Thursday, January 31, 2008

A Tribute to Kay Brown and Shannyn Moore

Kay Brown, Communication Director for the Alaska Democratic Party, has, almost single-handedly, steered that party in a more progressive direction on a par with Democratic Party organizations outside of Alaska. She spearheaded efforts there to attempt to get accurate information from the Murkowski - and now the Palin - administrations on details of discrepancies between hand-written precinct information, Division of Elections published data, and the embedded information on the 2006 election held as proprietary information by the Diebold Company, the maker of our two most widely used electronic voting machines.

She has been a hallmark of stability at Dem HQ, while party chair Jake Metcalfe used party resources to prepare to launch his US House campaign, and, most recently, while current Party Chair Patti Higgins looked around for better office space for US House candidate Ethan Berkowitz.

More than anyone else, Kay Brown has been the motivator behind the Democratic Party's efforts to make the upcoming Super Tuesday Party Caucuses a success with meaning, one that will help to build the Party here. I predict that, because of the efforts of Kay and others at the state and local levels in organization of the caucuses, we may make national news regarding the high number of people turning out to caucus.

Caucusing seems pretty retro compared to electronic balloting. But, even given the lack of privacy involved in caucusing, at least we can be sure our vote counts. As comparison, here's what Californians can look forward to on Super Tuesday:


Sheesh! Along with Kay Brown, the Alaskan to make the shortcomings" of electronic voting an important issue for us, is KUDO's Shannyn Moore. She has interviewed both Brad Friedman of Bradblog, and muckraker extraordinaire Greg Palast, on the perils of electronic voting on her late morning talk show. She commented here the other day that she hopes to be able to interview FBI whistleblower Sibel Edmonds on the air soon. Some of Shannyn's recent work at KUDO seems to validate my post here back in December, titled The Arrogance of Pat Dougherty.

Frank's Back - Two Contests

I've spotted two "contests" on the ever-popular ex-Gov. and GOP criminal enterprise enabler Frank Murkowski's return to the state he governed so ineptly for four years.

Steve Aufrecht, at What Do I Know? blog has written the best article yet about what possibly makes Frank tick. He wants to know what others feel about why Frank left his comfy position for life in the US Senate to run for Governor of Alaska in 2002:

I’ve been waiting for someone to have a contest. The winner would be the person who would write the best answer to the question: Why Did Frank Murkowski Leave the US Senate to Run for Governor? I think we’d get a lot of interesting entries. But since the ADN said yesterday that Murkowski has returned to the state to get the gas pipeline going and no one seems to be holding that contest, I’m just going to have to post my answer here.

And over at the Alaska Report's Political Blog, Dennis Zaki's post on why Frank is back now has elicited another contest of sorts.... kwalters invites it in the comments:

Let's start a list...Copy this post and repost with your own additions!!!

1. Cut the Longevity bonus and screwed seniors!
2. Cut Denali Kid Care and denied 3,000 kids!
3. Put the Habitat Division into the DNR...(the pot now calls the kettle black)
4. Overpaid for the Corporate Jet that no one wanted.
5. Flew personal trips on Alaska's dime.
6. Pardoned Whitewater engineering. They were found guilty of negligent homicide and manslaughter in the tragic death of Gary Stone.
7. After his 3rd place 19% incumbent loss, Frank took an official junket to China on Alaska's dime.
8. Frank as a LAME duck flew the jet to the lower 48 for a conference just days before he left office...again on Alaska's dime...

An observation from watching and reading the comment sections of posts this past week at the Alaska Report's new political blog - the commenters are far more on topic and respectful toward each other at the Alaska Report than they were at the Anchorage Daily News when the latter started their blogs last summer.

I think Frank came back to do more dirty deeds for Conoco-Phillips, but will soon find himself spending more time negotiating with the FBI about his future than with legislators or Palin administration functionaries, negotiating about ours.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

erin and hig at UAA yesterday

Thanks to everyone who helped put together yesterday evening's presentation by erin and hig at the UAA Arts recital hall. Especially to Mariano Gonzales from the Art Department for sponsoring the show, and to Brian, for his tech help.

The place holds 200. I counted 214 heads at the middle of their talk. Roman Dial compared their adventure to the most amazing in Alaska in recent years. erin and hig's presentation was remarkably polished, considering that this is only the third time they've given it. They took questions for about 25 minutes after the talk. Then they let people paw through their gear up on the stage. The whole thing went great!

I forgot to bring my camera. sorry...

The Mat-Su Valley's Karl Rove

I suppose Tuckerman Babcock, the eminence grise at Matanuska Electric Association, might like that characterization. He certainly doesn't look the part he plays.

He's the person we have the most to thank for our incredibly weird-shaped and just plain Gerrymandered State Legislative Districts. Babcock's official title at MEA is Assistant General Manager. The reality is that he's the brains behind one dumb idea after another there.

The explanations he comes up with for why the utility is operated as it is, are sometimes hilarious. His responses to reporters' questions on the utility's management circle's recommendation to co-op members to vote against a proposed bylaw change fit the hilarious category.

A few years back, when Valley progressive activist Mike Janacek won a seat on the MEA Board, the Babcock-led leadership and board members did everything they could to throw debris in front of Janacek's path to his seat. One of the things Babcock did was to engage surrogates like ex-GOP State Treasurer Fred Agree to spread untrue information through innuendo about Janacek and marijuana. Janacek, who is a legendary running coach, sports announcer, retired high school teacher and advocate for youth activities is the opposite of somebody with a drug problem. He's probably, over the years, saved enough kids from alcohol or drug problems through his help and interventions as coach and advocate, to deserve a medal.

