Saturday, May 31, 2008
Guest Post by Fred James from the Washington State GOP Convention:
During both the Alaska Republican Party and Democratic Party Conventions, there was no problem getting journalists from all newspapers, TV, radio, alternative media, web news sources and blogs accredited on or before the conventions. We were allowed to sign up, come in and tell the story of whatever we saw, any way we wanted to call it.
All of us who were at both conventions have agreed, talking about it afterward, that we were treated with courtesy and, if we needed help, we got it. My wife was in charge of the team welcoming all to the Democratic Party Convention last week, and I have to say that just as her team did their job, so did the welcoming team at the GOP event late last winter.
My longtime friend and co-blogger at the Vic Kohring vs. USA blog is a Ron Paul advocate. He put in over a hundred hours helping to organize the Ron Paul machine in Whatcom County, Washington, over the winter and spring. He has been at the Spokane Convention Center this past weekend, both trying to get more support for Ron Paul, and to blog about the convention. It ended a couple of hours ago. Here's the part of Fred's post from this morning that shows the big differences between media treatment in Alaska, and at the Washington State GOP convention:
a) The Bosses would not allow physical counting of the ballots.
b) Ballots were observed thrown in wastebaskets and on the floor.
c) Speakers chosen by the Bosses spoke of "their candidate" McCain as the only candidate in the race, as if Ron Paul did not exist. Demands for equal time were denied. Early in the morning one Boss-supplied speaker began to prattle about how "our Republican candidate John McCain, the presumptive winner, etc... would do so and so when he got into the White House..." an immediate, very loud set of Booing began which turned into a now familiar chant, "Ron Paul, Ron Paul, Ron Paul!!"
d) Printed ballots with no opposition candidates allowed! Straight out of Stalin's play book. I acquired a copy of one such ballot. When people began to write in Mickey Mouse and Josef Stalin as opposition they were told that no matter whom they wrote in, it would still count as a vote for the pre-printed candidate.
e) All of the delegates were told in very plain terms that if they did not turn off their personal video cameras, the cameras would be confiscated! And if people made a fuss over their cameras being stolen they would be forcefully ejected from the Convention Center.
f) The chairman who ran the proceedings from the podium constantly conferred with a Robert's Rules of Order guru. The chairman's power to override objections, rule statements inadmissible, to literally control who said what to a maximum extent assured the Bosses that no fundamental Paul rules or momentum would be allowed.
g) I was denied press credentials. I e-mailed my press application to the Republican Party office in Bellevue, WA on time. The next day I was sent an e-mail telling me that "Your organization does not meet our criteria."
My organizations were two, a Web based magazine which hosts news and commentary from all sectors called "Nolan Chart LLC" and The Whatcom Independent, not exactly known as a radical rag. I sent an e-mail back asking where I could read "the criteria" but of course got no response. Later after coming to Spokane standing on the Convention floor the first day I complained to Jeremy Doitch, an RP sub boss that there was no moral reason to exclude me from the Convention. He told me rather coldly, "This matter is closed. You are to leave this Convention Hall, the entire building which the RP has rented. If you don't leave immediately a police officer will escort you." Then these warm humans representing the RP turned on their heels and walked away.
Within this totalitarian atmosphere Ron Paul backers managed to still get delegates elected to go to Minneapolis for the RP National Convention. As of the end of Saturday the regions that had huge Paul majorities elected Paul delegates. Whatcom County which sent 31 out of 39 County pro Paul delegates to this Spokane convention is in Congressional District Two. There was a major allegation of cheating to get McCain backers in as delegates from Skagit County. Despite a fistful of evidence demonstrating fraud in that county, the Bosses refused to hear the complaints and a slate of McCain delegates was added into the mix and virtually NO Paul delegates were elected from CD Two.
Summed up, the Ron Paul backers had a mixed bag of complaints and claims of small victories, depending on which CD they were in. Paul backers from Spokane and Clark counties did well so they were claiming victories. Bellingham Paul backers were very unhappy.
A week ago, the first important day of the Democratic Party Convention was convening in Palmer at about this time. Blog coverage of the event was far more multi-faceted and informative than coverage by the Alaska and Anchorage media. The most impressive, in terms of providing full audio and video - and text, when possible - of the major speeches by our candidates for statewide Congressional office, was Dennis Zaki's blog coverage. At both the Alaska Report, and at Zaki's more personal, more speculative new blog, he showed, once again, that he understands the rapid transformation of media in Alaska that is more and more being driven by the blogs.
One of the main structural differences between mainstream media like the Anchorage Daily News, for instance, and blogs like Celtic Diva's Blue Oasis, Dennis Zaki's Blog, Kodiak Konfidential, Progressive Alaska and What Do I Know? is quite easy to explain: The main working groups in the MSM newsroom work Monday-to-Friday gigs, centered around the newspaper's dead tree paradigm. It is a professional organization, and when its reporters have to post new electronic edition articles and blog entries over a weekend or late at night, they can only go so far without having to disrupt the weekends or family time of various editors or tech support folks.
As the main speeches of the convention were recorded, reporters like APRN's David Shurtleff, realizing his network couldn't possibly air complete speeches, provided professional level audio to whichever bloggers wanted the content. Within hours, sometimes minutes, both Steve Aufrecht had Shurtleff's or their own professional level content out there, on the web, for free.
The reporting by MSM reporters at the ADN, KTUU and others was quite good in the limited ways those platforms can deal with large amounts of information, but te reporters and bloggers gathered around the two round tables near the convention rostrum knew that a new media is happening, and developing rapidly, along a non-corporate model.
KUDO's Shannyn Moore, coming out to the convention Saturday, and a few of the bloggers discussed this. The structural problems at KUDO are caused by cowardice by old-school capitalist executives. Many corporations who rely heavily for their customer base upon moderates, liberals and progressives, like Subaru and REI - are forbidden from advertising on progressive stations such as KUDO.
That sucks, and really limits your station's growth potential and image in the community. Shannyn, Zaki, and I - some others, too - discussed the possibility of taking web radio like what Jeremy Lansman has created at KWMD-FM, and bringing it to another, more integrated, multimedia, open-source level. Zaki is already headed in that direction himself. A group of us will be meeting about this over the summer.
Alaska is what is known as a "low-information voter state." That is, our voters tend to rely upon figures like ministers, party demagogues, right-wing talk show hosts, industrial reps, and editorialists to tell them how to vote. The amount of real investigating the average Alaska voter does on candidates and issues is often minimal.
