Posted by: shannynmoore | February 15, 2014

State political priorities need major makeover

capitol copyShannyn Moore for the Anchorage Daily News

I enjoy painting. Really. Maybe it’s because my grandfather was a painter and I really liked him, but for whatever reason I don’t mind being on a ladder with a brush for hours at a time. Oh, did you think I meant painting bowls of fruit? No. I like painting houses.

But the best part is when you’re done. You stand back and see the transformation to a new look that was long overdue. From the first drop of color on the wall to the trim caulking. There’s a start and an end.

Painting is satisfying. (I realize some people have gotten divorced over paint jobs gone sideways and not everyone feels the same, but it’s my column.)

When I started a radio show more than eight years ago, there was an opening line that introduced me every day. “Painting a red state blue, one stroke at a time…”

This week I found myself listening to the news on the radio and hanging off a ladder with brush in my hand, which made me a captive audience. “Are you kidding me?!” I kept saying to no one.

Listening to the nonsense spawned by our elected nutjobs and trying to figure out what the ham and cheese they could possibly be thinking finally drove me to crank up the new Springsteen album.

The news was ruining my “Wow! This room looks fantastic! I barely recognize it!” Maybe you recognize this feeling: Just turn off the news and try to focus on changing and improving what’s right in front of you.

(Maybe you also have wondered what kind of freak they keep in a basement naming paint colors. The “Celery Bisque” really ought to be called “Chicken Poop Green.”)

OK, so if I’m wanting to dial out of the insanity — given that I live and breathe politics — I understand why people with much more interesting hobbies and busy lives tune out.

What got me to this point? Remember last year when I was writing week after week about the doom and gloom that would come to our state if SB21 — the governor’s oil tax giveaway — passed? Oh, sweet Pete, did I not stack my soapboxes up for that one. The math?! The math! I didn’t think it would work. There I was painting away, AND I WANTED TO BE WRONG. I did. Because if I were right, Alaska was sure to suffer for it.

But the governor got his way. He promised a million barrels of new production and the Legislature fell in line. They gobbled up the governor’s fantasy like hungry chickens in a yard full of corn.

The latest estimates of new oil production aren’t even close to a million. To be precise, they are 28.6 percent of a million by 2024. (I know that sounds like a long time away, but it’s only 10 years. And in the meantime, we’ll give the producers billions.)

Then my head exploded over an amendment vote. The Special Committee on Military and Veterans’ Affairs was considering relieving temporary military spouses (not temporary spouses, but temporary to Alaska) of the duty to get a state driver’s license. When Rep. Max Gruenberg sought to include same-sex military couples in the exemption, Reps. Gabrielle LeDoux, Shelley Hughes and Pete Higgins decided they couldn’t support the gay troops.

Really? Here’s a news flash: Being gay doesn’t make someone bulletproof while he’s fighting overseas for the freedom of Alaska lawmakers to institutionalize his second-class citizenship. (Even if it’s over something as petty as a trip to the DMV.)

But, to be fair, I’m sure it isn’t just the gay soldiers and airmen they don’t support. I expect they’re also wondering: How can we disrespect the Muslim, atheist and immigrant servicemen and women? Perhaps I’m naive to think “supporting the troops” means a lot more than sticking a Chinese-made magnet on your tailgate.

Oh, and if I get one more email from ayatollah Jim Minnery of the Alaska Family Council begging for money so he can continue the fight against women’s right to control their bodies, I may lose it.

Really, buddy? If you don’t like abortion, take Step One: Get the vasectomy. Step Two: Teach men and boys where babies come from and how to get a grip on their hormones. Step Three: Make sure contraception is available to everyone who might slip up and have sex.

And finally, Mullah Minnery, the day you start fighting for nutrition programs, child support and health care for children and pregnant women is the day you can call yourself “pro-life.” Until then you’re just Alaska’s leading advocate of forced birth by poor women.

Alaska is a big place. It’s in need of a very big paint job. Big enough to get us back to some semblance of sanity. Yes, I realize paying attention to politics and politicians is not quite as much fun as watching paint dry, but as the late Pete Seeger said, “Participation — that’s what’s gonna save the human race.”

Shannyn Moore is a radio host on 1480 AM in Washington, D.C., and on Netroots Radio.

Posted by: shannynmoore | February 7, 2014

Candidates mute on Koch money polluting Alaska election

Charles_David_KochShannyn Moore for the Anchorage Daily News

It was probably five years ago when the Koch Brothers hit my radar. I was at a conference of grassroots community folks and one guy in particular was describing these eccentric brothers, born into wealth, who were hell-bent on remaking America.

Their predatory libertarian hybrid philosophy wasn’t new to me. I grew up around cranky old men who lived in cabins and argued with each other around the big table at the Anchor River Inn. Oh, they’d all come to Alaska to get away from America. The difference between their rants and the Koch Brothers? They were poor. All they could do was pound their fists and have their coffee refilled. The Koch Brothers are worth $36 billion each. Yes. Combined, they are worth $20 billion more than the Permanent Fund.

