Sunday, December 30, 2007

Guns or Butter....

At the top right of this blog, there is a counter that shows a fairly credible accounting of the cost of our war/occupation of Iraq on the Iraqi people. There are sites that keep track of the casualties among our troops, and the troops of the remainder of the Coalition of the Willing, as President Bush so aptly termed our allies at the beginning of the present phase of the Iraq War.

I've found a site that computes how costly this war has been to aspects of American civil infrastructure. It is called Federal Budget Tradeoffs, and is run by an organization called the National Priorities Project.

You can go to the site, choose city, state or region, and the site computes what your community might have gotten had money spent on the war been invested elsewhere.

For Alaska, here's the analysis:

Taxpayers in Alaska will pay $780.5 million for the cost of the Iraq War through 2007.

For the same amount of money, the following could have been provided:

105,223 People with Health Care
1,088,083 Homes with Renewable Electricity
17,427 Public Safety Officers
13,513 Music and Arts Teachers
197,799 Scholarships for University Students
82 New Elementary Schools
4,945 Affordable Housing Units
143,346 Children with Health Care
108,236 Head Start Places for Children
12,054 Elementary School Teachers
9,331 Port Container Inspectors

The site doesn't say how much butter we might have been able to buy.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Time to Revisit Ethics Issues Before the Session Opens?

Last January, former U.S. Attorney Wev Shea and former Alaska House Representative Ethan Berkowitz presented a document, called Ethics White Paper, to Gov. Sarah Palin. The governor had requested this bi-partisan team to come up with comprehensive recommendations for ethical reform in the Executive and Legislative branches of our state government.

At the time the paper was presented, the legislature was in a session which began with two Mat-Su Valley legislators, Sen. Lyda Green of Palmer, and Rep. Vic Kohring of Wasilla, claiming that the need for reform in the legislature was being over-emphasized, and that the Senate and House were capable of policing their own. On the day the paper was presented, legislators were attending clinics and workshops on ethics. And the session ended with one of those two Valley legislators being marched into Federal Court in handcuffs.

For all the good the workshops and clinics did the solons, one might have had them write "I will not cheat my constituents or take bribes or pretend to lobby when I'm just feathering my friggin' nest" 10,000 times on a blackboard. Or a whiteboard.

Alaska Common Ground and the League of Women Voters held educational seminars for the public in Juneau and Anchorage. The one in Anchorage was moderated by retired U.A.A. Professor, Dr. Steve Aufrecht, who discussed the event at the time on his blog.

Some of the recommendations of the White Paper were considered by the legislature during the 2007 regular session, fewer were incorporated into their subsequent reform bill.
As was seen in the 2007 Special Session of the legislature, some members took reform more seriously than others, as the big oil enablers tried every method they could to keep the governor's proposed fee structure for the removal of our non-renewable resources from coming into effect.

I read about the White Paper back when it came out, but only started reading it today. You can download it as a PDF here.

In light of information U.S. Senate candidate and former Alaska Representative Ray Metcalfe has been sharing with me about his past as a dogged and courageous advocate of legislative reform, I've been looking into the history of other legislators and former legislators in this regard. None has a greater claim to having been instrumental in moving the public and law enforcement agencies toward acting on the egregious nature of the ethical and criminal violations of our elected officials than has Metcalfe. The only other legislator to make remotely similar claims has been Berkowitz.

Metcalfe has taken issue both with the recommendations of the January 2007 White Paper, and with the Berkowitz camp's meme that Ethan's objections during the first 2006 Special Session of the Legislature were meaningful in the ways Berkowitz and his supporters present them.

At the time of the White Paper's introduction in Juneau, Metcalfe was critical, stating to the Juneau Empire's Pat Forgey that Metcalfe

ha[d] recommended abolishing the Alaska Public Offices Commission and creating a new agency within the judicial branch of government.

The new commission would be protected from legislative influence, and also would handle the duties of the current Ethics Committee of the Legislature.

Members of the new commission would be appointed by the Supreme Court instead of political parties, he said. Metcalfe wants to see any investigations handled by trained criminal investigators with the Alaska State Troopers, who have union protection.

"The new commission should be empowered to address all public corruption in whatever form it takes," Metcalfe told APOC earlier this month.

In regard to Berkowitz's contention that his objections to Veco lobbying during the summer of 2006 were meaningful, Metcalfe has sent me more information regarding Berkowitz's handling of documents previously provided Ethan by Ray:


I thought you might be interested in my response to an inquiry I received regarding Ethan.

Question was:

I ran into Ethan this week and he told me that you had been telling others that he was not responsive to your initial complaints about Ben’s impropriety when he was in the legislature. Will you please call him and talk with him about this, rather than getting Diane Benson all worked up about it. Will you please call him at 279-5659.


I am sorry to say this but, I probably left a dozen personal messages, some hand delivered with documents, some by phone, some by email, asking Ethan to lend a hand. He had my number and an invitation to return a call for about three years.

He has ignored every call, every email, and every document I hand delivered to his office. The heavy lifting was over and the posse was rumored to be on its way by the time he finally said something on the House Floor.

He even came to Ted's defense on matters of the corruption I was trying to expose.

When the raids had come and gone, and it was safe to come out of the closet, he tried to pretend he was part of the battle and part of the solution with his ridiculous "White Paper" that offered no solutions for anything. He didn't call me for advice on that either.

Several people have called me and ask how this happened, what the hurdles were in forcing the issue to the surface, and what they can do to help make sure it doesn't happen again. Some are taking meaningful steps to such ends. Some are writing books. Ethan has blown me off as an irritating gadfly at every opportunity and to this day has expressed no interest in any advice I might have.


One of the interesting things to me about this affair is the contrast between a very cautious incrementalist like Berkowitz and a fairly revolutionary figure like Metcalfe. The election of Sarah Palin and her growing popularity seem to indicate Alaskans are more accepting of the latter mode than the former right now.

photo of Berkowitz, Palin and Shea by Brain Wallace - Juneau Empire

Erin and Hig Post New Videos of Their Trek

Erin and Hig posted more videos of their trek by foot, ski and pack raft from Elliot Bay to Unimak Island at their YouTube site. They're short, and they're truly amazing.

