Friday, April 30, 2010

We're Hosting a Fundraiser for Diane Benson Saturday, May 1st - Come Join Us!

Judy and I are hosting a fundraiser for Diane Benson Saturday. She is running for Lieutenant Governor, in the Democratic Party primary.

Diane will be here to answer questions about the job she hopes to do.

Music will be provided by members of UAA's award-winning small jazz combo, and we'll have Alaska treats and refreshments.

4:00 to 7:00 p.m.

7127 Ea. Shorewood Drive
Wasilla, Alaska

my phone is listed in the Wasilla phone book, if you need more help finding our place.

images - Diane Benson with Bob Poe - AKM; Diane Benson with Ethan Berkowitz & Diane Benson with Hollis French - Tony Vita

Artists as Environmentalists - A Call to Action

As the oil hits the reefs, offshore bars and beaches of the Gulf of Mexico, are we faced with another Exxon Valdez catastrophe? Yes. Can we learn from that disaster in how this ongoing tragedy is documented? Absolutely. Here is some of how we can do it. You can add your suggestions too.

I. In 1989, the internet did exist, but not many people had access. Graphic interfaces that led to the many free web browsers were limited, and didn't do much. Few people had cell phones. The cable news paradigm as we now know it didn't yet exist. CNN was there on Prince William Sound, but not in a big way. National and Anchorage newspapers were much healthier then than now, and made earnest efforts to cover events. The same was true of NPR and Alaska's outstanding Alaska Public Radio Network. The influence of AM talk radio was much more primitive than it now is. Blogging was pretty much limited to what were called "newsgroups."

In 1989, when local Alaskans and interested independent journalists descended upon the scene, they were limited in methods they could use to document the ongoing tragedy by technology, communication and basic logistics. The technology was bulky, and mostly analog. The communication grid at the sites of the spill was limited to VHF and Single Sideband maritime and aviation-based radio. The logistics of getting there in late winter, miles from the ports of Valdez, Cordova, Whittier or Seward, was convoluted, and most charter boats and planes were already chartered or overbooked for the cleanup by the third day of the spill.

Environmentalists were mostly limited to helping in efforts to save individual animals once the animals had been brought to Valdez, Seward or Anchorage. There was no real time coverage of the growth of the spill by any parties outside of the mainstream. From the beginning of the spill, Exxon and the USCG attempted to attenuate and spin how the outgoing flow of information was handled. Over half the people Exxon flew into Alaska or Valdez on the morning of the spill were attorneys.

From the moment of the Exxon Valdez oil spill, I was involved with artists who were or are also ecologically motivated. In the ensuing years, I've worked with several artists who documented aspects of the EVOS (Exxon Valdez oil spill) through visual, graphic and audio art. In the early 1990s, I toured with bronze sculptor Peter Bevis, as we presented his compelling castings of victims of that and other spills. We called our presentation "Artists as Environmentalists." There have been tenth and twentieth anniversary gallery shows in Alaska that have looked back on this. The most recent, produced by Homer's Bunnell Street Gallery, SPILL: Alaskan Artists Remember, toured several communities last year.

In this collaborative process, I've learned a few things that might help those who hope to create visceral, living art about all the dying that is beginning to occur. Here are some suggestions:

II. In covering the Gulf tragedy, artists should attempt to capture the essence of what this is - a massive wave of death. There will be many compelling stories of people who manage to deploy a boom or clean an oiled bird, or come up with an innovative idea that might actually have a beneficial local effect. Documenting these instances is a good thing, but try to present the small and heartening victories into a realistic overall context.

As often as possible, artists should try to partner with local ecologists and environmental activists, from the areas where damage is happening. Try to understand these people as individuals, and visibly show them physically performing their tasks.

Avoid contacts with national environmental organizations. They do not understand what motivates independent artists. If you don't make cute watercolors or coffee mug logos, they don't understand you, nor do they want to.

Try to find venues that can help you live stream what you are documenting. Hopefully, viable nodes for dissemination of images and artistic impressions of this will develop over the coming weekend. When they do, spread the word, possibly steering artists and other documentarians toward those sites that are becoming most effective.

Seek out folk musicians, rappers, slam poets and other artists who have a following among the very young. Develop some new collaborative co-ops for the purpose of truthfully recording what is going down.

It is likely that the spill will hit Cuba. If you are or know an artist with Cuban connections, you might consider getting your travel permissions going right now, as it sometimes takes a while to get all the papers in order.

BP, the USCG and Homeland Security will all give dozens of dog-and-pony shows in communities either in the line of fire, or recently slimed. Attend these events, and record the impressions of locals who came to them, especially right after they've been fed the inevitable total line of crap, such as "we will make you whole again."

III. Please add any further suggestions you might have in the comments.

Artists can uniquely portray ecological catastrophe. They can partner with ecologists, environmentalists and community activists, to give perspective on what has happened that nobody else can.

Here's a remembrance of animals, from the EVOS disaster.

images - oil spill victims, documented by bronze sculptor, Peter Bevis

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Late April Thursday Miscellany

Here are some miscellaneous pictures from last night and today:

A bird Mooch the cat brought into the house. The Dark-eyed juncos are back:

Tomato and Pepper starter plants that I'm giving away to blogger friends, next to the tuba, in the back of the Outback:

One of six rows of garlic, coming up in the main garden:

Alaska's Foremost Composer Awarded the Nemmers Prize

Fairbanks composer John Luther Adams has been awarded the 2010 Michael Ludwig Nemmers Prize from the Bienen School of Music at Northwestern University. Along with a $100,000.00 award, Adams will give master classes at Northwestern, and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra will perform and record the work during the 2010-2011 season.

John is the fourth recipient of this fairly recent prize. The previous recipients of this biennial honor were the other John Adams (I call John Luther Adams the real John Adams) in 2004, Oliver Knussen (2006) and Kaija Saariaho (2008).

Congratulations, JLA!

