Opinion

Is Begich this afraid of Dan Sullivan?

It sure didn’t take long for the Alaska U.S. Senate race to turn ugly. The charges traded so far between incumbent Sen. Mark Begich and former Attorney General and Natural Resources Commissioner Dan Sullivan over carbon taxes, Alaska residency and the permitting process look like love taps compared to the downright awful attack ad the Begich campaign briefly ran and was forced to pull on Sept. 1. Perhaps stung by recent Sullivan press releases noting increases in violent crime in Anchorage during Begich’s tenure as mayor, the campaign unleashed a shot against Sullivan blaming him for the early release of felon Jerry Active and the eventual heinous crimes he will stand trial for this fall. Active is accused in the 2013 sexual assault of a two-year-old and the murder of the child’s grandparents in Anchorage. But rather than hit his target, Begich shot himself in the foot. The ad wasn’t rooted in anything resembling the truth but was born out of apparent desperation. Sullivan was able to easily counter the attack by noting he wasn’t even attorney general when the error that led to Active’s release was made. Begich stood by the ad until an irate letter from the victims’ family attorney stated Begich’s ad “shocked them,” was “tearing the family apart” and made them want to leave the state forever. The Democrat Senatorial Campaign Committee response to Begich pulling the ad rated “Pants on Fire” by Poltifact was to laughably attack Sullivan for pulling his own response ad that obliterated the baseless charge. All of this begs the question: Is Mark Begich really this scared of Dan Sullivan? Is this how low he is willing to go to save his Senate seat? Unfortunately we now know the answer. An ad like this one based on lies and exploiting the victims of horrific acts produced by any candidate, especially by an incumbent, can only be seen as a sign of weakness. Mark Begich may not like it that ads against him note that he votes with President Barack Obama 97 percent of the time, but that’s true. He may not like it that he’s been attacked for signing a letter supporting a price on emissions and for voting against an amendment that would have required a 60-vote threshold to approve a carbon tax, but that’s also true. A carbon tax that is “revenue neutral” by redistributing the revenue to American households — as Begich defended it — is still a tax. Whether he agreed with “100 percent” of the letter he signed is irrelevant. The fact is he signed it. He may not like it being pointed out that his mere presence in the Senate enables the leadership of the equally truth-ambivalent Harry Reid and the Democratic agenda that is destructive to Alaska, but that’s true, too. He may not like it that Sullivan is attacking him for not signing an agreement to attempt to limit Outside spending in their race, but the fact is he won’t while he reaps the benefits of millions from Reid’s SuperPAC and its attacks on Sullivan. We haven’t even gotten to Begich’s refusal to admit where he stood on Ballot Measure 1 to repeal the oil tax reform passed in 2013 that was defeated in the Aug. 19 primary. We can be forgiven for noting the hypocrisy of refusing to take a stand on the biggest issue of the year even after he was perfectly willing to come out against the Pebble mine in January. The attacks on Begich to date have been well within the realm of political hardball even if they can be argued on the margins. Politics is not, as they say, beanbag. It’s also not supposed to be a no-holds barred death match featuring low blows and eye gouging. Maybe Begich does have reason to be afraid of losing if the worst of the true things he can find to say about Sullivan are that he’s supported by pro-economic growth, small government organizations and that he hasn’t been in Alaska as long as Mead Treadwell’s mayonnaise. That’s still no excuse for making honesty the first casualty of his campaign. Andrew Jensen can be reached at [email protected]

AJOC EDITORIAL: Wielechowski keeps digging

Democrat Sen. Bill Wielechowski has a response to my editorial from last issue. It’s at this link, so go ahead and read it first. I’ll wait. OK, you’re back. A week after his misleading characterization of the ConocoPhillips second quarter earnings report was exposed here, he wastes no time repeating his faulty grip on the facts in the very first sentence. Sen. Wielechowski alleges that an “entire column” was spent “trying to dispute that Alaska is a very profitable place to do business for the oil industry.” As usual, Wielechowski has it wrong. It was never disputed that Alaska is profitable for the oil industry. Nor was it disputed that ConocoPhillips makes $34 per barrel in Alaska. What was disputed was Wielechowski’s declaration that Alaska is a more profitable place to produce oil than the Lower 48. He conveniently fails to acknowledge in his response that it was pointed out ConocoPhillips makes more than $40 per barrel in the Lower 48. North Slope oil sells for $109 per barrel and Lower 48 oil sells for $94 per barrel, so that means ConocoPhillips has a 31.1 percent margin in Alaska and a 42.5 percent margin or better in the Lower 48. The bottom line is ConocoPhillips makes more per barrel of oil in the Lower 48 than it does in Alaska even at a lower price. On oil. I emphasize “on oil” because Wielechowski cannot credibly cite references such as chairing the Resources Committee or reading a lot of financial reports while continuing to wrongly conflate barrels of oil with barrels of oil equivalent. I won’t use the space again to explain why this is all kinds of wrong, but I have to flag Wielechowski’s assertion regarding the Lower 48 that ConocoPhillips “made the poor choice to invest in a place where oil sells for a lower price and where they find more gas than oil.” He then wonders, if he were a shareholder, why ConocoPhillips “keeps investing in a place where oil sells for much less and where they keeping finding less profitable natural gas while looking for oil, such that it drags down their total profits by so much.” For someone who says he admires what the oil industry does, he sure has a low opinion of how ConocoPhillips grosses more than $2.5 billion and spends more than $1.3 billion per quarter in the Lower 48. His implication is that the company is spending billions per year drilling holes without knowing whether gas or oil is going to come out. That $1.3 billion figure cited here last week — the spending Wielechowski claims is dragging down profits — is for capital expenditures. Those are different from operating expenses. Capital expenditures are investments in increased future capacity as compared to operating expenses that sustain existing production. How does Wielechowski imagine that CP is spending this much money per quarter on cap-ex? Where does he think the “skyrocketing production” in the future is going to come from? Unlike the federal government, ConocoPhillips doesn’t have a printing press. It seems strange to have to state the obvious to someone who says he has a degree in finance, but the company is reinvesting its revenue. Reinvesting revenue reduces taxable income. Reducing taxable income reduces net income, or profits. In Wielechowski’s bizarro financial world, though, a company that has $1.3 billion in revenue to reinvest every quarter isn’t profitable. In the real world, that is how companies grow. It’s how real people have jobs. It is certainly a strange take for someone who claims he wants ConocoPhillips to reinvest its revenue in Alaska. By his logic, it would be a “poor choice” for ConocoPhillips to invest in an Alaska natural gas pipeline. Speaking of cap-ex and future production, Wielechowski claims I didn’t address his statement about ConocoPhillips telling investors production was going to keep declining in Alaska. I actually quoted that paragraph, like his entire Aug. 1 press release, word for word. He can go back and read it. Maybe he was mad and didn’t finish the entire column, but his response doesn’t address the fact that ConocoPhillips capital expenditures have increased 47.7 percent in Alaska so far this year, from $545 million in 2013 to $805 million in 2014. He does however claim that the 10-year production forecast accounts for “all of the supposed new production from SB 21.” I’ve avoided calling anything else of Wielechowski’s a lie, but this statement is, and he knows it. The note accompanying the forecast explicitly states that a full year of SB 21 won’t be accounted for until December. There is almost nothing in the state’s April forecast that includes production from SB 21, as it had been in effect for only four months. Meanwhile, as Wielechowski points to a hypothetical number 10 years away, we have an actual number this year that shows the production decline was 0 for the first time in more than a decade. Talk about sticking your head in the sand. Andrew Jensen can be reached at [email protected]

