Celtic Diva's Blue Oasis: 8/3/08 - 8/10/08

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Tibetan protest in China--Chinese police "remove" an Anchorage-ite!

A name familiar to Anchorage Democrats popped up in the news today--Matt Browner-Hamlin, On-line Campaign Coordinator for Mark Begich was...errr...asked to leave the Olympic Equestrian event in Hong Kong when he had the audacity to unfurl a Tibetan flag.

Protesters displayed the Tibetan flag and chanted pro-democracy slogans at an Olympic equestrian event in Hong Kong on Saturday, but were removed and banned from the venue.

Two American activists from the New York-based Students for a Free Tibet unfurled the Tibetan flag among the spectators at the equestrian stadium in Hong Kong's suburban Sha Tin district...

...A Students for a Free Tibet statement identified the Americans as Matthew Browner-Hamlin from Anchorage, Alaska and Brianna Cayo Cotter from San Francisco, California.

Security officers removed all six protesters. Leung, Chan and their two fellow demonstrators have been banned from the remaining equestrian competitions, event spokesman Mark Pinkstone said.

In a phone conversation with The Associated Press, Browner-Hamlin said he had not been informed if he had Cotter were also banned. Security officers and Pinkstone did not immediately return a reporter's calls seeking comment on the Americans.

Matt wrote about his upcoming protest in Huffington Post on Friday:

I've been involved with efforts by Students for a Free Tibet related to the Olympics for over eight years. When focus shifted to the 2008 bid, we were there. And once the International Olympic Committee awarded China these Olympics, we shifted our efforts in recognition of the opportunity that would be afforded to Tibetans while the whole world was watching the Games.

You see, no occupied people have ever had their occupier given such a prime stage for global attention in modern history. While the Chinese government will seek to focus the world's attention on the bright lights, new stadiums, and rising Chinese medal count in Beijing, Tibetans and their supporters are working to shift that spotlight onto China's brutal occupation of Tibet.

Matt's name is not just familiar to Alaska Dems, knowledge of his former job managing Chris Dodd's presidential run made many of us dance with glee when he chose to move to Anchorage to work for Mark Begich. His involvement in such a worthy cause as "Students for a Free Tibet" is not surprising...in talking to Matt it seems that his career in Progressive politics is a calling, not a job.

We salute you, Matt, and wish you a safe journey home.

(Go HERE for streaming video from FreeTibet 2008. Hat tip for the story to Dennis Zaki at AlaskaReport.com.)

(Headshot of Matt courtesy of Huffington Post)

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Reinstate Chuck Kopp??? Let it die, people, let it die...

First here's the history:

Chuck Kopp replaces Walt Monegan
Introducing Chuck Kopp press event
Chuck Kopp--curioser and curioser...
"The Alaska Hillbillies"
Anticipating Kopp's departure
Chuck Kopp resigns effective immediately

In Friday's Peninsula Clarion, we find a story that's been picked up by the AP:
About four dozen friends and family members of Chuck Kopp jammed the Kenai City Council chamber Wednesday night urging the council to reinstate the former Kenai police chief.

Mayor Pat Porter informed the supporters that hiring and firing of city employees at the department head level is the responsibility of the city manager, not the city council.

The interesting part is who was there to support him...
A number of Kopp's supporters said they were affiliated with Cook Inlet Academy, which was founded by Kopp's father. Kopp is a past-president of the school...

...A Sterling woman who described herself as being a friend of Chuck and Trish Kopp for 16 years, Robin Forci, said city council members should consider the legacy they want to leave.

...and who wasn't there...
City Manager Rick Koch, who did not attend Wednesday's meeting, has been attending a hockey camp out of state with his son.

I'll bet Mr. Koch is thinking that hockey camp was great timing.

There is no way they are going to rehire Chuck Kopp. Besides the number of lies he told to the media (i.e. all of you) as well as the Governor, I described some of the stuff I was receiving leading up to Mr. Kopp's resignation. His departure caused me to drop any and all efforts to "research" the claims that have been made by anonymous sources. I'm guessing wayyyyy more powerful media folks than this blogger-chick have the same information and the same ability to do that research...if we are all properly motivated.

Reinstating him as police chief in Kenai would motivate me as I'm sure it would motivate others.

Folks down in Kenai should let this go. Based on my information, there could be much more than a "hug" in his past. If you really care about Chuck and his family, find him a different job.

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Friday, August 08, 2008

Berta's Briefings: Bye, Bye Session that wouldn't Die!!!

Representative Berta Gardner
Serving Geneva Woods, College Village , Green Acres, Tudor, Taku and Campbell Park

The End of the Endless Special Session

Dear Friends and Neighbors,

In the past four years I’ve participated in nine special sessions, each important in its own way. This session in particular offered an opportunity for immediate assistance to every Alaskan. The debate has been intense and far-reaching, the sums of money immense, and the result was anti-climatic for many of us.

The debate on the House floor opened with a prayer by Representative John Coghill (R-North Pole). He said “We are always mindful of the privilege of serving our people while remembering our duty – as one generation to another.” I took it very much to heart as I considered the discussion and the vote.

I believe the Governor’s proposal of a $1,200 payout per person is immensely popular across the state but I also believe it is very poor public policy.

Representative Gardner, Nelson and Kerttula during a caucus just before the House of Representatives concurred with the Senate changes to the Energy Relief bill.

-- Cash payouts without regard to need encourage an unhealthy reliance on government.

-- The payouts are taxable under federal law so we lose about a third of the benefit right off the top.

-- Payouts create an expectation of future government payouts.

-- Payouts are unsustainable.

-- Payouts are probably the least effective way for the state to provide energy relief.

On Wednesday night, after six amendments had been turned down on party line votes, when the cash payout was the only substantive offer on the table, I voted no. The bill passed with a vote of 30/7.

