Sunday, January 31, 2010

PA Arts Sunday - The ASO Does Chaplin's Gold Rush

One of Charles Chaplin's masterpieces is The Gold Rush. It is his only movie about Alaska. I've seen it several times over the years, but never before with live music, performed by the Anchorage Symphony, or in such a huge venue - the Atwood Concert Hall.

It is the first time I've seen it with the tramp not initially getting Georgia's note from her, but as a prank from the guy to whom it was actually written, the sleazy hunk, Hank Curtis.

This was my favorite time watching it, except possibly when we (the Whittier Volunteer Fire Department) showed it in pre-television Whittier in 1977, to a room chock-full of school kids, who laughed pretty damned hard.

Here's the most famous scene from the movie, Chaplin's "table ballet"

After the movie, we took in the ice sculptures outside the PAC:

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Saturday Alaska Progressive Blog Roundup - PA and the Palestinians

I. A nice anonymous commenter at a recent PA post wrote:

Phil, I don't understand your preoccupation with Palistine. How about giving some balanced blog space and advocacy for the oppressed people of countries such as North Korea, Tibet, China, Sudan, Somalia, Myanmar, etc.?

I'll take them in order, using points that may apply to more than one of these countries, who, along with others, routinely violate the human rights of their own citizens:

We don't send hundreds of billions of American tax dollars to the North Koreans so that they can drop or shoot white phosphorus onto schools and hospitals, where kids like the one at the upper left have to end up dead or looking like him.

We don't write tax policies that enable the Han Chinese to invest in housing projects that eject Tibetans from their homes in Lhasa.

We don't have a White House with a chief of staff named after a Chinese terrorist who was killed smuggling arms to kill British Soldiers.

We don't cater to lobbyists from Sudan who constantly encourage us to go to all-out war against a neighboring country that hasn't attacked one of their neighbors in generations.

We don't have a Pentagon whose offices are stuffed with people with dual Somali-American citizenship, who manufacture false premises to march us into a series of wars in the heart of Africa.

We aren't experiencing a time when a small group of ruthless Burmese generals and politicians have hijacked Buddhism, turning it into a militant version of what had once been a great religion, and branding anyone who doesn't believe in a Myanmar expansion version of Buddhism as anti-Burmese or anti-Buddhist.

Additionally, no North Korean, Chinese, Sudanese, Burmese or Somali general, politician, general or warlord is openly bragging that the United States is fighting two wars and threatening to start a third one, on their behalf.

Also, and importantly, there is no large body of American people who openly believe that we need to foster violence in North Korea, Tibet, China, Somalia, Venezuela, Cuba, Sudan or Burma, so that we may enable the second coming of Jesus Christ, and implement a new age. And there is no cynical tie-in between Columbian politicians who hope to bring money to their country because of some apocolyptic religious myth, and American fundamentalist sects who total in the tens of millions of misguided believers.

Finally, I have been drawn into this conflict on a personal level since I began creating The Skies Are Weeping in 2003. I continue to be involved with continuing performances of the work, which are used to raise money for Palestinian and Israeli causes. One of the results of the conflict around attempts to perform, or the performances of that work, has been that I have made well over a hundred friends in the USA, Israel, the Occupied Territories, Europe, Canada and beyond, who are knowledgeable about Palestinian rights issues. I feel I have an obligation to share from my unique perspective among Alaskans in that area.

II. Coverage of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict by Alaska Progressive blogs:

This may be a more touchy subject than defending PA's own coverage of this set of subjects. Essentially, the other progressive Alaskan blogs rarely cover this and never pose questions or conduct polls, as has PA.

I don't blame them. It is obvious, reading through the comments at some of my colleagues' blogs, that to bring this conflict up the way PA has would probably disrupt their commenting community. I have many friends and a few former friends with whom I agree on every progressive issue, but when it comes to the I-P conflict, we are in total disagreement.

The only Alaska progressive blog that has taken up the Palestinian rights or the Gaza conflict issue more than once has been The Immoral Minority. Here's a link to the Israel-tagged articles. Here's a link to the Palestine-tagged articles. There is no Gaza tag at IM.

Shannyn Moore has found occasional context to take up this conflict on radio, but a web search indicates no known articles about the I-P conflict per se at her blog, Just a Girl from Homer. The same goes for The Mudflats, and for What Do I Know?

Again, I don't fault these blogs for shying away from the most divisive subject there is among American progressives. I've discussed the conflict on occasion with each of these blog's proprietors. All are aware of my open and enduring advocacy for Palestinian rights, and this has not caused a conflict I'm aware of. We've certainly had bigger arguments over other subjects.

III. Where we have found a lot of common ground, though, on a closely related subject, is that of the dangers of religious fanaticism. I despise militant religion that claims to be so powerful it can take the lives of people, be it a warped Islam, warped Christianity, warped Hinduism, warped Judaism, or warped Flying Spaghetti Monsterism. These sects are indulging in human sacrifice.

Gryph at Immoral Minority has written about this often, with passion, knowledge and acumen. Shannyn Moore has written about it, and brought guests onto her radio presentations who are experts on the dangers of religious fanaticism. Bent Alaska, Celtic Diva's Blue Oasis, Alaska Real, The Alaska Commons, What Do I Know?, The Ester Republic and Henkimaa have written eloquently about the real hardships caused to real Alaskans by religious bigotry, hatred and political influence.

Friday, January 29, 2010

What If James O'Keefe Were Named Ali Muhammed?