One thing that has struck me, as I've responded to questions from reporters, from commenters at PA, and from people e-mailing me about my concern of Ethan Berkowitz's taking very large sums from Rahm Emanuel, has been the lack of knowledge many of these people seemed to have of the ongoing power struggle within the Democratic Party, going back to 2005, between the Emanuel faction, on one hand, and the Dr. Howard Dean faction, on the other. Some who claimed to be aware of the dispute (basically Emanuel's "support non-liberal Democratic candidates over progressives every time" strategy, versus Dean's winning, "50-state" strategy), thought my concerns to be unimportant or misplaced. Others, including newspaper, TV and radio reporters, didn't even know WTF I was talking about. So, how can they inform their readers, viewers and auditors, if they aren't even aware of very important structural issues concerning national-level politics?
My two favorite moments, viewing from afar - during this past week in Alaska media coverage of the rapidly escalating 2008 Alaska political year, were Ted Stevens's reaction to KTUU reporter Rebecca Palasha's questions about various issues, and the questions posed by media to Jon Tester in the Tester/Begich press conference in Anchorage the other day. Do reporters hold back on asking more serious questions to these candidates and their supporters because they don't think they can explain the background to their audience within time frames they know their reports will be given, or because the reporters themselves don't know enough about issues thrown out by the politicians - particularly Tester's and Begich's support for the 50-state strategy, and references to ardent Diane Benson supporter, Max Cleland - to ask important questions?
I'm not sure which of the two it is.
Anyone who wants to see the gigantic, freedom-enhancing developments occurring in the open-source web continue to develop and happen, needs to be better informed than it appears most Alaska MSM reporters happen to be.
California fuel prices
University shell trailer park
Friday, May 30, 2008
Montana's freshman Senator, Jon Tester defeated Sen. Conrad Burns in 2006. Burns was a senator less tenured than Sen. Ted Stevens, but just as overdue for retirement. Tester was a prominent state legislator who had been serving as President of the Montana Senate when he decided to challenge Burns. One of the hallmarks of Tester's run was the high degree of internet involvement in his campaign. His donor lists, both in the primary race against well-connected state Auditor, John Morrison, and against Burns were quite large, with many people giving small amounts. Tester ran without ties to powerful, Washington DC-based PACs.
Tester went on the web a lot in 2006, participating in hour-long and two-hour-long sessions at sites like DailyKos and firedoglake. In these sessions, Tester would sometimes stay round longer than the session was supposed to last, trying to answer questions that took far more time to write an answer to than one can deliver in a line or so.
Among the things Mark Begich and Jon Tester did together while Jon was in Anchorage, was to go onto firedoglake for an hour, partially to announce that the very progressive netroots fundraising entity, BlueAmerica, was endorsing Mayor Begich's run for the U.S. Senate.
The two were introduced by Jane Hamsher, one of the most audacious netroots pioneers. In the comments, Christy Hardin Smith, another of firedoglake's founders, cited the importance of Tester's backing of Begich:
I think it is fantastic that you are doing this — and wish we had been seeing more of this from other Dems. Collegiality is one thing, but standing in the way of a clear Democratic majority is quite another entirely when we are looking at the significant policy issues that are going to need tackling in the next Congress. Sen. Stevens has used his power in the Appropriations Committee for years to ruthlessly dictate policy and insure payback for anyone who dared to cross him.
During the session, Hamsher announced that Mark has been added to BlueAmerica's rolls.
The all-time Alaska leader for raising money over ActBlue is Diane Benson. In 2006, she raised over $11,000 there, and this cycle has brought in $13,000, a total of $24,000. Jake Metcalfe brought in almost $20,000 before his campaign folded. Ethan Berkowitz has raised about $8,700 there, and Begich almost $8,600. Benson and Metcalfe have seen the most contributions in Alaska for national office in the 2008 cycle from small donors, Berkowitz, the most donations from D.C.-based PACs, and the fewest on a monthly basis, from the netroots community, and from small-check Alaska donors.
The Begich-Tester session at firedoglake was hampered by what apparently was a very tight appearance schedule for the Montana Senator, as the Begich campaign brought him around to several events and to other parts of the state besides Anchorage. Tester had never been here before.
The press conference held by the Begich campaign did not show the Alaska press off at its best. I found the questioners to have very little knowledge of the consequences of Tester's early support for Begich, very little feel for some of the issues that came up in conversation.
Interesting to me in the conference, were references to the perniciousness of candidates relying upon D.C. based PACs and lobbyists for campaign finance, and of Tester's note that he was supported in 2006 by ex-Sen. Max Cleland. Cleland has backed Diane Benson, both in 2006 and 2008. Cleland met briefly with Benson while in Alaska.
Western's four was victorious by nearly five boat lengths in its qualifying heat, winning by nearly 18 seconds, 7:53.85 to 8:11.29, over second-place UC San Diego. Nova Southeastern was third (8:19.57) and Dowling fourth (8:33.48).
Western's Varsity Eight, with Alaskan Audrey Coon, also won their heat, advancing to the second round, to be held Sunday morning, according to the WWU Vikings web site:
"Western's eight won its qualifying heat by over four boat lengths. The Vikings completed the 2,000-meter course in 6:54.29 with Dowling NY second (7:12.00) and Philadelphia PA (7:19.34) third.
"The triumphs advance the nationally No.1-ranked and three-time defending national champion Vikings to Sunday's grand finals with the four competing at 9:15 a.m. and the eight at 9:45 a.m."
Needless to say, Judy and I are pumped. Judy started hyper-ventilating during the race. But she's fine now. We're shopping at one of what must be thousands of malls surrounding the Sacramento core area. We're going to try to find a more rustic RV site for tonight than the one we found in industrial Rancho Cordova last night.
Thursday, May 29, 2008
After turning in our water samples and equipment, we drove into the soon-to-be renamed Anchorage Airport, caught a plane to Seattle, and got a ride to the Fremont Fine Arts Foundry with our friend Pater Bevis. We spent the night with him, getting up early to catch our first Greyhound bus in decades. We were on our way to Portland, where I'd found a very good deal on a small motor home rental.
Peter is thinking of selling his foundry, and setting up new spaces in Eastern Washington, away from the craziness that Fremont has become as the artists have been forced out by rising rental prices and Yuppification.
Peter Bevis was one of the rebellious artists who helped shape the Fremont District into one of Settle's most vibrant arts communities in the 1980s and 90s. He almost abandoned his brilliant bronze sculpture work between 1994 and 2002, as he pursued the chimera of saving the unsaveable - the Art Deco ferry boat, the Kalakala.
When we got to Portland, we walked seven blocks from the bus station to the new light rail junction in the middle of old downtown. We went from the beginning of the line there, to its terminus at Cleveland Station in Gresham.
