Friday, June 18, 2021

10 Honest Alaska Out of Office Auto-Replies

1. I am out of the office with limited access to cell phone and internet service. If this is an emergency, please call 1-800-YOUREMERGENCYISNTMYPROBLEMIMATFISHCAMPASSHOLE.

2. Thanks for your message, I'm at my aunt's condo on Maui finally (Fuck COVID, amirite?!) You don't have an aunt with a condo on Maui? #TooBadSoSad

3. I will be out of State getting 17 different types of surgery. Only a monster would bother me at this time.

4. I hope this automatic out of office reply finds you well. Just kidding, I could not care less how (or if) this finds you, the point is you won't find me until September.

5. It's summer in Alaska. Why are you even sending emails? Ugh. LOSER.

6. I will be out of the office at my remote fly-in cabin with limited access to email. My cabin is near Bristol Bay and has running water and a hot tub. It is made of pressure-treated wood and I use it five times a year. You can only get there on a four-wheeler or on my private plane, which I fly all by myself because I am a great bush pilot. I have only crashed a little bit that one time, but insurance took care of it. If you're getting this message I have more money than God, you weren't invited, and everyone is drinking my home brewed beer around a bonfire without you.

7. Why are you pretending to work? Again, IT. IS. SUMMER. IN. ALASKA. Your email shows the consideration of someone who takes a dump on a church pew.

8. If you’re getting this email, I’m on a river with 18 different permits you didn’t pull. Sucks for you!

9. Thank you for your email. I will be out of the office indefinitely because I work to live, not the other way around.

10. I will be out of contact until I lose my cell phone on a rafting trip. If you need immediate assistance, please hang up and dial 911. Just kidding. This is email. If you’re using email for an emergency you’re either 95 years old or lack the common sense of a teapot.




Saturday, June 5, 2021

Wow Guys the Donner Party Was Not a Fun Party

A friend sent me this gripping account of the Donner Party, but to save you time (TL;DR) I’ll tell you what happened in case you don’t have the full story. 

Buckle up, buttercups!

So yeah, I know you think you know what happened: a mess of settlers in covered wagons set out across the Great Plains and got snowed in in the Sierra Nevada. All their food ran out, and they were reduced to making asscheek jerky out of their dead compatriots. Yeah yeah yeah ok but it’s actually SO MUCH WORSE THAN THAT!

If stupidity, hubris, and karma had a baby, it would be the Donner Party. Stukarbris? Yeah. That’s what it was. Straight up, unmitigated STUKARBRIS.

It all starts in Springfield, IL with a few dozen white farming families who decide the Illinois soil is played out, and they need to “seek their fortune” in California or Oregon. Abe Lincoln almost went along for the ride, but he was too busy running for Congress, which turned out to be a good thing for America, as we now know. (Plus as you can see from pics he didn’t have much meat on the hoof, so no harm no foul).

Anyhoo, these guys pack up a bunch of shit and I mean like, a LOT of shit. We’re talking pounds and pounds of flour, sugar, bacon, and biscuits. They basically put a whole Arby’s franchise on a team of oxen. Then there was the extra crap like novelty cannonballs and weapons to stave off “the Injuns” and a featherbed for a dying grandma and a bunch of textbooks and plant sample jars that the only person with any sense at all—family matriarch Tamzene Donner—decided to take along for the ride because she liked plants.

Everything is basically OK until something called the Hastings Cutoff. Up until then, they’re just doing the old timey racist SOB colonizer thing that’s been romanticized and white-washed into your 6th grade play: striking out for new land; displacing, disrespecting, and starving out indigenous peoples; literally circling the wagons; caching buffalo chips; haggling at mercantiles and trading posts; getting housed on moonshine; etc., all while the wives just keep washing clothes and making biscuits and babies, one after the other. A few people die of old age and broken legs and consumption, but all is pretty chill until they get to the Hastings Cutoff.

As I said, the Hastings Cutoff is where things start to shit the bed. I just Googled to see whether this is the same guy who got a California law school named after him, but no, that was just another self-important white supremacist with the same last name. Yay ‘Murica!

This Hastings was of course also a white supremacist colonizer, and the worst guide ever—pretending to know a lot of things he didn’t know and leading everyone up shit’s creek sans paddle. By the time the Donners finished his alleged “shortcut,” they were pissed AF and literally using his guidebook for toilet paper. Zero stars. DO NOT RECOMMEND, had Yelp existed. 

