29 June 2007

What's Left?

Well, she's nothing if not thorough.

Taking a look through the governor's capital budget vetoes is fascinating reading... and tragic in many ways. How could the governor possibly have cut the money I wanted for the new ice-skating rink in Nome?

The governor has finally made a decision that people can disagree with and I think people will. I wouldn't be surprised if this dents her popularity a bit (of course, she has plenty to burn) because as much as Alaskans act like we're a bunch of independent people who don't need the government, the capital budget gravy train seems to be more appreciated than people would care to admit.

There are a lot of projects on the veto list that have been vetoed because they're "not a state responsibility." In my neighborhood, money for a new teen center in Savoonga was cut. I'll grant that is not a state responsibility but given the high suicide rate in Savoonga (and numerous other social problems), if the state has the money to help out, shouldn't it? There's numerous other projects like that on this list and I wonder what the backlash will be.

The governor campaigned as a fiscal conservative and is now revealing herself in full glory. I admire her for not taking the easy way out and blindly signing a flawed document (viz. Murkowski, Frank, 2006) but I wonder what people will think of her now?

And will the legislature manage to override any of these?

Check the Hit Counter

I want to take another opportunity to emphasize just how few people read this blog. At max, I get about 40 a day, more likely 20 to 30. (If you don't believe me, click on the hit counter at the very bottom of the right-hand column.)

Now, I am gratified for each and every visit and please, tell your friends. But let's be careful not to overrate my importance. I have none. Just because blogs have started showing up in mainstream media accounts and there are several powerful lower 48 political blogs, does not mean I am the same for Alaska. As much as I wish I were a mighty blogger, dispensing wisdom that all in authority scurry to obey, all blogs are not created equal.

I mention all this because of late I have received a few phone calls and e-mails that would seem to suggest otherwise. To which I can only say, please, don't overrate my significance; I certainly don't.

(None of this, of course, should stop you from visiting here.)

28 June 2007

On Tenterhooks

Can't wait to see just what the governor is going to veto from the capital budget... and apparently we'll find out tomorrow.

I particularly like this line from Meghan Stapleton:

“The red pen is out, and it will be millions."
Will the governor reveal the "bias" towards the Valley she (accidentally) pledged during the campaign? Now that she is making some decisions will her popularity begin to fall? Will she uphold all those necessary rural Alaskan infrastructure projects and cut all that unnecessary artificial turf in Anchorage? Will Bert Stedman and Kevin Meyer be righteous in their indignation at the vetoes or will they just roll over and say, "Gee, I guess we spent too much."?

What happens to the money that is not spent on a vetoed project? Does it just get added to the surplus (to be spent by an over-eager Finance Committee next year)?

27 June 2007

Are Bong Hits Illegal in Alaska?

I'm a bit late to the party on this "Bong Hits 4 Jesus" ruling. (I was having too much fun saying "Bong Hits 4 Jesus" on air.) But I do have one thought. The core of the ruling appears to be the assertion that schools can limit a student's freedom to promote illegal behaviour at school-sanctioned events.

Leaving aside whether or not the banner actually "promoted" anything (kind of nonsensical to me) and whether the event was "school-sanctioned," were bong hits illegal in Alaska in 2002? I thought possession of marijuana in this state (up to 4 ounces then, since reduced) was de-criminalized. Perhaps our banner-holder was only encouraging people to engage in their constitutionally-guaranteed (in Alaska, at any rate) rights. What's wrong with that?

And one other note: is Beth Bragg (and me too) wrong when she wrote several months ago that giving the case all this publicity only made the Juneau School District look bad? Seems to me it's might lead to a good conversation on free speech and the rights of students, even if the decision is a little loopy.

26 June 2007

Which Eskimos?

I was surprised to see this headline in The Globe and Mail this morning: "Edmonton takes pity on homeless Eskimos." What exactly is Edmonton doing, I wondered. Why is the Globe and Mail using the word "Eskimos" when they usually write "Inuit"?

Then I realized the story was about the Canadian Football League team Edmonton Eskimos and it all made sense.

Homelessness (let alone any other social issue) among the native people of the Arctic is, unfortunately, hardly newsworthy. There's nothing "new" about it. It's a fact of life.

Temporary Safety

I've had some guests in town of late and been unable to devote my full attention to my little corner of the Internet. So how about another e-mail from Bill Scannel?


We have less than 48 hours to stop our nation from having a National ID card scheme.

The US Senate is scheduled to vote either today or tomorrow on two amendments that will remove Real ID provisions from the immigration bill.

