Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Mudflats, meet Publius, Junius and Boz

Have you ever heard of Currer, Ellis and Acton Bell?

How about George Orwell?

George Eliot? Boz? Junius? Voltaire? Lewis Carroll? Clive Hamilton? Publius?

How about Silence Dogood?

My guess is that some of these names are familiar to you - authors - and some not. They are all pen names - names the "real" authors chose to use, for whatever reason, instead of their given name.

When I heard that our state representative, Mike Doogan, had "outed" one of my favorite Alaskan political bloggers, AKMuckraker of Mudflats, my first thoughts were that Muckraker just didn't deserve it (won't tell you my second thoughts - they were about Doogan and mostly unprintable.)

I've met Muckraker (and I'm keeping with the wish for not publicizing name, gender, etc. despite the fact that it's out there) on a several occasions, and I think knowing how kind and passionate Muckraker as a person is would stop any decent person from wanting to cause harm.

But if I'd never met Muckraker, I would not want to cause harm on the basis of the writing at Mudflats. Both a talented writer, and astute observationalist, there is a reason Mudflats is so popular. In a time where nearly all Alaskan blogs were posting about Palin, Mudflats was one that stood out. You just need to read the blog to see why.

I was going to just post some links to other blogs who were commenting on the Doogan/Mudflats outing - I wasn't sure there was much more I could say. What's more, I didn't think Mudflats needed any kind of defense from me - Muckraker would (and is) doing just fine.

But one theme keeps getting rehashed, and I felt a need to address it, both as a blogger, and an avid reader. Although blogging is a new medium, there is a theme that keeps arising that anonymity is somehow a new thing.

We are, I'm afraid, standing on the shoulders of anonymous giants. The history of writing is full of anonymity and creative pen names.

Of the names I mentioned above, Currer, Ellis and Acton Bell were the pen names of Anne, Emily and Charlotte Bronte. "Boz" was an early pen name of Charles Dickens, and Clive Hamilton an early pen name for C.S. Lewis. Mark Twain - well, he didn't go to great lengths to conceal his identity, but had different reasons for his pen name.

Doogan states, in his public "outing" of Mudflats on his newsletter, that his "own theory about the public process is you can say what you want, as long as you are willing to stand behind it using your real name" is stupidly ridiculous. The very founding of this country's "public process" is riddled with anonymous writing. The Federalist Papers, anyone?

Just for a quick history lesson, the Federalist Papers were written by "Publius," later known to as Alexander Hamilton, John Jay and James Madison. Actually, I'll just refer to them as "old school bloggers." The Federalist Papers are maybe one of the best examples of writing forms very similar to blogging. They were written with obvious opinion, and an obvious intent to persuade. They were written in articles, and in formats trying to get them out to the public at large - not for elite consumerism. And they were written anonymously.

Pen names of authors are chosen for plenty of different reasons - and through history most people are willing to accept that. Whether it is because the author wants true anonymity (Jane Austen, for instance) or because an author is trying to get around the prejudices of readers by concealing gender (J.K. Rowling, George Sand) or because they are concerned about protecting a career (C.S. Lewis/Clive Hamilton, Lewis Carroll) - they all have reasons. Some reasons are good, others not, but most of the public is satisfied not having to dig that up.

Why? Because it is the ideas, the style, the story - the writing - we are buying into, not the name. Names can prejudice a person right from the start. Women authors, especially, have known this. Pride and Prejudice was meant to be enjoyed, spark thought - it should not matter whether Jane Austen wanted me to know her name and all her family business. For that matter, I don't know a single thing about Barbara Kingsolver except the name on the cover. But I recommend her book, "The Poisonwood Bible" to anyone who loves literature.

But that's fiction, right? When you're in the "public process" it's different?

Tell that to Ben Franklin - author of "Silence Dogood" letters. Or the aforementioned Alexander Hamilton. For that matter, George Orwell is now known for his (very political) fiction books, but in his day he was quite prolific in (nonfiction) articles and political writing. Voltaire's persistent opinions and writings kept getting him imprisoned. Daniel Defoe knew just how many enemies political writing can get you, and frequently adopted different pen names. Junius is a political writer we still don't know the "true identity" of a few hundred years later. It doesn't make any difference in the ideas and impact of his/her writing.

