Sunday, April 29, 2007

Say Wha????*

Fairbanks Daily News Miner, April 26, 2007:

Hayes impeachment hearings begin
Legislators, however, say the measure will cost too much money

So ran the title and subtitle in Friday’s above-the-fold story. How about a little irony with your morning latte? I mean, come on people – the legislature is getting hinky over spending $425,000 to potentially impeach an University Regent who has missed a significant number of meetings, and who has about 26 federal indictments against him for fraud (and his wife has 93)….but batted not an eye at the waste of $1.2 million for the so-called advisory vote that amounted to absolutely nothing?

Sooooo, let me get this right….spending beaucoup bucks to forward the religious right’s intolerant agenda (BOO! Mr Coghill – there is a gay around every corner working avidly to undermine the “sanctity” of marriage) doesn’t constitute spending too much money, but spending a quarter of that to remove an embarrassment who refuses to do the decent thing and step down, does?

Did I really expect anything different from a legislative body that housed the “alleged” Corrupt Bastards Club ? Nope. After all, birds of a feather flock together. No doubt there are those in the lege that can relate to Mr. and Mrs. Hayes, and the “oh shit” feelings that must arise when all of one’s files are boxed up and removed by men and women wearing rubber gloves and letter jackets (and no I don’t mean those from Texas A&M).

And how about those selective constitutional readers that we got down there? Funny how they can gloss right the hell over the “equal protection” clause, but man oh man, they sure do like to lean on “innocent until proven guilty” when dealing with those of their own ilk that have run afoul of the federales.

Say no more.

*OK, OK, so I am not timely with this blog since yesterday’s news reported that Hayes finally resigned as a Regent, but I still have an axe to grind here about the shameless lege noodling over cost.
photo: FBI raids the office of Senator Ben Stevens, Juneau Alaska. August 31, 2006

Monday, April 23, 2007

One Year, 135 Posts Later....

Lawdy, lawdy, who'd have thunk it? Today we turn one year old here at FBH.

Above: The future site of The 2007 Chicken Raising Experiment. Really. It just needs a little work.

Technically, the 'anniversary' was yesterday, Earth Day in fact, which seemed very appropriate for a treehugging Greenie like myself. Of course, you're probably asking, "Wait? Where are all the Earth Day pictures of long-haired hippies like yourself cavorting naked about in your Birkenstocks, smoking dope, eating tofurkey dogs and celebrating this suspiciously heathen sounding holiday?"*

Well, for one, I am staunchly pro-cavorting, everyone would benefit from more cavorting... but frankly, rather than dancing about in Mother Nature, I was cleaning up after her and her furry children.

But I did get my first mosquito bite of 2007, so we have one milestone out of the way. The big, slow ones are out.

As noted earlier, my weekend consisted largely of cleaning: getting the caribou heads down out of the tree, cleaning up a particularly disgusting example of dog digestion gone wrong on my carpet (think 'spattered' and you'll have the idea), and finally, working on The Chicken Coop To Be.

Amongst the things that have been found on the property thus far are the remnants of three buildings. They're what we like to call 'structurally questionable' - but I like to think I'm keeping with the fine rural AK tradition of 'no building is done being useful until it has actually burned to the ground. '

Okay, two of them are mostly just a pile of old lumber with a few posts still up. (I'm thinking 'planter boxes that'll be easily fenced to keep out the moose.') The third, pictured above, just needs a little work. That, and I need to clear a massive growth of wild roses. They're evil, thorny, and no matter what, you get stuck a lot.

Plans call for the care and feeding, (followed later by the beheading and plucking), of 18 or so meat chickens. Flic, experienced chicken raiser that she is, is providing technical assistance and advice.

My progress for the weekend:
  • 1/3 of the CTB cleared out. I took a beer break that turned into a work hiatus.
  • Got the heads out of the tree. (The found bag of rubber gloves came in handy.) Now have a pile of heads next to the fire pit.
  • The carpet is stain and stink free.
Yeah, the heads are in a pile next to the fire pit. I managed to saw off the one good set of antlers so a friend of mine can use it for knife and ulu handles. The plan was to burn them with brush, but my site isn't safe enough for a burn... I still need to clear down to mineral soil around it, line it with rocks, etc. I don't want to have a Nenana.

