Monday, August 31, 2009

August 2009 Month-End Roundup

I. Many in Southwestern Alaska were struck when young Segundo Strongheart succumbed to a heart attack in Ugashik, on August 18th. PA wrote then:

He leaves his wife, Ann, their daughter Cecilia, and a yet-to-be born child.

The young family had come to national attention in early 2009, as Ann took the name Anonymous Bloggers (based on former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin's derisive term for online community activists who disagreed with the chief executive), for a new collective blog, that has helped enormously in a revitalization of awareness of rural, largely Alaska Native, issues in the Far North.

A memorial fund, to help educate Cecilia and her younger, soon-to-be born sibling has been created. There is now a permanent link to that fund at the upper right margin, here at Progressive Alaska.

II. Ann Strongheart and others, including me, have been trying to get more information from the State of Alaska on the details of the history and ongoing activities of the so-called Rural Affairs Sub-Cabinet. I must say that the Parnell administration has been more forthcoming than the Palin administration had been. But the answers aren't very reassuring.

My favorite answer that Ann got was on how this panel devoted to matters important to rural Alaskans announces their next meeting:

The meeting is open to the public but no public announcements have been posted except at the day of the meeting in the Atwood building.

Ann describes other aspects of the rural sub-cabinet's makeup at a recent post at Anonymous Bloggers.

One thing that struck me, reading Ann's post and my answers from the state on this panel, is that it seems the majority of rural Alaskans who are on the panel are affiliated with the Community Development Quota program, paid for by the Bering Sea trawlers who figure so prominently in the enrichment of foreign and Seattle-based owners and investors, and who are so rapidly depleting the Bering Sea and Yukon-Kuskokwim ecosystems.

III. During August, Progressive Alaska seemed more and more at odds with some other progressive Alaskan blogs:

a) I thought the Obama cabinet dog & pony show to Western Alaska was a racist farce, no different than one might have seen Ted Stevens pull off. My colleagues mostly ignored it.

b) I was even more disappointed with the industry-oriented Oceans Task Force meeting in Anchorage in mid-August. I was appalled at the lack of time given to testimony by Alaska Natives and environmentalists, compared to that given by pro-development forces, few of whom mentioned climate change, none of whom stressed any urgency. I thought this to be one of the most important public meetings in recent Alaska history. I'm doing research right now on why that may be the case.

c) Progressive Democrats outside of Alaska are more concerned each month about Alaska Sen. Mark Begich. He IS a Blue Dog. Those who think he isn't are deceiving themselves. He may be a new breed of blue dog, but if you asked him if he is "progressive," he would smile, laugh, make a couple of warm, possibly self-deprecating jokes and change the subject. That's our Mark.

d) It is beginning to look like now might be a good time for Progressive Alaska to step back from covering Mark Begich so critically, so I should probably just not cover him unless he does something incredibly brilliant, or incredibly egregious.

e) The Alaska progressive blogging community might orient more toward attracting young people, who will vote toward political action, and toward helping those young people take over the party. Katie Hurley has told me that nothing in her life has inspired her more than seeing the beginnings of the ad hoc movement in Alaska Democratic Party politics, back in the early 1970s.

IV. Sunday I gave a talk at the Anchorage Unitarian Universalist Fellowship. I really like the people there, and had a good time. The speech was hard to make, but the question-and-answer session afterward was fascinating to me, and very rewarding. Thanks for the invitation!

At the end of the talk, I announced I will be blogging a lot less in the near future.

I have a number of musical composition and other projects - mostly public service - backing up. I serve on five boards, and am an officer on four of them.

I had planned on cutting back on blogging after the August 26, 2008 primary, but something got in the way.

• To those who have encouraged and supported Progressive Alaska - Thanks!

• To those I have offended - sorry, if the offense was unwarranted.

• To those I've learned from in the comments - I appreciate everything you've taught me and others.

image - Segundo Strongheart

Sunday, August 30, 2009

More 2009 Alaska State Fair Pictures

I helped out at the Alaska Democratic Party's State Fair booth on Friday and Saturday. On Saturday, at the State Fair Parade, I registered the Mat-Su Democrats' contingent, wrote a new script for the judges' podium, played in the Mat-Su Community Band for an hour, then marched with our modest but spirited contingent in the parade itself.

Here are some pictures:

Mat-Su Democrats on parade. The float ahead of us is from Judy's hairdresser's salon:
Mat-Su Democrats on parade in downtown Palmer:
Kathy Jackman handing out candy to happy kids:
The script I hastily rewrote for the judging stand announcer, Bill Tull:
People asking about health care reform at the Alaska Democratic Party booth at the fair:People walking by the Alaska Democrats' booth, which is sort of tucked away, were taken by the Obama cutout at the front of the booth. At one point, while I was out front talking to a group of kids and former students, a punk kid came running down the walkway, grabbed Obama and ran off. I took out after him, into the crowds. About 100 or so feet from the booth, he looked back, saw me, and stuffed it into one of the recycling trash cans.

I took it back to the booth, cleaned Obama up, and Patti Higgins and I found a way to secure Obama to a post. Where's the Secret Service when you need 'em, eh...?

Rep. (should be Senator!) Beth Kerttula, with President Obama & friends:
A bumper sticker for sale at the fair (image courtesy of Justin McDonald of KBYR radio):
There is a thread up now at The Mudflats, where this bumper sticker, which is being offered for sale at the Alaska State Fair, is being discussed. According to one friend, "The booth, oddly enough, is near a hip-hop genre booth. I was told it is located on the 'Yellow Line - near H&H."

