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Tuesday, September 2, 2008

GOP Pollster's Focus Group Sees Palin As 'A Gimmick'

Another week, another Frank Luntz/AARP focus group of undecided voters--this one in Minneapolis and with some bad news for John McCain: they don't like the choice of Sarah Palin for vice president. Only one person said Palin made him more likely to vote for McCain; about half the 25-member group raised their hands when asked if Palin made them less likely to vote for McCain. They had a negative impression of Palin by a 2-1 margin...a fact that was reinforced when they were given hand-dials and asked to react to Palin's speech at her first appearance with McCain on Friday---the dials remained totally neutral as Palin went through her heart-warming(?) biography, and only blipped upwards when she said she opposed the Bridge to Nowhere--which wasn't quite the truth, as we now know.

Then there was this, from a woman named Teresa, who went to the Democratic Convention as a Hillary delegate and is leaning toward voting for McCain--obviously the target audience for the Palin pick: "His age didn't really bother me until he picked Palin. What if he dies in office and leaves us with her as President? Also she leans toward the rigid right, and I always thought he was a moderate...You know, I change my mind almost every day, but right now I"m wondering where the John McCain I really liked in 2000 went, what happened to the moderate? This John McCain has the look of someone who is being manipulated--probably by Karl Rove."

Teresa still wasn't willing to vote for Obama, whom she considers too inexperienced, but she was clearly wavering. Afterwards Luntz, good Republican that he is, made the case that Palin could win all these people back with a good convention speech, but that seemed far-fetched to me. They really saw this pick as a gimmick--and one that reflected badly on John McCain's judgment.

Poll Check: Obama Still Heavily Favored to Win White House

Forget the close nationwide polls: Barack Obama is the runaway favorite to become the 44th President of the United States.

Now, when I say runaway, I don’t mean it’s going to be a landslide. What's likely is that the electoral vote count will be fairly close. But the fact is that in the states he's currently winning, Obama has a stranglehold, and it's becoming nearly impossible for McCain to stage a comeback. In the states McCain is winning, however, the margins are relatively slim, meaning that Obama could potentially steal a few electoral votes from underneath his opponent's nose.

Let’s start with the simplest of facts: in 2004, 18 electoral votes would have swung the election to John Kerry. Now, Kerry won 19 states and Washington, DC. This time around, Obama is cruising in all of them. In fact, Obama’s current margin is greater than Kerry’s in all but a few. Let’s take a look at the Kerry states:

2004 2008 (current polling)

Washington Kerry +8.2 Obama +10.5

Oregon Kerry +4.2 Obama +7.0

California Kerry +9.9 Obama +15.3

Hawaii Kerry +8.5 Obama +30.0

Minnesota Kerry +3.5 Obama +4.5

Wisconsin Kerry +0.4 Obama +7.2

Michigan Kerry +3.4 Obama +4.3

Illinois Kerry +10.4 Obama +21.7

Maryland Kerry +13.0 Obama +12.5

Pennsylvania Kerry +2.5 Obama +5.0

New York Kerry +18.3 Obama +16.0

Delaware Kerry +7.6 Obama +9.0

New Jersey Kerry +6.7 Obama +10.0

Connecticut Kerry +10.3 Obama +18.6

Rhode Island Kerry +21.0 Obama +24.3

Massachusetts Kerry +25.1 Obama +12.6

Maine Kerry +8.9 Obama +15.0

New Hampshire Kerry +1.3 Obama +0.3

Vermont Kerry +20.0 Obama +34.0

Washington, D.C. Kerry +80.0 Unavailable

To put it bluntly, Barack Obama isn’t going to lose any Kerry states (with the possible exception of New Hampshire, which carries four electoral votes). Of course, if Obama won just these states, he’d come up short- just like John Kerry did.

However, Obama also holds leads in the following states, all of which went to Bush in 2004:

2004 2008 (current polling)

Iowa (7) Bush +0.7 Obama +5.3

New Mexico (5) Bush +0.6 Obama +4.3

Colorado (9) Bush +4.7 Obama +0.4

Net Electoral Vote Gain for Obama if He Maintains His Lead In These States: +21

If Obama can manage to hang on to the states that he’s got right now- which should be a cinch except for Colorado and New Hampshire- he wins the White House by just a few electoral votes in November.