The train was quite full. The cars were like nothing I've seen anywhere in the USA, let alone the West Coast. More like the suburban Metro trains in the suburbs and outskirts of Paris. It whisked us from downtown to Gresham's east end far more quickly than we could have driven.
The owner of the motor home we're now traveling in picked us up at the station. He's an LDS Bishop, and a friend of one of our old Alaska friends, Terry Robrecht, who went on from heading Alaska's LDS social services, to head their Pacific Northwest social services organization.
Yesterday, we made it as far as the Klamath River, south of Grant's Pass. We'll head out toward Sacramento in a few minutes, to meet our daughter. She and thirteen other young women from Western Washington University will be defending their national NCAA Division II women's rowing championship tomorrow and Friday. Four of the young athletes are Alaskans.
Judy's part: I'm going to add my observations as we go along so friends can read and keep track of the trip. If you're a reader of this blog, please spread the word (Barb, Gini). I like it that our motor home is the smallest one available and that I was able to take a reasonable shower this morning in the tiniest possible space - a marvel of design. We saw a small deer grazing by the side of the road last night, red tail hawks and other birds, but no other wild life. My final observation before we hit the road is that everywhere we have been in Washington and Oregon, it has been the same temperature inside and outside which rarely happens in Alaska.
Neklason Lake Monitoring
sunrise over the Aurora Bridge from foundry roof
supine Chief Seattle
school kids on Portland light rail
Portland light rail at Cleveland terminus
Tuesday, May 27, 2008
Cockerham writes, "the one-day visit to Quinhagak and Bethel on Sunday was classic Stevens. He brings a cabinet official -- in this case Veterans' Affairs Secretary James Peake -- out to some of the nation's most remote spots of human habitation.
"Earmarks follow, and presumably some better appreciation from the officials of what it's like in the Bush."
I was a bit bothered by one comment from Secretary Peake, as described by Sean. Cockerham described the concerns of Bethel Vietnam veteran, John Guinn:
"Guinn told Stevens and Peake he was worried about what's going to happen to the village soldiers back from the Middle East.
"He said everyone is proud of them now. But what happens in a few years when these men, highly trained in combat, can't find jobs, start drinking and going a little crazy, he asked. There aren't people in tiny villages trained to deal with mental health issues, he said.
"It's going to cause a commotion in their village," Guinn said. "I'm scared."
Peake's response surprised me:
"VA secretary Peake suggested some of the concern about post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury has been overblown.
"Many of the brain injuries are serious but some of them are akin to what anyone who played football in their youth might have suffered, Peake told Guinn."
Back in Anchorage Monday, for a ceremony at the National Cemetery at Ft. Richardson, where a Memorial Day wreath was laid by Stevens' likely adversary in November, Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich, Peake spent quite a bit of time with Democratic Party candidate for the U.S. House seat, Diane Benson, discussing her efforts to direct more attention from his agency toward Alaska Native and Native American Veterans.
In November, at the 64th National Congress of American Indians (NCAI), Diane Benson "helped make a resolution that examines the effects of repeated deployments on service members and their families and the physical and psychological impacts of caring for the seriously injured a reality."
I wonder if Peake shared the same thoughts with Benson he did with Vietnam Veteran Guinn? The fact that he sought out Benson, and asked her advice on Veteran's issues was noted by Begich, I've been told. Benson did let Peake know that she will be working later this spring with members of the NCAI on Veteran's issues.
Meanwhile, Don Young, the corrupt bastard Diane Benson and Ethan Berkowitz are vying with each other to challenge, is being scrutinized by the blog CQ Politics. He comes up wanting, as the blog notes some polls show Young trailing Alaska Lt. Gov. Sean Parnell.
The article points out the tremendous outlays Young's war chest has had to deal with since mid-2007, but fails to note his miserable numbers for fundraising during the same period. I predicted as early as November that June 2008 would be the crisis month for Young's campaign financing. I guess we'll soon see.
Young will also be in town, supposedly meeting with the board of the Hispanic Affairs Council of Alaska.
Begich needs to tie Stevens to John McCain. And to George Bush's failing economy, and to his tardy response to Jim Webb's VA Benefit bill, and to his lack of rational approaches to our growing rural crisis. Begich should also continue to note Diane Benson's resonance in these same Alaska communities visited in the past few days by both Stevens and Benson.
the author of this article has been volunteering for and contributing to Diane Benson since 2006, and has contributed to the 2008 Ethan Berkowitz campaign.
In an article at Progressive Alaska on May 15, I went too far in an attempt to describe how both of you have under estimated Diane Benson. You have both objected to me about that characterization. Having spoken to you both, and to others, I now realize the description I used wasn't just careless. It was over the line, and just plain wrong.
I sincerely apologize.
sunrise this morning on Neklason Lake
Monday, May 26, 2008
Remember, these were the overall Super Tuesday numbers:
Barack Obama --- 6,471
Mitt Romney --- 5,177
Mike Huckaby --- 2,596
Hillary Clinton --- 2,138
Ron Paul --- 2,004
John McCain --- 1,837
Sunday, May 25, 2008
You can write to Fox Broadcasting Chairman, Sandy Grushow to protest this outrage.
Or you can ask Ethan Berkowitz to write to Grushow. Grushow has been and is probably continuing to donate to Berkowitz's campaign.
Here's a list of Fox executives, from the News or other divisions, who are contributing to Ethan's campaign, through this PAC:
Sandy Grushow, Fox Broadcasting Chairman
Peter Liguori, Fox Broadcasting President
-- all Fox Executives
Update - 7:30 p.m: I just realized that this list is incomplete, but these names will have to do for now.
“We Must Be the Change”
Lxeis’ yu xaat duwasaakw. Yeil na. Takdeintaan iyaxaat. Gunalcheesh.
Greetings, fellow Democrats. My name is Diane Benson and I am prepared to represent ALL Alaskans in the U.S. House of Representatives.
As candidates we dress for the job, and attempt to look the part while we hope to win. I wonder if I would have gotten a tattoo, or pierced my eyebrow and all those things if I had known I’d run for office someday. To run, I covered the tattoo and took out the eyebrow piercing, but underneath it all what am I? I am a woman who wants to change the face of politics – I want to see women safe, people fed, children educated, and jobs paid well. In my life I left the darkness of despair and walked into the light of hope
We must be the change we wish to see in the world, so are the words attributed to the great humanitarian, Gandhi.