And they were slowly coming to accept the fact that the Sierra Nevada mountain range was going to kick their asses with 17 consecutive blizzards, which is kind of what happened, but not before they almost died of thirst crossing the Utah desert and half their cattle and oxen keeled over from water poisoning. 

Side bar: Living in Alaska, I know how easily the wilderness can kill you, which is why I never do anything or go anywhere. As I’ve said many times, I am fine being a headline for suing the governor or for my raunchy tweets, but I refuse to be rescued off a glacier. Turns out, I’m a step ahead of the Donners, who by this time were firmly on the struggle bus, or struggle wagon, to be more accurate. Really it was the struggle mule. They ditched all their fabric bolts and jewelry, and were left with nothing but a couple of scraggly quadrupeds and maybe a tarp.

You can picture it: emaciated flatlanders getting absolutely RINSED by a western mountain range. Trudging chest-deep through snow, dying oxen everywhere, people hacking up lungs and nursing infected wounds. It was ugly, y’all, but it got way worse as you’ve heard. Pretty soon they were dropping like flies, felled by starvation and dysentery and that’s when the ass jerky buffet began.

They started a back and forth circling around trying to get over the mountains on makeshift snowshoes. Little groups kept coming and going trying to get each other out of the snow and finally they decided to eat each other. Tamzene—the only one who had a lick of sense and tried to talk all the dumb men out of the Hastings Cutoff idea—was thanklessly eaten for her efforts, because of course she was.

Those who weren’t eaten were ultimately rescued and lived happily ever after. But the moral of the story is this: white supremacist colonizers who are woefully unprepared for the wilderness get what’s coming to them: ass jerky.




Monday, April 26, 2021

Are They Sending Us Their Best People?

"Alaska population grew by 3.3% in past decade, far below national rate, Census Bureau reports."

According to the United States Census Bureau, Alaska has seen 23,160 new people arrive in its icy Arctic Entry over the last decade, which still makes us the third least populous state in the country after Vermont and Wyoming. I guess maple syrup and cowboys still don’t beat tanzanite and bear claw salad tongs.

So, who are these folks? Is the rest of the country/world really sending Alaska its best people? Let's take a closer look behind the numbers:

FLORIDA MEN/WOMEN/NB (4,999): Alaska is sometimes called "Cold Florida" due to the prevalence of dentists who are convicted for practicing dentistry on a Hoverboard, mayors who sext themselves out of a job, and senators who get banned from the state's largest commercial airline for performative anti-masking shenanigans. Approximately 4,999 of the State's increased population is obviously from Florida (if not in letter, then at least in spirit), including one prior resident, MAGA Stan blogger Suzanne Downing, who pretends to live in Alaska but secretly shit-posts from a pool noodle in Hot Florida, thus keeping this number south of 5,000.

PUBLIC RADIO REPORTERS, TEACHERS, & AMERICORPS VOLUNTEERS: (2,000): At least 2,000 of Alaska's population increase can be attributed to plucky young public radio reporters, Americorps/JVC volunteers, and teachers looking for that career-making experience and also a good deal on lightly used AT-bindings, if anyone hears of one. Please don’t leave us! We love to see it!

CLIMATE APOCALYPSE REFUGEES: (7,000): It's probably too soon to tell, but the climate crisis could be fueling Alaska’s horrendously bullish housing market. There appears to be a burgeoning cottage industry in climate apocalypse escapism by bourgeois Lower 48’ers seeking a bugout spot for when the shit goes beyond hurricanes and wildfires and really hits the fan with actual zombies.

PLAIN VANILLA FUGITIVES (3,000): *narrator voice on cold case true crime show* “He was subsequently apprehended by a joint task force of state and federal authorities in a remote cabin 200 miles north of Fairbanks, Alaska.” We’ve all heard this one before, amirite? (NOTE: there might be some overlap between this data point and Florida Person).

YOUR GIRLFRIEND/BOYFRIEND/PERSON (4,160): They followed you here, and there’s a better than 50% chance that you’re no longer a thing. Show me the lie.

PFD HUNTERS (2,000): You can blame reality TV and the Simpsons movie for letting the rest of the country know that the State government pays us to live here while going broker than a clock radio in the process. In short, you can have your ATV, but it’s gonna hit a few million potholes. Sorry!

