Getting it ……. right …..

As I watched the barrista prepare my large dry cap, a painfully slow process whether or not you are at that point seventh in line, I could not help but think of the latest flap over the state of journalism today, perhaps because I HAD walked off and left my botched (and paid for) “dry cap” to the next person in line earlier that week. The barrista didn’t understand what a dry cap was and I was not in a generous mood. My loss.

But to return to the latest media maelstrom, in what seems to me to be a stretch similar to the one that sees white folk making $50K/yr embarrassing themselves as tea party types, Ted Koppel appears to court teabaggery by suggesting that Olbermann was no more than a mirror image of Fox News.

Fox News is not regarded as evidencing journalistic values by virtually any independent source, yet Koppel did not focus on the litany of abuse of journalistic value that is Fox and in so doing he demonstrated how uninformed his argument is.

However one takes one’s java, a dry cap is subjective; the stiffness and quantity of the “froth”, the lightness of the cup, the interface between the light and dark. Objectivity is meaningful as a term only if it is supported by a full declaration of perspective, which is to say that facts are as real as unicorns and leprechauns. Whatever the menu says, those of us who favor a dry cap have a shared vantage that informs the act. Eschewing my beverage of choice without sharing that vantage simply doesn’t rise to the concept of informed choice.

I will admit that I find Olbermann to be one of the most eloquent and informed writers on the political scene today. I feel that way not because I share his political views, but because he is incisive, critical, analytical, rational and clearly identifies his perspective and the basis for same. His analysis is cogent, well-informed, well-grounded.

Frankly, I think he made a number of excellent points in his response to Koppel (URL below) not the least of which calls to task the notion of objectivity without context. Olbermann is no more a mirror image of O’Reilly than Moyers is Hannity through the looking glass, and Koppel’s argument to the contrary is much more an indictment of Koppel himself than anything else.

Like my barrista this morning, Kronkeit and Morrows were able to get it right. I think Moyers will be seen the same way, and I am hopeful that Olbermann will be seen to merit mention among that company as well….

Koppel just doesn’t get it….×360-110-10-AAC-40-22-16x9_joined_1009.mp4?duration=0

An ill wind

As I basked in the rays of an Indian summer noon, I chuckled like some outsize grasshopper to see the poor soul approach a neighbor’s sprawling lot armed with one of the “new and improved” oversized plastic rakes.

The 20 something, clearly employed by the property owners to keep the various oaks, maples and chestnuts in line, did not have a smile on his face as he surveyed the 1/2 acre of leaves covering the lawns. He took a couple of half hearted swings and as suddenly as he had appeared he was gone.

Having committed years ago to a non-intervention pact, “leaving” well enough alone, as it were, the apparent victory of trees suited me just fine, and I thought I caught a faint echo of a laugh as a breeze floated about the now almost bare crowns of the lot’s denizens.

But we were too quick to savor the victory, because the clever boy had come back with (wait for it..) a “leaf blower”. Armed with this screeching fulminous abomination the young man proceeded to commence his huffing and puffing.

I hailed the fellow and having gotten his attention I suggested at the top of my lungs (he did not seem to think killing the blower was in any appropriate to conversation) suggested that a) the trees would be gratified for the winter cover the leaves offered and b) that judicious use of a mower could both mulch leaves allowing them to remain ostensible hidden in the lawn and satisfy any craving he might have for breathing in benzene.

He gestured with the blower and I judiciously retreated across the street. I was a bit irked but the big chestnut seemed to shrug the shrug of ling suffering, and taking my cue, I retreated to a more contemplative venue.

The magnificent trees still tower over the now bare lot, but they seem somewhat diminished, disheartened with decades of abuse. My heart aches as it is an ill wind indeed that blows no good….

Purchasing Anchorage Elections

While many are grinding their teeth about the recent Citizen’s decision before the Supreme Court, folk in Anchorage should be more concerned about the funds liberally spread by the likes of Dan Sullivan and Dan Coffey. But buying an election is dependent on the susceptibility of the populace to mindless blather, and it seems pretty obvious that Anchorage politicians are correct; folk in Anchorage suffer serious intellectual challenges

Maybe Wally Has a Good Idea This Time?

