Celtic Diva's Blue Oasis: 6/22/08 - 6/29/08

Friday, June 27, 2008

Heading for the Highland Games tomorrow!

Expect a post with pictures!!! We look forward to it every year. We'll probably be there about noon so come have tea!

We'll let the rest of ya duke-it-out over parking for the Air Show! After 13+ years of working on base, I've had my fill of loud aircraft!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

The SCOTUS Exxon ruling bad for the McCain Campaign? Part 2--his Energy Policy.

“I don’t see an immediate relief,. But I do see that exploitation of existing reserves that may exist, and in the view of many experts that do exist off our coasts, is also a way that we need to provide relief. Even though it may take some years, the fact that we are exploiting those reserves would have a psychological impact that I think is beneficial.”

John McCain

Previously, I pointed out the pro-business majority in SCOTUS and what the Exxon ruling meant for corporate responsibility...or lack thereof. The most personal fallout to Alaskans is the environmental, human and financial impact of this decision. I'm not sure that people understand the long-term consequences.

A study was performed by the National Marine Fisheries Service in 2001, 12-years after the Exxon spill. The study determined that out of 91 sites, 58 had evidence of oil:

1) Surface oil was determined to be not a good indicator of subsurface oil.
2) Twenty subsurface pits were classified as heavily oiled. Oil saturated all of the interstitial spaces and was extremely repugnant. These “worst case” pits exhibited an oil mixture that resembled oil encountered in 1989 a few weeks after the spill - highly odiferous, lightly weathered, and very fluid.
3) Subsurface oil was also found at a lower tide height than expected (between 0 and 6 feet), in contrast to the surface oil, which was found mostly at the highest levels of the beach (Table 3). This is significant, because the pits with the most oil were found low in the intertidal zone, closest to the zone of biological production, and indicate that our estimates are conservative at best.

It seemed that the oil WAS having an effect on wildlife all those years later:
Around the same time, researchers monitoring sea otters and harlequin ducks, noticed that populations were not recovering in the most heavily impacted areas. The researchers employed methods to determine whether continued exposure to oil could be a factor. The methods involved the physical examination of individuals encountered in those areas and detection of chemical biomarkers, such as cytochrome P4501A (CYP1A), an enzyme that is produced by animals when they have been exposed poly-aromatic hydrocarbons, a volatile component of unweathered oil.

In addition, there have been studies done to determine the health of ecosystems effected by even earlier oil spills. Per the National Geographic website:
The findings come from a study of the aftermath of an accident that occurred in Buzzards Bay, Massachusetts, on a foggy morning in September 1969. A Boston-bound barge entering the Cape Cod Canal ran aground on rocks, spilling 175,000 gallons (700,000 liters) of diesel fuel into the bay...

...Evidence from the Buzzards Bay disaster suggests the effects of oil spills could be indefinite. Thirty years after the Massachusetts catastrophe, significant oil residues remain in local salt marsh sediments, according to researchers at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution...

..."Even after all these years, concentrations of some compounds [in at least one Buzzards Bay site] are similar to those observed immediately after the spill...

So the environmental devastation could be "indefinite."

The human impact has been equally long-term...equally "indefinite." Families who had been fishing for generations went bankrupt and lost their $100,000+ commercial fishing licenses. Fishing towns like Cordova have had to depend more on tourist dollars...and tourist jobs are considerably lower-paying.

Then, there is the subsistence issue, pointed out poignantly by Writing Raven:
I was quite struck by this bit in a Yahoo article on the announcement:
"It also was about the end of Alaska Native traditions and a subsistence lifestyle for several villages in the region. Because of the spill, many Alaska Natives were forced to stop harvesting seal, salmon and herring roe and move to urban areas, never to return, said Lange, who is part Aleut and Tlingit.

'A cultural link was definitely broken,' she said."
I know the high value of these subsistence items, and the difficulty in getting them in the first place. To have something so reckless and harmful happen to traditions lasting millenia bites at the soul.

The loss of hundreds of years of heritage with a Supreme Court guarantee there will be no real consequence for it's destruction--Gee, sign me up!!!! I doubt seriously that's what the people of Florida, California or the Carolinas want.

I don't think that offshore drilling will have the "psychological impact" that McCain is hoping for.

