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“Singing in Tongues” Youtube in Steambath by GOP AK Senate Primary Candidate May Complicate Race

3:21 am in Uncategorized by EdwardTeller

Alaska blogger, journalist and writer Amanda Coyne has posted a Youtube of one of the four GOP Alaska U.S. Senate Primary candidates.  In it, the longshot entry in the four-way race may have inadvertently helped her low budget campaign more than anything she intentionally produced might have done.  In places, candidate Kathleen Tonn sings in tongues.  She sings in a steam bath, joined at the end of the video by her friend, Suzie:

Coyne writes:

Tonn is a pro-life candidate. Her candidacy has received little attention so far compared to the three other frontrunners running in the Republican primary—[Tea Party favorite] Joe Miller, [not Anchorage Mayor, but the other one - ex- Alaska AG] Dan Sullivan, and [current Lieutenant Governor] Mead Treadwell. That might change after the video gets around.

The gift of tongues is a considered by those who have the gift—including this writer’s mother– to be highly sacred and it is considered forbidden to be used as publicity. It’s unclear whether the video had any effect on Suzie, who appears briefly at the end, clad in a towel. “That was beautiful,” Suzie says.

I’ll be writing more soon about the 2014 Alaska U.S. Senate primary and other issues warming up here in an important election year.

U.S. Coast Guard Investigation on Shell Alaska Drilling Rig Turned Over to U.S. Department of Justice

12:08 am in Uncategorized by EdwardTeller

Noble Discoverer

Shell Oil’s three main components to their plans to get an Arctic offshore drilling regime going before competitors showed up went off the rails in 2012:

•  The Arctic Challenger, their alleged cleanup rig, spectacularly failed its early September tests in Puget Sound, under idyllic conditions.  It wasn’t even deployed to Alaska, which forced Shell to have to drill shallow holes in the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas.

• The Kulluk, an ungainly rig the size of the aircraft carrier Hornet,that took the Doolittle raid across the Pacific in April 1942, was ground severely on the Kodiak Island area coast for a week, during winter storms.

•  The obsolete and decrepit drill vessel Noble Discoverer had one problem after another, as it was forced beyond its limited capabilities.

2013 promises no changes, as the global giant is reeling from worldwide challenges to its rapacious business model.  Additionally, its failed Alaska offshore season is about to be scrutinized more closely, and more publicly, than British Petroleum was looked at in the aftermath of the Deepwater Horizon disaster.

In the first of what may become a cascade of U.S. government announcements, the U.S. Coast Guard announced Friday that they have turned their findings on the drill vessel Noble Discoverer over to the U.S. Justice Department:

The Coast Guard found the Noble Discoverer could not go fast enough to safely maneuver on its own in all the expected conditions found in Alaska’s Arctic waters.

The Coast Guard also found “systematic failure and lack of main engine preventative maintenance,” which caused a propulsion loss and exhaust system explosion.

Among other issues listed were inoperable equipment used to measure the oil in water that is dumped overboard, improper line splices throughout the engine room, piston cooling water contaminated with sludge and an abnormal propeller shaft vibration.

Coast Guard spokesman Kip Wadlow said he couldn’t discuss the details because the investigation has been forwarded to the Justice Department. Wadlow declined to say whether the Coast Guard believed criminal penalties could be warranted.

Shell announced early this week that the vessel under investigation is exiting the Western Hemisphere from Seward, Alaska, where it has been impounded since early November, on a dry tow vessel, destined for an Asian shipyard where, supposedly, it will be turned into some sort of perfect, or at least adequate ship, for extricating oil from under the Arctic Ocean’s floor.  There have been no announcements on how the DOJ involvement in the vessel might have an impact on Shell’s tow plan.

Within three weeks, the U.S. Department of Interior will be issuing their 60-day reassessment of Shell’s Arctic drilling plan, which has been somewhat torpedoed by the USCG announcement.  A negative assessment by DOI will set Shell back years, possibly driving their  stock share price into a major dip.

Independent of the findings on the Noble Discoverer, the USCG will be conducting a mandatory set of hearings into the December 31st grounding of the drill rig Kulluk, off the south shores of Kodiak Island.  That seriously damaged vessel is scheduled to be towed by two tugs to Dutch Harbor when harsh winter weather abates.  From there, it will also exit the Western Hemisphere and American scrutiny.

Alaska Senator Mark Begich has vowed to hold hearings on this, but has backed off from holding them in March.  His office told me Wednesday that it is looking more like the hearings will be in May.

I’m surprised that Shell’s Alaska management structure has remained intact though what has to have been the most poorly managed energy project season in our state’s history.  There will probably be a lot of heads rolling there before the end of May, though.

What may be most interesting to watch over the late winter and spring might be the way politicians pile on to Shell, so as to show they “really care” about responsible oil development, etc. – while other oil concerns ramp up their efforts to do their own offshore Arctic projects.

And their political contributions to such politicians.

As a side note:  I’m finding it more and more difficult to write about this and other subjects, here and elsewhere.  I think the evidence of impending catastrophic climate change, combined with the vulnerability of global nuclear waste are far, far more serious than even most environmental progressives yet realize.

Increasingly, I feel there is nothing you, I, or anyone can do to prevent a catastrophe that will reduce the worldwide human population by at least 75% within the next 75 years.