Editorial misses the mark, state deserves fair share from oil

Last week, Andrew Jensen of the Journal of Commerce spent an entire column trying to dispute that Alaska is a very profitable place to do business for the oil industry, even under SB 21. Recently, ConocoPhillips released its second quarter financial results. For years, since I was the Co-Chair of the Senate Resources Committee, I’ve made it a point to analyze these results so Alaskans can have a better understanding of whether Alaska is indeed a profitable place to do business. The oil and gas leases require oil companies to produce our oil when they can make a reasonable profit. I admire the work the oil industry does. I also understand they have a fiduciary duty to make as much money for their shareholders as they can. As legislators, we have a constitutional obligation to get the maximum benefit for Alaskans from the sale of our natural resources. While some would prefer that we simply believe the $13 million the oil industry has already spent in advertisements on ballot measure one, I believe it’s our responsibility to dig a little deeper. Unfortunately, the oil industry has long refused to provide the legislature much financial information. For years Exxon has testified Alaska needs to cut its taxes yet has flat out refused to say during committee hearings how much profit they even make in Alaska. Our experts have expressed shock at how little information the State gets from the oil companies so that we can manage our leases properly. And Republican-controlled legislative majorities have refused to pass legislation so we can even get access to this information. So we are left with analyzing oil company financial reports. Any objective analysis of those reports shows that Alaska was an extremely profitable place to do business under ACES. While Mr. Jensen may not think so, even oil company executives have admitted that. For example, on March 23, 2011, during an investor conference call, Greg Garland, Senior Vice President at ConocoPhillips, said Alaska had “strong cash margins” that were “higher than average” and Alaska investments offered “very good rates of return.” Of course, this is very different than what they have been telling Alaskans. So back when ACES was being developed, we hired a company that worked predominantly for oil companies to figure out what the oil industry rates of return and profits were at Prudhoe Bay. Experts and attorneys have told us that if an oil company can make a 10-30 percent rate of return, it should be developing our oil. The numbers under ACES according to Gov. Parnell’s experts: a 123 percent rate of return at $80 barrel oil at Prudhoe. Slope-wide rates of 55 percent for incumbent producers. Compare this to what Gov. Parnell’s experts have told us about our “competitors”: Norway (15 percent), Canada (15 percent), and North Dakota (25 percent). It’s hardly a surprise then that it’s been estimated that BP, ConocoPhillips & Exxon made over $40 billion in profits under ACES. In my press release, I noted that “Conoco’s Alaska profits per barrel rose from $29 in 2012 to $31 in 2013 to $34 so far in 2014.” This is data directly from the nonpartisan Alaska Legislative Research Agency. I also noted the Agency’s finding that in the Lower 48 and Latin America, ConocoPhillips made about $6 per barrel of oil equivalent.  All 100 percent factual data. Mr. Jensen pointed out that ConocoPhillips produces more gas in the Lower 48, which sells for less, and also noted that oil prices were lower in the Lower 48 than Alaska. While these are true, it completely misses the point. It is not Alaska’s fault ConocoPhillips made the poor choice to invest in a place where oil sells for a lower price and where they find more gas than oil. These are things that make Alaskan investments that much more attractive. If I were a ConocoPhillips investor, I’d be quite frankly wondering why ConocoPhillips keeps investing in a place where oil sells for much less and where they keep finding less profitable gas while looking for oil, such that it drags down their total profits by so much. And those total profits are very important: while ConocoPhillips reported producing 191,000 barrels a day of crude oil in the Lower 48, 21,000 barrels a day more than it produced in Alaska, it made $363 million more in Alaska. This is not some sort of one-time fluke. ConocoPhillips made billions more in Alaska under ACES than it did in the Lower 48 during the same time frame. But if Mr. Jensen has heartburn comparing Alaska’s $34.36 profit per barrel to the Lower 48’s $6.21 (up from $4.21 in 2013), let’s compare it to Canada, where ConocoPhillips made $10.54 per barrel. Or Europe, where Conoco made $15.50 per barrel. Or Asia Pacific/Middle East, where Conoco made $27.40. Or Conoco’s worldwide average profit per barrel of $14.69. Compared to Alaska’s $34.36. I won’t even get into the $2 per barrel profit BP agreed to in Iraq. In fact, Alaska routinely makes up about 12 percent of Conoco’s worldwide oil and gas production. Yet that 12 percent routinely generates about 25-35 percent of Conoco’s worldwide profits — in some years over 50 percent. Alaska, by any measure, was an extremely profitable place to do business under ACES. And we saw this by the oil companies’ actions. Oil company investment increased 70 percent under ACES to all-time highs every year. Jobs increased to all-time highs every year under ACES. And with Alaska getting our fair share for our oil, we were able to save $18 billion, improve our credit rating, and create 148,000 one-time jobs through building and maintaining our infrastructure all across Alaska. And there was a 383 percent increase in the number of oil company tax returns filed under ACES. Yes, production did decline under ACES. And we were told SB 21 would fix that. It hasn’t. Interestingly, Mr. Jensen’s editorial failed to mention the other part of my press release — the part that talked about Conoco recently admitting oil production will continue to decline in Alaska — while spiking everywhere else in the world. Gov. Parnell set a goal of 1 million barrels within 10 years, saying oil tax cuts were “vital.” He got his tax cuts. His latest estimate, as of April, including all the supposed new investments from SB 21 — 285,000 barrels per day. A 45 percent decline in the next decade. A bigger decline than was projected under ACES. The Legislative Finance Division is projecting Alaska will be broke within eight years under SB 21, even under curtailed spending. I can’t imagine Alaskans families and businesses will look forward to that day. SB 21 takes us back to a failed policy we had in place for 30 years, when we had a tax structure called ELF — with one of the lowest tax rates in the world. The philosophy was that low taxes would lead to more production, more jobs, and more investment. By 2006, 15 of 19 oil fields paid ZERO production taxes. How did it work? Oil production plummeted from 2 million barrels per day to 858,000 by 2006. At a time when oil was at all-time highs, jobs and investment dropped. Alaska lost hundreds of billions. The oil industry was harvesting oil out of Alaska as fast as it could and not reinvesting here, instead investing in places like Venezuela, where Hugo Chavez had a 95 percent tax rate and Libya, where Gaddafi charged a 95 percent tax rate. And the Journal editorial complains of Alaska’s now 50.3 percent tax rate under SB 21. I guess Mr. Jensen can continue to urge Alaskans to stick our heads in the sand and just believe what we are told in 30-second television commercials. I don’t think that would be in the best interests of Alaskans though. Senator Bill Wielechowski has served in the State Senate since 2007. He was co-chair of the Senate Resources Committee, and has a degree in Finance. Journal Managing Editor Andrew Jensen's response to Wielechowski can be read here.

Wielechowski blows it again on ConocoPhillips

If there is one thing Anchorage Democrat Sen. Bill Wielechowski is good for, it is providing column material with his reactions to ConocoPhillips earnings reports. This quarter is no different, and he definitely isn’t making the task any more difficult. • “Yesterday ConocoPhillips announced $627 million in 2nd quarter profits from their Alaska operations or nearly $7 million per day from Alaska alone. On an hourly basis that equates to almost $300,000 in profits each and every hour.” So? Here Wielechowski is simply trying to appeal to the dark impulse of envy in his audience. According to the report, the company paid an effective tax rate of 50.3 percent in Alaska for the quarter, so the government also made about $7 million per day and $300,000 per hour. Unlike ConocoPhillips, however, it didn’t have to do anything to make that money other than sit back and collect the checks. • “At the same time, they announced Lower 48 profits of only $265 million from a greater volume of crude oil production – 191,000 barrels per day in the Lower 48 compared to 170,000 in Alaska. “This proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that Alaska remains one of the most profitable places in the world. Oil profits in Alaska are more than double what they are in the Lower 48.” It’s difficult to know where to begin with all the wrong here. The $265 million in profits for the Lower 48 does not just count profits from crude oil production; it also includes less profitable natural gas and natural gas liquids that account for nearly two-thirds of ConocoPhillips’ global production. More on this to come as Wielechowski erroneously compares per barrel oil profits versus per barrel of oil equivalent profits. Wielechowski also doesn’t tell you that Alaska North Slope crude fetched about $109 per barrel in the second quarter compared to about $94 per barrel in the Lower 48. You don’t have to be much of a financial guru to understand that a greater price can bring more revenue even at a lower production level. On a gross revenue level, ConocoPhillips made about $1.63 billion from oil in the Lower 48 and about $1.68 billion in Alaska. It will not take much of an increase in Lower 48 crude oil production before the gross revenue exceeds Alaska even with the North Slope price premium. Add in that the effective tax rate for Lower 48 operations is 38.7 percent compared to 50.3 percent in Alaska and it isn’t difficult to figure which jurisdiction is more profitable for oil production, as you’ll see below. • “Conoco’s Alaska profits per barrel rose from $29 in 2012 to $31 in 2013 to $34 so far in 2014. ‘While Alaskans face growing deficits and cuts to essential public services, the industry’s profits swell,’ said Senator Bill Wielechowski. ‘In the Lower 48 and Latin America, they make about $6 per barrel of oil equivalent. In Canada, they make about $10.50 per barrel. In Alaska this year, they are making $34 per barrel.’” Wielechowski continues to ignore the price for natural gas and liquids on a barrel of oil equivalent basis as if “equivalent” means gas and crude oil sell for the same price or have the same margins. There are 6,000 cubic feet, of 6 mcf, in one barrel of oil equivalent. At a price of $4.43 per mcf for the Lower 48 in the second quarter, ConocoPhillips received $26.58 per barrel of oil equivalent for natural gas sales. The only true comparison is the profit per barrel in Alaska versus the profit per barrel of oil in the Lower 48. According to a ConocoPhillips presentation to investors May 27, the company makes more than $40 per barrel from Lower 48 production. So, no, Alaska is not more profitable. He is also ignoring the capital expenses and the depreciation, depletion and amortization, or DD&A, that reduce ConocoPhillips’ Lower 48 taxable income. Out of ConocoPhillips’ daily global production of nearly 1.6 million BOE, 605,000 barrels per day was from crude oil and about 6 billion cubic feet per day was from natural gas products. Boosted by more than $1.6 billion in oil revenue, the company spent more than $1.3 billion on capital expenditures in the second quarter and took DD&A of $939 million in the Lower 48, where it produced about 1.5 billion cubic feet of natural gas per day. Those deductions based on large capital expenditures reduced its Lower 48 taxable income to about $434 million. Again, you don’t have to be an accountant to see that ConocoPhillips mostly a gas company, so comparing oil profits in Alaska with natural gas profits in the Lower 48 is nonsensical. • “Wielechowski noted that Conoco’s Alaska profits rose even as their Alaska production fell.  ConocoPhillips produced six thousand barrels per day more in the same quarter last year, but made $42 million more this 2nd quarter than last.” Wielechowski must have really, really hoped nobody else read the earnings report. In fact, ConocoPhillips’ income in the second quarter last year was $682 million compared to the $627 million this year. It is only after a one-time settlement writedown of $97 million in that same quarter last year that net income decreases relative to this quarter. One-time expenditures are irrelevant to a year-to-year income comparison, so he is just full of it on this one. • “’They call it the More Alaska Production Act, but really it should be called the Make Alaska Poor Act,’ he said.  Had Senate Bill 21 been in effect for the past six years, Alaskans would have lost $8.5 billion, according to the Parnell Administration.” Alaska lost a cumulative 80 million barrels of production in the past six years, also according to the Parnell Administration. • “Despite television commercials ConocoPhillips and others have been running trying to convince Alaskans they plan to increase oil production in Alaska, ConocoPhillips recently told a group of investors it actually plans on continued decreasing production in Alaska. In that same presentation, ConocoPhillips touted plans for skyrocketing production in the Lower 48, Latin America, Canada and Europe. (see attached slide)” Yet again, Wielechowski was really hoping nobody fact-checked him. On Page 2 (yes, Page 2), of the ConocoPhillips earnings release it states relative to Alaska: “In an effort to increase production and as part of the increasing investment in Alaska, we signed a contract to build a new rotary drilling rig for the Kuparuk River Unit with drilling expected to commence in early 2016.” Even in the slide he cites, it shows ConocoPhillips planning to add about 40,000 barrels per day in new projects in Alaska to keep production close to 200,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day (this includes the resumption of LNG exports from Nikiski, which accounts for about 23,000 BOE per day in its earnings in the second quarter). • “Meanwhile, as Alaska’s savings accounts are being rapidly depleted, Wielechowski noted that ConocoPhillips just this month announced a 6% increase in its quarterly dividend to shareholders. ‘It would appear that instead of reinvesting in Alaska to increase oil production, the windfall profits are simply going back to ConocoPhillips’ shareholders,’ Senator Wielechowski lamented.” Aww, he lamented. Sad face. If he’d bothered to do any math whatsoever, he could have calculated that the dividend increase amounts to an additional $50 million per quarter. Meanwhile, ConocoPhillips’ capital spending in Alaska has increased by $260 million in the first half of 2014 compared to the first half of 2013. What that means is that even if ConocoPhillips made an extra $42 million this quarter compared to last (which it didn’t), the company has invested more than six times that much into Alaska projects this year versus what it spent last year. And they didn’t even need a law telling them to do it. The only thing worth lamenting is that Wielechowski and his ilk are trying to sway an election with this kind of garbage. Andrew Jensen can be reached at [email protected]

