Friday, November 30, 2007

Last Word on Illegal Immigration

Fortunately, there are a number of excellent cartoonists. One of the best is Paul Conrad. This 1999 (I think that's what it says) cartoon really captures how I feel about immigration. Were the passengers on the Mayflower 'legal'? With the right sophistry you could make the argument they were. But I just don't see any way to logically draw the line about which illegals should go home. The same arguments we hear today in the fashion of their day - whether about Italians, Irish, Eastern Europeans, Chinese - were said from the beginning. And the basic argument about which immigrants to keep out boils down to "well, those who arrived later than when my family." Did you know that in the late 1800's and early 1900's you didn't even have to have US citizenship to vote? That's how the big city political machines in Boston and New York were able to organize the immigrants. The US Constitution didn't set the rules for who can vote, that is left up to each state. Women were not precluded from voting in the Constitution, only by the states.

Section. 4.

The Times, Places and Manner of holding Elections for Senators and Representatives, shall be prescribed in each State by the Legislature thereof; but the Congress may at any time by Law make or alter such Regulations, except as to the Places of chusing Senators.

The Congress shall assemble at least once in every Year, and such Meeting shall be on the first Monday in December, unless they shall by Law appoint a different Day.

In fact:
A Boston city councilor wants the city to allow legal immigrants to vote in municipal elections, a move that could increase the number of eligible voters in the city by as much as a third and dramatically alter the city's political landscape.

A measure by Councilor at Large Felix D . Arroyo, supported by four other council members, would extend voting rights to about 95,000 immigrant residents who live in the country legally but are not citizen
I'm sure that will get some people riled up. That's not my intent. Rather, I just want people to think beyond their normal thought neighborhoods. If we really believe in democracy, then people who are affected by the policies should have a right to vote for the leaders. Is it fair that only Americans can vote for the President of the US when that office affects so much of the rest of the world? No, I'm not advocating this, but it is something to think about.

[Update September 4, 2010:  Paul Conrad died today at age 86.  We'll miss your wit and ability to capture truth in a few words and lines of ink.]

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Preparing to go into the Rabbit Hole

How does one prepare to go to federal prison? Monday, December 3, Tom Anderson reports to FCI (Federal Correctional Institute) Sheridan in Oregon. Tom suggested I read The Rabbit Hole, a blog written by another felon who entered a Florida FCI for three months last March. [Like all blogs it goes in reverse chronological order. Below is the beginning of the first post, thus it's at the bottom of the March Archives]

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Introduction and Background

On February 13, 2007, I was sentenced to 3 months confinement in a federal prison followed by 3 years supervised release with a special condition of 3 months home confinement with electronic monitoring.

In 6 days, I report to the Federal Prison Camp in Pensacola, FL. I must self-report by 2pm, however, the nice lady in the Receiving and Discharge department recommended I show up by noon or I risk not being able to purchase any necessary items from the commissary before the weekend (i.e. toothpaste, toothbrush, toilet paper, soap, shampoo, etc.). I am leaving Charlotte on a 9:40am (EST) flight, arriving in Pensacola at 10:27pm (CST). I will then take a cab to the prison 10 miles away. I will arrive with the clothes on my back, my wedding band (no stones), $1000 cash to place in my "account" for commisary and phone calls, reading glasses, and my driver's license (airline ID). It is my understanding I will be strip-searched and my clothes (and hopefully driver's license) returned to my wife by mail. By my calculations, I will be released on June 29, 2007. I have already purchased the return ticket so I hope I calculated correctly. I have 72 hours to get back to Charlotte and contact the probation department to begin my home confinement.

I have decided to share the thoughts of my prison experience because of the paucity of information available on the subject (nothwithstanding a handful of books and websites I have found). There are, I am sure, good reasons for this. For one, people who have been convicted of a crime are not usually interested in publishing details of a consequence that may be a source of shame or embarrassment. Fair enough. Additionally, the internet as we know it is only about 12 years old and blogging is an even newer phenomenon so the vast majority of current inmates lack experience with the entire concept of sharing their life in such a public manner. Finally, blogging requires a certain technical expertise and internet marketing savvy. None of these are constraints for me.

I am not normally comfortable with sharing my personal life in such a public manner. I sympathize with the fears of Winnie-the-Pooh:

"When you are a Bear of Very Little Brain, and you Think of Things, you find sometimes that a Thing which seemed very Thingish inside you is quite different when it gets out into the open and has other people looking at it. "

Nonetheless, there is value to me, and I hope to others, in documenting my experience.

I will not spend much time commenting on either the process or the substance of the government's prosecution of my case. The law is the law and the facts are the facts. Whether I agree or disagree at this point on this matter or that matter is really irrelevant. I entered a guilty plea, accepted responsibility, paid restitution, and received my sentence. It is what it is.

In addition, given that I am about to serve time in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons followed by 3 years under the supervision of the Federal Department of Probation, it is simply not prudent to be commenting on my case beyond what has been entered in the record, either in the form of documents submitted by my lawyers or statements made directly by me in court. Finally, the entire experience is still somewhat raw and it is common wisdom that one should avoid making comments on the record that one might later regret without adequate time for reflection.

Nonetheless, I know that the first question you are asking is, "What did this guy do to receive a federal prison sentence? How did he get to this point?"

The barest facts are as follows: On July 21, 2005, my home was raided by 7 FBI agents at 6am. . . .

[This excerpt came from here.]

Anchorage International Film Festival - Saturday free flicks for kids

Looking for something to do with the kids on Saturday morning? The Anchorage International Film Festival, which begins Friday Nov. 30, has a free session of short films billed as for the family. Wilda Marston Auditorium, Loussac Library, 10:45 am.

You can check the daily schedule for the weeklong festival here. (The daily schedule drop down window is the top window on the left.)

Kotee's Back from Iraq

It was a very pleasant surprise to see Kotee helping out at the Thai Kitchen the other night. He's part of the Thai Kitchen 'family' who have finished school and worked at the restaurant under the guidance of Sommai and Orathai and Ben. This is a traditional Thai/Lao 'social service' model that gets no funds from government. Over the years, Sommai and Ben's four sons have worked in the family restaurant, learning lots of skills - running the cash register, good social skills dealing with lots of different customers, gaining lots of 'uncles' and 'aunts' among the customers of a wide range of professions and political persuasions. In addition to their own four sons, there have always been 'cousins' - sometimes kids who were having trouble at home or at school - who were brought into the family to finish school, have a job, and be with a family that set high standards of good behavior. And in return Anchorage has had a great Thai restaurant for over 20 years, plus the positive spillover effect for their landlord, their suppliers, and the school system. And don't worry Paul, they are all here legally.

Among these family members is Kotee. When he finished high school he joined the army and worked it out so he got stationed at Fort Rich. He's been in Iraq for the last 14 months. His main job was electronics support - communications, radios, night vision, optics... His stories were full of jargon and I had to ask him to stop and explain often. He was in a FOB (Forward Operating Base) in Iskandiriayh most of the time. They had a huge power plant right nearby that supplied power for much of Iraq. The pollution was awful and people downwind seemed to have an unusual number of physical ailments. But they could use the smoke as their windsock. He said the area is also known as the triangle of death.

He said his laptop kept him sane. He could go into his shared room (when he described it it sounded like one of those tiny Japanese hotel rooms, but it was air conditioned) and watch dvd's etc. But sometimes internet was closed down, when they were on "Rivercity." He explained that meant someone had died and all communication out was shut down until the family was officially notified. He showed us a video he made of his life in Iraq. He was in the thick of things, saw vehicles, buildings, and people blown up, but seems to have come home physically and mentally ok. He's back in Anchorage til early next summer when he goes to Fort Lewis where he's been assigned after reenlisting for five years.

He's a great guy and we were very happy to see him back and healthy.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Late November, Where's the Snow?

Lone window washer at the BP building Tuesday.

Where's all the snow? Seward Highway looking north from Tudor Bridge.

Garden section at Lowe's. But they didn't have the screws we needed.

Chugach view along Tudor at Seward Highway.

I think I'll stay out of this office.

Guest Post or maybe ReQuest Post or maybe Prize Post

Tea N Crumpet left this comment:
This is today's (28 November 2007) 9 Chickweed Lane, one of the finest comics ever drawn. This would illustrate your blog and Alaska's corruption scandal very well!