OK. Let's begin with the scenario:

Let's imagine that four Palestinian-American men had decided to investigate why a U.S. Senator was not answering calls from constituents about why their Senator had made a negative comment about the Goldstone Report. They then decided to mask their identity falsely, to gain access to the senator's office and communication equipment. Once someone in the office or communications system inside a Federal building smelled something amiss, would the story have played out next the way the O'Keefe farce has?

Of course not. We would not be seeing young Ali Muhammed able to write this or get it splashed all over the internet and other media:

The government has now confirmed what has always been clear: No one tried to wiretap or bug Senator Landrieu’s office. Nor did we try to cut or shut down her phone lines. Reports to this effect over the past 48 hours are inaccurate and false.

As an investigative journalist, my goal is to expose the way our congress and senate refuse to support human rights for Palestinians, as I did last year when our investigations revealed the ties between many U.S. congressional staffers and training for their jobs they have received from people connected to the country of Israel. For decades, investigative journalists have used a variety of tactics to try to dig out and reveal the truth.

I learned from a number of sources that many of Senator Landrieu’s constituents were having trouble getting through to her office to tell her that they didn’t want her taking tens of thousands of federal dollars in exchange for her vote on billions of dollars for arms for the Israeli government. When asked about this, Senator Landrieu’s explanation was that, “Our lines have been jammed for weeks.”

I decided to investigate why a representative of the people would be out of touch with her constituents for “weeks” because her phones were broken. In investigating this matter, we decided to visit Senator Landrieu’s district office – the people’s office – to ask the staff if their phones were working.

On reflection, I could have used a different approach to this investigation, particularly given the sensitivities that people understandably have about security in a federal building, and my being a Palestinian-American. The sole intent of our investigation was to determine whether or not Senator Landrieu was purposely trying to avoid constituents who were calling to register their views to her as their Senator. We video taped the entire visit, the government has those tapes, and I’m eager for them to be released because they refute the false claims being repeated by much of the mainstream media.

It has been amazing to witness the journalistic malpractice committed by many of the organizations covering this story.

My view is that had O'Keefe been a Palestinian-American or Arab-American, he would not have been remanded to the custody of his parents' basement. He would be somewhere distinctly different. GOP congressmen and FAUX News would be screaming at the President for not torturing the shit out of him.

Here's some food for thought:

Part one:

Part two:

Link to Part three.

Part four:

Part five:

A Great Tribute to Howard Zinn

This was created last year:

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Obama in Florida Avoids Addressing the Human Rights Issues Regarding Palestinians

First of all, this exchange could not have happened in a "town hall" format during the George W. Bush administration.

You can watch his mind at work, as he sort of tries to answer this courageous student's question at first, then realizes he can't, then acknowledges other people in the audience, to diffuse focus on her initial question, then tries to broadly address what she brought up without getting into a conflict with his administration's operative policy.

His administration's operative policy is to continue to allow the expansion of Israeli settlements in the West Bank; to finance the building of a wall around Gaza that goes 200 feet underground at the expense of Palestinian human rights (a lot of the work being let out now is being arranged under no-bid contracts to Obama donors); to accomodate the Israelis in their refusal to allow the basic necessities of life from getting into Gazagrad; to refuse to support Palestinians in the West Bank who are true 21st Century Gandhis, but have been targeted by the Israelis for detention, imprisonment or assassination; and to put no pressure on U.S. laws that allow Americans tax credits for investing in expansion projects which steal Palestinian land.

This young woman, when interviewed after the event by local media, commented on the President's response to her question:

Of course we love a two state solution, but there has to be trust and dialogue between two sides. The Palestinian people are ready for a two state solution, but the Palestinian people are the ones being occupied by Israelis. How are the Palestinian people supposed to do anything if they’re the ones being occupied? The occupiers have to allow for something to happen which they have not yet allowed to happen. I asked President Obama why he says America as a nation supports human rights, but at the same time, one of our greatest allies is Israel, a country that does not support human rights, and has many human rights violations. President Obama did not really answer my question or address it, so I’m really disappointed right now.

The context of the student's question had, of course, meaning in the Gaza invasion last year, in which the IDF killed over 1,000 civilians in a few days, and intentionally destroyed a lot of valuable infrastructure, using your and my money to do the job. This criminal set of acts involved a lot of intense violence. Yet Obama states that Palestinians, whose land is being stolen every fucking day, have to renounce violence, and recognize an Israel that is - from their viewpoint - gobbling up their land duman by hectare by acre - and that country's right to continue to do just that.

hat tip - Adam Horowitz at Mondoweiss

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Was This a Joe Wilson Moment? - Updated

One of my colleagues has headlined U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito's reaction to President Obama's criticism of last week's election funding ruling as "Alito is the New Wilson....."

I disagree.

I thought the president's dressing down of an entire branch of the U.S. Government in the way he did to be closer to what Joe Wilson had done, than was Alito's silent reaction to the president's very public comment. And I do not like Justice Alito or his views much at all.

But I found the president's comment to be inappropriate. SC Rep. Joe Wilson broke decorum at a joint session last year, when he shouted "You lie!" at the president. Wilson was loud, he was obstreperous, and he was wrong.

Even in the midst of the gathering clouds and first three years of the U.S. Civil War, Abraham Lincoln was always publicly civil toward Chief Justice Roger Taney, who was as responsible for the climate that created the Civil War as was just about anyone.

President Obama seemed to be immediately a bit regretful of having said it the way he did. He was wrong to express his frustration so publicly.

I don't think he needs to apologize to the Supremes, but Justice Alito's reaction to the president's statement was understandable.

