Wednesday, December 31, 2008

2008 Biggest Alaska Jerk - Eddie Burke

He certainly had a lot of competition, but the response to his disgusting behavior was magnificent.

Build Pebble Mine? - This WILL Happen

In May 1978, I was at a conference in Anchorage. The pipeline was being built. Along with a lot of other "stakeholders" (the first time I heard that term), I was at the MESA Summit, where we listened to various officials, functionaries and politicians talk about how the pipeline and Valdez terminal and tanker routes would function when the line was done and the oil flowed.

I was there as Whittier Harbormaster. Another ex-skipper of mine, Pete Isleib from Cordova, was there too. He represented a lot of local knowledge. I think he was ostensibly there as the pre-eminent ornithologist from Southcentral Alaska, which he was. But he had also spent thousands of hours on the Sound, year-round, gathering data for various bird, marine mammal and fish surveys.

We were both in a focus group, headed by a couple of Coast Guard officers, on the proposed tanker traffic separation lanes and proposed safety measures. Pete and I sat next to each other.

The Coast Guard moderators and a couple of oil company and Alyeska focus group members waxed eloquently about how smooth it all was going to work. Pete kept shaking his head quietly, back and forth. I looked at him, wondering.

Finally, Pete jumped on the statement of one of the coasties, saying something like "You're talking like this sort of plan always works. It doesn't always work. It always breaks down!

"There'll be a spill. Within ten years or so, there'll be a spill.

"It will happen at Seal Rocks, or Johnstone Point, or Bligh Reef, or Potato Point. Most likely, at Bligh Reef. It always happens at one of those places."

If Pebble Mine is built, the dam holding back hundreds of millions of waste-contaminated water will break. It is inevitable:

Progressive Alaska's 1,000th Post - Five Alaska Muckrakers of 2008

Progressive Alaska began on November 4, 2007. With this article, PA will have posted 1,000 separate articles, essays, picture collections, YouTubes, gags, stories and other items. Dozens of articles and essays were provided by invited authors, or by contributors who approached PA to publish. Thanks, to everyone who provided content so far. I've ruffled a few feathers getting some of that content up here. Sorry.

My greatest joy through this strange ride hasn't been that of being able to write more material than I could have imagined, as fine as that experience has been. It has been meeting so many interesting people in the new context of being a fairly serious writer.

Before August 29th, 2008, very few of these new people spoke with me about Sarah Palin. After that date, very few didn't.

For PA's 1,000th post, I'm going to write about five great Alaska muckrakers. Two have been acknowledged publicly as great muckrakers in Alaska. The others are mentioned here and there and elsewhere as great Alaska muckrakers, so I'm not breaking any ground, other than putting them on the same list.

Riki Ott. She is Cook Inletkeeper's 2008 Alaska Muckraker of the Year. Her tenacity as a scientist, ecologist, community organizer, writer and budding national figure are finally coming together in a major way. Her concept of a 28th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, eliminating "personhood" from corporations is a growing national undertaking. Her part in that rapidly budding movement may soon be more important than Ott's scientific work on petroleum product and residue toxicology, and on long-term Prince William Sound Pacific herring mortality.

Ray Metcalfe. Ray was 2007 Cook Inletkeeper Muckraker of the Year. Last spring, after taking Ray's Anchorage real estate tour, I tried to get Ray and Mark Begich to do the tour together. Neither bit. Too bad. It was a non-event in what turned out to be one of the most fascinating political races in Alaska history.

Ray is as relentless as Ott. Both are critical of the current economic paradigm. Ott's 28th Amendment campaign, for instance.

Ray published an article Tuesday for the Alaska Dispatch on the real estate market meltdown and its ramifications. I'd like to challenge the person I'm going to next name a 2008 Alaska Muckraker to sit down with Ray on Andy's radio program, and go through Ray's article.

Ray wants to challenge several outstanding issues in 2009. He hopes the state doesn't let the statute of limitations run out on the deal between Lisl McGuire and Providence Hospital a few years back. He wants serious tightening of ethics legislation. He and I don't see eye to eye on the importance of executive branch ethics reform, though. I think it needs to b put on the front burner.

Andrew Halcro
. I've never met Andrew. Called his current radio program three times. I didn't read his blog much until late June, 2008. After the choice of Sarah Palin as a vice presidential candidate, I went back and read several of his articles about her. Doing that, I read or re-read his take on other issues. Some had a whole new meaning.

I would have voted for Halcro in 2006 if he had a chance. Looking back at some of the clips of the 2006 gubernatorial debates with some of the reporters and bloggers who came to Alaska from Outside this fall, I gained more respect for Andy.

I guess the main reason I've identified Andy as one of our top five muckrakers is because he represents a business-oriented perspective that I often find quite valid.

Shannyn, C.C. and Aaron at KUDO in the 2008 Anchorage election. Call it syncronicity, call it Phil Munger's bullshit, call it Buttdialing-gate, call it anything you want. I worked in radio for seven years. Last winter and spring's KUDO lineup was just beginning to gain traction when it got carjacked.

When that seven-hour stretch of local progressive talk hit Anchorage, a mold was made that was able to take advantage of growing disenchantment with the Bush administration's policy failures, and use that to attract listeners to local political figures. These Anchorage and Alaska politicians were presented to the public in a format quite different from their appearances on local right wing AM venues. Instead of being constantly interrupted by hosts who could be total jerks, they were able to get complex ideas presented in a courteous, curious ambience.