SB 21 is a bad deal for Alaska

In the oil revenue debate we’ve heard and read misleading statements and distorted facts. As long time Alaska residents, business owners, and grandparents, we are very concerned about Alaska’s future economy. The “Vote No on Proposition One” group paints an “almost too good to be true” picture if Senate Bill 21 prevails in August. The group repeatedly alludes to Alaska’s partnership with the oil companies, assuring us that this new deal, SB 21, will result in more jobs as well as economic growth. Although this paints a rosy picture, it also raises questions. Does this partnership have Alaska’s best interests in their long range planning? Will this “partnership” with Alaska develop a plan for future sustainable, safe energy for Alaskans? How can Alaska’s government, mandated by its Constitution to develop its resources for the maximum benefit of Alaskans, partner with corporations, mandated to provide profits for their shareholders? Do they share revenue information with Alaska? Can we rely on the oil companies for a good deal? In the past, foreign corporations exploited Alaska’s rich natural wealth with projects that harvested Alaska’s wealth but left little for Alaska.  The Kennecott Copper Mine is one example. Alaska’s past “boom and bust” economy resulted in resource extraction solely for exploitation and profit with no concern for permanent growth and development. That remains the same today. The state now faces huge deficits if we continue to sell our oil to multinational corporations at bargain prices. Alaska, under SB 21, receives less revenue than other owner states. The glossy ads, paid by the oil corporations, fail to compare their share of the profit in Iraq or Mexico to their share of the profit from Alaska’s oil. These multinational corporations, along with their CEOs, investors and stockholders, have been the beneficiaries of Alaska’s oil for many decades. At a recent Chamber of Commerce debate, oil and gas attorney Craig Richards pointed out the decline in pipeline throughput of oil characterizes aging fields. The solution lies in new production, exploring and developing new fields and pools in existing fields. Reports show Alaska has substantially more oil in the ground and will be able to produce for years to come. Alaska’s Clear and Equitable Share encourages this kind of development. SB 21 rewards increasing the rate of extraction from the old, declining fields. Mr. Richards pointed out much of last year’s increased activity required long range planning. Oil rigs had already been bought and shipped to Alaska under ACES. “Vote No” says we want to go back to a flawed law. Darn right we do. We want to make a good law better and return to a law (ACES) from which Alaska received $8.5 billion more than it would have under SB21. As business owners, we want audits of the state’s oil revenues and unbiased research made available to our elected citizen representatives. Our legislators require accurate, up to date accountability to make informed decisions. As an owner-state Alaska needs that information. Alaskans must take a principled stand no matter our political affiliation. We will not have a democratic, citizen-represented government if we continue to allow multinationals to dominate our government, our laws, our policies, and our elections. “Whenever the people are well informed, they can be trusted with their own government; that whenever things get so far wrong as to attract their notice, they may be relied on to set them to rights.” — Thomas Jefferson 1788 The repeal of SB21 will put Alaskans on the path to “setting things right.” We can empower our legislators to represent the resource owners, not the oil companies. In the August 19th Primary election, we will use the strongest voice we have. Thirteen million dollars have already been spent to sway your vote. Please make your decision based on fact, not money-fueled ads, glossy fliers, and glitzy infomercials. Vote Yes on Proposition One for Alaska’s long-term best interests. Hal Gazaway attended grade school in the territory of Alaska and high school in the state of Alaska. After nine years as an Assistant Attorney General and Administrative Law Judge, he went into his own law practice in Anchorage. Barbara Gazaway had a long career in education, teaching music at all levels elementary through University. She taught in the European DOD schools, Pennsylvania, Utah, California, and Alaska. She now teaches piano and works part time as a legal assistant.

Production is the only number that matters

Those driving the effort to repeal oil tax reform on the Aug. 19 primary ballot like to talk numbers, but the only one that matters is the one they can’t talk about: production. They will point to state revenues under ACES, or jobs or corporate profits during a time of record-high oil prices. What they won’t talk about is the 6 percent annual production decline under ACES that was zeroed out this past fiscal year after just six months of oil tax reform being in effect. What they won’t talk about is the steep decline in drilling in the first year after ACES and an eventual bottoming out in the average number of working rigs from about 10 before ACES to just 6 in 2011. They won’t talk about an all-time high of 17 rigs working during February this year, or that an average of 11 were working throughout this winter season when Slope activity traditionally spikes because of the ability to move heavy equipment around the frozen tundra. The most rigs working during any single week last winter was just 10, and the weekly average was 8. Of course, the repeal supporters will claim that all this new Slope activity was planned under ACES and is somehow proof Sarah Palin’s plan worked. What nonsense. ACES was in effect from 2008 to 2013 and if producers were in any way incentivized to stem the annual decline we would have seen them do it long before the first six months of this year. It may take years of planning to develop a new field in the NPR-A, but it certainly doesn’t take six years to mobilize a rig for a well workover or to drill a new one in a producing field such as Kuparuk. Oil that isn’t produced doesn’t benefit anyone in Alaska. Reverting to a policy that keeps oil in the ground certainly doesn’t satisfy the Alaska Constitution requirement that resources be developed for the maximum benefit of its people. The only time the repeal supporters want to talk about production is when they point to the Revenue Department forecast for 10 years from now. What they never mention is that the forecast is based in no small part on the production decline that took place under ACES and barely accounts for the current tax policy at all. They are shamelessly trying to convince voters that the projected decline is based on oil tax reform instead of what it is actually based on: their preferred, and failed, policy called ACES. They know this is dishonest, but they are doing it anyway. When the proponents of repealing tax reform aren’t spinning numbers or ignoring the inconvenient ones such as production or drilling, they just make them up. A July 28 press release from Vic Fisher claimed that “125,000 jobs were created” under ACES. Twisting facts and personal attacks have been central to the repeal effort as they attempt to gin up anger as a motive to vote “yes,” but this claim is so far out it may as well have come from Pluto. According to the Alaska Department of Labor, the state had 316,900 jobs at the end of 2007, the last year before ACES took effect. At the end of 2013, the final year of ACES, the state had 335,800 jobs. That’s a difference of fewer than 19,000 jobs gained and certainly nowhere close to Fisher’s claim of 125,000 jobs created under ACES. Among those gains, more than twice as many jobs were created in health care (6,200) than were created in the oil and gas sector (2,600). Even conceding the point that jobs and Slope spending increased under ACES, the key question that repeal supporters cannot answer is this: Why didn’t production keep pace? The repeal supporters want voters to believe that the Slope decline is inevitable and that we should tax what’s left of “our oil” to the maximum level possible. It is a sad but unsurprising position from the believers in Big Government that they interpret the state Constitution’s “maximum benefit” clause only in terms of tax revenue and PFDs instead of measuring it by production growth and paychecks. We have seen a conclusive demonstration in the last year that the decline is not inevitable. In fact, far from it. The first step toward growing production is stopping the decline. That has now been achieved, and there is no shortage of new projects and legacy field expansions underway that have finally put the state in a position to see annual increases in production instead of the decline that accelerated under ACES. The people who want you to vote “yes” on 1 are running a cynical campaign based on emotion and falsehoods because that’s all they have. The cold, hard, indisputable evidence that matters — increased production and drilling — is what they don’t want you to consider because it makes the case clear to vote “no” on 1. Andrew Jensen can be reached [email protected]

EDITORIAL: Another election, another frivolous complaint

Apparently, defending your good name is an ethics violation — if you’re governor, that is. Following a misinformed opinion column penned by lieutenant governor-hopeful Craig Fleener, where he accused Gov. Sean Parnell of skipping a planned event at the National Congress of American Indians conference in Anchorage earlier this month, a state Democratic party officer has now filed an ethics complaint against Parnell. There’s not much of a story here, really, other than the state will now waste time, resources and money on a frivolous complaint that came about because the running mate to one of Parnell’s challengers thought he saw an opportunity to slam the governor but failed in knowing the facts first. An email provided to the Empire shows that Parnell’s scheduler declined the opportunity to speak at the NCAI conference on May 19 so he could attend his in-laws’ 60th wedding anniversary. NCAI event programs had Parnell listed as the opening speaker, and when rumors swirled that the governor was a no-show, Fleener saw an opportunity to help out running mate and Independent candidate Bill Walker by wagging his finger at the governor. Parnell released a statement accusing Fleener of spreading lies, but he did so through his press office and not his campaign office. Alaska Democratic Party member Lynda Zaugg saw another opportunity to poke Parnell in the eye and filed the ethics complaint. Calling the governor a no-show can be construed as an attack on Parnell’s character, not just as a candidate for governor but also as the governor. It’s bad for the state if the public is erroneously led to believe its highest elected official stood up a gathering of Alaska’s First People. Zaugg’s complaint of state resources being misused, in our opinion, will only lead to the misuse of state resources as the complaint is investigated. We’ll let you know how much it cost once the state is done investigating. An apology and correction from Fleener was published June 24 in the Anchorage Daily News, where his commentary first printed. “When (Parnell) did not take the stage after he was introduced and I was told by an organizer that he was delayed in traffic, the universal opinion was that Gov. Parnell was a no show. ... While I did check my sources all the way to the top of those in charge at the conference and made the statements I made in good faith, I apologize for stating Governor Parnell was an unexcused no-show.” Running mate Walker sent out his own release defending Fleener’s original column, placing blame on NCAI for the inaccurate program and on Parnell for not addressing the crowd by video. “It’s disappointing that Governor Parnell personally attacks Craig Fleener’s integrity, stepping over the true message raised by his article,” Walker said in the statement. “ ... Parnell’s absence from the candidate forum hosted by AFN was known in advance to all candidates and is not the absence mentioned in Fleener’s article.” It’s unfortunate that not only did Fleener step in “it,” but Walker refuses to acknowledge the smell. Regardless, state dollars will be used to clean up the mess it has caused.