But here’s the kicker- McCain is barely hanging on to four additional states that were easy Bush victories in 2004:

2004 2008 (current polling)

Virginia (13) Bush +8.2 TIE

Nevada (7) Bush +2.6 McCain +1.0

Ohio (20) Bush +2.1 McCain +1.2

Florida (27) Bush +5.0 McCain +3.1

In all likelihood, McCain is going to be hard-pressed to hang onto all of these Bush states. If Obama were to win in Virginia, he wouldn’t need Colorado or New Hampshire. And with the former Democratic governor in a ridiculously lopsided race for the state’s open Senate seat, there is a good possibility that Obama paints the Old Dominion State blue for the first time since 1964.

BREAKING: Bristol Palin Pregnant Right Now

From NBC's Mark Murray
Reuters: "The 17-year-old daughter of Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin is pregnant, Palin said Monday in an announcement intended to knock down rumors by liberal bloggers that Palin faked her own pregnancy to cover up for her child.

Bristol Palin, one of Alaska Gov. Palin's five children with her husband, Todd, is about five months pregnant and is going to keep the child and marry the father, the Palins said in a statement released by the campaign of Republican presidential candidate John McCain.

Bristol Palin made the decision on her own to keep the baby, McCain aides said. 'We have been blessed with five wonderful children who we love with all our heart and mean everything to us,' the Palins' statement said. 'Our beautiful daughter Bristol came to us with news that as parents we knew would make her grow up faster than we had ever planned. As Bristol faces the responsibilities of adulthood, she knows she has our unconditional love and support,' the Palins said."

*** UPDATE *** Here's a statement the McCain camp released from Todd and Sarah Palin, which is identical to the quote in the Reuters story: "We have been blessed with five wonderful children who we love with all our heart and mean everything to us. Our beautiful daughter Bristol came to us with news that as parents we knew would make her grow up faster than we had ever planned. We're proud of Bristol's decision to have her baby and even prouder to become grandparents. As Bristol faces the responsibilities of adulthood, she knows she has our unconditional love and support."

"Bristol and the young man she will marry are going to realize very quickly the difficulties of raising a child, which is why they will have the love and support of our entire family. We ask the media to respect our daughter and Levi's privacy as has always been the tradition of children of candidates."

Cheney Waits Until Last Minute Again To Buy Sept. 11 Gifts

Busy dealing with important paperwork and other vice presidential duties in recent weeks, Dick Cheney was forced to put off until the last minute a cherished annual tradition: gift-shopping for his favorite holiday, 9/11.

"I looked at the calendar yesterday, and I couldn't believe my eyes—9/11 is almost here!" a rosy-cheeked Cheney said upon returning to the White House Sunday with two giant bags overflowing with gift-wrapped boxes and big red bows. "It's the most wonderful time of the year."

Enlarge Image Cheney With Packages

The vice president strolls happily down New York's Park Avenue, picking up the last few 9/11 presents for his friends at the Pentagon.

While Cheney is known by many to be cold and taciturn for the other 11 months of the year, those close to the vice president say there is something about the 9/11 season that puts a smile on his face and a spring in his step. Each Sept. 11 morning since 2001, Cheney has come to work donning a fireman costume and handed out small, thoughtful gifts to all White House staffers. In addition, at his home on 9/11 Eve, Cheney lays out large piles of presents for his children and grandchildren underneath the colorfully lit, six-foot-tall 9/11 towers that he sets up by the fireplace.

"I think I've outdone myself this year—I bought the president a box of cigars and a brand-new fountain pen, I got Condoleezza [Rice] a beautiful blue blazer, and for my wife [Lynne] I bought a diamond necklace, a new winter coat, and this neat little motorized airplane ornament to hang on the 9/11 towers," Cheney told reporters while perusing the windows of New York's famed Park Avenue shops. "And for [grandson] Samuel I bought about a million toys and games and 9/11 nutcrackers. I probably went a little bit overboard, but it's his first 9/11, and I want it to be as special as my first 9/11."

