Saturday, September 27, 2008

Big rally, Alaskans demand truth, and two Tlingit moms

Alaskans demanding justice!

Today at least 1200 (don't have the final count yet) fellow Alaskans gathered for the Hold Palin Accountable Rally, hosted by Alaskans for Truth. The gathered to demand that the state government be taken out of the McCain campaign's hands and be put back in the hands of Alaskans.

And just who was a surprise guest?

Walt Monegan's mom!

Yes, the same Walt Monegan that was fired by Gov. Palin, and was the reason this whole Troopergate investigation began. The crowd rippled when it was announced who was speaking, and many got quite emotional. She began by saying she didn't realize her son "had so many friends."

After Betty (Walt's mom) spoke, she was flooded with people that wanted to speak with her.

One of them was this woman hugging her, who said that she worked for APD in the 80's, where Walt started. Walt had supported her in sexual harrassment claims she had made against other officers, and gone beyond what liability meant. He made sure she was okay, made sure she got professional help, counseling. She wanted Betty to know she supported Walt.

There were quite a few speakers, talking about anything from personal experiences with Gov. Palin to demanding that Talis Colberg resign or be fired, to support for Walt Monegan.

The recent taking over of the state government by the McCain campaign got the most response from the crowd, as well as the smearing of Walt Monegan by Palin's administration.

There was a petition available for all to sign, demanding justice through the removal of Talis Colberg.

I see Celtic Diva speaking! Do you?

Okay, neither do I, but here she was. She talked about a response that many people here in Alaska had. When she first met her, she thought, "All right, she's pretty good." Palin is pretty personable.

But she also talked about the more recent revelations we've had about Palin, beginning before the VP thing, about Palin's vy for power, and cover-ups. Much of what was said was about not knowing much of Sarah except her personality, and now that we know... well...

Lots of dog owners in attendance, including this one who joked about her "pit bull against Palin."

But the Palin supporters were out too!

Or... well, it was pretty much this one guy, who kept shouting "Support Palin!" at intermittent times. the 1200 other voices shouting something much different did not allow for much else.

I did hear (but not see) that there was someone with a sign down lower in the road, that said, "Bitter women ahead."

Maybe the same person who asserts that any questioning of Sarah Palin is sexist?

The rock star of the day though really was Walt's mom. She spoke only briefly, and was really surprised by all the attention, but she carried both a sense of humor and an emotional support of her son through it all. Even while being surrounded by media and Walt Monegan supporters, she carried herself very well, and joked about what her son might say once he found out about all this. She also spoke eloquently about how proud she is to be Tlingit, and that her son is proud also. I will post later about some of the many Alaska Native overtones that took place throughout the rally.

Note: Did you know Walt Monegan's dad was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor?

Two awesome Tlingit moms!

My own mother, and Walt Monegan's mom! The next governor and Lt. Gov., you think?

This is actually right after they hugged, and my mom said, "When I heard who you were, I just had to come over and meet you."

Betty's response,

"Because I'm Tlingit?"

:) Well, Tlingit people DO like meeting other Tlingit people... :)

Short clip of the main protest.

Friday, September 26, 2008

He's so good, he won it already...

Wow, John McCain is so good, he won the debate already!
An ad that (accidently?) ran from the McCain campaign in the Wall Street Journal today, declaring "McCain wins debate!"

Will you be at the rally tomorrow?

"Hold Palin Accountable Rally"
Saturday, September 27th, noon - 2:00 pm
Downtown Park Strip; between I & L streets and 9th & 10th.
Main stage at the VA Memorial, east end of the park near L street.
Join your Alaskan neighbors in demanding that:
-- Gov. Palin uphold her promise to us for an "open, honest & transparent" government.
-- Gov. Palin uphold her promise to us to cooperate fully with the independent investigation as initiated by the bi-partisan Legislative Council.
We, the People of Alaska, also:
-- Demand the immediate resignation of Attorney General Talis Colberg.
-- Demand the McCain Campaign immediately remove itself and its influence from our state and local government.
-- Demand the McCain Campaign ends its attorney, Ed O'Callaghan's unlawful intrusion into our Department of Law.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Palin and Sexual Abuse Policies.

I've been posting about Sarah Palin's policies (or lack of them) on Alaska Native and American Indian issues, both here and on Alaska Real. Although I have mentioned this before, it's becoming more and more apparent to me the most serious "Native" issue that Mayor or Governor Palin has has a negative impact on is the one surrounding sexual abuse here in Alaska.

Some of it's seriousness is in just how drastic the rate of abuse is for Native women in this state. But then, the rate of rape and abuse is pretty astronomical no matter what race you are. If you are a woman in Alaska, the chances are pretty high that you have been abused.

For those that have not heard by now, Alaska has the highest rate of sexual abuse, child abuse, domestic violence, etc. etc. Pick out any three women in Alaska - one of them will have "experienced sexual abuse" in her lifetime. Some facts from STAR:

Alaska is the number one state in the country for rape, and has been for 23 out of the last 30 years.Alaska’s reported rate of rape per capita is 2.6 times the national average.

Anchorage has the ninth highest sexual assault rate of any city in the United States, and Fairbanks is ranked first. (Not the best top ten list to be on.) Fairbanks’ rape rate is 4.7 times the national average.

AK’s Child abuse rate is six times higher than the national average.

The stats get even grimmer if you look at how Alaska Native women fare. If you really don't want to sleep at night, take a look at Amnesty International's report, "Maze of Injustice: The Failure to Protect Indigenous Women from Sexual Violence in the USA".

I thought that the seriousness of her treatment of the sexual abuse issue was limited to the firing of her (Alaska Native) commissioner, who was really getting at this issue. I cannot emphasize enough how well-known Monegan was for fighting against abuse. Palin even commended him publicly on his work with domestic violence at a conference, just months before she fired him. She said the "indication of our committment" to the issue was his participation and work.

What does it say when she fires the "indication of her committment?"

If you do half a search on Monegan and fighting sexual and child abuse in Alaska, you will pull up a lot of information about so many ways he was active and fighting for this cause. In an extreme amount of sad irony, Palin is now saying (months after the fact) that the "last straw" before he was fired was his "insubordination" at trying to lobby for a major sexual assault bill - traveling to Washington without permission, in fact, when Palin hadn't signed off on the bill.

Of course, about two seconds after this was announced, ABC released the travel authorization, signed by Palin's chief of staff, authorizing the travel. Palin's staff responded by saying they signed off "as a matter of routine." Wish I had a boss like that.

With all that aside, I now find myself longing for the time when "all she had done" to make the effort to fight sexual assault in this state harder was fire the guy doing the best job of fighting it than any guy in years. But then the news about Wasilla's charging for rape kits came out.

This really did make me ill, and I was pretty ready not to believe it. I didn't realize numerous cities around the state and nation charged the victims for rape kits, much less Wasilla, about a 45 minute drive away, and that the city (while Palin was mayor) had to be forced to stop this practice by the passing of a state law.

Alaska Rep. Croft: "It was one of those things everyone could agree on except Wasilla," Croft told CNN. "We couldn't convince the chief of police to stop charging them."

Palin has not addressed this charge herself, but her supporters are trying to say she didn't neccessarily support it, and she may not have known about it. Really? There was 6,000 people in the town, and the mayor and chief of police don't talk much about something the state had to impose on them to stop doing? At the very least, she didn't read the local paper.

"I find it hard to believe that for six months a small town, a police chief, would lead the fight against a statewide piece of legislation receiving unanimous support and the mayor not know about it," Croft said.

It's one of many situations surrounding Palin that supporters have cried, "But she probably didn't know about it!" If she did know, and she let it happen, it's a nightmarish thing to do to women. If she didn't know what her police chief and the state were fighting about - my word, get that woman out of office!

To really seal the deal for her attitudes and negligence of the sexual assault issue in Alaska, she's lately been under fire from agencies in the state that work with abused women, as shown in this ABC report:

"She's really done a lot of work on oil and gas, but when it comes to violence against women and children. . . we haven't been on her radar as a priority," said Peggy Brown, executive director of the Alaska Network on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault.


"I don't believe Gov. Palin has made this a priority," said Geran Tarr, co-chair of the Alaska Women's Lobby. "We have not seen Gov. Palin do anything that would indicate this is a priority."

There is an agency that seemed to support her, but they are similar to the Native (not Alaskan) organizations I've heard support her - it's all the "PR" type "support" from Palin. Tarr, the AWAIC lady in the ABC story above says she's publicly spoken out against domestic violence (because so many speak for it...) - and that, despite the promised fast track law that was supposed to have been completed and is apparently in lala land - she did raise the funding by 2% to cover abuse treatment after the fact. And she proclaimed the month sexual assault awareness month. No prevention funding, but we've named a month...

