Friday, September 29, 2006

September 28, 1215 A.D.

What is this basket-thing, and how did we end up here?

Secrets courts, secret evidence... Good morning Mr. Orwell!

I know this much, none of our representatives: Stevens, Murkowski or Young even commented upon the bill, at least not that I could tell from reading the Congressional record. Nada. They just voted 'yes.' It would seem that conservatives, while capable of working themselves into a frenzy over certain 'expansions of government', like oh, say, a working freaking healthcare system of any sort, are more than happy to preside over an unprecedented expansion of power in the executive branch.

Shame on you Senators Stevens and Murkowski. Shame on you, Mr. Young.

Last I checked, the folks we elect were supposed to uphold the Constitution; I dunno, perhaps they mistook 'uphold' for eviscerate...

When people I know insist on doing something stupid, despite the obvious consequences, there's a point at which outrage gives way, not to resignation, necessarily, but a sense of, "Fine. That's what you want to do? Live with the consequences."

Unfortunately, it's not just the fools who voted for the Military Commissions Act who will be living with it. It's every American down the line.

You don't know what I'm talking about? Not paying attention? Go and read the Ester Republic article by Deidre, linked above. Your, our representatives just gutted the basic underpinning of our legal system.*

Or better yet, read the New York Times op-ed in its entirety. An excerpt:

Here’s what happens when this irresponsible Congress railroads a profoundly important bill to serve the mindless politics of a midterm election: The Bush administration uses Republicans’ fear of losing their majority to push through ghastly ideas about antiterrorism that will make American troops less safe and do lasting damage to our 217-year-old nation of laws — while actually doing nothing to protect the nation from terrorists. Democrats betray their principles to avoid last-minute attack ads. Our democracy is the big loser.

Republicans say Congress must act right now to create procedures for charging and trying terrorists — because the men accused of plotting the 9/11 attacks are available for trial. That’s pure propaganda. Those men could have been tried and convicted long ago, but President Bush chose not to. He held them in illegal detention, had them questioned in ways that will make real trials very hard, and invented a transparently illegal system of kangaroo courts to convict them.

And for those who think this is one of those cases of "if you're not doing anything wrong, you don't have anything to worry about" - well, please consider that the way the legislation is written, anyone, meaning U.S. citizens, not just the "Islamofascist" Boogeymen that Dubyah and the Ministry of Truth have used so well, could be held without any way to challenge their detention. Anyone. So, if you are innocent of the charges, not only can you be held indefinitely, you have no right to challenge that detention.

And it's not like we ever imprisoned an innocent person, have we? Nope, well, there was that Canadian fella.

Me, oh, I feel so much safer.

*Habeas corpus, you say? Defn: Latin for "you [should] have the body", in common lawhabeas corpus is the name of a legal instrument or writ by means of which detainees can seek release from unlawful imprisonment. A writ of habeas corpus is a court order addressed to a prison official (or other custodian) ordering that a detainee be brought to the court so it can be determined whether or not that person is imprisoned lawfully and whether or not he or she should be released from custody. The writ of habeas corpus in common law countries is an important instrument for the safeguarding of individual freedom against arbitrary state action. At I would like to point out the word 'arbitary.'

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Personal Lube OK on Flights - says TSA

Kinky sex practitioners heave a sigh of relief!!!

Well, women with personal “dryness” and practitioners of other assorted sex acts needing a little bit of extra there can now relax – they can tote that tube of K-Y jelly in their carry-on luggage, as long as it doesn’t exceed 4 ounces!

In the peculiar logic so characteristic of the Bush Administration, the TSA* announced yesterday that it was easing the ban on certain liquids and gels on airplanes. TSA Chief Kip Hawley proudly announced to the press that passengers could now carry lotions and gels on planes, but only as long as they were no more than 3 ounces – and only if they were sealed in a quart-sized, clear, zip-loc baggie. Not a sandwich baggie, not a gallon baggie, not a dime baggie. Certainly no fold and tuck baggies – and definitely not any of those designer color Reynold’s Wrap baggies. WOW – hard to believe that the TSA could come up with something even more ridiculous than the Crayola box of threat alerts and handyman’s chemical warfare protection kit of visquine and duct tape, but yes indeed they did.

OK, the 3 ounces wasn’t much of a puzzler, and even the inclusion of personal lubricants with eye drops, saline solution and nonprescription meds, just generated a “tee-hee”, but the zip-loc baggie? What’s up with that????? Does the Bush family have stock in the zip-loc baggie industry? Well, nope, turns out there is a reason….our fearless leaders have determined that a quart bag cant hold enough gel bomb stuff to blow up an airplane.

