Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Alaska: Political Circus Back in Town


It never ceases to amaze me just how petty Alaskan politics can get sometimes - especially when they smell a chance to stick it to Sarah Palin. This week, the issue is Palin's appointment of anew State Senator to fill the seat vacated by Troopergate ringleader/Obama appointee Kim Elton.

Under law, Palin had to appoint a Democrat - and her appointee then has to be approved by a majority vote the sitting Democratic Senators. Normally, the local party in the vacant district (Juneau, in this case) would forward a list of nominees to the Governor, and one of them would be picked. However, in this case, the Juneau Democrats decided not to submit the traditional three nominations, and put only one name on the list - State Representative and staunch anti-Palinite Beth Kertulla. Palin asked for more names, but the Juneau Dems refused. So, she exercised her right to appoint any Democrat she wished, and instead nominated Tim Grussendorf, who was chief of staff to State Sen. Lyman Hoffman (D-Bethel). Grussendorf is clearly qualified for the post, but now some Democratic Senators are trying to defeat his nomination and try to force a Kertulla pick.

This is ridiculous and petty, and I personally think it's time for the Anti-Palin people to stop behaving like toddlers. So, I figure that I will introduce you to each and every one of the people involved in this and tell you how to contact them - just so that they know we're watching. (All names will be hyperlinked to their profiles at the AK Legislature). There are only 9 Democrats in the Senate (5 needed for majority), so it shouldn't take too long to identify the key players.

I talked to someone familiar with the dynamics of the situation, and it appears that two Dems from Anchorage leading the charge against Grussendorf: Sens. Hollis French (remember him?), Bill Wielechowski, and Johnny Ellis. This could be personal for French, who wants to run for Governor in 2010 and would love to shoot down anything Palin does. On the other hand, most of the non-Anchorage Democrats seem favorably inclined toward Grussendorf. He's almost certain to get a vote from his old boss, Lyman Hoffman, and my source seems to think that he's going to get backing from Sens. Donald Olson (Nome), Joe Thomas (Fairbanks), and Joe Paskvan (Fairbanks). If this is true, Grussendorf only needs one more vote to get in, and we have two swing voters to focus our efforts on. They are:

Sen. Bettye Davis (Anchorage)
Sen. Albert Kookesh (Angoon/SE Alaska)

So, if you want to call or email, I would focus on those two - and then make sure to call the other four who seem to be leaning the right way to encourage them. If you want to call French, Wielechowski, and Ellis...well...have fun. Davis will likely be under pressure from the other two Anchorage Senators, so they will need some pushing, and Kookesh could be our best bet seeing as he doesn't have the Anchorage connection (he's also the one making this post possible - the vote is delayed because his plane is snowed in). Granted, he's from Southeast Alaska, so he could have some loyalty to Kertulla.

I'll be doing my best to publicize this, and I will be posting the final votes here - so you will all know who did the right thing and who caved to the pressure from shadow-Governor French. Tim Grussendorf seems like a decent guy, not to mention a longtime staffer for a Democratic State Senator, so there's no reason he shouldn't be voted in (other than personal animosity toward Palin). Plus, Rep. Kertulla wants to run for the seat in the next election anyway, and one Juneau Democratic official told the Anchorage Daily News "she would beat him (Grussendorf) like a drum." So, if that bravado proves true, then this is not exactly putting a crimp on her career.

It's time for Hollis French and his friends to quit with the pettiness, let Grussendorf in, and get back to the serious work of government. Let's do what we can to see that they do just that.

Monday, March 30, 2009


To those of you who stop by here every day, I owe you an apology. I have not been maintain this site as I should have, and I will do my best to get back up to speed. Please allow me to explain:

I have been relatively busy offline, as I was in a situation where I had to find a new job very quickly in order to stay here in DC (Luckily, I did accomplish that). This took a decent portion of my time in addition to my current job (which I am still working until mid-April). Furthermore, I have been trying to balance this blog with my status as a contributor to Race 4 2012 (which I hope you all have been reading). Toward the end of last week, I inadvertently touched off a firestorm over there by suggesting Judd Gregg as a VP candidate - which spiraled into a debate on Sen. Gregg's potential presidential prospects, and this idea got a some play in the higher levels of the blogsosphere, so I had to devote some time to it. Plus, R4'12 is presenting me with some interesting dilemmas, as that sites seems to be a very good forum for national-level discussions - which has led me to use The Brickyard for two functions which are rather incompatible - my global politics blogging and the highly localized Alaska blogging that I get involved in as a result of my Palin efforts. So, please bear with me as I try to find the proper balance.

