An Alaskan journalist's perspective on local and national issues

Posts tagged ‘UAA’

12th Annual Campus Litter Cleanup at UAA

Well, this is going to be a slightly different kind of post than the kind I usually do.  This fits as it was a little bit different than the kind of story I usually cover.  This was the first time that I really went out and walked a story, getting to see all the elements, and interact with the events and find out everything involved.  It was a lot of fun, and I am hoping to do so again next year, along with do more stories like this when they come up.  The format of this will be a kind of photo slideshow, with text underneath talking about what these pictures are for, and why I have them there.  All pictures can be expanded by clicking on them.  I hope you enjoy.


As you no doubt can infer from the title, this was the 12th time that this event has been held at UAA.  It is in celebration of Earth Day.  The effort is also to help make the campus look nice for the heart run that is going to take place this Saturday.  A lot of groups have supported this effort, and a lot of people came out to help.  We’ll get to that in just a picture.


There were 143 people who particpated in this event, according to the man I spoke to who was leading the project, Erik Ohm.  He was gracious enough to get me all the details after the event, so I could get this out in the most accurate way possible, as is correct of a diligent reporter.  They gathered at around 9:00 in the morning and were given gloves, a trash bag, and a pair of “tongs.”  The tools of the warriors headed out to do battle with what was a battle with a tiny entity that lurked all over campus like ants.


Those involved in this cleanup spread to all corners of campus, including the satellite areas like Housing, Aviation and the University Center.  This was an effort to get the whole campus to look better and be a less littered place.  But as said above, there was a battle against a tiny entity that was the bane of a lot of the people involved in this’ existence.


Cigarette butts.  Yes, this was the most common thing.  Like little ants, they were everywhere, and there was a clear sense of annoyance from those who were using their tongs to try and clean up this almost insurmountable mess of butts.  Not hard to see why.  With so many, having to take the time to pick them up individually, that would get on anybody’s nerves.  As a person who has never condemned or condoned smokers, it at least draws the issue that if a person is going to smoke, could they at least show the courtesy to put their buts in the recepticals around campus for just that, if not putting them out on the cold steeel garbage cans and then throwing them away?  Courtesy was a little lacking.  But the people out cleaning did their best to deal with this barrage of butts (the immature part of me will address that yes, that does sound dirty).


Of course, there were some pieces of litter that were more dangerous, like this lovely mosaic of blue glass that was found by the Wendy Williamson auditorium.  It makes for a charming picture, but a sad reminder that there are some people who aren’t even courteous enough to not be dangerous with other people’s feet.


Though not everything was a bust.  There were prizes for whoever found the strangest and most valuable things on their wanderings.  I was the one who eyed this lovely prize, hanging on a tree.  Somebody lost a good sweatshirt.  Too bad that we are too tall for it.  It is pretty nice.


At the end of the cleanup, around 11:30, the groups came in.  There was a kickin’ barbeque that was held, and the people involved ate their fill (we didn’t get any pictures of it.  Sorry).  The total count of trash that was collected was 143 bags, along with a myriad of other odds and ends, such as car parts, a dog-house, and a children’s pool that was pretty destroyed.  There was 2,940 pounds of trash taken to the dump, while there was a large number of recycleables that were seperated out.  One of the people who participated in the event remarked that the amount of trash was low.  Looking at the final count, he was right.  According to Ohm, there is roughly 150 to 250 bags of trash gathered.  The onlooker theorized that the reason for the low count was the large amount of snow still on campus.

Anchorage got a record high this year in snow, and it will be a while before it is all gone.  The man also remarked that if there was a lot more left, there would either have to be another of these events to have to take place, or facilities would have to take care of it during the summer.  It’s a bummer that so many people can’t just throw away their trash and cigarette butts, but there were 143 people who came out and helped to make campus look better.

Hopefully, with posts like this, and with more support, that number can grow, and awareness can grow with it.  That is the best thing that can happen.

Peace out,

Lefty

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Panel discussion on Prop. 5 at UAA shows voter failure

There was a panel discussion about Proposition 5 at UAA tonight.  For the few Anchorage residents who don’t know, there is an issue that is up for a vote on April 3rd.  It is to extend the Title 5 protections, Sections 1-8, to include sexual orientation as a protected status when seeking employment or residence.

Like Ordinance 64, this issue is generating a great deal of criticism from the Christian-right.  The organizations leading the “Protect your Rights” (the opposition) effort are the Alaska Family Council and Focus on the Family.  One Anchorage is heading up the efforts in support of this proposition.

