Ever fallen for a satirical story on the web? You know, it can be really hard to differentiate between made-up crazy and actual crazy. Satirists like Jon Stewart and The Onion have had to step up their game to out-crazy the wingnuttery that has become a daily reality in American politics. (Hat tip to you, Sarah Leadfoot.)
This week I saw a story I thought must be a joke. I have to hand it to Gov. Sean Parnell: he can still manage to parody himself. Truly impressive. He’s such a caricature of himself I couldn’t decide whether to laugh or cry.
Consider this paragraph fair warning: If you read on, your coffee may end up flying out of your nose and onto your newspaper or computer screen. You’re welcome.
This is the time of year year when the governor appoints people to official positions. Parnell is delivering a couple of real doozies. In searching high and low (especially low) for a fisheries advisor, the governor landed on the six-year spokesmodel for the Pebble mine project, a guy named Ben Mohr. You know Pebble, the project that plans to build a giant poison lake at the headwaters of Alaska’s most productive salmon rivers. Mohr is definitely a guy you want making policy to ensure the health of our fisheries for the next millennium.
In 2011, the governor appointed Mohr to the board of directors of the Alaska Humanities Forum because ... well, I have no idea. Good grooming comes to mind.
Yes, the guy who pimped Pebble and then worked as campaign manager for Ohio’s golden boy, Dan Sullivan, is now advising the governor on fisheries policy. Good thing we care so little about our fish that we’re comfortable letting political hacks manage them.
For those of you cranky that your Kenai River dip nets were empty last week because the state opened the Inlet for commercial fishing, just know that it wasn’t the fishermen who screwed you -- it was the fisheries managers. Who knows, with Mohr on the case, we may end up with with a giant uranium mine in Cooper Landing. You know, for the fish.
Oh, it gets better.
Parnell loaded his “Oil and Gas Competitiveness Review Board” with oily folks. One of them is Tom Maloney, a manager for the outlaw oil field service company VECO. The board’s job is to review and recommend changes to Alaska’s oil and gas policies. Yeah, Tom was an executive for the same company that bribed legislators to cut oil taxes. Surely you remember when 10 percent of the Legislature was indicted for corruption? That was only back in 2006.
Geez, governor, was Joe Hazelwood unavailable? Seriously. I’d rather have the Exxon Valdez skipper on the committee than Maloney. Maybe Parnell will get Joe to chair the Ship Passage Safety for Prince William Sound Review Board. But why stop there? Maybe serial killer Robert Hansen could chair the Choose Respect Campaign. He knows a thing or two about women and violence. With this governor, don’t bet against it.
Folks, these appointments really do matter, and they starkly demonstrate the failed leadership of our state.
Alaska’s oil and gas competitiveness board was modeled on a commission in Alberta, Canada, which has turned out to be an epic failure. And Sean Parnell has us well on our way to following them down the tubes.
Alberta tied its fate to oil company promises that massive tax cuts would lead to more revenue, better schools, a cute puppy in every home, and lots of other benefits. Does that sound familiar? Now, Alberta is facing proposals to cut schools to four days a week because it can’t afford school bus drivers -- this in a province with some of the richest oil reserves on the continent.
Yes, provincial oil and gas policy advisers said taxes were bad for average Albertans. So now the government has blown through $15 billion in reserves and has a debt of more than $7 billion that’s growing by $11 million every day.
We should have used Norway as our model for oil and gas policy. Why? Well, Norway acts like an owner state, meaning it recognizes that its interests are not the same as the oil companies’. Norway is putting $142 million dollars a day into savings, and using those savings to provide services and benefits like education and health care to every citizen.
But no, our governor doesn’t like that idea at all. He’d rather see more money go to executives and shareholders of Exxon, BP and ConocoPhillips than to everyday Alaskans. And he’s going to appoint as many parrots as necessary to make sure that’s state policy.
When Abraham Lincoln became president, he appointed people who would challenge his policies. He wanted debate in fleshing out solutions for the country. I guess I don’t have to tell you: Sean Parnell is no Abraham Lincoln.
Shannyn Moore is a radio broadcaster. You can hear her show, "The Last Word," Monday through Friday from 4 to 6 p.m. on KOAN 95.5 FM, 1080 AM, 1480 We Act Radio in Washington, D.C., and on Netroots Radio.
The views expressed here are the writer's own and are not necessarily endorsed by Alaska Dispatch News, which welcomes a broad range of viewpoints. To submit a piece for consideration, email commentary(at)alaskadispatch.com.