Thursday, January 29, 2009

In honor of the shoe guy

Just saw this story from AP that a statue in honor of the guy who threw two shoes at Bush has been erected in Baghdad.

Which gives me one more chance to show this video:

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The Alaska village "non-emergency" emergency

"I sit on a man’s back choking him and making him carry me. Yet, I assure myself and others that I am sorry for him and wish to lighten his load by all possible means — except by getting off his back."

That quote will become more clear at the bottom of this post.

Just a few of the dozens and dozens of reports, articles, letters and highlights just this year about the certainty that a Rural energy crisis was going to happen. Although it truly is an emergency right now, you might call it the slowest building emergency ever. This was not the result of earthquakes or natural disasters - people saw this coming ten miles away.

From late December, a story in Indian Country Today. The article itself is about the impending energy crisis in Rural Alaska and the people who have spoken out about it, including Begich, Comeau, Murkowski and... oh yeah - the entire Alaska Federation of Natives (AFN) convention! The reporter notes that:

The Rural Subcabinet formed by Governor Sarah Palin in response to what many consider a crisis in rural Alaska has reportedly met, but specific information about their activities has been difficult to find.


By late October, the AFN and the mayor’s office had already voiced strong disappointment at the governor’s response to their concerns about the need for culturally vibrant and healthy rural communities. The mayor and AFN both felt that a subcabinet was a less than adequate response to the immediate

The mayor's office they are referring to here is (now) Sen. Begich, not the current, acting mayor.

The Anchorage Daily News on AFN wanting a Rural energy emergency declared back in October, as well as an article from last summer, in which Native leaders are urging the state to action on the (already present) energy problems. The solutions offered by the leadership in the summer article were, quite obviously, ignored. I can only hope they don't continue to be. Sen. Murkowski held a hearing in Bethel to discuss the outmigration because of the Rural energy crisis back in August:

"This has reached a critical point to where we will now have decide if we are going to feed our young or keep them warm," said Ron Hoffman president and CEO of the Association of Village Council Presidents Regional Housing Authority.

The Bristol Bay Times reported on these "rural residents" calling for help - they wanted the state to declare an energy emergency back in May:

The state needs to declare an energy disaster in rural Alaska, he wrote.
“Our disaster has been ongoing for at least five years and will continue without drastic intervention from our state.”

The "energy solution" they mention Palin announing in the article was the $1200 Palin pushed for Alaskans - already being called too little, too late for Rural residents when it was first introduced. Of course, we now know how true the detractors were now.

Even USA Today got in on the news, reporting on the oncoming fuel shortage, as barges weren't making it in:

Alaskans in rural areas will spend 40% of their annual income on energy this winter compared with 4% for the average Alaska household, according to a University of Alaska Anchorage study published in May.

I think the disparity in "where the money goes" could sink in for the people talking about how Rural folk wasted all the money. Mudflats had an excellent post on a Rural shopping trip, in the same light.

I think this is the third or fourth time I've put this out there, but the Alaska Natives Commission Report, published back in the '90s, reports on conditions of Alaska Native people, from economy to social and cultural implications, results of the loss of self-reliance and subsistence... and on, and on. It is a HUGE report, but fairly comprehensive, and, most importantly, it presents a multitude of solutions. One little bit from it, talking about Rural economy:

Beyond the limitations of little (or no) infrastructure, high costs, restricted transportation access, and the many other factors that constitute barriers to economic development (as discussed in the introductory section of this Report), if fuel were not readily available, practically any sort of market economy would be prohibited.

The report includes a quote from Leo Tolstoy I find interesting:

What the federal and state governments can do is offer mutual respect and assistance. They must be willing to give control of local issues back to Alaska Natives. They must step aside in many areas so that Alaska Natives can attempt to reconstruct honorable and dignified lives for themselves.

This will not be an easy task. People who have become accustomed to living without power tend to avoid the obligations that accompany it. Likewise, the external forces that take power — even with the best intentions — generally resist giving it back. In that regard, the following words from the works of Leo Tolstoy are appropriate to consider:

"I sit on a man’s back choking him and making him carry me.Yet, I assure myself and others that I am sorry for him and wish to lighten his load by all possible means — except by getting off his back."

Many people - and administrations - have dropped the ball on this. The immediate solutions mean people need aid, but the long-term solutions have more to do with letting people live and build an infrastructure for themselves. Though the problems are many, so are the solutions.

But in light of this past year, in light of the urgent voices in the news, in the villages, in conferences speaking out about the impending crisis, the absolute certainty that fuel shortages, economic crisis and EXACTLY WHAT IS HAPPENING was going to happen, I just want to know one thing:

Why is our governor just finding out about this?

Trying something new...

Little bit nervous... trying out Google AdSense now.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

"Ma'am, watch out for the moose!!"

This is what I hear yelled at me as I exited my house the other day. My reaction time was ultra slow - which, come to think of it, was probably a very good thing - before I understood what she was talking about.

I have been the worst example of safety behavior around moose this year, and this just takes the cake.

When I finally registered what the chick was yelling at me (I literally went, "Huh?" back at her) I was staring into the eyes of a moose.

After a moment's pause I smiled at the moose (never bad to be polite) and slowly moved to my car. Fortunately, moosie could care less what I was doing. She was chomping on the shrubbery - the photo was taken from my car (and yes, that is the door I came out of!)

I think this moose I keep seeing around the neighborhood is the same one. My guess is its a young female, maybe her first winter on her own? That is stretching the limits of my moose knowledge, so I'm pretty open to being wrong.

In any case, just one more example of, "Hey America, DON'T DO THIS."

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Spotlight on Emmonak

It struck me, listening to the KTUU coverage of Emmonak (video provided by Dennis Zaki, whom YOU helped send to Emmonak!) how showing Nick Tucker's words were:

"It was hidden. Each single household thought they were the only one, so they were ashamed to ask for help publicly."

This, to me, goes to the core of how I think most Native communities deal with it - internalize, be quiet about it, don't bring more shame on yourself than you already have.

It is the shame that has quickly risen to the top of this situation.

Most directly, it was mentioned in a Tundra Drums article about the food donations. Elders criticizing asking for help, and receiving donations. I wondered how long that would take. I have no doubt many in the community feel that shame sharply - it is as embedded in culture and life now as the roots of a tree.