Real ID is a very, very real national identification card. Sixteen states have passed legislation rejecting REAL ID: now it's time for the Senate to do their part. You can fax Senators Stevens and Murkowski; and take immediate action by visiting:


Ted and Lisa need to hear from us on this one...let's get them to do the right thing, for once.

All the best,


··· --- ··· ··· --- ···
"They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety."
- Benjamin Franklin
This was sent to Bill's VIP e-mailing list. Boy, doesn't this blogging thing make me important!

22 June 2007

Alaska style

I was intrigued by this picture of the governor at the AGIA signing in Carhartts and work boots. I won't pretend to be able to read the governor's mind but no doubt the idea was to send the message about being a regular, Carhartt-wearing, sleeves-rolled-up, Alaskan, ready to start working on a gas pipeline, which, to give her credit, she more or less is.

What made me pause, though, was just how new those Carhartts look. It's like she picked them up on the way to the bill-signing. As anyone who lives in rural Alaska knows, new Carhartts are a dead give-away of "newbie" status. In fact, I've heard of people who drive over their new Carhartts with a truck before wearing them to take some of that shine away and break them in.

So the message I take from the governor's dress in this picture is either a) she's never done any hard work in her life but is ready to start now (unlikely, as she is a mother of four); b) the governor wants to look like a "regular" Alaskan but because she isn't (she's the governor after all), she doesn't have the clothes to do so; or c) the governor has her own unique sense of style. People clearly like Sarah as she is - why bother playing dress up to convince us she's something else?

A job I don't want

After listening to Joel Southern's Tuesday story on efforts to get Ted Stevens to talk about the investigation into his relationship with VECO, you have to feel sorry for Stevens' unnamed press aide.

Reporters are pressing Stevens for comment and the press aide keeps saying, "If you give me your card, I can get you our statement." But no one pays any attention to him because they know what the statement says and they want Stevens to say something. But the press aide is persistent and keeps offering the statement. Finally, Stevens himself gets fed up and says to the press aide, "Let me answer the questions!" To which the press aide can say nothing but "Yes, sir!" and shut up.

Given Stevens' reputed penchant for being unable to remember the names of any of his staff members, the poor press aide is looking pretty sorry indeed. Not only does he get ignored by the press (his apparent constituency), his boss belittles him in public, likely without even knowing who he is.

Is all that abuse really worth the resume line of working in Stevens' office?

20 June 2007

If you don't like him...

...why did you vote for him?

A new poll shows Don Young is not too popular in the state. I still think any potential challenger has huge (dare I say insurmountable) hurdles to surmount in knocking off the C-Man for All AK but it is an interesting snapshot nonetheless.

But, really, given that Young got nearly 60-percent of the vote last November, couldn't people at least have the decency to stick by him when he gets in trouble? Because those of us who didn't vote for him, really wish that those of you who held your noses and voted for him had not.

19 June 2007


I - ahem - accurately predicted, I believe, two items making headlines around the state today.

The first is Vic Kohring's resignation, which I predicted at the beginning of the month.

The second is ChangePoint's decision to turn down the 1-point-5 million for its SportsDome. I didn't predict this one, per se, but I did make clear that I thought the governor was likely to veto it. Given Sarah's presence at the announcement today, I'd like to think she played a fairly significant role in the decision, even if she never actually pulled out her pen.

(Along with my Lance Mackey prediction, these are the only three predictions I've ever gotten right in my entire life.)

The larger point here is about the power of the media. When the ADN or KTUU shines a light on an issue in this state, things happen, particularly when the light is shined on any of the number of egregious examples of stupidity that take place in state government.

Kohring has been complaining these last few weeks that he's being tried in the media. He's right about that and I doubt he'd be making the same decision today if the ADN hadn't pressed him so hard on it. My difference with Vic, though, is that the ADN just pushed him towards the right decision he should have had the honor to reach on his own.

Given all this, how come the ADN and KTUU don't use their spotlight more often? Rather than sending more reporters around the state to ferret all the stories they routinely miss, the ADN continues its trend of reducing staff, filling its pages with stories from organizations, and generally failing us as a newspaper. Maybe the indictments that led to Kohring's resignation wouldn't have been such a surprise if the ADN or KTUU had more than one reporter in Juneau. Perish the thought.

Doing us proud

In his continued quest to do Alaskans proud, Mike Gravel has this to say... or, more precisely, not say

More on the philosophic meaning and value of a presidential candidate communicating without speaking here.

18 June 2007

Naked Alaska

While I was away these past two weeks, I reconnected with an old acquaintance. In the time since our acquaintance had dropped off, he had developed an Alaska connection and directed me to this video, which gave me some wonderful new ideas about how to spend my summer.