The phone number for the Alaska State Fair main office is (907) 745-4827.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Moyers on Maher Last Night - A Brilliant Analysis of the Health Care Issue, Money, and Democratic Party Congressional Players

Part One:

Part Two:

Part Three:

Happy Anniversary, Crazy Woman

Saturday Alaska Progressive Blog Roundup - August 29, 2009 -- An Apology

Today marks the anniversary of the announcement of Sen. John McCain's selection of Sarah Palin as his running mate in the 2008 American presidential contest. It was the most unfortunate decision of McCain's political career.

In the intervening 365 days, that choice, the inappropriate nature of it, and subsequent further polarization of Alaska politics helped galvanize Alaska's progressive bloggers into a fairly unified force that gained national attention. Because of McCain's action, the changes national attention wrought on Palin's personality, and Palin's incessant need to stay in the national eye, two Alaska issues reached an out-of state audience that might not have been noticed so well otherwise.

The first of those, the plight of the Yupik villages in the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta, has been covered here at PA in earlier roundups. The second of these, the long battle for Anchorage's Ordinance #64, has not. In fact, my coverage of how we covered that has been somewhat faulty.

Two blogs in particular warrant special notice regarding Ord. #64, Bent Alaska and Henkimaa. Of the two, PA hasn't given enough attention to the central role Bent Alaska has played in this ongoing civil rights battle. As an example, the timeline PA ran on the day of Anchorage Mayor Dan Sullivan's veto of the ordinance, I managed to completely misrepresent the importance of Bent Alaska's coverage, not only that day, but in terms of the cumulative impact of that blog on community action on the days and days of public testimony through the late spring and summer of 2008.

I'm truly sorry.

The two above blogs cover LBGTQ issues as well as any other blogs in the world. And they cover other issues of importance too. This past week, Bent Alaska covered local resources for young people who might be contemplating suicide. and today, posting from Homer, I believe, Bent Alaska gave a heads-up on an upcoming play at Out North Theater, Dog Meets God.

And today, Mel at Henkimaa, posted another brilliant investigative article, Miller v. Carpeneti: Where was the Press? (cross-posted at Celtic Diva's Blue Oasis). In the article, Mel observes that the lawsuit seeking the U.S. Supreme Court take a very, very judicial activist point of view, by overturning the section of the Alaska constitution that allows the Alaska Judicial Council to play a role in the selection process of our highest judges.

Mel, like most of us, was unaware of the lawsuit, filed in early July, until the Associated Press reported about it last week. Mel, rather than chastising our Alaska press on their negligence in informing the public on this, instead posts a very authoritative rundown of the history of this case, so far. Not only is Mel's article true journalism at its very best, it is one more example of why Alaska's progressive blogging community is providing Alaskans and a wider reading audience important information that might otherwise remain either under-reported or missed.

cartoon from Bent Alaska - by Glenn Harvey

Friday, August 28, 2009

Treading at the Edge of the Imprecatory

I've been invited to once again address the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship in Anchorage. This Sunday, at 9:00 a.m. My talk will be called "Treading at the Edge of the Imprecatory."

It is an homage to some of the many, many people who have helped me over the five years since I last had the opportunity to speak to the wonderful people at this church.

The talk will center around how much Tlingit artist, civil rights activist, educator and political figure Diane Benson has taught me about how one must stand up, and stand up righteously, against injustices.

image - Celtic Diva

At the State Fair

Today and tomorrow, I'm helping out at the Alaska Democrats' State Fair booth. Last year, I was there a lot, both during the fair and before it.

Tomorrow is the anniversary of the worst political decision of Sen. John McCain's career. I spent the weekend after his decision at the fair, fielding hour after hour of phone calls from out-of-state reporters.

Tomorrow morning is the Alaska State Fair Parade. It begins at 11:00. It is an off-year for political campaigning, but there are a lot of local elections coming up in the Mat-Su Valley. I'll be marching at 11:00 with the Democrats.

Here are a couple of pictures I took this evening, at the fair:

Bumper stickers at the Mat-Su Republican Women's booth:

The big t-shirt booth. Last year they sold thousands of McCain-Palin t-shirts. This year they have no Palin t-shirts. I asked the booth's owner why that is the case, as there are hundreds of Palin t-shirt designs out there. She said that Palin is polarizing, even in the Valley; that Palin is history; and that I was the first person to even ask about her. Hmmmm...

This is as close as I could find to a t-shirt design that might have a Palin theme:

President Jimmy Carter and Archbishop Desmond Tutu Speak Out at the Israeli Apartheid Wall Yesterday

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

An Important New Web Tool Being Created By Alaskans erin & hig

Two of the most amazing adventurers in recent Alaska history, Bretwood Higman and Erin McKittrick, have announced the launch of the beta version of an exciting new web tool they're creating. Here's how they describe Alaska's Wild Resource Web:

Alaska's Wild Resource Web allows you to explore natural resource issues in Alaska. You can read in-depth articles on the issues, browse maps, or see slide shows

of the places where these resources are found.