I can only envision things will not go all that peachy for Nick Tucker in the days, and years, to come. Not in his community, I think. What he did in asking was a great leap of bravery. Not only will he be called a "scammer" and "beggar" by the most judgemental on the outside, he will almost certainly face strong criticism from many in his own community. You jut don't ask for help like he did. That's bravery.

Yet, would you like to see what is more disturbing (and, at the same time, hopeful)?

The Tundra Drums posted these letters:

Crisis in Kongiganak.

Crisis in Marshall.

Yeah. That would be MORE villages in Alaska writing letters about similiar plights in their own communities.

The Kongiganak letter talks about the job situation,

I've seen families in our village suffer with food and fuel, similar to what the people of Emmonak are facing. I'm trying to seek help for these people with jobs that are available here but only a handful will get a job.

The Marshall one is both a letter of empathy and encouragement:

Marshall people too have remained silent and endured the hardships and it is certain many other area villages are hurting as you mentioned but have yet to seek help.

Already critics are attacking and dubbing us as beggars, however, many just don't understand life in small rural villages and are quick to judge and condemn.

What is most disturbing of all is that this is not a surprise to anyone! Not anyone in Alaska, anyways. We've been hearing about just how bad it was going to get since last year. Truth be told, we've been hearing about it for a lot longer than that, but it was only on the "It WILL happen this year" level since last year. It was a gaurantee.

Many, many more villages are living in silence. Some are better off, some are worse, but I can only hope that the actions of right now will have far-reaching effects to the many other communities facing such hardships.

I feel a bit of the "hurry up and wait" for Emmonak, and other villages. I have donated, and I will be gathering some food this weekend (though I will also be looking into which of the organzations will be addressing some of the other villages, too) but, for the most part, the ball is a bit in the other court for the moment. Who will act? What will the state do? What will other citizens do? Much of the "next step" depends upon the leadership we will receive, and I am talking about from the state level, Native corporations, village leaders.

A few other bits about Emmonak:

The Tundra Drums did an excellent article on Emmonak, and had a bit more than other media outlets on the impact Alaska bloggers had on the situation. It was Alaska Newspapers (who own Tundra Drums) that first reported Nick Tucker's letter, and Alaska Newspapers that began Village Aid - a food drive. Not to mention they've been covering "what is going to happen" to Rural Alaska since forever. I give them a whole lot of credit for being on top of this from day one.

Celtic Diva informed us that the man on the radio from Emmonak calling it a "scam" was a Palin board appointee. WTF?!?

Progressive Alaska cross-posted a firedoglake diary he did.

Immoral Minority has a fairly disturbing post about just how long it could take to get help to Emmonak.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Day One - Livin' the dream

Now he's really the president. I mean REALLY. He took the oath twice, just to make sure.
I gave up trying to write a post about it. I'm sure many, many words will come later, but I think this inauguration meant something different to everyone. And now the REAL work begins.
I had about a hundred favorite moments, but the one I will remember forever is when Yo Yo Man and Itzhak Perlman performed. Not only was it beautiful, but the exact moment Obama became president was in the middle of their performance. The newscast we were watching announced it... just like that! Magic! Obama closed his eyes to listen to the music, and when he opened them he was president.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

When the red man can get ahead, man!

Painting beside, from Indian Country Today: A Native American artist created a work of art entitled "Barack Black Eagle: He Who Helps People Throughout the Land," which was displayed during the inaugural festivities. Obama was given the name by a Crow family who adopted him into the tribe when he visited the Crow Nation in May 2008.

I couldn't sleep - I was too excited. So I'm going to leave off the Obama inauguration post until tomorrow. But amongst all the celebration, it was nice to take note of some of the Native happenings too. I couldn't find any coverage of the American Indian Ball, though.

The Washington Post covered the Native American family that adopted Obama.

RezNet covered the new Sec. of the Interior, Ken Salazar, addressing Native issues. A Juneau Tlingit woman was interviewed:

At the same time, however, she said tough issues remain in Indian Country, including her native Alaska where environmental problems, climate change and an economic downturn have led to skyrocketing unemployment rates of more than 80 percent in some villages, threatening the livelihood of her communities.

"A whole lot of our villages are dying," she said.

RezNet also covered some of the Alaska Native and American Indian performances, including the Yaaw Tei Yi Tlingit dance group from Juneau.


a pre-inaugural summit hosted by the National Congress of American Indians.

Indian Country's coverage focused a bit more on the mentions of Native people in his address (which there were none,) as he gave a "shout-out" to Native people on election night, as well as the Lincoln memorial party the other night, but still, a few nice nuggets of info. Indigenous people around the world can have a bit more hope tonight!

They also picked up on what our household found kinda funny - following a mostly very poignant benediction, Rev. Joseph Lowery ended with:

“Lord, in the memory of all the saints who from their labors rest, and in the joy of a new beginning, we ask you to help us work for that day when black will not be asked to get in back, when brown can stick around. ... when the red man can get ahead, man; and when white will embrace what is right. That all those who do justice and love mercy, say amen. Say amen.”


Celtic Diva got some pictures from Patti Higgins (AK Dem chair, who I will be forever grateful to for getting me into see Obama at the Democratic National Convention) of the Alaska float in the parade. The Barrow group looks... very ALASKAN!! 907 represents!!

KTUU also had some coverage of the two Alaska bits of the parade - the Colony marching band and the Barrow group.

The Green Inaugural Ball also had a nice little bit of benefit for Native people in it:

The Green Ball, of course, was billed as carbon neutral. The emissions generated from the electricity used at the event were offset by buying emissions-reduction credits from Native Energy, which supports Native American, farmer-owned, community-based renewable energy projects.


After counting down each of the Top 100 Bush moments to commemorate the last 100 days of the Bush presidency, the TOP MOMENT of the Bush presidency is one I knew way before it happened.

This is the only one not a video - it was taken at 11:59 a.m. EST (by my clock.) In other words, the very last minute Bush was president.

I've thought this for a long time, though only today did I know it really would have an exact time no matter what. I learned from the coverage that regardless of when Obama took the oath of office, he was president at exactly noon per the constitution.

And now I will go sigh the biggest sigh of relief ever...

He's done folks.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Billy Mills on Today's Day of Service

"Ask not what your country can do for you..."