Update - Thursday - 7:00 a.m: I do like this comment in an essay by Attaturk at firedoglake:

Alito has now spoken more in the House Chamber than Clarence Thomas has in the Supreme Court.

Update - Thursday - 7:50 a.m:
Noam Chomsky and Naomi Klein on Democracy Now this morning, analyzing the State of the Union address with Amy Goodman:

The Courage of Shannyn Moore - Part IV

Shannyn Moore's return to daily radio in Anchorage is now midway through its second week. She has now hosted and co-produced several weeks' episodes of Moore Up North, which is broadcasted on KYES TV and posted on Youtube.

I've missed most of her radio episodes on KUDO, but got a new stereo for my Outback last Saturday, so I'll be getting back into listening to Anchorage talk radio. This afternoon, while driving around the Valley doing errands, I listened to a bit of her show, a bit of Eddie Burke's show, and called in to Dan Fagan's show.

Dan was hosting Amanda Coyne and Craig Medred from the Alaska Dispatch. Maybe this is a weekly feature - I don't know. It sort of sounded like it, though. When Craig began discussing the proposed limited entry system for Gulf of Alaska halibut charter operators, I was disturbed enough by untrue information Craig Medred was broadcasting, I had to call.

He was asserting that North Pacific halibut stocks are not down. He attempted to claim that bycatch of halibut by North Pacific and Gulf of Alaska draggers is not under-reported, in spite of ample evidence that it is. I challenged Craig and the Dispatch to actually do some serious investigative reporting on fisheries issues such as this, instead of being such serious dilletantes. After all, I observed, they're being bankrolled by a billionaire's spouse. They actually have more potential resources than McClatchy.

Comparing the Fagan segment with this well-funded crew to what Moore is doing in local media is simply amazing. It isn't fair to isolate a single segment, though, so I'll expand a bit.

In the past 18 months, Moore has:

1. Been fired from KUDO by a vindictive boss without a clue as to the talent he had on his staff.

2. Started a widely-read blog and became an important Huffington Post contributor.

3. Become Alaska's voice on MSNBC and on several high-volume national progressive radio programs.

4. Gone down to Juneau during the legislative session, where Rep. Mike Doogan locked himself into a bathroom to keep from having to be confronted by her.

5. Been threatened with a lawsuit by Sarah Palin for merely reporting what had been reported by others.

6. Won the Buzzflash Wings of Justice Award.

7. Won the 2009 Steve Gilliard Award at Netroots Nation.

8. Addressed prominent academics at Harvard University.

9. Hosted a weekly program on KBYR

10. Introduced a new weekly TV interview program during a time of diminution of local media coverage of local and astatewide public affairs.

11. Placed high in the Anchorage Press Picks for Best Radio Personality. Shannyn Moore Beat Dan Fagan, Eddie Burke and Rick Reidell. 1st place was Bob and Mark on KWHL. 2nd place was Shannyn Moore. The Press noted, somewhat surprised, that the amazing thing about Shannyn was that she won that award with a hidden Saturday afternoon slot vs everyone else that had prime M-F slots!.

These are all important. Put together, though, her triumph over a somewhat hostile environment is entirely unprecedented in Alaska journalism.

More important, though, is the quality of output Moore is producing in print, on TV and on the radio. She has virtually no staff. Her partner Kelly Walters, has been very helpful. The TV wouldn't be happening without Jeremy Lansman. But this is a very small crew, considering Moore is probably responsible for asking more hard questions to more individuals in Anchorage, Alaska and nationwide, than is any other news source.

Her TV show has gone out of its way to invite people to the live taping at Bernie's Bungalow who aren't progressives, liberals, greenies or dirty fucking hippies. Her last panel discussion before the legislative session was composed solely of three prominent Republican legislators. Talking to all three after the taping, I got the impression that they were more than a little surprised at how knowledgeable and - perhaps more importantly - how gracious was their hostess.

Sarah Palin likes to project a mythical image of herself as somebody who represents the average American. I have to admit, that projection seems to have worked to a certain degree. Mostly upon people who don't know her, or Alaska. Palin's ability to project herself as a person in touch with the average Alaskan has not worked so well, as we've gotten to know her better.

Moore, on the other hand, is more in touch with the average American and average Alaskan. Just a Girl from Homer is far more factual and curious than Just a Girl from Wasilla.

Last Saturday's episode of Moore Up North was a case in point. Moore featured a panel of fisheries experts who are knowledgeable about climate change and ocean acidification. You can watch them here. Moore, who is more klnowledgeable on these aspects of fisheries issues than 99.9% of Alaskans, still wants to know more. She has an obvious hunger for expanding her knowledge.

So that she can share it. Having gotten to know Shannyn these past three years that is one of the most remarkable things about her personality. I like to learn something new every day. Sometimes it seems, watching her digest new information, she wants to know something new every hour.

I wish I could say the same about the crew at the Alaska Dispatch. How is it, with a multi-billionaire Sugar Mommy backing the Dispatch's investigative possibilities, we're faced with a set of headlines from them:

Randy Ruedrich Responds to Obama

You Can Love Your Dog

an incurious suckoff job called Pierre Tapped as Deputy Commissioner
If you do a search at the Dispatch's search engine, no articles about Anchorage Assemblyman Bill Starr appear. Apparently, even though Bill Starr has pretty much jumped the shark in his hatred of former Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich, the Dispatch is steering way clear of covering the story.

Moore, on the other hand, without billions of bucks to back her, mostly using her own resources, is getting interviews with key local, state and national figures, almost on a daily basis. It is truly amazing what one can do when one is truly curious, with a thirst for knowledge and for solutions.