A healthy 23 year old man goes into an Emergency Room with a $1,000 hand injury that he cannot afford – and has no insurance – so he is merely bandaged and sent away. Because he was not properly treated he now has complications qualifying him for disability and requires $100,000 worth of surgery and he’s out of the work force. Wouldn’t it have been better for him and for taxpayers to treat him at the ER? That’s why I support Universal Health Care. It will take Democrats to bring sanity and humanity back to Congress.
An Eagle River family lost their home because their medical bills were too high, and a Vietnam Veteran in the Valley was re-evaluated and lost disability benefits.
Isn’t it in our best interests as a nation to take care of our own? Health care should be a right – not a privilege.
Just recently, another young soldier tells me he doesn’t want to go back, again, he’s been stop-lossed, and I know the look – bombs that shook him too many times – faces of family who need him - I know to the core, what a policy decision may do to him…
I rode on an Air Force aircraft from Germany with my wounded son to Andrews Air Force base; held hands, gave hugs to other wounded – warriors who wished their mothers were there at that moment – Wounded Warriors who prayed openly for my boy. One soldier told me he was putting in a 9 – 1 – 1 call to God for my son.
At some point in our lives we may have a critical life changing moment. That was mine.
When I returned home to Alaska after 3 ½ months at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, I made a choice to run for Congress. I ran for Congress in 2006 when no one else really would. I was willing to take on Don Young and speak to our Democratic principles – I was willing to stand up – even when it wasn’t promising – at all.
Don’t you want a Representative that stands up even when it’s tough?
We must be the change we wish to see in the world.
And it’s going to take a Democrat who can hear ALL the people.
Under my leadership and through my campaign, Democrats did the best in a Congressional race in 16 years.
I never grew up dreaming of being a politician, it’s true. Like most Alaskans I have a varied background. I’m a writer and producer. I’ve worked as a paralegal representing clients in hearings. I’ve been a fisher, dog-musher, public relations director and talent agent. I drove tractor-trailers on the pipe-line, and I paid for my son’s care and my schooling by driving concrete-mixers as a member of Teamsters Local 959. In my life, I have worked on many community events, served on various committees and written and spoken on many issues. Even if I am afraid, I speak up for others. I know how to put principles before personalities, and I know how to contribute rather than divide,
Last week in Bethel – I met with a life-long Republican who has organized the “Republicans for Benson” – he wants real change – in Veteran and health care – and he is fired up with hope through my campaign, it is time for a change,
A picture on a Blog shows me with two supporters; a life-long Peace Activist on one side and a lifelong Navy Veteran on the other –
They know that “these leaders” - have done us wrong and they want a voice that won’t shame either one of them, they want a voice of reason and humanity,
It’s time for a change
In 2006 I felt a call to service and that hasn’t changed. I’m running for that young man refused treatment. I’m running for that family that lost their home because of medical bills, and I’m running for that Veteran in the Valley who lost most his disability. I’m running too… because a war for the wrong reasons took my son’s legs. -A war that we cannot sustain in human or economic costs. I’m running to bring some sanity and humanity back to Congress.
That’s why I, as your Congresswoman, will spend every day fighting for health care. That’s why I, as your Congresswoman will fight to get us out of this war, and will fight to ensure our Wounded Warriors and their families get the support they deserve. That’s why I, as your Congresswoman, will be a voice - for the most silenced among us, and why I will go to Washington D.C.
Democrats are you ready to vote for a true progressive?
I’m ready to promote green technology, development that benefits Alaskans, and clean elections and campaign finance reform, but -
We also need to recognize the external costs to our own society when we make policy. We need to care about the guys behind bars who desire drug and alcohol treatment but can’t get it. We need to care about the folks arrested without Miranda in the name of Home-land Security. We need to care about those without a home and those losing their homes. We need to care about the women suffering at the hand of violence and end this crisis of violence against women. Who else would talk about these things but a woman Democrat?
Are you ready to brave a new day – and vote for a people’s advocate? I ask for your support today. Because I am ready to represent ALL the people – to truly be the change we wish to see in the world.
I am Diane Benson – Your Representative
In an article on the Anchorage Daily News web site, and in Sunday's print edition, ADN writer Sean Cockerham wrote, about Diane Benson's Saturday afternoon speech:
Berkowitz' opponent in the Democratic primary, Diane Benson, said in her speech that she's covered her tattoo and taken out her eyebrow piercing to look like a candidate.
What candidate Benson actually said was:
As candidates we dress for the job, and attempt to look the part while we hope to win. I wonder if I would have gotten a tattoo, or pierced my eyebrow and all those things if I had known I’d run for office someday. To run, I covered the tattoo and took out the eyebrow piercing, but underneath it all what am I? I am a woman who wants to change the face of politics – I want to see women safe, people fed, children educated, and jobs paid well. In my life I left the darkness of despair and walked into the light of hope.
Dear Pat. Dougherty,
Your Sunday web and print editions contain a serious error by one of your best reporters, Sean Cockerham. Please fix it. I'm starting a hearing aid fund for Sean. Would you care to contribute?
One of the most powerful places in Alaska is the Alaska Veterans Memorial near the Parks Highway, at mile 147.2. Each year, on Memorial Day, hundreds of Alaska Veterans and others drive up from Southcentral Alaska or down from the Fairbanks area, to pay tribute to our fallen warriors, our wounded warriors, and to all of those who have served our country in one branch of the armed services or another.
The main features of the memorial are a central, open-air pavilion, various bronze plaques, mounted either on concrete walls, or upon the faces of large rocks, and one of the most impressive stone carvings in our state.
The memorial site, located on a small hill above the highway, looks out over a view of Denali, that allows a glimpse of Denali's south buttress, in a nook between Pease Peak and Mt. Dan Beard.
Canadian sculptor George Pratt's granite work, The Scouts, is a jagged granite icon, placed in the middle of the lower entrance area to the pavilion. Its rugged simplicity evokes the visual art of Rockwell Kent, but also eerily, in the squint and concentration on the Scout's face, shows a hardness - matching the granite itself - one doesn't find in Rockwell Kent's work.
The plaques pay homage to servicemen or Veterans who fell in an untimely way, somewhere in Alaska. One of the access roads is named after the late war hero, James Leroy Bondsteel, who was killed in a bizarre car accident on the old Knik River bridge in April 1987, on the Glenn Highway, back before it was a four-lane road.
Bondsteel, who won the Congressional Medal of Honor while serving as a Green Beret in the Vietnam War, came to Alaska to be a social worker. Interestingly, Bondsteel, or Buddha, as his friends called him for his self-deprecating humor and wisdom, felt his valor that won him the Medal of Honor wasn't his most heroic episode in combat. And he felt that his work with soldiers and their families, and with Veterans and their families at Wasilla's Vet Center - which he started - and at the Veteran's Administration in Anchorage, was the most important thing he did in his life.