Mike Dunham from the Anchorage Daily News, has more. The best article on John's recent work by a major American music essayist and chronicler, was written by the New Yorker's music critic, Alex Ross, back in May, 2008, titled Song of the Earth.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Max Blumenthal's Newest Installment in His "Feeling the Hate" Series

Max Blumenthal has posted his latest "Feeling the Hate" video at Alternet, Mondoweiss, and on YouTube. Learn from it here, before it gets removed from YouTube:

Here's Part One from early 2009:

Feeling the Love in Jerusalem from Joseph Dana on Vimeo.

And Here's Part Two, from 2009:

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

2nd Amendment Rally Wednesday at 11:00 AM at UAA

More on the April 28th armed protests coming to the University of Alaska Anchorage:

The Anchorage 2nd Amendment Task Force has sent this out:

Anchorage 2nd Amendment Task Force Newsletter

The UAA Campus Carry Protest

The UA protest will be held at the Cuddy Center on the green.

11:00 AM Wednesday April 28 (See the map go to the X)There are 3 categories of attendees for this event.

1. Those that choose to attend armed.

2. Those that will video the event.

3. Those in the witness category.

All should read the information in this email. We ask that those with video cameras stay near those that are armed and record everything possible for the court case. Witnesses please be vigilant and take note of everything said by law enforcement personnel.

Responses by armed attendees to law enforcement are listed below:

1. I am informing you that I am in possession of a firearm as required by law.
2. I have a legitimate reason for being on campus.
3. I will not leave, since I am well within my rights to bear a firearm in this manner on campus.
4. What law is it that I am being accused of violating and where do you get the authority to ask me to leave the campus.
5. Campus police are not authorized to enforce university administrative rules.
6. I will not comply with an illegal order to leave campus.
7. If you choose to continue with this illegal action, I want to inform you, that you will be personally named in the lawsuit that I will bring forth, along with the university who hired you.

Thank you for planning to attend our group’s effort at UAA at the time anointed. This event is meant as a wave of individual protests against the banning of effective self-defense while on campus, a State facility. To many of us, this is a plain violation of one of the natural rights of Alaskans.

No one is being asked to come on campus carrying a firearm though many of us fully plan to. You may bring a sign or clothing article supportive of the Second Amendment or of the Alaska Constitution. You may bring Second Amendment related literature. Try to avoid gawking for the news cameras. You may not like what you see later on the evening news.

We ask that you casually walk around campus talking to those passersby who seem receptive telling people that students and faculty would be far safer if law-abiding citizens were allowed the freedom to carry a firearm. Please do not enter any building armed unless the ATF2 chief at the event approves it. Please do not congregate with more than three people who are open-carrying. There will be a gathering of about 20-minutes on campus at the Cuddy Green. There may be a short speech or two. Large American and Alaskan flags are encouraged. They could be planted at that spot while the protests are going on, at some risk of loss though a guard will be kept.

If you plan to carry a firearm with you, you need to know this is in direct violation of the UAA code of regulations. Even though you are in a public place, you may be asked by campus personnel, possibly campus police, to leave the campus and not to return to the campus again with the firearm. At that point one might ask the person to cite the law that is being violated and cite where he or she gets the authority to ask you to leave the campus based on this rule. If it is the police, one might ask the officer if campus police are authorized to get involved with university administrative rules like this one.

Should you decide to persevere, one might say you will not leave voluntarily since it is your freedom under the Second Amendment and the Alaska Constitution to bear a firearm in this manner and public place. Then you will be told that if you do not leave campus voluntarily you will be charged with trespass and ultimately physically compelled to leave the campus. One might say nothing or simply say "Do what your job requires you to do".

Do not expect much of a reply to any questions you ask. Do not demand answers to questions ignored. Do not argue with anyone, including each other: no loudness, no name-calling, no lewd remarks. The event’s goals will be damaged if anyone gives rise to a claim of disorderly conduct. The television cameras could be anywhere.

You may choose to leave once you are threatened with arrest. If you press on you may be charged with civil trespass and given a paper summons to appear in campus court (something less in importance than a speeding ticket). There is also every chance though you will be charged with criminal trespass and possibly taken to jail for processing and bail.

No one is suggesting the individual protest go beyond receiving a summons, whether civil or criminal. A person who still refuses to leave campus will be physically removed by police in short order. Such an event often leads to charges of assault on an officer by the protester.

The Alaska State Code provides:

"Sec. 11.46.320. Criminal trespass in the first degree.

(a) A person commits the crime of criminal trespass in the first degree if the person enters or remains unlawfully

(1) on land with intent to commit a crime on the land; or

(2) in a dwelling.

(b) Criminal trespass in the first degree is a class A misdemeanor.

Sec. 11.46.330. Criminal trespass in the second degree.

(a) A person commits the crime of criminal trespass in the second degree if the person enters or remains unlawfully

(1) in or upon premises; or

(2) in a propelled vehicle.

(b) Criminal trespass in the second degree is a class B misdemeanor."

The maximum sentence for a Class B Misdemeanor is ninety-days in jail and a $2,000 fine though that sentence would be for the most extreme kind of violation. Our legal counsel says this effort is treading on uncharted territory. Anyone charged with trespass could quite possibly be convicted of the charge despite the most zealous defense through every court available.

I will be there, polling people attending the rally, and people passing through the area, as I did the April 15th Tea Party rallies in Anchorage and Wasilla. Here are questions I hope to ask:

• Would you feel safer with nobody armed on campus or everyone armed on campus?

• Do you feel confident that campus security could deal professionally with a serious armed incident at UAA?

• Overall, on a scale of 0 to 10, how would you rate UAA campus security?

• Did you get a copy of Chancellor Ulmer's letter to students about this event?

• Did the chancellor's letter inspire confidence in UAA's handling of this matter?

If you have other questions you'd like me to include in the poll, please comment on that.

There is a guest post up at The Mudflats by Keli Booher, a UAA student. I discussed the upcoming rally this morning to my large UAA class (over 110 people). A few had heard about it. Some of my polling questions came from the class discussion.

Imagine This is Bristol Bay or the Chukchi Sea

Above is a NASA image of the rapidly growing oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. The image was taken late yesterday. Imagine it as happening in Bristol Bay. More importantly, imagine it as happening this time of year in the Chukchi Sea. You wouldn't see the oil. It would be under feet of ice. Dealing with this sill in the Gulf of Mexico, with hundreds of support vessels and perhaps a thousand skilled responders is proving pretty challenging, to say the least.