The momentum from the empowerment felt at the February 4th caucuses carried over into the April Anchorage municipal election. It was helped along by the humor KUDO threw at the phone tapes of "pay for play" on the local level. Those three air hosts, actually helped change an election toward the left. To my knowledge, that had never happened before in Anchorage AM radio history.

Max Blumenthal. David Neiwert, one of the Pacific Northwest's top experts on ties between militias and fundamentalists, and on the history of hate crimes, told me in mid-September to expect Max to show up, covering the Rev. Thomas Muthee and the latter's colleagues, at some Wasilla revivals. Max stayed with us for a bit over a week, overlapping with a stay by Nancy Lethcoe, who ran against Rep. John Harris for the state House.

I chose Max here, to represent himself and several other young people who came to Alaska, hoping to find information that would convince Americans - especially the vast reservoir of non-partisan Americans - that Sarah Palin was totally unfit to be a candidate on a presidential ticket. I have to say, these youngsters give me hope.

Max, like many of the people who visited Judy and me, or stayed with us, combined an awesome sense of humor with total dedication to his work. He left Alaska with a lot of raw material, and did as much or more than any other Outside reporter to get the truth out in September. Here's one of his video productions:

image - Ray Metcalfe being photographed by Riki Ott

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Gas Gouging? - Representatives Gara, Tuck and Peterson Want to Know!

[from materials provided to Progressive Alaska by Alaska Representatives Les Gara, Chris Tuck and Pete Peterson]

In response to questions from Rep. Les Gara (D-Anch.), the Legislature’s research arm has issued a report confirming Alaskans are still paying the highest gas prices in the country, at about $1 per gallon higher than the national average. Consumers in the Lower 48 are paying roughly $1.65/gallon.

“The public is right to ask questions. Alaska refiners get crude oil at about the same price refiners pay in the Lower 48. But they’re adding on $1 more a gallon than refiners add in other states. Consumers have a right to ask whether they’re being gouged,” said Gara.

Gara, and newly elected House Democrats Pete Petersen and Chris Tuck are all working on legislation to investigate and prevent price gouging. The proposed legislation would kick in when refiner prices in Alaska unjustifiably jump compared to prices in comparable markets. The report concludes that gas retailers are also feeling a pinch. The high price in Alaska is being caused by refiner charges, not charges by gas stations.

“A lot of families in Alaska are struggling. Paying an extra dollar a gallon hurts when folks are facing high heating bills, and trying to make ends meet,” said Tuck. “The solutions to this problem are going to be difficult, but just standing by when your neighbors are hurting isn’t a great response. I got elected to work on problems, not to just look at them,” said Petersen.

Petersen and Tuck are newly elected House members from Anchorage.

State Senator Bill Wielechowski (D-Anch.) has led the effort in trying to find a policy solution to this problem and is working on legislation to that effect in the Senate.

Note: the email sent to me (and others) by Rep. Gara contained the entire report. I tried to copy the summary for PA's readers, but it is locked. I tried some passwords to gain access to it, but they all failed, and I have to make some baguettes for Turkey soup.

image - KTUU TV

Who the Fuck is "editorsblog" & Why Does She or He Keep Making Stuff Up About Me?

Progressive Alaska noted yesterday that the well-hidden niche at the Anchorage Daily News, called the Editor's Blog, had posted an essay accusing me of "theft" of a photo by their fine photographer, Bob Hallinen. I found out about the posting through an anonymous comment left at a short essay I had written on Friday, about community reactions to the Snowzilla controversy.

The anonymous comment called me a "thief" for using the picture by Bob of the debris outside of city hall, after a guerilla operation had left a bunch of mini Snowzillas there on Thursday. It provided an HTML link to the essay, by a writer named "editorsblog." That essay, once again accused me of being a thief. It also erroneously stated that I hadn't credited Hallinen for his picture. And, in PA's original essay, I had written, "I'll bet they call me or email me to take down the debris picture I temporarily borrowed from their site quicker than they can come up with their next Pat Dougherty-inspired breaking news story."

I commented at yesterday's version of the ADN blog entry that I had borrowed the picture to illustrate the point, offered in-kind payment for borrowing it, and requested that the erroneous information be dealt with by the anonymous - more accurately, pseudonymous - writer named "editorsblog." I then created a revision to the Friday post, and put up a new one on the subject here at PA.

I also collected on a bet, or so I thought......

Today, I looked at the post at the ADN editors blog. It has been changed. I'm no longer a thief. I'm a "borrower." Whew!

The statement "Munger backhandedly acknowledges that he took the photo from the Daily News, although he apparently removed the photographer’s credit," has been changed today to "if you look hard enough you can find one somewhere on the blog."

That's "editorsblog's" backhanded way of acknowledging the initial essay's error. Uh, "editorsblog," it helps to read an essay before you fucking call somebody a thief, or accuse them of a specific error.

Today's version failed to acknowledge that the Anchorage Daily News has used my photos, as recently as December, 2008, without acknowledging that the photo was mine.

Back to the bet. Somebody bet me at a party a couple of weeks back that I couldn't get Pat Dougherty to write about me by the end of 2008. I thought I had, based on the editor's blog piece from yesterday. But my betting buddy now says, "No, you can't prove Pat is 'editorsblog' unless he actually admits it to you."