These words of John F. Kennedy are being acted out by many Americans today, including Mr. Obama. But I was quite moved by this op-ed piece about the day of service by Billy Mills, the Lakota man who ran all the way to Olympic history. I was thrilled when, earlier this fall, he officially endorsed Barack Obama, lending his highly respected Native name to a long list of supporters.

His words are simple, but passionate. It is a call to arms for Native people, but not to war - to serve others. He speaks of the trouble Indian Country is in, the historical truths and the present realities. He also tells us ways out of this:

As we observe this day of service in Indian country, I cannot help but think of the old Lakota saying, “We are all related.” As American Indians, we should join Americans from across the country in this call to service.

We must act because our history demands it. We must act because our heritage is being diminished. I speak, of course, of the effects of the signing of the treaties between our various tribal nations and the U.S. government....

Before these treaties... The children were allowed to dream and grow based on the cultural and traditional virtues and values they were taught. These virtues and values were based on service to the entire tribal nation...

...I hope that on National Day of Service, many in our community will
offer time and support. And I hope they will take President-elect Obama’s call to make this an ongoing effort to heart. If we all commit ourselves, we can better our community and fulfill those dreams. Every dream has a passion and every passion has its destiny.

I hope you'll read the article, as my few examples truncated it horribly. I think the line, "Every dream has a passion and every passion has its destiny is one of my new favorite quotes though. Mills also gives a few examples of his own service, and places to go to find out how to volunteer, including: .

Tribute to Bush

At 11:59 a.m. today, D.C. time, there was exactly 24 hours in the countdown to Bush leaving office. We have less than 24 hours to go until Bush will no longer be in charge.

Bush will no longer be in charge.

Let me say that again....


So I'm celebrating. The "end of an error" moment in history is a big moment in world history.

And I'm giving one last tribute to Bush - and all he's meant to me. He is the only president that I've had in my adult life, and I'm REALLY looking forward to the next one.

Join me as we go over some of the fond memories of good ol' Dubya...

I've heard some people say, "Well, you can't really blame one person for the economy..."

Sure I can. Oh, there were plenty of people who helped out, but for a man who makes sure we know, "I'm the decider," well, certainly he is. As if about a gabillion people weren't saying, "Don't do that" when Bush was deciding best business practices - namely regulation. Or the whole "don't have wars over oil" thing is good advice for those who want to keep gas prices down. For that matter, the amount of the BAILOUT was roughly the same amount as we spent on the Iraq war...

But the decider decided us right into a huge financial meltdown.

The picture beside me, for instance, was taken over a year and a half ago. If a guy in a skeleton mask can figure out where it's all headed, I'm not sure why Bush couldn't.

An Iraqi man gave me the best image to think of when I think about the economy and why I can't rent an apartment for a price I can afford. He gave me a shoe...

But a huge financial meltdown can just be a mistake, right? It could be incompetence, could be, as Bush says, just that he never did good in Economics. It doesn't neccessarily mean immorality.

No, for that Bush gave us torture and treating men like animals.

He likes to blame this on troops, and certainly those individuals did their part. But an awful lot of soldiers seemed to feel like they weren't going to get in any trouble - SHOULD be doing things like this, in fact. I wonder where they got that idea...

Bush has, more or less admitted there were some "torture-like" things being done. Sorta. Kinda. And where has this neccessary measure gotten him?

Lots and lots of dead people. Lots of dead Americans, lots more dead Iraqis. Some dead Afghani people as well, but we don't hear much from them. You know, the supposed reason all this got started.

Bush has been getting an awful lot of credit lately for "keeping us safe for the last seven years."

WTF? Whenever I hear this, I want to say, "What about year eight?"

Sept. 11 still has some of the taboo topic around it, but I don't believe Bush gets off scott free on this. There was solid intelligence saying bin Laden was planning some big things. It was ignored. Bush is not responsible for the attacks, he is not responsible for mad men who do these things - but he also doesn't get credit for "keeping us safe." Can you imagine if Bush had gotten shot at eight times, and only hit once? Would his Secret Service guys be telling him, "Boy, aren't you glad we protected you against those seven bullets?"

Which brings me to Katrina. Here again, we can't blame Bush for a hurricane. And there are an awful lot of people to share blame for the emergency services failure - not to mention the failure of the levees in the first place. But for FEMA to become (as the finding was) a "dumping ground" for political appointees with no experience, but whom the administration needed to give a job to?

My advice to all future administrations is this - if you really need a political dumping ground to curry favors, please just make it some department that, you know, isn't so neccessary for BIG, CROSS-STATE EMERGENCIES!!

I mean, really. If an earthquake like the '64 one halfway wipes out Anchorage like it did before, I'd like a little reassurance that the guy coordinating my emergency relief has a little experience coordinating emergency relief. Not to be selfish, but just sayin'...

Kodiak Konfidential posted something I thought was actually better than reminding everyone of the screw-ups we all know about. I mention some of the big whoppers that Bush was in charge of. Although I posted a few of them before, I didn't even mention all the "little things" like screwing over Indian Country, etc. But Ishmael found a nice little article over at the Daily Beast that reminds you of some of the "forgotten Bush Scandals." I mean, in eight years, there were just so many to try and remember them all...

My favorite:

10. In order to get tickets to a 2004 election rally with Vice President Dick Cheney, attendees had to a sign a “loyalty oath” affirming that they would endorse Bush's re-election.

This was the sequel to the first article the Daily Beast did.

And tell me the universe doesn't have sense of humor? I just read an article in the Washington Post about a whole load of Bush administration folk who are finding it difficult to find jobs in this crappy economy. It seems many in the administration literally worked themselves out of jobs!

"The cream always rises to the top," added Nels Olson, of the executive recruiting firm Korn/Ferry International. "Those that are the first-rate individuals out of the administration and who have developed good bipartisan relationships and have solid policy experience will be able to make the transition."

Still, one day last week, Michael Castine, also of Korn/Ferry, said he had received calls from half a dozen senior White House aides "who don't have anything in the hopper yet " He said, "They are loyalists who stayed the course and are not sure what they're going to do."

Happy Birthday Dr. King

The above photo was taken at the Democratic National Convention, during one of the more moving tributes I've seen for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Although I'm sure much of it was in the well-edited sound bytes and video clips, much more of it had to do with the setting. 45 years to the day of Dr. King's "I Have a Dream" speech - or the march on Washington - and the Democratic Party nominated a black man for president. The rest is, quite literally, history.