Will the NOAA Puget Sound “Party Boat” Story Force Lubchenco Out at NOAA?

6:48 pm in Uncategorized by EdwardTeller

The story broke beyond a few fishing blogs late this week, with coverage in the Seattle Times and elsewhere:

Federal fish cops in Seattle bought a $300,000 luxury boat to spy on whale-watching tours — but didn’t go through an appropriate bidding process, held barbecues onboard, ferried friends and family across Puget Sound to restaurants and resorts, and used the boat for what one visitor called “a pleasure cruise.”
When confronted, one federal employee in Seattle misled inspectors about how the vessel was used, and one interfered with federal investigators, according to an internal investigation by the Commerce Department. Those documents were released Friday by U.S. Sen. Scott Brown, R-Mass.

At issue is a 35-foot, 14-passenger boat purchased by federal agents with the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) using money seized from fishermen who violated the law.

The 2008 purchase wasn’t illegal, according to the Commerce Department, but federal agents manipulated the acquisition process and misrepresented the urgency and need for the vessel.

 Brown is calling for NOAA administrator Jane Lubchenco to step down:

On Friday, Brown said the boat was a symbol of wasteful Washington spending and NOAA’s damaged relationship with fishermen.

Brown repeated his request that President Obama fire NOAA Chief Jane Lubchenco.
“This needs to change and accountability starts at the top,” he said. “If not now, when? If not for this, then for what?”

NOAA said it has completely overhauled its enforcement program since the inspector general’s findings.

Why is it being called a “party boat”?

The first time a fisheries-service agent boarded the boat in June 2008, he brought his wife and a friend. They ran out of gas, called Seattle Harbor Patrol and had to be towed back to the Ship Canal.

They refueled and motored the boat through the Ballard Locks to the dockside Boat Shed Restaurant in Bremerton, had dinner and then returned to Seattle.

A month later the same agent took the boat to Poulsbo for lunch and went back to Seattle. He picked up some friends who brought aboard a six-pack of beer and sped down to Gig Harbor for dinner at Tides Tavern. One passenger told investigators the trip was “every bit a pleasure cruise.”

A few days later, the same employee briefly got stranded in the boat in a shipping lane while taking his wife to a restaurant in Everett.

Twice that summer, while the boat was moored at Elliott Bay Marina, a fisheries-service employee grilled burgers and hot dogs with a small group that included at least two other special agents. A supervisor told an employee his wife could come aboard any time and “kick back and watch TV.” One agent later told investigators the gatherings kept up the vessel’s appearance as a recreational boat and not an unmarked-police vessel.

Once in August 2008, the boat ferried around a special agent’s visiting parents, eventually dropping them off at the Semiahmoo Resort in Blaine, Whatcom County. The boat that day blew out a $10,000 engine as a result of what investigators called “operator error.” The boat’s first use in an actual undercover capacity didn’t take place until the next summer.

When internal investigators learned about the boat in 2010, one employee gave such contradictory answers, investigators called the statement “disingenuous and not credible.”[emphases added]

 Here’s Brown’s C-SPAN moment on this:

Back in late 2008, when Obama announced Lubchenco’s appointment to head NOAA, I was thrilled. How novel, I thought, compared to Bush, for Obama to hire a scientist to head a scientific agency.  Some of my friends were more wary, predicting that her time at the Pew Charitable Trust would propel her relentlessly toward privatization of collective fishery resources.  When, on a visit to Nome in mid-2009, Lubchenco professed to not know anything about the serious depletion of Yukon River King salmon through bottom fish trawler bycatch, I began getting more wary of her professionalism.

Later in August 2009, I confronted Lubchenco and others on Obama’s so-called Oceans Task Force, to fix the salmon depletion problem or face the curse of history:

This testimony is offered in memory of Segundo Strongheart of Nunam Iqua, who passed away early this past Tuesday, as he struggled to support his family and heritage.

My name is Philip Munger. I live in Wasilla, and teach cultural history at the University of Alaska Anchorage. I’m best known as a composer of “classically-based” music. In 36 years in Alaska, I have also worked in many other fields, including a 26-year relationship with commercial fishing or other blue water maritime activities. I have a strong love of science, and have raised my two kids to be scientists: One is now a graduate of the Huxley School of Environmental Science. The other is pursuing studies at Humboldt State University in green fisheries restoration.

I’ve observed the degradation of the overall habitat upon and around the Yukon and Kuskokwim Rivers, as the ongoing catastrophe has accelerated. It is increasingly clear that unless something radical is done soon to assure far higher returns of salmon to these and other areas, the runs will be ruined forever.

Of particular concern is the decimation of the Yukon River Chinook and Chum salmon stocks. I am one who strongly believes the bycatch paradigm of the Bering Sea trawlers has crossed the area from very poor policy to cultural genocide.

Salmon are the basis of some of the most beautiful, long-lasting and resilient of the world’s existing cultures. The Yupik are emblematic.

• When the Phoenicians and others were cutting down the vast cedar forests in Lebanon, the Yupik were beginning to fish the lower Yukon.

• When the Roman Empire and vernacular Latin were dying, people had been speaking a language today’s Yupik would recognize as their own for over a thousand years.

• When the Norse navigated the North Atlantic, the Volga and the Black Sea, the Yupik were expanding up the Yukon and Kuskokwim Rivers.

