgarly defined as "STFU, I can do whatever I want...." which fits the Carey Administration to a "T."

You've already heard the interesting story about Borough Mayor Dave Carey ensuring that his political pals are well paid.

You may be asking yourself, "Why didn't the Borough Assembly (the legislative body in charge of the Borough's purse strings) catch this earlier?"

There's a reason for that.

In an effort to accomplish his less-than-altruistic goals, Mayor Dave made a genuine effort to lie to mislead the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly.

During the FY 2010 budget process, Carey was specifically asked about proposed wage increases within the Mayor's office... and he obfuscated, dodged, weaseled, and, finally, up against the wall, told the Assembly something other than the truth.

Portions of a verbatim transcript of the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly meeting of June 2, 2009 follow. But first, I'll define some of the terminology used and the names involved, so that it is easier for the reader to understand:

The players:

Martin = Then Assembly President Millie Martin (she hails from Homer, Alaska).
Smalley = Assembly member Hal Smalley (who is also a member of the Kenai City Council, Vice-Mayor of the City of Kenai, and a past member of the Alaska State Legislature).
Mayor = Mayor Dave Carey.


PERS = the Alaska Public Employees Retirement System, of which Borough employees are a part.
40110 = the line item for regular wages in every Borough department budget.

The rest is pretty self-explanatory. Keep in mind that this is a verbatim transcript of a meeting hammering out the Borough budget, the hour was late, and how people actually talk doesn't read like a news article.

All emphasis and interjections are mine.

10:44:30 PM

Martin: Are there further amendments?

Martin: Mr. Smalley.

Smalley: Thank you Madame President, at this point in time it is not an amendment but perhaps a question of the Mayor if possible.

Martin: Yes, if that if the Mayor is up to that.

Mayor: I want to hear the question first.

I'm not sure if the Mayor was trying to be funny or not... but he's not known for his witty repartee. To continue:

Smalley: On page 61 of the budget document under personnel 40110 Regular Wages, I see an increase of 8.86 % and the amount is $35,469. Is this an additional person? That is over here, where it talks about temporary staff to assist with administrative requirements on Stimulus, or is this an increase in wages of existing staff?

Mayor: It is partially a previous mayor did not have benefits whereas I do so that the same number of employees; however, there is a second employee that in the past did not receive benefits and now would. So that is benefits for two employees that were not in there previously and it there is some adjustment to salaries.

Smalley: And are you at liberty to identify what the adjustment in salary is?

Mayor: I don't know exactly I know one person stayed the same the other went up by... I don't have the exact numbers in my head, sir, l mean I could but... in terms of it is available but I don't know what it is exactly.

Smalley: Would the Finance Director?

Mayor: I believe so...maybe the HR Director.

Smalley: Thank you.

Mayor: I'm sorry I couldn't be more helpful but I am being as accurate as l can.

Martin: Did you have anything further Mr. Smalley?

Smalley: Not at this time.

So it was a "song and dance" response from the Mayor, and when Smalley gave Carey the opportunity, Carey shoved responsibility for any factual answer concerning wage increases within the Mayor's office budget off on either the Finance Director or Human Resource Director... neither of whom, apparently, were still at the meeting.

Disaster averted!

But Smalley was more persistent than Carey expected. After Smalley took a few minutes to think it over and study the budget document a little further, he's back again, asking some more pesky followup questions:

10:58:48 PM

Smalley: Thank you Madame President. Again back to the Mayor if possible, going back to page 61 on Regular Wages, it shows the $35,469, if there are additional increases in benefits it would appear to me that those would show under PERS or Health Insurance, Life Insurance other categories that are in there. This was identified as regular wages so my question would be are these intended to be increases for Chief of Staff and Special Assistant to the Mayor, and if so how much are the increases?

Mayor: Mr. Smalley, again I don't know the exact amounts. I do know that Chief of Staff there was not an increase, but there was for the others, I don't know the exact amount. As well as the other the reorganizations in terms of the Fiscal Project Manager that was also again that was a change that was higher as well as the Economic Analyst but l don't have those exact numbers.


