Thursday, June 30, 2011

New Trial Dates Set for Vic Kohring and Pete Kott

The Federal government announced this morning that dates for new trials by former Alaska legislators Vic Kohring and Pete Kott have been set:

U.S. District Judge Ralph Beistline on Wednesday set a tentative trial date of Oct. 24 for Victor Kohring and of Nov. 28 for Pete Kott. Both trials are to take place in Anchorage.

Earlier this year, a federal appeals court overturned both men's convictions and ordered new trials for them after determining prosecutors had withheld evidence.

Both Kohring and Kott, who were represented separately by expensive, high-profile attorneys in their 2007 Anchorage trials, have qualified for public defenders in their new trials.


On Monday [June 13th], federal court magistrate judge John Roberts agreed to have Kohring represented by the federal public defender’s office. Kohring has said ever since his release that he has been all but penniless, relying on friends for transportation.

It seems to be a common state for Kohring, who famously slept in his Juneau office to save on his expenses. His defense at trial was that he was accepting a gift from a friend when he got money to pay for his daughter’s Girl Scout uniform and Easter presents from Bill Allen, head of the now-defunct oil field services company VECO.

After Kohring pleaded poverty at his Monday morning hearing, Roberts said the Seattle public defender who represented Kohring before the 9th Circuit, Michael Filipovic, could continue as his attorney at government expense. Speaking by telephone, Filipovic said he would likely need appointment of a second attorney for a retrial, but that issue was left unresolved.


Former Alaska House Speaker Pete Kott came closer to a retrial on corruption charges Friday [June 3rd] when a judge appointed an attorney to represent him at government expense and set an aggressive schedule for pretrial motions.

U.S. Magistrate Judge John Roberts of Anchorage ordered motions filed by June 20 but acknowledged the date could slip significantly if Kott's defense waives the normal 70-day speedy trial rule. Otherwise, a trial date in August, assuming prosecutors continue to press the case, would dictate the quick timetable.
Roberts directed prosecutors and the defense to meet by Thursday and, if possible, reach consensus on a retrial date.

The hearing followed rulings by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that said Kott of Eagle River and fellow former Republican House member Vic Kohring of Wasilla didn't get fair trials in 2007 because federal prosecutors failed to turn over favorable evidence. The appellate judges sent the cases back to U.S. District Judge John Sedwick for new trials.

Kohring's case is trailing Kott's through the legal system -- the 9th Circuit formally sent Kohring's case back to Anchorage on Thursday, starting his 70-day clock a few days after Kott's began ticking on May 31.

Kott's 25-minute teleconferenced hearing circumnavigated the country, with Kott appearing from Juneau, where he rents an apartment, his attorney in her office in Seattle, and prosecutors in the courtroom and on the phone from Washington, D.C.

Responding to questions from Roberts, Kott said he couldn't afford to hire his own attorney. He owns the 2001 truck that he used in his flooring business, doesn't work and isn't looking for a job. He isn't married, has two credit cards which he keeps current, and swore he hasn't recently stashed away any cash. Among his IRA, life insurance and other long-term investments, he told Roberts he could raise about $200,000, but Roberts didn't direct him to cash out those assets.
Roberts appointed the lawyer who won Kott's appeal, Sheryl Gordon McCloud of Seattle, to represent him. She had asked that a second Seattle attorney, experienced in trials, also be appointed, but Roberts said he thought the law allowed two appointments only in capital cases.
Since the above was written, Sheryl Gordon McLeod withdrew, being replaced by Federal public defender, Rich Curtner, who has since been replaced by Peter Carmiel of Seattle. So Kott is on his third attorney in less than a month, in series though, not in parallel.

Kott served over a year on his initial sentence, Kohring almost a year. Both were financially devastated by their convictions. Based on my talks and emails with Vic since his release, he has also been emotionally devastated. What sort of an impact the change in their circumstances since the 2007 trials may have, there is no doubt that in these retrials, the defense will want to know far more about the relationship of former Veco owner Bill Allen and law enforcement agencies in regard to the widely published allegations of sexual abuse of minors surrounding Allen's name. Some of the evidence withheld from defendants in the first trials had to do with how the Feds dealt with Allen's messes:
A three-judge panel from the San Francisco-based appellate court said prosecutors withheld critical information from Kohring's defense attorneys, the same issue that resulted in dismissal of the corruption conviction of U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens in 2008.

In the case of Kohring, a seven-term conservative Republican from Wasilla, the appeals court ruled 2-1 that the errors by government prosecutors weren't flagrant enough to warrant dismissing charges outright.

The dissent was from Judge Betty Fletcher, who said the entire case should be thrown out over "egregious violations of basic prosecutorial responsibilities." She said Kohring should be freed "from further anguish and uncertainty."

Chief among the undisclosed evidence, the judges said, was the Anchorage Police investigation of the FBI's chief witness over allegations he had sex with underage girls, then induced at least one to lie about it under oath. Kohring should have been allowed to use that evidence to challenge the credibility of the witness, multimillionaire Anchorage businessman Bill Allen, the court said.

Kohring began serving a three-and-a-half-year prison sentence in June 2008. He was freed on bail a year later to pursue his appeal.

A Justice Department spokeswoman in Washington, D.C., said attorneys there were reviewing the 9th Circuit order before deciding their next move.

The prosecutions of the Alaska public corruption cases were directed by the Justice Department's Public Integrity Section, which underwent a wholesale shake-up after the Stevens case. Three of its former attorneys, along with two prosecutors loaned to the investigation from the U.S. Attorney's Office in Anchorage, are under investigation for criminal contempt by a special prosecutor appointed by the judge who tried Stevens. A fourth former Public Integrity attorney committed suicide.
These trials have made Alaska history. For several reasons. Whatever history they have made, they certainly did not end the corruptibility of Alaska politicians. A longtime friend in Juneau called last night, describing the utter callousness toward Alaskans shown by the oil companies and mining concerns in the way the lobbying just went down in the special session on coastal zone management. If the Feds spent five percent of the money on surveillance of our legislators and governor during the now-ended farcical session, as they had on Polar Pen, we might have us an entirely new set of corruption trials.