After "editorsblog's" essay revisions today, and the dubious methods the way that was handled reveal, I doubt I'll get an open, transparent call from either "editorsblog" or Patrick Dougherty before midnight tomorrow. That's too bad. It's no biggie, though, because the bet's loser has to make a charitable donation to a well-known group in Dougherty's name to start out 2009 in a giving, generous way.

I regard this incident as humorous.

It is so predictable that the ADN will jump on anyone using their stuff in an "unauthorized way." Usually, as I pointed out in Friday's Patrick bait, by email or phone call. It is also predictable, that when caught in projecting a falsehood - "editorsblog's" high-mannered lecture to me and to whomever about copyright laws and intellectual property rights - that no mention would be made in the also predictable self-serving revision (with no addendum that today's version is a revision) of the ADN's violation of those same principles, when using photos supplied by me (and many others).

I'll finish by observing that "editorsblog" predictably attempted to maintain a tone of profound righteousness throughout. And that, indeed, is a meaty part of the humor to those of us in the blogging world and at the ADN (sorry, Pat, you're not in on it), who shared in this little prank.

image - Phil Munger, by Erick

The Siege of Gazagrad Continues.....

From Al Jazeera English:

This footage was downloaded from the Israeli Defense Forces to the Associated Press minutes ago:

MSNBC Reports $300K to Palin for Baby Pics

Bristol Palin appears to have benefited from the arrest of her possible future mother-in-law. After the arrest of the mother of the alleged father of Bristol's soon-to-arrive son occurred, MSNBC reports that the first baby pictures immediately became more valuable:

According to one source, bidding for the baby photos began at $100,000. People won out in the end, but In Touch was the only other weekly to make serious bids, according to several sources involved in the process.

The price didn't soar immediately, according to the sources, because Sarah Palin stories just didn’t sell all that well for the weeklies on newsstands.

“Sarah was on the cover of People, Us Weekly, and OK! the same week, and really only People saw a bump in sales," says a source.

The drug-related arrest of Johnston's mother, however, caused the price tag for the photos to go up.

image - MSNBC

Update - 2:45 p.m. Tuesday: Kyle Hopkins at the ADN has quotes from the sleaze editor at People Magazine, who is denying any $$$ deal for the baby pics...

Monday, December 29, 2008

Welcome to Planet Earth, Tripp Easton Mitchell Johnston

At least Bristol and Levi's baby, full of his parents' hopes for the future, gets to be born in a safe, clean, well-equipped hospital. Unlike the hospitals in Gaza:

What Hamas does is often reprehensible, criminal and idiotic. The same can be said of the government of Israel. What is going on now is a terrible case in point.

Here's a group of Israeli settlers shooting Palestinians in Hebron on December 15th:

A Weird Event at the Well-hidden ADN Niche, The Editor's Blog

That's a picture of me.

I stole it from an article at the Anchorage Daily News. Unlike the one of Snowzilla by Bob Hallinen I temporarily borrowed from them over the weekend, I'll keep this one up.

Bob's picture was put up in an attempt to get a response from Pat Dougherty. Instead, I got one from someone who posts as "editorsblog," in a well-hidden "editorial," riddled with inaccuracies, errors and intentionally inflammatory falsehoods.

I printed the entire editorial as an update to PA's earlier post on Snowzilla coverage. But some inaccuracies in "editorsblog"'s post merit a post of their own:

editorsblog's post stated, "Phil, if you want photos on your site, why don't you take your own?"

Hundreds of my own photos are posted at PA.

editorsblog's post stated, "Munger backhandedly acknowledges that he took the photo from the Daily News, although he apparently removed the photographer’s credit."

PA credited the photographer at the bottom of the post, where image credits are usually placed.

editorsblog post concludes with this:

When this happens to us, I usually explain the law and ask the offender to remove our material, which in almost every case they do. I encourage them to link to our content, so their readers can view whatever story or photo they’re referencing.

Munger is unusual in that he seems proud of himself for appropriating the photograph and stripping the photographer's credit."

The photo at the top was provided to the Anchorage Daily News by me
. It is of me. There are no photo credits attached to their article. When I sent the photo, at the ADN's request, I didn't ask for a credit, nor did they ask me any questions about its provenance. But they certainly knew who had provided it. Apparently, they are happy letting some of their readers assume one of their fine photographers took it, depriving my photographer of his or her "intellectual property rights."

Over the years, the ADN has done this stuff with my material before. And to others, some of them professionals. They'll probably do it up until the paper folds, sometime in late 2009. Their writers rip off Alaska bloggers for material and links all the time, seldom acknowledging their sources in print.

editorsblog was pretty bold coming on my blog and accusing me of this:

Philip Munger is a local blogger and critic of the Daily News. He’s also a thief and curiously proud of it. I noticed over the weekend that Munger has, for at least the second time, stolen the property of the Daily News for use on his blog, in this case a photo from our coverage of Snowzilla, the giant outlaw snowman. Munger backhandedly acknowledges that he took the photo from the Daily News, although he removed the photographer’s credit.

Munger appears to understand the basics of copyright law, he just doesn’t seem to believe it should apply to him.

Read the rest of this post at:

editorsblog publicly and in writing accused me of being a thief and of having "removed [a] photographer's credit."