Nevermind that the last paragraph sounds like a Sarah Palin word salad answer... and perhaps the Mayor didn't know the "exact" amounts (a handy side-stepping technique), but to say that the Chief of Staff received no increase was... a lie deliberate attempt to mislead the Assembly.

By the way... has anyone heard a peep out of Carey's support group, the Alliance of Concerned Taxpayers (ACT) yet?

Friday, November 6, 2009

Kenai Peninsula Borough Mayor Carey "Corrects A Misperception." Not.

A little over a year ago, current Kenai Peninsula Borough Mayor Dave Carey rode the "fiscal conservative" wave into office, handily beating incumbent one-term Mayor John Williams.

It's no secret that Carey was a favorite of the "Alliance of Concerned Taxpayers" (ACT) an organization of rag-tag malcontents whose primary goal seems to be hamstringing the Borough government - financially and otherwise.

Recently, it has come to light that perhaps Mayor Carey hasn't been all that fiscally prudent. Not when it comes to his pals, anyway.

As part of the spoils of war, last October the Carey administration brought into office with it some political appointees.

Two of the political plum jobs include the Mayor's Chief of Staff (Hugh "Scooter" Chumley), and the Mayor's Special Assistant (Susan Wilcox).

Both were staunch Carey supporters, being rewarded for their loyalty.

That's not surprising. It's how things work.

The surprising part is that both Chumley and Wilcox, when hired, started out at salaries that are each $20 thousand a year more than their predecessors were paid in the "spendthrift" Williams administration.

An odd way for ACT's pet mayor to demonstrate "fiscal restraint."

It gets better.

When these facts were brought to light, Mayor Carey defended the raises by claiming that he increased his employees workloads and responsibilities over their predecessors.

I call bullshit on this claim. The former Chief of Staff and Special Assistant had a workload that certainly equals or exceeds the current appointees, and both had decades of state or local government (or both) experience to boot.

Here on the Kenai Peninsula, like in a lot of places across the nation, many workers in the private sector are getting no raises, or they're taking pay cuts, or they're losing their jobs altogether.

Even Mayor Carey, who is incredibly tone deaf, realized this "excessive salary" revelation could be a political liability. He clearly needed to do something to squelch the ever-growing grumbling.

Just so you understand the Mayor's "drastic" action, here's some background information:

In July of this year, ALL union Borough employees received a 4-1/2% cost-of-living increase in their wages. It was in their existing contract, and was part of the Borough budget. Non-union, or "Appendix A" positions in the Borough also received the same cost of living increase. Both the Chief of Staff and Special Assistant are Appendix A positions.

So - moving with blinding speed, the Mayor decisively cut... the 4-1/2% cost of living allowance that Chumley and Wilcox received (with everyone else) back in July.

"The perception was that (the salaries) were excessive," Carey said. "I've corrected that."

I've got news for you, Mayor Dave:

The only perception you've "corrected" is your own.

The public isn't fooled.

Chumley and Wilcox are still receiving, respectively, salaries that are 18 percent and 20 percent above the previous administration.

That's hardly "fiscal restraint." It's a political pay-off.

Interestingly, ACT's silence on this issue is deafening.

Maybe the ACT group more stupid than I thought... or maybe they're just too embarrassed to speak up.

More Comic Genius From Jon Stewart.

I KNEW it was a conspiracy.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Back From Hiatus. Sort Of.

As you (the few of you who follow this blog, anyway) have probably noticed, I haven't written anything lately.

This is due to a variety of reasons. It isn't because I haven't had anything to say, but mostly because I've been sort of busy... and because other people were saying the same things I wanted say... and mostly saying it better.

In fact, since very often all I'm doing is echoing what others have previously stated so well, I'm considering the idea of a permanent vacation from this endeavor.

Nevertheless, since I have a few minutes, so I decided to mention something.

The something is Alaska's ex-Governor, Sarah Palin.

Yeah, I know I said I'd stop talking about her, but the revelation that she collected a $1.25 million retainer for her book, "Going Rogue" while still governor merits comment.

