Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Crazy Politics Heats Up!

As predicted here and absolutely everywhere else, Alaska will have a new Governor next year. Incumbant Frank Murkowski (R), running a full-scale re-election campaign and unencumbered by serious scandal or wedge issue, managed to finish THIRD in his party's primary for his own job.

Amazing, really. In his time at the state's helm he did little wrong (if less right) and was too boring to offend. People just have learned to roundly hate him.

The winner was Sarah Palin. She takes on Tony Knowles, who was already Gov. twice, but was outed by term limits, making room for Frank.

Which means our next Governor will be one of two things:

A Democrat.

Or Hot.

Friday, August 11, 2006


Jalisco has a silent J, right? Same with San Jose.

So if you pronounce them backwards, you'd keep the J silent, right?
something like "oh-ks-il-ah" and "Ay-zoh-Nas"

Don't bother sounding those out - just concede the Silent J point.

Now DO bother sounding it our for Juneau.

Does it sound like "Hoonah?"

Or you can take the Ferry.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

"Stay Cool! Have a Crazy Summer!"

Take a good, hard look at this man. This is Frank Murkowski, Alaska's soon-to-be-former Governor and probably the most tone-deaf politician currently drawing a public paycheck in America.

And, boy oh boy, did he defend that title today.

Murkowski's litany of offenses to the political craft and to common sense are too long to retell here. Appointing his daughter to the US Senate ranks high on the list, as does his ceaseless, tantrum-like pursuit of a private jet to be placed at his disposal while Governor, arguing the state police could use it as well, despite its well-publicized inability to land on a vast majority of Alaska's unimproved airfields.

From ANWR to the Gas Pipeline to Bridges to Nowhere, Murkowski runs his office like Brewster ran his millions.

Today, though, I offer you the most astonishing display of political ineptitude since San Diego Republican Howard Kaloogian started publishing pictures of "peaceful, downtown Baghdad," his bestest friends in Iraq and his personal relationship with Dubya.

That might not be fair. Kaloogian was a small-time hack - nay, a no-time hack - who took a longshot on riding the Lie Train, hoping it could get him places his record and talent couldn't. He failed, which is what small-timers do.

Frank Murkowski isn't a small-timer. He shouldn't be failing. He was a US Senator for 20 years and he is the Governor of The ByGawd Biggest State In The Union.
He can run campaigns and win elections. So how did today happen?

(And let me be clear: I wish this Governor no particular electoral harm. He sent me a very nice, nearly personal letter last week for helping out on our Crazy tilted-boat rescue. And other than his personal plane, I can't name a policy of his I strongly oppose. His Gas Line work has been particularly yeoman-like. This post, and other chronicles of his antics in this space, is just a recording of an ongoing political trainwreck far too violent, gory and destructive to turn away from)

Facing a stiff primary challenge from two formidable opponents, Ken Binkley and Sarah Palin, Murkowski made the mistake of accepting the chance to debate them in a round table on local TV.

Sarah Palin and Ken Binkley are almost comicly young, energetic and good looking. Whether they are Rhodes Scholars or Kaloogian-order baffoons is immaterial. This was a TV debate and they each look like movie stars (OK, sitcom stars) and they talk a tremendous, TV-ready game.

Frank Murkowski, by any measure, is a jowly, akward, old man. He scolds and gets flustered and visibly pouts. He's Nixon without the hair grease.

As hopeless a mismatch as it was, it got worse in the studio.

The one thing Murkowski has is height - he's a big guy.

This debate was held sitting around a small, Denny's-sized round table. So not only was his height negated, he was denied an expansive square desk behind which to hide the fact that he is, unlike his opponents, fat. Also, being a bit gangly, he had nowhere to rest his arms, which made him look fidgity.

For the entirety of the debate, the incumbant Governor looked like a kid who flunked fifth grade and didn't fit in the desk his second time through.

My lesson is this: It is ridiculous that Murkowski's campaign staff even allowed him to go on.

Then the debate started. And it got much, much worse.

As Palin and Binkley took turns in a particularly long-winded spat of gang-up-on-the-Incumbant (what did he expect?), this time over ethics, Frank - looking pissed - turned to Binkley and accused him of lying about his education on his website.
What, exactly, asked Binkley, is a lie?
Frank then accused him - outloud, on camera, bigger'n'shit - of NOT GRADUATING FROM HIS FAIRBANKS HIGH SCHOOL!!!!

