Wednesday, April 30, 2008

KUDO Report

Brendan Joel Kelley has an article up at the Anchorage Press about Aaron Selbig's demise at KUDO. It is very sympathetic, and well-written.

Aaron would speak out at KUDO, very forcefully and passionately, about how the termination of many aspects of the Denali Kid Care Program's medical insurance assistance for kids will have an impact on his kids. Although it was sort of obvious from Selbig's comments that his family had no medical insurance as part of his employment package, he never described his dilemma in a way that pointed a finger at his employer, IBEW.

Thinking back, about all the commercials the station runs, glorifying the solidarity of the union toward its members and the community, this really sucks.

The articles in the Anchorage Daily News and on their blog about this situation, and the comments attached, are by and large sympathetic to Selbig, Shannyn Moore and C.C. But many comments note little or no sympathy for Aaron. Some indicate that Selbig should have made the station model work. None seem to have a sensible solution as to how that might have been done. More punchy local news, and better ad sales are about as far as they go. Both of those are true. The news problem is the responsibility of a program director, the ad problem isn't.

Progressive radio in the USA is up against an almost insurmountable obstacle. Back in 2006, a memo to ABC affiliates that carried Air America programs warned them that a long list of companies were then refusing to advertise on Air America content. Here are the names on the list that have Anchorage branches:

Allstate, American Heart Association, Avon, BMW, Coca-Cola, Denney's, Exxon Mobil, Frito-Lay, GE, Gillette, Goodyear, Heineken/Amstel, Hershey's, Hewlitt-Packard, Home Depot, Hormel, JC Penney, Johnson&Johnson, Levi's, REI Sporting Goods, Sony, State Farm, Toys R Us, Travelocity, True Value, US Navy, USPS, VISA, Wal-Mart.

Since then, the list has grown, but companies have been careful to keep it private. Subaru is now on it, for instance. If any auto company is identified with progressives, it has to be that one. And what about REI? Don't any of these companies identify with a station that exposes the crimes and fiascos of the gang of crooks destroying our country?

According to Brendan Kelley, Shannyn Moore and C.C. will be back tomorrow.

KUDO remains on Progressive Alaska's Mainstream Media list for now.

The Strom Thurmond of the Arctic Circle

That is how Sen. Dan Inouye, Sen. Ted Stevens' long-time friend characterized our patron saint of Alaska, some time ago. Stevens, under scrutiny today for a fiscal fiasco involving the 20th Anniversary celebration of the Alaska Volcano Observatory, was feted today at a Washington D.C. fundraiser held by Hawaii's Sen. Inouye:

"Stevens' campaign hoped the noontime lunch just a block from the Capitol would net $50,000 or so from the anticipated 60-70 guests, said campaign treasurer Tim McKeever in Alaska."

These two guys' control over massively expensive and increasingly ineffectual appropriation process, has today earned them the title of The Vast Non-Lower-48 Conspiracy. No doubt they found the noon venue in D.C. more accommodating than they might have found a restaurant in Kodiak, for instance:

image courtesy of midnightjinx

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Who's On First?

Cary Carrigan will throw the first pitch of his dictatorship, uh, directorship of KUDO on Thursday morning. The battling batting lineup on his 6:00 a.m. to 9:00 a.m. talk show slot will be:

6a - 6:30a - Intro
6:30a - 7a - Sean Parnell
7a - 7:30a - Gabrielle LeDoux
7:30a - 8a - Don Young
8a-8:30a - Diane Benson
8:30-9a - Jake Metcalfe

Candidate Berkowitz has to help with his kids that morning - it's finals week at UAA, and Ethan's wife is a prof there - and the invitation was issued to all the candidates only yesterday afternoon.

Unless Jake Metcalfe has emerged from the dugout to make some public or media appearance this week I'm unaware of, or has something scheduled tomorrow, Carrigan will be getting the first shot at Metcalfe's side of the story told in Robert Dillon's Sunday Fairbanks News-Miner article. Jake's campaign office hasn't returned my calls.

Putting Carrigan's opening schedule up at PA IS IN NO WAY WHATSOEVER an endorsement of the changes being made there this week.

There's a grassroots movement growing in the broadcast community that is hoping Shannyn and C.C. will hold out on the new regime at KUDO until they at least get better pay. You'd think Don Young and Jack Abramoff's CNMI slave empire buddy, Tan, was running the place instead of the IBEW.

altered image of a Singapore beer billboard by Steve Aufrecht, who will be returning soon

Update - Tuesday @ 10:30 p.m: Jake has emerged from the dugout, saying, "I'm not the coach, I don't know all the players, some of them have peculiar names - maybe, but I'm not about to change the players around. Yet."

I'm paraphrasing...

The Candidates and Our Veterans

Of the candidates running for our U.S. Legislative offices this year, two have presented clearly articulated campaign platform planks designed to address the huge and growing failings of our Federal government and Federal executive administration's elected officials and agency functionaries.

U.S. Senate candidate Mark Begich held a press conference at UAA yesterday, proposing adoption of the new GI Bill, introduced early last year by Virginia Senator, Jim Webb, but still unpassed. Senator Murkowski supports the bill, Senator Stevens does not. It would vastly upgrade the post-service benefits available for our veterans.

To fully implement the bill, would be expensive. It would cost, per year, what the Iraq War costs in a week, an enormous sum.

I've taught at UAA since 1995. One of the classes I teach is a large lecture class - sometimes 200 students are allowed to enroll. Before the war, 15% of my students were serving military or National Guard. They were trying to get as much college in while serving as possible, so that they could obtain degrees and maximize earning potential later in life.

Now, the percentage of military students I have is about 2 to 3%. I have former students who returned from their first tour, inspired; from their second tour, wary; from their third tour broken in spirit, with 1,000-yard stares, and no interest in continuing their education. I know soldiers now on their 4th tour.

George Bush, Don Young, Lisa Murkowski and Ted Stevens are breaking these fine, young Americans, one soldier at a time.

Diane Benson has been working on programs that try to mend and fix these wounded warriors, one soldier at a time. Since late 2005, as she began meeting severely injured soldiers while helping her son recover from his grievous Iraq War wounds, she has been meeting with and talking to, hundreds of war wounded, one soldier at a time.

Last year, at the 64th National Congress of American Indians, Diane was asked to head a committee that is now looking into aspects of the care - or lack thereof - for our wounded and recovering First People Veterans. She realizes the impact the wounding of a soldier has, not just on that soldier, but on the soldier's family and community.

Historically, the effects on the soldier have been minimized by the VA or Department of Veterans Affairs, whenever possible. But the recent studies into post-traumatic effects of those soldiers' injuries upon the people around them are gaining the attention they should have gotten, long, long ago. That is why many key Veterans organizations, both in Alaska and nationwide, have endorsed Diane Benson over other candidates in the 2008 election. She's somewhat of a pioneer in this area, due to her unique background as a survivor of domestic violence and assault, her long-time involvement in helping abused women, and now the volunteer work she is doing with traumatized veterans.

I'm a veteran, so I pay close attention to how our vets are dealt with. I certainly hope that Senator Webb's legislation passes, and soon!