Any time a sitting governor flagrantly violates the law, I believe it merits comment. Alaska Statute 39.52.170 (c) specifically states "The head of a principal executive department of the state may not accept employment for compensation outside the agency that the executive head serves."

Now, in March of this year, Acting AG Rick Svobodny issued a sort of tortured "loophole" memo (signed off on by Palin and her mouthpiece) allowing Sarah to work for her publisher as long as she didn't use any "state owned/operated facilities, supplies, equipment, vehicles or personnel time and effort" and that it would not affect her "usual State duties or duty hours as Governor" while working for her publisher.

Okay. Although I am a bit incredulous, I'll buy that.

The "Svobodny Loophole™" is what amazes me. He addressed the "may not accept employment for compensation" part by noting that Sarah would not be working for Harper Collins "for salary or wages."

Therefore, because it isn't strictly salary or wages, a $1.25 million advance isn't "compensation."


You know what? I don't even want anything to be done about this. I want the Alaska Public Offices Commission to simply accept her disclosure, thank her very much for filing, and close the book on this disgusting chapter of Alaska history.

I want the Anchorage Daily News and every media outlet in American to take her off the front page.

I don't know about you, but I'd be just happier than hell to see the back of her.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Take These Senators. Please.

The case of
Jamie Leigh Jones is horrific.

Employed in Iraq by KBR (a wholly-owned subsidiary of Halliburton), in July of 2005 the then 19-year old Ms. Jones was was drugged and gang-raped by fellow KBR employees.

Her account was backed up by her physical injuries, which were documented the morning following the rape by U.S. Army physician Jodi Schultz.

When Jones reported the incident, KBR rewarded her by locking her in a shipping container (complete with armed guards) for several days before sending her home.

Her injuries were so bad she required reconstructive surgery.

Since that time, the rape kit, and the notes and photographs taken, and report prepared by Dr. Shultz to document the incident went missing.

With the assistance of a diplomat from the US State Department, the rape kit was recovered from KBR.

The rest of the documentation prepared by Dr. Shultz remains unobtainable, held somewhere in the bureacratic labyrinth that is Halliburton. If it hasn't been destroyed.

Because of Coalition Provisional Authority Order 17, which protects US contractors from Iraqi law, Ms. Jones' KBR assailants are probably immune from any prosecution by Iraqi authority.

The US Department of Justice, which does have authority, has for some reason declined to take any action... perhaps because much of the evidence has "been disappeared," or perhaps because in addition to other screw-ups by no-bid contractor KBR, it's simply embarrassing.

So. What remedy does Jamie Leigh Jones have? She can sue KBR/Halliburton, right?

Wrong. KBR, for the last three years, has successfully argued that the "mandatory arbitration" clause in Ms. Jones' contract with them forbade her from doing so. Or it did, until yesterday.

Thanks to freshman Senator Al Franken (D-MN), an amendment was added to the FY2010 Defense Appropriations Bill that prohibits mandatory arbitration clauses protecting the employer against suit for criminal acts like this.
"This bill would make it so that anybody in business with the Department of the Defense can't do this," said Franken. "They can't have mandatory arbitration on issues like assault and battery."

Minnesota, you've done well by electing Mr. Franken, and you should be proud (can you now please do something about crazy Rep. Michelle Bachmann in 2010?).

Here's Senator Franken putting the smack-down on the KBR shill during a committee hearing:

Any decent person realizes that employers with big-buck federal contracts like KBR shouldn't be allowed to stop their employees from taking sexual assault, battery and discrimination that occurs in the workplace to court.

Read more at:
Here's Senator Franken in action, putting the smack-down on the KBR/Halliburton corporate shill:

Now, you'd think that a measure like this would be a no-brainer, and that it would pass unanimously.

But it didn't. The amendment did pass handily, by a vote of 68-30.

But that's still 30 Senators who voted to put Halliburton/KBR and other corporate (pronounced "campaign contributor") interests ahead of the interests of American citizens... and guess what?

Every single one of them was a Republican.

The list is here.

If one of them is your Senator, drop them a line to let them know you think their actions are the height of douchebaggery, and you'll remember it come election time.

