'Tis The Season

I received two Christmas cards at work today. One from Governor Sarah Palin and family and one from the Marijuana Policy Project. That made me laugh.

Obvious political differences aside, the cards couldn't be more distinct. MPP's has this old picture on it with the slogan "We're making marijuana prohibition a thing of the past." The Gov's card has a cute picture of Trig. Sitting in a gift-wrapped box. Wearing a tiny Santa suit. Eating a bow. This picture is under the words "With special, child-like faith..." The phrase continues on the inside of the card to read: "May you see the Glory/the Wonder, the Miracle/of this Holy Season./Have a blessed Christmas and New Year./God Bless You."

If you're still looking for a gift for the hockey mom who has (almost) everything, I think a copy of the Establishment Clause would be a perfect present this year.

Good News

Seasons 1-4 of Newsradio are on Hulu. I'm not going to get anything done today.


Iron and Whine

As of this date/time I have officially lived in Alaska for six years. That is longer than I have lived anywhere except Brooklyn (birth-9 years old) and Manalapan, NJ (9-17).
Candy is the traditional sixth anniversary gift. Iron is the modern, less traditional offering. You know what would be awesome? If someone got me a hunk of iron. I could really use one of those. Or an anvil. That would be nice too.

I Know What I'm Talking About

Crazy Guy On The Street: Did you hear? Obama just said he was going to arrest Bush and Cheney for knockin' down them towers!
Me: No he didn't.
Crazy Guy On The Street: Yeah, you're right.


This, That

  • I've been warning people about Somali pirates for years. Seriously. Everyone should start listening to me more.
  • I'm not normally one to succumb to road rage, but if you have a McCain/Palin sticker and a Ted Stevens sticker on your car and you are driving 15 mph below the speed limit, you're going to hear it from me.
  • I don't know much about cars (though I did recently (all by myself) successfully install two new speakers and new fog lights in my car), but I think my snow tires were put on incorrectly and they may come flying off at any moment. The fine mechanics at the Tesoro station on the corner of Gambell (or Ingra) and 4th Ave. assure me they were put on properly. This is just to give notice of who is to blame if my tires should suddenly shoot off whilst I'm driving.
  • Dog on duck action. Not consensual. I love the Internet.
  • Several times during the past week I have found myself wearing nothing but boxer shorts, wool socks, and a down jacket. I'm not sure why or how that keeps happening.
  • First thought: Congratulations, Maia! Second thought: great, there's another book that I won't have time to read.
  • I heard Human Nature the other day and I realized that I am old: I remember Michael Jackson when he was black (barely).
  • I keep accidentally listening to the Christian Rock station when I'm driving.
  • I came home late the other night and there were two(!) Christian Slater movies on cable at the same time (one of which is just slightly better than the other): Kuffs (the only redeeming quality about this movie is that Milla Jovovich was in it. How does a movie like that even get made?) and Pump Up The Volume (awesome soundtrack. And who didn't want to start a pirate radio station after seeing that?). I watched neither and went to bed. My Own Worst Enemy, admittedly a terrible program, has provided all the Christian Slater I need these days.
  • "Almost, but not quite" sums up a lot of what has been going on with me lately.
  • I wrote about David Foster Wallace's suicide a few months ago. It was shocking and unexpected. If you are a fan, you should read this article, The Lost Years and Last Days of David Foster Wallace, which lets us into his private world, a world that is much less glamorous than the globetrotting writer lifestyle he seemed to lead. I had no idea; turns out he was severely depressed for a long time. I really appreciated the view of the world DFW could put down on paper. I understood what he was writing and I wished I could see things like that. I thought "this guy really gets it." I'm having trouble processing this. I don't know what to make of the fact that he was so miserable and low, except that I kind of wish I was really fucked up so I could write something brilliant.
  • I found a case of Girl Scout cookies hidden in the conference room at my office today. This discovery led to a lengthy discussion with my colleague's 12 year old daughter who was spending the afternoon with us. After giving her a few of the bountious Thin Mints (and promising not to tell her dad because I think they limit her refined sugar intake (smart parenting there)), we talked about our favorite type of Girl Scout cookie: Samoas. They are delicious, but can anyone tell me why they are called Samoas? I spoke with someone who is Samoan about this and she assured me that a donut-shaped vanilla cookie covered with coconut, caramel and chocolate is not a uniquely Samoan creation. Nor was that recipe invented by a Samoan or is it in any way native to the island of Samoa (or American Samoa, for that matter). Quite a mystery, though in some places they have been re-christened "Caramel Delites" which sounds like the name of a dietetic candy old ladies buy at the Dollar Tree.
  • Lisa thinks Thin Mints are the best. I complained that Samoas are better because you can eat more of them--mint just doesn't lend itself to repeated consumption, while the Samoa flavors do. Lisa disagrees. She thinks too much coconut is gross. Thus the gauntlet has been thrown: she thinks she can eat more Thin Mints than I can eat Samoas. I will meet this challenge. And it will be recorded and put online.
  • Several weeks ago (closer to two months now) I got a call from Eloise, a special friend I don't talk to nearly enough. 70 minutes after she called I hung up the phone and I was smiling more than I had in a long while. Talking to Eloise always makes me feel better--even when I'm feeling pretty good to begin with. And she reminds me that I'm sane and it's the rest of the world that's crazy. Thanks, E.
  • Early contender for Quote of the Month, from WWTDD (link NSFW): "Because of course Kim Kardashian would pose naked again. What the hell else is she gonna do, clerk for the Supreme Court?"


Overheard in Anchorage

Overheard during the past few weeks at various locales around town:
  • "It's a breakfast sandwich--you know, bacon, cheese, eggs. It's not quite as good as McDonald's. It's from Chevron."
  • "Don't take this the wrong way, but I don't want your penis anywhere near my vagina."
  • "I used to live right by the railroad tracks on Spenard in between two whore houses. It was great."
  • "My pee smells like tunafish." [1]
  • "The only people more annoying than Red Sox fans are Sarah Palin supporters."
  • Liquor Store Salesman: "We don't take checks anymore."
    Surprised Customer: "Why not?"
    Liquor Store Salesman: "We were bought by the Canadians."
  • "I can't tell--is she cute or have I just been living in Anchorage for too long?"
[1] This was in the restroom at a bar. The guy who said it was urinating in the sink at the time.