The irony is, Tarr, the AWAIC lady who spoke to ABC saying Palin was supportive was negated by her boss who later said Tarr "did not speak for the organization." They were staying out of the politics.

If you are a woman in America, I would truly be frightened at the idea of this woman getting the keys of influence and power. She will not do anything to protect you. For that matter, if you are a parent, I would be even more scared. She will not go out of her way to protect the third of the women in her state against what seems pretty gauranteed to happen to them.

An article in the Juneau Empire last January cited a state trooper, in regards to new studies about the prevalence of the violence, as saying:

"Time is critical," he said. "We need to give troopers more time. We need to refocus them."

The trooper said he hoped the study would lead to increased staffing and resources. Did he know Palin was trying to cut the trooper budget by $2.5 million then, despite the state swimming in billions of dollars of surplus?

People are surprised when they see Palin's reported "support" rating, and then anyone from Alaska who speaks out. Some of them will be actual supporters, come hell or high water. For some of them, it is the novelty factor, a "hot" female governor who is getting all this attention (she got national attention before this, and Alaskan's took note - Vogue magazine, the Craig Ferguson show.) For some, they approve of her governing the state, but NOT as VP.

I still can't believe I haven't heard much about WHY she had such a high approval rating right off the bat! Everyone knew coming in she was following the unseating of an incredibly unpopular governor. Gov. Murkowski had the worst rating of any governor in the country. All she had to do for the first year was not be Murkowski - her approval rating was literally in the 90's before she had done anything at all.

And for Alaskans, everything is about oil. She made big hay about getting that "pipeline for Alaska"... that will be made by Canada. And, oh yeah, might not be built despite the hundreds of millions she's giving them. But people now associate her with oil. Even democrats run on a "drill now" platform, if they want to consider getting votes.

And by the way, she gave each and every Alaskan $1200 a few weeks ago. You think that doesn't inspire "approval?"

When it comes down to it, Gov. Palin hasn't made a difference in any of the real issues of the state, and her stand on sexual abuse is turning back the clock. We can't afford to go back - we've been the bottom rung state in this area for nearly half of our existence as a state. We may be number one for wealth, but the poverty of solutions for the worst problems is becoming more and more apparent.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The world may not be ending soon.

Really, I had to take a complete break from the news and most of the Internet this weekend. My Web actions were limited to looking up funny gifts for people and downloading The West Wing episodes on iTunes.

After the recent onslaught of political madness, the up and down of hurricanes that should be devastating but are sort of just bad, to the hurricanes that were actually devasting, on top of horrific and senseless train accidents, hotel bombinngs, and (by the way) the Millenial Depression started last Monday.

And then who did they get on the bullhorn to cheer us up?


I admit it. For about 36 hours, my greatest defense against the apparent apocalypse was to stick my head in the sand, only coming up to eat pizza and attempt to evade phone calls (not so succesfful in this.)

To my relief, that world has not actually ended, and I was able to go to a planning meeting on Sunday that revived my hope that I am not actually helpless in this mass of mess. There is quite a lot of work to do, and too few days left to make a difference in this election.

By the way, surely there is something good happening in the world? I mean, did somebody get married? Big anniversary? Something? Throw me a bone, people.

Ah well. I read my parents the Gallup "happiness" level polls, and they were shocked to hear that it was something like 55% happiness, 9% stress.

They must not watch CNN. I think I'll stop.

The interesting part about being in Alaska is that we really do (usually) feel so disconnected from the rest of the country. Okay - we technically are disconnected from the rest of the country. But with three electorals, few people, and a reputation for only beautiful views and (apparently) corrupt politicians, we've just never been heard from.

I've talked to many Alaskan bloggers and friends that are feeling the fatigue of - as one reporter put it at a gathering last weekend - Alaska suddenly becoming the "center of the universe."

Alaska may - and I only say MAY - not actually be the center of the universe right now, but I think most Alaskans are in the middle of really wanting to show off the state that we're proud of (stop laughing - we have lotsa' good stuff up here that has NOTHING to do with corrupt politicans) and really wanting to defend ourselves against how this attention (and, well, Palin) are making us look.

I'll never forget the first comment I read that said, "Wow, I never knew Alaska was so screwed up before."

Yeah, that's serious frustration, hearing that.

But like we're been doing for so long, Alaska will cease to become the center of the universe after awhile, and just continue to be the very independant, little bit crazy because of the light and dark situation, great land we've always been.

Sure, we've got problems, but it sounds like the rest of the world does too. What really, honest to goodness energized me this weekend was seeing so many Alaskans getting together to try and do something about it.

We've got a lot to offer the world - certainly more than just a good view of Russia.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

A few endorsements for a day off

I'm taking something of a day off from the blog - but not leaving you totally empty handed! some of this is old news, but you may not have heard it. These are mostly Alaska Native or American Indian endorsements of Obama, a few Alaskan endorsements, and Obama's letter to Alaska Native leaders. Sort of letting all these people talk for me today.

I haven't heard of any tribal endorsements for John McCain, so please let me know if you hear of any.

Question I have been asking myself - how effective are endorsements? Any endorsements?

Obama gets strong endorsements from New Mexico tribes (most recent endorsements)

100 tribal leader endorsements

· Andy Ebona, Councilman Douglas Village, Tlingit Tribe, Alaska
· Ian Erlich (Native Village of Kotzebue) – Vice Chairman, Alaska Inter-Tribal Council

Former Alaska Governor Tony Knowles has endorsed Barack Obama


Jim Whitaker has served as mayor since 2003 FAIRBANKS, AK – The Barack Obama campaign in Alaska today announced the endorsement of Fairbanks North Star Borough Mayor Jim Whitaker. Whitaker is a registered Republican.

Whitaker said, “Barack Obama has the unique ability to bring people together from all political backgrounds—Democrats, Republicans, and independents. Partisan business-as-usual has crippled Washington. It’s time for a president who will work to unite our country and bring about the change we need.“Barack Obama will stand up for Alaska’s families. As president, he’ll support the Alaska natural gas pipeline and work to lower the skyrocketing fuel prices that have caused an energy crisis here in Fairbanks. He has a plan to move this country forward and will be a president who is as independent as Alaskans are.”

Barack Obama said, “I’m grateful for Mayor Whitaker’s support. Fairbanks residents are paying some of the highest energy prices in the country. Mayor Whitaker knows firsthand the importance of solving our energy crisis. He believes as I do that we need to bring people together in order to solve the many challenges our country is facing right now, from energy to the economy.”

Jim Whitaker was elected mayor of the Fairbanks-North Star Borough in 2003. He served as a Republican member of the Alaska House of Representatives from 1999 to 2003. From 1999 to 2000, Whitaker served as Chair of the Special Committee on Oil and Gas.

Sen. Obama endorsed by Great Plains Tribes

A look at Barack Obama - Indian Country Today

(Tribal endorsements include the Assiniboine and Sioux Tribes, Crow Nation (Montana), Salish and Kootenai tribes chairman, Oglala Sioux tribe president)

Fifty tribal leaders have endorsed Obama, Harper said, as have all Indian Democratic superdelegates who have announced how they'll vote at the Democratic National Convention. In Montana recently, the Assiniboine and Sioux Tribes of Fort Peck and the Crow Nation endorsed Obama, Fort Peck by a unanimous council vote. Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes Chairman James Steele had previously endorsed Obama. In South Dakota, Obama has secured the endorsement of Oglala Sioux Tribe President John Yellow Bird Steele.

Obama adopted by Crow Nation

Obama's letter to Alaska Native leaders

Alaska's AFL-CIO endorses Obama

Friday, September 19, 2008

To Clear Up the Todd Palin post

What a difference a day makes. Today, my post on Todd Palin's heritage was highlighed in a few places, including the Anchorage Daily News Newsreader. Most of you that visit here will not have read this, but for those that do, I hope you will hear this part. In the e-mail in which the Newsreader goes out, it was said I was "questioning" Todd Palin's "Nativeness," and I believe it led readers to believe I was saying Todd's level of Native blood should be questioned.

I assure you, I am not.

This is something I would never do - question how Native someone is - and I did not say it. My post was a reaction to the sheer number of people that are still asserting Sarah Palin will be open to a better Alaska Native and American Indian policy simply because she is married to an Alaska Native man.