Anyway, I will be posting more in the morning, and this blog is not going anywhere. I hope that you are all still listening and ready to have some good discussions.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Netanyahu Finally Gets His Coalition

Well, it looks like Benjamin Netanyahu will finally be able to take over as Israel's Prime Minister, as he has finally coerced the left-wing Labor Party into joining his coalition government (he had enough seats before, but he wanted to have a broader, non-ideological government).

However, the deal may come with a price, as a large chunk of the Labor Party was hellbent against leader Ehud Barak's plan to join the coalition. If that divide grows, the party which once dominated Israeli politics could shatter - formally marking the end of the Labor era.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Northern Exposure: Kim Elton

Okay, raise your hand if you remember last year’s brouhaha regarding Sarah Palin charging the state of Alaska $17,000 in per diem so that she could live in her Wasilla home while the governor's mansion underwent renovations. I’m guessing that most of your hands went up (or would have, if we were actually in a room together). Well, one of the main people pushing that story was then-State Senator Kim Elton – who has since received a cushy presidential appointment as the Department of the Interior’s Director of Alaska Affairs. However, it now appears that Sen. Elton was himself charging the state even more in per diem. Not only that, it appears that unlike Palin – who was actually billling the state for legitimate expenses - Elton seems to have been abusing the process.

I have a source in Alaska who did some digging through the “Alaska Legislature 2008 Salary and Business Expense Report” – put out by the state’s Legislative Affairs Agency - and it’s truly amazing what was going on. According to my source, Elton charged the state a grand total of $20,681.25 in per diem for the year 2008 – several thousand dollars more than Gov. Palin. That comes out to $122.25 per day through the normal legislative session between January 15 and April 15. Then he charged $160.50 per day for two of the year’s four special sessions (30 days each). So, just on these facts alone, the man is far more “guilty” than the Governor when it comes to per diem.

But then again, travel and lodging costs a lot for legislators in Alaska. It’s a big state, and legislators from far-flung corners of the Great White North have to move to the remote capital of Juneau for the 90-day legislative session. So, for the most part, it is acceptable for these people to collect per diem for their services. It must have been horribly expensive for Sen. Elton, considering that he represents a town of only a few thousand people that is accessible only by boat. It must have cost an arm and a leg for him to get to work from his home town of Juneau!

Yes, you read that correctly. While he was ragging on Sarah Palin for expensing her commutes to Wasilla, Kim Elton was ripping off thousands of dollars from the State of Alaska. While what he did it perfectly legal, I fail to see why he needed more than $20,000 in food and lodging expenses to pay for the quick drive from his house to the Capitol Building. I might also add that, while I only have numbers from last year, Elton charged per diem every year during his decade in the State Senate. Palin, on the other hand, actually charged far less per diem than the previous two governors, who billed the state to live in hotels and rent apartments in Anchorage.

Now, this might seem like a regional story, but in this case, Palin's per diem became a national issue. So, if Kim Elton wanted to ensure that the world found out all about Sarah Palin's use of state funds, then it’s only fair that we examine Elton's own use (and abuse) of said funds– especially since the man seems to have been handsomely rewarded for his efforts against Gov. Palin (he was head of the Legislative Council that "handled" the "Troopergate" mess). Then again, his new job may also be due to his close relationship with Pete Rouse - a former co-worker who served as chief of staff to a young senator named Barack Obama.

People who live in glass houses….

Friday, March 20, 2009

Scottish Muslims Offer to Guard Synagogue

Reading this story really brightened my day. Last week, a Edinburgh Hebrew Congregation in Edinburgh, Scotland was vandalized in an anti-Semitic attack - but it might have been a blessing in disguise, as it sparked a rather remarkable act of interfaith solidarity.