This site is a work-in-progress – some articles are still under construction, and content is always being added. The site is currently focused on the issue of coal in Alaska.

erin goes on, at their longtime blog, groundtruthtrekking, to further describe their hopes for the new site:

All this started with a love of wandering around the Alaska wilderness, and with a drive to understand the hard decisions that Alaska and America need to make about that wilderness. Is it possible to capture nuanced trade-offs between different options in a web site that is still interesting and understandable? Can that web site tie together the gritty on-the-ground experiences that form the foundation of our interest with the detailed research that broadens and deepens our understanding? Is it possible for our tiny organization to do the research needed to do justice to these complex issues?

By the way, erin's new book, A Long Trek Home, comes out in October. They'll be giving talks and signing books soon afterward, in many Alaska communities.

Reading through erin's description of the site, I was struck with a couple of thoughts:

1.) Why aren't there more Alaska-based, wiki-like tools, such as what erin and hig are creating? There should be.

2.) Earlier this evening, I read AK Muckraker's post at The Mudflats, about the new movie, Crude. As I read through the post and watched the trailer for the film, I thought - There should be a movie just like this about the Bering Sea trawl fishery, and what that and other egregious fishery practices - like the False Pass intercept fishery - have done to the 7,000-year-old Yupik culture on the Yukon and Kuskokwim Rivers. Sort of an anti-Deadliest Catch movie, to tell the real truth surrounding that adventure's premise.

image - erin & hig in the rainforest

Sen. Mark Begich's Statement on the Passing of Sen. Kennedy

Senator Kennedy’s public service spanned numerous American presidencies, Congresses and generations of Americans. In my short time serving with Senator Kennedy, I quickly came to appreciate his sense of dedication and public service.

Many Alaskans remember Senator Kennedy’s visits to our state – notably in 1968, when he joined Alaskans in mourning the loss of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and in 1971, when he promised rural Alaska help fighting poverty, a promise he made good on. I was reminded of those visits when I traveled to Bethel recently with members of President Obama’s cabinet. Senator Kennedy is one of just three senators who have the distinction of serving with all seven senators that the people of Alaska have sent to Washington, D.C.

Deborah and I send our deepest sympathies to Senator Kennedy's wife, Vicki, and the entire Kennedy family as we join the country in remembering Senator Kennedy and his contributions to our great country.

[PA's note - Sen. Begich's statement about the importance to Sen. Kennedy of affordable health care for all may or may not be forthcoming]

In Honor of Sen. Kennedy - Call Sen. Begich TODAY - and Demand He Support MEANINGFUL Health Care Reform

One year ago today, Sen. Mark Begich defeated Alaska's most enduring muckraker, Ray Metcalfe, in the Alaska Democratic Party Primary. This morning, the fiercest advocate for meaningful health care reform, Teddy Kennedy, passed away, his final mission unfinished.

Ray Metcalfe and I would like to honor Kennedy's memory, by asking you to call, email, fax or VISIT one of Sen. Begich's Alaska offices today, and demand he listen to Alaskan Democrats, who overwhelmingly want either a single payer health care system or - at least - the availability in the final bill, of a public option that would put pressure on insurance corporations to cut costs.

Here's how you reach Mark Begich:


Peterson Tower, Suite 750
510 L St
Anchorage, AK, 99501
phone. (907) 271 - 5915
toll free. (877) 501 - 6275 - good only for area code 907 callers, but good everywhere in Alaska
fax. (907) 258 - 9305


101 12th Ave, Room 206
Fairbanks, AK 99701
phone. (907) 456-0261
fax. (907) 451-7290


One Sealaska Plaza, Suite 308

Mailing Address:
P.O. Box 21850
Juneau, AK 99802

phone. (907) 586 - 7700
fax. (907) 586 - 7702

To email Sen. Begich, go to his Senate web page ,and click on the icon that reads EMAIL THE SENATOR.

Please act now.

image - Mark Begich celebrating the end of the 2008 Alaska Senatorial race recount with young volunteers who want affordable health care and the public option. Image by PA

Sen. Kennedy Passes

Massachusetts Senator Edward M. Kennedy, the youngest of the four magnificent, yet terribly flawed Kennedy brothers, passed away last night.

Unlike his three older brothers, he managed to live through the 20th Century, and into the 21st. He served in the U.S. Senate six years longer than did Alaska's Ted Stevens.

Unlike Ted Stevens, Ted Kennedy became more powerful, more well-respected, more creative in his legislative accomplishments in a meaningful way, as his career developed. Indeed, Kennedy's iconic, struggling figure, looming over the health care debate, as he succumbed to a fatal brain tumor, stands in stark contrast to the waning days in the Senate of Stevens. Even before his arrest, trial, seeming conviction, narrow electoral defeat, and so-called exoneration (by some - more accurately, being "let off the hook" because of Bush-era DOJ screwups), Stevens' exit was the exact opposite to the denouement of Teddy Kennedy.

Alaska bloggers are already paying tribute to the man some called "The Lion of the Senate," for his raging speeches advocating one idea or another. Celtic Diva, in her tribute to Kennedy, posted this YouTube of Kennedy's speech, which she witnessed last year in Denver, at the 2008 Democratic National Convention:

Other Alaska blog tributes to Teddy Kennedy:

The Immoral Minority

Just a Girl from Homer

The Mudflats

image - Ted Kennedy addressing the 1968 Alaska Democratic Party Convention in Sitka (video available too!) from the Alaska State Library via Matt Browner Hamlin

Tuesday, August 25, 2009


Jonah Goldberg Coming to UAA in September

Right-wing polemicist, author, columnist, editor and all-around whack-job, Jonah Goldberg, will be appearing at the University of Alaska Anchorage's Wendy Williamson Auditorium on September 15th. It will be free. He is being sponsored by The Northern Light, the campus newspaper. I don't know yet whether or not KRUA, the campus radio station will broadcast his speech, but it wouldn't be that difficult to do, as the studios are in the same building complex that houses the Wendy Williamson Auditorium, where Goldberg will give his talk.