This is something that comforts me about Mudflats. My real concern was that Mudflats - in an effort to protect family, career, etc. - would stop. I am relieved to see my paranoia was wrong, and Mudflats is up and running, just as good as ever. But people who read Mudflats are buying into the reputation of AKMuckraker as a writer. Absolutely no harm has been done to this reputation (and my guess is all that really happened, for the blog anyways, was Mudflats picked up even more readers.)

I wish, for AKMuckrakers sake, that wishes for privacy had been respected, but know that, just as finding out the name of who wrote Sense and Sensibility didn't make the book's place in history any less likely - the public knowing the "real identity" of AKMuckraker won't make Mudflats any less of a quality site for public discussion.

I came across this interesting explanation of pen names by sister Charlotte Bronte, wanting to clear up the confusion of both her late sister's work.
Averse to personal publicity, we veiled our own names under those of Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell... we had a vague impression that authoresses are liable to be looked on with prejudice; we had noticed how critics sometimes use for their chastisement the weapon of personality, and for their reward, a flattery, which is not true praise.

Funny how little seems to change.

The irony of Doogan's outing is he is merely taking part in a continuation of history and writers - and he wants to play the part, not of the public who readily accept anonymity, but of the a**hole government official who can't stand the criticism and so decides to persecute the writer. Funny thing about history - nobody remembers that guy.


Monday, March 30, 2009

WAR on Native community

From the Bristol Bay Times:

Palin declares ‘WAR on the Native community,’ rural leader says

More on this later, but this is regarding Palin's appointment of Wayne Anthony Ross as attorney general. From the article:

And in a 2002 debate during his failed run for governor, Ross said he would ‘hire a band of ‘junkyard dog’ assistant attorney generals to challenge the federal law that requires a subsistence preference, according to the Associated Press.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Palin says final farewell to the myth that she cares about Native people

I didn't know much about Palin's new attorney general, Wayne Anthony Ross, when it was announced today. There was certainly a huge reaction from... well, half the people I know, and pretty much all negative.

I was still in public school when he ran for governor, and don't remember anything about that run. "Corrupt Bastard" Kohring's attorney? Sounds about right for the current political decision-making process. I was prepared for the irony that she hires the guy who defended convicted felon/lawmaker Vic Kohring in his corruption scheme, her painting the "anti-corruption" picture and all.

But what else besides the somewhat expected? I spotted the "Who's Wayne Ross?" bit in the Anchorage Daily News, taking mostly from his run for governor. I was still in public school when he ran in '98 and don't remember him in it. I was queasy after reading it. Despite disagreeing with the great bulk of his positions (again, expected), there was this glaring... ALARMING bit:

Native sovereignty threatens to create separate classes of Alaskans and would further divide the state, Ross said. ''The idea of Native sovereignty is a 19th-century principle, and we are going into the 21st century.''

Ross, an urban hunter, wants to keep the state constitutional guarantee of equal access to fish and game. ''Rural preference is wrong and not necessary to ensure subsistence foods,'' he says.

If one more person tells me there's no way Palin can be against Native interests because her husband is part Native, I'm going to lose it again.

Palin picks an anti-sovereignty, anti-subsistence guy for her top lawyer?

Seriously, folks, if anyone could possibly still argue Palin cares at all for Native issues - no, not even that. I challenge anyone to argue she even cares about the Native VOTE at this point.

Speak up, Native leaders. We need to hear your voice on this.

Photo courtesy of Dennis Zaki, http://www.alaskareport.com/ - Ross on right.

Rumblings in rural Alaska

Alaska Native leaders ARE speaking out!

It's been a bit discouraging to NOT hear a lot of Native leader voices in public (I'm hearing many in private) about Palin's visit to Western Alaska recently. I've been wondering if that's because they are not speaking up, or because they are not being asked. Maybe both?

But the new Anchorage Daily News rural blog, "The Village" had a few bits from two Native leaders, Myron Naneng, the president of the Association of Village Council Presidents, and Brad Garness, Alaska Inter-Tribal Council director. It was in a post about the Citgo fuel program for the villages. I'm glad to see at least two Native leaders speaking out about this publicly (and encourage MORE Native leaders who have strong, well-reasoned opinions who ARE talking behind closed doors to open those doors up.)

There also followed a big response from the governor's office that ADN reporter Kyle Hopkins asked. The governor's response begins:

The Palin administration acted before a crisis manifested itself in Western Alaska, is acting during this difficult winter and is laying the groundwork for improving conditions in the future.

It was hard to read on when it was all a defensive, big lie right from the start. But it does go on and on.