Although high oil prices, coupled with changes to the state’s oil tax structure, leave us in an enviably flush position, we can already see the reality that having more money to spend means there is more to fight over. Instead of short term cash payouts, we should have focused on long term solutions such as encouraging conservation, developing renewable energies, assisting the most fragile and vulnerable Alaskans to heat their homes in winter and planning for the future needs of this state. The payout does the opposite of that. I believe we failed in our higher duty of creating good policy, planning ahead and of being good stewards of the state’s assets.

Representative Gardner with staff, Noah Hanson, shows
the “Endless Session” t-shirts that were handed out
the afternoon of the last day of the Special Session.

As a legislator for Midtown Anchorage, I work hard to understand what my constituents want and then to translate that into good policy I can support. The people who have contacted me about energy issues have been split. However, I know that outside of Anchorage , where energy costs are steeper and people have fewer employment options, energy prices have had a profound impact on people’s lives.

Yesterday, when the House on reconsideration included improvements to PCE (Power Cost Equalization), I found my way to a yes vote. In the end, I have to agree with those who say that as winter approaches we cannot sit by doing nothing for those who are genuinely in need, even if it means we give state resources to those who are not in need. During next session, should I be re-elected, I will work diligently with my colleague to create good public policy that helps Alaskans who are in need.

I’m Berta and I’m still listening.

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"Focus on the Family" goes grade-school...prays for it to rain at Invesco Field during the Democratic Convention

***************UPDATE 2--8/12***************

I reposted a new YouTube video, as the other one (as well as the video from the FotF website) was yanked.


Bent Alaska tells us that Focus on the Family is bringing their Ex-gay Homophobe Show to Abbott Loop.

Hey, I've protested at a church before and I'm up for it again!


It just doesn't get more pathetic than this:

Here's an excellent article about it by Brian Kaylor
Focus on the Family recently posted a video urging Christians to pray for rain. When I heard of that, I figured it must be a response to the horrible drought and famine currently occurring in eastern Africa. You see, countries like Ethiopia and Somalia have experienced a terrible drought this year that is threatening more than 14 million Africans. As the food prices have skyrocketed due to the famine, millions are in danger of starvation. Relief organizations are quickly working to bring in desperately-needed food and medical supplies. But unless relief is provided within the next couple of months, millions could die. So, I figured that a call for American Christians to not only give to these relief efforts but also pray for rain would be something that a group like Focus on the Family would advocate.

Then I watched the “Pray for Rain” video narrated by Stuart Shepard. It turns out he is not praying for his fellow humans in desperate need. Instead, he is calling for Christians to pray for “abundant, torrential” rain as a type of political prank. He wants us to pray that God would cause a strong rainstorm that disrupts Barack Obama’s planned acceptance address during the Democratic National Convention. As Shepard explains his hope for God to literally rain on Obama’s parade, he asked Christians to pray for “rain of biblical proportions” that can create flashflood warnings and “swamp” the roads. You know, the kind of rain that can kill people. Shepard claimed that if such rain occurs, he will declare—like God during creation—“that it is good.”

Now, like Shepard, I cannot claim to know the mind or will of the Almighty. However, I wonder about the priorities of someone who thinks we should focus on praying for a potentially life-threatening rainstorm just to spoil a politician’s big speech. I wonder about the priorities of someone who thinks we should focus on praying for political rain rather than life-saving rain for a place ravaged by drought and famine. I wonder about the priorities of someone who thinks we should focus ministry resources on offering prayer requests like Shepard’s.

Focus on the Family's main office is in Denver. I would love to post a camera outside of that office just to see how many "middle finger salutes" they get while they are driving by during the Convention.

If it doesn't rain...I may actually try to venture INTO their offices...perhaps get an interview with someone there, just to ask if God NOT honoring their prayers means that he's "anointed" Obama?

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Gear Junkies--In Memoriam: Gerard McDonnell--Climber and Irish Musician

"Gear Junkies" is the free, premier weekly newsletter sent via email to the Alaska music community written and edited by the Goddess of the Alaska Music Scene, Patti Greene

Gerard McDonnell 1971 - 2008

He was a fun-loving, mountain-climber of a man, full of life and eager for adventure, and he died after becoming the world's first Irishman to reach the summit of K2 in the Himalayas, considered to be among the most technical and dangerous climbs in the world.

A resident of Alaska for ten years, McDonnell hailed from Kilcornan, Ireland, worked on the Slope, and played the bodhran with Last Night's Fun, an Anchorage-based Irish music group.

Messages for Gerard's family may be sent to his girlfriend, Ann Starkey, who will forward them on. She writes, "It would mean a lot to them since they know how important Gerard's friends are to him. Thanks, dear friends, for all of your support in the worst of times." --Annie annstarkey@gmail.com

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Any day now, your dog will be able to get a job with the State of Alaska--another episode of the "Alaska Hillbillies."

I listened to KUDO yesterday morning (while still in bed, of course) and heard an interview Cary Carrigan did with Andree McLeod, who filed an ethics complaint against Sarah Palin (the story is in the ADN).
A former state employee and political activist filed an ethics complaint against Gov. Sarah Palin and her staff Wednesday. The charge: The governor's office used its influence to get a Palin supporter a state job.

"Executive branch employee shouldn't be getting involved in the recruitment process unless it's based on merit," said Andree McLeod, who wrote the complaint based on a series of e-mails between members of Palin's team.

Palin said the state fixed a "glitch" that prevented a qualified candidate from moving through the hiring process. In this case a longtime surveyor couldn't apply for a job because of outdated job requirements, she said.

"There were no favors done for anybody."

Within the complaint, it mentions that "Tom and Kate Lamal hosted a fundraiser for Sarah Palin at the Pagoda Restaurant in North Pole on Tuesday, June 20, 2006."

It then lists a number of emails from a number of high-level positions within the Administration celebrating Tom Lamal's appointment to a Right-of-Way Agent II position. One particularly disturbing email was from Frank Bailey to Sarah Palin, Kristine Perry and "Unknown":
"This was a long battle but Kevin pushed it through the road blocks to get Tom Lamal hired into a classified position with FAI at DOT."