I've never had a guest post before, or a request post, so, why not? (If it's too small to read, double click it and you can see a larger version)

OK, here it is. I've always liked the way the drawing is such an important part of this cartoonist's strip, but I must admit I don't totally get this one. But Tea is a regular and so she gets her request.

And I think Tea is hit 9,998, the closest to 10,000, so let's consider this post as one of her prizes. 10,003 has volunteered for dinner at Thai Kitchen if she (if I'm guessing right) is the winner. No reason why we can't have two winners.

Anti-Sanctuary Ordinance Buried Indefinitely

I got the following email tonight from the blogger at Independent Alaskan:

Despite the fact that the Anchorage Assembly postponed public testimony regarding Paul Bauer's anti-sanctuary ordinance, Assemblyman Allan Tesche moved to postpone the ordinance indefinitely. The motion passed 8-3 (Bauer, Coffey & Sullivan voted no). A second vote for reconsideration was 8-3, so the issue will not be brought up again!!! It's done!

I guess after someone last week who claimed to be Debbie Bauer wrote things like this on the ADN blog:

As for my husband's anti-crime ordinance, what don't you understand? Google for yourself and find out just what illegal immigration has done to this country. It speaks for itself. Not a waste of time, but one man's effort in making our city a safer place in which to live. So if you want to live with illegal's move, cause this city is going to change for the better.

Are you here legally? Everyone that is making the issue of illegal immigrants has something to hide themselves.
We are proud to be the decendents of immigrant familes that processed thru Ellis Island in the 1900's.

that wiser heads on the Assembly realized where this debate could have headed if not stopped now.

While getting the link to the ADN blog just now I noticed that Kyle Hopkins just blogged the same story with a sour note at the end:

In a surprise move -- surprise to me, anyway -- the Assembly voted to postpone indefinitely a proposal from Assemblyman Paul Bauer that would let police ask you for proof of U.S. citizenship.

That means it's dead.

Bauer just handed me a written statement in response. It says, in part:

"The eight Anchorage Assembly members voting to postpone indefinitely the ordinance "Local-Enforcement-Anti-Sanctuary" is a slap in the face of law-abiding, legal citizens."

If Paul Bauer is so strongly in favor of obeying the law he might want to work on the people who run red lights, speed past schools, and beat their wives. I suspect they, and drunk drivers, cause a lot more harm to Anchorage than illegal aliens.

Funny how things work. I got an email that linked me to a page with this video. It has quotes from the bible about how people should help 'aliens'. I had been recalling that there were a number of passages I recalled that said people should take in and help strangers (which I was taught meant something like people from other lands). I think the video is a little heavy handed. But it saves me the time of finding these quotes myself. I know that quotes can be taken out of context so I got my bible out to check on the passages. The wording is a slightly different, but the key difference in the passages I looked up was that the video uses the word 'alien' where my bible says "stranger.' But alien is probably a closer translation to what those words mean in modern American English.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Leslie A. Gallant, Executive Administrator, Alaska State Medical Board Says...

I spoke to Leslie A. Gallant, Executive Administrator of the Alaska State Medical Board today to find out how someone could prevent an applicant from getting a license to practice medicine in Alaska.


Doug Pope, Bill Bobrick's attorney, alleged in court today and again in an interview after court that Lesil McGuire had called his client's wife and threatened that if Bobrick testified against Tom Anderson (Lesil's husband) that Jessica (Bobrick's wife, who was in medical school) would never get licensed in Alaska to practice medicine. As I understand it, he was trying to use this as an example of risk that his client faced by cooperating with the government. If there was a great risk, then Bobrick might be able to lower the points used to determine the length of his sentence. From television courtroom trial shows I've seen, I'm guessing this was intended for organized crime or other cases where witnesses testify at great risk - even death. [This is all related to the Tom Anderson trial and other political corruption investigations going in Alaska.] And in the end, the judge said he didn't give much credit to this issue.

Aside from the fact that the phone call apparently was not recorded so we really don't know what was said, I began to wonder whether someone could actually derail a doctor's medical licensing. So I called the Executive Administrator of the State Medical Board, Leslie A. Gallant.

Basically, she said that a person's application goes before the eight member medical board and they have specific statutory requirements for approving or rejecting an applicant. If they reject someone, they have to cite the statutory reason for rejection. Lesil McGuire's father was on the board in the mid-1990's. Below is my summary of the whole telephone interview. It's close to verbatim, but since I didn't have it on tape, I've changed it from first person to third unless I use quotes. But essentially these are Gallant's words.


Leslie Gallant said that the State Medical Board grants and denies licenses. Anyone who submits the proper credentials and goes through the process is considered on their merits. They don’t consider who they know or who their dad is, they only consider the applicant.

Five doctors, one PA [physician assistant] and two Public Members sit on the board. Dr. David McGuire [Lesil McGuire's father] was appointed to the board in April 1992, but he resigned from board - she didn’t know the exact date - sometime in 1995, because they had a very public case with another doctor named McGuire. People were confusing the names of the two physicians, so he resigned so there would be no confusion that their action didn’t involve him.

Dr. David McGuire is one of the people that interviewed and hired Gallant in 1993. “He has never, never tried to influence a board decision, at least not through me.” [I understood that from her intonation that she was simply saying nothing she knew about, and not implying that he might have through someone else.]

When I asked how someone could affect whether someone got a license or not she said that she gets calls sometimes from legislators because some medical office or clinic is riled up because they are hiring a new doctor and complaining because we aren’t doing it fast enough. They call their legislator, that "we aren’t fast enough. 'What are you guys doing?' they ask. We aren’t licensing them because we have an issue with them. When we have an issue, we have to gather more information. I just explain what’s going on.”

Meetings of the board are open, public meetings. Disciplinary proceedings, everything is in the public domain. A few documents held confidential. AMA (American Medical Association) profile, National Physicians’ Data Bank (NPDB) report, and the exams scores when they got out of medical school. Those three documents are confidential, because the originating organizations require that they be held confidential. Later she added that health information about applicants is also confidential. They have an attorney general ruling saying that certain health information should be redacted. They ask this information to be sure that a doctor doesn’t have a health problem that could negatively impact their ability to practice - say a surgeon who has Parkinson's and has tremors. They can restrict their practice to certain things, like independent medical evaluations - for workers comps or personal injury lawsuits - but never procedures. They can restrict their practice making accommodations so they can still practice without endangering the public.

Everything else is open to the public. License from other states, application, etc.

"It’s never happened in my experience that someone has tried to prevent someone from being licensed." The Board is the entity of state government that grants or denies a license. They have to cite legal grounds for denial. They have to cite specific statute or regulations that the denial is based on. For example, a suspended license somewhere else is grounds for denial, because the law says that.

They are taking quasi-judicial actions when they deny or discipline. They have to cite their legal grounds for anything or everything they do. If the board tried to deny someone, and it happens sometimes - say there is a doctor with marginal exam scores, not glowing recommendations, maybe behavior problems, not the sharpest knife in the drawer. “But when those come before the board, I have to say, you might not like the application, but you don’t have the grounds to deny it.”

The person’s due process rights allow them to appeal the denial. It goes before an administrative law judge. Even a single medical board member would have to convince seven other board members. It wouldn’t happen. “I have no experience of anyone ever calling me asking me to deny an application. We have eight members, if they see no grounds, they can’t deny.”

I asked if the public files were available on line. She said no, they were all in Juneau, but that anyone can ask for a copy of a licensee file and they can get it.

End of interview, me talking again. I know that people can talk to people, not everyone is honest, and not everything is totally clear cut. But it seems that someone coming out of medical school, with passing grades, no disciplinary actions, or other negative marks on her record is certainly going to be very hard to turn down for a license, even if you had connections to the board members. I'm not saying it couldn't be done, but it sounds like it would be pretty hard to get away with. This would seem more clear cut than grading bar exams for example.

A couple notes. As I said in an earlier post, I have spoken with Tom Anderson. I think that I have covered the trials in a relatively objective manner so far. I think that my talking to Anderson or his wife [Lesil McGuire] rather than biasing me to slant things, makes me more sensitive to possible other views on things. I'll just leave this note here and let the reader decide. I think, for example, I would have had this question anyway. In fact, Leslie Gallant said that the ADN had already called her today. I don't know if that was LisaDemer's doing, but I suspect it was. You continue to impress me, Lisa.

