Sunday, March 31, 2019

Amending the Alaska Constitution: Ask Yourself Who Benefits?

From November 8, 1955 through February 6, 1956, 55 delegates to the Alaska Constitutional Convention convened at Constitution Hall on the campus of the University of Alaska near Fairbanks to draft what would become a model State constitution and the driving force behind statehood three years later. A complete record of the proceedings is contained in this 3,987 page PDF, which documents every minute of the delegates' debate throughout the extensive drafting project.

The delegates drew on other state constitutions and scholarship to create a governing document that was highly progressive for its time, and at the forefront of constitutional thought. The guiding principles were a strong executive and legislative branch, and a unified judiciary. Amendment of the Constitution requires a two-thirds vote of each house of the legislature, followed by ratification by the voters at the next general election.

Here is a list of the times the Alaska Constitution has been amended, the years of amendment, and the subject of those amendments:

1966

  • Alaska Residence Requirement to Vote for President (1966)
1968
  • Alaska Compensation of Judicial Qualifications Commission (1968)
  • Alaska Judicial Qualifications Amendment (1968)
1970
  • Alaska Lieutenant Governor/Secretary of State Amendment (1970)
  • Alaska Chief Justice Election by Supreme Court (1970)
  • Alaska Term of Office Judicial System Administrator (1970)
  • Alaska English Eliminated as Voting Requirement (1970)
  • Alaska Voting Age Amendment (1970)
1972
  • Alaska Prohibition of Sexual Discrimination (1972)
  • Alaska Right of Privacy (1972)
  • Alaska Residency Requirement for Voting (1972)
  • Alaska Limited Entry Fisheries (1972)
  • Alaska Borough Assemblies (1972)
1974
  • Alaska Votes on Constitutional Amendments (1974)
1976
  • Alaska Veto of Bills Amendment (1976)
  • Alaska Permanent Fund Amendment (1976)
1982
  • Alaska Commission on Judicial Qualifications Amendment (1982)
  • Alaska Authorization to Issue Veterans’ Housing Bonds Amendment (1982)
  • Alaska Limitation on State Budget Appropriations Amendment (1982)
1988
  • Alaska Residence Preference Amendment (1988)
1990
  • Alaska Budget Reserve Amendment (1990)
1994
  • Alaska Right to Bear Arms, Measure 1 (1994)
  • Alaska Rights for Crime Victims, Measure 2 (1994)
1996
  • Alaska Statehood Act, Measure 1 (1996)
1998
  • Alaska Marriage Amendment, Measure 2 (1998)
  • Alaska Reapportionment Board, Measure 3 (1998)
This is a fairly small number of amendments, given the youth of the state and the general structure of our constitution. Amending the constitution is "not an easy thing to do" (Statement of Delegate Taylor, ACC Minutes at 2517), and for good reason: because the Constitution was so carefully considered, amending it should be a serious undertaking.

Which brings us to the current Governor's three proposed constitutional amendments intended to limit the legislature's spending power. The first would lock down the PFD payout formula; the second would limit the legislature's power of appropriation; and the third would require all new taxes or tax increases to be approved by both the legislature and a popular vote.

Make no mistake: these are drastic changes to the constitutional framework of public financing meant to benefit corporate interests by transferring public assets to private pockets. As Dermot Cole wrote shortly after the election, the Governor's "special adviser on constitutional amendments" thinks our constitution is "awful" and reflective of a "socialist economic system" meant to appease "east coast lawyers," when in fact it was drafted by 55 Alaskans who simply wanted Alaska and its people to reap the benefits of statehood.

Every time a constitutional amendment is proposed, you need to ask yourself who really benefits and what is motivating the amendment: is it the People of Alaska, for whom the document was written? Or is it the Koch Brothers? 

Beware those who would amend our constitution to enrich themselves. They simply do not have Alaskans' best interests at heart.




Sunday, March 24, 2019

Alaska Airlines Announces New Seating Classes

Row 1-3 (Promethium class): Permanently reserved for elected officials and their entourages. Free warm nuts and complimentary WiFi available for anyone on the take with the Koch Bros.