If you want to know more, check out the Jamie Leigh Foundation, a non-profit organization she founded to help victims.

h/t to Matt Osborne, Jason Linkens at Huffington Post

Monday, October 5, 2009

A Public Service Announcement On Behalf of Progressive Alaska Blogger Phil Munger

This morning, I received an email pleading for emergency financial help from someone calling themselves Phil Munger.

Except it wasn't Phil.

Of course, despite the Phalse Phil's claim that he was in "England for a Seminar," the English used was hardly Real Phil's style... and it was poor English to boot, also not characteristic of Mr. Munger.

Here is the text:

From: Philip Munger
To: undisclosed-recipients
Subject: Help Me Please!!!


How are you doing? hope all is well with you and i pray this email finds you in good health, i am sorry that i didn’t inform you about my traveling to England for a Seminar.

I need a financial favor from you because i misplaced my wallet on my way to the hotel where my money and other valuable things were kept i will like you to assist me with a loan urgently. I will need the sum of $2,800 to sort-out my hotel bills and get myself back home.

I will appreciate whatever you can afford to help me with, i’ll pay you back as soon as i return. Kindly let me know if you can be of help? So that i can send you the details to use when sending the money through western union.

Your reply will be greatly appreciated.

Through other Alaskan bloggers like Linda at Celtic Diva and Steve at What Do I Know?, word has gotten back to Mr. Munger, and he is, unsurprisingly, NOT happy.

So, if you receive this email or something similar to it, report it as spam and delete it.


Wellpoint Insurance Takes On The State of Maine Over Health Insurance Rate Hike

Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield (a subsidiary of WellPoint) wanted the State of Maine to approve an average rate hike of 18.5 percent on its policyholders.

The State of Maine said "No, we don't think so."

So the insurance companies are now suing the state.

Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield say they need the rate increase to ensure a 3 percent profit margin.

As you might suspect, there are some who disagree with that argument:

The Maine Attorney General's office seems to agree with the above sentiment:

"In addition to the average annual premium of approximately $6,000 paid by Maine consumers to Anthem in 2008, these same individuals paid their own health care costs below the deductible. The average deductible as $7,250 in that year, and is projected to grow to an average of $7,570 in 2009... That means the average policyholder would have to incure a total cost of more than $13,000 in premium and deductibles, prior to becoming eligible to receive any health benefits under the policy."

In response to the suit, the AG's office pointed out that Anthem has made $5.4 million from individual consumers over the past two years.

The AG also points out that Anthem paid $75.7 million in dividends to WellPoint in 2008.

This is an 87% increase from the $40.4 million Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield paid WellPoint in 2007.

And a 112% increase over the the $35.6 million Anthem paid WellPoint in 2006.

I'd say that's hardly a low-profit operation.

The AG went on to note how well Anthem paid it's executives:

"In 2006, Anthem executive compensation in Maine for its nine highest-paid employees totaled over $4.3 million, averaging almost $500 thousand per executive," the AG's filing says. "This included total base salaries of nearly $1.6 million, bonuses in excess of $835 thousand, and all other compensation of over $1.9 million (which may include payouts under multi-year long term incentive plans, sales incentives, severance, and the exercises of stock options granted in prior years.) ... During 2006-2008, the three-year average executive compensation for Anthem's top nine employees remained at nearly $500,000."

Yeah. Anthem is barely squeaking by, the poor bastards.

h/t to Arthur Delaney at Huffington Post and Brave New Films.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Being Texas Governor Rick Perry Means Never Having To Say You're Sorry.

As I was driving home from work this evening, I was listening to my local Public Radio Station, KDLL (91.9 FM), and a story on National Public Radio's “All Things Considered” caught my attention.

Host Robert Siegel spoke about the February 2004 execution in Texas of Cameron Todd Willingham, who was found guilty of intentionally setting the 1991 house fire that killed his three children.

Siegel's guest, Dave Mann, is a journalist with the Texas Observer, and he has written a series of articles about Willingham's (and other) arson cases. Mann's knowledgeable discussion of this case with Siegel is what made me come home and do some investigation... and the more I did, the more appalled and outraged I became (yeah, somehow this case never popped up on my radar until now).