Press should defend Citizens United, 1st Amendment

In reading some of the coverage here in Alaska, it seems that some have a hard time figuring out how Republican Senate candidate Dan Sullivan can support the Citizens United decision while proposing he and Sen. Mark Begich make an agreement that worked to curb some Outside spending the only time it has been tried. Citizens United vs. the Federal Election Commission was decided 5-4 by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2010. It overturned the bans on corporate-funded political speech within 30 and 60 days of primary and general elections under the McCain-Feingold bill passed in 2002; it also overturned a 1990 case that allowed limits on corporate spending on political speech. Citizens United has been a rallying cry for the left ever since, kicked off by President Obama ragging on the Supreme Court justices to their faces at his State of the Union address a few days after the decision. I called Sullivan’s challenge to Begich a “silly” move in this space last week because I find such “pledges” silly on general principle. Secondarily, it is silly because even if Sullivan is on the high ground it will do no good when the media will predictably dismiss or diminish the idea based on his proper support for the Citizens United decision. The fact that many in the media (and certainly the whole Democratic party) cannot reconcile the two positions shows a fundamental lack of understanding about the superiority of agreements among private individuals and groups versus government mandates to address an issue such as Outside spending. Such mandates inevitably encroach ever further onto our freedoms to the point where a government attorney actually argued before the Supreme Court in favor of a Constitutional authority to ban a wide spectrum of political speech beyond the sort of ubiquitous television ads running in Alaska. That is where the Federal Election Commission came down on Citizens United. Back in 2008, the nonprofit corporation Citizens United intended to use its general funds, which included some donations from for-profit corporations, to offer a negative movie about Hillary Clinton — creatively titled “Hillary: The Movie” — for free through video on demand service. Therefore the political speech was deemed prohibited under McCain-Feingold by the FEC and upheld in the D.C. Circuit Court. On appeal to the Supreme Court, the government attorney, Deputy Solicitor General Malcolm Stewart, argued that the Constitution would allow for the prohibition of political speech across mediums including books if any of the funding came from corporations. The McCain-Feingold campaign finance law being challenged only banned corporate spending for electioneering activity on “broadcast, cable and satellite,” and Stewart was asked by Justice Samuel Alito to answer the Citizens United argument “that there isn’t any constitutional difference between the distribution of this movie on video [on] demand and providing access on the Internet, providing DVDs, either through a commercial service or maybe in a public library, providing the same thing in a book? Would the Constitution permit the restriction of all of those as well?” Stewart responded: “I think the Constitution would have permitted Congress to apply the electioneering communication[s] restrictions … to additional media as well.” Justice Anthony Kennedy, who would be swing vote in deciding Citizens United and wrote the majority opinion, asked whether a non-media advocacy corporation could publish a book (media corporations are exempt from McCain-Feingold). Stewart responded that, “Yes, [the government’s] position would be that [any] corporation could be required to use PAC funds rather than general treasury funds.” Chief Justice John Roberts then asked, “And if they didn’t, you could ban it?” to which Stewart said, “If they didn’t, we could prohibit the publication of the book.” Those who take it as conventional wisdom that the Citizens United decision is a bad thing should consider the chilling alternative argument advanced by the Obama Administration: that the Constitution allows the government to ban political speech in any medium based on the source of the funding. Corporate-owned media (that would be all of it) enjoyed the grace of an exemption under McCain-Feingold. Yet the biggest media companies with the greatest reach are often of the multi-national, corporate conglomerate variety that are just as capable of pursuing interests that don’t reflect the public will. The majority opinion in Citizens United rightly observed that, “the exemption would allow a conglomerate that owns both a media business and an unrelated business to influence or control the media in order to advance its overall business interest. At the same time, some other corporation, with an identical business interest but no media outlet in its ownership structure, would be forbidden to speak or inform the public about the same issue. This differential treatment cannot be squared with the First Amendment.” No matter what the source of the funding for making “Hillary” available on demand, banning political speech that requires an independent decision to consume it is a drastic expansion of government authority without a compelling interest and demanded to be struck down. The fact that corporate funding alone gave the government grounds to ban political speech demanded those rules be struck down as well. An administration that claims such authority and a Congress that would grant such power to the Executive should not find its advocates among an American press that is protected under the First Amendment for the purpose of holding the government accountable. The systematic and illegal targeting of conservative groups by Obama’s IRS in the wake of the Citizens United decision is proof of the lengths an administration can and will go to silence its political opponents through the force of government. And where have the supposed guardians of free speech been throughout this assault on the First Amendment? Largely, they have gone along with the distortion of the free speech issues at the heart of Citizens United and looked the other way as the Obama Administration stonewalls the IRS investigation and makes the absurd claim that it has lost years worth of emails for a half-dozen agency employees and ringleader Lois Lerner. Attacks by politicians on free speech are to be expected. It’s downright depressing when the people who claim to be the biggest fans of the First Amendment go along with it. Andrew Jensen can be reached at [email protected]

EDITORIAL: US foreign policy a drifting disappointment

Barack Obama reaffirmed his belief in American exceptionalism in a speech (last) week aimed at reframing his foreign policy. This was no small point coming from a President who won office partly by capitalizing on a decline in the U.S.’s global standing. When he accepted the Democratic nomination in August 2008, Obama made a bold promise. “I will restore our moral standing,” he declared, “so that America is once again that last, best hope for all who are called to the cause of freedom, who long for lives of peace, and who yearn for a better future.” Now that he is well into his second term it is difficult to offer a positive assessment against this mission statement. The U.S. under Obama has been slow, recoiling and tentative in international affairs. Because of the global leadership role the President accepts, this is a cause for concern. Make no mistake, Obama is himself an embodiment of the very exceptionalism he embraces. That a one-time slave-trading nation, not so long ago riven with state-sanctioned racial inequality, can elect an African-American to the White House shows the power of the ideas that form the Great Republic. His election, of itself, did much to revive US standing as the bastion of democracy and freedom. But looking for repercussions in American foreign policy achievements, we are bound to be disappointed. Unless he shows more resolve in his final two years, his presidency will be seen as a period of drift when global threats from Iran and Russia went unchecked, the Middle Eastern quagmires deepened and China ever so surely began to feel emboldened. To be sure, Obama points most proudly to scaling back and ending military engagements in Iraq and, in the coming two years, Afghanistan. But there is little evidence sufficient work has been done in either theatre to consolidate the gains. In his speech to graduating officers at West Point this week the President even promised to close Guantanamo Bay; the same turning point his predecessor aspired to and that Obama pledged in his 2008 campaign. In his reference to America’s age-old argument between isolationism and adventurism, at least the commander-in-chief seemed to comprehend that in this age of global threats the U.S. cannot realistically isolate itself from its role as an international force for order. But he placed great emphasis on multilateral approaches; a surprising priority when his current nemesis, Russia, has played such a spoiling role with its UN Security Council veto on issues such as Syria and Iran. In Obama’s own words: “A new century has brought no end to tyranny.” An end may have been too much to ask for, but we are entitled to question the lack of meaningful progress. Obama sounded dewy-eyed when holding out a “very real chance of achieving a breakthrough agreement” with Iran. He also boasted of how the American “ability to shape world opinion helped isolate Russia right away.” That is not much of an achievement, or deterrence, thus far. In our region, the U.S. pivot to Asia — somewhat forgotten with distractions in eastern Europe — has done little to stymie provocative actions by the Chinese navy. And North Korea remains unchastened. The President speaks of a world where “hopes and not just fears” govern. But for solutions he cannot afford to be fearful of U.S. power.  

