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October 28, 2021

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GOP “leadership” & Alaska’s COVID catastrophe

NOT THAT SPECIAL

Welp. Another special session has come to a close, with the legislature settling on an $1100 PFD – pretty much the same as we’ve had for years and no thanks to the governor who could have had this outcome long ago, but in an interesting choice vetoed the PFD down to nothing, and started the process all over again. It was actually a nail-biter for a second and it looked like Alaskans might have no PFD at ALL. But we drove back from the edge of that cliff. There will be no veto this time, but before you think that means we’re done here – ANOTHER special session has been called for October 1. Someone should tell the governor that if he keeps calling special sessions, nobody is going to think they’re very special.

The purpose of special session #4 is to nail down the rest of a long-term fiscal plan. But that’s been the looming mission in Juneau since at least 2016 if anyone lost track of time. Back in the day when oil was footing the bill instead of hoarding tax credits, and we had bipartisan control of the Senate, we socked away a whopping $16 billion, which successive Republican administrations have managed to whittle down to almost nothing. [Reason #4,812 why you need to vote in 2022 and not for Republicans].

It seems like wishful thinking that after a regular session and three special ones, with many legislators set to be out of town on long-excused absences, and patience wearing thin across the board, that we’ll see anything meaningful happen in October. But there’s only one way to find out. Stay tuned.

COVID CATASTROPHE

Back in the good old days when people were listening to Dr. Anne Zink instead of horse paste salesmen, and before the  governor became so terrified of his own base that he doubled down on refusing to take real steps to stem the virus, we led the nation in COVID-19 vaccinations and our case rates and health care were the envy of the Lower 48. We were all, “Yay, Alaskans take care of each other!” 

Then Gov. Mike Dunleavy abdicated his leadership duties in favor of pussyfooting around on vaccine messaging and mitigation measures, and Dave Bronson took the reins as mayor of half the population of Alaska, as Anchorage’s new mayor. Once they became the Frick and Frack of “Gee, I don’t know what more we can do ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ ,” it all started collapsing.

Alaska’s average rate of daily new infections over the last week is more than double the national average — and higher than any other state. 

ANCHORAGE SPEAKS

In Anchorage this week, beleaguered and emotionally broken doctors and hospital health care providers gave moving and frankly horrifying testimony about the grim realities happening behind hospital walls, and what their implementation of “crisis care” really means in human terms.

These health care workers were met with scorn and mockery by Bronson acolytes in the audience and in particular Assembly Member Jamie Allard of Eagle River who made thinly veiled accusations that doctors and nurses were exaggerating how bad it was, and not offering enough cow dewormer.

Remember when Sarah Palin was trying to tell everyone that Obamacare was akin to “death panels” where the government would decide who lived or died? And remember how Republicans were all up in arms? Well Obamacare provides affordable care to millions and has saved countless lives. But the “three-person wellness team” described in the graphic above is actually having to face the brutal task of helping doctors decide who gets medical care, and who doesn’t – who lives, who dies. And it’s the direct result of the inaction and inability of Republican leadership to step up in a crisis, ignore the hysterical conspiracy theory crowd, and explain to the people of Alaska that freedom doesn’t mean the freedom to wantonly spread a deadly disease.

Yet, the death panel crowd is silent.

The situation is so bad that it’s been picked up by the national media.

So what have these two “leaders” actually been doing?

Anchorage Mayor Dave Bronson this week used public money to hold a private invite-only meeting of vaccine deniers, mask opponents, and conspiracy nuts in the Anchorage Assembly Chambers to hear their tales of woe and persecution, and tyranny – complete with police and fire presence. ($$$) The private event was held just like a regular Assembly meeting, only it wasn’t. 

Nothing portrays the tenor of the meeting better than this: Human Resources Director Niki Tshibaka, (who just happens to be married to Kelly Tshibaka, the GOP US Senate candidate), actually asked attendees to stand and CLAP if they believed the hospital system and health care providers weren’t telling them the truth about available beds and staffing.

Watch the mind-blowing video, courtesy of The Blue Alaskan, HERE.

DUNLEAVY DAMAGE CONTROL

Meanwhile, Governor Dunleavy gave a press conference on the COVID situation Wednesday afternoon. The whole state is now “rationing care” but he spent most of the time trying to put frosting on a moose poop cupcake.

The drum he kept beating was that Alaska’s overall death rate from the virus is among the lowest per capita in the nation. 

But this is deceiving and here’s why:

1) The number of deaths tends to be a lagging indicator, and it can take weeks or even a month for the number of deaths to accurately represent surging case numbers like we have right now.