A classified position...not an appointee position. Also, it's a position that is at least partially paid-for by the Feds.

As has become much too familiar the last several months, here come the catty-little-attacks against the messenger by the Governor and Sharon Leighow:
"This is the same Andree McLeod that follows us around at public events and camps herself out in our waiting area and hounds us for a job, asking us if there's a way she can go around Workplace Alaska and not have to go through the system to get a job with this administration," Palin said.
She also called her that "falafel lady."

Andrew Halcro's blog shows a big chunk-o-emails that Ms. Palin sent to Andree..."that stalker"..."that falafel lady?"

That was a great letter to the ed. this week Andree. I haven't had time to call but wanted to tell you it was, again, insightful & educational & good writing.

I'm still disenchanted with the whole issue of RR and state politics and am not even very optimistic about the call for an independent investigation. We'll see. I guess I'll believe it when I see it.

Hope you're doing well, staying warm & staying on top of all these state issues I'm hearing about on the news!

He has many more quotes from Sarah to Andree listed. Is Sarah in the habit of regularly emailing and complimenting stalkers?

Andree's FOIA request targeted a specific time period, which is not surprising.
McLeod said she worked for the state off and on for decades, most recently as Alaska Workforce Investment Board manager. She was appointed to the job by former Gov. Frank Murkowski, she said.

It's a good bet that she knew something fishy was going on when she worked there. When she found out Lamal got the job in Feb of this year, she sent in the FOIA.

Having worked for the Feds for 15 years, I encountered a number of "issues" that were more-than-questionable but not provable without a ton of research. If I was pissed off enough to expend the time and energy on all of that research (i.e. if Sarah Palin had led me on with the promise of a job, like she did to SO MANY folks she got lots of free work out of, only to stiff them later on) does it really matter if that was the motivation?

Survey says?

Just as interesting was the information Kyle Hopkins posted on the ADN Blog last night:

Kevin Brooks, the deputy commissioner of Administration, just sent some paperwork related to yesterday's ethics complaint against the Palin administration.

Once again: Palin, some of her staffers and Brooks are accused in a complaint saying they helped Palin supporter Tom Lamal get a state job. The job was a right-of-way agent post in Fairbanks, and Palin says Lamal is a qualified surveyor who wasn't able to go through the hiring process because of outdated requirements for the job.

Those requirements were changed. Lamal was able to get the job.

HERE are the Right-of-Way requirement changes.

When I saw that Kevin Brooks put out this information, I thought that it would definitively show there was nothing to the charges. Then I started comparing.

The Right-of-Way Assistant position (currently hiring) and the Right-of-Way Agent I (ROWA I) are the ONLY right-of-way jobs that even MENTION college in the "updated" minimum requirements. I applied for a few jobs with the State while working for the Feds but I perused Workplace Alaska regularly. I can tell you I've NEVER seen high-level positions like that without college requirements.

And the ROWA II has a SIGNIFICANT drop in the minimum requirements--Lamal is a ROWA II:

Prior to December 2007:
Five years experience in governmental, public, or commercial acquisition or management of real property involving appraising, negotiation, title examining, land recordation, relocation, surveying, cartography and/or drafting, at least one year of which must have been at the level of Right-of-Way Agent I with the State of Alaska or the equivalent elsewhere.

College education in the fields of public land management, real estate, law, business administration, geology, forestry, geography, cartography, or engineering may be substituted for the required nonspecific experience on a year-for-year basis.

Post December 2007:
One year of trainee-professional experience learning to acquire land for construction of highways, airports, buildings or other public facilities through negotiation or eminent domain action; to provide relocation assistance to displaced persons; and to manage State owned right-of-way property. This experience is met by service as a Right of Way Agent I with the State of Alaska, or the equivalent elsewhere.


Two years of professional experience in any of the following: searching, analyzing, and evaluating real property titles; preparing legal land descriptions; appraising real property; acquiring, managing, or disposing of commercial real estate; as an agent for personal or commercial real property transactions, or in surveying or engineering.

Rumor has it that starting for a ROWA II is Range 16A--that equals $3,697.00. One year of trainee/professional experience acquiring land is worth $44,364.00 a year?? That means that an 20-year-old who worked in their parent's Real Estate business could get that job.

I can almost hear those banjos a-playin'!

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Thursday, August 07, 2008

From Writing Raven--Real Alaska Native Myths and Legends #3 - What's a "traditional" Native?

Here is the next installment in what I believe to be an important series by "Alaska Real" blogger Writing Raven. Raven will be blogging with me from the Democratic National Convention in Denver and will provide a much-needed viewpoint from one of Alaska's First People.

The news about the slaughtered caribou brought out the usual - anti-Native hate, calls for an end to subsistence and "special rights", I don't know how many upstanding citizens dragging alcohol into the mix - something not mentioned in the case thus far, except by those spewing ignorance.

But one thing always gets brought up eventually, and that is the idea that "if they want to be traditional, then they need to go back to bows and arrows." One less enlightened man a few weeks ago put it as needing to go back to "making fires out of caribou dung."

Now, I will confess something. This is something that many Native people struggle with. There are many expectations about what you should be as a Native person, from without and within.

Be traditional - not "too traditional" - assimilate already! - just be "American" - why don't you dress in buckskin?

Some of the irony of the situation is that from the non-Native crowd, there is a constant mixed message. Native corporations are the most open to vicious attack for their successes - how dare they succeed? Yet corporations are the government requirement, not the Native neccessity. Hate comments about "needing to go back to the village" can be soon followed by "if things are so tough in the village, then move out!" Even the well-intentioned, friends and colleagues, can encourage this sort of dichotomy by having expectations about what a Native person should be, versus what they are.

But this kind of confusion is not something exclusive to non-Natives. This is maybe most confusing within the community. Be proud of your culture! But be more American this way... Learn your language! But don't think you're better just because you can. How come you don't know your culture? But your Western education should come first.