Unfortunately, so the reader grasps all this, I have to give you some background, so bear with me, I'm going to get wordy.

The Texas Forensic Science Commission is responsible for investigating claims of botched forensics.

As part of their duty, they've been examining arson two cases, Willingham and Willis (another case in which the conclusions reached by the investigators has been questioned).

Now, since the Willingham fire in 1991, forensic arson science has come a long way. A number of long-time accepted "proofs" of intentionally set fires are now recognized as little more than urban legends, and controlled experiments have proved commonly-held "folklore" assumptions (used by investigators in Willingham's case) to be flat-out wrong.

To make sure they got this review right, the Commission engaged the services of Craig Beyler, PhD, Chair of the International Association for Fire Safety Science, and an internationally recognized arson expert.

Beyler reviewed all the evidence in both cases - the forensic evidence, the arson investigators' knowledge, expertise and methods, the testimony given by the investigators and other witnesses, and on August 17, 2009, issued his 62-page report to the Commission.

Here is his conclusion:
The investigations of the Willis and Willingham fires did not comport with either the modern standard of care expressed by NFPA 921, or the standard of care expressed by fire investigation texts and papers in the period 1980–1992. The investigators had poor understandings of fire science and failed to acknowledge or apply the contemporaneous understanding of the limitations of fire indicators. Their methodologies did not comport with the scientific method or the process of elimination. A finding of arson could not be sustained based upon the standard of care expressed by NFPA 921, or the standard of care expressed by fire investigation texts and papers in the period 1980–1992. (emphasis mine)
Pretty damning.

But that wasn't the thrust of the NPR story.

The thrust of the story was that Governor Rick Perry (and there's no other way to describe it) abused his power to make sure that the Forensic Science Commisson would not hold a hearing on the report...

-- because it's become obvious that in 2004 (under Perry's "leadership"), the State of Texas executed an innocent man.

The Texas Forensic Science Commission was scheduled to meet tomorrow, October 2, to discuss the report and the Willingham case.

But that ain't gonna happen.

Today, Governor Perry fired three members of the Forensic Science Commission, including Chairman Sam Basset, an Austin based defense attorney.

Perry replaced Chairman Bassett with John Bradley, a district attorney who is famous for being "tough-on-crime"... and whose first official act was to immediately cancel tomorrow's hearing.

I used to think that Rick Perry was just a self-serving asshat... but that's really too kind a term to use to describe him.

David Mann writes more about this travesty, and the possible ramifications here.

Jon Stewart Explains How The Senate "Democratic Super Majority Ruthlessly Wields Their Power!"

I'm still mystified why it is that a late night comic is one of the few media voices calling bullshit on the spineless Democrats in the US Senate:

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Democratic Super Majority
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political HumorRon Paul Interview

Why would the Democratics want to appease the GOP, who will never give anything in return?

Perhaps someone out there can explain it to me.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Former Governor Walter Hickel Gives Us Some Fatherly Advice

Former Governor Walter J. Hickel penned an OpEd piece which appears in today's Anchorage Daily News, entitled "Alaskans can rise above petty politics, hateful acts."

Bravo, Mr. Hickel.

During his long career, no matter what his stance on issues, and no matter what less-than-complimentary things one might say about him, even his detractors (and as a life-long Democrat, I fall into that category) have to grudgingly agree on this point:

Walter Hickel has always followed his conscience.

Just as Pinocchio had his Jiminy Cricket, Walter Hickel has always had his "Little Man."

When appointed in 1968 by President Richard Nixon to serve as Secretary of Interior (an appointment Mr. Hickel agonized about accepting, for it required him to step down as Alaska Governor), Wally didn't turn out to be quite the "plunder and pillage" pro-development voice many environmentalists expected him to be.

Listening to his "little man," Hickel supported strong liability laws concerning oil companies drilling offshore, and supported environmental standards on Alaska's rapidly developing oil industry.

As a populist (and perhaps because he was a populist with a conscience), Mr. Hickel confused and confounded the people in the White House at the time.