Row 4 (Sulfur Class): In exchange for inhaling the stench of corruption and grift emanating from rows 1-3, you are gifted two hard-boiled eggs and a warm washcloth.

Row 9 (Lead Class): For 10,000 miles you can upgrade to Lead class for a free box of paint chips and some melatonin.

Row 10 (Uranium Class): Guaranteed early boarding and a metal vest to insulate you from radioactive in-flight farts.

Row 12 (Nitrogen Class): Oxygen masks deploy mid-flight with laughing gas. One additional free whippit per guest and a See’s Candy Bar.™️

Row 14 (Titanium Class): 5,000 miles and discount helmet rental in case Boeing fucked some shit up thanks to lax regulations and corporate greed.

Row 17 (Aluminum Class): Complimentary foil packets of McDonalds leftovers from other people’s seat back pockets on previous flight.

Row 20 (Lithium Class): Air travel hassles making you insane? In Lithium Class you get 20mg of Lithium dropped into a complimentary nonalcoholic beverage of your choice, like Alka Seltzer.

Row 25 (Boron Class): Alleviate the boredom of flying by upgrading to Boron Class! For an extra $50 you can receive one free checked bag and an orgasm courtesy of your vibrating seat cushion.

Row 29 (Carbon Class): Because this row is close to the tail of the plane and the seats don’t reckons, you can inhale fossil fuels while contemplating your role in climate change. Extra carry-on in exchange for your personal guilt and shame for contributing to the End Times.™️




Saturday, March 16, 2019

The Inevitable Trauma of Existing

Whenever I see a baby, my body tells me to make another one, but my mind tells me the opposite: that the future is too tenuous, too brutal, for the next generation; and a small pang of wistfulness bordering on envy rises briefly to the surface of my consciousness. Not wistfulness or envy for when my kids were babies, or having more babies, but about actually being a baby.

It must have been so easy, I think to myself. Sitting in a car seat just looking around. Waiting for a grownup to come along and give you a bottle or plop you down in a high chair and cut your cream cheese and jelly bagel into tiny bite-sized pieces. Sure, you're one hundred percent vulnerable and exist at the whim of the adults around you. On some level you know this, that you could literally be sitting in your own shit for hours. But if you're consistently well cared for, it probably barely registers. 

You're a blank slate of potential, cabined only by your genes, your environment, and luck. In other words: everything. You have no idea what's coming: the inevitable trauma of existing.

Life is a total shit show and it beats every last one of us to a bloody pulp in one way or another. No one wants to say that out loud because it’s a scary fact to face. No one gets out of here alive. And no one gets out without taking a few knocks and bearing a few scars. There are so many shitty things that happen to every one of us. You can feel grateful for your blessings while at the same time acknowledging how hard it is just to BE.

The vulnerability of infancy never really goes away. Yes, you're in control, but not really. You realize that you're the grownup now, and you can eat Apple Jax for dinner if you want, and maybe you feel like life is good but sometimes it's just awful and your sense of control reveals itself to be an illusion. 

Maybe your kid goes to rehab or overdoses, or is bullied in school, or is the bully, or gets into a car accident with a drunk driver. Maybe you get raped or molested. Maybe your best friend dies of breast cancer. Maybe you see their body taken away on a stretcher. Maybe you get fired from a job you loved. Maybe someone you trusted betrays you. Maybe you have a chronic mental illness that keeps you in bed, unable to move, for weeks at a time. Maybe you can't pay your bills. Maybe your spouse leaves you for somebody else. Maybe your ex is a stalker or impossible co-parent who doesn't pay child support. Maybe you fall down some stairs and end up in a wheelchair. Maybe your computer fries in the sun and you lose the novel you've been writing for five years. Maybe your house burns down and takes all your family heirlooms with it. Maybe you finally have to put your dog down--your loyal companion for so long. Maybe you screw up and go to jail. Maybe you run away from a good thing because you're self-defeating and scared.