Gambling with lives in the name of green gospel

Cowboy humorist and vaudevillian Will Rogers was ahead of Jon Stewart by at least 70 years when he once said, “Everything is changing. People are taking the comedians seriously and the politicians as a joke.” Some of Rogers’ best barbs were aimed at the absurdity of government, among them, “I don’t make jokes. I just watch the government and report the facts,” and “There’s no trick to being a humorist when you have the whole government working for you.” Rogers, as many Alaskans know, died in a plane crash near Barrow in 1935. It was an event that shocked the nation as he was one of America’s most beloved celebrities and had just the prior year been named the most popular male actor in Hollywood. To this day, aviation accidents and fatalities are a grim reality for Alaskans, and there is nothing funny about that. Alaskans live in a state with the most pilots per capita and where more than 80 percent of its communities are not connected to the road system. We all know it is only a matter of when, and not if, the next tragedy will strike. Tragedy does not discriminate among the famous or the anonymous, as the deaths of Rogers, Alaska U.S. Rep. Nick Begich and House Speaker Hale Boggs in 1972, and former Sen. Ted Stevens in 2010 remind us. Nor does tragedy discriminate between experienced or inexperienced pilots. Last March 30, two Alaska State Troopers and the man they were rescuing were killed when their helicopter crashed near Talkeetna. The chopper was piloted by Trooper Mel Nading, who’d flown hundreds of rescue missions over the years and often flew federal officials to the scene of other aviation accidents. The risks of flying are far more immediate to us than those in the Lower 48, who can drive almost anywhere and if they fly will typically do so in robust jet aircraft capable of rising above bad weather. Such missions from King Cove are not unique to that area. The Alaska Air National Guard has flown more than 5,000 missions and saved more than 2,000 lives since 1994, and Alaskans are forever thankful for the Guardsmen and the U.S. Coast Guard who routinely risk their lives in the effort to save the lives of others. Alaskans are willing to accept risk, but we are not reckless. The same cannot be said, though, of the stubborn band of Washington, D.C., bureaucrats and dogmatic green groups who are stopping the construction of an 11-mile strip of gravel to complete a connection between the communities of King Cove and Cold Bay on the Alaska Peninsula. Personally, if I was current Interior Secretary Sally Jewell or former Interior Secretary and King Cove hatchet man Bruce Babbitt or any of the PR greenies pounding out press releases, I would live every day in fear that someone is going to die during one of these dangerous medical evacuations, either for lack of care as they await help or if the worst happens and an aircraft goes down. It must take a pretty hardened heart to be willing to roll the dice with human lives facing an actual, predictable risk in favor of the purely theoretical and in any case minimal threat that waterfowl might be disturbed by an occasional passing vehicle. A great irony is that the members of the so-called “science-based community,” as they so lovingly dub themselves, are in actuality no less of a slave to their ideologies than any of the opponents they so routinely and smugly dismiss. And just as organized religion is rife with its hypocrisies, so, too, is the environmental left and its puppets in this government who raise nary an eyebrow over thousands of bird kills at wind or solar farms because it fits their green energy gospel while at the same time preventing the construction of an ordinary one-lane road that won’t harm a feather. We should also be certain about this: The opposition to the King Cove road is not because Jewell or anybody else really believes it is going to destroy waterfowl habitat. It’s not about conservation; it’s about preservation of a precedent that no road has ever been built through a national wildlife refuge. Green groups have advanced their cause over the years by never giving an inch, and the Izembek road is one of those inches they are determined not to cede no matter how many people with broken pelvises or babies with breathing problems or our heroic “Coasties” they put in harm’s way. Will Rogers, who was 55 when he died near Barrow, had another one-liner worth remembering: “If you live life right, death is a joke as far as fear is concerned.” If living life right is the mark, then Jewell and the opponents of King Cove should have a lot to be afraid of. Andrew Jensen can be reached at [email protected]

Changes to HB 77 meant to allay stakeholder concerns

A little over three years ago, the Department of Natural Resources recognized that the status quo for permitting wasn’t working. More than 2,600 of our permits and authorizations were backlogged, to the detriment of many businesses and individual Alaskans seeking to access state lands and resources, and to the detriment of our economy. In 2011, DNR committed to Gov. Sean Parnell and the Legislature to drive down the backlog. In return, they supplied additional personnel and resources to DNR. All parties recognized that new funding wasn’t a silver bullet to end the backlog. This is why DNR committed to undertake a comprehensive permitting initiative to make its process more timely and efficient — without compromising any standards. We hosted eight forums around the state in 2011 to gather public input on the permitting initiative, and in 2012, secured a first set of statutory reforms that improve our process for land leasing and material sales. In 2013, additional DNR and legislative proposals to support timelier decisions for oil and gas projects passed the Legislature. However, DNR’s efforts through House Bill 77 to increase the efficiency of our land and water-use authorizations did not pass last year. It is important to note that most provisions of the bill did not trigger wide opposition. However, three did, regarding general permits, water reservations and appeals. DNR staff, along with legislators, met with the public and stakeholder organizations to look for ways to address their concerns about HB 77. We are pleased to support amendments recently incorporated by the Senate Resources Committee chair for consideration. These include the following notable changes: • The “notwithstanding any other provision of law” clause is removed to end concerns that DNR could trump other agencies in issuing a general permit. • DNR’s authority to issue a general permit is limited to activities that DNR can already authorize through a permit under specific provisions of the Alaska Land Act. • The process for establishing a general permit is clarified and defined to include public comment. • Individuals, Tribes and others will continue to be able to apply for water reservations. • If the department approves a water reservation sought by a “person,” the certificate will be issued to an appropriate state agency. This ensures that public resources are managed by public agencies. Nothing in HB 77 reduces environmental standards or changes laws administered by the Department of Fish and Game that protect our fisheries and wildlife habitat. However, some have argued in op-ed pieces and articles that DNR, through HB 77, is seeking to exclude the public from making public comments or appealing decisions.  To the contrary, if the Legislature authorizes general permits with public comment periods, and such permits are established by DNR, the public will be notified and given opportunity to comment on activities for which no notice was previously required. Furthermore, we believe that appellants should describe how they are harmed, and this is why we have not sought to amend HB 77 provisions pertaining to a person’s eligibility to appeal. We hope the amendments to House Bill 77 will remove the primary concerns that prevented its passage last year, but we are under no illusion that the state’s goal of increasing the efficiency of its permitting system is accepted by all. This is unfortunate because many Alaskans are harmed by government inefficiency. The issue isn’t just private developers who navigate a large array of state and federal permits before launching a resource extraction project. Inefficiencies in the permitting process hurt individuals, small businesses and local governments.    Since 2011, DNR has cut its backlog of more than 2,600 permits and authorizations by more than 50 percent — not with a silver bullet, but a variety of actions that include investing in our staff, new business process management tools, and permit reform legislation. Passage of HB 77 will be very useful as we continue our work to improve and modernize our permitting system while simultaneously striving to eliminate the backlog. We look forward to discussing the amendments as the Alaska Legislature takes up HB 77 in the coming days and weeks. Joe Balash is Commissioner of the Alaska Department of Natural Resources.

Bill threatens Alaskans right to know

Your right to know what’s happening in your local government and in your community is at risk. And while it’s in a holding pattern today, that risk still is there. First the context. Alaska’s Legislature is tackling some daunting tasks, with a $1 billion budget shortfall and the elusive natural gas pipeline among the great whales that fill the calendar and news bites. Beyond the huge issues are some innocent sounding, but dangerous bills that usually never gain momentum. House Bill 275, with an innocent title, “electronic publication of certain municipal notices…”  is just such a dangerous piece of legislation. The bill reputedly would reduce paperwork, especially for Legislators who say they receive 1,000 pages of printed documents a day. But it also would allow Alaska Municipalities to move key public notices from printed newspapers to only muni websites. And to stop publishing key financial events, like changes in Mil rates (the taxes you pay to fund schools and muni operations) and real estate transactions including foreclosures. It’s an easy sales pitch—small municipalities are scratching to save money, to do more with less staff, to find a cheaper option. But it’s absolutely a dangerous concept attacking Alaskans’ right to know what their local government is doing. In reality, HB 275 would directly harm the transparency of government that is at the core of our state’s and our nation’s constitutions. This legislation would also disenfranchise the significant number of elderly, lower-income and Native Alaskans who do not use the internet, whether by choice or lack of access. As seductive as it is to claim we’re all web savvy, that every Alaskan is living online, that’s just not reality.  Posting notices on a seldom-visited, website is not adequate notice. Transactions as basic as Mil Rates and real estate foreclosures should not be hidden. HB275 provides no specifics about how or exactly where online notices would be published, but it’s a certainty they would be less available or visible to those citizens most impacted by them. It’s also unclear who would bear liability for damages from failures in municipal-on online publication.  Printed and online newspapers still have the largest and most diverse audience statewide. With print and digital readership combined, no other medium comes close to the readership of daily and weekly newspapers—where public notices are already published.  This is especially true beyond Alaska’s urban areas. Citizens deserve to know what their government is doing. The obligation of requiring public notice of government action goes back to the first days of our democracy. HB275 is a threat to the public’s right to know, a right that Alaskans take very seriously.  Today the bill is back in the House Rules committee, sent back by its sponsors after concerns about the bill’s risks become obvious. That’s a good place for it to die. That’s good for every Alaskan. It you’re one of those Alaskans who wants to know what your municipality is doing, let your Representatives and Senators know. It’s your right. Lee Leschper can be reached at [email protected]

Property management: The other side of real estate coin

Arguably, real estate’s most tangible segment is residential sales — the buying and selling of homes. Why? Likely, this connection can be contributed to the immediacy that most individuals have with the concept and process. It is part of the “American Dream” to own a little piece of land with a three-bedroom, two-bath house, white shutters, and a picket fence — right? However, ignoring the other side of the real estate coin means missing out on a world of economic drivers, career opportunities, and investment potential. The other side I’m referring to is property management – the leasing or renting of real estate as a means of producing income. Disclaimer: Be careful not to let the image of landlords, or more accurately “slumlords,” narrow your vision of what property management actually involves. This global industry is comprised of both commercial and residential income-producing property. If it’s leased, it’s being managed. Commercial applications involve the management of where people work — office buildings/parks, retail structures, even medical, research, and industrial facilities. Residential involves the management of where people live — apartments, condominiums/townhomes, single-family houses, or manufactured housing. Looking closer at certain segments, roughly 35 percent of Americans rent their housing — this number is closer to 40 percent for the local Anchorage market. Nationally, renters form over 40 million households, and about one-third of those renters live in an apartment — those buildings with 5+ units. The National Apartment Association and the National Multi Housing Council released a report from their partnered effort to quantify the economic impact of the apartment industry. Their findings indicated that 19.3 million apartment homes across the nation directly contributed $67.9 billion in existing apartment operations and directly employed 686,000 on-site positions to manage and maintain its assets in 2011, alone. These numbers are impressive, but they are only one submarket of one segment of this industry. Locally, the Municipality of Anchorage has 10,412 commercial properties with a total assessed value of $9.9 billion. BOMA International estimates that the office market in Anchorage, alone, contributes $103 million to Alaska economy and supports over 5,000 jobs. With recent improvements in technology, shifting legislation, and evolving density needs, income-producing assets continue to increase in scale and complexity. Today’s property managers can be responsible for tens to hundreds of millions of dollars in assets with annual operating revenues in the millions. Historically, these managers were promoted from entry-level positions with no requirements for a college degree. Even today, only a handful of universities across the nation have a property management degree offering. Ball State University and the University of Wisconsin-Stout, two schools with four-year degree programs in property management, will be the first to tell you that companies are excited by the great strides these programs and their students have made. Several quote rapid progression, along with a refreshing commitment to the profession as reasons they keep coming back to recruit from these schools. Respectively, graduates of these programs boast about the experiences they had as students, citing the job shadowing opportunities, internships, and focused curriculum that gave them a real competitive advantage entering the workforce. More importantly, many graduates will tell you they received multiple offers prior to graduation, and their only worry was choosing the company that would be the best fit for them. In Alaska, Dean Weidner, the founder and owner of Weidner Apartment Homes, has endowed $4 million to the University of Alaska Anchorage to create and support a property management and real estate program in the College of Business and Public Policy. The college has been reaching out to national organizations like the Institute of Real Estate Management and the National Apartment Association, along with local real estate providers to build, promote, and support the program. Today, Alaskan students have the opportunity to study this exciting field in one of only a few property management programs in the nation, and Alaskan companies are taking notice. Joe Beedle, president and CEO of Northrim Bank, says, “Quality property managers are essential to a strong real estate industry and UAA’s new program will allow students an opportunity to receive training that will better equip them for a job that will fill a demand in Alaska. The management program’s specialized focus on real estate and property management will be an asset to the community.” The economic impact that this industry has, coupled with the ongoing sophistication of its management and career opportunities, certainly gives reason for many to be excited. Terry Fields is Term Assistant Professor of Property Management and Real Estate at UAA’s College of Business and Public Policy. Andrew Romerdahl is the Weidner Chair of Property Management and Real Estate.