Although Dr. King's birthday is a few days past, America celebrates him today. This made me think, once again, of Cal. I've posted about this before, but it is worth another moment.

Cal was an Alaska delegate on the convention, and surprised many of us by talking about being there on that day 45 years ago. He saw Dr. King, and he was about to see Obama. I discovered later he was born in the south, and was involved in the civil rights movement there before moving to Alaska and becoming involved up here.

When I asked him on the plane ride home if he thought, back then, that he would see in his lifetime a black president, he was quite thoughtful.

He said he supposed none of them really did. Back then, the best they were hoping for was someone to advocate for them. A white man in the white house who was sympathetic to the cause, if you will. But a black president in his lifetime was simply so out there, a bit much, maybe, to imagine at the time.

Well, Cal, you're about to see something incredible. The very last time we celebrate Dr. King's day as a country that has never had a black president.

The very last day, ever, in fact, that this country will belong to that generation.

I hope you don't misunderstand - I do not take anything away from that generation. Without the generation that fought so long and hard, we would not see this day.

What I mean is, now it's in our hands.

The night of the election, I spoke with my grandma. She was a woman who fought that battle here in Alaska, fought for better Native education, Native rights, civil rights. She was quite solemn, and she didn't say much. But what she did say was, "Well, now it's up to you guys."

After last few months, I am actually feeling pretty hopeful about the next generation's ability to take on that mantle.

I think Obama said it pretty well last night on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial:
There is no doubt that our road will be long, that our climb will be steep. But never forget that the true character of our nation is revealed not during times of comfort and ease, but by the right we do when the moment is hard. I ask you to help me reveal that character once more, and together, we can carry forward as one nation, and one people, the legacy of our forefathers that we celebrate today. God bless you. And God bless America.

And... he's off!

Well, technically, he's IN. Alaska Report is off filming several villages in Western Alaska, sent there by YOU. He had to wait out the crazy weather for three days, but will be in Emmonak early this week.

#2 Top Bush Moment (THIS IS IT!!)

The number two moment comes on the very last full day of Bush being in charge of the button. At 11:59 a.m. today, the countdown for his last 24 hours starts.

The # 2 moment I've been saving since election night.

Meaning, of course, that the #2 moment in Bush's presidency was Nov. 4, 2008. I posted one version in which a mass of people swarmed the White House, once the election was called, and started singing and cheering.

I've wondered, since, if Bushie could hear anything. I've since watched a documentary, and though I can't remember which one, one of the First Ladies remarked that it just killed her husband that he could hear all the anti-war protestors outside the White House. So on the question of whether he could hear, I'm going to go with, "Hopefully."

But this topped that sight - because in these they could all agree on one (off-key and probably half-drunk) song to sing. I think you'll pick up on it pretty quick.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

The end is not here. But I'll keep you posted.

I am counting myself pretty lucky that the apocalypse did not, apparently, happen this weekend.

Anchorage-ites have been having some fun weather the last two weeks. First, temperatures going down to -35 in places. Then, it swung nearly 80 degrees in a matter of days, and the temps went to around 40. Schools, which very rarely shut down (i.e. NEVER, and a source of bitterness that I never had one when I was in public school in Anchorage) have been shut down for three days because of the horrible situation that makes on the roads. Warm weather is the biggest cause for inconvenience in an Alaskan winter. The poor kids were still standing outside, or walking, to schools in -20 degree weather, but it goes to 40 and we make them stay home!

But Friday, I was fairly certain the world was giving us a sign it was ending. After being up half the night deciding whether the crap hitting my window was either zombies or debris from the 100 mph gusts that blew in, maybe I was just a bit delirious.

For about half the day, I was staring at a tree. I have made fun of Anchorage trees (being originally from big, beautiful heavily-forested Southeast Alaska) but underestimated the damage one could do if it came visiting your desk.

I have felt lucky the whole time my desk has been at these big picture windows. But then I realized big windows can mean big crash. This tree kept looming closer and closer, the winds around 80 mph at times - and I stared enough my coworker remarked "No matter how much you stare, it's not coming down."

I beg to differ. It was a real possibility. The above is a pic of the Totem Theatre McDonald's PLAYLAND windows - much the same size as my own. They got blown in!

Then the sun set. I was almost sure the end had come.

The sky turned dark purple. Not "purple mountain's majesty" purple. DARK Halloween purple. Zombies are on their way purple. I tried capturing it on my cell, but it doesn't capture how everything turned very very eery. I'm hoping the camera shots I took turn out.

Now, I don't know if this means the end for everybody is coming, or Alaska is going to be swallowed into some crazy horror show. I heard there was a movie out recently where a bunch of people in Alaska had to out-wait zombies? Never saw it, but maybe it was a documentary? Can anyone, with finality, say the North Slope is definitely still with us?

So I'm going to stock up on canned goods, and if you don't hear from me for awhile (let's say by inauguration day) please call the authorities to make sure Alaska is still with us.

Err... actually, if you could just wait for Obama to handle that, that'd be better. I don't really want Bush's last moment in office to be screwing up the rescue of the few surviving members of the Great Alaskan Zombie Attack.

It just may be me.


#3 Top Bush Moment

#3! All right folks! This is really going to happen! Even though, in three days, Bush will still be able to do as many dumb things as he wants, he's not going to do it in our name, on our dime!

I'm not sure why this #3 moment cracks me up so much - but the metaphors are many.

Bush is stuck while trying to escape.

Friday, January 16, 2009

To address some of the commentary

To see people all around the nation band together to help out a village in Alaska is a wonderful sight. Donations of food are being flown in, cash donations have come from around the world. The media, and blogger, attention has had the effect of poking a stick in the side of the State, and several prominent Alaskan politicians and leaders have spoken out.

(My previous posts about Emmonak, #1, #2... Mudflats on Emmonak... ADN on Emmonak.)

Of course, with the good, must come the less savory. As I watch the story unfold, and try to do what I can, I must also address some that which goes on that doesn't help at all - and in fact can make it more difficult. That is, people spreading around ignorance.

The blatant racism toward Alaska Native people is not new to me, yet I cringe (and I imagine many other Native people as well) when Native issues are brought up in public. Why? Because you get to hear so consistently comments about just how unproductive, deceitful, lazy, greedy, and probably drunk Native people are. Comments like this on ADN, regarding how Native people (in general!) squander all their money:

"In the future the State of Alaska should hold the PFD's for all native households and only issue them out in monthly amounts."