Maybe that feeling of vulnerability--that inevitable trauma of existing--is enough to make you curl up into a tiny ball, put your hands behind your neck and your head between your legs and earbuds in your ears, under a weighted blanket, in the dark. As dark as you can make a room, and you feel like life finally has you beat in the seventeenth round.

But then there are glimmers of light. Like maybe you fall in love again. Maybe your kid wins a soccer scholarship. Maybe you stand on a mountain ridge under the sun with your friends, your cheeks ruddy and the wind in your hair and your damp butt on a mossy rock, and you look out over the ocean and taste sea salt on the smushed cheese sandwich from the bottom of your backpack, and it's the best thing you ever ate. Maybe tears form in your eyes while you're skiing down a mountain listening to the Beatles or watching the sun melt into the horizon on a faraway beach. Maybe something makes you laugh so hard you almost burst.

Maybe someone bakes you a pie, or knits you a hat, or invites you to a party, or buys you lunch, or writes you a letter, or a song. Maybe you write your own songs or buy someone else lunch. Maybe you feel the rush of performing in a play or telling a story to an audience. Maybe you get a promotion. Maybe you learn to play the guitar. Maybe you finish your degree. Maybe you save someone's life without knowing it, or they save yours. Maybe you put your head on someone's shoulder or they put theirs on yours. That's the good news.

The good news is that human connection, love, and empathy are First Aid for the inevitable trauma of existing.




Friday, March 8, 2019

When Love Comes to Town

Anonymous guest post from a dude in Juneau, in honor of International Women’s Day:

I once read a story that went something like, “Love is not two people gazing at each other, but rather two people looking in the same direction together.”

I’m well on my way to 50. It seems very apt, as you reach middle age and are single or unmarried, that you begin to feel a gnawing sense of doom. The sky, which for so long you have looked to and dreamed at, feels likely to come crashing down at any moment and crush you with the weight of the entire atmosphere.

With age you hopefully gain wisdom, a larger sense of respect, a truer sense of what love really is, and what you absolutely don’t want to repeat in terms of life and love errors.

And then you eventually meet someone. Someone who changes your whole paradigm.

This person might just challenge your very core beliefs. She might teach you a trick or two that you never thought of before. She has a sparkle in her eye that you’ve seen hints of before, in other women, but never at the level she brings it. You begin to realize that every mistake you’ve made or heartache you’ve endured was to teach you a specific lesson meant for a future together.

With her.

And then you tell her your entire life story. You tell her shit you wouldn’t even tell your mom about. You write songs about her. You talk about Bernie Sanders and what his presidency could mean for America. You share dreams of Val Davidson running for governor and winning.

My dad once told me, “Never touch a woman in anger, only in love.”

Even though my dad was my hero, we had a different view of life. But he was spot-on in this respect. For too many men, in too many sociocultural pods, the idea that we are above the women in our lives – our partners, mothers, sisters, daughters and otherwise – is pervasive. It’s an example of millennia of genetic muscle-memory that lets powerful males control equally powerful women with impunity.

Compassion and empathy, and even sympathy, are not taught as core skills to men by their fathers (or their mothers) for the most part. Boys aren’t allowed to cry, and girls aren’t allowed to hit back. Instead, many girls are told that they need to be good wives and mothers before good doctors, lawyers, teachers or otherwise. Many young boys are told by their dads that women are property and should be subservient to their authority.

The men of this world need to look in the mirror and— hopefully with some sense of equality and loss of entitlement—learn to honor and respect the women in their lives. This could be difficult and almost an exercise in futility given the centuries of male-dominated indoctrination in this hemisphere, but it’s possible with work.

The women of this world need to stand up and refuse to be silent any longer. Don’t take that shit, sister.

If we all looked more to the Celtic and Alaska Native cultures – where goddesses and the moiety are honored and revered – we might be in a better place as a society.