The "acted before" refers to the $1200 check Alaskans got last year. Despite the fact that MANY people said $1200 was not going to do much if the problem itself wasn't taken care of, and quickly (and how many "we-told-you-sos" could have been commissioned since then?

The biggest frustration is that there is still nothing about the BIG CORE PROBLEMS. The idea of fisheries problems is dimissed completely. Half of the people they are trying to get "fisheries jobs" HAD fisheries jobs! Because of laws, restrictions, etc. they can't make a living doing that! The fisheries problem was not some natural disaster - it is a problem that could be addressed by lawmakers. What's more, it's also not news that it's a problem. Fisherman have been part of the David and Goliath battle for decades now (and guess who's David?)

Regardless of the politics, regardless of the governor, regardless of the current national situation - it is frustrating on a very personal level to see more efforts going towards band-aids on the symptoms, not the cause. Even more frustrating for many of the "solutions" to be catalysts for further community devastation.

The causes are complex, detailed, and you may have to get your hands dirty to make a difference, but it would not be so frustrating if I didn't believe it was possiible to turn around.

In other rural Alaska news:

I don't know what I was paying attention to during this thing, but apparently I missed this whole exchange. The Alaska Dispatch posted the new Palin rural affairs advisor's response to Nick Tucker's letter on March 6 (I'm WAY behind on this...)

There was also a bit of a fluff piece from Indian Country Today about Palin's rural advisor (John Muller) which doesn't offer much of substance - more a job announcement really, and only gets a bit down to actually examining the record on the last few paragraphs. It was mostly taken from the Anchorage Daily News article in February... a little strange.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Nick Tucker on Palin

Saw this in the Cordova Times:

Nick Tucker angered by governor's "disrespect"

Nick Tucker is the man who wrote the original letter about Emmonak, sparking all the attention of the last few months.

From the letter:

I felt like Governor Palin treated Emmonak with most disregard and disrespect by not coming here where it all started. Instead, we had to go up to Russian Mission to meet her and followed her to Marshall.

I was there. About whom and to whom was she referring that top leadership in what village(s) should be changed? This is a blow to all rural villages telling each one of us that our past and current leadership isn't worth being there!

Why and on what basis? This message is dismal, not of hope. How do I take things? Here, I had a person whom I voted for and who turns around and stabs us? I tell you, I want things done for Emmonak. And now, for all rural villages. We deserve better than that — respect.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Exxon Valdez - 20 years later

I was just a little girl when the Exxon Valdez oil spill happened, yet it is just one of those things you always remember "where you were." I lived in Kodiak, and the images on the television, first of this oily residue spreading from the tanker, and later of seagulls, fish, bald eagles lying on the beach, barely recognizable from the oil, were impactful.

I remember very strongly wanting to go help the clean-up after seeing the news coverage of sea otters being scrubbed with blue Dawn soap. To me, the little watery divide between Kodiak and Cordova didn't seem like much, and I could do that, scrub them up. It seemed to me that if you could fix this mess with Dawn soap, then you just needed enough people to scrub, and it would all be better.

Never did I imagine that those same beaches I saw as a little girl would still have oil in them 20 years later. The little girl saw a temporary problem affecting these poor birds and sea otters. The woman is still grappling with the idea that 20 years later, there is still no justice.

I don't know how familiar non-Alaskans are with the story of last year. The supreme court finally settled the "last" appeal, and the thousands of plaintiffs got handed their injustice. The settlement got cut in half, setting yet another precedent for big business to act without conscience, and reap the rewards, while the citizen gets trampled on. The above picture was taken last summer after the supreme court decision - an Alaskan making a point about just how "done" the effects of the spill are.

The impact on fisheries, families, lifestyles was severe and lasting - and you can't scrub it off with Dawn soap. Just as you can scratch beneath the surface of so many of those beaches and hit oil, so many of the families never recovered either.

There's something strange in this year, as we celebrate 50 years of statehood, that today, March 24, we remember that for 20 of those years, Exxon Valdez had as lasting an impact as so many of the wonderful things we celebrate. As the above video clip mentioned, this spill was roughly the size of the entire California coast. That's a lot of life to be put through sludge and come out okay, even 20 years later.

Is the name of Captain Hazelwood a name you know better than your state congressman? Do you know fisherman who struggle year to year because of ever-waning fisheries? Did the coverage of the supreme court decision last year turn your stomach?

Do you still think Dawn soap can fix anything?

