Baked Alaska

Up in Alaska, Senator Lisa Murkowski trails Joe Miller, a Fairbanks lawyer who received endorsements from Sarah Palin, Glenn Beck's 9-12 Project and the Tea Party Express. With 429 of 438 precincts reporting, Miller has 45,909 votes while Murkowski has 43,949 votes. According to the Alaska Division of Elections, more than 16,000 absentee ballots were requested and fewer than half (7,600) had been returned as of Monday night. The full results won't be known for at least a week and it is possible that Murkowski may yet overtake Miller. The Anchorage Daily News has more:

Miller credited the support of former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin for his lead.

"I'm absolutely certain that was pivotal," he said.

Murkowski on Tuesday night took a shot at Palin, saying that when Palin resigned as governor last summer she said she would use her new national role to help out Alaska.

"I think she's out for her own self-interest. I don't think she's out for Alaska's interest," Murkowski said as she waited at her campaign headquarters for results to come in.

Her campaign spokesman, Steve Wackowski, was holding out hope that she would benefit from support in rural and coastal areas of the state that hadn't yet reported.

"We knew the race was going to be tight. The rural areas have yet to come in and we know Sen. Murkowski is going to be very strong in the rural areas."

Most of the remaining precincts are in rural areas, where paper ballots are counted by hand.

The final results of the race won't be known for over a week. The Alaska Division of Elections said over 16,000 absentee ballots were requested and as of Monday night 7,600 had been returned. The first count of absentees will be next Tuesday and there will be two subsequent counts as the absentee votes trickle in on Sept. 3 and on Sept. 8.

Polls prior to vote had Murkowski winning comfortably by double digits. The last poll I saw was from RT Nielson poll, a poll commissioned by the Tea Party Express backing Miller, put Murkowski at 46.91 percent and Miller at 35.39 percent. Clearly, the polls were off.

Here's what we know about Miller. He is a 43-year-old father of eight and deeply religious. Born in the mid-west ( I've heard both Kansas and Illinois), he graduated from West Point in 1989 and served in the first Gulf War. He went on to earn a law degree from Yale in 1995 and moved to Alaska to take a law firm job. In Alaska, he earned a Master's in Economics from the University of Alaska. He soon became a U.S. magistrate judge before stepping down in 2004 to make an unsuccessful run for state representative. He is currently an attorney in private practice in Fairbanks. He is a friend of Todd Palin which is how he got the endorsement of Sarah Palin.

Salon has some more color:

His positions on the issues -- though we don't know many specifics -- would put him in line with diehard conservatives in the Senate like Jim DeMint of South Carolina. He says not only that he would repeal what he calls "ObamaCare," but that the health care overhaul law is not consititutional. Ditto for cap and trade legislation: he opposes it, and argues it is unconstitutional. Miller has said he would cut funding to the U.N. and the IMF and other foreign aid, but maintained in a letter to seniors he would not cut Social Security.

Miller also holds that unemployment insurance is unconstitutional. A strict constitutionalist, Miller says he believes the Federal Department of Education and the Department of Energy should be abolished and that, over the long term, the government should stop offering Social Security and Medicare. He believes that the TARP and the healthcare reform are not just wrong but unconstitutional. 

On other issues, Miller has placed himself in line with other Tea Party candidates running for Senate seats this year -- including Nevada's Sharron Angle and Colorado's Ken Buck -- by saying that he is opposed to allowing women to obtain abortions, even in cases of rape and incest. In a recent interview with the Fairbank Daily News-Miner, he said that he is "unequivocally pro-life," except "when the mother's life is in danger." He supports the Arizona immigration stance and does not believe the millions of immigrants already here illegally should be granted amnesty.

The winner of the Murkowski-Miller race will face Democrat Scott McAdams, the former mayor of Sitka, in the November general election. If Murkowski does lose, there's a chance that she can run on a third party ticket or perhaps run a write-in candidacy. She cannot, however, run as independent a la Joe Lieberman. The filing deadline for independent candidates ended in June.


Quick Hits

Here are some of the other news stories making the rounds today.

Judge Royce C. Lamberth, a US District Court judge, granted a preliminary injunction Monday to stop federal funding of embryonic stem cell research that he said destroys embryos, ruling it went against the will of Congress. Lamberth's ruling said all embryonic stem cell research involves destroying embryos, which violates the Dickey-Wicker Amendment included in federal spending bills. The ruling overturns the guidelines issued by President Obama early in his Administration to allow federal funding for embryonic stem cell research.The full story from CNN.

General David Petraeus, the top commander of US and NATO forces in Afghanistan, said the Afghan Taliban's momentum has been reversed in the southern provinces of Helmand and Kandahar, as well as near Kabul. The Christian Science Monitor has the details.