Can it even get any more ridiculous???? What is up with us sheeple? Why are we sitting here letting this Orwellian BS go on and on and on? Why are we letting TSA generate a laundry list of household items that supposedly can cause airplanes to fall out of the sky when the real reason we are targeted is because our government is hated for its actions and led by a petty despot? Isn’t it time to take a stand and brandish the K-Y, the visquine, the duct tape and the shampoo and say – hell no, we wont take it any more? Well, if it isn't, we could still have one heck of a party!

*not to be confused with the other TSA – Tourette’s (%***@##) Syndrome (**&@###!) Association

Monday, September 25, 2006

Alaska on the Tube: Men in Trees

Well, my fellow 49th Staters, I finally found myself at the CabinDwelling Compound on a Friday night, and actually remembered to tune in to catch an episode of Men in Trees.

For those of you with much better and interesting things to do than watch television, it's the newest show purportedly set Alaska. And it has perhaps the most famous hasbian* of all time, Anne Heche, as its female lead.

The audience at the CDC: myself and three other CabinDwelling folk, four dogs, and a mostly full case of shorts of Old 55 from the Silver Gulch Brewery.

Expectations were low, I must point out. But keeping in mind that it really Is Just TV, a couple of thoughts:
  • Okay, so the show must be set down in Southeast. At least they have the sense to name drop towns from down there.
  • Everything is too... clean. Perhaps that is just the way Southeast is, what with all the rain and all.
  • Oh, we'll grant the show a break on the fish-out-of-water cliche, but that'll get old quicker than you can say Joel Fleischman.
  • Radio show? Cribbed directly from The Show That Will Not Be Named. But, will grant a pass on that one because, ya know, radio has a greater importance here than anywhere else in this country.
  • Okay, so I did like the AH character, Marin, ringing the bell at the bar. Now that felt authentic.
  • Apparently, in Elmo, cops can just go ahead and set bail, and change it. Bizarre.
In general: Meh. Kind of bland. It was not the worst amount of time I've wasted on the Tube**, but the writing needs to pick up for me to justify my sacrifice of brain cells.

*Oh, just look it up.
**Not to be confused with Uncle Ted's system of tubes by which I post this and send email.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Okay, Greenies, don't say no one ever listens to you

Here's your chance, CabinDwelling and Non-Water-Challenged alike, to express yourselves to one of the candidates.

Ethan Berkowitz, Knowles' running mate on the Democratic ticket, is going to be in Fairbanks on Saturday. He is holding a roundtable session at the Cloudberry B&B - so if you want to talk about what issues matter to you in this election, there is your opportunity.

Time: 11:00 a.m. to 12:30 a.m.

This is not a fundraising type event - so being broke is no excuse, no one is going to be talking you into opening up your checkbook.* And if you don't tell the candidates which issues matter to you, how can you expect them to address them??


*Do people even have checkbooks anymore? I mean, I do - but I have serious Luddite tendencies, as evidenced by the actual record player sitting on the shelf.

Monday, September 18, 2006

CabinDwelling Checklist: Freezer

Ah, glorious fall. We've still been grilling up a storm, but because of my advancing age or the quantity of beer and mojitos involved, I didn't take any pictures AGAIN. So you'll just have to take my word for it that there was some very tasty food yesterday on the deck.

But the real news, my unwashered friends, is that I have finally gotten one of the items on the authentic CabinDweller checklist: the chest freezer in the front yard.

This joins the blue tarp, old Soob* with liberal bumper stickers, water jugs and used motor oil container thingey in all their ubiquitous Goldstream yard glory. Now we can hunt and gather with impunity, free of the restrictions imposed by the size of the usual freezer that comes with a fridge. A freezer in the front yard, in this context, is one of those life milestones you hit with pride, on a par with a getting your driver's license, turning 21, or to consider one's Alaska existence, knocking over your first moose,** making your first batch of dry fish, or the first time your eyelids eyelashes froze shut.

It also means not having to beg for freezer space from your friends.

The Zero Zone, and yes, that is its actual name, could not have come into our lives at a better time. Our houseguest brought more nigipiaq*** back with him from the coast. Between that and the halibut, salmon, moose, clams and other meat, opening the freezer has in recent days meant the risk of large, frozen items dropping out directly on to one's toes.

Freezer****, check. Next on the list? The requisite old, beater car in nearly driveable condition takes up residence in the driveway. But more on Darla later.

* This vehicle can also be an old Toyota SR5. You get the same CabinDwelling points for one those.
**Knocking over: not in the literal sense. I'm referring to shooting one. Of course, hitting a moose with your car/truck probably is a milepost on par with the others, and also worthy of some number of CabinDwelling points.
***Eskimo food! Thanks to the continued observance of sharing, we have at the moment in our tiny freezer: dried black meat, dry fish, muktuk, and seal oil in the freezer, courtesy of our kind friends/relatives out on the coast.