In campaigns during 2012, 17 groups enjoying tax-exempt status with ties to the billionaire brothers spent $407 million. That’s a lot of money to push your ideology. Thanks to the U.S. Supreme Court’s craptastic 5-4 decision that check-writing is free speech, this is now our norm. Before you holler that unions can do the same, the Kochs’ contribution was higher than all union spending on campaigns in federal, state and local races combined.

So far in this election cycle, $1.1 million of Koch money has been spent on Alaska television ads. (I realize the stations like this, but they don’t require integrity. The Supreme Court has agreed to hear a case this year being argued by a Republican outfit that says they have the right to lie in advertising.)

The Koch Brothers have also been active in shaping the politics of Alaska through their funding of the American Legislative Exchange Council. That organization’s attacks on voting rights, public schools, health insurance policy and reproductive fairness for poor women are all underwritten with Koch Bucks.

The Koch brothers have other interests in Alaska. They’ve done business here for years. This week, while buying more than $100,000 in attack ads opposing health care, they announced plans to close the Flint Hills refinery in Fairbanks. This has huge effect on not just the city of Fairbanks’ tax rolls, and 80 employees’ jobs, but it may put cargo planes in a pinch without jet fuel. And what will the railroad do with nothing to fill all those tank cars? This is far-reaching and we’re going to feel it (although it won’t amount to a pimple on a pea under the mattresses of the Koch brothers).

Our Washington, D.C., delegation and the governor all made sure to let Alaskans know they thought this closure was a bad idea. Funny that some candidates for U.S. Senate, namely Dan Sullivan and Mead Treadwell, are seemingly mute. They want Koch money to run ads on their behalf during the general election.

Koch got your tongue, fellas?

As bad as closing the refinery will be for our fellow Alaskans in the Interior, what the Koch brothers are doing to our state through other means is actually much more damaging. They inherited more than money from their father, who built 15 oil refineries for Stalin before moving to America. Daddy was an active opponent of Social Security and the New Deal.

The Koch’s disdain for public education, voting rights and (other people’s) personal property (they’re happy to use eminent domain to snatch rights-of-way for their pipelines) are percolating in our co-opted state legislature. (See, if you don’t vote the way that benefits them, they run someone against you.)

Charles Koch ran an opinion column a few years ago that bashed the government for picking and choosing winners. “There are now businesses and entire industries that exist solely as a result of federal patronage. Profiting from government instead of earning profits in the economy, such businesses can continue to succeed even if they are squandering resources and making products that people wouldn’t ordinarily buy.”

Really? This right after they landed an $85 billion contract with the federal government and raking in billions in federal ethanol subsidies.

Unfortunately, the Koch Brothers aren’t leaving Alaska. They’ll be here telling you who to vote for, what schools to pay for, who should have voting rights and whether to provide health care for poor people.

Lucky us.

Shannyn Moore is a radio host on 1480 AM in Washington, D.C., and on Netroots Radio.


Posted by: shannynmoore | February 1, 2014

Court rules for sense on Arctic Ocean oil leases

energy-kulluk-oil-rig-runs-aground-alaska-wreck_62757_600x450Shannyn Moore for the Anchorage Daily News

I’m not sure what’s important to you when you buy a car but safety is high on my list. (I’m on a 20-year Subaru streak — it’s about love.) I watch the commercials with crash test dummies because I want some idea how safe I’ll be in a crash.

Now imagine if you found out that the crashes that got tested were only 5 miles an hour. (They aren’t but pretend with me for a second, folks.)

A five-star rating in a 5 mph crash wouldn’t mean much.

That’s basically what happened when oil leases off Alaska’s northern coast were put up for sale in 2008. The environmental impact statement by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management was based on a hypothetical level of oil development arbitrarily set by a BOEM analyst. Oh, how about a nice round number of 1 billion barrels?

Fine. Except it is way low. Exactly 12 times too low, according to development projections the BOEM made in 2006. About like the difference between a 5 mph crash and a 60 mph crash.

The people of the village of Point Hope had some concerns about offshore oil development. They get their living from the waters the oil companies were circling. Environmental groups signed on to their concerns. Some people want to save whales and seals so Alaskans on the North Slope can eat as they have for the last 10,000 years. So they sued the federal government.

Radical, I know.

The oil companies and the state of Alaska went to court to support the feds. The state wasn’t there to protect the Alaskans or safeguard our coastal waters. Prospective oil royalties from development weren’t going to go to the state; those go to the federal government. No, the state of Alaska was there to justify 5 mph crash safety tests. Despite the David-and-Goliath matchup, the court ultimately agreed with the plaintiffs and the notion that impact studies need to be based on likely impacts.

That led, at least in part, to the announcement this week that Shell won’t resume exploratory drilling in the Arctic this coming summer.