Yesterday, The Scotsman newspaper reported that Ken Imrie, chairman of the Scottish Islamic Association, sent a letter to the synagogue's rabbi in which they not only expressed their "revulsion and horror" at the attack, but put their money where their mouth was. Here's an excerpt:

"We trust you have adequate security arrangements in place, in line with places of worship across the country. If not, such is our strength of feeling on this matter, we would wish to physically guard the synagogue ourselves."

We really need more people like this in the world. Kudos to the Scottish Islamic Association and Ken Imrie for their selfless act of generosity and courage. Personally, I hope that the Edinburgh Hebrew Congregation takes them up on their offer - as letting these people actually guard the synagogue would be a tremendous statement against religious bigotry.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Palin Rejects Stimulus Money!

Well, out favorite Governor is at it again. Today, she rejected a full 45% of the money available to Alaska under the so-called stimulus package. As someone who has followed the Governor for a long time, I know that this is classic Sarah - and it really reminds me of the times she slashed huge sums out of the state budget and slowed the growth of government in Alaska.

One thing you may not have seen in the national media is Sarah's full statement on the subject, but video is available from KTUU News in Anchorage, and I really wanted to show it to you. This is our proof that Sarah is back in "serious executive" mode, and for my two cents, it means that the Sarah Palin we remember from before the VP run is back and better than ever.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Brickyard Profile: Baby's First Coup

I've had an epiphany of sort about my writing...I really, really like to profile people who I find intriguing. Hence, I think it's time to formalize this process, start using trademark graphics (see below) and make the "Brickyard Profile" a regular feature of this site. Please give me some feedback on the comments in the comments section (good, bad, ugly), and maybe even suggest individuals (foreign or domestic) who you think could be highlighted. So, without further ado, here's our first "official" Brickyard profile - meet Andry Rajoelina.

To put it lightly, Andry Rajoelina doesn't look old enough to lead a revolution. Heck, he doesn't look old enough to shave. He is a little older than he appears, but at 34, the baby-faced former DJ still has six years until he can constitutionally become President of Madagascar. However, if one thing has become clear over the last few weeks, it's that Andry Rajoelina need not be troubled by petty laws and regulations - so it probably shouldn't surprise anyone that he did in fact become Madagascar's President yesterday. Unfortunately, he didn't exactly achieve his impressive feat legally.

Instead, Rajoelina's rise to power resulted from what could arguably be described as the biggest temper tantrum in recent memory. The mess started last month, when now-former president Marc Ravalomanana abruptly fired Rajoelina from his elected office as Mayor of Antannanarivo (the nation's capital). He had every right to be upset, and even to fight his dismissal, but few people would have envisioned what he did next. Instead of merely protesting his dismissal, Rajoelina launched a revolution. He told his followers that President Ravolomanana was a dictator, and that he was misspending public funds - and then on Monday he declared himself president of a new government.

With Rajoelina's people in the streets, and the military siding with the opposition, President Ravalomanana holed up in one of the presidential palaces. His supporters gathered outside and prepared for a confrontation, but Ravalomanana saw the writing on the wall (and the fact that the army had taken control of the main presidential palace) and offered hold a referendum on national leadership. Rajoelina did not think that an election was needed to determine the will of the people, so he refused the offer. Left with no options, the president resigned yesterday and handed power to the military, who immediately handed the presidency to Rajoelina. The takeover was complete

Some might call this a revolution, but I think it's a run-of-the-mill military coup. Rajoelina did not take power through his massive street protests (though they helped); he took power because the military decided to turn on President Ravalomanana. Andry Rajoelina may have rode a wave of popularity, but that does not change the fact that he is not only unelected, but constitutionally disqualified from the office he now holds. Far from exhibiting the traits of a democratic hero, he is showing the trademarks of a a budding egomaniac dictator. Luckily, he has promised elections in two years, but something tells me he will win easily (and probably unfairly) and go on to become the unchallenged leader of an undemocratic Madagascar.