The author of this article volunteered for and donated to the 1978 and 1980 campaigns of Rep. Don Young (he was then a Republican), volunteered for and donated to the Alaska Democratic Party when Jake Metcalfe was chairman, has volunteered for and donated to Diane Benson since July, 2006; and has donated to the current Jake Metcalfe and Ethan Berkowitz campaigns. He has not donated to the current Mark Begich or Ray Metcalfe campaigns, but serves on the board of Citizens for Ethical Government, which is associated with Ray Metcalfe

images: Mark Begich, yesterday, with Iraq War Veteran and UAA student, John Roberson; Diane Benson with Veterans Aviation Outreach founder Maurice Bailey

Monday, April 28, 2008

KUDO Moved From Progressive to Mainstream Category

Progressive Alaska has moved KUDO FM from the Progressive Alaska Media category here to the Mainstream Alaska Media category until things clarify there.

Cary Carrigan will be doing a 6:00 a.m. to 9:00 a.m. slot. They've offered C.C. and Shannyn Moore new time slots. A new business model will be announced by Cary on Thursday.

Carrigan has already called a couple of people I've spoken to with time offers for interviews in his new slot.

The KLEF studios, long located on the 2nd floor of the Frontier Building, have been moved to the TATI enclave in a mid-town business park. According to a longtime KLEF fan, KLEF and its parent entity are being subjected to a somewhat hostile buyout offer from TATI's Mike Robbins. There is no guarantee in my friend's account, that KLEF would remain a classical music station.

I have yet to see any evidence that anything that happened at KUDO this weekend is tied to Aaron Selbig's co-operation with Robert Dillon, David Shurtleff and Brendan Joel Kelley on the stories about the fake Ethan Berkowitz sites. Also, doing some similar research today to what those four reporters have done, I've yet to find a direct connection to the creation of those sites to the Jake Metcalfe campaign. I'm getting some expert help on this.

At the time the domain names were purchased - early last fall - anyone could have discovered where the then-existing Jake Metcalfe site was registered, and bought new domain names with purchases made in Anchorage. If it weren't for the statement to one of the reporters by a person who prefers to remain anonymous within Democratic Party HQ, we could just as easily assume that Don Young or Sean Parnell or one of their minions has created those sites to create chaos within the Democratic Party ranks.

I heard calls on Anchorage AM radio today for whoever created the sites to come forward. I agree. I also call for whoever claims to have witnessed the key conversation last fall cited in Dillon's article to also come forward with an affidavit.

What is going down at KUDO, after the key role the station has played in a progressive turnaround in local politics, is one of the saddest days I've witnessed in Alaska media.

The Democrats and the Candidates - or Not - on the Phony Web Sites

I listened to Dan Fagan read Robert Dillon's Fairbanks News-Miner article over the radio, as I drove in to do some work at UAA this afternoon. He read the article really slowly - so his listeners might understand it. Actually, the way he read it was helpful, and although I'd already read it twice, it impressed me even more.

The Democratic Party issued a press release on this in the early afternoon, followed by Diane Benson, who was in on the Party leadership's conference. Ethan Berkowitz's campaign has told Progressive Alaska they will not be issuing a statement, and nobody is taking calls at Metcalfe's campaign office. Here are the two releases:

Alaska Democratic Party Chair Condemns Dishonest Campaigning

Anchorage – Alaska Democratic Party Chair Patti Higgins today issued the following statement:

“It has come to my attention that one of our Democratic candidates for U.S. House, Ethan Berkowitz, has been facing unfair campaign tactics. In the past few weeks, three bogus campaign web sites have been set up, his Wikipedia site rewritten with insulting and demeaning content, a false ActBlue site set up, and attacks launched through anonymous bloggers. These tactics are an attempt to tear down Ethan Berkowitz and confuse voters about who he is and his record. The Alaska Democratic Party condemns dishonest campaigning. These kinds of campaign tricks are not acceptable. Whoever is doing this should come out of the shadows and clear the air. Candidates will differ on many issues, but each candidate deserves to be judged on their record and their values and not subjected to anonymous attacks.”


(Anchorage, AK) Diane Benson, candidate for U.S. Congress in Alaska (AK-AL), is publicly condemning the recent use of websites and other tactics to smear the image of congressional candidate Ethan Berkowitz. Diane Benson and her campaign ensure the voters of Alaska there is no connection between these apparently fake websites and her campaign.

Diane’s campaigns has also been victim to similar attacks. In 2006 and in 2008, anonymous individuals edited the Wikipedia and Congresspedia pages for Diane with derogatory and discriminatory remarks. Early last fall, there were also a series of anonymous bloggers leaving negative comments on blog posts with similar comments.

Benson says: “Our campaign is about change, about transforming our government to serve the needs of the people of Alaska. We are focused on engaging voters in our grassroots campaign and collectively address the issues facing our state. I am disappointed to see that these dirty tactics are being used. We have been embarrassed enough by the poor representation and scandal that surrounds our current congressional representative. Alaskans deserve better from their elected officials and candidates for elected office.”

Recent articles by the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner and the Anchorage Press state that these websites may be linked to a campaign seeking Don Young’s seat in the US House of Representatives.

“I hope that there are no connections to another campaign. If there is, I hope that candidate will take the necessary actions to disassociate themselves from those individuals and publicly condemn their actions. This is too historic a race for us to be distracted by petty old style smear campaign tactics. We need to focus on the issues important to voters and keep the conversation on each one of our visions for moving Alaska forward.”

Benson was the first candidate to publicly disclaim any involvement in this fiasco when she spoke out during The Aaron Selbig Show on KUDO on April 25, 2008. On the show, Benson offered encouragement to her rival Ethan Berkowitz.

Spring is Back Again

Dennis Zaki, Editor-Publisher of the Alaska Report, is a fine photographer. His images of the Mat-Su Valley are part of what makes Alaska Report worth a daily visit. I drive by the University of Alaska Agricultural Experimental Farm fields where Dennis took this picture almost every day. I'd been thinking of taking my good camera with me on my next trip to Anchorage, to photograph the migratory birds, pecking for seeds and grains. But - hey! Dennis has it covered.

Great pic, Mr. Zaki!

A Tribute to Aaron Selbig

Over this past weekend, the unprecedented partnership between Alaska Public Radio Network's David Shurtleff, The Anchorage Press's Brendan Joel Kelley, and the Fairbanks News-Miner's Robert Dillon, in their investigation into the origins of some fake web sites and other slanderous materials directed toward AK-AL Democratic Party candidate Ethan Berkowitz, was at an impasse. Early Sunday, the final piece to the puzzle was provided by a fourth person in the partnership. KUDO's Program Director, Aaron Selbig. (See Brendan's clarification in the comments)

Yesterday afternoon, with Selbig's new information tying a key member of the Jake Metcalfe campaign to the sites, Robert Dillon and the Fairbanks News-Miner decided to run the story. Soon afterward, Aaron Selbig was called into the station, and let go, "as a cost-cutting measure."

I spoke with Aaron early this morning. He says he doesn't think that his removal had anything to do with his participation in the Jake Metcalfe campaign investigation. Later this morning, I spoke with Cary Carrigan, the guy who let Aaron go. He also denies the change at KUDO had anything to do with Selbig's part in the investigation. I advised Carrigan to provide Anchorage listeners with a full explanation of this turn of events this afternoon, when - I'm assuming - Carrigan will fill the 3:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. slot himself.

I told Cary that progressive radio in Anchorage and Southcentral Alaska would not be where it is today without Selbig's efforts over the past two or three years. Carrigan agrees, and says Aaron's key role in building KUDO to what it now is should not be underestimated.