BONUS MATERIAL: Not Overheard, But Still Witnessed In Anchorage

Seen: A guy showed up for a party at a bowling alley after spending the day hunting moose. He was wearing snow pants and snow boots--not uncommon up here this time of year, but there was snow mixed with moose blood and little bits of moose encrusted on his boots and the cuffs of his pants. The snow then started to melt, leaving moose blood all over the floor around the lanes. I pointed this out to him and he went to the bowling shoe rental counter, grabbed a towel, wiped up the blood, and then put the towel right back on the counter. Ah, Alaska.

Read: I've been reading a lot of Chuck Klosterman lately. I re-read most of Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs, and I'm in the middle of Chuck Klosterman IV. He's hilarious, and I find his pop culture musings quite insightful. Check him out. Here's a sample:
It's like this: You used to be able to tell the difference between hipsters and homeless people. Now, it's between hipsters and retards. I mean, either that guy in the corner in orange safety pants holding a protest sign and wearing a top hat is mentally disabled or he is the coolest fucking guy you will ever know.


One Week Later

"I see these amazing pictures of Barack and Michelle Obama at the White House and I still just can't believe it. Maybe I'm overly sentimental, but this just feels different--it feels historic."

I share Chris Matthews' paraphrased enthusiasm (and like him I am definitely overly sentimental about certain things (my dog, and girls, mainly)), and it is the understatement of this young century to say this is a historic moment, but it is. It represents a sea change in our collective thinking. It says that we are not stupid, that we are not full of hate and fear, that this country has come full circle on slavery, and it shows the hope and promise of this nation: Barack Obama is a nobody--he didn't come from a wealthy, politically-connected family. He is a self-made man, with the kind of pull-yourself-up-from-your-bootstraps background that conservative Republicans usually love. He worked hard and he did it. He is a role model and it's been a long time since we've had a President worthy of being a role model.[1] But more than any of this, his victory restores faith in the notion that we the people can change things and we the people still have the power in this democracy.[2]

[1] It feels weird, but I like it. And as much as I love me some Bill Clinton, cheeseburgers and diddling the intern do not a role model make (to the youth of America at least. To me he's still a role model for those very reasons.)
[2] Yes we can!

President-Elect Obama speaks in a manner that matches my sensory perception.[3] He speaks in coherent complete sentences (which should be a prerequisite for public office) and he talks about the issues in ways I can understand. I know a lot of you feel this way too. You are thinking, "Wow, there is someone in the White House who cares about the things I care about." That is really cool. I hope it lasts, because it probably won't. I'm not going to be an Obama apologist. I know he's not "the messiah or Moses" as Pat Robertson accused me of believing. I know he will make his fair share of mistakes and that he alone will not fix all of our problems. And he will certainly make decisions the we won't all agree with. But I feel extremely comfortable putting him in charge and letting him make those decisions.

[3] H/T to Jon Stewart for that line, used to explain the disconnect one feels whilst watching Fox News: "I go outside and see that it is sixty degrees and think, 'It's nice out here.' I go inside and turn on Fox News and they say 'It's snowing.' I think, 'That doesn't make sense.' Then everyone around me says 'It's snowing!' even though it isn't. Then I think, "This is really bad." Fox News in a nutshell, people.

A lot has happened in the last week. Here are seven things I have learned during the past seven days:

1. No American can use "it won't make a difference" as an excuse for not voting ever again.
2. A story from my intern: "My friend is dating a few guys who don't quite have jobs. She told them 'I don't want to hear any more excuses about you not being able to find work. If a black man can be elected President, you can find a job.' " Obama's success is bad news for slackers mooching off their girlfriends across the country.
3. All Americans traveling abroad can now take the Canadian flags off their backpacks.
4. Fox News has been trying their best to pervert and distort Obama's victory, but they can't. No one is buying their tired shit anymore. Fuck you, Fox News. Fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck you.
5. Myster beat me to it, but Alaskans are freaking out and reacting the only way they know how: by buying guns. Lots and lots of guns. And lots and lots of ammo.
6. The Blame Sarah Game is awesome: She didn't know Africa was a continent, didn't know the countries in NAFTA, she was hard to deal with, she's a wacko, she tried to ban Harry Potter, she didn't get along with McCain, the clothes thing, etc., etc. And there's a new one: a local rumor has surfaced regarding (a la Uncle Ted) mystery funding for significant improvements (I heard $1.7 mil worth, but that seems hard to believe, esp. in Wasilla) to the Palin homestead. Is this stuff true or are the Repubs, and especially the McCain Camp, just throwing her under the bus and trying to pin the blame on the Caribou Barbie? True or not, these stories are hilarious, mostly because they are so believable and fit the meme that she was not vetted at all (which I think we can now agree was accurate). But these stories are also really frustrating and disappointing because it is clear that campaign insiders and members of the conservative media had serious doubts about her experience and qualifications, but they did not raise those concerns during the campaign. Instead, they all lied. All of the Republican and Fox News Talking heads lied about her experience, they lied about how much contact McCain and Palin had, they lied about how much they liked her, they lied about what a great choice she was. Pants on fire, all of you.
7. The contrast of this momentous victory with what happened in California is sobering. For all of the Obama excitement, the passage of Proposition 8 shows that we still have a lot of work to do. Prop 8 amends the California Constitution to eliminate the right of same-sex couples to marry, thus firmly reminding us that there is still one group that it is still okay to discriminate against. Despicable as this is, this discrimination will not last. Every pervasive, accepted, codified form of discrimination that has existed in this country has allen by the wayside. It's only a matter of time before this isn't an issue. But why do we have to wait? Why do we have to go through the motions and discriminate against gay couples for a few more years before we realize the error of our ways? Let's just get rid of it now. And it is important to get rid of it now because of what Prop 8 actually does. Prop 8 is different from all of the other states that have amended their constitutions to ban gay marriage. The difference is that in California gay couples had the right to get married before the amendment passed. The Cali Supreme Court said so. Thus voters didn't just block gay people from achieving a measure of equality with their heterosexual peers, they took away the equal-ness they already achieved. But fret not: lawsuits are underway. From a legal standpoint, this raises really intersting constitutional questions because constitutions usually aren't amended to eliminate fundamental rights. I'm not going to do the research, but I can't think of any examples where liberties have been rescinded by an amendment, and doing so may itself be unconstitutional (I'm talking fundamental rights--prohibition of alcohol, fundamental as drinking may be to many of you, doesn't count). Also, there is a question of whether such an important amendment, one that strips rights away from a good number of people, can and should be left solely in the hands of the voters by way of a ballot initiative. One of the arguments raised in the case is that such an amendment must arise through the state legislature before going to the voters.