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"Soujourners" Jim Wallis responds to James Dobson's criticisms of Obama

Jim Wallis and SojoNet is the first place I go when I want to be reminded that there are Progressive Christians too...and they just might be the majority. Here is the news story on what the argument is about:

HERE is the link to a phone interview Jim Wallis did with the Christian Belief Network

James Dobson, of Focus on the Family Action, and his senior vice president of government and public policy, Tom Minnery, used their "Focus on the Family" radio show Tuesday to criticize Barack Obama's understanding of Christian faith. In the show, they describe Obama as "deliberately distorting the Bible," "dragging biblical understanding through the gutter," "willfully trying to confuse people," and having a "fruitcake interpretation of the Constitution."

The clear purpose of the show was to attack Barack Obama. On the show, Dobson says of himself, "I'm not a reverend. I'm not a minister. I'm not a theologian. I'm not an evangelist. I'm a psychologist. I have a Ph.D. in child development." Child psychologists don't insert themselves into partisan politics in the regular way that James Dobson does and has over many years as one of the premier leaders of the Religious Right. He has spoken about how often he talked to Republican leaders -- Karl Rove, administration strategists, and even President Bush himself. This year he tried to influence the outcome of the Republican primary by saying he would never vote for John McCain or the Republicans if they nominated him, then reversed himself and said he would vote after all but didn't say for whom. But why should America care about how a child psychologist votes?

James Dobson is insinuating himself into this presidential campaign, and his attacks against his fellow Christian, Barack Obama, should be seriously scrutinized. And because the basis for his attack on Obama is the speech the Illinois senator gave at our Sojourners/Call to Renewal event in 2006 (for the record, we also had Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republicans Rick Santorum and Sam Brownback speak that year), I have decided to respond to Dobson's attacks. In most every case they are themselves clear distortions of what Obama said in that speech. I was there for the speech; Dobson was not.

I haven't endorsed a candidate, but I do defend them when they are attacked in disingenuous ways, and this is one of those cases. You can read Obama's two-year-old speech, which was widely publicized at the time, and you can see that Dobson either didn't understand it or is deliberately distorting it. There are two major problems with Dobson's attack on Obama.

First, Dobson and Minnery's language is simply inappropriate for religious leaders to use in an already divisive political campaign. We can agree or disagree on both biblical and political viewpoints, but our language should be respectful and civil, not attacking motives and beliefs.

Second, and perhaps most important, is the role of religion in politics. Dobson alleges that Obama is saying:

I [Dobson] can't seek to pass legislation, for example, that bans partial-birth abortion because there are people in the culture who don't see that as a moral issue. And if I can't get everyone to agree with me, it is undemocratic to try to pass legislation that I find offensive to the Scripture. ... What he's trying to say here is unless everybody agrees, we have no right to fight for what we believe.

Contrary to Dobson's charge, Obama strongly defended the right and necessity of people of faith in bringing their moral agenda to the public square, and he was specifically critical of many on the left and in his own Democratic Party for being uncomfortable with religion in politics.

Obama said that religion is and always has been a fundamental and absolutely essential source of morality for the nation, but he also said that "religion has no monopoly on morality," which is a point I often make. The United States is not the Christian theocracy that people like James Dobson seem to think it should be. Political appeals, even if rooted in religious convictions, must be argued on moral grounds rather than as sectarian religious demands -- so that the people (citizens), whether religious or not, may have the capacity to hear and respond. Religious convictions must be translated into moral arguments, which must win the political debate if they are to be implemented. Religious people don't get to win just because they are religious. They, like any other citizens, have to convince their fellow citizens that what they propose is best for the common good -- for all of us, not just for the religious.

Instead of saying that Christians must accept "the lowest common denominator of morality," as Dobson accused Obama of suggesting, or that people of faith shouldn't advocate for the things their convictions suggest, Obama was saying the exact opposite -- that Christians should offer their best moral compass to the nation but then engage in the kind of democratic dialogue that religious pluralism demands. Martin Luther King Jr. perhaps did this best, with his Bible in one hand and the Constitution in the other.

One more note. I personally disagree with how both the Democrats and Republicans have treated the moral issue of abortion and am hopeful that the movement toward a serious commitment for dramatic abortion reduction will re-shape both parties' language and positions. But that is the only "bloody notion" that Dobson mentions. What about the horrible bloody war in Iraq that Dobson apparently supports, or the 30,000 children who die each day globally of poverty and disease that Dobson never mentions, or the genocides in Darfur and other places? In making abortion the single life issue in politics and elections, leaders from the Religious Right like Dobson have violated the "consistent ethic of life" that we find, for example, in Catholic social teaching.

