Archive for the ‘Parnell’ Category
Can we be completely clear about this? The revenue lost by the State of Alaska as a consequence of the repeal of ACES will never be recovered. Even in the highly unlikely event of an increase in throughput in the Trans-Alaska Pipeline, the increased revenue will never recover the $5 or $6 billion that the Legislature and Captain Zero have given away. It’s gone. Pissed away in the most bone-headed giveaway since the Alaska Gasline Inducement Act. At least AGIA will “only” cost us half a billion. Not at much as $6 billion.
Everything about Captain Zero’s idiot scheme is flawed.
The threat that the minimum flow the Pipeline will support is imminent? Contradicted by expert testimony and Big Oil’s own filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission. There was no crisis, no need for a rush to action. Captain Zero did his best Chicken Little impersonation and the Legislature went along.
An unconditional repeal, not linked to increased throughput? Asinine. It’s the only word that fits. This is Big Oil. It’s all about money. Big Oil. struggling not laugh at the pathetic questions in legislative hearings, made absolutely no promises. Seriously, the Legislature and the Captain would have done better to send the money to Fairbanks, where we could at least burn it for heat. If this were a poker game, the State of Alaska just folded on a $6 billion pot while holding a royal flush, and then burnt the cards.
An honest decision? That’s laughable. A Governor who was and acts like he still is an oil industry flak. Two critical votes from legislators who work for Big Oil in middle management, but don’t think they have a conflict of interest. Two more whose spouses work for Big Oil. And don’t even get WC started on lobbyist dollars and campaign contributions. There’s stuff going on that mink breeders wouldn’t tolerate.
An informed decision? Even more laughable. The Legislature didn’t follow the advice of their own experts. (To the extent we can follow what the experts said; remember we didn’t get to see all of them, even though we paid for them.) The Legislature was told our production model was closer to Norway’s than to North Dakota’s, with high development and production costs, as opposed to lower development and production costs but smaller unit production. They blew all that expertise off.
Will it work? We’ll never know. WC personally thinks that at the unlikely best, the rate of decline in the rate of production will slow. As WC has explained before, this is really about the the decline of the Prudhoe field. Other small fields may be found that are economic to produce, but they’d have been found and developed without Alaska setting its financial house on fire. But in a complex, multi-factor area like oil field development and production, isolating a single cause is impossible.
But it is certain that the State of Alaska, in the immediate and middle future, will be a lot poorer. Infrastructure will suffer. Education will suffer. Programs to try and improve the lot of Alaska’s underclass will suffer.
It didn’t have to be this way. Sure, as years go by and pipeline throughput continues to decline there will be recriminations. Scapegoats will be found. But the money is gone. Pissed away on a really stupid idea.
According to the interactive graphic at Center for American Progress, measured by rates per 100,000 population, Alaska was #1 in firearm violence in 2010. Alaska was #2 in firearm violence for the period 2001-2010. It was #1 in suicides using firearms. It was #1 in firearm deaths among children.
The Alaska Legislature is all over this issue. Its solution? Adopt a “stand your ground” statute which actually increases the risk of firearm deaths by removing the risk of a criminal conviction. WC’s gut-toting, trigger-happy acquaintances’ cowboy instincts will be further affirmed. That’s right, you can now use deadly force in Alaska, even if you have the ability to leave the scene safely, if you believe you have the right to be there.
Here’s the full text of HB 24:
04 (b) A person may not use deadly force under this section if the person knows
05 that, with complete personal safety and with complete safety as to others being 06 defended, the person can avoid the necessity of using deadly force by leaving the area 07 of the encounter, except there is no duty to leave the area if the person is 08 (1) on premises 09 (A) that the person owns or leases; 10 (B) where the person resides, temporarily or permanently; or 11 (C) as a guest or express or implied agent of the owner, lessor, 12 or resident; 13 (2) a peace officer acting within the scope and authority of the officer's 14 employment or a person assisting a peace officer under AS 11.81.380; 15 (3) in a building where the person works in the ordinary course of the 01 person's employment; [OR] 02 (4) protecting a child or a member of the person's household; or 03 (5) in any other place where the person has a right to be.
Other than creating more corpses and making criminal cases more difficult to prosecute, what purpose does this catastrophe of a law serve? Is there anyone who truly believes it makes anyone any safer? Remember, by the letter of existing law, you can use deadly force self-defense if you cannot retreat with complete personal safety.
No, this is a license from the gun crazies to open fire when they’ve got their panties in a wad. WC doesn’t trust civilians who feel compelled to carry heat in the first place, and trusts their judgment to use a weapon appropriately even less. This is a license for carnage.
It’s not just a solution in search of a problem. It’s gasoline on the open fire of violent gun deaths that is already out of control.
If Captain Zero had the spine God gave a banana, he’d veto this piece of crap when it reaches his desk. But he hasn’t, of course, and he won’t, of course. Somehow, this hasn’t gotten wrapped around the axle of the Second Amendment, even though it has nothing to do with the Second Amendment and everything to do with legalized violence. And Captain Zero is mindlessly, unthinkingly accepting of anything involving citizens’ rights to be prepared to blaze away at the slightest provocation.
Welcome to the New Alaska. Even more dangerous than before. To no purpose.
There are some sad facts that are being overlooked in Captain Zero’s near-hysteria over declining oil field production. And the largest overlooked fact is that there aren’t any more Prudhoe Bay Oil Fields.
Prudhoe Bay – the oil field, not the industrial slum we’ve created on the surface – was a behemoth, the largest single oil field ever found in North America. Since production from the field began in 1977, the 1,114 wells punching into the Sadlerochit Formation have produced 11 billion barrels of oil out of an estimated total recoverable reserve of 13 billion barrels. Sure, there may have been as much as 25 billion barrels of oil in Prudhoe, but under there are only 2 billion recoverable barrels left. A sizable amount of oil by any measure, but nothing like the 1.5 million barrels per day at peak production back in 1979.
Total production over the history of the North Slope through 2012 is 14.6 billion barrels of oil. Putting that another way, 11 billion of the 14.6 billion barrels of oil have come from a single, huge reserve that is 90% recovered. All the other fields around Prudhoe Bay account for about 25% of total production.
All of the fiddling with state oil tax laws doesn’t change the fact that Prudhoe Bay is about tapped out and there aren’t any more. As Prudhoe Bay is exhausted, you’d expect, in the very best case, for total Trans-Alaska Pipeline throughout to decline to about 25% or less of peak flow in 1979. That would be about 375,000 barrels per day. And throughput today is about 550,000 barrels per day.
There are no more Prudhoe fields on the North Slope. Sorry. Big Oil has looked. And they are pretty good at finding big fields.
There are a number of smaller producing fields, and some prospects. But, as WC has argued before, even if Alaska reduced its taxes to minimal levels, it’s still much less expensive to produce fracked oil in North Dakota than to drill for new oil on the North Slope. And the crude that’s produced is much closer to the market.
The implication is clear: lowering taxes isn’t going to increase production; it’s not going to put more oil in the pipeline. Apart from the absence of a link to increased production, the tax break to Big Oil isn’t big enough – can’t be big enough – to promote the discovery, development and production of the numerous small fields required to keep the Trans-Alaska Pipeline at operational levels. At the problems of aging infrastructure and the number are even worse. The only thing the repeal of ACES will accomplish is to cost the State of Alaska a whole lot of revenue on a non-renewable resource.