When they got to Valdez on Christmas Eve, they updated their trek blog to include commentary and pictures on their trip from Cordova to Valdez, across Prince William Sound via Tatitlik,

Thursday, they left Valdez on foot, headed over Thompson Pass, along the pipeline route, on their way toward the Copper River Valley, the Tazlina/Nelchina Basin, through the southern face of Tahneta Pass, onto the South Fork of the Matanuska River, and then on down to Palmer and Anchorage. They're expecting to get into Anchorage by around the 20th of January. Today's the 204th day of their journey.

More on Erin and Hig in Southcentral Alaska early in 2008.

sea otters on PWS from Journey on the Wild Coast blog

MEA Bylaw Change Petition Deadline Looming

If the misnomer "clean coal" continues to have its advocates in the USA ten years from now, I'll eat this blog. Or this blog's technological successor. Technological improvements have continually made mining of minerals and use of those minerals for other products more efficient. But as rapidly as current technology comes up with new ways to get the burning of coal for energy "cleaner," information technology gathers data even faster, showing that "clean coal" isn't nearly clean enough.

A majority of the Matanuska-Susitna Valley-Eagle River energy co-op MEA's Board of Directors think coal burning for electrical energy can be "clean." The upcoming 2008 board election will be pivotal on whether or not unimaginative, coercive, haughty, Soviet-style board and management regimes are kept or extinguished.

One way the MEA management paradigm stifles change is through a series of electoral hurdles any challenger must undergo to get nominated, funded, elected and seated on the board. Should a challenger pass layers and layers of petty rules and get elected, the new board member has to wait months before being allowed to take her or his seat.

In the past, the management and controlling members of the board have used this provision in the by-laws to create mischief for anyone elected who the Soviet-style managers see as a threat to their control.

There is a bylaw change petition being circulated. It seeks to change Article IV Section 9 from:

Seating of Directors. Each newly elected board member shall take an oath of office and be seated at a scheduled Board meeting in the month of July following the annual meeting provided that such Board meeting shall occur no earlier than July 4.


Seating of Directors. Each newly elected board member shall take an oath of office and be seated within 15 days of the annual meeting at a special meeting or at the next regularly scheduled monthly Board meeting following the annual meeting, whichever date comes first.

This bylaw amendment shall take effect immediately upon passage.

If you haven't already signed a petition, SIGN IT! It must be submitted on January 2, 2008. Copies are available in Palmer at the Valley Hotel. You can sign it there, or get one to take through your neighborhood. The latter is what I've done. You have to be an MEA member to participate in this process.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Top Ten Alaskan Political Events of 2007

1. Veco GOP State Legislative Scandals

Just as the second 2006 Special Session of the Alaska Legislature ended with multiple searches of the offices of prominent state-level GOP politicians, so the regular session of the 2007 legislature was rudely awakened by the arrests of Former House Speaker Pete Kott (R-Eagle River), former Representative Bruce Weyhrauch (R-Juneau), and then-Representative Vic Kohring (R-Wasilla) on May 4, 2007 on charges of accepting bribery and extortion related to their support of an oil extraction fee regime favored by big oil’s criminal enterprise cutout, the oilfield service company VECO Corporation. As the attorneys of those charged and the media received copies of information and charging documents, it became public that former Veco CEO Bill Allen and CFO Rick Smith had plead guilty to bribing them.

As the trials of lobbyist Tim Anderson, and legislators Kott and Kohring unfolded, details emerged about aspects of the FBI sting which also touched upon U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens and his son Ben, former President of the Alaska Senate. Details also emerged about the extent Veco was involved in questionable or illegal funding of other Alaska politicians. Information about illegally funded polls on behalf of several GOP legislators is being held back in part, because of Federal Department of Justice concerns about influencing ongoing investigations of other state and Federal-level politicians.

2. Governor Sarah Palin Shakes Up Alaska, But Makes Less of an Impression Outside - at Least on Her Party's Leaders

Governor Palin’s ascent from the Wasilla Planning Commission to Alaska Governor took fourteen years. She began getting recognition after beating Wasilla’s popular and effective Mayor, John Stein. Her two terms there saw her mature from a fairly doctrinaire conservative to pragmatic populist. After narrowly losing a GOP Lieutenant Governor Primary to Loren Lehman in 2002, she was hired by Gov. Frank Murkowski to run the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission. Murkowski probably hoped to rope Palin into a dependancy upon the longstanding modus operandi of big oil corrupt practices here. The move failed, as Palin objected to a number of ethical lapses in the Murkowski machine.

What happened next was more than a little surprising. She set up a political campaign organization independent of both big oil and the GOP machine. She didn’t just beat these forces, she kicked their butt. Along the way she solidly thrashed ex-Governor Tony Knowles.

But these were the mere preliminaries to 2007. She didn’t make tremendous headway against the 2007 legislature while it was in session. Her vetoes of their budget items were quite extensive, though, shaking up the inveterate complacency of this club as they were reeling from the GOP big-oil corruption busts of their colleagues and top campaign donors.

Palin combined this momentum, hard work and charm to conclude the most effective special session in a generation.

National attention has come Palin’s way, but outsiders understand Alaskans little, and our politics even less. Even less, can lower-48 Republicans identify with somebody who can think for herself. And although blogs like Wonkette and magazines such as Vogue see Palin as a babe, Palin sees herself more as an athlete or mom. There is too much cogninitive dissonance between what outsiders want of her and what she feels is important right now, for her popularity to snowball nationally.

3. October-November Special Session Slices Gordian Knot, Brings 2008 Budget Surplus

Beyond Gov. Palin’s leadership role in the late 2007 legislative special session, the fact is that after so many unproductive sessions on the gas line’s future, some headway was made. This is very important to the future of the state. I’ve watched the big developers on the North Slope burn off enough natural gas since 1977 to fuel and heat Alaska halfway through the 22nd century. People here, or at least a majority of them, have ceased to take in big oil propaganda like they used to.