But the truth seldom matters to people like Babcock and Agree. Eventually, Babcock got the MEA board to require mandatory drug tests for new board members, to be taken between the election and their seating. A newly elected board member must have a third party take a sample of hair - several entire strands. Then the hair is tested at a lower-48 lab.

I've been looking around the country, searching the web, on how many utility co-ops require new board members to submit to drug testing. I found on. MEA. Still looking for a second one.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Prez Bush to Don Young - "Bite Me!"

I suppose W is flipping off St. Ted Stevens too, but isn't the Dom supposed to take this stuff seriously? I only listened to about 35 minutes of the Shrub's final State of the Union speech, and haven't watched it, so I have no idea how Young reacted to Bush's statement, "the people's trust in their government is undermined by congressional earmarks, special-interest projects that are often snuck in at the last minute, without discussion or debate."

If that statement doesn't fit Young's unconstitutional Coconut Road earmark change from 2005, during Young's and the GOP's heyday of earmark mania, I don't know how Bush might have put it better.

Last time somebody attempted to tread on Young's - and his 2008 campaign's - sole current campaign plank, Young threatened to kill him. Maybe Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma is relieved that the heat is off the Senator. Coburn had this to say about Bush's earmark statements last night:

"The American people want to see the Washington earmark favor factory shut down, not downsized or placed under new management. How many more earmark-related investigations, search warrants and indictments have to be issued before Congress gets the message that it's time to end this practice?"

I have to agree with Sen. Coburn, seen here at the opening of the Ten Commandments monument 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."

But with earmarks being shut down, what does that leave Rep. Young and Sen. Stevens to run with in their campaigns? Their incorruptibility?

Bush also flipped off America's poor, a sentiment, unlike his gesture to Stevens and Young, I can't identify with. His Pell Grant for Kids proposal, funded miserably at the $300,000,000 level, would give each poor child in the USA $20. But by making his tax cuts for the wealthy permanent, he would give every American millionaire $287,000. So, while America's poor don't even get enough to buy, as muckraker Greg Palast put it so well this morning, the newest Harry Potter book, America's millionaires get enough to send eight kids to the Andover Academy, W's alma mater, for a year.

Palast was interviewed yesterday morning by KUDO's Shannyn Moore. Some very good radio, touching upon the upcoming Supreme Court review of the Exxon Valdez oil spill class action suit, which, Palast predicts, will be Bong Hits 4 Exxon...

Monday, January 28, 2008

Progressive Alaska Report

Comments to the last 14 Voice of the Times articles - 9

Comments to the last 14 PA posts - 28
(I'm slipping)

The day PA posted a serious article about the state's refusal to grant Prof. Rick Steiner access to Polar bear data unless he forks over a half a million dollars - January 13

The day the Anchorage Daily News finally carried somebody else's serious article on this issue - January 28

The day the ADN carries their own article seriously addressing this abuse of scientific inquiry - ?

Number of articles at PA on the Sibel Edmonds revelations being unveiled overseas - 3

Number of articles in all Alaskan MSM outlets on this - zero

Alaska Report reports on last Friday's 6% decline in McClatchy stock here.

Hickel, then Knowles - and now Berkowitz - Endorse Obama

Wally Hickel endorsed Barack Obama in an Anchorage Daily News op-ed nine days ago. Tony Knowles has come out in radio ads supporting the Illinois Senator. Now, ex-Alaska Representative and U.S. House candidate Ethan Berkowitz has joined in. He just endorsed Obama on CC's Cutting Edge on KUDO. On the national level, Massachusetts Senator Edward Kennedy endorsed Obama this morning.

There has never been such interest in Alaska presidential caucuses before, at least that I can remember. Moving the date to Super Tuesday helped, but as I've been saying since early November, interest in ALL Alaska races by progressives is rising, as - generally speaking - the far right here is sinking, reeling and depressed.

I'm going to try to find out if registration numbers for either the Republican Party or for the Democrats here are up.

Valerie Plame and Sibel Edmonds

Marcy Wheeler, author of Anatomy of Deceit, the most comprehensive book on the intentional outing of CIA agent Valerie Plame by Vice President Cheney, and the roll-up of Plame's network of anti-nuclear proliferation agents in the Middle East and elsewhere, doesn't mention Sibel Edmonds in the endnotes. There is no index, but I don't remember Edmonds coming up in the book's narrative.

And that isn't surprising. Much information has come out on this case only after publication of Wheeler's book in January, 2007, just before the beginning of the trial of Irving Libby. And Wheeler's book only deals with Richard Armitage, surely to be one of the future's key players in how the demise of Brewster-Jennings played out, in passing, near the end of her narrative and timeline.

When Armitage's name first surfaced in 2006 as having been named back on November 14, 2005 in a deposition given by Bob Woodward as a "leaker," Wheeler fell for the meme that Armitage is known as a notorious gossip around the Beltway. I wrote to her then that Armitage has been known by people who don't write stuff down, for a long time, as a major player in illegal arms dealing and drug smuggling. I told her then that I had first been apprised in early 1984 of Armitage's shady "import-export" past by my friend James Bondsteel, a Congressional Medal of Honor recipient who had had the misfortune of working with Armitage in Southeast Asia during the final spasms of our Vietnam experience.

Now, Armitage has surfaced in the second and third installments of the Times of London's articles in which Edmonds tells what she has been barred from saying in our country.

We need to know more about what Edmonds read and heard. I owe it to James Buddha Bondsteel to help get the truth out.

Update - Monday 1:15 p.m: Luke Ryland at Democratic Underground interviewed Sibel Edmonds yesterday.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

erin and hig at UAA Tuesday Evening

erin and hig, the trekkers who have journeyed from Seattle to Anchorage by foot, pack raft and skis, on their way to Unimak Island, without any assistance from motorized transport - either for themselves or for food drops or other help - will be giving a multimedia presentation at the University of Alaska Anchorage Tuesday evening at 7:30 p.m.

