Saturday, December 19, 2009

Saturday Alaska Progressive Blog Roundup - The Search for LIFE Panels

I. One of the better things about our Alaska progressive bloggers is that we're constantly looking for ways people might improve their lives by supporting positive endeavors large and small. Whether it is sharing information about growing, storing or cooking our own food, enjoying the wondrous beauty around us, helping rebuild destroyed or devastated communities, or supporting affirming causes, respect for educators, scientists and public figures - we're a mosaic of approaches to affirming life's possibilities.

Portraying what that is is difficult and extremely nuanced. Each of our progressive Alaskan blogs is as unique as it is limited. Community is often diverse, and as the community of Alaska's progressive bloggers grows, so does our cumulative perspective.

Several of us meet fairly regularly in the Anchorage area, at one event or another. We've even attempted to have large meetups for work, fun or both. Steve, at What Do I Know? has suggested we form an association. Maybe the time has come.

We might call it The Life Panel.

II. Saving what is left of our oceanic life might be a good place for a Life Panel to start. Shannyn Moore held one that aired last Saturday on KYES, Anchorage's Channel 5 TV. It featured four fisheries experts whose perspectives on saving our oceanic bounties from corporate greed and environmental catastrophe dovetailed each other nicely. Here's Shannyn's article on the show.

III. Diane Benson has been saving women's lives, one at a time, for years. She started with her own, when she was a kid. Until last year, when she was "outed" in the midst of her efforts, much of that work was anonymous, as she helped victims of sexual assault recover and prosper.

Diane Benson didn't out herself. An Anchorage Daily News reporter - Lisa Demer did. This past week, another ADN "reporter," Sheila Toomey, in one of Toomey's most meretricious "Ear" ADN column entries in memory - and that's saying something - shit all over all the women Benson had helped, by telling Benson to just go fucking run for city council or a platting board, or dogcatcher, instead of saving women's lives.

Unlike Demer and Toomey, Benson not only wants to create solutions to the desperate situations marginalized women face in Alaska, she has been doing it, thankless time after unnoticed episode, after anonymous effort, for decades.

Benson is currently serving on more than one Life Panel, involved in helping get Alaska out of the third-world sexual violence realm we inhabit.

IV. In Diane Benson's Thursday address to Anchorage's Bartlett Democratic Club, she referenced how hard it is to get Life Panels to work, in the face of intransigence. AK Muckraker described part of this seriously complex situation:

Then she shared a fact that stunned the room. Anchorage right now has forensic rape kits that it has not tested. Victims do all the things they are supposed to do, samples are taken and they are sitting there unlooked at, untested. The city doesn’t even know how many of these untested kits have been set aside. Why are they not being tested? Lack of funds. What does that say about our priorities?

Palin chose to charge the victims of rape to have their evidence examined and their rape kits tested. We don’t charge the families of murder victims for forensic tests. “How is it just to charge a victim, or to just disregard evidence altogether? Do only those with money have justice? If protection of our citizens is not a fundamental priority, then what is?” Benson asked.

We need our governments to be run as if they are Life Panels, not Neglect Panels.

That brings us to Sarah Palin in a direct, rather than indirect way. The term her handlers put into her facebook, the Death Panel meme, was awarded's award for 2009 "Lie of the Year." Alaska's progressive bloggers covered it in detail:

AK Muckraker

Lovely on the mantle.

Those who will have to settle for a year of being only second and third best? Glenn Beck and Orly Taitz. Better luck next time you pikers! Bow to the master!

Ms. Palin, when asked later if she regretted using the term “Death Panels,” a phrase she originated, replied (using an unfortunate turn of phrase), “I would characterize them like that again in a heartbeat.”

Shannyn Moore:

Of all the falsehoods and distortions in the political discourse this year, one stood out from the rest.

“Death panels.”

The claim set political debate afire when it was made in August, raising issues from the role of government in health care to the bounds of acceptable political discussion. In a nod to the way technology has transformed politics, the statement wasn’t made in an interview or a television ad. Sarah Palin posted it on her Facebook page.

Jesse Griffin:

Quick! Somebody notify Sarah and tell her she finally WON something!

Though to be honest, when it comes to lying I don't see how anybody could beat her. I am just saying.