In closing, looking at this list made me realize that I spend way too much time thinking about politics. Fortunately, there are other things for me to focus on now. And by "other things" I mean the Mets' extensive off-season shopping list: two starting pitchers, a closer, a second baseman, and a left fielder.


No More Bong Hits

It's finally over. After nearly seven years of litigation, including a trip to the Supreme Court (memorialized here, here, and here), it's over. Now we just have to wait for the movie.

Where Were You?

I found out he won while wearing a hat, gloves, and down jacket and sitting in the small, chilly, mostly deserted Hageland Aviation Services building in Bethel, AK. I was huddled around a TV with 3 fellow civil rights lawyers and 3 Alaska Natives who were working with us as translators. We all started freaking out--yelling, screaming, hugging, crying, high-fiving. Then more hugging. And lots more crying.

At 7:30 Hageland had to close for the night and we had to catch our flight to Anchorage, which was leaving in an hour. So we headed down the street to the Alaska Air terminal. We checked in quickly and then ran to the pizza place next door--which we knew to owned by staunch republicans.

We went in and of course Fox News was playing on the big screen TV. "No celebrating," the guy behind the counter said, "this is a republican restaurant." Then I mumbled something about free speech (the state action doctrine notwithstanding), he smiled shyly, shook his head and said "fine." We determined that we needed to head back to the terminal at 8:00 to go through security and make our plane. That gave us about 15 minutes to watch the visibly morose and depressed Fox News talking heads (I'm looking at you Brit Hume and Charles Krauthammer) attempt to continue to slam the President-Elect: "Well, we still don't really know that much about him...we need to find out more about all of his questionable relationships..." Give it up, d-bags. We're not buying. Time to close up shop.

It was announced that Obama would be speaking at 8 (midnight, eastern)--the exact time we needed to leave. A collective groan arose. Would we be willing to miss our flight and spend the night in Bethel in order to watch the speech? Maybe. He actually started a few minutes before 8 and at 8:15 we started the slow process of pulling ourselves away from the TV. We were back in the terminal by 8:25 and headed to security. Everyone else was on the plane already except us and the guy they wouldn't let on because he had an invalid ID. We got through, went outside, scampered across the icy tarmac, boarded the plane and headed home, happier than any of us had been in a long, long while. (And then we had some drinks on the plane to celebrate.)


Cooler Heads Prevail

And it wasn't even close. Well done, America. Thank you for showing the rest of the world that we're not all a bunch of Fox News loving wackos. We elected a black man named Barack Hussein Obama to be President of the United States because it was the right choice. We did not give in to fear, we voted for what we believed in, and we got it right. Well done.



6 days. It's so close. Not to be overly dramatic, but what happens on November 4, 2008 will shape the world we will live in for the rest of our lives. The possibility that the United States of America will elect a man named Barack Obama, a man whose ethnic background and life story evoke the very dreams and possibilities that this country was founded on--not to mention the ideals we strive for--will have staggering implications; staggeringly good implications: We have the chance to course-correct and put things back on the track they were on years ago, when the world viewed us in a much different light, when we were a leader, a beacon of hope and freedom and all of those other things inscribed on the Statue of Liberty. We can be that again. Or we can go in the complete opposite direction and show the rest of the world our ignorance, arrogance, and that we just don't care by electing John McCain and Bible Spice (h/t to Alec Baldwin for coining that one) to the highest offices in the land. Situational Ethics Dot Blogspot Dot Com thinks we should do the former and hereby formally endorses Barack Obama for President of these United States.

The stakes are high in Alaska too. Alaska is about to celebrate the 50th anniversary of statehood. For the past 40 years Ted Stevens has been one of Alaska's two senators. Think about that: Ted Stevens has been a US Senator for the State of Alaska for 80% of the time the State has been a state--Ted Stevens in the Senate is as familiar to Alaskans as the sun rising and setting (or not so much depending on the time of year), as the winter being bone-chillingly cold, as...well, you get the point. And that streak needs to end. In addition to the other problems with his candidacy, for those of you who haven't heard (and have been living under a rock, or just stuck under something heavy), Stevens was recently elevated to the ranks of convicted felon. So Alaskans face an important choice too: become the first state to reelect a convicted felon to the Senate, or send a breath of fresh air to Washington.

photo from tonight's rally

There are lots of reasons to vote for Mark Begich, and in accord with providing the official Situational Ethics Dot Blogspot Dot Com endorsement of his candidacy, I will provide one more: he remembered a brief interaction we had years ago. This is how I described it in May:
I met Mayor Begich for the first time about four years ago. I was coming out of the post office and he was in his truck in the parking lot looking through his mail. I walked over, knocked on the window and introduced myself. Then I complained about the long lines in the post office and half-jokingly asked him if there was anything he could do about it. "I'm sorry," he replied, "That's federal. It's out of my jurisdiction."
I talked to him briefly at a campaign rally tonight. I told him that he probably wouldn't remember, but that the first time we met it was at the post office. He interrupted me and said, "Sure, I remember. I was reading my mail and you complained about the long lines inside." I told him what he said about not being able to get involved with federal issues as mayor, but that as a senator I expect him to do something about it. He laughed and then told me about his plans to fix postal issues in general and the specific problems faced by rural Alaskan villages.

Begich is the real deal; he'll do a great job. And so will Ethan Berkowitz, who seeks to unseat Don Young (currently under criminal investigation) who has been Alaska's lone voice in the House of Representatives for god-only-knows how long.

