Saturday, December 31, 2011

Some Thoughts on 2011

I.  This year ending today has been an important one for me.

•  In terms of my art, I've completed three fairly substantial new works:  Aleutian Sketches for Brass and Piano; The Wild Coast, for Orchestra; and Five Alaska Trees, for a capella Chorus.  I produced and directed a well-played concert for the Anchorage Civic Orchestra, devoted to popular Russian works from the 19th and 20th century.

•  In terms of work, this past year, particularly during the fall term at the University of Alaska Anchorage, was intensely busy, very difficult, yet enormously rewarding regarding how I was able to educate young people.

•  In terms of our outdoor life, summer and winter:
We traveled Outside three times:  for our dear friend James Acord's memorial service, for my mom's 93rd birthday, and to visit family over the holidays.

Judy and I went halibut fishing together for the first time in over 25 years.

Our gardens were incredibly productive, even spectacular in some ways.
•  In terms of blogging, this has been a mixed year:

I wrote a large number of diaries for Firedoglake, and hosted four book salons there:
Jerusalem, Jerusalem: How the Ancient City Ignited Our Modern World, with author James Carroll, On April 17th

The Lies of Sarah Palin: The Untold Story Behind Her Relentless Quest for Power, with author Geoffrey Dunn, on May 7th

A New Voice for Israel: Fighting for the Survival of the Jewish Nation, with author Jeremy Ben-Ami, on July 31st

The Rogue: Searching for the Real Sarah Palin, with author Joe McGinniss, on September 25th
At Progressive Alaska, it has been a strange year:
My increasing disenchantment with Democratic Party politicians, beginning at the top, has led to a lot of strange - sometimes hateful - comments and e-mails. 

My willingness to convey or write about the messages of Andree McLeod and Geoffrey Dunn on aspects of how people deal with Sarah Palin debris has not made me any friends, perhaps a new enemy or two.  
So be it.

The truth is far more important than indulging in the fantasies of people who are more involved in spreading gossip, creating  a new Troopergate coverup, or reminding me of people I once knew who became Moonies, or followed Jim Jones to Guyana.

Progressive Alaska led the way in Alaska reporting on:
Aspects of the hounding of Federal scientists by the Obama administration

Aspects of the Fukushima radiation

On Carl Gatto's strange HB 88 (his anti-Sharia Law legislation)

The Norway shootings, which are almost directly linked to some of Carl Gatto's out-of-state supporters' backers

The rapidly escalating turn to the crazy religious right of ultra-Orthodox Jews in Israel, their relationship to crazy fundamentalist American Christianists, and the growing worldwide movement to acknowledge and grant Palestinians their rights

The Obama administration and the Keystone XL Pipeline
PA also covered - along with other Alaska blogs, most notably, The Mudflats, Southcentral Alaska coal issues.

In my view, PA failed to adequately cover:
Fisheries issues, particularly those having to do with the overwhelming political power of the trawlers

Mat-Su Valley political events, issues and candidates

The erosion of education funding

Miscellaneous environmental issues
There is only so much time.....

II.  Thoughts on some of the most important issues of 2011:

1.  The end of the Iraq Wars:  For the United States, these began when we encouraged Saddam Hussein to go to war with the Iranians in the 1980s.  Our direct involvement began after we encouraged Saddam to settle his disputes with Kuwait as Iraq saw fit.  From that time in July 1990 until this last month, we waged war against a country we should have stayed out of.  We bear the primary responsibility for the destruction of much of its civilian infrastructure, the eradication of its Christian community, an inflamed Sunni-Shia relationship, and the virtual end of what had been the most highly educated female population in the Mideast outside of Israel, from meaningful careers in most circumstances.

2.  The Arab Spring Revolts:  Iraq eventually would have had its own Arab Spring, had we not gone in there and established our own, new authoritarian regime.  Obama propped up Egypt's Mubarak way too long, then tried to substitute the butcher Omar Suleiman in his place.  We're shipping railroad cars full of tear gas, rubber bullets and real bullets to the Egyptian military as I write.  Combined with our irrational support of Israel's increasingly racist regime and throttling of any Palestinian initiative, no matter how rational, any emerging democracies in the Middle East have little reason to trust our wisdom, let alone our actual policies.

3.  The Tucson and Norway shootings:  Both shooters were unstable men, acting out rage based upon fantasies they fed themselves, or were shoved into their unbalanced minds from external sources that breed hatred.  Gabriel Giffords' remarkable courage through recovery here is matched in my mind by the equally remarkable sanity Norwegians have shown toward dealing with terror in their own midst.

4.  Occupy Wall Street:  It will be back in the Spring, more vocal than ever.  Maybe even coherently organized?

It is a young movement, with important issues to address - they are coalescing over the Winter.  Unlike the several Tea Party movements, OWS, by being very appealing to young people, will have a vitality that - if used well - will turn it into one of America's most important civil disobedience chapters.

5.  The Importance of Ron Paul:  So many people are saying or writing "Too bad the important parts of Paul's message [end the imperial wars, cut defense spending, demand accountability from the finance sector of our economy, end the racist war on drugs, etc.] are accompanied with all his unpleasant baggage [dismantle Rowe v. Wade, his alleged homophobia, his racist statements or actions in the past, etc.]."