The kernel, many would argue, of the social revolution at the turn of the last century was the concept that workers should own the means of production. This is NOT a radical concept, nor is it inconsistent with capitalism. Indeed, any thorough review of all of Adam Smith’s writing in context might actually suggest he was much more a socialist than any might give him credit for. And the reason this is relevant NOW is because Alaskans, offered the opportunity NOW, have a chance to invest in Alaska.

What am I talking about? The gas pipeline, of course! Not unlike the brave face adopted by citizens of the Bay area in moving forward with bonding for their bridge, Alaska has the opportunity to create a quasi-public corporation to build a gas line authorized to accept pledges of portions of PDFs and to authorize such pledges for minors (in as much as we know that the State is likely liable to the tunes of millions of dollars for allowing endorsement of PFD checks on behalf of minors in ways unacceptable under the law…..)

A pledge of $500 per year for five years by half the population would capitalize the corporation in excess of half a billion dollars, more than enough to leverage any financing necessary. Would it be a worthwhile investment? Well, considering that Big Oil is making a killing right now why wouldn’t intelligent folks want to get in on the ground floor of the most exciting investment option to appear in years (arguably persons who had received a PFD already would be offered a special price for their subscriptions.) In what other ways might the investment benefit Alaskans other than as a return on their investment? As stockholders Alaskans could then vote for a Board and insist, if they wished, that the gas line run to where they think it most appropriate (and my guess is that it would not be outside Alaska.)

Want to wax optimistic? Think about the fact that we will have ice free ports on the North Slope soon. Think about building ships to move goods between Asia and Europe through the Arctic that might use gas to power Sterling engines, gas produced in Alaska and taken on board these ships at Alaskan North Slope ports. Think also about building gas fired generating plants at the source of the gas, and then providing monorails which provides advanced transmission of electrical power through a state-wide grid.

Yes, Wally has dreamed some doozies…. But it is nice to have someone with some vision in this state, and on this matter Wally is dead on. It is time Alaskans built their own infrastructure with their own money and controlled production. If the guvna wants to build a pipeline and put Big Oil in its place, here is the way to do it….

Are Dennis and Ron Going to the Devil?

With all the conservative media pumping so much smoke into the air (in Alaska that should be sufficient to set this blog on fire….) it is dangerous to try and have an intelligent discussion about issues of late. Would anyone really care if Craig was gay if he hadn’t made such a big deal out of gay-bashing?

But what I want to talk about is the inherent defects in a non-parliamentary system. Here we have two very viable candidates, Ron Paul and Dennis Kucinich who are both taking on the issues with frank and candid campaigns, who are in no small sense being ignored because of the issue of “winnability”. [NB-I wondered about the double “n” but as the source for win is the Anglo-Saxon winnan I have to once again pity those who even hope to master English in one lifetime] The pundits tell us that voting for these two guys is a waste of a vote because neither can actually win. Unfortunately, our system does little to encourage or reward those who we might want to elect!

In a parliamentary system Ron and Dennis might be candidates from smaller parties who could assemble a government out of a coalition of Greenies, Libertarians, Progressives, etc. As it is now, while we shudder at the prospect of the election of the current front runners (Rudy, Hillary or whomever) we can’t as a society apparently bring ourselves to collectively throw away enough votes to elect somebody who we know is lying to us.

The result is that more and more of us refuse to vote, become ensnared by the sound-bite fear based politics made “popular” by Richard Nixon (see the NY Times Review of Nixon and Kissinger, or read the book) or are told how to vote by cults focused on their own bizarre agendas. Ehrman’s “Lost Christianities” should be required reading for anyone presuming to tell anyone that according to Jesus they are going to Hell. But the thought I want to leave you with is that the far religious right may have it right! Yes, since Satan comes from the semitic word meaning nemesis or opponent any correspondent questioning the government, is (you guessed it) the Devil…

The Milkman Runneth

Dear oh dear!

Does anyone else feel that Sarah’s recent change of heart about the Mat-Maid Dairy is based on information at least as obscured from public view as the basis for the extraordinary swings in the dairy’s financial condition?

Alaskans are happy to purchase local milk and milk products at a premium price, but what continues to get my goat is that the Dairy could lose so much money. Compare the Mat-Maid mess with petrochemical prices; are our Alaskan refineries losing money? Not in this lifetime! Even if Mat-Maid was only selling milk from Outside, the public has a right to understand how so much money could be lost packaging milk products here, as opposed to packaging them in Oregon, Minnesota or Iowa.