I've been watching a lot of the West Wing recently. I used to watch it and wish that, in stark contrast to President Bush, a man like Jed Bartlett was the President. But now I watch it and realize that it is possible. Barack Obama is not perfect, and as we put him on a higher and higher pedestal I am certain he will inevitably disappoint us in some way. But he will also inspire us and guide us through dangerous and uncertain times. And that is exactly what we need right now. To quote President Bartlett, "This is a time for American heroes. We will do what is hard. We will achieve what is great. This is a time for American heroes and we reach for the stars." So, game on. Go get 'em, boys. You've got my vote.


Blogging Bethel

Three Weeks Ago (on the phone)
Me: I'd like to make a reservation for October 15-16.
Hotel Staff Person: Do you need a room with a refrigerator?
Me: No.
HSP: We only have a room with a refrigerator available on those dates. Will that be a problem?
Me: Will the refrigerator be a problem?
HSP: Yes.
Me: Um, is there an extra charge for the refrigerator?
HSP: No.
Me: Is it unusually large or loud?
HSP: No.
Me: I think that will be fine (But thinking: Am I missing something here? Is there some problem that could be caused by a refrigerator in the room that I can't foresee? I stress about this for 10 minutes; I can't think of anything.)

Wednesday, 10/15
1:18 pm: Land in Bethel.
1:48: My room will not be ready for at least 15 minutes. Decide to grab lunch in the attached restaurant (they are adamant that it is just attached, it is not owned by the hotel).
1:57: I order the "gyro sandwich." [1]

[1] I know, I know, what was I thinking ordering a gyro in Bethel, Alaska? At the time it made sense: (1) I was tired; (2) I was a little delirious from not having eaten all day; (3) the gyro posed the best protein+vegetable option on the menu; and perhaps most importantly, (4) the restaurant is named Afrim's and the guys working there were all speaking something that sounded vaguely middle eastern. I found this reassuring--I then (perhaps stereotypically) thought the kitchen staff would know a thing or two about how to make a gyro and the (what turned out to be Albanian) dialect made a gyro seem not-so-outlandish all the way out here. In general, the food options in Bethel are pretty bleak. The restaurant choices are Italian, Chinese, or Subway. Inquiring as to why no establishments serve local fare like salmon, berries, goose, moose, caribou, etc., we learn that "Everyone has that stuff at home. When they go out they want to eat something exotic."

2:18: What arrives is not a gyro at all. It is what the menu calls the "Gyro Pizza." This is troubling for several reasons, least of which is the obvious one that it wasn't what I ordered. [2] But even if I had wanted pizza, I wouldn't have ordered such a bastardization; I'm a (NY thin crust) pizza purist and/or snob. This is a huge problem in Alaska, where the pizza sucks (except for Nino's, which along with Arinell's in the Mission in San Francisco, offers the best NY-style slice west of the Delaware River.) and the "specialty" pizza tries too hard. [3] Not surprisingly, the Gyro Pizza at Afrim's wasn't very good either. The pizza part was lousy (it's pizza in Bethel, after all) but so was the gyro component: melted feta (not a good idea), a few thin strips of shaved lamb, and 3 cold tomato slices.

To recap, I didn't get what I ordered and what I got was the last thing I would have ordered because it was a dish that I am philosophically opposed to. So, lunch sucked both taste-wise and existentially.

[2] I should have known something was up when after I said "gyro sandwich" the waiter asked if I wanted the S, M, L, or XL. "What's the difference?" I confusedly asked. "Small is 12 inches, medium is 16, large is 18, and xl is 20." Thinking, "those are enormous sandwiches," and "I didn't see any sandwich sizes on the menu," I ordered the small. Retrospectively, after the pizza arrived, I realized the server's question was re: pizza diameter and then it made perfect sense. I blame my confusion on being tired and delirious from hunger, as explained in n.1, supra.

[3] To wit: the Moose's Tooth, a favorite among my friends. Let's look at a few things on the
Moose's Tooth menu: Blackened Halibut Pizza, Chicken Cordon Bleu Pizza, Shrimp Fiesta Pizza, Chicken Rockefeller Pizza, Chipotle Steak Pizza, Barbecue Chicken Pizza, Taco Pizza (these all sound like they came out of Kramer's Make-Your-Own-Pie Pizzaria). This isn't to say these creations don't taste good, Butch and Hank swear by the Avalanche (pepperoni, bbq chicken, bacon, red onion, parsley, cheddar, mozz., provolone) and the blackened halibut is actually quite tasty, but they are not pizzas. They are another food item, some sort of open-faced slice of sandwich with melted cheese and should be defined as such.

3:21: 15 degrees outside (0 w/wind chill).
3:39: Meeting (inside, thank g-d).
4:04: Go to supermarket [4] to buy water ($4/liter).

[4] Bethel's lone supermarket, the AC Value Center, provides the rare opportunity to buy a jug of mayonnaise and a snowmachine without having to go to two stores:

Also interesting about the AC: for a reason that no one can explain, the credit card swipe machines at each check out line are in English and French.