Note: The first photo I reposted from last summer's comment about the supreme court decision. My note at the time:
(The Prince William Sound Regional Citizen's Advisory Council received the attached photo and following text from David Janka.)"The photo was taken on July 1, 2008 at Smith Island in Prince William Sound. Residual 1989 Exxon Valdez oil in subsurface sediments.It doesn't look done to me."--DJanka

There she blows!! ... again...

The sixth big eruption just a little bit ago, not including "six or seven" smaller eruptions, for Mt. Redoubt.

I've been taking in a lot of the comparisons, from Mudflats for instance, of the Alaska political volcanoes and the Alaska natural volcanoes.

So far, I prefer the natural... though I don't know that the folks up in Talkeetna, Skwenta, etc., who are getting the brunt of the ashfall may think the same thing.

But explosive, ring of fire metaphors abound in this environment. One question:

Did anyone else hear the volcano guy say this thing could go off for the next FIVE MONTHS?

Really? He didn't really mean that, right?

UPDATE: Okay, not a real update, but I just saw this on KTUU.com:

Alaska Airlines has taken a chartered aircraft and four senior pilots to do some test flights to make sure it's safe to fly.


So I'm no pilot, but if I was, the last test to see if it's "okay to fly" would NOT be going up and flying.

Mt. Redoubt erupted!

From KTUU:

The volcano erupted at 10:38 p.m., according to the Alaska Volcano Observatory. The Air Force says the ash cloud, estimated to be as high as 50,000 feet, is expected to arrive in Anchorage by 2 a.m.

UPDATE: Watching the news, and it looks like it might miss us, though. Ash fall expected in Talkeetna, Willow area (sounds like it's already falling) but Anchorage might get missed. This volcano has been threatening to go FOREVER now.

You can follow the Alaska Volcano Observatory updates on Twitter - alaska_avo.

Sweet. Looping radar images. I don't totally understand what I'm seeing, but you might.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

First day of "Spring" - A photo essay on The Arm

I'm trying to optimistic, so in dedication to my "bff," I'm going to pretend like it really was theirst day of Spring today. Despite what calendars say, I still think any time an Alaskan says it looks like Spring is on its way, Mother Nature adds two weeks onto our winter.

But it HAS been quite beautiful and sunny out, and even after reminding friends and colleagues it is still way below freezing every night, half of Anchorage seems determined to believe that Spring will be here soon, or even might be here. So in the spirit of optimism and positive thinking, I present a little photo essay of Turnagain Arm on the last day of winter, and first day of Spring.

I've been spending quite a bit of time out on the Arm, running out there for lunch breaks, after work or just whenever. If you have never visited Anchorage, or driven the Arm, it's a must for your Alaskan adventure. The 30 mile (more?) drive between Anchorage and Portage Glacier has amazing views for about 95% of the drive, so make sure you're in the passenger seat.

The dall sheep are back! Actually, I don't even know if they ever leave. Turnagain Arm is a great dall sheep viewing drive, but in the winter I tend to have a death grip on my wheel and eyes straight ahead. The Seward Highway has some of the most beautiful views, but this particular stretch of highway is also one of the most dangerous highways in the U.S. - with good reason. If it's not an avalanche it's the icy turns and narrow road.
All this combines to make sure I never see a sheep in winter. Plus... you know. The snow. I've probably seen a lot of white sheep against the white mountain and not known it.

When I was a nanny, I would take the youngest girl on drives to Girdwood and back while her siblings were at school. One of the first times we did this we had a close encounter with some of these sheep, and she referred to driving the Arm as "going to visit the sheep" forever after.

One of my favorite things to do alone on the Arm is grab a hot chocolate (if cold) or Jet Tea smoothie from Kaladis (if warm,) find a favorite turn-out (there's a lot of them) and break out a notepad for some good writing. This is my "most favorite" turn-out.

There's a lot of little nooks and crannies on the drive to look for. I'm never disappointed by a drive (unless its the death-grip type, and I avoid those.)

This particular day we were quite enthralled with what Mother Nature was offering up. The sun was really making all the icicles and snow sparkle, the wind wasn't too crazy (it can get pretty intense) and the views of the mountains were, as ever, breathtaking. Whether alone or with someone, the drive can help a lot with perspective, and the idea of continuity.
Does it ruin the romance of that picture to let you know we took our Carr's Chinese food out to eat dinner and were blasting Hootie and the Blowfish the whole time?