To you politicians — damn near all of you in Alaska: Will you stop acting like anyone who wants reality-based environmental standards in resource development is some patchouli-soaked, bike-riding, waffle-stomping, granola-crunching hippie radical anti-capitalist? If someone wants a car with safety standards based on 60 mph instead of 5 mph, they aren’t “anti-car-travel.”

Democratic Sen. Mark Begich sounded exactly like all the Republicans running against him:

“It is simply unacceptable that judicial overreach is getting in the way of letting Alaskans develop our own natural resources. Development in the Arctic has already been subjected to unprecedented safety standards — far more than domestic production anywhere else. I’ve worked for years to get all the federal agencies working together to permit Arctic projects, now we need to tackle the all too common legal stonewalling by outside groups. That’s why I am re-introducing my legislation to ensure there is a judicial endgame for Arctic developers when they have invested billions of dollars in developing our resources.”

Um, Point Hope villagers seem less like “outside groups” than some others (for example, Royal DUTCH Shell).

Stonewalling? Is brushing your teeth stonewalling cavities? What’s that line about “an ounce of prevention … ?”

We all had front-row seats to Shell not getting its act together in the Arctic. The company is pulling in its oars because, as it announced, its fourth-quarter net profit was down 74 percent. (Not to worry, it was still a hefty $1.78 billion.)

Theirs was a long list of missteps. Other companies interested in the offshore Arctic should be mad at Shell, not the drilling skeptics. Why aren’t Begich and the rest decrying Shell’s hubris and incompetence rather than “judicial overreach?”

Shell ran its rig aground not once but twice. Last year its crews pulled out of Dutch Harbor into a 100-year storm with inadequate towing gear just to avoid a tax bill.

The Deadliest Catch fishermen were still at the dock but Shell let some bean counter send its rigs into the Gulf of Alaska for an oil company’s version of pocket change? They’re lucky no one got killed.

Heck, their spill-response barge was fined for spilling fluids in a Washington harbor. Laugh or cry, your choice.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals isn’t to blame because the BOEM used “5 mph” for its crash test. Shell has more than demonstrated the need for federal regulators to require realistic crash tests, just as they do for cars.

The profits from this development don’t belong to all of us — but the risk certainly does.

Shannyn Moore is a radio host on 1480 AM in Washington, D.C., and on Netroots Radio. 

Posted by: shannynmoore | January 25, 2014

State constitution is clear about public schools

55_delegate_picShannyn Moore for the Anchorage Daily News

Our governor gave his State of the Colony speech this week. In it, he tied “school reform” (by which he apparently means amending the Alaska Constitution to allow spending public money on private and religious schools) to raising the state’s contribution to each student’s education.

I guess taking hostages is now Standard Operating Procedure for Republican elected officials. And even if those of us who like our constitution just the way it is were to acquiesce, Gov. Sean Parnell’s proposed “increase” in education funding wouldn’t come close to replacing what schools have lost to inflation in just the last three years.

Almost as soon as Alaskans started to howl about his blackmail attempt, Parnell threw that baby in reverse and backed away. “Oh, noooo, I’d never say what I just said before I found out I wasn’t king! Sheesh! What do you take me for? Hurumpf. Wait, was that on tape?”

The American Legislative Exchange Council, the group that artfully married lobbyists, big corporations and conservative legislators from across the nation, has pushed privatization of schools across the country. It’s still their agenda, though it has been a disaster for teachers, students and the public.

For example, in Milwaukee, the base student allocation is $6,442 a year. (In Alaska, it’s less than $5,700.) Under their “Milwaukee Parental Choice Program,” a private school called LifeSkills Academy took more than $2 million from the Department of Public Instruction before moving out of its rented space in the night and disappearing.

The LifeSkills students then had to squeeze into other schools that didn’t get the money that should have come with them — straining teachers, classrooms and diverting precious resources from other students.

And the LifeSkills kids needed all the help they could get. According to the local paper, “No students attending LifeSkills were proficient in reading or math in 2012-’13, except for a single fourth-grade student, according to the most recent state achievement results.”

When was the last time you heard about a public school taking the state’s money and skipping out for a beach in Mexico.

LifeSkills Academy? Is that a solution to the problems of educating Alaska children?

I haven’t taken an oath to defend the Constitution of the state of Alaska, but I know a guy who helped write it, and English is my first language.

Here’s what it says about education:

“The legislature shall by general law establish and maintain a system of public schools open to all children of the State, and may provide for other public educational institutions. Schools and institutions so established shall be free from sectarian control.

“No money shall be paid from public funds for the direct benefit of any religious or other private educational institution.”

“Free from sectarian control” seems pretty clear to me. Alaska’s founders weren’t inventing the wheel, they were expanding the Territorial Organic Act of 1912, which required the separation of church and state schools.