The vice president then reiterated how fortunate he was to have received his big 9/11 bonus early this year.

Enlarge Image 9/11 Card

A copy of the card Cheney sends to all family, friends, and widows of 9/11.

Although Cheney himself has never received any Sept. 11 gifts, with the exception of a pair of silk pajamas from his wife and a second term in office, he insisted that he gets more joy from giving than receiving. According to Cheney, Sept. 11 is a time to reflect and give thanks for all the benefits and blessings 9/11 has given him in the past.

Cheney, however, lamented the fact that he has seen a recent decline in the nation's 9/11 spirit.

"I don't know what's happened," Cheney said. "Less than seven years ago, 9/11 seemed like a huge event for every American. Back then, on Sept. 11 morning, everyone would dart downstairs at 8:46 a.m. sharp, shouting and screaming, and the ground outside would be blanketed in the most beautiful gray as far as the eye could see. I especially loved the streets of New York during this season—the lights, the sounds, people rushing every which way, the sidewalks so crowded you could barely move, the wide-eyed looks on the people's faces. The whole New York skyline was lit up like a Christmas tree."

Cheney then sighed happily, adding, "I wish every day were 9/11."

While he's disappointed that so many seem to have forgotten the lessons of his beloved holiday, the vice president said he simply could not stay sad with 9/11 just around the corner. Lynne Cheney told reporters she expects her husband will once again go overboard in his celebrations this year, buying a larger 9/11 front-yard display and making himself sick eating too many broken Pentagon cookies.

"He really gets into it," she said as her husband cheerfully decorated the Blue Room of the White House with pieces of smoldering cinder and charred flesh to recreate the setting of Ground Zero. "I try to tell him that it's just a silly holiday, that he's making a fool out of himself when he goes around shouting 'Happy Sept. 11!' to people while ringing a large bell, but he never listens. He just loves 9/11."

But amid all the decorating and gift-giving, Vice President Cheney is careful not to let all the 9/11 festivities distract him from the deeper significance the day holds.

"Sometimes, in all the hustle and bustle of the season, it's easy to forget the true meaning of Sept. 11," Cheney said. "Sept. 11 is not about fancy 9/11 parades, or big 9/11 office parties. In fact, it's not even just about two buildings crumbling to the ground and leaving thousands of innocent people dead."

"No," Cheney continued. "No, 9/11 is about the warm feeling you get when you help an elderly woman cross the street and then whisper to her that the terrorists can strike at any moment. 9/11 is about the satisfaction of telling people to do things and then them doing it—not because they want to, but because they are afraid to do otherwise. 9/11 is about removing Saddam Hussein from power. But most of all, 9/11 is about love."

Cheney said he plans to spend a quiet Sept. 11 at home this year, during which he will exchange gifts with loved ones and watch his taped VHS footage of the old 9/11 TV specials while he smiles and laughs.

"I have a feeling this is going to be the best Sept. 11 ever," Cheney said with a grin. "I just dread the day I have to tell my kids that 9/11 isn't real.

Is John McCain Mentally Fit To Be President?

In a breathtakingly puzzling move, John McCain showed terrible judgment by selecting first term Alaska Governor Sarah Palin to be his running mate. Despite the spin that desperate Republicans immediately parroted, it wasn't a brilliant pick, or a game-changer. It was an amazingly bad choice.

Palin's shortcomings have been documented in an instant feeding frenzy among journalists and bloggers. She is the least known, least experienced VP nominee in modern political history. Those who compare her to George H. W. Bush's choice of Dan Quayle in 1988 forget that Quayle had already been in Congress for 12 years.

By contrast, Palin took office as Governor in December, 2006, less than two years ago. Before that, she served two terms on the city council and then as mayor from 1996-2002 of Wasilla, Alaska, a town with a population under 9,000. That's less than 1/20th the size of the Illinois State Senate district Barack Obama represented for eight years before he was elected to the U.S. Senate.

What a way to undercut McCain's central argument that Obama doesn't have enough experience to serve as president or commander in chief.