****Picture coming soon!

(Edited for lucidity and crap grammar on September 19.)

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Rest in Peace, Ann Richards

Former Texas governor and perhaps the quickest-political-wit-on-her-feet-ever, Ann Richards, died yesterday.

I don't go in big for heros/heroines, but she was definitely one of mine. The fact that That State gave us Richards, Austin, Bob Wills, and Molly Ivins makes me almost capable of forgiving it for saddling us with Dubya.

She was, in my mind, exactly the sort of progressive politician that we need here in Alaska: smart, fiery, and unfailingly funny. Lord knows the lefties (myself included) could use a earnest-ectomy. Her governorship really set the standard in a state whose redneckness rivals (and perhaps even dwarfs) our own.

But rather than give you a history lesson*, I'll just let some of her quotes speak for her.

She is most famous for her quote skewering Dubya's daddy, George the First, at the Democratic National Convention.**

“Poor George [Bush], he can't help it. He was born with a silver foot in his mouth.”

Or consider Ann Richards on How to Be a Good Republican:

"1. You have to believe that the nation's current 8-year prosperity was due to the work of Ronald Reagan and George Bush, but yesterday's gasoline prices are all Clinton's fault.
2. You have to believe that those privileged from birth achieve success all on their own.
3. You have to be against all government programs, but expect Social Security checks on time.

4. You have to believe that AIDS victims deserve their disease, but smokers with lung cancer and overweight individuals with heart disease don't deserve theirs.

5. You have to appreciate the power rush that comes with sporting a gun.
6. You have to believe...everything Rush Limbaugh says.

7. You have to believe that the agricultural, restaurant, housing and hotel industries can survive without immigrant labor.
8. You have to believe God hates homosexuality, but loves the death penalty.
9. You have to believe society is color-blind and growing up black in America doesn't diminish your opportunities, but you still won't vote for Alan Keyes.
10. You have to believe that pollution is OK as long as it makes a profit.
11. You have to believe in prayer in schools, as long as you don't pray to Allah or Buddha.
12. You have to believe Newt Gingrich and Henry Hyde were really faithful husbands.
13. You have to believe speaking a few Spanish phrases makes you instantly popular in the barrio.
14. You have to believe that only your own teenagers are still virgins.
15. You have to be against government interference in business, until your oil company, corporation or Savings and Loan is about to go broke and you beg for a government bail out.
16. You love Jesus and Jesus loves you and, by the way, Jesus shares your hatred for AIDS victims, homosexuals, and President Clinton.
17. You have to believe government has nothing to do with providing police protection, national defense, and building roads.
18. You have to believe a poor, minority student with a disciplinary history and failing grades will be admitted into an elite private school with a $1,000 voucher."

"I believe in recovery, and I believe that as a role model I have the responsibility to let young people know that you can make a mistake and come back from it."

And one of my favorites:

"I am delighted to be here with you this evening because after listening to George Bush all these years, I figured you need to know what a real Texas accent sounds like."

For a full transcript of her 1988 speech go here. You can even listen to the .mp3.
**All the big press orgs will be writing the history of her career. I highly recommend reading Molly Ivin's* description of how she beat a wealthy Texas rancher to become governor -- it is the funniest piece of political reportage I have ever read.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Cyanide? Alaskans, don't worry your pretty little heads about it

If y'all haven't noticed, gold has been up at the $600 around $600 per ounce mark for quite a while now, courtesy, largely, of Dubya's military misadventures.

The result: a boom in exploration and mine permitting not seen since, arguably, the first gold rushes at the turn of the last century. (Man, does typing that make me feel o-l-d.) And this activity has been encouraged by the least-popular-unindicted-governor-ever, Frank "And-Don't-Let-the-Door-Hit-You-in-the-Ass" Murkowski. He's been issuing press releases trumpeting his 'Roads to Resources' projects through the entirety of his term. But, in Nome at least, he might have built one road too many.*

Enter, stage-right, which if you bear with me, corresponds to 'west' and we're talking about west, of here, namely Nome... industrial scale hardrock mining, a highly fast-tracked mine project, a whole lot of nothing in terms of looking at the environmental consequences, an outstanding quantity of Nova Gold-don't-worry-your-pretty-little-heads-about-it-p.r. and a surprising number of pissed off Nomeites.

Murkowski's latest 'road to resource' is the upgrade of the Glacier Creek Road right outside of Nome. The area, no stranger to small-scale placer operations, is one of the proposed sites where Nova Gold wants to utterly despoil conduct open pit mining.