QUILL THE HEDGEHOG (1): While not officially a person, and thus ineligible for the PFD, my 10 year-old son has convinced me to get a hedgehog that he plans to call “Quill,” a name his teen sister has scornfully dismissed as “so basic.”










Monday, March 29, 2021

Death Wish

Here's something no one ever talks about, but which is critically important: the subtle but enormous difference between being suicidal and occasionally (or even often) wishing you were dead and/or fantasizing about death. 

From the moment we're born, the saying goes, we are dying. Death and self-awareness of death are a feature, not a bug, of the human condition, and yet death remains taboo. Few people seem to get this. Almost no one (not even your therapist) wants to hear you say: "No no no. Let me EXPLAIN. I don't want to KILL myself! I just want to be DEAD sometimes. See?" 

Awkward silence.

No. No, they don't see. They put their fingers in their ears and sing "lalalala," or perhaps write heartfelt and well-intentioned texts asking if you're OK, or if you're seeing a therapist, and interpret your macabre musings on the Joie de Mort (TM) as a Cry for Help (TM).

Ok first of all, of COURSE I am not OK. No one is OK. Not really. I am not now, nor have I ever been, OK. And of course I am seeing a therapist. Anyone who can see a therapist should, because really, life is one long, difficult struggle punctuated by thin slivers of incandescent joy that hopefully suffice to create a sustainable bridge from one crippling misery to the next. To the extent I'm crying out for help, I'm only doing so in chorus with everyone else on earth, and then only just by sheer dint of existing.

Yes, this is dark I know. But I am a Russian Jew. My epigenetics are dark and hairy.

Anyway, being suicidal and fantasizing about death are two very different things. People are uncomfortable talking about the latter for fear it will lead to the former, but that's really not true. At least not for me, and I'll use myself to illustrate the point.

For as long as I've been alive, I've dreamed of being dead. Sometimes these dreams felt like a wish, sometimes like a curiosity, but never an intention to actually kill myself. 

Since I'm not religious, I've always assumed death is a lights-out type situation where you return to whatever state of sensory-deprived blankness you existed in before you were born. Wherever you were when that daguerreotype of Abraham Lincoln was taken. That place. I come by this line of thinking honestly: my mother was an orphan by 11; her parents' deaths from cancer mysterious enough to propel her to a career in medicine that she calls a "mission," and that she continues to practice at almost 76. 

Like me, my mother is an atheist. We used to walk hand-in-hand, wending our way through old weedy New England graveyards on summer vacation, pointing to the tiny, weathered headstones of the babies who perished from rubella and other now extinct diseases (thanks, vaccines!)

I'd wonder in these moments what it was like to be a little baby 150 year-old skeleton underground in Vermont. Later I would read about famous literary suicides: Sylvia Plath with her head in the oven. Virginia Woolf weighted down by her own mind and the stones in her pockets, walking step by step into the frigid River Ouse until her petticoats billowed up around her elbows and she sank down to the muddy bottom, finally freed by the water's current from her debilitating depression. The soft dive of oblivion. The sensory deprivation tank of eternity.

How easy, I think, and yet how incomprehensible would it be to do this! To step off the building's ledge and watch the asphalt with its white crosswalk stripes rush up to meet you. To jump down into the cavern of the Brooklyn-bound A-train. To walk into the river. To swallow all the pills. The sheer impulsivity and irrevocable consequences of the act stand in such stark contrast to the long effort and investment that goes into living and constructing a life, that the paradox seems unfathomable. 

I know people whose parents and/or children have committed suicide. Since I am both a parent and a child, I would never in a million years commit suicide. More than anything else, it's my guilt and sense of duty to the people in my orbit and the causes I care about that prevent me from voluntarily submitting to the sensory deprivation tank of eternity. 

But that doesn't mean there aren't days and times I have not wanted to be dead. To the contrary, there have been many such times. 

Accidentally copying someone on an email they shouldn't see. The day I was unconstitutionally fired. Being in childbirth. Every time I have to read something the State files in my lawsuit. Responding to Reply Guy (TM). Every couple hundred times someone tries to shame me on the internet. When Jared Angel (almost not his real name) refused to hold my hand in 8th grade. Yes indeed, there are many such times. There will be many more between now and What Lies Beyond (TM).

