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Special Session: Looking Back May 2, 2012

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Another special session in the can, and there are two very different ways to look at it.

The first: The special session was an abject failure by all parties involved, and Alaska will suffer for it.

  • The Governor pushed a new, ill-conceived and very poorly researched oil tax bill that wasted everyone’s time. Then, just as abruptly, he pulled it from consideration, killing the subject of 80 percent of the legislature’s efforts this session. Not exactly a strong move, politically or otherwise.
  • Once the oil tax issue was off the table, the Senate took their toys and went home. This is a little more understandable, since realistically it was very unlikely that they could make any progress on either a) a new oil tax bill that they drafted themselves in the remainder of the special session, or b) House Speaker Chenault’s HB 9 bullet line bill, which was DOA in the Senate. That’s because, as a large-diameter gas line proponent said to me earlier this year, it would have been fantastically expensive, the gas wouldn’t have been any cheaper than existing options, it wouldn’t have spur lines to the communities (Fairbanks, interior villages) that need energy relief most, and it would take gas from a place that has gas to another place that has gas. Maybe that makes sense if you’re Mike Chenault and you want to insure against the possibility that the USGS, Buccaneer Energy, and Furie are all wrong about there being massive gas reserves in the Inlet, but it’s a hard sell to most other people, especially ones outside the Anchorage bowl who would see very little benefit. But back to the Senate – even if it was the right call to close up shop early, was there any good reason not to at least have a conversation beforehand with House leadership, just so they wouldn’t complain about you blindsiding them?
  • The House, after the Senate left them with nothing on the agenda, pouted for a few days and then decided to end the session, call a press conference where they trashed the Senate, then went home. Seems like they could have done that last Thursday without the five-day wait and the associated (estimated) $200,000 cost to taxpayers.

All right, so that’s the glass-half-empty perspective. Here’s the glass-half-full: All things considered, having come out of the session with the oil tax structure unchanged and no concrete gas line plans isn’t nearly the worst thing that could have happened. The oil tax cut that Gov. Parnell pushed, if passed, would have put the state deep into the red with no guarantee that production would ever pick up enough that we would enjoy the same kind of state revenues that we do now. I don’t think anyone’s really heartbroken it didn’t pass. And as to the gas line, what if the legislature had passed HB 9 (or something like it, any kind of North Slope to Cook Inlet bullet line bill) and then this summer Buccaneer’s and Furie’s estimates of at least a few trillion feet of gas in Cook Inlet are borne out? That doesn’t seem unlikely, and then we’ve potentially dumped a lot of money into something that is now completely purposeless and economically irrelevant.

I’m somewhere in between those two positions. I think everyone involved could have done their jobs better, but given the other possible scenarios, status quo seems okay – for now. Over the next several months we’ll get more data on the state of Alaska’s gas supply, world gas demand, and the nature of the Point Thomson settlement and whether a large-diameter gas line is really in the offing. That should do a lot to add clarity to the picture when things get rolling again in January.

State of the State: A Quick Thought January 20, 2010

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Just got done watching Gov. Parnell’s first State of the State. I’ll go into what he said in more depth later, but for now, just a note on the overall impression he made on me:

It’s surprising how different it feels to have our Governor give a speech where all of the statements make sense and the ideas flow logically from one to the next. Where the national media doesn’t deconstruct every statement, and where it’s clear there’s no major hidden agenda relating to his career. In short, a cogent speech, the focus of which is Alaska and not the speaker.

Even if I’m not always with him 100% on policy, I had forgotten how nice it feels to have a full-time Governor.

Houston, We Have A Stimulus February 14, 2009

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I’m feeling pretty sick right now (head cold), but I doubt I feel as sick as Sarah Palin.  You see, the stimulus just passed the Senate, and now she gets to choose whether or not to eat her anti-stimulus rhetoric and take the money allocated to Alaska.  And she’d better make up her mind quickly, or at least within 45 days…

I also ran across a rumor going about that there is some secret clause in the stimulus requiring registration for all guns.  This is patently untrue, from what I was able to find out – the one major gun-related item in the package appears to be enforcement money for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms to attempt to stem the flow of illegal guns into Mexico.  Which doesn’t sound like universal registration to me, but then I just belong to the regular NRA and not the tinfoil-hat NRA.  As most of the residents of Alaska carry their tinfoil-hat NRA badge with pride, however, I expect to see this rumor spread like wildfire.