The attendence to this panel discussion was beyond dismal.  There were 23 people in total.  There was nobody from the opposition, including as one of the speakers.  it seems the speaker against it was going to be Daniel MacDonald.  There were two speakers in support, Brett Frazer, and a man named Blake.  MacDonald was all the only opposition, because Jim Minnery, the President of Alaska Family Council, could not find a student to represent the AFC.

Frazer opened by saying that he had a family member (whose name he withheld for privacy reasons) who had been in the military, and was finally able to come out with the veto of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.  However, even with that, she was still discriminated against, both at work and in her daily life.  Her partner feared daily if it ever got out that she was a partner to another woman.  There was a rather appropriate quote by Frazer –

“Discrimination is still very real in Anchorage.”

Next up there was the opening argument by Blake.  He had three points.  The first was that descrimination still exists.  When Mayor Dan Sullivan vetoed Ordinance 64, he remarked that discrimination no longer exists, which was his justification for doing so.  The second was that employees are being fired for being gay.  In some cases, a boss can look at your Facebook page and can use that as a way to find out who you are.  The third was that this wasn’t just hurting people’s livelihoods’, but also doing societal damage.

Since there was nobody to speak for the opposition, the floor opened up to questions.  The first was if a person could be sent to jail or fined because of Prop. 5.  Brett took this, and the answer was – only if they lied to investigators.  However, this had nothing to do with Prop. 5.

The next question was – if there was a case made for discrimination, where was the burden of proof?  Again, Brett took this.  The burden of proof is on the person making the claim.  And they only have a limited window to make it – 180 days.  There is a public hearing (which is an odd term, considering that they are private), which does not fit with the opposition’s narrative that there is no hearing, and the book gets immediately thrown at businesses.

The big question that has been fueling the opposition against Prop. 5 is – will this affect religious freedom?  The answer was obviously no.  Proposition 5 affects Title 5, sections 1-8, but not section 9.  Section 9 is in reference to religious institutions.  Only for-profit businesses will feel the brunt of this.  Of course, it was also brought up – what constitutes a religious institution?  What about religious campgrounds?  Brett and Blake acknowledged that there was some ambiguity in regards to that, but churches were guaranteed to not be affected.  However, Brett made a point that this ambiguity was not a reason to vote against it, but rather to lobby to have some work done on this law.

One point that Brett made was saying what Prop. 5 is not.  It is not, “equal rights for everybody.”  In fact, this does not give the LGBTQ community the same rights as everybody else.  Instead, it gets them 90% of the way there.  This is the best that the gay community could hope for.  That’s depressing enough in and of itself.

Since this was an incredibly fast discussion, because of the dismal attendence and there being no identifiable presence against Prop. 5, they moved on to the closing statements.  Brett said that he didn’t want to wake up on April 4th and find Anchorage the same place it was.  That this proposition needed to pass.

Blake then said that Title 5 works, and the oppositions scare tactics against this Proposition were simply unfounded.  There have been no massive imprisonments and fines.  This law works, and that Prop. 5 needed to be add sexual orientation to the groups of people who can’t be discriminated against.

And that’s it.  Quick, simple, and totally, totally pointless.  There was one attendee, a UAA student named Ceezar Martinson, who had the best thoughts about this.  This night was a complete waste of time for two reasons.  1. the turnout is pathetic.  This is a very clear indicator of how many people actually care about their democracy, and their future.  Even if you knew how you were going to vote, as Brett said, by being in that room, we were already more enlightened than those not in the room, because we were hearing about this issue, and good questions were being asked.

2. The opposition didn’t even care enough to show up.  Everybody seems so sure that this is going to pass.  Everybody I have talked to.  They seem to think that no significant number of people would vote against it.  But as was seen with Ordinance 64, the opposition to this is fierce, and there is a very good chance that this proposition will fail.  And when it does, the voters will have nobody to blame but themselves.  The opposition is real, and they are doing their damndest to make sure that their base is out there, voting against this.

So, if Proposition 5 fails, it will be because when there are people trying to reach out to the community and keep them informed, they don’t even bother to show up, or get the people they know who are confused to go and learn.  This is voter failure, and I am starting to not have sympathy for these people.

Peace out,

Lefty

Discussions with a Brilliant Journalist (Part 2)

Once again, the Atwood Chair of the Journalism and Public Communications, Richard Murphy, department came to speak to the class.  He demonstrated his excellent knowledge in the field, a dedication to journalism almost unseen today, and showed a history that is not only important to Alaska, but left an impact all over the world.

