Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

Back off on the wolves already

Saturday, February 7th, 2009
Back off on the wolves already

There has been a lot of discussion this past week again about the State of Alaska’s aerial wolf predation control program. It all started with Ashley Judd doing a commercial on behalf of Defenders of Wildlife, lambasting Sarah Palin for maintaining the program, and for her proposing the idea of a $150 bounty if you can produce the leg of a wolf. Fortunately, the law does not allow our Governor to do that.

But, Ron Reagan of Air America Radio, yes, the liberal son of THAT Ronald Reagan, has been giving the issue quite a bit of air time this week. I posted a note on his blog one day, pointing out that the real problem is the Board of Game and its insistence on ignoring the will of Alaskans, as well as the economics of guided hunting in Alaska. But on his show yesterday, one of his guests suggested a blanket boycott of all Alaskan businesses and products. Well, as an Alaskan business that thrives on living wolves and is against the aerial wolf control program, I had to call into his show. (When you play the podcast, skip ahead to the last 4:07 of the program.)

This is not an issue that is going to be solved by boycotts, advertising campaigns, letter-writing campaigns or any of the usual approaches. Unless and until we have leadership in this state that is willing to actually govern by science, not by what we can do to turn a buck, then the issue of irresponsible predatory control is not going to go away.

Oh, and let’s also take into account history. As the saying goes, those who do not remember history are doomed to repeat it. While the grey wolf, or Timber wolf, is not currently listed as endangered in Alaska, it is in the Lower 48, except for Minnesota where it recently has been downgraded to threatened. The reason why wolf populations are so down is due to a historical campaign of hunting them as competing predators, or because wolves have had the audacity to kill livestock in some areas. We appear to be headed in that direction here in Alaska, despite the science and history that warns otherwise. At least then we could have one more thing in common with our neighbors in the Lower 48 – wiping out a species to the brink of extinction. You may not think it can happen here because the population is so large, estimated at 7,700 to 11,200 by the Alaska Division of Fish & Game. (Note how the State, by placing wolves under this Division, considers wolves to be “game”). However, since the reintroduction of the wolf predator control program in 2003 (after the 2000 voter initiative banning the practice expired), the State of Alaska has been responsible for the elimination of 700 wolves. That’s approximately ten percent of the low end of the State’s own estimate of the population. If you are a hunter and you don’t like wolves now, wait until you have the Federal Government stepping in to take over wolf management in Alaska.

Back to what she does best

Wednesday, November 5th, 2008
Back to what she does best

During the 2008 Iditarod, I had the fortune of being able to interview Sarah Palin at the starting line. She had just signed into law the bill commemorating the first Saturday of March as Susan Butcher Day. I asked her how she felt about being referred to as “America’s Hottest Governor,” then touched on more serious issues, such as the rumors around the blogosphere at the time that she would be John McCain’s running mate for the GOP presidential ticket. Yes, back in early March of this year the rumors were out. She responded that while it was flattering to think that others in the party would think of her, she really wanted to focus on Alaska’s many important issues.

Well, now that her ticket lost the election, she will have a chance to do that. Unfortunately for her, the tone and actions she took during the campaign may make it a bit difficult to resolve important issues. It will be hard for her to work with the opposing party when she constantly referred to that party’s new President-elect as a terrorist, allowing fanatics at her rallies to say things like “Kill him” without so much as a response.

At least there are those other things that she can still do that may not be so difficult, like ribbon cutting ceremonies, dropping out the puck for a state hockey tournament, or tossing the coin for an Alaska Wild game. I have seen and photographed our Governor as she performs these functions, and found her to be gracious, friendly and welcoming. Perhaps she should limit her calling to those sorts of activities, as it seems to be where she really excels. It’s also really hard to do any damage to your country or state while performing such simple tasks.

Go Rachel!

Sunday, November 2nd, 2008
Go Rachel!