Exactly how much will Parnell’s “privatizing” of Alaska schools cost? Sen. Berta Gardner produced a nonpartisan legislative study that showed it would run about $100 million a year to add a for-profit system. That seems like real money when you see 159 teachers lose their jobs to offset part of a $23 million budget shortfall in Anchorage.

Our public education system can, of course, use improvement. But at this week’s Anchorage School Board meeting some wonderful achievements were recognized. Graduation rates are up significantly, juvenile crime rates in Anchorage are down significantly, and more children are participating in vocational education programs.

For the past few years, the Legislature and governor have demanded “improvements” before increasing school funding. In fact, Parnell famously called education “the ultimate giveaway.” That’s either ironic or psychotic.

That attitude is the polar opposite of the one he took with the oil companies. He didn’t even require them to make commitments to produce more oil before he gave them tax breaks, much less make them produce more first. But that wasn’t a “giveaway.”

But schools? With them he’s Mr. Tough Guy: “You’ll get no more money until I see ‘improvement’ and ‘reform’! “

Part of the success we’ve seen in our schools in recent years is attributable to programs that were cut just last spring because of lack of money. Graduation coaches and regular counselors, security personnel and career guides are no longer there to help students who need help to make it. Nothing says, “Good job! Way to go!” like a pink slip.

I agree with radio storyteller Garrison Keillor: “When you wage war on the public schools, you’re attacking the mortar that holds the community together. You’re not a conservative, you’re a vandal.”

Shannyn Moore is a radio host on 1480 AM in Washington, D.C., and on Netroots Radio.

Posted by: shannynmoore | January 18, 2014

EPA is doing the job that Alaskans can’t trust Parnell to do

Watermarked-SalmonstockOne-Other-5Shannyn Moore for the Anchorage Daily News

Pop Moore was born and raised in West Virginia. I’m proud of our family heritage in a state that includes the original Rednecks in the Battle for Blair Mountain. That’s where my grandfather fought to unionize the coal mines after getting buried in a slide.

When I was growing up, we’d go visit my grandmother in a tiny town in Boone County. It was humid and friendly. Tomatoes from the garden tasted delicious, and the people talked funny. The center of town was the yellow line that ran through it. I loved sitting on the porch swing listening to stories. Our family graveyard was on the top of a mountain, but my family lived in the hollows.

Last week when Freedom Industries’ chemical spill on the Elk River ruined the drinking water (well, every kind but flushing water) for more than 300,000 citizens in West Virginia, some of them were people I know. Some are family.

Just because a company has the word “Freedom” in it doesn’t mean it’s a good thing.

Having a leak in a 35,000-gallon tank of 4-methylcyclohexane methanol (MCHM), a chemical used to “clean coal,” and which causes skin irritation, diarrhea and vomiting, you might be frightened to find out the Centers for Disease Control don’t know anything about it.

Of course, West Virginia is one of those states under the sway of “regulation-is-bad-for-business” nuttery, so no representative of the public had inspected the tank of MCHM in more than 20 years — even though it was stored a mile and a half from the water supply for hundreds of thousands of people.

Ironically, the same day Freedom decided to accidently “treat” the Elk River, the Republican-led U.S. House voted to pass the “Reducing Excessive Deadline Obligations Act.”

Yes, that’s right, because requiring the EPA to occasionally inspect hazardous-waste storage to make sure it’s safe would be bad. The heart of the Act makes the requirement for clean-up insurance for companies dealing with toxic waste. Their solution? Slow the federal response to include state governments (read more bureaucracy), which runs the clock while disaster is building. Eventually, they get around to declaring it a Superfund site to be cleaned up using federal dollars.

Freedom Industries was created on Dec. 31, 2013. Nine days later the river was poisoned. Eight days after the spill, Freedom filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. The company still owes $3.66 million to creditors and faces a deepening pile of class action suits.

If al-Qaida had poisoned the water of 300,000 Americans, as one astute Tweeter noted, we’d have invaded the wrong country before the weekend. But a corporation? No sense everyone getting all crazy, locking up executives and that sort of thing. Corporations are people, but for some reason they can’t go to jail like people.

In fact, they can go on like it’s not much more than a bad day at the office. Apparently nothing can stop corporations from exercising their constitutional right to bribe politicians to protect their interests by pulling the teeth of regulators and ensuring that the public ultimately bears the costs of their bad behavior.

Thanks, five members of the U.S. Supreme Court, for that truly perverse decision called “Citizens United.”

In very related news in Alaska, the Environmental Protection Agency released its three-year study on the proposed Pebble Mine in the Bristol Bay watershed. They concluded, “Pebble mine could destroy up to 94 miles of streams where salmon spawn and migrate and up to 5,350 acres of wetlands, ponds and lakes,” and then some.

