Friday, October 24, 2008

Alaska Tales I

As someone who lived in Alaska for a bit over five years, I watch the press coverage of Sarah Palin with a mix of amusement and disgust. As in, are Lower 48ers such complete ignoramouses? Well, as any Alaskan will tell you, Lower 48ers have an amazing blind spot when it comes to anything north of Seattle. Several years ago, a Canadian comedian filmed a series of clips of him asking Americans (frequently at Ivy League colleges) questions, i.e.

'Will you sign a petition protesting the Canadian practice of disposing of senior citizens by placing them on ice floes?' 'Should the Government of Saskatchewan allow a controlled rhinocerous hunt?' 'Should Canada have a Navy since it is a landlocked country?' (I have known some Canadian sailors, and they are a fine bunch of fellows), 'What is your feeling on Canada adding a ninth year to its educational system? To Canada completing its one-thousandth mile of paved road? To Canada's first Afro-Canadian Prime Minister?'

Alaskans were laughing twice as hard as the Canadians. (I saw that comedian say in a later interview that the only Americans who were wise to him, and got the joke, were people in uniform...that figures.)

My dear old Dad would frequently send me clippings from the Sunday New York Times, imparting their wisdom about "What Should Be Done About Alaska." I got in the habit of sending him clippings from the Anchorage Daily News, which would, without exception, have responded to the NYT editorial with a column saying, "look at what those Fidiots in New York are saying now!" For anyone who is interested, 35 years ago, the New York Times as predicting the imminent onset of a New Ice Age and opposed the construction of the TransAlaskan pipeline on the grounds that it would lead to the extinction of Alaskan caribou. So the US Senate voted, tied, and the Vice President of the United States, Spiro Agnew, cast the deciding vote. (Yes, Agnew later resigned in disgrace, but he hit a home run that day.) Over 35 years later, the caribou population has QUADRUPLED. The reason almost all Alaskans loathe the New York Times, is you'll never convince Alaskans that the NYT does not long to make all Alaska a giant park with no human inhabitants except those whose ancestors were there prior to 1867...or maybe 1492. In contrast, I favor demolishing all manmade structures on Manhattan, Staten Island and Long Island, thus restoring those places to their original pristine state.

I have now lived long enough to have been around for Troopergate I and Troopergate II. Troopergate I was the report by members of Bill Clinton's State Trooper security detail that he as partial to sneaking out of the Governor's Mansion for late night trysts in his limo. Well! I mean, the very idea that WJC would...hmmm... I'm sure that's just as baseless as the FBI agent's account that JC liked sneaking out of the White House for evening trysts...hmmm. Sounds like his standard operating procedure, doesn't it?

Troopergate II is the report that Governor Palin asked the State Director of Public Safety to fire her ex-brother-in-law, and when the DPS refused, fired him. As Governor, Palin had the right to fire the DPS for a good reason, a bad reason, or no reason at all. Most of the press reports state that it as quote a nasty divorce endquote. Only a few reports mention that that ex repeatedly threatened Palin's sister. I know of few people scarier that an angry man with daily access to firearms.

Granted, Governor Palin did NOT handle that problem like a True Alaskan would. If someone makes credible threats of violence against a True Alaskan's family, that TA will get a 12 guage shotgun, load the magazine with three shells of deer load and three shells of double 0 buckshot, empty the magazine into the threat at close range (repeat if necessary) then, if it is wintertime, dump the body through a hole cut in river ice, or, in summer, dump the body where the bears will dispose of it.

There is nothing funnier to an Alaskan than a gun conrol advocate who thinks they are ever going to have success in Alaska. Never mind the fact that the strictest gun control laws in America *were* in the District of Columbia (go ahead, look up how DC ranks in crime statistics). First off, in the case of a real emergecy, when seconds count, the State Troopers might be hours aay (or if a blizzard is on, more than 24 hours) Secondly, while Lower 48ers like to make jokes about Alaskans shooting moose, for a family of ten out in the Bush, shooting a moose can take care of half the grocery budget for several months.

I once represented a sixty year old Yup'ik guy who was accused of shooting a musk ox. Yes, I have seen crime scene photos of a dead musk ox. Those critters became extinct in Alaska about a hundred years ago, so the Fish & Game people loaded up a herd from Greenland, and shipped them through the Panama Canal- I suspect they didn't much enjoy the trip- and set them up on Nunavik Island. A couple wandered off the island on the pack ice, to the mainland, and ere doing fine til my client shot one. Seeing as how every game warden in Alaska was monitoring them, he might as well have taken a shot at George W. So I ask my client why he shot the musk ox' He reply was 'I got tired of eating caribou'. He pled out in return for time served, a fine, and probation. Gee, if we'd gone to trial, maybe I could have convinced a jury that my client finally snapped after enduring years of sexual abuse by the musk ox.

I've seen columns in that claim Alaska has the highest rate of rape of any of the 50 states- which entirely true- and that Sarah Palin is to blame for that. Moose nuggets! Oh sure! All Governor Palin needed to do as make a televised address, and say, 'Women and girls of bush Alaska- stop getting so drunk that you're passed out on the floor!' That would have solved everything-or at least two/thirds of the rape cases in rural Alaska. If getting high BACs as an Olympic event, I think Yup'iks would sweep the medals. One of my first trials in Bethel, I represented a teenage kid who'd been riding a snowmachine, with a BAC of .297.

I suppose I should mention that in Alaska we had Troopergate 1.5. The first Native American head of the AST was just about to retire when he got into a total Fatal Attraction situation. He'd been having an affair, then tried to break it off. His girlfriend took exception to this by sneaking into his house, shooting him to death, shooting and wounding his wife, and then fatally shooting herself. Bill Clinton is lucky he stayed in Arkansas.


*Note: The original version of this article distributed via e-mail erroneously asserted that the Troopergate II probe of Palin's actions was conducted by a "Democratic controlled" body. Twelve people on the commission voted, 8 Republican and 4 Democrat. I regret the error.

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