Thursday, July 31, 2008

Looking Back on This Important Month

The month began with things starting to heat up between Lt. Gov. Sean Parnell's backers and Rep. Don Young's backers.

It ended with both of these candidates diminished in the eyes of Alaska voters. They have both engaged surrogates to negatively campaign for them. And, as two more GOP crooks stand indicted, Young has yet to explain his million dollar-plus criminal defense attorney bills.

This month began with John McCain and Barack Obama having no Alaska campaign offices.

It ended with John McCain having no Alaska offices, and Barack Obama having opened four of them, engaging scores of workers, hundreds of volunteers. I'd bet a breakfast at Gwennie's that more Alaska Republicans would show up for a David Duke office opening than for an office for John McCain.

This month began with all of the mainstream Alaska media outlets ignoring Sen. Ted Stevens' creepy press conference with Sarah Palin, in which he recommended we read a racist, eliminationist book; ignore his scam deal with Sen. Phil Gramm that created the "Enron Loophole" that has allowed over a trillion dollars to leave the country, over a billion dollars to leave Alaska; and totally avoided mention of the increasing evidence that Ted Stevens' mental condition is seriously deteriorating.

It ended with Sen. Stevens being indicted for serious felonies, and with the mainstream Alaska press looking for fluff stories about how many Alaskans love the old codger, who has single-handedly kept us afloat for decades. In none of the MSM summaries, were any of the other lurking problems involving Stevens brought out in a comprehensive way. As I wrote elsewhere yesterday, Alaska is beginning to go through PTSD - Post Ted Stress Disorder.

July began with a close Ted Stevens - Mark Begich race.

It ended with Mark Begich up by 13 points in a highly respected Rassmuson poll.

This month began with Sarah Palin still riding her wave of popularity, with national media speculating about her as a major vice presidential possibility on the John McCain ticket.

It ended with her popularity beginning to diminish, as her administration seemed to be pulling one Frank Murkowskiesque press release after another out of a bottomless hat, as she defended her becoming deeply involved as Chief Executive of Alaska, in a personnel issue she had no business in entering. Especially during the most important Special Session of the Alaska Legislature in decades.


This month began with Diane Benson and Ethan Berkowitz looking better and better all the time. Both of them.

It ended
the same way, especially when they're compared to the corrupt, criminally challenged Don Young, and hiding-under-Sarah's-skirts Parnell.

Diane Benson's campaign and its uniqueness is beginning to gain traction, here, and nationally. As the Editor of The Nation noted yesterday, "Congressional Quarterly wrote that the race is too close to call." The article was a full endorsement of Diane Benson.

The two candidates' messages have far more similarities than differences. The major differences have to do with Benson's more progressive approach to our medical care crisis, and with Berkowitz's reliance on funding from people and a PAC closely associated with the war, failing aspects of our economy, and the sliming of Democrats such as Barack Obama. Benson's funding is far more grassroots, even its out-of-state support.

Benson and Berkowitz have had three great forums this month. In Fairbanks, they were there together, in a debate sponsored by the Fairbanks Democrats. In Anchorage, late in the month, they were there with Don Young, at a forum presented by the Alaska Women's Political Caucus, at which the caucus moderators brought up not a single question on women's issues, an area in which Benson excels, to say the least.

And today, on Anchorage's KUDO, Benson and Berkowitz faced off for two hours, taking a large number of questions from listeners. Ethan still makes like he won't be a bought guy - should he be our next Representative. However, based on the performance history of Democratic candidates who fit his PAC funding profile in the past, he's pretty fucking clueless, or is misinforming us.

Maybe he really doesn't get it. After all, Ted Stevens claimed today he doesn't understand how this stuff works, and he's been in DC forever...

I've got to say, though, that listening back to my recordings of the KUDO debate, and to the other two events in July at which Ethan and Diane responded to Alaskans, I'm very proud of them both.


Katie Hurley - Progressive Alaska
Sarah Palin - Alaska Report
Diane and Ethan - Benson campaign

A Visit to Ted's Anchorage Campaign Office

That was on Tuesday afternoon. Yesterday this YouTube was featured as the header of my article at the national progressive blog, firedoglake, where we concluded the two-week long poetry contest there, called TedFest! Earlier in the afternoon, I was the guest, along with KSKA/KAKM's John Proffitt, on a KSKA Community Forum program about blogging.

John is very savvy on web-based content. As we sat there across from Nellie Moore, answering her questions for listeners, John was blogging away, both at the base site for the program, and at his own blog, Gravity Medium. I had my laptop on too, and based on a comment from caller Bill Hess, I updated Progressive Alaska, to give Bill the photo credit for his amazing photograph taken of Latseen and Diane Benson, taken almost twenty years ago.

What a pleasure, working within the course of two days, with Nellie Moore, John Proffitt, Dennis Zaki, and the exceptional people at firedoglake. And making the guerrilla YouTube at the top here was a lot of fun. Both Dennis and I are getting a lot of positive feedback. Looks like Don and Sean get our treatment next, folks.

And - I'm hoping to introduce one of Alaska's finest new progressive voices to our readers here soon......

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

TedFest! - The Arraignment Edition

I'll be hosting the last installment of the blog firedoglake's Ted Stevens poetry contest at 5:00 p.m. Alaska time.