It's not always as clear cut as saying it so, as few few things are. It can be as subtle as a supervisor asking a group of us what we would do if an Elder gave us a very expensive gift at work. My look of panic was not the only one. You don't dare refuse a gift from an Elder! But this is not Western corporation practices.

The idea that you must succeed in two worlds is not new, nor is it going to go away anytime soon. But we can get rid of this cut and dry vision of what it means to be a "traditional" Native person.

It does not mean going back to "bow and arrow" days. If this is what someone really wants, it goes both ways. Not every great invention came from the Western mind. In fact, I'll make the next person who says this to me a deal - I will start encouraging the "old days," no snowmachines, no rifles, no electric heat - if they will fulfill two requests. Two requests for a whole lifestyle here, it's a good deal.

First, the agricultural products that we had in the "old days" are ours and ours alone. That means we own the patent/license/whatever to tomatoes, potatoes, turkey, rubber, chocolate! No Hershey's syrup. No peanut butter and jelly, because no peanuts. And it might literally mean the shirt off their back, because no cotton.

Second, if we don't receive the benefit of Western invention, we take back the benefit of our invention. Here in Alaska alone, that means no kayaks, snowshoes, moccasins. Not to mention popcorn.

Now, this isn't a serious claim, it is only meant to highlight the absurdity of demanding people "turn back the clock". I don't want to take back tomatoes (especially since the Tlingit and Athabascan people didn't have a lot to do with that) and I don't think that my wanting to honor my traditions means I need to do away with the Internet.

Bottom line is, the learning and invention and benefit went both ways. We were not a "primitive" people, who would never have survived without Western intervention. But the history of American would be much changed - in fact quite a bit briefer - with the knowledge and skill of the "First Peoples."

As to what a good "traditional" Native person is, the minute you spot one, let me know. The most honorable, respectful Native people I know drive cars and speak English as good or better than traditional languages. It is their drive to keep traditional lines open, to remember the values of ancient times and apply them to a modern world that makes me - and others - admire and respect them.

Our ancestors did not sit and dream of a world in which everything stayed exactly the same (despite some TV movies that say otherwise). They were innovators themselves. They dreamed of children, and grandchildren, and grandchildren's grandchildren that were healthy, that knew the Earth for what it was and respected it, that treated others with respect due to them. And this is how we respect them - by pursuing just that, fighting for it, expecting and hoping that it will come.

--Writing Raven

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Wednesday, August 06, 2008

ExxonMcCain '08! An Oil Change We Can't Believe In!

From the DNC:

John McCain decided on a running mate for November, and it wasn't among the usual suspects. No, with the recent flood of oil money into John McCain's campaign, and his plan to give Big Oil $4 billion in tax breaks, the presumptive Republican nominee chose to run on the GOP ticket with Big Oil.

Find out what "Exxon John" supports -- money, oil, tax breaks and a "gas tax holiday" gimmick to give more money to Big Oil -- and, see what he really means when he says his energy plan is "all of the above."


Someone find me one of those bumper stickers!!!!!!

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Obama Campaign Energy Teleconference--"Alaska features prominently in the Obama energy plan"

Sen. Obama's initial comments on his energy policy August 6th from Elkhart, Indiana

I'm a little teleconference-happy today.

9:00 AM Alaska time we had one with Diane Benson (as you can see in my previous post).

Then at 11:00 AM, we had one with two heavies in the Obama for America campaign: Pete Rouse, Senior Advisor for the Campaign (and Former Chief of Staff, Alaska Lt. Gov. Terry Miller) and Heather Zichal, Director of Energy Policy for the Campaign.

Heather started by describing the plan Barack Obama has been unveiling over the last several days in Michigan, Indiana and Ohio.

Zichal listed an "aggressive" set of measures both in the short-term and the long-term to "make the investments we need to break our addiction to oil". We can't solf this overnight but we need to start now. Short-term: This begins with the "emergency energy rebate" of $1,000.00 per family, because "American consumers need direct assistance and need it now," stop putting oil in the strategic petroleum reserve and "crack down on speculators." (During later questioning, Zichal clarified that the $1,000 rebate will be capped at families that make over $150,000 and will be paid for by a proposed windfall profits tax.)

Zichal focused on three points that are at the center of the plan:

1) Increasing automobile standards - 1 mil hybrids on the road 2015 increase investment commit to 36 bil gallons advanced biofuels by 2012. As Senator Obama described it in Indiana:
First, we’ll commit ourselves to getting one million 150 mile-per-gallon plug-in hybrid cars on our roads within six years. And we’ll make sure that the cars of tomorrow are built not just in Japan or China, but right here in the United States of America.

2) 25% renewable energy by 2025
Second, we’ll double the amount of our energy that comes from renewable sources by the end of my first term. That means investing in renewables like wind and solar power, and we’ll also invest in the next generation biofuels.

3) Efficiency standards-15%
Third, I will call on businesses, government, and the American people to meet the goal of reducing our demand for electricity 15% by the end of the next decade. This is by far the fastest, easiest, and cheapest way to reduce our energy consumption – and it will save us $130 billion on our energy bills.

In the interim, the Obama Adminstration would continue with our domestic supply of natural gas and oil.

Also, resources are available that need to be developed and Zichal restated Obama's support for the Congressional Dems "use it or lose it" policy, as there are 68 million existing leases that need to be developed now.

Zichal also stated that a "cornerstone of the plan is a commitment from Fed gov't to build AK natural gas pipeline and bring resources on line."

Pete Rouse came on-line specifically addressing the energy plan as it effects Alaska and wanted to emphasize several points:

1) AK features prominently in the Obama energy plan (which was acknowledged by Governor in a press release earlier in the week).

2) There is a "sense of urgency in Barack's approach to the natural gas issue." While demand for gas is skyrocketing, gas development has been flat from 2000-2007. There is a great "potential for natural gas" as motor fuel, etc...

3) Barack Obama's understanding of the issue pertaining to Alaska has increased greatly through discussions with prominent Alaskans.

- He met one-on-one with Mark Begich in Miami and came back from that clearly on his mind that it needed to be highlighted even more.