Of course, McCain hardly knows her. He first met Palin only in February of this year, at a governor's conference. The next time he saw her was last Wednesday, the night after Hillary Clinton's rousing address to the Democratic Convention. McCain may have been worried about losing diehard Clinton supporters to Hillary's cry of "No way, no how, no McCain!" On Thursday morning, he offered her the job.

If he thinks Hillary Democrats will cheer and fall in line behind Sarah Palin, McCain is in for a rude awakening. Palin's gender is the only thing she has in common with Hillary Clinton. She is an extreme right winger who is anti-abortion to the core, doesn't think global warming is man made, and enthusiastically supports oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

Sarah Palin at her office in Alaska

Billed by McCain as bearing "a message of reform and public integrity," Palin is currently under investigation herself. A few weeks ago, a bipartisan panel of Alaska state legislators appointed an independent investigator to look into charges that Palin abused her office. In mid-July she fired the Alaska public safety commissioner, allegedly after he refused to dismiss her former brother-in-law, a state trooper who divorced Palin's sister three years ago and was locked in a custody dispute over their child.

Announced on his 72nd birthday, this pick follows a string of McCain gaffes, memory lapses, and episodes of forgetfulness on the campaign trail. As reported by Talking Points Memo:

"McCain frequently forgets key elements of policies, gets countries' names wrong, forgets things he's said only hours or days before and is frequently just confused."

It all raises the uncomfortable question of whether McCain might be exhibiting signs of Alzheimer's disease.

I don't take the subject of Alzheimer's lightly. My grandfather died of complications from the disease, and I watched his mind waste away over a period of several painful years. But it's a question that must be asked in view of John McCain's age. If elected, he would be the nation's oldest president in history.

According to the national Alzheimer's Association, the leading voluntary health organization for Alzheimer care, support and research, one of the top ten warning signs of the disease is poor or decreased judgment. The number one warning sign is memory loss.

The last septuagenarian in the White House, Ronald Reagan, exhibited symptoms of forgetfulness and mental degeneration before leaving office, although his Alzheimer's diagnosis was only made public in 1994. Former White House correspondent Lesley Stahl wrote in her book Reporting Live that she and other reporters suspected Reagan was "sinking into senility" as early as 1986, but aides "covered up his condition" and editors chose not to cover it.

History seems to be repeating itself, because the press is not devoting nearly enough attention to McCain's well-documented memory problems.

There are certainly other explanations for why McCain went with Palin. Earlier this summer McCain suggested he might pick a pro-choice running mate, like former Pennsylvania Governor Tom Ridge, and anti-abortion Republicans went ballistic. So he may have caved to the right wing, and delivered up a candidate to their liking.

The National Review gushed over Palin, saying McCain had "wowed the public and enthused the right." Other more clear headed conservatives were a little subdued. Even Republican strategist Ed Rollins, Reagan's former political director, hedged his bets by calling it a "brilliant, but risky choice" for McCain. Rollins did admit the Republican Party was "in desperate need of young people and women role models."

But this VP pick is the most questionable decision yet from John McCain. He passed over numerous plausible Republican contenders and failed to pick someone remotely qualified for the job.

Going with the white-haired Arizona Senator was once a "safe choice" for voters hesitant to embrace Obama's message of change. Putting Sarah Palin a heartbeat away from the White House has made McCain's candidacy a much bigger risk. It's fair to ask whether John McCain is mentally fit to be president.

(UPDATE 9/1: My Dad, of all people, gave me an interesting scoop about John McCain earlier today that's relevant to this post. Seems he recently met someone who has flown with McCain on multiple occasions. This source says McCain looks much older in person than when made up for TV interviews, it's clear he's "got some serious mileage on him." And although McCain does his best to come across as energetic on the campaign trail, in reality, he can more accurately be described as a "tired old man." This is a direct observation from someone who's seen McCain up close and personal more times than most voters ever will, and reinforces concerns about his age. In my Dad's words, this source was "very believable," and that's good enough for me.)

Secessionist Sarah: VP pick Sarah Palin and the Alaska Independence Party

In spite of the rethug efforts to delete Sarah Palin's history, particularly between 2004 and 2006, we found a real gem on you tube this evening.
The clips show the connection between Sarah Palin and the Alaska Independence Party. (We downloaded the clips and re-uploaded them into our own you tube account in case they get taken down.)