The blog entry includes a great YouTube Dennis Zaki from The Alaska Report produced, of the presentation of the 121 poems that were entered into the contest, and qualified, at Sen. Stevens' Anchorage Campaign HQ yesterday afternoon.

Dennis has been busy since yesterday morning, and it was so cool that he was able to find the time to help on this.

Thanks, Dennis!

Alaska vigils for Unitarian Universalist Church shootings

Alaska vigil for Unitarian Universalist Church shootings:

Anchorage: Wednesday at 7:30 pm


Wednesday, July 30th 2008

TIME: 7:30pm

LOCATION: Anchorage Unitarian Universalist Fellowship
3201 Turnagain Street

Anchorage, AK 99517

There was a vigil yesterday in Juneau.

hat tip -- Bent Alaska

First Major Article in the National Media on One of Our Democratic Party AK-AL U.S. House Candidates!

Progressive Alaska has written extensively about the two Democratic Party candidates in the upcoming U.S. House Democratic Party Primary. Neither Diane Benson nor Ethan Berkowitz has been covered in depth yet by the national media.

I'm surprised. It is an exciting race, pitting the old guard against somebody who wants to and has the ability to help rebuild our Democratic Party from the ground up on real 21st Century lines, untainted by VECO, Fox News, Bill O'Reilly's producer, corrupt mortgage bankers, and the top executives at the war profiteering Carlyle Group.

The Nation's chief editor, and frequent MSNBC, CNN, PBS and ABC commentator, Katrina vanden Heuvel, has just finished a long, in-depth interview and article on Diane Benson. Let's hope it attracts more attention to her, this race, and on a new direction in our political future.

image by Bill Hess

St. Ted to Be Indicted in Minutes - uh, Make That - Hours

According to Talking Points Memo Muckraker, Sen. Ted Stevens will be arraigned in Federal Court Thursday at 9:00 a.m. Alaska time. The arraigning judge is the Hon. Emmet G. Sullivan. Sen. Stevens has also been ordered "to contact pretrial services for a preliminary interview before the arraignment," according to the report.

The federal prosecutors expected to handle the case are Joseph W. Bottini and James A. Goeke.

image by Dennis Zaki

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

About to Deliver a Series of Toobz

On my way in to rendezvous with Dennis Zaki at Sen. Ted Stevens' Anchorage Campaign HQ. Corner of Fireweed and Denali.

We'll be filming at 5:00 p.m.....

image - series of tubes - the firedoglake TedFest! Ted Stevens poems

He's Been Framed!

Just kidding......

Damn! We can't sit on our oars, Democrats and progressive independents. We need to keep attacking the morals, ethics, ineptitude and criminality of the Corrupt Bastards who run the GOP.

we need to fight hard to elect Democrats with NO TIES WHATSOEVER to lobbyists and PACs whose membership roles represent the paradigm that Ted Stevens has been such a vital part of.

CNN is showing the FBI/DOJ press conference.

The Alaska Report is reporting that Senate rules require that Ted Stevens resign. Who will Sarah appoint? Sean Parnell? Todd Palin? .....?

Shannyn Moore tells me she called the Senate Rules Committee office. Although the office is unaware of a Senate rule that would mandate Stevens' resignation, they're "dusting off" some rule books that haven't been cracked open in a while. At this time, they feel the rule is a Republican Party rule. And as we all know here, the GOP always follows their own rules.

Update - noon: Phone ringing off the hook. Here's one great scenario that has some Democrats unnecessarily worried:

1) Ted wins primary
2) Sean wins primary
3) Ted steps down
4) GOP puts Palin on the U.S. Senate ticket in Ted's place
5) Combination of Sarah and Sean on national-level ticket draws fungelicals and GOP nutcases out to vote GOP in November, leading to Alaska GOP landslide
6) Talis Colberg becomes Alaska Governor
7) Bush pardons Ted

problem is, though, the Sean Parnell campaign is about 72 hours from imploding. More on that soon.........

image for Progressive Alaska by Darkblack © 2007

Monday, July 28, 2008

"A gaffe is when a politician tells the truth"

That could well be a framed quote on Lt. Gov. Sean Parnell's Juneau office wall. He's basically found a way to avoid any situation where he might be forced to "tell the truth" in a setting where his version of the "truth" can be compared to that of U.S. Rep. Don Young's version. He has yet to appear on the same stage as Rep. Young, at the same time.

That's too bad, because any opportunity for them to be compared to each other, will leave most voters looking forward to voting for either Diane Benson or Ethan Berkowitz, the Democratic Party contenders in the August 26 Alaska Primary.

There are currently four forums scheduled that match all the contenders for the AK-AL U.S. House seat:

August 4 Decision 2008: Anchorage KTUU Channel 2 News Congressional Debate
August 12 Fairbanks Chamber of Commerce Congressional Candidate Forum
August 20 Running: KAKM Candidate Forum for US House candidates
August 22 Soldotna Congressional Candidate Forum

There is also a Candidate Forum scheduled to be held by the Ketchikan Chamber of Commerce between Sean Parnell and Don Young, on August 1. According to Blaine Ashcraft, the Ketchikan Chamber's Executive Director, there are currently no plans for holding a forum there between Diane Benson and Ethan Berkowitz, but, he says, "that could change."

