Friday, October 09, 2009


Peace Prize? Yeah.

B.F.D. Let me repeat that: B.F.D..


The Ol' "Socialized Medicine" Whine, again

I had an op-ed piece in our local daily. In it I tried to counter the rabid-right's bullshit about health care reform. Death panels, bankrupting the economy, government coming between patients and doctors—you know, the same ol' same ol'. Christ, we spend more on military spending than all the other countries in the world put together. All of them. And our military budget keeps going up year after year. America spends nearly $10 billion a year on "defense" alone. And our biggest threat, these days, are a bunch of nationalists with old Russian Ak-47s, and some newer weapons that we gave them. We've been fighting them for eight years now. Makes you wonder what the Sioux or Apaches could have done with automatic weapons...

Anyhow, some person responded to my ediorial with one of his own. Death panels, bankrupting the economy, goverment coming between patients and doctors...and, of course, the phrase "socialized medicine" waved around like a bloody battle flag. So, obviously, we're dealing with a belief system—like the Intelligent Design Cadres, or the birthers or the militia freaks.

Then I stopped writing this to watch a video of some congressperson from Texas (yeah, no need to say it) gabbling on about putting condoms on wild horses. He was the same one sitting at Obama's address on health care with a sign saying "What bill?" on his lap. Jesus.

Years back, commentators talked about how the hard core christian nuts were determined to take over the Republican Party. They did. We're living with (and in spite of) the results.

Monday, October 05, 2009


After I took the mouse apart I blew compressed air

through it and then put it back together. It works fine, once again. That's a good feeling.

Now, if we could just take some people's heads apart and blow compressed air through the workings, maybe they'd work fine. I guess our system is a run-away train like in the movies, heading for a high trestle that's on fire, been washed away, collapsed, mined with high explosives, etc., etc.. The track, by the way, is in either a narrow deep cut or a long tunnel, so we can't jump off.

The air is bad, good water is getting scarce, and the fish are dying. Here's a very sad story from Alaska, the really last frontier:

The New York Times

October 3, 2009
Scarcity of King Salmon Hurt Alaskan Fishermen

MARSHALL, Alaska — Just a few years ago, king salmon played an outsize role in villages along the Yukon River. Fishing provided meaningful income, fed families throughout the year, and kept alive long-held traditions of Yup’ik Eskimos and Athabascan Indians.

But this year, a total ban on commercial fishing for king salmon on the river in Alaska has strained poor communities and stripped the prized Yukon fish off menus in the lower 48 states. Unprecedented restrictions on subsistence fishing have left freezers and smokehouses half-full and hastened a shift away from a tradition of spending summers at fish camps along the river.

“This year, fishing is not really worth it,” said Aloysius Coffee, a commercial fisherman in Marshall who used to support his family and pay for new boats and snow machines with fishing income.

At a kitchen table cluttered with cigarettes and store-bought food, Mr. Coffee said he fished for the less valuable chum salmon this summer but spent all his earnings on permits and gasoline. “You got to sit there and count your checkbook, how much you’re going to spend each day,” he said.

The cause of the weak runs, which began several years ago, remains unclear. But managers of the small king salmon fishery suspect changes in ocean conditions are mostly to blame, and they warn that it may be years before the salmon return to the Yukon River in large numbers.

Salmon are among the most determined of nature’s creatures. Born in fresh water, the fish spend much of their lives in the ocean before fighting their way upriver to spawn and die in the streams of their birth.

While most salmon populations in the lower 48 states have been in trouble for decades, thanks to dam-building and other habitat disruptions, populations in Alaska have generally remained healthy. The state supplies about 40 percent of the world’s wild salmon, and the Marine Stewardship Council has certified Alaska’s salmon fisheries as sustainable. (In the global market, sales of farmed salmon surpassed those of wild salmon in the late 1990s.)