For some reason, the memories of Gov. Sean Parnell and Sen. Lisa Murkowski keep failing them. The EPA didn’t swoop down on Alaska, unbidden. The agency was begged by Alaskans to do its study — by Alaskans, I’ll note, who don’t trust Parnell or his bureaucrats to honestly examine plans for a Pebble mine and protect the public interest.

Parnell said the study was a “pretext for an EPA veto of the state’s permitting process.” From your lips to God’s ears, governor, I hope you’re right.

Murkowski was toting around the same talking points. “EPA’s assessment stops short of prohibiting responsible development in the Bristol Bay watershed, but the agency has strongly implied that this report will be a basis to pre-emptively veto economic opportunities in the region in the future.”

Listen, Lisa, EPA federal “overreach” is our only hope for an honest evaluation of the risks of creating a lake full of poison water in the heart of Bristol Bay. You think that’s nothing to worry about?

Tell you what, let’s you and me go to West Virginia. I have some people I want you to meet.

Shannyn Moore is a radio host on 1480 AM in Washington, D.C., and on Netroots Radio.


Posted by: shannynmoore | January 11, 2014

Kindness so genuine it melts the heart

Shannyn Moore for the Anchorage Daily News

I can still be shocked by the awful and ugly of people. I was on another round of outrage with a friend not long ago when she asked:

“Why are you always surprised when people are bad? You live in Alaska. You follow politics. Wake up,” she said, “I’m surprised when people are good, you’re surprised when they aren’t. You do realize I spend much less time being surprised than you do.”

I’ve thought about that a lot. I guess I’ve been lucky enough to witness more than my share of good.

It happened this week. In fact, I hesitate to put it in words out of fear I won’t capture all the wonder, and the beauty, but I’ll try.

I stopped at the corner store on the way home from the studio. I was finishing a phone call and noticed a woman in the parking lot. She obviously had no where else to be. It was hard to tell how old she was, but she looked worn. Cold.

She loitered. I finished my call. We walked into the store at the same time.

Two women were working the counter. I see them from time to time. They smiled at me. We exchanged hellos.

One of the clerks asked the homeless woman, “Are you a customer?”

“I don’t have any money, ” she said. “I need to use the bathroom.”

She waited for some response or permission.

The woman frowned at her.

She’s already beaten down, I thought, why make her feel more beaten?

The other clerk said, “You can get two hot dogs for $2. Here . . .”

She pulled out $2. Crumpled dollars.

She looked at the other clerk and said, “Ring her up for two hot dogs,” and handed her the money.

As the “customer” walked to the bathroom, the $2 went into the register. Tears welled in my eyes.

I consume so much of the news. Women being hanged in Afghanistan. The frustration of an ignored war. Chemicals leak into drinking water. The crocodile tears of Gov. Chris Christie. It’s hard to be involved with the world without becoming cynical.

God knows, we shouldn’t ignore the wrong. Politicians count on us being so disgusted that we’ll stop being surprised by their brazen actions; it helps them if we’re no longer surprised by bad.

This was simple goodness. A woman, paid little to work in a corner store, selflessly defending the dignity of a vulnerable fellow human being. Her kindness was gorgeous. This was real Christian grace and charity. Not a lapel pin or a bumper sticker.

“Are you OK?” the clerk asked me.

“I’m fine,” I thought. “I have a home with a daughter who loves me and two dogs that bark too much.”

I wiped my face.

“Thank you for reminding me that people are more good than bad,” I told her.

The other clerk said, “She does that all the time. I don’t know how she makes rent feeding these people.”

I walked back to Harlon, my Subaru. The woman with two hot dogs walked past and into the night. I’ll never know how she came to depend on the kindness of souls like the corner market lady.

I thought about some of our elected officials who can’t seem to punish the homeless enough. They call themselves Christians but that’s really just something for the resume. They don’t want to help the homeless with public money, much less their own crumpled two dollar bills.

So thank you, corner store lady.

Thank you for reminding me what humanity looks like. It’s too easy to forget. It rarely makes the news.

Shannyn Moore is a radio host on 1480 AM in Washington, D.C., and Netroots Radio

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Posted by: shannynmoore | January 4, 2014

Governor’s claim doesn’t jibe with Alaska’s rape rate

Shannyn Moore for the Anchorage Daily News

Alaska, we have a rape problem. Apparently that’s acceptable to most of us or we’d be storming the castle for change.

My blood pressure is still in the stratosphere after reading a recent fundraising letter from our governor. As part of his pitch for money, Sean Parnell listed his “accomplishments.” Most of them were your garden-variety political credit-snatching and posturing, but one had me apopletic.

“… Our Choose Respect initiative has freed Alaskans from domestic violence and sexual assault.”

I’ll wait while you re-read that sentence. …

As the cliche goes, “I may have been born in the morning but not this morning.”

I’m tempted to take off on a name-calling tear, but let’s look at the facts instead.

Alaska was recently rated as the third most violent of the 50 states. (The FBI apparently didn’t get Parnell’s letter, so it continues to work with these things called “crime statistics,” a practice I would recommend to the governor’s office.)