I've left three messages at The Northern Light since Monday, but haven't gotten a return call yet. I'm hoping to get more details on Goldberg's visit and campus activity.

Here's a video clip of Goldberg's most recent television appearance, where he lies about the background of a counseling pamphlet, created at the Department of Veterans Affairs during the Bush administration:

"Culled from the tribe," eh?

Here's a collage of how FAUX News is handling the term "death book":

Many are asking, "Why didn't Fox News and Goldberg bring this up when it came out, during the Bush administration?"

Here's a great article by Jed Lewison
at Daily Kos on Fox's and Goldberg's Death Book lie.

AG Holder Throws Out Nuremberg Verdicts Retroactively. Is This Holocaust Denial?

Two decisions by President Obama - one yesterday, and one to be announced today - shake my faith in his administration more than anything else to date:

I. My friend Shannyn Moore is somewhat of an expert on former U.S. Supreme Court Justice and Chief Allied Nuremberg Prosecutor, Robert H. Jackson. Some of Moore's best writings and radio commentaries this past year have been on the subject of Jackson's approach to responsibility when it came to the ordering and implementation of the criminal policies of the Third Reich. Jackson's opening statement to the 1946-47 war crimes tribunal is one of the greatest, most noble by an American. Moore has quoted the following excerpt several times:

It is my purpose to open the case, particularly under Count One of the Indictment, and to deal with the Common Plan or Conspiracy to achieve ends possible only by resort to Crimes against Peace, War Crimes, and Crimes against Humanity. My emphasis will not be on individual barbarities and perversions which may have occurred independently of any central plan. One of the dangers ever present is that this Trial may be protracted by details of particular wrongs and that we will become lost in a "wilderness of single instances". Nor will I now dwell on the activity of individual defendants except as it may contribute to exposition of the common plan.

The case as presented by the United States will be concerned with the brains and authority back of all the crimes. These defendants were men of a station and rank which does not soil its own hands with blood. They were men who knew how to use lesser folk as tools. We want to reach the planners and designers, the inciters and leaders without whose evil architecture the world would not have been for so long scourged with the violence and lawlessness, and wracked with the agonies and convulsions, of this terrible war.

It is a powerful statement. The set of trials known as "Nuremberg" enshrined high standards meant to let the world know that neither the creators nor implementors of criminal state policy regarding torture, detention and death would be immune from justice. Contrast, though, this with the statement made yesterday by U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder:

The men and women in our intelligence community perform an incredibly important service to our nation, and they often do so under difficult and dangerous circumstances. They deserve our respect and gratitude for the work they do. Further, they need to be protected from legal jeopardy when they act in good faith and within the scope of legal guidance. That is why I have made it clear in the past that the Department of Justice will not prosecute anyone who acted in good faith and within the scope of the legal guidance given by the Office of Legal Counsel regarding the interrogation of detainees. I want to reiterate that point today, and to underscore the fact that this preliminary review will not focus on those individuals.

To clarify what Holder actually said, in his announcement that gave extremely limited powers to an already severely compromised "special (as in "eunuched") prosecutor, let me do some word substitution to it:

The men and women in our Fuhrer's intelligence community perform an incredibly important service to our Fatherland, and they often do so under difficult and dangerous circumstances, created by Bolsheviks and Jews. They deserve our respect and gratitude for the work they do. Further, they need to be protected from legal jeopardy when they act in good faith and within the scope of legal guidance. That is why I have made it clear in the past that the Reich will not prosecute anyone who acted in good faith and within the scope of the legal guidance given by the Reichminister for Legal Affairs regarding the interrogation of detainees, and the subsequent disposition of these traitors to The Fatherland. I want to reiterate that point today, and to underscore the fact that this preliminary review will not focus on those individuals.

Robert Jackson must be turning over in his grave. So Obama's law enforcement and judicial chief is endorsing the excuse given by every war criminal tried on every continent since the end of hostilities in 1945? How can anyone with a knowledge of war crime law defend what AG Holder said yesterday?

Contrast the way AG Holder is handling our current moral dilemma, to how the crew of the helicopter gunship that singlehandedly stopped the My Lai massacre approached their duty as Americans, as they saw it:

Three American soldiers were honored by the U.S. Army for helping to stop the massacre. They were part of a helicopter crew that landed between a group of Vietnamese civilians and U.S. troops who were preparing to fire on them. Two of those American soldiers are no longer alive, pilot Hugh Thompson and crew chief Glenn Andreotta. The gunner on that helicopter was Lawrence Colburn. I spoke with him from the studios of member station WABE in Atlanta, and I asked him whether William Calley's apology comes too late.

Mr. LAWRENCE COLBURN: It depends upon what he does from this point forward. If he would somehow be able to make the trip back to My Lai and face the survivors and apologize there face-to-face, it would be a healthy thing for him to do.