The transport and use of large quantities of cyanide make people nervous. The utter absence of any plans to deal with an accident makes people (the first responders in particular) nervous. The two open pit mines** at Rock Creek and Big Hurrah 30-some mile east make subsistence users nervous. And the long-term consequences (hello there, mine tailings!) of trying to deal with the toxic waste generated by the use of cyanide make one question the short-term (an estimated 5 year mine operation) benefits.

Or, as one more knowledgable friend of mine said recently, "All tailings piles leak."

Or, as former Nome Fish and Game fisheries guy Charlie Lean said:

"Pumps are going to wear out, ditches are going to erode, the plastic liner over tailings will degrade. A 30-year budget for maintaining the tailing pile is unrealistic," he said.***

Of course, DNR's large mine permitting honcho, Ed Fogels, downplayed the questions of safety, as reported in The Nome Nugget, saying that Nomeites ought to look at other big mines in Alaska that use cyanide to mine gold.

Uh, Ed, would that be Illinois Creek where the company that was using a cyanide heap leach went bankrupt and there wasn't enough in the reclamation bonds to properly close or cover reclamation costs... So the State of Alaska ended up putting out an RFP to reopen the thing to make enough money to properly do so... and lo and behold, the company that got the bid happened to have a former DNR commissioner and former Fort Knox manager on board?

I'm smelling the Orwell, here, I mean, does anyone else find it just fatally ironic that they reopened the mine so they could afford to close it????

Or Ed, do you remember Ryan Lode, near Ester, where cyanide (allegedly, must cover our butts) from the mine turned in up at least one residential well??

Despite all Nova Gold's assurances, it's hard to buy their p.r. when they're seeking to have the Snake River reclassified so they don't have to follow as stringent regulations at Rock Creek regarding water quality. That might mean they're gonna pollute it, don't ya think?

Seriously, we need to rethink what we will tolerate for a few year's jobs - particularly when the aftermath and waste will linger long after we, our children, and their children have long become worm food.

For more info on Rock Creek, check out The Nugget's coverage.
For excellent reading on Big Gold's behavior here in Alaska, check out NAEC's mining page,
particularly 14 Fort Knox Facts.
And for more general info on large, industrial scale mines, go visit the Mineral Policy Center's site. It's linked over there on the right of this blog.

In the meantime, it is permits all round for Nova Gold so far. They plan to begin operations in 2007.

*And don't you just find in this a bizarre symmetry, what with the furor over all the 'Roads to Nowhere?' Maybe we just ought to leave road-building alone for a little while, and fix the ones we already have. And make the industries that want them built pay for them themselves. Hello, Timber Industry! Hello Big Gold!
**Not that they couldn't go ahead and amend their plan to include more pits. Fort Knox has sprawled far beyond its original proposal.

A reasonable explanation for Bush's behavior

Oh, normally I stay off the national stuff because there are plenty of people writing about it better than I, but this particular video clip at was too good not to pass along.

Of course, there are plenty of people writing about Alaska better, too, but I like to think I'm pioneering out the waterless, structurally unsound, squirrel-infested, tree-hugging cabin niche market.

Friday, September 01, 2006

The Corrupt Bastards Club: Investigation linked to Alaska production tax issue and pipeline

File this in the realm of things that are so bizarre and appropriate, that you'd just have to think it was fiction.

The Anchorage Daily News reports this morning that the FBI raided the offices of VECO, the giganto oil service company, and several Alaskan legislators, looking for items, and now please pause with me to savor this one....

“Any physical garments (including hats) bearing any of the following logos or phrases: ‘CBC,’ ‘Corrupt Bastards Club,’ ‘Corrupt Bastards Caucus,’ ‘VECO.’”*

1. Could they have been that stupid? That arrogant?
2. I'm somewhat jealous, what with the nature of my feelings on Big Oil's tentacular influence in this state. I should have coined the term and been using it myself.
3. I will pay a sizable bit of money on Ebay if any of these items turn up. EVER.
4. And nothing, I mean nothing on this Earth would please me more than to spend some portion of Permanent Dividend Fund check on it. The symmetry, oh wait... I must swoon.
5. I need to trademark that term and start kicking out hats and t-shirts immediately.

"A copy of one of the search warrants, obtained by The Associated Press, links the investigation to the new production tax law signed last month by Gov. Frank Murkowski and the natural gas pipeline draft contract Murkowski and the state’s three largest oil companies negotiated," writes Associated Press reporter Matt Volz.**

This is going to play out like daytime television, friends, and I for one am going to be reading every piece of news I can get.

*"'Bastards Club' hats in probe" by Matt Volz, The Associated Press, September 1, 2006.