And a bonanza for Big Oil, ofcourse. Which makes you wonder who really controls the Captain and the Legislature.
At the end of World War II, some of the Pacific Islanders who had been most dramatically affected by the Japanese and American invasions of their territories were nonplussed with the war came to an end. It also meant an end to the newfound goods that had, quite literally, fallen out of the sky. To try and entice the goods to return, the Pacific Islanders reportedly engaged in what is now called “Cargo Cult” behavior. Here’s Wikipedia:
With the end of the war, the military abandoned the airbases and stopped dropping cargo. In response, charismatic individuals developed cults among remote Melanesian populations that promised to bestow on their followers deliveries of food, arms, Jeeps, etc. The cult leaders explained that the cargo would be gifts from their own ancestors, or other sources, as had occurred with the outsider armies. In attempts to get cargo to fall by parachute or land in planes or ships again, islanders imitated the same practices they had seen the soldiers, sailors, and airmen use. Cult behaviors usually involved mimicking the day to day activities and dress styles of US soldiers, such as performing parade ground drills with wooden or salvaged rifles. The islanders carved headphones from wood and wore them while sitting in fabricated control towers. They waved the landing signals while standing on the runways. They lit signal fires and torches to light up runways and lighthouses.
In a form of sympathetic magic, many built life-size replicas of aeroplanes out of straw and cut new military-style landing strips out of the jungle, hoping to attract more aeroplanes.
Obviously, that’s what we are seeing in Juneau right now. The thinking, such as it is, runs something like this: we had more oil in the pipeline before ACES. So, through the power of sympathetic magic, if we reduce taxes, the oil will come back. Yes, our Captain Zero and the Alaska Legislature are engaging in cargo cult behavior.
Simply lowering taxes won’t, of itself, put more oil in the Trans-Alaska Pipeline, anymore than building landing strips and replica airplanes brought more cargo to the island of Tanna in Vanuatu. World War II had ended, although the residents of Vannatu may not have known that. Turning their gardens – their food sources – into mock runways wouldn’t make the War come back. The Alaska Legislature, by repealing ACES and reducing taxes – plowing under part of Alaska’s garden – isn’t going to make the oil come back, either. If, for example, there were less oil in the pipeline because it was three times as expensive to develop oil fields on the North Slope as in, say, North Dakota, then the unforgiving laws of economics are going to operate. Lowering taxes isn’t going to do anything but reduce the amount of produce from Alaska’s oil field garden.
Now it’s true that WC has simplified the narrative of cargo cult. Brian Dunning over at the Skeptoid does a nice job of offering some background and glosses. But the principle is unchanged, and Dunning’s conclusion might well be written to those folks in Juneau:
And so while cargo cults may seem, at first glance, like quaint stone age ignorance, they’re actually not entirely irrational. They’re certainly naïve and based on a fallacious confusion of correlation and causation, but to give their believers some credit, they’re doing their best to make sense of what they’ve been given. Where this belief system fails them, quite obviously, is that it replaces the need to work hard to achieve goals with the belief that faith will provide.
There are two essays in Saturday’s papers that each, in their own way, demonstrate the surreality of modern day Alaska government.
Former Attorney General John Havelock is one of WC’s heroes. In his essay in the Anchorage Daily News, he writes of the looming fiscal cliff facing Alaska, and the utter unwillingness of the Legislature to either curtail capital spending or impose additional sources of revenue, to make Alaskans, as opposed to their nonrenewable resources, pay their own way.
Alaska remains the only state in the United States that has no statewide citizen tax. No income tax, no statewide property or sales tax; we live on coupons clipped from the limited nonrenewable petroleum extracted from the ground. Like the proverbial drunken sailor on shore leave, we’ve been spending that resource as if there is no tomorrow. Havelock estimates that “tomorrow” – the day when the resource revenue and the painfully generated cash reserves are gone – is probably seven to twelve years away. As you reflect on that fact, consider that the voters approved a half-billion dollar general obligation bond for a serious of dubious projects in the last general election. The bond will require annual payments of $37-38 million a year for the next 20 years.
Claus-M Naske, emeritus professor of history at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, has an equally interesting essay in the News-Miner. He addresses the kerfuffle over Rep. Scott Kawasaki (D., Fairbanks) making faces during the sham debates over the oil tax give away. Naske, as a historian, points out that the Alaska Legislature has a long history of allowing itself to be bought by the resource-extracting industry. Only the price has varied.
Bill Allen was able to create the Corrupt Old Bastards Club, trading in legislator’s votes like pork futures, for a few tens of thousands of dollars. Prof. Naske reminds us that lobbyists for the salmon-packing industry were able to lobby for minimal taxes on their resource-extraction industry by – wait for it – threatening to leave Alaska, taking their jobs with them. Or the legendary “Big Jim” Fozzard, who obtained an exemption from the Territory’s already minimal mining tax in return for a few cases of liquor. The late Ernest Gruening’s excellent history of Alaska, The State of Alaska, is especially enlightening about the same Alaska House that Rep. Pete Higgins (R., Jim Holm) called “sacred.”
WC doesn’t want to offend the Second Oldest Profession, but the Alaska Legislature, for a hundred years, has sold itself like cheap whores. It’s an indisputable historic fact. And Rep. Higgins, the guy with that stupid fur thing on his face, during a debate in which the Alaska House is whoring itself again, criticizes Rep. Kawasaki for sticking out his tongue?
If you think that “surreal” is too strong a word, consider that the Captain Zero’s oil tax giveaway passed the state senate because two employees of Big Oil thought it was okay to vote in favor of the biggest tax break to their employers in Alaska history. They insist it is “legal.”
WC has always thought that “legal” was the minimum standard. WC has always thought public servants should be held to a higher standard. Obviously, WC was wrong. Obviously, matters of decorum are far more important than whoring to the resource extraction industry.
WC declines to apologize for his confusion.
There are things that happen in this world that get reported as news but really aren’t.
Like Governor Sean “Captain Zero” Parnell losing yet another of his silly Federal lawsuits. How can that be news? If something happens five or six times in a row, is it still “news”? Isn’t it “olds” by this point? This time the lost lawsuit involved the roadless area classification imposed back in the Clinton administration. Technically, Captain Zero hasn’t lost all of the lawsuits. But his record is embarrassingly bad. He’s giving lawyers a
bad worse name.
David Lawrence, the Shell executive for North American exploration, including the extensive series of debacles surrounding the Chukchi and Beaufort Sea drilling programs, “announced his resignation.” Shell denies he was fired. Right. You can practically hear a public address announcement: “The sacrificial lamb will report to the chopping block for the ceremonial beheading.” If there is anyone left in America who is naive enough to believe that heads weren’t going to roll at Shell, well, WC envies them their charming world view. While its drill rigs are being repaired, WC invites Shell to study the sunk cost fallacy.
Long-time readers know WC is a big fan of effective graphic displays of information. The New Yorker has an outstanding interactive graphic presentation of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament, based upon the revenue and expenses of the basketball programs at each of the 64 schools. The hypothesis is that the schools with the most money will win. As a graphic illustration of WC’s premise – always follow the money – it’s wonderful. WC won’t completely spoil it for readers, but will note that the pre-tournament pick to win, Louisville, has an astonishing $42 million dollars in revenue, far more than any another school.