To everyone's credit, neither astonished silence nor raucous laughter overcame the set.

That would have been my reaction because that is a staggering accusation if it is true, and an even more staggering one if it isn't.

In fact, let's take a hard look at it.

Ask yourself - have you ever heard of a person higher up the food chain than, say, asst Night Manager at a Target, accused of lying about graduating from high school? It just isn't one of those things that people lie about.
College, sure - everybody, it seems, lies about college. People lie about thier GPAs, lie about activities, even lie about how many times they got laid, bending the truth up or down depending on the audience.
There was Notre Dame's old football coach who said he graduated from somewhere and just flat didn't. There's that Republican running for congress out east who says he has a Masters from Harvard, only what he has is a Masters from Harvard's "extension" school , aka night school (and who called himself a Gulf War combat vet but never left the US... but let's stay focused).
There's Dan Quayle who didn't want to lie so he refused to discuss college altogether.

We accept some lying about college because those of us who went probably lied a little to get INTO college and lied a bit more to get a job that got us out.

But surely nobody lies about the simple, true/false question of finishing high school, right? At least not outside of MySpace.

So now we have to decide: which of two seemingly impossible events has occured?

  • Has a man reached a status in life where he is a serious threat to become Govenor of a state, and yet feels safe lying about the basic act of graduating from high school, and may have a history of doing so? Maybe he graduated, maybe he did not - surely the latter is no bar from office. But has he lied about such a small thintg? And if so, has he never been caught?


  • Has Alaska's second-most successful politician (who studied behind Alaska's most successful politician when they served together in DC) just inaccurately accused an opponent of a sin that can literally be proven or disproven in less than a minute? Has the Governor of Alaska, veteran of a dozen major races, on a televised debate, announced the the sky is green?
The answer: the sky is blue. And Murkowski blew it.

Binkley, as his campaign joyfully proved, graduated from high school in 1971. In fact, he finished early, and apparently did not march with his graduating class (another jaw dropper: Binkley produced the original letter from the principal inviting him, as an early-graduater, to come back and march - who would keep that?).

If you need my wild-ass guess, it appears Murkowski's staff took Binkley's absense at the ceremony (perhaps recorded in a picture) as evidence he did not graduate and ran with that - which would be the all-time, hands down worse "Op-Research" work in Dirty Tricks history.

There may even be some 'missing credits, later earned'-issues developing in the story.

But Binkley is a high school grad.

His claims to college education, as presented on his website, may be open for criticism - it lists Western Washington University under "Education", which a reader might take to mean 'graduate.' The site claims no degree, but then it doesn't steer the reader away from assuming it, either. Predictably, Binkley didn't graduate from there.

Deceptive? I'd allow for 'slightly' but a) its a campaign website and b) so what?

It can't sully the shining brilliance of Murkowski's high school debacle.

That just can't be topped....

Or. So. I. Thought.

So here is what happened next: apparently, behind the scenes, Murkowski said if Binkley could prove he graduated, Murkowski would apologize.

Fair enough. Dangerous ground for Big Frank, but fair enough.

Binkley proved it.

And Frank apologized... ON TV!!!!

The picture at the top of this post - the sad-sack, back-alley-lookin', whipped-dog picture - is from the interview. He looked die-rectly into the camera and apologized to Binkley, by name.

I'm beginning to think Murkowski wants out of his race worse than Tom Delay.

How could this have happened? How could a man, whom the camera despises in his most triumphant of moments, be sent out to humble himself like this?

Has the campaign never heard of a press release? "Gov. Murkowski Announces New Information In Binkley Research; Issues Apology; Binkley Still Sucks"

There are only about 10 million low-key ways to weasel your way out of that mistake.

No. Let's send the ol' bear out there, tell him to eat shit on camera, let the anchors laugh and laugh and laugh.

To put this political event in the context I put all political events, if I was told a West Wing character was running Frank's campaign, just about the only one I could still suspect would be Zoe's French boyfriend who put Ecstacy in her drink and got her kidnapped.
That might be Frank's last chance.

FINAL POINT: two days ago, BP shut down it's Prudhoe Bay oil operation, a news story unequaled in size and scope since the Exxon Valdez, or at least since those 12 people took simultaneous headers off the mountain outside Anchorage.