Douglas Pope Interview Excerpt after Bobrick Sentencing

I really need to get a bigger memory card for my digital camera. But here are a couple bits of the interview with attorney Pope after Bobrick received what has to be considered a fairly light sentence of five months incarceration and five months home confinement and a $3000 fine.

The tape does suggest that the viewer remember that:

1. The phone call, as I understood what Prosecutor Bottini said, was not recorded. Pope's interpretation is based on what he has heard about the phone call. We know that messages even between two people get distorted. This phone conversation was made 11 months ago. [See below] What we heard in court was presented in an attempt to lower his defendant's sentence. He argued something like the threats to defendants is a legitimate factor for considering the risk that defendants take to testify. My guess this was put in to sentencing guidelines for organized crime and drug cases where witnesses might be threatened with death. We did not hear how Lesil McGuire would have characterized the conversation.

2. There is a quasi-judicial process for determining who gets medical licenses in the State of Alaska, and a conversation with the Executive Administrator of the Alaska State Medical Board this afternoon suggests to me that it is highly unlikely that a personal feud could prevent
a qualified applicant from being licensed. I'll post my notes on that interview in a separate post.

Notes from Bobrick Sentencing

The court calendar for today was not up on the US District Court's webpage last night, so I guessed the sentencing would begin at 9am. This morning it was up - 8:30. I got to court around 8:50am and the guards at security told me the court was sealed. As I got up the stairs everyone was waiting outside the courtroom. Lucky me.

These are my notes from court today in the sentencing of Bill Bobrick. Actually, I don't even know what he was charged with since there wasn't a trial. He confesse, made an agreement with the government and has worn a wire for them. He testified in the Anderson trial. Judge Sedwick has been the judge for all the trials, so he has been able to see how the various defendants who are cooperating with the government have contributed to the evidence against those who have gone to court. Bobrick was the first of these cooperating defendants to be sentenced. Others that I know of are Bill Allen and Rick Smith of Veco and Frank Prewitt.

As always I offer a WARNING here. These are my court notes - as fast as my ears could hear, my brain could interpret, and my fingers could type. But a lot is missing. This is not a transcript, but a sketch of what was said.

Filing unsealed,
Bobrick wore a wire about people still under investigation.
[Based on his voice, it seems Judge Sedwick has a cold.]

Pope: First talk about Threat, document filed in public. Then argue for additional downward departure.

Clear that Bobrick told so many people he’d committed a crime, his wife in 3rd year in medical school. Tom Anderson and wife, had socialized in 2004-6 time period, When clear that he was cooperating, Bobrick got phone call from Lesil that she would take steps to prevent Jessica’s medical license in AK. She got Jessica’s phone number.

Then Bobrick called Bottini, understood Lesils calls to be threats, as state senator and daughter of Dr. McGuire. FBI interviewed them and phone message, and contacted Stockler [Anderson attorney] this was violation of condition of release. These threats were credible (Bobrick’s belief). We think govt will agree. Govt took contact seriously. Bobrick was when he continued cooperating against Anderson, was subject to significant danger threat to his family income.

Other cases, don’t go into details those threats. [referred to other cases that took into consideration threats to witnesses] We believe this was a credible threat that should be considered and we don’t know whether it will be carried out. Jessica Bury (Bobrick) Is in 3rd year of medical school and and LM is still a State Senator.

In our view, essentially what the govt. has suggested is four level departure, under the circumstances, we believe a 6-8 level departure is warranted. No questions Bobrick’s cooperation was significant and useful. Using the Washington case a two level departure is warranted.

Govt. Could take the position that Bobrick’s testimony was not instrumental, but it was certainly useful and highly …… The evidence that Tom Anderson received $23,000 out of $24,000 came late and came from Bobrick. No question that govt would agree here, no dispute, the FBI considered Bobrick to be truthful, reliable, trustworthy. Washington court found that to be important that trustworthiness held by both govt. And fbi.

Mr. B was more than debriefed, active cooperation, wearing a wire, testified in court. My belief, when Joe Bottini did redirect of Bobrick, that is what sank TA. Anderson received over $23 of the 24K paid to Pacific Publishing.

The credible threat made by Lesill McGuire. Personally, I thought she was tampering with the witness and she should have been indicted your honor. Whether that threat is realized remains to be seen. His cooperation was timely, in our office the afternoon he was contacted, and he’d signed the agreement. I could argue for a ten level departure downward is warranted, but realistically, I’m arguing for 6-8 level departure. It would not put court or government in awkward position when it comes to sentencing Smith or Allen.

Bottini - first the communication from Lesil McGuire. It can be conceived as a threat, New Years Day this year. Tried to track down Stockler. The following day told him if that happened again we would seek the end of Anderson’s release on bond.

J: Was this recorded? [I think]

B: Asked Bobrick for his wife’s phone number in Minnesota. Was not captured in recording, but I don’t doubt Bobrick’s recollection of what she said. I have no doubt it was a veiled threat about her ability to get a medical license in AK. They knew he was cooperative at that time. For the purpose of trying to rattle his cage, which she succeeded in doing.

It’s a real shame people are saying things about you, this could affect your getting a license in AK. I think that was the purpose of Ms. McGuire saying this, she didn’t come out and say, If your husband testifies, you won’t practice medicine in the state, but it was a veiled threat and we believe that was the intent.

What should he receive. We recommended a four level downward departure. One year and a day. You saw the evidence and saw how the plan, scheme developed. Bobrick was the source of this scheme with Prewitt. He was cooperative and did everything we asked. But tempered by what he did in this. We think we could have convicted TA without him, but he did help. We think a four level departure is reasonable. One year and a day.

J: I’m wrestling now with the extent of downward departure.
First, all the requirements of ??? Are clearly met. The extent of the downward departure. The matter is a close one. Part of the reason we are here is Bobrick’s part in the case. However, I do think a departure of 5 levels is appropriate. His assistance was of high value. A question whether his testimony was - he painted a very unflattering picture of his own conduct and assisting in other investigation, his cooperation about as much as the Govt could hope to get from anybody.

About threat from TA’s wife I can’t give too much credibility, I question, in the objective sense, I doubt it very credible. But from Bobrick’s view, it could have been serious and it could have affected his cooperation, But to B.’s credit, he cooperated as much as you could ask.

The 6-8 level is clearly too much. Even the government’s 4 level departure cuts his sentence in half. Consider a level 12 instead of 16. Rather than 24-30 months applicable. $3,000 to $300000, Qualifies for split sentence, part in prison, part in half way house. But under guideline, half would have to be served in incarceration.

Pope on appropriate sentence.

First, recognizing that guidelines do recognize that half to be served in prison, but the guidelines are advisory and urge the judge order that less than half or none of the time served be in incarceration and consistent with other cases. Will proceed

If court is going to adhere to the guidelines without going out any way, that the minimum sentence - ten months, I don’t think the govt will dispute. We believe the low end is warranted. Would like to address issue we raised in memorandum

Mr. Bobrick, I’ve been doing this a long time, the court knows that, referring to old case with your honor as private attorney, so court knows I’ve been doing this along time, I’ve been trying criminal cases for 30 years, I have never seen a person charged with a crime who is better suited for a sentence focused on rehabilitation. The many letters were not pleas for mercy, but to show the court what kind of person B is and what he could do in the future for the community. If he were in a halfway house, he would have opportunity to atone for the crimes.

Whatever his sentence, even if half of the sentence in imprisonment, then five months in home confinement or half-way house. Our recommendation is 5 and 5 so he can start the process of

Our position is this an appropriate situation where Mr. B serve all in ½ way house or half in halfway house and half in imprisonment.

J. You siad you think this is a perfect candidate for home confinement and doesn’t need structure of halfway house.

Pope: He is prepared for whatever. He will atone, STAR (Stand Together Against Rape] would allow him to work on the hotline. If home confinement would allow him to go out into the community so during the day he could do a 40-60 hour a week atoning for his crime, that would be his preference. Not clear whether home confinement would be able to stay or leave home…

J: He could do whatever the conditions the court imposes.

P. Then we believe he should be allowed to leave .

J: Thank you sir.