In the first clip we see Palin address the AIP convention earlier this year:

This next clip is the 1st of 2 parts from the convention itself. About half way through the speech(at 6:00), the Vice Chairman of the AIP, Dexter Clark, says this of Palin: "Our current governor who I mentioned at the last conference, the one we were hoping would get elected, Sarah Palin, did get elected . . . .and there was a lot of talk about her moving up. She was an AIP member before she got the job as mayor . . . "

This last clip is a continuation of the speech from Dexter Clark, the Vice Chairman from the AIP. In it, he talks about the necessity of infiltrating the major national parties in order to further the goals of the AIP.

The AIP’s main aim is to secede from the United States, becoming either a territory or a sovereign nation. They aim to be entirely "self-sufficient" using profits from the oil and gas resources of the state.

On
their website, you’ll see this:

The Alaskan Independence Party can be summed up in just two words:
ALASKA FIRST!

And their 2008 platform:

To seek the complete repatriation of the public lands, held by the federal government, to the state and people of Alaska in conformance with Article 1, Section 8, Clause 17, of the federal constitution.

Governor Palin’s connections with the AIP are also furthered by her connection to Wally Hickel, a former Alaskan governor. Hickel was elected on the AIP ticket. He served as the co-chairman of Governor Palin’s campaign in 2006
Here is a quote from an interview Hickel did with the Alaska Dispatch:

When Palin was running for governor in 2006, Hickel appeared in advertisements supporting her and the Alaska pipeline.
"I made her governor," Hickel told me.

When asked earlier this year on CNBC about whether she’d be picked for McCain’s VP, Palin said, "We wanna make sure that that VP slot would be a fruitful type of position, especially for Alaskans, and for the things we’re trying to accomplish up here for the rest of the US, before I can even start addressing that question."

So, besides the fact that she doesn’t know what the VP does everyday, Palin wants to be VP only if it’s a good thing for Alaska?

Sarah Palin has a lot of questions to answer about whether she supports Alaska’s right to secede, whether she’s figured out what her job as VP will be, and whether she’s in it to send money or profits to her state.

UPDATE: Thanks for all the rec's! Great comments below, too. And lots of helpers spreading the word. Thanks.
Credit to my husband, Richard Hiorns, for putting together the videos: www.richardhiorns.com

BIG thanks to American in Kathmandu for typing up transcripts of all of the videos:
Sarah Palin's transcript

I’m Governor Sarah Palin and I am delighted to welcome you to the 2008 Alaskan Independence Party Convention in the golden heart city of Fairbanks. Your party plays an important role in our state’s politics. I’ve always said that competition is so good, and that applies to political parties as well. I share your party’s vision of upholding the constitution of our great state. My administration remains focused on reining in government growth so individual liberty and opportunity can expand. I know you agree with that. We have a great promise to be a self-sufficient state, made up of the hardest-working, most grateful Americans in our nation. So as your convention gets underway I hope that you all are inspired by remembering that all those years ago, it was in this same city that Alaska’s constitution was born. And it was founded on hope and trust and liberty and opportunity. I carry that message of opportunity forward in my administration, as we continue to move our state ahead and create positive change. So I say good luck on a successful and inspiring convention. Keep up the good work, and God bless you.

2nd clip - Dexter Clark (38+ / 0-)