4:11: Walk out of the AC; step over passed-out guy sitting slumped over directly outside of exit door.
4:14: Gust of wind blows me off of the ice-covered sidewalk side of the road and into a ditch.
4:28: Back at hotel (approx. 60 degrees in my room)
4:37: Front desk clerk's (hereinafter "FDC") response to my query re: wireless internet problems: "Yeah, sometimes it doesn't work." FDC's interest in fixing said wireless network: none.
4:42 : Some guy walks by the front desk and FDC as FDC is busy checking people in and shouts (in a chuckling manner) "first name vagina, last name hole" towards FDC as if he were checking in under that name and as if he and FDC shared an inside joke that involved making up (un)funny names and pretending to check in as such. This inside joke may have been one-sided, as FDC does not respond as one who shared and enjoyed an inside joke would. In fact, FDC pretends not to hear him at all (and actually looks a little worried). The guy who did the shouting just looks embarrassed.
4:57: I can actually hear the cable box grinding as I press the channel-up button, one channel at a time, from channel 3 to channel 65 (MSNBC; I heart Keith Olberman) to watch the debate because the 6 and 5 buttons on the remote control do not work.
5:04: Joe the Plumber? Really?
[Note: The author is aware that the Joe the Plumber (who, it turns out, may not be a plumber) thing has been beaten to death by now, but is including these comments, written contemporaneously with the debate, regardless.]
5:06: Why does Joe the Plumber need a tax break to buy his own business? If it's his business, doesn't he already own it?
5:07: 50% of the small business taxes are paid by small business owners. Uh, John?
5:08: McCain is just stumbling through this. Rahm Emanuel nailed it: "John McCain continues to come off with a negative edge. He looks like the guy in your neighborhood, in the slippers, in the bathrobe, picking up the newspaper, yelling at the kids on the front lawn. And he can't get away from that." So did Chris Rock: "John McCain is so old he used to own Sidney Poitier." Now that I think about it, maybe McCain is the right guy to steer the ship through this economic meltdown: HE WAS ALIVE DURING THE GREAT DEPRESSION.
5:10: John, please stop saying "countries that don't like us very much." It's starting to grate on me.
5:13: McCain's rant against big gov't rings hollow: he's been in the senate for-eva, and has been a part of the administration that has overseen this "largest expansion of government in history." Seems like since he would have had a hand in this expansion since he was in the Senate for the past 8 years, no?
5:14: "I know how to cut defense spending." Why haven't you then? How are you going to do it?
5:15: Apparently, ACORN is destroying the fabric of democracy.
5:18: Talking about Palin: Wait wait wait wait wait. Alaska's gas line (always described as the $40 Billion Gas Line) is going to relieve all of our nation's energy problems? Really? The deal to build it hasn't even been finalized. Also re: the GILF, just being against corruption doesn't qualify you to be Vice President (especially when a state gov't investigation just revealed that you abused your power and tried to get your ex-brother-in-law fired). She understands special needs families? Right, because all special needs families have the resources that the Palins do. Her husband is tough? Is that a qualification for the OEOB or the White House? Am I missing something?
5:22: I think I'm going to vote for Barack Obama.
7:17-11:32: I teach FDC how to use Outlook; I attempt to fix the hotel's Internet problems (can't); My TV turns off on its own twice; The door to my room doesn't lock; Loud banging/crashing and screaming coming from the room next door; FDC promises to investigate.

Thursday, 10/16
7:48 am: Back at Afrim's for breakfast. I order very clearly and specifically. My table is 10 feet from the guy sitting at the check-out counter (the same guy who screwed up my order yesterday). He is staring intently at the computer screen in front of him which is resting on a stereo speaker that is BLASTING (BLASTING!) "Have you ever really loved a woman" by Bryan Adams, which sucks on its own, sounds terrible this loud, and this version playing so loudly on this early Bethel morning may in fact, incredibly, be some sort of a remix. First the gyro pizza incident, now this. I'm really staring to hate this guy. At the table next to me, two teenagers are hunched over a laptop watching a video of sometihing. Directly overhead is a flat screen TV with the volume also too high for what is on the screen: an infomercial for a chin-up bar. I just want some coffee.
7:54: Another Bryan Adams tune. Is this his greatest hits album?
8:05: Are you F-ing kidding me? Now Michael Bolton is playing. Please kill me.
8:20: Mariah Carey can't live if living is w/o you. What is this? The worst mix ever? More people have entered the restauarant. I can't believe how loud the music still is.
9:30 - 4:45: Depositions
4:52: C.C. and I are standing next to each other, facing opposite directions. I'm looking around the conference room for my glasses. She is taking her glasses on and off, looking at and through them and saying "My prescription seems really strange all of a sudden..." She was wearing my glasses, having picked them up by mistake. But what is really funny is that she hadn't been wearing glasses all day--she left them in her car back in Anchorage.
6:30: Dinner w/C.C.
6:44: I caution her against ordering the "chicken paramesian" [sic] based on my rule that one should never order an entree that is misspelled.
7:18: In a cab to the airport. Cab pulls over to the side of the road. Another cab pulls up behind us. That cab's passenger gets out and gets into ours. Weird.
7:38: Flight delayed. Anecdote re: AK Airlines terminal in Bethel. There isn't a singular airport in Bethel. Rather, each airline has their own freestanding terminal along the same road. AK Air is by far the largest carrier in the region making its terminal seem, to the casual observer at least, as if it were the local airport, as it were. Notwithstanding the fact that it is a matter of good hygenine, there is an inordinate amount of social pressure to wash your hands after using the restroom at the AK Airlines terminal in Bethel. As you can see in the picture below, the sinks for the mens' and womens' restrooms are publicly visible in a small vestibule outside the restrooms and right off the large room that serves as the waiting area/baggage claim/check-in counter.

9:40: We're thirty minutes outside of Anchorage and the dude sitting next to me just ordered 2 Miller Lites. Wow.
9:40 - 10:12: He drinks them. Me = impressed, and a little scared.
10:16: Land in Anchorage.
10:18: Text msg. from Viv: at bar. come meet us.
10:42: Scrape ice off of the inside of my car windows.
11:40: Talking with Viv and Pete in the parking lot behind the Pioneer Bar. A girl wanders over and asks if anyone has a cigarette. She seems a little freaked out. Viv asks is she is okay. "Yeah, but I was worried that I was going to almost get kidnapped again."
11:58: Walking to my car. There is a guy on the street way overdressed, and not doing it well at all [5], yelling into his cell phone: "Dude! Where are you?. . . .Where are you?. . . .Did you get trapped in the vortex?. . . .Vortex. . . .Vortex. . . .V-O-R-T-E-X. . . .Vortex! You know, like a hole."

[5] Why do some people look so much worse when they get dressed up? The gentleman tonight looked oddly out of place standing on the street outside of a dive bar wearing black slacks and a white dinner jacket. That the suit was somewhat ill-fitting didn't help, and his accoutrements also worked to quickly lower his look from classy to cheesy: there was no need for the exposed necklace(s), red scarf, and long cape-like jacket.


Checking In From The Banks Of The Kuskokwim II

Writing from a hotel in: Bethel, AK (again)
Been here since: yesterday afternoon
Getting ready for: a day of depositions
The weather is: colder than I'm ready for (maybe 20 degrees)
The wind was so strong that it: blew me off the sidewalk and into a ditch (serious)
Last night I stepped over: a guy slumped over and passed out just outside the exit door of the local supermarket
Listening to: Irma Thomas, The Airborne Toxic Event, Bryan Adams and Michael Bolton (the last two by force, not choice. more on that later)
Had to help the hotel: fix their wireless network (granted, I was more concerned about it than they were)
Concerned about: the "health" of the mother.*
Not concerned about: the rest of Sen. McCain's political "career"
Reading: Consider the Lobster (still); depo prep notes
Looking forward to: Alaska Day!