RAZ: Take us back to that day. You were in a helicopter flying over the village of My Lai. When did you realize something wasn't right?

Mr. COLBURN: We were on station first thing in the morning before the insertion of the ground troops, and we were there to provide air support and reconnaissance for the men on the ground, and we did that. We reconned the area before they came in.

It was relatively quiet. And when we came back into the immediate area of the village, the people we saw leaving earlier were leaving on this main road, which we thought was a good idea that they get out of the area. But when we came back into the village area, they were still on the road, but they were dead or dying, mainly women, children, elders. That's when we knew something was amiss.

RAZ: At one point, Hugh Thompson, the pilot, told you to prepare to fire on your fellow American soldiers in order to prevent a massacre of civilians. Were you prepared to do that?

Mr. COLBURN: Well, Mr. Thompson tried everything he could to stop what was going on on the ground. We realized it was our people when we saw a captain shoot a woman that we'd marked with smoke, hoping she'd receive medical attention.

RAZ: This is a woman who was injured that you had marked.

Mr. COLBURN: It was a chest wound, yes, and she was still alive. We marked numerous bodies, thinking we were helping them in some way, but indirectly, we were killing them because we gave up their position, and then the soldiers on the ground would not administer medical attention. They'd kill them. And when we saw a captain do it right in front of our face, that's when we knew that it was our people that were committing these atrocities.

RAZ: I want to put your actions into context here. I mean, American GIs were constantly being ambushed in Vietnam, often tricked into thinking they were approaching civilian areas that actually were Viet Cong hideouts. So I imagine that what you did and the fact that you reported this massacre to your superior officers wasn't popular with some of your fellow soldiers at the time.

Mr. COLBURN: I know Mr. Thompson experienced some grief for reporting it up the chain of command, but it was our responsibility to do that. Personally, the people I worked with understood what happened that day. They knew the truth. So they didn't pass judgment on Mr. Thompson, Glen Andreotta or myself.

II. President Obama will announce today his reappointment to the chairmanship of the Federal Reserve, of Ben Bernanke, the person who did more than anyone else during the waning days of the Bush administration to make it harder for us to tell the difference between the bankers and the bank robbers.

As my friend Hugh observed today on the probable Bernanke reappointment:

Bernanke’s is best known for backing Alan Greenspan’s easy credit policies that fueled the $8 trillion housing bubble. Bernanke managed not to see this bubble until it burst on August 9, 2007. After a brief intervention led by foreign central banks, he then did almost nothing to forestall its effects believing that the fallout was manageable and that markets would be able to handle it on their own with only occasional, limited involvement of the Fed. On the weekend of September 13-14, 2008, he worked with Henry Paulson, former CEO and chairman of the board of Goldman, and Lloyd Blankfein, the current CEO of Goldman, to save insurance giant AIG. Goldman had a heavy exposure to AIG, and its bailout essentially saved Goldman. Bernanke also forced Bank of America to buy the investment bank Merrill Lynch under dubious conditions which Bernanke later lied about.

Hugh goes on to describe other, more recent aspects of Bernanke's "epic fail."

hat tips - Shannyn, Peterr, and Hugh

Monday, August 24, 2009

Candles for Segundo

Alaska's most widely-read progressive blog, The Mudflats, the web site that inspired Ann Strongheart to tell the story of her husband, Segundo, her family and her people to the world, has posted a very touching gesture toward Segundo Strongheart's memory. Along with a short eulogy, AK Muckraker has created a virtual memorial candle nook for Segundo. It will remain alight for 48 hours.

Please go there.

When Ann Strongheart's advocacy for the people of Emmonak, Nunam Iqua and other lower Yukon River villages began to resonate last February, Ann wrote one of my favorite Alaska posts of all time. Especially moving then, when the towns representing the cradle of Yupik culture were close to desperation, was how she described how Segundo helped make her whole:

We are passing our Yupik traditions and language on to her. Although I am worried about what her Yupik will sound like because my accent really mutilates the Yupik language. The Yupik language is a very throaty language. And I have come to realize that what I hear isn’t necessarily what comes out of my mouth LOL. Thankfully, my husband is very patient and helps by translating the Yupik language sounds to English ones and helps me learn them. So basically CC and I are learning Yupik together. But I really have to wonder what kind of accent CC will have when she grows up.

I love living in Nunam Iqua, despite its many challenges and struggles. I gladly give up many conveniences for this simple quiet village life. I do miss being able to go out to eat, or being able to run to the 7-11 or go to the movies or the hair salon, but not enough to want to move back to the city. Even now I can’t stand going into
Anchorage, there is way too much noise and too many people. I do like being able to shop and not having to pay and arm and a leg for everything, but only on short, infrequent trips.

I had my first “Potlatch” last year and I am now an official “graduated” Yupik Eskimo Dancer. I enjoy going for snow machine rides during the winter and I love going boating in the summer. Last summer my husband taught me how to use a spear and spear thrower to hunt seal. I haven’t caught one yet but I was getting really close. I look forward to this summer so we can go out boating again, and egg hunting and berry picking and gathering with CC.

This is so important.

Ann was one of the key players, behind the scenes, in helping to get the word out on how inappropriate - to say the very least - Wayne Anthony Ross was as a nominee for Alaska's Attorney General, last winter and early spring. Ross was and is a fighter against recognizing the precious, value and durability of the historical importance of what Alaska's Natives have represented and still stand for.