.....My name is Dexter Clark, I am the vice chairman of the Alaskan Independence Party, in ???, which is slightly bigger than Texas all by itself. We like to joke that if you guys don’t behave yourselves there’ll be two states in Alaska, and you’ll be the third largest state. If you were to interpose the map of Alaska on the US it would overlap both northern and southern borders and almost reach to both coasts. (Intro of his wife and where they’re from). The Alaskan Independence Party was established by Joe and Dora Colbert (?) and officially recognized as a political party by the state of Alaska rule 25 years ago. Within 10 years of that recognition, the party nominated a governor and a lieutenant governor and they were elected. Before their term was over, Mrs. Goldberg? passed away and Mr. ?? was assassinated. After the tragedy of losing our leader, almost all political observers in Alaska said that’s the end of the AIP, we don’t have to worry about them any more. But the basic argument of the Alaskan Independence Party has always been, the number one plank in our platform, is the question of our vote to become a state. The most glaring disparity in that vote was the definition of an eligible voter. Among those qualified to cast a ballot were 41,000 American soldiers and their 36,000 dependents. Now to the native population of Alaska, to me, these were occupation troops, and they were made eligible, in fact encouraged to vote, there were educational meetings held on the military bases. I can’t imagine them telling anyone that anything but that statehood would be very good for the military, in fact they still have 6-7 big bases and numerous smaller holdings in this state. Statehood would be good for the military. Now can you imagine the international uproar if the American troops had all went and got their purple fingers in Iraq? There would have been ...that’s not an election, that’s imposing your rule.
Another thing that research revealed had to do with the United Nations. President Truman signed the UN Charter making it the law of the land whether you like it or not. And among their provisions, they had a provision or a committee that deals with what they call a non-self-governing territory, which Guam and Puerto Rico to this day are still reported by the United States, Virgin Islands is another one, American Samoa, they report every year to this committee that these are our territories that are not governing themselves, and the committee that came up with the rules of how you would change that relationship imposed certain restrictions, and among those was that when a poll was held there should be more than one choice on the ballot. Specifically, they state three of the four following choices should be on that ballot, and that is to remain a territory - just keep your relationship the same, become a commonwealth which has all of its own advantages and disadvantages, to become a state, or to become an independent nation. When the ballot appeared before Alaskans it had statehood yes or no, and under the voters rights Act at that time, you had to be able to read and write English to vote, which pretty much took care of any of the native population having any vote in the election whatsoever.
Now a letter that Joe (?) received, showed me, Mr. Vogler(?) had finally gotten a sponsor before this committee, this committee in charge of non-self-governing territories, to take a look at these discrepancies. Of course that door was closed with his death, that was a personal letter to him, and we’ve seen a copy of it, and it was dated within the week of his death.
The AIP now has 13,689 registered voters as members, that’s not our count, that’s the State of Alaska, they count them for us, we don’t have to keep track of them. That’s a little more than 300 up from last year’s conference. Our current governor, we mentioned at the last conference, the one we were hoping would get elected, Sarah Palin, did get elected. There’s a joke, she’s a pretty good looking gal, there’s a joke goes around we’re the coldest state with the hottest governor. And there was a lot of talk about her moving up. She was an AIP member before she got the job as a mayor of a small town – that was a non-partisan job. But you get along to go along – she eventually joined the Republican Party, where she had all kinds of problems with their ethics, and well, I won’t go into that. She also had about an 80% approval rating, and is pretty well sympathetic to her former membership. Both of our senators to the American Congress are under investigation and there are pretty good stories going around. One is under sealed indictment and this is the result of the oil lobby(?), there is bribery and fraud charges and oil money is buying what they want in Alaska. The royalty share in Alaska of oil, I don’t know if you have the numbers in front of you what your own state gets like Texas..., in Alaska the royalty share is 12.5%! I mean ?? sharecropper did better than that. The people of Alaska from what I’ve heard in this room and several other areas are fed up. And if ever there was a time that is ripe for change, this is it. On our own situation, we’ve discussed several options. Do we try to get our case into the International Court of Justice? Or to the World Court? Several of the native Alaskan organizations are taking that route independent of us. They want to do it on their terms. They haven’t realized in my mind what the potential of their own political party which there are pitfalls of an organized political party. You don’t have any control over who joins that party. They put the X next to it on the registration form, and if they go to the primary and win that primary, they’re your candidate, like it or not. I think Ron Paul has kinda proven that – he’s a dyed-in-the wool libertarian, he came to Alaska and spoke as a libertarian, and put the Republican label on it to get elected, that’s all there is to it. And any one of your organizations should be using that same tactic. You should infiltrate – I know the Christian Exodus(?) is in favor of it, the Free State movement is in favor of it – I don’t think they even care which party it is. Whichever party in that area you can get something done, get into that political party, even though it does have its problems. Right now that is one of the only avenues. And you get a few people on a city council or a ??? you can have some effect. I kind of digressed there a little bit.