Update - Thursday 6:30 a.m: As requested from overnight emails from Shannyn Moore fans:

The Courage of Shannyn Moore - Part III

The Courage of Shannyn Moore - Part II

The Courage of Shannyn Moore - Part I

image - Shannyn Moore at the Not in Our Names Anchorage Rally, September, 2008 - PA

Howard Zinn - 1922-2010

Progressive historian Howard Zinn passed away today. He was a decorated B-17 bombardier during World War II. His doctoral thesis was about Fiorello LaGuardia's congressional career. It was the prototype to his set of challenges to the role of America in the world, and to our historians, that gained traction in the last decade of the 20th Century.

Along with colleagues Noam Chomsky and the late Studs Turkel, he seemed to age very, very well, showing us that our elders can be among the most wise amongst us.

Here's one of his most recent video clips available on Youtube, commenting at a Cape Cod public access channel on the award to President Obama, of the Nobel Peace Prize:

Update - Thursday - 7:05 a.m: An appreciation of Howard Zinn by Daniel Ellsberg.

Monday, January 25, 2010

PA Arts Monday - War Dirge from Hindu Kush

I finished the first draft of War Dirge this morning. It is the third movement of my new orchestral composition, Hindu Kush. The second movement, Women's Ghazal, is posted here.

Here's a link to the MIDI version of War Dirge.

I was going to write about the specific awfulness of the Predator and Reaper drones that we are currently using in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and - reportedly - in other countries. They are a kind of automation of the war process that frightens me. Instead, I wrote a more general lament on the overall unstoppability of the war process that the drones are a part of.

War Dirge is a passacaglia. A theme in the bass line is repeated seven times, with some alteration, as it passes from the lowest voices into the tenor and alto lines, then back down. Each iteration of the bass theme attempts to portray a new mood.

Judy said it isn't as awful as the war is, but that it works. I hope so. We won't find out until May 14th, when it gets played by real, live people.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Why Are the People of Craig Leery of Sen. Albert Kookesh?

As reported by Sean Cockerham, for the Anchorage Daily News, Sen. Albert Kookesh may be in ethics hot water with his Alaska legislative colleagues.

One commenter at the ADN site, wrote, "tip of the iceberg..."

Fisheries writer Stephen Taufen might agree. He has written to both Sen. Kookesh and to Rep. Bill Thomas, the following:

Dear Senator Kookesh and Rep. Thomas:

Hello Al and Bill, I hope the current session is running fast and furious on resource equitable distribution issues and you are able to contribute to our state. However, the timber issue concerning Craig is of importance today.

Can you please write out individual affidavits for submittal through Groundswell to forward to friends in the IRS International and Criminal divisions that you are fully unaware of any underpricing of exported timber to foreign-controlled corporations, any "product laundering" using the illicit accounting techniques of ABUSIVE TRANSFER PRICING to evade US taxes, and assurances that the full global books of Sealaska will be made available for public inspection by the State Dept. of Revenue, AG office and others concerned about whether or not Alaskans are getting a fair price for timber?

For the sake of Sealaska shareholders, please, your strongest reassurances are needed to avoid any confusion with transnational tax evaders and racketeers. Otherwise, Groundswell will have to go forward only on its evidence so far that verifies such illegal practices occurred in the past - and there is no reason to believe Sealaska and others have changed those practices and cleaned up the corruption within.

We await your immediate reply.

Thank you for your fullest cooperation.

Stephen Taufen - Groundswell Fisheries Movement

[note - Groundswell Fisheries sent copies of this letter to - among other parties - Senator Johnny Ellis, Rep. Paul Seaton, Rep. Mike Doogan, Rep. Beth Kerttula, and Rep. Gary Stevens.]

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Nate Silver's Analysis of Current 2010 US Senate Race Outcomes.

I know, Harry Crawford isn't running for the U.S. Senate. He's up against Rep. Don Young. But I doubt when Nate gets around to looking at AK-AL, he'll give Harry much chance, unless the FBI comes knock-knock-knocking at Don's door. And if that happens soon, Harry will have company in the August Alaska Democratic Party primary.

Silver gives the optimum number of seats the Democrats will retain the day after the 2010 election as 53 or 54, counting Joe Lieberman and Bernie Sanders. That's a loss of five. Silver was right about last week's Massachusetts special election - as close as anyone in the country.

Here's a graphic from the article linked to above:

Saturday Odds & Ends

I. French Fingerling potatoes, cut up, ready to be cooked for breakfast this morning. They were very productive in the 2009 garden, taste super and store very well.

We'll be ordering more from Irish Eyes seed company next week.

II. While getting ready to conduct the Alaska premiere in Anchorage of Franz Liszt's tone poem, Orpheus, this coming May 14th, I've been listening to a lot of the music Liszt wrote at around the same time he wrote Orpheus. The period between 1848 and 1855 saw Liszt at the height of his powers as a composer, even as his powers as a piano virtuoso began to fade.

His greatest intellectual achievement as a piano composer was written during this time period - his B Minor Sonata, published the same year as Orpheus - 1854:

While looking for performances of the B Minor Sonata on the web last year, I became aware of the young Chinese pianist, Yuja Wang (or Wang Yuja) who has recently released a disc that includes a performance of the B Minor. There isn't a Youtube of her doing the Liszt sonata, but she has a big presence there, as she deserves. Here's my favorite, with her performing the final movement of Sergei Prokofiev's Piano Sonata No. 6:

And here she is performing a work by Liszt, the concert etude, La Leggierezza, when she was 13 (she's now 22):

Her key piano teacher was probably Gary Graffman, at Philadelphia's Curtiss Institute. He was also the teacher most responsible for Lang Lang's development into a world-class performer.