Bottini: I sort of jumped the gun about our ultimate

It’s been a long time since I worked with a white collar criminal who was so remorseful and I think that is significant. He never batted an eyelash about his own conduct. Immediately admitted he’d done wrong and was remorseful.

10-16 months falls in there. If you fashion a sentence…… The govt. Wont’ be upset.

Bobrick: Your honor, I’d like to address my remarks to court and people of the state of Alaska. I’ve had a long time to think about this day, but I don’t really have words to convey the depths of my shame and remorse. Not just the disappointed I’ve caused to family friends, and community, but the knowledge I played a part in contributing to the idea that our political system in Alaska is corrupt. I’ll carry that scar with me the rest of my life. No matter what sentence is imposed on me today. I’ll spend the next 30 years if I live so long, making up for what I’ve done and to pay back the people who have stood by me by continuing to undue the damage I’ve done. The only thing I can do is apologize again to all the people I’ve damaged. My wife plans on practicing medicine here, I’m not going anywhere. I plan to work to regain the trust of my community.

Factors: Nature and circumstances of offense - serious, as B has just said, and I agree. There are politicians who are corrupt. TA is one who was convicted and there are others. It seems as there is not a great difference between our system of government and those other corrupt systems around the world. Corruption has a way of corroding democracy. Considering he has not considered [committed?] another crime. It appears to me Mr. B is probably the most remorseful defendant that has ever walked in the courtroom. In a sense he stands in for all of us. An example of what we ought not to do, but also what we are capable of doing. I could do pure probationary. Consider any special assistance - whether medical or other. Has no such problems his needs could be adequately met.

Has to be fair for crime committed. A sentence that was purely probationary would not be sufficient. It must also deter others.

Required to consider what is likely to protect public from Bobrick. He is the least likely to come before this court again.

Required to consider the guidelines - they are only advisory, and consider disparities. The best way to do that is to stay within guidelines that judges around the country must consider in sentencing.

I think a sentence that includes a short period of incarceration followed by short period of home confinement is acceptable.
Ten months - five in incarceration, five in home confinement.

Probation of two years. Some risk of substance abuse, must be regularly tested for substance abuse.
Conditions: home confinement five months supervised
Monitored electronically, and defendant pay, free to leave for employment, medical, religious, and community service.
In addition to substance abuse testing, andy substance abuse programs.
3. Submit to search of person on reasonable suspicion of contraband.
6. No fire arm
7. 800 hours of community service, directs probation officer to consider my do this through Star, but not limited to this.

Defendant does has ability to pay modest fine - $3000
$100 to court. $50/month or ten% of his income.

Appeal - must be taken up in ten days.

Bobrick Sentenced to Ten Months

Bill Bobrick was sentenced this morning to ten months - five months incarceration and five months home confinement. The court was sealed for the first half hour or so. The Government asked for a five [four] step downward departure for sentencing and the defense asked for 8-10 step departure. The defense argued, the government and the judge agreed, that if there was ever a defendant who had shown contrition and had cooperated fully with the government, it was Bobrick.

In the end the judge gave a five step departure. Bobrick's cooperation and contrition clearly played a significant role in the sentencing. Somewhat in contrast to this image, after all the parties had left the court building, one of the Channel 2 camera people was complaining - and the other camera people were supporting her - that Bobrick had shoved ("not bumped") her on his way out. Bobrick did not stop to talk to the press - though his attorney did. I personally think the cameras are rather obnoxious and I only take pictures from afar or when someone is clearly willing to be photographed [but I don't have an editor expecting me to take pictures] but it seems to me the contrition and remorse he mentioned in court should include accepting the press as part of the atonement he talked about.

Defense attorney Pope began by arguing that New Years Day phone calls by Tom Anderson's wife, State Senator Liesel McGuire, were evidence of a significant threat to his client's financial well being. He said that she called Bobrick to ask for Bobrick's wife's phone number at medical school in Minnesota. Pope said that Bobrick did not give her that number, but she managed to call Bobrick's wife, Jessica, and 'in a veiled threat" suggested that if Bobrick testified against Tom Anderson that she would never get her medical license in Alaska. He mentioned that in addition to her role as a State Senator, her father is a prominent doctor so that the threat was credible, and seriously disturbed Bobrick. Pope said he notified the FBI immediately and that Anderson attorney Stockler was notified that this was a violation of Anderson's conditions of release. Prosecutor Bottini's take on this was that there was no voice message, but that it was clearly intended to influence Bobrick's testimony. It seems to me that due process is the right for someone to face her accusers and have her say. Since McGuire isn't facing charges here, perhaps due process is not the issue. But to have such allegations considered without McGuire's ability to challenge them seems a little questionable.

In the end, judge did not seem to give much weight to this threat in the sentencing, though he acknowledged that it might have had an affect on Bobrick at the time, he continued to cooperate fully.

Top Photo: Press surrounding Bobrick as he walks out of the courtroom.
Bottom Photo: Lisa Demer (ADN) and David Shurtleff (APRN) interviewing Bobrick attorney Doug Pope outside the courtroom.

Monday, November 26, 2007

And the winner is....

And the winner is.... My Sitemeter hit 10,000 on Nov 26 2007 at 4:29:56 pm (Alaska Time). Well, not sure yet about the winner. 9,998 has left a comment. I'll give 9,999, 10,000 and 10,001 a day to contact me. 10,002 went directly to an old page and probably never saw the announcement. I assumed people would be able to find the "View Profile" to find the email link. "View Profile" is in the right column between "About Me" and "Blog Archive"

Here's some of what I know about the finalists:

Visit 10,003 was from Cleveland, Ohio
Browser: Internet Explorer 7.0
Operating System: Microsoft WinXP
Linked direct to Whatdoino.

Visit 10,002 was from Montclair, New Jersey
Operating System Microsoft WinNT
Browser Internet Explorer 7.0
And this person got here googling "cow parsnip tea"

Visit 10,001 from Anchorage, Alaska
Operating System Microsoft WinXP
Came directly to the site.

Visit 10,000 from Lawrenceville, Georgia
Operating System Microsoft WinXP
Browser Internet Explorer 6.0
Googled "how do gangs affect 8th graders"

Visit 9,999 from Seattle, Washington
Lat/Long : 47.5951, -122.3326 (Map)
Operating System Macintosh MacOSX
Came direct

Visit 9,998 was from Wasilla, Alaska
Microsoft WinNT
Browser Firefox
Came direct

Visit 9,997 was from Anchorage
Operating System Macintosh MacOSX
Browser Safari 1.3
Came direct

Visit 9,996 was most likely the same person from Lawrenceville,Georgia
Operating System Microsoft WinXP
Googling: how do gangs affect 8th graders


We're getting close to 10,000 hits since I put site-meter on this blog. Probably in the next day or two someone will be that special visitor. Site-meter lets me know a fair amount about each visitor - but not who you are or your email address. So, Monday and Tuesday, maybe Wednesday, visitors should check if the site-meter number in the right hand column says 10,000. As you can see in the screen capture to the right, it is way down there, between "Blogs of Friends and Acquaintances" and "Labels." If it does, email me (there's a link in my profile, also in the right column) if you think you're number 10,000. Or if you are right around there, let me know who you are. I'll figure out a prize for the visitor I can identify who is closest to number 10,000.

And it doesn't matter if it is the 10,003rd visitor. After all, while 10,000 sounds like a nice round number, why shouldn't we celebrate the 10,003rd visitor instead? Probably just a legacy of humans having ten fingers and something about how our brain works that makes lots of zeros seem more important.

And if you want to see what information site-meter collects, click on the number (the real one, not the picture in this post). I've left it open so people could see it for themselves. Once you're on the summary page, you can any of the links under "Recent Visitor", and then click on any of the numbers listed in the "Detail" column to see what it shows for each person. A lot more information than I realized I was leaving at sites I visited.

I at Ten Months

Last January we visited I. at the hospital when he was born. Here he is ten months later.

