"In the money-driven context of American politics, the perks of incumbency can transform into a sense of personal entitlement as V.I.P. back-slappers relentlessly donate and entreat their way into a grateful politician's inner circle."
-- from this morning's NYT editorial "A Senate Lion Brought Down"
Okay, so he's a crook, but he's our crook. Besides, he didn't steal from us. If anything, he stole for us. So why shouldn't he get a little for himself on the side?
This seems to be the attitude of many Alaskans faced with the loss of their cash-generating senior senator's Senate seniority, as reported in this morning's Washington Post:
Alaskans Fret About a Future Without Help From 'Uncle Ted'
By Karl Vick
ANCHORAGE, July 30 -- Alaska's vast landscape is littered with federally funded tributes to Sen. Ted Stevens's single-minded promotion of the state, from the brushed steel of Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport to the $187 million that subsidizes air mail for the one-third of residents who live beyond the reach of roads.
In his almost 40 years in the Senate, the octogenarian Republican in many ways defined the shape of the Last Frontier, not least by using his perch on the Appropriations Committee to ensure that his state's tiny population remained the nation's richest in federal spending per capita. More than $9 billion arrived in Alaska from Washington in 2006, twice as much as a decade earlier.
So it was perhaps to be expected that many here greeted the news of Stevens's indictment on corruption charges as if they were condemned to a pauper's death, fearful that they will no longer be able to depend on the largess of "Uncle Ted." . . .
A third of Alaska's jobs can be traced to federal spending, according to the latest study by the University of Alaska's Institute of Social and Economic Research. Many spring from military expenditures that Stevens encouraged during decades of service on the appropriations subcommittee that oversees defense spending. . . .
The watchdog group Taxpayers for Common Sense said Wednesday that Stevens secured or played a significant role in 891 earmarks worth $3.2 billion to Alaska between 2004 and 2008. Divided among the state's 670,000 residents, the per capita figure of $4,872 is 18 times the national average of $263 over the same four years, the group said. . . .
A Senate Lion Brought Down
Any member of Congress should be able to see the larger lesson in the indictment of Senator Ted Stevens, the Alaskan patriarch accused of concealing more than $250,000 in home improvements and furnishings allegedly bestowed by the state's chief power broker.
Unfortunately, that lesson -- beware of favor-seekers bearing gifts -- strikes so directly to the heart of the back-scratching political culture of Washington that time and again lawmakers become inured to the risks and put their careers in jeopardy.
Mr. Stevens denies any corrupt behavior and insists that he paid for everything he received from William Allen, one of his state's dominant oil magnates until last year, when he admitted to bribing a half-dozen state politicians to get government favors. That will be up to a jury to decide. But Mr. Stevens's constituents have a right to wonder why their revered senator, a Republican who has served them fiercely for four decades, ever agreed to have his home richly upgraded by someone so obviously hunting for the inside track to politicians.
No bribery charge or quid pro quo is specified, which is always a difficult case for prosecutors to prove. Rather, Senate ethics violations are the core of the case, and this is as it should be. The senator is accused of concealing the alleged gifts from required disclosure to the public. At the same time, prosecutors say that Mr. Stevens "did use his official position and his office" to help Mr. Allen with oil deals ranging from Russia and Pakistan to special grants and contracts in Alaska.
In the money-driven context of American politics, the perks of incumbency can transform into a sense of personal entitlement as V.I.P. back-slappers relentlessly donate and entreat their way into a grateful politician's inner circle.
Voters are on to this downward spiral, even if too many lawmakers are in denial. Congress's esteem is at an all-time low, despite the spate of ethics reforms that helped bring the Democrats back to power in 2006. To its credit, the House is finally starting up a panel of outsiders to oversee its ethics; senators proudly rejected their august chamber's need for such an attempt to regain public trust.
In the case of the continuing Alaska investigation, it's revealing that an outside force -- an op-ed newspaper essay by a suspicious observer -- eventually triggered the federal raids that convicted state officials and indicted Mr. Stevens. Taxpayers should question whether government watchdogs would otherwise still be snoozing. In fact, statehouse lawmakers cited in the article first reacted by mockingly donning C.B.C. (Corrupt Bastards Club) baseball caps.
HUBRIS would have been the more appropriate logo. The tragedy in the indictment of Mr. Stevens is that overweening pride too easily befalls politicians.
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What does it take to get attention to the problems of farm chemical runoff? The Chesapeake Bay and other bodies of water are also dieing because of these chemicals. I get that they're great for farmers and that the chemical industry makes lots of sales, but what about everyone else? What about those who make a living on the water? What about lost tourist dollars? What about the health hazards related to eating seafood from these areas? In the case of the Chesapeake, when my uncle started chemotherapy a few years ago, his doctors told him to immediately stop eating anything out of the Bay, that cancer rates had skyrocketed in the region and were probably linked to eating the local seafood.
Obviously this issue is going nowhere with the Bush EPA and it's doubtful that McCain would change anything either. Congress is going to have to step up and do something because problems related to farm runoff are getting worse around the country.
The problem of hypoxia -- very low levels of dissolved oxygen -- is a downstream effect of fertilizers used for agriculture in the Mississippi River watershed. Nitrogen is the major culprit, flowing into the Gulf and spurring the growth of algae. Animals called zooplankton eat the algae, excreting pellets that sink to the bottom like tiny stones. This organic matter decays in a process that depletes the water of oxygen.
Researchers expected the dead zone to set a record -- even more than the 8,500 square miles observed in 2002 -- after the Mississippi, swollen with floodwaters, carried an extraordinary amount of nitrates into the Gulf, about 37 percent more than last year and the most since measuring these factors was begun in 1970.
The researchers set out July 20 aboard the Pelican, a 115-foot academic research vessel, and braved 12-foot waves and 35-mph winds from the outer bands of Dolly to take samples. The hypoxia began to appear about halfway to the bottom in waters ranging from 10 to 130 feet deep, said Nancy Rabalais, executive director of the Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium, which conducted the study. Some water samples from the bottom of the water column showed no oxygen at all, and instead bore the signature odor of hydrogen sulfide emerging from underlying sediments.
What's up tonight?Tags: open thread (all tags) [...]
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Jake Tapper says Obama's is being 'inflammatory' for hinting that McCain is doing what he's doing.[...]
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This evening's Rescue Rangers are Louisiana 1976, Got a Grip, BentLiberal, dadanation, Larsstephens and Avila, with jennyjem as editor.
Here are the diaries up for rescue tonight:
jotter has High Impact Diaries - July 29, 2008.
brillig has Daily Kos Top Comments 7/30/08 Quickie Edition.
Enjoy and please promote your own favorite diaries in this open thread.
Who was the best candidate in the 1920 Presidential election? The Republican nominee was Senator Warren G. Harding of Ohio. Senator Harding, a deeply conservative and unimaginative figure, has long been regarded as one of our worst Presidents. No right-thinking person would have voted for Mr. Harding in 1920. The fact that 60% of the electorate did indeed vote for [...]
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