To finish, here she is recently performing a virtuoso transcription of Rimsky-Korsakov's Flight of the Bumblebee, as a concert encore:

Yuja Wang was interviewed this morning on NPR's Morning Edition.

The temperature here at our house just went from minus 4 F to plus 23 F in about 35 minutes. The wind came up.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Obama at the End of One Year - A Boxing Metaphor

Not many friends are aware, but I kept fairly close track of professional boxing for a long time. My dad watched all the professional fights on TV in the 50s and 60s, when I was growing up. I watched Rocky Marciano's last fight against Archie Moore. Moore and Sugar Ray Robinson were my dad's favorites.

I got to watch two of Ali's best fights before he challenged Liston - the bouts against Moore and Henry Cooper (1963's fight of the year). I listened to the Clay-Liston title bout over a transistor radio at a Highline High School basketball game. There must have been 50 others at the game, with their little radios plugged to their ears.

Since then, I followed title fights and professional rankings up into the mid-90s. In the 70s, 80s and 90s, I watched a lot of championship fights at hotels or bars, because they weren't on TV.

I then turned against the sport. But many of the famous matches over the past 100 years or so make great metaphor.

Thinking of Obama's first year in office, I can't help but remember the 8th round of the Rumble in the Jungle:

Ali seemed exhausted - even over the radio, where I listened to the title match with my friend Michael Wiater in Seattle. But Foreman was more exhausted.

Or the 15th round of the March 1975 fight against George Weppner. I listened to that at KLAM Radio's studios in Cordova:

I was in the Army when Ali announced his intent to be a conscientious objector. Fellow soldiers supported him or denounced him largely upon racial lines. We've come so far since then, though racism is still omnipresent.

Ali's court battle - which he won - kept him out of pro fighting during what would have been his best years. During that time, and since Ali's name change from Cassius Clay to Muhammad Ali, were my first experiences with American Islamophobia.

What does this have to do with President Obama? Essentially, Obama has to learn to fight, and to punch back. There has been way too much stinging like a butterfly and dancing like a bee coming from the White House. Ali's outspokenly poetic one-liners broke through all sorts of resistance to his views, and brought them to the fore. Obama, is always trying to appear to be willing to meet his opponents, should they desire it. It hasn't worked much.

There have been no benefits to the White House for Obama's support of the banksters he inherited from the failed Bush administration. There have been no benefits for his coddling of perpetrators of Bush administration war crimes. He is even hiding their evil deeds from public scrutiny. There have been no benefits from his staff's enabling of Congress to turn health care legislation into the most unpopular set of ineffective possibilities many could have imagined.

President Obama might need to develop an "anchor punch."

Coke Exxon for President in 2012

Erick Cordero, Mat-Su Valley School Board member didn't need Coke or McDonalds or BP or Chimo Guns or whatever to get him elected in 2009. We'll see how the local elections are effected by Thursday's dreadful U.S. Supreme Court decision in 2010, though.

Of course the decision is going to have far mor effect on bigger races - for the U.S. Congress and Senate, for State governorships, and for President. As if corporations don't have enough power already, eh?

Glenn Greenwald has an excellent contrarian view post up on this decision:

Ultimately, I think the free speech rights burdened by campaign finance laws are often significantly under-stated. I understand and sympathize with the argument that corporations are creatures of the state and should not enjoy the same rights as individuals. And one can't help but note the vile irony that Muslim "War on Terror" detainees have been essentially declared by some courts not to be "persons" under the Constitution, whereas corporations are.

But the speech restrictions struck down by Citizens United do not only apply to Exxon and Halliburton; they also apply to non-profit advocacy corporations, such as, say, the ACLU and Planned Parenthood, as well as labor unions, which are genuinely burdened in their ability to express their views by these laws. I tend to take a more absolutist view of the First Amendment than many people, but laws which prohibit organized groups of people -- which is what corporations are -- from expressing political views goes right to the heart of free speech guarantees no matter how the First Amendment is understood. Does anyone doubt that the facts that gave rise to this case -- namely, the government's banning the release of a critical film about Hillary Clinton by Citizens United -- is exactly what the First Amendment was designed to avoid? And does anyone doubt that the First Amendment bars the government from restricting the speech of organizations composed of like-minded citizens who band together in corporate form to work for a particular cause?

image - Erick Cordero

Rep. Alan Grayson Introduced Legislation in Anticipation the Worst Supreme Court Decision Since Dred Scott

The Mudflats has a great post up that features statements by Alaska legislators and by Sen. Mark Begich on yesterday's "overturning of 133 years of settled law," in Grayson's words.

Here's Rep. Grayson earlier in the week, questioning economists on executive bonuses at firms like AIG:

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Sen. Murkowski on the Senate Floor this Morning on Her Efforts to Thwart EPA Regulations

Murkowski falsely asserts that the Flint Hill Refinery is having solvency problems regarding JP-4 and jet fuel production because of the EPA. Flint Hill's problems in this regard have far more to do with their reduction of volume production, when they dropped their business with the U.S. Armed Forces.


Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Laptop - The Next Generation

My MacBook died last Thursday. Its logic board failed. I asked the techies at the Wasilla MacHaus if that might have had to do with the logic board's dealings with Progressive Alaska. No comments.