*Update: This was a McCain debate reference. But thanks for the concern; my mom is fine.


Whiz, Wit*

Philadelphia is not exactly my favorite city right now. But Flyers fans scored some points with me last night by booing Sarah Palin** as she ceremoniously dropped the puck before the Rangers-Flyers game in Philly. Check out the video. It's pretty funny. I like how she keeps waving and smiling even though they are booing the shit out of her. It was also nice to see Anchorage's own (and still Al's favorite even though he left the Devils) Scotty Gomez get a little smooch from the (still) GILF.

*How to order in South Philly. You can watch Sarah order one, get quizzed on foreign policy, talk on a cell phone, and take some pictures here.
**They also booed (by association) Bristol and Piper. That's just not nice. But what do you expect from the city that once booed Santa Claus?


It Takes A Village

After hearing about the fuel shortage problems affecting many small, rural, Native communities here in resource-rich Alaska, Dan Barry, a columnist with the New York Times, decided to go check it out for himself by traveling to the Yup'ik village Akiachak (which is pretty far out there).

I recently returned from a trip to two villages even smaller than Akiachak, and his description of life there and the challenges faced are very similar to what I saw. I've been meaning to write about it and to post some pictures, but now the pressure is off because Mr. Barry does a much better job of capturing village life than I can. But there is another reason why I am bringing this up today: His column also mentions of one of Akiachak's amazing residents, an elder and community leader named Anna Nick who is "part of a federal lawsuit demanding that election ballots and referendum questions also be provided in the language of Yup'ik." (Disclosure and Semi-Pompous and Arrogant Comment: She happens to be my client in that very lawsuit, making this the third time one of my cases has been discussed in the NYT, though I have only been quoted once.) So read the article (linked again here for your convenience), check out the pictures, and get a glimpse into Anna's world, a place that is far too often forgotten.


Mother F#cker Nature

Today's weather, chronologically:
Sun (approx. 37 mins.)
Light Snow
Heavy Snow
Sun (brief)
34 degrees F


There Was A Debate Last Night Also

I'm disappointed, feeling let down. I'm not sure exactly what I expected--Palin babbling incoherently for so long that she started frothing at the mouth? Another "mystery bulge" situation? A malfunction where she would give the exact same rambling response to two different questions? (Kind of like in Bring It On when the two cheerleader teams purchased and then performed the same routine from Sparky Pulastri.) [1] A disaster of Admiral Stockdale proportions? [2] But we didn't get anything even close to that; no off-the-charts unintentional comedy. Instead, we saw Sarah handle herself pretty well, though the bar was set very low. And she did all she had to do to rehabilitate her image from the disastrous Couric interview. She didn't freak out and run off the stage in tears, she didn't try to have any of Gwen Ifill's family members fired because Gwen asked her questions she didn't like, [3] she didn't shoot and dress a moose right then and there, and she didn't set anything on fire. So, from that perspective she was a complete success.

[1] Actually--that doesn't really make sense. Kind of like most of Sarah Palin's answers tonight: As CNN's Bill Schneider put it, "Palin's answers do not lack confidence, they lack coherence."

[2] Recently, I was in a position where I had to use my body as a unit of measurement. The question was whether a certain very large SUV could be driven through a particular narrow space to avoid being towed. I determined that it could because the car was about 1 B-Dice wide and the passage was slightly wider. Some scoffed, but it worked--the car made it through with less than an inch to spare on either side. That led to other measurement discussions: Mauling Distance (to determine when you are too close to a bear); Rabies Distance (self explanatory); and yesterday's Stockdale Distance (to determine when a VP is close to blowing it all at a debate. As in, "Palin is totally within Stockdale Distance of ruining McCain's campaign.).

[3] In fact, early on she flat-out told Gwen she wasn't necessarily going to answer the questions that were put to her. What balls! What bravado! What a maverick! Let's give her the nuclear (pronounced noo-klee-er) launch codes! And give the VP more power over the Senate! Seriously, what was that expansion of the VP powers thing all about?

Maybe Sarah "fersure" won. Maybe as McGeez posited, she simply covered the spread (I really like that analogy), maybe, as Steve Silver thinks, she was reading cue cards. Maybe, maybe, maybe. Lots to discuss. But I want to talk about facts. What I know fersure is this: (1) she lied about her support for socially-conscious investing vis-a-vis Sudan; (2) she said "also" a whole lot; (3) she looked totally hot in that black outfit she was wearing also; (4) she's really good at reciting talking points on issues that have absolutely nothing to do with the question she was asked; and (5) I would have won at Palin Bingo if she said "terrorist" just once. Also.

UPDATE #1: In the comments T-Dawg says Palin did say "terrorist" at least once, so BINGO!
UPDATE #2: I think this is pretty cool: The question about domestic partner benefits was about a case I worked on.
UPDATE #3: She definitely had notes (and maybe one of these). I'm not sure if that is standard practice for a debate of this nature (I would definitely want notes with me if I was up there), but she sure seemed to be looking at them a lot. A lot more than I have ever noticed a candidate using notes at a debate anyway also.


Que Sarah, Sarah

Seriously, is this a joke?
Couric Why, in your view, is Roe v. Wade a bad decision?

Sarah Palin: I think it should be a states' issue not a federal government-mandated, mandating yes or no on such an important issue. I'm, in that sense, a federalist, where I believe that states should have more say in the laws of their lands and individual areas. Now, foundationally, also, though, it's no secret that I'm pro-life that I believe in a culture of life is very important for this country. Personally that's what I would like to see, um, further embraced by America.

Couric: Do you think there's an inherent right to privacy in the Constitution?

Palin: I do. Yeah, I do.

Couric: The cornerstone of Roe v. Wade.

Palin: I do. And I believe that individual states can best handle what the people within the different constituencies in the 50 states would like to see their will ushered in an issue like that.

Couric: What other Supreme Court decisions do you disagree with?

Palin: Well, let's see. There's, of course in the great history of America there have been rulings, that's never going to be absolute consensus by every American. And there are those issues, again, like Roe v. Wade, where I believe are best held on a state level and addressed there. So you know, going through the history of America, there would be others but …

Couric: Can you think of any?