It’s always chancy trying to read the tea leaves at oral argument in the U.S. Supreme Court. The discussion in conference among the justices and the exchange of draft opinions really does make a difference. Recall the oral argument on the Affordable Care Act. But it’s reasonably clear that Justices Kennedy and Sotomayor, at least, are inclined to dismiss the appeal on California’s Proposition 8 banning same-sex marriages. The technical phrase is cute: “dismiss the petition as improvidently granted.” WC suspects you wouldn’t be surprised, either. The challenge to the Defense of Marriage Act will depend on what Justice Kennedy decides to do. But while there’s been very rapid change in the U.S. on same sex marriage, rapid change doesn’t happen very often in the U.S. Supreme Court.
And no, the fact that The Quitter stood in front of CPAC, the most avowedly conservative body in the U.S., and advocated communism isn’t news either. It’s irony. Wasted irony, in the case of The Quitter, but irony nonetheless.
It’s true that WC has been a little more cranky than usual lately. There are reasons. There are lot of reasons. In an effort to exorcise his bad attitude, WC will share just a few of those reasons with his patient readers.
Reason #1 – The Weather
This photo speaks for itself, but what part of “last week of March” does the weatherman not understand?
Reason #2 – Pratchett and Orangutans
In the second novel of his DiscWorld series, The Light Fantastic, Terry Pratchett wrote of a magical accident, in which the Librarian of Unseen University, the great school of magic, was accidentally transformed into an orangutan. It was a one-line gag, but over the course of the next 35 DiscWorld novels, the transformed Librarian became a much-loved, recurring character. In 1995, Pratchett traveled to Borneo, the home of the orangutan species. There was a BBC video and a disheartening essay, “The Orangutans Are Dying.” Ook, indeed.
Pratchett, now Sir Terry Pratchett, is returning to Borneo for a follow up look. Of course, his illness makes this much more of a challenge, and there are far fewer orangutans left than in 1995. So the BBC video this time has the signature Pratchett humor, and at the same time makes you think.
A killer title, from a man dying of Alzeimer’s, WC thinks you will agree. But for WC, it’s also a reminder of both the tragedy of WC’s favorite author’s wrenching decline and the loss of another species on our much-abused planet. A double whammy. Who knows if and when the BBC special will be available in the U.S. WC will endeavor to find out.
Reason #3 – Faith-Based Economics
What Dermot Cole has called the repeal of ACES faith-based efforts to increase the flow of oil in the Trans-Alaska Pipeline. Those faith-based efforts are about to become law. Dermot is too kind, although he does a nice job of showing just how hard it will be to decide if Captain Zero’s Grand Plan succeeds at anything but giving away buckets and buckets of money. Since no one can agree on what projected throughput in the pipeline will be in 2022, it’s somewhere between difficult to impossible to determine if Parnell’s “solution” will succeed at doing anything but kicking the State of Alaska in the financial groin.
Faith is for church, not economics. Not the financial well-being of a state government. What will we have from the Governor next: a resolution that we all pray for oil?
Worse, there will be two more bad consequences for this breathtakingly stupid financial experiment. First, it gives the Republicans an excuse to pretend Alaska is in desperate financial straits, so that they can axe more programs on the grounds that we can no longer afford them. Pre-school classes, programs to protect women and children, education funding, substance treatment programs; all will stupidly and needlessly be cut. Second, we will have to listen to our legislators brag about how they have saved the State from financial ruin.
The only way you will see the lost tax revenue again is to buy stock in Exxon, Conoco-Phillips or BP. Because the only place the lost tax revenue is going to go is in to shareholder dividends.
All of which, yes, makes WC a little cranky.
Governor Sean “Captain Zero” Parnell’s changes in the state oil tax are so nonsensical, so wrong that it confuses everyone involved in the debate. Maybe taking two steps back and taking an overview will reduce the confusion and illustrate, for anyone still paying attention, what is really going on.
The current tax structure, ACES, is a progressive tax. That is, the rates aren’t level. If the oil companies make more money per barrel in one of crude oil’s cyclical price swings, the tax rate goes up. The idea of ACES was that Alaska should share in the windfall. It’s a good idea. It’s a nonrenewable resource, after all. And it isn’t as if the major oil companies aren’t making billions of dollars in profits in Alaska. Throughput in the Trans-Alaska Pipeline is indisputably down. Is it the result of ACES or is it the economic consequence of fracking technology and attendant booms in oil shale regions? Alaska oil is notoriously expensive to develop: the North Slope is harsh and difficult.
ACES recognizes those higher costs. It grants credits against the oil taxes for monies expended on development. Monies spent on development – and it is a very generously defined term – subtract directly from the tax bill. Spend enough on development, and you can significantly reduce your tax bill. Which suggests that the problem isn’t the ACES tax, but rather the lower opportunity costs elsewhere than in Alaska. If you can get the same amount of oil someplace else in the U.S. for a lower direct cost, taxes may not even enter into the equation.
So let’s look at Captain Zero’s twin proposals in light of those facts and realities.
Captain Zero wants to repeal the progressive elements in ACES. It will give a considerable windfall to Big Oil, on the order of $2 billion a year. What’s in it for Alaska? Captain Zero thinks it will encourage more development on the North Slope. Notably, Big Oil has flatly refused to commit to plow the avoided taxes into North Slope development. But the simple laws of economics tell us that if the avoided taxes aren’t simply distributed to shareholders as dividends, they’ll be re-invested where the most oil can be produced at the lowest price. That may very well not be on the North Slope. It might be North Dakota, or Pennsylvania or Texas. The absence of any conditions from the State of Alaska means that Alaska will have no control, none at all, over where the lost tax revenue goes.
But remember there’s also a tax credit for North Slope development. Captain Zero wants to repeal the tax credit. His fellow Republicans point to items that have been granted a tax credit – paving an airstrip at Kuparuk, for example – which they think don’t have an obvious tie to increased production. At least not obvious the Republicans. And conclude from those examples that the tax credit should be thrown out because Alaska is losing tax revenues.
This is important: Captain Zero not only want to make an unconditional tax repeal with no promise of increased production; he also wants to repeal the one piece of tax law that ties tax breaks to North Slope development.
A sensible administration, a government that was working to increase North Slope production and put more oil in the pipeline, might modify ACES to condition tax reductions on increased throughput over the long term. The avowed goal is increased oil; dangle the carrot near the goal. Don’t just hand out free carrots. And if you think the definition of “development” for tax credits is too loosey-goosey to be useful, revise it; tighten it up to focus on the goal. Don’t throw it out.
The repeal of the tax credit is an especially cynical way to sweeten the loss of tax revenue from Captain Zero’s repeal of ACES. But it has the exact opposite effect of the claimed purpose for repealing ACES. The credit links to development. Removing it increases the cost of development, however you define “development.” Increasing the cost of development sends development effort elsewhere.
Unconditional repeal of ACES is a stupid idea. Repeal of the tax credit is a cynical, counterproductive piece of politics. Choose your explanation: the Captain is still working for Big Oil, not for Alaskans. Or Big Oil has bought and paid for the Republican majority. Or the Corrupt Old Bastards are back in charge. Because the official explanations make no sense. The proposed solution doesn’t address the declining throughput. It’s free carrots for the Big Oil.
Don’t expect gratitude.
Captain Zero lost. Again.