They'll be presenting at the recital hall in the Fine Arts Building on the eastern edge of campus.
Visual artist and photographer Mariano Gonzales, head of the UAA Art Department is sponsoring the event, which I'm producing. Alaska Pacific University professor and renowned adventurer Roman Dial will introduce erin and hig.

Their presentation is free, and you can park in the Fine Arts Building parking lot FOR FREE. I put that in upper case because people are wary of the UAA campus parking police.

They'll be on the air Thursday afternoon (please note the change from Monday to Thursday) at 3:30 p.m. with Aaron Selbig on KUDO-AM 1080, and on KRUA-FM 88.1 later in the week - probably Friday afternoon.
Nobody has ever done before what these two have already done. And they're not quite two-thirds the way toward their goal. I can't stress enough how unique and interesting this presentation will be, folks.

Charlie's Gonna Be Walking on Air Monday

The picture, taken yesterday, is of Wasilla GOP Senator Charlie Huggins' son Cody, guarding Juneau's Reese Saviers, as Reese drives to the basket against Colony's boys' basketball team in a grudge rematch from last year's quarter finals at the state tournament. Like last year, Juneau came up short in what was a closer game than the final score - Colony 64 -- Juneau 54 - indicates.

I've watched young Cody play sports far longer than his dad has been a senator. He and my son have played on the same teams, and against each other, depending on the year or sport. Cody, always a talented and motivated athlete, was sort of a "gunner" when he was young, but has turned into an excellent team player, helping out one of the best teams in the state this year, in a major way. He had a great game yesterday, finishing with 12 points.

Senator Huggins is a team player of a sort, too. His team is big oil. He wants to rack up a lot of points for these fat cats during the current session. He's trying to block the shots already taken by another Mat-Su Valley basketball star, Gov. Sarah Palin. She stole the GOP's slimy ball in the 2006 election, then scored a series of three-pointers from outside during last year's special session tournament. The players for the CBC (Corrupt Bastards' Club) team have been plotting strategy for the grudge match ever since.

Cococo-Phillips, playing the role here of the infamous Renato William Jones in the 1972 Olympics Basketball tournament, is trying to reset the clock in favor of big oil. To top that off, big oil has pimped their cutest presstitute, Dan Fagan, to call a "foul" against the Governor, similarly to the way the 1972 USSR coach, Vladamir Kondrashin, introduced us to a new kind of basketball. Fagan's more used to playing quarter court basketball against girls than accepting any sort of a manly challenge, but big oil, in their desperation, always knows they can count on him to at least be their water boy, mopping up the spills.

Don't you love these uber capitalists and wingnut welfare recipients taking their plays from a Communist playbook? The Alaska Report's new political blog is getting some interesting comments on this.

One thing is certain, though. Sen. Huggins, who is justifiably proud of his kids' achievements (I use plural, because his daughter Haley, having never pole vaulted before 2007, is poised to set a West Point Women's Track pole vault record this spring), is going to be ornery and feisty this coming week. Watch out for him leading big oil's full-court press.

Go Knights!

photo by Michael Penn - Juneau Empire

Friday, January 25, 2008

Diane Benson and Civil Rights - Part One

I've been contemplating writing about Diane Benson's longtime role in the continuing battle for civil rights in Alaska for a while. I was first drawn to helping this charismatic candidate because of her stances on other issues. But it has been obvious to me since the late summer of 2006 that many are drawn toward Diane because she is an icon to them on civil rights, for one reason or another.

In October 2006, I was trying to write an article about Don Young for the blog Down With Tyranny. I was hashing out with her 2006 campaign manager, Kris Pierce, how to describe Young's enabling of Jack Abramoff's lobbying efforts to exempt workers in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, imported there from China and the Philippines, from being paid minimum wages or having access to the rights preferred to American workers, while they labored to make goods labeled "Made in the USA."

Diane walked into the office. She sat down and listened to us argue how to frame Young's and Abramoff's acts. Eventually, she jumped in. Diane asked, "Would Don have let this happen to people who weren't dark-skinned?"

Kris said, "Duh?"

We sat there for almost a half minute. Diane broke the silence. "I've seen this my entire life."

If you look at Diane Benson's biography, you'll see a person not regarded as "white" overcoming the obstacles confronted every day in America by people of color. Raised as an Alaska Native, often in foster homes, she was assaulted in many ways not mentioned in the biographies or wikipedia entries. Like many women of color, the long list of insults, assaults and crimes thrown at her were as much problematically generic as they certainly were personal. The lack of interest in the media and in the political establishment in these aspects of her past don't bother Benson to distraction, because she's focused and turned that rage into working efforts that improve the lot, the status, and - most importantly - the future - of people of color into a much better place.

I keep on hoping that issues of racism in Alaska will somehow recede into our past. But they aren't, are they? Look at the new push by Anchorage Assemblyman Paul Bauer to have an advisory initiative, generally perceived to be race baiting, placed on the April ballot there. The legislature is putting new legislation designed to help alleviate the extremely high costs of largely Native communities on the back burners, preferring to take up bills that will get urban Alaskans to buy more junk from Wal Mart. The only person seemingly interested in helping offset these costs for our largely Native communities in bush Alaska is another Native American - Hugo Chavez.

I've mentioned here before that I'm a volunteer for Diane Benson. I worked on her 2006 campaign. As much regard as I have for Jake Metcalfe and Ethan Berkowitz, a respectable portion of my willingness, my passion, to keep fighting for Benson in the face of Ethan's perceived "electability" is the central importance of her place in this continuing battle for complete civil rights for all Alaskans. I'm sure they would fight for these issues, but Benson has an intrinsic understanding of them neither of those coddled white male attorneys could hope for.