I wish people who made these remarks knew how each one feels like a punch in the stomach.

I don't know why this person feels the government should hold back money from me, and give it to her freely, only handing it to me like an allowance for a child. I admit I've never learnt the lesson my grandma tried to teach, and dismiss such people as ignorant, and move on. I wish I could, but they are EVERYWHERE. On the Internet, much more so.

So here are a few of the more consistent issues I see coming up. Mind you, none of them are new... just revisited for this issue.

The people got themselves into this mess through their own negligence/ ineptitude/ greed/ laziness (etc., etc.) so don't waste your own food/time/money.

I address this first, and I hope it is not taken as me agreeing with it, because there is too much evidence that it certainly is not true. But even if every word of that were true - when your neighbor's house is on fire, you don't go twenty rounds on whether it was their own fault or not. To expland on the metaphor, take the recent fires in Anchorage. I suggest the next fire that happens, the fire department only respond if the owners can prove they didn't cause the fire in any way. A little child might be hurt in the process? No matter. These people need to learn.

As for if it really was Emmonak's fault or not, please, PLEASE look at all the evidence before making this judgement. I can gaurantee there are people in Emmonak who don't handle their finances well, or at all. I gaurantee there are people who have bought things like expensive toys, alcohol, cell phones. But look at the whole region. For that matter, look at Rural Alaska as a whole. It is not thriving, and it has not been for years. There is a reason for this other than every single person in that region sucks at handling their money.

The native corporations should help.

They should, and they are. Most of the social services come from nonprofits, however, and they... you know... DON'T MAKE A PROFIT. And "the corporations should help" is not code for "the government that serves me doesn't have to serve people who belong to Native corporations." Many times this is said by people who have no idea what they really do, other than, "They hand out tens of thousands of dollars to all the Native people." Example: This past year, I finally became a shareholder (not all Native people are - most under 40ish aren't shareholders.) My check this year? Just over $150. No, not a thousand - $150. I do not belittle what I got - but to suggest this is good enough to live on is laughable. It literally did not buy me three tanks of gas for my car. In the village, it would buy much less. Other corporations give out more, but most don't. Look at the landless 13th Regional Corp. - it literally shut its doors and went belly up this year. In other words - you have to know what you're talking about before making this argument.

Didn't these people live off the land for thousands of years? Don't they keep talking about this supposed "subsistence lifestyle"? Why don't they keep doing that, and stop whining about needing money and electricity?

This is really one of the more frustrating for me to hear. First - okay, I'll take you up on your proposal. But you know, to truly live off the land like we did a thousand years ago, we have to have ALL the land. A thousand people absolutely cannot live off of twenty square miles of land. There was a reason people were so spread out, and much of it had to do with needing x amount of land to support x amount of people. Not to mention that to support yourself completely by the land is a full time job, and would require that all those gaming laws and limits be dropped. So yeah - if the state of Alaska, private businesses and citizens, and federal government are willing to give up all land, all laws, I'm willing to start talking about requiring everyone live "like they used to."

But really - WHY DO WE NEED TO DO THAT? I believe the people making this argument are the same people who, depending on the circumstance, also wonder why we can't learn how to just "be American." Get respectable jobs, speak "proper" English, learn to drive a car for Pete's sake. It's either/or. There is a push and pull for Native people of needing to maintain that cultural image, and yet prove you can be a productive citizen in the modern world.

Why don't they band together and help each other out?

Uhh... they are. I honestly don't even understand these comments. Please show me all these people who aren't. Every single family the man interviewed was in pretty rough shape.

They need to move out of the villages.

This is part of that push and pull. The need to stay and maintain the culture of millenia past vs. modernity and "don't stand in the way of progress." As if Native people in the city are faring that much better anyways. There are more opportunties for jobs and schooling, yet so many of the crime rates go higher. Is loss of culture and family, ties that go back, quite literally, to the ice age, an acceptable loss to gain city life?

Rural Alaska needs to stop asking for stuff - they are subsidized like crazy.

Let me say this. Everything worth anything in Alaska comes from Rural Alaska. Please think on that. What are our biggest state moneymakers?

The obvious - oil?



Rural (No, folks, the tourists don't save all their lives to see Anchorage. It's just a convenient stopover.)







My mother pointed out a comment in the ADN addressing this. How true. Rural Alaska gives and gives. The resources are taken over and over - most of them nonrenewable. The people who get the big bucks from these Rural Alaska resources live in Anchorage, live in Texas, live in England. By and large, even most of the jobs created by these industries do not go to Rural Alaskans. They go to people from Outside. I think Rural Alaska has given its share.

I'm not trying to pour cold water over a fire that needs to burn, but it appears to me this is all these kind of comments do in the first place. I certainly don't believe everyone in Emmonak has acted perfectly, but I don't for a second believe everyone else NOT in Emmonak has either.

I just hope that the people that are so hateful about helping don't lose a job, have expensive medical problems, have a house burn down, or have anything remotely tragic happen to them. They might then have to be subjected to scrutiny of everything they've ever bought, why they didn't save more, whether they should have had that many kids in the first place, and a judgement of whether they deserve help at all.

I did a little of what I could for the people in Emmonak. Not because Emmmonak needs help more than the next village. Not because I dug into their finances and deemed them worthy enough. Not because, despite the "obvious" sins of the parents, the children should at least get some food.

They asked for help. They needed help. They are human beings. That is all I need to know.

#4 Top Bush Moment

#4 Best (or Worst) Bush Moment

I had long been saving one of my favorites for the #4 spot, but Ishmael of Kodiak Konfidential directed my attention (yes, much as an easily distracted toddler) to a very profound post on - the Top 25 Bushisms of all time (though I'm not totally convinced he's going to sit down and shut up in just four short days.) There were some real classics ("Rarely is the question asked, is our children learning?" !) - and even some I haven't heard before. Because really, 100 of Bush's moments isn't nearly enough to carve a spot in the great wealth of Bushisms he's accumulated in eight years. It's going to take the next eight tracking them all down and collecting them. Maybe that is what his presidential library will have - certainly it couldn't have BOOKS WITHOUT PICTURES (which, by the way, is a subject of one of the other excellentt Bushisms.)