This reminds me of something...

The tide is famous. It's the second biggest/longest tide in the world, and fast, and if it's running in or out, it can have a tendency to look like a big river because it rushes so much with little of the actual tide going in and out feel. It's all mudflats, and more than a few people have died mistaking the placid looking low tide for an invitation to stomp out there.

The actual water right now looks wierd to me. It's full of ice chunks and I can never quite tell if the tide is in or out. In the summer, it's obvious, and a popular place to view beluga whales.

Strange... it looks like some alien planet to me, and I get quite fascinated with the Arm at this time of year. But that is all ocean/beach. I think in the background is Mt. Redoubt, the volcano that's keeping us in suspense lately, but I'm not very good at telling the mountains apart.

Yes, I'm THAT fascinated with the seemingly alien forms on the beach/ocean.

This WOULD be a great shot of an eagle and a raven, but my photo skills are still lacking. So you get a tail shot of a fuzzy raven behind some branches, and you'll have to take my word that there's an eagle in front of him.
This pair was amusing to watch. The eagle kept flying back and forth, and the raven followed him wherever he turned. Not annoying him like I've seen them do when they think eagles are a threat, just following him from a short distance. It reminded us of an older sibling who can't get rid of his annoying younger brother or something.

Anchorage has taken me awhile to get used to - I'm originally from Southeast Alaska, a much different environment. But if I just can't handle the city, Turnagain Arm is just a few minutes down the, and reminds me it's not ALL bad.

Happy Spring!

Friday, March 20, 2009

Well, I WAS happy about it...

I spotted this bit in Obama's plan about meals for seniors, including specific allocations for Native programs. Without too much detail, I happen to know a little bit about the great importance local Native programs have right here in Anchorage - including having restrictions on how many seniors they can serve due to funding. As the details of the stimulus package are reported, it was awesome to see programs like these - very easy to ignore - get attention in such hard times.

I was very happy.

But today, with the announcement that Palin is rejecting nearly half (there's different numbers around) of the Alaskan allocation of the stimulus package so we don't "grow government", I saw this tidbit:

Palin is also turning down money for weatherization, immunization, senior meals, child care development, employment services, air quality, justice assistance grants and other programs.

I would love to, and still might, make an argument for all of those things. Immunization? Child care, when we need it now more than ever? EMPLOYMENT SERVICES? When the biggest newspaper in the state just announced today it had to cut 17% of its staff?

I like my irony funny, not tragic.

But the senior meals really hit me. Really? The "I'm making a point here" argument wins out over Elders who just want a hot meal?

These battles will be taken way beyond what I can argue - both Sen. Begich (Alaska Report) and Anchorage school superintendent Carol Comeau (Alaska Dispatch) had words about the biggest chunk Palin turned down - $170 million for education (again, heard different numbers here.) The ADN article about the school official's reaction further drove home the irony of Palin arguing she only wanted money that would help "alaskan jobs":

Much of the stimulus package money for education -- about $74 million -- was designated for poor schools and special-needs kids. It was to be spent over the next two academic years.

Most of the other money is meant to help prevent cuts to classrooms, staff and critical services.

The article pointed out some of the rural impact:

Aleutians East superintendent Phil Knight hopes Palin reconsiders.

Knight's district of six schools, all of which are accessible only by boat or plane, has 250 kids. He had planned to use his district's slated $84,000 to keep open smaller schools threatened with closure next year.

Northwest Arctic Borough superintendent Norman Eck reacted to the news in an e-mail: "I am stunned," he wrote.

His district is under intervention by the state Department of Education because of poor test scores year after year. He said he had planned to use his $1.2 million for education materials the district otherwise could not afford. High electricity and fuel costs hit his budget hard this year, and ended up being taken from money otherwise meant for kids in classrooms.

Even if Palin's argument that the funding would "only be around for two years" - Holy crap! That's TWO MORE YEARS of having an accessible school for some of these communities! In two more years, the economy could be better, the energy costs might not be diverting from the education costs - in short - you just don't know. Two years is a long time in the life of a child, and incredibly long in their education life. Why on earth are we worried about losing the programs/materials/staff two years from now when we are going to lose them right now?

It's like that sad friend you have that always cuts her relationships short because "she knows she's gonna get hurt"... My advice to that frustrating friend has always been - take a risk. You could absolutely lose out in the end, but it's just stupid to prevent the present from also being a good thing. Living with the constant anticipation of losing just means you will never have anything to lose.