Researchers wondered why Alaska had this problem.

“It may seem incongruous that Alaska, which has a low poverty rate and high levels of high school and college graduates, would be among the states with the worst crime rates. It has among the worst violent crime rates in part because of its forcible rape rate: 79.7 per 100,000 residents, the nation’s highest rate. (The FBI report doesn’t include numbers for date rape or statutory rape.)

Also disturbing, a 2010 study suggests that 37 percent of women who live in Alaska say they’ve “suffered some form of sexual assault in their lives,” according to a story in the Daily News. “Alaska is also second in aggravated assaults. While rape and assault rates are high, other crime levels are average.”

Maybe the governor doesn’t think 79.7 rapes per 100,000 residents is all that bad. Hey, second-place South Dakota isn’t that far behind (70.2 per 100,000). No. 3 is Michigan, which had 46.4, slightly more than half our rate. New York, by the way, is a far, far better 14.6.

(Here’s another, equally ugly way to look at these numbers: If Alaska cut its rape rate in half — which would be a phenomenal, incredible achievement — we still would rank seventh among U.S. states for most rapes per capita.)

Last month, U.S. Indian Law and Order Commission Chairman Troy Eid came to Alaska and lambasted the governor and attorney general for their failure to protect women and children in Alaska. The state under Parnell seems to have boundless resources to file political lawsuits against the federal government and to fight local problem-solving in rural Alaska, but if you expect him to spend the money actually required to make a difference in these horrific statistics you haven’t been paying attention.

Eid had this to say while in Anchorage: “There ought to be a recognition of tribal sovereignty as the force that will keep people safer — and why not? It’s what we do everywhere else in the United States. We recognize local people should be able to govern themselves, make their own decisions, that they should not be fighting with their states.”

All Alaska women are at risk, but Alaska Native women are three and a half times more likely than the rest of us to be victims of sexual assault.

Ladies, think about that for a minute. (Then, please, think about it again in the voting booth.)

“According to the U.S. Department of Justice,” Amnesty International reported, “in at least 86 percent of the reported cases of rape or sexual assault against American Indian and Alaska Native women, survivors report the perpetrators are non-Native men.”

Sean Parnell has spent a lot of time on the public payroll, and he shows no interest in getting off of it. When it comes to parades and TV commercials, he’s hell on wheels. But now, after six years of his gubernatorial leadership in the fight against sexual assault and domestic violence, what has he actually accomplished? You can’t say he hasn’t had time to make meaningful progress.

As he tells it, “… our Choose Respect initiative has freed Alaskans from domestic violence and sexual assault.” But that just isn’t the truth.

When Parnell became governor, Alaska had 64.6 forcible rapes per 100,000 residents. Now we have 79.7. Either number is obscenely, heartbreakingly high.

Freed? This guy is running and fundraising on failure — some really pretty substantial failure. Think of the women — and their families — living lives of quiet despair while the governor basks in the glow of his self-congratulations.

Commissions have studied and recommended changes and solutions. Why aren’t we hitting those at a hundred miles an hour? What responsible public figure considers a truly aggressive war on sexual assault in Alaska more than we can afford or manage? How can that be anything but worth our effort?

Choose Respect? How about Choose Reality?

And then do something about it, and I don’t mean more lip service.

Shannyn Moore is a radio host on 1480 AM in Washington, D.C., an on Netroots Radio.

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Posted by: shannynmoore | December 29, 2013

2013 brought heartache and joy at warp speed

Shannyn Moore for the Anchorage Daily News

I’m not sure why 2013 seemed to fly by. I’ve always heard “the older you get …,” but this year seemed to go faster than some months in 2012.

Some years it’s better to close the chapter and start writing the next but indulge me for a minute of retrospection.

One year, while I was home from university, mother asked my sisters and me what we had resolved for the New Year. I said my resolution was to say whatever I thought, to not keep my opinions to myself. Mom shuddered. My sisters laughed. I was just aiming for something attainable.

No year is perfect. We always face new challenges and try to overcome them. Sometimes we succeed, sometimes we don’t. I had a lot of hope going into this year, and no idea it would be as hard as it was. I have to catch my breath when I think of all the people who showed up to lend me a hand.

I wanted my heart to mend, and in part it has. I wanted my incredibly strong mother to have a little easier struggle with her cancer. When Pop had complications from his cancer surgery, I wanted him to live to love our family. He remains our anchor.

I wanted my sisters to have the babies they so desired — and they did. When my nephew was born prematurely, I wanted him to survive and thrive. Thanks to the angels in the NICU, he has. When my baby sister had her little girl, I wanted all good health and love. Both my sister and my niece are beautiful.

I wanted my daughter’s last year of high school to be full of success, love and support, and it has been.

I wanted the Pebble mine project to fail in order to protect our salmon. That hasn’t happened yet but we’re making progress.