2) Because of a cyberattack on the Department of Health this summer, we know that about 25% of all the deaths that occurred from May through August have not even been recorded yet.

And it’s not like the governor doesn’t know this. It was all explained in an article in the Anchorage Daily News and surely explained to him by his staff.  And yet, this misleading information became his go-to talking point just because it sounded good. And sure enough we’d see more than 45 deaths reported in the few days following his press conference. So there went the talking point.

Then he went on to say that the reasons for hospital collapse is that “people are getting burned out” and we’re “losing people.” The governor said that soon, everyone will have either had the virus or the vaccine, so it’s all good. But the reason they are getting “burned out,” of course, is exactly because of the lack of leadership and intervention on his part, in favor of treating hospitals like assembly lines to treat the sick and dying instead of trying to prevent the sick and dying from being sick and dying. The mind reels.

So, what’s happening? Alaska, we learned, will be getting an influx of 400 contract hospital workers to assist those already here. They’ll be here for a 90-day stretch to help process all the extra and unnecessarily sick people through the system. This is going to cost a cool $87 million. 

But don’t worry because Alaska is not going to have to pay for it, Dunleavy said. FEMA money will foot the bill. 

If your irony meter is straining the bounds of its capacity, you are not alone.

Remember that Alaska has threatened to SUE the Biden administration for implementing vaccine or test mandates for federal workers. Dunleavy has made his mantra complaining about federal overreach, complaining about federal spending, complaining that Biden is waging a “war” on Alaska, taunting the President on Twitter, and yet – he’s all smiles that FEMA is galloping to our rescue to try to mop up the horrible consequences of his bad leadership.

I don’t think President Biden or FEMA should hold their breaths for a thank you card.

And finally, at the end of the presser, a thin-skinned and visibly ruffled Dunleavy couldn’t resist lashing out at his political opponents and the media. “Alaskans need to know what’s really going on. There’s a lot of stuff happening in the blogosphere. There’s a lot of stuff happening in the media. This whole thing has been politicized, unfortunately, I think to the detriment of all of us…”To those that really want to profit off this by politicizing it like the individuals who were brought up earlier in this broadcast, you’ll have your opportunity to politicize things down the road. But when it comes to the health and the life safety of Alaskans I’d really ask all Alaskans, especially those that want to make this political theater, that want to make this campaign season, not to profit off the misery of Alaskans.”

😳

First of all, the “individuals” he’s talking about are Democratic gubernatorial candidate Les Gara, and Bill Walker’s former Chief of Staff, Scott Kendall, both of whom (along with MANY other Alaskans) have been critical of the governor’s lack of action. You don’t need to be running for governor to do that.

According to Dunleavy, noticing he’s not good at being governor is “politicizing it.” So if you ever decide to sit back and let some critical work project fall apart, remember, if you stand up and pretend to be outraged, and yell at everyone that they need to stop being political at you, it might work. Or it might not.

*SIDEBAR*

When Dunleavy excoriated “those who want to profit by politicizing this crisis,” I couldn’t help but think of just a couple weeks ago when his favorite blogger and propagandist, to whom he still grants interviews, was literally selling anti-mask covid swag, unearthing a quote from Dunleavy’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Anne Zink, from the very early days of the pandemic, believing she’d scored some kind of epic ‘gotcha.’ Let’s all repeat this again. Masks are to keep you from infecting other people, not to prevent you from being infected.

Behold what literally “profiting off the misery of Alaskans” looks like. Why the governor continues to give this blog “scoops” and interviews is all part of the wink and nod messaging to the fringe.

The flattering racerback tank is no longer available. Sadly, the misinformation is.

Dr. Zink was also at the press conference and had the most sobering words of anyone who spoke. “Our healthcare system is in crisis right now,” she said. And “at the end of the day (the governor) is the policy-maker and we are the data.” In other words, she’s giving good data and it’s not her fault that the governor still chooses to screw it all up.

“We’ll get through this,” Dunleavy concluded after assuring us that “We’re on top of this. We’ve always been on top of this.”

And here’s a great detailed wrap-up from Matt Buxton of The Midnight Sun or watch the whole press  conference yourself HERE.

BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE

Within moments of the press conference’s conclusion, two things happened.

First, the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services released the new COVID numbers for the day, revealing 1251 new cases – an all time daily high. (Since then it’s only gotten worse)

Second, State of Alaska employees got this letter:

Hmmmm. Wash hands, social distancing, mask, get tested if you’re sick… It’s almost as if some critical directive is missing.

Senator Jesse Kiehl (D-Juneau) was not amused, and summed it up best.