• When a language we can now recognize as English began to exist, Yupik culture was thousands of years old.

Yet, within the mere past 25 years, the foundation of this vibrant culture has been ripped apart.

I have never seen a better example of how cross-governmental jurisdictional problems can be used by an industry to destroy one of America’s first peoples.

Nancy Sutley – Dr. Jane Lubchenco – David Hayes – Admiral Thad Allen – Heather Zichal — and, YES – Sen. Mark Begich and President Barack Obama:

Unless you act very soon, and very, very sternly to end the depredation of the Bering Sea and other Gulf of Alaska trawl fisheries, the miserable survivors of this once-proud, vibrant culture, will soon sing imprecatory, damning songs to your eternal memories, blaming you for their Holocaust.

Lubchenco’s reign at NOAA has been increasingly criticized.  Obama’s proposed reorganization of several Federal departments includes the possibility of moving NOAA from the Department of Commerce to the Department of Interior:

When President Obama last spring released a video soliciting ideas on modernizing government to better compete in the 21st century economy, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration was about to get thrown into the mix. “Move NOAA from DOC to DOI,” read a suggestion tagged No. 1979 and ranked No. 1439 in the White House compilation. “I think it paints a bad picture when we are supposed to be managing and conserving marine resources and we are under the Department of COMMERCE” rather than the Interior Department, an anonymous NOAA employee said in the submission.

Months later, after a lengthy consultation process, such a transfer ended up a part of the Obama administration’s proposal to seek congressional approval of authority to consolidate six major business and trade agencies.

It makes sense, so it probably won’t happen.  In regard to fisheries, the big ocean pirates that represent the offshore trawl industry do not want NOAA moved, as they’re able to manipulate the regulatory regimes there very well under Lubchenco’s unwatchful eye.

Both of Alaska’s U.S. senators (Alaska area catch of seafood represents half of U.S. landings) are deeply indebted to the 1%ers who run our offshore vacuum cleaning trawl fleets.  Lisa Murkowski even coddled her fisheries assistant, Arne Fuglvog, after her staff knew he was about to be indicted for years’ worth of criminal fisheries violations.  Mark Begich, mouthing the desires of the ocean pirates, defended keeping NOAA in the hands of Commerce’s corrupt paradigm:

On Capitol Hill, a skeptical view came from Sen. Mark Begich, D-Alaska, chairman of the Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries and Coast Guard. On Jan. 13, he said he was “not sure burying NOAA in an already overburdened Interior is a good idea.” Noting Alaska is “producer of more than half of the nation’s seafood,” he said, “the proper management of our fisheries is vital to thousands of jobs in Alaska and to protecting this precious resource . . . I’ll be asking tough questions as this proposal moves forward.”

 Tough questions like “Do you know the mailing address of my PAC?”

At Dr. Monnett’s “Crackpot Probe” Yesterday, Obama Administration Witch Hunters Show Up Their Own Lies

2:31 pm in Uncategorized by EdwardTeller

Polar Bear

On Tuesday, the Obama administration’s inquisition against a leading Arctic scientist continued.

Back on July 19th, one of the country’s foremost experts on Arctic and Alaska habitats, Charles Monett, PhD, was suspended from his job as a wildlife biologist with the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement (BOEM), the successor agency to the discredited Minerals Management Services.  Here’s how Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) described his situation in a July 28th press release:

Dr. Charles Monnett, PhD, a wildlife biologist with the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement (BOEM), coordinates a significant portion of all BOEM extramural research and a majority of BOEM research on Arctic wildlife and ecology.  The Interior Inspector General (IG) is apparently investigating a 2006 note authored by Dr. Monnett and a colleague published in the peer-reviewed journal Polar Biology which reported sightings of drowned polar bears in open waters following a storm.  This seven-page paper, which had undergone internal peer review, management review and outside peer review coordinated by journal editors, galvanized scientific and public appreciation for the profound effects that climate change may already be having in the Arctic.

Although the IG probe has been going on for months, Dr. Monnett was suddenly suspended on July 18, 2011, due to the IG’s “on-going inquiry.”  He has not been informed of any specific charge or question relating to the scientific integrity of his work, nor is it clear why the IG has mounted a multi-month investigation of a five-year-old journal article.  IG interview transcripts do reveal, however, that –

  • The probe is being conducted by criminal investigators with no scientific training or background, who, based upon their questions, have little grasp of the scientific issues they are investigating;
  • They have rifled through all of Dr. Monnett’s e-mails and seized his papers and equipment, impeding his ability to work even before he was ordered to stay home; and
  • The investigators are seeking a link to former Vice President Al Gore, who referenced the polar bear paper in his book and movie, An Inconvenient Truth.

“Ever since this paper was published, Dr. Monnett has been subjected to escalating official harassment, culminating in his recent virtual house arrest,” stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch, noting the huge economic stakes for oil companies seeking to open Arctic waters in suppressing scientific research.

The next day, reacting to the PEER release, the Obama administration’s Director of the Bureau of Ocean Energy, Management, Regulation and Enforcement, Michael R. Bromwich, issued a written denial regarding the focus of the investigation:

We are limited in what we can say about a pending investigation, but I can assure you that the decision had nothing to do with his scientific work, or anything relating to a five-year old journal article, as advocacy groups and the news media have incorrectly speculated. Nor is this a “witch hunt” to suppress the work of our many scientists and discourage them from speaking the truth. Quite the contrary. In this case, it was the result of new information on a separate subject brought to our attention very recently.