I'm not accusing the
ADN of thieving my photo I provided. But I do think editorsblog owes Progressive Alaska and PA's readers a written apology at this point.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

My email to Rep. Mike Doogan

Dear Rep. Doogan,

Although I wasn't one of the many concerned Alaskans who have written to you about possible executive ethics actions being addressed by the upcoming session of the Alaska Legislature, I've had an opportunity to read a response you sent out to a number of people who had sent similar mailings to you. One part of this communication from you interested me:

Third, I intend to move forward with legislation to prevent a re-occurrence of some of the problematic behavior that has arisen from the mess commonly called Troopergate. That legislation will define more closely what is a public document and seek to prevent public officials from shielding their communications by using private email accounts, and the state from stifling public access by charging an arm and a leg.

This is an excellent idea, Rep. Doogan!

I would like to recommend that you consider also looking at tightening travel regulations for the members of the chief executive's family. Gov. Palin's trip to New York City in 2008 with one of her daughters, to speak very briefly on one day, then spend the work week in a pricey hotel with her child, at taxpayers' expense, shouldn't merely be unauthorized, I feel it should be criminal activity entered into the "fraud" statutes of Title 11.

I am also disturbed to read of Todd Palin's access to confidential personnel files and other sensitive materials, as described by ex-commissioner Walt Monegan, in his statements to investigator Steven Branchflower.

Although I am not a constituent, as an officer of the Alaska Democratic Party, I eagerly await your reply to my earnest query.


Philip Munger

Update - Monday at 4:45 p.m:
I emailed back & forth with Rep. Doogan most of the early afternoon. I don't consider it to have been a very productive exchange. I tried to be respectful and open. He was quite minimal, offering nothing of substance.

I lost him when he seemed to be to the point where if I would reveal the identity of a certain blogger, he would continue to play.

End of playing kids' games, Mike.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Snowzilla Now Has His Own Site

It is

Hat tip to Ishmael Melville at Kodiak Konfidential, for posting the first picture outside the snowzilla site of the spontaneous appearances of the tiny Snowzilla clones. The complete set of pictures are available at the Snowzilla site.

Considering all the rallies and demonstrations we've seen in Southcentral Alaska in 2008, it's good to head on out of this year and into the next on some touches of light humor, eh?

An interesting sidelight on the Snowzilla coverage, is that the only picture they managed to get up at the Anchorage Daily News of the Snowzilla appearances at Anchorage City Hall, was of the debris, after the story was over:

[the ADN's Snowzilla photo was removed by PA at 1:48 p.m, once its purpose had been served. Thank you, Bob Hallinen]

Dougherty doesn't inspire news coverage very often, but he does know how to spin a headline. The ADN entry reads:

Mini-Snowzilla squadron overthrown at City Hall

Ish, on the ball as usual, was able to post:

The Snowzilla Liberation Front

And the folks at posted:

Snowzilla Gate - Seven Snowmen Protesting Outside Anchorage City Hall

That's the way 2008 often was for the editors and publisher there.

2009 will be even worse.

I'll bet they call me or email me to take down the debris picture I temporarily borrowed from their site quicker than they can come up with their next Pat Dougherty-inspired breaking news story, though.

Here's my favorite Snowzilla YouTube yet:

hat tips/images: Ishmael Melville,, ram99508 and Bob Hallinen of the ADN (temporary, I've got a hunch...)

Update - Monday at 1:45 p.m: An anonymous Anchorage Daily News editor has responded to, as I termed it above, "temporarily borrow[ing] Bob Hallinen's Snowzilla photo, even more spectacularly and ineptly than I had hoped. Bob's excellent art/work having served its purpose here, I thank him, and offer him a CD of my orchestral music in exchange for the borrowing, should he want it.

Here's the anonymous
ADN editorial:

Phil Munger is a local blogger and critic of the Daily News. He’s also apparently shameless about appropriating the work of the Daily News. I noticed over the weekend that Munger has again, for at least the second time, lifted the property of the Daily News for use on his blog, in this case a photo from our coverage of Snowzilla, the giant outlaw snowman. Munger backhandedly acknowledges that he took the photo from the Daily News, although he apparently removed the photographer’s credit.

Phil, if you want photos on your site, why don't you take your own?

I find this behavior surprising in someone who says he has taught college classes. Respect for intellectual property is typically a core value in an intellectual community like a university. I also find it surprising in a music composer, which Munger is, because I doubt he would like to find his music available on someone else's website without his permission.

The U.S. has led the world in so many business and scientific fields, in part, because of the strength of our copyright and patent laws, which were developed early in the country’s history and strengthened over time. The purpose of the laws is to encourage people to develop new ideas by ensuring that those who create work and invent things are able to benefit financially from their efforts.

For those of us in the publishing business, this has become more of an issue as the internet has made it possible for anyone with a computer and an internet connection to publish to the world. Technology has also made it easy for these new publishers to take the work of others and use it as if it belonged to them.

For a print and online publisher like the Daily News, it is difficult to prevent websites and blogs from taking our work and using it. Most of the time when we encounter a misappropriation, it is someone new to publishing who doesn’t understand that it’s against the law to publish someone else's work without their permission.

When this happens to us, I usually explain the law and ask the offender to remove our material, which in almost every case they do. I encourage them to link to our content, so their readers can view whatever story or photo they’re referencing.

Munger is unusual in that he seems proud of himself for appropriating the photograph and stripping the photographer's credit.

I responded with:

Anonymous editor at the ADN, posting as "editorsblog" -

Got you to come out of your lair. Now the photo can come down. Thanks for letting me borrow it! See you next time.

