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October 27, 2008

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Moreover, he is, by all accounts, a bully.

I don't know that 'bully' is a strong enough term. Keeping an enemies list, threatening friends like Warner, and killing bills over perceived slights are all signs of, to borrow a term, 'major league a-hole.'

I would, of course, here the leading corruption fighter, Gov. Palin asked if she would tell Stevens to withdraw from the race and resign immediately. Of course, this won't happen.

Oh, and hilzoy, Stevens asked for the trial to be moved up. Based upon recent movement in the polls, it is very possible he would have won re-election, then been convicted, then have Palin replace him with another Republican.

Bad strategy all around.

That first sentence is supposed to start "I would, of course, love to hear."

I'm curious as to ppl's thoughts on whether this is 'fair', in the sense of 'what if it was (say) Elliot Spitzer instead of Ted Stevens'?

I agree that Senate would be better with TS gone. But, I wonder if going after him like this is based on a troubling amount of prosecutorial discretion? It seems like the crime is small potatoes, compared to his (legal) abuse of his position. And, I suspect, in many situations this would have been handled as a tax dispute, and settled with a fine.

So, if the shoe was on another foot, would it still be OK?

You know what the really beautiful thing about this is? The hot rumor up here right before Palin got picked by McCain was that they were going to force Stevens to step aside before the Ballot deadline and Palin would step in - in such a scenario, she beats Begich by probably 8-10, considering that a lot of the stuff we've learned doesn't come out and Troopergate plays out very differently. Delicious, delicious schadenfreude...

It seems like the crime is small potatoes, compared to his (legal) abuse of his position.

It is difficult to know just how big the crime really is since Stevens lied to federal investigators. We know that he did so because a jury convicted him of doing so.

As for the shoe being on the other foot, I think corruption this egregious should be prosecuted no matter what party the Senator hails from. I also don't think that adding a story to your house is small potatoes nor do I think rendering hundreds of thousands of dollars of services is terribly small potatoes either.

For some reason, any time I hear a new raft of bad campaign news for the GOP, I hear, to the tune of "Ruffles and Flourishes"

"You're going down, going down, going down/
going down, going down, going do-wn."

I think I heard this sung at a British soccer game when the visiting team looked likely to be relegated (or "go down" to the next lower league)

Needless to say, this makes me smile.

It seems like the crime is small potatoes, compared to his (legal) abuse of his position.

The thing about the law, as we perceive it in the British-American tradition, is that anything not expressly forbidden is permitted. The law has nothing to say about anyone's "(legal) abuse of his position". It's not a crime.

Some forms of lying are expressly forbidden. Failure to disclose valuable gifts is evidently one of those forms.

Was the crime "small potatoes"? Maybe. But there's no point having laws if you're not going to enforce them.

--TP

It was "some $250,000 in gifts and services" he received illegally, and then flagrantly lied about. And that's just what we know about. That doesn't seem particularly small potatoey to me, but, then, my financial scales are small.

Given how much fuss Republicans like to make about "welfare cheats," and how much effort they've put for decades into punishing those on welfare with draconian laws to make sure No One Who Doesn't Deserve It Gets Money, and that for not very long, if it all, I'm not inclined to weep over someone being punished for hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of wrongdoing and abuse of power and trust of the citizenry.

I saw a couple of good lines in the comments over at John Cole's House Of Snark, which I will adapt as: Ted Stevens's career is going down a series of tubes, and he may soon discover that prison is a series of bars. On whether the crime here was worth the kerfuffle, remember that Capone went down for tax evasion. Stevens is convicted of failing to report signficant gifts - gifts from a lobbyist who's benefitted from his ties to Stevens. Accounting irregularities are much easier to prove than bribery or fraud, after all. And that's ignoring the legal stuff, like the Stevens Foundation, and his kid's job.

It seems like the crime is small potatoes, compared to his (legal) abuse of his position.

His underlying crime was taking bribes, which doesn't seem like a small potatoes crime to me. The amount of the bribe is entirely secondary. He shouldn't be let of easy just because his price was low.

Couldn't have happened to a more deserving guy. I note that Powell, who endorsed Obama, is still standing by Stevens. Well, at least his judgment is consistently bad.

"It is difficult to know just how big the crime really is since Stevens lied to federal investigators."

Precisely: People lie to investigators, obstruct justice, not because they're certain they won't get caught at it, but because they're certain that what they'll get caught at if they DON'T lie is worse. Lying to investigators is usually the tip of the iceberg, not the whole ice cube.

I have trouble with the "small potatoes" characterization; our prisons are full of people who have sold small amounts of non-lethal drugs worth far less than a quarter of a million dollars and if a cop gets caught for taking a bribe to the tune of a hundred bucks for fixing a ticket, he loses his job, pension and reputation. What would the rationale be for holding our legislators - our elected representatives to a lower standard when the ethical issues surrounding the financing of their campaigns with lobbyist's money are already so thorny?

On the contrary, our senators should aspire to rise above the feeding trough on occasion and if a conviction like this focuses attention, so much the better.

It is one thing to walk out of a cafe having forgotten to tip the waitress, but to "forget" that one has had an addition made to one's house and has not been charged for it is ludicrous. For a senator to fail to disclose gifts amounting to significantly more than the average yearly salary of his constituents is a non-trivial oversight - especially as it is indicative of the sort of behavior associated with quid pro quo deal-making.

