Saturday, April 29, 2006

R.I.P. Freyja

No rant today, just a short memorial.

Non-Alaskans may find this, well, weird, but there are certain considerations in the winter when it comes to burying anything. Simply: the ground is frozen and without heavy equipment there's no way to dig a hole. So, if your pet dies in December, you may have to wait until spring to bury him/her. This leads to having your pet in your freezer or shed - and you have to remember to warn people about their presence in the freezer or shed to avoid accidental discovery and/or people freaking out.

Freyja got hit by a car shortly after Christmas this year. Typically, veterinary offices send your pet to be cremated with other animals, which I couldn't bear to have happen, or you pay a great deal for an individual cremation, (which I couldn't afford at the time.)

The solution? We stashed Freyja in the red shed out back at work to wait until the ground thawed. I was worried about temperatures rising over the weekend, so yesterday I went out back and dug down, trying very hard not to cry. I had planned on a little memorial (drink a beer, tell some stories) with my coworkers, but it was just too hard. I buried her with an apple because she had a strange love for them ... to the point that she would steal them when I wasn't looking. Oh, and she also really liked cilantro. She had a habit of nibbling gently on your wrist to get your attention. She had a sly sense of humor and I miss her terribly still.

R.I.P. Freyja.

Friday, April 28, 2006

Seekins: putting the diss in discrimination.

First off, Ralph Seekins, the senator for my neck of the woods (the epicenter of cabin-dwellingness, the Goldstream Valley) managed to surprise even this very jaded Alaskan voter.

In the hearing on SJR 20, he managed to compare same-sex partnerships to marrying your first cousin. That's right, folks, Mr. Seekins reasoned that if states could prohibit certain types of marriages, i.e., the incestuous ones, that wasn't all that much different from prohibiting same-sex ones.

That's Ralph, singlehandedly putting the Texas into Alaskan politics.

Testimony this morning on SJR20, which was a thinly disguised anti-gay piece of legislation masquerading as one of those 'defense of marriage' things, WAS OVERWHELMINGLY AGAINST it. As most Alaskans will know, in 1998, voters approved one of those DOM amendments to our constitution by ballot initiative. So marriage was officially defined as being between a man and woman.

The carrot offered by those who oppose same sex marriage, but claim not to have anything against homosexuals, really, was that civil or domestic partnerships could give them the same benefits without freaking out the hardcore anti-gay folks with the use of the word "marriage." Well, SJR20 shows what happens when you buy that line of reasoning - once you define marriage as being between a man and woman, you then take steps to eliminate the "benefits of marriage" from going to unmarried heteros and civil/domestic partnership-seeking gays. As demonstrated below:

01 Proposing an amendment to the section of the Constitution of the State of Alaska
02 relating to marriage.
04 * Section 1. Article I, sec. 25, Constitution of the State of Alaska, is amended to read:
05 Section 25. Marriage and related limitations. To be valid or recognized in
06 this State, a marriage may exist only between one man and one woman. No other
07 union is similarly situated to a marriage between a man and a woman and,
08 therefore, a marriage between a man and a woman is the only union that shall be
09 valid or recognized in this State and to which the rights, benefits, obligations,
10 qualities, or effects of marriage shall be extended or assigned.
11 * Sec. 2. The amendment proposed by this resolution shall be placed before the voters of the
12 state at the next general election in conformity with art. XIII, sec. 1, Constitution of the State
13 of Alaska, and the election laws of the state.

Testimony from Alaskan citizens ran completely against SJR 20 and its amended version, which was supposedly available somewhere.

The only proponents of SJR20 appeared to be on the Senate Finance Committee. Attorney Kevin Clarkson tried out that
old, tired right-wing saw, the dread judicial activism. Clarkson spun it this way: The Alaska Supreme Court had engaged in judicial activism when it ruled the State of Alaska could not deny benefits to the partners of same sex couples. SJR20, he claimed, would merely let Alaska's voters decide whether to deny such benefits all democratic-like.

Okay, let me get this straight. :) It will be a good thing if we allow the majority to amend the state constitution to discriminate against a minority?