More, of course, later. But a shout out to Flic! Thanks for being a partner in crime.

*Two, I've never owned a pair of Birkenstocks. Three, I'm no longer a long-haired hippy chick. Nope. One day, about a month ago, I woke up and decided that I'd just had it with long hair.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

I'll See Your Attorney, and Raise You One

First, let me reassure all the gay folks out there - The Gay Agenda has been located - so if you weren't issued a copy on coming out, there's still hope.

You'll just have to write Anchorage attorney Les Syren for a copy.

Syren, testifying on behalf of HJR 9 during Tuesday's hearing, offered two quotes from Carl Wittman's 1969 publication, The Gay Manifesto. It's out of print, not even available at ALibris, but Syren managed to dredge up two quotes from it on marriage and heterosexuality that he offered as proof that gay people are not only out to ruin marriage and heterosexuality, they're organized and have been working off Wittman for the last 38 years.

Because, as you no doubt realize, one dude's book written in 1969 represents all gay people everywhere in perpetuity.

Sooooo. HJR 9 passed out of the Judiciary Committee on Tuesday after a lengthy hearing. Predictably, Reps. Lynn, Coghill and Dahlstrom voted to pass it. Reps. Holmes and Gruenberg voted 'no' but Reps. Samuels and Ramras offered no recommendation. (Chickens!)

Scads of people testified on the thing. Public testimony mirrored pretty much everything said in print, radio, and television coverage of the issue already, but there were several interesting bits:
1) The language of the amendment may be such that it constitutes a revision to the state constitution as opposed to an amendment, according to Legislative Counsel Jean Michel. (Ya know, one of the folks employed by The Lege to advise it on the legality of proposed legislation.) She cautioned that the language of the proposed amendment is deceptively simple and in its breadth would affect matters far beyond marriage.

What that means, my peoples, is that if the amendment is found to be a revision, we'd have to undergo a Constitutional Convention and ratify the thing all over again. Fascinating stuff, don't ya think?

Because really, we don't have any other pressing issues to deal with here. Let's spend this year and the next wrangling over this one.

2) Representative Coghill needs to go back and read some history. Coghill, working on the 'protecting the nuclear family/marriage' motif, claimed that employer provided health benefits arose after World War II because the government wanted to support/protect the nuclear family.

Bzzzzt! No, not actually. Health care as a part of employment came about as a way for employers to attract workers during a time of labor shortage and fixed wages. The feds froze wages during WWII, but determined that fringe benefits were not subject to that freeze and better yet, were tax deductible. So companies could attract workers by offering benefits and workers were pretty happy to settle for them instead of increased wages.
I could also point out that single family households, i.e., the Rockwellian nuclear family, are a relatively recent development brought on by prosperity and an increasingly mobile population, but you are probably already dozing off at this point.

Oh, there's more - but it was a four hour hearing. It's archived at KTUU's Gavel to Gavel, and over there in the Link at right.

HJR9 now moves on to the Rules Committee, chaired by who else? Representative Coghill.

[Edited at 2 p.m. for crap grammar and typos.]

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

An Unfair Proposal to Get Its Fair Hearing Today

HJR 9, which is not just a thinly disguised piece of hate but also a superb waste of time when Alaskans and The Lege ought to be concentrating on Palin's AGIA, gets the hearing that House Judiciary Chair Jay "Women in Bikinis Selling Hot Wings on TV" Ramras promised it would receive.

What more can be said? Coghill and Co. spent $1.2 million to try to drum up the political mojo to get their constitutional amendment to stick it to gay people yet again... and as it turns out, the amendment would stick it to unmarried heterosexual couples sharing benefits, too. (Helloooo University employees!)

The pertinent info: House Judiciary Committee meeting today at 1 p.m.