I'm particularly intrigued about Parnell's possible future appearances in these forums, because he did so terribly in the Hispanic Affairs Council of Alaska forum in May. As a Democrat, I want people to see our candidates and the GOP's. I'm convinced of five things:

1. When people see Benson and Berkowitz appear on the same stage with Young and Parnell, they will be more likely to vote for Benson or Berkowitz.

2. The more people who vote for our ticket in August, the more will vote Democrat in November.

3. If less than 75,000 people vote Democrat in August, Berkowitz will win.

4. If more than 85,000 vote Democrat in August, Benson will win.

5. In order for Democrats to elect Begich in November and to gain a majority in our state legislature, at least 80,000 need to vote Democrat in August.

headline is a famous saying by Michael Kinsley

Note to Anchorage Right-Wing AM Talk Radio Hosts - Talk About This, Assholes!

Yesterday, a sick Tennessee man who had been listening to too much Right-Wing hate messaging, shot nine people at a church. Two of the nine victims have died. The shooter, Jim D. Adkisson, age 58, is in custody. The Knoxville police have found a note, in which Adkisson gave, as one of his reasons for wanting to kill, as "his stated hatred of the liberal movement."

So far, very little attention to this sad event has been paid by the Right-Wing blogosphere. The Right-leaning broadcast media, are reporting the details in ways that underplay their role in creating an atmosphere of hate toward gays, non-whites, Latinos and Arabs, and toward - liberals.

I challenge Anchorage's most anti-Muslim, anti-liberal radio personality, Dan Fagan, to admit one single itty-bitty smidgeon of co-responsibility in the creation of an atmosphere that helps nutcases like this finally go over the edge. I doubt he will.

Nor will his other employer, the Anchorage Daily News, spend a millisecond evaluating how their elevation of Fagan's stature by cross-platforming him also shares responsibility for this.

Progressive Alaska has addressed this issue before, regarding Fagan's spreading of disinformation about Muslims that can - and does - fuel hate.

Intentionally spreading disinformation to the degree Right-Wing fear warpers do isn't a crime, and in most cases, isn't a tort. But it is intrinsically wrong, morally. The reaction from our side to this shouldn't be attempts to stifle or censor creeps like Fagan.

It should be to avoid patronizing their sponsors.

As the Pacific Northwest's outstanding expert on the role of AM radio in hate rhetoric, David Neiwert, stated this morning, regarding this shooting:

No one’s saying that the culpability is a legal one. The culpability is moral. When you incessantly indulge rhetoric of the kind we get from the right on a regular basis, this is what happens. From Tim McVeigh to Eric Rudolph to Chad Castagana, there has been an endless parade of these folks whipped into acts of terrorism by the irresponsible rhetoric of people like Ann Coulter and Rush Limbaugh. I don’t advocate legal sanctions but commercial ones.

image courtesy of David Neiwert

erin in hig in Anchorage in September - Where....?

Erin McKittrick and Bretwood Higman are spending the mid-summer weeks in Seldovia, where "hig's" parents live.

"I've been mostly working on my book," writes erin, "while Hig's been working on an image database (so we can put all our photos up free and map-linked online), and we've been juggling canning fish, building a shed, visitors, etc..."

They'll be passing through Anchorage in mid-September, on their way down to Seattle for a visit with more family there.

Last January near the beginning of their mid-winter Anchorage respite from their 4,000-mile motorless trek from Seattle to Unimak Island, Mariano Gonzales, Chairman of the UAA Art Department and I hosted erin and hig at the UAA Fine Arts Recital Hall. They gave a fairly stunning presentation of slides and videos from their trip up to that point.

At their January presentation, erin and hig filled the hall. At least 200 people wanted to hear, see and learn from this amazing couple, who are, as erin observed in her talk then, "just normal people, doing something that isn't quite normal." Anchorage coverage of their trip up to that point, and of their Anchorage visit was high quality, but surprisingly sparse. Shannyn Moore interviewed the couple on her KUDO talk show, and Craig Medred wrote a detailed feature article on their trek for the Anchorage Daily News. In February, APRN's AK series caught up with them.

I've been surprised at how little regional and national coverage the successful conclusion of their trip attracted. My personal view is that people who prove how much we can do on our own with no impact on the planet isn't news, because we're a civilization in rapid decline.

Alaska media and Alaska public figures have been spending most of the time since erin and hig looked across Unimak Pass, talking and writing about the necessity of more drilling, more mining. Our two Senators, our U.S. Representative, our Governor, our Lieutenant Governor (when he comes out from underneath the Governor's skirts) and the Mayor of Fairbanks, have all touted a "clean coal" power project at Eielson Air Force Base within the past two weeks. erin and hig walked 4,000 miles to question the wisdom of ideas like that, ideas like the Pebble Mine, ideas like offshore drilling in Bristol Bay.

Had erin and hig been eaten by bears, theirs would have been a national story. The ADN would have sent a crew of four to the site. KTUU would have spent anything it would take to get THAT story out on national TV first. But their success, its pure simplicity and utter directness is anti-thematic for the development crowd.

I'm wondering whether or not to produce erin and hig's show again at the UAA Fine Arts Recital Hall, or at a larger venue, such as Wendy Williamson Auditorium. We could possibly present their multimedia lecture twice at the smaller venue, or once at Wendy Williamson, which holds four and a half times as many guests - 910 seats.