Considering his age, charisma, and organizational ability, this man has the potential to lead his country for a very long time. Combine that with his excessive ego, his inexperience, and the fact Madagascar is already an extremely poor country - and it becomes clear that Andry Rajoelina has the potential to become the next Robert Mugabe if he wants to. However, before we get into any doomsday scenarios for Madagascar, we have to see if the boy king even stays in power. After all, the military turned on Ravalomanana, and they can just as easily turn on his successor.

Will Rajoelina become a major force, or will the world's youngest coup leader become the youngest person to be ousted in a coup? Only time will tell, but regardless of what happens Andry Rajoelina is definitely a man to watch.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Another Domino Falls...

First, there was Hugo Chavez - who we all know and loathe - but the thing that a lot of people don't pick up on is that "Chavismo" is not limited to Venezuela. Instead, Chavez launched a domino effect that has reverberated around Latin America. Radical Leftist/Socialist presidents have suddenly shot to power all over Latin America, dramatically re-shaping the region's political culture and making life very difficult for the U.S. Some have become moderate, accepted left-wing leaders, like Brazil's Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and Uruguay's Tabare Vazquez. However, many of them have lived up to their radical reputations. This brand of leader, who I would call the "Chavitos" (little Chavezs) have become one of the scariest trends in world politics. They include Ecuador's Rafael Correa, Nicaragua's Daniel Ortega, and - most importantly- Bolivia's Evo Morales (who actually scares me MORE than Chavez himself).

Today, another country has fallen, and the latest Leftist to come to power could be the most important yet - because he is unlike the others and, in my mind, could represent the first incarnation of the second generation of Chavitos. The country is El Salvador in Central America- and the man is former TV journalist Mauricio Funes. On one hand, I'm surprised that it took Salvadoreans so long to lurch leftward, as Mr. Funes' party is one of the most established radical movements in Latin America. While it operates as a political party today, the Faribundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN) got its start as a communist guerrilla army and fought a bloody civil war in 1980s and early 90s. However, since going "mainstream", the FMLN has failed to gain the presidency - but that was before they found Mauricio Funes, who was unlike anyone they had put up before.

Until now, the FMLN has run former guerrillas for president, but apparently Salvadoreans were not in the mood to elect bloodied rebel commanders to lead their country - this has allowed the conservative ARENA Party to hold the presidency in a vice-grip since 1989. Funes, however, is not only the first FMLN who did not fight in the war, but seemingly bears no resemblance to the grizzled fighters who founded his party. With his clean-shaven look and his chic modern spectacles, he clearly doesn't come from the bloody jungle battlefields of the 80s. Instead, he is a modern communicator who honed his skills as a TV presenter on "CNN en Espanol". This is not just a change of pace for the FMLN, but for the entire Latin American left, as most of the "Chavitos" got their start as proletarian labor union bosses.

So, we've established that Funes is a different kind of Lefty, but why is that so darn important? Well, it's because he could be a weathervane for the entire region - telling the world how the Chavez movement will age. It seems now that he could easily become a moderate leftist like Lula da Silva in Brazil. If that is the case, he will fit nicely into the international community and won't be terribly noteworthy in the grand scheme of things. However, considering that he did come out of the very radical FMLN, he could instead be the first example of a new Leftist generation of of leaders - "Chavito 2.0" if you will. In other words, his policies could be every bit as radical as Crazy Hugo, but more threatening because of their sleek, non-militant, 21st century look. Everybody KNEW that the first generation of Chavitos were stark raving loons, they might as well have "nut job" tattooed across their foreheads. But if the Funes example holds, that will no longer be the case, and more countries will become vulnerable. Conservative holdouts like Peru and Colombia could fall for the siren-song of the new left, and the takeover of Latin America will become complete.

Which way President Funes will go is anybody's guess. We can pray that he turns out as a moderate - but we need to watch him closely to ensure that he doesn't morph into something far more sinister.