I was the recipient today of numerous e-mails, as well as several comments, about how horrible is it that I'm "questioning how Native he is" or measuring his blood as to see if he's a "real Native." It is with a sad irony I had to stop responding with a refrain that I have argued against using blood quantum as any kind of measurement to someone's "Nativeness." In fact, there is no measure of someone's Nativeness.

I made it very clear in the post that I do not believe blood quantum is a factor in determining whether he is a "real" Native - my past posts have argued against trying to nail down how "Native" someone is. My post was pretty clear, in multiple parts, about what I was trying to clear up, and why, but especially that he does not support Native issues. People are still confused as to which tribe he belongs to, why his blood quantum would even be brought up in the first place, whether or not he is a member of a Native corporation, etc.

There are still many people, especially those who vote on Native issues, who are announcing Todd's background as a reason to believe he - or his wife - will support Native issues, causes, legislation. My post was not about questioning his heritage or "Nativeness" - and again, the post is pretty clear about how I feel when people "prove" this person is a real Native or not based on their blood quantum. A common argument, for instance:

(From Indian Country Today) ''If she and Sen. McCain are elected, it would provide a basis for a stronger Indian policy,'' said W. Ron Allen, a member of the American Indians for McCain Coalition and chairman of the Jamestown S'Klallam Tribe.
''McCain has a strong background in Indian country and understands it quite well. ... and she has familial and Alaska Native insights that I think enhance the ticket's commitment to tribes.''
Palin, the first female Republican vice presidential candidate is married to Todd Palin, who is of Yup'ik Eskimo descent. Their five children are also of Alaska Native heritage.

As shown above, Sarah's proof of "committment" to Native issues has almost exclusively been that her husband is Native. It is being used, even by Native leaders, to show that the McCain/Palin ticket will have committment to tribes. What my post was about was the assertion that he is a Native leader of any kind, a champion for Native issues. He is not.

I strongly disagree with the "introduction" to my post in the e-mail sent out, and much of the commentary that went along with the post. I don't question his Nativeness, and although I tried to clear up for people why blood quantum is (unfortunately) a factor in knowing whether he is tribal member, corporate shareholder, etc., I was strong in my message that people should not use it as determination of his view. That is much of the point.

I do not know Todd, and only know what he has publicly done. It is not a personal attack to say he is not someone who supports Native issues. That is simple fact.

My point is actually highlighted by one of the comments in support of Todd left today, "I've known Todd for almost 2o years... I've never heard him discuss his ethnic identity and I've never asked him about it because I don't care and I don't think he does, either."

If, in 20 years, Todd has not even discussed his Native heritage with his friend, but his heritage is now being used as a pull for votes, a play to voters who WILL vote on Native issues, I will do my best to dispel the myth that he is a leader, spokesperson or supporter of issues so many Native people care for and fight for.

I am certainly not the only one. From "New America Media":

There was the ever so fleeting moment during her speech at the Republican National Convention when Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin paid tribute to hubby Todd. She lightly mentioned that he's of Yup'ik Eskimo background. Todd Palin beamed with pride at the acknowledgement in front of the packed convention crowd and in front one of the largest TV audiences to ever watch a candidate's convention speech. But the cheering convention participants and millions of viewers won't see the same smiles on scores of other of Palin's Yup'ik Eskimos and many other Native Alaskans.

I appreciate what ADN has done in giving the public a voice that does not ordinarily get out there. I will continue to read the ADN Newsreader. But in this case, "Writing Raven" was given a viewpoint that I do not hold. I stand by what I say and have posted. But I do believe the commentary skewed the point I was trying to make, and in fact proclaims a viewpoint that I fight against.

I welcome any and all comments, postive or negative, of those who have read what I said in its entirety. If you disagree with my assertion that Todd's heritage should not be used as "proof" he will stand up for Native issues, much less his wife, that is a valid disagreement. But if you disagree with "me" that nobody should use blood quantum or what you do every day to determine how "Native" someone is, well, I agree with you in the first place. I am not arguing at all that Todd Palin is not "Native enough," and detest the assertion as much as I detest the assertion that Obama is not "black enough," or that myself or any of my relatives are not "Native enough," or "White enough." My past postings, and the one this is centered around, will show you that.

Honestly, there are very few people that will be swayed by whether or not Todd Palin will influence Sarah Palin on Native issues. This post was geared towards those that will care, and hold Native issues dear, or those that want a fuller picture of how Palin has treated the indigenous people in her own state. For those of us that are swayed by a candidate's stand on Native issues, I only ask that you look at all the facts before deciding whether or not any of these candidates should hold enormous decision-making power over the Native people of America.

Todd Palin and his heritage, the "Series of Tubes" looks at both the Palins

I'm Palin'd out. Again. Or still. The freudian slip she posed today by calling it the "Palin and McCain" was chillingly unshocking, not to mention the refusal by Todd to speak, despite the subpeonas.

I paused today to Google Palin with some keywords to see what was being said about her and Native issues. The last time I did this was a bit horrifying. There was a lot of "Her husband is Native, so she must support Native issues" kind of information, a flash-back to her gubernatorial campaign here in Alaska.

Now, the bulk of the information on Palin and Native issues, though still relatively tiny, is fairly accurate. The pdf document Sarah Palin's Record on Alaska Native and Tribal Issues is, by far, the most dominant document/article in regards to her stand on.... well, obviously Alaska Native and Tribal issues.

Some myths, and questions, persist about Todd Palin's Yup'ik ancestry. A few:
For starters, the PC terms (I know, I know, but we Alaskans have a set of our own terms, too) would be Yup'ik or (groan) Yup'ik Eskimo if the person is okay with it. Eskimo is not the most popular term to be used by non-"Eskimo" people in reference to them. Yup'ik is best.

NOT Inuit. NOT Native American. NOT American Indian. Alaska Native is acceptable. (I have a big ol' post about this, and the confusion of it, but just trust me on this. You'll make more Native friends this way.) Some of these terms are not even because of PC, but government distinctions.

As for the "ancestry," the numbers of his blood quantum I've heard range anywhere from 1/4 to 1/16. I've seen a few comments of "why does this matter?" Ah... the long raging politics of blood quantum!

We, as Native people, must show proof of Native blood for most things regarding Native services, organizations, or (in my case) jobs. To me, it sounds as though Todd must be 1/8 or less at least. Although he is a shareholder of the Bristol Bay Native Corporation, all you need to be a shareholder is to inherit the shares (which he could have gotten from his grandmother or mother.)

What hasn't been mentioned is whether he is an enrolled member of a tribe. There are more stringent blood quantum requirements for some tribes. That they haven't said, "And a member of X tribe... or X village tribal organization..." is pretty telling.

What keeps being mentioned is that he is a descendant of a Yup'ik woman (his mother.) I didn't connect with why this kept coming up in American Indian (Lower 48) commentary until I realized that, as Alaska Native people, this is a very common term because of the corporations. For many services or memberships, you can either be an "original shareholder" or a "descendant." If you were not 1/4 blood quantum Alaska Native in December of 1971 or before, you could not be an original shareholder - which is why, though I have more than the required blood quantum, because I was not born earlier, I am not an original shareholder. I am a "descendant." The frequent mention of his mother and of his being a descendant tells me that he is used to signing on as a descendant, not an original enrollee, which means that, despite him being born before 1971, he was not 1/4 or more Yup'ik.

To be very clear - I absolutely do not believe that blood quantum defines how "Native" you are. The frequent mention of it as a disqualifying factor is wrong. For that matter, there are countless ways to be a proud member of the Native community, and none of it has to do with that extra 1/16 more Native blood you have than the next guy over. What defines you as a Native leader, and a Native example is much easier to nail down, and in this case, Todd would not be the definition of either.

He has also never been part of the Southcentral Alaska Native culture, nor have his children, despite being raised here. To me, this says he is either disinterested, or because he is limited in a few of the organizations (namely tribal) he is rejecting the whole. In any case, both the Palins have a dismal record on Native issues, so please, do not look to Todd's heritage to help with them. That he hasn't done anything because of it so far is a good indicator that he won't be encouraging his wife on anything in the future.

Here are just a few of what I am finding now around the "series of tubes" (just one more Alaskan nod for ya'...:

From Indian Country Today, the examination of John McCain and Sarah Palin on some Native issues and legislation.

From the Washington Independant, more on Alaska sexual assault than purely Alaska Native women, but it makes the connection well.

From Green Party Watch, focused on (you guessed it!) more Green Party concerns than strictly Native issues, but these issues often coincide.