As I looked at the video I had a couple of thoughts. Attending the Assembly work session on Paul Bauer's proposed ordinance to ask for people's proof of legal presence in the US whenever the police stop someone is making me think things I would never have thought of. Will someone watch this and ask what language is that? Who is that person? Why isn't she speaking English? Is she legally here? Yes, she's legally here, married to a native born US citizen, and making a positive contribution to the people of Alaska through her job and hard work. She's teaching her baby her native language in hopes that he will grow up totally fluent in both her native language and English. I wonder if Paul Bauer is fluent in another language besides English? He said he spent time in Germany in the military. I wonder if he spoke German when he was in German shops or did he use English? Maybe he did.

I find the paranoia about people not speaking English incomprehensible. The whole world speaks English. It's not going to die out. It's just Americans who don't speak other languages. Except immigrants and their children who are the people we have to depend on for translators. What would we do without Arab-Americans to help us understand what the Arab world is saying and writing?

And spending the evening with the baby and his family I had to think about what Tom Anderson will be missing when he leaves for prison. His youngest is a little older than I. Five years, minus whatever good time he manages to accumulate, will be a significant time in his child's life. Just as it is for people headed off for Iraq, people who might not come back to ever be in their kids' lives again. We should all be grateful for the many things we have that we take for granted, like being around our kids when they're growing up.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Lazy Run

I took my camera on my run today. The end of November is not supposed to be so snowless. Yes, there's some snow left over, but not very much.

A - I don't know that this little lake has a name. I checked Google maps - that's why there is a map at the end - and it isn't even on that map. But then I checked for the Municipality of Anchorage Trail Maps and found a map with the trails on it. And tweaked that a bit.

This is a marshy area in the summer. B on the map.

From the bike trail bridge over Northern Lights Blvd, looking west.

And east. The bridge pictures are at C on the map.

One day I'll do a whole post on Lanie. She's a wonderful human being and was one of the people who got Anchorage's great bike trails started. This is at D on the map.

These last two pictures are at E on the map, where the bike trail comes right up on Goose Lake.

This is also at the lake at A on the map. I couldn't tell what kind of bird it was, sort of scoter like. Usually only see them in summer and they have somewhat different markings. Maybe Catherine or Dianne (who's on her way back from bird watching in Bhutan - now that's a serious birder!) can identify it. I'm experimenting with different download levels from iMovie. This was CDRom quality. Not very good I'm afraid.

Map from Anchorage Municipality Trail Page I've added the A-E letters and the bright blue lake at A. The yellow dashed trail is my run - just under 4 miles. By connecting the trails through the university and then the Lanie Fleischer trail (the dark green one - covered with the yellow dashes of my route) I get about half the run in the woods.

Before "Before..."

To get to the movie yesterday (Before the Devil Knows You're Dead - and thanks to two commenters for explaining that the title comes from an Irish Toast, "May you be in heaven half an hour before the devil knows you're dead") we had to walk through the mall.

If this is a predictor of holiday shopping either lots of people joined the shopping boycott, people are becoming less materialistic, they were enjoying what was for some T-shirt weather (40s F), or the economy is down. Anyway, below is a brief visit to the mall on the way to the movie.

I did this quickly, but I played around with the 'billow' transitions, but decided not to take any more time last night to figure out why some were slow and others faster. I think the clips were too short. Also saved this at 'video' quality which means it takes up very little memory, but the visual quality is pretty degraded.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Before The Devil Knows You're Dead

[4/29/08: Title explanation in first comment]At one point in the movie the diamond cutter says something like, "There is evil in the world. Some people make money off it and others are destroyed by it."

I don't believe in the existence of evil as a force in the world, but clearly, there is metaphorical evil, and the Alaska political trials have demonstrated how some make money off of it, and others are destroyed. And some make money before the they are destroyed.

My writing about the political corruption trials here, has always had the goal to try to understand why some people succumb to temptation and others don't. The

traditional explanations - he's evil, he's bad, he's greedy - simply label people, as if the label were an explanation, end of discussion. But the labels don't explain how they got to be evil, bad, or greedy. Such labeling also puts the blame squarely on the individual and thus let's us change topics rather than look at the social, economic, and political structures that reward the 'bad' behaviors, such as requiring politicians to raise large amounts of money to get elected, thus setting up obligations to big contributors. This also takes the blame off of the rest of us who have tolerated this sort of corruption as long as we were the beneficiaries - all that earmarked loot from Uncle Ted for example. How many times have I heard someone say, "That's politics." But in a democracy, we the people are part of the political process, and if politics are corrupt, we bear some of the responsibility. We could spend more time learning about the candidates, we could sacrifice a little television or surfing to contact our legislators. We could stop saying "there's nothing I can do" and take some action. Of all states, Alaska's small population gives individual action much more impact.

Those who get angry at the convicted politicians because they don't seem to own up to their guilt enough for us, ought to face our own denial in all this - denial of our own lack of anger and action while the APOC was gutted, while campaign finance laws were weakened, that we were too lazy to get past the party labels in the polling place and continued to vote in the people we now so easily condemn. And if what you just read angers you and and you feel unjustly accused, then you know how Anderson, Kott, and Kohring have felt. I think they were wrong to feel that way, but their behavior was not that out of the norm in Juneau, and Kott and Kohring had been reelected regularly. That couldn't have happened without the majority in his district voting for him. And those who didn't bother to vote also share the blame. Kott was even elected Speaker of the House of Representatives. Why would he think he was doing anything wrong? He was doing, in his mind, what he needed to do. And we all use that excuse - we have lives to lead, we don't have time to get involved. But in a democracy, if the honest people don't get involved, you know who that leaves.

I'm not saying that these politicians aren't guilty and don't deserve to be punished. The first three have been tried and convicted. They will all serve time in prison. But their crimes couldn't have happened without the rest of us allowing the corruption in Juneau to get worse and worse. And they might well still be honored elected officials if the Department of Justice hadn't gotten involved. Righteous indignation about these defendants says the guilty have been punished, and thus it denies our complicity. And thus prevents us from taking the action needed to minimize the risk of future repetition. Yes, there are people who were politically active, people who didn't vote for these legislators. Your joy at the guilty verdicts is nobler if it celebrates that justice was served, than if it celebrates the suffering of those found guilty.

Before the Devil Knows You're Dead [I have no idea what the title means] lets us watch how a crime is planned and committed. We run through events over and over again from slightly different angles. We learn about the weaknesses of the characters, the father-son, brother-brother relationships that mold people to be able to do what they do, or not be able to do what they should do. The crime is evil, ill conceived, monstrous - yet desperate men succumb. The younger brother succumbing to the older brother's taunt "You said you were going to do it, you can't back out now." [How many siblings never break out of their childhood patterns of behavior with each other?] He succumbs to the $2000 on the table, as the echoes of his daughter asking for money to see the Lion King on a school overnight outing still ring in his head and through his empty pockets. Attending the political trials in Anchorage gave a similar perspective that one just can't get by reading the accounts of the trials. We heard the crimes described from different perspectives. All of these people are human beings whose life stories help us understand how they got to here. (But since Anderson and Kohring did not take the witness stand, we learned less about them than we did about Bill Allen, Rick Smith, and Pete Kott.)

I'm not saying everyone is good or that people need not take the consequences of their actions. I accept that there are people who will always take and never give. I accept that there are psychopaths, people whose brains are missing the parts that give the rest of us a conscience. This makes it easy for them to do monstrous things. But if the part of the brain that stops the rest of us from doing evil acts is missing, can we really blame them for what they do? We don't blame the blind because their brain cannot read the light patterns that hit their eyes. Though past civilizations did attribute sometimes favored and sometimes evil status to many who had physical and mental disabilities. Letting psychopaths live free to keep doing harm is not an acceptable answer, but neither will saying they are evil help us find humane solutions to their and our problems. Yes, their problems, the problems of all who break the law, are our problems too simply because they live among us. But I also believe that most evil acts are carried out by ordinary people who never got the approval and love they needed to become mature adults, to grow comfortable with who they are. Rich children can be just as emotionally deprived as poor children. I believe a great deal of attention to child rearing is called for. Parents need more assistance in how to raise kids and the time to be with their children. They need less stress. Mexican siestas, French cafes, these are not idleness and luxury, these are cultural answers to the stresses of life. Pressures on individuals to look younger and more beautiful, to be fitter, to wear the right clothes, to have a good house, to buy flat screen televisions, all this means we have to raise enough money to live the lifestyles we see on tv and in the movies. The more debt we take on to live this advertised dream, the less freedom we have to act ethically. Most of us, faced with the right combination of setbacks become vulnerable. It doesn't take much.
  • Factor 1: a medical expense our insurance doesn't cover (that's how Kohring got his $17,000 credit card debt), loss of income because of an injury, which threatens our ability to pay our mortgage, which means we might lose our house, if we have one
  • Factor 2: an illegal opportunity to escape our problem is offered
  • Factor 3: by a person we trust or who has some power over us

And there are those who will stand up strong and say no to temptation. Why? Saying, "They are good people" is not enough. Why did they turn out that way? Life is complex.