I have a new nearly-favorite - another that really just displays Bush's frame of thinking, while being chuckle-worthy at the same time. I actually wasn't going to switch it up, despite liking the quote, until I actually tracked down the video. The part that sold it for me was how everybody claps, nodding their heads as he spews forth Bush wisdom. Sigh.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Another Alaskan village in trouble - follow-up

Today, I was very proud of so many Alaskans, Americans - and Alaskan bloggers. Especially those "anonymous" kind.

Pardon me for quoting a favorite show, but there was a "Native" moment in a West Wing episode I really connected with when I first heard it. The press secretary is trying to talk two "Indians in the lobby" into not going to the press right before Thanksgiving. They have been trying to have their case heard for 15 years (not exactly unheard of in Indian country.)

At the end of it all, she asks them, "How do you keep fighting these smaller injustices, when they all come from the mother of all injustices?"

The Native lawyer answers her, "What's the alternative?"

In other words, keep fighting.

I find it very easy to get discouraged with Native issues, and this is often how I feel. We fight because we must, because the only other alternative is to give up. Certainly, there are many who have.

Last night I did a post about a story that appeared in the Bristol Bay Times - another Alaska village in trouble. Yet the news wasn't even that the village was in trouble, as many, many villages are. It was the humanity lent to the letter of a resident, the personal stories. In an emergency, in an honest to goodness, having to choose between heat and food situation, a man reached out to Alaskans and asked for help for his people.

The response to the man's letter was beautiful. In just a few short days, bloggers have posted like crazy, asking for help. Celtic Diva made sure I knew about some of the "behind the scenes" work the bloggers were up to, including Progressive Alaska, The Immoral Minority, and Isiik's Thoughts are posting. Mudflats got on the front page of the Huffington Post with her excellent commentary. Alaska Report will be heading out to Emmonak, and other villages, to try and get more coverage for the situation. Donations have begun to trickle (and I hope, soon, flood) in. It is not a government bailout, it is not a permanent fix, it is not The Answer to all that ails - but it is the beginning of something good.

Mudflats related what the man who wrote the letter, Nick Tucker, said on KUDO:

“Thank you. I am choking, and tears are coming out of my eyes. You are giving us hope.”

Oh, and you can donate on the post from last night.

I am both more fortunate, and less fortunate, than these villagers. Living in the "big city" of Anchorage now, I cannot connect with my heritage as well, I missed much of what would be commonplace by living here, not where I was born. Yet the biggest trouble this week has been the failure of my car against the cold. It will be an inconvenience, but I ate good today, I am sleeping warm, and I will go to my job tomorrow - because I have one. The same cannot be said of the people in Emmonak, and of many places around the state. Many times, the fight just seems to be about what you are willing to give up.

But today, I got a big shot of hope. I - and I suspect many Native people - can get pretty discouraged in The Fight. You can believe you are only fighting so you know you aren't giving up - not with a real belief that change will come. The news of the dying villages got some news coverage this year, but it made one of the people I was with at the Alaska Federation of Natives convention in October comment, "Man - we've been talking about that for decades!" It is easy to think your voice is never heard.

This week, one Native man raised his voice. The Bristol Bay Times reported, ADN made a mention. Then the bloggers got ahold of it, and wow, watch it go! His voice has been carried around the world, and right before my eyes, I'm watching a very wonderful thing. They are listening, and they are responding with action. With money, comments, passing the word - the proverbial ball is rolling.

No, I'm not getting ahead of myself. No, its not all okay now. No, there is no solution. Yes, there's about fifty billion other problems. Yes, the work ahead is exhausting to think of. The village, and many others, still have little heat, and little food - and no money.

But today a Native man raised up his voice, and was heard.

Today was a good day.


#5 Top Bush Moments

#5 Best (or Worst) Bush Moments

Five, hopefully short, days left. I'm seeing the light at the end of the tunnel.

This moment was also chosen for how much it shows "who is this Bush guy anyway?" Or - how Bush can deliver the lines he's given, and then go back to "real business."

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Another village in trouble

When I spotted this in the ADN Newsreader, I had a sinking feeling becoming very familiar. I've talked about a few dying villages, and villagers just trying to make it this winter. This story is one of the more heartbreaking.

Originally in the Bristol Bay Times, the article is actually about a letter written by an Emmonak resident, asking for help for his village. Short of fuel, short of money, short of food, he talked to 25 of the 200 households in the area, and every one of them had a grim story to tell. Just one:

P. R: Single, separated, with five children. (He chokes occasionally, holding back crying.) He and his children are staying in the same household with his brother’s family. Cost of fuel is so high and everything else and we’re able to get just a few things at a time. We have no other subsistence food left. Only thing we’re surviving on moose meat alone and it is almost gone. Everything is so high – only able to get little bit. We can’t catch up on our bills. We’re really hurting even we are given some from other people. Right now, we can’t eat during the day, only at supper time. And, it is still not enough. If there had been no school lunch, our kids would be starving. It is going to get worse in two weeks when our new heating fuel supply is airlifted in. Price of fuel will go way up again. I am lucky that the Women’s Shelter is able to give me some coffee.

Yes. This is America today.

I was privileged to meet with a family from Emmonak last month, getting to know them. Although going through a tough time, a death, I had no idea of the rest of this. This also makes me wonder how much the economic situation is affecting the alarming news of the suicides in the area. Although the area, and the area just above, are the two highest in Alaska for suicide rates - and Alaska the highest in the nation - lately there has been even more than usual.

This is just one village. I wrote before about a village on the Aleutian chain being told they should leave because the village couldn't power itself. Despite an article proclaiming that it's not as bad as people have said... it seems pretty bad.

The letter left some information on where to go to help. As he says in his letter though - these are just the ones he was able to talk to - how many more are remaining silent?

UPDATE: I've had some requests about where to send money, donations, etc. Although it is in the above letter (the link,) it is a really long letter and easily missed:

To help, please call:
City of Emmonak, (907) 949-1227/1249
Emmonak Tribal Council, (907) 949-1720
Emmonak Corporation, (907) 949-1129/1315/1411
Emmonak Sacred Heart Catholic Church Pastoral Parish Council Chairman,
(907) 949-1011.
To assist with offsetting heating fuel costs, call Emmonak Corporation.
For distribution of food, I would suggest Emmonak Tribal Council handle this.