From Native American Netroots, an unabashed Biden supporter stacks the two VP candidates up (I know, she said the Palin/McCain administration, but she really is still technically going for the VP slot)

From Daily Yonder, it would almost be funny, if it weren't so frustrating. Democratic Convention Native Delegates = 143. Republican Convention Native Delegates? 1. No, that's not a typo. ONE. His name is Bobby, he's a Bible cover manufacturer, and he used to be a Democrat.

From New American Media, a more broad look at what Palin has done on... well, the title sort of says it all...

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Sarah, stop the slander

I honestly am just so frustrated with what Gov. Palin has been doing and saying, I cannot write what I was going to write. What she is attempting to do with Walt Monegan - shift the blame and public disgust to him, rather than be "open" and "welcome the investigation" as she has repeatedly promised in the past - is just beyond digust to me.

For those of you that do not know, Walt Monegan is the central figure in the Troopergate situation. His firing was a shock to many, and gained attention it specifically BECAUSE OF THIS MAN'S EXCELLENT REPUTATION and propensity to fight for those who needed it the most. Nobody saw the firing coming. Palin has fired many people before, and it did not gain a quarter of the attention that firing such a stand-up guy did.

I was dismayed to read in comments from around the nation, that this smear is working, at least for some people. I urge you, please look at all the facts, from the beginning of this whole mess, before you pass judgement on a man who did nothing but do his job, and do it well.

A few facts:

- People who don't know the situation are criticizing Monegan for not firing Wooten - but Walt Monegan was not Wooten's boss at the time of the incidents Palin describes, or at the time of the Wooten investigation. Nobody is defending Wooten except the union - everyone pretty much agrees he's a creep. But the actions he committed were investigated for quite a while, and diciplinary actions taken against him. It wasn't enough, but that wasn't Monegan's call.

Monegan was not Wooten's "boss" until Palin took office - WELL after everything she described happened. On her urging, he did look at the file, but I would be alarmed if anyone tried to repunish anyone for a crime they already committed. He found NO new evidence - and Palin has never presented any past what happened when her sister and brother-in-law were going through a divorce. PLEASE, take in the phrase "double jeopardy." Monegan acted with utmost integrity for his badge by following exactly what justice dictates. I do not agree with half of the sentences given out for crimes - but then where is our justice if a judge, years after the criminal has been convicted, sentenced, and completed it, decides that wasn't really enough time after all, and he should do more? We would be outraged, and justice crumbles.

- This investigation started well before anyone thought Palin was even half a factor in the VP bid. It was not something cooked up by Obama's campaign - Palin did this all by herself.

- Monegan was offered another job by Palin, instead of getting fired. She now claims that one of her problems with him was that he wasn't going aggressively enough after the high alcoholism rates in Alaska. The job she offered him? Executive Director of the State Alcohol Beverage Control Board.

-On the subject of offering him a new job, Palin now claims she offered it to him because of the esteem the "public" held for him, instead of just firing him outright (she's right about the esteem we hold for him anyways.) But really, he was showing "rogue mentality," "outright insubordination" and "escalating patterns of insubordination"... so she offered him another job? Even if he was showing all these horrifing traits, my word, I would hope I could have governor who wouldn't keep such a guy on because other people liked him!

-Another of the reasons Palin came up with, after the fact, for firing Monegan- he wasn't doing enough to hire more troopers. Yet his budgetary plan for the troopers was focused on recruitment efforts, more funding to get them, more funding to keep them. Meanwhile, Palin is trying to lop off $2.5 million from the trooper budget, even now.

- She says, only since Monday, that he showed a "rogue mentality" and "outright insurbordination." But where is the progressive action? Where are the warnings, the meetings with him to discuss his actions? She claims there was an "escalating pattern of insubordination" - but she cannot provide the evidence to show her own pattern of corrective action against him. Wasn't he warned? The "evidence" she provided this week show a selective handful of e-mails from other people that complain about Monegan or his department. Like every single high-level department head of any state government doesn't have a slew of complaints about how they should be doing things differently. NOTHING on where Palin corrected Monegan, told him to stop, NOTHING on where Monegan was told his actions were wrong, nothing, that is, except the numerous phone calls, e-mails and reminders about Palin's ex-brother in law.

- At first Palin welcomed the investigation - said there was nothing to hide. Now? She is "unlikely to cooperate." The first was said before evidence was found, and before she was selected to run as McCain's running mate. The second was said after the evidence was found, and after she was selected.

Even Republican friends I have are shocked at this new treatment - not at what has been "discovered" now about Monegan, but about the ruthless way Palin is willing to claw at a good man's reputation so she won't sink. The nation hasn't had Monegan around forever, they don't know all the good he's done, and the honest and open way he's done it. It is horrifying to me what we are witnessing now on a national stage. It is clear that the McCain's camp is running the show - all questions are being routed to them, and the investigation took a crazy spin the second she was announced.

Whatever you believe about Sarah Palin and this investigation, I just ask you to not believe what is being said about Walt Monegan now. There is a surge of support for this man, and not from paid lawyers and political colleagues who might benefit or lose, depending on the outcome. People from all around the state are behind him, democrats, republicans, independendants. We hope the nation will hear what his supporters have to say - not just the opposition, who have much to gain by thiis man's destruction.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

An Alaska Native man about his governor

I was e-mailed this essay by a fellow Alaska Native. I don't agree completely with some of his assertions - namely social - but the facts are all there. What made me sure I should post it is a line near the end, which summed up what I know and feel as well:

As an Alaska Native, I see that she doesn’t support our way of life, as a Gwich’in I see that she is willing to end my culture and people for only six more months of oil, and as a Global citizen I see that she is impulsive and inexperienced.

Words struck home so much, especially as I ponder how on earth she can just let a village in her state die. Adak cannot afford their gas, and so everyone is being told to leave the village. Where is Sarah?

An Alaska Native’s take on his Governor
By Matt Gilbert

Hello. My name is Matt Gilbert. I am originally from Arctic Village, Alaska. I am Alaska Native: Gwich’in Athabascan. I visited Sarah’s campaign office and spoke with her before she became Governor. We talked about the hunting & fishing rights of Alaska Natives. We didn’t get anywhere. She sided with sport & commercial interests, so I walked out on her and never looked back.

In general, I believe Sarah Palin is another version of Bush, just as inexperienced, but more impulsive. She is very dangerous and scary. People are continuing to support her because she’s beautiful, and this should be a Red Alert for the world. Her purposed policies is to include Georgia into NATO and that would mean all the European countries with all their armed forces will have to go to war with Russia. So she’s willing to ruffle the feathers of a country right next door to her home. Is this who you want as President?

You know the scene in the movies when a car or stage coach is about to go over a cliff and you see yourself sliding over? Scary image isn’t it? That’s’ what I’m seeing if Palin gets elected Vice President. Wake up America! Send her back to Alaska. She has plenty of un-finished work here. She hasn’t even gotten funding to move the town of Shishmeraf. It’s falling into the ocean from an eroding coast due to Global Warming, which she wants to fuel more by encourage more coal and oil development. She fuels the fire, and now they want her to do it on a national level.
Palin has done a lot of irrational things up here as Governor.

In the summer of 07’, she Line Item Vetoed a lot of infrastructure projects in rural Alaska. The small town of Eagle spent years trying to get a community center built when they finally got funding, Palin shut it down by her Veto. Even Lawmakers are baffled by her Vetoes. They’ve had Bills well-debated on both sides of the aisle, yet she cuts, cuts, cuts. She supported $15 million to Anchorage’s University’s Sport Complex and cut $1.5 million to an expansion of the runaway teen center. How do you justify that?

She supports drilling Off-Shore which would utterly destroy the livelihood of the Inupiaq people on the North Slope. They rely on Whale for subsistence and the development would detrimentally impact those whales. She supports drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. My people, the Gwich’in have kept this area closed from development for 30 years. No other American Indian tribe has ever accomplished such a feat. If she drills in the Arctic Refuge, it’ll be the end of my culture. We rely on the Porcupine Caribou Herd and if drilling takes place in the Arctic Refuge, our caribou goes and so does our culture. We Gwich’in Athabascans are the last American Indian Tribe in the US that hasn’t been majorly disturbed, heavily impacted, and assimilated. We are the last pure Native American tribe left. We are the last stand for Indian Country. We are the last chapter in American Indian/Anglo American relations. The prior chapters were bad, so make this last chapter a good one and vote for Obama.

