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The Mudflats | News & Politics From The Upper Left Corner.
Monthly Archives: November 2011.
I heard the song Winter Wonderland several times today, and it seems like it ought to be Alaska’s seasonal state song. This was one of those times when it looks like someone went a little too crazy with the fake canned snow.
I’ve never wanted to sit on a sidewalk so badly in my life.
This week, seven members of the Anchorage Assembly voted for Mayor Dan Sullivan’s ordinance to create sidewalk sitting hours and rules. Ernie Hall, who has talked about being independent of the mayor, once again, with his vote, proved he is a lockstep lapdog.
The most surprising, and disappointing vote was Dick Traini’s. Traini most certainly is not the mayor’s lackey, but he voted like one. The rest — Debbie Ossiander, Chris Birch, Bill Starr, Jennifer Johnston and Adam Trombley — voted as expected, right in line with Mayor BurgerMeister MeisterBurger.
Is this an indicator we have no bigger problems to solve in Los Anchorage? So, all the snow is plowed, little white lights strung, and violent crime abated? Is there some out-of-control epidemic of sidewalk sitters who are clogging passageways and impeding commerce? Have we nothing more to do than put useless, redundant laws on the books, and plan parties? What’s next, a ban on toys?
For a crowd that calls for less regulation, telling you where to put your bottom, and at what time, seems like bigger government to me. Supporters of the law can’t even pretend this is something other than a personal vendetta for the mayor. Last summer, John Martin, a registered sex offender, protested the mayor’s treatment of the homeless. That’s why it’s now illegal for you and me to sit on the sidewalk.
This entire episode reminds me of the political posturing years ago when President George Bush and Congress interrupted their recess to create a law during the Terry Schiavo situation. One law for one person. That poor comatose woman generated more frequent-flier miles than anyone before or since.
Our laws should protect individual liberties, not take them away in some fake gesture to the greater good. I know, I sound like a Tea Party member, but I don’t agree with curbing personal liberty any more than they do.
Last summer, after the ordinance was proposed, the mayor said Mr. Martin needed to take a bath and get a job.
Newt Gingrich said the same thing this week about the Occupy movement.
I guess if you paint folks as dirty and lazy, it becomes easier for the public to give you a pass when you take away their rights. The consequence of not paying attention is that the fresh new laws apply to you as well as whomever you thought didn’t deserve protection. And in this case, people were paying attention. It’s just that it didn’t matter because seven big-government, liberty-squashing members of the Assembly knew better than you.
The night the anti-First Amendment ordinance passed, the Assembly chamber was filled with folks waiting to comment. Not a single person testified in favor of the law. Not one. Nor were any emails received urging passage. Despite overwhelming and unanimous testimony against Mayor Sullivan’s ordinance, seven members did not waver.
Mayor Sullivan said, “My review shows that there is clearly a lack of quantifiable evidence necessitating this ordinance. My review also shows that the vast majority of those who communicated their position … are in opposition. As elected officials, we are charged with reflecting the will of the community in our decisions, particularly in the absence of compelling data that would supersede that will.”
Oh, wait. He said that in 2009, after he vetoed anti-discrimination legislation.
What effect did the worldwide Occupy movement have on passage of this anti-civil rights ordinance? How will this new law, specifically, affect the civil liberties of those protesting with the Occupy Anchorage group downtown?
In Mayor Sullivan’s quest to demonstrate mayoral power to a homeless man, did the mayor just pass a law that sets the stage for confrontation between the peaceful and nonviolent Occupy Anchorage movement and the Anchorage Police Department?
Henry David Thoreau, in “On the Duty of Civil Disobedience” (1849), wrote, “If … the machine of government … is of such a nature that it requires you to be the agent of injustice to another, then, I say, break the law.”
Perhaps we should all head downtown on the day this anti-civil rights ordinance becomes law, sit down and occupy the sidewalk.
Dispatches from the Congo – A Journey of Love (Part 15)
By Erin Pohland.