I said eight words I never thought I’d say: “I have a giant crush on the pope.”

There is glacial progress toward peace in the world. Our government’s abuses of our rights have been exposed to the sunlight and demands for change are growing.

Utah now allows gay marriage — or what I like to call “marriage.” Can socially backward Alaska be far behind?

I’ve rather liked this year, and the upcoming year shows signs of promise. Affordable health care will become a reality for millions of Americans. There are plenty of problems still to be solved but at least we’re trying.

Perhaps America will finally grow bored with the manufactured outrage over silliness like the biblical scholarship of “Duck Dynasty” and the faux “War on Christmas.” Maybe instead we will remember that our fellow citizens are still dying in Afghanistan; we lost six there in a helicopter crash on Dec. 17.

Maybe a message of devotion to peace and brotherly love from the “Marxist” Pope Francis will resonate in more hearts than the hatred and bigotry of the Rev. Hagees and Prevos of the world.

In Alaska, we have a chance to overturn legislation that strips workers of their rights. We will have the opportunity in 2014 to reclaim the birthright of all Alaskans to receive a fair price for our oil resources. And we’ll have the option to vote for lawmakers who aren’t hell bent on colonizing our state for foreign-owned corporations.

We can resolve to actually protect the most vulnerable among us rather than just mouthing hollow slogans. We don’t have to be the third most violent state, thanks to our outrageous rape statistics. If we want to change that, we can start that process in a voting booth.

Here’s the thing. I can’t list all the moments or people who have meant so much to me in the last year. It’s impossible in this small space. So let me just wish love for the lonely, peace to the troubled, and care for those who suffer neglect, sorrow or poverty.

This year’s resolution? To tell you exactly what I think, to fight for a better Alaska for all Alaskans, and to never miss an opportunity to say thank you.

Shannyn Moore is a radio host on 1480 AM in Washington, D.C., and on Netroots Radio.

Posted by: shannynmoore | December 21, 2013

Parnell’s Medicaid decision driven by politics, not welfare

Shannyn Moore for the Anchorage Daily News

We all have our go-to folks. When I need advice, I go to someone who knows the subject, has my best interest at heart, but will tell it to me straight, even if it’s not what I want to hear.

Gov. Sean Parnell, who recently decided not to help 41,000 Alaskans get access to affordable health care, has a very different approach.

When the Affordable Care Act was being debated nationally, people in Washington could see there were Americans who were going to fall through the cracks. They were the workers who made too much money to qualify for Medicaid coverage for the poor, but didn’t get insurance from their jobs and couldn’t afford to buy their own. We call these the working poor — people who live at 101 to 133 percent of the federal poverty level.

Here’s the kicker. These are people who work hard for a living. Not only do they have jobs, many of them have more than one job. They aren’t the “sitting-on-their-tails-doing-nothing takers” of Mitt Romney’s nightmares. These are people who, if they really need significant health care, have to quit their jobs and let the government pay for it.

So the ACA required states, with much federal help, to expand their Medicaid programs to cover these working poor.

Last year, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the ACA, but decided that states couldn’t be forced to broaden their Medicaid programs to cover the working poor.

Why would states not want to cover low-income earners? Healthy workers are more productive. They don’t show up in emergency rooms needing “free” care. And of course the sweetener remained. The federal government would pay for the expansion and continue to pay 90 percent even after 2020.

The idea that any state — but especially Alaska — would turn down federal money today because it might not be there tomorrow was preposterous.

Now, back to where we go for advice.

As reported in this paper, “Parnell told reporters … he made (his decision) after reviewing an $80,000 state-commissioned study by a Falls Church, Va., health care consultant, The Lewin Group.”

The Lewin Group’s advice to Parnell? Don’t expand Medicaid coverage.

The report was 60 pages — so we paid about $1,300 a page. What was remarkable about the report was how closely it resembled a similar report the Lewin Group had already prepared for New Hampshire. (I mean similar like the book report that gets turned in for 10th and 11th grade English class.)

You may recall that this was the report the governor refuse to let any of us see until the day he announced his Medicaid decision.

That decision rejected the recommendations of the Anchorage and Alaska chambers of commerce, AARP Alaska, the Anchorage NAACP, the Alaska Federation of Natives, the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium, the Anchorage Faith and Action-Congregations Together and others.

Instead he took the advice of The Lewin Group.

Thoughtful Alaskans are still shaking their heads in wonder.

Why would the governor dismiss the counsel of so many Alaskans for the recycled advice of these particular consultants?

According to the Columbia Journalism Review, which scolded journalists in 2009 for reporting the Lewin Group’s talking points without explaining the company’s background:

“(Lewin Group is) part of Ingenix, which is owned by United Healthcare Group, the insurance behemoth that has been buying up insurance companies left and right, expanding its reach into just about every segment of the health insurance market. Its flagship, UnitedHealthcare, helps make it the largest health insurer in the country. It’s a safe bet that United is not too keen on a public (health care) plan that might shrink its business.”