Someone who walks away from this movie and simply says "They were evil" and does not rather say, "They were flawed" has missed much. Or perhaps they've taken their own story about how human beings work into the movie and used that model to interpret the facts. Just as I have.


My first trial blog was June 28, 2007. My first words were:

Disclosure First: Tom was a student of mine a while ago. I don't remember when I talked to him last. However, I have been disturbed by this case since the beginning. I haven't blogged about this, in part, because I can't talk about anything I learned about Tom through our student/teacher relationship which is the only relationship I've had with him. I decided I should go to court and hear the evidence for myself. What I say here is strictly reporting what I saw in court, stuff anyone who went could have seen.
We nodded to each other in the courtroom and shook hands a couple of times, but said nothing more than pleasantries. But I did want to talk to him before he leaves for his incarceration and so I emailed about a week ago. We talked on the phone for a couple of hours and Monday he came over for lunch.

When I started blogging, the separation between my life and my blog was ambiguous, but it really didn’t matter because I wasn’t writing about public topics and hardly anyone was reading the blog. That changed when I started blogging the trials.

At this point, since I have been writing about public events, I do think I need to be open about relationships I have with people I write about. On the other hand, my interest in talking to Tom was not about getting material for the blog. He was my student and that relationship takes precedence over the blog. There may come a time when we both feel that it is appropriate to post something about Tom here. At this point I simply want to be open about the fact that someone I have blogged about extensively and I are having conversations, even though they will not appear in the blog.

With Tom’s permission I’ll just say that I’m convinced that Tom clearly understands that he has broken the law and violated the public trust. He’s still going back through all the things he could have done differently at every step of the way - from saying “No” to Bobrick and flat out rejecting Prewitt, to whether he should have continued to work with the agreement to help the prosecutors. And he’s still frustrated in the disparity in time different players are likely to spend in prison. I think this is probably normal for someone who has screwed up and is now trying to move on. There's stuff you have to work through. I've already commented in several posts at the obvious imbalance of power in court between the resources of the government and those of the defendants. My conversation with Tom makes it clear that even those of us who sat through all three trials only saw a small portion of what all went on before everyone got to court. Perhaps more than the tip of the iceberg, but not all that much more.

As Tom looks to the future, he makes me think of the old Peace Corps ads that went something like: "Optimists see a glass of water as half-full. Pessimists see a glass of water as half-empty. Peace Corps volunteers see a glass of water and say, 'I can take a bath with that.'" In terms of optimism and seeing a positive spin on things, Tom would qualify for the Peace Corps. But I think that his ability to see the good and block out the bad is partly what got him into trouble.

Second disclosure: I've also mentioned very briefly here that I have three UAA honor students who are doing a directed studies class with me. We've been meeting, generally over dinner, with people from different academic fields and different professions to find out how their fields deal with the idea of truth. What meaning(s) does truth have in their fields? What criteria do they use to measure it? How do they know it when they see it? We have a couple of justice students in the small group and so last night our guest was Mary Beth Kepner, the FBI agent who has coordinated the Alaska political corruptions investigations and who has been at the prosecutors' table at all the trials. I had a chance to talk to her during a break in the trial and asked if she'd come to class. What she said last night was focused on the concept of truth more than the cases. We both were clear that whatever she said was not going to the blog. But as I said above with Tom, since I have been writing about the trials and am still writing about topics that arose at the trials, I feel that I need to disclose when I meet with people involved in the trials. Even if I that's all I can put on the blog.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Later, and even later

Here it is out of the oven.

And after dinner.

The guests have gone. We had a nice night with good friends, one new friend.

Bird Bath

Every time I look at this bird I can't help wondering why we are doing this. Generally we are vegetarian. This started more for health reasons, but was also influenced by a student film I saw long ago on slaughtering cattle. My time living in a Buddhist country also had influences I'm sure, though most Thai people do eat meat.
I tried to think about this in positive terms. This picture is the herbal massage of the bird. Next it will go in the sauna. But that's just the sort of imagery that enables us to ignore what happens to the bird before it gets into our refrigerator. We did buy a free range organic turkey so that is some solace. But I suspect the video below is more typical than not. Turkeys, chickens, pigs, cows are all treated as manufactured products, not as living things whose lives are taken with reverence and thanks. And having taken the life of a living creature, do we use all its parts, so as not to waste the life we have taken?

I was always amazed when Americans during the Vietnam war disparaged the enemy for not respecting life. Buddhists are human beings as our Christians and Jews and Muslims. Few live the values of their religion all the time, many try, some only give it lip service. But Buddhists very explicitly hold all life as sacred. Not just human life. Killing a mosquito destroys karma. It isn't equal to killing a dog which is not equal to killing a human. People I knew would help flies and mosquitoes out the window rather than kill them. Whereas Americans think nothing of killing non-human life.

I think respect for animal life disappears when people are separated from the raising of the animal and the eating of the animal. If you raise the chicken or lamb, you know how much work has gone into it. You know the miracle of an animal growing from nothing into a living sentient creature and so when you kill it for food, you understand exactly what you are killing. And you do it with mixed emotions. You don't have that understanding when you buy it wrapped in plastic in the supermarket. Maybe that's why Amerians cannot imagine eating dog meat. But we can't understand that Hindus feel the same about beef. The video shows us what happens when modern efficiency rather than humanity rules how meat is produced. Of course I don't know how typical this is or even who this guy is. But it is consistent with other reports on the food industry I've read and watched, starting with Upton Sinclair's The Jungle.

Thanksgiving Morning

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Journalism, Blogging, and Perspective

I've got several posts that I'm working on, but they aren't quite ready. One is my reflections on the ethics of undercover investigations - some of the pros and cons that have arisen as I've watched the impact of the surveillance tapes on the three political trials. There are a number of issues that make me - and apparently others - uncomfortable about trading reductions in sentencing for cooperation with the prosecutors, as well as with the idea of video cameras in one's room recording what's going on without one's knowledge. But I don't know how else the evidence for these cases could have been collected. I've got the basics down, but I'm trying to integrate examples from the trials.

Another stems from my belief in the need for journalistic disclosure of one's relationships with the people or events one covers. As the trials progressed I went from writing a blog that my mother and a few others read to someone whose blog was being read by people I was covering. I began to think about how journalists are not simply reporters of what is happening to the public. They can affect the events they are covering. The judge was constantly reminding the jury not to read or watch any news accounts of the trial for example. At one point Kohring defense attorney Browne noticed that witness Bill Allen had a folded piece of paper in his hand and asked what it was. He was told it was a crib sheet with names because of his memory problems. Browne asked to see it and took it to his table. At the next break, he shared it with reporters. The next day prosecutor Bottini complained about this - an account of the crib sheet had shown up in the Anchorage Daily News - and Browne was admonished not to share the witnesses private documents with anyone.
As journalists gather material they develop relationships. In this case, there was six weeks of trial over several months, and the prosecution team was pretty much the same. How does the personal relationship you develop with sources affect how you report the case? Do they begin to use you to get their points across? Do you use them to get stories? Well, of course all that happens, so what information do you give the readers so they can better evaluate what you are writing?

Anyway, that's why I've been quiet. I hope US readers have a great Thanksgiving. And the rest of you also consider all you have to be thankful for. I'm missing my kids far away on this holiday weekend but I'm thankful they are well and pursuing things that interest them.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Was the Tennessee Waltz the Playbook for the Alaska Oil Spill?

From Wikipedia

Operation Tennessee Waltz was a sting operation set up by federal and state law enforcement agents, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Tennessee Bureau of Investigation. The operation led to the arrest of seven Tennessee state lawmakers and two men identified as "bagmen" in the indictment on the morning of May 26, 2005 on bribery charges. The FBI and TBI followed these arrests with an additional arrest of two county commissioners, one from Hamilton County, and the other a member of the prominent Hooks family, of Memphis. Investigators also arrested a former county administrator.