Dobson has also fought unsuccessfully to keep the issue of the environment and climate change, which many also now regard as a "life issue," off the evangelical agenda. Older Religious Right leaders are now being passed by a new generation of young evangelicals who believe that poverty, "creation care" of the environment, human trafficking, human rights, pandemic diseases such as HIV/AIDS, and the fundamental issues of war and peace are also "religious" and "moral" issues and now a part of a much wider and deeper agenda. That new evangelical agenda is a deep threat to Dobson and the power wielded by the Religious Right for so long. It puts many evangelical votes in play this election year, especially among a new generation who are no longer captive to the Religious Right. Perhaps that is the real reason for Dobson's attack on Barack Obama.

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The SCOTUS Exxon ruling bad for the McCain Campaign? Part 1--the Justices

"So what can a corporation do to protect itself against punitive-damages awards such as this?" Roberts asked in court.

The lawyer arguing for the Alaska fishermen affected by the spill, Jeffrey Fisher, had an idea. "Well," he said, "it can hire fit and competent people."

No one who'd been following the almost-20-year-long fight for justice over the Exxon Valdez oil spill was really terribly surprised by the Supreme Court ruling yesterday, especially if they followed the coverage of the oral arguments back in February. The plaintiff's attorney, law professor Jeffrey Fisher, seemed to be in enemy territory:
"What you have today are 32,000 plaintiffs standing before this court, each of whom have received only $15,000 for having their lives and livelihood destroyed and haven't received a dime of emotional-distress damages," Fisher argued.

Several justices, however, seemed more concerned about the emotional distress of the Exxon executives. "I assume the test is the person has to be high enough that it justifies holding the entire corporation" responsible," Antonin Scalia said, "and I doubt whether a captain is high enough."

Justice Anthony Kennedy, wagging his finger at Fisher as he challenged the lawyer's argument, charged that "the corporation's responsibility or complicity or culpability is simply not relevant under your theory of the case."

Roberts seemed the most agitated as he argued that Exxon wasn't responsible for the captain's unauthorized drunkenness. "I don't see what more a corporation can do," he said. "What more can the corporation do other than say 'Here is our policies' and try to implement them?"

In an opinion from the SCOTUSBLOG, Richard Garbarini points out not only the extreme advantage this ruling hands to corporate America but that this ruling is a direct interference with the role of the jury.

Interestingly enough, Mr. Garbarini was "the co-author of an Amicus Brief filed on behalf of the ship masters and expert mariners Captains Mitchell Stoller, Joseph Ahlstrom, Roger Johnson, John Scott Merill and Tom Trosvig in support of respondents."
Today’s opinion, is, at its heart, judicial activism at its worst. Justice Souter, writing for the majority, found that “[t]he common sense of justice would surely bar penalties that reasonable people would think excessive for the harm caused in the circumstances.” While the Court agrees that most punitive damages award are assessed by a jury of presumed reasonable people and reviewed by a judge, the Court still somehow finds this process unreasonable.

The decision is also not founded in maritime law. Maritime law is a creature of federal statute and statutory construction. As Justice Stevens so aptly stated in his dissent, “in light of the many statutes governing liability under admiralty law, the absence of any limitation on an award of the sort at issue in this case suggests that Congress would not wish to create a new rule restricting the liability of a wrongdoer like Exxon.” Here the Court has inserted its judgment for the sound reasoning of juries, the informed review of judges and the intent of Congress.

While the status of "Roe v Wade" is important, it was used as a smokescreen--a distraction from other personal beliefs and judicial history during the appointment process of the most recent Supreme Court justices. While a few of us were flailing our arms around trying to point out the pro-business stances of the majority of the Court, we seemed to be ignored.

In the Exxon Valdez ruling, there were only 3 dissenting opinons and one abstention...by Justice Alito who owns a ton of Exxon stock AND who was STILL allowed to participate in the oral arguments. SCOTUS has a clear pro-business majority to the point of usurping everyone else.