Ross has never given a second thought to representing Jerry Prevo's "special rights." He jumped into pro bono representation of the "special rights" of a nut that dumped buckets of cold water on people standing along the side of a Soldotna Highway in the middle of the winter. But if the issue of continuing viability of any of Alaska's multi-thousand-year cultures came up, when weighed against the brand new interests of out-of-state hunters, Ross would (and does) claim the continued existence of these Native cultures to be a "special right."

I witnessed the same sort of mindset that Ross represents, but in a far more subtle form, observing the Potemkin Village nature of the tour of Alaska by members of President Obama's cabinet - led by pied piper Sen. Mark Begich, two weeks ago. It was followed by the more egregious Ocean Policy Task Force meeting in Anchorage late last week, where Alaska Natives were entirely excluded from the platform of the presentation, and given only one minor slot at the podium for a message of importance.

I've taken part of the testimony I gave to the Task Force, as the basis of an:

Ode to Segundo's People:

• When Jericho was destroyed, the Yupik were becoming distinguishable from other northern migratory groups.

• When the great pyramids were built, the Yupik had become a distinct cultural group.

• When the Phoenicians and others were cutting down the vast cedar forests in Lebanon, the Yupik were beginning to fish the lower Yukon.

• When the Romans left no stone unturned in Carthage's ruins and plowed the earth with salt, the first examples of wondrous Yupik art were being created.

• When the Roman Empire and vernacular Latin were dying, people had been speaking a language today’s Yupik would recognize as their own for over a thousand years.

• When Islam was created, Yupik spiritual ideas had already survived six times longer than Islam has now existed.

• When the Norse navigated the North Atlantic, the Volga and the Black Sea, the Yupik were expanding up the Yukon and Kuskokwim Rivers.

• When a language we can now recognize as English began to exist, Yupik culture was thousands of years old.

• When the Russians came to Alaska, stealing people, pelts and pride, the Yupik culture survived.

• When the Europeans brought smallpox, venereal disease, alcohol and influenza to the Yupik, they survived.

• When the Russian, Catholic, Baptist - and now - Franklin Graham/Jerry Prevo - snake oil salesmen came to the Delta and the rivers, Yupik culture survived.

Yet, within the mere past 30 years, the foundation of this vibrant culture has been ripped apart.


Because the basis of Yupik culture, the Chinook salmon that live there, has gotten in the way of a pirate fleet that only lives for the next season. Quarterly corporate profits of the pirate fleets' owners, and how a tiny percentage of those stolen funds are tightly doled out to politicians, now control the destiny of what may be North America's proudest existing riverine civilization.

Additionally, on the administrative level, I have never seen a better example of how cross-governmental jurisdictional problems can be used by an industry to destroy one of America’s first peoples.

As I said last Friday, Nancy Sutley - Dr. Jane Lubchenco - David Hayes - Admiral Thad Allen -- and, YES - Sen. Mark Begich and President Barack Obama:

Unless you act very soon, and very, very sternly to end the depredation of the Bering Sea and other Gulf of Alaska trawl fisheries, the miserable survivors of this once-proud, vibrant culture, will soon sing imprecatory, damning songs to your eternal memories, blaming you for their Holocaust.

And justly so.

An Open Letter to Levi and Mercede Johnston

--- by SnarKassandra

[I've been corresponding with SnarKassandra at the blog firedoglake since she was 14 or 15. Her winning struggle against some fierce odds have inspired thousands of adults around the world as we've read her experiences of growing up, and becoming very politically aware, too. This is reprinted with approval of one of Cassie's adult friends where she lives]

Dear Levi & Mercede,

I was sorry to hear about your mom’s arrest and plea for drug use and selling drugs. I was even more sorry that it’s in the newspapers and on the blogs, and that people are making fun of her.

I am around your age (nearly 18) and my mom has been in jail for almost eight years on drug charges, so I know some of what you are going through.

I am also completely a busybody and am going to use this blog post to give both of you some advice.

1. Go to Alateen. Or ACOA. Or someplace that’s NOT your church where you can learn about addicts and addiction how none of this is your fault and that you can’t cure your mom. Also, Mercede, if there’s a support group in your town or in your HS for kids who have a parent in prison, GO!

2. Mercede, I don’t know who you are living with these days, but my brother became my guardian when he was 18, and he was way too young. And that’s without being a father himself or having reporters and photographers following him around. I hope that you stay with a family, a whole, real family, at least until you finish HS.

3. You will find out really soon who your real friends are and who thinks a lot less of you because your mom is in jail. Sometimes even good friends can be insensitive, but at least they still like you for who YOU are. Some kids are incredibly creepy and think it’s cool to know someone who knows someone in jail. Stay away from them. Same thing with overly curious adults.

4. People will ask you what they can do to help. It’s a dumb question, but if they ask twice, tell them to do something to improve life for prisoners and provide treatment for addicts. You may even want to join organizations that encourage treatment instead of prison for addicts.
Stand up for your mom. Make sure that the lawyers and guardians and corrections people all know that someone is watching and that someone cares. I don’t visit anymore, but I do have an adult in my life who communicates with my mom and with the prison.

5. Because your mom is an addict like my mom, and because we watched our moms use drugs instead of facing problems head-on, all three of us can become an addict more easily than most people. So learn what the signs are, and be careful, and watch out for each other.