If other candidates were offering more than bullshit platitudes aimed at primary state voters, the parts of Paul's message that progressives might relate to might not stand out so prominently.  But as he is the only candidate to stand with the majority of Americans who want out of these wars (and no war with Iran), want banksters brought to heel and have come to distrust the effects of the war on drugs,  he may have more of a voice in the 2012 campaign than most yet believe.

in today's mail - Obama begging for money from Judy - and lying about "the deadline"
6.  Where's Obama's support going to come from in 2012?  Not from me, at least not like Judy and I fervently supported him in 2008.  He can go beg for money from Goldman-Sachs, the energy companies, the insurance companies, the health industry and defense contractors.  Oh, wait - he already is.

Give me one good reason to donate to him, rather than to another Democratic Party candidate who needs support, and will seek to change things?
in today's mail - Obama's 'bots lying about his link to Occupy Wall Street.  What crap!

7.  Fukushima radiation:  It is appalling that the meltdown of three nuclear reactors and the effects of their spreading pollution has not garnered more attention than it has.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

David Rovics at Occupy Portland Oregon

Progressive troubadour David Rovics put up a post on the events of 2011, through the efforts of his songs and performances around the country and Europe.  Here is what he called his favorite performance, in his hometown of Portland, the evening before the police shut that encampment down:

Monday, December 26, 2011

Back Yard Redwoods

This afternoon I finished the conductor's score to The Wild Coast, did laundry for Julia, Judy and myself, and took pictures with my new Canon camera, an ELPH 310.

Here are three images of redwoods, in or near our son's back yard.

Bradley Manning Article 32 Hearing Week Wrap-ups

There are a number of news wrap-ups on the web on last week's U.S. Army Article 32 (pre-trial) hearings in the case of Private Bradley Manning.  Here are some of the more important ones.  Please note that none come from the U.S. mainstream press.

RT's Alyona Show:

Al Jazeera's Listening Post (up to 10:25 in the segment):

Al Jazeera's Inside Story Americas, with Daniel Ellsberg and Glenn Greenwald:

Greenwald assails the cowardice of Manning's critics in this thorough essay.

Democracy Now's wrap-up, from last Friday:

On Craig Medred's PWSAC Article in the Dispatch

PWSAC Esther Bay Hatchery
Sunday, the Alaska Dispatch published a long article by Craig Medred, the subject of which is hatchery-reared salmon, more specifically, those reared at Prince William Sound hatcheries.  In the article, Medred raises concern about ways hatchery-reared fish might displace wild stocks in ecosystems similar to that of Prince William Sound, by bringing up issues that have been discovered in ecosystems quite different from those of the Sound:
Fears of some state fisheries biologists that turning Prince William Sound into one big, salmon ranch might threaten the remaining wild stocks there gained some weight this week. Oregon researchers reported in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that the genes of steelhead trout -- a close relative -- appear easily altered in a hatchery.

Mark Christie, lead researcher on the work done at Oregon State University, painted a portrait of "evolution at warp speed" in the sterile, environmentally controlled trays of a hatchery.

"It's similar to the process by which wolves were transformed into dogs," he told MSNBC. "That's all that's occurring here, except it's occurring at a really rapid time scale."

Whether the 11,000-square-mile Sound -- smeared by the Exxon Valdez oil spill in 1989 -- should be home to piscatorial wolves or dogs has been a subject of debate for years now between the Alaska Department of Fish and Game and the Prince William Sound Aquaculture Association (PWSAA) [sic - it is Prince William Wound Aquaculture Corporation (PWSAC)].
Medred's article, mostly through omission,  fails to put the early history of the concept of the fisher-owned hatchery system into perspective.  It also neglects commenting upon the many debates, controversies and arguments that have come up in the decades since this largest user-run salmon hatchery system in the history of the world has come into existence.  Medred does pose some interesting questions, though, and his article is well worth reading.

His concern about Pink salmon showing up in  streams or areas other than those from which they originated has been addressed many times before.  This is how salmon spread.  They find a new stream, perhaps recently freed from glacial cover, and move in.  They find too many fish in their home stream and move along the shore until they find one less clogged.  A storm throws them off in the last week before homing in, and they make do as they can.  This has been going on in Alaska for hundreds of thousands of years.  And Cordova fishers have brought this possibility up many times - from the important set of meetings in 1974 that led to the creation of PWSAC, until the present.  Medred's observations about how PWSAC's hatcheries have stabilized PWS salmon fisheries are solid, though they offer nothing new:
The goal of the PWSAC, of course, has never been to save wild salmon runs but to save a segment of the Alaska economy. In that, the organization has been a huge success.
"PWSAC played a critical role in the recent economic recovery of the Alaska salmon industry," claimed a study released this spring. "Since 2006, PWSAC has produced 1 in 4 of Alaska's commercially caught pink salmon. Large harvests of PWSAC pinks have provided the industry with the volume and economies of scale needed to fulfill demand."
My first year as a boat owner in the Cordova salmon fishery (Area E) was 1974.  I partnered with my friend KC.  I bought the gillnetter-seiner Swanee.  KC had the licenses.  We fished the boat as  gillnetter at the Copper, Bering and Coghill Rivers.  We set off of Islands from Wingham to Grass to Esther.  We caught about 2,400 salmon, mostly Reds.  At the same time, we had Andy the netmaker install a new bunt (the heavy end, made to hold the pocketed fish) and Dog strip (additional, heavy mesh webbing at the bottom of the net) to our seine.  But -as Medred observes:
Before hatcheries arrived in the Sound, there weren’t enough salmon to prosecute a fishery there in one out of every five summers. Every fifth summer was -- for lack of a better comparison -- an Exxon Valdez summer, with fishermen ordered to stay in port.
That is what happened in 1974.  The thousands of dollars we put into the seine went to naught - at least for that year.   The Alaska Department of Fish and Game decided to not open the Sound for seining that year.