A Quick Non Sequitur February 12, 2009

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This doesn’t really have anything to do with Alaska politics, but it does have everything to do with the changing face of journalism.

Did you catch Obama’s first prime time press conference the other day?  Yeah, neither did I, but I did read the transcript, and was struck by something: not only does The Huffington Post apparently have a reporter in the White House press pool, the President called on them for a question.

Online news has come a long way.

Sarah Palin Hates Me? January 13, 2009

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Apologies for the long hiatus between the last news item and this one; I was on a sandy beach escaping Fairbanks’ two-week cold snap.

Sarah Palin has been busy with the media lately, giving interviews to whoever wants them.  In these interviews, she mostly criticizes the same people who are keeping her fifteen minutes of national fame alive- the media.

She’s come out really strong lately against bloggers, probably (and I’m only guessing here) because the majority of the high-quality blogs out there weren’t particularly supportive of her political ambitions.  In an interview with Esquire, Palin let this little gem fly, “Bored, anonymous, pathetic bloggers who lie annoy me….I’ll tell you, yesterday the Anchorage Daily News, they called again to ask — double-, triple-, quadruple-check — who is Trig’s real mom. And I said, Come on, are you kidding me? We’re gonna answer this? Do you not believe me or my doctor? And they said, No, it’s been quite cryptic the way that my son’s birth has been discussed. And I thought, Okay, more indication of continued problems in the world of journalism.”

Upon the publication of Palin’s attack on their reporting, the ADN released a lengthy, point-by-point response- published, fittingly, on the editor’s blog.  In their response, the ADN claimed that the only reason their reporter was asking about Trig at all was that the paper was working on a story debunking conspiracy theories about Palin and her campaign.  Furthermore, the paper claimed that they had to abandon the story due to lack of cooperation from Palin’s family and office.  The ADN characterized Palin’s attack as at best factually incorrect, and at worst intentionally misleading.

Sarah Palin, though, tends to move in only one direction once she’s going, so she hasn’t backed down on the anti-blog rhetoric.  In an interview with Alaska Report published today, Palin opined that bloggers aren’t held appropriately to account when they lie.

The subject of people not being held to account when they lie, especially in the world of politics, is an area which has become rich with examples over the past five or ten years.  Given this, it’s extremely tempting to caustically turn Palin’s words right back at her.  I think that in this particular instance I’ll take the high road, though, and leave you to pick your own favorite person who hasn’t been held to account for lying to the Alaskan and/or American people.  I feel like bloggers don’t rate very high on the list, but maybe I’m too close to the topic.

Palin’s Problem: Not Enough Media Attention? December 23, 2008

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Apparently our governor has decided that her problem during the campaign was that she didn’t give enough interviews. That’s great logic, because she was so well-prepared for the few that she did. If she had done more, I’m sure it would have done great things for the public’s opinion of her.

Alaska Briefs December 20, 2008

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Here’s a recap of news of the past several days in Alaska politics:

-Sarah Palin’s church was damaged in a “suspicious” fire. Firefighters are treating it as an arson. Members of my family were in Eagle River for the state high school wrestling tournament, but they insist that their proximity to the fire was coincidental.

-Don Young stepped down from his seat as ranking member on the House Natural Resources Committee. He stated that it’s a temporary move for the good of the party.  Question: If it’s for the good of the party (that is, if they want him to have  a lower profile in the event he gets indicted for something), how is it going to be a temporary move?  Good luck getting that seat back, Don. 

-Levi Johnston’s mother was arrested on six felony drug possession charges.  In case you forgot, Levi Johnston is Bristol Palin’s betrothed.  Word from the ADN is that the drug in question was oxycontin, a.k.a. “hillbilly heroin,” which gained notoriety as Rush Limbaugh’s painkiller of choice.  I have to say that with Bristol’s unplanned pregnancy, the Katie Couric interview, the $150,000 $180,000 clothes debacle, the turkey interview, and now this, the Palin clan is really making Alaska look like a classy, forward-looking state.

North to the Future, indeed.