Thursday, March 7, 2019

Charles Dickens, Budget Analyst

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. It was the age of mercenary budget slashers from Michigan, it was the age of interrupting their shoe shopping with a legit budget beef. 

It was the age of wisdom .... oh wait no it def wasn’t. It was the epoch of the rank amateur, it was the epoch of the excommunicated professional Deep State™️. 

It was the season of flying first class, it was the season of doing it while simultaneously kicking little old ladies out of nursing homes and off public assistance. It was the spring of filing a budget, it was the winter of not actually knowing what was in it or what it did to the people we are supposed to be serving because we give zero fucks and also math is hard.

We had everything the Petrostate had to offer, except actually we didn’t because corporate capture. We were all going to hand out six figure pretend jobs to our cronies like they were Skittles, we were going to gas ourselves up to be the off-brand bag of cereal to the Trump Administration’s Kellogg’s Froot Loops™️.

In short, the period was one in which we suggested with a straight face that our children freeze in their classrooms and lectured college professors with letters about their uselessness, all while legislators from our own party quite understandably looked at us like we were some combination of clueless and insane.








Sunday, March 3, 2019

Sick, Dumb, Mean, and Afraid

It is critical--and I mean truly critical--to understand that the governing power structure in this country right now, from the top down, is actively invested in four things with respect to the general population: making all of us--every last one of us--sicker, dumber, meaner, and more afraid. And it will swiftly punish anyone who tries to expose that fact, push back against it, or give it voice.

How and why? The answers are long enough to fill 17 books, but let's briefly unpack this in 500 words or less.

A citizenry that is uneducated, divided amongst itself, unhealthy, and afraid lacks the ability and the resources to push back against cronyism, corruption, and corporate capture. It is robbed of the tools--including the financial tools--necessary to assert both individual and collective rights. Keeping the populace in this condition allows a small cadre of economic elite and their elected-through-gerrymander foot soldiers to undermine human rights and the environment by exercising outsized influence over both domestic and international decision-making and public institutions. 

A population that is dumb, mean, sick, and afraid is easier to con and manipulate. These goals are reflected in public policies and funding decisions that are devoid of human empathy and intentionally starve the citizenry of the resources it needs to succeed in a system that is rigged in favor of corporate--not natural--personhood.

They want us dumb. They want to starve our children of knowledge, because they know that the more educated we are, particularly in science and civics, the more we understand the ridiculous con that has been perpetrated on us for decades, is reaching its apex now, and will ultimately kill us and the planet.

They want us mean. They use a divide and conquer strategy dating back to the Roman Empire that pits us all against each other for their systemic benefit. While MAGAs and Libtards are busy arguing on Facebook, the ruling class is raping and pillaging the planet and stripping the country for parts. They are doing this, mind you, on the back of underpaid, under-protected, blue-collar labor fueled by a mythical mirage of future financial success that--conveniently--never seems to arrive for hard-working Americans who can't pay their bills no matter how hard they work.

They want us sick. This is reflected in our broken health care system and the absolutely criminal insurance market in which we relinquish giant chunks of our piddling paychecks on the promise that these corporations will return our money when we get sick--but surprise!--when that day comes, they have an institutional policy of denying claims outright, so that only the people with enough moxie (read: time and resources) to fight back get the services they paid for. When we are sick, we are literally physically defeated. We are too busy trying to get insulin for diabetes to care about the reason we can't afford insulin for diabetes, much less do anything about it.

But most of all, they want us afraid. They want to punish anyone who speaks out against this mode of governing because telling the truth is the biggest threat of all. The second someone says the emperor has no clothes, you have the potential for a dangerous rebellion, and the ruling class knows this. That is why government employees cower in fear of exercising their constitutional rights to free speech and are summarily punished when they do. That is why loyal public servants are driven out of government and replaced by lickspittles, cronies, and hacks. 

Sick, dumb, mean, and afraid is no way to live. We may not have much control over being sick or dumb, but we can decide not to be mean or afraid. We have to fight this by refusing to argue with our fellow citizens, calling this venal system what it is, and simply refusing fear.