Medred neglects to relate the importance of the profound changes the 1964 Good Friday earthquake wrought on Prince William Sound, and other areas around Cordova.  PWS was subject to large uplifts and sinkings of lands and the land under waters.  The Cordova Razor clam industry all but vanished overnight.  Sloughs and beaches off the Copper and Bering Rivers became even more shallow than before the quake.  The PWS Pink runs were adversely effected more than any other southcentral Alaska fishery.  PWSAC was a much a response to this physical event as to anything.

In the late summer, fall and early winter of 1975, at the same time Valdez was gearing up into oil pipeline construction mode, Cordova was gearing up to ship the equipment from there down to Sawmill Bay, for the building of the first of PWSAC's hatcheries.  I was working part-time as an expeditor for PWSAC, and volunteering for them on some of my time off from fishing and working for KLAM, Cordova's radio station.

At the time, Cordova was getting close to the tail end of what had been a year-round boom created by the growth of the winter Tanner (Snow) crab industry.   In the 1970s,  St. Elias Ocean Products, Morpac, North Pacific and New England Fish Company all took deliveries of Tanner crab through the winters.  They employed over 150 people among them, through the January to April period.

At the same time, associated with the drive to get the fisher-owned hatcheries going, some fishers were seeking better ways to market local products, particularly Copper River Reds.  The University of Alaska Cordova branch - Prince William Sound Community College - began offering courses in aquaculture in 1975.  They were well-attended.  The Sea Gant program offered courses in ways to add value to fish catch, and spurred innovative marketing concepts.

Cordova was and is full of contrarians.  Perhaps the most remarkable among those wondering what all the new hatcheries might do to the PWS ecosystem was longtime iconoclast Stan Samuelson.  He speculated as early a 1973 that when the hatcheries came on line, managers would be in competition with each other to be the most productive, which would lead to releases of millions of young salmon from the hatcheries into PWS at the time they judged to be optimum for survival.  This would lead to the hatchery fish crowding out the wild stocks from food sources, such as early plankton blooms, as water temperatures reached thermocline.  When, in the early 1980s, some PWS wild runs came in small compared to the hatchery fish, Stan's supporters came up with a "Stan Was Right" bumper sticker.  A couple of years later, the wild fish came back as big as or larger than the hatchery returns.  A new bumper sticker emerged - "Was Stan Right?"

The strength of Medred's Christmas PWS salmon article is that it raises important questions about rapid evolution of species.  Its weakness is its lack of historical perspective on how long Cordovans have been aware that new, complex issues would emerge from the creation of such a large new element into a somewhat closed ecosystem.

Medred has written about PWSAC often in the past, and I've been critical of some of that writing.  Over the years, he seems to have given Cordovans less credit for their accomplishments than they probably deserve.  And his apologia for oil company disasters in Cordova's back yard go all the way back to August, 1989, while his dismissive views on just how pragmatic Cordovans can be has often struck me as emblematic of what one might call "Anchorage-based Chauvinism."

Medred's articles can be a treasure trove of fascinating information, as some parts of his Christmas article demonstrate.   With a little more research on the history of PWSAC's concern over ecological issues, the article would have been much more meaningful.

Friday, December 23, 2011

California Roadside Rest Area Rattlesnake Sign

 The above sign was all over the place at an I-5 rest area north of Bakersfield.

Below - Judy and Julia yesterday afternoon, enjoying a sunny afternoon in Healdsburg, where it was 65 degrees.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

A Pre-Christmas Message for Obama: War Is OVER - If YOU Want It

An Historic U.S. Navy "First Kiss"

From the UK Telegraph:

Petty Officer 2nd Class Marissa Gaeta of Placerville, California, descended from the USS Oak Hill amphibious landing ship and shared a quick kiss in the rain with her partner, Petty Officer 3rd Class Citlalic Snell of Los Angeles.

Gaeta, 23, wore her Navy dress uniform while Snell, 22, wore a black leather jacket, scarf and blue jeans. The crowd screamed and waved flags around them.

"It's something new, that's for sure," Gaeta told reporters after the kiss. "It's nice to be able to be myself. It's been a long time coming."

For the historical significance of the kiss, there was little to differentiate it from countless others when a Navy ship pulls into its home port following a deployment. Neither the U.S. Navy nor the couple tried to draw attention to what was happening and many onlookers waiting for their loved ones to come off the ship were busy talking among themselves.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

List of Active Occupy Encampments Across the Country – Now at 61

Occupy Anchorage Igloo
--- by Jane Hamsher

Although the media has grown bored with the Occupy movement and are declaring it over, OccupySupply has verified the existence of 61 encampments across the country. 

We are listing them below, along with links to photos and videos that demonstrate what they look like today.

The FDL Membership Program now has 110 liaisons at over 70 occupations across the country who report back to us on the status of their occupations twice each week. That’s how we determine which occupations OccupySupply will send cold weather gear to every day.

OccupySupply shipped more stuff out last week alone than we did in the entire first month, and the demand is only increasing.