To send directly:

Emmanok Tribal Council
P.O. Box 126
Emmanok, AK 99581

Here's another way to give, and it could payout bigger even than the rest. Dennis Zaki of will be heading out to Emmonak on Friday to shoot video of the situation. His coverage has some big possibilities for further national coverage, and could play out big (with big donations, big attention) with millions, not just those watching the blogs. He needs $2000 to get out there though, so if you can give a few bucks, I think you'll find your dollars will multiply in worth!

He's also donating anything above the travel costs to the people of Emmonak.


#6 Top Bush Moments

#6 Best (or Worst) Bush Moments

I was saving this one until one of the last, just because of the pure exasperation when listening to it. Basically, it's Bush describing one of the most important issues to Native people... or trying to discuss. It's not pretty.

Monday, January 12, 2009

This is why we won't miss Bush.

Every once in a while I will come across someone, usually online, who thinks that the anger and disappointment - not to mention embarrassment - conjured by Bush is "Bush bashing." Unpatriotic, without merit, simply disagreeing to disagree.

I was looking at an opinion piece in Indian Country Today - a "how-to" deal with the Obama administration for tribes - when I noticed the other articles I was picking up on.

No, not exciting. Policy stuff. Tribal enrollment issues. Wasting money. But extremely important to groups of people right here in the U.S.

Uranium mining. Yes. URANIUM MINING. This is not the sort of mining that hurts the environment in the usual way. This is pretty scary, proven-unhealthy-big-scary-ways mining. So why not open up more land, and make this especially dangerous for tribes?
Bush's last minute mining decisions and how it affects tribes

To most in the U.S. "enrollment" doesn't mean much of anything. But tribal enrollment can mean everything. DISenrollment can be life-changing.

I visited the American Indian Museum just after it first opened in D.C., and thought one small exhibit very interesting. It was a letter from the Bureau of Indian Affairs to a Native man. It seemed that, after thought, the BIA had decided the man was not Native after all.

Can you imagine getting a letter telling you that you are not a Smith, or a Jones? That you are not white, or black, or Native? Now imagine needing membership to prove you are this group or another (Native people need many.) And imagine not being able to receive it.
Bush's "you're Indians, but not the right Indians" decisions for 2008

Good ol' Kempthorne. This guy Bush picked... what a winner.
Outgoing Sec. of Interior Dirk Kempthorne gives one last flush down the toilet for Native spending

My point here is simply that it is not bashing to disagree, it is not vicious to want big change, and now, and it is certainly not unpatriotic to be angry and embarrassed by a president who treats one large group of his own people this way. And that's just a few examples in the last few months. Eight years have gone by, and I know no Native person who is saying, "Boy, life is just a little bit better after all that." Or, for that matter, "Well, things are about the same." I know far, far too many that are looking for the silver lining in what was handed over, and instead hoping that their lives are not made more difficult by the next eight years, as they were the last.

And for the Native folk - a few suggestions on how to handle things this time around.
A "to-do" on handling the Obama administration and Native policy

UPDATE: I had to fix my "plutonium mining" to "uranium" because, apparently, I can't keep planets - or elements - together right. Thanks Ishmael!

#10 - #7 Top Bush Moments - ONE WEEK LEFT!

Okay. I'm officially excited. I think I can now safely say I am MORE excited that Obama will be getting sworn in than that Bush will no longer be in charge. One more week left of him...

You know, I keep hearing that at the very end of a term, approval ratings for even the worst presidents get a bit of a surge. They keep saying this, as if the same will happen with Bush. The problem is, Bush keeps TALKING and MAKING DECISIONS. He isn't giving us a chance to to think, "Well, maybe he wasn't as bad as I thought..." and in the joy that is Obama's inauguration forgive and forget (or just forget.) No, he keeps reminding us of everything he's responsible for.

Case in point - his last press conference. I honestly watched a lot of this trying to grab out some bit that was more "Bush" than the other. But it's like they wrapped up the whole last eight years and put it in one bite-size press conference - including such golden nuggets as not looking inward when there's a party loss, not understanding why people get angry or hostile with him, and not worrying about the "little voices" that disagree with him.

I liked one reporter who said, regardless of his goals, the execution of his ideals was the disappointing part. Another reporter asked Bush about a term coined - "Bush derangement syndrome."

In any case, this is an interesting press conference I think people will be taking apart for years, which is why it made the list as #7.

#7 Top Bush Moment

(This is just part two of the conference, if you want more check out the links after it plays.)

#8 Top Bush Moment

I think this one can get downplayed a bit, but it is integral to understanding Bush. In a moment of heat in front of the cameras (okay, there's been a lot) you get to here the voices rattling around in Bush's head. The statement really says a lot about what worldview we've been living under for the better part of a decade now.
"I'm the decider, and I decide what's best."

#9 Top Bush Moment

In a rare moment of recognizing failure (or at least SAYING he recognizes failure) Bush acknowledges Katrina... uh.. "serious problems." It would have a lot more meaning if he hadn't just fully defended the Katrina decisions a few days ago.

#10 - Hands down the WORST moment of the Bush presidency... how little we knew...

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Buzzwinkle Jr.?

Okay, remember a few weeks ago when I counseled (and showed you bad examples of) moose safety?

Well, just the other night I had an excellent example of a very aware Anchorage-ite practicing excellent moose caution, and I thought I would share it.

Yes, it's a crappy picture, but it's a nightime camera-phone pic from a car. Although Anchorage people are allowed to slow to watch a moose, they are a frequent enough sight that, unless it is entirely convenient for all the other drivers, politeness decrees you should not stop. Unless, of course, a moose is taking his time crossing the highway in front of you, just daring you to try and honk at him to move faster (it doesn't really work.)

In any case, this moosie could just possibly be the moose I showed you before. But he was getting really rambunctious. Enough that I was considering he could be a less-sober cousin to Buzzwinkle the drunk moose I mentioned. He would grab a bite from the tree above him, and then hop and prance around the yard a bit.

Now, if you think of a deer prancing, I'm sure the sight is lovely and delicate. Moose have never, ever, ever been delicate. A full-grown, prancing moose is like a full-grown prancing Buick in your yard.

There were actually two examples of good moose safety:

1) A gentleman living in this home. He waited in the car for awhile, idling in the driveway. When moosie walked away a bit, he cautiosly got out, nearly making it to his door. Then moose snapped at the tree, and began dancing around the yard (this is actually the first time, in all my moose-watching days, I have ever seen a full-grown moose act this way.)