One in four Californians lack health insurance according to a study released Monday by the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research. According to the latest estimates, the state's uninsured population rose by over 31 percent over the past two years. The number of uninsured has reached 24.3%, or about 8.4 million, up from 6.4 million in 2007. In Los Angeles County, 28.9% of residents were uninsured for all or part of last year, the largest number of uninsured residents of any county in the state. The Los Angeles Times has more on this story.

My former colleague at Goldman Sachs, Wallace Turbeville writes about how an SEC/CFTC roundtable exposes how little is being done about the next financial time bomb in a post entitled Derivatives Clearing: At the End of the Beginning over at New Deal 2.0. The post tackles the issue of clearinghouses that were set up the recently passed 880 page Dodd-Frank Financial Reform Law and that are dominated by ten or so large financial institutions. As Yves Smith over at Naked Capitalism writes "we were skeptical of derivatives reform efforts as inadequate to deal with the product that needed to be reined in, credit default swaps, and subject to evisceration depending on how various details were sorted out" noting that "if the types of contracts that wind up being covered are reasonably broad, the new derivatives clearinghouse is merely another too big to fail entity." Turbeville suggests that new derivatives clearinghouses "are, or soon will be, Too Big to Fail." This, of course, points to the problem of doing incremental, if not half-assed, reform. No credit will be rewarded for moving the ball forward and all blame will come due when the inevitable failure occurs. 

Former House Majority Leader and de facto leader of the Tea Party Movement Dick Armey (R-Texas) on Sunday said lawmakers who have not signed onto Rep. Paul Ryan’s plan to balance the budget lacked “courage” and could be targeted by the conservative tea party movement as a result. “All Paul Ryan is saying is let Social Security be voluntary, let Medicare be voluntary,” Armey said. “The fact that he only has 13 co-sponsors is a big reason why our folks are agitated against the Republicans as well as the Democrats — the difference between being a co-sponsor of Ryan or not is a thing called courage.” Or political suicide. More from the Congressional Quarterly.

The Candor of Brian Brown

Brian Brown, president of the National Organization for Marriage (NOM), had a rare moment of candor in an interview with Kathryn Jean López of the National Review:

Q: Tell me about this bus tour you’re on. Why did you come up with the idea in the first place?

A: Gay-marriage advocates have a well-organized grassroots movement they’ve built over the years. Conservatives tend to rely on spontaneous mass uprising. I think HRC’s model is more effective — after all, it’s allowed a tiny fraction of Americans to have an outsize influence all disproportionate to their actual numbers. Social conservatives need to learn (as I think the pro-life movement has learned) that we need to organize politically to make a difference. We wanted to make sure that the majority of Americans who support marriage as the union of husband and wife are not drowned out by a loud minority, or by a biased media. Even the conservative media (with certain key exceptions — thank you, NRO!) does not cover this issue well. This bus tour is our first step in bypassing the media, becoming culture creators ourselves, and getting our message out to our supporters.

The Tea Partiers yell quite loudly but numerically they're not even one percent of the US population. Brian Brown is, for once, right. The Tea Party Movement is little more than front for Dick Armey's Freedom Works who have manipulated a tiny fraction of Americans into a crazed frenzy. And their influence is disproportionate to their actual numbers.

Daily Pulse: Adele Stan Talks Teabaggers (Audio)

By Lindsay Beyerstein, Media Consortium Blogger

In this interview, Stan explains that while the event was billed as a grassroots convergence, it was in fact orchestrated by Dick Armey's FreedomWorks and the right wing Americans for Prosperity. The rally also received massive amounts of free publicity from Fox News host Glenn Beck, coordinator of the 9-12 project. Stan describes how all the abortion-, immigration- and death panel-talk binds social conservatives, nativists, and big business interests into a cohesive rightwing coalition.

Stan says that ,while the tea baggers have cropped up recently, the leaders of the movement have been at this game since LBJ trounced Barry Goldwater in 1964.

To learn more, check out Addie's recent writing on the Tea Parties at AlterNet. The Wing Nut Code explains the significance of those creepy yellow snake flags and other right wing symbology; and The Same Old Faces explains how old guard Goldwater partisans are still pulling the strings for the right wing.

If the embedded audio player is not working for you, please listen to the interview here.

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about health care and is free to reprint. Visit for a complete list of articles on health care affordability, health care laws, and health care controversy. For the best progressive reporting on the Economy, and Immigration, check out and This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of 50 leading independent media outlets, and created by NewsLadder.

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Dick Armey: The Epitome of Privilege

"Dick Armey is the epitome of those people with power and privilege who are insured against the vicissitudes of life and want no government assistance for any suffering except their own," concludes Bill Moyers.

One day Americans will wake up to the fact that a class war is being waged in this country. One day Americans will realize that the GOP stands for the maintenance of a system that benefits a select few.

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