I did 23&Me. Having long ago relinquished any claim to personal privacy, I happily paid a dystopian corporate gene farm $181.99 plus tax to harvest my DNA only to learn about rando Aunt Phyllis in Boca and that I was carrying a "variant" (the PC term for "mutation," I guess) for Parkinson's disease. They said I have a one in four chance of getting Parkinson's instead of the usual 1 in 100. My scientist cousin told me that while the mutation variant was real, the data extrapolated from it was not.

I was disappointed. 

Part of me leaped ahead--again in my mind--to the later stages of my inevitable and brave battle with Parkinson's; from the part where I'm co-hosting a benefit with Michael J. Fox in a ballgown to the part where I'm too demented to distinguish my own excrement from a Twix bar. The part where my life just spirals into one long, confusing acid trip in a pair of Depends that becomes someone else's problem to change.

Might that be easier? Easier, I mean, than just continuing to plod through life hour by hour with my proverbial boots in molasses? Day in and day out, suffering every possible indignity, most self-inflicted? From being called "unsuitable" in a federal court case to being back-sassed by my children to checking my spam folder to being unable to match a single sock to its mate in a seven-foot pile of laundry? 

Well, yes. It would be. It would be a lot easier. But the only real choice is the harder one.





Wednesday, March 17, 2021

My Cousin Dana Explains the mRNA COVID Vax

Explanation of mRNA vaccines for OHM readers


About Me: I am Dana Bakalar, Libby’s cousin. I am a neuroscientist, not a vaccine or virus researcher, though I do work in molecular biology. I think I am pretty good at science communication and wanted to encourage people to get the COVID vaccine by explaining the whole deal in a way that humans can understand. 


QHow does COVID work?


AWhat the virus does is stick a copy of its genetic material, RNA, into your cells. It gets in using the spike protein like a key, then makes your cells copy the virus. It hijacks your cell’s normal factory for making shit and makes it make lots of virus, then you have COVID. 

 

QWTF is mRNA?


A: RNA is the messenger, the note copied from your DNA. Hence the m, “messenger” RNA. Your DNA has the instructions for the shit your cells need to make, which gets copied into a temporary note by a copying mechanism called RNA polymerase. The note gets passed into the cell and gets read by a little cellular factory called a ribosome, which uses the instructions to make a protein. After the note is read, it is broken down, crumpled up and tossed in the cellular trash like a note in middle school reading “Do you Like me, circle Y/N”.

 

QSo what’s an mRNA vaccine?


AThe vaccine is messenger RNA, the note part. It’s basically a fake note that we stick in there to pretend that the DNA says to make this protein (“Will you make this protein, circle Y/N?”), like if the middle school note is signed “Trevor” but it’s actually from Heather, who is fucking with you.


In this case, the COVID mRNA vaccines are telling your cells to make a part of the virus. NOT the part that can make you sick, but the little key (spike protein) that the virus uses to unlock your cells and get inside. Once inside, the virus can make you sick. The protein made by the vaccine CANNOT.

 

QThen why do people feel shitty sometimes after the vaccine if it can’t make you sick?


AYour immune system has a bunch of cells whose job it is to patrol for invaders, like the principal roaming the halls of the school. It sees this protein, which is definitely NOT supposed to be here. Holy Shit, it goes, WTF is THAT?? DOES IT HAVE A HALL PASS???? All of the proteins that your body is supposed to make have a hall pass, but this thing Doesn’t Even Go Here, and it looks real weird, so the immune system jumps into action and rallies the troops. It makes antibodies which can stick to the spike protein and fuck its shit up. 


Also, it remembers that shit, in the form of T-cells and B-cells, immune system guys which remember the protein and are ready to jump into action when/if they see it again. This process is hard work and involves creating an immune response, which is the same thing that happens when you get sick for real. So you get inflammation, maybe a fever or a headache. 

 

QCouldn’t this create some crazy run-away immune response and kill us? 


A: They thought it might, which is why they did all these clinical trials. Turns out it doesn’t. The mRNA itself breaks down really fast, and there haven’t been issues with people having extreme immune responses. 

 

QWill I be a mutant??


AThe vaccine cannot change your DNA, so nope. mRNA is a note from DNA, not to it. No superpowers for you. 

 

QIf the vaccine works, why don’t YOU just get it? Why do I have to?


AThe vaccine is pretty good, but not perfect, and some people are vulnerable. 