Combined with a new fee structure to be charged to big oil for their extraction of the state’s non-renewable resources, Alaska is looking at an influx of $4.7 billion during FY 2008-2009. This is a phenomenal increase, and will be a test of the coming year's legislature.

4. Eclipse of Senator Ted Stevens and His Family

Alaska is undergoing a kind of PTSD as we watch the Hulk’s image shattered, piece by piece. At first - a couple of years ago - it seemed his unworthy son was what was bringing him down. But, as more information emerges, it is becoming more apparent he set young Ben up for the fall through diversions of numerous earmarks into the North Pacific Fisheries management regime, for which the elder Stevens was largely responsible.

Ted says he’s in it for 2008, and has filed.

5. Representative Don Young’s Demise Draws Three Credible Challengers

In 2006, the Alaska Democratic Party wanly searched for an opponent to Representative Don Young. Party Chairman Jake Metcalfe didn’t see how anybody could win, and wanted to funnel every available penny into Tony Knowles’ gubernatorial campaign.

Military mom and anti-war activist Diane Benson filed, won the Democratic Primary, and conducted a grassroots campaign that got Young’s and Alaskans’ attention. After she lost, she told me, “You know it’s going to be more crowded next year, don’t you, Phil?”

She was right. She predicted that Ethan Berkowitz or Eric Croft would file for the seat by the end of Autumn, 2007. Many were surprised, though, when Chairman Metcalfe left his post on a Friday in late July to file and announce for Young’s seat from Washington, DC, early the following week.

Benson, Berkowitz and Metcalfe are all viable challengers and any of the three will be a vast improvement. The three candidates have probably raised over $300,000 so far, more than all Democratic challengers in the general election against Young raised between 1996 and 2004. And this is money for the primary.

Polls show Berkowitz and Benson handily beating Young. Both Bekowitz and Benson's polls show Berkowitz leading for the primary, but not by enough to be a predictor. This is largely because the Alaska Democratic primary is open to any registered voter. The GOP primary is open only to registered Republicans. Just who the final GOP candidates on the primary ticket are will be a determining factor in how tens of thousands of voters choose which of two ballots to pick. Nor is Berkowitz's lead a cinch for him to hold.

6. Progressives and Liberals Continue to Make Inroads on GOP Footholds

This was already evident in 2006, when the Democrats made gains in state legislative contests. There will be more victories for them in 2008.

But in many local government elections, moderates and progressives are winning against candidates from the far right. Candidates are winning, but issues and initiatives are being used differently in election campaigns than in previous years. Recent ballot initiatives - one taxing the cruise ship industry being the most visible and important - show that even when industries outspend grassroots organizations by vast amounts, an industry can’t necessarily buy what it wants.

The Matanuska-Susitna Valley, home of Sarah Palin’s rise, is perhaps the most rapidly changing political environment in this most politically in-flux state in the USA right now. Moderates and progressives made solid gains in 2006 and 2007 in local government. Resistance to the local electrical co-op’s unwise plan to build a very large coal-fired plant has fueled resentment against the power politics unsuccessfully played by the prominent Republicans who backed the plan.

7. Randy Ruedrich Retains GOP Chair in Spite of Ineffectiveness

The day after Sarah Palin won the 2006 GOP gubernatorial primary, Randy Reudrich sent current State Senate President Lyda Green to Palin’s house with a huge wad of campaign money from Reudrich’s well-greased big oil machine. Palin refused the money. She has since asked for Reudrich to step down. There is a lot personal going on here, but Palin was right. Progressives can only hope that Randy, who has become almost totally ineffective, stays the course right through the 2008 election. He’ll undoubtedly be one the keys to our victories.

8. State Democratic Party Slowly Undertakes Rebuilding Challenge

Absent the GOP shooting themselves in the foot by backing candidates like John Lindauer until it was way too late - thanks Rev. Prevo! - and other such hilarious moments, the Democrats have not won statewide office here since 1986. That was before my daughter, who is a senior in college, was born. They haven't won national office from Alaska since 1974.

If they intend on relying on old methods from the 70s and 80s, they will fail. If they run wan campaigns or DLC-modeled ones that avoid issues which resonate with the majority of Alaskans who are non-partisan, they’ll get nowhere. If they feud and bicker and scare young people and Greens away, they’ll remain a minority in the legislature. If they fail to take the opportunities presented by current and future indictments of the GOP power base, they’re not just fools, they’ll be regarded as hopeless ones at that.

9. Speculation Rampant on Further GOP Arrests

This is already a 2007 story, as it has attenuated practically every move prominent Republicans have been able to make since September, 2006. Most insiders expect further indictments. Rumors have been pervasive since early October. Ray Metcalfe told me that he has been told President Bush himself tried to stop the cycle from happening back in the summer of 2006, but was faced with a discreet but profound amount of protest from Department of Justice professionals. Whether further White House meddling has slowed down the flow of indictments or not, it is quite obvious that Ben Stevens and others will be indicted soon.

10. Ray Metcalfe Vindicated

There are still skeptics, but it must be said that Metcalfe not only complained about the ethics of his former colleagues far longer than the FBI was investigating them, but that the depth and swath of his concerns have benefitted the people of Alaska. The more I research his activities over the past fifteen years, the more respect for his doggedness I’m gaining. Whether it was his early concern about the fee structures we charge big oil for taking our minerals, reforming the state’s political primary system, or going to agency after agency, media outlet after media outlet - all the while being treated like a gadlfy at best, a pariah at worst, Metcalfe has shown genuine endurance, courage and integrity throughout his efforts.

Update: I've posted a slightly different version of this, with about 30 hyperlinks attached, over at DailyKos.

Vic Kohring cuffed - Brian Wallace

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Christmas Dinner...