That same day,  BOEMRE spokeswoman Melissa Schwartz sent an email to the Alaska Dispatch, which said little and much, at the same time:

Although I cannot speak further regarding the Office of the Inspector General’s investigation, I feel it’s important to correct the inaccurate narrative that has been given to you (and is reported in your most recent article). This additional piece can only be attributed to a “source familiar with the administrative action,” given the nature of the ongoing investigation. I do not anticipate being able to further communicate on this ongoing issue, but will keep your contact info in case anything changes:

The agency placed Mr. Monnett on administrative leave for reasons having nothing to do with scientific integrity, his 2006 journal article, or issues related to permitting, as has been alleged. Any suggestions or speculation to the contrary are wrong.

In the meantime, the national environmental organizations, Greenpeace US and the Center for Biological Diversity sent a letter to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and White House Office of Science and Technology Policy Director, John Holdren, questioning the methods and focus of the investigation of Monnett.

On August 8th, Sen. James Imhofe, a relentless critic of science and its active practitioners, insinuated himself into the matter:

Separately Tuesday, U.S. Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., wrote the acting director of the Interior Department’s inspector general’s office, seeking clarification on the purpose of the investigation into Monnett.

Inhofe, the ranking member of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, said Monnett’s work has been cited by witnesses before his committee and provided “the foundation” for the government’s decision in 2008 to list the bear as a threatened species, the first with its survival at risk due to global warming.

“As a result, critical habitat for the polar bear was designated, which added additional layers of onerous regulations to oil and gas development in 187,000 square miles of land in Alaska,” he said, adding that accusations against Monnett’s work “could be serious and have far reaching consequences.”

On Tuesday, Dr. Monnett was questioned for three hours.  Although the Interior IG and other government sources had denied in early August that the focus is either on Monnett’s peer-reviewed 2006 paper, or on how the University of Alberta contract was reviewed or let, that seemed to be the focus of the questions directed at the scientist:

Today’s interview between the Interior Department Office of Inspector General (IG) and a suspended Arctic scientist reveals that his 2006 peer-reviewed journal article on drowned polar bears remains the focus of the inquiry, according to Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER).   A new allegation surfaced that one of Interior’s top Arctic scientists, Dr. Charles Monnett, improperly steered a polar bear study to the University of Alberta, even though his agency had already approved it as a sole source contract.

The multi-month IG investigation is still ongoing but today’s interview with Dr. Monnett showed –

  • The IG is still focused on the scientific merit of a seven-page note authored by Dr. Monnett and a colleague published in the peer-reviewed journal Polar Biology in 2006 which reported sightings of drowned polar bears in open waters following a storm;
  • The IG had questions about Dr. Monnett’s role during procurement of a research study titled “Populations and Sources of Recruitment in Polar Bears” conducted by the Canadian University of Alberta but Dr. Monnett acted under the direction of agency contracting and procurement staff.  When pressed, the IG refused to answer how these transactions justified an unsuccessful referral to the Justice Department for prosecution; and
  • The IG took credit for prompting  the Bureau of Ocean Energy, Management, Regulation and Enforcement (BOEM, the Interior unit where Dr. Monnett works) to issue a stop work order on the University of Alberta study but that stop work order was rescinded by the agency two weeks later and the study is ongoing.

PEER Executive Director, Jeff Ruch, (PEER is representing  Dr. Monnett) stated:

With each interview, it becomes more outrageous that government funds are being spent on this crackpot probe while paying Dr. Monnett’s salary to sit at home.  The [University of Alberta] study is a prime example of cost effective science in the public interest.  It was sole source to the Canadians because the Canadians were paying half the cost and were already doing much of the research.

It has also emerged that the government’s attention to the U of A contract is misdirected, as the contract was discussed long before the Polar bear sighting and paper had happened (more on this later).  At this time, the hold on the U of A contract has been lifted.

So far, the president’s inquisitors are not answering questions directed toward them about yesterday’s interrogation:

BOEMRE officials declined comment on Tuesday.

and:

A bureau spokeswoman declined comment.

Some, including this writer, have speculated that the attention brought down on Dr. Monnett is directly related to the Obama administration’s campaign to open the Arctic coast off Alaska to oil drilling, particularly by Shell, which has been granted exploratory permits since Monnett’s case came to public attention. If that is the case, it would not be the first time Dr. Monnett’s work has been the target of an oil giant.  Over 20 years ago, Exxon attacked him in the wake of the Exxon Valdez oil spill:

Half the otters rescued from the Exxon Valdez oil spill died after they were released, suggesting the whole project was a bad idea, according to a study to be released at an Anchorage symposium this week.

An abstract of a paper by Charles Monnett and others studying the spill for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says only 23 of 45 otters implanted with radio devices are known to be alive. The others are missing or confirmed dead. One radio broke.

Missing otters are almost certainly dead because the ottertracking program is very reliable, Monnett said last month. The death rate is far more than would normally be expected.

“These data suggest that, despite the tremendous amount of money and energy that was directed toward the treatment and care of these animals, many or all of the sea otters that were released from the (rehabilitation) centers were not “rehabilitated,’ ” Monnett wrote in the abstract.

