29 July 2007

Moving On

It is no secret to anyone in Nome but I realize I have not mentioned to this audience some important news: I am moving to South Africa and will be leaving Nome this Wednesday.

There's so much I will miss about Alaska and Nome in particular. But I'll also miss the give-and-take that has occurred on this blog and the connections I've made with people beyond Nome through it. The internet is a powerful medium and I feel I have been able to take advantage of it in some small way through my postings here.

There are a number of great Alaskan bloggers on the web and I don't think I'll be missed much. My only parting advice is this: a) don't be afraid to write what you think - it's more interesting and b) post regularly - that is what makes people keep coming back.

If you're interested in what I'm up to in South Africa, check out my new blog, http://mthathamission.blogspot.com.

27 July 2007

A Hollow Answer

Lisa Murkowski's comments on the Kenai land deal continue to strike me as hollow:

Murkowski voiced irritation with the Alaska media on how the story has been portrayed. In an interview this afternoon, she claimed to have been friends with Penney since she was five years old and it was simply a deal between longtime friends.

The senator also emphasized that she paid a fair price at the Kenai Borough's assessed value.

I believe Penney is 25 years older than her. So if she's "been friends" with him since she was 5, either it's an odd relationship (a 30 year-old and a 5 year-old?) or Penney was pals with Frank and thus knew Lisa as the daughter of his friend. If the latter is the case, then it seems that Penney is trying to use to his advantage an old relationship now that Lisa is a position of power, which would confirm everything that seems bad about this whole situation.

But I have friends who are 25 years older than me (I just went fishing with one last night, as a matter of fact) so I can believe the former. If it's the former, the problem is that Lisa is no longer just a long-time friend. She's a senator and therefore barred from taking gifts over a certain amount of money.

And even though she says she paid a fair value, which is objectively true (if any of us can actually define "fair"), she should have paid the market value, which is almost never fair.

I like Lisa a lot and I don't think there was any malicious intent here. In fact, I hope now that she's looking for property again, she checks out some of the great places available on the Seward Peninsula. I'd love to have her as my neighbor.

26 July 2007

Who wants it?

I asked yesterday how many people would be considering a shot at Alaska's House of Representatives seat, given Don Young's recent performance. But the more I think about it, I wonder who really wants the job.

Here's why: in order to win the seat, you have to run a statewide campaign and all you get in return is the chance to be one of 435 people in Washington in the same job. The only time you get any national attention is if you screw up and the only way you can do anything for your state is if you have a ton of seniority.

But if you run for Senate, you still need to run a statewide campaign but you only have 99 peers, whose words are treated much more seriously. You can get national attention much easier and it is far easier to give the perception that you are doing something by frequent, weighty pronouncements.

I can't see why Mark Begich or Ethan Berkowitz would want to condemn themselves to years of back-bench drudgery in the hopes they can hold the seat in a Republican-leaning state and have Democrats be in the majority when their turn for a chairmanship finally rolls around.

25 July 2007

Gimme a brake

Someone in Ted Stevens' office is looking forward to the August Congressional recess:

The CPSC’s warning centered around several specific safety features that are missing from the imported Chinese ATVs, including front breaks, parking breaks, and an ability to start the vehicle in gear.
Would that be the August break or brake?

(Yes, I am not exactly perfect in this regard on this blog but I don't get paid for this.)

Does this surprise anyone?

Does the news that Don Young is under federal investigation come as a surprise to anyone at all? It seems to me that he long ago stopped caring about what Alaskans wanted and opted to use his position as he saw fit.

A couple of questions:

  • Why is the Wall Street Journal, and not say, KTUU or the ADN or Alaska AP, breaking this story?
  • How does this tilt the mental scales that people like Ethan Berkowitz, Mark Begich, and others are considering as they weigh a run against Young?
  • Is there any Republican free of the taint of scandal who might consider challenging Young in the primary?
  • Will Young ever answer any questions from the media to address any of the issues raised by the investigation or will he continue to give Alaskans the middle finger, both figuratively and literally? The fact that his office cannot even be bothered to release a statement is a testimony to his tremendous disrespect for his constituents.