3rd Clip: Rest of Clark

But the problem remains that you have to be at the table in the existing political realm – you have to be a Demopublican or a Republicrat is what we call it. But the bottom line is the situation is completely out of hand, the decay of the federal government is totally complete. What has been forgotten in American is that America was at one time a union of sovereign states that surrendered a certain part of their rights to the federal government, and most importantly retained the rest of them – all the rest of them. That’s completely full circle to now where if it isn’t enumerated, you don’t have them, instead of the original concept where if it wasn’t on the list, it’s yours. The federal government is just plain a monster. States are just lines on a map and they’re trying to erase them as quickly as they can, including some of the international ones to the north and the south. The government can do no wrong. They’re not wrong in Iraq. There’s nothing that they ever admit that they’re wrong to. We had a situation on a road in Alaska where it ended up that we had deed, title, conveyed to the state, on statehood? We had the deed in our hand in front of the judge and the judge looked at us and said, well, that transfer was either illegal or inadvertent. Now if I go too fast down this road and get a speeding ticket, can I get away with telling the cop, oh that was inadvertent, I didn’t mean to go that fast. You're not going to get away with it, but the government can do it. But part of the reason that many of us are in this room is that the wrong they do reflects on us. When we travel, we’ve learned – we don’t say we’re Americans. We say we’re Alaskans, and it’s a totally different situation. We’ve gone into classrooms in Fairbanks and do presentations to the high school all the way down to the elementary school. And when we speak at the high school and we talk to these youngsters and tell them they’re different, they already know. And when we talk about America, there are kids in that class doing this (shows thumbs down), and when we say Alaskan, they’re thumbs are up. And they’re the ones I’m worried about. We have to save – they talk about all these lock ups and minerals and stuff – that doesn’t bother me too much, but with the situation the way it is now, we’re going to have to leave those young people something to pay the bills they’re running up. And the longer this situation continues, the harder it’s going to become for a peaceful solution. So that’s why it’s so important that everyone in this room brings what they have and we try to work something out. We’re well into an economic war. WWIII has been going on for about 20 years and the money is the main weapon. If you can get your opponent to spend all his money and have nothing left, devalue his money so that there’s nothing left, you’ve won that war, without ever firing a shot. And as Ben? said before, and I don’t remember who said it first, but I know I’ve said it before, and as a gold miner in Alaska, I’ve stood in front of a group of my fellow miners, and I told them that we have to hang(?) together, or they’re going to pick us off one by one. Well, the gold miners that I know are as independent, if not more so, than I am, and we all heard what I said, but nobody listens. They’re not coming after me today, they’re not trying to shut me down, your water’s dirtier than mine, you don’t know how to mine. All these different inter-relationships between individuals involved prevented us from becoming that core(?). We tried different organizations – none of them seemed to work. So the long and the short of that is that the areas that we mined in the 1980s there was about 150 small mom and pop gold mines. Today, less than 10. In the meantime, more than 5 of the mega corporate mines have been established to take their place. So the idea is the guy that lost his own mine is going to go up on the hill and work for the big outfit. And I know many of you have seen the same thing happen to the small businesses and industries in your own areas, your home states. Now my biggest question is how can we all put our efforts together with one common goal in mind? What can we agree on? And one of the things that came to my mind – both of these secessionist conventions have been held in cities with brick buildings – both old and new – and they all have their own story to tell. But every time I see that, I think for a minute of the men who built those buildings. They stated with a pile of bricks about this big (gestures to his chin level). And they put those bricks together, there was no machine to put 10 bricks down at a time, every one of those bricks was put in place by hand, cemented in one by one. And the result is a very sound and usable building. But they had to have one thing before they started, or it would never have happened. They needed a plan. They needed to know where all those bricks fit, where the windows would go, where the doors would go. Without that plan, they would have had no building. I believe here each of us are bringing our own little bag of bricks. And we’re hoping to build a sanctuary, I think, for liberty out of those bricks, and it’s our duty to devise a way to fit those bricks together. Thank you. Applause.