Monday Briefs December 8, 2008

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A few little items that didn’t really merit a post on their own:

  • The District 7 recount is scheduled for tomorrow.  Check here for news as it comes in.
  • The Sarah Palin clothing story resurfaced– the cost of the clothes is now up to $180,000, and the cost of her makeup was $110,000.  I really dislike this story- it feels so tabloid-ey. Even though I find the expenditure wasteful in the extreme and indicative of poor judgment, I’m not planning on bringing it up again unless someone brings charges or something.
  • A grand total of six Alaskans contributed to Obama’s transition fund.  One of them was my sister’s second grade teacher.  Alaska is a small place.
  • Ted Stevens has asked for a new trial in Alaska.  No clue if the request will be granted, but if it is, good luck finding an impartial jury here… at least that’s what Stevens is banking on, I’m sure.

Palin Won’t Release Troopergate Deposition December 5, 2008

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ADN’s political blog is reporting that the governor’s office is refusing to release the deposition Sarah Palin gave to the Alaska Personnel Board.  Apparently Palin views the matter as over and done with, and wants to put it behind her.  She’s also refusing to release Todd’s deposition and a host of other related material.

Her promise to make the personnel board’s findings public, she says, didn’t apply to material which was not explicitly in the final report.  That promise notwithstanding, what does Sarah have to gain by refusing to make her testimony public?  Much of her side of the story has already been made public in the news media, and I don’t anticipate that her answers to the personnel board were substantially different than the ones we’ve heard, so she probably doesn’t have to worry about charges of her story changing.  Furthermore, the personnel board cleared her of wrongdoing, so nothing she or Todd said in the depositions can be that damaging, can it?  I’m baffled.

I will say this: the question of whether Sarah Palin acted improperly in
a) trying to get Trooper Wooten fired, and/or
b) in removing Walt Monegan as Commissioner of Public Safety
completely aside, the one thing I’m taking away from this case so far as an Alaskan is that our governor, whose chief talking point in the campaign was that Alaska’s government should be transparent and accountable to the people, didn’t mean what she said.  

More than anything else, I’m disappointed.

UA Board of Regents Meeting: Highlights December 3, 2008

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I went to the UA Board of Regents meeting on non-political business, but it was a long meeting, and I had the opportunity to hear what Martha Stewart (no, not that Martha Stewart), the university’s Director of Federal Relations, had to say about the new political reality for Alaska in Washington, D.C.  Here are the high points:

  • She thinks that Alaska won’t be badly damaged with regard to appropriations: although Stevens is gone from the appropriations committee, his best friend Dan Inouye (D-HI) is the chairman, and Inouye knows what it’s like for Alaska due to his friendship with Stevens and his experience as a senator from a non-lower-48 state.  Inouye is likely to remain friendly to Alaska.
  • With regard to our existing Senate committee appointments, she said that having Lisa Murkowski on the Energy & Natural Resources committee is going to prove very beneficial to Alaska as we work to restructure the U.S.A.’s energy economy.  She also mentioned that Mark Begich has put in for a variety of appointments, including Appropriations and Commerce.  She thinks it’s unlikely he’ll get Appropriations but Commerce is a definite possibility.
  • She characterized Stevens’ staff as “still in shock” after the defeat, and unsure of their future.  She’s not sure how many, if any, will be picked up by Begich for his staff, but that Stevens’ office on the Hill will close December 22.
  • Of Don Young, she said, “This is probably his last term in office.”  I didn’t have a chance to ask why she thinks that.  Young’s challengers have certainly improved in terms of credibility and posing a legitimate threat, but he won this past race pretty handily even if it wasn’t the 40% thrashing he usually delivers.  Perhaps Stewart is expecting that Coconut Road earmark to catch up to him in court?

That was basically it.  There were other highlights to the meeting, but for the most part they were university-related, not politics-related.  Enjoy your Wednesday.

Oh wait- I just remembered I have one other quote to relate.  University President Mark Hamilton apparently met with Governor Palin at the Great Alaska Shootout basketball tournament in Anchorage last weekend- just prior to her trip to Georgia to campaign for Saxby Chambliss- and Hamilton had this to say:

“I reminded her that we [the University] have no money… she was very happy and very upbeat, and what that means in a political setting I have no idea.”

Sounds like politics as usual.