Friday, March 13, 2009

D.S. Simon Interview

I had the privilege of participating in a panel discussion at PRNews' Media Relations Forum here in DC on Tuesday, and along the way I had the added opportunity to be interviewed for the "D.S. Simon Vlog" - a video blog serving the communication community. I wanted to share this interview with all of you, as I thought Mr. Simon had some great questions and I really like his vlog concept. Thanks to PRNews for the invitation, and thanks to Mr. Simon for the interview.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

"Defenders of Wild Food"

This is great! A friend in AK gave me a link to this new group, and I'm excited to see that someone is finally taking on "Defenders of Wildlife" and the other extremist greenies going after Sarah Palin on the issue of Alaska's predator control programs. Finally, someone has put a human face on our side of the issue! And I think it's great that they parodied the enemy by parodying their name. Be sure to visit DefendersOfWildFood.org for more info. I cannot tell you how thrilled I am that somebody is finally taking a shot at the "wolf people" - their disingenuous ads (the ones with the stock footage of airplanes and wolves getting tranquilized) have been an unneeded distraction for far too long, and can't wait to see how they react to be labeled enemies of Native Alaskan culture.

Monday, March 9, 2009

This Sent Chills Up My Spine...

I was reading today that Britain's last surviving WWI veteran was made a member of the French Legion of Honor today. I found some video of his acceptance speech from the BBC, and I almost cried. I love to put up inspirational stories, and 110 year-old Harry Patch definitely qualifies.

Click here to watch.

In case you didn't understand him, I'm putting the full text of his remarks at the end of this post, but I have a few things to say first. With all of the focus historians put on WWII, the First World War tends to be forgotten...which is a real shame, considering that the last veterans are currently dying out (I think there are two left in the world) These men deserve every bit as much respect as those who fought thirty years later, and I'm glad to see that the few remaining survivors are getting some publicity. But what are we going to do when they're gone? I can't speak for Europe, but I do know that there is, in fact, a WWI memorial next to the Washington Mall - I stop by it every time I visit the memorials. It's tucked off to the side in a stand of trees; it's not well taken care of; and hardly anybody knows what it is. Technically, it's a local memorial to DC residents who died in WWI, but it's the closest thing we've got...so let's at least take care of it. Maybe we could even take a few of those stimulus dollars and clean it up - maybe we could even install a sign to let people know it exists. Wikipedia says that there was a bill introduced last year to expand it and make it a national WWI memorial...I don't know how far that went, but kudos to Congressman Ted Poe (R-TX) for the idea. And, lastly, to whoever left that single red rose there on Veterans Day, you're my hero.

Text of Harry Patch's remarks after being made a member of the French Legion of Honor:

"Now, but two of us remain at our post and the people of France, through their president, have honoured us once more by appointing us as Officers of the Legion of Honour."

"Ambassador, I greatly appreciate the way your people respect the memory of those who fell, irrespective of the uniform they wore.

"I will wear this medal with great pride and when I eventually rejoin my mates it will be displayed in my regimental museum as a permanent reminder of the kindness of the people of France."

Saturday, March 7, 2009

The Red Button

It's official, Hillary Clinton has absolutely no business being a diplomat. She would have been a half-decent fit for other departments, like Health and Human Services, but her gaffe yesterday was almost totally inexcusable. If the Obama Administration wants to put more focus on diplomacy as a method of solving our problems, then he should never have put such an amateur in the nation's top diplomatic post.

Now, I actually though that the idea of giving a "reset" button to the Russian Foreign Minister was a good diplomatic gesture, but I am positively steamed at how badly it was bungled. First, Clinton told her Russian counterpart that a lot of work had been put into making sure that that they used the correct Russian word for "reset" (perezagruzka), but gave him a button that actually said "overload" (peregruzka). Not only was there a typo, but it wasn't even written in Russian! The button should have read "ПЕРЕЗАГРУЗКА" (I took some Russian in college), but instead it was written out using the Latin Alphabet!

Apparently, Secretary Clinton's people didn't work as hard as she thought to find the right word, let alone the right alphabet. If the U.S. state department can't figure out how to properly translate one word into Russian, then we have some serious problems to deal with.

This is a minor faux pas in the grand scheme of things, but there is still absolutely no excuse for it. I'm not surprised that Foreign Minister Lavrov said he would keep the button on his desk despite the typo...as it will be a constant reminder that his American counterpart is in over her head.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Troopergate Ringleader Gets Cushy Federal Job

If you haven't heard yet, Alaska State Senator Kim Elton (D-Juneau) has resigned to accept an appointment as the Department of the Interior's Director of Alaska Affairs. Of course, WE all remember Elton as the leader of the council that investigated the Troopergate fiasco, and one of the top guys responsible for blowing those trumped up charges onto the national political scene. So, I guess the moral of the story is that the politics of personal destruction are not only alive and well, but can get you promoted.