Of the seven members of the committee, three (Coghill, Lynn and co-chair Dahlstrom) are sponsors of HJR9. Three others (chair Ramras, Samuels and Greenberg) represent districts that voted in favor of the amendment. Only Holmes (D-Anchorage) represents a district that voted against the measure.

While the results from the advisory vote indicate that the pro-amendment folks don't have the votes to get this thing through The Lege, I wonder if its supporters will try to push on with it anyway.

Despite the fact that we, as a state, have far more important business to to which we might attend.

And seriously, follow that link up there on the AGIA. Alaskan Abroad has an excellent post on the Canucks and how they are dealing with Big Oil on projects. To sum up: They're not rolling over belly up in submission. But more on that tomorrow.

*Edited at ~11am for crap grammar, etc.

Friday, April 13, 2007

"... we could be the OPEC capital of the world for hydrogen gas"

-- Representative For All Alaskans, Don Young, on why damming the Susitna River would be a good idea

It occurred to me this morning that I rarely write about Lisa Murkowski, aka, Murkowski v.2., The Smarter One. Reflecting on this omission, I've decided it's just no fun to make fun of her. Yet. And she doesn't seem to get a lot of press, which gives the impression she's not doing much. That's probably unfair, as being a junior senator means she doesn't have a lot of pull.

It's not a problem really for the blogularly-minded, because if it is a day ending in 'y' we can count on Don Young for material. Seriously, the man has a nearly unrivaled case of foot-in-mouth disease. To which end, I offer the following excerpts from an appearance he made here in Squarebanks at Pike's Landing.

Don Young on seniority and why we need to keep electing him and Uncle Ted. Hint: It's all about the pork:
"The reason I'm bringing this up is, between Ted Stevens and myself, Senator Stevens and Lisa Murkowski, we are the second largest economy in this state. And I'm proud of that - but - having said I'd be here forever, that's not really true. Senator Stevens is gonna leave us some day and I'm going to leave you too. And it takes all those years to bring up that seniority to be able to achieve those goals.
Don Young goes Green, or, something:
...I'd build the Susitna Dam in a heartbeat. But there is no market for it. I'd build it in a heartbeat and let the state build it. I'd build it for two reasons. One is, it's right for the state, we'd electrify the state. And secondly, if you think about it, we could be the OPEC capital of the world for hydrogen gas. If you think I've been smoking pot, I don't. But the truth of the matter is, we could be. Hydrogen gas, clean fuels, because hydrogen is created by electricity and water. That's all it is.
Okay, he gets points for being aware of the potential of hydrogen as a clean fuel.

On federal earmarks and the construction of bridges... bridges, it turns out, don't actually go anywhere:
And lastly, I, you know, I got a lot of criticism for the Bridges of Nowhere. And by the way, there's never been a bridge that ever went anywhere, including the Golden Gate Bridge, the Bay Bridge, you name it. Never went anywhere. Until you got to the other side, then it went somewhere."
You can watch the whole presentation on YouTube, if you can bear it, in the Links section.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Musings on the CabinDwelling Life Part VI: Breakup

Or, The Snow. What Evil Lies Beneath?
These are the times that try CabinDwelling souls.

I speak, of course, of spring breakup, which coincides with the season of thousands of muddy paw prints indoors -- making it even more clear, if the dog hair dust bunnies hadn't, that dog ownership is frequently a messy, gross affair.1

The weekend was wonderful, melty in an entirely good way, and something of an eye opener. I moved into this particular cabin in November, back when it was dark, cold, and snow covered everything. This means, of course, that I moved onto the property sight unseen.

Having lived out here in The Valley for a while, in several different cabins, I've grown accustomed to finding all sorts of weird items2 come springtime. With the melt upon us, I've been wondering just what the hell is out there.

Quite a bit it turns out, and some of it is pretty strange even by local standards.

Who the hell does this sort of thing?

Apparently, someone who lived at the cabin prior to me felt compelled to nail caribou heads to a tree. In the front yard. It's the first thing anyone who is driving up is gonna see. Which, and I've been wracking my brain on this one, conveys exactly what?