Express Program lends hand to veteran-owned businesses

Our nation’s veterans have served our country proudly and bravely. They are true American heroes, and we must make sure that we’re doing everything possible to support them, once they re-enter civilian life. That’s why starting Jan. 1, 2014 and for the rest of the fiscal year, the U.S. Small Business Administration has set the borrower upfront guaranty fee to zero, for all veteran loans approved during that timeframe under the SBA Express program, which supports loans of up to $350,000. That’s right, the guaranty fee is zero. This program, called SBA’s Veterans Advantage, is available to small businesses owned and controlled by veterans; active-duty military participating in the Transition Assistance Program; reservists; National Guard members; or their spouses or the widowed spouses of service members or veterans, who died during service or as a result of service-related disabilities. Our research shows that of all SBA loans that go to veteran-owned businesses, 73 percent are $350,000 and below. The SBA Express Loan Program, which supports loans up to $350,000, is SBA’s most popular loan delivery method, with nearly 60 percent of all 7(a) loans over the past decade being approved through the program. Since the program’s inception, it has also been one of the most popular delivery methods for getting capital into the hands of veteran-owned businesses. SBA is dedicated to helping veterans, providing them access to business counseling and training, business development opportunities through government contracts and capital. In FY 2013, SBA supported $1.86 billion in loans for 3,094 veteran-owned small businesses. And since 2009, the dollar amount of SBA lending support to veteran-owned firms has nearly doubled. We strive to support veterans and members of the military in as many ways as possible. That’s why SBA also supports a direct working capital loan program, for small businesses with an essential employee, who is a military reservist, called to active duty. The Military Reservist Economic Injury Disaster loans provide funds, to help cover operating expense, while the essential employee is away on active duty. This way, our brave men and women in uniform, don’t have to choose between serving their country or growing their communities. Our nation’s veterans are highly-skilled and highly-trained leaders in their communities, and so it makes sense that after serving their country, veterans would become entrepreneurs and small business owners. Our job at the SBA is to make sure that these veterans and their families have the tools and capital they need to start and grow a business. As Regional Administrator, I am proud that the SBA fully supports our veteran entrepreneurs. We look forward to continuing to reach out to them through our 68 field offices across the country, including the Alaska District Office. Contact them at (907) 271-4002 or the Veteran Business Outreach Center at (206) 324-4330. Calvin Goings is the Small Business Administration Regional Administrator for Alaska.

Having an honest discussion about Pebble

As Sen. Mark Begich and Rep. Andy Josephson have recently opined about Pebble, I offer some of my own thoughts in response to the rhetoric of politicians more interested in inciting fear and “us vs. them” thinking than facts. I flew my own plane to the Pebble deposit two summers ago and believe it is imperative that any elected officials who want to weigh in on this matter should at a minimum visit the property for themselves and visit with all groups expressing views on the matter. Let’s have an honest discussion about modern mining based on current technology, under current rules and regulations, not horror stories based on past projects in other places, with decades-old technologies and practices, and political exercises like the recent EPA “assessment.” Yet another example of federal over-reach, the EPA piece is a political document. A report in search of a conclusion. And let’s have a discussion that considers the role of pride in preserving the Native cultures in rural Alaska, and the role that economic opportunity and having a job play in strengthening that pride. Let’s have a discussion about the economic decline in parts of rural Alaska, how that leads to population decline as the most capable people move to urban Alaska, and the impact of that on rural culture. Let’s talk about a viable plan for improving the economy in rural Alaska. A plan based on creating wealth and moving people off of public assistance. A plan for reversing the school closures that come with outmigration. The Bristol Bay fishery is certainly an asset for the people of Alaska, any development of Pebble must be compatible with the fishery. That said, much of the value of that fishery is going outside of Alaska, with well over half of the drift permits fished by non-Alaskans and with well over 70 percent of the processing jobs going to non-residents. That must be why the EPA chose to have the first public hearing on the draft “assessment” in downtown Seattle. A preliminary economic study of development at Pebble estimated that it could create thousands of good paying year-round jobs, generate over one billion dollars of annual economic activity and contribute several billion dollars to the state’s general fund. At a time when oil throughput is in decline, we — as elected leaders — must thoroughly evaluate all potential economic opportunities. Sen. Begich’s recent change of heart on Pebble is a play for support of national environmental organizations in his re-election campaign. The Natural Resources Defense Council has made Pebble a central fundraising issue featuring aging movie actor Robert Redford and is a leading group in the anti-Pebble fight. The NRDC has fought many Alaska resource development projects and to my knowledge has not advocated for responsible mineral development anywhere in the U.S. Trout Unlimited, World Wildlife Fund, and Earthworks have also led national campaigns to stop the project including asking the EPA to pre-emptively stop Pebble — something the agency has not done since it was established. There is also the Moore Foundation, a San Francisco based foundation ironically established by the founders of Intel, that has sent millions to Alaska to fight Pebble. It is a shame for politicians to pander to these big outside groups.  The issues and passions generated by discussing Pebble are many and complex. This is why we have an established, science based process to evaluate projects and determine if they meet our high standards for development. The alternative is a politically driven process that would promote decisions based upon the whims of partisan politics, with a guaranteed outcome that investment money will go somewhere else and with it, so will the jobs and economic opportunity for Alaskans for generations to come. Alaskans are smart enough to do projects like this right. Let’s work together and find a way to make that happen. Eric Feige is a Republican from Chickaloon representing District 6.

Alaska LNG, Pebble and the Cook Inlet fish wars

With so much happening over the past couple weeks it’s time to clean out the editorial notebook. First up, there is welcome news on the Alaska LNG Project. State officials have signed a key deal with the big three North Slope producers and pipeline company TransCanada on the framework that can lead to the construction of a large diameter line from Prudhoe Bay to Nikiski. Apart from the prospect of $2 billion to $3 billion in new revenue to the state from LNG sales, primary among the positives is that the state will be an owner and a partner in this project, but is not obligated to finance its share of the pipeline or market its own gas. The chief state obligation is for the Legislature to enact durable fiscal terms and approve long-term contracts that will allow the producers and TransCanada to model the economics with certainty for a decades-long effort for construction and operations. Although there is a risk in any lengthy commitment, the willingness of the state to shoulder some of the risk on this project is essential to move it forward. Some may find this hard to accept, but the producers will not go out of business without Alaska, but Alaska will go out of business without the producers. That doesn’t give the state the strongest hand, but it appears Gov. Sean Parnell has played the cards we do have well. A true partnership is not about one party getting over on the other, but coming to an arrangement that is mutually beneficial. From this perspective, an agreement that gives the state a significant ownership stake, a seat at the table and no up-front costs for pipeline construction or marketing is a deal worth pursuing. The market for LNG around the globe is not going anywhere, but the longer Alaska dawdles the more opportunity slips away not only for new state revenues but to finally begin lowering energy costs for our residents. The sooner terms can be ironed out and the serious business of engineering and design can go forward, the better. Here’s hoping the Legislature does its part to keep the new momentum on this project going. EPA releases Pebble study Surprise, surprise, the Environmental Protection Agency declared its hypothetical mining scenario for the Bristol Bay watershed would pose risks to the world’s largest salmon run. To borrow (and clean up) a popular expression, “No kidding, Sherlock.” Were millions of dollars and years of work really necessary to figure out that a mine done wrong can damage the environment? Sen. Mark Begich went on the record shortly after the final assessment was released, saying Pebble is the wrong mine in the wrong place. Maybe he figures he won’t get the resource extraction industry support in the upcoming election anyway, but backing the EPA’s pseudo-science on Pebble makes his criticisms of this administration on a host of other issues ring hollow. The groups Begich is aligning with on Pebble are the same ones who say the road through Izembek Refuge is the wrong road in the wrong place. They say the coastal plain of ANWR is the wrong oil field in the wrong place. They say Aleutians Pacific cod is the wrong fishery in the wrong place. They kept Kensington from opening for 20 years until the case reached the Supreme Court. They tried to stop Red Dog mine from expanding in 2010. They are suing to stop ConocoPhillips from developing CD-5. They have sued and will no doubt sue again to challenge Shell’s efforts to drill in the Arctic.  Yes, Begich’s position of being in favor of resource development in general while being against Pebble is a common one and is held by many Alaskans, prominent and otherwise. The problem is his party keeps these BANANA types in power (Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Never Again) and gives them sway over a host of other issues that ultimately hurt Alaska. The problem is the EPA and other government agencies routinely use science influenced by politics to make decisions (see Keystone XL), and it’s pretty hard to criticize a bogus decision by Sally Jewell when it comes to the King Cove road while siding with equally bogus science from the EPA on Pebble. I searched the EPA final assessment looking for a citation to University of Alaska professor Bob Loeffler, who wrote a paper in 2012 for the Institute of Social and Economic Research analyzing whether pre-design risk assessments were valid. Loeffler compared post-design assessments conducted at Red Dog and Kensington with an assessment conducted by the Nature Conservancy regarding Pebble that, like the EPA, relied on preliminary design plans published by Northern Dynasty. After taking great pains to note that his paper was in no way intended to assess Pebble itself, Loeffler concluded: “Without data from individual mine design and site configurations, government agencies cannot determine whether mines meet permitting standards … This comparison of post- and pre-design risk assessment in this report shows that the detailed information, about a specific site and a specific mine design, and without knowing the specific prevention and mitigation strategies that will be applied, it is not possible to use ecological risk assessment methodology to evaluate the risks a proposed mine might pose to the environment. “Specifically, a pre-design ecological risk assessment is a failed methodology for evaluating ecological risks from hard-rock mines in Alaska.” Surprise, surprise, I did not find a citation to Loeffler’s paper anywhere in the EPA’s final assessment. Cook Inlet A more revealing juxtaposition of events Jan. 22 concerning the never-ending battles over salmon in Cook Inlet is hard to imagine. At noon, the Kenai Chamber of Commerce held a Cook Inlet Fisheries Forum attended by the groups representing processors, commercial drift fleet and setnet fishermen, private anglers and the Kenai River Sportfishing Association. In the announcement from the chamber, it stated that Joe Connors of the Alaska Fisheries Conservation Alliance was not able to attend. Connors was in Anchorage at 11 a.m. giving a press conference about his organization’s newly filed legal appeal to get a ban on Cook Inlet setnetters placed on the ballot after Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell rejected the initiative on Jan. 6 as a prohibited allocation under the state Constitution. So while diverse and competing stakeholders got together in the city where many of them live and work, another skipped out to further its fish fight in court to eliminate one of those groups on the eve of the Board of Fisheries meeting that begins Jan. 31. When it comes to who is escalating the so-called fish wars, it doesn’t take recalling Sesame Street to realize one of these groups is not like the others. Andrew Jensen can be reached at [email protected]