Not mine, theirs. Broccoli, scarlet runner beans, peas, pea vines, cabbage leaves and beet top remnants, left out in the garden.

I got ski clothes from this century, which was all I wanted. I got Judy a few books, including Michael Pollan's The Botany of Desire.

Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemma is one of the best books on what happens to our food I've ever read. Some friends who've read ...Dilemma told me that ...Botany is even better. I glanced at it in the bookstore, thinking Judy will like this even more than me.

We both garden a lot in the summer. I do the vegetables, and Judy has an incredible rock garden with perennials from all over the alpine world. She thinks about her plants a lot more than I do, so I hope she enjoys Pollan's book.

In another two weeks, we'll start making lists of seeds we want to order, new things we want to experiment with growing in 2008. I save seeds too - arugula, spinach, cilantro and garlic. As I collect, dry and take care of them I am very grateful that nobody is growing GM seed crops upwind from our modest gardens.

The kids are out ptarmigan hunting with the dog, while Freddie, Judy and I work away on a traditional turkey dinner.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Christmas Eve


Top Mat-Su Valley Stories for 2007

The Anchorage Daily News' December 21 Mat-Su Valley edition had a year-end recap story by Joe Ditzler, called Top Mat-Su Stories of 2007. Basically, at least on the web version, it was a way to link to earlier coverage by the ADN's Valley Bureau of the listed events. By having to stick to that limiting format, Ditzler's list is different than mine.

That's not a put-down. Each of the events he lists is important to the Valley. Here's my short version of his list:

ADN top 2007 Matanuska-Susitna Valley stories:

1. Mat Maid closes

2. Target sets to open in Wasilla
3.Christopher Rogers murder-mayhem rampage
4. MEA plans announced, challenged, stifled
5. Halloween robberies in Talkeetna
6. Su Valley School fire
7. Trapper Creek wildfires
8. Sportsman’s WH development and resultant questions
9. Another ARR Pt. MacKenzie spur proposal
10. AK DOC abandons Palmer prison proposal, expands at Pt. Mac instead
11. Houston City Council feuds after election
12. Borough libraries face major funding cuts
13. House fire has impact on number of dog’s one can keep at home

Here's my list: Progressive Alaska's Top 2007 Mat-Su Stories:

1. Vic Kohring convicted
2. Matanuska Electrical Association dirty coal plant plans thwarted, challenged by growing insurgency
3. Progressive candidates continue to make gains in local government
4. Proposition 1 - Penny Nixon's Full Employment for Attorneys Plan - goes down in flames
5. Su Valley School destroyed - Community unites
6. Rogers murder-mayhem
7. Continued Upper Cook Inlet salmon declines lead to questions
8. Mat-Su Borough government finally accepts rational planning as a paradigm
9. Trapper Creek wildfires test emergency response structures, resources
10. Meth epidemic peaks
11. Gov. Palin prefers living in her family's beautiful Lake Lucille home to the Addams Family mansion on a dank, slippery hill in Juneau

Locals know the details behind these stories. One can only hope that #10 is correct, as I've simply heard anecdotal evidence so far.

I'm open to suggestions on other important stories, if they don't duplicate either Joe Ditzler's list or mine.

Neklason Lake from the ridge by my garden

Sunday, December 23, 2007

The Wind Stopped

So I went out on Neklason Lake to skate for the first time since last spring.

The ice was either too thin, the wind was blowing too hard, or I was too busy to go out and skate this season until this afternoon.

I love to skate around the lake, which is about 75 acres in area. If I take a wide route, it is more than a mile for each lap. It is some of the best exercise I get, although arthritis in my feet makes it difficult to get going. But once I warm up, it feels good all over.

Another thing I love to do is take pictures of the ice. I prefer sunny days. Today wasn't, but I'm documenting different things the ice does from first to last of the winter. It is amazing how many different ways ice can shape itself, and how the stresses of the winter change and mold those shapes.

Strider loves the lake in winter even more than in summer.

Sign This Petition!

Alaskans for Clean Elections is looking for more help getting signatures on their petitions for their proposed voter initiative to clean up campaign financing. Here's how they describe the situation:

Alaskans for Clean Elections (ACE) is seeking volunteers statewide to collect signatures. In order to place the Clean Elections citizens initiative before Alaskans on the 2008 ballot, 23,831 verified signatures must be submitted to the Alaska Division of Elections before the start of the 2008 Alaska Legislature. The group is working to collect 40,000 signatures before December 31, 2007. Alaska residents interested in paid efforts are also encouraged to call.

Here are local phone numbers around the state, where you can get information on where to sign a petition:

Anchorage: in front of Barnes & Noble Booksellers on N. Lights,
or call 907.230.5617 for other locations!

Palmer: Call 907.230-5617
Wasilla: Call Myrl 232.1043
Juneau: Call 907.230.5617
Fairbanks: Call 452-1706
Barrow: Call 907.230.5617
Nome: Call 907.230.5617
Kodiak: Call 907.230.5617
Sitka: Call 907.230.5617
Ketchikan: Call 617.8908 or 225.8908 or
Petersburg: Call 907.230.5617
Yakutat: Call 907.784.3638
Homer: Call 235.2628
Soldotna: Call 907.230.5617
Kenai: Call 907.230.5617
Seldovia: Call 907.230.5617
Nenana: Call 907.230.5617
UAF: Call 907.230.5617
UAA: Call 907.230.5617
Marshall: Call 907.230.5617
Dillingham: Call 907.230.5617
Tenakee Springs: Call 907.230.5617
Andersen: Call 907.230.5617
Eagle River: Call 907.230.5617
Chugiak: Call 907.230.5617
Naknek: Call 907.230.5617
Bethel: Call 907.230.5617
Ester: Call 907.230.5617
Seward: Call 907.230.5617
Haines: Call 766.2028

The Ear Rips off KoKon

I'm not sure whether or not the ADN has mentioned or linked to Progressive Alaska before, but two kinds of web search showed nothing. But here we are, on the web edition of today's Alaska Ear, with a screenshot of PA, showing my feature on Ishmael Melville's great photoshopping of Gov. Palin on an imaginary cover of Vogue.