But what to do with them? I can't just leave them there. Oh, I'm not against the ubiquitous Alaska decorating-with-antler motif, but this is just disrespectful. Taking them to the dump would just add to that, even if I were sure that it is legal.3 Plus, I really don't want to have five thawing half-rotten caribou heads in my Soob. I mean, people, authentic Alaska points be damned, there are limits.

Of course, I neglected to notice this garish display for months despite it being directly overhead from where I take the dogs for their morning poop. Further investigations in the yard turned up:
  1. a set of antlers wired to a tree
  2. a bike tail light hanging on a branch
  3. a grocery bag full of ~ 15 pairs of unused rubber gloves
  4. a used roll of wire fencing
  5. a spade shovel in reasonably good condition
Given that the cabin is on 7.2 acres and we're only about 1/3 melted, I'm figuring it's going to be an interesting spring. Hopefully, with less 'ick.'

1And, despite my annual springtime vows to do better next winter, it nevers fails that breakup reveals an astounding amount of poop I failed to clean up back when it was frozen and easily disposed of; let us speak of it no further.
2Found elsewhere during previous spring breakups: an electric toiler (at a residence with a perfectly useable outhouse), baseboard heating units (under a waterless cabin), hardcore pesticides, cutting boards, various tools, extension cords, blue tarps, bikes, garden boxes, 55 gallon drums containing god knows what.
3The sign at the waste stations cautions Squarebanksans that "you may consider your animals trash, but you can't dispose of them here." Or something to that effect.

Friday, April 06, 2007

One Last Thing, About the Advisory Vote, Until, Say, Next Week

Irony this delicious, this obvious, simply can not be left unappreciated.
Consider, please, the fact that one of the most vociferous supporters of the constitutional amendment advisory vote was District 7's own Mike Kelly.
Above, left: Coghill, Kelly, frontrunners for the FBH 2007 Used Honeybucket On Their Porch for Craptastic Behavior Award
However, despite his letter prior to the election to House District 7 voters that urged them to vote 'yes' in an offhanded way, the majority of the voters in his district, myself included, voted 'no.' In other words, we voted that we do not want to vote on a constitutional amendment.

So, the advice from District 7, which had one of the highest voter turnouts of all Alaska districts, to Mike Kelly is "NO." In theory, this means that Kelly would shut the hell up about it and go on to more pressing state business, like the AGIA or something. Advice, advisory vote, etc.

But nope. Kelly will push onward, according to yesterday's Anchorage Daily News:
State Rep. Mike Kelly, R-Fairbanks, said he'll be using the election results to try to win support for the amendment. Voters in his district opposed the measure by a slight majority, but he said that doesn't change his view.

"I am not one of the legislators that necessarily needed the advisory vote to tell me where I stand on the issue," Kelly said. "I am still where I've been all along."
Hmmm. Again, let us review. Advisory vote = Advice to Legislator. Therefore, if Advisory Vote = No, Advice to Legislator = No. What part of this does Kelly not understand?

I'll tell you what, if District 7 had gone to the 'yes' vote by even one percent, he'd be claiming a mandate. Whoever runs against him next time ought to have a field day with this. I know I'll be volunteering for the campaign of whoever tries to unseat him.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

The Advisory Vote Results: Not That Bad, Really

The night of the election, I felt a lot like this.

Well, I think the advisory vote has been opined about enough really at virtually every Alaskan blog to which I link. Go read them! But for my two cents, I must add that it wasn't a large margin, certainly not a 2/3 to 1/3 kind of thing, which was what Coghill and Co. were looking for to push their crap proposed amendment through the Lege.

And how can you claim any kind of mandate or to know what the voters of Alaska want with a 14 percent turn out? [Correction @ 4 p.m.: 23 percent.]

As others have pointed out, it was cool how many of the outlying regions that were primarily Yupik, Inupiaq and Aleut voted against it. So that 'old time' Alaska ethic of 'live and let live' still exists1, Flic.

Just not on the Kenai Peninsula or in the Mat-Su.