Another thing that is important to note - I'm sure Carrigan is aware of this - is that KUDO's major partner has been the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers. That union's chief counsel is Jake Metcalfe. Back in August and early September of 2007, Metcalfe's campaign manager was the IBEW's Communication Director, who was running Jake's campaign out of her Anchorage office. Since then, the IBEW's PAC has been a major donor to Metcalfe's campaign. No matter what Carrigan or this broadcasting consortium's IBEW partners say, it will look to many that the coincidence of Selbig's providing information to other journalists and his termination being mere hours apart will raise eyebrows.

Here's to Aaron Selbig! Alaska Progressives owe him far, far more than a tip of the hat.

Update: Brendan Joel Kelley and possibly Robert Dillon and Aaron Selbig will be talking about the Fairbanks News-Miner story and their investigation this afternoon at 2:30 on the Dan Fagan radio show.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

One More Reason to Suspect the ADN Editors Really Don't Care About the Women of Alaska's First People

Posted by Celtic Diva:

Another classic bit of brainless bull from the seemingly bottomless pit Fagan possesses:
Could it be liberal media elites are afraid to offend or appear racially insensitive by reporting on cultural leanings in the Native community that can foster an environment of abuse?

Dan, couching your racism in "concern" is kinda like covering cow dung with chocolate; the smell leaks through.

The look-the-other-way cultural leaning among some Natives is just one of the reasons a disproportionate number of Native women are sexually assaulted and raped each year.

Oh please...Native Culture is far from having the corner on the market of "if we ignore it maybe it will go away!" We have to look no farther than the Juneau Police underreporting rapes to see that.

I love it when middle-aged white boys get all preachy about race!

The crime reporting from the Department of Justice speaks for itself:

According to the US Department of Justice, in at least 86 per cent of reported cases of rape or sexual assault against American Indian and Alaska Native women, survivors report that the perpetrators are non-Native men. The Department’s data on sexual violence against non-Native women, in contrast, shows that for non-Indigenous victims, sexual violence is usually committed within an individual’s own race.

Let me repeat that again...I know that Fagan fans are slower than most: at least 86 per cent of reported cases of rape or sexual assault against American Indian and Alaska Native women, survivors report that the perpetrators are non-Native men..

Dan, this means that if you REALLY WANTED to HELP Native women you would tell that pack of Neanderthal droolers you call a fan-base to go jump in the ring at "Thursday Night at the Fights" if they feel the need to prove their dominance over another human being. Finding the nearest woman, Native or otherwise, and treating her like a sex slave punching bag or molesting the neighbor's daughter will get them serious jail time.

In most cases, I would simply suggest telling them it is just plain "WRONG". However, it's clear that both you AND your fans are kinda fuzzy on the meaning of THAT word.

Between a Rock and a Hard Place

As this month closes and spring starts gaining momentum (Pleeze, Lord!!), I find myself trying to organize this blog a bit better. I've learned almost more than I can digest, over the course of posting 270 entries here in less than six months. I've made so many friends, it is humbling. I've made fewer new enemies than I had feared I would when launching Progressive Alaska.

Between now and the end of Memorial Day weekend, Progressive Alaska will focus on renewable energy opportunities, the upcoming Alaska Democratic Party Convention, my profile of Diane Benson's role as civil rights pioneer, some cultural issues involving how the Iraq War and the GWOT effect Alaska arts organizations, and getting more viewpoints printed here under their authors' own names.

I'm going to back away from engaging so aggressively in the AK-AL U.S. House race, a contest which has the potential of changing markedly over the next 24 hours.

Nels Anderson, Jr's Challenge to Gov. Palin

Former state legislator, Yupik activist, and long-time advocate of reshaping the economic paradigm in Alaska's isolated communities, Nels Anderson, Jr. has recently brought attention to the energy crisis in Alaska's bush.

He was in on the ground floor of the growth of political and economic clout for Alaska's First People. His pragmatic approach to problem solving has always caught my attention. He's an iconoclast, and his most recent issue is an example of that.

He has been working on solutions to the energy crisis in the Bristol Bay area that have positive ramifications for every small, isolated Alaska community.

Anderson was one of the few administrators in the Frank Murkowski gubernatorial administration I fully admired. Unfortunately, he was one of the first people Governor Palin sacked, when she took office.

In Juneau, in the aftermath of the avalanches that wiped out part of the Stettisham Dam power corridor, it has been reported that the state and Feds are looking into a disaster declaration on this:

"The 17-member group of commissioners and other state agency representatives met for two hours Wednesday to consider how to soften the blow of what’s expected to be about a 450-percent increase in utility bills next month."

Anderson has written to the Governor about this, hoping that people put the energy cost crisis in Alaska in a wider, more long-range perspective. Nels Anderson, Jr. has agreed to let Progressive Alaska print his letter in full:

April 24, 2008

Governor Sarah Palin
State of Alaska
Juneau, Alaska 99811

Re: Alaska Energy Disaster

Dear Governor Palin:

Many of our villages have been living under more extreme energy conditions than Juneau and no gathering of 17 officials, including commissioners ever met to consider all of the villages of Alaska that are suffering more than Juneau at this time.

Commissioner Notti knows about the costs of electricity in our villages and that many of our villages pay much more than what Juneau is facing. The problem is this: Juneau's "disaster" will disappear in three of four months but ours will continue into the foreseeable future because no one is taking our VILLAGE ENERGY DISASTER seriously.

Our DISASTER consists of high electricity costs after PCE. In addition, we have excessively high fuel costs. We will be paying much more for our gasoline, heating oil, diesel, and aviation fuel, and propane after the first spring barge arrives. Our prices go up in our villages and never go down. Most communities in the Railbelt ride the rise and fall of crude oil prices but our villages don't.

IF you are going to take action for Juneau then you must do the same for all of our villages across Alaska that have been in an energy disaster condition for over 7 years.

We need you to do the following for us:

Declare an energy disaster for all of our villages across the state of Alaska and include that issue in the upcoming special session.

Give Mr. Haagenson, Energy Coordinator, cabinet level status and convert the AEA to the Dept. of Energy

Develop legislation that will create an Alaska Fuel Subsidy that will take our Alaska Royalty Oil and have it refined at Flint Hills or Nikiski and have heating fuel, gasoline, diesel, aviation fuel, and propane delivered to all of communities in Alaska at no more than $3.00 a gallon.
Craft legislation that will reimburse all communities that waive all sales taxes on electricity and fuel.

Push our Congressional delegation to adopt a moratorium on all fuel taxes.

I am hoping that our Rural elected leaders, regional organizations, state-wide organizations will insist that village energy needs be considered along with Juneau. Juneau does have a serious problem but all of our villages do as well.

Please include all of us during the disaster meetings so that we are all treated fairly and equally.

Thank you for listening.

My best personal regards,

Nels Anderson, Jr.
Box 234
Dillingham, Alaska 99576

Hillary is Right!

Barack Obama, who has correctly characterized the insipid questions he and other Democratic Party candidates were asked by moderators in the North Carolina ABC TV debate, as "tit for tat silliness," made a deeper point, when he also said:

"It took us 45 minutes before we even started talking about a single issue that matters to the American people . . . 45 minutes before we heard about healthcare, 45 minutes before we heard about Iraq, 45 minutes before we heard about jobs, 45 minutes before we heard about gas prices."