NOTE: I wrote this post from Kinshasa on June 30, the Congo’s 51st anniversary of independence from Belgian rule. On November 28, 2011, the Congo will hold its second election since the “end” of its civil war in 2002. Whatever your beliefs, please take a moment to think of or pray for the Congolese people tomorrow, and on December 6, when the election results are scheduled to be read. Election watchers have grave concerns about the potential for election fraud and ensuing violence — regardless of who wins (incumbent president Joseph Kabila or his main challenger, Etienne Tshisekedi).
There has already been substantial election-related violence in a country that can ill afford more death and destruction; the UN recently ranked the Congo as the least developed country in the world. For more information, please read Congo’s Election: That Sinking Feeling. The BBC also provides excellent coverage (or at least better coverage than most American news outlets) through its Africa desk.
The view from J’s widow, and random white smoke from who knows what!
Hello from Kinshasa-
It’s a hazy day here, but cool, which is a nice change (note that it’s winter here, and the Congolese actually do think it’s cold and dress accordingly. It’s still hot to me.). It’s hard to tell what the haze is about; I suspect that it’s largely due to pollution and the constant trash fires. The other day, when John and I were leaving the embassy, I walked around to the side of the car where Andrew and I were sitting, opposite the road.When I got out of the car, it was just rubble. When I tried to get in after 2 hours at the embassy, there was a trash fire going. Yes, directly beside the car, across the street from the US Embassy. I shouted to John, who didn’t seem fazed. I’m completely shocked that there aren’t exploding cars all over this city.
Speaking of John, I’ve apparently made a very good friend. John has asked me to marry him. Well, more specifically, he said (via text), “I love u so very much cause u are so good and beautyful with sweet heart! If I was young maybe I could marry u!” Yesterday, he told me that he missed me like tea misses sugar. Ahh, John. He’s a very nice guy, the same age as my mom, and I’m happy to have him as a friend. And maybe he’ll get me my exit visa more quickly so I can take Andrew home!
Yesterday was Congo’s 51st anniversary of independence. Americans were advised to stay home, and so I did. J went and got K and S so they could hang out and go swimming. Sadly, K was sick — possibly because she’s been taking her anti-malarial on an empty stomach — so I told her to lay down and I watched the kids. Before they got here, I met J’s neighbors, M and J-P. M is a German woman who speaks impeccable English as well as French. J-P is a former journalist who is from Guinea. Sadly, he doesn’t speak English — just French and German. He did offer to cook me dinner while I’m here; he is apparently a fabulous cook. M is incredibly sweet, offering to take me to the store and getting my number so she could let me know if there are any security warnings or anything I should know. I’m a bit disturbed that the US Embassy here is so lax about security warnings. M told me (confirmed by J) that all Americans are to stay home on Sunday as well, when there is a big meeting of the political opposition here in Kinshasa. There was also a gunfight in Lumbashi yesterday, the President’s home province and where he was celebrating independence day. Lumbashi is far away, and home of most of the mining in the Congo, along with the Katanga province (where John is from). Even with it so far away, there are certainly Americans there, and I’m disturbed that no security warnings were issued. But it’s become very clear that the Embassy here isn’t exactly on top of its game, so perhaps I shouldn’t be surprised.
I can’t imagine living here full-time. The power goes out frequently, and certain things — like the washing machine (a euro-style combo washer and dryer that takes 3 hours to do a small load) and the air conditioning don’t come back on automatically. In fact, there are little boxes on the wall in each room where you have to push a black button back in when the power goes off. That apparently restores the power to the appliances in the room that take up more energy, like the wall airconditioners. When I have my phone plugged in, I hear it beep on and off all night as the power goes on and off. The view out of my bedroom window is barbed wire, and J has talked about it not being secure enough and wanting MORE barbed wire. I suppose that if something goes bad here, it goes REALLY bad, and you can’t get enough security. J also told me that you can’t dry your clothes outside here; it’s a dryer or clothing racks inside. Apparently, there is a bug here that lays eggs on your clothes, and if you wear them, worms get into your skin and it’s very painful to have them extracted. I guess Montana will iron any clothes that I may dry outside, and that kills the bugs, but I think I’ll stick with just the washer/dryer for now. Thank goodness I’ll be leaving soon!!