I called Mike Hawker's office today to find out if his education taskforce had any meetings in Bush Alaska planned. Those, I was informed, have all been canceled by the committee, in favor of meetings exclusively in Anchorage.

So it seems that the committee charged with addressing the disparity between urban and rural school districts won't even get to see what a rural school district looks like. That sure inspires confidence they'll do a good job.

Taking a quick look at precedent, the Alaska Climate Impact Assessment Commission is meeting in Kotzebue next week after meetings in Anchorage and Juneau. They did not appear to have too much difficulty getting their schedules to mesh.

To the rescue

Sarah Palin is rushing to the rescue of the state's dairy industry. It's not clear to me quite who the "Matanuska Maid" is in this situation.

But I think we can agree that if you're a struggling industry from the Valley, with this governor, "You've got it made... Matanuska Maid."

17 June 2007

Back in the saddle

Back in Alaska, in time to read the New York Times' treatment of Alaska's troubling future:

Now, as oil production continues its steady decline, and the temperature creeps higher, it is far from clear what the next big boom might be, or what Alaska might become without one. Nearing a half-century of statehood, the wildest and most mysterious of American places could use a reliable map to the future. Fog seems to be rolling in instead.
There's nothing new in here for a regular consumer of Alaskan news but I suppose the combination of a good-looking new governor and political arrests was too long for the Times to ignore for too long.

For those commenters displeased by my absence, let me just note that there are still places one can go in this world that don't have internet access and things one can do that make blogging - as rewarding as it is - pale in comparison.

02 June 2007


I'll be out of Alaska and away from this computer for the next two weeks. No posts then, sorry.


You might recall a few months KTUU gave fairly heavy coverage to the first hearing on the impeachment of Jim Hayes. Hayes resigned within two days.

I think the same is likely to be true of Vic Kohring, after the fairly lengthy piece on efforts to get him to resign. The resignation makes a fair degree of sense:

His trial is scheduled for October 22. So his choice at a special session coming just before that would be to rescue himself, thus depriving his constituents of representation or to participate, raising who knows what questions about votes he would take. The latter scenario in particular is one his colleagues don't want to see.
KTUU is a huge spotlight in this state and putting it on Kohring like this I think will likely lead to his resignation in the near future.

The fact that someone (Harris? Samuels?) tipped KTUU to the visit means someone else recognize the spotlight KTUU has and is seeking to put it to their advantage.

01 June 2007

Straight talk

I once heard a joke that when the Vatican decides to ordain women, the encyclical will begin, "As the Vatican has always taught..." Such is the emphasis on appearing to be consistent among politicians and leaders that when they change their mind, they don't want to be seen to be changing their minds. If you listen to President Bush, it's as if the country has been in Iraq all along to "honor the sacrifice of the troops" and start a democracy, when we all remember some conversation about weapons of mass destruction a while back.

With that in mind, it's refreshing to read this from John Coghill about the apparently for-sure special session on Senior Care:

Coghill attributed other lawmakers’ change of heart to media attention and pressure from the senior group AARP.

“The AARP has made it a full-court press,” he said.

It would be tempting in this situation to say something like, "We always wanted to ensure we took care of seniors - and in fact we did by funding a variety of other programs - and we've now decided this needs to be taken care of before the fiscal year ends, completely independent of any outside pressure." But Coghill doesn't say that - he's upfront and honest that the coordinated campaign from Democrats and seniors has worked.

(How come the News-Miner keeps scooping the ADN on important political stories?)

Old News

Here's how to make your job a lot easier if you're in the newspaper business: run old news.

This morning's ADN has an extensive article on the recent ruling by a FERC judge that the tariffs on oil flowing through the pipeline should be reduced. This a ruling that could have a tremendous impact on the state's bottom line. The ADN didn't write this particular article but we'll give 'em credit for giving the issue coverage.

One problem: the ruling is two weeks old! The plucky little Fairbanks Daily News-Miner had some nice coverage of this issue two weeks ago when the ruling was, you know, made public.

If you look at the ADN story again, you'll see there's no reference to time. It fails to answer the important "W" question reporters ask of "when." Clearly, someone in the money pages at the ADN was a bit short of content and stuck this in to fill the pages.

The ADN clearly subscribes to the theory that news is like wine: the older it is, the better it gets.

"Hollywood Stars"

I don't recognize a single one of the "Hollywood stars" quoted in this KTUU story about celebrities pushing to save the whales. Is that more of a reflection on my relative distance from popular culture or the quality of stars endorsing this movement?