24 July 2007


I was quizzed in the comments recently as to why I said the recent mine fatalities at Rock Creek would add fuel to the fire of controversy about the mine.

I don't think I was journalistically "salting the story" (though that may just be an unconscious reflex by this point) and yes, it is true, the controversy is primarily about procedural and environmental concerns.

But here's at least one connection: one concern about cyanide mining is that the mine operators could make a mistake and the cyanide could get free, no matter how well-designed the tailings facility is. Attention to detail and safety are crucial parts of this argument and, while the investigation into the accident is still on-going, I don't think it's a huge stretch to think that the accident will reveal something about the level of attention to detail and safety at the mine.

More than that, anything about the mine will gradually get worked into the conversation and change the argument and controversy over time. As I remember it, this controversy started over distaste about cyanide mining, which rapidly led to concern about wetlands-destruction and the permitting process. Who's to say the controversy won't take another tack?

As for the accident itself, there is little knew to report (I haven't exactly been in town keeping my ear glued to the ground, however) but rumour and innuendo. One question I'd like to see answered is what the criminal liability is for the mine operators and contractors. What does the law say?

Who cares what we think?

Every morning when I check out KTUU's web site, my stomach sort of twists when I see KTUU's latest survey of its viewers on the pressing issue of the day. Normally, the question is some sort of innocuous, leading question of the viewers and I pay it little attention. But I found this one particularly fantastic:

Do you think there will be another major oil discovery on the North Slope?

Definitely 35 percent
Probably 44 percent
Doubtful 21 percent

Well, you can rest assured, Alaska's fiscal future is safe. All those worry-wart legislators in Juneau clearly don't have their fingers on the pulse of their constituents. All those geologists and wildcat explorers in the general public used their collective wisdom and came up with a solid answer to this question.

This, I believe, is what we call the wish being the father of the thought.

My general problem is that even though there is always the "this is an unscientific poll caveat," they are never treated as such. They are reported on and read about and have a similar effect, I imagine, as any other poll. And we are never told how many people bothered to respond to the poll so we can't even get a sense of who is bothering to respond.

How come there's never a "this is a stupid question" choice to these polls?

20 July 2007


I'll be out of town and away from Internet access (yes, such places still exist) until Tuesday so don't bother checking back until then. There's too much beautiful country around here not to take advantage of it.

While I'm gone, see how the state media covers (if at all), the deaths last night of two workers at the Rock Creek mine north of Nome. Troopers should have the report soon.

Given how controversial this mine has been locally, I imagine this will only add fuel to this fire.

19 July 2007

Lost his way

Poor Don Young. He's forgotten what he was sent to Washington to do and his career is collapsing around him.

The people of the Great Land want him to represent their interests in Congress. But Don keeps forgetting that.

  • When he's asked perfectly legitimate questions last month about his connection to an earmark in Florida, he responds with a middle finger. The message I get from that is one of complete and utter impunity, i.e. don't ask me any questions because I am going to do whatever I want regardless of what you say.
  • As his former aides get indicted, he spends more money than any other representative on legal fees and yet can't apparently bring himself to tell his constituents why that might be necessary.
  • He acknowledges taking illegal donations but won't return all the money because the statute of limitations has expired. So what that tells me is that he has no problem taking money illegally, he just wishes he hadn't been caught.
  • When he finally decides to act on behalf of Alaskans, it is to preserve funding Democrats would have preserved anyway... and he does it in such a patronizing and embarrassing manner, I wish he weren't speaking for me. Young, of course, missed the Iraq debate and his job in Washington because he was cavorting in Zambia of all places with lobbyists.
In the midst of this impunity and complete disregard for the opinions of his constituents, Young is raising hundreds of thousands of dollars for a re-election campaign that will no doubt airbrush his record and his service and make him once again palatable to Alaskans.

Aside from the small matter of money, the opening does seem to be particularly ripe for a challenger, either Republican or Democrat.

Dillon notes the Alaskan press contingent is back up to three, the same size as the Congressional delegation. But he worries he may not be a full Alaskan reporter. Hmmm... at the rate Don is representing everybody but Alaska, the Congressional delegation can hardly be considered to be at full strength.

18 July 2007

Sun Cancellation

It's too beautiful outside to blog.