Any thoughts.....?

images by erin

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Stevens, Young and Parnell - Three World-Class Bullshit Artists Who Need To GO

We'll start with Sen. Ted Stevens (R - Pioneer Home). Where was he at the end of the week, when he had his chance to put his vote where his mouth has been for the past five weeks?

He's been spouting off about how horrible energy speculators are, and about how their greed has contributed at least 35% to the cost of your transportation fuel, your heating fuel, and to the cost of everything that has to be shipped to Alaska by anything other than sailboat.

He promised to do something about it, coming up with a half-assed package that was doomed to failure from the start. As Progressive Alaska, Shannyn Moore and the Alaska Report have covered - but the Alaska media has completely and purposefully failed to - Ted Stevens was responsible for this situation existing in the first place, when he enabled Sen. Phil Gramm to shove last-minute changes to a bill that Stevens was in charge of shepherding through Stevens' own committee.


The changes created Ted and Phil's "Enron Loophole," which has since morphed into the "Energy Speculators' Loophole."

So, as I predicted, Ted's patch-up legislation got nowhere, and when the alternative was voted on last week, he DIDN'T EVEN SHOW UP TO VOTE! Sen. Lisa Murkowski did, though. And she voted on the wrong side, the one that wanted energy speculators to be able to continue robbing every Alaskan, child, woman and man completely fucking blind.

And then we have Rep. Don Young (R - Coconut Road). His campaign was so pathetic this past week, you'd think he was the one who escaped from the Pioneer home, rather than St. Ted. His campaign can't even handle dealing with Lt. Gov. Sean Parnell. They're so confused and out of touch, they somehow thought the "Golden Fleece Award" from the Taxpayers for Common Sense was a tribute to his public service. So Don's campaign, already used to ripping off his contributors for over a million dollars to pay for criminal attorneys, wasted another few scores of thousands on one of the stupidest, most erroneously hilarious radio spots in Alaska political history.

And - that's saying something.

Young's campaign, clumsily responded to their error, by telling another lie. Mike Anderson, the flailing Young campaign's idiot-in-chief, claimed Young is really a "Hero of the American Taxpayer." That's an award he's received in the past from Grover Norquist's nihilist organization, Americans for Tax Reform, which should be re-named Corporate Whores for Fucking Over Everyone but Multi-Millionaires and Billionaires.

TfCS will NOT re-award Young this year, because, in his pale, alcohol-fueled desperation, he actually voted for our Veterans and Wounded Warriors, for the first time since the Iraq War started.

Last, but not least, we have another world-class Juneau-Lite bullshit artist - Lt. Gov. Sean Parnell (R - hiding under you-know-who's skirts). It would be easier to pin him down if he'd show up at a campaign event without holding his boss's hand. He didn't even emerge from that protective cover long enough to engage in comments about a host of things concerning his job performance and candidacy this past week or so.

Apart from holding Gov. Palin's flipper between loads of hamburgers and weenies at the Anchorage and Fairbanks Governor's picnics, what has this wan, pasty, uni-dimensional politician actually done lately?

For one, he's changed the wording on how the Alaskans For Clean Elections Initiative will be explained in the 2008 Voter Information pamphlet, and on the ballot itself. Up until a week ago, the state's explanation was:

“An Act establishing a program of public funding for campaigns for state elected offices, to be known as the Alaska Clean Elections Act."

That has been changed to:

“An Act establishing a program of government funding for campaigns for state elected offices."

Parnell hasn't participated in a candidates forum since he was derided and all but booed at the Hispanic Affairs Council of Alaska forum, 73 DAYS AGO! He's taken advantage of almost universal dissatisfaction in Rep. Young's job performance and has raked in big bucks - like Ethan Berkowitz has - from outside PACs who want to own a brand new virgin in DC come January, 2009.

Don Young images by Dennis Zaki at Alaska Report

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Saturday Progressive Blog Roundup - July 26, 2008

Top Cop Kopp Chopped. Sarah's Flop Propped Nine Days, Then Stopped

Progressive Alaska called Chuck Kopp "DMOA" the day he was introduced. Asked "why?" by Ishmael Melville from Kodiak Konfidential, I answered, "My contacts from 13 years work in Public Safety are sketchier than if I still worked in the field, but I hear stuff. "

A former reporter, now working in politics, sent me this:

"Kopp gives 50 to Palin, and then 100 to Palin/Parnell in 2006. Not unusual, but the man had never made a political donation in his life. And (another?) 100 for Palin/Parnell donated under Charles M (the M changes it) Kopp. Kopp randomly also gives money to (what looks to be) a women's PAC on the Kenai...maybe because he felt bad about the sex harassing?"

For about 24 hours on July 15 and 16, Police Chief Kopp may have thought "That's the best $250.00 I ever invested." Now, he's out of work. I'm sorry this happened - all of it.

Six days ago, PA headlined with a question - Palingate? It certainly isn't Koppgate. And I don't think it was Sarahgate, though for some it has been ten days of "Saradise Lost." I'm leaning toward "Toddgate" right now. And, though I never felt Palin was interested in a position on the losing presidential ticket of John McCain, this past few days should end the seemingly endless speculation about her chances for that vice presidential slot.