His lame, silly lawsuit to keep the polar bear off of the threatened species list was shot down by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. Parnell’s record in endangered species litigation is now something like 0-5. The frightening thing is that the Captain is a licensed lawyer, although presently listed as inactive by the Alaska Bar Association. You’d think he’d have a clue about these things. Apparently, you’d be wrong.
The court was as polite as they could be under the circumstances:
Where, as here, the foundational premises on which the agency relies are adequately explained and uncontested, scientific experts (by a wide majority) support the agency’s conclusion, and Appellants do not point to any scientific evidence that the agency failed to consider, we are bound to uphold the agency’s determination. Therefore we affirm the District Court’s decision to uphold the Listing Rule.
It’s always difficult to reverse on appeal an administrative agency decision involving agency expertise. Basically, the appellate court will defer to agency expertise unless there’s something seriously awry. As far as WC can tell, the claim of Captain Zero was that because the threat to polar bears wasn’t immediate, nothing should be done. That in the face of an indisputable threat – the melting polar ice is destroying polar bear habitat – because polar bears weren’t all dead yet the Endangered Species Act could not be invoked. You don’t have to be a lawyer to see the problem with the argument. It fails the red face test.
WC supposes the Governor will attempt a petition for certiorari to the U.S. Supreme Court, but, really, when will the State wake up and smell the coffee? Or, more prosaically, stop spending the State’s money on expensive lawyers in cases that it cannot win? Does the Captain owe favors to these lawyers that he is paying off by paying them to take these dogs? Is this some kind of self-indulgent political street theater?
Unless there is some non-legal excuse for this kind of behavior, even something corrupt, then Captain Zero’s behavior meets the definition of insanity: doing the same thing, over and over, with the expectation that the outcome will change.
An intelligent approach would be to face the reality of polar bear’s threatened status and participate in the rule-making process. To make an effort to develop a recovery plan that accommodates the State’s resource extraction plans. But the Governor’s edict that all state biologists toe the strict party line disqualifies the state from a seat at the table where that plan is being developed. So much for intelligence.
So, Captain Zero, what’s your Plan B?
In August 2006, 53% of Alaskans voted to impose a head tax, on-board observers and stricter regulation on cruise ships coming to Alaska. The initiative passed despite economic blackmail by the industry, over-the-top scare tactics, attempts at illegal voting by non-resident seasonal workers and and a $1.5 million media blitz by the industry.
Since then, Alaska’s governors and the Alaska Legislature have collapsed like beached jellyfish in their zeal to undercut the citizens’ decision. Deadlines were extended, key provisions were watered down or removed and enforcement has shown less spine than a banana.
The final nail in the coffin came down Monday when the Republican-controlled State House effectively repealed all of the remaining teeth in the citizen initiative, all in the name of sucking up to the cruise industry. This is the same industry, mind you, with a long record of pollution, including a 1999 guilty plea to illegal discharges in the pristine Lynn Canal, and payment of a $27 million fine. The House bill appears headed to near-certain adoption by the state senate, and Captain Zero has already pledged to sign it into law.
All of this because if the State doesn’t cave to the cruise line demands they’ll take their behemoths elsewhere.
For WC, this abject fawning demonstrates an utter lack of confidence by the folks we send to Juneau in the tourism product we have to sell.
Alaska and its scenery have a long-proven record of successfully attracting tourism dollars to the State. The demand to see Alaska is real; the threats – direct and indirect – by the cruise ship industry to take their floating buffet lines elsewhere if the state doesn’t meet their demands is a bluff. The cruise ship industry has huge amounts of capital invested in their gargantuan ships and in their earlier promotion of Alaska in general and Southeast Alaska in particular. Despite the threats, they don’t want to walk away from that investment. The cost of complying with the environmental requirements is trivial in comparison to the profits, and for the most part a one-time expense which is even tax deductible to the industry.
And, you know, the fishermen have a point when they stress the important of keeping the heavy metals that the cruise ships spew out of the water column, out of our fish and out of ourselves. And the evidence of voluntary compliance is non-existence. Also on Monday, Princess Cruises paid a $20,000 fine for illegal wastewater dumping in Glacier Bay.
None of the arguments advanced by the powerful cruise ship lobby withstand scrutiny, which is why they have fallen back on economic blackmail. But to the extent anyone, including our elected officials, give those threats credence, they are demonstrating a lack of confidence in the natural beauty of Alaska.
You see the same thing in Captain Zero’s efforts to suck up to the oil industry. But that will be the subject of a later essay.
BP, serial criminal and multiply convicted felon, pled guilty last week to felonies arising out of the Deepwater Horizon Gulf of Mexico disaster. It agreed to pay a $1.25 billion fine and criminal compensatory damages amounting to another $4 billion. If you have a strong stomach, you can read the plea deal and BP’s admissions here.
Of course, this is hardly BP’s first criminal offense. In fact, the company has a rap sheet that would be the envy of any inner-city gang-banger. Here are just a few of the recent blots on BP’s royal escutcheon:
- March 2005 – BP pled guilty to a felony in connection with an explosion at BP’s Texas City refinery, which claimed the lives of 15 employees and injured 170 others.
- August 2006 – BP pled guilty to a criminal misdemeanor for two oil spills here in Alaska due to a severely corroded pipelines on which BP failed to perform maintenance.
- August 2006 – BP entered a deferred prosecution agreement related to price fixing scheme involving propane trading.
- According to the Center for Public Integrity, for the period 2007-2010, BP refineries in Ohio and Texas have accounted for 97 percent of the “egregious, willful” violations handed out by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).
Now if you think these are somehow just aberrations in the conduct of an otherwise reasonable corporation, consider this report form the New York Times:
Before the accident in Texas City, BP had declined to spend $150,000 to fix a part of the system that allowed gasoline to spew into the air and blow up. Documents show that the company had calculated the cost of a human life to be $10 million. Shortly before that disaster, a senior plant manager warned BP’s London headquarters that the plant was unsafe and a disaster was imminent. A report from early 2005 predicted that BP’s refinery would kill someone “within the next 12 to 18 months” unless the company changed its practices.
The arithmetic of corporate profits dictated BP’s risk calculus. Not the regard for safety. Not a decent respect for human live. Not the danger of conviction for homicide. It’s no different than burglars betting they won’t get caught. Except burglars rarely kill dozens of people.
This is just a small part of BP’s long history of criminal convictions. If you doubt WC’s word, see the Corporate Research Report’s article from January 19, 2013 for still more.
Sure, after each criminal conviction BP has pledged to reform, to institute a “new culture,” to make safety “job one.” But BP’s credibility at this point is effectively zero.
So can someone explain, please, why Captain Zero and the Alaska Legislature feel so compelled to give this thuggish multi-national a gigantic tax break?
What’s next? Double Permanent Fund dividends for serial rapists? Worker’s compensation coverage for burglars? Bonus checks for embezzlers?
Why are we rewarding felons?
Our very own Governor Sean “Captain Zero” Parnell has an opinion piece in Sunday’s Fairbanks Daily News Miner. Well, more accurately someone in the Governor’s office was tasked with spinning the facts at Captain Zero’s direction. The piece demonstrates again that you can put the oil industry lobbyist in the Governor’s mansion, but it doesn’t stop Captain Zero from lobbying. WC will analyze the Captain’s essay, as a service to readers.