So we thought we’d try to drive a stake through the heart of the “Occupy is Dead” narrative by publishing our working list, which is consistently more up-to-date than any I’ve seen. These are occupations with encampments only — there are many, many more vibrant occupations that are doing tremendous community activism despite the lack of an encampment.

» Please consider donating $10 or more to help us continue to meet the demands of the now 70+ occupations we serve with the Occupy Supply fund. As always, 100% of your donations to the fund will go to purchase and distribute the supplies they need to make it through the winter and beyond.

1 Occupy Anchorage Igloos!
2 Occupy Atlanta Re-occupied Woodruff Park after the raid, stopped foreclosure this week.
3 Occupy Austin Nice story in Daily Texan about OccupySupply helping them prepare for winter
4 Occupy Berkeley 90 tents
5 Occupy Birmingham Marched with Alabama civic & religious leaders to protest state immigration law
6 Occupy Bloomington Longest running occupation?
7 Occupy Boise Highs in the 30s, lows in the teens, but hanging in there
8 Occupy Boulder Working with city on permit
9 Occupy Buffalo Just opened 2nd encampment
10 Occupy Cedar Rapids Says they have a stable location through the winter
11 Occupy Chapel Hill Expanding, building bridges with local congregations
12 Occupy Charlotte Growing, now 30 tents
13 Occupy Claremont City council may intervene, but police say they’re not breaking any laws
14 Occupy Cleveland Recently worked with Youngstown & Ashtabula to encamp vs. foreclosure
15 Occupy Columbia SC Won their court battle; judge says they can stay
16 Occupy Dover DE Just celebrated their 1 month anniversary
17 Occupy Kstreet Expanding to local black churches
18 Occupy Lancaster PA Renewing the permit that expires January 1
19 Occupy Delaware Won a ruling from a judge that recognized the tent city as a form of protected speech.
20 Occupy DesMoines Launching Occupy the Caucus, urging people to vote “uncommitted”
21 Occupy Erie Re-occupied the gazebo yesterday, looking good in OccupySupply
22 Occupy Eugene City installed lights at request of campers, increasing budget to help homeless
23 Occupy Fairbanks Yes, there’s an Occupy Fairbanks.  No shit.
24 Occupy Freedom Plaza Feed 140 people each day
25 Occupy FtWayne Flash mob at the Glenbrook Mall last weekend reminding people to shop local
26 Occupy Gainesville Organizing Florida occupations for upcoming FL legislative session
27 Occupy Harrisburg Organizing around state redistricting
28 Occupy Houston Celebrated International Migrants Day by protesting prison industrial complex
29 Occupy Huntsville AL City gave them a spot
30 Occupy IowaCity Mic checked Newt Gingrich last week
31 Occupy Lancaster PA Holding toy and book drive for children of the community
32 Occupy Las Vegas Protesting at auctions of foreclosed homes seized without paperwork
33 Occupy Lincoln Tent town in Centennial Mall going strong
34 Occupy Little Rock Built a geodesic dome
35 Occupy Madison Recently had its first marriage proposal
36 Occupy Memphis Held Saturday march to mark 1 year since Mohamed Bouazizi lit himself on fire in Tunisia
37 Occupy Miami Just celebrated 2 month anniversary
38 Occupy Milwaukee Immigration groups recently loaned them office space
39 Occupy Monterey Holding a series of public community educational talks
40 Occupy Nashville Getting tremendous community support
41 Occupy New Haven On private property by agreement with managers
42 Occupy Newark City recently lifted ban on overnight encampments
43 Occupy Norman OK Just started this week
44 Occupy Orange County Held a mock funeral for the Bill of Rights
45 Occupy Palm Beach Protesting wealth inequality in rich neighborhoods
46 Occupy Phoenix Demonstrating against Joe Arpaio’s tasering of Latino Marine vet that left him brain dead
47 Occupy Pittsburgh Protesting the bilking of millions of dollars from schools & local govt at US Steel Tower
48 Occupy Providence Approx. 60 overnight sleepers in Burnside Park
49 Occupy Raleigh Property owner & city say they can stay
50 Occupy Sacramento Recently occupied Clear Channel
51 Occupy Rochester Just received AFL-CIO Rochester Labor Council’s Community Solidarity Award
52 Occupy San Jose Just re-occupied this week
53 Occupy San Luis Obispo Denied the use of tents but still staying each night
54 Occupy Syracuse Recently erected a triple-walled Army surplus tent and plan to stay for the winter
55 Occupy Tacoma Mic check to OccupySupply on Dec 15!
56 Occupy Talahassee Will present objectives of Florida occupations to state legislature on January 10
57 Occupy Tampa Set up last Saturday in Voice of Freedom Park
58 Occupy Trenton Protesting Chris Christie’s charter school plan in Dept. of Ed offices
59 Occupy Tucson One of the largest occupations still going
60 Occupy Walton OR Small Oregon town trying to save their post office
61 Occupy Winnepeg

Hanukkah with Family in New Mexico

Happy Hanukkah.  

We're outside of Albuquerque with family, enjoying the crisp sunshine the day after a major storm has passed through the area, headed for the Midwest.

We drove into Albuquerque yesterday evening to pick up our daughter, Julia at the airport.  The snow was still falling.  Between when we left the house here, ate inner at a bistro, picked up Julia, and returned to the freeway - I-40 - it had been closed.  We snuck back home via old US Route 66.