I remember, at James Bondsteel's memorial service, held at Ft. Richardson, how some in the audience bridled when an Army chaplain summed up Buddha's life by merely reading his citation for the Congressional Medal of Honor he so richly deserved, but failed to characterize James's life's purpose.
Bondsteel despised the growth of neo-con thinking, the growth of political influence of those who profit from wars, and their influence over our political processes. He predicted, as early a 1984, the breakups of the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia, the possibility of wars in the Persian Gulf involving us, over the control of oil.
I remember as he prepared a couple of Veterans for upcoming disability reviews by the Veterans Administration. He advised the men that, most likely, their review would result in diminution or elimination of the veterans' disabilities. Yes, the VA's history of messing with our Veterans' compensation isn't just a recent event.
Here's my memorial to our fallen warriors, Shards II, played in honor of one of our fallen Iraq War soldiers, late last summer, in Haines. We dedicated this performance to Sgt. 1st Class Daniel E. Scheibner, 40, of Muskegon, Michigan.
Saturday, May 24, 2008
Alaska Democratic Party Convention - Saturday Late Afternoon and Evening -- The Alaska Press Keeps Up With The Pace of Change in Alaska Politics
Three of the options were only available for local Matanuska Telephone Association customers. I'm local and a customer, so I shared my login handle and password with dozens of reporters, bloggers and delegates over the past two days.
A few weeks ago, reporters from Alaska Public Radio Network, the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, the Anchorage Press and KUDO radio shared information and resources to bring to light the weird web redirects that appear to have emanated from a Jake Metcalfe campaign worker. The press collaboration ended that candidate's already flailing campaign.
At the Democratic Party's convention, bloggers and MSM reporters, or, in the case of Sean Cockerham from the Anchorage Daily News, reporter-bloggers, mixed at a couple of six-foot-round tables, set next to a riser for video cameras upon tripods.
Delegates and other convention attendees, as they went about their "fan-outs," credential verifications and other vetting procedures, were taking camera and phone pictures of each other, while bloggers and press wandered about doing the same. Speeches and announcements through the day were recorded in video and audio by a wide mix of chroniclers.
I totally missed the national concern of the importance of how our super delegate count would end. But Steve from What Do I Know? was on top of it. He had recorded the tedious final tallies of results that might inch Barack Obama forward toward the inevitable, posting it quickly at his blog. Then he tracked how national blogs homed in on this. Almost immediately.
David Shurtleff, from APRN had made audio recordings of Ethan Berkowitz's and Diane Benson's unprecedented speeches to the body. Since the whole speeches won't find a program niche at APRN, David sent the audio files to Steve, who managed to post them within minutes of getting the files.
You should listen to them. Ethan's speech is better than I had thought it to be upon first live listening. And so is Diane's. Benson's is perhaps the finest speech by a national level candidate, speaking on issues close to the concerns of women, in Alaska history.
Steve also was able to quickly post videos of excerpts of several important events within a half hour.
Sean Cockerham, from the ADN, managed to get in five blog posts and an article for the Sunday paper. His last Saturday blog post referenced FBI agent Mary Beth Kepner's visit to John Dean's speech. Kepner has talked to UAA Prof Steve Aufrecht's classes about ethical issues surrounding her work. As she caught up with Steve in a corner of Raven Hall, Alaska Report's Dennis Zaki filmed the talk, which he framed into a humor meme at his new DZ Blog.
The big cameras and manicured face people only showed up for the late evening U.S. Senate candidate statements and for John Dean's keynote address. Some of the latecomers, looking around at the debris on and under the two circular media tables, seemed to be thinking "WTF is going on here?"
Comments at Cockerham's ADN blog posts are already complaining that the liberal press should have been as sympathetic back in March toward Randy Reudrich in his fight against Sarah Palin's evil empire as they are being now, in their sympathy toward this dastardly liberal cabal emanating from Raven Hall in Palmer.
I wore four, or perhaps five hats at the convention: Mat-Su Democrat volunteer, delegate, Diane Benson table monitor, and blogger. For a while this afternoon, I got to be the butt of responses from both ex-candidate for U.S. House AK-AL seat Jake Metcalfe, and of current candidate for that seat, Ethan Berkowitz. They both complained about my post in which I dissed Metcalfe's wan 2006 help for Diane Benson's startling campaign, and unfavorably characterized Berkowitz's corrupt, dishonest, neo-con indentured money machine.
Metcalfe, a sore loser, told me, "You're lucky I'm not suing you!" I replied, "You should have fired that asshole last summer when you had a chance."
Ethan, when I pointed out that his acceptance of donations from war criminal Henry Kissenger's main business partner, and from a member of the Carlyle Group's board of directors is pretty frigging kinky, replied, "Do you cash your PFD?"
The only candidate to announce support of the Alaskans for Clean Elections Initiative was Diane Benson. I'm not surprised.
We have a way to go yet, folks. But we're gaining ground.
The highlights of the early afternoon were speeches by Diane Benson and Ethan Berkowitz, our Democratic Party U.S. House candidates, a passionate statement on behalf of Hillary Clinton by California U.S. House Representative, Lynne Woolsey, and an eight-minute-long video from Barack Obama. Each of these four items was of special interest in one way or another.
The only contentious presentation was that of Rep. Woolsey. She was received warmly, as she described the 2008 issues, and the role of Democrats to take back our democracy. As she announced her support of Hillary Clinton, many in the audience protested, some loudly, profanely. But civility returned a bit at a time, a people realized that the 180 to 250 Clinton supporters in the audience needed to have a voice on the podium.
Barack Obama's video, made specifically for Alaskans, was very direct, his grasp of Alaska issues secure. This was helped along by the local knowledge, no doubt shared with the candidate, from key staffers who are from here. If every voter from either party sees this video, it will have an impact. And it would be in Obama's favor.
The Benson and Berkowitz speeches were both well crafted, and they showed some of the growing awareness of differences between these two remarkable peoples' viewpoints, and showed the difference between a person drawn toward politics in mid-life, and one who seems to have aspired to politics most of his adult life.
Ethan Berkowitz came up after a stirring speech by Benson. He didn't warm the audience until well into the delivery. As usual, what got the audience going for him was his genuine passion for full development of Alaska's immense renewable resource potential. But delegates started rolling their eyes as he intoned, again and again, "Rise for hope, rise for change, rise with me for Alaska!" As some of the audience rose, they seemed to resent the strident tone, as he repeated his chant. Some of us who were at the GOP convention, and witnessed Sarah Palin's delivery of her mantra, "Stand up with me for change," were struck by how much less Ethan resonated.