The performance of the ABC moderators of that debate has been heavily criticized, both within the Democratic Party structure and in newsletters and blogs devoted to media coverage of the 2008 presidential campaign.

Yesterday's challenge from Hillary Clinton was an open, positively framed invitation:

"I'm offering Sen. Obama a chance to debate me one-on-one, no moderators. ... Just the two of us going for 90 minutes, asking and answering questions; we'll set whatever rules seem fair.

"I think that it would give the people of Indiana and I assume a few Americans might tune in because nearly 11 million watched the Philadelphia debate. And I think they would love seeing that kind of debate and discussion. Remember, that's what happened during the Lincoln-Douglas debates."

I'm a strong believer that the seven 1858 Lincoln-Douglas debates were a defining moment in the history of American politics. The national interest drawn to them on the eve of the election which forced the slavery question into an open rebellion by the conservative slave states of the deep South against the liberal, free labor majority in the North and Northwest, showed the growing power of newspapers, and their effect on the American public.

At that time, the American polity was beginning to see the benefits of the rising paradigm of free public education, especially in the rapidly growing, young populations of the new states above the Ohio River - Illinois, Indiana, Michigan and Ohio. It was in one of those, Illinois - where Lincoln had gotten an early taste for politics by serving on new-fangled things like "school boards" - that the seven debates occurred. It is another of those, Indiana, in which Sen. Clinton now proposes an open, free-form debate.

Too often, 21st century media coverage of presidential politics in the USA is like a long, drawn out episode of American Idol. The moderators' performance in the North Carolina debate was, as Tom Shales of the Washington Post called it, "despicable." But it wasn't much worse than many of the ten other nationally televised debates between or among the Democratic presidential candidates.

So, why not have an open debate between Senators Obama and Clinton? To me, it would be an enormous breath - Gust! - of fresh air.

I'd also like to see more forums in Alaska for our outstanding candidates for the AK-AL U.S. House seat, and for Sen. Ted Stevens' U.S. Senate seat. The Kodiak FishCom debate last month was widely covered, and noticed nationally. There are many topics Alaskans want to hear our candidates address in ways that afford honest comparison: renewable energy, the health care crisis, the extremely fragile robustness of the Alaska economy and our eviscerated military and veteran structures, to name a few.

The only scheduled high profile comparison in the future I know of will be the candidates' speeches - back-to-back - at the upcoming Democratic Party State Convention, to be held at the Palmer Fairgrounds, over Memorial Day weekend.

We could use more. The voters would respond at the polls, and our party would grow.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Saturday Alaska Progressive Blog Roundup - April 26, 2008

That's one of the first salads of the 2008 season from our greenhouse. Arugula, lettuces, beets (from last year), goat cheese and pecans, with a lemon-honey-mustard dressing. They're next to some barbecued lamb and chicken skewers.

The power went out at our house between Palmer and Wasilla last night at about midnight, and hasn't gone back on yet, so I'm over at Vagabond Blues in Palmer, reading e-mail and doing this post.

Progressive Alaska Welcomes Two Progressive Blogs:

One is new, the other has been around longer than Progressive Alaska. Radical Catholic Mom should have been put up on the progressive blog roster here some time ago. But it was the way the blog came into context on some issues in the Alaska blog community this past week that got me to say, "This blog needs to be listed as an important Alaska progressive source."

Essentially, I've spent a lot of time helping Ray Metcalfe get his views out. They're in conflict with some people in the Alaska Democratic Party. I've voiced my opinion that to cut Metcalfe out of forums, or deny him access to party materials other candidates have is wrong, not to mention stupid. So, I should extend that same courtesy to Radical Catholic Mom, and her anti-choice (or, pro-life, as she believes) views.

I'll write more about that when I can focus on the issue directly, but - welcome, Radical Catholic Mom! Sorry it took me so long.

The other one hasn't started yet. The amazing guy behind the Alaska Report, Dennis Zaki wrote to me about it, though:

You've inspired me Philip. I've been meaning to start my own personal blog for quite awhile. That blog post you did about Ted and Lisa a couple of days ago pushed me over the edge. I love it that you ripped those two assholes and I want to do it too !!! By having a separate, but linked, blog, I'll feel free to tell it like it is. I always have outtakes and video that I don't use on AlaskaReport that will have a new home. Once I get it going, you'll be the first to know. Dennis

Maybe Dennis just wants to blog so he can actually use nasty words instead of exclamations and things like #&*@@! For anyone who hasn't noticed, my rule here is the one established by Jane Hamsher - "when it comes to writing "fuck," never use an asterisk. You might regret it later."

Celtic Diva's Blue Oasis welcomes internet campaign guru Matt Browner Hamlin to Alaska at her place. Mat has come from the lower 48, to run Mark Begich's internet campaign and blog. Matt has also set his own blog up.

He worked recently as Chris Dodd's internet and blogging virtuoso. I met him last year at a Dodd interview at firedoglake. Howie Klein, the guy behind the most effective, most truthful, truly blue nationwide blog, Down With Tyranny, told Matt to look me up when he got here, and Matt did.

Talks and e-mails with Howie Klein led me to post an essay questioning Ethan Berkowitz's wisdom in accepting a large neo-con PAC donation from a group I described as a "who's who list of supporters of war with Iran, defenders of the worst aspects of our health care industry, opponents of net neutrality, and enablers of the financial deregulation that allows hedge fund managers to be taxed very little, and who helped engineer the sub-prime mortgage industry meltdown. The list includes the producer of Bill O'Reilly's radio show, several Fox executives, war criminal Henry Kissinger's main business partner, and a whole host of other people who make Alaska's Corrupt Bastard Club look like a kindergarten roster."

Klein, whose feeling upon reading the list of donors to the PAC was, ""I know some of these people. -- I feel ill," laughed when he read my description of some of the 21st century robber barons on the list.

Anchorage Press writer Brendan Joel Kelley felt otherwise, failing to recognize the nastiness of the anti-change nature of Rahm Emanuel's core supporters, seeing instead a long list of Hollywood figures who remind him of Mickey Mouse. Kelley's decision to write about this issue in the same context as weird sites that are plaguing Ethan Berkowitz's campaign, and have nothing to do with people on either of Berkowitz's opponents' campaigns, was the worst decision I've seen in Alaska journalism since KAKM's Duncan Moon excluded Anchorage Assemblyman Dick Traini from a Running debate on March 26.

I wrote an open letter to Brendan Thursday morning, before the paper hit the news stands. Needless to say, the Jake Metcalfe and Diane Benson campaigns are unhappy with Kelley's carelessness.

By and large, though, Kelley's doing a great job helping put the Press back on its feet.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Eat This, Winter!

That was Thursday. Today, looking out from my greenhouse, this was what one could see:

My Favorite Alaska Blog

Steve Aufrecht was the first real Alaska blogger I met. He runs What Do I Know?

He has been blogging for over two years. He got into blogging the GOP Veco corruption trials because a former UAA student of his was one of the first defendants. So he went to the man's trial and wrote about it.

I did a blog of the Vic Kohring trial with Fred James. That's where I met Steve. My coverage, with Fred, of Kohring's trial was sort of a blogging experiment.