For decades, runs of king, or chinook, salmon — the largest and most valuable of Alaska’s five salmon species — were generally strong and dependable on the Yukon River. But the run crashed in the late 1990s, and the annual migrations upriver have varied widely since then. “You can’t depend on it any more,” said Steve Hayes, who manages the fishery for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

Officials with that department and the federal Fish and Wildlife Service, which jointly manage the fishery, say variations in ocean conditions related to climate change or natural cycles are probably the main cause of the weak salmon runs. Certain runs of chinook salmon in California and Oregon have been weak as well in recent years, with ocean conditions also suspected.

In Alaska, fishermen also blame the Bering Sea pollock fishing fleet, which scoops up tens of thousands of king salmon each year as accidental by-catch. The first hard cap on salmon by-catch is supposed to take effect in 2011, but the cap is not tough enough to satisfy Yukon River fishermen.

The Yukon River fishery accounts for a small fraction of the state’s commercial salmon harvest. But the fish themselves are considered among the best in the world, prized for the extraordinary amount of fat they put on before migrating from the Bering Sea to spawning grounds in Alaska and Canada, a voyage of 2,000 miles in some cases.

Most commercial fishing is done on the Yukon River delta, where mountains disappear and the river branches into fingers on its way to the sea. Eskimos fish with aluminum skiffs and nets from villages inaccessible by road. Beaches serve as depots and gathering places.

Kwik’Pak Fisheries, in Emmonak, population 794, is one of the few industrial facilities in the region. Forklifts cross muddy streets separating storage buildings, processing facilities and a bunkhouse for employees from surrounding villages.

For decades, almost all commercially caught king salmon were sold to buyers in Japan. But in 2004, Kwik’Pak began marketing the fish domestically, and for a few years fish-lovers in the lower 48 could find Yukon River kings at upscale restaurants and stores.

This year, Kwik’Pak sent just six king salmon to a single buyer in Seattle, and only a trickle of other kings made it to market. Most of those fish were caught incidentally during an opening for fall chum salmon.

Kwik’Pak is promoting chum salmon, also known as keta, and experimenting with an oily whitefish called cisco. But harvests of those fish are limited, and the price paid to fishermen is much less than for kings.

The company, which was formed in 2002 in part to develop local economies, now runs a store selling fishing supplies and hauls gravel in trucks that once carried fish. This summer, employees spent their time repainting the Catholic church.

“We’re a one-resource economy down here,” said Jack Schultheis, the company’s general manager. “We don’t have the oil fields or timber or anything else to work on. This is all we’ve got.”

In the 1980s and early 1990s, commercial fishermen on the lower river made an average of $8,000 to $12,000 in gross earnings, sometimes more. Since 2000, that number has been closer to $4,000, and this year, it dropped to just over $2,000.

“You gotta try to find some other work,” said Paul Andrews, a commercial fisherman in Emmonak. “It’s really, really hard out here.”

Like many on the Yukon delta, Mr. Andrews relies on income from fishing to sustain a subsistence lifestyle that also includes hunting for moose, seals and migratory birds.

Arthur Heckman, who manages a small store in the village of Pilot Station, says more and more people are asking him for credit. “Some days I have people call me up and say, ‘I just want a box of crackers,’ or ‘I just want to buy some Pampers,’ ” he said.

The cost of living in remote villages along the river is high, and many residents rely on a mix of part-time work and government aid. Most also rely on fish.

Nets stretch from riverbanks, and fish wheels — large rotating traps built on driftwood rafts — turn in the current near eddies. Simple smokehouses rise from every village beach and fish camp.

King salmon, which can weigh 30 pounds or more, are cut into long strips and dried for weeks over smoking alder or poplar. The candylike strips are ubiquitous here, served always with a sturdy cracker called Pilot Bread. Salmon are also canned, frozen and salted.

This year, fishery managers for the first time closed all subsistence fishing on the first pulse of king salmon and cut fishing times in half on later pulses, leaving many residents with just two 18-hour periods a week to fish.