Yesterday I checked with the offices of both Sen. Lisa Murkowski and Sen. Mark Begich, on public statements about this spill. Sen. Begich has not yet made a statement. Sen. Murkowski, who, along with Louisiana Sen. Mary Landrieu (DINO), pushed hard in 2009 for the expansion of nearshore and offshore drilling that is now occurring nationwide, made a brief statement last week. Here's Sen. Murkowski's statement from April 22nd:

WASHINGTON, D.C. - U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, today issued the following statement after learning that the Deepwater Horizon rig has sunk into the Gulf of Mexico:

I was dismayed to learn that the Deepwater Horizon rig has now sunk into 6000 feet of water in the Gulf of Mexico. We do not yet know how this development will affect the marine environment, but I understand all emergency spill response units in the Gulf have been mobilized.

My thoughts and prayers remain with the missing rig workers and their loved ones. They are our first priority.

My staff and I are receiving regular briefings from the Coast Guard, the Minerals Management Service and BP. I will continue to closely monitor this situation and I have offered the full resources of my office to aide all of those affected by this tragedy.

I'd like to see a statement from Shell Oil Company, on how they would deal with something like this in the Chukchi.

I'd like to see our Alaska press, or the Dispatch, which has some big bucks behind them, put some pressure on Shell regarding a similar scenario in the Chukchi.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Don't Take Your Gun to Class, Boy, Leave That Gun at Home - UAA Campus Alert

[I just got this message from UAA Security:]

Dear UAA Community,

I am writing to notify you about a protest that might occur sometime this week on all UA campuses. We expect it to be peaceful and hope that it will not disrupt any business; however, I do not want you to be surprised or unnecessarily alarmed. Your safety is paramount at UAA and sharing timely information is one of the most effective ways to reinforce this message and help one another remain safe.

You may have heard that at the recent Board of Regents’ meeting, an individual spoke against the University's policy regulating firearms. The individual suggested people will protest the policy by carrying firearms on campus in the near future. The intent of this e-mail is to share information with you about what to do should you see someone on University property with a firearm.

The University of Alaska has regulated the possession of firearms on University property since 1995. Except for students living in University housing or individuals storing firearms in a locked vehicle, University Regulations (Chapter 02.09) prohibit individuals from carrying a firearm on University property, or in offices, classrooms, or meeting space controlled by the university. Students living on campus may store firearms in University-owned secured storage maintained by University Police. Incidents of unauthorized firearms possession on property have been rare.

As always, if you see an individual, or a group of individuals, with firearms or any other weapon on campus, or if you feel unsafe, please alert University Police immediately by calling 786-1120. UAA will follow University Regulations concerning firearms and ask people with firearms to leave campus.

The University Administration, Campus Response Team, and the University Police are actively monitoring this situation and will respond to all instances of firearms on campus.

We care deeply about our campus community's safety at UAA. I hope you have a productive and successful Finals Week.


Fran Ulmer

Andrew Sullivan Warns & Asks for Help on Getting the Truth Out on Palin

Andrew Sullivan, who is perhaps the most dogged nationally prominent Palin critic, has predictably responded to the recent, richly detailed article, written by Gabriel Sherman, and published in the May 3rd edition of New York Magazine. Sherman takes the best in-depth look at Palin's post 2008 rise that I've yet read. Sullivan seems to partially agree, but isn't critical so much of Sherman's article as he is of those walking away from the piece with an underestimation of Palin. Sullivan feels his colleague at the Atlantic, Joshua Green, has.

Sherman's article is, as Green observes, "chock full of Palin porn." It also relies on interviews with a surprising array of informants, Just in time for Palin to include them in the growing list of people she will have to scathe in her upcoming 2nd book, I suppose. Sullivan chooses one paragraph in Green's post that Sullivan finds troubling:

Palin's prospects in the Republican Party are a good deal dimmer than her star wattage suggests. She's tallied middling performances in early straw polls and shows no inclination to embark on the grassroots work required of a presidential candidate. More to the point, this article makes clear that, were there any doubt, her preoccupying concern is "building her brand"--less in a political sense than a financial one. Palin may yet make a bid for the White House. But all evidence suggests that when the time comes to choose between earning money and running for president, Palin will choose money.

Sullivan, who can be almost deft in looking at issues from outside the CW box, hits back:

This is the conventional view in Washington. I think it's completely wrong, dangerously complacent, and out of touch with profound shifts in media, fundraising and politics. The political parties are weaker than they once were. The elites cannot control grass-roots Internet-driven phenomena. Look at Obama. He seems a natural president now, but Washington dismissed his chances - as they are now dismissing Palin's - right up to the Iowa caucuses. And because Palin is such a terrifying - truly terrifying - prospect for the US and the world, I think such complacency, rooted in cynicism about Palin's mercenary nature, is far too reckless.

I disagree somewhat with Andrew Sullivan on this point. Partially from having watched Obama emerge in his early Iowa appearances in the spring and summer of 2007, and partially from having watch Palin emerge since the winter of 1991.

Sullivan's description of the emergence of Fox-type news coverage is fairly prescient:

Look: what we have seen this past year is the collapse of the RNC as it once was and the emergence of a highly lucrative media-ideological-industrial complex. This complex has no interest in traditional journalistic vetting, skepticism, scrutiny of those in power, or asking the tough questions. It has no interest in governing a country. It has an interest in promoting personalities and ideologies and false images of a past America that both flatter and engage its audience. For most in this business, this is about money. Roger Ailes, who runs a news business, has been frank about what his fundamental criterion is for broadcasting: ratings not truth. Obviously all media has an eye on the bottom line - but in most news organizations, there is also an ethical editorial concern to get things right. I see no such inclination in Fox News or the hugely popular talkshow demagogues (Limbaugh, Levin, Beck et al.), which now effectively control the GOP. And when huge media organizations have no interest in any facts that cannot be deployed for a specific message, they are a political party in themselves.