The gentleman promptly abandoned his try for the door and ran back behind his car. The moose stared, and then looked toward the street. As soon as he did this, the gentleman jumped over the chain link fence to the nieghbors backyard. I am presuming (hoping) he found home base.

2) The gentleman walking on the street. I will give a distant high five to this guy for braving this weather in the first place. My car died the morning after this picture, because of the 35-below-zero temps in my neighborhood. (No, I didn't plug it in. Yes, I know that was stupid.)

He was pretty bulked up for the weather, and cautiously watching the moose as he walked on the other side of the street. As soon as the moose started thrashing around, this guy BOOKED IT. I was impressed with his speed, especially regarding his bulky gear. He moved all the way up a nieghbor's driveway, and when the moose seemed to be moving towards the street, the guy actually ran to the doorway and rang the doorbell.

I moved my car in between the moose and the guy, just in case, but moosie just went a little nuttier. The neighbor opened the door and let the guy in, and they both were peeking out the window when I finally left. This guy gets my safety award of the year. Many are not willing to choose inviting themselves into a strnager's house over possible trampling, and so high marks for bravery and smarts.

I don't know if the moose was drunk, like Buzzwinkle, or just going stir-crazy with the cold like the rest of Alaska. I guess if I had to be outside all the time right now (I think it's about -25 now) I would be jumping around like crazy too.

#11 Top Bush Moments

#11 Best (or Worst) Bush Moment

I get kind of surprised that you don't see this one around more.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Barack can do WHATEVER HE LIKES!

I was going to have a somewhat serious post here, but my coworker sent me this video and I laughed my butt off. I'm sure half of you have seen it, but I'm sending it out anyways! It helps if you know the song he's spoofing, but it's EVERYWHERE so it should be a bit familiar.

#12 Top 100 Bush Moment

#12 with 12 days to go people! Just twelve days until NO MORE BUSH! I almost can't believe it...

This one is classic Bush being a bit uncomfortable, but not quite knowing how to answer.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

#13 Top 100 Bush Moment

#13 Until last month, a bird came the closest to physically showing Bush how much we love him.

Bush - What do you think?

I've taken a few days to write along a very different plane, and loved this comment when I came back. It's by Mike C., and I wanted to put it out here for anyone to answer. It was left in one of my Top 100 Bush Moments posts. I'd like to hear all your answers before I post my own thoughts, and I'd like to repost your thoughts (whether they come through e-mail or in a comment) on this post.

You know, I've often wondered about the President. Specifically, I've wondered "why does he do and say the things he does? Of what can he possibly be thinking?". At first it seemed to me that he was, in fact, an idiot. But as emotionally gratifying as that view was (and it IS emotionally gratifying) I'm not sure that it's accurate, or at least wholly accurate. I've come up with 3 possibilities for his often inexplicable and destructive behavior:

A). He is stupid, not much more than functionally literate. He's almost completely at the mercy of those around him, who use them for their own ends. Not smart enough to understand anything beyond simple algebra.

B). He is reasonably intelligent, perhaps even very much so, but his intellect does not really drive his decision making process. He has deeply held beliefs, and when confronted with situations that challenge his beliefs, he will look for and accept any explanations that support these beliefs, no matter how seemingly preposterous they are to others. He has no talent or stomach for critical self examination. He actually believes almost everything Karl Rove (and other like minded individuals) says, because it is comfortable for him to do so. And perhaps he's not the most gifted public speaker either.

C). He is utterly corrupt and dishonest. He does not care for the welfare of the country or world. He is interested only in using his position to benefit a small group of powerful wealthy friends and supporters.

Or, a fourth possibility, a combination of all or some of the above.

What do you think?


From Annette (on Blogger)

I think he is a true idiot. I also think he is a sheep. He is easily lead, and that is why he surrounds himself with the people he has and does. Karl Rove, Dick Cheney and Rumsfeld and so forth. I think they were the true leaders of the country, Bush was just the figure head.

I often wonder what would have happened if Jeb had gotten into office instead of George. Would things have been different? That is the way it was supposed to have been, but George jumped in ahead, trying to score points with daddy I guess, he had always been such a screw up. Jeb is known as the smart Now we may never know, because George has probably ruined Jeb's chances, thank goodness...not sure the country can stand another Bush and I don't think I want to try.

2 is enough. MORE than enough.

From Wayne Gallant (on Open Salon)

I think he's crazier than a March Hare.

Basically, a combination of B and C, with sociopathic overtones.

From Mike C (on Blogger)

I think a 60%B, 30%C, 10%A solution. Not sure what supporting evidence I can come up with and at the moment I'm too lazy. Let's just call it a gut feeling.... :)

From Seven Crows

I have struggled with this question myself and I think that it is a combination of B and C. Also throw in a profound sense of his own importance and an utter lack of interest in anything outside his own personal world. He is from the upper class. He and his compatriots are certainly right because otherwise they wouldn't be upper class would they? You can see in his reactions that he doesn't understand at all what it is like to not have enough money to do whatever he wants. The people killed by Katrina: well, why didn't they just hire a limo to drive them away? That just proves to him that they are stupid and not as smart as the upper class.BAH! I hope that soon I will not have to think about him at all ever ever again.

Monday, January 5, 2009

#17 - #14 Top Bush Moments

Only two weeks to go folks! Two weeks from now the nightmare will be over.

We're now in "classic" Bush territory - some quips from Dubya that have withstood the test of time - or rather withstood all the OTHER incredibly dumb things he's said to be the epitomy, for one reason or the other, or presidential intelligence in the new millenium (so far.)

#14 Best (or worst) Bush Moments

These two are classic Dubya-speak - the "Internets" and "The Google." Or - why our tech economy REALLY went down...


An ultimate, and one I have often heard quoted... "Is our children learning?"
This versio actually has this quote, and Bush's follow-up (posted here before) of "Children's do learn."

And of course, Bush saying the truth, without meaning to.

Friday, January 2, 2009

#19 - #18 Top Bush Moments

#18... just makes my stomach turn a little. A lot about Bush's recent interviews has made me really NOT want to watch them as he gives us a little bit of what is actually in his head as he makes these decisions.

# 19 Best (or Worst) Bush moment

Childrens do learn!