- In the January op ed by Gov. Hickel, his "enthusiasm was not lost on Senator Obama."

- Tony Knowles is a good friend and close advisor to Sen. Obama--he has talked for several years to Senator Obama on this issue and will continue to do so.

Rouse also emphasized that the Obama Administration would look for a Federal Partnership with the State of Alaska to help move the pipeline project forward. (In response to my later question--establishing whether they were proposing to only work with the pipeline licensed by the state vs. competing lines--- Rouse stated that the idea was to first work with Governor Palin -- start from the leadership at the top we believe we can make real progress) He believes that Alaskans should share in benefits of project, which would include jobs and a reduction in the huge cost of energy in Alaska. According to Rouse, high energy prices in Alaska is "a fact underrecognized in the lower-48."

In a brilliant move on the part of the Obama Campaign, Rouse stated that in this "Federal partnership" with Alaska over the gas line, "Exxon should not have a disproportionate influence over the timetable for construction of this important national project." Rouse stated that Obama wants to move the project forward as what is best for Alaska and nation. Also, Rouse pointed out that "McCain opposed tax incentives to build the pipeline."

In response to the question as to whether Barack Obama will be visiting Alaska, Pete Rouse said that it is "still on the planning docket here and we hope that it happens."

HERE is the text of the remarks that Sen. Obama presented at the beginning of the Town Hall Meeting.

HERE is a link to the YouTube contributor with the eight videos of the entire Elkhart, Indiana Town Hall (starting in backwards order with Evan Bayh's introduction).

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You wanted it...you got it...Paris Hilton's bitch-slap of John McCain

See more Paris Hilton videos at Funny or Die

1) I think the "Crypt-Keeper" image of McCain is gonna stick.

2) We shouldn't be surprised...girlfriend has proven that her biggest talent is knowing how to get publicity.

3) $50.00 says that this (plus Obama's retaliation) effects McCain in the polls.

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Diane Benson "says what she means and means what she says"--especially when it comes to our veterans

Diane Benson (second from the right) plus her team and Vietnam Veteran Mo Bailey

Late in July, Writing Raven and I had a fundraiser at Phil Munger's house for our trip to Denver...and Democratic Candidate for the Alaska At-Large Congressional seat, Diane Benson was kind enough to show up and donate. It was then that I asked her the question that had been bugging me for months. "Did I meet you about 14-15 years ago?"

The answer was "Yes."

I was heavily involved in Blues music in both performing and the tech side. She was continuing her history of fighting for the rights of those who need protection. In this case, it was her fellow Alaska Native actors who were being exploited by the entertainment industry. We discussed that many people don't realize how much discrimination occurs in all aspects of the performing arts nor do they understand how hard it is on women in non-traditional roles.

Diane Benson is about as non-traditional as it gets. I've had incidents where I've told a few of many colorful experiences living and working for 25 years in Alaska...pretty typical stuff for most Alaska women...and folks have thought that I was making it up.

Diane's life makes mine sound uneventful, as recounted in a much-coveted article by The Nation:
Benson's strength and determination stems at least in part from her background. She "grew up in logging camps, boarding schools, foster homes and even on boat houses," according to Indian Country Today. At times she was homeless. She worked her way through college as a Teamster truck driver and was one of the first women tractor-trailer drivers on the Alaska Pipeline – she often was the only woman on the jobsite. Benson said that was a tough job to get.

"I could prove that I could do the job and the union stood up for me," she said. "And they stood up for me time and time again, and I will never forget that."

Educated in Alaska, she earned her Bachelors Degree, a Masters of Fine Arts in Creative Writing and is now working on her Masters in Public Policy. She also attended the American Film Institute in Los Angeles and co-produced a PBS documentary about Alaska Civil Rights. She ran sprint-races as a dogsledder and – along with her son –had 32 dogs at one time. But it wasn't until 2005 when her son, Spc. Latseen Benson, was injured by a road-side bomb in Iraq and was a double amputee that she turned to politics. She spent three-and-a-half months with him and his fellow-soldiers at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.

Those experiences have made her an outspoken advocate of Veterans and their issues.
Benson was surprised that in a recent debate she was the only candidate to repeatedly bring up veterans issues – one of the other candidates brought it up maybe once, if that. With 80,000 veterans in the state, responding to their issues is a key part of her platform.

It was from Walter Reed, her third trip back since her son's stay, that Diane held a press event today.

Diane Benson had a lot of praise for the caregivers at Walter Reed and the many improvements--especially the addition of the new Military Advanced Training Center, which "greatly improves the services to the wounded."

She also had a great deal of praise for The Washington Post's continuing coverage of Veterans as well as conditions at Walter Reed, which got the ball rolling.

However, Diane's primary message was that of holding the government responsible to care for the Veterans who have served their country so valiantly:

"I am embarrassed by the fact that our government is using the same techniques to deny benefits to veterans that insurance companies use to deny care to sick patients" said Benson. "There are nearly 400,000 veterans waiting for their claims to be processed. That's outrageous. The President and Congress should fix the system and make veteran health care a priority."

Benson mentioned the 1.8 uninsured Veterans in this country as well as the 290,000 Homeless Veterans. "We can't just rely upon the Good Samaritans of America to take care of our Veterans," she stated.

She also discussed the difficulty of receiving long-term care by severely injured Veterans, like her son, who is still using "temporary legs" because he has been unable to get the services to prepare him for his "permanent" ones.

Diane Benson also emphasized the importance of getting care to the Veterans for the "less visible" injuries like PTSD.

I had a discussion about PTSD and Veterans with Diane, which included a discussion about dealing with women veterans recovering from sexual assault and the VA's hesitancy to specifically target funds for their recovery.

"Anyone who knows anything about the trauma resulting from rape and sexual violence in general knows that it is a lifelong devastation to the spirit and the emotional well-being of that human being. PTSD comes from this as much as it comes from combat fatigue or being in war zones."