You know how when you are taking the Metro or Subway or whatever and a bunch of stations are out of commission, it becomes a total bitch to get where you are going? That’s what we are going for here. We need to stop the virus from travelling so it can’t kill your grandma. 


COVID is very contagious, each person can transmit it to more than one other person: there is more than one other stop the virus can get to from your stationThe goal here is to shut down the stations by getting people vaccinated. If the train stops at Vaccination Station, the virus will just languish on the platform and die, infecting fewer people.


This is important because there are some people for whom the vaccine does not work, or to whom it can’t be given, like people who are very sick, babiesor people whose immune systems fail to make the t-cells that would recognize the virus next time, like people being treated for cancer or who have organ transplants or whose immune systems suck because they are very old or have some other immune system thing like diabetes or lupus or celiac or thyroid issues. If the train line to them is open, they are likely to get sick. We need to fuck up the travel network!


If only some small portion of people get the vaccine, then we have way more stations still open. That’s way more new infections. Some of these will be your grandma or your sick spouse or your friends or your friend’s baby. If you don’t get the vaccine, the virus can get to them more easily. 


But if YOU get the vaccine, they are safer. So when I ask you to get the vaccine, it isn’t primarily to protect a vaccinated me, but to protect people who cant get it. 


Scientists estimate that we need about 72 percent of people to be vaccinated or to have had COVID to stop it from travelling at all. 

 

ConclusionGet the vaccine please





 

Saturday, March 6, 2021

This is MATRICIDE.

“Do you know what that means?” 

No answer, or at least none that was audible over the lip of the foreboding ski run known as “East Bowl Chutes.”

“It means MURDERING YOUR MOTHER!”

In 16 years of living in Alaska, I have assiduously avoided any ski run (or other mountain feature) with the word “chute” in the name. Do you know what a chute actually even is? I know you think you do, but let me tell you anyway. 

A chute is “a vertical or inclined plane, channel, or passage through which objects are moved by means of gravity.” And that is exactly what I don’t need at my age: extra gravity. 

Not post-ACL surgery, when I manage to rupture discs in my sleep. Not when each passing day brings my nipples that much closer to my belly button. Not when an encounter with gravity means a fight with Aetna, probably. 

At 43, gravity is no one’s friend.

I prefer runs with names like “Fuzzy Duckling” and “Featherbed.” My 13 year-old daughter Paige, on the other hand, who’s been on skis since she could walk, is happy to bomb down “Insane Asylum,” “Satan’s Man Tits,” and “Jeffrey Dahmer’s Dinner.” These are not the names of actual runs at Eaglecrest, but they should be.

“It’s easier if you TURN, Mom,” Paige said as I side-stepped with trepidation down the precarious “chute.” 

Alaska will kill you if it gets half the chance. This much I know. And while I’m happy to be on the front page of the ADN for suing the governor, I refuse to be a headline because of an avalanche, hypothermia, bear mauling, shelf ice melt event, or other wilderness mishap. No sir. I’m not trying to be that woman born in the Bronx only to die a cautionary tale for would-be Chris McCandless types. 

No fucking thank you.

Paige, on the other hand, was born here, and it shows. I didn’t learn to ski until my muscle memory was well into dementia territory. Growing up, skiing was an expensive, obnoxious hobby for rich people. Here in Juneau—especially in a pandemic—it feels like one of few routes to sanity. But even I have my limits.

“It will be fun!” She said. “You can DO THIS, Mom,” she said, knowing that I’m all about leading by example and modeling the confronting of one’s fears for my children.

But not via THE GATES OF HELL.

“Wait. Do we have to go through the gates? I don’t go through the gates.” 

The “gates”—with their little red ropes and disquieting warning signs—are what seem to separate the wheat from the chaff of skiers. Well, I’m perfectly happy to be the chaff (whatever that is),if it means I live to blog another day.

Spoiler: We went through the gates. 

“Isn’t this FUN, MOMMY?!”

“You’re trying to kill me.”

“You just finished the hardest part!” A cool mom friend of mine encouraged me as she swooshed passed us gracefully, a plume of powder in her wake, braids bouncing under her helmet REI-catalogue style. (This particular mom, it should be noted, has also tried to Alaska-murder me on many occasions, so I greeted her reassurance with a healthy dose of skepticism).

Who even invented this ridiculous sport? Who thought it would be a good idea to strap gigantic boards to human feet, point them down a snowy mountain, and be like ... “GOOD LUCK!” 