He saw his role as Secretary of the Interior as doing the best job he could do for the American people. By doing his best, Hickel surmised, he would help the Republican Party as well.

When that style conflicted with the political agenda of Richard Nixon, Spiro Agnew or the cadre of Republican henchman in the White House, they saw his actions as "disloyal."

It didn't take long. More and more, Wally Hickel was being frozen out of the Nixon White House, his access to the president that hired him cut off. The president was isolating himself more and more from those who might disagree with him, because any thing viewed as internal dissent would not be accepted, nevermind encouraged.

After the shooting death of four student demonstrators by the Ohio National Guard at Kent State University in 1970, Mr. Hickel's "little man" took charge again.

Hickel wrote a letter critical of Nixon's Vietnam war policy, urging the president to listen to the voices of young people opposing the war. The contents of letter was leaked before the president saw it, and it didn't sit well with the White House.

The president subsequently created the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration within the Commerce Department, and created an independent Environmental Protection Administration. The creation of these agencies intentionally removed their mission from the purview of the Interior Secretary. The handwriting was on the wall.

Eventually, Hickel was called to the White House. After a half-hour or so conversation between Wally and the president, Mr. Hickel was shown the door.

True to what he told 60 Minutes: "If I go away, I'm going away with an arrow in my heart and not a bullet in my back," Mr. Hickel returned to Alaska, and eventually (like it or not) served a second term as governor.

(Side note to ex-governor Sarah Palin: Wally Hickel was a "maverick" when you were barely out of diapers. His willingness to take responsibility for his actions is a concept that's alien to you, I'm sure.)

Some of my liberal friends will criticize me for lauding Mr. Hickel.

Too bad.

In retrospect, Walter Hickel emerges as a progressive. Hell, compared to today's current crop of Republicans, he sounds like a "liberal."

Besides, when you're right, you're right.

In a time when the GOP is controlled by the right-wing fringe, hate speech is running rampant, and crazy people like Sarah Palin claim to speak for Alaskans (and the "real" America), 90-year old Governor Walter Hickel's is a voice that should be heeded.

By all of us.

h/t to Progressive Alaska for the photo.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

We Know For Whom Max Baucus Is Really Working. What About Our Alaska Senators?

Well, on September 16, Senator Max Baucus (D-MT) officially released the "Health care Reform" bill that has been months in the making.

After much hemming and hawing, the "great compromise" that was released by The Gang of Six contains very little that will help the American people... unless you are an insurance or health care company executive or major shareholder.

Naturally, the measure contains no Public Option (that would be socialism!), but instead is a ridiculous pandering to the industries that have donated $3.97 million to Max Baucus's campaign coffers.

Yeah, you read that right. Damned near 4 million simoleans.

So - we know where Baucus is. It's no secret. He's owned by the insurance and health care industries.

For some unknown reason, many Democrats (and I'm not talking about Blue Dogs) believe that by capitulating to the GOP, they'll wind up with a "bipartisan" measure that the Republicans will support... except they won't for it anyway.

So - what's the big deal?

Why the "hurry" on health care (and health insurance) reform?

How about this:

Damn near 45,000 people die every year in America (one every twelve minutes), in large part because they have no health insurance and therefore cannot get good health care.

I didn't make that up.

An analysis released by Harvard Medical School on September 17 said that.

Nevermind Max Baucus.

Alaskans should ask Senator Lisa Murkowski what ever happened to her compassion? Why is she so willing to march lock-step with the GOP on this issue?

While you're at it, ask Senator Mark Begich where he stands. He's already aligned himself with a number of Blue Dogs on other issues, will he go to the mat for a decent health care package?

My advice is to not waste any time asking Congressman Don Young anything. His answers will just make your head hurt.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Getting Beaten By Your Husband Is A "Pre-Existing Condition." Still Don't Think Some Insurance Reform Is Needed?

In an article in today's Huffington Post, an article by Ryan Grim (no pun intended) points out a little-known and outrageous fact - from the article:

It turns out that in eight states, plus the District of Columbia, getting beaten up by your spouse is a pre-existing condition.