Meaning... this would have been a GREAT WEEK to take a page from Dubya, and Act Like A Leader. Be A Decider. Do What Governors Do.

If Murkowski could have just put forth the IMPRESSION that he was On The BP Thing, he'd have bought huge points. But if that was out of reach, at least this was almost an impossible week to screw up so badly in the campaign that your screw up actually makes the news.

And there he is, on the news.

Well, I'll tell ya how I would have handled it. I'd have sent him out there with a 1971 Lathrop high yearbook and a sharpie. I'd have told him to grin as wide as those jowly cheeks will let him and sign it:

Stay cool!
Have a Crazy Summer!
BFF!!!! - Frank"

Monday, August 07, 2006

8% of domestic Oil, 100% of domestic Crazy

The World's All-Time/All-Comers/Retire the Trophy/Grand Mullah Champion
of "Blandness of Name-times-Power Wielded", John Browne, CEO of
British Petroleum for the last 13 years, was in Anchorage recently.

Though you may suspect he wanted a shot at our late-arriving Salmon
run, it turns out he dropped by to - a deep breath may be in order here
- SHUT DOWN Prudhoe Bay!


That's 8-percent of US oil production, and the US is 10 percent of
world supply!

I'm no economist but- wait, I almost am an economist, and my Laffer
curve sure hopes you filled up your tanks this past weekend. And maybe
bought a good bike.

Big Crazy. But there's also some BP CEO-Small Crazy to soak in, too.

Mr. Browne - or rather, LORD Browne, thankee - is one of the top -
what? - 100? 50? 20? CEOs on earth. Unimaginable wealth, lecturer to
Kings and Presidents, an oil imperialist of the highest order,
conquests all over the world. In fact, I direct your attention to the
link below - the BP press release on the shutdown - and to the title of
the next BP release listed: "BP Hosts Blair and Schwarzenegger Climate
Change Meeting"
On the Juice scale, I think we can safely put ol' John in the "You
sendin' Lord Browne? Shit, negro - that's all you had to say!"-Level.

So take the time to read through this interview as he recalls his
younger days in Alaska. He lived off Spenard, the eternal armpit of
You can feel the glee and astonishment as he recalls it all. He may
overthrow governments for breakfast now, but when he lived here, he had
to get up early to even have it.

Interview -
Shutdown story -

As always -

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Crazy Boat, Take II

Another boat, another run-in with Crazy.

As chronicled just below in last week's post, we went out to a very-broke boat off Adak, way-the-hell-out-there in the Aluetian chain. As mentioned, while my friends and teammates assigned that day to our helicopters got to pull everybody off the ship, I got to circle it and take pictures on the C-130.

Thems the breaks.

Cut to last Friday, where I was for the second time in a week called at work to come in, this time at the consulting firm I work at. This one stung, too, since our boss there had JUST sent me to get beer for the office, and I'd spent his money on a Black Butte Porter, my favorite of all the flavors.
Another boat mission, another way-the-hell-out-there in the Pacific deal - this time North of the Aluetians rather than South. But this time I was on the helicopter.

6 hours later, we pulled into a hover over a perfectly upright but steaming-at-10knots fishing vessel. Myself and Paul Nelson hoisted down onto the deck, between smokestacks and cranes, and retrieved a relatively healthy by medical standards, and VERY healthy by body-size standards, Hawaiian fisherman. Listed at two and half bills, but I wouldn't be surprised if that was low.

Back on deck, trying to hoist out with the litter, I got about 3 feet off the deck when the ship hit a wave and sent me and the patient crashing over a railing, his 300-lbs-counting-the-litter on top of me. Not often you get the chance to snap both femurs 500 miles from help, but here was my chance.
It was not to be.
I rolled off of the railing the one direction I could, which was directly under the litter - I'm here to rescue this guy; somebody pull him off me.
So that was fun.

But once we got up the hoist, it was an uneventful 5 hour ride home. After 30 minutes of monitoring, pulse and BP checks and starting an IV (got it on the first stick, thankee), I gave up pretending that he was sick and let him sleep most of the way home.

Fortunately, Paul grabbed a lifering from the boat on the way up. When we got back at about 2 a.m., we took some shots at the Section.

If you're wondering what's in my right hand, that's a Black Butte Porter I grabbed on the way out the door 12 hours earlier. Thankee.