As North Slope oil production declines, Alaskans’ opportunities diminish. Where once we measured trans-Alaska pipeline system throughput in millions of barrels per day, this next year, North Slope production will average 538,000 barrels per day. In just three years, production has declined by 100,000 barrels per day. This means fewer job opportunities and less money for schools and public safety for Alaskans.
Captain Zero, no one disputes that oil production is declining. No one sensible disagrees with the premise that it would be spiffy to have more revenue from the industry. The disagreement is over how to do that. Handing $2 billion a year to Big Oil isn’t going to accomplish that desirable goal.
Turning around this decline will not happen overnight, and it will not be easy. It will take billions of dollars in new investment every year to stabilize production, and billions more if we want to increase throughput in TAPS. That means new capital spending by Alaska’s legacy producers, as well as by new entrants to the state.
White noise. Meaningless blather. And you forgot to mention the additional billions to renovate and repair the aging North Slope infrastructure, which, you may recall, has failed catastrophically several times already.
From Houston to Wall Street — and around the globe — energy companies and investors know that below the ground, Alaska has few rivals. Where we run into trouble is above ground.
No. That’s not where we run into trouble. We run into trouble when you simply give money to oil producers, without any requirement that it be linked to additional product in the pipeline. Captain Zero is a lawyer. He passed the Alaska Bar Exam. He knows that a corporation’s duty is to its shareholders. Lower taxes mean bigger dividends. Not more oil production.
To encourage these companies to make new investments, my administration has tackled permitting issues, stepped up our marketing efforts, and attracted new companies to Alaska.
It’s great that new companies are drilling on the Slope. But they have fewer resources and are willing to take bigger chances. And they may be less prepared. Remember Respol? It took them ten days to get a blow out under control. And you brag about relaxing the permitting process? Or how about Shell Oil’s unending series of debacles? You think Shell deserves less scrutiny? More crude in the Tube is a goal, but it is not the only goal. When the oil is all gone – and the supply is finite, after all – WC would like Alaska’s environment to be relatively undamaged.
But for every company that comes to Alaska excited about the vast hydrocarbon resources remaining on the North Slope, many others simply turn and put their money elsewhere; they are creating growth and prosperity in places like Alberta, North Dakota and the North Sea. Alaska has dropped behind North Dakota in production and drifted below California this past fall.
Now you are mixing old technologies – traditional drilling methods – with new technologies, specifically hydraulic fracturing, “fracking.” Not every oil field lends itself to fracking. We’re still finding out if the North Slope fields do. And we don’t know the tradeoffs for fracking. We know there are pockets of natural gas at relatively shallow depths, just ask Respol. And you are mixing oil fields with different access requirements with Alaska’s more remote fields. You can’t repeal the laws of economics. More oil in, to use your examples, North Dakota and California, means more supply, which if there were constant demand means lower prices. The added development costs on the North Slope are the result of remoteness, harsh environment and long supply chains.
Every company that has either come to Alaska or walked away cites our oil tax system as problematic, particularly the high government tax when oil prices are high like they’ve been these last few years.
ACES shares the bonus that Big Oil gets for higher prices. But there wasn’t any consensus among the many experts the Legislature heard from last session that ACES was an obstacle to North Slope development, or at least WC didn’t hear any such consensus. But that’s not really the question, is it? The question is whether any tax break is linked tightly enough to the goal of more crude in the Tube.
I have been encouraged by the consensus that has emerged over the past year. Where two years ago, some legislators denied there was a problem, today there seems to be agreement that Alaska’s tax system is out of balance when prices are high, and that something needs to be done.
No. No one denies the problem of declining production. What the legislators have done is question whether you were taking the right approach. And criticizing your alarmist distortions of the minimum volume the pipeline could transport. And the inability of your chosen administration members who appeared before the Legislature to answer even the simplest questions. Those issues represent three of the four reasons ACES hasn’t already been reformed.
Evidence of this was seen at the end of the last legislative session, when legislators from both parties studied and acted on different pieces of tax reform.
Really? Then why did you withdraw your reform bill during the special session, just as the House and the Senate were getting close to a deal? If you were “encouraged,” why did you jerk the rug out from under neath the special session? WC is unable to reconcile your claim now with your actions then. The fourth reason we don’t have a changed tax structure is you unilaterally stopped in the middle of the special session.
Although we may disagree at times on the details of tax reform, most Alaskans agree that something needs to be done. By building on that consensus and focusing on the opportunity before us, I am convinced we can come together collaboratively and move Alaska forward this year.
More white noise and meaningless blather. So far Captain Zero’s idea of collaboration was to pack the Redistricting Committee with Republicans. Not a generally accepted meaning.
That is why I directed my administration to develop a new proposal for tax reform that builds on the work of the Legislature and our administration over the past two years.
I have told my team that any tax reform proposal must adhere to the following principles: First, tax reform must be fair to Alaskans. Second, it must encourage new production. Third, it must be simple, so that it restores balance to the system. Fourth, it must be durable for the long term.
The first “principle” is enshrined in the Alaska Constitution and, in the case of nonrenewable resources like oil and gas, requires us to maximize the revenue. ACES is doing a pretty good job of that. The second principle is the real issue; you seem to think giving away $2 billion, no strings attached, will achieve that. No economist does. No lawyer not paid by Big Oil thinks so. We’ll see what the “new proposal” says, but mark WC as skeptical. The third principle is a non sequitur. “Simple” isn’t possible where resource extraction and economics meet multinational corporations. And the fourth principle was, of course, the goal of ACES. You know, “stability,” that was what the pundits told us Big Oil craved. Heh.
I am asking Alaskans to come together around these core principles and build on the emerging consensus that something needs to be done.
And WC is asking Captain Zero to realize that absent specific extraction targets, reducing the taxes will only be successful in reducing revenue to the State of Alaska. And to the extent there is an emerging consensus, WC thinks it’s recognition that the proposals rolled out in the last legislative session were really, really stupid ideas.
If we work with these guiding principles in mind, we can maximize the benefit of Alaskans’ oil for Alaskans. By doing so this year, we will bring new jobs and new investment, we will begin to reverse the decline, and ultimately, we can unlock Alaska’s vast opportunities for future generations of Alaskans.
Yeah, cue the french horns. Look, Big Oil is making truly obscene profits at the recent prices of Alaska crude. Alaska is just as entitled to make money on its nonrenewable resources. We don’t need another Kennecott copper, where the resource was taken and Alaska got precious little.
WC’s ideal tax structure, if you really believe it has to be changed, would reduce the rate of taxation by a half a percent or so for every 25,000 barrels of crude through the pipeline above throughput of 600,000 barrels a day, up to a ceiling at some sustainable level of extraction, determined by independent experts. Combined with a firm, specific commitment to repair and rehabilitate the infrastructure. Glosses might include special, one time credits for attempts at fracking. If independent experts conclude it can be done safely.
We have the Respol example and the series of Shell blooper highlight reels to remind us to be careful. Scaling back the requirements for permitting is another really bad idea.
But to this point, Captain, you’re just making noise. The noise doesn’t matter. It doesn’t help. It’s the proposal you say you are developing. WC is at a loss to know what it’s not in front of us now. It might help that consensus thing you keep talking about.