The photo at the top is of my first iBook G4, my new MacBook Pro, and the remnants of my MacBook. The MacHaus tech people removed the hard drive from the dead laptop and inserted it into a $60.00 unit that is now a backup hard drive, and includes all the stuff from the old laptop. They helped me migrate all the data and applications from the dead laptop to the new MacBook Pro. I was impressed.

This is our 14th Macintosh computer in 20 years. That's if you count the Motorola-built Mac clone I got for Judy in 1996. And that includes all of the kids' Macs, two of which they now use. Right now, our greater household - including the kids - uses eight of those 14. The only one to actually die was the MacBook I just replaced. But even that machine's innards and memory live on. The MacHaus people will put the unit's screen into another unit. For one of the employee's own machine. It is an organ donor.

Macs are remarkable. Over the past week, since the MacBook died, bringing up laptops and home computers with people in Anchorage and the Valley, I've gotten a lot of comments from people who have PCs and wish they had Macs, none from people about to switch away from Macs.

BHO - Fire Rahm --- Hire Dr. Dean

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Our Government Tortured Hundreds of People to Death and President Obama is Trying to Cover It Up

The most recent revelations about our military, intelligence agencies and private contractors torturing prisoners to death during the Bush administration are coming to light this week. Harpers Magazine published an article Monday by civil rights attorney Scott Horton, titled The Guantanamo "Suicides": A Camp Delta Sergeant Blows the Whistle. Here's Horton on MSNBC's Countdown yesterday evening: Link

Back in May 2009, Progressive Alaska detailed the homicides of several other detainees by American forces in a three-part series, which was partially a response to coverage of this issue then by progressive blogs. Looking back, we felt that the Obama administration might sensibly prosecute those who murdered. That's what is supposed to happen when somebody murders somebody else and there are witnesses and evidence:

Our Government Tortured Lots of People to Death - Part One

Our Government Tortured Lots of People to Death - Part Two

Our Government Tortured Lots of People to Death - Part Three

The Best Blogs for Information on the Torture Debate

Glenn Greenwald
has been writing about his increasing disappointment in the Obama administration's refusal to prosecute or even thoroughly investigate these serious charges:

The single biggest lie in War on Terror revisionist history is that our torture was confined only to a handful of "high-value" prisoners. New credible reports of torture continuously emerge. That's because America implemented and maintained a systematic torture regime spread throughout our worldwide, due-process-free detention system. There have been
at least 100 deaths of detainees in American custody who died during or as the result of interrogation. Gen. Barry McCaffrey said: "We tortured people unmercifully. We probably murdered dozens of them during the course of that, both the armed forces and the C.I.A." Gen. Antonio Taguba said after investigating the Abu Ghraib abuses and finding they were part and parcel of official policy sanctioned at the highest levels of the U.S. Government, and not the acts of a few "rogue" agents: "there is no longer any doubt as to whether the current administration has committed war crimes. The only question that remains to be answered is whether those who ordered the use of torture will be held to account."

Greenwald goes on:

Incidents like this dramatically underscore what can only be called the grotesque immorality of the "Look Forward, Not Backwards" consensus which our political class -- led by the President -- has embraced. During the Bush years, the United States government committed some of the most egregious crimes a government can commit. They plainly violated domestic law, international law, and multiple treaties to which the U.S. has long been a party. Despite that, not only has President Obama insisted that these crimes not be prosecuted, and not only has his Justice Department made clear that -- at most -- they will pursue a handful of low-level scapegoats, but far worse, the Obama administration has used every weapon it possesses to keep these crimes concealed, prevent any accountability for them, and even venerated them as important "state secrets," thus actively
preserving the architecture of lawlessness and torture that gave rise to these crimes in the first place.

From what directions can pressure be applied upon the President to do his sworn job in this matter? I'm considering trying to get prominent anti-torture blogs to petition all 50 of the individual states' Democratic Party structures with petitions asking them to include provisions for demanding prosecution for torture and murder for consideration at each individual state's upcoming 2010 convention.

image - Darkblack

Don Young's Name Surfaces in Coverage of Rare MLK Day Court Filing

A Texas blog devoted to keeping track of GOP corruption, has speculated that aspects of a pleading filed Monday in the United States Court for the District of Columbia by M. Kendall Day and Peter C. Sprung, trial attorneys for the Public Integrity Section of the Criminal Division of the DOJ, may relate to Rep. Don Young of Alaska.

The documents have to do with the ongoing prosecution of former Don Young staffer, Fraser Verrusio. According to an article last year by Talking Points Memo, Verrusio was, at the time his conduct has come into question, working for Young as a "policy director on the House Transportation committee. According to the indictment, he accepted the trip in exchange for inserting into the Federal Highway bill amendments favorable to an equipment rental company, which had hired [Jack] Abramoff's firm to lobby for it."

The detail of the pleading indicates that Verrusio was being leaned on by the public integrity unit to cooperate on multiple investigations, and is balking, possibly looking for a more favorable sentence, possibly seeking to have charges dismissed.

You can download the related court documents at this article,
DOJ Wanted Verrusio to be Confidential Source:

Whoa! What's that? The FBI wanted Mr. Verrusio to become a "confidential source" in an unrelated matter? Against whom would the DoJ want Mr. Verrusio provide information? We're guessing that the DoJ wanted Mr. Verrusio to provide information against his former boss, Rep. Don Young (R-Ak.). Remember that Rep. Young has been designated as United States Representative A in an unrelated criminal investigation. Often, when individuals are given cutesy names like that, we later learn that they were subjects of a federal investigation. Since this case is an unrelated matter (presumably unrelated to the Abramoff scandal), it is outside the scope of the ACR Blog.

image - Darkblack. Hat tip to an anonymous commenter

Monday, January 18, 2010

If Howie Klein is Right About the Coakley-Brown Race, Will He Be the New Nate Silver?