This should be a extremely important issue when McCain surrogates try to woo independents with the "John McCain is a maverick" fallacy. His stance on judges is anything but maverick, as was reported by the National Review when a rumor was going around claiming McCain didn't like Alito:
"Let me just look you in the eye," McCain told me. "I've said a thousand times on this campaign trail, I've said as often as I can, that I want to find clones of Alito and Roberts. I worked as hard as anybody to get them confirmed. I look you in the eye and tell you I've said a thousand times that I wanted Alito and Roberts. I have told anybody who will listen. I flat-out tell you I will have people as close to Roberts and Alito [as possible], and I am proud of my record of working to get them confirmed, and people who worked to get them confirmed will tell you how hard I worked."

Obama already has his work cut out for him if he wins the election. If McCain were to win, this country will be owned by the corporations for decades to come.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Hurry, time is running out for your chance to win!

YES...you could win a ride on McCain's Bus!!!!!!
Join John McCain aboard the Straight Talk Express! Be the lucky supporter to ride with John McCain on the Straight Talk Express on an upcoming bus tour. Everyone who donates between now and June 30th is eligible. To donate before the deadline on June 30th, please make your donation online today.
The rules?
Prize includes travel to a designated location for embarking on the Straight-Talk Express, and one hotel room for the night. Estimated value of such prize is $1,000, although the actual value will vary depending upon the winner's particular travel arrangements, which shall be determined at the sole discretion of the Committee. Winners will be chosen at random. Odds of winning are dependent upon number of eligible entries received.
What I find most interesting:
No purchase or contribution is necessary to enter.
Huh? Yet there is no way to "enter" without making a contribution!

All I know is that anytime I think about being anywhere NEAR John McCain, I think of this SNL skit video:


(Picture and hat tip to Pam's House Blend)

And now for your surreal moment of the day...

For your enjoyment:

Reactions to the SCOTUS Exxon Valdez Ruling

Alaska Governor Sarah Palin:

Gov. Sarah Palin said she is extremely disappointed with the decision, saying the court "gutted the jury's decision on punitive damages" and undercut one of the principal deterrents for marine shipping accidents in Alaska.

"It is tragic that so many Alaska fishermen and their families have had their lives put on hold waiting for this decision," Palin said. "My heart goes out to those affected, especially the families of the thousands of Alaskans who passed away while waiting for justice."

Palin's Fish and Game commissioner, Denby Lloyd, said the harmful effects of the spill are still being felt in Prince William Sound.

Amy J. Wildermuth, an associate professor at the University of Utah S.J. Quinney College of Law, originally filed an amicus brief on behalf of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations and Institute for Fisheries Resources in support of the respondents. She writes the first of a series of Discussion Board posts on today’s Exxon v. Baker decision for the SCOTUSblog:
It is easy to predict that other courts, after this signal from the Supreme Court, may soon follow suit. One wonders, however, whether this move to clean up a perceived mess, this need to draw clear lines, is not misplaced where these cases each tell their own unique and individual story. These unique stories are no better illustrated than by this particular case, a devastating oil spill in one of our most sensitive ecological enclaves that remains to this day part of our collective national memory. The Court may eventually regret that it has sacrificed the albeit messier approach of evaluating each case on its own terms using good sound judgment for the sake of a round number.

Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich, Candidate for U.S. Senate:
“The thousands of Alaskans whose lives were devastated by this disaster are hurt, once again, by this ruling,” Begich said. “What we’re seeing today is another example of how Washington is out of touch with real people. The justices have sided with corporate America rather than with Alaska families who have suffered for nearly 20 years.”

Begich added that while the livelihoods of thousands of Alaska fishermen and others were destroyed by the spill, Sen. Ted Stevens has continued to work to serve the interests of big business, rather than put pressure on Exxon to settle the lawsuit or drop its appeals.

“Sen. Stevens continues to show he works hard for special interests, but where has he been when it comes to doing what’s right for Alaskans?” Begich said.

The Daily Kos:
Apparently, an amount of money equal to what Exxon Mobil rakes in every 2.5 days was too high. Instead, the penalty is limited to what the company makes in a typical afternoon.

Yeah, that'll be enough to make them change their ways.