WC has accused the Alaska Redistricting Board of the worst kind of political gerrymandering, an egregious set of violations of the Alaska Constitution, in adopting each of the redistricting plans developed to date. On December 28, 2012, the Alaska Supreme Court agreed. Basically, the court refused to allow the Redistricting Board to stack the deck. And ordered yet another do-over.
The Alaska law of redistricting isn’t that complicated. Even the application of the federal Voting Rights Act to Alaska law isn’t that complicated. It only gets complicated when one political party dominates the Redistricting Board, and tries to use the decennial process for a special agenda. Usually to get itself more seats in the Alaska Legislature.
And yes, that has happened in each and every redistricting process since statehood. This redistricting effort is no exception.
The Alaska Supreme Court has already rejected the Redistrict Board’s funky maps once, and told the Board to go back, apply Alaska law, and submit a new map.
Since 1992, Alaska law has required the Redistricting Board to develop a map that complies with the Alaska Constitution and then, to the minimum extent necessary, tweak the map to comply with the federal Voting Rights Act. In Redistricting I, the Court found that the Board had improperly focused first and foremost on the Voting Rights Act.
The Alaska Supreme Court refused to attempt to review the resulting mess, and sent the Board back for a do-over, this time in compliance with Alaska law:
Because it did not follow the Hickel process, the Board cannot meaningfully demonstrate that the Proclamation Plan’s Alaska constitutional deficiencies were necessitated by Voting Rights Act compliance, nor can we reliably decide that question. The Hickel process provides the Board with defined procedural steps that, when followed, ensure redistricting satisfies federal law without doing unnecessary violence to the Alaska Constitution. The Board must first design a plan focusing on compliance with the article VI, section 6 requirements of contiguity, compactness, and relative socioeconomic integration; it may consider local government boundaries and should use drainage and other geographic features in describing boundaries wherever possible. Once such a plan is drawn, the Board must determine whether it complies with the Voting Rights Act and, to the extent it is noncompliant, make revisions that deviate from the Alaska Constitution when deviation is “the only means available to satisfy Voting Rights Act requirements.”
The Court even explained why it insisted on this process:
The Hickel process assures compliance with the Alaska Constitution’s requirements concerning redistricting to the greatest extent possible. The Hickel process also diminishes the potential for partisan gerrymandering and promotes trust in government. . . . A redistricting plan that substantially deviates from these constitutional requirements undermines trust in the process. [Emphasis added.]
So in March 2012, the Board, with the very clear, explicit directions of the Alaska Supreme Court in hand, met again. But instead of following those directions, and starting over as directed, the Board simply tweaked the rejected map for those elections districts that had sued. The Board simply modified the rejected map for the handful of Districts that had complained.
You see, that allowed the Board to leave in place the gerrymandered map that it had ginned up for almost all of the Alaska, and make some minor changes to the communities that had squawked. The new map was rejected by the superior court but by then the election deadlines had rolled around and, oh dear oh dear, there was no choice but to use the boogered map.
The Alaska Supreme wasn’t amused the second time around. On December 28, they told the Redistricting Board that the Board couldn’t avoid the requirements of Alaska law by limiting the scope of the do-over to the contested districts. The Board was sent back to start over – really start over – following the requirements of Alaska law from the start. The Board has been tasked with drawing a new map in time for the 2014 elections. One that follows what has been the unambiguous law of Alaska since 1992.
Of course, in the meantime the 2012 election has been held, using a flawed map to set the election districts. It gave Captain Zero his Republican-controlled state senate. And it gave interior Alaska Tammie Wilson, John Coghill and Pete Kelley. Incumbents are notoriously difficult to defeat. And WC has little doubt that the Redistricting Board will slow roll the process, and that its eventual product will attempt to preserve the gerrymandering already in place.
Because, for some folks at least, clinging to more power is more important than, you know, following the law.
In a sick sort of way, it is interesting watching the Republicans and their right wing hangers-on react to the re-election of President Obama.
Paul Ryan blamed “urban voters,” as if it was somehow wrong for them to have voted. Of course, there were a lot of non-urban states like Iowa and New Hampshire that voted Obama/Biden. And Paul Ryan’s own suburban House district in Wisconsin. To the extent Ryan was using “urban voter” as code for “person of color,” he’s flirting with racism, as well as being a sore loser.
The Mitt, on the other hand, claims that the voters were bribed. The Affordable Care Act, in The Mitt’s view, was a bribe to voters – presumably, the middle class – to vote for President Obama. No, Mitt, it’s not a bribe. It’s how a democracy works. Your ideas – tax cuts for the rich, invading Iran – weren’t as popular as the President’s. It’s insulting to thoughtful Americans, and a reversion to your 47% position, to even suggest otherwise. Even your fellow Republicans are appalled. Your comments make me even more grateful American voters were able to see through your façade and turn you away.
Captain Zero, our very own Governor Parnell, has caused the State of Alaska to fail to set up its own health care exchange, or participate in one of the regional health care exchanges. The deadline for action is Friday. Remember, Alaska has one of the highest rates of uninsured citizens. The Captain, disappointed that his health care views were rejected by the U.S. Supreme Court and now by the voters in the presidential election, continues to pout. His tantrum is costing Alaskans local control and an unknown amount of future health insurance premiums. Lisa Murkowski’s disingenuous approval of the Captain’s hissy fit is equally discouraging.
Some of the Teabagger crowd are calling for secession, although characteristically, they can’t agree on who should secede, why or where. Dudes, WC is used to appalling levels of ignorance from Teabaggers, but did you know there was a war about this? Did you know that the secessionists lost? Please grow up.
And then there are the impeachment nuts, the same folks that brought us the absurdist street theater that was the Clinton impeachment. At least in the case of President Clinton, there was evidence.
And finally there is Donald Trump, who is calling for revolution. But that’s just the ravings of a clown.
As WC surfs through the right-wing websites, the sound and the fury are generally at the grade school playground level. But WC has one particular gripe he will air. Many of these posts mis-attribute one of their favorite aphorisms, “A democracy can only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves largess from the public treasury,” to Alexis de Tocqueville.
While the grotesque misquote in the sign at left is laughable, Alexis de Tocqeville never said anything of the kind. It’s a misattribution. David Wagner, in an essay in The Atlantic, thoroughly debunks this old chestnut. If an author can be found, it may have been Alexander Fraser Tytler, a Scottish Lord and Royalist, who disapproved of democracies in general and the upstart colonies in particular. But even that’s doubtful; Fred Shapiro, the Editor of the Yale Book of Quotations, implies the quote may have been invented by a nameless editor of The Daily Oklahoman back in 1951.
WC is a bit of a fan the de Tocqueville, and unlike the Neocons who misquote him and attribute to him things would never have said, WC was actually forced to read both volumes of Democracy in America, de Tocqueville’s critique of American government and culture, written in 1835. If the Neocons had actually read the two volumes, they might not be quite so … enthusiastic about he French aristocrat and his views.
But that’s a subject for a future post. For now, WC will only note that among the GOP, any sane voices are being drowned out by noisy emotional infants who want to take their marbles and go home. Which doesn’t bode well for a government which relies upon compromise for progress.
Note: The truly bizarre presentation to the Republican caucus of the Georgia State Senate was on October 11, before the election. So while it provides some useful insight into the mindset of our conservative friends, it cannot count as post-election pouting. WC will grant that it is a frightening insight. Apparently, a Georgia republican senator is required to check his or her skepticism and critical thinking at the door.