Alaska Natives in general are the last group of Native Americans in the United States still depended on a hunting & fishing-based lifestyle where kids and grown-ups go out to fish and hunt to supplement their western diets. It’s crucial we have food off our land because the western foods, processed foods, give us diabetes if we eat them alone. The subsistence foods not only feed our bodies, but our culture, spirit, social lives, and minds. The Western World calls it Subsistence, but we call it our Way of Life. I’m using the word against my well. It gives our lives meaning and keeps us busy. With God’s help, hopefully everyone can understand. Our way of life off the land is everything to us. If we don’t have that we’re nobody, just another group living off the grid, consuming McDonalds, and buying Brand-Named items. We add diversity and richness to the world.

Sarah Palin doesn’t care about this. She wouldn’t care if our culture eroded before her eyes. She’s like Nero, sitting in Juneau putting on lip-gloss as Alaskan villages suffer. We’re suffering from fuel costs. We’re suffering from strangulating Fish & wildlife regulations that keep us from surviving off the already scarce wildlife. She has done some things, but not enough. She can ease the Fish & wildlife regulations in order to improve food security in the villages. She can subsidize the villages with the rising fuel costs. The US Government has a Trust Responsibility with its First Americans, the TR requires the Federal/State Governments to ensure we, Alaska Natives, have everything we need to survive. Mrs. Palin has failed miserably at this task. She has a lot more work to do back home.

Her hometown Wasillia, has been a hot-bed for racist and Anti-Native attitudes. Anchorage is worse. Alaska Natives fight discrimination on a daily basis there. Palin isn’t there for them. I read in the Anchorage papers once that a homeless native man froze to death in downtown and some man called it in sounding all casual about it. It’s like the South before the 60s up here. It’s bad. This is the Alaska Sarah Palin maintains and waters for growth. She’s never bothered to change anything because she thinks nothing is broken.

As Mayor, she didn’t think anything was wrong with an atmosphere where a native woman had beer bottles thrown at her as she walked down Wasillia. So you have to ask yourself, if she’s willing to ignore the plights and issues of an ethnic group within her town and state, than how much more horrible do you think it’s going to be when she ignores the issues of the same ethnic group or another on a national level?

I believe her popularity comes from her beauty. This society has got to shift itself away from a National Inquirer-based lifestyle to an NPR or New York Times-based lifestyle. Our very world may depend on it. Our hurricanes and disasters are getting worse due to Global Warming, our Stock Market is dangerously shaky, our healthcare is getting so bad it may cause a revolution soon, and the War in Iraq is draining our resources and working families to depression-levels.

We need a Change! We need Barack Obama. Not somebody whose reputation is based mainly on image and charm. As an Alaska Native, I see that she doesn’t support our way of life, as a Gwich’in I see that she is willing to end my culture and people for only six more months of oil, and as a Global citizen I see that she is impulsive and inexperienced. Do you want someone like that in charge of a nuclear arsenal? It’s probably already going to take our lifetimes to recover from Bush, if you elect Palin, the consequence are too scary for me to even think about. Please vote for change. Vote for Obama. Vote for Obama.

Some other reactions to Palin and Native issues:
Opinion piece from RezNet
News from Indian Country

Monday, September 15, 2008

Exodus from an Alaskan village

Everyone in Adak is leaving. The village cannot afford to pay its gas bill, and they have been cut off. Their numbers have already been cut in half in recent years, but gas prices will force them all to leave.

The mayor/chief of police resigned.

I cannot imagine where 130+ people go to start over, and from something that is not a natural disaster. A hurricane did not hit these people - high gas prices did.

I am still stunned at the lack of attention this is getting, from the local media, the state, our Governor, Sarah Palin. I posted this on Saturday night, and figured it would be headline news by the next afternoon (and no, not because of me - because a town in American cannot afford gas and is shutting down!) I posted again on Sunday night, happy to see it, at least, on the ADN.

The Anchorage Daily News reported on it Sunday night/Monday morning (and props to them for getting it on the front page of the Web site - if not the paper copy). A radio station in the region Adak is in mentioned it. No local TV news - or non-local, for that matter. I noticed a paper in South Carolina grabbed it from the ADN. But nothing else? Really?

Palin had a message today for Alaska that the local TV media did pick up - her message was to attack the man she fired and reverse her previous opinions and reasons. Her only message for Alaska today, the day Adak residents met, found out they no longer have a mayor and started planning how to restart their entire lives - her message was of defense of herself and an attack on a former employee.

In some wierd bit of irony, one of the news stations visited a different village to report on how many people were having to leave Rural Alaska because of the costs. No mention of entire town being told to leave that day.

This is not the first Alaskan village to have to leave the land, and it won't be the last. How many residents will be forced into the city this winter? How many villages will be facing extinction?

I have heard suggestions that the villagers go to stay in the governor's mansion. Why not? Even if she were not running for VP, she doesn't use it much. They will need a home, and jobs, and schooling. And they will need to get off the island - it will cost the individuals of Adak their entire energy rebate - $1200 - just to get them off the island. Will Governor Palin lend them her private jet?

I have also heard some terribly cold comments - so what, it's only 130 people? So what, it's a "newly incorporated" village - they should have known better? Palin shouldn't be responsible for their "irresponsibility."

I ask these people to look at the history of Adak - the real history. Aleut/Unungax people have lived there for thousands of years. They have prevailed through enslavement, relocation and disease during the Russian "discovery." They have prevailed during the further massive deaths after Alaska was bought by America. The Aleut people of the Aleutian chain were forcibly removed from their homes during World War II by the American government when the Japanese invaded and occupied two of the islands. They came back. They stayed after the military base shut down in the 90's, incorporated as a village to be able to stay, and they stayed through a winter of frequent blackouts.

They are finally undone by energy costs.

Big processing ships have outmanned them on the water, so they had little money to work with in the first place.

I cannot tell you what this does to me, to hear that another village is being emptied, that these people will not be able to stay, and it is entirely preventable. This is not a hurricane to prepare for and rebuild after - but nothing to do but wait in between. The gas is literally in the town - but they can't afford to buy it.

And our governor dares to run on the platform of being an "energy expert?"

Please, look at the exodus from the villages, look at this town that is vacating the island - then look me in the eye and telling me she's doing everything she can?

She is doing nothing at all.

UPDATE!: Thank goodness!

This is happening in Sarah Palin's backyard

The town will have no power. Residents are being asked to leave. One man has already suffered medical problems because he could not get power to his respiratory equipment. Teachers are trying to have classes in their homes with small generators.

This is not some third world country. This is not even Texas or Louisiana, where thousands are facing the aftereffects of a hurricane.

This is a small village in Alaska.

Adak cannot pay its gas bill. They've been struggling with this problem for some time, but they were finally cut off. A combination of problems - as the Anchorage Daily News reports, were the cause, but the obvious - rising fuel prices - is one of the main culprits.

The other is the fishing industry. This tiny village of less than 150 people has been hit hard by the prices. It's a village that has been hit before with so much, historically - first the Russian invasion and "relocation", World War II invasion and forced relocation, and more recently the shut down of the military base.

A quote in the Anchorage Daily News, from an Adak medic:

"It is beyond my comprehension that such a situation like this can occur in an American city," Adams said.

Ironically, the ADN reported on a Senate hearing in August about Rural energy in the paper on the same say. Sen. Murkowski was urging Rural residents to stay in the villages, and a panel of Native leaders and energy experts talked over solutions to the energy crisis in the villages.

I applaud all those at this hearing for working towards solutions. I was not much of a fan of Murkowski, but in things like this, and others, she's on the right track. But mere weeks after she urges villagers to stay in the village for the sake of culture and the connection to the land, residents are asked to leave Adak.

But where is our governor?

I asked this last night, and today I see she's campaigning in Colorado.

Even the Republican delegates took a half day to look after the Hurricane crisis. Why can't she come take a look at this? I don't know that she would do anything - check my earlier post for her veto on another small Rural community that went over on their energy costs last year. They were looking for state funding to help in their costs. Palin line-item vetoed it. Is this what she meants by "reform?"

She only just left - this would have been a good issue to address while she was here in Alaska to take care of ... well, giving interviews about how little she knows about foreign policy I suppose. And rallies. Several rallies.

Palin recently pushed through giving every eligible Alaska resident a $1200 check as an energy rebate - which began distribution this weekend. You can imagine the popularity of that for the public (for any doubters, you need only have gone by Best Buy this weekend and counted the game systems going out the door.)

The ADN reported on lawmakers that were opposed to this plan (you can imagine the cahones it took to oppose giving out free money!) before it was passed, and just WHY they were opposed:
"They said the House plan to simply pay Alaskans a $1,200 rebate and to suspend the state's 8-cent tax on each gallon of gasoline isn't broad enough to cover needs statewide, especially in the costly Bush (Rural Alaska) where $1,200 just won't go as far."