Justice Stevens, in his dissent (per Mother Jones Blog):
...Justice Stevens suggested that the court had gone too far in reducing punitive damages in the case and in maritime lawsuits in general and was legislating from the bench. He said the justices ought to respect the decisions of the lower courts, particularly the Alaska jury, whose decision was reviewed no fewer than four times by the District Court and upheld three times. After all, he writes, "In light of Exxon’s decision to permit a lapsed alcoholic to command a supertanker carrying tens of millions of gallons of crude oil through the treacherous waters of Prince William Sound, thereby endangering all of the individuals who depended upon the sound for their livelihoods, the jury could reasonably have given expression to its “moral condemnation” of Exxon’s conduct in the form of this award."

Riki Ott...Cordova fisherman, scientist and environmental activist:
"We were really counting on punitive damages paying for our long-term losses in the fishery. That's obviously not going to happen," Ott said. "Well, that's an affront to everyone's sense of justice."

Exxon Valdez damages cut to $507.5 million...Un-friggin-believable

Anchorage Daily News:
WASHINGTON -- The U.S. Supreme Court dashed the hopes of more than 32,000 fishermen and Alaska natives who have been waiting for nearly 20 years to hear whether Exxon Mobil Corp. will have to pay out billions in punitive damages for its role in the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill.

In a victory for big businesses seeking to limit big-dollar lawsuits, the court decided this morning to reduce the $2.5 billion punitive damages. The award was excessive, the justices wrote, and reduced the damages to $507.5 million. The original multibillion punitive damages had been awarded as punishment for the company's role in spilling 11 million gallons of oil in the pristine fishing waters of Alaska's Prince William Sound.

"The punitive damages award against Exxon was excessive as a matter of maritime common law," wrote Justice David Souter in the majority opinion. "In the circumstances of this case, the award should be limited to an amount equal to compensatory damages."

The court was divided five to three.

After the lawyers take their cut, this total judgement will be LESS than the RETIREMENT PACKAGE they gave to Lee Raymond in 2006. You remember Lee Raymond, the man in charge when the Exxon Valdez hit Bligh Reef?
Exxon is giving Lee Raymond one of the most generous retirement packages in history, nearly $400 million, including pension, stock options and other perks, such as a $1 million consulting deal, two years of home security, personal security, a car and driver, and use of a corporate jet for professional purposes.

To add insult to injury...the Alaska Permanent Fund's #2 stock is Exxon:

Rank: 2
Shares: 2,769,408
Cost: $119,976,887
Market: $234,236,529

I recommend that everyone track the comments on the Daily News article today--there are well over 115 comments right now and climbing.

For example:

America ... not just Alaska... Wake up!

I felt angry, and disappointed, and for a moment denial. Now I feel a little bit fearful. The Supreme Court, chose precedent to make their decision? I think they set a new one, the message to large corporations? Don't WORRY about environmental concerns of any kind you won't be held responsible. Bad news America. You can expect nothing less from the current government than to sell your health, communities, culture, constitutional rights, to the corporate interest. Corporations feel no pain, because they aren't human, they simply exist to make a profit. They are now held in higher regard than the people of this country, and the highest court said so. Continue to stand by and let politicians, sell us away, and here we are. If we do vote Obama in, lets not just stand back and wait...we must become a nation again, and start caring for our people... all our people, all our precious cultures, become leaders in our communities. Its ugly folks... this is it, we must change.

Another comment:
Why does the UFA support these people?

The United Fishermen of Alaska have been pimping for the republicans for years and this is what they get back in return. Maybe they will learn that the “Republican establishment” that Ted Stevens, Lisa Murkowski, have been supporting on the US Supreme Court, comes with a price tag.

The Republican right wing Supreme Court doesn’t care about the impacts on real living people as much as they do on the establishment.

If this doesn't turn Alaska Blue, nothing will.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Help our fellow Obama-ites as they gear up in Alaska!!!!!!

Per my email:
My name is Chris Farrell and I am the State Field Director for Barack Obama's "Campaign for Change". I worked with many of you in January as we organized for historic caucuses on February 5th.

The campaign to elect Barack Obama has hit the ground in Alaska, and we need your help to get things rolling.

We are counting on our ability to do things differently than before, and to do this we have to rely on the network of Obama supporters across Alaska.

Here's how you can help:

- Loan a car or truck to Obama's "Campaign for Change". We plan to have dozens of organizers on the ground who need transportation

- Host a "Campaign for Change" Organizer in your home, or sublet rental space to house organizers

- Donate office space for the "Campaign for Change" headquarters in your city or town

- Apply for a job or to become an intern with the Obama Intern Program here in Alaska

We have a lot of work to do, and time is of the essence so please act NOW!