We all need to work on making this country less inclined to incarcerate addicts and more inclined to help them find treatment. And that starts with making sure that drug use is not a crime. Prohibition didn’t work for alcohol and it’s not working for drugs.

I hope you do go to Alateen and counseling and get all the help you need to not have to ride your mother’s roller coaster addiction. You didn’t cause it and you can’t cure it, but you can learn healthy ways to get through the next few years.

Your friend,


image - Levi & Mercede in a Jeep

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Can We?

I'm beginning to doubt that either President Barack Obama or Alaska's junior U.S. Senator, Mark Begich, have a true liberal bone in their bodies.

It sort of came to me in waves this past week. One wave involves the so-called "health care reform" battle. The other regards the seriousness of the climate crisis and how that is playing out in Alaska in the context of the deepening racist treatment of Native Alaskans under the Obama and Begich administrations.

I. As most liberals and progressives who can read know, Obama's popularity is plummeting nationwide because he has abandoned principle in a cynical bid to steal the K Street lobbyists from the GOP. New York Times columnist Paul Krugman detailed why this may be:

[I]t’s possible to have universal coverage without a public option — several European nations do it — and some who want a public option might be willing to forgo it if they had confidence in the overall health care strategy. Unfortunately, the president’s behavior in office has undermined that confidence.

On the issue of health care itself, the inspiring figure progressives thought they had elected comes across, far too often, as a dry technocrat who talks of “bending the curve” but has only recently begun to make the moral case for reform. Mr. Obama’s explanations of his plan have gotten clearer, but he still seems unable to settle on a simple, pithy formula; his speeches and op-eds still read as if they were written by a committee.

Krugman goes on to attack Obama's financial policy decisions:

I don’t know if administration officials realize just how much damage they’ve done themselves with their kid-gloves treatment of the financial industry, just how badly the spectacle of government supported institutions paying giant bonuses is playing. But I’ve had many conversations with people who voted for Mr. Obama, yet dismiss the stimulus as a total waste of money. When I press them, it turns out that they’re really angry about the bailouts rather than the stimulus — but that’s a distinction lost on most voters.

Krugman also notes that progressives and liberals are beginning to distrust Obama's approach to foreign policy. The Israelis are treating him as even more of a doormat than his predecessor. He's continuing to employ Xe Services, the successor to Blackwater as his own mercenary army, even expanding their role by having them arm pilotless aircraft to bomb Pakistani and Afghan civilians. And he's continuing to employ Bush's policy of extraordinary rendition:

In court papers, Azar said he was denied his eyeglasses, not given food for 30 hours and put in a freezing room after his arrest by "more than 10 men wearing flak jackets and carrying military style assault rifles."

Azar also said he was shackled and forced to wear a blindfold, dark hood and earphones for up to 18 hours on a Gulfstream V jet that flew him from Bagram air base, outside Kabul, to Virginia.

Before the hood was put on, he said, one of his captors waved a photo of Azar's wife and four children and warned Azar that he would "never see them again" unless he confessed.

"Frightened for his immediate safety . . . and under the belief he would end up in the prison camp at Guantanamo Bay or Abu Ghraib to be tortured," Azar signed a paper he did not understand, his lawyers told the court.

Longtime PA readers may remember how I created a scroll out of Hugh's List of Bush Crimes and Scandals.

Hugh has now started a similar list for Barack Obama:

After 8 years of the incompetence, cronyism, and criminality of the Bush Administration, Barack Obama was elected President on the slogan of “Change we can believe in”. But it quickly became apparent that what he meant by this and what the country thought he meant were vastly different. His selections to fill the posts in his Administration were almost entirely Clinton era retreads and Republicans. Liberals and progressives who had actually been right, and reflected where most of the country was at, on issues such as the wars, domestic spying, torture, healthcare, the economy, Israel, and investigation of Bush Administration illegalities were frozen out.

Far from believing in change, Obama believed in the traditional Washington Establishment, both Democratic and Republican. This Establishment had largely been pushed aside during the Bush Administration. Those in it did not disagree that much with Bush’s policies, even the failed and extreme ones. They just thought they could have done a better job, even though they and their policies had not been that successful the last time they were in power. Obama’s election announced their triumphant return. His principal economic advisers were two neoliberal Clinton Treasury Secretaries. Obama kept on Bush’s Republican Defense Secretary and his favorite generals. His Chief of Staff, the gatekeeper to the President, was the very unliberal attack dog Rahm Emanuel. He picked a Washington insider, rather than a reformer, to put back together the devastated Justice Department. His choice for Secretary of State fell not on a Clintonista but an actual Clinton.

Here's Hugh's Obama Scandal List (as of eight weeks ago - it has gotten longer):