Ish is slightly chagrined. And he should be. As he points out, when I did a story on this a while back, I was happy to acknowledge my source. I try to do that every chance I can. Whenever my header photo isn't by me, somebody who doesn't want a name revealed, or covered in one of the essay's links, I give the source at the bottom of the essay

But the ADN, whose hubris I just covered below, and whose picture of Pat Dougherty I credited to its source, appears they could give a shit. They sort of link to Progressive Alaska, but fail to mention my source.

Sheila probably had nothing to do with the ADN's faux pas here. My only experience with Ms. Toomey was when she wrote an article under her own name about 17 years ago about a person then in my care. It was a very unfortunate and unfair experience for my client, and I'll never forget it.

The Alaska Newsreader has been good about crediting information gleaned from blogs, including Alaska's funniest, wittiest, horniest progressive blog, Kodiak Konfidential. Maybe Alaska bloggers need to band together and have the ADN sign our version of this contract, eh?

The Arrogance of Pat Dougherty

I posted the following at one of the ADN's blogs about a half an hour ago. The letter is based on the following quote by ADN Editor, Pat Dougherty:

We take our responsibilities as Alaska’s largest news organization very seriously. Whether we are covering public corruption or the homefront consequences of the Iraq war, the effort to build a gas line or the effects of global warming in Alaska, we know that if we don’t do the story, it may not get done.

Both R. J. Dillon of the Fairbanks News-Miner/An Alaskan Abroad and I take serious issue with your undeserved moment of hubris.

Dillon wrote "And I thought my ego was out of control.

"This from the newspaper that has a part-time Washington, D.C., correspondent and no reporter in Juneau or the Valley (or at least they just got rid of one Mat-Su scribe). Does the ADN even have a military beat anymore? And I can't remember the last time an ADN reporter actually ventured off the road system to do a story.

"All scandal, all the time does not equal good statewide coverage."

I differ with Robert on some of the details, but he hit the nail on the head. I feel like the ADN has a decent stable of outstanding, award-winning reporters being led by a management team who totally misunderstand how to apply that talent.

I feel that you've handled aspects of your transition to interactive web presence rather well this past year. But, as an example, your current search for community bloggers, as covered by Steve Aufrecht at What Do I Know?, shows how clearly your paper's ties to old forms will both hold your newsmaking ability back and possibly lead to the ultimate demise of the paper itself.

As Aufrecht poses in his second article about Kathleen McCoy's efforts to interest community councils and others in participating in the ADN "community blog" efforts, an immediate question one can ask is "will the ADN recommend its own blogs over those who don't participate in their agreement [I'm paraphrasing]?"

The reality of the other side of your conceited "if we don’t do the story, it may not get done," is the truth of it on more levels than you consider. How many thousands of words has the ADN devoted to the sorry story of Chris McCandless, or to bragging about how controversial Craig Medred's views on McCandless are?

Yet, it appears to me, you've entirely missed a far more interesting story , that of Erin McKittrick and Bretwood Higman. A search request of your archives came back with Did you mean Erwin McKittrick AND prettied Hinman[?]

I know for sure that some of the
ADN's reporters are aware of this incredibly epic and absolutely Alaskan story, so nobody can say the ADN isn't aware that the story is there, and is being covered by others. I've been, and other Alaska blogs have been covering their trek by pack rafts, hiking boots and skis from Elliot Bay to Unimak Island.

And your web interface is incredibly klutzy in many ways. The architecture of your web interface is bizarre, with many isolated niches for information, displayed in confusing ways. As in "Which of the two editor's blogs did Pat write his announcement on this time?"

To illustrate how inconvenient your interface is, I'm going to post this letter on my site, with hyperlinks, within the next hour. More readers will see it there by Monday than would have seen it at this well-hidden blog in days. And that isn't hubris.

There are many other important Alaska stories out there which ARE being covered, but NOT by the ADN. Many.

You owe each and every Alaska media outlet earnestly covering these events a full apology, Pat...

photo of Patrick Dougherty courtesy of the Anchorage Daily News

Saturday, December 22, 2007

The Light in the Forest...?

Anchorage real estate developer; Austin, Texas movie colony visionary; Florida property owner; ex-banker and ex- and current-challenger to Ted Stevens' seat in the U.S. Senate, Dave Cuddy, produced a B-grade movie back in 2002-2003 about the War on Christmas.

Not to be confused with the Fess Parker cult classic from the late 50s of the same name, Cuddy's even more B movie has a spacey, but cuddly plot. But I'm going to change it a bit to give you a preview of the Republican U.S. Senate primary.

Once upon a time, the evil elf King Ted Stevens (Edward Albert) and his partner in crime Prince Ben Stevens (Alexandra Ford) conspired to silence the spirit of Christmas, Davey Cuddy Boy (Christopher Khayman Lee), luring him into a long, deep sleep. Thousands of years later, Davey Cuddy Boy is awakened by the tears of a modern-day teenager named Sarah Palin (Danielle Nicolet), whose loneliness springs from being the new girl in town. Together the new friends help each other face their fears and fight their battles--Sarah in a high school Christmas pageant, Davey Boy against the evil Ted--and in the process discover the true meaning of the magical holiday season.

That's the plot line of Cuddy's film, The Light in the Forest. I just changed some names of the characters. I retained the original actors' names. I'm going down to the Wasilla Blockbuster tomorrow and see if they have it. If they don't, it may be another example of the insidious War on Christmas.

Good Luck, Dave!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

On Guard for Victory

One of my best friends, Andy Constant, is one of the top tugboat skippers in the Pacific Northwest. Here he is last August, at the helm of the Crowley tractor tug Guard, in Anacortes, site of the Cherry Point Refinery and Terminal, where a lot of our crude oil from Alaska is turned into petroleum products. He was giving my family a tour of the boat.

I can't believe how much technology has changed the bridge of a tugboat since I worked for Crowley in the early 1980s.