Sen. Donny Olson, of Nome, I love you. (But not in that way.) Olson asked why we were talking about marriage at all? Why weren't we viewing this an employment benefit?

Unfortunately, this thing passed in comittee, despite not a single person testifying for it!
Voting yes: Senators Wilken, Green and Dyson.
Voting no: Senators Bunde, Senators Hoffman
No recommendation: Senators Olson, Stedman. (Why Donny, why?)

Monday, April 24, 2006

"We get the government we deserve... in that case, we've been really bad."

A good friend of mine, of the legal persuasion, was fond of repeating that aphorism after we had ingested many health drinks, (cranberry juice and vodkas) at our favorite watering hole in a certain boozy little Alaskan town in which I used to live.

For the non-Alaskan audience, or the recently arrived newbie, a quick introduction of sorts to our Congressional delegation, Part I: The Ones We Send to Washington

1.) Senator Ted (Uncle Ted) Stevens: has been our Senator since shortly after the earth's crust cooled.* Uncle Ted is the longest serving Republican in the Senate, and once controlled the Senate Appropriations Committee. He appears to grow ever crankier as the years pass. Despite his zeal for ANWR drilling and the Bridges to Nowhere,** he actually has done some good things in terms of fisheries management, see the Magnuson Stevens Act, and is not a total-right winger when it comes to abortion and stem cell research.

Uncle Ted is famous as the bringer of the pork. Let's not kid ourselves, Alaskans, we have pigged out for years thanks to the largesse of Uncle Ted.

2) Senator Lisa Murkowski: appointed in 2002 to the post vacated by her father, Governor Frank Murkowski. She is actually an intelligent person. I still will never vote for her, because Gov. Frank Murkowski had the Republican-controlled Alaska Legislature change the rules governing how empty seats were filled so that he could appoint her. She is one of those increasingly rare "moderate" Republicans.

Which leads us to....

3) Don Young. Where does one start? Young become our "Representative for All Alaskans" after Nick Begich disappeared in small plane in 1972. Young won a special election held to fill the vacant seat in 1973, barely, and we've been stuck with him ever since. (I've heard that the deceased Begich actually received more votes in that election than Young, but have been unable to verify this. Can anyone do so?) He has a spotty attendance record and a whole lot of dead animals hanging in his office. Young is famous [cough] not so much for what he has actually done, but for what comes out of his mouth. My all-time favorite Young quote comes from 1995, when he told a group of West Valley High School students that he hated federally funded art:

"Butt fucking. You think that's art?"

The Don Young quote that most often makes the rounds on the Internet is his feelings about us tree-huggers.***

"Environmentalists are a socialist group of individuals that are the tool of the Democrat Party. I'm proud to say that they are my enemy. They are not Americans, never have been Americans, never will be Americans."

(And) from the Wikipedia entry on Young: "But his piece de resistance came in a 1994 hearing at which he banged an 18-inch-long walrus penis bone into his palm while dressing down the director of the Fish and Wildlife Service."

*I am not that funny. I stole this from Molly Ivins, Texas liberal columnist extraordinaire. You should read her column, really.

** He actually threatened to resign in 2005 if budget provisions for the Bridges to Nowhere were redirected to Hurricane Katrina relief. He did not resign, in the end.

*** I might point out at this point that while I hug the trees, I am not a bunny-hugger. I like a good moose steak as much as the next cabin-dwelling Alaskan.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

By way of introduction...

Blame it all on Frank Murkowski.

After years, and I mean a substantial number of them, I've decided to do a blog. The world would, no doubt, not suffer in the least without my presence in the blogosphere. But after 13 years of residence in what the touristas, politicians and that stupid license plate hype as The Last Frontier, politics has driven me to blogging.

And to drink too much beer. 35 is too young to develop a beer gut.

A lengthier explananation will follow on why this blog's existence is all our governor's fault. But I need to get to an electronics recycling event to recycle some seriously antiquated computers.

As for Alaskan politics and politicians - well, that will be covered in the next one.