“We recommend that future policies focus on preventing otters from becoming oiled, rather than attempting to treat them after oiling has occurred,” the abstract said.

But Randall Davis, an Exxon-hired scientist who ran the otter rescue, said Monnett is wrong to assume missing otters are dead. He said about half Monnett’s otters counted as dead are only missing.

Also, Davis said the results from the radio tag study may not reflect the fate of all the otters released. He said the surgery of implanting the transmitters may have contributed to their demise.

But Monnett said his team of five workers has logged 1,000 hours in aircraft looking for the missing otters from Sitka to Homer. He assumes the otters are dead and drifted to sea or sank. The radios don’t transmit when covered with only 2 inches of salt water.

Monnett’s conclusion, “we recommend that future policies focus on preventing otters from becoming oiled, rather than attempting to treat them after oiling has occurred,” based on prevention of oil spills, rather than mitigating their negative impact, goes counter to speeding up Shell’s permitting process.

This week, Alaska saw Interior Secretary Salazar here, to announce big Arctic development plans:

Salazar joined Alaska Sen. Mark Begich and Rhode Island Sen. Jack Reed for a meeting with Alaska business people and said the president’s feeling toward Arctic offshore drilling is “Let’s take a look at what’s up there and see what it is we can develop.”

But any Arctic oil development must be done carefully, he said. Salazar said the Arctic lacks needed infrastructure for responding to potential offshore oil spills and cited painful lessons from the Deepwater Horizon spill in the Gulf of Mexico last year.

“Not the mightiest companies with multibillion-dollar pockets were able to do what needed to be done in a timely basis, and the representations of preparation simply turned out not to be true from the oil companies that had a legal obligation to shut down that kind of an oil spill. …,” Salazar told Alaska reporters. “When you look at the Arctic itself, we recognize that there are different realities — the ocean is a much shallower ocean, conditions are very different than we had in the Gulf of Mexico. (But) there are challenges that are unique to the Arctic.”

Salazar said a step toward a solution is “having an agency within the United States government and Interior, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management and Regulation, that can in fact do its job.”

On July 13th, Obama signed an executive order to “create a new federal working group tasked with having agencies better coordinate Alaska oil and gas permitting and other regulatory oversight. The White House said the working group, which is overseen by Deputy Interior Secretary David Hayes, is designed to simplify oil and gas decision-making in Alaska by bringing together federal agencies to collaborate as they evaluate permits and environmental reviews.”

Six days later, Dr. Monnett was suspended.

The only Alaska Natives Salazar has been scheduled to meet here seem to be proponents of “Drill, Baby Drill!!”  Native groups have sided with Greenpeace US and the Center for Biological Diversity in their attempt to obtain correspondence between Shell and BOEMRE, or other government agencies, through the Freedom of Information Act.  At Tuesday’s press availability with Salazar and Sen. Begich, the question of the investigation of Dr. Charles Monnett does not appear to have been breached.

How convenient.  The reporters seem to be keeping their heads down.  Now if only those pesky scientists would learn those same traits.

Mike Gravel on Bradley Manning – He Appeals to Sen. Mark Begich and Thanks Firedoglake

6:12 pm in Uncategorized by EdwardTeller

Former U.S. Senator for Alaska, Mike Gravel, is here, appealing to Alaskans to join in his efforts to create citizens groups to revisit the 9/11 Commission’s errors and omissions from their report, and other matters pertaining to that set of tragedies.

Mike has been outspoken about PFC Bradley Manning, considering the young soldier to be a patriot, and comparing these times to those in which Gravel read the Pentagon Papers aloud on the Senate floor.

Here is Gravel, answering a question about Manning:

Mike Gravel:

“My admiration for Bradley Manning knows no bounds.  In fact the equivalent of being Bradley Manning would be being me, and [Daniel] Ellsberg being Assange.  That’s the comparison.

“And I was 41 years old when I released the Pentagon Papers [to the Senate].  You know, I’d been three days without sleep, and I was just afraid – scared to death – I didn’t know if I was going to go to jail or lose my senate seat, or what have you, and so I wound up, out of fatigue and fear and all of that, sobbing, when I’m putting the papers into the record.  I was sobbing.  I couldn’t get control of my emotions.  So, when Bradley Manning – and I was 41 years old – when Bradley Manning was arrested, they turned around and said, “Well, he’s unstable.”

“Unstable – Hell!I was unstable!

“He’s not unstable.  He has the clearest vision of what his responsibilities [are] – when you go into the military, you swear allegiance to the Constitution of the United States, not to the captain, not to the generals, not to the president or the White House.  You swear allegiance to the Constitution.

“Manning was sitting there, watching all these daily reports coming back, and seeing that what was being said there was different from what was being said by the White House.  And so, he had the guts and perspicuity to recognize “Do it, and do it right.”

“And – knows the risk, knows the risk.  If we don’t get him out some way…..”

After his talk, I showed Mike the first letter I wrote to current Alaska Senator Mark Begich, requesting Begich look into Manning’s treatment. Although Begich’s chief-of-staff, David Ramseur, promised those of us who signed my letter quick action from Begich, it has now been over a month since we asked for Mark’s help.

Here’s the appeal of a former Alaska Democratic Party Senator to our current one:

And here’s Mike’s shout out to the folks at Firedoglake who have been working so hard for justice in this matter.

Mike wants you to support fdl!