Then again, maybe not. In the post-Citizens United realm of campaign financing, lobbyists, big businesses and politicians have been given much greater freedom in how the latter are manipulated than Bill Allen had when he did what he had to with our lawmakers.

Judge Ralph Beastline will preside over the retrials of Vic Kohring and Pete Kott.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Service of Remembrance for James Crump to be held Wednesday evening

--- by Bent Alaska

There will be a Service of Remembrance for James Crump at 7 PM at St. Mary’s Episcopal Church at Lake Otis and Tudor tomorrow night (Wednesday, June 29), while his family is still in town. People are encouraged to bring something for a light potluck after the service.

Members of James’ family were present earlier tonight at the Anchorage Assembly chambers as the Assembly passed a unanimous resolution remembering, recognizing, and honoring James’ life. Resolution AR No 2011-183 honors James’ work as nurse for Municipality of Anchorage Department of Health & Human Services and as loved member of Anchorage LGBT community. His family members were joined by numerous friends, present and former coworkers, and members of the LGBTQA community. Bent Alaska will post video and full text of the resolution in a later post.

Thom Hartmann on RT TV Discusses Ongoing Nuclear Plant Emergencies

Alice Walker on Tuesday's Democracy Now

Monday, June 27, 2011

Preparing to Live Blog the 2011 Gaza Flotilla

[this post was prepared for firedoglake, where I live blogged the 2010 Gaza relief flotilla, and hope to live blog the 2011 flotilla. The image at left is of a captured IDF commando, on his way to medical treatment on the MV Mavi Marmara, at the same time IDF commandoes were summarily executing Turkish and American participants on the upper deck]

I. Last year, on the night of May 29-30, as the Gaza bound flotilla headed by the Turkish cruise ship, MV Mavi Marmara, approached the coast of the eastern Mediterranean, firedoglake was able to provide the best real time coverage of the interception and boarding of the vessels. I had started a live blog diary on the evening of the 29th, at MyFDL's predecessor, The Seminal. Siun was able to take over, with a front-page diary. Reading back through those diaries now sends a chill down my back:

Live Blogging the Gaza Flotilla’s Run to the Gaza Coast Or …

Israeli Warships Try To Block Wheelchairs and Schoolbooks for Gaza

In 2010 there wasn't as much attention being drawn to the flotilla as there seems to be this year. For sure, the mainstream media is avoiding it as best possible, but the depth and width of discussion of the issues surrounding the perceived need for the 2011 flotilla in alternative media is heartening. There are many reasons for this.

A case in point is Glenn Greenwald's interest in the flotilla today. His essay, U.S., Israel escalate threats against flotilla, including U.S. citizens, concentrates partially on the subject matter of my Saturday MyDFL diary, Obama Administration Threatens to Jail 87-year-old Holocaust Survivor, Others – Updated X 2. The U.S. State Department warnings to Americans on the Gaza flotilla on Wednesday and Friday last week were just the sort of idiocy Greenwald assails best:
The perception that Clinton endorsed possible Israeli violence against Americans is bolstered by the conduct of the U.S. Government in the wake of Israel's attack on the prior Gaza flotilla, when Israel killed 9 people, including the unarmed 19-year-old American citizen (and Turkish citizen) Furkan Dogan. While most governments instinctively condemn the killing of their own unarmed citizens by foreign armies -- Turkey was furious at Israel for months and world leaders in virtual consensus harshly condemned the Israeli aggression -- the Obama administration almost immediately took Israel's side, culminating with Joe Biden's disgusting rhetorical question, posed before the American teenager was even buried: "what's the big deal here"?

Worse, the Clinton State Department is now explicitly threatening Americans who participate in the flotilla with criminal prosecution (h/t Jason Ditz):

The United States on Friday warned activists against plans to send a new aid flotilla to challenge Israel's blockade of the Gaza Strip, saying it would be irresponsible and dangerous. . . . "We underscore that delivering or attempting or conspiring to deliver material support or other resources to or for the benefit of a designated foreign terrorist organization, such as Hamas, could violate U.S. civil and criminal statutes and could lead to fines and incarceration," [State Department Spokesperson Victoria] Nuland said.

Greenwald also is incensed (as am I) that a former Bush speech writer, Joshua Treviño, appears to be cheerleading for the IDF to kill Americans in the flotilla. Though some blog commentators and commenters see this as something new, a measure of last ditch desperation, it is not. There have always been some Americans whose blind support for Israel pushes them over edges. For instance, last year, in response to the 2010 flotilla debacle, Jennifer Rubin wrote at Commentary:
if you are not with Israel, you are against her. And if you do not oppose with every fiber of your being and every instrument at your disposal that which intends the Jewish state harm, you are enabling her destroyers.

Creepy, huh? Rubin is often like that. Perhaps this is part of why she got a job five months after that article at Commentary, at the Washington Post. Where she continues to be, uh, creepy.

II. Part of the reason for heightened interest in the 2011 flotilla is that the eastern Mediterranean of 2011 is different from that of a year ago. To the south of Israel and Gaza, Egypt is in the midst of throwing off decades of misrule by Gen. Mubarak. To the direct north of Israel, Hezbollah is a more powerful force in Lebanese politics than they were in 2010. And to the north of Lebanon, Syria is in upheaval that may lead to the demise of a regime even more onerous than that of Mubarak. The same tools we saw used by 2010 flotilla participants - blogs, facebook, twitter and cell phones (with their cameras) - were used extensively in the events in Tunisia, Egypt, Bahrein and Syria.

On the surface it may seem that the events in Tunisia and Egypt are far more important than any issue the Gaza flotillas may actually be able to determine. However, both Egyptian and Israeli efforts to ease aspects of the siege of the world's biggest open air prison camp can be partially credited to the heightened knowledge of what is happening in Gaza by the coverage of last year's, and of this year's flotillas.

The coverage Monday morning by Democracy Now, of flotilla preparations at the port of Piraeus, just south of Athens, which is in almost as much turmoil as Cairo was in February, showed that the kind of activism against the borg which the flotillas represent, is resonating in many settings:

So, in a sense, in 2010, the flotilla movement seemed somewhat isolated, representative mostly of continuing attempts to break the siege of Gaza. This year, it is part of a tremendous mix of grassroots activities aimed at challenging egregious governmental practices, in the eastern Mediterranean, and globally.