What of The Mitt? As usual, Andrew Sullivan describes the defeated candidate near-perfectly:
Romney’s was, I thought, one of the most graceful and gracious concession speeches I can recall. I thought for a split-second: what if this Romney had run? And then I realized that his party would never have nominated that Romney and his ambition had trumped his integrity long ago anyway. But there was still a poignancy to that moment – the gap between what a human being can be (or still is, as a father or husband or friend) and what politics and wealth and power can do to someone.
Not all decisions are so clean and easy. A major Republican tactic to defeat President Obama was to unrelentingly obstruct every effort by the President. Including any effort to increase revenues by raising taxes. The tactic failed; the President was re-elected. Will the Republicans now compromise? There are True Believers among the tea party zealots in the U.S. House. Many of them were re-elected on platforms of no compromise. As WC has noted before, the combination of sequestration and expiration of the Bush tax cuts have created a fiscal cliff on January 1. We should know quite soon how the U.S. House, in particular, will behave.
There are faint signs that the U.S. is moving away from some of the bigotry and idiocy that has afflicted it, although the Republicans do continue to wrap themselves in those particular bloody flags.
Bigotry against gays is waning. Same sex marriage is legal in a couple more states, and Minnesota defeated a constitutional amendment to ban same sex marriage. The first openly gay woman was elected to Congress, to the U.S. Senate, no less.
The idiocy of marijuana prohibition is in retreat. Two more states have effectively legalized dope. Perhaps the federal government will act. Thousands of American are in prison for selling marijuana. Dope fuels the appallingly violent drug wars in Mexico. History will view marijuana prohibition as a horrible, failed experiment, analogous to prohibition of alcohol. In fact, it’s easier to buy a lid of dope in Fairbanks than it was to buy bathtub gin in the 1920s.
And the glass ceiling on American politics continues to shatter. New Hampshire’s entire congressional delegation is women; both senators, both house members. So is the Governor. A positive sign, more than enough to outweigh Minnesota’s decision to narrowly re-elect Michele Bachman.
Sure, the knuckle-dragging neanderthals of Alaskan politics, and their campaign of fear and irrationality, have set Alaskan politics back ten years. But WC is still naive enough to believe that over the next four years the voters will see the Pete Kellys of the state legislature for what they are, and turn them out. It’s hope. It’s something to work towards.
When WC was a law student in Chicago, The Boss, Richard J. Daley, was still mayor and ran the Chicago political machine. When he was elected for yet another three year term, he always said the same thing: “The Peepul has spoke.” Beyond all the corruption, chicanery, bribery and threats, the people have spoken.
We move on from here.
Generally, WC supports bonding propositions. They usually offer something for most parts of the State, although areas outside of southcentral tend to get short-sheeted more often than not. And some projects, like the Wendell Street Bridge replacement in Fairbanks, are badly needed.
But there are three problems with this year’s bonding package that makes WC hesitate.
First, it’s huge. $454 million. It nearly doubles total state bonded indebtedness. The same funds that our governor, Captain Zero, wants to reduce by $2 billion a year are the source of repayment. So at a time when the Captain wants to cut the revenue stream this bond package would increase annual debt service. That leaves less money, a lot less money, for basic programs. If someone has sat down an penciled this out, WC hasn’t seen the calculations. WC estimates the pay back will be about $37-38 million a year for twenty years. That’s money that won’t be around for education and other needs. Can we afford it? No one is saying.
Second, it would pay $50 million to the Port of Anchorage expansion. Increasingly, the Port expansion looks like a hole in the Cook Inlet mud into which Mayor Sullivan will pour unending amounts of money. We don’t get to see the government study before the election, but the Mayor has admitted it looks like the total tab to fix the mess will be at least $200 million. Maybe the whole deal should be a separate bond? And a revenue bond, not a general obligation bond? Where’s the other $150 million coming from? And how do we know even $200 million will fix it?
Lastly, the bonding proposition would fund the stupidest new road WC has seen in a long, long time, the McGrath Road to Old Steese Connector, at $24 million. This project would be a bad idea even if it actually fixed the problem it is supposed to address. But it doesn’t.
So for the first time in 44 years and probably 22 state bond propositions, WC will likely be voting against Bonding Proposition A.
The opinions in this post are solely those of WC. This post has not been approved by any party or candidate. No expenses were incurred in creating this post. No electrons were harmed in creating this post.
Don’t scab for the bosses
Don’t listen to their lies
Poor folks ain’t got a chance
Unless they organize
Which side are you on boys?
Which side are you on?
“Which Side Are You On,” Florence Reece
On November 6, the Alaska voters will have to decide which side they are on in the fight over Governor Sean Parnell’s effort to give $2 billion a year to Big Oil. Which side are you on? WC turns to the Alaska Republican party’s effort to oust Senate Coalition member Joe Paskvan.
Joe Paskvan and Pete Kelly are both life-long Fairbanksans. Paskvan works as a plaintiff’s personal injury lawyer; Kelly works as a lobbyist for the University of Alaska (more on that in a bit). Paskvan has been in the state senate for one term of four years; Kelly was in the state house 1995-1999 and in the state senate 1999-2003. Kelly represented the Badger Road area then; he has since moved to Fairbanks. Ironically, they are both graduates of Monroe High School, not the public schools.
Paskvan was and is a member of the senate coalition. He has asked serious, thoughtful questions about the tax structure on the oil industry. He has sought expertise in an effort to revise the state’s oil and gas tax structure in ways that encourage development. He opposes, as does WC, simply giving money to Big Oil in the hope that Big Oil will deign to put more oil in TAPS. He understands how corporations work, and recognizes that absent a binding, enforceable commitment, tax giveaways will go to shareholder dividends, not increased production. He was one of the leaders in the effort to craft a quid pro quo agreement with Big Oil. Those efforts were blocked when Governor Parnell ended the special session of the Legislature just as it appeared a compromise might be reached. Paskvan is active in many community organizations, including the UAF Face Off Club; Sunrise Rotary; Catholic Bishop of Northern Alaska; North Star Youth Court; Chamber of Commerce; Fairbanks Amateur Hockey Association and is a former member of the Yukon Quest Board of Directors.
Kelly’s earlier service in the Legislature was marked by strident, uncompromising and extreme positions. Fairbanksans may recall that a number of times when the Alaska Supreme Court ruled in a way Kelly disliked, he would respond like a petulant child. After just one term in the state senate, he left, telling AP’s Mike Chambers, “Since I won my first election, I started asking myself how long I can continue the gypsy lifestyle in Juneau.” A cynic might say he quit rather than run against the more popular Gary Wilken. Since then, Kelly has worked as a lobbyist for the University of Alaska. Except that we don’t say “lobbyist,” because it would be unseemly for a state agency to lobby the state government. So University lobbyist Kelly is called “Director of State Relations.” It would also be unseemly for a former state senator to go directly from the state senate to lobbying the state senate. Which probably tells you all you need to know about Kelly’s ethics. Kelly is on record supporting Governor Parnell’s giveaway. Which is reason enough to vote for someone else. But he’s also Pete Kelly, with a proven record of mean-spirited stridency.