It is still a memory that burns hard – the Exxon Valdez oil spill.  Murphy talked about how he heard of it, with a phone call late at night.  At first, he didn’t believe it.  But he looked into it anyway, and because of that, started some of the great reporting in Alaska’s history.

The level of dedication to this story was absolutely amazing.  The reporters who went down to Valdez were living in a crampt apartment that they rented.  One story that was really telling of what a farce the reporting is with groups who are well-respected, like the New York Times was that one night, they just went to a press conference, and once it was over, hit the bar.

Murphy talked about what could be a film scene.  All of the journalists are in that bar, having only listened to what the company told them.  The camera pans back, outside.  It is raining like crazy, miserable weather.  Out there is a long Anchorage Daily News reporter, with his gear and a sleeping bag, headed to a ship where a group of volunteers, none of whom are getting paid, are going to collect birds to help.

This level of dedication served them well, and did change the conversation about this.  When Exxon’s people had a press conference, and they were assuring the press that no animals had been harmed by this spill, one reporter holds up a copy of the Anchorage Daily News with a picture of a dead oil-covered bird, and asks, “then what is this?”  A powerful moment in this discussion, and it shut everybody in the room up very quickly.

And the lies that Exxon was putting out there outrageous.  The dead animals one was bad enough, but when the ADN published that the ship’s captain was drunk, they immediately retaliated by saying this was a lie, and that they were trying to deceive people.  Never mind that the next day, they fired the captain for drunkenness.

What’s worse is that the government was also often complicit in their lies.  The Coast Guard started to work to keep reporters away from the actual ship.  They were helping to cover up the facts because they didn’t want to stop sucking at the tit of the money that these people brought in.  Of course, this isn’t unusual.  After the collapse of 2007, Congress very quickly came to the bank’s defense.  But that’s off-topic.

One thing worth mentioning was that there was a lot of faith placed in a lot of people that couldn’t be done post-9/11.  One journalist couldn’t get back to Anchorage to get his photos developed, so he grabbed a guy heading out on a plane, who he didn’t know, gave him the rolls of film in an envelope, and told him to call a number and get them to that person.  They never lost a roll of film.  That’s incredible.

Murphy remarked that some of the biggest news agencies just came and went, often doing no more than going to press conferences and listening to what Exxon told them.  Which, of course, isn’t journalism.  Not the good kind, anyway.  But the Anchorage Daily News stayed there all summer.

He polished off this tale of the coverage of Exxon Valdez by remarking that there was one press-conference where everybody was, and Exxon promised all the people that they would help them.  Now, 20 years later, they are in court still fighting to not have to keep their promises.

That remark led to the tragedy of journalism currently in Alaska.  Murphy said that if something like Exxon Valdez happened now, the ADN wouldn’t even be able to charter a plane down.  The top two floors of their building are being rented out to a film company.  It is a graveyard in their news room.  He seemed very saddened by this.

The leaving remark that Murphy brought was that journalists often thing that they can change the world.  They can’t do that, but (and this is very important), they can change the conversation.  They can direct what the nation is talking about.  And this leads to the ultimate failure of the mainstream media – they aren’t getting people talking about anything.  They are just saying stuff.

Murphy is a brilliant reporter, and has left a legacy most worthy or all the respect of journalists everywhere.  He is everything that this industry should be, and the journalism industry will be losing a piece of itself when he leaves it.

Peace out,

Lefty

Discussions with a Brilliant Journalist (Part 1)

In my Writing and Producing for my Electronic Media, there was a guest speaker.  He will be coming back on Thursday, but today’s discussion was something that got me thinking.  I have said a lot of smack about journalism.  But he really put into perspective what is wrong with modern journalism – it doesn’t care anymore.

The guest speaker, Professor Richard Murphy, is the Atwood Chair of the department of Journalism and Public Communications (JPC).  He came to the class to talk about photo-journalism.  The example that he was using to show the power of photo-journalism was a story that won the Pulitzer Prize in 1988.  It brought some incredibly difficult realities to the fore-front, while not taking the liberties with itself to believe that they had the answer.  It was journalism at its best.