As Steve finished covering 2007's Anchorage trials, his humanity toward the defendants torqued some people, and got me to write the first real essay at my first real blog. He'd already taught me a lot about the importance of our blogging being highly credible. He's an expert on blogging ethics.

Since then, he's continued to help.

Steve is coming back soon from a winter-spring working trip to Thailand. The stories he's told about the people he's encountered, the ways Thais respond to the changes their society is undergoing, the incongruities of past and future he's observing, the exciting youth and vitality of the population - all these - are art, commentary, travelogue and journalism - combined with some great multicultural wisdom. Besides this, he does multimedia better than any other substantive Alaska blogger.

It has to be some great joke of the Gods, that Steve will probably be getting back to Alaska from Thailand during the same time the next wave of arrests has to come down here - the period between now and that "6-months before a national election unwritten rule thingie" - that occurs the first Tuesday in May. Right when Steve might want to kick back for a few days, eh?

image by Steve, during Seder, in his community, in Thailand, at an event presented by the local Chabad folks there.

Where Did Spring Go?

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Ted and Lisa Vote to Repeal 19th Amendment

Actually, that didn't come up yesterday, when Ted and Lisa voted with the borg, to support the notion that if women don't get equal pay to their male counterparts for the same work, and their employer intentionally hides that information, the woman can only collect money for the last six months of the wrong. She'd then have to sue again every six months, as long as the unequal pay continues, until it stops. Or until the Supreme Court revises their last ruling, and rules that they meant 30 days, not 180. What the U. S. Supreme Court did last year, in their Leadbetter vs Goodyear Tire and Rubber Co. decision, was legalize a new era of economic rape.

Steve Benen wrote about this early today, at Crooks & Liars:

in a bizarre ruling, a narrow Supreme Court majority decided last year that Americans who face wage discrimination only have 180 days to challenge the initial discrimination in court. In other words, if your employer is paying you less money for equal work, and you don’t find about the discrepancy until seven months after the problem began, you can’t contest this in court.

The House already passed a measure to improve workers’ rights in this area, and the Senate was poised to do the same. A bipartisan majority supported the legislation.

But not by 60 votes.

John McCain, the GOP's shining light in Alaska now, didn't vote, but said this about why women fail - at least in his mind - in New Orleans, where he's blaming the Katrina victims, so he can raise more money from that part of Bush's base:

“They need the education and training, particularly since more and more women are heads of their households, as much or more than anybody else. And it’s hard for them to leave their families when they don’t have somebody to take care of them.

“It’s a vicious cycle that’s affecting women, particularly in a part of the country like this, where mining is the mainstay; traditionally, women have not gone into that line of work, to say the least."

I'm hoping to see some criticism of their vote - especially Ted's - show up real soon in op-eds, letters to editors and in civil rights discussions around Alaska. Speak up, candidates! Ask St. Hulk "WTF?"

Good thing the 19th Amendment didn't come up, huh?

With rubber stamp sock puppets, who continue to support a president whose incompetence is unparalleled in U.S. history; who tend to eat their own with a special relish Goebbels might have genuinely enjoyed or envied, like Ted and Lisa and Don, peoples' rights get sold down the river way too often.

We can't miss an opportunity to hit at Sen. Stevens when something like this comes up. Democrats need to attack his record. Again and again and again until we win in November.

Carjacker Stops Glenn Highway Traffic

Headed into work this morning, I got stopped - along with thousands of other motorists - by a roadblock just toward the Knik River side of the Eklutna overpass on the Glenn Highway. Quite a few State Troopers showed up over the next few minutes.

Apparently, a carjacker got chased out of Anchorage, running over spike barriers and all, until he spun out where he's now stopped. He has a gun, and is refusing to get out of the car. So, the Troopers have started clearing away the nearest motorists to the scene, first. Then they've gotten people nearby to take the Mirror Lake and Old Glenn Highway exits.

I called work, to let them know. I got to meet a few people, who were standing around, trying to learn what was happening. The guy behind me is an Anchorage firefighter, so we got to talk about his job. He is not a Mark Begich fan, not by a long, long shot.

That's a combination of Gobi Desert dust storm dust and Siberian wildfire smoke that is mucking up the air all the way over here in Alaska.

Update - 10:30 a.m: They arrested the carjacker, identified as Terrence Jones. I'll be heading back in at 11:15 a.m.

An Open Letter to Brendan Joel Kelly

Dear Brendan,

As I've told you, your energy and excitement about helping the Anchorage Press back onto its feet is being warmly welcomed by me and by the local press. But you're already getting a reputation as being a bit, shall we say, "sensationalist." I suppose that goes along with the schtick of writing for a weekly in a town of 300,000.

I've got to say, though, that next time you call me late on a Wednesday morning - deadline time - with a series of questions about a candidate, don't expect me to believe you're going to give my answers the context they warrant. You cherry-picked our telephone conversation yesterday in a highly meretricious way. And, you then used what you kept to illustrate a questionable meme.

As I've told all three candidates in the AK-AL primary contest, the unprecedented interest in this election is a unique opportunity to build the Democratic Party in Alaska. To win in November, we have to attract young and alienated voters back into the booth to vote for our women and men.

Diane Benson has known this since filing last summer. When I drove Jake Metalfe and his staff from the Sitka ferry terminal into that town on the last day of August 2007, that is what we discussed - building the party. In a long talk I had with Ethan Berkowitz after he spoke to Mat-Su Democrats early this year, that is what we talked about. And I'm working on that in my role within the Party structure.

To even vaguely or loosely tie either the Jake Metcalfe campaign or the Diane Benson campaign to these nutty web sites that have sprung up with Ethan as their butt, is questionable journalism. Both campaigns know about them, because we've gotten the same e-mails others have received. And we get a lot of other junk like that, all of which gets stuffed away. We've even heard the nutty idea that Ethan's campaign is seeking to gain the Democratic Party's delegates to the upcoming convention to endorse his campaign on the floor, at the expense of the other two candidates. But we know his campaign wouldn't attempt that.

To use Markos Moulitsas' comment about my most recent DailyKos article without printing my reply was not very considerate. It wouldn't have fit your subject, though, would it have? Nor did you mention that my concerns about the PAC donations Berkowitz received from Rahm Emanuel's machine have also raised a flag in the eyes of key progressive thinkers in the Democratic Party like Howie Klein, or in the mind of Jeff Cohen, a national figure who you could have walked only a few miles to interview yesterday. He was on Shannyn Moore's KUDO program for two hours, Brendan!

Your article, Fragging Berkowitz, makes it seem like I haven't engaged Ethan directly on this, but you knew better. I wrote about talking to Ethan about my concerns over Rahm's PAC at the beginning of the week. I guess I should have been more wary, when you referred to Rahm as a "moderate." I've also praised Ethan Berkowitz at Progressive Alaska, in case you hadn't noticed.

We'll hash it out over lunch, soon, I suppose, Brendan. But what pisses me off the most is that I hoped to use what little free time I have had this morning to write about Ted and Lisa shoving it to the female workers of Alaska yesterday, in their vote on a Motion to Invoke Cloture on the Motion to Proceed to Consider H.R. 2831.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

A Long Two Days...

Two days of grading UAA student exams and term papers. I have about 140 students at UAA and Eagle River Community College this semester. My regular assistant is a senior, preparing for her senior recital and graduation, so I did her regular work this week, along with my own.