Unfortunately, this also shows that President Obama has little intention of working with Gov. Palin on anything, as Elton and Palin are not exactly on good terms. This was evidenced by the tersely worded statement released by Gov. Palin - which included the following:

"Senator Elton pledged his allegiance to President Obama last summer."

There was one thing that came out of this appointment that really interested me...because it may reveal the missing link between the Obama campaign and the prosecution of Troopergate:

"Elton is close to Pete Rouse, who was Obama's chief of staff in the U.S. Senate and is now a special adviser to the president. Rouse and Elton worked together in Juneau in the late 1970s on the staff of Alaska Republican Lt. Gov. Terry Miller."

Hmm....wonder why the McCain campaign's "Palin Truth Squad" never dug up that juicy little nugget.


Hey Everyone,

We've had a lot of complaints about comments section not working correctly, so I did a little tinkering with the settings. Hopefully this should solve the problem.

Adam Brickley

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Two Interviews

I couldn't decide which of these videos to post, so we're going with both, because they are both relevant. The first is one of my new favorite Congressmen (and hopefully potential Senator) Joseph Cao. He's been on the warpath lately regarding corruption in FEMA's New Orleans office. He's pulling no punches, as you will see in this interview with a local TV station. Go Cao!

Click here to watch.

Second, I wanted to show you this recent Newsweek interview with Avigdor Lieberman, leader of Yisrael Beiteinu Party in Israel. I've yacked about Lieberman quite a lot on this blog, both positive and negative, and so I figured I would take this opportunity to let him speak for himself here.

Monday, March 2, 2009

...and now for something REALLY SCARY

See the little red dot on that map of Africa? That's an itty-bitty country called Guinea-Bissau, and there are two reasons that you need to know about it. The first is President João Bernardo Vieira (the creepy-looking guy pictured above), who was assassinated this morning by rogue elements in the military. That, in itself, is enough to justify paying attention for a few hours. Unfortunately, African leaders get plugged far too often, so it's the second reason that really makes this development scary.Guinea-Bissau may seem like a run-of-the-mill Third World backwater, but nothing could be further from the truth (see video below...you REALLY should watch that).

In fact, the country has become a key linchpin in the international drug trade since 2005. Colombian cocaine cartels have figured out that the government has almost no control of the place, and hence it has become the ideal place to to trans-ship cocaine on its way to the European market (large loads of coke get shipped into the Guinea-Bissau hub, where they are then broken up and shipped around Europe). Needless to say, the effect on society has not been positive, especially when you consider that Guinea-Bissau ranked 175th out of 177 countries on the UN's Human Development Index - which means that it makes Ethiopia look like "Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous".

The UN said that Guinea-Bissau was in danger of becoming "Africa's first narco-state", and I think that that the transformation took a dramatic leap forward this week. The local strongman, President Vieira, is dead. In addition, Vieira's top political rival, Gen. Batista Tagme Na Waie (head of the military), was blown to smithereens on Saturday. There is a total power vacuum, and my guess is that the situation will only get worse. Nobody is currently implicating the cartels in either assassination, but I would be flabbergasted if they weren't involved in both.

As I see it, Guinea-Bissau is no longer "in danger of becoming Africa's first narco-state". It BECAME Africa's first narco-state this morning. Now think about this...Guinea-Bissau is on the edge of the Islamic-Christian religious divide in Africa - so the Latin American cocaine cartels are now operating on turf where radical Islam is looking for a toe-hold. Birds of a feather flock together, and when the jihadis set up shop in Guinea-Bissau, this lawless West African backwater could become the birthplace of a toxic alliance between two of the world's two most malevolent forces. Maybe I'm blowing this out of proportion, but the potential confluence of radical Islam and the Latin American drug cartels scares the heck out of me.

*Photo of President Vieira and map taken from Wikipedia, both licensed under Creative Commons, see links for details