As Write-Ins Get Counted in Alaska, Miller Brings on More Sleaze

1:03 pm in Uncategorized by EdwardTeller

The counting of votes in the 2010 Alaska U.S. Senate race is moving along fairly briskly.  On Wednesday and Thursday, absentee votes for Joe Miller cut into Lisa Murkowski’s large lead.  On Thursday the Miller campaign was challenging Murkowski write-in ballots so aggressively, they were flagging ballots on which one of the letters in Murkowski’s name was in cursive.  And they challenged another where the person had written in “Merkowski,” and then had written a “u” over the “e.”

Even with such challenges as those Murkowski’s lead over Miller early Saturday is about 10,050, with most of the regular write-in votes now counted:

The count stands at 98,565 write-ins and 87,517 votes for Miller after Friday’s tally of absentee and questioned votes. That tally slightly widened the margin of write-ins over Miller to 11,048 votes.

Nearly 98 percent of those write-ins are being counted for Murkowski so far. More than 90 percent of Murkowski’s write-in votes are not being challenged.

The Miller campaign has successfully challenged just 1.5 percent of the 69,249 write-in ballots that have been reviewed. The ballots unsuccessfully challenged by Miller are being segregated in boxes, and the courts could have the final say.

Miller has filed a lawsuit asking federal courts to force the state to throw out ballots that misspell Murkowski’s name. He argues state law doesn’t allow misspellings. But even if Miller’s lawsuit succeeds, Murkowski could still have enough votes to win.

The Division of Elections has finished going through the write-ins for nearly 72 percent of the precincts in Alaska. That doesn’t count the absentee and early vote write-in ballots, which will be reviewed this weekend and into next week.

Late Thursday, Miller’s new campaign strategist, Floyd Brown, entered the scene.  Brown is the creator of the Willie Horton ads, run against presidential candidate Michael Dukakis.  He was heavily involved in creating false stories about Bill Clinton’s past in Arkansas, and was a co-founder of Citizens United.

Soon after Brown took over aspects of Miller’s campaign, their camp began playing a race card, suing to obtain voter roles from several small towns and villages, composed mostly of Alaska Natives.  The majority of Alaska Native organizations, including the very influential Alaska Federation of Natives, backed Murkowski over Miller and Scott McAdams in the election.  Several Native corporations assisted Murkowski materially, especially in October.  Although a few Native precincts around the state went for McAdams, none came even close to going for Miller.

At a news conference in Juneau Friday afternoon, Brown asserted that write-in ballots in Cordova had “the name “Lisa Murkowski” all written in the same handwriting. Miller adviser Floyd Brown said the campaign would be asking for a handwriting analysis of those ballots.”

Brown also complained that the security firm hired by the state to assure ballot security in Juneau has allowed illegal access to the ballot storage boxes and stacks.  The security firm is owned by a local Juneau Native corporation:

Goldbelt Security is handling the ballots. It is a subsidiary of Goldbelt, the local Native corporation for Juneau. Brown hit on the fact Murkowski has a bill to benefit Sealaska, the regional Native corporation for Southeast Alaska, and that Sealaska officials backed her campaign.

In today’s story about this in the Anchorage Daily News, anti-Native commenters are crawling out of their holes, just as Brown is hoping.  Here’s a sample:

I cant help but notice a high number of Native looking people in the photographs. Are they members of the Native Union who threw its support of Lisa. I hope someone is watching.

The Alaska Division of Elections is hoping to process all the write-in, absentee and early ballots that have arrived so far by the end of this coming week.  Although absentee ballots must be postmarked by election day, the state will not stop accepting them from overseas until November 17th.

It should be noted that in the 2008 Alaska U.S. Senate race, Mark Begich’s votes did not pass those of Sen. Ted Stevens in the late counting until early November 18th.  That race was much closer, with higher voter participation than in this mid-term election, and with a completely different dynamic than this strange 2010 Senate race.  I expect Murkowski’s lead to hold.

I’m working with a group that is seeking to have Joe Miller disbarred for illegally hacking, altering and deleting files from his fellow attorneys’ computers in Fairbanks back in the winter of 2008.  The information came out in October, due to the media lawsuit compelling release of some of Miller’s personnel records while working in Fairbanks as a municipal attorney.  I’m also trying to get the handcuffs that were used to cuff Alaska Dispatch editor Tony Hopfinger at a Joe Miller event on October 17th.  I’m going to get them bronzed for Tony.  The Alaska Dispatch lawsuit and the illegal arrest of Tony probably did more to change public perception of Miller than anything else.

In Alaska, Sen. Mark Begich’s Brother Explains How Scott McAdams Can Beat Joe Miller and Lisa Murkowski

9:14 pm in Uncategorized by EdwardTeller

Alaska artist and political wonk, Tom Begich, was on Moore Up North today. Tom is U.S. Sen. Mark Begich’s brother. Along with brother Dr. Nick Begich, Jr, Tom is far more progressive than Mark. Tom borrowed my classroom blackboard from the University of Alaska Anchorage to illustrate two important things – why Sen. Lisa Murkowski cannot win on November 2nd as a write-in, and how close Scott McAdams may really be.

Here’s Tom’s segment from the show:

The rest of the show – a long, detailed and sometimes quite humorous interview with Democratic Party U.S. Senate candidate Scott McAdams – may be viewed here.