The name of the operation comes from the state song of Tennessee, "Tennessee Waltz."

And a news report from the Nashville Post:

'Tennessee Waltz' FBI Informant: I Paid Off Ulysses Jones

12-14-2005 6:32 AM

State Rep. Ulysses Jones (D-Memphis) took a bribe from an FBI informant to push through legislation favorable to the government’s fake company E-Cycle, informant Tim Willis has claimed.

Willis, a one-time Memphis lobbyist, worked for the FBI by posing as a lobbyist for the fictitious Georgia company. E-Cycle was central to the sting operation dubbed “Tennessee Waltz,” a sting set up to nab politicians taking bribes, which led to the arrests of four sitting lawmakers and three other political operatives on May 26 of this year.

And from the Chattanoogan, we learn there was a hero:

Attorney Says Former Rep. Brenda Turner Was Tennessee Waltz "Hero"
posted August 25, 2007

A Chattanooga attorney who supported former Rep. Brenda Turner through her long political career said she was a "hero" in the "Tennessee Waltz" scandal that brought down several prominent politicians.

Attorney Russell King said, "They came to her, offered her money, and she turned them down. She did it the right way. She told them a campaign contribution would be hunky-dory, but she was not doing it any other way."

Will Alaska have a hero or two?

And how could there be an FBI legislative corruption trial without a blogger?

And what do the FBI call this operation? The Alaska Two Step? No, there's more than two steps. How about the Alaska Oil Spill? Allen and Smith did work in the oil industry and they did spill the beans. The PeePee Tea Scandal? But the Anderson case didn't involve PPT and future indictments will get beyond PPT too. Do they have a name for ours? In Tennessee, the name came out in the press coverage of the indictments. I thought maybe the press came up with the name, but its in the DOJ press releases.

At the end of the DOJ Public Integrity Section press release on the conviction of Roscoe Dixon, they include the "operation name."

Operation Tennessee Waltz is an ongoing, active, continuing investigation. The people of Tennessee and their elected officials need to understand that where the public trust has been violated, the United States Attorney's Office will prosecute. This office will continue to aggressively pursue those elected officials who engage in public corruption.

All this "the people of Tennessee. . . need to understand" sounds a little condescending. Maybe someone wised up and they decided the cutesy name and the lecture on public ethics didn't need to be included in the Alaska press releases.

This case was prosecuted by trial attorneys Nicholas A. Marsh and Edward P. Sullivan of the Criminal Division’s Public Integrity Section, headed by Chief William M. Welch, II, and Assistant U.S. Attorneys Joseph W. Bottini and James A. Goeke from the District of Alaska. The case is being investigated by the FBI and the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigative Division.
Do they have a name for ours, but are keeping it quiet?

And I think I may have cracked part of the Public Integrity Section code. I mentioned in earlier posts that the press releases on Kott and Kohring never mentioned that there were counts for which these men were found Not Guilt.

The jury found Kott guilty of conspiracy, extortion under cover of official right, and bribery.
Following an eight-day jury trial, Kohring, a member of the Alaska State House of Representatives from 1994 to 2007, was convicted of conspiracy, bribery and
attempted extortion, for corruptly soliciting and receiving financial benefits from a
company in exchange for performing official acts in the Alaska State Legislature on the company’s behalf.

But I noticed that in the Dixon press release it says:

Mr. Dixon was found guilty on all five counts of the indictment. [emphasis mine]

So I looked up the Anderson press release, and bingo, it says the same thing:

The jury in Anchorage convicted Anderson today of all seven counts charged in a December 2006 indictment.

So, if the press release doesn't say "all counts" I'm guessing it means they got off on one or more counts. Come on PIN (yes, they abbreviate the Public Integrity Section as PIN, but think about it and it makes sense) you can put on your press releases that you didn't get every count. Don't force the reader to have to look up other sources of information to find that out.

Dan Fagan, Again

I've written a few posts about Dan Fagan's ADN columns. Last week I didn't have much time to even look at his column on the Supreme Court's decision on the Parental Consent Law. It begins this way:

Gas pipeline, who cares? Raise taxes on the oil industry, go ahead. Mat Maid, dogs on ball fields, the IM program, city budget, fireworks ban, irrelevant.

There is only one issue facing Alaskans and it is this. A 13-year-old girl can today walk into Planned Parenthood and get an abortion without her parents’ knowledge or permission.

Let me rephrase that. A 13-year-old girl can legally have her unborn baby killed without her parents ever knowing about it.

Either Fagan didn't read the Supreme Court ruling, he didn't understand it, or he just lied about it.

This is a contentious enough issue without totally misrepresenting what was decided. The court did strike down the requirement that the parents must give permission, but strongly affirmed that they must be informed. I posted about this case earlier this week.

But such looseness with the facts is evident again this week. And he seems to have changed his mind about the relevance of raising oil and gas taxes. I don't know how to write about this one without giving you the whole column along with my comments. I'll indent his column and put it in italics so it is clear what he says and what I say. (I would hope that would be clear if I did neither, but just in case.)

The anti-oil populist movement is not new to Alaska. The so-called “backbone” folks have always been with us. But now they are in charge. And that has led us to an all-out war with the oil industry.
“Anti-oil populist movement” what exactly does that mean? They are against oil? They are against oil companies? Populists are politicians who speak and work for the people as opposed to those who speak and work for the the power elite (like big oil companies.) So it would seem that being a populist isn’t such a bad thing. Though some have used the term to mean people who PRETEND to speak and work for the poor but really are working for the rich. I’m sure we have a number of fake populists in the legislature. Certainly Pete Kott, the hardwood floor installer (who happened to also be pulling Air Force retirement and had a masters degree;  I see nothing wrong with either of those things, but he was more than a blue collar working eking out a living) and sheet rocker Vic Kohring both offered a populist stance, but were working for their rich big oil friends. And Dan Fagan who talks on the radio like the salt of the earth, warts and all, is writing these articles that make big oil into a deity being abused by legislative ingrates, certainly seems to fit into that pseudo populist category.

"Now they are in charge." And whose been in charge for all these years until now? Finally people not owned by the oil companies are in charge. Why am I having a problem with Fagan's logic?

“All out war with the oil industry.” Come on Dan. You believe in the free market. As I said in a previous post, in an ideal free market there is a buyer and a seller. The state here, as the owner of the oil, is the seller. The oil companies are the buyers. They each negotiate the best deal they can. If the state blows it by taxing too high, the oil companies can walk away. If the people of Alaska are willing to support legislators who stand up to the oil companies a little bit more than our previous governor because they saw tapes of oil industry representatives giving money to legislators to vote for the oil industry’s preferred tax level, then the oil companies have only themselves to blame. They didn’t play their hand well. This is not war. This is simply the give and take of your sacred free market system. True, it does happen that one of the players is a government body, but each of the big three oil companies made net profits that were higher than the Alaska state budget last year. The oil companies are not victims. You even wrote a column about standing up to bullies. I would think most Alaskans see Sarah Palin as doing just that.

The first attack: The governor gets legislation passed shutting out the producers from the process of building the gas pipeline. This will end up hurting us more than them because the oil industry can go other places to get gas to market.

I’m not quite sure what action of our governor he is referring to since he only gives generalizations and no specifics. Even if Fagan's assertion is the true, is that worse than how the previous governor worked out the original PPT bill “in closed-door negotiations with the three major oil companies on a contract for fiscal terms for a pipeline” shutting out the legislature and the public?
But the governor’s second major offensive in her “Operation Oil Companies Bad” campaign will hit the industry hardest.
High school students make less slanted arguments than this. To see how another journalist writes about the Governor’s strategy team, read Tom Kizzia’s piece on Marty Rutherford, apparently one of the governor's ‘oil companies bad’ lackeys.