Phil Munger
Progressive Alaska

ps - when are you going to develop an honest rubric at the ADN for consistently crediting our Alaska bloggers for keying you or your staff onto a local or national story? You do this all the time, but then only cite the html source we had posted, as part of a larger article.

I find many of your policies in this regard to be as dishonest and unethical as what I've managed to get you whooped up about.

Happy New Year...

Todd Palin - Alaska's Biggest FUCKUP Dad

I'm not claiming to be a perfect dad, but I've got to admit, even if I intentionally screwed things up, I'd probably be better for my kids and family, than Todd Palin has been for his.

I don't subscribe to some of the rumors and myths surrounding the Palin family. Although I've watched Sarah Palin since she was on the Wasilla Planning Commission, it was usually from afar, as we never lived in the city limits. But all along, we've had close friends who watched Sarah and her family very closely.

One of my best friends was Palin's first mentor, Wasilla mayor John Stein. We watched as she turned on him and on his wife.

I was close to Palin's second mentor, ex- Alaska Representative, Vic Kohring, when she climbed aboard his libertarian fantasy machine, that, for Kohring, ended in Federal prison.

I kept my own interests in her political activities, though, mostly to keeping track of her whenever her role in helping creationists get positions in local politics - particularly the Mat-Su District School board - came into play. And when Palin was chosen to be Sen. John McCain's 2008 presidential race running mate, I initially kept my involvement in Sarah Palin and her family's local past to my knowledge on that set of issues. Partially, it was a promise I made to my wife and kids, as we've always felt there was more than enough on Sarah and the family to bring her political future to an end, should it be brought out, without my having to jump in there.

I still feel that way. But thinking about the way Sherry Johnston's bust came down, in the ambience of the Palin's relationship with that family, begs some scrutiny.

Reading through the public reporting on information provided so far by the Alaska State Troopers on Ms. Johnston's surveillance, reminded me of these excerpts from the Branchflower Report:

During the winter of 2007, Trooper Wooten sustained an injury in the course of his employment. He had submitted a workers' compensation claim with the Department of Public Safety, and was on light duty while recovering from his injuries.

Mr. Monegan testified that Todd Palin told him that he [Palin] had observed Mr. Wooten riding a snowmachine 100 miles off the road. Palin told Monegan he had taken pictures of Wooten and wanted to give them to Troopers to investigate because Palin believed Wooten may have been committing workers' compensation fraud.

Commissioner Monegan caused the matter to be investigated. It was determined that at the time of the snow machine incident, trooper Wooten had discussed the planned trip beforehand with his doctor who had given Wooten his permission to make the trip. [Branchflower Report - p. 29. Emphasis added by PA]

Todd Palin's call to AST Colonel Audie Hollowav during the fall of 2007 about MikeWooten's dropping off his children at school in a patrol car:

Todd Palin called Colonel Audie Holloway during the Fall of 2007 to say that Trooper Wooten was seen dropping off one of his children at school at 8:01. The complaint was investigated and it was determined that Wooten had obtained his supervisor's permission to do so.

Todd Palin's call to Colonel Holloway in October 2007:

Todd Palin called Colonel Holloway in October 2007 following a news event about a lawsuit involving another trooper. He wanted to know what AST was doing about the lawsuit. According to an email Holloway sent to Commissioner Monegan [who was out of state at the time], Holloway said that Mr. Palin claimed Trooper Wooten was a friend of the other trooper.

There is more stuff like this in the Branchflower Report. Not just on Todd's obsession with Wooten, but also on Sarah's. But these three examples of the mania should suffice, to sketch background for my question:

Why haven't we found evidence that the Palins were similarly interested in keeping close track of Track and Bristol over the past three or four years? I've been asking around for even anecdotal information on either of the adult Palins checking on the Johnston family's activities involving their daughter, and have only come up with blanks.

Why do the Republicans in the Alaska Legislature feel that such a fuckup of a weird, obsessive guy as Todd Palin should be able to run amok in government spaces, rifling through government files? As Walt Monegan put it to Branchflower:

[Commissioner Monegan arrived at the Governor's office at the appointed time and was directed into Governor Palin's office. Governor Palin was not present. Mr. Palin was sitting at a large conference table and invited Mr. Monegan to sit. Both men were wearing business attire. Mr. Monegan testified:

MR. MONEGAN: What I recollect was that Todd was sitting there.He had three stacks of paper in an array in front of him. The largest one was probably a quarter inch thick, and that was in the center. To his right, I believe what I recall was a stack of paper that looked like photos or copied photos on to typing paper, if you will. And on his left, I believe he had a smaller stack, as well, that had three or four pages in it. And it was — it had the letterhead and logo of the Department of Public Safety.

MR. BRANCHFLOWER: Okay. So the one stack that had the Department of Public Safety logo on it, could you tell what kind of documents they were?

MR. MONEGAN: That one appeared to be correspondence. It was —it looked like a letter that was sent, and presumably from the Alaska State Troopers. And it was text written ~ I think the date was somewhere in '05 or '06, I believe. I don't remember looking at the date. But it was older; I know that.

Why the hell does anyone let this vindictive asshole anywhere near Alaska Government documents, files, records, or for that matter, offices during working hours? Apparently there isn't a law against it, but after re-reading parts of the Branchflower report, there should be.