Looks like it only took until the very weekend the checks were being distributed to be proven right.

I have been increasingly frustrated with the coverage - or lack of coverage - on this situation. I posted on this last night (Saturday.) A few hours ago the Anchorage Daily News finally reported on it. There was nothing in the local television news, much less national reports.


An entire community of people is without power and being asked to leave their homes because they cannot afford the fuel! The State of Alaska has a MULTI BILLION DOLLAR SURPLUS!


Saturday, September 13, 2008

Alaskan village facing a winter with no power - UPDATE ON BOTTOM

As Alaskans all over the state are spending their $1,200 energy relief money on everything from actual energy relief to big screen tv's, Adak will be in the dark.

It's not a hurricane or some natural disaster.

Adak can't pay their oil bills, so the oil company that delivers out there is cutting them off.

My cousin is doing research in Adak, a largely Native community, formerly a military station, and was told she would probably be going home early. The city and state have not found solutions, a problem that's been on the radar, and the power will be shut off this weekend.

Adak was in the high 40's yesterday. Winter is coming, and the residents will be figuring out what to do with no power.

My question - where is Sarah Palin? Where was she before this, when they were trying to work out the problem, and had to shut off the power at night on a few occasions to conserve? Where is she now as Adak faces a dark week, and a cold winter? Will she be showing up at next week's Rural Energy Conference?

She has disappointed lawmakers and residents alike with her previous Rural vetoes. And energy vetoes (except the oil ones, of course.) Yes, this is how she runs our state, this is what's happening under her watch.

I don't know that she'd be that sympathetic anyways - she already vetoed funding for some Rural energy relief - she line-item vetoed funding for the Yupiit School District's energy costs when they were more then the district could handle.

I wonder if Adak will similarily be left to just deal with it?

UPDATE: "nomad toes" left this link, from a few weeks ago.

LATEST UPDATE: The Anchorage Daily News finally reported on it! Sept. 15 ADN

STRANGE... The article also in the Daily News, same day, specifically targeting RURAL ENERGY didn't mention it...

Alaskans show up in huge numbers to protest Palin

Wow - the "Anti-Palin" protest at the Anchorage Loussac Library today was IMPRESSIVE. I kept trying to get a wide shot, but there were just too many people!
I was running late and was worried I'd missed the whole thing, but this thing was huge!
And by the way, thanks Eddie Burke!
I talked to five people in a row as they left who said they heard about it from "that news story" about Burke's calling the anti-Palin organizers "socialist maggots" on his radio show, and giving out their phone numbers to have his listeners call them. Many callers threatened the organizers, and KTUU at least ran a story on the local news about it.

I was also worried not many people would show up - Alaska rallies no matter what the cause just are never that big. If you get a few dozen people, it's a good showing. Outside on a kind of dreary day, I was hoping there would be at least a hundred.
I've heard early reports that it could have been 1,000, very easy to believe.
Having just been down in Denver for the Dem. Convention, where we witnessed some somewhat disorganized protests, it was pretty neat to see so many Alaskans coming together to voice their opposition in an impacting - and peaceful - way. Though APD had a presence, their biggest problem was making sure there wasn't any jaywalking going on.
You could hear them a few blocks down, and saw the crowd before you even saw the flashing police lights.
I was also expecting a lot more "pro-Palin" protestors. There were a handful, but not that many. Burke had said he was organizing a "pro-Palin" rally for the same time and place, but they were much less evident than those opposing Ms. Palin as a VP - or simply supporting Obama.

I had to run and do a bunch of errands before the banks closed, and drove by over an hour later. Although much smaller, there was still a good hundred or more holding signs and garnering lots and lots of car horns.
There's a whole lot of Anchorage folks who are very against the McCain/Palin ticket.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Palin hires Commissioner Number Three

The world could be righting itself, just a little.

The new Public Safety Commissioner was announced today, former Trooper Joe Masters. From Palin's statement that Celtic Diva sent me:

September 12, 2008, Anchorage, Alaska – Governor Sarah Palin today named Joseph A. Masters, security director of Doyon Universal Services and affiliate professor at University of Alaska Southeast, as commissioner of the Department of Public Safety...

...Masters, 44, of Anchorage, has 24 years of public safety experience. He has more than 20 years of service with the Department of Public Safety in various roles including supervising trooper recruitment and training. Masters served as deputy director of the Alaska State Troopers from June 2003 through May 2005. Prior to his service with the Troopers, Masters was a commander in Fish & Wildlife Protection...

...He serves on the board of directors for the Alaska Native Justice Center, the Fraternal Order of Alaska State Troopers and other organizations, and serves on working groups of the Alaska Rural Justice Commission..."

This is a great guy (and no, not just because he's Alaska Native... 'course, that doesn't hurt...) I think he'll really get some things done for Alaska, and spend real time on the incredibly high rates of crime in Rural Alaska. Now they just have to let him DO it...

I doubt that appointing a commissioner of public safety would be of national interest if this was not one of the continuing chapters of the "Troopergate" investigation Palin is involved in.

As a refresher:

The only reason a governor hiring a public safety commissioner could be of any national interest is that this is just another chapter in the whole Troopergate investigation. (Some things really heated up in that investigation today, by the way.)

The first commissioner she hired, Walt Monegan, was a great guy and did his job well. It came as a surprise to him and to pretty much everyone else when he was abruptly fired. Rumors, and the facts, came forward to show Palin may have fired him because he would not fire her Trooper former brother-in-law, Mike Wooten.

An important fact in this is that she first tried to hire him for another position - her assertions now that she was actually letting him go because he wasn't doing a good job either means she's lying (my vote) or she was willing to put a guy in another job that she thought was doing a bad job. Her assertions aren't making believers of anyone, anyways.

So Palin immediately hired Chuck "I am not a sex harrasser" Kopp, a sex harrasser. Claims that he had sexually harrassed his assistant were substantiated years before, and he was only Commissioner for about two seconds before he "resigned" with a $10,000 check in his pocket from the state. The McCain/Palin vetting team's less highlighted first failure.

Kopp as a Commissioner was truly a fear during his short stint - my concern for abuse and violence in Native Alaska - especially against women - is always present, and a guy who sexually harrasses women does not inspire confidence that he will aggressively go after this issue.

More and more has come out about this, including - after her statements that her administration never pressured Monegan about Wooten - proof in the form of audio tapes that her administration had pressured Monegan about Wooten.

My concern during this time was that she had fired a guy who was really getting involved in the high rate of abuse and violence in Rural Alaska. He had literally just returned from checking out how things were going on in Rural Alaska, overseeing operations in some of the hardest hit areas, when he was called in and fired - because Palin wanted to go in a "new direction". She's never said what that new direction is.

Fortunately she has hired someone who can really go after these issues, as long as she gives him the time and resources to do so. Unfortunately, it came after some major screw ups on her part, and no small amount of community pressure.

I'm really rooting for this one, and hoping that we can see some real change in our public safety.

Venturing around the block from Palin-mania

I've discovered life outside of Palin-world!

Actually, I didn't really venture far.

I went looking in the campaigns that in any other election would not stand a chance of being the second, third, fourth story on the news (I mean locally, here, folks).

For instance, the U.S. Senate seat long-ago engraved with the name of Ted Stevens - and I do mean long-ago, like almost 40 years ago - could (should, will) go to our mayor, Mark Begich.

When I was down at the Dem. Convention a few weeks ago, and the primary results came through, people (non-Alaskans) were shocked that Stevens was chosen in the primary. Apparently, they expected that he was not going to get chosen because of the indictment.

We Alaskans were more surprised that they thought he wouldn't win the primary.

In fact, his indictment had less impact than you'd think on Alaskans voting for him. Most of the people I talk to now kind of shrug about - the money he pulls in for Alaska has outweighed the corruption for many. (Not comforting to many of you in the Lower 48, I know, but many of us ARE trying to resolve this!) The latest polling has Stevens only a few percentage points behind Mark Begich. Two major factors are what really have Stevens behind at all - the indictment, and the strength of his opponent.

Begich pulled ahead of Stevens before the indictment even came through - practically unheard of in a race against Stevens. He's a popular mayor (with good reason) of the largest city in Alaska. By largest city, I mean about half of the population of the state lives here. He has his own reputation for bucking the "good ol' boy" network, and comes from a strong political pedigree (His late father, Nick Begich,) with clear stances and actions on some of the state's biggest issues. Some of them aren't even the most popular stances (he is a Democrat in a highly Republican state, after all), but Begich is respected for sticking to his guns, and working with people to figure it out. He will get things done.