I'll be taking this up again soon.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

One Sick Puppy

Progressive Alaska Poll:

Does Paul Bauer know he's one of the slimiest racists in recent Alaska history, or is he just plain stupid?

His idiocy is bound to be overshadowed soon by the next round of indictments, but he's getting his 15 minutes once again. Bauer's tenacity, though, is special stuff. Which bring me to a second poll question:

Did Paul cook the advisory vote brainblast himself, or does the GOP hate machine have a hand in this?

Anyway - new poll up.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Three, uh, Four New Progressive Blogs

The Alaska Report has added three blogs to their site. One is on Alaska politics. One is on Alaska media. And Alaska Report is hosting Ray Metcalfe's new blog.

Ray, seen here accepting the 2007 Alaska Muckraker of the Year Award from Cook Inlet Keeper in Homer last November 30, has had a web presence for a while at the Republican Moderate Party site. You can contact Ray there, but there's no comment section.

Ray has kicked off the blog with a newly expanded and updated version of his document/report, Military Housing, Political Influence & Real Estate Transactions. He calls it An argument in support of the “Clean Elections Initiative.”

I suggest you download the paper - it is an ms word file. Ray suggested to me back in early December that he believes Mark Begich's hands are in some real estate deals that could get him and a few of his buddies into some serious trouble with the law.

Metcalfe appears to have modified and added information about Mayor Begich since a shorter version of his document was distributed last summer. Given the fact that the original created quite a stir, with some ADN political blog commenters back then suggesting that Metcalfe might be sued by Begich for defamation, the re-publication of this material in slightly modified form is interesting - and provocative.

The Alaska Report media blog writes right off about Steve Aufrecht's column comparing Anchorage Daily News (actually, a reprint of a Tundra Drums story) and Newsweek stories about aspects of Alaska village life.

I've added the three blogs to our blogroll at PA.

Update - Thursday morning: I've also added subarctic mama to the progressive blog roll!

Erin and Hig Near Anchorage

I met Erin McKittrick and Bretwood Higman yesterday morning. They had spent the previous night with a friend at his house above the Old Glenn Highway, between Palmer and the Butte. You could look out the window and see the lower Matanuska River flood plain as it meanders behind the long-closed Fireside Restaurant building. I couldn't stay for more than a few minutes - just long enough to show them a draft of the poster I'd created to announce their multimedia presentation next week at UAA, which I'm producing and the UAA Art Department is sponsoring.

They didn't stay at their friend's house for long, either. Long enough to rest, clean up, do some laundry and update their blog. They had some questions for me: How did the lower Matanuska look from the Glenn Highway freeway? Not very full. How did the Knik River look from the bridge? OK, but a narrow channel. How does the Knik Arm channel work from Birchwood over to Fish Creek and the northern edge of Goose Bay? And so on. I wasn't a whole lot of help.

They are a striking couple. Young - she's 27, he's 30. They look younger. You'd better believe they are fit right now, but they don't look extraordinary in a way that would give away the amazing feat in which they're now fully engaged. And happy. Here's a link to their bios.

They're hoping to make Anchorage either Thursday evening or Friday by mid-day. I'm helping get the word out to the media in a way that Erin and Hig approve. They'll probably be on Aaron Selbig's KUDO program on Friday at 3:30 p.m. or at that same time Monday.

Their first public presentation in Anchorage will be on Tuesday evening, January 29, at 7:30 p.m. in the Recital Hall at the UAA Fine Arts Building. The talk, slide and YouTube video presentation will be free. Parking in the Fine Art Building in the evening is free, so don't worry about the campus parking Nazis.

Here's a link to their YouTube video page.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

More on Sibel Edmonds

Back in early January, Progressive Alaska covered the publication in the UK Sunday Times of a feature article, interviewing ex-FBI translator and now-whistleblower Sibel Edmonds. This last week, the Sunday Times added more information, and caught the FBI attempting to hide one of the files alluded to by Edmonds by denying the file's existence, even though they had acknowledged that the file exists when responding to an unconnected party's Freedom of Information Act request.

Yesterday, American hero Daniel Ellsberg, who has stayed knowledgeable about the Edmonds case, wrote an article for Bradblog. It is worth quoting from at length:

For the second time in two weeks, the entire U.S. press has let itself be scooped by Rupert Murdoch's London Sunday Times on a dynamite story of criminal activities by corrupt U.S. officials promoting nuclear proliferation. But there is a worse journalistic sin than being scooped, and that is participating in a cover-up of information that demands urgent attention from the public, the U.S. Congress and the courts.

For the last two weeks --- one could say, for years --- the major American media have been guilty of ignoring entirely the allegations of the courageous and highly credible source Sibel Edmonds, quoted in the London Times on January 6, 2008 in a front-page story that was front-page news in much of the rest of the world but was not reported in a single American newspaper or network. It is up to readers to demand that this culpable silent treatment end.

Just as important, there must be pressure by the public on Congressional committee chairpersons, in particular Representative Henry Waxman and Senator Patrick Leahy. Both have been sitting for years on classified, sworn testimony by Edmonds --- as she revealed in the Times' new story on Sunday --- along with documentation, in their possession, confirming parts of her account. Pressure must be brought for them to hold public hearings to investigate her accusations of widespread criminal activities, over several administrations, that endanger national security. They should call for open testimony under oath by Edmonds --- as she has urged for five years --- and by other FBI officials she has named to them, as cited anonymously in the first Times' story.

Go read the rest of Ellsberg's article!