Maybe analogies like that are why I'll never be balancing anyone's budget, but Palin is going to have to do a much better job of explaining why she's selling out Elders, disabled children and the unemployed.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

We need more projects like this

No, not ideas like a bear catching an energy bar. Though I'd pay to see someone figure out how to get that to swim up the river...
Spotted this in Indian Country Today. It's an energy bar called a Tanka Bar - made by Native people, created using a modified traditional process (only five ingredients!) and becoming quite successful in a pretty short time. From the ICT article:
"...We worked with government, major corporations and those projects always come and go and we started studying how we could develop a brand or product where the raw materials were coming from the community and the community itself was really marketing it, to really look at how wealth is created in a modern environment and how we could build a company that was sort of along the lines of a Ben and Jerry’s, a highly environmentally responsible company that would really impact society in a positive way,” Tilsen said.

Not only are they producing something from the Native community, they are also trying to build an "environmentally responsible" company. But they were also looking at the health impacts of the community. The answer being this traditional food, made in a modern way, that could be a real solution for this community.

There have been many ideas, and even beginnings, of products like this here in Alaska, and I would love to see more.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Rural blog at Anchorage Daily News

I was surprised, and pleased, when I got an e-mail going around that there was a new blog up at the Anchorage Daily News called The Village - about "life and politics in rural Alaska." I wondered how long I'd missed out on it, and found out I got word the very day they started trying to get the word out (Friday) - so it's brand spankin' new.

So far there's some VPSO news, a bit about the 1A and 2A basketball teams in town, crazy village snow pictures, and some other interesting bits. I'm very interested to see where this goes. It's hard to find out news about rural Alaska, especially on a regular basis. You have to visit a bunch of different papers, and a lot of the places (including most that I'm interested in) don't have anything online.

I asked ADN Reporter Kyle Hopkins about it, and he was kind enough to answer me. He said it's something they've been wanting to to do for a long time. His answers below:

Why did ADN start this blog? What need did you see?

It was kind of a natural thing to do. I'd moved from covering City Hall in Anchorage to covering more rural affairs stories, which is what I've always wanted to do at the paper, and didn't really have a place to blog about it. Many of the stories I work on now are a little off topic for the politics blog, and it made sense to start a new page/site.

So, that's more traditional side of it: Blogging news as part of our coverage of a beat, or topic at the paper.

Then the thing that hopefully will make this blog a little different is that -- as much as we can -- we want to be posting info/pictures/video that people send us from around the state.

It could take time to establish that connection. But I really like the idea of people being able to go to one place and maybe listening to an interview with someone from Western Alaska, and seeing photos of a hunt from another village, and reading a letter from another.

How do you see this blog being used? To connect rural people? To let urban people know what's going on in rural Alaska?

Hopefully both. A way for people to tell the rest of the state: "This is what's happening in my community. This is what life in my community looks like."

Friday, March 13, 2009

Murkowksi on Indian Affairs Committee

Indian Country Today interviewed Sen. Lisa Murkowski about giving up the Senate Indian Affairs Committee for the Energy and Natural Resources Committee (and no Alaskan will need any explanation as to why THAT particular committee would be a prize for any Alaskan lawmaker.)

Now, as much as I really don't want to like this senator, I've got to say her activities regarding Native people, especially Alaska Native people, have been pretty interesting. Interesting in a good way.

I don't know that I'll ever get over the way she got her job (I'm going to have my dad appoint me as his replacement when he quits just to see if it works, too) but she actually has been PROactive in the Native arena. There are some places I wish she'd focus more, and certainly in issues NON-Native related I have much bigger problems with her. But in this particular area, I will give a grudging "B-" on the Writing Raven politician report card.

It's answers like the one below that make me wonder - it's a very politician answer, yet a politician who can "speak" Native policy will always make me take another look.

ICT: Do you worry at all that Alaska Natives will receive less attention as a result of your move?

Murkowski: I don’t believe that the interests of Alaska Natives will be diminished as a result of my decision to accept the ranking role on the energy committee. The Alaska Native community is a leader in self-determination and self governance. They share common interests with tribes around the country that contract and compact Indian programs.

You see, though the premise of the question is that Native people will suffer without her on the committee, she turns it around to say Alaska Native people are good at taking care of themselves, thank you very much.

