Condolences to the families of the Massey Mine explosion in West Virginia.  I wonder what people think about the idea of federalizing or state owning of mines and minerals? It would be interesting if miners were treated like soldiers: 30 days off, free health care, and a pension after 20 years. What if all people in Tennessee, West Virginia, and Kentucky profited from the minerals under their land? I keep wondering why in this modern age a few massive international or national companies are allowed to continue garnering huge wealth for a few while the brave souls who provide it get…dust…and explosions…and preachers who assure them their reward will be in heaven.Two Alaskan governors helped make Alaskans owners of their own state, and every year every single citizen gets a dividend check.  Jay Hammond, probably the most decent man to govern any state anywhere, put the idea in motion. Another two-time common sense governor, Wally Hickel, continues to champion the idea in his books. Some years its been as high as $3000 a person, kids included. Why don’t other states go this route? I feel for the people of Appalachia. Capitalism works, but only when the wealth is shared. Otherwise it becomes fascism.

Drugs and Freedom, and the Iditarod

     Lance Mackey is hours away from winning his fourth straight Iditarod. Never been done before. Some are holding their breath in anticipation. Not for the historic crossing of the finish line in Nome, but for the drug test afterward. Mackey holds a medical marijuana usage card, and for the first time the Iditarod is going to test mushers for alcohol and marijuana. 

    Should they test these guys?  All people worldwide have their vices, all athletics have their magic potions to enhance performance, from HGH to steroids. Our pilots and soldiers, especially special ops guys, use amphetamines.  The first question any Alaskan should ask is: how could pot or a jigger of whiskey give Mackey a win?

     Alaskans are fortunate that geography and a vast mineral inheritance allow them to do things a little different from the lower 48.  As you dash frantic but restrained into Kaladi Brothers or Cafe del Mundo to get your morning fix, as you collapse into a chair at the Bear’s Tooth or Darwin’s to take the edge off the day, even as you appreciate that first taste of a good, round, big red to compliment your meal- try to think like an Alaskan. Do we need outdated thinking, often promulgated by people who benefit from these laws and strictures, to rule your brief spot on this earth?

Iditarod 2010- Alaska Girls Kick Ass!

     The Iditarod truly is amazing. To line up on fourth avenue in Anchorage for the symbolic start, to watch the stoic mushers and eager dogs head out into the midwinter Alaska dark and cold…everyone should experience it once. Eleven hundred miles through unforgiving weather and terrain featured in movies and stories like Krakauer’s “Into the Wild“, or even London’s “Call of the Wild.” This is geography that is…well…wild. It kills.  Sometimes  a dog that dies. Even though every single observer will tell you that the dogs live to run, this has cost the sport in the lower forty-eight, both in viewers and sponsorships. So much so that one four-time winner, Jeff King, put up fifty-thousand of his own money as part of the purse. How many other sports do you see such selflessness just for love of the competition?

     But it’s far ahead of any other world sporting event in one other significant, dramatic aspect: It’s the only major race that has always featured men and women in the same race, mano a mano, may the best sex win. And women often do. There are the pioneers like Libby Riddles, and the triumph and tragedy of multiple winner Susan Butcher. This year though features someone, a woman, who just might get the race the attention it deserves.

     Her name? Zoya DeNure…a former international runway model from Wisconsin who saw a sled dog demonstration, fell in love, and settled in the small town of Paxson, Alaska to follow a dream. Like most mushers, Zoya raises her own dogs with her husband, John Schandelmeier. Currently she is in the top three going into Willow. Would it be fair for the beautiful thirty-three year old to get attention for the race because of her looks? Probably not…but if she can stay in the top three, Make it a race to Nome, possibly win by pure grit, maybe some of the big sponsors will reappear or hitch up for the first time.

     It’s ironic: television shows “Outside” always feature Alaskan bachelors as quirky, ideal mates. Maybe with a Zoya win, the rest of the lower forty-eight will discover a huge secret, let out only sometimes, but which you’ll often see on bumper stickers and t-shirts from Juneau to Fairbanks…Alaska Girls Kick Ass!

This is why we need to change ALL the rules

     Alaskan politicians are so outraged that they have to report lobbyist-bought meals costing more than fifteen ($15) dollars that they are floating the thought of not reporting any meals by lobbyists. Or better yet, raising the ceiling on the dollar amount, so that these bribes disappear. Some of the gems straight from their mouths include Eagle River Republican Rep. Nancy Dahlstrom’s comment: “I mean, sometimes you can’t get an appetizer for $50. 

     Really? Think she is the only one out of touch? Try this bit of sophistry:  “Is a meal unethical? No. Should it be reported? Well, maybe. If you spend $100 bucks on a meal, I think people have a right to know. But if you’re just sitting down to a meal with somebody, what’s the big deal? It’s nothing unethical,” said North Pole Republican Sen. John Coghill.

     Nothing unethical? So when Exxon sits you down and buys you a plate of crab legs and a bottle of wine, its all good?  Thank God we can take Jack’s word on that.  These politicians have a bigger sense of entitlement than Tiger Woods! They make Marie Antoinette sound like a close cousin.

     The only one to be commended is Mike Doogan, a true voice in the wilderness.

      The people of Alaska have one of the highest rates of education per capita in the United States. It would be wonderful if we used those smarts to send these royal fools (of whichever party) packing.