I was able to watch Diane Benson's plays and dramatic monodramas this morning while grading, and this afternoon sat out in the sunshine on our morning deck.

I listened to Shannyn Moore on KUDO interview Jeff Cohen about his experiences in the media. Excellent radio. And a few people called with questions about Ray Metcalfe - apparently I'm some sort of expert.

What a beautiful day, Gobi Desert dust and all.

My good friend Brendan Joel Kelly at the Anchorage Press will be vaguely misquoting me tomorrow in an article about Ethan Berkowitz's record donation from the neo-con PAC, Our Common Values.

Brendan has me saying "If Ethan beats Diane I’ll be knocking on his door the next day to work for him."

What I said was, "Look, in the remote possibility that Ethan beats Diane, I’ll be knocking on his door the next day to work for him. We need that seat." The same goes for the even more remote possibility that Jake beats either Diane or Ethan.

Brendan also appears to have been up against a deadline, and wasn't able to follow my advice to call Howie Klein or get hold of Jeff Cohen - who is in Anchorage - to get a better handle on how Rahm's candidate funding organization has worked in the very recent past.

image of graded exams and papers, after being alphabetized.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Preface to Diane Benson and Alaska Civil Rights - Indian Girl, Indeed

Last weekend, at the Alaska Press Club annual conference, held at the Anchorage Senior Center, when the issue of those stupid white boys from California pissing on people they thought were supine came up, I held back in my observations. That's not to say I didn't make any. I did.

When, during a seminar on racism in Alaska media, commentators seemed to feel that the pressure on Anchorage's Clear Channel (thanks, St. Ted!) radio outlets was a community-wide event, illustrating a growing awareness of how awful it is that our First People have been mistreated, I was incensed. I pointed out that, after simmering for days, the issue only gained traction when the economic clout of Alaska Native organizations began to be noticed and respected by the local media. Very soon afterward, the media narrative had changed.

I'm in the midst of the hardest essay-article I've ever written. I've been working on a biography of Diane Benson which is attempting - feebly, so far - to show her central importance in an array of civil rights issues in Alaska since Benson was a child. One of the hardest parts of this has been getting my friend to trust me. I understand.

I worked for 13 years in the field of public safety. For seven years, I was employed by Allvest (now Cornell Corrections). I ran the Cordova Center, Alaska's biggest halfway house, for two years. I've helped thousands of offenders get back into society. I've sent hundreds of people back to jail or prison. I've been educated in and have trained others in aspects of domestic violence and sexual abuse. One thing I've learned is that women who have been injured by violent men have a hard time relating to men seeking information on why or how they were victimized.

Diane Benson is certainly not a victim. She might have been, at least one of the times she was raped by a white man as a young woman. She might have been when she was shot in the thigh, and left to bleed to death by one of her assailants. She might have been when she was assailed by the Anchorage Daily News, the Associated Press, the UAA Northern Lights, and others for defending her Tlingit clan from a UAA faculty mentor who had turned upon Diane.

She might have played the squaw role to so-called "real Democrats" after she challenged Don Young in 2006 and narrowly lost, after being outspent by her opponent nine to one. She might have gotten upset by now (I would be!) that the Anchorage Daily News and most other MSM outlets have continually neglected to cite her important role in keeping pressure up against Don Young and his long list of calumnies.

She might have been upset that the Alaska media, hot on the Abramoff-Young connections now, fails to mention that her 2006 campaign begged the same outlets to consider this matter almost two years ago, and didn't. As recently as last fall, when Benson gave the ADN four days notice to show up for her announcement of a request for an investigation into Young's unconstitutional 2005 legislation changes, they could have given a flying fucking shit.

Doing my research into Benson's civil rights record, I'm disturbed. She's an inconvenient truth. More than that, she's a multi-level inconvenient truth. Not only did her early 21st century challenge to defend her house, clan and tribe get screwed and skewed by the Alaska media, her extremely articulate and moving challenge to it at the time, a long essay she wrote defending her objection to Linda McCarriston's Indian Girls, is locked behind an internet screening block.

Benson's deeper truth is in her continuity. A substantial portion of the lack of understanding of that resonant depth for our Native Alaskan community by our Alaska media may well be inadvertent. Diane understands that. Benson has also commented upon this legacy's stepchildren for a long time.

Diane Benson may be more than a little Quixotic. But maybe not. Her challenge to a party - the Alaska Democrats - that has been so long out of real connection with what Democrats mean to the USA, is dismissed as "opportunistic," even now. But she isn't attacking windmills, she's attacking a corporate paradigm that is killing not just Indian girls, but all our exposed small communities off the road grid. She's attacking politicians who accept money from war criminals like Henry Kissinger without even caring to know that. She's attacking politicians who dissed her in 2006 because Rahm Emanuel, a Republican in Democrat's clothing, told him to let her bleed to death once again in the cold snow.

As I've read through the material on Benson's history in Alaska civil rights issues, I've been looking at the records of her two opponents in the upcoming primary. All three compare favorably to Young, to say the least. But I hope to illustrate here, over the next three weeks, how uniquely powerful Benson's courage, perseverance, common sense, tribal loyalty and universality actually is.

Unfortunately, I'll also have to explain how far short our statewide media often is in recognizing deeper issues when an Alaska Native woman is the subject of discussion.

Unless there's a lot of money involved.

image of Diane Benson signing her request for an investigation into Don Young's unconstitutional change of Federal legislation last autumn. photo not courtesy of the ADN, because they weren't there.

Happy Earth Day, Campers!

We've got about a dozen of these Nalgene bottles. We use them for hiking, fishing and skiing trips. It has recently been discovered that they aren't healthy. Beth Bragg, at the Anchorage Daily News has written an informative article about this, perhaps with Earth Day in mind:

Bisphenol A or BPA -- the chemical used in a variety of hard-plastic water bottles, baby bottles, sippy cups and food containers -- made big news last week.

A report from the U.S. National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences warned that the chemical can leach into food and liquids and "may alter human development."

Meanwhile, the Canadian government proposed a ban on baby bottles made with BPA because of the chemical's potential toxicity.

In Anchorage, REI over the weekend stripped its shelves of water bottles containing BPA and replaced them with bottles made with a BPA-free material called Tritan. Small signs posted above racks filled with Nalgene and Camelbak bottles say REI will no longer sell bottles with BPA.

Fred Meyer and Wal-Mart stores in Anchorage still have baby bottles and sippy cups containing BPA on their shelves.

APRN has a good interview with Wally Hickel and Malcolm Roberts about their part in the origin of Earth Day, back when Hickel was Richard Nixon's Secretary of the Interior, and Roberts - then, as now - worked for Wally. They'll be laying it this evening on Alaska News Nightly.

What better person to describe aspects of the earth on Earth Day than Erin McKittrick. She and hig are past Egegik, on their way down the northern shore of the Alaska Peninsula. She talks about wind in Connoisseurs of Wind:

Smooth and steady, quite dry, cool but not cold, with a strong, robust flavor…

That was the wind we had on the way into Egegik. Leaning into it, wading upstream against the current of air sweeping across the tundra, I reflected on our choice of route. Following the Pacific Rim, through the Lost Coast, the mountain passes, and heading down the Alaska Peninsula, we’ve chosen to pass through some of the windiest possible places.