Joe Miller keeps on getting slammed in the Alaska press and blogs, perhaps more than any GOP candidate in a statewide race since John Lindauer, back in 1998.  . . . Read the rest of this entry →

Alaska GOP U.S. Senate Primary Race Way Too Close to Call – Probably for Another Week

7:36 am in Uncategorized by EdwardTeller

With slightly less than 90,000 votes counted statewide in the Alaska 2008 GOP primary, incumbent U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski trails Tea Party favorite Joe Miller by about 2,000 votes.

This is close enough that the victor cannot be predicted.

One should keep in mind that in the U.S. Senate race in 2008 between Ted Stevens and Mark Begich, Stevens was ahead on election night. Even a week after the election, Stevens was still ahead. On November 10th, 2008, there were still 90,635 uncounted ballots.

The day after the 2008 general, Begich was down by over 3,300 votes. He didn’t catch Stevens in the late count until November 12, almost nine days after the general. Begich went on to win by over 2,000 votes.

I’m comparing a big general election in 2008 to a state primary in 2010, but until we know how many uncounted votes there are, nobody should be declaring who the victor is in the Murkowski-Miller race.

On the Democratic Party – open ballot for this U.S. Senate race, Sitka Mayor, Scott McAdams is the clear victor, and will face either Murkowski or Miller on November 2nd. Scott is progressive, and has impressed a lot of liberals here. He attended Netroots Nation this past summer. Should Scott win in nine weeks, his chances of turning into a Blue Dog, as has Sen. Mark Begich – disappointing many Alaskans who strongly supported him – are nil.

Rather, he might easily prove to be the Alan Grayson of the U.S. Senate.

You can support Scott McAdams here.

UPDATE: Here’s Scott being interviewed about a week ago by Alaska AARP:

And here is Joe Miller, answering the same set of AARP questions. From what I’ve been able to discover, these are the only videos that compare these two this directly. Joe, unlike Scott, wants to privatize Social Security:

My Open Letter to. Sen. Begich re His (and 75 Other Senators) Letter to Sec. of State Clinton

7:17 pm in Uncategorized by EdwardTeller

[On Tuesday, 76 U.S. Senators seemed to chastise the Obama administration for not being as obsequious to the current Israeli government as some would like. Here is my open letter (also sent directly to his staff) to Alaska's Democratic Party U.S. Senator, Mark Begich:]

Both you and Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski, along with 74 0ther U.S. Senators, are signatories of a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, dated Tuesday. In that letter, originated by Sen. Barbara Boxer and Sen. Johnny Isakson, you make a series of statements that beg definition or clarification. I would appreciate your response on these specific statements:

1. You state, "We write to urge you to do everything possible to ensure that the recent tensions between the U.S. and Israeli administrations over the untimely announcement of future housing construction in East Jerusalem do not derail Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations or harm U.S.-Israel relations."

What evidence do you have that this is actually the case?

President Obama stated the same day as your letter that, regarding this same process you reference, "The truth is in some of these conflicts the United States can’t impose solutions unless the participants in these conflicts are willing to break out of old patterns of antagonism."

It appears to me that your open-ended criticism of the president on this makes it more difficult for him "to break out of old patterns" when it comes to negotiating.

2. You write "[I]n a reversal of 16 years of policy, Palestinian leaders are refusing to enter into direct negotiations with Israel. Instead, they have put forward a growing list of unprecedented preconditions."

Could it be that Palestinian leaders’ concern about a range of issues help fuel their reluctance to regard the Netanyahu government as honest brokers? Just in the past few weeks:

Israeli forces in the occupied West Bank are becoming increasingly militant, even jailing without charges dozens of the most articulate Palestinian advocates for peace

Word has come out that Israeli assassination squads have been targeting outspoken and articulate Palestinian "Ghandis," in direct violation of decisions by Israeli courts, all the way up to their highest judiciary. The reporters who have disclosed these violations of Israeli law and international law are faced with life sentences for their disclosure of these ongoing crimes

Several settlements outside of the East Jerusalem area that your letter seems to consider important have also expanded over the past few weeks, illegally seizing or destroying Palestinian property. Surely this complicates what Palestinian negotiators feel they must face. By not addressing the brazen illegality of the East Jerusalem expansion that spurred "the untimely announcement of future housing construction in East Jerusalem," and the other West Bank illegal seizings, your letter seems hopelessly biased.

All of these activities are against international law and the stated policies of the U.S. government. Don’t you think President Obama is obligated to base his decisions upon those laws and policies? You letter seems to purport he brush these continuing serious violations aside – for the sake of what?

3. You state "We also urge you to reaffirm the unbreakable bonds that tie the United States and Israel together."

Could you describe to me what those bonds are? Is President Obama merely supposed to take what looks to me like an oath to a foreign government, as you appear to be doing here, or is he supposed to go further?

And who wrote your letter, Senator? Was it vetted by any organizations partially staffed by people who are not U.S. citizens?

Senator Begich, could you please provide a list of other countries to which you think American presidents need to publicly affirm or reaffirm the unbreakable bonds that tie that foreign nation and the USA together?

Is Canada one? Mexico? The United Kingdom? South Korea? Please provide a full list of other countries you feel meet that bill, Senator.