Bizarre.

Anyway, I didn’t die, as evinced by the fact that I both took this picture and lived to blog about it. Paige’s next attempted matricide will have to wait for kayaking season.




Monday, March 1, 2021

Why Our Pain Matters

Last week I saw a tweet from an OB/GYN on Twitter questioning the lack of routine sedation options for women during Intrauterine Device (IUD) insertion and removal, and I was immediately transported to the worst physical pain I had ever experienced: having my cervix manually dilated during childbirth. It was by far the worst pain in a very long, painful induced labor with my daughter that ended in a C-Section, and ultimately the worst pain of my life to date.

I was lucky to have competent and compassionate care from everyone involved in my labor and delivery, and I consider myself to have a high pain tolerance. But this particular procedure made me cry actual tears of pain in a way that I hadn't since childhood. While not the same thing as an IUD insertion or removal, I’ve hesitated to get an IUD after experiencing someone monkeying around with my cervix.

Here's what Planned Parenthood--one of the best organizations in the country for accessible birth control and one that I support with my own wallet--says about the pain of IUD insertion:
How does it feel to get an IUD put in?

People usually feel some cramping or pain when they're getting their IUD placed. The pain can be worse for some, but luckily it only lasts for a minute or two.

Some doctors tell you to take pain medicine before you get the IUD to help prevent cramps. They also might inject a local numbing medicine around your cervix to make it more comfortable.

Some people feel dizzy during or right after the IUD is put in, and there's a small chance of fainting. You might want to ask someone to come with you to the appointment so you don't have to drive or go home alone, and to give yourself some time to relax afterward.
I posted something on Twitter and Facebook to start a conversation about this, and take sort of an informal poll of people's pain in IUD insertion and removal, which involves manipulation of the cervix. 

Perhaps a third of the people who contributed to this conversation said it was painless, but about two-thirds said it was the most excruciating pain of their lives. Many described humiliating experiences of being told to “suck it up” and having the discomfort undersold to them, both before, during, and after the procedure. Some worried that the conversation itself could discourage folks from accessing effective birth control (which is the last thing I want to do).

But I think it’s still important to talk about women's (and trans men with uteruses) experiencing pain in reproductive procedures and birth control. I think it's important that we ask the question why people are made to endure the kind of pain that would never be tolerated for a second during a dental procedure or a vasectomy. I don't recall a dentist ever telling me to suck up any pain. I recall being given options for three different types of anesthesia for every dental procedure I've undergone.

So why is routine sedation like this not more common in IUD insertion and removal? I'm not a doctor, so I really don't know the answer. I'm really just posing the question, because I think at least some of the reason is plain vanilla misogyny.

I get that it’s become fashionable to blame The Patriarchy™️ for everything, but that’s because we live in a patriarchal society, and that fact infuses and informs every aspect of our lives, from the wages women earn to the research, time, and attention devoted to our healthcare. Reproductive health is an obvious flashpoint for this, regardless of the gender of the medical provider (or so says my informal poll).

I think as a society we subconsciously want to punish women for their sexuality. We want them to fight and suffer for reproductive autonomy, and we want them to feel pain and humiliation for seeking it out. We want them to associate sex with violence, trauma, and pain. Or, at a minimum, we are indifferent to it. Again, none of this is necessarily conscious. But it’s a reality that is reflected in the lived experience of countless women.

We need to at least entertain the possibility that this is the real reason why this procedure is so brutal for so many. Although it’s a small thing, acknowledging and addressing the very real pain of IUD insertion and removal is one way to chip away at a deeper form of medicalized and societal misogyny.






Saturday, January 30, 2021

This Should Make Us All Very Mad.

Lizzo said it best: why men great ‘til they gotta be great?

Ruth Botstein and I didn’t get the courtesy of 48 hours’ notice when our “friend” and colleague of a decade plus, Ed Sniffen, illegally/unconstitutionally fired us for off-hours, anti-Trump tweeting that offended Governor Dunleavy’s loyalist agenda. It happened three hours after the governor was sworn into office, and we packed our boxes that very day.

I worked with Ed for twelve years. He was kind, smart, professional, great to work with, handsome, and charming. But the day he illegally fired me and Ruth, I knew it was all a lie. I then watched for two years as he desecrated the rule of law in Alaska. There was, seemingly, no order he wouldn’t follow. I started referring to him, only half-jokingly, as “Nuremberg Ed.”