Add Palin to the mix and you have a whole new machine in American politics - one with the capacity, as much as Obama's, to upend the established order. Beltway types roll their eyes. But she's not Obama, they say. She doesn't know anything, polarizes too many people, has lied constantly and still may have dozens of skeletons in her unvetted closets.

To which the answer must be: where the fuck have you been this past year?

Andrew goes on to very tightly describe the different kind of environment Palin has managed to project herself into, compared to any potential presidential candidate in the past:

It doesn't matter whether she's uneducated, unprincipled, unaware and unscrupulous. The more she's proven incapable of the presidency, the more her supporters believe she is destined for it. It's a brilliant little gig she's devised. She may be ignorant, but she is not stupid. She has the smarts of all accomplished pathological liars and phonies. And this time, she will not even bother to go on any television outlets other than Fox News. She will be the first presidential nominee never to have had a press conference. She will give statements by Facebook. She will speak directly to the cocoon that is, at least, twenty percent of Americans. The press, already a rank failure in exposing her fraudulence, will be so starstruck by the chance to make money that we will never have a Couric-style interview again. it will be Oprah all the time. Because Palin lives in an imaginary world, the entire media world will be required to echo it or be shut out.

Sullivan goes on to quote from Sherman's New York Magazine article:

It was Fox’s Roger Ailes who had the insight that the American right was an underserved market, one with a powerful kind of brand loyalty. Fox News has turned a disaffected segment of the populace into a market, with the fervor and idiosyncratic truth standards of a cult. Wingnut-ism has been monetized, is one admittedly partisan way of looking at it. Palin stokes the disaffection of her constituents and then, with the help of Fox, offers to heal them, for a price.

And Sullivan concludes with a warning:

And with that power and that potential funding, how can someone who said she wanted to be president as long ago as 1996 resist? Josh can dream all he wants. She is the biggest political power after Obama in this country. And, unless the full truth emerges with such force it cracks even the FNC/RNC sealed universe, she will run against him in 2012.

I'm sure Andrew Sullivan will be revisiting this theme often. He already has once today.

What Andrew Sullivan is saying appears to be that unless the media actually does a lot of serious research on the "dozens of skeletons in her unvetted closets," Palin just might sneak on in there to the top of the heap.

Gabriel Sherman observes about Palin's interactions with others and how that might be a limiter:

While careful not to say anything that might make her rear her head, some in the GOP Establishment whisper that they hope Palin stays in Wasilla. She may be useful in raising funds and drawing crowds, but Palin’s unseriousness and carnival antics damage the brand. “There’s a big piece of the Republican Party that doesn’t want her to run,” said one national Republican strategist.

Even among her base, some see her rogue operation as a form of selfishness and her cashing in as unseemly. And Palin’s close relationship with John McCain is a liability for her right-wing audience. In March, Palin made several campaign stops in Arizona with McCain and tried to convince the crowd of his tea-party bona fides. “People in the tea-party movement despise John McCain,” Judson Phillips says. “When was the last time John McCain drove his own car?”

The synergies that have driven Palin Inc. thus far may evaporate if she pursues a presidential run in earnest. There will be, eventually, interviews to do, with networks other than Fox. Why Palin would trade the presidency—and the salary—for a candidacy that faces possibly insurmountable political hurdles is a question to ponder.

Sherman's article's depth of detail is worth a complete read. I can understand why some, like Joshua Green will walk away from Sherman thinking that Palin will veer toward the money whenever she might have to gamble to instead seek power. And I'm totally in agreement with Sullivan that the main reasons we're still being inflicted daily doses of Palin are that 1), the media has not fairly described the package for what it is - the most disgusting pathological political liar of the 21st century, and 2), she's too fun to watch.

Eric Boehlert, in his 2009 book, Bloggers on the Bus, fairly described how our small band of Alaska bloggers proved to be very helpful to some in the national media when it came to getting the true story of Palin's local rise to power out there. And an addendum might be worth adding to that story about how, as we kept after Palin when she reluctantly returned to Alaska after the presidential campaign, her governorship imploded.

Since she left the Alaska scene - by and large - in the fall of 2009, there haven't been enough other reporters and commentators out there like Sullivan and Sherman, to take up where Alaskans like Jeanne Devon, Shannyn Moore, Jesse Griffin, Mel Green, Linda Kellen and myself, and out-of-state blogs like Palingates and God's Own Party left off.

The skeletons to which Sullivan refers might end up being exposed. But that shouldn't matter. As Sullivan's own long list of Palin lies clearly shows, she gets away with a hell of a lot, even for a politician. She quite likely perjured herself in her testimony in the Knoxville hacking trial last week. And as several bloggers in Alaska and elsewhere observed over the weekend, Palin herself rose to statewide prominence by - get this - hacking into a colleague's computer.

Palin's mean girl side came out last Friday, in an interview with Greta van Susterin. Greta gives Palin three chances to show empathy for fellow hacker, David Kernell.

I think the mean girl thing might be what finally brings Palin down.

Meanwhile, Andrew Sullivan could use some help.

image by Felix Sockwell

Sunday, April 25, 2010

PA's Non-Proliferation Treaty Poll

A week ago, I posted a poll about Israel and the nuclear non-proliferation treaty. Four nuclear nations aren't members - India, Israel, North Korea and Pakistan. Of the four, Pakistan was assisted by Americans who transferred necessary switches and instrumentation to the Pakistanis. This happened during the last part of the Reagan and first part of the elder Bush's administrations. It took them a few more years to explode a device. Israel was greatly helped by France in its efforts to set up a plutonium production facility beneath the Dimona reactor complex. India and North Korea got most of their important engineering help from their own engineering populations. Other nations not regarded as nuclear could probably construct several devices within days if they had to - Japan, Brazil, Germany, for instance.

Why would Iran, surrounded by Americans who invade countries on false pretenses, by Israelis who constantly ask for help in destroying Iran's sophisticated engineering infrastructure (and who actually do bomb their neighbors quite often), and in range of the regional Pakistani, Indian, Russian and Israeli nuclear forces, not want a nuclear deterrent? Hirohito had none. Look what happened to his regime.