This morning, it was spectacularly beautiful in the crisp (10 degrees F) mountain (7,300 feet) air and bright sunshine.

Here are two images from near Judy's sister and husband's house:

Snow laden evergreens:

Twelve kinds of bananas, from an ethnic market we visited yesterday in Albuquerque:

Judy and I are fortunate to be members of a loving, extended Swedish-Jewish-Norwegian-Cambodian-Icelandic-Scotts-Irish family, with members spread right now from Indonesia to Massachusetts to Houston to who-knows-where.  This is our first Holiday season outside of Alaska in 17 years, and our first Hanukkah with one of the Jewish branches.

 And, as today is the first day of the Festival of Lights, you might consider joining Jewish Voice for Peace.  Judy is a member, and we're making a donation today.

Kevin Gosztola on The Young Turks, Talking Abut the Bradley Manning Article 32 Hearing

Monday, December 19, 2011

Ferry Kalakala Sold to Investor for One Dollar

From the Seattle PI:

The adventures of the art-deco ferry Kalakala have taken another twist with the announced sale of the ferry.

Kalakala owner Steve Rodrigues posted a note on the ferry's website Sunday stating the boat was sold to an anonymous bidder for $1.

"There are specific moments of time that you cross the path of the right person with the right heart and soul and this person is the one," Rodrigues said.

While the investors wish to remain anonymous, Rodrigues said they are maritime-related company that has experience in renovating historical ships and have promised to restore the ferry to its original condition.

"He has given me his promise, he has embraced this vessel's history; it's rich future," Rodrigues said.
That future is to make her sea-worthy once again so she can sail from a permanent home-port and take passengers on cruises with food, drink and music. The first step will be to spend the next six months to repair the hull so it can be towed to a shipyard where the renovation will begin.

Rodrigues says the restoration is supposed to be finished sometime in about the next two to three years. He'll stay with the project and says he retains the authority to choose the Kalakala's home-port -- hopefully Seattle, he says, but other cities like San Francisco and San Diego will be  considered.

Monday is the deadline set by the Coast Guard for the vessel's thin and brittle hull to be improved and for a mooring and towing plan for the ferry.

It has to move from its location in Tacoma. The Coast Guard says the ferry is being evicted. Rodrigues has disputed that the boat is being evicted but acknowledges that it must be moved.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Extremely Lucky on Travel Weather

Wind turbines on the Price River, Utah
Saturday morning, Judy and I left my brother's house in Portland, Oregon.  We drove up the Columbia and Snake Rivers,  and down to Ogden, Utah, where we spent last night.  Sunday morning we drove from there to Albuquerque, New Mexico, arriving at her sister's house this evening, in time for a delicious dinner.

Considering how bad the weather might possibly be at this time of year, we've been fortunate, to say the least.  It was sunny and in the lower to mid-fifties in southwestern Colorado and northwestern New Mexico this afternoon.  Our daughter Julia will join us tomorrow.  A Chanukah feast is planned for Tuesday.

Judy had never been to Utah or Colorado before.  I had never been along some of the routes we took, so we were grateful for such picturesque weather.  There are so many more people in places like Salt Lake City, Ogden and Provo than I remember from previous trips.

So many routes I travelled in the 60s, that were neglected two-lane roads are now four or five-lane highways, it is almost baffling.  The population of the USA is almost double what it was when I last passed through Boise, Idaho.  And the population of the southwest has at least tripled since I last visited Farmington, NM.

How long will there be enough water for all these people?
Wilson's Arch, near Moab, Utah

Saturday, December 17, 2011

The Detainee - A Powerful Indie Film

This powerful short film was recently made byKyle Broom:
Director Kyle Broom wanted to take “Prevention of Injury (POI)” through the film festival circuit just like every other independent filmmaker, but this 20-minute film has the burden of being about something. The film’s main character is doesn’t have a name. He’s referred to in the credits only as “The Detainee.” Actor Jordan Butcher doesn’t look much like Bradley Manning, but this hardly matters. Butcher pretty much is Bradley Manning here. He’s locked in a white-walled cell in near solitary confinement where being “administratively upgraded” to suicide prevention status brings with it the tortures of restraint and sleep deprivation. Amnesty International has condemned the real Private Manning’s treatment as harsh and punitive. In this film, you get a glimpse of what it must be like. After a few screenings at various Occupy sites, Broom and producer Alexandra Spector posted their film on Vimeo to get as wide an audience as possible before Manning’s Article 32 hearing (a kind of military code preliminary hearing) set for Friday.

Prevention of Injury (POI) from kyle broom on Vimeo.

Extremely Well-Produced Occupy San Francisco-Oakland Flashmob

On 19 November 2011 over 100 dancers converged at Occupy SF - Oakland to dance the world awake.

The Snake River at the Oregon-Idaho Border

We're on the road.  

We couldn't ask for better weather than we're getting, for mid-December on a route that is taking us through  places where anything can happen this time of the year.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Catching Up with Andrée McLeod, Alaska's Leading Muckraker

Roses blooming in my brother's yard
We're in Portland, Oregon, the City of Roses and Occupy Portland, visiting my brother Steve and his family, before we hit the road south.  Steve's kids are showing up from around the country for the Holidays.  And it is bright, sunny, and, by Alaska standards, warm here - sunny and in the upper 40s.  His roses are blooming.