We’ve become connoisseurs of wind. Wind that sweeps up from behind, shoving us along. Wind that drives in from ahead, stinging our exposed cheeks and noses. Wind that rattles the brush and flattens the grass, wind that sets the water into a frothing chop, and wind that sends swirls of hissing snow streaming across the ground. Wind that blows for days, as if you’ll never hear silence again. Wind that leaps up in an instant, a roaring tempest that ends as suddenly as it began. Wind that blows sand, or snow, or leaves, or rain, or nothing at all. Wind that funnels through narrow notches in the land, where you can walk from a gale to dead calm in a matter of minutes. Wind that seems to fill the whole world.

Wind blown, wind swept, wind scoured… We’re passing the last few scraggly trees - beyond the “limit of wooded country” marked on the map. Into a land of tundra and volcanoes, and into one of my favorite parts of the world.

Update - Tuesday evening: APRN has put the audio of their Earth Day piece up at their web site.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Ten Things I Learned at the AK Press Club J-Week

I attended the Alaska Press Club's 2008 Journalism Week Conference last weekend. I initially planned on going to watch a couple of the events, but had decided to check on whether they'd let me in the club, as a web-based journalist.

Rhonda McBride registered me as a member, and welcomed me very warmly. Things went mostly uphill from there. I can't thank the people I met enough, who were so welcoming. I was also gratified by the compliments and criticism I received there about Progressive Alaska.

I was even nominated to and voted onto the club's board. I've got to admit that, on the one hand - I'm proud. But, on the other hand, when I told friends there who have been longtime club members this, they gave me that "You just bought a timeshare in Sadr City?" look.

What impressed me the most about the participants was the raw enthusiasm shown by the youngest reporters and by college students attending. A special bonus was being able to spend time with my close friends Ruth Sheridan, Alaska's most distinguished peace advocate, and with Celeste Benson, the Anchorage Senior Center's Chief Administrator.

I learned a lot! Here are a few of the things...

Ten Things I Learned at J-Week 2008:

1. The press is finally getting it about violence toward Alaska Native Women
2. The press is not getting it about the local perniciousness of Islamophobia.
3. There were more than enough fine presentations.
4. Everyone knows who Michele Linehan is.
5. Nobody knows who Sibel Edmonds is.
6. Leonard Pitts, Jr. loves Stan Lee comic books.
7. Aliza Sherman Rizdahl is one hellaciously amazing multi-tasker.
8. Young reporters see the web as their future. Older ones sometimes wish it would go away.
9. Reporters drink more than classical musicians. Way more.
10. Never take your girlfriend to Cordova. Thanks, Bob Martinson, for reminding me.

top image - Steve Heimel, Shannyn Moore, Jeff Cohen
bottom image - Rick Rydell, Dan Fagan

A Talk With Mark Begich

Last week, in the comments to a post at Progressive Alaska about U.S. Senate Democratic Party candidate Ray Metcalfe's Wednesday April 16th meeting with the Party's Central Committee, Mayor Begich asked me to call him. I left a message for him, and he returned the call yesterday. He's been busy.

Although he said he wanted to answer any questions I have about Ray's statements regarding Mark's real estate dealings, or on any other matter, right then and there, I was busy thinning plants in my greenhouse and getting dinner on the table. So I asked that we set up a meeting sometime in the near future through his scheduling people. That's what we're going to do.

I've only met Mark once, at a ceremony honoring America's POWs and MIAs, at Bartlett High School on April 9, 2007, at which he spoke and I played bugle.

I suggested that Mayor Begich might consider finding some appropriate time in the near future to give credit to Ray Metcalfe for the efforts that the latter has made over the years to clean up corruption in Alaska politics. Mark doesn't appear to be any closer to that than Ray is to acknowledging the good things Mark has done over the years.

I had hoped to attend Mark's announcement - it will be made in about five minutes from now - but I've got way too many student term papers and reports yet ungraded to drive 100 miles today.

PAC Puppet? --- Ethan Says "NO!"

Back on January 18, former Alaska State Representative Ethan Berkowitz spoke to the Mat-Su Democrats about his campaign in the Democratic Party primary for the AK-AL seat now held by GOP crook (and pervert?), Don Young. In the question-and-answer session after Ethan's talk, I asked him about Ray Metcalfe's claim to have delivered a packet of documents and information about former State Senator Ben Stevens, when both Berkowitz and Stevens were serving in the legislature. Ethan, in January, stated that his hands had been tied as a legislator, because of procedural rules, that APOC was investigating many of Ray Metcalfe's allegations, and that Ethan wasn't free to talk about some of the things he "might have done" with the information when he received it from Ray.

Back on January 18, Ethan also told me, "You could have called me."

Between last Thursday and Sunday, going through Ethan's 2008 first quarter Federal Election Commission, filing, I came across two donations that troubled me. The first was a $500.00 donation from Anchorage CH2M Hill director, Denis LeBlanc. CH2M Hill is Veco's successor, and has an environmental reputation in the lower 48 that stinks. The second donation, or set of donations, was the $10,000.00 the Berkowitz campaign received from Illinois U.S. House Representative Rahm Emanuel's PAC, Our Common Values.

Over the weekend, I got in touch with Howie Klein, one of the founders of BlueAmerica, an on-line funding group which raised about $13,000,000.00 for progressive U.S. House candidates in the 2006 election. Howie has done more to expose the insidious politics of Rahm Emanuel, than has any other progressive figure.

Klein isn't alone in this, though. I spent a few hours over the weekend with one of America's most inspiring progressives, Jeff Cohen, founder of the Park Center for Independent Media, and endowed chair/associate professor of journalism at Ithaca College. Cohen is in Alaska this week, and was a leading participant in the Alaska Press Club's J-Week conference. Cohen is another huge critic of Rahm Emanuel. He was appalled that what appears to be the biggest quarterly candidate contribution by a PAC since Veco was busted, was made by Our Common Values. As Cohen exclaimed, when I informed him of Rahm's donation, "This is huge!"

Saturday, Howie Klein wrote to me that he had written a recent article for Down With Tyranny about Rahm's PAC. In the article, Howie described his feeling, as he looked at the list of PAC donors. "I know some of these people. I feel ill."

The donors to this PAC who gave Berkowitz $10,000 in the first quarter of 2008, reads like a "who's who" list of supporters of war with Iran, defenders of the worst aspects of our health care industry, opponents of net neutrality, and enablers of the financial deregulation that allows hedge fund managers to be taxed very little, and who helped engineer the sub-prime mortgage industry meltdown. The list includes the producer of Bill O'Reilly's radio show, several Fox executives, war criminal Henry Kissinger's main business partner, and a whole host of other people who make Alaska's Corrupt Bastard Club look like a kindergarten roster.

Klein, in his article about Emanuel's PAC, notes that those who, in the past have benefitted from this funding source, have gone on to be the closest allies to President Bush among Democrats in the U.S. House. Jeff Cohen, speaking about Emanuel and those loyal to him, said Saturday, that "Emanuel isn't really a Democrat, and doesn't have a remotely progressive agenda."

Sunday, I decided to call Ethan and ask him if he knew what he'd walked into by accepting the largest quarterly contribution Rahm Emanuel has ever given an unelected candidate in a U.S. House primary. According to Ethan, he had no idea that Rahm is as despised on the left as is the case. He said that he hadn't looked at the list of donors to Our Common Values. He seemed somewhat surprised about this.