During one of our talks during your 2008 senatorial campaign, you expressed your lack of knowledge about issues concerning Israel and Palestine, and hoped to learn more. I have some suggestions for a tutorial:

A. Would you like to visit the Gaza Strip or Hebron as part of a Senatorial delegation? Sen. Kerry, who is not a signator of your letter has visited Gaza.

B. Would you like to meet the parents of U.S. citizens Rachel Corrie or Tristan Anderson?

C. Would you like to meet the survivors of the U.S.S. Liberty, whose skipper won the Congressional Medal of Honor defending his ship and crew from a hostile attack that killed dozens of their shipmates?

If you would like to do any of the above, I can help, Senator.

Although your letter doesn’t go nearly as far in its obsequiousness to a foreign government as did Sarah Palin’s reference to the problem that spurred your unfortunate letter, as a "zoning dispute," your letter undermines what may be the best hope for peace in Palestine and Israel in more than a generation.

Respectfully,

your constituent, former volunteer and donor,

Philip Munger

Alaska Sen. Mark Begich Writes He is “not committed to supporting a public option.”

2:19 pm in Uncategorized by EdwardTeller

Over the past weekend, Alaska’s sole Democrat in Congress made an ambiguous statement regarding the public option. Some felt he had "raised his hand" for it. Others didn’t feel he had.

Several national blogs picked up on a Sunday post at Alaska’s most widely read progressive blog, The Mudflats. The article was based on a 40-minute interview Sen. Begich had given Saturday evening on Alaska independent commentator Shannyn Moore’s progressive talk show on Anchorage’s KBYR. Moore used combinations of carrot & stick, praise & criticism, insight & raw humor, to try to get Begich to commit to the "public option" on health care reform. She was unrelenting on trying to get him to commit.

Many who listened to the program – it is well worth a listen – did not think Begich had pledged anything. Some did. Late Sunday The Mudflats printed:

On the Public Option

(after Senator Begich lost his phone connection and called back)

Begich: I’m here, can you hear me?

Moore: We’re on the radio, so you just wave!

Begich: I’m waving! I’m waving!

Moore: (laughs) I know you’re waving… I hope you’re raising your hand to support a public option. I just really am.

Begich: I am.

Commenters at the post mostly took this as a sign that Begich had finally responded to thousands of emails, phone calls and office visits he has endured over the past three weeks. Soon, Democratic Underground declared "Senator Mark Begich of Alaska Comes Out In Support Of A Public Option." Open Left headlined "Begich Comes Out In Support Of A Public Option?" At least they showed some caution.

DailyKos diarist KingofSpades came out with "Senator Begich comes out in support of Public Option! (with Action & Poll)." One of the commenters there noted that as a consequence of the ripple effect of the initial posting from Alaska:

This is the list I found at Dr. Dean (0+ / 0-)
Baucus, Max
Bayh, Evan
Begich, Mark YES
Byrd, Robert
Carper, Thomas NO
Conrad, Kent NO
Feinstein, Dianne
Landrieu, Mary NO
Lincoln, Blanche NO
Nelson, Bill NO
Nelson, E. Ben NO
Pryor, Mark
Tester, John
Warner, Mark
Wyden, Ron

Anyone else off for sure?

I had listened to the initial Shannyn Moore show podcast and was not convinced Begich had made a commitment. I wrote Monday that Begich was ambiguous throughout the interview, and that his statement, "I am" was a continuation of a riff he had going with Moore on a different subject.

Tuesday I learned that calls and emails to Begich’s Anchorage and DC offices had fallen off dramatically early this week, possibly in response to the meme that Begich had come out for the public option. Additionally, I found out yesterday afternoon that the Alaska Democratic Party was now making the claim in a mass emailing to party members, based solely on "I am."

So I got hold of his press secretary early this morning. Here’s what she wrote:

Phil,
Senator Begich is committed to health care reform and finding ways to provide accessible, affordable health care to the millions of Americans who don’t currently have it.

However, until Senator Begich sees how a public option is proposed to be paid for in the final bill that comes before the Senate, he is not committing to supporting a public option.

Attached is the text of his Aug. 10 speech to the Anchorage Chamber of Commerce where you can see his thoughts and priorities on this issue.

Thank you. Julie

Julie Hasquet
Press Secretary
Sen. Mark Begich

Julie requested that I provide links to Sen. Begich’s stated positions on health care reform in this diary. Here they are:

Sen. Mark Begich’s August 10th speech to the Anchorage Chamber of Commerce on Health Care Reform (and other issues)

Sen. Begich’s July 27th Health Care Reform Forum in Anchorage

It is important to make up for the two lost days of diminished contacts with Sen. Begich on this.

Here is the contact information:

Anchorage:

Peterson Tower, Suite 750
510 L St
Anchorage, AK, 99501
phone. (907) 271 – 5915
toll free. (877) 501 – 6275 – good only for area code 907 callers, but good everywhere in Alaska
fax. (907) 258 – 9305

Fairbanks:

101 12th Ave, Room 206
Fairbanks, AK 99701
phone. (907) 456-0261
fax. (907) 451-7290

Juneau:

One Sealaska Plaza, Suite 308

Mailing Address:
P.O. Box 21850
Juneau, AK 99802

phone. (907) 586 – 7700
fax. (907) 586 – 7702

To email Sen. Begich, go to his Senate web page, and click on the icon that reads EMAIL THE SENATOR.