III. What I hope to do this year is get a diary going at MyFDL when the flotilla appears to be getting close to where the Israeli military forces will feel they have to respond. Siun here at fdl will be ready, as last year, to take the ongoing story to the front page. Max Blumenthal may help us directly. I'm hoping that Mondoweiss will be able to reflect what is happening more rapidly in 2011 than was the case there in 2010. They have mods, but no mods on the web are as awesome or as rapidly flexible as those of firedoglake. I may set up a diary at Daily Kos that directs people to fdl's coverage.

Wednesday, I'll post a diary here that gives a comprehensive blog, twitter and facebook list for organizations and individuals who will be covering this historic encounter.

If you have ideas or suggestions that you think might help, please comment.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

So Sad. Tomorrow is a New Day

full accounts of the tragic death of James Crump at Saturday's Anchorage Pridefest Parade may be read at:

Bent Alaska, where Mel Green has posted this prayer:
I pray for you, James, and for your friends and family.
I pray for you who were in the car that struck him, and for all who were witnesses.
I pray for all of us.
I pray that those who hate us open their hearts so far as not to use this death, this loss, as another avenue of hate. I know that’s asking a lot, but I pray for it anyway.
What Do I Know
The Immoral Minority
The Mudflats

image - a flag near Castro Street, after a memorial for Harvey Milk

New PA Poll - Should Obama Prosecute Americans Who Participate in the 2011 Gaza Flotilla?

This kid is a terrorist.

Well, maybe he wasn't before the white phosphorus your tax dollars sent the Israelis to lay down upon his head engulfed him. But he survived. If you want to help him become something in this world after the trauma your money inflicted upon him degraded his life, you might end up in prison.

To limit his options, Obama chose this week to further limit yours to go beyond Obama and help him. He wants Americans seeking to lift the siege of this kid's homeland, which is the biggest prison camp in recent human history, to be subject to felony prosecution for materially supporting terrorism. The argument his administration is presenting is that the governing authority in Gaza is Hamas, which was elected to run the place after we pressured the Palestinian Authority to run free and open elections about five years ago. They actually did that.

The people had two alternatives: Keep the notoriously corrupt Fatah in power, or hope that the Islamist Hamas would improve their lot, which was miserable then.

They chose Hamas.

On Friday, the U.S. State Department announced that:
attempts to break the [Gaza] blockade are “irresponsible and provocative” and that Israel has well-established means of delivering assistance to the Palestinian residents of Gaza. It noted that the territory is run by the militant Hamas group, a U.S. designated foreign terrorist organization, and that Americans providing support to it are subject to fines and jail.
The threat to jail flotilla participants is important to me. The criteria Obama is applying here - delivering letters to people showing support that they might be liberated not just from Israeli besiegement, but from Hamas fundamentalism - cuts a wide swath.

My previous and ongoing human rights activities are well within the swath Obama seems to be indicating are subject to felony prosecution. I've raised money for organizations before Hamas took power in Gaza, that Hamas now administers. I've raised money since Hamas took control in Gaza, which Hamas has to oversee on some level or another - the rebuilding of the IDF-destroyed Anglican Hospital in Gaza Ciy, for instance. And I've materially contributed to the 2010 and 2011 Gaza flotillas. I'm no less involved in this than the flotilla participants themselves.

Am I ready to go to jail for this cause? Absolutely.

Is there much of a chance I will be prosecuted? No.

Am I reluctant to write about this after Friday's announcement? I'm writing about it.

But what do you think? Should the flotilla participants be prosecuted for materially supporting terrorism?

Three Americans Obama Wants to Send to Prison for Delivering Letters to Imprisoned Kids - Part One

The 2011 Gaza flotilla is struggling against the tides of Israeli and American pressure to keep public awareness of the biggest prison camp since the siege of Leningrad out of the public eye. Obama has threatened to imprison any American who participates in an effort to deliver letters of support to Gazan Palestinians, and has stated, through his State Department mouthpieces, that if the Israelis kill them, it will be just like last year - tough fucking shit.

Here are the first three Americans I'll present to you, who are willing to put their futures on the line to support Palestinian freedom.

Ridgely Fuller:

Henry Norr:

Richard Levy:

It is quite obvious that Obama needs to make an example out of these terrible people. I'll show you more of these supporters of terrorism over the next few days.

Come Join Us Sunday at Wendy Williamson Auditorium to Help Japanese Quake, Tsunami and Meltdown Victims

click on the image to enlarge

Friday, June 24, 2011

Pat Johnson for Mat-Su Borough Assembly Campaign Kickoff Saturday

Bring your friends and your appetites Saturday 3-5 p.m. to

Pat Johnson's
Campaign Kick-off Party
Saturday, June 25 • 3:00pm – 5:00pm
Picnic and BBQ
Newcomb Park at Wasilla Lake
891 E. Parks Highway
Wasilla, AK

Pat Johnson, current Planning Commissioner and former Platting Board Member is running for the Mat-Su Borough Assembly seat now held by Mark Ewing (basically the Wasilla district). He will be making decisions on a projects and development all over the borough if elected, and he has a good shot at winning.

Meet Pat. Eat solstice picnic foods and enjoy Wasilla's beautiful waterfront park near Pizza Hut.

Visit Pat's website here.

Bring the family and enjoy the day!

Japan Relief Concert at UAA May Be Summer 2011's Best Concert

John Ken Nuzzo, who was a huge success last winter as Rudolpho in the Anchorage Opera's production of Giacomo Puccini's La Boheme, will be one of the many featured musicians in this Sunday's relief concert at the University of Alaska Anchorage, for victims of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan in March:

Sunday, June 26th - 4:00 p.m.
Wendy Williamson Auditorium

Internationally acclaimed Japanese tenor John Ken Nuzzo, who has performed with the Metropolitan Opera under the direction of James Levine and also extensively in Europe, will visit Anchorage on Sunday, June 26, as the featured artist in the UAA Music Department's "Japan Relief Concert" at the Wendy Williamson Auditorium at 4 p.m. Nuzzo will be joined by pianist Dr. Timothy Smith in a program that will include Romantic opera arias, music from Hollywood and Broadway and an appearance by the Anchorage Youth Choir directed by Dr. Grant Cochran. The concert's main sponsor is Alaska Airlines, with supporting sponsorship from other businesses and individuals.