Our goal is to build teams of Obama supporters in every neighborhood, town and village in Alaska.

Sign up NOW to be a Neighborhood Leader with Obama's Campaign for Change and help us turn Alaska Blue!

If anyone tries to tell you that Barack Obama cannot win in Alaska, you tell them YES WE CAN!

Let's get FIRED UP!


Chris Farrell
Obama for America
Alaska Field Director

Go HERE to be a neighborhood leader.

Sign up HERE for the Campaign.

Go to The Alaska Democratic Party Website for more information.

Begich meets with Obama at the Annual U.S. Conference of Mayors in Miami

This is exciting news from Kyle Hopkins on Alaska Politics:
Mayor Mark Begich met with presidential candidate Barack Obama Saturday at a U.S. Mayors conference in Miami.

Begich talked about the meeting a little last night, saying he received an e-mail from Obama's staff inviting him to talk, and that had a few minutes before Obama spoke to the mayors at a luncheon.

Here is an excerpt of Obama's remarks at the luncheon:

HERE is the full transcript.

Read Kyle's article and see the overview from Begich of the meeting, in which they did discuss the gasline and getting Sen. Obama's open support for it sounded promising.

Mayor Begich will also be interviewed at the Mayor's Conference by The Drum Major Institute for Public Policy. They'll be sending me the interview when it has been edited so I can post it here.

"PrideFest" Celebration all week - Film Festival starts tonight

Thanks to Bent, Alaska for providing all of the details!

PrideFest Film Festival at Out North
June 24-28 at 5 pm, 7 pm & 9 pm
(except 6/24: 7 pm & 9 pm only)
$6.50 online, $7 at the door.

Out North celebrates PrideFest with a week of GLBTQ features, documentaries, shorts and animations, sponsored in part by 4A's.

The festival kicks off Tuesday night with the feature "Eleven Minutes," a documentary about Jay McCarroll, winner of the first season of Project Runway. Wednesday's features are "Out Late," about people coming out later in life, and "Ask Not," about the military ban on gay soldiers.

Three features screen on Thursday. "Be Like Others" shows the difficulty of gay life in Iran. "Eternal Summer" follows the romantic life of a young man in China. In "Whirlwind," a sexy man upsets the relationships of a group of friends in NYC.

Friday is teenage girl night with "Sonja" (photo) a coming out feature from Germany, and "Same Sex Parents," a French drama about a girl with gay parents.

Saturday's feature is "Before I Forget" and is sponsored in part by 4 A's. This witty French movie shows what happens to an aging gay gigolo after his sugar daddy dies.

There are tons more activities culminating with the parade and festival this weekend. All of this can be found at the Anchorage Pridefest 2008 website.

Gee...huge surprise...Don Imus makes another stupid "color-related" comment...

Is anyone still listening to this guy? No, really...why would you?

I'm not sure which irritate me more...his initial comments or his explanations afterwards.

And if I hear one more idiot media person say that these things are "bound to come out" when he's on the air three hours a day but "it doesn't make him a racist"...

A very nice post by African American Political Pundit

I was out of town over the weekend so I missed this:

Alaska Blogger "Celtic Diva" Leading By Example

AAPP and I have been emailing as well about Denver and he's been very sweet. I look forward to meeting him in August!

Monday, June 23, 2008

Timing is everything -- Our visit to Seward on the day the cruise ship folks were there...getting sick

(The Holland America cruise ship, the Veendam, in Seward on June 22nd.)

After set-netting in Soldotna, the weary troop of travelers (my husband, my daughter, her two cousins and me) drove to Seward so that Josh could fix a network problem for one of his tourism clients. On the way, we stopped (briefly) in Moose Pass to witness their "Solstice Festival".

I guess it had been pouring in Moose Pass until around noon that day and you could tell by the puddles on the ground. You could also tell that these folks were used to serious festival weather because all of their booths had solid plastic sides--well prepared for the sideways rain common in Alaska sea towns.

OK...the real reason we stopped is that the kids had to use the bathroom, but it was a good excuse for me to snap pictures of the tiny but mighty festival. It was also a good excuse for Josh to crawl into the passenger seat and fall asleep while I was walking around so that I had to drive when I got back.