Andy and I both worked for the City of Whittier when I ran the Whittier Small Boat Harbor back in the late 1970s. He used to kid me when I bragged about some of the plans I was implementing there. Like gender-neutral job descriptions (that's right, there were very few in the marina and public safety fields back then), the first 24/7 on-call full-EMT search-and-rescue unit on Prince William Sound, customer rate reductions averaging 15% per year during the highest inflation in the U.S. since World War II. And harbor expansion.

Andy said then he was going to design me an "ego-powered self-back-patting machine."

Well I need it now. I just did something I'd promised to do after the Voice of the Times had been interactive for awhile. I checked. Here it is:

Last 15 posts:

Voice of the Times
Progressive Alaska - 36 comments.

I'm going out on the frozen lake to do the Snoopy Dance, folks!


Kodiak Konfidential - 67 comments!

eat your heart out, VOT...

firedoglake does Progressive Alaska!

One of my favorite blogs is firedoglake. They were the best source of information on the outing of CIA agent Valerie Plame, and pioneered live courtroom blogging during the Scooter Libby trial. The hosts and commenters have come up with lots of action items and phone and e-mail swarms that have had a positive impact on U.S. Congressional legislation. I'm certain they contributed to the shelving of the telecom immunity legislation being considered earlier this week in the U.S. Senate.

Marcy Wheeler, one of Steve Aufrecht's favorite writers has recently migrated from The Next Hurrah to her own niche at firedoglake.

I wrote about turning Hugh's List of Bush Scandals into a scroll at Progressive Alaska back in early November. We unfurled it in the atrium of the Arts Building at UAA.

firedoglake commenters are now pondering how best to turn my rendition of the list, now known as Hugh's Scroll, into something more useful than what I'm doing with it right now - leaving it sit on my office desk until a brainstorm develops.

Update - Friday morning: looseheadprop's fdl story on Hugh's Scroll made digg's most popular stories for the 24-hour period since the story, uh, unfolded. First experience with digg.

Three Alaskan Politicians in the Running for National Honors!

Josh Marshall's web site, Talking Points Memo, started as a result of his frustration during the 2000 Presidential Election's Florida recount fiasco. From that time until early 2006, Talking Points Memo, or TPM, gathered more credibility than just about any other information site on the web being handled almost single-handedly. A phenomenal one-person show!

Then Marshall expanded the site, hiring several writers and investigators, creating new niche blogs on muckraking, state-level politics and political gossip and essays.

In 2007, TPM started running YouTube clips, mostly under their Veracifier label. I carried Marshall's explanation of the Coconut Road earmark story the other day. Marshall has now created a set of political achievement awards for dubious distinction in American politics. They're called the Golden Duke Awards, named after that great American crook, Duke Cunningham. All three of our U.S. Legislators have qualified in one category or another! They must be even more proud than Lesil McGuire.

Go check it out!

More Don Young Bipolar Disorder at the ADN?

Tuesday, under her McClatchy handle and e-mail address, Erika Bolstad filed a report from Washington, D.C. about Oklahoma GOP Sen. Tom Coburn's request for Congress to form a select committee to look into the legality of Don Young's changes to the 2005 Federal Transportation bill, after the bill had been passed by both houses of Congress. I posted a more comprehensive story here about 45 minutes later.

Bolstad's story appeared too late to make it into Tuesday's print edition of the ADN, but it was posted on their web page, where it ran all day, gathering 22 comments over Tuesday.

Wednesday's print edition of the Daily News carried an expanded version of Bolstad's story, incorporating some of my Coburn-Ted Stevens background, on Wednesday. The ADN ran it on page B-1, above the fold. This time, it gave Erika's ADN e-mail address. The story was prominently carried on the ADN web site, where it gathered a few comments. Then the comments were turned off. Not just on that article, but on all new articles. They remain off. No explanation.

Meanwhile, the expanded Young-Coburn story was moved to the Alaska News niche, but has now apparently disappeared from easy access. Try to find it by going to the ADN web site. The only way you'll find this one-day-old article is to go to the archive search page. Yet, older, far more trivial articles are on the Alaska News list.

As juicy as this story is - read my Tuesday article if you don't think so - why did it never make it to the ADN Politics Blog? Do I detect a Don Young telephone tantrum to the ADN editors we may never find out about?

Progressive Alaska Does DailyKos

I was perturbed enough by Markos Moulitsas' essay-poll or poll-essay on the two Alaska U.S. Legislative races, that I joined DailyKos as a diarist so I could address what has become a misperception as as result of the poll.

The diary I wrote Monday and yesterday and posted yesterday evening, is called Kos' Trip Into the Wild. Go read it!

The misperception - I wrote about it last week as it became apparent - is that Ethan Berkowitz is running against Don Young, or as Kos put it, "Wow, wow, wow. Berkowitz is already running hard, and it's clear his will be a top pickup opportunity as Young is weighed down with his corruption."

As I stated in the article for DailyKos, "Ethan Berkowitz is running against Jake Metcalfe and Diane Benson and any other Democrat who files by June 1 of next year for a spot on the August 26, 2008 Alaska Democratic Primary. The winner of that late-season primary will have ten weeks to get his or her act together to face the GOP candidate, who will most likely not be Don Young."

Ethan is, as I've pointed out before, happy to be portrayed as the only candidate in the race. His web site now refers readers directly to Markos' misleading article, adding:

Ethan Berkowitz leads in new DailyKos poll

Berkowitz 49 — Young 42. That's the big news from the national political blog Daily Kos. They commissioned a poll and released its results on December 10. Ethan Berkowitz has a strong seven point lead over Don Young. Check out the results yourself here.

The numbers reveal a clear message: Alaskans are ready for a new direction.

I've asked myself "If Jake or Diane had been given this huge, but inaccurate advantage, how would they have portrayed it on their campaign page?" I suppose we'll never know.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Locked, Loaded and Looney

GOP Sen. Coburn at the Ten Commandments monument dedication in Coalgate, OK, where - according to Sen. Coburn, "Lesbianism is so rampant in some of the schools that they'll only let one girl go to the bathroom. Now think about it."