Perhaps it is time for the Alaska Dairy Industry to focus exclusively on local value-added product. Things like high-end yogurts (with wild raspberries and blueberries), cheeses (why should we import cheese from Italy, Holland, etc.) and coffee additives (the suppliers of latte junkies have already indicated an interest in half and half and cream.)

But before we write off Mat-Maid, we need a full accounting so that we understand what went wrong. Then we can add this experience to the other annals of Alaska economic history (this can sit right next to the explanation of why the fish plant became a church on my bookshelf) so that at some point someone might have reason to pause in the middle of some pork fit and contemplate just what is being done with Alaska resources.

Got Milk?

Sarah in the Wilderness

Governor Palin took her first tentative step into the wilderness December 20, 2006 with her signing of HB4002 into law (Ch 1 4SSLA 06). The Act calls for an advisory vote on the question:

“Shall the legislature adopt a proposed amendment to the state constitution to be considered by the voters at the 2008 general election that would prohibit the state, or a municipality or other subdivision of the state, from providing employment benefits to same-sex partners of public employees and to same-sex partners of public employee retirees?”

Why wouldn’t the new Governor take this opportunity to demonstrate the sea-change in doing business she campaign upon, saving the State the funds that would be spent on such an exercise and rejecting the polarizing politics that has incapacitated this State?

Alaskans must recognize that Palin’s real constituency are the angry white late-comers of the Kenai Peninsula and the Mat-Su Valley. While Alaska was at one time very “liberal” (an unholy mix of libertine and libertarian), the cultural result of boomer migration has turned the urban hinterland into a subarctic Bible-Belt. While the rest of the country has now turned away from the dogmatism promoted by the fundamentalist religious right, Alaska, as always, is 180 degrees out of sync.

Alaska is still living in the “glory days” of the Defense of Marriage Act (an Act which was intended to bar the application of the Full Faith and Credit Clause of the U.S. Constitution to same-sex marriages authorized in any U.S. state or territory.) DOMA is certainly flawed (it does not address recognition of same-sex marriages authorized by foreign governments) and likely unconstitutional.

But what is this all about? While we are told that a core Republican philosophy is small government that stays out of interpersonal matters, Sarah’s supporters are not focused so much on political philosophy than on a 20th Century Puritanism; they want the freedom to legislate their own morality, and don’t let the door hit you on your way out if you disagree.

The Governor’s actions are is not about the impact of extending access to insurance benefits to same sex couples as early adopters have indicated that providing same sex health benefits is not more expensive. Were it about some policy need to differentiate betwen kinds of recognized family bonds Alaska could have adopted civil union laws as have been adopted in a number of other jurisdictions. Palin is simply caving in to her Puritans supporters and her refusal to veto a measure whose purpose is clearly to disenfranchise members of Alaskan society based on the type of sex they engage in signals her willingness to follow, not lead.

Let’s face it, the litigation underlying this brouhaha resulted from the fact that Alaskans were being denied health coverage. Maybe Sarah should have launched an initiative to make affordable health care available to all Alaskans….

Alaska Liberals on the Offensive

Senator Bettye Davis wants to require students to stay in school longer. What the AlaskaPolicy.Net wants to know is how is Bettye going to fund this idea.

While Districts like ASD actually count on absenteeism at the high school level (many classrooms would not have enough seats if all the students rergistered attended all their classes, and absenteeism among registered students is outrageous, forget about the 40 per cent of the students who have drpped out) the fact of the matter is that the cost of just enfocing our existing mandatory attendance requirements would cost the state millions. And we have yet to consider the teacher cost alone of staffing some 15000 additional students (about $35 milion at 30 students per classroom). Now add the cost of incremental services as these would be students whose needs far outstrip those of the existing unserved population.

Bettye, how about if we just try and fund the existing program…..

Welcome to “Pardon me, but.”

The time has come for Alaska to be able to participate intelligently in a forum focused on policy issues facing our state. Do you have something to offer? Do you have a constructive comment or suggestion with respect to some policy issue?

Speak up and speak out!