This is very interesting. I heard about Stevens once in awhile, but had no idea he behaved like this.

Here's my theory: The reason ANWR was not opened up to drilling had as much to do with passive-aggressive resistance to Stevens than it did with anything else. That is, some may have voted against drilling in ANWR because of concerns about the environment, etc., but many may have simply not wanted Stevens to get his way.

So, does philip's post mean that the spammers have defeated the captcha, or does it mean that they're employing humans now?

Stevens does have 'entertainment value', however, that I will miss. The senate will be even more boring without him.

If Stevens wins in November, and Bush pardons him on his way out the door, does this mean that Stevens can continue on as a senator, despite the felony convictions? Alaskans I have met in the past freely acknowledged that their senators were "crooks", and invariably followed this with: "but they're OUR crooks, and they do a lot for Alaska." I think many would be prefectly willing to keep the old goat in office, even if he is a convicted, pardoned felon. Strange place, Alaska.

What really bugs me is the number of comments that I hear (on the radio) along the lines of he should get a relatively light sentence due to "his service to the country." WHAT "service to the country"? (Other than "serving" in the Senate, of course.) As far as I can see, all he did was rip off big bucks for Alaska, and in particular some individual friends/contributors.

I'm glad he was caught & convicted, and he does sound like a jerk. But refusing to play tennis with people who were mean to him sounds more like my 4-year old than like a bully, and "revenge" in the form of spite votes is pretty mild. It sounds like he pushed hard to get federal aid for his state, and why shouldn't he? That is after all the point of having representatives of the several states. His success at getting disproportionate $$ for Alaska says more about how messed up Congress's seniority system is than about his character. Senator Byrd appears well-liked by his colleagues, but he sure brought home the bacon. Ditto Senator Al "Pothole" D'Amato, back in the day.

does this mean that Stevens can continue on as a senator, despite the felony convictions?

Yup.
No law prevents convicted felons from serving in the Senate.

Felons voting for a Senator however is illegal.

Your 'Democracy' in action.

Ted Stevens's career is going down a series of tubes

This is one thing I feel bad for Stevens about. Here was a totally non-tech guy trying to describe bandwidth to a group of non-tech guys. As far as just "a series of tubes" go, it's not a horrid non-tech analogy for band-width. It's when he extended his comments past the the "series of tubes" that he went off the rails.

Philip Gourevitch had a pretty good New Yorker article last month on Alaska's peculiar political culture. One of the more notable things about it was how utterly dependent much of rural Alaska is on federal appropriations. So much of the "rugged individualist" lifestyle they cherish up there, and the self-sufficiency they've tried to maintain, is due almost entirely to earmarks for infrastructure, rural hospitals and schools, aid for undeveloped and isolated villages. It's ironic, certainly, that their way of life is only possible due to decades of Stevens' funneling of federal money back into the state, but it's terribly important for those people. Corruption can't be condoned, but it'll be terribly difficult for some of these places to adapt without the aid they've grown so used to:

One day, I flew due west from Anchorage to the town of Bethel, on the flat, drab sprawl of waterlogged tundra that reaches between the deltas of the Yukon and Kuskokwim Rivers to the shore of the Bering Sea. Bethel, a town of some six thousand souls, is the mercantile and administrative hub for fifty-six Alaska Native villages staggered through the surrounding bush. There are no roads to Bethel; it can be reached only by sea and air, and the prices of goods for sale there reflect the journey—nine dollars and ninety-nine cents for a gallon of milk, seven dollars or more for a gallon of gasoline. When the economy is weak in Bethel, as it has been of late, the population drops—some people move to Anchorage or Fairbanks and others head upriver to their ancestral villages to live on fish and game and berries and bird eggs.

I travelled an hour by boat up the Kuskokwim to the village of Kwethluk, a collection of rough wood shacks and a couple of Russian Orthodox churches, without plumbing or running water. There I met Max Olick, the local law-enforcement officer, a huge man with a wad of snuff under his lip and a cap that read “Sheriff.” “Pretty soon it’s moose season,” Olick said. “One moose will carry me one year. We don’t have pork chops and chicken. I hate chicken. My boy is different. He prefers something more than the native foods we’ve been having all our life. I don’t know where I went wrong with him.” He said, “I told my wife we live in the Third World. She laughed. She said we have TV. I said what about water and sewer.” Then he laughed. I asked him what he thought about Ted Stevens. “Long as I can remember—forty years—I’ve known his name,” Olick said. “Forty years, I voted for him. He was doing great for Alaska.” He explained, “Here in Kwethluk, there’s about nine hundred and twenty people. We like Stevens because he knows what we want. What we care about is subsistence.” He replenished his snuff and said, “Stevens has been a great supporter of subsistence life style, economic development. He’s been in there so many years he deserves a chance to go at it one more term. But I don’t think anyone can condone corruption in Washington, D.C.” Olick thought about that awhile, and said, “I’m an old traditional guy that still believes in old traditional ways. But things change.”

Back in Bethel, I met a dentist, a man who ran a janitorial-supplies service, and a man who ran a fuel service. I asked them how they thought Bethel and the villages it supported would fare without Ted Stevens in the Senate, in a time without earmarks. The dentist said, “We’re fucked,” and the janitorial-supplies man said, “There will be ghost towns.”

Letter from Alaska: The State of Sarah Palin

Has Governor Palin, at any time since the guilty verdict, stated whether she will vote for or against the re-election of Senator Stevens?

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