Diane Benson speaks with authority on this topic and has been an advocate for the protection of Alaska women and children; Alaska leads the rest of the country by an alarming margin in its rate of domestic violence and sexual assault. Benson has been one of the few candidates for ANY political office who is willing to discuss it much less propose solutions, so it is not a surprise that this advocacy extends to the women (and men) in the battlefield.

I have heard Diane Benson in previous discussions and at past appearances describe with great fondness her encounters with veterans, disabled and otherwise. She talked about one especially touching encounter where she told a meeting of veterans in Rural Alaska that she felt "at home" there and one veteran responded back, "because you are at home." In a rare moment, the retelling actually misted-up the former-union trucker as well as the crowd of Vietnam and Iraq-era veterans and supporters around her.

That kind of emotional response from an audience of veterans only happens in the presence of credibility. Diane shouldn't be at all surprised that the other Congressional candidates try not to bring those issues up.

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Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Lulu and the Aqua Nets--my girls are YouTubed!

Some of their summer gigs! (You can also find more "stuff" on their website.)

Peanut Farm this June:

Talkeetna last summer (hopefully this summer will be out soon):

From a gig in February:


It's the AQUA NETS not the Aquanets! Bad Celtic!

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Monday, August 04, 2008

On a scale of 1 to 10, this one ranks an 11 on the gag-meter

Photo courtesy of AP

President Bush landed on Eielson AFB today on his way to China for the opening of the Olympics, among other stops. Here is the transcript of his remarks in Alaska Politics.

And here is the comment that had me running for the toilet:
The United States military has had no better supporter and stronger friend than Senator Ted Stevens. Thank you for coming, Senator. (Applause.) Thank you for bring your daughter. Nothing wrong with a father bringing his daughter to an event like this.

Here's reality, from an AK Dems Press Release:
“ Alaska ’s military families deserve more from Senator Stevens than a photo-op with the President,” said Bethany Lesser, spokeswoman for the Alaska Democratic Party. “Just last week, Stevens voted against funding for our troops. The brave men and women of the military put their lives on the line to protect us and keep our families safe, and we can never do enough to repay them for their service. Thursday, Stevens voted against equipment. He voted against a pay raise. He voted against healthcare for servicemembers and their families. This vote is inexcusable.”

The National Defense Authorization Bill for Fiscal Year 2009 included provisions which would have:

Authorized a 3.9 percent across-the-board pay raise for military personnel. [Senate Armed Services Committee Press Release, 5/1/08]

Authorized $26.1 billion for the Defense Health Program, which includes $1.2 billion to reverse the Bush administration’s proposal to raise fees on troops and their families.[Senate Armed Services Committee Press Release, 5/1/08]

Authorized $3 billion in funding to protect troops in Iraq and Afghanistan from improvised explosive devices (IED).[Senate Armed Services Committee Press Release 5/1/08]

· Authorized active-duty end strengths for the Army and Marine Corps to increase by 7,000 soldiers and 5,000 marines from 2008 levels and an increase of 3,371 full-time personnel for the Army National Guard and the Army Reserve. [Senate Armed Services Committee Press Release, 5/1/08]

· Required the Secretaries of Defense and Veterans Affairs to continue the operations of the Senior Oversight Committee to oversee implementation of Wounded Warrior initiatives.[Senate Armed Services Committee Press Release, 5/1/08]

· Fully funded Army readiness and depot maintenance programs to ensure that forces preparing to deploy are trained and their equipment is ready.[Senate Armed Services Committee Press Release, 5/1/08]

I have repeatedly highlighted on this blog how Ted Stevens has one of the worst records with Veteran's organizations. His grade according to Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, (a non-partisan, non-profit organization) is the same as Senators John McCain and Lisa Murkowski--a "D".

Can we please stop with the "Stevens...veteran's frieeeeennnnnddd" bullshit?

On another subject--why did Bush make this comment about Stevens and his daughter? "Thank you for bring your daughter. Nothing wrong with a father bringing his daughter to an event like this." Was he trying to insinuate that Dems would have a problem with it?


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More gas line discussion from one of our favorite commenters, Polarbear

While Polarbear and I don't always agree, he always presents his arguments well and without rancor.

The gasline issue does not split neatly down partisan lines. Lifelong Progressives are finding themselves in agreement with die-hard Conservatives. Making this into its own post gives everyone an opportunity to provide their commentary.

TransCanada is a service company. TC provides natural gas transportation. Exxon/Mobil is a natural gas producer company. TC sells their services to Exxon/Mobil. Hal Kvisle is wooing Exxon/Mobil's business, exactly what he should be doing at this moment. Kvisle has adopted a service tone, publicly underscoring the private conversations occuring in the background. "We understand you and your needs. We are very good at what we do. We are the best in the world at it. You can rely on us. We want your business. Tell us what you would like to accomplish." That is a service conversation. What else would we want our pipeline business partner to tell Exxon/Mobil? Whether Alaska builds its own gas line, or TC builds it, this conversation still has to occur. It is a much more effective conversation with a gas transporter company between Alaska and Exxon/Mobil. And yes, we have to hold our nose, Celtic.

With regard to the 2018 date, that has always been the date in the Transcanada talks, from the start. Indeed, other pipeline projects are already in the TC queue and will emerge before the TC Alaska line. Perfectly normal. Ten years from today to Alaska gas emerging into the TC North American network is a realistic date. After all, it is the largest construction project ever undertaken in North America.

John Harris is the typical Reudrich Republican, predictably trying to make cheap political points at the expense of the bipartisan coalition of Democrats and Republicans that supported the TC proposal. There is a great deal of progressive Democratic political capital tied up in the TransCanada license. The AGIA model may be used again, to cause stubborn projects to move forward in a manner where Alaska gets to set out the required values for the project, first, accompanied by some capital to show we are serious. AGIA is a progressive approach, and we ought to support it.

Your faithful reader...

