We've grown a lot since March, 2008. There are more progressive blogs in Alaska now. During the first eight months of 2008, our collective readership was slowly growing, as Alaskans and people around the USA and the world sought information on Alaska politics.
We were enthusiastic. Along with other progressive outlets, spurred locally by the articulate and dynamic trio of talk hosts at KUDO-AM in Anchorage, local bloggers engaged heavily in the Municipal election there. Progressive Alaska bloggers covered both the Alaska GOP and Democratic Party conventions. We reported on candidate forums and debates all through the winter, spring and early summer of 2008, leading up to the August 26th statewide primaries.
On August 29th, 2008, the McCain presidential campaign announced Sarah Palin's selection as his choice for running mate. It has been a wild ride ever since.
Part Two: Rural Crisis coverage. This past week Sen. Mark Begich visited Bethel. He went with August Cisar, the regional director for the Bureau of Indian Affairs. The results will come out over time, but already some relief has been announced. Shannyn Moore - back to fairly regular blogging after working as a remodeling contractor and traveling out to Unalaska -covered the trip, as did the Immoral Minority and AK Muckraker at the Mudflats. AK Muckraker writes:
Without fanfare, without a pair of evangelical celebrity preachers flanking him, Senator Mark Begich traveled to Bethel and video conferenced with several other villages, including the village of Emmonak.
Sen. Begich was out westward in mid-week. Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin left yesterday, in what has to be one of her weirdest stunts yet. Not only that, but she just may have committed a very serious blunder. Gryphen at Immoral Minority caught aspects of it:
Well according to Governor Sarah all the rural native Alaskans have to do to solve their difficulties is to leave their ancestral homes and run to the big cities just like her husband Todd, who according to Palin worked on the Slope and then "come back to the village after a, one and one, or a two and two, week schedule and still lived a subsistence lifestyle."
Now you know I just hate to disagree with the Governor but when I heard her make this statement I remembered something I had read in that future bestseller "Trailblazer: An Intimate Biography of Sarah Palin."
In chapter four page 56, of this riveting manuscript I read the following:"When they returned to Anchorage, Todd moved in immediately with the Heath sisters (This was right after their marriage on August 29th, 1989) and shared a room with Sarah. He had applied for an oil-company job on the North Slope and was waiting for an offer. In the meantime, he drove snow-removal trucks in Anchorage, usually working the red eye shift."
"Eight months separate the August 29 wedding day from Track's date of birth, April 20, 1989." (pg. 57)
"Before Track's arrival, Sarah and Todd moved back to Wasilla and bought a modest condo near the high school." (pg. 58)
""In 1989, Todd was hired by British Petroleum. which drastically changed the couples lifestyle." (pg. 58)
So let me see if I understand this correctly. Todd Palin was living a subsistence lifestyle in Wasilla? Really? Were Todd, and Sarah, and little Track subsisting on fish and berries and wild game that they hunted when Todd was not working on the North Slope?
Or does Governor Sarah believe that Todd deciding to walk into the woods and shoot a moose, or go to the Knik river and catch some fish, is a direct correlation with how the rural Alaskans in villages like Emmonak live their lives?
Writing Raven, the Tlingit activist at Alaska Real, takes a more serious tone with Palin's statements about Native culture and leadership:
Palin is calling for a change in leadership - with who? What are these leaders doing wrong? Who are they? When has she talked to them? And she gave NO solutions except to say these youth should think about leaving. So the solution is "leave the village"? She can't be a spark to "real dialogue" when she's never taken part in a dialogue! The dialogue has been going on, but Palin doesn't care to be part of it.
The article was also preemptively defensive about the race card being thrown at Palin. As if Palin needs to be a racist to make ignorant remarks about the state of rural Alaska. Personally, I believe Palin is willing to be pretty racially equal about throwing rural Alaska under the bus. For that matter, she's screwing us all equally in her painfully obvious stab for national attention. I didn't agree with the remarks about Ted Stevens at the time (don't think the guy was racist, just wrong) and it is interesting to note that the only people to bring up racism with Palin's remarks have been the people of the Alaska Dispatch.
To be very clear - Palin's remarks aren't racist. They are ignorant of the real issues, display a willingness to decide what is right having never had the dialogue, and take us back about 50 years in the struggle to maintain thriving rural and cultural communties. But in ignorance, she's being quite equal.
Once again, Palin offered no solutions to these problems. She talks about them getting jobs, but not about training, or the availability of them. Does she think every Native youth has a father on the slope and the governor willing to write a letter of recommendation to get them that job? It's really not that easy. It also displays an incredibly poor grasp of the situation. Some of these families are paying $2,500 a month just for their oil. Getting a job on the slope doesn't fix that problem, and it will continue to be a problem.
Writing Raven goes on to chronicle a few of the important stories which pointed to a looming rural crisis in Alaska:
(Lt. Gov. Parnell) "Frankly, the first weekend that this particular regional hardship hit the web from Emmonak, both the governor and I tried to get our there and we were hampered due to weather."
I will say it again - this problem did not just spring up six weeks ago. Not only has this been generations in the making, the whole last year Native leaders, state leaders, corporations, people in the communities have been speaking out, warning about this, and even asking for help before it "hit the web." I've posted this before, but I want to reiterate how far in advance the governor had to prepare for this, and did nothing:
In May, the Bristol Bay Times reported on rural residents calling for emergency relief and to declare an energy diaster.
In early August, the Anchorage Daily News reported prominent Native leaders directly talking to Paling about these problems, and the solutions that including building infrasctructure.
In early August, even USA Today noticed the problem and reported on it, referencing data showing just how bad it could get from a study done in May.