Ellsberg observes later in his essay that a pushback is being mounted by FBI surrogates, claiming that Edmonds stumbled upon a counter-intel op. If that were true, there wouldn't have been such enormous unpunished bribes to U.S. Congressmen, and so much high-level narcotic smuggling going on. Don't hold your breath on this being picked up soon by the US or Alaska mainstream media. Which, once again, is why PA is covering this, rather than our regular Alaska fare.

On a local note:
KUDO's Shannyn Moore interviewed Bradblog's Brad Friedman right after the New Hampshire primary. I only heard part of the interview - it was about possible vote tampering in that primary - but it was excellent radio.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Why Bother?

There are so many different uses for paper. Back in the early 1990s, I worked with then-Anchorage paper maker and sculptor, Karen Stahlecker, on mounting her magnificently vulnerable sculpture, The Fragile Vessel, as part of a musical composition by the same name I wrote for Juliana Osinchuk's debut concert in Anchorage.

To Karen, the act of making paper was itself not just an art, a tedious set of craftsman-like steps. It was a quest for both purity and spiritual connection with her compositional materials.

I remember walking with Karen in June, 1993, down at the Cottonwood Creek Flats on upper Knik Arm, looking for the perfect Siberian Iris flowers to pick. She wanted to turn them into paper for a new idea she was trying to execute. We must have looked at close to 10,000 flowers, seeking the few she knew in her heart would work.

Wasps use paper they make themselves to create their hives, their nests, their homes. Each hive is unique, a natural work of artful utility. Wasp hives might be a useful metaphor for what happens at a daily newspaper. Just as wasps of a particular hive are tied to the culture of their paper home, so employees at any one newspaper or magazine or journal are tied to theirs.

This past weekend, I was looking at this wasp hive pulled last September from one of our trees. It sits in my greenhouse now, waiting through the cold of winter. But as the days lengthen, the sun to the south rises higher in the sky, warming the interior of the greenhouse a bit more each day. Will it somehow come back to life some warm afternoon?

The Anchorage Daily News is asking for new contributors to their Community Voices niche on their editorial pages. Long ago, in the last century, I occasionally wrote music reviews and music articles for the ADN. It was an interesting experience, leading to a warm friendship with Mike Dunham, who was ADN Arts Editor - and my editor - during part of that time. Mike taught me a lot about writing.

I e-mailed Matt Zencey at the ADN, expressing my interest in doing a Community Voices slot. He e-mailed back, asking for me to "do me a favor and pull your two favorite pieces that are closest to the kind of writing and subjects you propose to do for us and send them in." Instead, I wrote two new pieces, and sent them in today. The deadline is either tomorrow or Wednesday, depending on how you read Matt's instructions at the ADN web site - "The deadline is 5 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 22 [sic]." The 22nd is, of course, Tuesday.

As I was looking at the paper in the wasp hive last weekend, I was thinking, "Why even bother with wanting to write for the ADN?" Why, indeed...

Last Thursday, Progressive Alaska linked to the immanent release of the Alaska Legislative Council's amicus brief in the Exxon Valdez U.S. Supreme Court case. By Friday morning, one could look at that article's update and read or download the brief. Since Friday, over a hundred readers here have done just that. The ADN finally covered this today, almost four days after Progressive Alaska. Since the beginning of 2008, PA has covered several breaking stories hours, if not days before the ADN.

And there are stories covered here not covered by the ADN. On January 8, I wrote about the UK Times' story about Sibel Edmonds' newest revelations on serious breeches of our national security regarding nuclear technology. Two weeks later, it appears PA is still the only outlet of any sort in Alaska covering this story.

The ADN relegated the very important story of UAA Prof. Rick Steiner's rough handling by the Palin administration to a gossip column, when it merited full coverage by their political and environmental teams.

The ADN's editorials and op-eds don't contain hyperlinks. But most of the blogs listed as "progressive" at PA do. I feel that hyper-link-embedded articles are the state of the art, and are about to take another step up from what is the current default. Steve Aufrecht at What Do I Know? is a step or so ahead of me on this. He's frequently embedding video links and videos of his own into the direct context of his essays. Although the ADN carries video content, and has been doing that for about five years now, it is never directly contextual or linked into the body of their articles.

Whether or not the ADN decides to risk turning me loose once again on their paper and ink, there are a lot of excellent writers in the community. So even though I did bother to make a submission, hopefully, they'll find some good voices for us to read. Meanwhile, I'll keep on making my hives and sculptures here out of electrons.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Alaska At Its Best - and Worst

There's just something plain wrong with putting a writer, person, pugilist, and Alaskan like Wally Hickel on the same page as Dan Fagan. At least the Anchorage Daily News had the good taste to put Hickel at the top of the page and Fagan at the bottom in their print edition.

Governor Wally Hickel, perhaps more than any other person now alive, helped shape Alaska into an image we can look up to. Fagan, can't touch much of anything without distorting it and pointing down to something he wants us to despise.

Wally, the author of two important books, numerous pamphlets, scholarly papers and hundreds of articles, has always emphasized the concepts of the commons and collective or shared responsibilities. Fagan, the denizen of a local AM-radio talk show and author of a few dozen op-eds, stresses selfishness when it comes to the economy, calling anything short of blatant me-first thinking in that realm socialism when he's in a good mood, communism if he's bitchy.

Hickel built one of the classiest, and certainly the most Alaskan, of four-star hotels in North America, without outside help. He's spread a lot of his enormous wealth, and has been been the patron of many local causes, one of the saviors of Alaska Methodist University, now Alaska Pacific University. Fagan survives solely through the wingnut welfare provided him by KFQD and the Anchorage Daily News.