Andrée McLeod, perhaps Sarah Palin's most effective ethics nemesis, has updated me on issues she is pursuing, regarding the unlawful ways our state government operates.  Here are the updates:
I.  Regarding McLeod's complaint on the use of state emails by Frank Bailey, Jeanne Devon and Ken Morris,  McLeod has written to John J. Burns, Alaska's outgoing (January 2nd, 2012) Attorney General:
Dear Mr. Burns.

What is the status of the September 7, 2010 ethics complaint I filed relating to Frank Bailey’s misuse of official email documents for personal gain and benefit.  That complaint was filed over one year and 3 months ago?

What actions has the AG’s office taken against Frank Bailey’s co-authors, Ken Morris and Jeanne Devon, for their collaboration with Bailey that commenced in 2009, and included their possession, misuse and abuse of official, confidential, and yet undisclosed email documents that still belong to the state of Alaska until appropriately reviewed?

Andrée McLeod
II.  Andrée has written Attorney General Burns, in a followup to her November 14th letter to him, re: misuse of official positions and titles for partisan political purposes?  That letter stated:
Thank you for your (attached) reply Mr. Burns. If you would, please oblige my response…..

There was a time not that long ago when one knew that Alaska’s leaders worked more for Alaska’s interests than their own special interests.  They didn’t merely use our esteemed public offices of Governor and Lt. Governor as stepping stones for higher office and get-rich-quick schemes.

We have been debilitated long enough these last few years by the self-interested, reckless actions of our elected officials with their use of public funds to quell their inordinate sense of entitlement, self-dealing and self-aggrandizement.   Please help our state officials regain some semblance of proper responsible conduct, notwithstanding custom and practice, by siding towards the people’s interests.

Thank you.
Andrée McLeod
McLeod's December 26th followup states:
Dear AG Burns John

It’s been over a month since you’re received my request for documents re: Sean Parnell’s attached gift claims. Please consider, again, my request for copies of any ethics determination requests on file that relate to Parnell and the Aspen Institute’s programs and non-state funded trips, including the ($13,755) he took to the Middle East in March of 2008, before he announced his bid for the US House. 

Clearly, this transparent political partisan campaign attempt to disingenuously sprout his foreign relations bona fides less than 2 weeks before he announced he was running against Don Young, and the numerous inherent conflicts of interests re: partaking of the Aspen Institute’s ‘True Rising Star’ program, ought to have garnered some modicum of review by the Attorney General.  As you mentioned in your letter, they are Lt. Governor 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.  Whose interests were really served? The public’s or Parnell’s?
Aspen Institute Names Top Young Elected Officials to its Third Class of Aspen-Rodel Fellows
Washington, DC, November 1, 2007––Following an eight-month search involving input from over 1,000 business, political, and civic leaders, the Aspen Institute has selected a group of the nation's top young elected officials for a fellowship program honoring public leaders identified as "the true rising stars" of American politics.

May I have a copy(ies) of any of these determination(s) for Sean Parnell that relate to the Aspen Institute and is non-state funded trips, if it/they exist?  Or would you like a separate communication with my request?
Thank you for your time and attention on this matter.

Thank you for the opportunity to meet with you.  Your subsequent resignation was a disappointment.  I’ve dealt with many AG’s since Palin was elected.  Your rapprochement and unique lack of contempt towards this ordinary Alaskan was refreshing. 

Good luck!
Andrée McLeod   
III.  Additionally, Andrée has written the following short article, an open letter.  It was inspired, in part, by redent news that former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney was allowed to destroy very large amounts of public documents, as he was leaving office:
Since the fall of 2008, we've been made aware of the fact that our public records laws need to be updated.  Every year since then, I've appealed to you to address our public records laws and fix the outdated and gaping holes. 

I do so, again.

Granted, Alaska's declining revenues is a priority.  But surely, there must be some among the 60 of you who could handle bringing the public records preservation laws up to date with the digital era, so that the intent of our public records laws is satisfied, including emails and other digital documents.

When will you protect the people's right to access ALL public records and address this most fundamental and glaringly broken statute with regards to the protection and preservation of ALL our public records, including emails and other digital documents? 

Who among you will rise to make sure that the state is protected against liability by having all public documents secured, including emails and other digital documents?

Alaska's history depends on you to take action now, in order to protect and preserve Alaska's public records for tomorrow, including emails and other digital documents.

Andrée McLeod

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Duke University Study May Force Usabelli Wishbone Hill Coal Mine to Have to Completely Rework Project

While the local media is all but ignoring the fact that Usabelli has been conducting its preliminary work on the Wishbone Hill mountaintop removal coal mine illegally, new data, particularly a study just released by Duke University, raises serious questions about the long-term effect of that mine on the local downstream area's water quality:
The Charleston Gazette highlights a new study confirming the long-term water quality impacts of mountaintop removal mining. In the study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academies of Science (PNAS) this week, a team of Duke University researchers found that contamination from MTR mines is cumulative, and that mine sites abandoned decades ago still continue to contaminate waterways. 