Two Progressive Alaskan blogs stood head and shoulders above the rest of us on covering the manifold aspects of Palin's blunder. Celtic Diva's Blue Oasis covered various aspects of Walt Monegan's firing and the drip, drip of Kopp revelations and re-positionings better than did the Mainstream media.

Steve at What Do I Know? illustrated once again why his blog is so important a resource on the practicality of political gestures, or of the ethics of such moves as a possible investigation into the firing of former DOPS Commissioner, Walt Monegan. On Wednesday, Steve wrote an essay, "Palin and Monegan - What's It All Mean?" The Alaska Press Club has begun a new category for best blog essay of the year, and Steve's post on the ramifications of appointing an independent investigator or investigating body on the firing of Monegan, has my vote for that award, so far this year. It is brilliant analysis, containing a lot of pragmatic thinking - Steve at his best.

Dennis Zaki at Alaska Report, reported on the Palin Administration's release of a loyalty test press release last week. The release had one commissioner or department head after another declare how open and accessible Governor Palin has been, countering Monegan's claim that she had been hard to meet with on occasion. For these commissioners, it must have been a very trying eleven days!

A commenter at the ADN's Political Blog posted a humorous version of the above referenced Palin Press release. If the ADN's HTML links worked today - they've been screwing up A LOT lately - I'd just link. However, black33's comment, is so good, I'll try to post the whole thing (waiting to see if the ADN attorneys jump on PA again):

Governor issues New Sexual Harassment Guidelines

The governor's office is about to send out this statement:

Governor Issues New Sexual Harassment Guidelines

July 22, 2008, Juneau, Alaska – Governor Sarah Palin today again strongly denied the accusations of sexual harassment made by the former assistant to the new commissioner of the Department of Public Safety. The Governor also released details of her new direction for sexual harassment.

Through various media outlets, Kopp's assistant has accused Kopp of inappropriate behavior. Despite Kopp admitting today that he was reprimanded in writing by the City of Kenai, Governor Palin said, "I am behind Kopp 1000%. I said then- and I say now- that the woman's claims are baseless."

“That woman has falsely accused Kopp of hugging and kissing her to somehow make my administration look bad,” Governor Palin said. “Why would it? I am confident that, with new initiatives on sexual harassment we will have only those complaints that are reasonable and actionable.”

Effective immediately, I am issuing the following guidelines to state employees.

1. Hugging in the office is acceptable. All complaints involving hugging will be considered baseless. Do not bother to file any.

2. Kissing is ok if between two people of the opposite sex. You know what I think of same sex stuff.

3. If you engage in more than hugging or kissing, please either leave the state facility, or lock the door.

Several commissioners and cabinet members commented on the governor's new guidelines.

“Communication has always been paramount in Governor Palin’s administration,” acting Chief of Staff Mike Nizich said. “Commissioners should always have open access to their subordinates. Employees should always be allowed to engage in fun activities with their colleagues. It is unfortunate that the assistant to the new commissioner has deliberately and inaccurately portrayed such behavior as harassment.”

“I have open communication with my staff,” Labor Commissioner Click Bishop said. “Anytime I have asked to have a hug, I have been given the opportunity.”

“The Governor has made herself available every time I have asked for advice, guidance or support- or just plain hugs,” Corrections Commissioner Joe Schmidt said. “She’s been one hundred percent supportive, and she’s an excellent hugger.”

"I love getting hugs from my employees," said Commissioner of Administration Annette Kreitzer. "The new guidelines make such behavior clearly acceptable, and I believe that now when my neck is sore I will be able to get my deputy to rub it for me without being in any fear of punishment."

Boards and Commission Assistant Frank Bailey said, "I deny ever getting a hug, wanting a hug, or even thinking about a hug."

Palin has also clarified any questions about the propriety of the First Gentleman, Todd Palin, hugging state employees. The First Gentleman was specifically told he can hug any state employee at any time.

“I have instructed the First Gentleman to contact the commissioner of Public Safety whenever he feels an employee did not want to be hugged,” Palin said. “It is now standard protocol for him to be able to ask every employee for a hug. I will not hesitate to discipline anyone who does not immediately comply.”

Update - Saturday at 20:45 p.m: In the comments, Steve from What Do I Know?, observes:

"I don't think you can talk about the Palins or Kopp and blogging without acknowledging Andrew Halcro for posting everything on his blog first. You may not classify his as a Progressive blog but he still broke this wide open."

He did.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Mom's 90th Birthday Celebration Gets Underway

Thursday was my mom's 90th birthday. One of her first presents was a "Happy Birthday, Millie!" wish from Thom Hartmann on his radio program. She was sort of forewarned, so it wasn't exactly a shock. Thanks, Shannyn Moore, for setting that special present up for my mom.

Family is gathering in Seattle from North Carolina, New Mexico, California, Oregon, many parts of Washington and Alaska, to share our love with this magnificently warm, caring and practical woman.

Dinners, parties, games, concerts, incredible conversations are already happening.

I'm so happy for my mom.

image - nieces Savin, Sarah, my sister Judy, niece Laura, and mom - from last year

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Katie Hurley's Odyssey - The Current Chapter

Katie Hurley may be Alaska's greatest living Democrat. She is certainly the most inspirational, especially to women and young people.