John Nuzzo is well known to Anchorage audiences, having performed the lead role in Anchorage Opera's "La Boheme" to great acclaim last season. He also performed with pianist Smith in concert in Nagoya, Japan last August; the two recently gave a hugely successful concert this past January in Anchorage. Nuzzo will also be performing his signature "Shinsengumi" theme from the Japanese NHK television drama series of the same name. Nuzzo has received the Eberhard Waechter medal, awarded to promising singers in Austria, as well as the Idemitsu award in Japan.

Dr. Timothy Smith's skills at the piano have been appreciated by Anchorage audiences for many years; Smith recently was featured soloist with the Anchorage Symphony in Liszt's Concerto No. 2 in A Major. Smith has given over 50 concerts in Asia and will depart in July for another concert tour of China, with performances scheduled in Lanzhou, Qingdao, Chongqing, Guangzhou, Suzhou and Tianjin.

Dr. Grant Cochran, veteran conductor of the Anchorage Concert Chorus, has been recently hired as assistant professor of Vocal/Choral studies at UAA. The youth choir for this event will be singing three selections to close the concert, "Furusato," "Give Me Wings" and "We Are The World." The concert will also feature a slideshow of photographs from the devastation in Ishinomaki by photographer and aid worker Bob Williams.

Admission to the event is by donation; all proceeds from the concert will go to support the Japan Red Cross.

Another Hands Across the Sand in Anchorage Saturday

From Lindsay Hajduk:

Citizens of Anchorage to Participate in Nationwide Gathering Against

Offshore Drilling

Over 75 People to Join Hands at Point Woronzof

WHAT: Local "Hands Across The Sand" gathering in solidarity with events around the world to raise awareness about the dangers of offshore drilling and call on leaders to end our oil addiction and move America into a clean energy future. There will be a outdoor gathering at Point Woronzof to call for clean energy now. Last year’s event had over 130 people in attendance.

WHO: Over 50 Anchorage-area residents are expected to attend, with press statements at 11:30am by:

§ Mae Hank, Native Village of Point Hope tribal member

§ Kate McKeown, Energy Efficiency Coordinator, Alaska Conservation Alliance

WHEN: Saturday, June 26, event goes from 11am-1pm with BBQ and info booths

11:30 press event, noon joining hands at the beach

WHERE: Point Woronzof park - Continue West on Northern Lights Blvd. and meet up with the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail (mile post 3.5) near the Ted Stevens International Airport. Parking is available. See the Google Map

***GREAT VISUALS INCLUDING A LARGE GROUP OF CITIZENS JOINING HANDS ON THE BEACH, SIGNS, AND BIODEISEL BUS. Another group will gather at Westchester Lagoon’s Covy Cafe at 11AM and bike ride to Point Woronzof***

Obama Threatens to Jail 87-year-old Holocaust Survivor

In an announcement many will find stunning, the Obama administration has upped its threat level to Americans participating in the 2011 Gaza relief flotilla:
The U.S. State Department said Friday that attempts to break the blockade are "irresponsible and provocative" and that Israel has well-established means of delivering assistance to the Palestinian residents of Gaza. It noted that the territory is run by the militant Hamas group, a U.S. designated foreign terrorist organization, and that Americans providing support to it are subject to fines and jail.
The Americans "providing support" include:
Hedi Epstein, an 87-year-old Holocaust survivor

Alice Walker, beloved poet, writer and Pulitzer Prize winner

Ray McGovern, former CIA intelligence expert and staff member for seven presidents

Col. Ann Wright, 1997 recipient of the U.S. State Department's Award for Heroism

Medea Benjamin, perhaps America's most prominent peace activist
and over 30 other Americans.

Here's a link to the U.S. State Department's June 22nd warning in its entirety. Here is the pertinent part of the Wednesday announcement regarding flotilla participants:
The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) strictly controls the crossing points between Israel and the Gaza Strip. The security environment within Gaza, including its border with Egypt and its seacoast, is dangerous and volatile. U.S. citizens are advised against traveling to Gaza by any means, including via sea. Previous attempts to enter Gaza by sea have been stopped by Israeli naval vessels and resulted in the injury, death, arrest, and deportation of U.S. citizens. U.S. citizens participating in any effort to reach Gaza by sea should understand that they may face arrest, prosecution, and deportation by the Government of Israel. The Government of Israel has announced its intention to seek ten-year travel bans to Israel for anyone participating in an attempt to enter Gaza by sea. On May 31, 2010, nine people were killed, including one U.S. citizen, in such an attempt. The U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv and the U.S. Consulate General in Jerusalem are not able to provide consular assistance in Gaza or on the high seas or coastal waters.

From December 27, 2008, through January 17, 2009, Israel conducted a military operation in Gaza. Israel and Hamas, a State Department-designated Foreign Terrorist Organization that violently seized power in Gaza in June 2007, declared separate truces to end the fighting. Small clashes continue to occur along the boundary of the Gaza Strip. Rockets and mortars are still fired into Israel from Gaza, and Israel continues to conduct military operations inside Gaza, including airstrikes. Israel has also declared an exclusion zone inside Gaza along its boundary with Israel and has taken lethal measures against individuals who enter it.
The State Department web site has no link to the Friday announcement yet. I'll post it when it appears.

Saradise Lost - Book 5 - Chapter 80: Palin Popularity Polled in Charleston SC

hat tip - Andrew Sullivan

Thoughts on the Barnie Frank - Ron Paul Drug Bill

U. S. Congressional Representatives Barnie Frank and Ron Paul introduced a bill in Congress Thursday that would take the U. S. government out of the role of enforcing marijuana laws. I'm a longtime proponent of major drug reforms, and the Frank-Paul bill looks interesting:
Two House members introduced a bill Thursday that would remove marijuana from the list of federal controlled substances and cede to the states enforcement of laws governing pot.