The study authors looked at water quality at various points along West Virginia's Mud River, which flows past the massive Hobet mine and many others, and its tributaries. They found that mine waste pollution including selenium and sulfate increased along the river's course as it flowed past more and more MTR sites. In addition, sites supposedly reclaimed decades ago continued to contaminate the river.
Along with the Duke University study, other recent data suggests that local  Palmer and Wasilla residents' concerns about long-term and short-term health effects of Wishbone Hill and other proposed lower Matanuska River watershed mines may be - if anything - under-estimated:
Recent examinations of the health and environmental impacts of mountaintop mining – stripping the tops off of mountains to extract coal – has the practice looking pretty guilty. It apparently spikes birth defects, worsens chronic conditions like heart disease, and ruins land, and it doesn’t look like it will be clearing its name anytime soon. And PNAS has added one more strike to the list with new research that further demonstrates how mountaintop mining erodes long-term water quality and causes deformities in aquatic life.
Usabelli's own propaganda (PDF) on how the coal they will strip from Palmer's northern suburbs will be prepped for trucking through our over-crowded local arterials should raise alarms of anyone familiar with the new Duke University study's findings:
Controlled blasting techniques will be necessary to help fracture the conglomerate and rock layers, which can then be removed using excavators. UCM will use sequential delay blasting to limit the amount of explosives detonated at one time to reduce noise and vibration.

The overburden will then be removed and used according to the approved mining and reclamation plan. Finally, excavators will scoop up the coal and load it into trucks bound for the wash plant. After washing, the coal will be transported from the mine site to the customer.
The millions of tons of explosive-drenched, high mercury coal will be washed with billions of gallons of water.   The water will then enter the Moose Creek and other drainages' aquifers, to remain there, deforming plants, animals and people for generations to come, according to the Duke research team's studies.

Hopefully, Usabelli will be forced by the state or the US government to develop a plan that allows zero tolerance for the findings of these three new, critical studies.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

New MTV Video Welcomes Us to the Post 12-14-2011 ObamaLand

Cenk Uygur Interviews Glenn Greenwald on The Defense Authorization Bill

Congressional Tyranny, White House Surrender

--- by Ralph Nader

[see Note at the bottom of Mr. Nader's article]

Paraphrasing Shakespeare, something is rotten in the state of Capitol Hill. A majority of Congress is just about to put the finishing touches on an amendment to the military budget authorization legislation that will finish off some critical American rights under our Constitution.

Here is how two retired 4 star marine generals, Charles C. Krulak and Joseph P. Hoar, described in the New York Times the stripmining of your freedom to resist tyranny in urging a veto by President Obama:

"One provision would authorize the military to indefinitely detain without charge people suspected of involvement with terrorism, including United States citizens apprehended on American soil. Due process would be a thing of the past....

"A second provision would mandate military custody for most terrorism suspects. It would force on the military responsibilities it hasn't sought"..."for domestic law enforcement...."

"A third provision would further extend a ban on transfers from Guantanamo, ensuring that this morally and financially expensive symbol of detainee abuse will remain open well into the future."

All of Obama's leading military and security officials oppose this codification of the ultimate Big Brother power. Imagine allowing the government to deny people accused of involvement with terrorism (undefined), including U.S. citizens arrested within the United States, the right to a trial by jury. Imagine allowing indefinite imprisonment for those accused without even proffering charges against them. Goodbye 5th and 6th Amendments.

On some government agency's unbridled order: just pick them up, arrest them without charges and throw them into the military brig indefinitely. This atrocity deserves to be repeatedly condemned loudly throughout the land by Americans who believe in the rights of due process, habeas corpus, right to confront your accusers, right to a jury trial--in short, liberty and the just rule of law.

Some stalwart lawyers are speaking out soundly: They include Georgetown Law Professor, David Cole, George Washington University Law Professor, Jonathan Turley, Republican lawyer, Bruce Fein, former American Bar Association (2005-2006) president, Michael Greco, and the always alert lawyers at the civil liberties groups. Their well-grounded outcries are not awakening the citizenry.

Where are the one million lawyers? Where are the thousands of law professors? Where are the scores of law school deans? Are they not supposed to be our first constitutional responders?

Where is the Tea Party and its haughty rhetoric about the sanctity of constitutional liberty? Most of the Tea caucus voted for tyranny. Presidential candidate, Rep. Ron Paul has been an outspoken critic of this attack on our civil liberties.

The majority also voted to ratify a dictatorial procedure in the Congress, as well. This indefinite, arbitrary, open-ended dictatorial White House mandate was never subjected to even a House or Senate Committee hearing, and was not explained with any rationale known as legislative "findings." It was rammed through by the House and Senate Armed Services Committees without the Judiciary and Intelligence Committees invoking their concurrent jurisdiction for public hearings.

So extreme are these majority Congressional extremists, composed of both Republicans and renegade Democrats, the latter led by Senator Carl Levin, that the Obama Administration has to lecture them about the fundamental American principle that "our military does not patrol our streets."

It is not as if the imperial presidencies of Bush and Obama need any more encouragement and legitimization to continue on their lawless paths to criminal wars of aggression, unlawful surveillance, arbitrary slayings of innocents, wrongful imprisonments, and unauthorized spending. Instead of Congress using its constitutional authority regarding the war, appropriations and investigative powers, it formalizes its impotence by handing the "go for it" power to the Executive branch with the vaguest of language boundaries.

Usually there are a few Senators whose upfront defense of our Constitution would lead them to stand tall against the "Senate Club" and put a "hold" on this pernicious amendment. Civil libertarians hope that, before the final Senate vote in the rush to get home for the Holidays, Senators Rand Paul, Tom Harkin, Al Franken, Richard Blumenthal, Ron Wyden, Bernie Sanders, Jeff Merkley, Tom Coburn or Mike Lee would step forth. A "hold" could spark the demand for public hearings and floor debate to give the American people the time and information to react and ask themselves "how dare Congress take away our most fundamental rights?"