I thought things couldn’t get worse than signing on to a frivolous and seditious lawsuit over the 2020 election. In so doing, he undermined the State’s interests and violated several bar rules of professional conduct. Of course, casting doubt on the election was all of a piece with the reason for the subsequent Capitol insurrection that killed five people, including a police officer.

And this was all before he was promoted from Acting Attorney General to permanent Attorney General, and after his predecessor resigned in disgrace amid a sexting scandal.

I thought it couldn’t get worse, but as usual these days, I was wrong and it did.

Ed now faces a potential class B felony—a serious charge that carries bigly jail time with no statute of limitations —for sexual abuse of a minor, because he was involved with a high school student whose mock trial team he coached in the 90s. Had it not been for Kyle Hopkins and ProPublica’s in-depth and meticulously-sourced reporting, and the courage of the woman involved, no one would ever have known any of this.

The fact that Ed Sniffen thought for one second that he could simply slide into the top law enforcement job in Alaska—a state with the highest rates of sexual assault in the country—with an alleged sex felony against a minor in his background—tells you everything you need to know about how privileged and powerful men in positions of authority are accustomed to a consequence-free existence. A life of Riley in which their opportunity, careers, ambition, and reputations are prized and elevated over everyone and everything—especially women. 

But you can hardly blame them. Experience and society tell them they’re entitled to it. Men and women alike fearfully and fawningly scoot them along and protect them, whether due to their own intimidation and ambition, or in the case of many women, the internalized misogyny that makes us leap to their defense and feel sorry for them even now. 

Here I might add that the self-policed bar association and its membership deserve scrutiny as well. We pay $650 in mandatory annual dues for our law licenses. Some of this sum is supposedly for attorney discipline in an old boys club that rarely metes out any. This organization had scheduled Alan Dershowitz—himself an accused minor sex offender—to be keynote speaker at its 2020 convention until “cancel culture” came for the honor. Many women lawyers are forced to prop up and quietly condone or defend this simply for self-preservation and the survival of their own hard-won careers.

Also, there is next to zero vetting for the job of Alaska’s Attorney General. The governor appoints whoever he wants, and the legislature more or less rubber stamps the appointment in confirmation

Only one AG appointment has ever been rejected by the Alaska legislature. Only two women have ever held the job. Electing an AG, as many states do, is potentially worse, but here the quality of any given candidate is dependent solely on the questionable judgment of the governor, and the equally questionable diligence of the legislature.

Everyone makes mistakes. Everyone has a past. Everyone has skeletons in their closets. And unless we do some serious soul-searching, we all invent years-long narratives and justifications to excuse them. 

But men with these types of “mistakes” (though this really wasn’t a mistake since he knew what he was doing was illegal) don’t belong in the top law enforcement job in the state. Ed knows this, of course, which is why he packed up his office before the shit hit the fan. Not every man’s unrealized career advancement is a tragedy.

Good looks, privilege, and a passable level of intelligence can go a long way toward fooling the whole world into thinking you’re entitled to positions of power you have no business pursuing, much less holding. 

So in counterpoint to “let’s not make a spectacle of someone’s destruction,” I’d humbly offer that we should indeed make a spectacle out of the fact that the 27 year-old man who plied a 17 year-old with booze on a youth court field trip he was chaperoning to New Orleans still reasonably assumed he would be Alaska’s number one cop. 

All in all, the whole thing is incredibly sad and a giant black eye for the State.



Tuesday, January 26, 2021

14 Foreign Words Besides Taco That Woke Cancel Culture is Coming For

Fuhrer means leader or guide in Deutsch, Reich is realm. If you speak the language fluently, you would know the English definition of the word, the progressives have put a spin on it and created their own definition. Now, before you know it the German word Danke will be outlawed as it sounds to [sic.] close to Donkey. Please leave taco out of this! Ban on foreign words? Do they know how idiotic they sound?

—Anchorage Assembly Member and Alaska State Commission for Human Rights Commissioner Jamie Allard, defending previously recalled Alaska license plates 3REICH and FUHRER, Jan. 24, 2021.

It's not going to stop at taco you guys. Or donkey. There are a lot of foreign words that Radical Left Woke Police Cancel Culture is coming for. Nazi license plates are just the beginning and a bellwether of MUCH worse to come. 