If the USA were surrounded by countries involved in all this aggressive behavior, and we felt that having the bomb might keep us from being bombed, would we want the bomb? I think so.

My poll was an over-reaction to frustration that Sen. Begich appears to be signing on to the Israeli-controlled meme that President Obama is being unfair to all Jews by putting a modest amount of pressure on the current government of Israel. Begich should have taken a pass. Maybe he even asked staffers if he could, and was told that passing would be a bad idea, especially for a freshman senator.

The poll indicates that not as many PA readers are interested in this as in many other issues polled here. It also indicates that 88% (131 out of 148 poll participants) felt that the Alaska Democratic Party should support the President, should he choose to ask Israel to join the treaty.

The reality, looking back upon the worldwide nuclear conference that was winding down as I posted the poll, is that Obama is not going to ask Israel to join the treaty more than he already has. And Alaska Democrats have more pressing in-state issues to deal with.

Meanwhile, lets see how the Na'vi the Palestinian Gandhis and their chroniclers are doing in thwarting the settlement expansion efforts in parts of the West Bank outside of East Jerusalem:

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Taking Advantage of Fine April Weather

We've got more going in the greenhouse this year as starters than ever before. And it isn't May yet.

Here are three views of the greenhouse this afternoon. I transplanted several tomato, pepper and cucumber plants from their starter planters into the container they will live in for the rest of their productive lives. And we've got cabbage, broccoli, kale, mizzuna, cilantro, zucchini, mint, tarragon, dill, lettuce, basil, arugula, radish, parsley, radicchio, chard, oregano, beet and other starters growing rapidly in the sun and heat as the daylight grows, over 5 minutes per day:

Friday, April 23, 2010

New Light on the Dangers of Millennialism to our Military

A young Army Major's masters thesis is making the rounds. Some believe his essay presages the persecution of Christans by the anti-Christ Obama. Others see in his thinking a message that goes beyond the dangers of Christian millennialism and touches upon the perils our country encounters by endorsing or cursing any
fundamentalism, without rationally engaging the issues through clear thinking.

Maj. Brian L. Stuckert, U.S. Army, submitted and defended a masters thesis in May 2008, titled Strategic Implications of American Millennialism (pdf). It has begun making the rounds this month, being taken up by a wide array of people discussing, damning or defending it.

Maj. Stuckert 's abstract begins:

Since the beginning of the Republic, various forms of millennial religious doctrines, of which dispensational pre-millennialism is the most recent, have shaped U.S. national security strategy. As the dominant form of millennialism in the U.S. evolves, it drives changes in U.S. security policy and subsequent commitment of the instruments of national power. Millennial ideas contribute to a common American understanding of international relations that guide our thinking irrespective of individual religious or political affiliation. Millennialism has great explanatory value, significant policy implications, and creates potential vulnerabilities that adversaries may exploit.

His conclusions and recommendations are prefaced with a well-known quote by Lt. Gen William Boykin, from 2003:

“The enemy is a spiritual enemy. It’s called the principality of darkness. We, ladies and gentlemen, are in a spiritual battle, not a physical battle. Oh, we’ve got soldiers fighting on the battlefields, we’ve got sailors, marines, airmen, coast guardsmen out there fighting against a physical enemy. But the battle this nation is in is a spiritual battle, it’s a battle for our soul. And the enemy is a guy called Satan – Satan wants to destroy this nation. He wants to destroy us as a nation and he wants to destroy us as a Christian army.”

Maj. Stuckert then goes on:

A 2003 survey found that more than two-thirds of evangelical leaders view Islam as a religion of violence bent on world domination. Following the events of September 11, 2001, many Christian opinion leaders began to speak of President Bush’s election and policies as “divinely inspired.” This attitude can present challenges to rational decision-making processes. While some political commentators have theorized that the administration’s unwillingness to admit errors is the result of arrogance or political calculation, it is more likely that the administration believes they are doing the will of God and will be vindicated in the end. In other words, intelligence or analysis that seems to support invasions or other administration policies are interpreted as an affirmation of God’s will, while information is to the contrary is viewed with suspicion – perhaps an effort by Satan to deceive or mislead.

As President Carter explained to former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, what people believe as a matter of religion, they will do as a matter of public policy. There is a tendency on the part of Americans to view foreign policy and international affairs as a “clash of moral opposites.” This tendency may make it difficult for U.S. policy makers and strategists to perceive and act upon subtleties that may lie outside our conceptions of moral absolutes. Military leaders have the difficult task translating this religiously tinged policy into successful strategy and operations. War is primarily about politics. While geography and technology play a role, in order to be successful military leaders must be able to see the political goals as clearly as possible. Because of the influence of pre-millennialism, it can be difficult for military leaders to see themselves and their government accurately and state policy goals objectively.

Reading the reactions at blogs like firedoglake, Down with Tyranny!, Huffington Post and mondoweiss to U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer's recent statements on a radio program that sometimes caters to Jewish millennialists (the Zealots where prototypical millennialists. I'm sure Schumer, if asked if he's a Zionist "Zealot" would answer "Yes!" without giving the term much thought.), I'm struck by how much more push-back Schumer is getting now than he ever has, when indulging in attacks on Israel policy critics who have not only the US's best interests at heart, but, are showing common sense.

Christian Fundamentalists might have common sense when it comes to washing their clothes or changing their socks, but when it comes to formulating policies involving Israel and weapons of mass destruction and whether or not Iran is really mentioned in Revelations, they never have any common sense. None.

The same holds true for other religions' fundamentalists. Although our constitution holds that one cannot demand religious tests as part of gaining an office, I really feel uncomfortable with people who believe in the End Times being allowed within a mile of a thermonuclear device or its launch codes.

Thursday, the Pentagon announced that Rev. Franklin Graham has been disinvited from speaking at the Pentagon on the National Day of Prayer:

The U.S. Army rescinded its invitation to evangelist Franklin Graham to speak at the Pentagon on the National Day of Prayer.