Ethan went on to say that he is very much for an open internet, with free access to information for all. For the first time I've heard him go this far, he stated he is categorically against a war with Iran.

Berkowitz added that he'll look into how Emanuel is viewed in the Democratic Party as a whole, and will take a look at the Our Common Values PAC donor list. He says that under no circumstances will he feel obligated to Emanuel for the latter's largesse.

I pointed out that "that's what every candidate says, Ethan." He replied that he'll get back to me on this once he's more familiar with the reasons for Jeff Cohen's and Howie Klein's concerns. He also explained that the donation from LeBlanc was from a longtime friend. LeBlanc was Anchorage City Manager before moving to CH2M Hill. Ethan says he doesn't expect to be getting any donations from the company itself, and would probably return them should they donate.

Rahm Emanuel caricatures courtesy of Howie Klein

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Nothing But Singing to Do

If it weren't for the picture, you might think the headline would be to an article about Don Young's future with the Justice Department. But that was the title of Saturday evening's Anchorage Opera Dark Night recital, featuring soprano Kate Egan, mezzo-soprono Marlene Bateman and pianist Juliana Osinchuk.

It was also a CD launch for the three artists, who have been working for well over a year on this. Their preparation showed in the concert. And then some.

The artists played songs by seven composers. Though the composers - Beethoven, Mendelssohn, Brahms, Saint-Saens, Faure, Purcell and Britten - are familiar, most of the songs were recital rarities. Which made their incredibly polished performances all the more dear.

At a reception afterward, I got to introduce Juliana Osinchuk to Diane Benson. Both are among the most important of Alaska artists. Both have recently been shaken by family tragedies: Juliana's husband, Mark Dawson, passed away in 2006. And Diane's son was terribly wounded later that year, in Iraq.

Juliana, as usual, is deeply involved in many projects. I'm hoping to work with her again soon.

Diane, has mostly had to set aside her career as actress, writer, director and producer, to challenge Don Young and others for our sole seat in the U.S. Congress.

The evening she was called by the Department of the Army to be notified that her son was injured so badly he wasn't expected to survive, Benson had just returned from a tour of Western Alaska, where she had presented her monodrama about Alaska's Martin Luther King, Elizabeth Peratrovich. When the phone rang she was preparing for an audition the following morning for a new play she had written and was to enact.

The resulting fight to help her son save himself, and what she learned watching our veterans recover from the monstrous crimes of this war, created her next role.

It isn't a play, though.

image of Diane Benson and Juliana Osinchuk

Hats Off To Dennis Greenia and Richard Mauer

For over two years, Dennis Greenia has been the main source of information on Don Young's contacts with Jack Abramoff, and on Young's role in turning the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands into a slave empire. His research was key to my October 16, 2006 article on this for Down With Tyranny.

Cited in my article from 19 months ago, was also the research on some of Young's Abramoff contacts mentioned in articles for the Anchorage Daily News by Liz Ruskin.

Since October, 2006, I've written over 20 articles for Down With Tyranny, Daily Kos and Progressive Alaska on Young's ties to Abramoff, and about the continuing research being done by Greenia and by the Diane Benson campaign in this area.

Today's Anchorage Daily News has a very comprehensive article on this by Richard Mauer. Mauer, like me, has been in direct contact with Greenia on deepening the research. Dennis, or Dengre, as he is known to DailyKos readers, pays very generous tribute to Mauer in a diary he's written this morning on Mauer's article over at DailyKos. And Mauer cites the importance of Dengre's research in his piece.

And I'm very happy that Richard's dedication is paying off here. His Young-Abramoff article today is the best research article at the ADN since Mauer teamed up with Tom Kizzia to write an article publshed February 10, about some of the shady aspects of Ted Stevens' relationship to the Seward Sea Life Center.

It is important to note, though, that over 80% of the information in Mauer's article was already out there, in very similar format, in my October 16, 2006 Down With Tyranny article on the same subject. At the time of that article's publication, Diane Benson's 2006 campaign manager drew it to the attention of editors and news directors of all major Alaska media outlets, Nobody called back. The lack of response upset me enough then, that, upon the urging of Aaron Selbig, I wrote an appeal to the Alaska MSM, for Insurgent49. I'm going to reprint that appeal now, to give a little bit of historical perspective:

October 27, 2006
Media Coverage of Young's Corruption Seriously Lacking
by Philip Munger, insurgent49

The past two weeks have seen the publication of several articles about Don Young that clearly show him unfit for continued service in the U. S. House of Representatives.

I documented twenty contacts between Young and convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff in an article published at two web sites. The Anchorage Daily News has written three times in the past week about aspects of Young’s arrogance and questionable campaign practices. The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner covered most of the points about the Young-Abramoff ties in an article published Saturday that asks more questions about those ties.

On Tuesday, the Juneau Empire featured a story by Pat Forgey that highlighted Young’s highly questionable contributions to the legal defense funds of Representatives Randy “Duke” Cunningham, Tom DeLay and Bob Ney. Of those three, Cunningham is now serving time, Ney about to begin serving, and DeLay soon to go to trial. Also on Tuesday, a high traffic web site posted an article about Abramoff that questions how long Young and several other Abramoff-tainted congressmen can remain free, even should they win re-election on November 7.

The last article raises interesting questions about how Young’s future is tied to the pace of revelations coming from Jack Abramoff’s cellblock desk. The article’s author, Howie Klein, a retired recording industry executive and co-founder of ActBlue, an organization which has raised over $14,000,000 on-line for progressive candidates this cycle, writes “FBI insiders, or at least those with inside info from FBI employees familiar with the Abramoff case, are betting that almost instant indictments are looming for Alaska's Don Young, Florida's Tom Feeney, John Doolittle, Jerry Lewis, Duncan Hunter, Ken Calvert and Dirty Dick Pombo of the Golden State and Phil English and Don Sherwood of Pennsylvania, as well as for former GOP Crime Boss Tom DeLay.”

Klein further states “there are a whole lot of GOP solons from low information districts who will be re-elected only to face almost immediate indictment and the same eventual fate as former GOP congressmen/current prison inmates Duke Cunningham and Bob Ney.”

Don Young is the number one recipient of political funding from Veco, a firm being investigated by the FBI. Our sole congressman didn’t even attend his own committee’s September hearings into BP’s business failures in Alaska. When he returned to Alaska for the October congressional recess, a time during which most incumbents of both parties are campaigning furiously, Young has chosen to campaign for one hour only – at Wednesday’s KSKA/KAKM debate. The rest of the time, he claims, he’s “traveling as a congressman.”

He has refused to participate in public forums across the state with Democratic Party nominee Diane Benson, who has turned into a highly credible candidate who resonates with our serving military and their families, with veterans, with the Native community at large, and with the growing number of voters here who have “had enough.”

Meanwhile, Young defends his threats, cancellations, and contributions of donor funds to questionable criminal defense organizations in an imperious manner.

This has been handled rather poorly, in most part, by Alaska media. Alaska editors and reporters need to begin connecting the dots very, very soon in a responsible and comprehensive way on the patterns of abuse of power by our sole representative in Congress. Should Young be re-elected and then indicted for his activities without a deeper coverage of his shortcomings by the Alaska press, Young’s indictment will also be an indictment of the Alaska media’s inability or unwillingness to fully do it’s job.