Zeta Cleaver, one of the only people fishing in the middle-river village of Ruby in late July, said people called her from as far away as Anchorage wanting to buy fish. She used to catch more than a dozen king salmon a day and fill her smokehouse with fish for her children and grandchildren, she said. This year she got only a few kings.

Until recently, many residents gathered with family to fish from remote camps along the river, a holdover from a migratory lifestyle that included summer camps for fishing and winter camps for hunting and trapping.

This year, restrictions on fishing, combined with the high cost of gas and continuing societal shifts, kept many camps empty. A reporter’s 900-mile canoe trip down the Yukon and Tanana Rivers showed countless camps shuttered or abandoned. Multifamily camps that once rivaled nearby villages in population seemed more like quiet retreats from them.

High prices for heating fuel and limited fishing income left many lower-river residents in dire straits last winter and prompted shipments of food and other aid. With this year threatening to be even worse, Alaska’s governor, Sean Parnell, in August sought federal disaster relief for Yukon River residents. The request is still pending.

In Marshall, people are bracing for a long winter. Heating oil costs more than $7 a gallon here, and a can of condensed milk sells for nearly $4. Villagers are going moose-hunting in groups to save on the cost of gasoline.

“The whole community is kind of hurting,” said Mike Peters, a fisherman and heavy equipment operator. “People really depended on the fish, and it’s not there.”

Friday, October 02, 2009


Sioux Screwed Again

Here's something out of South Dakota that broke my heart

Cheyenne River Sioux Sue Over Dress Code
  • By Chet Brokaw, The Associated Press
EAGLE BUTTE, South Dakota — Carol Moran spent all she could spare on new school clothes for her 15-year-old daughter. Then she found out a new dress code had been imposed at the junior high school that serves the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe.

Moran, who walks with a cane and survives on welfare in one of most impoverished regions in the U.S., said buying a whole new set of clothes is out of the question. Her daughter, Kyann, already has been sent home twice for violating the dress code since school started two weeks ago.

"It was just like a slap in the face," Moran said.

Unexpected school expenses can stress any parent. But for many with students in the Cheyenne-Eagle Butte School District, finding gas money or a ride to an affordable store can prove all but impossible, much less paying for the clothes if they get there.

The Cheyenne River Sioux reservation covers Dewey and Ziebach counties, which encompass 4,265 square miles. About 8,000 residents live among the rolling, grass-covered prairie of north central South Dakota.

More than half of Ziebach County and 38% of Dewey County lived in poverty in 2005, according to the most recent figures from the U.S. Census Bureau. The nearest discount store is about 90 miles away in the state capital of Pierre.

Moran and other parents have joined the tribe in a federal lawsuit seeking to block the school district from enforcing the dress code, which requires students to wear black, white or tan shirts, pants, skirts or shorts. Administrators say it is intended to avoid gang violence. An Aberdeen judge has said he might hold an initial hearing this week.

The school is run by a public board organized under state laws and one organized under the U.S. Bureau of Indian Education. The lawsuit argues the dress code violates federal regulations requiring such schools consult with tribes and parents of American Indian children in developing programs and policies.

Tom Van Norman, the tribe's attorney, said the dress code is not only a hardship for struggling parents but also an impediment to educating the children who are taken out of class and sent home or placed in a time-out room.

The dress code was publicized in the local weekly newspaper earlier in the summer, but many parents did not learn of it until receiving a packet of information about eight days before school started, Van Norman said. Classes started Aug. 27 and the tribe sued Sept. 1.

Two top school administrators declined to comment on the lawsuit or the dress code. But one of them, Bureau of Indian Education Supervisor Nadine Eastman, explained the dress code in a letter published Aug. 6 in the local newspaper, the West River Eagle.

"The purpose of the Uniform Dress Code is primarily to alleviate much of the gang-related violence in the school," Eastman wrote. "Many of our Junior High students wear gang-affiliated colors to school daily. Secondarily, we hope that an increase in safety will increase our academics for all students."

The dress code applies only to kindergarten, 7th and 8th grades this year, but officials intend to add a grade a year until it covers K-8, Eastman wrote. The junior high has about 150 students, with about 30 in kindergarten. Total school enrollment is about 800.