Another race that has received limited attention for what it would have been if Palin-mania had not gripped the state, is the nail-biter between Don Young and Sean Parnell in the primary for U.S. Congress. The vote won't be certified until the 18th, but Young's ahead by just over 200 votes last I heard. Talk about another guy who has had the seat since forever.

I'm not as sure about this election. Don Young is also embroiled in scandal and legal issues, but he hasn't brought quite so much to the state as Stevens, and... well, he's just not that likable. I don't know the exact numbers, but he's trailing behind Berkowitz - the Democratic candidate - by quite a bit. This race isn't quite as much about the strength of the Democratic candidate, as is the Begich/Stevens race. Berkowitz is good, but not quite the shining star Begich is. This race, I think, is more about not electing Don Young. Diane Benson, the other strong Democratic primary candidate, was polling ahead of Young too - Young was a good third place.

By the way, I know people outside Alaska aren't seeing them, but Mark Begich wins my "Best Campaign Commercials" vote. He actually talks about ISSUES in them. Hard to detect in what Obama just called "silly season" for politics, but I actually kind of look forward to them.

So far he's addressed corrupt Alaskan politicians (and in a way I never thought possible - without personal attacks!), alternative energy (wind farms on Fire Island), No Child Left Behind, and even a very touching one about his father, and the impact and legacy Nick Begich has left.

Check out the links above for the YouTube versions folks - he's going to be representing Alaskans soon!

And yeah, if you haven't noticed, I'm quite a fan of Begich, even before he was mayor, with good reason. I will be exploring his candidacy when all the to do with Palin has died down at least a little bit. He's got strong positions I really agree with, made some real change in this city, is just plain a smart guy, and to top it off, he and his family have a great record with the Native people in this state.

All right, my own little impromptu ad is over.

But see, wasn't it nice to have a few moments away from the "P"-word?

Thursday, September 11, 2008

But what could Palin have done about it?

For about the tenth time this week, I was asked - by a non-Native - well, what should Palin have been doing for Alaska Native people, if you say she wasn't doing anything?

Totally fair question. As I've said before, it is obvious to me, but then I live and breathe it. Native issues are not seen in the general public eye unless someone makes a fuss over them. Alaska Native issues, maybe more so.

I decided to tackle this a bit more comprehensively (and I mean a BIT) this weekend. Meaning, when I've had a few moments away from Palin-mania at work, home, e-mail... my own blog...

For now I will sort of break ground for the post. No, it's not that dramatic. But I will be attempting to tackle about 500 years of history, 100 years of civil rights movements, 40 years of land-rights legislation and about a gabillion studies and government documents (rough estimation) without breaking a longest post ever record.

And unless someone out there much more connected than I grants me a big tip, I will not be breaking "Palin scandals" or "uncovering the dirty truth." But I will show you the facts, as I have experienced them and know them to be, about what Palin has - and hasn't - done for the Native people of this state. It will be a support for why I know she is not the woman for the job of "President in Waiting."

I must preface this by saying I am proud of the Native people of Alaska. We have accomplished much, and have given much. I hate the reports and news bits with the tragic statistics and horrible picture painted of gaunt Eskimos barely scratching out civility in the un-plumbed tundra. The Native people of Alaska - nearly 20% of the Alaskan population:

  • Have fought in the wars of America at the highest rate per capita of any ethnic group. I blogged about Native patriotism here before.
  • Have, despite the mostly negative reports, been entering college and getting degrees more now. The Native student rate of increase in the math and sciences field is much higher than the American average. I also posted about Native education before.
  • Contribute some of the most beautiful artwork I have ever seen. By this, I mean both traditional and contemporary, and I mean art that is both visually appealing and emotionally impacting.
  • Have done an impossible amount in the past decade to preserve languages, educate the youth, develop curriculum, fund studies and participate in the worldwide educational process.
  • (Plus, the Yup'ik and/or Inupiaq people invented the Ulu, which, believe me, is about the best tool ever. Really. Coming from a pizza-lover, this thing is ingenius.
But we also have great challenges, challenges that we are facing, but seem impossible in themselves sometimes:

  • Record sexual abuse, domestic violence, neglect, child abuse - you name the abuse, we have the highest percentage per capita. I mean highest. In the nation.
  • Highest rates of about a dozen different kinds of cancer, including colon cancer.
  • Have the highest rates of accidental deaths, suicides and FASD births in the nation.
  • One of the more chilling statistics from the Alaska Native Commission: ...death from suicide of an Alaska Native occurred once every 10 days, on average, during the 1980s, and preliminary figures from 1990-1993 indicate that the Alaska Native suicide rate is continuing to climb.
  • Since it's an "old" statistic, surely things have improved? Last year's Anchorage Daily News article: Despite two decades of effort by state and community leaders, Alaska Natives continue to kill themselves at alarming rates, a new study reports. In fact, they seem to be committing suicide as often as they did in the late 1980s, when Native leadership, state officials and others acknowledged the crisis and vowed to solve the problem.
The rate is about five times the national average.

These are some of the problems, and these are just some of the social issues facing Alaska Native people. I didn't mention the education, the poverty levels, the health access, the death of cultural and linguistic values.

I encourage you to get something of a fuller picture by at least skimming the Alaska Natives Commission Report. It's a monstrous document, but if you would like to really get a snapshot of what Gov. Palin has not deigned to help, it's all there. Gov. Palin has, in fact, only done what she can to move us backwards in this upward battle.

In this report, the very first recommendation given, under "Meeting Basic Social Needs" addresses exactly the question of "what can Sarah do about it?"

1. The federal and state governments should implement policies — in the form of appropriate legislation, if needed, regulations and operating procedures — that give maximum local powers and jurisdiction to tribes and tribal courts in the areas of alcohol importation and control, community and domestic relations, and law enforcement.

This is just one recommendation of many. And to those who would say that "but that's just Alaska, she's running for VP of the country," I ask you if you would rather she implemented this policy of ignorance on an entire nation of people?

This is not the front-page stuff, the scandals, the "Oh no she didn't!" shockers. It is simply how she runs our state, and why I don't want her a heart attack away from running this country.

I will be posting more this weekend on the issues raised here - please stay tuned.

A mixed bag on September 11

The date "September 11" is still a little striking to me to see on documents, e-mails... anything really. Of course, it is just any other day - but it's also a day that marks so much. I don't mean just the lives lost - the fear and reaction, the policies and laws, the rhetoric and standards - I don't know what it would have been like had this day not been so pivotal.

And of course, it is still just any other day. I went to work, I got frustrated over both genuine and admittedly petty things, I laughed some, I sent boring e-mails and got interesting news. Just a day.

The local news station really made me start thinking about this. They covered the small ceremony here in Anchorage, the large dedication in Washington, and of course the presidential candidate visit to Ground Zero. But they also included a spot about, "Just another day." They showed people walking around, one lay who forgot that today was the anniversary. Most unfortunately (I wish they would have left it out) they interviewed a Canadian woman here in Anchorage, who, when asked if she knew what day it was, responded that if he was talking about all that "stuff" in New York, she was sick of hearing about it (and yes, with that language.)

Some day this will all be history. Not so many generations into the future, it will be Pearl Harbor - something that really only gets "old" people emotional, or remembering something. A lesson in a book to most younger people. Even more generations, and it will be a date you memorize for a test, and only history buffs really care about.

But going through today, I realized that to me, at least, it still does not feel like "any other day."

I didn't know anyone who died that day, but I remember watching, live, as the towers fell and my dad said, "A whole lot of people are dying right now," and how helpless I felt to watch it happen. I never met anyone who had a business in the towers, but I remember the CEO, the guy who was taking his daughter to her first day of school, and was so desperately grieved as he talked about how his entire company, all of his employees, were at the top of the tower, and didn't get out. I never met any of the firefighters, but I remember, for the days of watching the coverage, wondering why they still had all of these wierd sirens going that you could here all over the place, only to find out that they were the alarms that the firefighters had attached to their gear that would go off if they stopped moving.

The reminders of the day seven years ago are still in the media, and still on people's lips. Friends planning a party, until someone noted the date. It just didn't feel right to have a party planned for today. The radio station playing musical memorial clips and callers talking about that day. A car with a painted "We still remember" on the window.

It is strange to think about the children I babysat recently - they will never know what it was like, or how the country was different. Watching a movie just eight years old, and seeing how out of date greeting people right off the jetway is. I could not have imagined, ten years ago, that so many would be complacent about many civil liberties going out the window, but hindsight shows us what fear will do.