President Obama initially threatened to veto the entire bill and make Congress drop these pernicious dictates that so insult the memory and vision of our founding fathers. He is already signaling that he doesn't have the backbone to reject the false choice "between our safety and our ideals," that he asserted in his Inaugural Address.

Note:  Since Ralph Nader posted the above article, the White House has issued the following statement:
We have been clear that “any bill that challenges or constrains the President’s critical authorities to collect intelligence, incapacitate dangerous terrorists, and protect the Nation would prompt the President’s senior advisers to recommend a veto.” After intensive engagement by senior administration officials and the President himself, the Administration has succeeded in prompting the authors of the detainee provisions to make several important changes, including the removal of problematic provisions. While we remain concerned about the uncertainty that this law will create for our counterterrorism professionals, the most recent changes give the President additional discretion in determining how the law will be implemented, consistent with our values and the rule of law, which are at the heart of our country’s strength. This legislation authorizes critical funding for military personnel overseas, and its passage sends an important signal that Congress supports our efforts as we end the war in Iraq and transition to Afghan lead while ensuring that our military can meet the challenges of the 21st century.

As a result of these changes, we have concluded that the language does not challenge or constrain the President’s ability to collect intelligence, incapacitate dangerous terrorists, and protect the American people, and the President’s senior advisors will not recommend a veto. However, if in the process of implementing this law we determine that it will negatively impact our counterterrorism professionals and undercut our commitment to the rule of law, we expect that the authors of these provisions will work quickly and tirelessly to correct these problems.

No Credit to Wikileaks or Manning in TIME Magazine's Person-of-the-Year Tribute to Protesters

No credit to Wikileaks.

No mention of or tribute to Julian Assange, who was kept out of the spotlight at TIME last year, even though he was readers' choice for Person of the Year.

No mention of Bradley Manning, whose detainment for uncovering important aspects of why people are so outraged, begins a new stage tomorrow.

No mention of the thousands of peaceful Palestinian protesters, who have been protesting Occupation for generations now.

As good as TIME's long article on worldwide protest is - and the article is excellent in what it does cover - it skims over Bahreini protests, prefers to have a sidebar story on an Athenian "protest dog," rather than show any of the mutilated or dead Palestinian protesters, and certainly does not show the hundreds of people outside of Quantico last spring, or the hundreds being arrested outside the White House in the protests.

How important Julian Assange, Wikileaks, and probable information provided to them through Bradley Manning is to this ongoing, perhaps rapidly growing, global protest and action network are is difficult to assess accurately.  But to deny its importance is to not tell the full story of this important year.

Glenn Greenwald, in an op-ed that will appear in tomorrow's UK Guardian, assesses some of the important domestic fallout from Manning's and Wikileaks' uncovering of the truth:
When WikiLeaks was awarded Australia's most prestigious journalism award last month, the awarding foundation described how these disclosures created "more scoops in a year than most journalists could imagine in a lifetime".

By exposing some of the worst atrocities committed by US forces in Iraq, the documents prevented the Iraqi government from agreeing to ongoing legal immunity for US forces, and thus helped bring about the end of the war. Even Bill Keller, the former New York Times executive editor and a harsh WikiLeaks critic, credits the release of the cables with shedding light on the corruption of Tunisia's ruling family and thus helping spark the Arab spring.

In sum, the documentsManning is alleged to have released revealed overwhelming deceit, corruption and illegality by the world's most powerful political actors. And this is why he has been so harshly treated and punished.

Despite pledging to usher in "the most transparent administration in history", President Obama has been obsessed with prosecuting whistleblowers; his justice department has prosecuted more of them for "espionage" than all prior administrations combined.

The oppressive treatment of Manning is designed to create a climate of fear, to send a signal to those who in the future discover serious wrongdoing committed in secret by the US: if you're thinking about exposing what you've learned, look at what we did to Manning and think twice. The real crimes exposed by this episode are those committed by the prosecuting parties, not the accused. For what he is alleged to have given the world, Manning deserves gratitude and a medal, not a life in prison.

Like many in Tunisia, Egypt, Morocco, Libya, Bahrein, Yemen, Palestine and Syria, he is paying a steep price in his genuine commitment to justice:
[T]he leaks Manning allegedly engineered have generated enormous benefits: precisely the benefits Manning, if the allegations against him are true, sought to achieve. According to chat logs purportedly between Manning and the informant who turned him in, the private decided to leak these documents after he became disillusioned with the Iraq war. He described how reading classified documents made him, for the first time, aware of the breadth of the corruption and violence committed by his country and allies.

He explained that he wanted the world to know what he had learned: "I want people to see the truth … regardless of who they are … because without information, you cannot make informed decisions as a public." When asked by the informant why he did not sell the documents to a foreign government for profit, Manning replied that he wanted the information to be publicly known in order to trigger "worldwide discussion, debates, and reforms".
Unlike most at TIME Magazine, many of us can be very proud of our open and meaningful support of Manning,  and of thousands of others here and around the world, who, as Bradley put it, "want people to see the truth … regardless of who they are … because without information, you cannot make informed decisions as a public."

image - The Protester Collage, by Philip Munger