Winona Charger, whose grandson Justin Little Star has been suspended for violating the dress code, said she has seen little evidence of a gang problem. She said the schools should spend more time and money improving academic achievement.

The school district has repeatedly failed to make adequate yearly progress under the federal No Child Left Behind law, according to yearly report cards issued by the state Education Department.

"They're not teaching our kids. They're worried about what they're wearing to school. That's what makes me angry," Charger said.

Kim Low Dog said her twin daughters also have run afoul of the junior high's dress code because they wore blue jeans and different colored tops with designs. When she went to the school recently, she found one daughter and other dress-code violators had been taken out of classrooms and put in a separate room.

"She has a right to an education," Low Dog said. "She hadn't committed a crime or anything like that."

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Copyright 2009 USA TODAY, a division of Gannett Co. Inc.


Olympics? Olympia? Olympic Boulevard...

When I was small, we lived right off Olympic Boulevard, down in L.A.. I spent a lot of time there, I remember it very well. When I was in college, we drank a lot of Olympia Beer— and now, every time we go up toward Seattle and Anacortes and Vancouver B.C., I look off to the right at the abandoned brewery in Tumwater. I drank a lot of their beer and I remember it...well, kinda.

A lot of people are very upset that Rio snared the Olympics, shutting out Chicago. Considering the way America's been behaving in the world (a dry drunk, you could say), I think we fucking deserved it. Actions cause reactions. Blowback.

Guess America ain't the Big Boss it used to be.


Obama, Jefferson, Hemings, racism, the usual...

Thomas Jefferson was a brilliant and flawed man, as all men—and all women—are. I just read Annette Gordon-Reed's Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings, An American Controversy, and that's how he comes across. Human, above all. It doesn't surprise or shock me that Jefferson was a slave owner or that he slept with slave women. Seems kind of normal, given the crazy power equation.

Sally Hemings seems, for what little we know of her, pretty normal, too. She made the best of a very bad situation for herself and her children. No blame.

Blame for the system, though. Lots of it there. And blame for people accepting it. And blame for those who now apologize for the barbarism of slavery and unequal power relationships. Either one, and both.

What struck me after reading the book was the casualness people had about owning slaves as light-skinned as they themselves. Sally Hemings and several of her children later were considered "white," even in the South. Obviously the system went beyond skin color. It boiled down to being able to see people as possessions. That, as the saying goes, is cold. It's a mark against Jefferson's character.

That owners slept with slave women was a given. It was rather common, as far as we know. But it wasn't talked about. Because it was so common? I don't think so: I think it was because Africans had been so philosophically trashed and white people so philosophically elevated, that it was a sign of some sort of depravity—like drinking too much. Maybe due to Original Sin. But, it just was. What was utterly not acceptable was the idea that white women might sleep with black men. There is some sort of bizarre insecurity involved in this, of course. Black men were portrayed as animals, jungle creatures, easily overcome with lust and lustful enough to utterly ravish white women. White women, of course, were such weak and flawed creatures that they it. Black men were lynched by the thousands, over the years, because of these twisted psychological beliefs and fears. That's really what the KKK was all about, and what so much of the South is still obsessed with today. And a lot of the rest of the country, too.

That, I have a hunch, is part of the rage and fear and shit-slinging at Obama is all about. I mean there's clearly a lot of outrage that a black man could become president, the ultimate high-status Alpha gig in America. But he's half-white. And the reason he's half-white is his mother, who we know was white, chose to marry a black man. Chose! What kind of a woman was she? We know she was a good mother, bright, all that, a good woman. But because of the almost indigenous racism in this country, a woman who marries a black man can't be good. There's got to be something wrong with her. And if there's something wrong with her, well, then, there's got to be something wrong with her child...and so it goes. The racists would be pissed if Obama's father was white and his mother black, but I bet they wouldn't be quite so pissed. Obama's heritage is a slap in the face to the racists...

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