Benson, who has earned some sturdy creds at this convention, delivered the best speech I've ever heard her give as a candidate. She told a string of stories, about how she has built her own life, has successfully struggled as a single mom, and beaten adversity time and again. The stories she told of others, being crushed by our health care system, insurance industry, criminal justice system, a corrupt Veterans Affairs Agency, drew cheers. What drew the most shouts from the audience were her references to women finding a larger voice in our politics.
"My husband did not wrap up the nomination in 1992 until he won the California primary somewhere in the middle of June, right? We all remember Bobby Kennedy was assassinated in June in California. I don't understand it."
Celtic Diva commented on Hillary Clinton's remarks, made yesterday - and, apparently, a few times before - about the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy, Sr, within minutes of his 1968 California primary victory.
It was, like the assassination of JFK, Bobby's older brother, the killing of MLK, the Pearl Harbor attack, the 9-11 attacks, one of those moments. As Gryphen at The Immoral Minority puts it in his blog entry about Hillary's "Macaca moment," "Do you remember where you were when Hillary Clinton's campaign self destructed?"
When I heard about HRC blowing it yesterday, I was helping the Obama table folks at the Alaska Democratic Party Convention with an electrical cord problem. Nobody went "Whoopee!" We just stood there, shaking our heads, sort of wondering, as Linda at Celtic Diva's Blue Oasis wondered, should this be "the last straw" for 50-odd super delegates?
I spoke with Alaska super delegate Blake Johnson from the Kenai Peninsula about this. He just shook his head too, walking off to finish up some committee business.
Both Alaska blogs referenced above have extensive video links to coverage of HRC's fatal day. Figuratively, of course.
The Immoral Minority also reports that, even as HRC continues to NOT apologize to Barack Obama for her very strange remarks, Barack is going to stand in for the ailing Sen. Edward Kennedy at tomorrow's commencement at Wesleyan University. My niece, Margot Munger, who is an Obama volunteer, will be among those graduating at Wesleyan. Go, Margot!
I love it when the Alaska progressive blogs can cover an issue as important as this extensively, with dozens of html hyper-links and embedded video from multiple open sources, while the Anchorage Daily News utterly neglects it. But today's print edition of the ADN does say "We'll be blogging from the state Democratic Party convention in Palmer. For an inside view, check our Alaska Politics blog through the afternoon." I can't find a similar statement in their on-line edition this morning.
That's it for now - off to the fair grounds, to admire the ADN bloggers' inside views! heh...
Friday, May 23, 2008
At the GOP Convention, I saw mostly middle-aged white men, dressed rather well in most cases. Palin's challenge drew a standing ovation that drew a clear line between young and old. All three or four people of color at the GOP Convention stood with them for change.
At today's opening session of the Alaska Democratic Party Convention, at the Palmer fair grounds, I was there for an entirely different scene.
A local Athabaskan dance and song ensemble gave the invocation. After standing silently during a prayer from a leader of the group, people moved from around the huge Raven Hall to watch and listen.
Dewey Taylor, the effusively energetic activist currently concentrating a lot of his energy on Valley recycling, trained kids to help him recycle as much of the convention's waste as possible.
Dewey was hauling a lot of stuff around himself, too. All the Mat-Su Democrats who are volunteering to perform the logistics of the event, are wearing those lime green t-shirts.
Dewey had collection points and signs up all over Raven Hall, and outside, in the environs of the hall, and in the camping area, where more clear distinctions were apparent between our convention and that of the GOP.
I visited the camper park in the early afternoon. Here's what it looked like then.
All day long, families of delegates from around the state mingled with volunteers and their kids. As I pointed out in today's earlier post, things were almost too well organized for it to be labeled a Democratic Party event. The comfort level and easy ambience, combined with the multi-racial character of the happily energized crowd made for thousands of smiles.
Unlike the GOP Convention, the delegates included a lot of teachers from around the state. Here's a picture of teachers from Bethel, Anchorage and the Valley discussing the deepening crisis in Bush education, arguing about solutions. The coolest thing about this picture is that Kathy Jackman, standing, in volunteer t-shirt, is the mother of two teachers. But even cooler, her two kids were in my wife's first multi-grade elementary class in Whittier.
Only a bit more than half of the delegates were there for the mid-afternoon candidate introduction. Unlike the tension so overloading at the GOP Convention, when the audience in Palmer started listening to the speeches by many of our state legislators, and by Diane Benson and Ethan Berkowitz, the feedback in the room had an optimistic ring.
The very warm responses to Diane Benson's introduction and short call to action surprised some, including me. It made me wish I had brought my decibel meter.
After the candidates introduced themselves, the gathering broke into clusters. Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich was supposed to conclude the candidates' remarks, but he showed up after things broke up. There was a accident on the Glenn Highway in the outbound Glenn Highway lanes at about 3:15. And it was Memorial Day Friday.
It's starting to drizzle outside, but the sun looks like it want to break on through over above Pioneer Peak. The Credentials, Party Plan, Platform and Resolutions Committees are meeting now - two here, two elsewhere. A couple hundred people have registered.
The Alaska Democratic Party Chairwoman, Patti Higgins stopped by Diane Benson's table a bit to ask me to pass on to Diane that on Saturday, California Representative Lynn Woolsey will be attending the convention. Woolsey wants to meet Benson again. I helped Patti - and a few others here - set up her laptop in the weird wireless environment we have here.
Not many from the press here yet - that's understandable. But, unlike the GOP Convention last winter, a lot of kids wandering around, taking advantage of the size of Raven Hall to skate around in those shoes with little wheels in the soles.
This is so different from the atmosphere of the business suit & 4-star hotel atmosphere of the GOP Convention at the Captain Cook. There were more Alaskan people of color helping set up yesterday evening than there were minorities on the floor of the GOP Convention. It is so refreshing to see the real America here.
Platform Committee meeting this morning
Thursday, May 22, 2008
He's covered almost every kind of subject matter an Alaskan can imagine. His show, Talk of Alaska, heard all around our state every Tuesday from 10:00 to 11:00 a.m. always seeks to be as timely and topical as scheduling can allow.
He gets to interview experts in many areas. Earlier this week, he interviewed John W. Dean, Richard Nixon's Chief Counsel at the time of the Watergate break-in and the beginning of the cover-up. Dean has since gone on to become a critic of the corrupt political paradigm that drove such people as Nixon and George W. Bush to abandon comity, common sense and our constitution.