K and I had quite a surprise yesterday — S knows how to swim! Well, sort of — he can go underwater and move forward, although he is afraid to jump in by himself and won’t go out of the shallow end (which are both blessings). Andrew is loving the water, and even loves being splashed in the face by his friend S, although I’m keeping him out of there today. He has a tendency to try to drink the pool (and bath!) water, and I’m somewhat sick of having to change outfits because he has diaper explosions. It’ll be fantastic to get him to a doctor in the US who can accurately diagnose whatever is going on in his little body.
Andrew is so incredibly smart and so sweet. I am completely amazed by the rate at which he learns. Last night, I was making eggs for S (one of the few foods he’ll eat), and Andrew sat on the counter as I cracked the eggs and added salt & pepper. He will let me sit him on the counter while I do something in the kitchen, but ONLY if no cats are in sight. As I tried to figure out the stove, I saw Andrew pull the egg bowl towards him. He took the fork and began stirring the eggs, then grabbed (closed) spice containers and pretended to shake spices into the eggs. He then began stirring again. I’m telling you — my baby boy is a genius!
He also wanted to eat the pizza that we ordered like a big boy. He insisted on having his own full piece, which he ate from like any of us would — holding up the slice to his mouth and taking bites. He did the same to my slice, of course, but given how cute he is, I didn’t mind too much. (Side note: guess how much a small 8 slice pizza cost? If you guessed $30, you’re right!)
We’re having a lazy day at home today, with K and S coming over later to swim and do laundy. I don’t really plan on going anywhere until we leave (ideally on Tuesday), other than the store for more supplies and perhaps to the Market of Thieves. I’d really like to get some more Congolese art, and perhaps some fabric to have made into a shirt for him (which I’d have to iron given the bug situation. I hate ironing, but I think I’d hate worms burrowing into my skin more.). I’m really, really hoping that we get the exit visa on Monday, which will give me time to get to the Maison Shengen to get his transit visa (we need his passport for that, which is at DGM along with mine) and make our planned flight on Tuesday.
Love from Kinshasa-
Open Thread – Small Business Saturday!
Not the best picture, but definitely the best idea for what to do today! Black Friday is over, and the deals are dealt. So, now it’s time to think local! No matter where you are today, think about what local businesses you’re grateful for, and give them your support. Small local businesses are up against some stiff competition, and they don’t have all the advantages that the big corporate chains do. But they love their communities, hire local people, and generally provide outstanding personalized service.
And don’t just think gift and clothing stores – services like auto detailing, snow removal, spa services, and house cleaning can make welcome treats too.
So go small, go local, and Occupy the Holidays!
Alaska Attorney General Resigns. Hmm.
Alaska Attorney General John Burns has submitted his resignation which has been accepted today by Governor Sean “Captain Zero” Parnell.
“It is with reluctance that I accept General Burns’ resignation,” Parnell said. “General Burns is a capable leader and a true public servant dedicated to the people of Alaska. I appreciate his efforts over the past year at the Department of Law where he has led with dedication, professionalism, integrity and a commitment to the best interests of Alaska. I wish him all the best in his future endeavors.”
But why? What reason could the Attorney General possibly have to resign after being in the job less than a year?
Could it be because he’s tired of being on the losing end of lawsuits like the recent one regarding endangered beluga whales? Could it be because the Parnell administration is just a bit too dysfunctional for his taste? Did a better offer come along? Was Parnell actually not that “reluctant” to see him go? Will there be some breaking news in forthcoming days that may shed light? Or might it just be… that the man simply wants to spend more time with his family?
In a letter to Governor Parnell, Burns stated: “My resignation is based solely on personal reasons. Although I have come to realize that it is possible to live out of a suitcase, doing so is neither fair to family nor particularly conducive to one’s health. Family and balance in one’s life should always be one’s first priority and everything else secondary. ”
Any of you who guessed the latter answer, give yourself a gold star. Extra credit goes to Mr. Burns for adding “balance” as a factor. He must be a very centered and grounded person.
Burns has served as Alaska’s attorney general only since December 2010. He’ll be fleeing on January 2, and adding his name to the list of ex-half Attorney Generals of the last five years – Talis Colberg, Wayne Anthony Ross , and Daniel Sullivan.