Wally Hickel, a boxer from youth through middle age, and a long-time supporter of Golden Gloves and other youth athletic causes over the years, is still as tough as nails in his 80s. Fagan reluctantly accepted a challenge from KUDO's Aaron Selbig to a charity boxing match at Friday Night Fights, but failed to show up for the mandatory physical and weigh-in. But he likes to brag on the air about beating girls at quarter-court basketball. I'm almost ready to spew all over this keyboard over that one, but it gets worse, folks.

Governor Wally Hickel today became the first prominent GOP figure to endorse the presidential candidacy of Barack Obama. Obama isn't my first choice, but Hickel's article is compelling:

The race for president has attracted an impressive field of Americans willing to assume the responsibilities of the White House at a challenging time in our history. All echo the need for change. None has better captured and articulated this moment than Sen. Barack Obama.

Hickel says more:

If I were 20 years younger, I would find him and ask, "What can I do?" And I would tell him that Alaska can help our country fulfill his vision.

Fagan's image for our future is more of a nightmare, than a vision:

When government punishes good decisions and rewards bad ones, that society is doomed to economic failure.

If I'm not scared yet, Dan dishes this out:

This is the time of year when government seeks out a segment of our population to punish them for a certain behavior: buying property.

Governor Hickel treats the current state of our union critically, in terms of our global position. He wants us to:

correct our failed foreign policy and reclaim the American vision Obama so brilliantly describes.

Fagan is a shill for the Bushista regime's degradation of our stature worldwide. If he knew more about history, he might learn from it, but he's not very knowledgeable about the legacies of U.S. foreign policy.

Wally Hickel has honestly called himself the little man, smiling. Fagan is pretty darned insecure about his physicality.

Just as Hickel probably didn't ponder Obama's race in his consideration of the man, past what this means for our future hopes, Fagan likes to invoke racist images of past fears. Last summer he wrote about convicted lobbyist Tom Anderson:

Tom Anderson is guilty. Even the O. J. jury would convict on this one....Anderson couldn’t play the race card: He's white.

Hickel knows when somebody is being a racist. Perhaps Fagan is a bit more dense, eh? Go read his column.

and.....feel free to add comparisons.

Update - Tuesday noon: Steve Aufrecht accurately characterizes Fagan's latest rant as Pollution of the Public Discourse.

Winter Songs Today at UAA

The University of Alaska Anchorage's pre-eminent chamber group, the Alaska Pro Musica, will give their winter recital this afternoon at 4:00 p.m. at the UAA Arts Building Recital Hall. Walter Oliveros, violin, Mark Wolbers, clarinet, and Timothy Smith, piano will perform three works from the 20th century and one from this century. They'll also be introducing their new CD, which features one of the works performed today and two others that they have commissioned.

The CD features Seattle composer Ken Benshoof's Whimsical Solution, a set commissioned by the Pro Musica that has gone on to become an often-performed staple for violin-clarinet-piano trios around the world. I've performed with or collaborated with three groups who have featured this work, inspired by Dr. Wolbers' request for a new composition by Benshoof.

Craig Coray's Sanctuary, also on the CD, is one of Alaska's most introspective, deeply lyrical composer's most poignant creations. I wrote about Coray's recent book, Dnaghelt'ana Qut'ana K'eli Ahdelyax (They Sing the Songs of Many Peoples) here back in November.

My new work, Winter Songs, takes four poems originally published in the now-defunct Northern Rim poetry quarterly, Ice Floe. Winter Songs is the second of a contemplated four-work series of songs about the seasons, dedicated to Judy Youngquist, my wife. The first set, Summer Songs, based on three poems by Mary Oliver, premiered back in the last century. The ensemble will be joined by coloratura soprano Anastasia Jamieson for the songs.

Here are two of the poems I've used as lyrics for Winter Songs:


Somewhere in a crater-like formation
Of scalloped granite the snow falls all the time,
Even when the sun is shining, and were it not
For an alarming run of bad luck human
Civilization would have started there.

- Hayden Carruth


Wherever you walk
Hunting on the tundra,
You feel so happy
When the light shines in the dark.

If you wander in a blizzard
Through a cloud of snow,
How strong is your desire
To see the light of a yarang.

Even if the night is quiet,
You go tired, nearly falling down.
But if a light suddenly twinkles,
Your body resumes nimbleness.

And your thoughts seem to be wings,
And your legs run by themselves.

- Vaalgyrgyn
(translated from the Chukchi by Charles Weinstein)

photo of the Alaska Pro Musica by Mike Dinneen

Saturday, January 19, 2008

State Sen. Charlie Huggins, Exxon's BFF

Charlie Huggins is the best basketball coach my son ever had. I coached youth soccer and little league baseball in the Mat-Su Valley for years. My son played those sports, ran and skied. Basketball coaches tend to be fairly unimaginative, compared especially to hockey coaches. Huggins wasn't. He inspired the kids, turning them into winners.

Basketball teams tend to rely far too much on their first-string core. Hockey is structured to put everyone out on the ice, and sub-units within teams are trained to work together. Huggins sort of did that with the teams I've seen him coach.

His approach to politics is clearly different. He seeks to satisfy the most retro elements of Valley and Alaska politics. He's like Vic Kohring, without Vic's big heart or sense of mission for the little guy in his district. Huggins is similar to his predecessor in the Senate, Scott Ogan, in being very inattentive to queries from constituents who don't match his narrow set of beliefs. Like Ogan, he has never answered any of my e-mails or phone messages. Even Lyda Green has answered most, if not all, of my queries.

Whenever I see the evidence of environmental degradation in the middle Knik River area, I see Charlie's presence. He has become the poster boy for the motorheads who seek to make this place the ugliest example in Alaska of how irresponsibly our citizens can deal with conflicts over the use of sensitive lands. Sometimes Huggins can even make nutcases like one of his other bff's, Penny Nixon, the fool behind Mat-Su Proposition One last year, seem relatively sane.