AJOC EDITORIAL: More math education needed ... for Democrats

For a party that spends as much time as it does carping about education funding, the least the state Democrats could do is open a math book. A pair of late October announcements had Democrats falling over themselves yet again with embarrassing attempts at arithmetic and basic accounting in their ongoing campaign against the oil tax reform passed as Senate Bill 21 this spring. Leading off was the chair of the state Democrat party issuing a press release Oct. 28 blasting Gov. Sean Parnell’s reaction to Pioneer Natural Resources selling its North Slope assets. Pioneer cashed out for $550 million to a relatively new startup company called Caelus headed by an industry veteran who has known the Pioneer CEO for 30 years. Parnell welcomed the announcement and touted the purchase as evidence of Alaska as an attractive investment climate after the passage of SB 21, noting Caelus’ declared intent to spend $1.5 billion in Alaska over the next six years. The company is retaining Pioneer’s 70 full-time Alaska employees, adding some of its own staff, and keeping another 300 contractors working. What a bum deal for Alaska. Naturally Parnell’s attempt at a little political hay could not go unanswered by the Democrats with a governor’s election and the referendum to repeal SB 21 in 2014, but the response was laughably incoherent. As someone who occasionally goes over the top, I had to chuckle at the Democrats’ opening description of Parnell’s statement as “Orwellian.” (I’ll let it slide, though, that the Democrats misspelled “Oooguruk” in their release.) “In fact, Caelus was taking advantage of a fire sale after Pioneer Natural Resources fled Alaska following passage of Parnell’s Oil Giveaway,” stated the Democrats, who went on to assert Pioneer was “moving its investments from Alaska to Texas and taking a $350 million loss.” Never mind the inherent contradiction in proclaiming an Oil Giveaway! as the reason an oil company would flee the state, Mike Wenstrup, chair of the Alaska Democratic Party, huffed thusly: “No amount of spin can conceal the fact that Pioneer’s departure is bad news for Alaska and the latest casualty of Parnell’s Oil Giveaway.” And no amount of huffy puffery can conceal that state Democrats and Wenstrup haven’t spent 10 minutes reading a Pioneer financial report. The loss the Democrats point to refers to the Pioneer announcement it would recognize a $350 million noncash loss in the fourth quarter after receiving $550 million cash for Slope assets that produced about 4,300 barrels per day so far this year. That means Pioneer had its Slope assets including the Oooguruk field valued on its books at $900 million, so selling for $550 million results in a $350 million “noncash” writedown for the quarter. At the end of the third quarter, Pioneer had $744 million in cash and cash equivalents on hand. Its total assets were valued at a bit more than $14 billion. The Slope transaction increased the Pioneer cash position by 74 percent, to nearly $1.3 billion, while taking an accounting writedown representing 2.4 percent of its assets. What a bum deal for Pioneer. Not to pile on, but Pioneer isn’t “moving” its investments to Texas, either. Texas is now its entire portfolio. Alaska production accounted for a fraction of Pioneer’s 173,000 barrels per day in production in the third quarter, and represented just $190 million of its $3 billion in capital expenditures this year. The tax credits Democrats so often point to about their beloved ACES were also running out for Pioneer after years spent developing the Oooguruk field, declining from $49 million in 2010 to $29 million in 2012. Some people might wonder if ACES is a great deal with the credits but a bad deal once the taxes kick in, and whether that might be a reason a company would flee the state. Not Democrats, apparently. At $100 per barrel, Pioneer’s North Slope daily production adds up to about $157 million in gross revenue per year. That revenue will be taxed less under SB 21 than it would be under ACES and will free up more money for investment by a company focused on the Slope. What a bum deal for Caelus. Speaking of the sacred ACES, I missed the press releases this summer after Alaska finished fiscal year 2013 with a deficit of nearly $400 million while operating under the Democrats’ preferred tax regime and their budget.  One of the chief ACES proponents and an equally prolific press releaser, Sen. Bill Wielechowski issued his quarterly congratulations to ConocoPhillips for making money in Alaska on Nov. 1. Hyping ConocoPhillips Alaska third quarter earnings as usual, Wielechowski helpfully divided the $494 million up into increments of days and hours. He got the daily rate right at about $5.3 million, and only missed on the hourly rate by a factor of 10 by headlining it as $22,731. When he wasn’t getting simple math wrong or perhaps as he debated whether it would be silly to divide into seconds (the answer is $62.15), Wielechowski for whatever reason ignored the bigger picture staring at him from the investor presentation he linked to in the press release. That shows ConocoPhillips Alaska earnings declined 7.6 percent year-over-year. Compare that to its Lower 48 and Latin America holdings, which increased 15 percent year-over-year and 18 percent from the second quarter. For Canada, ConocoPhillips earnings increased from $5 million in the second quarter to $181 million in the third; its European earnings grew nearly 9 percent in the same period. Overall, ConocoPhillips total earnings increased 7 percent year-over-year at the same time its Alaska income decreased 7.6 percent. The most profitable ConocoPhillips unit may be in Alaska, but its earnings in the state under ACES were actually a drag on its net income growth. Forgive the bookkeeping pun, but the bottom line is the Democrats should spend less time on the PR and more time on the three Rs.   Andrew Jensen can be reached at [email protected]  