Graham, son of Billy Graham and this year's honorary National Day of Prayer Task Force chairman, is being criticized for comments he has made in the past expressing his belief that Islam is a dangerous religion.

Col. Tom Collins, an Army spokesman cited Graham’s previous comments that he wants Muslims to know that Jesus Christ died for their sins. Collins said the remarks were “not appropriate,” according to the New York Times.

The Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) and the Council on American-Islamic Relations pressed the Pentagon to rescind Graham's invitation. Michael Weinstein, founder of MRFF, wrote that the Pentagon choose a more inclusive speaker for the event in a letter to the Secretary of Defense Robert Gates on April 19.

In a statement released April 22, Graham said that he regrets that the Army felt it was necessary to rescind their invitation. “I want to express my strong support for the United States military and all our troops. I will continue to pray that God will give them guidance, wisdom and protection as they serve this great country,” Graham said.

Naturally, Sarah Palin,Graham's cookie delivery co-host to the Alaska Bush in early 2009, has come to his defense, through her facebook ghost writer:

My, have things changed. I was honored to have Rev. Franklin Graham speak at my Governor’s Prayer Breakfasts. His good work in Alaska’s Native villages and his charitable efforts all over the world stem from his servant’s heart. In my years of knowing him, I’ve never found his tempered and biblically-based comments to be offensive – in fact his words have been encouraging and full of real hope.

It’s truly a sad day when such a fine patriotic man, whose son is serving on his fourth deployment in Afghanistan to protect our freedom of speech and religion, is dis-invited from speaking at the Pentagon’s National Day of Prayer service. His comments in 2001 were aimed at those who are so radical that they would kill innocent people and subjugate women in the name of religion.

Are we really so hyper-politically correct that we can’t abide a Christian minister who expresses his views on matters of faith? What a shame. Yes, things have changed.

- Sarah Palin

Coupled with the recently publicized concerns by senior U.S. military over the dangers of being tied too closely to Israel in our foreign policy decisions regarding broader issues of the Middle East and beyond, maybe we are seeing signs of a Pentagon emerging from the terrible eclipse of rational thinking known as the George W. Bush administration.

As in some of the newest, youngest, major voices in the dialogue over our country's adherence to Israeli wishes regarding the illegal occupation of the West Bank, Israeli expansion there, and the siege of Gaza, hopefully a new generation of leadership in our military will show more independence, common sense and spine than their predecessors, who are now approaching retirement.

The more U.S. policy is separated from fundamentalist thinking, rhetoric and personalities, the better.

Other blogs important to Alaskans, touching aspects of these stories today:

The Mudflats (2X)

The Immoral Minority

God's Own Party?

Thursday, April 22, 2010

The MV Rachel Corrie - Headed to Break the Horrendous Gazagrad Siege

My friend, CTuttle, alerted me to this today. It is the MV Rachel Corrie, being fitted out to run the totally illegal and incredibly immoral Israeli blockade of Gaza:

On March 31, 2010, the Free Gaza Movement bought her at auction for €70,000 and will send her to the imprisoned Palestinians of Gaza loaded with cement, paper, and medical equipment, all banned by Israel from this battered and bruised slice of the Mediterranean.

ITF Inspector and Union organizer Ken Fleming was ecstatic: “We are pleased to announce that this vessel which was used to subject workers to modern day slavery, will now be used to promote human rights for the people of Palestine”.

Added Derek Graham the bidder for Free Gaza and one of the organizers of the flotilla, "We are doing this to show the people of Gaza that they are not alone. There's nothing going into Gaza, no aid. We are prepared to run the blockade to try and get aid in. We have done it before. Out of eight previous attempts, five were successful.”

The Free Gaza Movement along with the Turkish humanitarian organization, IHH, the European Campaign to End the Siege of Gaza and the Greek and Swedish Boat to Gaza organizations will sail 8 boats loaded with building supplies as well as taking 600 passengers and journalists at the end of May.

As the people from the town of Dundalk work on her every day, painting her, guarding her and collecting cargo, they have a vested interest in what was once a lonely and abandoned vessel, now slowly coming to life under their care. The ship has been renamed the MV Rachel Corrie, in memory of the 23-year-old solidarity activist crushed to death in 2003 by an Israeli military bulldozer as she attempted to prevent the demolition of a Palestinian home in Gaza.

On May Day weekend, a mini convoy of vans loaded with medical supplies from eight different cities in Ireland and England will be delivering and loading these badly-needed supplies on the ship. The people of Norway have donated more than 6 tons of paper and school supplies with a goal of 25 tons to be loaded as cargo. Israel refuses to allow paper and supplies in for the children.

One of Free Gaza’s organizers, Caoimhe Butterly, stated, " The public response to the cargo ship has been immense, and we hope that in the remaining three weeks before we set sail, communities across Ireland will continue to mobilize and gather supplies. The humanitarian crisis in Gaza is a symptom of Israel’s siege and Occupation, and this flotilla will spot-light the devastating collective punishment that is being imposed on Palestinians in the Gaza Strip."

With everyone’s help, the MV Rachel Corrie will be painted, outfitted, then filled with cargo and ready to leave shortly after May Day, a testimony to civil society doing what governments have refused to do…alleviate the suffering of the people of Gaza. Your donations for supplies are still vitally needed. You can earmark your donation for cement or school books and send through our donate page at

I want to sign on as a deckhand. More photos here.

Happy 40th Anniversary, Earth Day

That's the bad news. The good news is that after 40 years of unsustainable population increases, billions of tons of toxic herbicides and pesticides added to the richest farmlands and all waters downstream from them, we are actually still here.

My greenhouse this morning. A table full of plants, growing and awaiting May transplant:

Henderson's Crimson Cushion tomato plant beginning to flower (in April!):

The deck at 3:00 p.m. today:

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Nome Mayor Denise Michels Files for Lt. Governor as Democrat

The Associated Press is reporting that Nome Mayor Denis Michels has announced her intent to file for the office of Lieutenant Governor, for the Democratic Party primary, to be held August 24th.

Democratic Party Gubernatorial candidate Ethan Berkowitz welcomed Michels to the race, which until now was limited to the candidacy of progressive Democrat, Diane Benson.

