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April 24, 2014

Show Me Your Budget

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Show me a political flyer in Alaska and I’ll show you a candidate whose only reason for living is supporting the Permanent Fund and education, and fighting “government waste.” There’s an old saying, “Don’t tell me what you value. Show me your budget, and I’ll tell you what you value.” This week we got to see what the Republican majority in the Alaska Senate values. Rest assured, their budget, written by Sen. Pete Kelly, does not value birth control for irresponsible women. In fact, amendments to accept millions in federal funds for family planning — to actually reduce abortions —…

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GOP Leader Threatens Sexual Assault Council

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Speaker of the House Mike Chenault (R-Nikiski) is throwing rape victims under the train to get the governor’s out-of-state buddy on an Alaska gasline board. You’ve got to hand it to him; the lengths to which he will go to demonstrate his lack of common decency are not half-assed. In a state where 37 percent of women report having experienced sexual violence, and where rape statistics are three times the national average, Mike Chenault proves that for those like himself, there are more important things. Like getting the governor’s Texas buddy on the gasline board. The premise of Chenault’s latest legislative…

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Walking With the Ghosts of Exxon

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It’s 5 a.m. on the 4th of July, and the alarm goes off. I open one eye and think surely I must have set it for the wrong time, but then I remember. Today I’m heading to Prince William Sound with Shannyn Moore and Zach Roberts. Our goal is to document the lingering effects of oil, still present in the Sound after the Exxon Valdez ran aground on Bligh Reef in the spring of 1989. It’s 2010, and a child born then would be 21 years old now. It’s hard to believe. I was not in Alaska back then. I,…

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Exxon Valdez – Lessons Learned & Lost

Exxon Valdez Oil Spill 15 Years Later

In recognition of today’s 25-year anniversary of the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska (March 24), this seems a good time to reflect on lessons learned, and lessons lost. 1. Oil spill “cleanup” is a myth: Once oil has spilled, the battle is lost — it is impossible to effectively contain, recover, and cleanup. Exxon spent more than $2 billion trying to clean up its Alaska spill, but recovered less than 7 percent. BP spent $14 billiontrying to clean up its 2010 Deepwater Horizon spill, and although they collected some at the wellhead, burned and dispersed some (with toxic chemicals), it recovered only 3 percent from the sea…

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Democratic Frontier: Q&A with the State Party Chair

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With the governorship, a US senate seat, our lone Congressional seat, and SB 21 repeal all on the statewide ballot, 2014 is a critical election year in Alaska. Given recent gerrymandering and the influx of outside political money, the state represents significant challenges for Democrats. The Mudflats spoke with Democratic Party Chair Mike Wenstrup about the state of the state, his party, and its future. Alaska doesn’t seem to be a very hospitable place for Democrats these days, so what compelled you to want to run the state party? Alaska values are Democratic values: Respect for personal privacy, government restraint, maximizing public benefits…

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Parnell Stacks the Deck for Oil. Again.

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The muck-raking writer Upton Sinclair once said, “It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it.” He wrote that after running for governor in 1934. It would seem the business of politics was even more messy than the meat packing industry he exposed. I’d go a bit further than Sinclair. It’s difficult for someone to continue getting a salary if he does understand some things and still acts on them. It’s a bit of a long story, but I’ll give you the skinny. Most of us are familiar with the…

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Oil? Bloated. You? Shrinkage.

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The numbers have been crunched. The “Big Five” oil companies – BP, Exxon-Mobil, ConocoPhillips, Shell, and Chevron saw a combined profit of $93 billion last year. Profit. Billion with a B. That’s $177,000 every single minute, of every day last year. Profit. Outrageous! The poor babies… Despite what any reasonable person might think about the money pouring in to the most profitable companies ever to have existed on the face of the earth, they would still like to keep their tax breaks, please. And in Alaska, their best buddy in the governor’s office would like Alaskans to keep subsidizing this…

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Alaska is More Progressive Than You Think

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OK, can we just stop for a minute, and revel in something? First let me start by saying that I have long tried to convince the unconvinceable that Alaska is bluer than its current slate of lawmakers would lead one to believe. Now I’ve got backup. Public Policy Polling came out with some numbers that reflect a change on The Last Frontier. It’s the kind of change that says, “You know, we’ve been thinking about it, and maybe we don’t really want to be a backward, redneck, socially intolerant oil colony after all.” Here are some highlights: -For the first…

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Shell Suspends Arctic Drilling, Begich Responds.

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This morning Shell announced that it will not drill offshore in the Alaskan Arctic this year. The announcement comes after the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the federal agency in charge of issuing permits for offshore drilling in the U.S. intentionally downplayed the risks and impacts associated with drilling in the remote and vulnerable Chukchi Sea ecosystem off the northern coast of Alaska. The court ruled that the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) failed to conduct adequate impact assessments before issuing permission to drill. According to the findings of the court, the BOEM “based its decision on inadequate…

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Brinkley Urges Obama to Stop Pebble Mine

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Presidential historian and author Douglas Brinkley urged President Obama to take decisive and swift executive action on preventing the massive Pebble Mine project in Alaska on NOW with Alex Wagner, Monday. Brinkley noted that many decisive presidential actions could be taken immediately as the Obama Whitehouse seeks to establish a legacy as the President’s second term marches on with Republicans in Congress showing no signs of letting up on blocking legislation. Historically, President Obama has issued fewer executive orders than any President since Grover Cleveland, and has been comparatively reluctant to exert Presidential authority. Brinkley was clear in his suggestion to the President…

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