Today, KUDO's Shannyn Moore, the most dynamic radio personality in recent Anchorage history, interviewed Dean for an hour too. Both hers and Heimel's interviews are part of the introduction and promotion of Dean's upcoming keynote address, this Saturday evening, at the Alaska Democratic Party Convention in Palmer, at the Alaska State Fair grounds.
I listened to Steve's entire interview. Heimel has a keen sense of the times that have shaped Dean's metamorphosis. That helped make the interview one of Talk of Alaska's best ever. Dean appreciated Steve's ease and dry wit.
I was only able to catch the last part of Shannyn's Dean segment today. And that was too bad, because I was interested in comparing her methods to Steve's and Dean's response to two skilled questioners. What I heard, though, was interesting.
Dean seemed intrigued with Moore's control of explosive metaphor, laughing at the images she drew more than once. I was driving around in my pickup truck, with my dog nudging me, boxes falling over, stops to make as I picked up materials to bring over to the fair grounds for the convention set-up. And KUDO, whose signal sucks in the Valley, sucks even more on old Chevy radios. I couldn't take notes.
An hour earlier, I had been able to get more of Moore's interview with another important, controversial and patriotic American - Scott Ritter. Nobody in the USA tried harder, more articulately or with more determination in the face of slime attacks by the Fascist dogs that are called neo-Conservatives, than did Ritter.
As the chief weapon inspector for the UN in Iraq in most of time between Bush War I and Bush War II, he had unique knowledge about Iraqi war making potential before the present phase of the Iraq War. He was lauded when he said things the neo-cons could shape in their favor, vilified when he disagreed with them.
I've read a lot of Ritter's articles, and two of his books. He's been more accurate about the situation in the Persian Gulf than anyone. He's trying to stop the upcoming Iran War, which both he and I believe is inevitable before the middle of October.
I called in, asking if he thought the United States and Israel have succeeded in creating and deploying a second generation of enhanced radiation nuclear weapons. He replied, saying (I'm paraphrasing - dog, truck, boxes flying around), "They have. It shows in changes in both countries' announced nuclear war fighting policies over the past two years."
My radio then went out of range, as I neared The Butte.
As Independent Alaskan reported yesterday and today, a few weeks ago, Sen. Ted Stevens (R - toobz are not a truck) was hosted by the HACA as their Senator.
Here's Independent Alaskan's post on this from today:
It seems that there was an internal miscommunication issue between board members and the usage of the pictures from the meeting with Ted Stevens. Permission was granted to the campaign office, rather than the Senate office. However, the intent and the understanding was for them to be used in connection with the Senator's official business and not in connection with his campaign. As I said before, the event was with him as an elected official and not a candidate.
A formal request for the removal of the pictures has been made, but because a board member told his campaign staff (I finally confirmed this) that it was OK to use them there, the campaign cannot be blamed for the improper use of the pictures.
[Update] The pictures will be removed and they have apologized for the confusion. The request to post them apparently came from a campaign staffer and for the campaign's site and not from the Senator's office in D.C.
I disagree. It appears to me, that anyone representing either the senator's public team, or his campaign team should have known that to have the senator appear before the body as their senator, and then to tout the appearance at their campaign site - even briefly - is a violation of Federal campaign rules. Probably more than one. The pictures themselves are far less of an issue than the breach of public trust and sense of entitlement beyond the law, in which the GOP is constantly, and so willfully engaged.
It appears that the photos are already down. But I know that the Mark Begich campaign was already onto this, taking screenshots, early this morning. Good luck squirming out of this one, Stevens campaign staffers....
Update - Thursday noon: case in point. I just received this:
Dear Mr. Munger,
I work with the Stevens for Senate Committee. I wanted to respond to your calls to the campaign office and the Senator's official office about photos from a meeting the Senator had with the Hispanic Affairs Council of Alaska.
That meeting was on a weekend in a restaurant in Anchorage. The Senator had been asked to meet with that group and was happy to do so. After the meeting individuals (not official senate staff or campaign staff) who attending the meeting sent photos they had taken of the event to campaign staff. Campaign staff asked if we could post the photos on our web site and campaign staff was told by e-mail that we could. The photos to my knowledge were not sent to any official staff and no one from the official office ever asked about posting the photos on the offical web site. The captions for the photos did not indicate or imply an endorsement of the Senator by this group.
We now have been asked to remove the photos from the campaign website by the official with HACA who we were told had said we could post the photos. In light of that request the photos were removed from the site this morning.
There is absolutely nothing improper with our campaign making use of photos taken at an event by people attending that event who send us the pictures and give us permission to post them on our web site. I hope this clarifies this matter.
Paid for by the Stevens for Senate Committee
image by Dennis Zaki
Kevin Brown, Chairman of the Mat-Su Democrats, and co-chair of the Convention Committee, tells me that bloggers will be welcomed to the event, and can register for free as members of the press. As far as I know, everything will be done to give bloggers and reporters with computers a space or spaces in which to work.
Wireless is already available at the hall, through Matanuska Telephone Association and through the Mat-Su Democrats. The MTA access is free to their wireless subscribers, but the Mat-Su Democrats access is open to anyone in the hall.
Today, John Dean will be on KUDO's Shannyn Moore Show, from 2:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. You can tune in at 1080 on the AM dial, or listen to Dean then on the web at this spot.
(From 5:00 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. today, Kevin Brown, Mat-Su Democrats Chairman and Convention co-chair, will be on CC's KUDO program)
Here's John Dean's Alaska schedule:
8-9 AM Continental Breakfast at Raven Hall, the convention site (though John may decide to eat in Palmer)
9-12 PM Sign books in Raven Hall at Fireside Books' table with David, Melissa Cheezem, bookstore owners; with breaks, of course.
Noon-1:00 Lunch, Raven Hall
1:30 - 3:00 Fireside Books for a "Meet/Greet/Book Signing;" in Palmer, about a mile from the convention site. Transportation, of course, will be provided. Actually, any time John wants "out," we will accommodate! (Or he may want to walk around on his own.)
6:00 PM Cocktail Reception and Book Signing with John, Hoskins Hall, across the courtyard from Raven Hall.
7:30 PM Banquet, with 3 speakers before John. Should be over by 10 PM.
11:15 AM Drive to Anchorage
12:30-1:30 Title Wave Books for Q&A and signing, in Anchorage
2:00 PM To airport and HOME!
special thanks should be extended to Gini King-Taylor for handling Mr. Dean's radio appearances, other contacts, and Alaska itinerary!