After the industry has already invested $50 billion in infrastructure in our state and pumped close to $80 billion into state coffers, the governor has cut them down at their knees.
Let me get this straight. Exxon’s annual net profit for 2006 was $39.5 billion, BP’s annual net profit for 2006 was $22 billion. And Conoco-Phillips’ was a mere $15.5 billion. Three of the largest corporations in the world have been cut down at their knees by a 43 year old former mayor of Wasilla, first term Republican governor who still hasn’t been able to oust Randy Ruedrich from the chair of the Alaska Republican party? I can see them hobbling around on their bloody stumps right now. Yeah, right Dan.

According to Tim Bradner in the Alaska Journal of Commerce “Wood Mackenzie, a prestigious London-based consulting group, has ranked Alaska 99th out of 103 petroleum-producing regions surveyed in terms of political stability in fiscal terms on oil and gas. Only Venezuela, Russia, Bolivia and Argentina ranked lower than Alaska” If this is true, then the oil companies have 98 other petroleum-producing regions to get their oil from. Cut off at the knees? Do you even believe that Dan?
The tax increase coming out of Juneau last week is enormous. It proves the governor’s strategy is now abundantly clear. Higher taxes, bigger government are the keys to our economic future.
Well, at least the governor does something right - she has a clear strategy. Is that bad? I think “higher taxes, bigger government” was Vic Kohring’s scare chant too. He’s the guy you accused of selling out in a column two weeks ago about which I said your writing had improved.

The governor has allies in the Legislature made up of three camps. There are those like the governor who believe some consultants who say higher taxes do not influence investment. The problem is these consultants come from the world of theories, not real life.

Dan, please give me the name of one legislator who believes that higher taxes do not influence investment. Just show me one quote where the governor says that. Show me the quote from the consultants you say said that. They don’t exist. They all know that taxes affect investment. They just don’t believe the sky-is-falling rhetoric that oil companies and their friends, like Dan Fagan, are spreading. They are looking at more than the investment climate rating and seeing that those other 98 places all have their downsides too. Fagan is now an expert on real life?

Politicians who fall into the taxes-don’t-affect-investment theory believe they are doing the right thing but are not real bright. The second camp is made up of pure socialists, those who think “corporate America bad, government good.”
How about some names here Dan ‘McCarthy’ Fagan? Who are the pure socialist legislators? Do you even know what a pure socialist is? Again, show me some evidence. And even if there were such simple minded legislators, how is that any less simplistic than your own chant of “Business is good, government is bad?” There has to be a balance between those two sectors, plus room for other organizations and individuals who don’t fit in either camp. Reasonable people understand this and they may debate about where the appropriate balance of power is. But they don’t chant either extreme.
Rep. Les Gara said on my talk show he thinks we should tax the oil companies at 80 percent.

Under the former PPT plan, the industry paid about 63 percent to government. The governor’s new PPT plan raised the rate to about 68 percent. But on Friday the Legislature’s version of the governor’s bill raised the government share to more than 70 percent. That leaves only one branch of government, the judiciary, to make Gara’s 80 percent rate dream come true. With this Supreme Court, anything is possible.
Huh? Can you explain how the judiciary can raise the rate proposed by the governor and set by the legislature? Why would you even say this? Maybe I’m missing something, but I can’t imagine any scenario where the Supreme Court could raise the tax. Please, spell out how this could happen. Can you say red herring?

The third camp of tax-and-spend politicians is the one that bothers me the most. They do it to increase their power. These panderers know the billions of extra cash they are transferring from the private sector to government will allow them to make the media and big labor happy by growing the operating budget even more.
Wait. Originally there were just “allies in the Legislature made up of three camps.” Now you are saying there are three camps of ‘tax and spend” spend politicians. It’s really hard for me to not get sarcastic here. In fact I've failed utterly to keep an objective tone. I’ve been criticized by a few for being too even handed and not explicitly spelling out my conclusions. It’s hard to not make those judgments here about what was written, but I certainly have nothing that would allow me to conclude what Dan Fagan’s motivation is. I can only make hypotheses based on the evidence. Does he truly believe what he’s writing? Is this simply talk show hyperbole to jack up ratings? Is he getting favors from the oil companies for these free screeds in the ADN now that the Voice of the Times is only on the web? I only know that this is as one-sided, simplistic, and full of unsubstantiated allegations that totally distort reality as any thing I can remember reading. That's pretty strong language for me, but that is why I'm going through this paragraph by paragraph. And now that I’ve gotten that out of my system, let me finish the rest of this.
This special session will end up being a windfall not for the public, but for the state’s public employee unions.

For the average Alaskan going to work every day, trying to support a family, hoping their kids’ kids will have a future here, this massive tax increase represents a huge risk.
Here’s Dan the populist coming out. It's those nasty state public employees who do nothing for the public. Who are these average Alaskans? Oil industry employees who might lose their jobs or get transferred to a part of the world with a more stable investment climate? Like Nigeria? Or Myanmar? Well, only about 3.5% of Alaska employees work in the oil and gas industry according to the Alaska Department of Labor. (Well you have to work the numbers, but they say there were 333,100 non-farm employees in September 2007 and of those there were 11,600 in the oil and gas industry. Go here then in the drop down window get "Alaska 2001 to present (excel file).")

What’s a huge risk for you Dan? Do you think the evidence that the oil companies will abandon Alaska because of the tax increase is greater than the risk of global warming due to human causes? If so, could you show me how you analyzed both?
The oil industry as a whole paid $1 billion in production taxes in fiscal year 2006. With the new PPT plan the industry will next year pay $4.5 billion dollars in production taxes.

Let me ask you a simple question. Would a 400 percent tax increase affect your ability to invest your money? This is not brain surgery, folks.
Everything is simple to you Dan, isn’t it? It also depends on how you play with the numbers. 400 percent is pretty impressive. But there are other ways to think about those numbers. How about comparing their tax burden (I’ll accept your numbers for this exercise) to their net profit last year? $1 billion divided by $77 billion. That’s just the big three. I know you’ll complain that I didn’t isolate their Alaska profits from their worldwide profits, but you know where that will lead, don’t you? To the fact that Exxon won’t tell us their Alaska profits. But since you’re so cozy with these guys, maybe you can ask them for the rest of us. Besides, this is NET profit, what they made AFTER taxes. OK, this isn’t perfect, but it’s the best I can do for the moment and it is close enough to make my point. So their taxes will go from 1.3% ($1 billion tax on $77 billion net profit) to 5.8% ($4.5 billion tax on $77 billion net profit). Looking at it that way it’s only a 5% increase. Now I’ll grant you that their Alaska gross income might not be $77 billion, but even if it were only $30 billion their tax would go from 3.3% to 15%. A 12% increase is certainly not anything close to a 400% increase. We can all play with numbers. And I have no idea where you got the $1 billion and $4.5 billion figures to start with. We do know that the PPT tax this year was raised from 22.5% to 25%. That is a 2.5% increase in the last year. So, Dan, there are lots of ways to figure out the percentage increase and each side will come up with numbers that make their argument sound better. But the wisest heads will know which ones are pure whimsy and which ones make some sense.
But the worst part of the new PPT plan is the standard deduction. It severely limits the industry from deducting expenses, making future projects far less attractive. But that’s not what this is all about anyway: future investments. It’s nothing more than a money grab. With this new plan, the state is expected to bring in a total of almost $8 billion in revenue from the industry in fiscal year 2008.

You think the governor is popular now, wait until she starts divvying up all those billions to those with their hands out. Public employee unions may erect a Sarah Palin shrine. They can place it next to the one the media built.

Of course when the oil industry bargains in private meetings with the former governor to come up with a plan they like and then buys legislators to push the plan through the legislature and blankets the state with misleading advertisements that's not a money grab. That's, what, Dan, just doing business? And how about all the private sector company employees that work on contract for the state, building roads, bridges, schools, doing oil forecasts, unsuccessfully lobbying Congress to open ANWR year after year,etc.?

But I believe history will prove this shortsighted tax-increasing frenzy will lead to real pain and heartache down the road. I know this is a radical concept anymore in America, but the truth is that taxes do deter investment. Taxation is the power to destroy. I am confident we will someday reverse what was done last week in the Legislature. The only question is, will it be in time to save our economy?

Well, Dan, at least here we partially agree - in a few years we’ll be able to see whether your dire predictions come true. Maybe. There are lots of factors that go into this that have nothing to do with this tax plan. Ultimately, we will not be able to parse out what would have happened if.... But we will see if the oil companies pack up their marbles and leave Dodge.