Of all of Kelly’s positions, perhaps the statement attributed to him on Pebble Mine is the most disturbing. Asked what the State should do about the proposed Pebble Mine, he said, “Alaska’s permitting process is one of the toughest in the world. We need to work through that process to determine if and how to build that mine.” No less an authority than Rick Halford, President of the state senate when Kelly was a member, has admitted that Alaska’s mining regulation is among the most industry-friendly in the nation. Kelly’s statement isn’t just wrong, it is bizarre.
This one looks dead simple to WC. Kelly acts like a petulant child, supports Parnell’s billion dollar give away and thinks Alaska’s mineral permitting laws are tough. He’s a proto-teabagger, who has already quit once.
Paskvan, by a mile.
This blog post is solely the idea of Wickersham’s Conscience. No funds were expended in creating this post. The opinions expressed are solely those of WC.
Don’t scab for the bosses
Don’t listen to their lies
Poor folks ain’t got a chance
Unless they organize
Which side are you on boys?
Which side are you on?
“Which Side Are You On,” Florence Reece
On November 6, the Alaska voters will have to decide which side they are on in the fight over Governor Sean Parnell’s effort to give $2 billion a year to Big Oil. Which side are you on? WC will look first at the Alaska Republican’s party to oust Senate Coalition member Joe Thomas.
The race in Senate District A, as an intended consequence of redistricting, pits two incumbents against each other. Senator Joe Thomas (D) was an outspoken opponent of Governor Parnell’s proposed $2 billion giveaway to Big Oil, and a member of the majority coalition. Senator John Coghill (R) was and is an enthusiastic supporter of Parnell’s giveaway, and was a member of the Republican minority. It sure looks like a set-up by the Republican-dominated Redistricting Committee.
Both are lifelong Alaskans. Coghill, of course, comes with a famous name, the second son of one of the surviving authors of the Alaska Constitution. Thomas comes from the other side, a labor leader and a largely self-made man. But in his one and a half terms in the Senate, Thomas has accomplished as much or more than Coghill did in his 11 years in the House and two years in the Senate. Unlike Coghill, Thomas recognizes that the cost of energy, more than the supply of crude oil, is the critically important issue to Alaskans. It doesn’t matter how much oil flows through TAPS is no one can afford to live here.
But most of all, Thomas strongly opposes unilateral concessions to Big Oil. Coghill, so far as WC can tell, has bought Parnell’s gift to Big Oil. Let’s be clear about this. WC thinks a bargain with Big Oil for more oil would be fine. Say, a two-to-one credit for investment in new fields, or a reduced tax on the first five years of new oil. But simply giving Big Oil billions of dollars won’t get anyone anything except bigger dividends to Big Oil shareholders. It certainly won’t put more oil in TAPS. Hard fact, but true.
Add the fact that Coghill is categorically against abortion, even though Alaska’s privacy amendment makes a woman’s right to choose nobody’s business but her own, certainly no business of the State of Alaska’s. Thomas would keep the State out of personal decisions, including a woman’s right to choose.
One more thing: Thomas has a record of service in a dozen or more interior and statewide organizations, ranging from the Fairbanks Industrial Development Authority to the University of Alaska Board of Regents to the Alaska Worker’s Compensation Board. It’s important, critical work; tedious and grinding, but reliant upon people like Joe Thomas. Coghill? Since leaving the military in 1974, he has no record of service beyond his church and legislative activities.
This one looks dead simple to WC, who likes and respects Jack Coghill, an independent thinker if there ever was one. But Coghill peré? Not so much. He’s a decent man, charming in the way a church pastor is charming. But he’s had the opportunities and just hasn’t done that much with them.
Thomas, by a mile.
This blog post is solely the idea of Wickersham’s Conscience. No funds were expended in creating this post. The opinions expressed are solely those of WC.
Political gadfly Andree McLeod sued Governor Parnell over The Quitter’s use of private email to conduct state business. The various books and exposés of The Quitter’s half term governorship have clearly established that The Quitter used private email to hide her misconduct from the public. There may not be admissible legal evidence, but it’s not in serious dispute. McLeod sought to get those private emails under the Public Records Act and to have use of private email for official business declared to be an automatic violation of Alaska public records laws.
None of this is exactly news: the process of providing The Quitter’s emails to the public took years, remains incomplete even today and what has eventually been produced is swiss cheese: full of holes that smell funny.
But McLeod’s lawsuit went to the Alaska Supreme Court, and it issued an opinion last Friday. And decided that McLeod had won. Or at least won half a loaf.
It requires a close reading of the decision to understand how victory was snatched from the jaws of defeat. Justice Carpeneti, writing for a unanimous court, held that private emails involving state business were “public records” and should be preserved. In other words, The Quitter, the First Spouse and members of her administration could not evade the scope of the Public Records Act by conducting state business by private emails.
Justice Carpeneti declined to find that the use of private emails for public business was a per se – automatic – violation of the Public Records Act. However, he found “McLeod established that the duty to preserve emails exists as to both official accounts and private accounts, and that the duty cannot be extinguished by a public official’s unreviewable decision simply not to preserve them.”
Obviously, this is only half a loaf. While public business conducted by private email creates a public record, there are serious practical problems with tracking down those emails. McLeod didn’t raise those issues – or at least the court fond she hadn’t – and the court wasn’t about to volunteer. And the Alaska Supreme Court has only belatedly reached email, a decades-old technology. Tweets and text messaging remain legal terra incognito. The law has never been very good at keeping up with technology.
But props to Ms. McLeod. And to her attorney, Don Mitchell. Sometimes simple stubbornness can accomplish what reason and logic cannot. And maybe, now that the dust has settled, the Alaska Legislature can simply ban use of private email for state business.
It’s fair to say WC has been a harsh critic of Captain Zero’s willingness to give oil companies a few billion tax bucks. WC has wondered aloud where the Captain got the idea. WC has speculated that Captain Zero may be confused and thinks he is still working for the oil industry. The whole “Please, Master, if I work harder may I have some more gruel” thing never passed the Red Face Test.
But here’s a lead: The Mitt has the same plan.
It’s true. As Daniel J. Weiss and Seth Hanlon show in their article on The Mitt’s tax plan, BP, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil, and Royal Dutch Shell – Big Oil – would keep special tax breaks worth $2.4 billion each year. And by cutting the corporate tax rates, the Romney plan could lower the companies’ annual tax bill by as much as $2.3 billion, based on an analysis of the companies’ reported tax expenses for 2011.
Now most folks would think that companies who had a combined $137 billion -– that’s Billion with a “B” – in profit last year didn’t need a tax break. But The Mitt’s claim is that without those tax breaks, Big Oil won’t be able to create jobs. Sound familiar?
In fact, between 2006 and 2010, Big Oil axed a reported 17,500 jobs. Exxon Mobil pays an effective tax rate of 13%. And made $44.1 billion in profits. If you think that lowering taxes still further will create new jobs, WC has a terrific bargain for you on the Cushman Street Bridge in downtown Fairbanks.
The Mitt thinks lowering taxes still more will fix the economy. Captain Zero thinks lowering taxes will put more oil in the trans-Alaska pipeline. The reality is that lowering taxes will only increase shareholder dividends.
But that’s the key, you see? Both of them were born to power and privilege. Pat Parnell’s kid never had it rough. Both think that shareholder dividends are the economy. They think hardscrabble is a quarterly decline in earnings. They think unemployment means two weeks in Hawaii instead of four. They think every kid has a selection of silver spoons.
Barry Switzer was right. They think because they were born on third base, they must have hit a triple.