I've mentioned to several other officers of the Alaska Democrats, and to a couple of our legislators, that there should be legislation to keep Mr. Palin out of the peoples' business 24-7. Rep. Mike Doogan, in a weird e-mail reply to a query from a constituent, posted at The Mudflats, wrote to the concerned writer that:

I intend to move forward with legislation to prevent a re-occurrence of some of the problematic behavior that has arisen from the mess commonly called Troopergate. That legislation will define more closely what is a public document and seek to prevent public officials from shielding their communications by using private email accounts, and the state from stifling public access by charging an arm and a leg.

This is a decent start, but we also need to keep Alaska's biggest fuckup dad out of our government spaces.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Harold Pinter Passes

The great playwright, poet, director, screenwriter and humanitarian, Harold Pinter, passed away yesterday.

His early plays and late poetry had a profound influence on my development as an artist.
Pinter was one of the many patrons of the November 1, 2005 London performance of my cantata, The Skies Are Weeping. He was supposed to introduce the work at its premiere, but was in the hospital, fighting cancer.

I was at least able to speak to him over the phone, while in London then. His voice was barely audible, as his throat was very inflamed at the time. A month later, he delivered this lecture, as he accepted the Nobel Prize in literature:

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

A Merry Christmas, from Strider and TreeZilla

Snowzilla, By My Bodyguard

Freddie has been my bodyguard since the summer of 1978, and my best friend in Alaska about that long.

He lives two houses down from Snowzilla. Freddie took this picture with his iPhone yesterday, of his eccentric neighbor, Billy Powers, and the most famous snowman since Frostie:

Three Rudolphs and Miss Liberty

And this one:
And this one:

And finally, this one:

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Holiday Preparations Underway

Both Julia and Alex are home for the holidays. Judy and I are spending a lot of time with them, as we prepare for Christmas and other events over the next few days.

Julia will be starting a one-year commitment with AmeriCorps in early January, working on environmental restoration and remediation projects out of Seattle, where she has now moved, after graduating from Western Washington University in June. She will only be here for a little over a week.

Alex transferred from UAA to Humboldt State this fall. He will be home for four weeks. He just finished jamming for a couple of hours with Eric, the drummer from his band that existed from 2005 to 2007, called Intafada.

Anyway, light posting this week.

Monday, December 22, 2008

You Can Help Pick the Top Ten Alaska Political Stories of 2008

I've created a list of the top ten Alaska political stories of 2008. You can help create the final list.

Please add other events I missed.

I'll get some help on evaluating the importance of the entries.

1. Alaska Governor Sarah Palin chosen to be John McCain's GOP 2008 presidential race running mate.

2. Exxon Valdez Supreme Court judgement severely reduces punitive damages.

3. High energy costs over two consecutive winters eviscerates Alaska's rural economy and social structure, even after years of warning that this would happen.

4. AGIA passes, but appears increasingly unrealistic and unfeasible.

5. Precipitous declines in oil revenue and Permanent Fund losses put Alaska's fiscal model at severe risk.

6. Alaska U.S. Senator Ted Stevens, convicted of seven felonies, narrowly loses his election a week later to Anchorage's mayor Mark Begich.

7. The combination of Palin's elevation to national attention, the investigations into her handling of public safety director Walt Monegan's removal, the national McCain campaign's temporary takeover of Alaska government communication offices, national media reporters' appearance here, and local bloggers' involvement in getting the story out creating a new narrative from the far north.

8. The defeat of all progressive ballot initiatives in the August Alaska primary, partially due to Gov. Palin's unprecedented partisan intervention in closing week ads (before she was selected to run with McCain on a higher level).

9. Incremental gains by Alaska Democrats and progressives statewide, in November, in spite of the Palin mania.

10. The disgusting moves by managers, editors and publishers in Alaska's most influential media outlets, as they looked their own survival in the mirror, saw a pitbull with lipstick, and kept on looking for more lipstick, long after it ran out. They used up seven years of lipstick and broke the mirror, too.

Anyway, that's my pre-Christmas take on a meme that usually doesn't get started until December 26th. If you think Progressive Alaska missed an important political development here in 2008, please comment on it. I probably missed one or more.

TreeZilla - Under Construction

Judy is putting lights onto our Christmas tree. It will end up with over 3,000 of them.

Almost all the decorations are hand-made by friends and family. some were made by Judy's mom's Icelandic relatives, some to my mom's Norwegian Christmas customs.

We put our tree up fairly late, and keep it up past Epiphany.

While working through the upper branches of the tree, Judy found an actual bird's nest in the foliage. We have some small Cardinal bird tree decorations that usually have their claws formed around a small branch of the tree.

This year, they get to be in a real nest.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Three Books by Three Alaska Women, in Various Stages, and Why Alaska Blogs are Increasingly Important

Pictured at left is the very pregnant Erin McKittrick, working on her book about the non-motorized trek she and her husband Bretwood Higman took, from Seattle to the far side of Unimak Island, in 2007 and 2008. The couple have moved from Seattle to Seldovia, where hig grew up. She's sitting next to the wood stove in their recently constructed yurt.

erin has a lot of material to work with, from the amazing blog she and hig kept up over the course of their Journey on the Wild Coast. She is hoping to finish the book's draft before their child arrives in February.

McKittrick's skills as a writer grew considerably during erin and hig's yearlong adventure. I'm more than a bit fascinated how this epicly improbable south-to-north journey, involving use of a water craft that didn't exist few years ago, combined with digital images, YouTubes of shoals of sea lions surrounding their fragile vessels, bimonthly blog updates from places like Icy Bay and Nondalton, and occasional school and community slide shows, now ends with a traditional book.