FRIDAY, MAY 23
7 a.m. - 10 p.m. Registration
8 a.m. - 4 p.m. Committee work (Credentials, Party Plan, Platform, Resolutions)
4-5 p.m. Election 2008 Overview; Candidate introductions
How You Can Help Ensure Democratic Wins in 2008
5-7 p.m. Meeting of Party Adjunct Organizations
• Alaska Young Democrats
• Democratic Veterans of Alaska Caucus
• Alaska Democratic Native Caucus
5:30-8 p.m. Meet the Candidates Reception
9 p.m. Bonfire on Fair Grounds with Story Teller
SATURDAY, MAY 24
8 - 11 a.m. Registration Continues [Note: Delegates must have registered by 12 p.m. to participate in the presidential fan out]
8:30 a.m. Call to Order, Invocation, Presentation of Colors, Welcome; 8:00-9:00 Continental Breakfast by Turkey Red Bakery
9 a.m. Remarks by State Party Chair
9:10 a.m. Convention Business Review
9:20 a.m. National Convention Update
9:30 a.m. Recognition of Candidates and Alaska Legislators
2008 Legislative Report
10 a.m. Committee Reports
11 a.m. Regional Caucuses
• Ethan Berkowitz, Candidate for Congress
• Diane Benson, Candidate for Congress
1:00 p.m. Presidential FAN OUT
Allocation of Delegates and Alternates and Election of Delegates and Alternates to the Democratic National Convention:
District-Level Delegates (8) and Alternates (3)
4 p.m. Unpledged Add-On Delegate (1)
PLEO Delegates (2)
At-Large Delegates (3) and Alternate (1)
6 p.m. Cocktail Reception and Book Signing with John Dean
$50 per person. All who attend will receive autographed copy of Broken Government: How Republican Rule Destroyed the Legislative, Judicial, and Executive Branches, John Dean.
Click here for John Dean Reception and Banquet Registration Form
7:30 p.m. JEFFERSON-JACKSON DINNER
• Frank Vondersaar, Candidate for U.S. Senate
• Ray Metcalfe, Candidate for U.S. Senate
• Mark Begich, Candidate for U.S. Senate
• John Dean, Keynote Speaker
SUNDAY, MAY 25
9 a.m. Reconvene General Session
9:15 a.m. Election of 2009-2010 ADP officers and Selection of 2010 and 2012 Host Cities
10:15 a.m. Vote on Report of the Party Plan of Organization Committee
11:15 a.m. Vote on Report of the Platform Committee
12:30 p.m. Vote on Report of the Resolutions Committee
2 p.m. Adjourn
Wednesday, May 21, 2008
Hi Mr. Munger-
My name is Katherine Gill and I work at the Daily News. It was brought to my attention that you posted a photo of Bill Roth's on your blog. We have a copyright fee of $100 to post photos on a website. Please contact me at email@example.com if you would like to proceed with paying the fee, or please remove the photo from your website.
Hi, Ms. Gill
Why do I have to remove the photo or pay the fee? I've used many photos from your paper before. This is the first time this has come up.
Was there something different about this particular image and its use, or are you going to go back through my blog posts, asking me to remove any images for which you might charge a similar fee?
I've commented here and elsewhere about your photo policy or whatever you call it in-shop, but this is the first time someone from your organization has contacted me by any means.
Until you or somebody from your company answers here, the image stays.
Oh, yeah. Bill Roth is one incredible photographer. Anyone who wants to pay tribute to the art of Bill's photography at the ADN, feel free to comment.
Update - Wednesday 8:30 a.m: The last time this came up, IIRC, was when the ADN asked Theresa at My Fairbanks Life to do the same, when, as part of a story, she posted an image by Marc Lester. There is an interesting comment to her post on the incident by Steve Aufrecht.
Update - Thursday 6:30 a.m: The image of Mr. Joo has been removed here and at last Sunday's arts post.
Tuesday, May 20, 2008
Bent Alaska caught up today with an article in the April 8 edition of longtime gay rights journal, the Advocate, that lists Anchorage as "one of the top five emerging cities for gays and lesbians."
2006 POPULATION (ESTIMATED): 278,700
SAME-SEX COUPLES PER 1,000 HOUSEHOLDS: 7.54
RANK CHANGE FROM 2000 TO 2006: 74 to 54
Unlike the other destinations in our list, Anchorage is the largest and most well-known city in its state. Subarctic, profoundly remote, and teeming with wildlife like moose, bears, and whales, Alaska may not be for everyone. But Anchorage's spectacular parks and gardens, multiple recreational centers, half dozen or so major museums, and its restaurant scene supplied by fresh Alaskan seafood and fresh produce from the warmer Matanuska-Susitna (or "Mat-Su" ) Valley ensure that there are plenty of stimulating options to get you through the long, cold winters.
Culturally the city has a hip Pacific Northwest feel similar to Portland, Ore., and Vancouver, Canada. And downtown's 5th Avenue is a favorite neighborhood for gay men because of its proximity to three gay bars and the gay community center, while many lesbians live out near Airport Heights and West Anchorage.
It's surprising just how gay Anchorage is. For out-of-town guests there are two specifically LGBT B&Bs, plus a gay outdoor adventure tour company, Out in Alaska, which uses the city as a base for many of its trips. Mayor Mark Begich created a diversity initiative to help promote understanding of all Anchorage's minority groups--and there are many. "There are over 95 languages spoken in the Anchorage school district," explains Shelly Wozniak, 33, a publicist who lived in a Fairbanks cabin with no running water for nine years before moving to Anchorage with her partner Cady, 32, and their kids Iva, 14, and Cecilia, 11. "We don't live in a gayborhood," she says. "But my straight neighbors are fantastic people. We look out for each other and chat on the front lawns just like anybody else in America."
An adventurous soul who hikes, snowboards, and bikes with her kids on weekends, Wozniak deeply values the city's cultural offerings. "We have a unique international community here. We are Alaska's largest village--with representation from the 11 distinct Alaska native groups in the city." If that weren't enough, Anchorage has sizable Hmong, Pacific Islander, German, Russian, Asian, and Hispanic communities, each adding its own distinct flavor to the city. Add the fact that 91% of Anchorage's adults are high school graduates, some 65% have attended one to three years of college, and 11% hold advanced degrees, and you have a multicultural city with a dedication to diversity and education.
But what really counts here is the land. "No matter what's happening in my day, I walk out of my house and see the awe-inspiring Chugach Mountains and the beauty of Cook Inlet, and I know in my heart that life is really good," Wozniak emphasizes. "When you live here, you really gain a perspective on life and your place in it. I understand that there are wonders in this world that I cannot even begin to comprehend. The epic landscape really puts things in perspective."