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Obama's new energy Ad and (Update) Energy Plan speech in Michigan--2nd Update: Gov. Sarah Palin supports parts of Obama's Plan

Here is the YouTube of his speech today in Michigan, which also mentions finishing Alaska's gas pipeline:


It seems Governor Palin likes at least part of Sen. Obama's Energy Plan:

Per her Press Release:


Governor Pleased That Obama’s Energy Plan Includes Alaska

August 4, 2008, Fairbanks, Alaska - Governor Sarah Palin today responded to the energy plan put forward by the presumptive Democratic nominee for President, Illinois Senator Barack Obama.

“I am pleased to see Senator Obama acknowledge the huge potential Alaska’s natural gas reserves represent in terms of clean energy and sound jobs,” Governor Palin said. “The steps taken by the Alaska State Legislature this past week demonstrate that we are ready, willing and able to supply the energy our nation needs.”

In a speech given in Lansing, Michigan, Senator Obama called for the completion of the Alaska natural gas pipeline, stating, “Over the next five years, we should also lease more of the National Petroleum Reserve in Alaska for oil and gas production. And we should also tap more of our substantial natural gas reserves and work with the Canadian government to finally build the Alaska natural gas pipeline, delivering clean natural gas and creating good jobs in the process.”

Governor Palin also acknowledged the Senator’s proposal to offer $1,000 rebates to those struggling with the high cost of energy.

“We in Alaska feel that crunch and are taking steps to address it right here at home,” Governor Palin said. “This is a tool that must be on the table to buy us time until our long-term energy plans can be put into place. We have already enjoyed the support of Alaska Senator Ted Stevens, and it is gratifying to see Senator Obama get on board.”

The Governor did question the means to pay for Obama’s proposed rebate — a windfall profits tax on oil companies. In Alaska, the state’s resource valuation system, ACES, provides strong incentives for companies to re-invest their profits in new production.

“Windfall profits taxes alone prevent additional investment in domestic production. Without new supplies from American reserves, our dependency and addiction to foreign sources of oil will continue,” Governor Palin said.

How many people out there think that part of the reason for this press release is a bitchy little slap at the McCain Campaign for not taking her seriously as a potential VP?

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Exxon's in charge????? I feel dirty...

...and used...and duped...

...by our "buddy," Hal Kvisle.

VANCOUVER — TransCanada Corp. has won support from Alaska to build a $26-billion natural gas pipeline, but ground won't be broken until Exxon Mobil Corp. signs on, says TransCanada chief executive officer Hal Kvisle.

Calgary-based TransCanada, which secured Alaska's official backing Friday, is in competition with BP PLC and ConocoPhillips Co. to build a pipeline that would connect large untapped gas reserves on the north slope of the state to consumers in the continental United States.

But Exxon, the company that controls the most gas in Alaska, hasn't yet backed either of the competing proposals, though it has an active Alaska team monitoring the pipeline race.

"Nothing goes ahead until Exxon is happy with it," Mr. Kvisle said in an interview yesterday.

So, we'll be waiting until all of their other pipelines are done, until about 2015 and it will depend upon the say-so of Exxon, the company that's fighting in court NOT TO PAY INTEREST on the money they've owed Alaskan fisherfolk for over 15 years.

Didn't Wally Hickel warn us?


Alaska House Speaker John Harris (R-Valdez) springs into action and launched THIS LETTER asking for clarification.

In it, he also reminded Kvisle that they haven't agreed to the $500 million dollar "inducement".

***UPDATE 2***

Per Andrew Halcro's Blog:
Wasn't being independent of Exxon and other producers the exact reason why we went through this expensive and time consuming exercise called AGIA?

In addition, under AGIA, TransCanada has committed to holding an open season in 2010 to attract gas shipping commitments from the producers. The competing Denali project being managed by BP and ConocoPhillips, has also scheduled an open season for 2010 as well.

However, Kvisle stated that in his interview that it would be unlikely there will be two open seasons conducted.

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"What's wrong with John McCain?"

McCain stumbles on how he's "fought for civil rights all of his life"...or how Obama actually played the "race card."

Eventually he snaps back to his talking points, lying about supporting the MLK Holiday in Arizona.

Per John Aravosis at Americablog:
Joe posted a video yesterday from Jed, showing McCain trying to answer a question from an audience member, and the video is really disturbing. From three different angles you just watch McCain get sort of totally confused. It's like one minute he's there and the next he's not. McCain's campaign would like nothing better than to demonize anyone who dares mention McCain's age (he's going to be 72 this month). But the fact remains that there's a real question as to why the John McCain we knew in 2000 was vibrant and on the ball, and why John McCain circa 2008 seems prone to repeated gaffs and bouts of confusion. And let's not forgot, McCain got tons of media attention in 2000 as well - and he wasn't at all as "off" as he is today, so it's not just a question of "oh, candidates make gaffs when they're on cam 24/7" - McCain didn't have these problems in 2000.

Here are just a few videos out of the vast number I could choose from showing McCain 1) Contradict himself from the past, 2) Repeat the same gaffes, and 3) Say things that he later denies.

"Perfect voting record with Veterans..." I guess a "D" with IAVA is "perfect."

The "Surge" started in 2006?

Big "Al Qaeda" gaffe

Countdown: "Build it, tear it down, whatever..."

More Al Qaeda trouble

"dispirited...spirited" "Liberal Republican"

"President Putin of Germany"

Like I said, these are just a few. If you want an extensive number of examples, go to the YouTube "bravenewfilms" collection or "The Jed Report."

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Sunday, August 03, 2008

Regarding the death of BG Thomas Tinsley--I don't know what the Air Force considers "undue stress"...

...as it was stated in the press conference after his death (likely suicide) that BG. Thomas L. Tinsley "wasn't under any undue stress."

However, on top of being in command of Elmendorf's 3rd Wing during "wartime," I'd say there were some very significant issues brewing, all of which are listed at the POGO (Project on Government Oversight) website, "More Shake-Up at the Air Force," posted the day Tinsley's death was announced.

According to his biography:

August 2005 - May 2007, executive officer to the Chief of Staff of the Air Force, Headquarters U.S. Air Force, Washington, D.C.