HITLER’S FAMILIAR QUOTATIONS

We’ve all heard of Adolph Hitler. We’ve all studied about World War II, the Holocaust, and Nazis. But few of us are so familiar with Hitler’s speeches that portions of them just spring to mind out of the blue.

Apparently most of us are not like Rep. David Eastman of Wasilla. He’s been the lone no vote on honoring Black Alaskans who helped build the railroad, and creating Indigenous People’s Day, and a host of other bills which give clues to his character. But this one takes the cake.

No longer shy about sharing white supremacist ideology, Eastman tweeted the following including a link to a white power website.

Yes, a sitting legislator is sharing links to a white supremacist website which contains articles like the ones below. I copied and pasted so you don’t have to click. [Please don’t click] These are all front and center, no hunting or clicking necessary. The page is unbelievably disturbing.

You get the idea. This is an active link to a racist, anti-semitic, white supremacist website which remains on Eastman’s Twitter feed even after criticism.

Eastman was pummeled in the comments on his tweet (which still remains active as of this writing). The image has now been labeled as “sensitive content.”

James Brooks of The Anchorage Daily News followed up. Those he talked to from the Speaker of the House, to the spokesperson for the Anti-Defamation League, and colleagues on both sides of the aisle were critical of Eastman.Anchorage resident Ivan Hodes is Jewish and a graduate of West Point. He served in the same U.S. Army battalion with Eastman and discussed the Wasilla representative’s social media post during the Anchorage Caucus meeting.He said it’s completely unacceptable for a legislator to encourage Holocaust denial.“The fact that he is familiar with this website, that he’s posting links to the website where his followers are going to go click on it, I think that shows what his agenda really is,” Hodes said by phone on Thursday.Dan Miller, president of the West Point Society of Alaska, said Eastman has been disinvited from future society events unless he removes the link to the Holocaust denial website and refrains from similar actions. Eastman had previously attended those events, he said.Eastman said on Thursday that he was unaware that he linked to a Holocaust denial website.

Well, it’s Saturday. That’s two days past Thursday and guess what’s still up on Eastman’s Twitter feed. So, he knows now and still promote the website. 


REDISTRICTING

The 10-year census numbers are in, and that means the whole entire political map of the state is about to be redrawn. You may end up with completely different representation in the House and the Senate next year. This week several third-party groups presented draft maps for consideration by the Redistricting Board.

Now they’ll be taking a handful of these maps on a roadshow across the state to get public input. The Alaska Democratic Party spent a great deal of time developing a really good, fair map that met all the criteria and far exceeded the original two maps that the board themselves developed. Frankly we were pretty proud of it, and the good news is that when a fair map is drawn it’s a much better map for Democrats. Alaska is genuinely bluer than you think!

But for some weird reason, ours was the ONLY map rejected. The hideously gerrymandered map put together by the now supposedly non-partisan Randy Ruedrich (long time Kingmaker of the Alaska GOP) made the cut though. That’s the AFFER map, and it’s so so bad. 🙄

Southeast is first on the tour. Some Juneau area maps lop off the communities ‘out the road’ past Auke Bay, and lump them with Haines and Skagway (!!!) instead of keeping them in a district with communities literally on the same road system.

JUNEAU

  • Date: Monday, September 27
  • Time: 4:30pm-6:30pm
  • Location: Centennial Hall, Ballroom 3
  • Online Public Notice Link: HERE

HAINES

  • Date: Tuesday, September 28
  • Time: 2:30pm-4:00pm
  • Location: Haines Assembly Chambers, 213 Haines Highway
  • Online Public Notice Link: HERE

SITKA

  • Date: Wednesday, September 29
  • Time: 3:30pm
  • Location: Westmark, Sitka
  • Online Public Notice Link HERE

VALDEZ

  • Date: Thursday, September 30
  • Time: 4:30pm
  • Location: Valdez Convention and Civic Center
  • Online Public Notice Link: HERE

ANCHORAGE

  • Date: Monday, October 4
  • Time: 4:30pm
  • Location: Anchorage Legislative Information Office
  • Online Public Notice Link: HERE

The meetings will be in an “Open House” format with large, printed maps displayed while board members circulate among the participants to receive feedback and engage in discussions.  

Not all board members will be able to attend all community public meetings, so written testimony is highly encouraged so that all board members will receive comments quickly. Forms will be available at the meeting and staff members will be on hand to assist in submitting testimony via the web portal or transcribing, or recording, oral testimony.  Attendees can also email testimony at any time to: testimony@akredistrict.org.

You can look at the maps that were accepted HERE and you can look at our map HERE. Give it a second to load.

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