Now you might think, “Our governor is just a naive country boy. He didn’t realize he was asking the health insurance industry for advice about whether the state should use federal money to insure poor, working Alaskans.”

But if you didn’t just fall off a turnip truck, you’re probably thinking, “The governor wants the ACA to fail. He was willing to throw 41,000 Alaskans under the bus to help that happen. He bought the Lewin Group report because he knew they’d deliver the opinion he wanted, and he needed it as a fig leaf to cover a cynical, political decision.”

If you’re concerned about waste and fraud in government, this is a perfect example of what it looks like: the Lewin Group report and Sean Parnell.

Shannyn Moore is a radio host on 1480 AM in Washington, D.C., and Netroots Radio

Posted by: shannynmoore | December 13, 2013

Parnell earns award for steering state toward disaster

Parnell-AwkwardShannyn Moore – Anchorage Daily News

We’re coming to the close of 2013, and top 10 lists are coming out of our ears. Top movies, albums, people (The pope! Time’s Person of the Year!). We seem to feel compelled to wrap up our year in nice little boxes.

I have my own list I’d like to trot out. Hang on just a minute.

Last week the governor released state revenue projections and his budget. His projections are based on the information oil companies give the state about how much of that sweet oil they plan to send down the pipeline. The administration takes those numbers and figures out how much we can spend and on what.

The governor and his minions may actually have believed that if they promised there would be “a million barrels” of oil in the pipeline that it would magically appear. Is there some oil fairy I don’t know about? Perhaps a great petro saint to make it happen? Certainly Senate Bill 21, the oil tax giveaway, was neither fairy nor saint — more like the grinch that stole all our future Christmases.

As Sen. Bill Wielechowski digested the reports on his Facebook page this week:

“In 2013 under ACES, we took in $6.3 billion in oil revenue. In 2014, the first year the oil tax bill SB 21 fully kicks in, Gov. Parnell is projecting we take in $2 billion less, $4.3 billion. In 2015, $3.9 billion. Remember how this bill was supposed to bring in billions more in the long term? In 2023, the Governor projects we take in $3.3 billion.”

First of all, it freaks me out that 2023 is less than 10 years away.

Secondly, with the governor’s deceitful pitch powering SB21, you’d think he’d have cover for more than a few months. But he doesn’t. That didn’t stop the usual spin machine, however.

On Dec. 4, the Alaska Oil & Gas Association tweeted, “Today’s state revenue forecast is proof that oil tax reform is already working.”

From its point of view, it’s definitely working. For regular Alaskans, not so much.

Did they even read the forecast? It says less money for Alaska and less oil in the pipeline. Well, it sure is working — for Big Oil.

Here’s an example of what it means for Alaskans. The governor’s budget shows the real priorities of this administration.

Education will stand still again, as it has for four years. More teachers will get pink-slipped. More than 600 teaching positions have disappeared over the last three budgets. If our “children are the future,” we might want to break a sweat educating them. But maybe we don’t want them to be able to read (budgets) or be able to do math (which is no longer a prerequisite for working in state government, apparently). The consistent policy has been to starve the public school budget in an effort to promote the privatization of schools and vouchers. Expect to see a lot of discussion of that in the next legislative session.

Now, here’s my list: the qualifications of my Progressive Alaskan of the Year for 2013:

    • Selling Alaska’s birthright by signing SB21.
    • Denying health care to more than 41,000 Alaskans by turning down a fed-paid expansion of Medicaid as well as rejecting the 4,000 Alaska jobs that would have come with it (even stiff-arming the Chamber of Commerce in the process).
    • Siding with Shelby, Ala., in a U.S. Supreme Court case that would undermine the voting rights of Alaska Natives.
    • Suing former first lady Bella Hammond and constitutional father Vic Fischer after they dared challenge state rules affecting the permitting of a proposed Pebble mine.
    • Pushing HB77, just one more in a series of efforts to protect foreign-owned corporations from Alaskans.
    • Appointing a racist to the Alaska Public Offices Commission.
    • Withholding vital public information and studies from legislators and citizens.
    • Allowing cruise ships to dump more waste in Alaska waters (which, besides being gross, overturns the will of Alaska voters). See No. 5.
    • Continuing his hollow, action-free “Choose Respect” campaign. (If only bumper stickers could stop rape and domestic violence.)
    • Making me miss Sarah Palin.

That’s right! The best person to turn Alaska toward more progressive policies in 2014 is Gov. Sean Parnell. Thank you, sir, for all your hard work. The fact that your policies are steadily turning Alaska into a train wreck is the Christmas gift that keeps on giving — to columnists like me.

Take a bow! You’ve earned it.

Shannyn Moore is a radio host on 1480 AM in Washington, D.C., and Netroots Radio.

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