This story was a series of reports, that took up about 10 issues of the paper.  The entirety of it is called “People in Peril.”  I encourage you to look it up.  It brought to the Anchorage community the tragedy of what was, and still is, happening in the native villages.  There was rampant suicide, and accidents which had the statement – “alcohol was involved” in the police report.  They sent several reporters all over Alaska, and they got a story that nobody could have imagined.

They showed the ugly realities surrounding the native villages problems with suicide and alcoholism.  It was rather impressive that they just gave the facts, as they believed people needed to know.  But really, as interesting as the written reports were, it was the visual story that carried so much weight.

Some of these pictures were heart-breaking.  There was one of a native man, drinking at a building where a ceremony had been held not that same night.  That was one of the most powerful pictures ever put in a newspaper, and it came from the Anchorage Daily News.  That’s pretty impressive.

But there was one photo, and a response that followed a statement, that symbolizes my respect for journalism.  The picture was of a village resident, using a  pick-ax to dig into the ground, so they could bury their child.  It was hard to look at, because if you knew how small these villages populations were then you’d know just how terrible the loss of one person can be.  Not to mention having to dig the grave of your own child.

There was a comment after he showed the picture.  A student remarked that he would have found it hard not to help the person dig.  That to just stand there, and take a picture, it sounds very hard.  However, Murphy had one of the best quotes that has ever come from a journalist in response.  I had to write it on my arm, because I didn’t have paper.

Your job is to tell this guy’s story, not to dig his grave.

That kind of journalistic integrity, it goes beyond words.  There was a time when journalists were able to do that.  They would go to a place, and learn the truth about what is happening.  Not to report on what they see, but to report on what they feel, and how it looks.  To get the truth of a story, not just the facts.

And that is what is truly missing from journalism now.  When was the last time that MSNBC did that kind of journalism?  What about CNN, or Fox?  The truth is that none of them do it.  It is becoming an increasingly rare thing, and that is the most heart-breaking part.  So few respect this field because honestly, it has become a first-come, first-serve, all-you-can-eat buffet of information.  No feeling, just mindless facts.  The images are totally bereft of visual poetry, and great stories in one image.

It is a sad day for journalism.  Yet so few mourn its passing.

Peace out,

Lefty

UAA Debate: Corporate Personhood vs. Abolition Thereof (Part 2)

Well, if you have read the first part, good.  That will make you much more prepared for this one.  Let’s get right into it.

The first panel speaker was Clayton Trotter.  He opened by saying that the taking of corporate personhood could negatively affect the Constitution significantly.  He also believed that to get your message out required money, so the idea that one could seperate money from political voice was impossible.  Trotter also believes that these companies pool their money, in order to give all the people inside of the corporation a voice.  That’s interesting, since most people who run companies could care less about those who work for them.

The next speaker was Jason Brandeis.  He was of the same mind as Trotter, believing that this was a First Amendment issue.  While saying that he had stuggled with the issue, he came to the conclusion that in this debate, the corporations are the underdogs.  Ironic position, given how much power they have these days.  After that point, he subsequently pointed out that amending the Constitution is a very long and tedious process, so making something like this come into effect would be difficult.  Brandeis closed by saying that not all corporations are bad, so we should have a much broader focus.

The third panelist was Steve Haycox.  He was from the History department.  His view seemed to be much like how Thomas Paine viewed things, by taking both sides of an issue and meeting in the middle.  He opened with a rather interesting quote –

To paint with too large a brush is misleading.

He then moved on to the idea that corporations are given extensive amounts of power, asking how much do we actually need to give them?  There were a couple of quotes from Theodore Roosevelt on this subject.  One said that corporations shouldn’t be allowed unlimited donations to political campaigns.  There was another quote which was very appropriate for this topic.

These corporate donors are the greatest icons of the criminal class.

That was pretty compelling way to view things.

Finally, there was Forrest Nabor.  His thoughts were kind of different.  He focused first on the fact that there have been different political regimes throughout history, and their effect has to be measured.  In the late 1800’s, most people were wage workers.  He posed challenges to both liberals and conservatives.  For the conservatives, he offered the sentiments of James Madison – the liberty and property should be equally protected.  It was clear that he was coming from a rather Libertarian stance.  To the liberals, he posed that corporations are all groups of people with similar interests, along with the interest of making money.  Nabor also took the position that the problems with corporations comes from government (ironic).  And he also took the side that it is hard to seperate money from politics, so we shouldn’t.