OK, the book might not end up being all that traditional, and erin and hig are organizing their collection of multimedia materials for on-line presentation, too. And I have a hunch the book will be important.

A book by another Alaska blogger that just came out, is by Juneau bicycle adventurer, Jill Homer. Jill, who works as the weekend editor for the Juneau Empire, isn't listed here as a progressive Alaska blogger, but her stories about bicycling around the Juneau area and elsewhere are among my favorite reads.

Her photographs are sometimes stunning. Like McKittrick's photos from her and hig's trek, Homer's glimpses of the glories of non-motorized transport, show how one can go so many places in Alaska without having to be a motorhead.

Jill Homer's book, is called Ghost Trails. In it, she describes the 2008 Iditarod Mountain Bike event, in which she placed second, behind Kathi Hirzinger-Merchant. At the time, Jill wrote about the event for the Juneau Empire, audio blogged the race for NPR's The Bryant Park Project, and kept up some posts at her own blog, Up in Alaska. And Jill has now started a blog on the book.

At Up in Alaska, Jill keeps a daily and monthly mileage meter of her bike treks. So far, in December 2008, she has biked almost 600 miles, most of it on snowy trails or off-road ice.

In early December, Progressive Alaska helped get the word out about 2008 Alaska Muckraker of the Year, Dr. Riki Ott, and hosted her book review a week ago at firedoglake, where she answered questions about her recent book, Not One Drop: Betrayal and Courage in the Wake of the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill.

Riki Ott just completed her national book tour (C-SPAN TV will air one of her Bellingham, WA book talks on Sunday January 4th, at 12:10 p.m. Alaska time), Jill Homer has just released her book, and Erin McKittrick is working hard to complete the first draft of her book. Besides all three being Alaska women, McKittrick and Homer being outdoors adventure icons, and McKittrick and Ott being environmental activists with serious, holistic, long-term goals and hopes, what do these three people have in common that spurred this essay? At least two things.

First, all three have developed communities on the web through their activities. Ott less so than Homer or McKittrick, but her online community is moving along rapidly. Especially in regard to her program to create a nationwide movement designed to implement a 28th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution that would end "personhood" for corporations.

Second, all three understand how the worldwide web works, and are using it to communicate to a wider world than to their communities of supporters and followers. Homer, an award-winning journalist, works for a print/on-line newspaper, so is somewhat tied to the dying mainline media paradigm. Ott has the most ambitious goal, a new amendment to our Constitution - the 28th. The 27th Amendment took 203 years to pass. McKittrick's goal is integrated wholly into helping get the word out that we need to throttle mindless development and waste.

Homer has studiously stayed clear of politics at her blog, and, I imagine, in her book. The simplicity of her goals, which started out by finding a neat way to stay fit year-round, when she moved to Juneau, and then writing about it in a cumulative, web log environment, is quite straightforward, and progressive in its reliance on pristine environments to work.

But all need continued Net Neutrality to help them maximize their visions. And none seem to rely directly on being covered by the traditional media, as they reach for their goals, attempt to help us change our lives for the better in large and small ways.

What got me going on this theme this morning (it is now very late Sunday evening) was looking through the comments attached to the two stories the Anchorage Daily News ran over the weekend on the arrest late last week, of the mom of Bristol Palin's baby's probable father. The ADN, in their lame efforts to maximize this sad arrest over the same weekend the young Palin woman is expected to deliver her child, has through the two articles, not only elicited 3,064 comments about Ms. Johnston's arrest, but created an electronic environment for thousands of mindless, vapid, stupid, rude, coarse and illiterate responses to this sad event.

On one hand, the purpose of the way the articles have been structured wasn't intentionally so negative. It just turned out that way. To a major degree, the ADN is a prisoner of its schtick when this happens.

On the other hand, Ms. Johnston has now gotten more electron space, more bandwidth, more national and international attention, than that antiquated, ill-led information delivery structure - the ADN - will ever give to Riki Ott, Erin McKittrick and Jill Homer and their positive, empowering messages combined.


erin in the yurt, by hig
Jill's shadow, by Jill
Riki, with Shannyn, by Kelly

Friday, December 19, 2008

Palin Popularity Lowest Since She Was Elected

Research 2000 was recently commissioned to poll Alaskans on our possible political choices in the future, by the influential liberal blog, DailyKos. The poll, published early this afternoon, shows Gov. Sarah Palin doing well in every matchup polled, including in a primary run against Sen. Lisa Murkowski for her seat, which comes up in 2010.

In the DailyKos diary entry covering the polls, the site's blogfather, Markos Moulitsas, has this to say:

Crap, did I really jump back into polling Alaska? Crazy, since everyone was wrong about the 2008 results. People said they wouldn't vote for the two crooks -- Sen. Ted Stevens and Rep. Don Young -- and then they did! It was a bizarre "Wilder effect" at play. But Alaska is far too entertaining politically to swear off, so we jumped right back in.

You can go to the diary to read the details. It is by far the most in-depth poll of Alaskans since late October, and is fascinating. Here are just a few of the more interesting findings:

Research 2000 for Daily Kos. 12/15-17. Likely voters. MoE 4% (MoE 5% for Republican over-sample) (No trend lines).