The legislation would eliminate marijuana-specific penalties under federal law, but would maintain a ban on transporting marijuana across state lines. It would allow individuals to grow and sell marijuana in states that make it legal.
I first encountered marijuana when I was in the U. S. Army, in early 1966. Over 45 years ago. Since then, our country has spent billions, perhaps trillions, enriching the culture of prohibition, and institutionalizing that deeply in the American economy and legal system:
Well-off white kid gets busted. She hires an attorney for a few thousand, shows up for hearings, goes through treatment, gets her sentence and conviction cleared.

Destitute Latina girl gets busted. She can't hire an attorney. Gets stuck with overbooked public defender. Goes to jail. Gets out. Finds getting work hard. Can never vote.
The drug war has failed on almost every level. It is not about to turn some sort of corner. The people it has enriched are more powerful than ever, whether they be drug testing companies in Anchorage or Mexican billionaires.

I started blogging in 2007 with a blog on the Vic Kohring trial, with one of my closest friends, Fred James. Fred is one of the most ardent supporters of Rep. Paul there is (the image at top is of Paul and James at the 2008 Washington State GOP Convention).

Fred doesn't drink or smoke marijuana. But he has long stood for rational laws controlling their use. In 1989, the Municipality of Anchorage upped its marijuana laws in the wake of a state decision to relax them.

Here's Fred's 1989 testimony before the Anchorage Assembly on the law being considered. A genuine Alaska classic:

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Miko Peled - The General's Son

Miko Peled's father was one of Israel's most famous generals. After the Six-Day War, Gen. Matti Peled "signalled his own commitment to truth by rubbishing Zionism’s version of events. He did so with the statement that there was not a threat to Israel’s existence and that it was a war of Israeli choice (i.e. aggression not self-defense). General Peled was also one of a number of prominent Jews who called soon after the 1967 war for the immediate establishment of a Palestinian state on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip."

Miko thinks the two-state "solution" is no longer viable. His blog is dedicated to getting his views on this out there.

He recently has been shown on a 28-minute video that articulates his views on a secular state that includes Israelis and Palestinians, with no special privileges for any cultural group or religious sect over those of others. (hat tip to Annie):


Every gardening year has its surprises - some good, some not so good. Among this year's nice surprises is the size and health of my tomato plants. I'm standing between two Black Cherry tomato plants that are reaching toward being seven feet tall.

Below is a closeup of about a half dozen Stupice tomatoes. They will start ripening after we have about three sunny days. They are by far the earliest tomatoes I've discovered for growing in the greenhouse.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Congressmen Sue Obama - and a New PA Poll on the Constitutionality of the Libya War

I. I wish more so-called Alaska progressive bloggers would seriously engage in issues like the torture of Bradley Manning, the growth of anti-Democratic tendencies in the realm of personal liberties under Obama, the betrayal under the current president of Alaska Natives' aspirations in terms of getting fish into our rivers, and Obama's overtly obvious obsiquiousness from spring 2010 until the present, to companies like British Petroleum, for instance. Or the lack of action by this administration against those who have all but brought our economy to its knees, as he seems to choose to instead coddle and promote some of their most questionable advocates.


A post on Bristol's face job will get you 150 comments and a paypal donation or two. Fukushima concerns about the health of Alaskans get you jack shit.

A post on whether or not Todd is stepping out might get one 200 comments and a few paypal donations. Reporting on Palestinian rights from Alaska gets one disinvited to a lot of things. And a more than a few hate comments.

Raving about the importance of a third-rate book by a guy who would most likely still be a hitman for Palin had he not gotten too close to her voracious tire treads, will get you hundreds of "attaboy, Frank!" comments and a dozen paypal contributions. Asking questions about Bailey and where he's coming from or going to, gets you unfriended, untwittered and blocked from access to the information stream of people who tout themselves as being among Alaska's leading supporters of transparency and full internet access.

II. Arguably, the most progressive member of our U.S. Congress is Dennis Kucinich. (Donna Edwards may be on her way to go beyond him. I would support a Donna Edwards draft against Obama in the 2012 primaries, but she's too sensible to go there.) He's at least as anti-war as I am, and is consistent, whether the occupant of the White House is a Shrub or an Obama.

He's gathered some other U.S. House members together in a lawsuit against Obama. It probably won't get further than a pickoff play between first and second base, but it is - at least on Kucinich's part - the epitome of a legislator's effort to help retain what once was a system of government with three equal branches.

What do you think? Is this Libya War constitutional or not? You can vote on it here:

Is Obama's continuing pursuit of the Libya War constitutional? - yes or no.

Has the Revolution Begun in Europe?

I'm not sure it has, but with over 44% youth unemployment, nobody in Spain wants the country to owe even more to the banksters than they already do.

The same goes with Greece, where the banksters managed earlier in the week to keep the parliament from going fully against the bankster-friendly reorganization. I expect public outcry to go against that if the legislators' come up with an onerous solution.

In Italy, last week, a national referendum declared against more nuclear plants, and for less immunity for government officials from corruption probes.

Whether the revolution has begun or not, it is a pretty cool video.

Michio Kaku on Fukushima - "They Lied to Us" - Warns of More Earthquakes. Earth Complies with a 6.7 One

Sure enough

A magnitude-6.7 earthquake rattled northeast Japan on Thursday morning, the U.S. Geological Survey reported.

It was the same area of the Pacific where a massive magnitude 9 quake hit on March 11, triggering a deadly tsunami. At least 23,000 people were killed or left missing in those disasters, which destroyed hundreds of homes, offices and factories in northeastern Japan.

Japan's Kyodo news agency reported that the Japan Meteorological Agency issued a tsunami warning for Iwate Prefecture.

The U.S. Pacific Tsunami warning center said that it did not expect a destructive Pacific-wide tsunami.

There were no immediate reports of damage or injuries in the quake that hit at 6:50 a.m. Thursday (2150 GMT Wednesday).

It was offshore from Honshu island, and was some 325 miles (524 kilometers) northeast of Tokyo, the USGS said. The quake was 19.9 miles (32 kilometers) deep.