The Ossiander Ouster:

Nobody said it better than E. Ross:

  • As chair, she overruled a motion to limit repetitive testimony and instead allowed hundreds of religious opponents to preach anti-gay hate at the hearings.
  • She allowed Wasilla residents to testify on the Anchorage measure, dragging out the hearings for months.
  • In her comments before the vote, she admitted that LGBT people face prejudice and discrimination in Anchorage and need protection, then voted against the measure anyway.
  • She could have been the deciding vote against the mayor's veto, but instead she chose a legacy of caving in to pressure and supporting an agenda of hate.

image - Diane Benson and Bob Poe, by AK Muckraker


bosshog said...

Phil, thanks for speaking up about Diane's tireless work for victims. It's sad that the ADN has allowed its staff to write articles that are out of bounds with journalistic integrity regarding the serious crime of sexual assault. Sexual assault is a HUGE problem in Alaska and the media has a responsibility to help, not harm. We need to support Diane and all of the other advocates and service providers out there who help to save and repair lives every single day.

Phil, it would be really nice if you could do a series of articles on domestic violence and sexual assault in Alaska to help educate the public and draw attention to this issue. I hope you will contact the good folks at the Alaska Network on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault (a state-wide organization of which the Valley Women's Resource Center, AWAIC and STAR are members) to learn more and help them get the word out. Thanks so much.

Anonymous said...

What Toomey was saying, and I agree, is that Diane should run for an office that she can actually get elected to.

The Anchorage Assembly would be a good place to start if you ask me, especially since there's never been an Alaskan Native elected to the Anchorage Assembly.


Philip Munger said...


I worked a lot from the late 70s into the 90s in public safety, and was trained as a domestic violence intervention specialist in 1984 and 1985. One thing I discovered then and since is that the voice or words of a male on the issues surrounding sexual abuse and domestic violence are far less resonant than are those of women.

I could see one of the progressive Alaska blogs, or possibly the AK Dispatch approaching this set of issues comprehensively, in a series. There have been excellent articles, here and there - Demer's from 2008, in which she outed Benson's secret advocacy activities and their relationship to Benson's past was an excellent example. I spoke with Demer after she wrote it. She promised up a "followup series on what I've learned." I haven't seen it, though she may have approached her editors.

Philip Munger said...

anon @ 6:38,

I disagree, and am not alone on this. Although Benson never addressed what some of us read as a curt, dismissive tone in Toomey's Ear column last weekend, Benson gave a long list of minor to major executive roles she has held in the past, most within the Alaska Native community.

Although this comment I made at an earlier post doesn't exactly fit your note, I'll quote it here, as it is related:

[W]hen Alaska Natives serve to advance their own causes within the mix of all Alaska interests, it is less relevant than causes that include non-Natives?

How much do you know about what Alaska Native advocacy groups upon which Benson has served do and seek to accomplish, or how they are organized?

Jim said...

The advocacy group I'd like to see formed would be one focused on Community Development Groups and how to improve their support to their communities. People living in the affected communities would need to take the lead. This is a very complex issue and many folks (including myself) could use an education. It seems Congressman Young's amendments to the Stevens/ Magnusen Act should probably be revoked, but perhaps the entire statute could use an overhaul in order to bring CDQ groups back in line with the original intent (to serve and benefit their communities).

Kevin said...

Re Diane Benson's quote, "If protection of our citizens is not a fundamental priority, then what is?” Absolutely right. For true conservatives, criminal justice, with the emphasis on justice, should be bedrock.

What happens if a defendant wants a sample tested in the belief that it will exonerate him? Does he have to pay for testing? If he can't, is it paid for out of funds allocated for public defenders? I would think there would be a constitutional due-process problem if the state says, "we have evidence that might clear you, but if you can't pay to have it tested, nobody will ever know."

Anonymous said...

Jesse Griffin a Progressive Blogger ?

Please Phil, give me a break.

Writing about Sarah Palin's cellulite, or Track Palin's fictional legal troubles is not advancing Progressive causes.

You will never accept the notion that what you and your fellow bloggers are doing hurts your cause more than you help it.

I know that's a hard concept for you to accept, but it's true.

Pretty sad if you ask me.

Anonymous said...

Of course Phil, I know nothing about the Native causes that Diane has worked on over the years, certainly not as much as you do.

I admire the work that she's done, she's still never held public office though, and that's the best training of all if she's really committed to being a public servant.

I wish her luck though, I truly hope that she wins, but my gut reality check tells me that she won't.