Huggins has introduced legislation to give oil companies open-ended and difficult to verify grounds for deducting "expenses" related to the so-called legacy oil fields on the North Slope. Reading his bill, it appears Conoco-Phillips would be able to write off the cost of the enormous glossy ads they're inserting wholesale into the state's print media.

Huggins also seeks to end the retroactivity of the new oil fee legislation enacted in the November Special Session of the Legislature. Sean Cockerham's article in today's Anchorage Daily News, probably the best ADN article yet on the session, points out that Sen. Lyda Green and Joe Hazelwood, er - I mean Sen. Bert Stedman, are steering Charlie's bill, SB 242, full speed ahead, through the Juneau Narrows:

Senate President Lyda Green sent the bill to only one committee. That's an indication she doesn't want it held up. The bill is going only to the Senate Finance Committee, where Sitka Republican Sen. Bert Stedman said that he'll hold hearings on it.

A commenter to the ADN article describes rather well the distinction between what Huggins characterizes the fee to be and what it actually is:

Charlie compares Alaska citizens to the IRS and refers to the revenue sharing agreement passed as a tax. People is not a tax when you own the resource. We own the darn oil. It is a revenue sharing agreement and Charlie thinks that we should give away more of our revenue to a multinational company (that has and will no doubt either funded his campaign or at least his retirement). A multinational company that tried to manipulate our state legislature with bribes through its surrogate. I hope Charlie is just a naive buffoon and not a corrupt politician. I am upset with his divisive action and cannot wait for Alaskans to show him and his partners the door.

At least we once again know where Charlie's priorities are, don't we? Ishmael Melville of Kodiak Konfidential put it bluntly this morning, writing:

Don't these jerk wads know how unhappy we are with big oil right now? We're paying more and more and more at the pump and big oil is making record-breaking profits every year!

Ishmael adds:

Could there be a breakdown of the majority over this? Any chance of a new coalition? Lyda Green has got to be removed from any position of power before she continues on this path of killing our state. And anyone who stands with her must be taken care of, too.

I've got my fingers crossed! Oh, yeah, for those of you not into texting code, BFF.

Update - Saturday night: Sen. Huggins called this evening while I was washing dishes. He said he was calling about my queries about thoroughly testing all our National Guard soldiers immediately upon return from Iraq, Afghanistan and Kosovo for exposure to depleted uranium, whether or not they've been exposed to recent close detonations. I made the queries well over a year ago.

At first I found it hard to believe he was only responding now to the long-ago e-mails and messages. But he convinced me that it was mere serendipity.

Sen. Huggins is having Gen. Craig Campbell, the State Adjutant General, look into the legislation already passed by Connecticut, Louisiana and other states on this necessary testing, as I had suggested back in the early spring of 2006. I urged him to put it on the front burner.

Charlie also tried to assure me - and failed - that he is only cleaning up debris from the final moments of last year's special session with SB 242.

He says he'll be at JD High this week to watch the Colony Knights take on Juneau. Huggins and I have both coached three of the kids on the Colony boys' basketball team. I told him I hope he makes it, but things might get a lot busier in the Alaska State Senate this week than anyone has anticipated.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Ethan Berkowitz at the Mat-Su Democrats' Egan Dinner

The Mat-Su Democrats are gearing up for the February 5 state presidential caucuses, and their responsibility for running the State Democratic Party Convention in the spring. You could feel that heightened interest in the air at their monthly Egan Dinner this evening in Wasilla.

This month's speaker, Ethan Berkowitz, rounded out their set of three dinners featuring Diane Benson, Jake Metcalfe and Berkowitz.

Berkowitz's talk wasn't long, and he didn't make any new statements about the issues. He did mention, as has Benson, that the unique situation of three credible candidates vying to run against Don Young is an opportunity to draw voters to the Democratic Party. But his comments and answers to questions from the audience afterward drew over an hour's spirited discussion.

Berkowitz handled an array of questions fairly deftly until the talk turned to reform of our failing medical care structures. He's the least progressive of the three Dems on this, and struggled in his earnest efforts to answer some sweeping questions from the audience, with answers which wouldn't really provide solutions.

Berkowitz is right that medical care reform is a very complex set of problems with no easy answer for one community, let alone for the entire state or for our country. When he talked of waste, inefficiency and greed as being the major systemic flaws, though, his suggestions that we can tweak our way out of this dilemma didn't resonate at all with the audience.

On issues pertaining to the crisis facing our planet from environmental degradation and climate change, he is one of the most convincing candidates in the country, and gave answers that made a lot of sense. They also displayed his extensive knowledge about this. On the need to elect people to public office who are ethical, rather than change laws to make those already in toe a better drawn line, he was anecdotal, rather than specific, but connected, with his humor.

I brought up Ray Metcalfe's claim from last year that Ethan did nothing with evidence Metcalfe had provided Berkowitz with, over three years ago, about the criminal behavior of Ben Stevens and others. I asked Berkowitz, "What would you tell Ray if he were here?"

Berkowitz stated that he was paralyzed from acting upon it within the legislature because of rules, and by the fact that APOC was already investigating. He also said, somewhat cryptically, that he isn't free to talk about some of the things he did at that time with information he had.

Ethan chided me for not asking him for his side of that story when I wrote about it here last year. He's right. I should have called Ethan then, and didn't.

The Mat-Su Democrats are one of the state's most important party regions. Because the GOP has dominated the Valley landscape so fully for the past 14 years, the state organization is maybe a bit too used to not wanting to devote a whole lot of resources. I'm impressed with how much effort is going into preparing for the state convention. I hope the party reciprocates by helping us more with getting our candidates interested in taking on Lyda Green (update - or her successor) and the GOP state reps this year.