According the the AP, "Ethan Berkowitz, a Democratic candidate for governor, lauded Michels' entry, saying she brings "great qualifications" to the race. Michels says the two are friends and have been discussing her potential candidacy for some time."

Michels is currently President for the Alaska Municipal League. She is the past President of the Alaska Conference of Mayors and past Co-Chair of the Public Works and Infrastructure Committee. She is a life-long Alaskan, and, like Diane Benson, is an Alaska Native.

image - Denis Michels, flanked by former Attorney General Talis Colberg and Gov. sean Parnell (AP photo - Hall Anderson)

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Complaint Against Alaska Republican Party Meddling in Matanuska Electrical Association Election Accepted by APOC

Lazy Mountain resident and Democratic Party activist Carolyn Covington's complaint against the Alaska Republican Party, regarding the upcoming MEA Board election, has been accepted, according to an e-mail I just received from Covington. Additionally, APOC has agreed to expedite the complaint. The election is scheduled for April 27th.

The complaint was covered last week by the Anchorage Daily News, but more detail emerged by the time the Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman covered this Monday:

Covington, who is running Katie Hurley’s campaign for re-election to the board, is crying foul — or trying to — over an e-mail sent from the Alaska Republican Party urging people to vote for Robert Doyle, Hurley’s opponent.

“It’s a Web mail,” Covington said. “When it is a Web mail they have to pay for that. That means that they have expended funds in a public utility’s election, which they are prohibited from doing.” Non-profits can influence utility co-op elections, but parties are barred from that kind of activity. Repeated attempts to reach Doyle on Friday and Monday failed as of press time.

The e-mail that prompted Covington’s complaint contains an Alaska Republican Party banner as well as a disclaimer that the e-mail “is being forwarded to you in the spirit of sharing information at the request of the candidate and should not be construed as an endorsement of the candidate by the Alaska Republican Party.”

But Covington pointed to a couple of things that belie that disclaimer.

First, she said, Doyle asks that recipients call their friends and ask them to vote. But, more importantly, he signs off with a plea for donations.

“It’s not too late to make a contribution to my campaign!” he writes, before passing out his mailing address.

Covington said that while this may seem like a tiny infraction, “He has not gotten any money directly from the Republican Party but he is benefiting from the Republican Party.”

And that, she believes, is against the law.

This is the first time that the Alaska Republican Party has used these kinds of resources to attempt to influence a utility board election.

image - Carolyn Covington (PA)

Does Sarah Palin Inspire Hate Speech? - Examples Nos. 5,678 and so on...

Calidfornia State Senator Leland Yee has called for close scrutiny of how the University of California Stanislaus is dealing with an upcoming speaking appearance there by Sarah Palin. He is getting a lot of nasty feedback. Here are some samples, from a post today at Palingates:

More details at Palingates.

Jesse at the Immoral Minority has an essay up on this, too.

I guess the people who sent or left this stuff won't be confused with the Women of Joy, eh?

Palin's Women of Joy Speech - She Explicitly Endorses the Binding of Church and State

David Neiwert is reporting at Crooks & Liars on Sarah Palin's speech, given on April 16th, to the evangelical women's group, Women of Joy. In her long, rambling speech, Palin states:

[I]t is our solemn duty. Praying for true spiritual awakening to overcome deterioration. That is where God wants us to be. Lest anyone try to convince you that God should be separated from the state, our Founding Fathers, they were believers.

Palin goes on to, possibly for the first time, give an open acknowledgement to a group she has been tied to in the past, but has been careful to not publicly acknowledge, the Prayer Warriors of the New Apostolic Reformation:

Prayer Warriors all across the country -- and I know some of you are here tonight -- your prayer shield allows me and others to go forth. You give out strength, providing a prayer shield. That is the only way to put one foot in front of the other, and get through some of these days with joy. I don't know how any politician could, or would want to do this, without knowing that there were prayer warriors out there, holding you up and seeking strength and wisdom for you. ... I am so appreciative of their efforts.

Palin, by openly acknowledging what some of us have been writing of for years, is tying herself directly to the policies this set of hate groups are practicing or attempting to practice in their international network in countries outside of the United States - destruction of people accused of witchcraft and the execution of homosexuals, and sometimes violent takeovers of governments.

Once again, the Alaska media will not even give her a gram of scrutiny on this, maybe finding an excuse to soon give her another "Thumbs Up!"

Here's Part One of her rant:

Monday, April 19, 2010

David Rovics at the Resurrect Gallery in Seward

I drove down to Seward from Wasilla Sunday, to hear and meet protest folksinger, Davids Rovics. It was my first trip to Seward since traveling there twice when the Kalakala was docked there in early October, 1998, undergoing Coast Guard inspections, before being allowed to travel on to Puget Sound, where it remains to this day.

While there in 1998, I took the picture at top left.

I get to Homer, Soldonta and Kenai at least once a year, but Seward? Hardly ever. I've been to London twice since the 1998 trip.

It was a rainy drive most of the way, but signs of spring crept all the way to the tops of the Kenai range passes, where the wet snow was mixed with sheets of rain, and the creeks are building with melt-off.

The Resurrect Art Coffee House Gallery is a small, comfortable venue for a minstrel whose message is as directly intimate as is David Rovics. There were about 20 people there, which is a full house.His songs ranged from the Irish Battalion in the U.S. - Mexican War, to the coal mine disaster of two weeks ago, to the Lincoln Brigade in the Spanish Civil War, to beauty - as seen through kids' eyes, to obsevastions about the avant garde arts neighborhood where Rovics now lives in Portland Oregon.

Here are youtubes of two of the songs Dave sang in Seward:

Saturday, April 17, 2010

New PA Poll - Should Alaska Democrats Support President Obama and Make Israel Join the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty?

Yesterday, President Obama called upon Israel to join the nuclear non-proliferation treaty. Since being elected, he has suggested it would advance world peace for Israel to join the treaty.