Palin: Well, I could think of … any again, that could be best dealt with on a more local level. Maybe I would take issue with. But, you know, as mayor, and then as governor and even as a vice president, if I'm so privileged to serve, wouldn't be in a position of changing those things but in supporting the law of the land as it reads today.
Aside from the fact that her constitutional analysis contradicts itself and she can't name any Supreme Court cases, her answers don't make any sense. SNL was even able to use HER EXACT WORDS to skewer her. Unbelievable. Also unbelievable: she "reads all the newspapers." I doubt she has read any of this.


A Question of Etiquette

I just received a Facebook friend request from a girl who stole my favorite sweatshirt in college. We weren't even dating. We were just friends and she borrowed the sweatshirt one night because she was cold and I never saw it (or her for that matter) again. And she had the gall to send along a little message with her request that asked if I remembered her. Of course I do. I hate her. So, what's the proper response here? Let bygones be and accept her offer of social-networked friendship? Ignore and shun and leave her to think I don't know who she is? Or tell her that I never forgot her because she stole my favorite sweatshirt and perhaps ask if she still has it and/or demand restitution depending on the answer and her current financial situation? [N.B.: I acknowledge that this third option carries with it the risk that she will think I am totally insane.]


Discontent, Cont.

The season is over. The bullpen blew yet another game and for the second year in a row the Mets' playoff hopes die on the final day of the season. Last year the Mets defied the odds and squandered a 7-game lead with only 17 left to play and spent October watching the playoffs from home. This year the lead was 3.5 with 17 to play. Not as bad, but it still sucks. On the bright side, my schedule for the next month just opened up and I won't have to keep coming up with excuses to sneak out of work early to watch the games. So I've got that going for me.


The Fall Of My Discontent

First there was this Sarah Palin nonsense. Then David Foster Wallace killed himself. [1] Then the economy tanked. As if that wasn't enough, now the Mets have joined the fun: the 2008 season is teetering on the verge of collapse; I fear that it is going to happen again. [2] The bullpen blew yet another game, the offense once again couldn't get it done, and the Mets now find themselves tied for the wildcard with the Brewers with just four games to play--the final games ever to be played at Shea Stadium. I still have faith, but it is being tested. You gotta believe.

[1] His death really upset me, moreso, I think, than the passing of any other artist who died while I was in the midst of fandom. And I'm not alone: millions of NASCAR fans feel the same way.

It seems appropriate to mention DFW's death here, in a footnote, but I can't begin to describe his meaning to the literary world as well as others can (and this article sums up his legacy pretty well) and I'm not going to try. All I want to say is that I loved his writing. Whether it was his recount of the Maine Lobster Festival or a week traveling with John McCain's 2000 presidential campaign, his vivid, rollicking tales of life aboard a luxury cruise, or the sprawling mindfuck of Infinite Jest, I never wanted to leave the worlds he created and described. RIP, DFW.

[2] This is a pretty good summary of what life as a Mets fan has been like for the past year.



Sitting atop the gear rack on the back of a 4-wheeler hanging on for dear life while crossing the tundra with wind whipping in our faces and mud splattering on our legs, C.C. turned to me and said, "This sure beats sitting in an office in New York and being yelled at by a senior partner, doesn't it?"

Later we found ourselves at the remote airstrip sans our local escort and waiting for two hours in forty-degree air under rainy skies for our plane, which was now very late. We couldn't leave because if the plane showed up and we weren't there it would leave without us. And we would have no way of knowing it had arrived and no way to get home. Plus, we didn't have any place to stay out there. So we had to wait. After a bear wandered by I looked at C.C. and whispered, "That office in N.Y. sounds pretty good right about now."

More tales from a very unique business trip indeed to come.


Checking In From The Banks Of The Kuskokwim

Writing from a hotel in: Bethel, AK
Just got back from: Kwigillingok
Tomorrow headed to: Tuntutuliak
Traveling in: Very small planes
Been up since: 5 AM
Reading: Consider The Lobster
Listening to: The Submarines; Frightened Rabbit; Legal Lad's Quick and Dirty Tips for a More Lawful Life Podcasts
Reason why my cab driver failed the written motorcycle test yesterday: The book the Bethel DMV gave him to study from was from 1992.


Too Hot To Handle

I kind of have a thing for Sarah Palin. [1] And I loooooove me some Tina Fey. Tina Fey as Sarah Palin was almost too much for my poor heart to take. But, my god was it brilliant, hilarious, and spot-on:

[1] But not quite to the extent that this guy does: "[S]he really is kinda hot. Basically, I want to have sex with her on my Barack Obama sheets while my wife reads aloud from the Constitution. (My wife is cool with this if I promise to "first wipe off Palin's tranny makeup." I married well.)" Indeed he did.


Sarah's Saturday Spectacle

It was perhaps the largest gathering of its kind in state history:  1,500 or so people took the streets sidewalks to show their lack of support for Sarah Palin (the Palinistas were severely outnumbered).  And like all good protests, there were cowardly, ignorant threats, creative signs, lots of chanting, and someone dressed as a polar bear.  Here is a good recap/chronology of how the protest developed and a look at how the crowd swelled over the course of the day.  I'm too lazy to upload my pictures, so I'll point you to Myster and McGeez who have it pretty well covered, recap and pictures-wise.  More press coverage is available here, and here is some video McGeez shot while we drove by the crowd, honking "yes we can" along the way.  Also, if you listen closely, you can hear my dog barking from the back seat.  Towards the end she's in sync with the horn.  That's my girl.  Sarah, not so much.


Sarah Palin Is Sort Of A Liar, Technically

Over and over again Sarah keeps telling three stories that are supposed to prove that she has been committed to ending wasteful government spending during her (brief) tenure as Alaska's Governor: (1) she fired the official governor's chef; (2) she said "thanks but no thanks" to Congress for the "bridge to nowhere"; and (3) she put the state's private jet on e-bay. At first glance, these seem like common-sense solutions to government problems--the kind of solutions that we wish more politicians would employ. Yeah for Sarah! She's bringing common sense to government!