Going way back to when she was just someone who substituted for vacationing hosts on Air America Radio, I have been a longtime fan of Rachel Maddow. Now, not only does she have her own show on Air America Radio, she has an increasingly popular and influential show on MSNBC. For example, last week she had the second-rated nightly news program for her time slot in the daily Nielson ratings, beating out Larry King Live. And she has only had her own show on MSNBC for a few months. One of the vestiges of her radio show she has maintained on the MSNBC show is her segments where she explores popular culture with Kent Jones; or, more accurately, she learns what she can from Kent about popular culture so she can carry on conversations at cocktail parties about something other than foreign policy, domestic issues, public policy, government, politics …. well, you get the idea. As she says, he tells her just what she needs to know so she can go out in public.

Anyway, if you follow my blog, you would have read about the human Obama logo that Alaska Women for Obama organized a little while ago. The story about that day has now made its way to the Rachel Maddow Show on MSNBC as part of her Kent Jones segment. Watch the video.

Human logos as metaphor

Saturday, October 25th, 2008
Human logos as metaphor

Late in the morning today, a group of around 350-400 Obama supporters gathered on the Delaney Park Strip with a seemingly impossible mission: to come together to create the visual of the Obama logo and the United States flag.  What started as an idea only a week ago came to fruition, based on what seemed to be about 40% planning, 40% insipiration and 20% winging-it.  The organizers had a good idea of what they wanted to do, and had staked out the outer corners or plot points for both the logo and the flag.  Coordinating from the third floor room of a hotel across the street, a handful of Obama staff and volunteers corralled this group of volunteers into place to form the logo.  More amazingly, they coordinated a mass exodus from the spot, only to return again and run almost perfectly back into place.

Add to the fact that the air was chilly, and it had taken forty minutes to perform the previous maneuver, which was to create a representation of the United States flag.  But everyone present had a belief in the power of what they were doing.  They came together with a common goal to create something that in and of itself did not produce anything tangible.  It did not raise money, it did not gain publicity (no local media was there other than a photographer from the Anchorage Daily News), and it did not change any minds.  But these people were energized, excited and inspired.  They had fun, driven by a sense of hope and wonder, and faith that they were merely a small microcosm of power represented in a movement sweeping this country.  I thought later as I was processing the photos that while there have been several pro-Obama rallies with hundreds, even thousands, of enthusiastic Obama supporters, I have not seen one pro-McCain rally in Alaska.  Sure, there have been a couple lightly attended and access-restricted pro-Palin rallies, but she is not the G.O.P. presidential candidate – though don’t tell her that.  No surprise over the lack of visible support for McCain in Alaska – he did only finish fifth in the Republican primary here in February.

For Doug Burns’ photo diary and narrative on the event, visit his piece on The Daily Kos.  You can also read the Anchorage Daily News coverage here.

Un-American Photos, the First Amendment, and Other Ramblings

Monday, October 20th, 2008
Un-American Photos, the First Amendment, and Other Ramblings

By some “real” Americans’ standards, this would be an “un-American” photo.

This past weekend, I photographed the ASAA (Alaska School Activities Association) football championship games for the Small School and Large School divisions. I arrived a little late for the first game, where the National Anthem was underway as I arrived at the gate set aside for those with ASAA credentials. I flashed my badge to the woman working the gate – an employee with First National Bank of Alaska, the premiere sponsor for all ASAA state tournaments – and started to proceed in. She told me to stop, that I could not go in because the National Anthem was still ongoing. I told her that I had work to do and kept going, to which she responded, “That’s un-American.”

This on the heels of Sarah Palin’s recent comments suggesting that there are parts of America that are un-American; or Michelle Bachman’s suggestion that the media should investigate possible anti-American members of Congress, a sort of Media Un-American Activities Investigation (ala “I have in my pocket a list of 71 employees in the State Department who are members of the Communist Party” and HUAC) – both absolutely ridiculous suggestions in and of themselves. But more ridiculous is the faux-patriotism exhibited by people who do not know the first thing about the National Anthem or the flag. If it is un-American to take pictures during the National Anthem, then a lot of photojournalists are being unpatriotic while exercising the First Amendment right to freedom of the press. Hey, “real” American lady, how else would you get your patriotic images of flag ceremonies and people honoring the flag during the National Anthem without guys like me taking pictures?  Besides, Title 36, Section 301 of the U.S. Code does not require that people remain immobile during the National Anthem. Rather, it indicates you should remove cover and put your hand over your heart. If you are military in uniform, you are required to salute. It also provides the option of merely standing at attention. From my own military experience – see last paragraph – it was drilled into me that when out of uniform, you are required to stand at attention; not put your hand over your heart.