According to the documentation, most of the huge scandals rocking the Air Force now were under recently fired Chief of Staff General Moseley's purview during that time. Understanding the role of the XO (executive officer) would make one realize that BG Tinsley easily had contact with or information about any number or all of these scandals. As a matter of fact, someone considered to be "a good XO" (and word is that Tinsley was) digests as much of the information as possible, briefing the Chief of Staff on the highlights and allowing his boss to do the bulk of his job unfettered...which is mostly running from meeting to meeting.

The most encompassing of these issues (and one that has already led to other high-ranking resignations and suicides) involve the Air Force procurement procedures and some of the projects. One of the most controversial of those is the SLICC, the Senior Leader In-transit Conference Capsule...changed (during BG Tinsley's watch) from the "Comfort Capsule." This story was featured in the Washington Post once a detailed memo from POGO containing all of the information they'd found on the project was sent to Defense Secretary Robert Gates and CCed to the Post. The memo was dated July 17th and the story went public in the Post on July 18th, 9 days before BG Tinsley's death by a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

Coming to a head at exactly the same time is another Air Force procurement debacle, awarding the contract for refueling tankers. According to another article in the Washington Post, dated June 19:
Federal auditors said yesterday that the Air Force bungled its decision to award a multibillion-dollar contract for new refueling tankers to a team that includes the European company Airbus, touching off calls for a congressional probe and putting yet another twist in the years-long, scandal-plagued effort to replace the aging tanker fleet.
This is the second attempt at awarding this contract, the first in 2003 was bungled so badly it was retracted in 2004 and led to 8 months of jail time for former Air Force procurement chief, Darleen A. Druyun:
...the Air Force's procurement chief at the time, Darleen A. Druyun, admitted that she favored Boeing while negotiating for a job with the company. Druyun and Boeing's former chief financial officer went to prison, and Boeing agreed with the Justice Department to pay $615 million -- the biggest penalty ever paid by a defense contractor -- to settle allegations of misconduct on the tanker deal and others.
The mop-up of the previous process and the groundwork for the new contract was occurring through BG Tinsley's watch in the Chief of Staff's Office as well.

Another huge issue has been the lax security and mishandling of nuclear weapons by Air Force personnel. The nuclear blunders (if they are blunders and not intentional, per "wild speculation") were the reasons given for forcing out Chief of Staff Moseley and Air Force Secty Wynne. That scandal has led to some more "wild speculation" over the deaths of people related to those incidents.

(It should be stated that there are others who believe the forced resignations of Mosely and Winn are actually tied to strong disagreements they had with Defense Secty Gates over the AF Budget. However, that's another post.)

Worth mentioning is that the day after BG Tinsley's death there were Hearings conducted by the Senate Committee on Armed Services related to the nominations of Michael Donley as the new Air Force Secretary and Gen. Norton Schwartz to be the AF chief of staff. There were also more hearings related to "confidential matters" scheduled for two days afterwards.

We'll never know whether or not BG Tom Tinsley was contacted to participate in any of those. We'll never know if he received information of potential testimony in future investigations. Even if that is not the case, it's rather foolish to say that Tinsley was not under any "undue stress" when logic dictates otherwise.

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A tragic story from the Memphis Blues Community and a loss for Blues radio

Picture courtesy of WEVL Volunteer Radio

The Blues Silence a D.J. Who Knew Them Well

MEMPHIS — Violence and heartbreak have long shaped the music that makes this city synonymous with the blues. But when the police were alerted to the slaying of Dee Henderson, a disc jockey whose soft voice piloted “Cap’n Pete’s Blues Cruise” on the city’s volunteer radio station, WEVL, for 26 years, the death seemed more like the lyrics of the Howlin’ Wolf and Muddy Waters songs he so loved than his friends and fans could stand.
I had the opportunity to meet and "hang with" blues great Ms. Denise LaSalle and her band when she came up to Alaska in the mid-1990's. The band told me a lot about the fabulous Beale Street Blues Scene where they came from. I've always wanted to go to Memphis and check it out for myself...more than I even wanted to check out New Orleans.

I'd heard of Cap'n Pete when I was doing some research a few years ago. True Blues DJs and aficionados are hard to come by (we're lucky in Alaska to have our own
"Atomic Mama," Amy van Singel and Todd Glazer) because there are so few places in radio for them. Blues shows are usually on public radio and often are lovingly produced and aired by volunteers like "Cap'n Pete."
Through the station, Mr. Henderson became a reluctant celebrity. A brake mechanic by trade, he happened across WEVL’s Americana programming when it was a 10-watt secret only enjoyed by central-city residents. Mr. Henderson installed an FM antenna at his home, amplified the signal and was captivated.

Over time, he relayed enough blues knowledge during frequent calls to WEVL that the station manager, Judy Dorsey, and others gently cajoled him into becoming a disc jockey.

He was dubbed Cap’n by friends for his love of fishing and Pete because “he looked like a Pete,” said one of his daughters, Sandra Palmer, and his folksy demeanor made him one of WEVL’s most popular personalities.

Magnifying the loss, Henderson died just a few days before Steve Ladd, 63, "the host of a WDIA Saturday morning blues show died of complications from a brain aneurysm."

This is a huge tragedy for the family, as Henderson was shot by his own grandson:
On July 15, Mr. Henderson was felled by shotgun blasts in the backyard of his longtime family home. The police were called by Mr. Henderson’s grandson, Cortez Thomas, 30, who was later charged with first-degree murder in the case.

Reading this story made me think about how we don't appreciate the folks who freely provide the wealth of their experience to us until it is too late. With the deaths of those two Blues DJs, there are now folks in Memphis who will never experience Blues music the same way.

Let's not let that happen here:

"9th Alley Blues" on KNBA 90.3 FM, Sunday at 7:00 PM

"The Twilight Show" on KSKA 91.1 FM, Saturday at 8:00 PM

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Toobz, I tell ya...

I loved this cartoon heading Progressive Alaska's Saturday Round-up!

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