Just two years ago, she trudged through another late summer like this one - so wet and chilly, it must have seemed at times she was swimming from car to household door. She campaigned, going from door to door in her Alaska House District, telling people she thought she was more fit for that House seat than a guy now entering the Federal criminal justice stream.

Katie is used to swimming against the current, against the tide, sharing her vision of a democratic and Democratic Party Alaska.

Katie gave the keynote speech at Wednesday's opening in Palmer of the new Barack Obama office here. So far, offices for the Illinois Senator's campaign have opened in Anchorage, Fairbanks, Juneau, Kenai - and Palmer.

John McCain has yet to open an office anywhere in Alaska, and his campaign has stated they have no plans to open one.

Katie spoke of how, just two or three years ago, she couldn't have imagined this opening, the enthusiasm in the room, this creative, hardworking positive energy, driven by a determination to drive out selfish, crooked politicians, mired in corruption and ineptitude.

Back in 2006, when Katie refused to let Vic Kohring run unchallenged, she knew she was running against an inept crook. The voters returned him to office anyway.

She sees things as very different now. She described some of the ebb and flow of progressive ideas in Alaska over the years, and vividly reminisced about meeting John F. Kennedy on one of his Alaska visits, in 1958.

Katie, in her 80s, is as sharp as a tack. And so are the people helping organize up here in the Valley. From our local victories on school board elections, local government elections and utility board elections, we've gone on to the huge February caucus turnout, our Area's impressive State Convention organizing efforts, and - to this.

I was so happy to be there!

image of Katie Hurley, and of about 1/3 of the turnout for the Obama opening

Big Valley Democratic Party Happenings Today and Thursday --- BE THERE

Four offices for Democratic candidates are opening in Palmer today and Thursday. Barack Obama and Ethan Berkowitz today; David Cheezem and Erick Cordero Thursday, all within walking distance of each other.

If you bring your umbrella or raingear...

Three of the four candidates will be there. Senator Obama will be elsewhere. He'll be ending a visit to Berlin on Thursday, after giving what I predict will have been one of the most important speeches by an American in Europe in a while.

David Cheezem is running for the Alaska House District 13 seat, now held by one of the least energetic Republicans currently sleeping in occupying a chair in Juneau - Carl Gatto.

Erick Cordero is running against Linda Menard, who has already scared Lyda Green out of the 2008 race. Lets hope Erick, perhaps the most meteoric and progressive new political candidate in the Mat-Su Valley, can scare Linda at least as much. I think he will.

They'll have adjacent offices to AK-AL U.S. House candidate Ethan Berkowitz, who is running what savvy Alaskans feel to be a rapidly tightening primary race against Diane Benson, one of the most progressive and courageous candidates in Alaska history.

The Obama opening is from 7:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. Wednesday at 268 E. Fireweed Avenue, Suite 5.

The Berkowitz event is from 5:00 to 7:00 p.m. Wednesday at 836 South Colony Way.

The Cheezem and Cordero
events are from 5:00 to 7:00 p.m. Thursday at 836 South Colony Way

Erick and David are far more viable as candidates than some believe them to be.

Bring your checkbooks for these guys!

I'll be at all the openings.

images - Erick and David

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Obamamania Hits the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad

I've watched a lot of news reports and read a lot of stories about how our U.S. Representatives, Senators, and President Bush himself have been received when they visit the Green Zone, or other places in Iraq. But I've never seen anything quite like the reception Barack Obama just got at the U.S. Embassy. Obama is in Israel right now, before heading to Europe.

I was listening to NPR this afternoon, on my way into teaching class at Eagle River Community College. Andreas Daum, the author of Kennedy in Berlin and a history professor at the State University of New York at Buffalo, was interviewed about two famous speeches given in Berlin by sitting American presidents - JFK's "Ich bin ein Berliner" speech of June 26, 1963, and Ronald Reagan's "Tear down this wall" speech of June 12, 1987.

Baum stated that over a million and a half people greeted Kennedy at one place or another in his Berlin visit, and that 500,000 were there to watch and hear his speech at the Brandenburg Gate. 24 years later, when Ronald Reagan gave his Berlin speech, there were 20,000 or so listeners.

Unlike Kennedy and Reagan, Obama is now - after a change of venue from the Gate - scheduled to speak this Thursday at the Victory column. The column was moved to its present location on Adolf Hitler's orders. Because of its mixed history, Obama's speech will probably be about reconciliation, capping off his visits to the war zones of central Asia and the Middle East, with a pitch that ties together so many heartbreaking aspects of humanity's recent violent past. His speech there may be an historic event.

He's most likely to also visit Tempelhof Airport of Berlin Airlift Fame, the Berlin Holocaust Museum and Checkpoint Charlie. The Berlin police are preparing for up to 1,000,000 people at Obama's speech, which will be his only outdoor speaking event in Europe. After watching his reception at the U.S. Embassy yesterday, I'm predicting Obama will get more people than Kennedy did.

I doubt John McCain has an outdoor Berlin speech scheduled:

Monday, July 21, 2008

The Song of Diane Benson

I heard this historic woman sing yesterday.

She smiled. She didn't cry. Others listening and watching did both, understanding the power and beauty of the song.