Howie Klein, the genius behind Act Blue and the most knowledgeable person I know on American progressive politics, has hosted an essay by Doug Kahn that predicts Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley will beat Massachusetts State Senator Scott Brown by more than a few votes:

This is a good test of my thinking. Am I looking at politics and thinking about this election rationally, or am I just being an optimist, hoping that voters are still sensible people who won’t elect candidates from the Beavis and Batshit wing of the Republican Party? Okay, I’m going to take a deep breath, and say this: Coakley wins by 10%. The third party candidate gets 3%. Massachusetts is a Democratic state.

Really, no one who works in politics can predict an individual election with any degree of confidence, not an election where both candidates have wide recognition and have run credible campaigns, meaning they’ve reached most voters several times. I base this on a simple premise: anyone who actually could consistently predict these elections would be making their living betting on them, would be rich, and we wouldn’t be hearing from them on websites or on the news.

You can only know what usually happens, what is most likely to be true, what would be a practically unprecedented result. Don’t go searching through the evidence for secret portents or unique local factors. If you do, you’ll be a very smart person who ends up saying some very silly things.

Doug Kahn is almost alone in his prediction. The up-and-coming predictor master of the universe is Nate Silver. He gives Brown 3-to-1 odds to win. Many predictors have Brown up by more than 10%.

Kahn has this to say about Silver's situation:

For instance, Nate Silver of said 2 weeks ago that Scott Brown’s chance of winning was about 5%. Then, after another one of those completely bogus Rasmussen polls of “likely voters” he tweeted that Scotty had a 15-25% chance of winning. But wait, the Boston Globe poll then said Coakley was going to be okay, and he changed his mind again.

I think it’s quite likely that Nate Silver’s reputation (deserved or not) as a Brainiac has caused some very dishonest pollsters to try and figure out how to affect his opinion. If they can get Nate to say the race is a toss-up it helps get resources for Scott Brown, and gives him more tv coverage, gets people to the polls.

Logically, you need some pretty firm evidence to outweigh the recent voting history of the Massachusetts electorate. Both Senators and all 10 House members are Democrats. And the governor, and both houses of the legislature. So Coakley, the Democrat, is heavily favored to win to begin with. In 2006 she was elected statewide to Attorney General, and got more votes than Ted Kennedy, who was at the top of the ballot.

What’s the evidence against? Automated internet polling done of supposedly likely voters by provably biased organizations, namely Rasmussen, ARG, and the laughable Pajamas Media poll that has Scott Brown up by 15%. Follow the reasoning behind getting the morons in the media to believe Scott is winning: since Coakley was heavily favored, there must be a movement to the right in the country, people are really sick of Democrats, and so on and so forth.

Neither of these candidates inspires me. We'll see, eh?

Saradise lost - Book 4 - Chapter 38 -- Palin's Negatives Continue to Rise

CBS came out with a Palin poll today that should dishearten those on the Right who think she has more than a snowball's chance in hell of advancing above and beyond her new niche of FAUX teat-sucking, opportunistic, fact-challenged teabagger with a tawdry image and newly emerging family problems.

The poll has been out all day, and almost needless to say, none of the Palin shrines have yet to carry a post on it. Part of the reason for that is that while Palin's exposure during a book tour and FOX blitz that was intended to help her image, it actually hurt her among moderates and those on the left. It hasn't helped much at all among Republicans, either.

From my point of view, this seems to put Palin more into the realm where she has to decide very soon - before the Teabaggers' Convention - whether she wants to seriously consider becoming closely tied to a third-party organizational effort, such as what the Teabaggers seem to be aiming toward.

Palin's political past in Alaska probably indicates more in the direction of an independent bid on her part than national web sites have yet articulated. Back when Palin first emerged nationally in September 2008, a lot of questions directed toward Alaska bloggers and media by Outsiders was about The Alaska Independence Party. Very few outside of Alaska knew that Wally Hickel had been elected in 1990 as a candidate from that party, or of the extremely high percentage of non-aligned voters in Alaska. This is the environment from which Palin emerged.

From Palin's 1996 and 1999 runs against fellow Republican John Stein, to her 2006 primary run against Republican Gov. Frank Murkowski, to her use and abuse of Democrats in the Alaska legislature in the 2007 and 2008 sessions, Palin has a long history of working outside of established GOP parameters.

The national media is aware that she now seems to be doing just that, but the historical context they are familiar with is sketchy. And her shrines continue to push the false meme that she took down corrupt Republicans, singlehandedly. Name one.

Here are a few snips from the CBS article on their poll:

Forty-one percent now view her unfavorably, compared with 38 percent in November and 37 percent in July (both in CBS News polls). Nineteen percent of people in the current poll are undecided about Palin.


Conservatives are the only ideological group that holds net positive views of her -- just under half do, while a quarter are unfavorable and a quarter of conservatives are undecided.

But while favorable toward her, most conservatives say they do not want to see Palin run in 2012 – 58 percent of conservatives say she should not run.

Palin almost has to go third party should two more polls like this emerge before the Teabaggers' orgy in Nasheville.

Palin herself simply does not understand, nor does she appear to be mentally capable of intuiting the growing gulf between public perception of who she is and what she represents and what she feels that perception might be. If anything, hanging around with the FOX cheerleading squad will only widen that gulf.