We arrived in Seward and thought it would take 20 minutes to an hour fo fix. After almost 4 hours they couldn't get it to work so they gave up.

So, that gave us four hours to kill in Seward.

We walked around the harbor a great deal and looked at (drooled over) the boats.

Not too long after we got there, the folks from the Holland America ship Veendam were bussed in as well to spend their time in Seward. They fanned out to sign up at the various sight-seeing companies and/or fishing charters or headed to one of the many small eating establishments. I snapped some shots of them with my next "evil cruise ship" post in mind for the blog.

I had no idea I'd be using them this soon.

Per the Anchorage Daily News:
A suspected norovirus outbreak on a Holland America cruise ship left 112 passengers ill in Seward, according to the state Division of Public Health.The outbreak affected about 8 1/2 percent of the 1,313 passengers on board, with another 12 of the 556 crew members reporting the illness, said epidemiologist Beth Funk.

Can I briefly mention the irony of an epidemiologist named "Funk?"
The rumors of an outbreak followed the Veendam from port-to-port and prompted media inquiries through the week, but it wasn't until Monday that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention got the report, which is required to be filed when more than 3 percent of the passengers become ill, she said.

Passengers initially began getting sick in Haines, when about 20 people reported the illness, she said. The vessel also ported in Juneau and Sitka before moving on the Seward.

Funk said she didn't think the virus had yet been tested to confirm it was norovirus, but she suspected it was based upon the symptoms.

Norovirus is a gastrointestinal ailment that usually causes vomiting and diarrhea, and lasts between 24 and 48 hours. It's highly contagious, making a closed environment like a cruise ship a prime setting for an outbreak.

My husband woke up not feeling well today and flopped into bed when he got home from work. He was the one in the tourism office at the same time all of the cruise ship folks were there. Oh please, please, please don't let him have this virus.

How I spent my Solstice - Set-netting 2008

(Low tide with Mount Redoubt in the background, one of Alaskas's many active volcanos.)

Each year, starting June 15th and lasting for 10 days, there is a ritual unique to Alaska residents that brings out the diehard fisherman/women and their families. It is the subsistence set-netting and dip-netting season for Sockeye “Red” Salmon…the best way to get a whole year of salmon at one time.

Some choose “dip-netting” which requires the fishers to repeatedly drag a long-handled net on a metal/fiberglass/resin frame through a strong current while wearing uncomfortable hip/chest waders in hypothermia-inducing water.

Others choose “set-netting” which requires a number of friends, family, a four-wheeler or all of the above to drag a gill-net into the water on each tide, thus allowing the participants to watch the fish hit the net while they have coffee and sit around the fire.

As you might guess, we choose the latter.

While driving out to the beach where the mouth of the Kasilof River meets Cook Inlet, one passes every type of vehicle and campsite…from state-of-the-art RVs with their shiny new ATVs and barbecue grills to beat-up pick-ups with makeshift tarp shelters and dug-out fire pits.

Out at the mouth of the river, the sites where folks have established their nets extend to the end of the beach in both directions. Most folks are friendly and wave to each other as they pass. Some…not so much as they put up barriers to stop the ATVs that frequently race by with various-aged kids at the helm.

The nets are on a pulley system. Ropes stretch out from stakes at the top of the beach into the water. Other stakes are pounded-in far out at low tide by folks in waders who slog through the mud. The ropes are then attached to the net; one pulls it into the water and another pulls it out.

Each net represents a family with a special subsistence “tag” allowing the “head of household” to take 25 fish and each additional family member 10 fish a piece. Also, while many folks use ATVs and small 4x4 pickups to haul equipment to their sites and to haul their net(s) in and out of the water, many others replace technology with friends and family members hauling on the ropes. Even the kids get to work together as a team!

This is an event where “the more the merrier” definitely applies…especially in the preparation of the fish after they are caught. Salmon-gutting and filleting stations are set-up by the water which often consist of nothing more than two large trash cans with a slab of wood on top. It’s easy to see who is working on their fish by the swarms of gulls that follow, eager for a free meal...the same gulls who alert net-watchers to the presence of fish in the nets when they try to peck at them.

Between the two tides on Saturday, the other family ended up with 26 salmon and we ended up with 25 salmon and one flounder...a perfect day. While officially my family is entitled to 45 salmon, we learned that is way too many for us--even though we give away a number of them.