U.S. House Democratic Party candidate Diane Benson has always been a combination of modesty, pride and assertiveness. These elements have often played out in an environment where she either was fighting for sheer survival on an Alaskan scale, or raging against injustices commonly undergone by Alaska Natives. Even now.

When she got the phone call from the United States Army in late 2005, that her paratrooper son Latseen had been injured outside of Baghdad and wasn't expected to survive, she was rehearsing her next script, a play for Out North Theater in Anchorage, about life, as Alaska Native women see it, day after day. She dropped the script and flew to her son's aid.

Diane Benson had never supported the war, always regarding it as a criminal enterprise. But her son, in his first tour and cruelly ended second tour - even as Latseen began to question the wisdom and handling of it - was an American soldier, and Diane encouraged him in all his actions. She had gotten to know Latseen's friends and their families. They had become her close and intimate friends.

Latseen survived through his courage and incredible determination. Some of his fellow soldiers have since perished. Diane has spent many hours talking to family members of those fallen heroes.

Her son's bravery, before and after his sacrifice, led her to question Alaska Representative Don Young's commitment to our wounded warriors. His answers failed Benson's test. She then questioned the Alaska Democratic Party, hoping to help them find a candidate with enough balls to oppose Young in 2006. Their answers failed Benson's test. They didn't intend to oppose Young.

As I've tried to help Diane Benson's validity gain resonance over the past 26 months, I've learned a lot:

I've learned that Alaska's Democratic Party finds her to be an all too inconvenient truth.

I've found out that when Diane Benson addresses important structural problems in important issues that no other candidate chooses to even address, she is almost always ignored.

I've been shown that at a time when Diane Benson and others want to address Alaska's 3rd Worldesque sexual abuse issues, nothing of consequence gets done. People who want to address it get fired.

I've discovered that many friends who support her in the upcoming Alaska Democratic Party primary believe in her. Unfortunately, they feel it is in their best interests to support her primary opponent's so-called "inevitability."

When Diane's son was injured, she not only gave up her main thrust in life - her fine art and its pivotal role in Alaska civil rights battles - she belayed that art's development. Not for her, not for her son, but for what she believes is our future progress.

She also, for a while gave up her family traditions and heritage more than she knew she would.

Before Latseen was hurt, Diane and her son participated in as many Tlingit cultural groups as possible. They danced and sang in ensembles and at gatherings. They learned the steps, melodies, lyrics and Holy rituals that help hold the Tlingit people together through feast and famine, joy and cruelty. After returning to Alaska in the aftermath of helping Latseen in his recovery, Diane Benson took her fear for our country, made it into a battle, something Tlingits are renowned for.

When Diane's Anchorage campaign headquarters was dedicated, an Anchorage Tlingit-Haida dance group came out and sanctified the opening. Diane watched through three songs, then began spontaneously dancing. She told me later that it was the first time she had danced since her son was wounded.

Yesterday, at a benefit for our Alaska blogging team at the Democratic National Convention, Diane, along with Writing Raven - who is on the convention team - broke into a Tlingit song. It was poignant, powerful, proud and modest. It was the first time Diane had sung in three years.

Diane also stopped publishing poetry after her son came back to our wounded country, to rebuild himself, even as the country plummets further into an abyss.

Here is one of her last poems, written about George Bush's 2nd inauguration.

It could be a song:

I Woke Up Today In A Country

That was once free

In an imperfect country
Where the colors of speech
Could fill the streets with ringing discourse

In a country that wakes a family
In Baghdad, with a morning bomb

Where dissent and reason might
Detonate discussion, excite the press,
Scorch the schools, echo in the halls of justice, so free...

The fractured bell of liberty labors
To be heard

Just a hollow chime of many
Still pushing freedom across Indian country
That once was free
Where we were told what we
Shall speak - only English - capiche
Still we
Woke up in the hope for a country
Didn't we?

And we lined up to help

In the wake of now,
A Native soldier marches with a rainbow of soldiers
Into Baghdad, into Najaf, into Fallujah, to make
To make them free
Soldiers whose votes
Disappear in the sands
Quietly blown away
Like the reporting of numbers
That we are not told

So confused am I
That even the word, country
Looks foreign and strange to me

I woke up today in a country
That is now free
To ignore free will

A deafening ring, underscores the
New elections, like a
School bell to line up, boots marching
We will watch an inauguration for

I woke up today in a country

Do not disagree, do not disagree

I am scared for
I woke up today

images: Diane Benson in Tlingit button blanket yesterday; about to start dancing last winter; with a peace hero and a war hero

Looking at the Alaska Women's Political Caucus Forum - Part One

The Alaska Women's Political Caucus had a candidate forum Sunday afternoon, featuring three of the five candidates for the AK-AL U.S. house race. Democrat Diane Benson, who has ben endorsed by the state caucus, the National Women's Political Caucus and the National Organization for Women, was there. Kodiak Representative Gabrielle LeDoux was unable to attend. She is in California, with her father, who is ill.

Lieutenant Governor Sean Parnell wasn't there, either, but his excuse - that he had to help his recently disorganized boss at the Governor's Picnic in Fairbanks - showed he's more interested in a particular woman, than he is in women who are organized.