Looney GOP U.S. Senator Tom Coburn has had it in for Alaska politicians before. Coburn's attempted amendment to the 2006 U.S. Congressional Transportation Bill, which sought to take GOP U.S. Senator Ted Stevens' "bridge to nowhere" money from the Ketchikan and Knik Arm bridge projects and use the funds to rebuild Louisiana's "Twin Spans" bridge, which had been heavily damaged in Hurricane Katrina, brought out Sen. Stevens' famous resignation tantrum.

But now, the wacky, Okie Dr. No from Muskogee has taken on another D.C. politician from his own side of the aisle: GOP U.S. Representative Don Young. That's right, the member of the U.S. House who, last summer, threatened to kill anyone who bites him.

Rep. Don Young appears to have violated the U.S. Constitution by illegally inserting an earmark into the 2005 Congressional Transportation Bill, favoring a wealthy Florida real estate developer, after the legislation had been passed by both houses of Congress. Up until today the only political figure to openly question the legality of Young's violation and seek a Congressional investigation, has been Diane Benson, the maverick activist Democrat who gave Young a fright in 2006 by coming closer to beating him than any candidate had since 1992.

In September, Benson called upon Representative Stephanie Tubbs Jones of Ohio, Committee Chairwoman, and Representative Doc Hastings of Washington state as members of the office of the Committee on Standards to investigate the illegal substitution. Shortly afterward, Taxpayers for Common Sense filed a similar complaint against Young.

We now know that around that time, Young was spending more money than OJ Simpson on attorney fees, to the point that he was beginning to deplete his hefty campaign chest. Young was also the all-time top recipient of campaign funds from the now-disgraced and extinct criminal enterprise and GOP slush fund cutout, oilfield service company, Veco.

What Sen. Coburn has done today is to "call
for the creation of a select committee comprised of both representatives and senators to investigate the miraculous change to the 2005 transportation bill." Here's his entire letter:

December 18, 2007
The Honorable Mitch McConnell
Minority Leader
United States Senate
361-A Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510

Dear Senator McConnell:

I write to inform you that I will object to unanimous passage of any bill providing technical corrections of the 2005 highway bill if that bill does not require a full and open investigation of the events leading up to the unauthorized revision of congressionally passed legislation during the enrollment process.

While my understanding is that the latest version of the technical corrections bill restores the original congressional intent of the “Coconut Road” provision, those who perverted and distorted the explicit will of the U.S. Congress must also be held to account. A full investigation into this matter is necessary to ensure that this does not happen again in the future.

After both Houses of Congress approved passage of the conference report on H.R. 3 (SAFETEA-LU) in the 109th Congress, a major substantive change was secretly made to the legislation during the enrollment process. Specifically, item number 462 of section 1934 of the bill was secretly changed from “Widening and Improvements for I-75 in Collier and Lee County” to “Coconut Rd. interchange I-75/Lee County[.]”

H.R. 3 (SAFETEA-LU) – Conference Report as Approved by Congress

H.R. 3 (SAFETEA-LU) – Enrolled Version

As you well know, substantive changes during the enrollment process can only be made via a concurrent resolution, which must be agreed to by both the House and Senate. According to the Congressional Research Service, only one concurrent resolution (H.Con.Res. 226) regarding the 2005 highway bill was passed by the 109th Congress, and the resolution was “silent on any other specific changes, including section 1934[.]”

Because secret, improper, and unauthorized changes to congressionally passed legislation call into question the integrity of our entire Constitutional and legislative process, I believe a full and open investigation into this matter is necessary to restore the integrity of both the U.S. Congress and the Constitution.

I thank you for protecting my rights as a U.S. Senator and I look forward to working with you to create a select committee, comprised of Members of both the House and Senate, to investigate the events that led up to the unauthorized change and to provide a full accounting of the matter to the American public.

Tom Coburn, M.D.
United States Senator

An interesting aspect of the development of this story has been the lack of statements about this specific issue by either Jake Metcalfe or by Ethan Berkowitz, Diane Benson's opponents for the Democratic Party nomination to run against Young or another GOP candidate come November.

One thing for sure, though, is that the nexus of Coburn, Young and Stevens promises some heavyweight tantrums for YouTube fodder very soon. Grab your popcorn, folks.

Update: Josh Marshall's wonderful Coconut Road Earmark Primer!

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Sunday Odds and Ends

Erin and Hig celebrate FINALLY crossing Icy Bay on the North Gulf of Alaska coast

Tom Macchia from the Green Party of Alaska sent out an e-mail with Green Hatred Disorder attached to the Yahoo Alaska Greens discussion group. Exactly the sort of thing I like. Thanks, Tom.

When Erin McKittrick and Bretwood Higman arrived in Cordova last week, after finishing the amazing Icy Bay to Cordova leg of their trek along our wild coast, I e-mailed Erin. I'm hoping to do an interview with them when they cross the road system, as they come through more accessible parts of our state, on their way to Unimak Island, via Pebble Mine.

Erin e-mailed back, saying, "We'd love to meet up and would be happy to be interviewed. We're heading right through Palmer (planning to come down the Matanuska River), so that might be the easiest place?

"Can't say exactly when we'll be there, since weather and terrain seem to make us always even more unpredictable that we think... Probably sometime in early January. We're planning to take a longer layover in Anchorage - at least a week - so it should also be quite easy to catch us there."

I hope to get back in touch with Erin and Hig after they arrive in Valdez. I may even go over there to meet them. If they're going to be in Anchorage for a week or so, I'm hoping we can find lots of ways to support their endeavor. If there isn't a slide show already set up for them, I'll make sure that happens and that the word gets out.

With all the national attention lately on Christopher McCandless and the book/movie Into the Wild, I'm sort of surprised about the lack of attention being paid to this young couple's epic journey. They're like the opposite of that guy.