Republican Primaries:


Murkowski 31
Palin 55

House At-Large Seat:

Young 33
Parnell 27
Harris 11
Undecided 29

As for general election matchups:


Palin (R) 55
Knowles (D) 38

Re-elect Palin?
Reelect 51
Consider someone else 33
Replace 16

U.S. Senate:

Murkowski (R) 49
Knowles (D) 41

Palin (R) 53
Knowles (D) 39

Murkowski (R) 56
French (D) 27

Palin (R) 58
French (D) 27

U.S. House:

Young (R) 49
Berkowitz (D) 46

Re-elect Young??

Reelect 37
Consider someone else 27
Replace 36

And - Favorable/Unfavorable ratings for Gov. Palin:

QUESTION: Do you have a favorable or unfavorable opinion of Sarah Palin? (If favorable or unfavorable ask if it is very or not):


ALL 17% 43% 26% 12% 2%


ALL 60% 38% 2%

MEN 64% 35% 1%
WOMEN 56% 41% 3%

DEMOCRATS 23% 75% 2%
REPUBLICANS 88% 10% 2%

18-29 56% 41% 3%
30-44 64% 34% 2%
45-59 59% 39% 2%
60+ 59% 40% 1%

image - Dennis Zaki

Obama's NOAA Appointment May Have a Profound Impact Upon Alaska

President-elect Barack Obama has announced the appointment of oceanic climate change expert Dr. Jane Lubchenco to head the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. For Alaskans, at least, this may be his most important administrative appointment yet.

Dr. Lubchenco first came to my attention in the summer of 2002, when she was being interviewed about the dead zones showing up off the Oregon coast. She is a professor of oceanic biology and zoology at Oregon State University, so not only was she then one of the best-versed experts on the effects of climate change on the oceans, she had a high level of local knowledge.

Prof. Lubchenco is an unabashed environmentalist. She named a program she administers the Aldo Leopold Leadership Program. According to Oregon State University, the program, "teaches outstanding academic environmental scientists to be effective leaders and communicators of scientific information to the public, policy makers, the media and the private sector." She will be managing that program until she takes her new job in January.

Lubchenco got her bachelors degree at Colorado College, her Masters in Zoology from the University of Washington, and her PhD in Ecology at Harvard.

At the University of Washington, she was one of the important proteges of Dr. Gordon Orians, an early critic of environmental practices by big industry.

Orians was one of the first to question the efficacy of Agent Orange, its health hazards on applicators in Vietnam, and its long-term effects on foliage, water tables, animals and people. Orians' 1967 Scientific American article on Agent Orange, written after he had done weeks of field work with U.S. forces in the combat zones there, was the first to openly and courageously confront the problem. I was serving in the U.S. Army when his article came out. It made me question whether or not I was in yet another way, helping enable war criminals.

Orians and E.W. Pfeiffer from the University of Montana returned to Vietnam in 1969 to study the effect of continued use of the herbicide there, writing about it in 1970, and speaking widely about the immense environmental devastation caused by the chemical.

It was at this time that Lubchenco was beginning study with Orians. There were a number of other notable young students in Orians' orbit at that time, most notably the endangered species and biodiversity expert, Douglas H. Chadwick, and the paleontologist and mass extinction expert, Peter Ward. She has described that time as pivotal in her ecological thinking.

In a detailed, lengthy set of audio interviews, recorded in 2004 by the National Academy of Sciences (if you link to the article, click on the individual parts of the interview, not the first HTML reference), Lubchenco goes through her childhood, education and professional journey.

By and large, the oceanic science community is extremely positive about her appointment. She is an incredible networker, has experience testifying in front of congressional committees, and may be one of the best academic/scientific administrators active today.

NOAA, and its components, The National Weather Service, The National Ocean Service, the National Marine Fisheries Service, and the Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research, are very important to Alaska. This was realized more than once, over the years, by Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens, far less so, by Rep. Don Young, and Sen. Frank Murkowski. Sen. Lisa Murkowski has been more supportive of these organizations' missions.

I spoke with one of Alaska's foremost oceanic scientists, Dr. Riki Ott, this morning. She is excited about Lubchenco's appointment. Ott says that "Dr. Lubchenco has the ability to get people excited about science. She makes scientific knowledge seem fun, and can help people easily understand some fairly complex ideas."

Ott went on to describe watching other scientists respond enthusiastically to Lubchenco at a conference on climate change and oceanic pollution a couple of years ago, remembering how capable and gregarious Dr. Lubchenco came across to their colleagues.

The Anchorage Daily News appears to not much care about getting the word out on yesterday's announcement - at least today. Wesley Loy posted an ADN Highliners blog entry about Lubchenco's appointment yesterday evening. It hasn't yet been turned into an article, and has yet to get a single comment. (Levi Johnston's mom's bust, though merits Page A-3 top-of-the-fold coverage in today's print edition, plus headliner treatment on their electronic edition. 622 comments and counting....) Keep dumbing us down, Patrick Dougherty.

An important point on Dr. Lubchenco is that she understands that we need to act soon, particularly on ocean acidification, and on stopping the massive amounts of pollutants entering our oceans from rivers, large and small. Many of her talks describe holistic approaches that would throttle the actions of industrial giants producing oil-based fertilizers, and of such crops as those from Monsanto-produced seeds which are made to work hand-in-hand with products like Roundup.

I'd love to be present at her first joint operating group meeting with Tom Vilsack.

images - Dr. Jane Lubchenco; the NOAA Ted Stevens Marine Research Institute in Auke Bay, by John Hudson