Martin Luther King Would Have Opposed the Wars in Iraq & Afghanistan

Naomi Klein on How Monsters Profit from Haiti's Disaster

Sarah Palin's MLK Day Address to the Nation

As We look up from reading one of Our favorite publications about our Founding Fathers, We need to address those who have defaced our facebook page with comments disparaging that dark-skinned Dr. Martin Luther King. We would also like to address the scores of "African-Americans" who have shown up at thousands of Tea Party rallies across the Real America since April, 2009.

Dr. King was not Juneteenth. He was all about what We're trying to do today at FOX News and at the National Liquor Sellers Convention We'll be addressing soon. We hope to get them to move the convention to Fairbanks or Nome or Barrow next year.

Had that awful guy - who used to read the same magazine I'm looking up from - not killed King, King might have been able to get his kids some good magazine covers on Jet or Ebony or, well, uh, maybe not on the cover of the magazine you've interrupted Us from also.

Back to the Founding Fathers.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

PA Arts Sunday - Thoughts on Writing Music as an Outsider

I. The 2010 offering by the Anchorage Symphony Orchestra's Musica Nova new work commissioning club premiered Saturday evening at the Atwood Concert Hall in Anchorage. It is a deftly orchestrated work with little original thematic content, but lots of flash. It starts out like an industrial film soundtrack and ends by trying to sum up a wanly projected visual and well-played aural feast that strives for focus, and fails.

Los Angeles composer Gregory Prechel's awkwardly titled opus,
Exposition on the Anchorage Museum (at least he didn't name it Exposition on the Anchorage Museum at Rasmussen Center) was greeted with mixed enthusiasm. Some in the audience, including this writer, stood to acknowledge Prechel's efforts and the orchestra's performance.
Anchorage Daily News Arts & Entertainment Editor, Mike Dunham, in a fairly enthusiastic review of the concert and of Prechel's new piece, cited its use of Yup'ik songwriter James Afcan's song, Ciuliamta cauyam. Upon recognizing this theme Dunham has come to love, Dunham reacted positively:

The third movement featured art by and of Native Alaskans, both contemporary work and artifacts. The music had a “lower 48 Indian” sound to my admittedly west of Denali ears. But when I heard the horns blast out “Ciuliamta” I nearly came out of my seat. I noted a few of the slides — Machetanz dramatic “Quest for Avuk,” a mask by Sam Fox, a drawing by one of Afcan’s teachers, Milo Minock — but now the music snared my full attention.

I heard a melody I recognized, but didn't realize it was Afcan's intellectual property. Apparently, Prechel used Afcan's property without bothering to tell the latter. Here's more from Dunham:

In the program notes, Prechel acknowledges that three themes in the movement are “inspired by melodies handed down from the heritage of Alaska Natives.” In a phone call after the concert, Afcan was surprised to hear about the program or the inclusion of “Ciuliamta” in it.

Prechel told me in an e-mail that he hadn't found the names of the pieces he used or the composers while doing research in Alaska.

I'm not sure whether Afcan considers Prechel's appropriation of his property as theft or as free publicity. Hopefully, the latter. Would Prechel have approached the use of Afcan's melody the same way were Afcan a Hollywood colleague? I doubt it. Would Prechel have done the same were Afcan a white Alaska composer. Probably not.

This isn't the only way the work is distinctly the product of an outsider. The "Gallup New Mexico Indian carnival" atmosphere of the quick slideshow through Native Alaskan art at the museum was appalling kitsch.

[Disclaimer - Musica Nova was created in 2003 to commission me for my Piano Concerto. Judy and I have been members for four of the six subsequent years, but aren't members this year, in protest of the way the orchestra presented a concert sponsored by Exxon three days before the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments in the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill case. We will rejoin for the 2011 commission.]

II. When it comes to white composers using Alaska Native themes in their work, I haven't done that. The closest I've come was in Fanfare & Capriccio, which has a scene in it that evokes Athabaskan fiddling. I consulted with non-Native expert on this genre, Craig Mischler, went through his transcriptions, and came up with my own melody that sought to both include elements from this wonderful stuff, and relate to the main theme of my work.

I've contemplated an opera about Edward Teller's role in Project Chariot for years. Part of my reluctance to finish it is that I feel the plot is too intrusive on what Alaska Natives accomplished in their own right in defeating that crazy scheme.

I'm getting to work with Diane Benson on a composition about Elizabeth Peratrovich for narrator and orchestra. It will inevitably involve Tlingit songs that Diane knows, sings and cherishes. We both have agreed to use no song without express permission from the family, house, clan and moiety of its creator.

Non-Native Alaska composers Craig Coray and John Luther Adams have extensively drawn from the rich musical cultures of Native Alaskans. Both have always sought to use this material with due diligence. I've met many Native Alaskans who raved about the work of both composers.

I'm deeply into composition of Hindu Kush, an orchestral work centered on Afghanistan and my feelings about the conflicts there. For the second movement, I've created melodic content that slightly evokes three women's songs from contemporary Afghan emigre culture. For the last movement, I will set a Kashmiri folk song that has existed in the public domain for generations. It is a prayer for peace.
I'm an outsider. At times, while writing the music, I feel I'm intruding. The only time I've tred this territory in the past was with The Skies are Weeping. Jewish Zionist friends and others felt it was beyond intrusive. Palestinian friends did not. Yet, it or parts of it have been produced by Jewish organizations cooperating with Palestinians abroad more than once. I'm trying to put what I've learned from my own experiences, and from observing those of others - most recently of Gregory Prechel - to use.

image - Bill Hess, who also wrote a review of Saturday's ASO concert - with sneak photographs