1As it does out in my neck of the woods, the Goldstream Valley.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

I'm Corked

Since there is no more to be said about yesterday’s “election” except to reiterate what a shameful event it was for this state – which once was so proud of its “live and let live”, independent spirit – I devote instead space to my alcoholic beverage pet peeve – namely the now ubiquitous plastic “cork”.

First off, I have hated those little slugs of plastic ever since they began replacing corks in wine bottles. Not only do cork corks just give the right ambience to opening a bottle, but if you save enough of them and have a glue gun, you can make these nifty trivets to give as Xmas gifts to all your friends – especially those with whom you imbibed so much of that wine. Can’t do that with those plastic plugs! Besides, old-fashioned corks had all sorts of neat things printed on them – and these plastic plugs are just, well, sterile plastic that look like oversized ear plugs, or maybe some kind of new feminine hygiene product (some will remember the sponge episode).

But tonight, my frustration with plastic plugs reached an all time high. After a long, hard day of being broken into and broken by the monolithic bureaucracy where I now work, I was savoring a cool glass of red to unwind with by fire and with dogs and good book (State Boys Rebellion, see previous post).

Damn, if that plastic plug just refused to come out of the bottle top. Now, I have had corks do that, or break off, if they are old, but the point is, they are friable and you can just push them into the bottle and still get to the wine. But a plastic plug that wont budge - you cant just hack that little sucker to bits and push it into the bottle. Nope, because I tried.

Plastic doesn’t hack. And this stuff is like miracle foam or something – it seals itself back up after you try to cut it. I attacked it with a small sharp paring knife–mindful of the fact that it is just this sort of procedure where 15 minutes later you find yourself ER-bound with a gash 6 inches long and 2 inches deep.

I sawed, pried, and gouged at the plug, and finally had to give it up for dinner. The stoppered bottle sat there and taunted me. Why the hell are they doing away with corks? Is there not going to be anything left that is not made of petroleum products? I fumed and glowered and cursed our modern society where everything is slick, cheap and plastic – including our gummint leaders.

Not to be outwitted by a plastic plug, and refusing to drive up the road to the Goldstream General Store (which has the best wine collection in the state!), I persevered…eventually gouging out enough of the plastic so that the corkscrew (plasticscrew?) could pull the mangled plug out. It was a long ordeal.

I hate plastic corks. You can't make cool trivets out of them.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

That Million Dollar Ink Blot

As I was filling out my ballot today, the absurd waste of money in this mean-spirited, intolerant, discriminatory action struck me square between the eyes. I was handed (yes, in the polling place with the disco ball, being a valley dweller too) the usual ballot card - but instead of it being full of items/candidates to vote on, as is the norm, here was this one lone question - nicely placed in the middle of the page (to satisfy those of us with an eye for graphic layout):

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?

And below it, the two floating choices: "Yes" or "No". As I carefully inked in my little "no" bubble, careful not to go outside the lines or imperfectly color the bubble and thus render my vote uncountable, it occurred to me that this has got to be the most expensive little answer bubble I have ever filled out.

How patently ridiculous, how terribly sad, how shameful it is that a spineless governor (no kudos to Palin for her artful dodge on this one) and a handful of rabid rapture freaks can divert so much money to further their bigotry and intolerance. What about the over 2000 Alaskan children that are currently in foster homes as a result of abuse and neglect? If these self-righteous bigots are so concerned about saving families, why aren't they directing state money towards programs that help people with substance abuse, teach people parenting skills and help at-risk youth make choices that steer them away from suicide and substance abuse? What about universal health care? That would sure help families.

Ah, but how stupid of me - the only families that are worth protecting and saving are those that fit within the narrow definitions set by Mike Kelly and his cronies - people of color, homosexuals, single parents, or blended families need not apply.