FISH FACTOR: Dutch still No. 1; Sitka considers waterfront development

For the 16th year in a row, Dutch Harbor ranked as the nation’s top fishing port with 752 million pounds crossing those docks last year valued at $214 million. The No. 2 port for landings again was Empire-Venice, La. The Aleutian Islands jumped to third place with 456 million pounds led by deliveries to Akutan, and bumped Kodiak to No. 4 with 393 million pounds landed in 2012. In all, 13 Alaska ports made the Top 50 list for poundage, according to the annual Fisheries of the United States report by NOAA Fisheries.   For value of the catch, New Bedford, Mass., retained the lead for the 13th consecutive year at $411 million, thanks to pricey scallops; Dutch Harbor ranked second, followed by Kodiak at $170 million and the Aleutian Islands with a dockside value of $119 million. In all, U.S. seafood landings totaled 9.6 billion pounds last year valued at $5.1 billion, down 2.2 percent and 3.2 percent, respectively, from 2011. Other highlights: •                  Alaska topped all other states for total landings at 5.3 billion pounds and for overall value at $1.7 billion. •                  Alaska provided 55.5 percent of all seafood landed in the U.S. last year. •                  The top five fish species landed by volume were pollock, menhaden, cod, flatfish and salmon. •                  For value, the “crabs” category ranked first followed by scallops, shrimp, salmon and lobster. Pollock and cod were sixth and seventh for value.    •                  Shellfish prices dropped by 3 percent while prices for industrial products, such as oils and feeds increased by 14 percent. •                  Dockside prices increased for 18 out of 32 species groups being tracked and decreased for 14 species. The skipjack tuna price index had the largest gain, up 112 percent, while sockeye salmon showed the largest decrease at 17 percent. •                  The average dock price paid to fishermen in 2012 was 53 cents per pound compared to 54 cents the previous year. •                  U.S. consumers spent about $82.6 billion for fishery products in 2012. •                  The U.S. fishing industry contributed $42 billion to the GNP. •                  Americans ate less seafood last year at 14.4 pounds per person, compared to 15 pounds in 2011. The decrease resulted primarily from a drop in the domestic landings utilized for food, the report said. Other Alaska ports on the Top 50 list include the Alaska Peninsula at 9, Naknek at 14, Cordova at 15, Ketchikan at 18, Sitka at 20, Bristol Bay at 22, Seward at 23, Petersburg at 24, Kenai at 31 and Juneau at 42 for seafood landings in 2012. Sitka industrial effort looking for fishermen feedback Input by mariners is wanted on plans being considered for a bigger boat haul out and other waterfront development at Sitka’s Sawmill Cove Industrial Park. “We’ve been hearing from the community for years that they would like to see our haul out capabilities expanded and our marine services expanded bit,” said Garry White, executive director of the Sitka Economic Development Association.  “Currently, the largest haul out we have in town is an 88-ton lift, and we are hearing from a lot of the fleet, especially the tender boats and some of the larger vessels, that they can’t be hauled out here in town,” White added. “The fleet has to go elsewhere to get serviced, and they would like to stay here in town to get that done.” To get feedback from boat owners, the association has launched a Sitka Marine Industry Development Survey. “The first thing we’re interested in is what size haul out should we put in to meet the fleet’s needs, and what other services are needed, such as sand blasting, bottom painting and diesel work,” White explained. “A lot of those industries exist here in town, but we are trying to figure out how we can broaden things to meet all our needs at the same time.” Sitka’s commercial fishing fleet is the largest in Southeast Alaska at 631 registered vessels. The City and Borough of Sitka also operate the largest harbor system in Alaska with five moorage basins and more than 1,300 permanent slips, plus transient moorage space. “We’re on the outside of Southeast Alaska facing the Pacific Ocean,” White said. “There is a lot of traffic that comes through Sitka on the way to other fisheries, or they come here for the fisheries. So we want to hear from those boats in Puget Sound and other parts of Southeast Alaska that may want to pop in here and get some work done or if they have some emergency. We want to hear what they think should happen in Sitka.” Find the survey at www.sitka.net or www.sawmillcove.com. The deadline is Nov. 30. White said a report will follow early next year. Fish watch Alaska’s biggest fishery, Bering Sea pollock, closed for the year on Nov. 1. Roughly 3 billion pounds will come out of that fishery. The Gulf of Alaska pollock fishery also ended for trawlers the same day, as did Pacific cod. Fishing for cod continues for other gear types in both the Gulf and Bering Sea; pot and jig fishing could last all year. Crabbers at Bristol Bay had taken more than half of their 8.6 million pound red king crab catch with about 3.7 million pounds left to go. Halibut longliners had taken 93 percent of their nearly 22 million pound catch limit, with about 1.4 million pounds remaining. For sablefish, about three million pounds remain for harvest in the 28 million pound quota. Both of those fisheries close Nov. 7. Homer will regain the title of the No. 1 halibut port, topping Kodiak by about 1 million pounds in landings this year. Seward is the top port by far for sablefish landings. In Southeast Alaska the pot shrimp fisheries were wrapped up in most districts with a total catch of half a million pounds. Demersal shelf rockfish opens Nov. 8 with a 35 ton harvest region-wide. Divers continued combing the deep for sea cucumbers and giant geoduck clams. Hat tip to highliners Two Alaskans were selected as National Fisherman’s Highliners of the Year — Robert Heyano of Dillingham is president of the fishermen funded/directed Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association and skipper of the 32-foot drift gillnetter Lady Mindy. Jerry McCune of Cordova is president of the United Fishermen of Alaska and the Cordova District Fishermen United, longtime industry lobbyist and skipper of the 33-foot drift gillnetter Wudahad. Robert Hezel of Clinton, Wash., also was selected. He is skipper of the Fishermen’s Finest 185-foot Bering Sea and Gulf of Alaska trawler, U.S. Intrepid. The Highliner Awards began in 1975 in partnership with Furuno to honor fishermen who uphold a standard of excellence in their fishing operations and in their advocacy on behalf of the industry. Laine Welch lives in Kodiak. Visit www.alaskafishradio.com or contact [email protected] for information.  

The Bookworm Sez: Cross 'XX Factor' off your list

Your mother worked for as long as you can remember. Whether inside the house or out, for money or motherhood, she worked — hard. She might not have had prestige. Maybe she was a cog in a wheel in a factory in a corporation. Or she might’ve pulled 24-hour days without ever leaving home. Maybe she still works, and so do you. But who’s better off? Read the new book “The XX Factor” by Alison Wolf, and you might be surprised. For much of the last century, women’s lives were relatively the same: once they married, they quit work and focused on home and hearth because that was what society expected. Today’s women, though, have “become a class apart,” says Wolf. Their gender “does not define their fate…” But then again, some women — the “highly educated” ones, the “elite” — have surely defined the fates of their poorer sisters, in both work and family. One “key difference” between the two classes of women, Wolf says, is in childbearing.  Today’s elite women have fewer children than their less-educated counterparts, partly because they’re eager to (or must) return to work quicker. There’s also “overwhelming evidence that money affects the birth rate”: poorer families are larger, earlier, while highly-educated women statistically have babies later in life — or they’re “not having babies at all.” Money also rears its ugly head in the rearing of those children. Because elite women return to work sooner, they often rely on paid nannies to help with the kids. This, and the “outsourcing” of other domestic tasks like cooking and cleaning, Wolf indicates, has created a class of workers that she calls “servants.” Servants, as you’d expect, are not “elite.” And even with this new “class” of workers helping at home, women still assume the larger share of domestic chores. This inequality between men and women endures (though Wolf indicates that this gap is narrowing), but that’s not the bigger issue: the inequality between elite women and lower-income women continues to widen. This leaves us, in part, with a dearth of educated workers in certain essential (but un-flashy) careers, lingering inequality, and “not much sisterhood.” I really wanted to like this book. Alas, I didn’t much. “The XX Factor” is, first of all, not very engaging. No, it’s downright staid, and only occasionally interesting — perhaps because it felt repetitive to me. Author Alison Wolf drives her points home with a sledgehammer, which isn’t needed for the educated reader for whom she’s reaching. What’s worse is the controversy. Wolf makes too many overgeneralizations in this book. She claims that working women often “behave … like men,” and I’m afraid dedicated legions of teachers and nurses may feel insulted here. I also had to question if a chapter on sex, strippers, and prostitution was truly warranted in a book on today’s modern workplace. Overall, there are a few points well-made, but this book is a struggle. Unless you want to delve into statistics and controversy, I believe “The XX Factor” is a book you can cross off your reading list. Terri Schlichenmeyer is the author of The Bookworm Sez, which is published in more than 200 newspapers and 50 magazines throughout the U.S. and Canada. Schlichenmeyer may be reached at [email protected]  

Obama's era of incivility in America

The “new era of civility in politics” called for by President Obama after former Rep. Gabby Giffords, D-Ariz, was shot, lasted about five Washington minutes. Since then Obama has adopted a scorched earth public policy in an attempt to destroy his political enemies, but sacrificing the Constitution as collateral damage. Consider Obama’s Jan. 12, 2011 words in Tucson: “At a time when our discourse has become so sharply polarized — at a time when we are far too eager to lay the blame for all that ails the world at the feet of those who think differently than we do; it’s important for us to pause for a moment and make sure that we are talking with each other in a way that heals, not a way that wounds.” Fast forward to the Oct. 8, 2013 press conference, when an unhinged Obama used highly inflamed words describing those who think differently as “hostage takers” party to “extortion” and “insanity,” who created “catastrophe” and “chaos.” Rather uncivil discourse for one who seems to believe he is destined to be the fifth president chiseled out of rock at Mount Rushmore. So what happened between Tucson and Oct. 8? Nothing, really. Liberals by nature are bipolar, switching effortlessly from one issue to the next, depending upon the audience, time of day and what they had for dinner. In Tucson, liberals perceived a tragedy as a chance to promote gun control. At the press conference last week, liberals weren’t getting their way regarding the debt ceiling and seized the opportunity to change focus by demonizing opponents. Why make rational decisions to salvage the nation’s economy when one can sling mud? Think back to the 2012 election. The Obama re-election campaign vilified opponents by circulating a list of top Romney campaign donors they claimed had “less-than-reputable records.” Obama’s political lap dogs responded, and not long after, good people fell victim to IRS audits and intimidation. Similar tactics were used to push back conservative and Tea Party groups. According to Jonathan Alter, author of the book, “The Promise: President Obama, Year One,” Obama used an extremely vulgar term “tea-baggers” (My column is PG-13, so you look it up) to publicly disparage Tea Party activists. The vulgarity went viral and became part of the public discourse regarding the Tea Party, whose only crime so far is having an opinion contrary to the president’s. With tax-exempt status (and their reputations) in limbo, many would-be Romney campaign players were conveniently silenced, hence sending the chilling message: The IRS had Obama’s back and would stab yours if you dared to publicly oppose their guy. Scary stuff. It is reasonable to say that without these Chicago thug tactics, an inept empty suit sporting golf shoes might not be occupying the Oval Office. Wall Street Journal’s James Taranto concurs. Taranto wrote, “We now know that government corruption — namely IRS persecution of dissenters — was a factor in Obama’s re-election. During his second inaugural address, Obama called for an end to political name-calling, but he continues, out of control. His rancor is contagious and trickles down the ranks, spreading from Pelosi, Reid, Carney and the rest of the lemmings to senior White House adviser Dan Pfeiffer, who recently likened those who disagree to terrorists “with a bomb strapped to their chest.” Former Obama campaign manager and senior White House adviser David Plouffe was no more civil Oct. 10, suggesting opponents are “committing economic treason.” Insane…hostage takers…terrorists…the list goes on. Liberalism’s sewer politics may win a few battles or elections — but will eventually lose the war. Liberalism has failed the world over. And today, with the president’s approval numbers at 37 percent, liberalism is headed south in Obama’s uncivil America.   Susan Stamper Brown is an opinion page columnist who writes about politics, the economy and culture. Email Susan at [email protected] or her website at susanstamperbrown.com. Her column is distributed exclusively by: Cagle Cartoons Inc., newspaper syndicate.

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