Robert Dillon at An Alaskan Abroad wrote the best article yet, for the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, about aspects of Republicans who are eyeing the congressional seats now held by Ted Stevens and Don Young. Actually, come to think of it, his is the ONLY good article about the GOP field in those races.

Dillon also adds further information that backs my contention that Markos Moulitsas had his head up his ass when he wrote his DailyKos article last week about the United 2000 poll Kos commissioned pitting Ethan Berkowitz against Don Young and Mark Begich against Ted Stevens.

Kos had written, "Begich won't announce any candidacy until sometime between
March and May. But if he bows out of the race, he'll do so before the end of the year. So if we hear nothing in the next three weeks, we're home free and Republicans will face yet another top-tier battle in their fight to limit their losses."

Dillon notes, "Begich has not made up his mind on whether he’ll run. Daily Kos incorrectly reported last week that Begich would announce by the end of the year if he was not running to give other Democrats time to gear up before the June 2 filing deadline. However, Begich’s spokeswoman, Julie Hasquet, said the mayor has never made such a statement publicly."

I'll have more to say about why Kos jumped the gun on his incomplete and anti-progressive poll, and who might have pressured him to do so, uh, maybe before the end of the year.

The Seward Historic Preservation Commission is pitching for the City of Seward and other entities to raise the town's profile for artistic uniqueness.

A rich history is being told on walls scattered around Seward, and the city's Historic Preservation Commission wants the city and state to acknowledge it.

Paintings honoring the town's unique history have been appearing on buildings since 1999, thanks to a group of artists known as the Seward Mural Society.

The group's artwork is why the Seward Historic Preservation Commission has recommended to City Council that Seward be designated as the Mural Capital of Alaska and that it in turn submit a request to the state to endorse the designation.

Look out, Homer.....

Steve Aufrecht at What Do I Know? sort of interviewed the ADN's Kathleen McCoy last week about the possibility the ADN will feature more blogging by bloggers in the community and around the state. His interview is well worth the read, and I have as high a regard for Kathleen as does Steve.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

KoKon Scoops Vogue

Ishmael Melville at Kodiak Konfidential somehow managed to get an advanced copy of Vogue Magazine's upcoming February gubernatorial Fashion Issue. Or, maybe not:

Anyway. governor Palin is certainly more photogenic than any of our previous governors. Sorry, Tony. Your hair was in a class of its own, and you had the smile of a Miss Alaska winner, for sure, but....

Here are some of my favorite Gov. Palin pictures, mostly from the Governor's web site.

My all-time favorite, from last Winter in Fairbanks:

This one is from last summer's Alaska State Fair. Is she meeting with these happy ladies, or are they waiting to be judged in the same costume competition? I hope Gov. Palin doesn't plan on wearing this outfit for the Vogue issue:
Earlier last summer - On behalf of Healing Racism in Anchorage (HRA), Diane Benson (right)and Mari Ogimachi (center) accepted the inaugural Bridge Builders President’s Award from Governor Sarah Palin for HRA's commitment to end racism in Alaska. Three fine ladies!

The Governor, training last summer for November's Special Session of the Legislature. At Ft. Wainright. She's the one behind the .50 cal machine gun's trigger:

Do you have a favorite Gov. Palin photo?

Friday, December 14, 2007

Judge Tom Stewart

Judge Tom Stewart, Secretary of our state's constitutional convention, passed away yesterday in Juneau. Governor Palin has announced that state flags will be lowered on Tuesday, December 18, 2007 in his honor. Flags will be raised to full-staff the following morning.

My friend Dennis Harris, of Juneau, who knew Judge Stewart well, calling him a "true progressive in every sense of the word," wrote the following for Progressive Alaska:

If you think corruption has been bad in Alaska politics, think how much worse it would be if we had elected sheriffs, judges and district attorneys who accepted campaign contributions from the lawyers only rich folks could afford, like in Texas.

But we don't, and we don't have a state constitution cluttered with a lot of trivia that really belongs in statutes that the Legislature can change when needed. One reason why is that the delegates to our Constitutional Convention were able to consult with some of the country's greatest experts on constitutional law and fundamental legal principles. For that, we can thank Judge Tom Stewart, who died in Juneau yesterday, just a few weeks short of his 89th birthday.

It was Tom Stewart who organized all the mechanics of our Constitutional Convention, who rounded up the finest constitutional experts in the country to advise the delegates, who served as the Convention's Secretary, and who helped Bill Egan make sure that the Convention ran smoothly. Because of his hard work and attention to detail, Alaska has one of the best state constitutions in the country.

He went on the become the first administrator of the Alaska State Courts and then was appointed to the Superior Court bench. He was a fair but firm judge. I watched him at trial a number of times, and he didn't let lawyers from either side get away with much. He always sought justice and equity in his decisions.

He and Jane were also avid supporters of the arts, especially since Jane was a musician. I think the saddest part of his life was when she was still alive, physically very robust, but suffering a dementia that meant that the woman he loved had
already departed. I know that he found it especially hard when she began to lose her musical skills; he told me that the thing he missed the most was coming home and hearing her at the piano, practicing for her latest concert or musical production.

Jane and my mother produced the Juneau Centennial Cookbook together, and for years afterward, he diligently sent my mother the quarterly accounting for the book sales, and was most kind to me when she was too ill to understand what he was doing.

He was frustrated the past month as he dealt with his first major health problem in many years. He wanted to be home, not in a nursing facility or the hospital. He told me that his book about the Constitutional Convention was finished, and that all that remained to be done were the minor revisions after he received comments from the folks reviewing his final manuscript.

He was also a survivor of two of the worst campaigns the Army ever fought in World War II, the assault on Attu in the Aleutians, and the 10th Mountain Division's assault on Rosa Ridge in the Italian Appenines. He was a great skier and mountain
climber who put those skills in the service of his country without regard for his own safety and lived to tell the tale.

A truly great man, and a great Alaskan. We are all in his debt.

--- Dennis Harris

Judge Stewart signing the Alaska Constitution