Come Learn About the Proposed Matanuska River Area Coal Developments This Evening at the Menard Sports Center in Wasilla

Saradise Lost - Book 5 - Chapter 79: Palin Sets One-Day Record for Quitting - Aborts Bus Tour in Middle of 2nd Trimester, Aborts Sudan Trip - Updated

Sarah Palin, fresh on the heels of having some shadowy spokesperson announce she has aborted her buss tour (for now? - until next week? - until next month?), has announced she will not be going to Africa:
Former Alaska governor Sarah Palin has canceled a planned trip next month to war-ravaged Sudan, one of the most unstable nations in the world and the focus of passionate advocacy within the U.S. evangelical community.

Palin scrapped her plans to visit the North African country for scheduling reasons, several sources close to Palin said. She was planning to travel with Franklin Graham, the son of evangelical leader Billy Graham, as well as Fox News personality Greta Van Susteren to the July 9 independence ceremony of South Sudan, the sources said.

Joe McGinniss, somewhat prophetically, predicted yesterday that this would happen, in a column titled, appropriately enough, "Sarah Palin Can't Possibly Be Going to Sudan Next Month."

Earlier today, in the wake of the bus tour quitting announcement, the news aggregator memeorandum looked like this, showing 28 articles appearing about her "quitting halfway through":
Is there anything else she can quit today?

I'm wondering if there may be a connection between these sudden schedule changes and Malia Litman's April request to the state for an investigation of Palin for tax fraud regarding the tax write-off for her political advertisement that was masked as some sort of reality show, or from her May request to the chief Federal criminal investigator for Alaska, to look into the same matter. At the time, Litman's request struck me as valid and important.

Update: Palin claims she is on jury duty. Makes sense

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Inuksuit by John Luther Adams in Harlem's Morningside Park Today

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Composer John Luther Adams likes to be in his hometown of Fairbanks on summer solstice for the midnight sun game by the Fairbanks Gold Panners, his home team. This year, he is in New York City, for what may be the most important performance yet of his 2009 masterpiece, Inuksuit. As the central work of 2011's Make Music New York series of concerts, sonic installations and associated events, Adams' Inuksuit was performed by 99 percussionists, spread throughout Harlem's Morningside Park, near Columbia University.

Here's his 2009 description of the work, as produced by videographer and photographer Evan Hurd, for The New Yorker:

The work, ideally performed outdoors, has also been performed indoors. Here it is, being performed in February, at the Park Avenue Armory, in its first indoor performance, with 78 musicians. The video, by hpaulmoon, is excellent:

Here's Adams, explaining the work, at an outdoor performance at Furman University in April, 2010:

Today's outdoor performance in NYC was very well attended. It is difficult to adequately take in something like this outdoors, especially when the 99 performers are spread out so fully in the park setting, most playing independently, or resonating with another nearby musician, unless one surrenders oneself to John's concept of deep listening. In that sense, it may be Adams' most interesting and valuable work.

Here's the best video I've found from the Morningside Park performance. Marked "Part 1," it seems to be incomplete:

I can't wait to help John put it together in Southcentral Alaska.

Yesterday was the world premiere of UAF Museum of the North film curator Leonard Kamerling's documentary about John's art, Strange and Sacred Noise, at Columbia University's Miller Theater.

top image - JLA enjoying the introduction to the work today at Morningside Park. He tells me that even though he is missing the Goldpanners' game tonight, "Wednesday night Cindy and I will see the Brooklyn Cyclones game."

Dirty Water - The World's Oceans Under Enormous Threat

More from the BBC.

Tamra Spivey, partially in response to this report, reposted this LA Punk masterpiece by Lucid Nation, earlier today:

Pressure Cooker

Sewage spillage into the bay
what's the bacteria level today
yesterday I heard a surfer say
she saw needles in the waves

dirty water
eerie mercury gleam
dirty water
it all ends up downstream

don't drink from the river
it's not even safe to swim
industrial waste and that toxic taste
and those fishes with the freaky fins

dirty water
too many toxins to list
dirty water
poisonous progress

dirty water
too many toxins to list
dirty water
poisonous progress

tangy chlorine showers
rain stains the window pane
the Ganges ain't just in India anymore

dirty water
too many toxins to list
dirty water
tastes like something died in this
Tamra Spivey: vocal
Ronnie Pontiac: guitar
Justin Citron: guitar
Margrit Maldonado: bass
Rob Cournoyer: drums
Darren Carter: sitar, guitar

Engineered by Darren Carter
Mixed by Phoenix LaFollette
Video by Darren Carter

As Mat-Su Coal Battles Heat Up, A Big Public Meeting Wednesday in Wasilla

Both the pro-coal development camp and the anti-open-pit-mine-only-hundreds-of-meters-from-healthy-communities camp are gearing up for this fight. The best article so far on how the battle lines are being drawn, by K.T. McKee, for the June 2nd edition of the Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman, is a bit incurious about some aspects of community concern:
Picking apart each statement, Carter said that although local media initially reported that Wells Fargo and Matanuska Valley Federal Credit Union had denied home and construction loans on properties near Wishbone Hill off Buffalo Mine Road, those lending institutions have recently made it clear they will not deny financing on property near the mine simply because of its location.

Wells Fargo’s regional manager for mortgage lending, Rod Jackson, said a loan officer had made a mistake when she told a client the bank could not finance a home because of its proximity of the mine.

“Everyone jumped the gun,” Jackson said. “There’s no mine, so there’s no issue. We can’t turn down a loan based on something that isn’t even there.”

Jackson said that if a mine does end up going in at Wishbone Hill, it will be up to appraisers to determine if the property is lendable.

“The appraisers are the ones who look after the values, not the banks,” Jackson said.

Wells Fargo Public Relations Manager David Kennedy sent out an additional statement Thursday that the email a loan officer had sent to a customer was “related to a specific transaction and was not in any way, shape or form intended to serve as a blanket statement regarding Wells Fargo’s commitment to mortgage lending in the Mat-Su Valley. Wells Fargo is open for business and we continue to provide mortgage loans in the Valley.”

Matanuska Valley FCU leader Al Strawn sent out a single statement: “MVFCU is granting real estate loans in the mine area.”
While the way McKee approaches this might get him a round of drinks at the next Wasilla Chamber of Commerce happy hour, it is only part of the story. The reality, as shown in numerous towns in the Appalachian Mountains near open pit mines, is that property values almost always go down once a mine like the one proposed by Moose Creek is put into serious operational mode.