It's been a depressing and downward trip through my adult life to arrive to the full realization that, contrary to school teachings, the US has a greater and more heinous history of oppression, intolerance, and hatred than many much older nations (a number which also includes the countries that our gummint loves to hate for their "lack of democracy" and "freedom"). And as I have made that journey, I have gained even greater appreciation for the US propaganda machine, pervasive in media, school texts and curricula, that occludes our ignoble history of extirpation of Natives (and current US apartheid system of reservations and villages), hate movements against Jews, Irish, African Americans, Latinos, Japanese, Chinese, and basically just about every ethnic group in this country that is not WASP - to name just a few. And lets not forget that little gem that never gets put in our American History books - that Hitler's eugenics program was modeled after American ones*.

I fear I do not share Cabindweller's optimism that the nays will prevail. I fear that tomorrow we will wake to the news that the voting majority (which is by no means the majority of this state) will have gone to the yeas. If that is the case, it will indeed be a very black day in this state's short history.

*For additional reading on the American eugenics movement, I recommend The State Boys Rebellion: The Inspiring True Story of American Eugenics and the Men Who Overcame It, by Michael D'Antonio, Simon & Schuster, 2004

April 3: Cautiously Optimistic

Have I mentioned how much I love the fact that my polling station is a bar?

I went and cast my 'no' vote this morning, and as I stood and chatted with the poll worker, little diamonds of light spun around us from the disco ball above.

Have I mentioned that I love the fact that my polling station HAS a disco ball?

So, after all the attention this issue has received in the opinion pages and media, the S.O. had a chat with a relative yesterday who didn't even know the vote was going on today. Or what the vote was about. Which is disturbing; big time scolding may occur.

Based on personal observation and a completely unofficial sampling of letters to the editor, I think the proposed amendment may fail in this advisory vote. It'll be close, I'm sure, what with the more extremist fundamentalist churches turning out their members - and while we're at it - how does a 501(c)3, that is non-profit, tax exempt organization get to lobby on this stuff?

Monday, April 02, 2007

15 Grand Buys a Lot of Those 4 by 8 Signs

Pro-marriage Anti-Gay Amendment Supporters' Signs Spring Up Like Mushrooms

So there I was, driving out along the Johansen near the Paean to Consumerist Culture, aka, the New Box Store Complex out near the Steese. And behold, there was a largish sign instructing those driving by to vote 'yes' on April 3rd. According to an email I received earlier, signs were posted by the Fred Meyer East as well as the Regency Hotel on the Steese and other locations. Apparently, those folks in a tizzy about The Gay Agenda, (you know, the one where gay folks seek to be treated fairly in the eyes of the law), ignored the rules forbidding them to post signs within a highway right of way.

I guess the $15,000 former state legislator Ralph Seekins gave the pro-amendment group is coming in handy.

This advisory vote has been actually quite educational. Among the things I've learned:
  • It is legal for state legislators to use state letterhead, staff time and money to send a letter to their constituents prior to an election like this, either in support of or against a proposed constitutional amendment. They may not, however, use said resources to raise money for or against such an amendment. (So while Mike Kelly's recent letter irritated the crap out of me, he was allowed to do it.)
  • While it is illegal to post signs like the aforementioned one within a highway right of way, campaigners can post such signs on private property without first getting permission from the owner of the property.
  • There are many, many decent people in Squarebanks. I frequently refer to this place as Redneckville, but the outpouring of letters to the editor against the proposed amendment, in the News Minus of all places, has been shocking. In an entirely good way.
  • Mike Kelly is even more of an ass than he has previously demonstrated. Some choice quotes from his April 1 editorial in the News Minus:
"Get to the polls on Tuesday and vote “yes” to protect Alaska’s marriages, families and children from the pretenders and their friends on the court."

"The governor, the Legislature and the people of Alaska have consistently made it clear that marriage and the benefits associated with marriage are reserved by our society for the marriage of one man and one woman. Pretty simple. Nothing new here. But several homosexual public employees and their roommates disagreed."
So, we're in the gun lap here, with the April 3rd election happening tomorrow. There's not much more that can be said about this extraordinary waste of state money engineered by Coghill and Co. other than to vote 'No.'

The Fairbanks chapter of Alaskans Together (that's the anti-amendment group) will be watching the election returns at the Blue Loon (in the People's Independent Republic of Ester) tomorrow evening after the polls close at 8 p.m.