Under the cold logic of the insurance industry, it makes perfect sense: If you are in a marriage with someone who has beaten you in the past, you're more likely to get beaten again than the average person and are therefore more expensive to insure.

In human terms, it's a second punishment for a victim of domestic violence.

In 2006, Democrats tried to end the practice. An amendment introduced by Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), now a member of leadership, split the Health Education Labor & Pensions Committee 10-10. The tie meant that the measure failed.

All ten no votes were Republicans, including Sen. Mike Enzi (R-Wyoming), a member of the "Gang of Six" on the Finance Committee who are hashing out a bipartisan (Health Care Reform) bill (emphasis mine).

If you think Senator Enzi isn't still looking out for his corporate masters during this process, then I have a bridge to sell you.

h/t to Ryan Grim at Huffington Post

Billionaires For Wealthcare

As a followup to the Brave New Films piece, let me introduce a bit of levity into the mix... a bit of "performance art" by Billionaires for Wealthcare.

Note that the Tea Party protesters around them seem to be completely oblivious to the joke.

Keep in mind, however, that most tea partiers are pretty challenged in the "irony" department. For instance, many of them think Stephen Colbert is serious, too.

Maybe the Tea Party enthusiasts just need better "Infromation."

h/t to Matt Osborne

Dying For Profit

The message in this short piece from Brave New Films really needs no further elaboration.
We all know someone (or we may be that someone) who has had to do battle with their health insurance carrier just to get them to provide the coverage they are supposed to provide.

Reform is needed.

h/t to Watergate Summer and Brave New Films

Sunday, September 13, 2009

The Sad Part Is That Fox News Takes Them VERY SERIOUSLY.

On Saturday, September 12, Tea Baggers across the nation held rallies. In Washington DC, some "tens of thousands" of people showed up (no, it wasn't from 1 - 2 million, as Conservative talk-show wingnut Michele Malkin claimed, she made that up) waving signs and shouting LOUD NOISES.

From what I could tell, they seemed to be sort of unfocused about exactly what their message is, so I've tried to distill it:

1. They hate President Obama. For a variety of reasons: he's a Communist, he's a Fascist, he's a Socialist, he's an illegal immigrant, he's a racist with a deep-seated hatred of white people, he's a Muslim, he's a secret terrorist... the list goes on ad nauseum.

But from what I can tell, they hate our President mostly because he isn't white.

2. They hate fascism, and they hate socialism, and they don't know that fascism and socialism are very different, opposing concepts.

3. They hate health care reform. Government managed health care is socialism, and will cost too much... but don't touch my mom's Medicare or my VA health benefits!

4. They hate government spending... sort of.
$900+ billion to fight wars in Afghanistan and Iraq? No problem. But NOT ONE DIME to improve the quality of life for Americans!

5. They hate... well, that's pretty much the crux of their message.

They hate

Now, for Teabagger events in Alaska:

As the Anchorage Daily News reports, Alaska had its own 9/12 demonstrators, and 15,ooo 150 or so showed up at the Delaney Park Strip.

The verbatim statements quoted in the article underscore the glorification of ignorance, and you can read the short article yourself.

But there is one person quoted whose Wacky™ "Birther" statement actually bothers me, so I must include it:
"(Obama) is a fake, he is an illegal alien, he is a fraud. Barack Obama, where is the birth certificate!" event speaker Bob Bird, last year's Alaskan Independence Party candidate for U.S. Senate, said to scattered cheers from those gathered.
That statement from Mr. Bird truly disturbs me.

Why should Bird's LOUD NOISES bother me any more than the statements of any other "Birther" wack-job do?

The article didn't mention the fact that Bob Bird teaches at Nikiski High School in Nikiski, Alaska, and has been teaching there for many years.

He teaches U.S. History and World History, and Government.

THAT'S why it bothers me.
Note: I've been informed by a usually reliable source that Bob Bird has recently retired... yet, he is still listed as a Government and history teacher on the Nikiski High School website. Until I have confirmation, the above will remain unchanged.
h/t to Mudflats, Shannyn Moore, and Dennis Zaki for the image.