In late August, Sen. Murkowksi held a meeting about the crisis, and urged residents to stay in their communities (report by ADN)."I urge you not to give up your way of life, your culture and your connection to the land and move into urban areas. We will find a creative way to beat this," she told Bethel residents...
In September, Sen. Begich (then Mayor) and Anchorage School Superintendent sent a letter to Palin (from ADN) regarding the migration from villages to the city due to high energy costs. Palin refuted high energy costs had anything to do with it, later.
In October, Native leaders continued their call for an energy emergency declared at the Alaska Federation of Natives convention (reported by the ADN). Of course, Palin was busy campaigning and may not have noticed.
In November, Indian Country Today did a story highlighting the Alaska Federation of Natives resolution to the energy crisis and village migration, as well as the incredibly poor response from Palin.
In late December, Indian Country Today reported on the dismal reaction of the Palin administration energy crisis, focusing on the rural subcabinet formed."The Rural Subcabinet formed by Governor Sarah Palin in response to what many consider a crisis in rural Alaska has reportedly met, but specific information about their activities has been difficult to find..." "The group has no fixed meeting time and the date of their next meeting is unknown." "...As of Dec. 8, the AFN had apparently heard nothing about actions or meetings of the subcabinet..."
Of course, this is only in recent months. This stuff goes back years, as far as addressing the real problems. Not to mention the other villages that have had true emergencies, including Adak. Once again, I point to the Alaska Native Commission Report done in the 90's that point out both problem and solution. Palin should think about reading it.
Part Three: Heather Kendall-Miller. That leads me to commenting about lack of coverage by Alaska progressive blogs of an important event this past week. Athabaskan activist attorney Heather Kendall-Miller is being vetted for an important post in the Obama administration, that of Native American Affairs senior advisor. Kendall-Miller wrote a scathing review of Palin's record as governor in regard to Alaska Natives, last September. Amanda Coyne wrote a thorough profile of Kendall-Miller in 2007, which the Alaska Dispatch reprinted this week.
Part Four: The Fairclough-Hamilton Dialogue.
Perhaps partially as a result of my open letter to University of Alaska President, Mark Hamilton, University of Alaska history professor Steve Haycox, one of Alaska's best historians, wrote an op-ed for the Anchorage Daily News that has a small glitch in it. It is regarding Haycox's colleague and mine, Prof. Steve Aufrecht. Here's an extract from Haycox's op-ed:
[T]here have been questions raised recently about sanctions against respected university researchers who have produced reports critical of sacred cows. Biologist Rick Steiner criticized a Sea Grant initiative on offshore oil development; emeritus professor Steve Aufrecht is investigating the terms of the BP-ARCO charter agreement with the university.
Aufrecht, who is currently working in Thailand, wrote this morning:
I got an email today telling me about this opinion piece in the ADN by history professor Steve Haycox. He's discussing Rep. Anna Fairclough's questions to University President Mark Hamilton regarding UA student lobbying and their opposition to development in Alaska. In it he writes:
His [Hamilton's] response is most welcome, for there have been questions raised recently about sanctions against respected university researchers who have produced reports critical of sacred cows. Biologist Rick Steiner criticized a Sea Grant initiative on offshore oil development; emeritus professor Steve Aufrecht is investigating the terms of the BP-ARCO charter agreement with the university.
I just want to set the record straight here. There's an implication: "questions have been raised recently about sanctions against respected university researchers." Then two university faculty are mentioned. First, as I said above, Steve Aufrecht has blogged about and raised some questions, but really has done nothing that he would claim to be 'investigating.' Second, to my knowledge, sanctions have not been discussed about him. I could be wrong on that score, but what sort of sanctions does one impose on faculty emerita? (From the University [of Alaska] Regulations 04.04.070: "the position of professor emeritus is the highest honor that can be bestowed upon a retiring faculty member. ")
So, how did Dr. Haycox come to these conclusions? My guess is that "there have been questions raised" refers to Philip Munger's post on his blog Progressive Alaska where he first discusses how Dr. Rick Steiner's signing of an open letter critical of the "North Aleutian Basin Energy-Fisheries Initiative, being implemented by the University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF) and Alaska Sea Grant" resulted in his Dean chastising him in a three year post-tenure review for abusing his academic freedom.
Then, Munger raises another issue of interest to the university. He writes:2. Dr. Steve Aufrecht's Investigation into the BP-ARCO Merger Charter Agreement and the University of Alaska
University of Alaska Professor Emeritus Steve Aufrecht has been trying to determine whether or not the so-called "Merger Charter Agreement" that enabled the formation of the entity now known as Conoco-Phillips is legally enforceable, or is a mere scrap of paper. If the agreement is enforceable, it appears quite likely that Conoco-Phillips owes the University of Alaska money. A lot of money.
I had considered commenting on this post to say that 'investigation' was probably a bit strong. Two blog posts and some inquiries, the way I see things, do not an investigation make. But since the rest of the post described what little had been actually done in this 'investigation' I decided to let it pass. (As I look at it again now, I'd say that I was reasonably sure it is enforceable and what I'd been asking was who was monitoring it to be sure the conditions were met.)
But now Haycox picks up the word investigation and lumps the two profs together to suggest that both face sanctions for their activities, when really only Steiner did according to Munger.
Rep. Anna Fairclough gave a brown bag lunch talk at UAA on Thursday. I had hoped to be there and write about it, but couldn't. Steve Amundson did, though. The Alaska Dispatch has printed Amundson's essay, called Did Rep. Fairclough Lie at UAA?
image - Lower Yukon lingonberries by oysters4me