I don't know what history will say about September 11, 2001, or what it will say about the "post-9/11" era. What will it say about our reaction, and how we handled this time? Most of that is up to us.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Two reasons, on 9/11, to remain partisan

With about an hour left until it is September 11 once again, and trying to come out of the political freak-out that's happening on all sides right now, my parents reminded me of two of the main reasons why this election is so important. They are both very directly related to Alaska Native culture, issues, and people. They are both very directly related to the huge issues happening in American right now.

They are both my cousins.

The oldest of these cousins is trying to figure out all he needs to take care of before he heads off on his third tour in Iraq with the Marines. He will leave his young son once again to fight a war I am still grasping at straws to understand - or at least understand its justification. Why are we still in Iraq, and why does my cousin have to go again?

I grew up with this cousin, and at one time we (my older sister, cousin and I) believed all of us were brother and sisters. We sat in front of my grandparents door, announcing "He's our brother!" and "We're his sisters!" to all who entered. I remember being particularly elated that he, the "cool" cousin that could lip-synch George Michael songs, and a whole year older, would finally be living with us, not just spending the night.

I also remember being sorely disappointed that we were a bit confused.

The other cousin is much younger than I. I "babysat" him occasionally, and he quickly became a "favorite" cousin of mine when he asked me, in all seriousness, if I knew everything.

He graduates from basic training tomorrow, September 11, and will be heading to Iraq soon after that with the Army. At some level, it is harder for me to imagine this cousin in Iraq. My older cousin, after all, had a bit of "hero" status growing up, being "so much" older than I. He was always tough, always stuck up for (if he wasn't the one teasing) the other cousins.

But my younger cousin - he's so young! It was only about two seconds ago he was playing with my brother in my grandparents yard. Why on Earth does this young man need to go and risk his life for a war we shouldn't be in?

For that matter, why are we arguing about lipstick while this is still going on?

My point is not to make victims out of my two, strong Alaska Native cousins. They are anything but victims. They entered into service willingly, and I think very bravely. But how can we, as a country, take their gift lightly, or pettily?

I may have been one to take this less seriously, if it had not been for the events of seven years ago. September 11 changed the view of many, and I was certainly one of them. On September 10, just a year out of high school, I thought the military was a big waste of money. Just a few hours into September 11, I saw how very wrong I was.

But this is not a reason to use our military - not an impartial "force", but real men and women - recklessly. It was JFK, after all, who cautioned us both on restraint, and the need to act if neccessary during the Cuban Missile Crisis:

"We will not prematurely or unnecessarily risk the costs of worldwide nuclear war in which even the fruits of victory would be ashes in our mouth; but neither will we shrink from that risk at any time it must be faced."

My point is this - on the eve of September 11, I cannot remain "partisan." What we have before us is too important, is too close to what I care about to pretend that I can ever support something I fundamentally believe to be heading us even further down a path in which more lives are recklessly lost, more lives are sunk into poverty, more lives are not seen as lives, but as numbers. Or worse yet, not seen at all.

For Alaska Native and American Indian people, not being seen at all can be an even more poignantly painful reality of generations past - with a fear of generations to come. Not being seen by the government, not being remembered by politicians, not viewed as important enough to bother with - this policy of ignorance has hurt far more than outright hate or physical injury ever has, or ever will. When I think about what I want for the future, I care about the economy and whether or not I will have a job in a few years. I care about education, and health care, and subsistence and other Native issues.

But if I ever find myself slipping into the ridiculousness of lipstick arguments and who is wearing what - and I have certainly been guilty of it all too frequently - it takes two things to remind me of what is really so important about this election.

They are both my cousins.

I see them for the brave and precious men that they are, strong Native men with a heroic heritage, and an honorable present. I will do everything I can to elect the man that opens his eyes and sees them too, and will do everything he can for their future.

"Sarah Palin's Record on Alaska Native and Tribal Issues"

After struggling over this one, I'm going to go ahead and just post it, and let you make up your own minds.

Sarah Palin's Record on Alaska Native and Tribal Issues

This document has been floating around, and is factually true. But the other fact is, our governor is very good at staying off the record on important Alaska Native issues. Or any Alaska Native issues, really. I refer you to my earlier posts (below or to the right) to view where her lack of attention has gotten us, as Alaskans and Alaska Native people.

This document asserts that:

1. Palin has attacked Native subsistence fishing
2. Palin has attacked Native subsistence hunting
3. Palin has attacked Alaska Native tribal sovereignty
4. Palin has attacked Alaska Native languages

This is not new, but I think "Palin's administration" or "Palin, through her staff" is the most accurate wording. Palin has released only a "supportive" letter to Alaska Native people during her campaign for governor, and other than that has remained publicly silent on Alaska Native issues.

The Alaska Native languages attack, for instance, was actually on an issue I've covered here before - the Yup'ik language ballot. In this instance, "Bethel and the State of Alaska" fought against providing Yup'ik voting materials to the highly Yup'ik area of Bethel. The Lt. Governor, Sean Parnell, is listed as one of the defendants, but not Palin directly. She's done this many, many times before (most notably in the Troopergate investigation,) - letting her people take care of the highly controversial issues, while she visibly takes on highly popular issues (gas pipeline, $1,200 checks to all Alaskans.)

For those of you who do not know Alaska, Alaska Native people make up nearly 20% of the population. To say something publicly against solid Alaska Native issues would be devastating to a campaign - and we vote to the tune of 90% in some boroughs.

Again, the facts of this document are true, I'm just a bit cautious about saying "Palin believes this" about anything that she will come in and say "Oh, but that was my staff, not me" on. Which she has done. Frequently.

McCain/Palin hypocrisy and Why doesn't he support childhood abuse prevention?

Can the McCain camp's hypocrisy get any worse?

Obama referenced McCain's new claim to change Washington, and called it "putting lipstick on a pig."
"That's not change. That's just calling something that's the same thing something different. You can put lipstick on a pig. It's still a pig," Obama went on, and the crowd erupted in cheers. "You can wrap an old fish in a piece of paper and call it change. It's still going to stink, after eight years. We've had enough of the same old thing."

McCain reaction: It's a "sexist" comment against Palin.

McCain a year ago about Hillary Clinton's health care plan:
"I think they put some lipstick on a pig, but it's still a pig," McCain said of the plan last October as Clinton was running for the Democratic nomination.

Either both candidates made sexist remarks, or both candidates used an extremely common analogy. Please at least pick one.

The funnier part is that Obama says "pig" and the McCain camp assumed he's talking about Palin. He's certainly made the lipstick analogy many times before Palin came on the boat. I would more quickly reexamine the McCain camp's attitude about their VP candidate.

They are trying really, really hard to make Obama out to be a sexist, no matter how much they have to ignore pretty much an entire lifetime of McCain's antics and comments to do it. Need we be reminded of his opposition to a bill in support of equal pay for women? That American women, instead of the ability to demand equal pay, need "education and training."

Yes, someone in this campaign could be accused of sexism, but certainly not my candidate.

McCain's "a little less than totally truthful" ad attacks continue with the truly disgusting one released about "Education." Despite being endorsed by the NEA, and an incredibly strong record with education, the McCain campaign is trying to discredit that just by saying enough times "Obama" and "poor record on education" as many times as possible.

This latest attack takes Obama's support of preventing sexual abuse of children as "teaching sex ed to kindergartners."

I worked with young children (before they reached kindergarten!) for five years, and one of the things that was very important to teach them the difference about was "good touch, bad touch" and how to recognize predators.

McCain's assertion that they would know "sex ed" before reading, is somewhat true, but not because Obama is in support of abuse prevention. In actuality, there are far, far too many children who will be sexually abused before they learn to read, and they will know far too much, far too early. Children who know the basics of recognizing a predator are more likely to speak up, and prevent the abuse in the first place, or report an offender to prevent him from further abuse.

The abuse of children is a cause to act upon, not a cause to turn into political sliminess. What's more, in Alaska, the abuse rate is off the charts, and the abuse rate for Alaska Native children is even worse. It's reported that 1 in 3 Alaska Native women will be abused in their lifetime, but I think if you have worked at all with abused Alaska Native people, you could only imagine that was low-balling the real number. It is prevalent, it is decimating to our cultures, and we need every help available to get it to stop.

I'm sorry McCain disagrees with one of the options we have open to us for prevention. If we cannot agree on anything else this election, can we agree that anything and everything should be done to prevent the sexual abuse of children?