Update - Saturday night: Ray Metcalfe told me this evening that he has more to say about Ethan Berkowitz's role while House Minority Leader. Metcalfe has an article coming out soon in the Alaska Report.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

The Alaska Legislative Council's Exxon Valdez Amicus Brief

This amicus brief is out, but I can't find a link where it has been published. The Supreme Court web site might have it up Friday. It argues mostly that Exxon can't move the main basis of its defense away from the Trans-Alaska Pipeline Authorization Act of 1973. The State Legislature, some of our living former governors and the Legislative Council are the petitioners. I'll update this post when I find a link. The brief - 26 pages - is too long to post, and I'm not sure it can be posted yet.

Update - Friday @ noon: Here's a place where you can read or download a PDF of the brief. More info on the current status of case review here.

Update - Sunday @ 1:30 p.m: Sheila Toomey noted in today's Alaska Ear column at the ADN, that neither Keith Miller nor Frank Murkowski signed onto the legislative council's brief. One of the signatory governors, Wally Hickel, wrote an endorsement of Barack Obama in today's ADN, and another of the signatories is about to make the news in an entirely different way.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Should We Ban Plastic Shopping Bags Statewide? A Poll

I'm adding the Solid Waste Alaska Network to the statewide progressive web sites list. I'm doing research on a possible statewide ban on plastic shopping bags. I think it would be a very good idea.

Here's a list of some of the communities that have banned them:

The Native Village of Tanana
The Chevak Traditional Council
The Native Village of Koyuk
Arctic Village Traditional Council
The Native Village of Newtok
The New Stuyahok Traditional Council
The Native Village of Fort Yukon
The Native Village of Chefornak

According to wikipedia, "Plastic shopping bags are banned in at least 30 villages and towns in Alaska, including the towns of Emmonak, Galena, and Kotlik." If you go to SWAN's page about banning these bags, there are examples of ordinances passed by communities.

I've put up a new poll on this issue.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

"Can You Pull Her Hair, Mommy?"

"Not without putting on some welding gloves first, dear," was probably Gov. Palin's reply to her inquisitive daughter, who was trying to help mom deal with the intractable and - so far this session - enduring personality of Mat-Su Valley Senator Lyda Green.

The fracas over how to schedule Gov. Sarah Palin's "State of the State" message wasn't Sen. Green's shining moment, eh? And, frankly, the Governor could have handled the affair better too.

But I'm not about to comment about this cat fight I've been predicting for over two months. It isn't even that important to comment about the comments on the cat fight and the huge attention this Alaskan Kabuki has elicited from the media, the media-controlled blogs and the free blogs. Palin and Green haven't liked each other for a long time. It most likely dates back to Palin's clash with the Murkowski administration over the ethics of Randy Ruedrich on the Oil and Gas Conservation Board.

It got to the point that when Green visited Palin with a huge bag of campaign money from the slimiest reaches of GOP donors, right after Palin's GOP primary victory over then-Gov. Frank Murkowski, Palin immediately returned the money. To Green. Personally. So what did Lyda then have to do with the, uh - I assume - checks? How often has that happened to Lyda?

Last week's dustup was too hot for the MSM press to handle, so they passed it off to Sheila Toomey, who gets to use different adjectives than the "serious" reporters.

What I really want to talk about and write about is one item in the State of the State Address:

I'm appointing an Energy Coordinator, to activate a statewide Energy Plan. We'll use earnings from a $250 million “Renewable Energy Fund” for alternative projects, like hydro, wind, geothermal, and biomass. These projects cannot even flirt with snake-oil science – they will be real, doable, and economic. Alaska’s plan can lead America toward energy security and a cleaner, safer world.

If this is serious business, and the Legislature helps enable something important to go through, such a plan will bring important and positive changes to our future.

I'll be following this closely through the current legislative session.

hat tip to the ADN's David Hulen for the quote that he got from KWHL's Bob & Mark Show

Sergeant, There Is No Such Thing As ARMY Bootcamp, Sergeant

I must have heard the poor soldier say that a hundred times while I was in U.S. Army Basic Training at Ft. Polk Louisiana, in the early spring of 1966. His older brother was a Marine, his sister in the Navy. He kept on calling the misery we endured "Boot Camp," as his brother and sister had called their training. It wasn't.

So every time my buddy, whose name I've long forgotten, called it that, he had to get down and do twenty. Or thirty. Or, for Sgt. "Killer" Smith - fifty pushups, while yelling, "Sergeant, there is no such thing as Army boot camp, sergeant."

Sarge would say in the voice he reserved for people he wanted to know he was about to squish, "I can't hear you, pussy. Yell it out!"

I hope the Governor doesn't call what her son has just gone through "boot camp" in front of his buddies while she's down in Georgia later this week. I have no idea whether the term "boot camp," used in the print, radio and TV news about Track Palin's upcoming graduation, originated from the Governor's office or from the press, but use of that term for the young man's training is both inaccurate and demeaning to U.S. Army soldiers. Ask KUDO's Aaron Selbig, for instance. He served in the U.S. Army Infantry for over three years. I was in Aviation and the Transportation Corps. We would die before we called basic training boot camp, or our "weapon" a "gun."

United States Army Basic Training (also known as Initial Entry Training) is a rigorous program of physical and mental training required in order for an individual to become a soldier in the United States Army, United States Army Reserve, or United States Army National Guard. It is carried out at several different Army posts around the United States. Basic Training can last anywhere from 15 weeks to over one year, depending on the career path an individual chooses upon enlistment.