Okay, the politic-y part of that is OF COURSE Alaska Native people will be politically better off if one of their elected officials is on the senate committee that addresses their issues directly. OF COURSE their will be some negative effect of not having that voice. But still, thanks for the thought.

CORRECTION: Don't know how I missed it, but Murkowski is still on the committee, just not the vice-chair. I'm hoping for some very good outcomes...

New Anchorage Daily News Village Blog

Hey, when did this start?

The Village

From the little blip about it on the side:

The Village is a Daily News blog about life and politics in rural Alaska. Its main author is ADN reporter Kyle Hopkins. Come here for breaking news on village issues, plus interviews, videos and photos. But that's just part of the story. We want to feature your pictures, videos and stories, too. Think of The Village as your bulletin board. E-mail us anything you’d like to share with the rest of Alaska -- your letters to the editor, the photos of your latest hunt or video of your latest potlatch. (We love video.)

Could be very cool... keep you updated.

Alaska Native Regional Corp. hosting Anchorage mayoral candidate forum

Thursday, March 12, 2009

How do you know Natives are people just like everyone else?

Masek to plead guilty to conspiracy

Because a Native representative can be just as corrupt as the white/black/whatever guy next to him.

Or her, as it were.

All right, that's a bit tongue-in-cheek, but not a good day for Alaskans. In something like 72 hours, we've sentenced one and will be accepting a plea from another of the infamous "Corrupt Bastards Club."

For the fortunatley un-enlightened, the Corrupt Bastards Club was a name many of our fine republican lawmakers took on when they decided to take ridiculously small amounts of cash (I mean really, a couple thousand dollars for your soul? At least give us the respect of selling out the voters of this state for a bigger amount!) from the now defunct/renamed Veco.

Maybe there is some satisfaction in "getting justice" or something, but really, I'm so over the whole thing. I would MUCH rather we not have had these politicians come into power and wasted our time and money in the first place. From the Anchorage Daily News article:

Prosecutors wrote that they expect Masek to plead for a further reduction in her sentence, citing "alcoholism, financial and emotional distress, and/or situational depression due to her divorce..."

The guilty plea would be the sixth conviction of a lawmaker and the 11th overall obtained by the government in the FBI's massive investigation of corruption in Alaska.

But ah well, I hope somebody somewhere is learning a lesson here. I hope... Anyone?

Though it does look like Masek has taken a page from the Cowdery defense - show up with some ailments and you might just get six months at home instead of jail time.

For those that haven't followed the Alaskan political circus that has been our government the last several years, I guide you to this handy page from the Alaska Report. The front page of the Alaska Report keeps the tally, "Feds: 11, CBC 0." Many, many more to come. Other "unnamed" states may have the "quality" corruption of major craziness and the pinnacle of sleaziness right now, but what we lack in quality, we're sure making up for in quantity.

Ok, I'm trying to get over the tongue in cheek thing.

But I really am tired of the whole thing. This last one, I am really trying to see it as a loss for the Native community, but Masek never lifted a finger for Native interests, so I think it's just a loss for ... uh... hold on.

I'll get back to you on that one.

Really, I can at least point to this as an example of why you just don't take "any Native," or "any republican" or... for crying out loud, look at their resume at least! I don't vote for any person because of their race, or who they're married to, nor do I assume that because of that race or relationship, they will act in the interest of that people group. I have proudly supported Native candidates because of what they've done, and what they represent. I have proudly supported non-Native candidates for the same reason. This woman wasn't representing Native people, but the point is she wasn't representing anyone except herself.

Maybe my more cynically tinted point is, if corruption can reach anyone at any level, regardless of their race, can we also assume the reverse is true, and excellence, honor and pride can reach anyone at any level, regardless of their race?

I'm going to bed.

Monday, March 9, 2009

An interesting time for Native people

I was reading an article in the Arctic Sounder about the words of Byron Mallot, a well-respected Native leader in Alaska:

He’s an optimist, he said, who sees a future where Native and non-Native neighbors live side-by-side, have a sense of responsibility one to another and responsibility to oneself, differences are held up as strengths and where aboriginal people still live on the land.

I have been looking around with great interest in the last several months. There is a cautious optimism in many Native people, an optimism I haven't seen in my few years on this earth. Despite the continuation of life's troubles, I hear many Native people (and non-Native, I might add) talking about "what could be" instead of "what should have been."