Adjacent to mines that are in areas that experience high winds, the properties downwind from mines go down in value by significant amounts. No Appalachian mine that I'm aware of experiences routine winds like those encountered in the part of the Matanuska Valley area downwind from the prevailing air currents there.

If you want to learn more about issues involving this proposed development, please come to the Menard Sports Center on Wednesday, from 6:30 to 8:00 p.m.

disclaimer: My wife has been a member of the Alaska Center for the Environment, and we are current members of Cook Inletkeeper, and lifetime members of Friends of Mat-Su. I am on the board of directors of FoMS. All are involved in this fight for public health and sound development practices.

Thom Hartmann on RT TV Discusses Lack of News on Ft. Calhoun Nuclear Plant

I've been watching the situation at the Ft. Calhoun plant since the fire there on June 6th. More attention to the current situation at this semi-obsolete disaster waiting to happen is brining out concern about little discussed safety problems in its past.

Three South Africans Making a Difference

Three important South African men are in the news today, on three different stories. One has importance to Alaskans in a fairly direct way. The other two are involved in attempting to resolve details of longstanding disputes.

I. Greenpeace International executive director, Kumi Naidoo, got himself arrested, jailed and deported from Greenland, for delivering a petition:

Earlier this month, 20 Greenpeace activists were arrested for trying to prevent Scotland's Cairn Energy from its outrageous plan to drill for oil in the Arctic. Sickened by the risks the oil industry is ready to take with our planet, and greatly inspired by the dedication of my colleagues, late last week Greenpeace campaigner Ulvar Arnkvaern and I decided to become prisoners number 21 and 22.

For the act of boarding Cairn's oil rig (or hanging off it in a pod for 4 days as was the case for 2 of our activists) some of my colleagues were held for nearly 2 weeks in Nuuk's (Greenland's capital) Institution Prison, before being deported. Their brave actions caused the oil company to delay its dangerous plans by 5 days.

In addition to demanding an end to dangerous deep water oil drilling in the pristine Arctic, my colleagues also arrived with the very reasonable request that Cairn make its spill response plan public.

A spill response plan is the document that an oil company must draw up explaining how it would clean up a spill. These plans are nearly always made public, but Cairn insists upon keeping this one secret claiming the Greenland authorities won't allow its publication. Yet publishing spill plans is standard industry practice and legal experts have made it clear to Greenpeace that Cairn could easily publish if they wanted to.

We believe that Cairn is refusing to share its spill plan for the simple reason that cleaning-up an oil spill in the Arctic is impossible. Cairn needn't take our word for it -- recently released confidential UK Foreign Office documents, obtained under Freedom of Information, show that the British government also believes that an Arctic oil spill would be extremely tough to clean up. As stated in an email exchange between British government officials and UK Energy Secretary Chris Huhne: "It is difficult to get assistance in case of pollution problems in such areas, and near impossible to make good damage caused." Another document reports: "The Arctic ecosystem is particularly vulnerable, and emergency responses would be slower and harder than in the Gulf of Mexico due to the area's remoteness and the difficulty of operating in sub-zero temperatures."

By last week more than 50,000 people had written to Cairn Energy's bosses asking them to make their spill plan public (I am told that an estimated 25,000 more have gone to the site and signed since my arrest). I decided to carry this list of names with me as we set out for the oil rig last Friday:

It is important for Alaskans to realize that oil spills where Cairn is working would be easier to clean up than they would be in Alaska's Chukchi Sea.*

II. Former South African President Thabo Mkebi is viewed with mixed feelings for a number or reasons. Among them: his refusal when president to take a harder line on Zimbabwe president, Robert Mugabe, and his damaging contrarian views on HIV. But his post-presidency role as negotiator and peacemaker has been fairly successful. Currently, he appears to be negotiating a succcessful stand-down between Sudanese and South Sudanese military forces in the disputed region of Abyei:
Leaders from north and south Sudan signed an agreement on Monday to demilitarize the disputed central region of Abyei and allow an Ethiopian peacekeeping force to move in, said a former South African president who is helping lead peace talks.

Thabo Mbeki said Monday's agreement provides for the full demilitarization of Abyei, a fertile land near major oil fields that both north and south claim as their own. Troops from northern Sudan moved into the region last month, action that sent tens of thousands of people who are aligned with the south fleeing.

"The Sudan Armed Forces will pull out and will be deployed outside Abyei," said Mbeki, who helped lead the talks in neighboring Ethiopia.

The agreement comes three weeks before the south is set to secede from the north and create the world's newest country. Heavy violence has broken out along the north-south border in the run-up to the south's independence declaration.

An Ethiopian peacekeeping force that is ready to deploy will move in to Abyei as soon as possible, Mbeki said. The U.N. Security Council will decide at a meeting in New York what the mandate and size of the Ethiopian force will be.

Shortly after the agreement was reached, Mbeki told the U.N. Security Council by video conference that both parties want the U.N. to move quickly to see the agreement implemented. Mbeki said urgent action would allow the displaced people of Abyei to return after military forces leave, allowing the humanitarian situation to be addressed.
South Sudan is going to become an actual country on July 9th, so cooling this dispute is certainly timely.

III. Archbishop Desmond Tutu has long been the most active South African human rights advocate. When Tutu was making his courageous stands against South African apartheid in the mid-1970s, the country that is most critical of Tutu's current activities was fully cooperating with the racist government, even working on a plan to arm South Africa with at least eight nuclear warheads, even though South Africa was at the time under international arms embargoes. While Tutu was risking his life in defense of Black South Africans, Israel was helping strengthen the government that was keeping Tutu's people enslaved.

Now, Tutu wants to end the enslavement of the people of Gaza and the occupied West Bank. For that, he has been labelled an anti-Semite, and targeted for exclusion from American college campuses, among other indignities.

Archbishop Tutu was one of the first prominent advocates of boycotting aspects of the Israeli apartheid regime. Here's his latest contribution:

* A good article on an important aspect of the upcoming battle over Chukchi Sea drilling - the EPA and permitting processes - was just posted by Jeanne Devon at The Mudflats.