Violations or suggested violations of that vaunted treaty led, more than any other lie, to the Iraq war. Since then, successive Israeli governments have constantly purported that Iran's obligations, as being a signatory to that treaty, and the possibly mythical perceptions that Iran is violating the treaty, are enough reason to bomb the latter country in such a way as to eliminate its capability to produce such weapons, without regard to what damage nuclear debris might cause Iranians and adjacent countries.

Israel's official position on its own nuclear profile is to farcically insist that it is a unique country, in that it has a right to claim an ambiguity on its nuclear weapons, by refusing to acknowledge what has been obvious for a generation - that it possesses one of the most devastating first strike thermonuclear capabilities on the planet. Yet they demand our country wage war against others who might seek a deterrent against a country that has repeatedly and - often without substantial provocation - attacked each of its adjacent neighbors, and other countries as well, including the USA.

Here is what the President said:

Whether we're talking about Israel or any other country, we think that becoming part of the NPT is important," Obama said. "And that, by the way, is not a new position. That's been a consistent position of the United States government, even prior to my administration.

Already, members of congress, being fed foreign-originated talking points, are preparing to defend that same foreign country against our president's concerns on this matter. This past week, Alaska Democratic Party Senator Mark Begich co-signed a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton that sought to undermine the president's ability to stop expansion of Zionist settlements, in violation of international law and US policy, in lands the USA and all countries except Israel consider to be occupied.

I objected.

This coming week, Sen. Begich will probably be approached by these foreign agents' cutouts to sign a similarly scripted letter admonishing Obama or one of his employees for daring to demand Israel put up or shut up regarding the treaty's importance.

Should you and I start saying "Enough already!" to this bullshit?

This is an important enough issue to me that thinking about the dissonance of
baying at the behest of a foreign country by leaders of the party I've chosen to join makes me physically ill.

Here's my poll question:

Should Alaska Democrats support the president in his efforts to demand Israel join the nuclear non-proliferation treaty?

If the margin for supporting the president be substantial, I may consider going to Sitka and bringing this issue up at the floor of our 2010 convention.

I'd also like to challenge my colleagues in the Alaska blogging community and progressive audiovisual community to join me in this effort by linking to this poll.

I put the odds of getting help from my colleagues on this - or from my party - at about 75 to 1 against help.

Prove me wrong.

Update - 2:10 a.m: I've changed the odds to 40 to 1, based on comments.

Friday, April 16, 2010

The Anchorage and Wasilla Tea Party Tax Day Events - Part Three - Another Victory for Ron Paul?

It wasn't a fluke that the person who most inspired attendees at the two biggest Alaska Tea Party tax day gatherings was Texas Rep. Ron Paul:

12 - Ron Paul
9 - Sarah Palin
7 - Michelle Bachman
5 - Glenn Beck
3 - George W. Bush
3 - Mitt Romney
3 - Newt Gingrich
2 - Mike Huckabee
2 - Ralph Nader

Here's a breakdown of the February 2008 Alaska all-party caucus vote:

Barack Obama --- 6,471
Mitt Romney --- 5,177
Mike Huckaby --- 2,596
Hillary Clinton --- 2,138
Ron Paul --- 2,004
John McCain --- 1,837

At the time, my friend, Fred James, informed me that the way the computers were set up in the Alaska GOP candidate preference forums was, to borrow Shannyn Moore's term, "hinky." Informants from Anchorage, Wasilla, Palmer and Fairbanks told him there were far more Paul supporters at those events than were represented in the results emanating from those polling places.

Since then, a financial meltdown, which Paul had predicted, increasing concern that our Israel-centric Middle East policies do not serve our national interests - again - something Paul long ago articulated, and rapidly growing frustration with party hackery from both the Democrats and the GOP, have given him a resonance that reaches a point where the media can no longer refuse to cover him.

He isn't nearly as sexy as Sarah Palin, nor does he raise slush money nearly as effectively as Palin, but he reaches across party lines more effectively and sincerely than has any figure in recent American politics.

Paul's victory in the CPAC poll, close second in the SRLC poll and fairly shocking statistical tie with Obama in an early 2012 match poll by Rasmusson, all combine to make one wonder why about 5,000% as much print is wasted on the vapid Palin than on the high information Paul.

Justin Raimondo has posted a very good post-tax day essay on Paul's durability at Here is an extract:

His message, in short, is eat your spinach – not something any politician who hopes to keep his job (or get one) would normally say. But then again, as I said above, these are not normal times: far from it. The crisis of the American republic is acute, as we teeter on the brink of bankruptcy and our overseas empire shows every sign of imploding, just like the old Soviet Union – and, what’s more, the American people know it.

As our corporatist masters feast on our tax dollars in Washington, out in the provinces voters faced with economic ruin are looking for some explanation, a conceptual framework that gets at the root of the problem and provides some solution. Paul’s rising popularity is due to the fact that he does indeed have a consistent philosophical approach, one that has propelled him from being a mere marginal figure – a "gadfly," as they said – to a very real contender. Yes, that’s right, I said a contender for the White House: it’s real, it’s possible, and here’s why.

Paul has consistently emphasized two themes that successfully capture the sentiments of the average American voter, and address the top two issues on their minds: 1) Fiscal sanity, and 2) A non-interventionist foreign policy. As regards the first point, Ron is the foremost opponent of government spending in Congress, and has earned the sobriquet "Dr. No" many times over. But of course practically all Republicans at least pay lip service to this ideal, although none that I know of lives up to it like Dr. Paul. However, it’s the second point – opposition to imperialism, and especially opposition to our crazed post-9/11 foreign policy of perpetual war – that is the key.

Here's Rep. Paul a week ago, on a Jesse Ventura-hosted episode of the Larry King show (with an incredibly improbable panel!), when asked about the viability of Palin as a 2012 candidate:

Notice how gatekeeper Stephanie Miller misses the opportunity to lend support to building a new coalition, in her avoidance of Paul's positive framing, by changing the subject to Sarah Palin's clothes.

As much as the apparatchiks of mainstream media, new media and emerging media want to avoid dealing with why somebody like Ron Paul has far more resonance than the figures those media pimp as being important, Paul may be on the point of catching a wave, or benefitting from the eye of the perfect storm.

We'll see.