But that is not where my diatribe ends. The constant disrespect shown for the flag itself since 9-11 warrants mention. For all of these supposed “good” Americans who ran out and bought a flag after 9-11, I have some questions for you. Why did you not own a flag before then? Were you not patriotic before 9-11? Also, why do you continue to fly your flag on your beater truck long after it has been reduced to a faded, shredded rag, in explicit violation of Section 8(e) of the U.S. Flag Code? And how about you retail operators, who don’t know how to hang a flag properly in your stores? When a flag is hanging suspended indoors, the flag field is required to point to the north (Section 7(o)). When hanging on a wall, the star field must be on the upper left corner when viewed from the inside (Section 7(i)). Yet, so many retailers just hang it up there, without any knowledge of how to give it respect. For those of you who display a flag at your home to show your patriotism, did you know that it violates the Flag Code to leave it after sunset if it is not lit properly? Under Section 6(a), it must be “properly illuminated during the hours of darkness.”

And then there is the whole flag lapel pin thing. Once again, the corporate media and right wing talkies gave Barack Obama a hard time for not wearing a flag lapel pin. Gov. Sarah Palin showed how really American she was by wearing a hand-made, beaded flag pin at her V.P. debate that was large enough to kill small animals. Yet what does the Flag Code say about wearing the flag on clothing? First, only the immediate family of a person serving in active duty of the U.S. Armed Forces may wear a service lapel pin of a design and manufacture approved of by the federal government. In addition, Section 8(d) provides the “flag should never be used as wearing apparel.” Finally, Section 8(i) states the “flag should never be used for advertising purposes in any manner whatsoever.” Thus, if you are wearing some sort of flag lapel pin to advertise – often for political purposes – that you are a “true, patriotic American,” but are not wearing one approved of by the federal government to honor a member of your immediate family who serves in the Armed Forces, you are violating the Flag Code. That means you, Sarah.

And what about flag burning? Well, Section 8(k) of the U.S. Flag Code prescribes burning as the preferred method of disposing of a flag in a dignified manner after it has become too worn.

Of course, this only suggests to the lady at the security gate, and all others like her, that you should know what the hell you are talking about when you call someone un-American or proclaiming yourself a patriot. Perhaps you should also know WHO you are talking to as well. For example, if you are calling someone “un-American” who is a natural born citizen, former Boy Scout (including a member of the Order of the Arrow), a recipient of the American Legion Honor Award and decorated Navy veteran (these all describe me), then you really need to think about what it takes to be an American under your standards. Especially when that American is exercising his First Amendment right, a right he has spent time in uniform defending. Have you, lady?

Protest is patriotic

Saturday, September 27th, 2008
Protest is patriotic

Despite what has been drummed into our collective consciousness over the last seven years, it is patriotic to protest the government. Were that not the case, our Founding Fathers would not have enshrined into the very first amendment to our Constitution the right to freedom of speech, the right to assembly, and the right to petition the government for redressing of wrongs. Yet, certain people of a particular political party try to tell us that if we question the government, or question the choices of a particular executive, then we are un-American, un-patriotic and/or aiding our enemies. Obviously, these people are not familiar with their Constitution, not familiar with the decisions by the United States Supreme Court that place political speech at the top of the speech podium, providing it the highest level of protection and absolutely prohibiting any government restrictions absent an extremely compelling objective. It has been a pleasure in the last few weeks to see progressives and liberals out protesting in public in Anchorage, in numbers as high as 1,800, when just a few years ago such a thing would be unheard of in the conservative stronghold that is Alaska. Here, approximately 1,500 protesters joined to express their disapproval of Governor Sarah Palin’s refusal to cooperate with a legislative investigation into her alleged abuses of power, and calling for the resignation of the Alaska Attorney General, who, contrary to the law and his ethical obligation as an attorney, has instructed his clients to not respond to legislative subpoenas.