While I agree with the sentiment behind each of these statements, and while I think they are laudable decisions, the rhetoric she is using to describe them is not entirely accurate. That is, she is not telling the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. This, my friends, is called spin. And all politicians--repubs, dems, green partiers--well, actually, the greenies really aren't so good at it...strike that. All successful politicians are good at it. And statements such as these are carefully worded to stand up to scrutiny and survive cross examination and polygraph machinery. So, let's let the judging begin. Is she misrepresenting or just embellishing? Is she being untruthful or just omitting facts? Is she a liar or only sort of a liar, technically. Let's look at each statement in turn:

1. She did not fire the chef. The chef was transferred to another job. Some may describe this as embellishment, but I think it is a lie. Saying you fired someone connotes images of the Donald J. Trump Four-Finger Point and the words "you're fired." See? It does.

Absent a pink slip, you cannot claim someone was fired. But, saying "I reassigned the official governor's chef to another position because I thought it was wasteful to have her on salary as a chef when I spent so little time at the mansion in Juneau because I spent most of my time in Wasilla and by reassigning her there was no net financial savings to the state" doesn't make as good a sound bite. Verdict: not egregious, but a lie nonetheless.

2. "I told the Congress 'thanks but no thanks' for that bridge to nowhere." First, a few points of clarification: This wasn't a bridge to nowhere. It would have replaced the ferry that currently connects the City of Ketchikan (pop. 7,500 or just about the size of Wasilla) to the Ketchikan International Airport on Gravina Island (Wasilla doesn't have an int'l airport). Also, this would have been a huge bridge, nearly as long as the Golden Gate and as tall as the Brooklyn Bridge, and would have cost about $400 million ($223 million came from the feds). An engineering marvel, to say the least. And Sarah, when she was campaigning for governor, was all about the bridge, saying it was essential for the town's prosperity. Oh, look, here's a picture of Sarah from that campaign trip to Ketchikan in 2006:

When it became a national joke and symbol of pork at its worst, the project was cancelled, but Palin didn't return the money. Congress only removed the earmark provision, so the state kept $220+ million and used it for other projects. Was this statement a lie? Technically, no. She did cancel the bridge. But only after originally being in favor of it and she kept the cash. And when she was the Mayor of Wasilla, she loved federal money. In fact, she hired a lobbying firm to secure nearly $27 million worth of earmarks for the then 6,700-resident town. Verdict: Not quite perjury, but a clear misrepresentation, sketchy as all get-out, and a wee bit hypocritical, to say the least.

Also, the state is continuing to build a road to the empty beach where the bridge would have gone because the road money, unlike the bridge money that was un-earmarked, would have to be returned to the feds if the road wasn't built. That is, literally, a road to nowhere.

3. She put the jet on e-bay. Again, first some background: Palin's predecessor, Governor Frank Murkowski, really wanted a private jet. He tried to get the feds to pay for it, applying for Homeland Security funds under the theory that it would help "defend, deter, or defeat opposition forces." DHS said no (good decision. The decision to spend $200,000 on 80 security cameras to spy on the 2400 residents of Dillingham? Not so much.). So Frank spent $2.7 mil of state money on the jet, justified on the grounds that it was going to be used to transport Alaskan prisoners to Arizona (Alaska doesn't have enough jail space for all of its prisoners, so the state contracts with a private prison in Arizona. Another interesting Alaska fact: our largest prison is in Arizona. Go figure.). Not a popular move and it hastened his downfall. But back to Sarah. She stated over and over that she put it on e-bay, and she did, but no one bought it. She ultimately sold it through an aviation broker. She never said she sold it on e-bay, but she certainly implies that she did. Verdict: not a lie.


Flip Flop

Big Surprise: Palin supporters are now singing a different tune.

Karl Rove touts Sarah Palin's experience as the mayor of a town of 9,000 after previously deriding potential Dem VP choice Tim Kaine's lack of experience (specifically citing his time as the mayor of Richmond, VA (pop 200,000)). Bill O'Riley says Bristol's pregnancy is private matter and we shouldn't judge. But when Jamie Lynn Spears announced her own teen pregnancy, who did Bill O. blame? The parents; He called them "pinheads." Dick Morris complains about sexist treatment of Sarah, but has repeatedly made sexist comments about Hillary. Just watch:

Pray for Sarah

Somehow, I'm on former Lieutenant Governor of Alaska Loren Leman's [1] e-mail list. [2] I received a message this morning titled "Remembering Sarah" from his personal e-mail account (somewhat surprisingly, he's a gmail man). Here is the text (emphasis added):

Since the announcement last Friday that Senator John McCain has chosen Governor Sarah Palin to be his running mate, the interest in and attacks on her and her family have been relentless. This continues, even after her major address on Wednesday evening.

Perhaps I am in a unique position to somewhat understand what she is going through. I am a veteran of six campaign cycles--all tough. Sarah Palin and I competed for the same office in 2002 in a spirited campaign. Although I didn't vote for her that year, she earned my respect. Out of those experiences what I believe was so important was our agreement to maintain our friendship, even though competing. We did so and remain friends today.

Any campaign is tough--especially one for Vice President of the United States. Sarah Palin's personal and family challenges are immense. I have concluded we should be spending less time talking about her--and more time praying for her. Please join Carolyn and me in praying for Governor Palin that God will give her wisdom and courage to stand strong--and be a good example to our country.

Loren Leman
former Lieutenant Governor, Alaska

How much time do you think he spent analyzing the situation before reaching that conclusion? What qualifies him as an authority on when talking should stop and praying should commence? These are the questions I want answers to. But much like Sarah's speech last night, (more on that later) Loren's message was light on facts and heavy on playing to sympathies. Until I hear some good reasons from him, I'm going to continue to talk about her and not pray. To that end, for those of you still curious about Sarah's home town Wasilla, check out my friend Alex's video essay on Slate.

[1] He always freaked me out. Mainly because of his giant head, but also the fact that all he cared about during his term as lite gov was creating faith-based initiatives (FBCI), otherwise known as "ways to use public money to support religious groups."

[2] I think I know how. As part of my job requires making sure that the State of Alaska does not violate the Establishment Clause, I paid close attention to the State's FBCI plan that Leman spearheaded and I signed up for the e-newsletter. Methinks Mr. Leman appropriated that e-mail list upon leaving office. I think that calls for a special investigation as well.