Here are my predictions:

1. CANNOLI: This is a delicious Italian pastry that the Nanny State wants to ban from school lunches because they think it makes kids fat and unable to stay awake in common core math.

2. MENAGE A TROIS: The Radical Left only wants you to masturbate or have sex with one other person at a time, max.

3. DANISH: See number one above. 

4. BURRITO: Leftists won't stop at taco. They want you to subsist on a steady diet of mayo and Jell-O salad, just like us.

5. JALAPENOS: See number four above.

6. BON VOYAGE: If Libtards had their way, you could only say goodbye in Chinese or Russian.

7. QUID PRO QUO: Make no mistake, leftist snowflakes want to cancel Latin, because it's too "white" and "classic." If we let them get away with this, we would lose one of our country's most cherished words for bribery, and government would cease to function.

8. SCHADENFREUDE: Cancel culture Antifa sympathizers don't even realize that if they ban this word--just because it's German, of course--they won't even have a way to relish dunking on God-fearing American patriots anymore.

9. ENTREPRENEUR: Capitalism is a dirty word to these Marxist socialist dingbats. We all know that.

10. CROISSSANT: Again, they won't stop at Cannolis and Danishes. This flaky French pastry is next on the chopping block for socialists who want you to stand in line for stale bread like a bunch of sad Commies.

11. WANDERLUST: You'd think the vulgar left tree-huggers wouldn't want to cancel anything with the word "lust" in it, or "wander" for that matter, but you'd be wrong because German was spoken by Nazis.

12. CIGAR: Bet you didn't know this word was Spanish, did you? With all the Mexicans they want to let into our country and hop over the wall, the Democrats still want to ban cigars because they want to tell you how to live your lives and take away one more fun way to celebrate lynchings.

13. SAFARI: If the Left gets its way, you can say goodbye to killing an elephant or a giraffe and hanging its head in your foyer like real Americans do.

14. KARAOKE: If you think the mask police are bad now, wait until you realize that every karaoke bar in the United States is closed because of Big Government's unconstitutional social distance policies and racism left over from World War II.

I'm telling you. You heard it here first. Woke Cancel Culture is coming for the entire Foreign English Language.






Sunday, January 10, 2021

First Amendment 101

The events of this week have the First Amendment on top of everyone’s mind, so I thought I would do a VERY basic and quick review of some key questions about when and how it applies. 

First, here’s the full text, adopted in 1789:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

This covers a LOT of rights we think of (and maybe even take for granted) when we think of American democracy: freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of religion, separation of church and state, right of assembly/protest, and the right to demand action of your elected officials.

The first thing to know is that only the government has to comply with the constitution. It’s a contract between the government and the people. 

Private companies like Twitter have their own contracts—user agreements—with users. When you sign up for the service, you agree to abide by its terms. That is why Twitter is not violating the constitution by banning Trump. 

I’m not saying it’s good that Twitter has so much power over public discourse, only that the constitutional right to free speech is not part of that analysis. Private companies also do not become government actors when they go “public” on the stock market. That’s a totally different thing. 

The second thing to know is that freedom of speech is not absolute. It can indeed be restricted by the government. So the government can and has enacted content-neutral restrictions on the “time, place, and manner” of certain speech thought to be especially dangerous.

The third thing to know is that statutes are subordinate to the constitution, and SCOTUS gets to decide if statutes are unconstitutional. 

Take the Civil Rights Act. A good question is how the government can force private businesses to not discriminate against people on the basis of race, sex, etc. The answer is that Congress enacted a statute that governs private business: in other words, it regulated in this area. 

Private businesses have challenged the Civil Rights Act itself as unconstitutional but SCOTUS said no, Congress is empowered by the commerce clause of the constitution to adopt it (the commerce clause is about free movement of goods and services through the country).

There have also been analogies of the Twitter “purge” to the “gay wedding cake” case in which a Colorado baker was allowed to refuse service to a gay couple. 

The SCOTUS cake case was decided on narrow groundsbut the point is a state agency in CO said the baker couldn’t refuse to bake the cake, and he said that was a violation of his freedom of religion. SCOTUS said the state hadn’t been neutral in its application of the free exercise clause, and undid the State’s decision. So that case was not about free speech, it was about free exercise of religion.

There’s a lot more to say on all of this. But hopefully these points offer some context for recent events.