Comparisons Between The Lies of Sarah Palin and Blind Allegiance at The Immoral Minority

A new review of Geoffrey Dunn's book, The Lies of Sarah Palin, by Herbert Calhoun Monday, for Op-Ed News, got Anchorage blogger Jesse Griffin to write an essay about the review. It spurred a number of commenters at Griffin's progressive Alaskan blog, The Immoral Minority, who had read both Dunn's book and the more recent Blind Allegiance, by Frank Bailey, to compare the two. It was the first time I'd seen the two Palin pans paralleled by more than one person at the same place.

In some ways, comparing the two is unfair.

Geoffrey Dunn is an award-winning author, film maker and educator, with decades of experience writing about some of the most interesting aspects of the constant changes and challenges of American life. He wrote the book himself, and there's a remarkable tone and generosity in his book.

Frank Bailey is a duplicitous, hypocritical opportunist, with little writing experience past political pap, inter-office memoranda, and letters to the editor, who had to have help from two co-authors who arguably aren't much better writers than I am. There's no tone, no generosity, no perceivable elevation from some sort of collaboration with his co-authors, no over-arching theme, past the simplistic one of his begging his readers for forgiveness for being such a shameless, bootlicking asshole.

Here are the comments that compare the two books:
I read Dunn's book on my Kindle and have wondered so many times why it isn't being promoted in the media as Bailey's book has been.

To me, an investigative reporter writing a well-researched book has more credibility than a disillusioned, disgruntled Palin staffer.
I agree, Dunn's book is excellent. I just finished Bailey's as well, and while fascinating, I found it a rugged ride. So difficult to believe that anyone could be that gullible, willing to risk everything for her, when he had every indication that she is an evil person and an unproductive politician from quite early on.
I initially chose Frank Bailey's book over The Geoff Dunn's because of the intimate relationship of Bailey to Palin. It was good but I think he tried not to show the truly despicable woman she is. I thought she came off as just extremely immature, vindictive and petty. IMO, he pulled some punches.

I REALLY want to read The Rogue too. I love Joe McGinniss' blog and it's really getting me anxious for the release.
I read Geoffrey Dunn's book and Frank Bailey's book. Would recommend both.
Yeah, I think that just about covers it. (hehe:)
btw: Dunn's book WAS excellent.
Bailey's book not so much.
I am looking forward to "The Rogue".
It was a very well written book. Much better than the Frank Bailey book. Don't get me wrong, Bailey's story needed telling but it was not so "professional" if you will.
I've read both Dunn's and Bailey's books and in my opinion Dunn's is vastly superior. I couln't put it down. His writing style is extremely engaging and fact based, as opposed to Bailey's book where I found myself being angry the whole time I read the darn thing. The writing in Bailey's book is very choppy, the time lines jump all over the place, there are many typos and grammatical errors--in other words, the ghostwriters are mediocre--and I couldn't shake the uneasy feeling that Bailey withheld a lot of information and is still protecting the grifter for whatever reason. Plus I think he's a very stupid man if he was really sucked in by the barracuda for as long and as much as he alleges. Read Dunn's book! I'm anxiously awaiting Joe McGinniss' book, and I'll read Levi's also.
I think Bailey's book was "designed" in such a way that it would be palatable to the right-wing reader/Christian community. On that score, I think it was done well and needed. (can't preach to the choir only). Joe McGinnis and Levi Johnston's books will reach another demographic... ALL Good - IMHO!
I loved Dunn's book. As a former Alaska resident, whose mother grew up half Native on a homestead in the Mat-Su, I am finding Bailey's book a little too heavy on Alaskan mythology. Dunn grasps Alaska without mythologizing it. I'm surprised that Bailey, who grew up in Alaska (I spent a brutal winter in Kodiak), has embraced the bs mythology about frontiery, tough Alaskans. Yes, they actually exist. Can't find that many in the Mat-Su valley anymore though (my grandfather was one of those). Certainly not in Anchorage. I lived there too, as well as in Juneau. I even spent a little time in Galena (very little, but highly entertaining). I put Bailey's book down because the oh-so-special Alaska thing was bugging me, and I kind of needed a break anyway after Dunn's book.
The reason Dunn's book hits harder than Frank's is those are Franks Balls hanging around Sara's neck on the Undefeated poster. Frank needs to grow a new pair and take another look at what he knows and what he did. Just like going after Gryph, he did most of the dirty work for her and hasn't really come clean about all of it.
Dunn's is the best Palin book I've read. Someone gave me Bailey's and I look forward to it. I think these two books have different audiences, which makes both important.
Loved Dunn's book! Great read! I'm slower with Frank Bailey's....summer in Alaska and all...
Geoffrey Dunn's book was beautifully written and well worth the money for the read itself. Bailey's book , not so much. I, too, felt he held back and tried to play us a little. I hate to even say that because I'm sure there had to be a consensus of what to write since there were other writers involved. That said there was a vast difference in the quality of the written word.
I believe you'll find Bailey's book to be a rocky read, compared to Dunn's professional smoothness of prose, and continuity of narrative.

As to the typos and horrendous grammar found in Bailey's book: In all fairness, keep in mind that in his disclaimer, he states that he's quoting Palin's emails verbatim. It's shocking, to say the least, that this uneducated fool (and her minions) were trying to "run" the state of Alaska.

And as others have said, during the process of slogging through Bailey's book, there is definitely the sense, if not full awareness because we've all been studying the Palin phenomenon for at least 3 years (and many more if you're an Alaskan), that he has not divulged the whole truth. The shrieking cat never leaps out of the bag, but you know damned well it's still in there, trapped by the fears and self-protective contrivances of the authors.

However, when all is said and done, Bailey's book is very much a valuable resource for those who've never heard this sordid tale. We should all be thrilled it's on the market.

That was all of the comparisons. I've yet to read any comparisons anywhere where Bailey's tome comes out even with Dunn's, let alone where Bailey's is perceived to be more valuable.

I finally managed to thumb through Blind Allegiance the other day at Fireside Books in Palmer. After about 20 minutes, I shook my head, put it down, and went out to do more painless business - driving home to weed the garden.

Do not buy his book for anything more than $1.50. For less than that, it may be worth it.

You won't have to wait long to get it at that price, though.