I'm not sure if it's the projects I've been working on, or the articles I've been reading, but I'm going to "re-quote" an Indian Country Today editoral that really latched onto the feel of the now:

Like a freshly sober alcoholic who’s lived too long devoid of hope, I’m still waiting for the rug to be pulled out from under me. But I’m fighting to suspend my disbelief and have some faith that change is on the horizon...

It’s often in the midst of the greatest crises that societies finally find the willpower to reinvent their institutions to better serve their people. With the collapse of the banking system and election of a president fully committed to this undertaking, we find ourselves in a once-in-a-generation political upheaval...

And it will be in this turmoil that Native people will be given a window when their voices may once again be heard, and heeded....

We should grab this opportunity and not let go until our roads are fixed, our hospitals are functioning as they should and our children are attending schools that are palaces.

While many will think of hope and change, maybe many Native people aren't *quite* there. "Possibility" is the word I can come up with. Hope might be a bit much, but hope is possible. Change is possible.

Can you feel it?

We SHOULD grab this opportunity - how many more can we possibly have?


Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Monegan article on Sexual Abuse

A MUST READ. Walt Monegan's article on sexual abuse in the Alaska Dispatch.

This is what needs to be talked about - solutions! The stats are bad, so what can we do about it?

From the article:
Too often the abused grow up to become victims or abusers and the ugly cycle of pain continues. Ignoring the violent realities our neighbors and children are faced with daily is not an option. We have the resources, both financially and intellectually, to protect victims of physical and sexual violence and yet few policymakers have dedicated the time and thoughtfulness to a realistic solution would require...

...Every major change in history began in one place with just a few dedicated individuals who believed in something larger than themselves.

I hope the other mayoral candidates will begin addressing issues like these, the "taboo" or just incredibly difficult issues to address. I've been wading in this stuff lately, in projects I am doing, at least with Alaska Native abuse, and the more you look, the more discouraging it can be. But imagine the impact of leadership at the local, state and national level giving these issues the thought and attention they deserve, not just hoping (meager) funding will do it - money isn't going to solve these problems, strategy and hard work is.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Crime and Traditional Punishment

Something I'd be interested to get others' opinion on - in perusing the ADN Newsreader, they highlighted this Canadian "sentencing circle" practice.

From the article:

The sentencing circle is about "community building," he says; it is about "healing" those affected by crime, and those who committed it. It is repairing relations; making victims and perpetrators "feel better" with the outcome of a criminal incident. It is also, he admits, a rebuff of the retributive, let-the-punishment-fit-the-crime philosophy that has guided Canadian justice since this country's founding.

This is an idea I've never been quite comfortable with - and the article even goes to lengths to describe victims and members of the community who are not comfortable with it. Our own brief example here in Alaska was the "banishment" to an island in Southeast several years back for those two young men. Or was it Washington? I don't recall the details - I was in high school I think - but I do remember thinking it was a strange concept.

Some of the problem of that case, from what I remember my grandmother talking about, was that the leadership was all askew. In traditional times, you wouldn't just select a person with a law background to decide - and in that case it was not a clan leader, or a group of Elders - it was a Native guy who also happened to be a judge.

Some of the problem is trying to smash tradition with modern society and expecting the same results as when the traditions were founded. The article says that the offender's chance of recommitting the crime is way, way down from the lock 'em up approach... yet it also talks about the pressure the victims feel to accept and forgive - I couldn't abide that in any form.

I can't speak with any authority on this subject, however, and what little I know comes from articles like this, and knowing how my own community, and culture, handled "justice." In that case, if the state justice system had not stepped in, the crimes would have continued to be committed (as they had before the state stepped in.) I don't think this is a unique characteristic of an Alaskan or strongly Alaska Native small town - I think it is the way we all are now. The objective law must step in.

But then, I am clearly basing mine more on the "personal experience" level, not always the most reliable. What was interesting is that there was also an article in the Juneau Empire today about needing reform in the prison system. There is strong evidence showing getting guys rehab means those people are much less likely to commit more crimes - as unpopular as prisoner rehab seems to be, I'd much rather pay for them to get rehabiliated than for the expense of their public defense and keeping them locked up for the next umpteen years.

At the same time, do I feel the same way about the person that has just committed the crime against me? For all the objectivity we try and project onto law, emotion is one strong motivator.

Clearly, the system we have now for prisoners is not working (and seems even more the case in Alaska.) I can't say I'm for going back to the traditional methods of dealing with these crimes, but I am for looking at a different approach. Locking them up and throwing away the key is not only not working - it is a drain on our community, our productivity, our economy.