1. Reneged on pledge to filibuster FISA Amendments act (July 2008)
2. Lobbied for $700 billion Paulson TARP
3. Pushed for no sanctions against Lieberman who supported John McCain
4. Nominated healthcare company lobbyist Tom Daschle as Secretary of HHS
5. Had neoliberal Robert Rubin as his chief economics adviser
6. Then had the equally neoliberal Larry Summers assume this role
7. Chose the failing upwards Timothy Geithner to head Treasury
8. AIG bonuses and money to Goldman under Obama
9. Doubling down in Afghanistan
10. Delay and reduction of withdrawal from Iraq
11. Moving Guantanamo activities to Bagram
12. Military commissions for some detainees
13. Support for indefinite detention
14. Refusal to release torture photos under FOIA
15. Refusal to investigate and prosecute Bush era criminality
16. Geithner’s joke then DOA economic rescue programs: the PPIP and TALF
17. Joke help for homeowners (program and legislation) without cramdowns
18. Handling of the Chrysler, GM bankruptcies compared to bank “stress tests” (twofer)
19. TARP repayment kabuki by banks still dependent on government credit lines
20. Extra-Constitutional use of the Fed by the Executive for fiscal policy
21. Credit Card bill without usury caps and with 9 month delay for other reforms
22. Business friendly Mary Schapiro named to head SEC
23. Gary Gensler who helped deregulate derivatives to head CFTC
24. $787 billion stimulus: too little, too late, poorly structured
25. Use of financial crisis to attack Social Security and Medicare
26. Refusal to include single payer universal healthcare in healthcare “reform”
27. Continued use of state secrets argument in ongoing Bush era cases
28. Use of signing statements, one to punish whistleblowers (twofer)
29. Vetting process of nominees, especially their taxes
30. Not pushing nomination of Dawn Johnsen to head OLC
31. Eric Holder, failure to reform DOJ, not removing worst of Bush USAs (twofer)
32. Failure to move against new oil bubble
33. Retention of Bush Defense team: Gates, Patraeus, and Odierno (threefer)
34. Continued missile attacks inside Pakistan
35. Keeping Bush’s domestic spying programs and adding a new one, cybersecurity
36. Choice of Elena Kagan (favors expansive Presidential powers) as Solicitor General
37. Leaving EFCA (to help counter anti-union companies) to wither in Congress
38. Welcoming Arlen Specter who brings nothing to the Democrats into the party
39. Flaccid proposals for financial reform
40. Obama wanted John Brennan at CIA but settled for making him his counter-terrorism adviser
41. Chas Freeman with broader Mideast perspective done in by AIPAC
42. Dennis Blair made DNI; failed to act to stop atrocities in East Timor
43. Choice of torture general Stanley McChrystal to head Afghanistan effort
44. Obama threat to suspend intelligence cooperation with UK over Binyam Mohamed case
45. Efforts to keep Bush and Obama White House logs secret
46. Playing games with “Don’t ask, don’t tell”
47. Filing a brief to overturn Jackson (access to lawyer) in the Montejo case
48. Not withdrawing Bush brief in Osborne DNA case
49. Filing really nasty brief in challenge to Defense of Marriage Act
50. The Supplemental or making Iraq and Afghanistan Democratic wars
51. Choice of Rahm Emanuel as the President’s Chief of Staff
52. Choice of Dennis Ross as Iran envoy and then his move to the White House
53. Joke processes to fill Obama and Hillary Clinton’s Senate seats
54. Choice of Bill Richardson, then Judd Gregg to head Commerce
55. Reneging on pledge to re-negotiate NAFTA
56. Throwing his pastor Jeremiah Wright to the curb, then making up to Rick Warren
57. Fighting even the most well founded habeas corpus petitions to preserve indefinite detention, the Janko case

II. U.S. Senator Mark Begich has yet to unveil anything remotely resembling a position on the health care policy battle. He claims he will be looking more carefully at the issue in September. We will see.

His willingness to go along with a tragically flawed design for the Kensington Mine waste products disgusted me. Speaking with a former Begich mayoral staff member about this last week, I sensed other Begich stalwarts are also deeply disappointed. Another former Begich supporter noted to me that forcing Coeur Alaska to adopt to the alternative preferred by most environmentalists would have actually hired more Alaskans than will be needed to construct the containment system now being built.

Begich's long-touted trip to rural Alaska with cabinet members from the Obama administration bordered on farce, as they spent about five times as long traveling as they did on the ground. When the ceremonial aspects of their on-the-ground appearances are subtracted from what was left, their appearances weren't merely poorly planned, they were appallingly disrespectful of rural Alaskans, in an institutionalized racist sort of way.

A junction of Obama's and Begich's shortcomings in Alaska affairs came home to roost in Friday's aggravating Oceans Task Force hearing in Anchorage. Begich sits on the Senate Committee on Science, Commerce and Transportation, and - more importantly for Friday's event - the Subcommittee on Oceans, Fisheries, and The Coast Guard. Both the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration chair and the Commandant of the Coast Guard were at the hearing. Sen. Begich had no events scheduled for last Friday, but didn't attend this important event.

The event itself was another example of poor planning. The establishment guardian speakers, and corrupt apparatchiks such as Bill Sheffield, Fran Ulmer and John Binkley rudely spoke way over their allotted time, so that common citizens, mostly Native Alaskans, had their time to speak truncated. Some of the latter group had spent hundreds of dollars to travel to Anchorage to speak, at a time when they need to be preparing for what promises to be the harshest year for them in memory.

After I gave my testimony and was walking back through the meeting room, UAA Chancellor Fran Ulmer, one of my bosses, pointedly turned away from me. She has done that before.

III. The lack of appearance among the president's or the Alaska Senator's higher staff members of any critical awareness of how serious the ramifications of climate change and unsustainable growth paradigms are beginning to be, bothers me even more than the "politics-as-usual" aspects of typical cynical actions by these figures.

Can we, as progressives who helped get Obama and Begich elected, find any satisfaction in the self-serving turns to the right both these politicians have so visibly and consciously made?

Right now, if I were asked, I'd have to say, "No, we can't!"