Two guys did show up, though. Our Representative, Don Young (R-forced female slave labor in the Marianas), was there. So was Democrat Ethan Berkowitz. As the Anchorage Daily News noted today, Young and Parnell have yet to appear at the same candidate forum. Their last appearance together was the Alaska GOP Convention, where Young yelled to Parnell, ""I beat your dad, and I'm going to beat you."

I'm getting a DVD of the debate tomorrow, and was unable to attend yesterday's forum, so I've only been able to read the press, my incoming e-mails, get some anecdotes over the phone, and watch the Alaska Report clips. Hence, part One.

The most remarkable thing about the forum and its coverage that I've noted so far is succintly layed out in KTUU TV's online header to their story:

Congressional hopefuls address energy

The best images of the forum are at the Alaska Report, where Dennis Zaki features both video clips of all three candidates and still photos. The most comprehensive print story is by Sean Cockerham, at the Anchorage Daily News.

However, none of these three news sources refer in their forum stories to a single women's issue per se. It isn't that they've mischaracterized the forum very much, though, in their treatment. The forum itself was mostly about energy, campaign financing and the War. A few questions near the end, provided by audience members for the candidates were about issues of serious importance to women, and women in Alaska.

Diane Benson attempted to steer some of the questions, formulated by AWPC members and delivered by KTUU's Megan Baldino, toward women's issues, but as one longtime women's activist told me this afternoon, "It was disgusting - but not nearly as disgusting as Ethan's schmoozing with Don half the time."

image of Don Young right after he bumped his head on stairway at the forum - by Dennis Zaki

Sunday, July 20, 2008


I declared "honeymoon over!" this week. So have a lot of other Alaskans. At the Mat-Su Democrats Egan Dinner last Friday, standing around talking afterward, one could tell, listening to Valley progressives and moderates who had had high hopes for Palin, that this past week marked a turning point.

I've never been in Saradise, like some of my progressive and moderate friends, but, up until this week, my admiration for Governess Sarah Palin's ability to learn from experience outweighed my skepticism about her ability to escape the demands of her political base to the point where she could set long-term policy on a rational base.

The first inkling, from my point of view, was when her administration stonewalled University of Alaska Anchorage Professor Rick Steiner, in his efforts to obtain documents from the state regarding the issue of dealing with the status of Polar bears. My first really sad moment was listening to longtime friend, Attorney General Talis Colberg on APRN's Alaska News Nightly, defending the stonewalling, and my other friend, Rick Steiner calling Colberg's stance on this "bullshit!" Steiner was right. And I could sense that - underneath Colberg's dutiful statement - that Talis knew Rick was right.

I've been watching this remarkable woman since she was on the Wasilla Planning Commission. Her move from there to the Wasilla City Council was made with the strong encouragement of the Mayor of Wasilla at that time, John Stein, a Republican. When Palin decided to challenge Stein for the mayor's job, I had my first chance to watch her "base" at work. Their issues were that Stein had introduced a sales tax, and that Stein's wife, the late Karen Marie, had kept her maiden name after their marriage. That was it. And - she won.

At that time, Palin used a lot of the same terminology in her public speeches that Vic Kohring used - very Libertarian. And, she used a lot of fundamentalist-evangelical code words. Early in her first mayoral term, Palin and I both had responsibilities at the graduation ceremony of a group of home schoolers. I directed the music there, she gave the commencement speech. In her address, Palin spoke of how "government schools" (a Kohring-inspired code word) were never the answer, that God must be an integral part of everyone's education, and so on.

I spoke to her afterward, telling her that I hoped she would come to realize that home schooling and parochial or private schools couldn't possibly be everyone's answer. She eventually came to rely upon the "government school" system for her own growing family. And, she used the money that came from John Stein's evil Wasilla sales tax to fuel her growing stature as a politician. And she did appear to be able to learn from experience, unlike most conservative Republicans.

Palin has, up until now, been lucky. She used the model city administration John Stein built to catapult herself into the public eye. She used the too obvious sleaze of the slimy Randy Reudrich to launch her "ethical maverick" image. She ran on that image precisely when the beginnings of the FBI GOP corruption scandal started to bloom. And she became governor right when Alaska's oil wealth once again - after 20 years of mostly limping along - became a HUGE factor in state budgeting.

For me, after the Steiner matter, the main reason I kept respecting Palin to a high degree, was her ability to marginalize the major oil producers here in the negotiations on how to build the natural gas pipeline. The major producers don't want the gas pipeline. But we need it.

Now, though, with her interjection of Hatfield-McCoy-style feuds into the political dialogue, during one of the most important special session of our state's legislative history, I've got to ask myself, as others have this past week, "Who is going to start willfully leaving this administration, and when?"

My only prediction so far is my friend the Attorney General. He's going to be under a lot of pressure to appoint a "special investigator" for "Palingate." Lieutenant Governor Sean Parnell has hopes of leaving soon. In my book, he should have resigned soon after he declared his candidacy in the GOP primary for the AK-AL U.S. House seat. He was one of the people behind the scenes in the moves last winter to keep State Rep. Gabrielle LeDoux from raising campaign funds while performing the duties to which she had been elected. But Parnell has been doing just that. For months.

The only major politician in Alaska smiling really big smiles over this is Don Young. I'm sure he's thinking that it is pretty hard for Sean Parnell to ride somebody's coat-tails when the latter has her butt caught in the wringer.

image of Sarah Palin yesterday - by Dennis Zaki