This year, we were very lucky with the weather. My husband and father-in-law went out to the beach (about 30 miles from the house) to be there for the high-tide at 6:00 am while I was to follow with my mother-in-law, the kids and lunch later on.
When I woke about 8:00 am I thought the Kenai River sounded much louder than usual (my in-laws live above the river) but discovered the rushing sound was a downpour. Fortunately, by the time we left the house the rain had stopped and did not return until we left on Sunday.

Set-netting is not only a lifestyle, it is an addiction.
In 2005, just hours before my husband and I were getting married, there I was on the beach destroying my hands, nails, hair, feet and everything else gutting and filleting salmon. I thought the manicurist was going to have a coronary on the morning of my wedding when I explained to her why I had the ugly callouses and the decimated nails.

Next year, we will be playing an even more active roll. We'll be taking close to a week of vacation time to help set-up the campsite, much to the delight of my daughter and her cousins. All of the work is taking a toll on Josh's parents and this is a family tradition worth supporting; it brings all of us together for a common goal and an opportunity to experience a unique aspect of Alaskan life. We are building memories that our kids will carry with them for the rest of their lives.

We're also feeding our families healthy food that we wouldn't otherwise be able to afford at $25.00 a fillet.

Hunger on the rise in Alaska and across the country--has been for months and it's going to get worse. Why aren't we more concerned?

Per the Anchorage Daily News:
They're seeing new faces in line at the Downtown Soup Kitchen.

Families. Moms.

A few blocks away, Bean's Cafe is serving more free meals. A 33 percent increase in May, compared to the same time last year.

A local pantry that delivers food to needy families recently asked the Food Bank of Alaska to stop sending people its way.

"They aren't able to meet the needs," said Food Bank development manager Amy DeBruhl.

Maybe it's the scary gas prices or the towering grocery bills. Maybe something else. But this year people in Anchorage are asking for more help filling their plates and stomachs.

"We are definitely seeing a lot more of the working poor, rather than the unemployed," said Jennifer Nieves, program director for St. Francis House, a food bank run by Catholic Social Services.

Last week the pantry cut back on the amount of beans and rice it gives to individual visitors who aren't picking up food for an entire family.

From Dec. on KTUU:
The Food Bank of Alaska says it helped more than 80,000 people last year. Food banks in general report more people seem to be coming in these days.

To keep up, they, too, need to keep food on the shelves.

For me, the most amazing part of this is how little discussion there has been on the huge impact the horrible tornado and flood-ridden weather in Iowa and the rest of America's Heartland will have on our future food prices and supplies. Finally, today from AP:
NEW YORK - Raging Midwest floodwaters that swallowed crops and sent corn and soybean prices soaring are about to give consumers more grief at the grocery store.

In the latest bout of food inflation, beef, pork, poultry and even eggs, cheese and milk are expected to get more expensive as livestock owners go out of business or are forced to slaughter more cattle, hogs, turkeys and chickens to cope with rocketing costs for corn-based animal feed.

The floods engulfed an estimated 2 million or more acres of corn and soybean fields in Iowa, Indiana, Illinois and other key growing states, sending world grain prices skyward on fears of a substantially smaller corn crop. The government will give a partial idea of how many corn acres were lost before the end of the month, but experts say the trickle-down effect could be more dramatic later this year, affecting everything from Thanksgiving turkeys to Christmas hams.

Let's talk about every food item that uses soy protein, soy oil, corn oil, corn syrup, etc... That's the majority of items on the shelves.

I've been calling relatives in Iowa as well as my parents as to the status of our own farm in Eastern Iowa. Thankfully, none of my family members have been driven from their homes or have suffered great losses yet, but we won't know anything about the crop until harvest time.

I'm not sure if folks understand what a calamity they could be facing...I find that neither coast seems to understand where their food comes from. I wonder if, six months from now, the focus will shift from gas prices to food prices? I wonder what that will mean for our next president?

Solstice 2008 - 11:00 PM at the mouth of the Kasilof River

Anyone can be a decent photographer in Alaska because no one has to go in search of gorgeous pictures - Mother Nature brings them to you.

I caught this and many others while set netting this weekend. I'll post about it in the AM. We just got home a few hours ago and I'm beat.

Hope everyone had a great weekend!