There were a lot of questions from the audience, so this will focus on some of the highlights.  One audience member commented that the British House of Commons elections were in a six week period, which didn’t leave enough time for big campaign donors to mobilize, saying that America should reflect that (good idea).  Several question and commentators held similar sentiments of keeping the money out of politics, and limiting campaign donations.  There was also talk about corporat accountability, or lack thereof, like with the BP Gulf spill (not calling it Deepwater Horizon.  That’s a way of placing the blame somewhere else.  If the spill up here was Exxon Valdez, then this is BP Gulf).

In a rather interesting reply to a question, Haycox said that the Citizen’s United case absolutely undid campaign reform.  That is an good point to make, when one is debating this.  All in all, it was a good debate.  This is a very timely issue, and one that does need a lot of scrutiny.  While no answers were reached in that room, it got the ball rolling on thinking about the future.  That is a priceless asset.

Stay tuned for another post about the debate next Tuesday.  For any who are interested, you can check the debate out at the Social Sciences Building at UAA.  It will start at 7:00 pm.  Hope to see you there!

Peace out,

Lefty

UAA Debates: Corporate Personhood vs. Abolition Thereof

It isn’t often that serendipity gives one an opportunity to see something that is really worthwhile.  Tonight was one such opportunity.  There was a debate with the UAA Debate Team about a subject that is very pressing – corporate personhood.

Now, this debate involved three parties.  There was the side that was for a theoretical amendment to ban corporate personhood, the side that is opposed to such an amendment, and there was a panel of faculty, taken from various fields, each with their own insight into this concept.

The floor opened up to Matt Orstinder.  He will be called Matt O. from here on because he is one of two with the same name.  He stated that corporations have accumulated unimaginable amounts of wealth.  They have also overreached.  While people should be protected by rights, corporations should be regulated.  He believes they are no longer held accountable in a significant way.  He also points out that their justification for personhood is the 14th Amendment.  There is also the point that since corporations have massive amounts of wealth, they can spend more than the other groups who want to change policies and affect political elections.

After he spoke, a member of the opposition, Wiley Cason.  His first point was saying that corporations aren’t people in the traditional sense, obviously.  However, while they are not people, corporate personhood is useful.  He then goes on to say that corporations are made up of people, and with personhood, one can protect the rights of all of them.  It would also keep them accountable (in his view.  The lack of justice in the BP Gulf spill or the collapse of Wall Stree would contest that).

In a rather interesting argument, Cason believes that this would also threaten democracy.  Because corporations are involved with government, he contested that because corporations had so much influence in government, and they supposedly represent the interests of the collective of people, that would make it smarter to have them investing more money in government.  He closed saying that if we take away corporate personhood, companies will take their business to China or India.

This brings us to the other debator on the side of aboliting corporate personhood, Brittany Bennett.  She immediately countered with the fact that companies are already shipping their business to other countries.  That hasn’t changed.  A very good way to begin.  Bennett was easily the most passionate of the debators there.  She spoke eloquently, and with conviction.

Money is power.

That was a quote she made, and quite true.  She pointed out that different companies have different interests.  And since these companies don’t represent the interests of all their workers, or even all their shareholders, but rather the interests of one or a group of people (CEO and Board of Directors).  Therefore, Bennett argued that all corporat donations to campaigns should be denied.  It is pointed out that there is a significant power despairity between the heads of the company, and those underneath.  To give companies equal rights is a slippery slope to the abuse of said power.  She, like Matt O., Wiley, and Matt S. brought up the case of Citizens United.  It was quite clear in that case that money does not equal speech.  Wiley stated that it does.

Bennett went on to point out that corporate money can effect legislation and elections, and that since corporations have far more money than normal people, the unlimited donations that they can give can more, and basically buy more clout with political candidiates and politicians.

The last speaker from the debate team was Matt Stintson.  He was arguing against the proposed amendment.  Now, he was definitely the most arrogant of them.  He said in on statement, “I’ve pretty much won the argument.”  Not exactly the most professional.  His statement was that personhood is necessary.  The argument went that if they didn’t have the rights of people, then a group like the New York Times could be censored (clearly he hasn’t be following the Occupy movement).  Stintson and Cason both said that the Citizens United case was a red herring argument against corporate personhood.

In the interest of keeping this from being incredibly long, the part with the panel discussion and the audience questions will be feature in a post tomorrow.  Stay tuned, it was quite informative.

Peace out,

Lefty

Students for Life Candlelight Vigil is bigoted

If one travels the corridors and hallways of UAA and happens to come upon this little sign, then you’ll get to see one of the most profound exercises in stupidity that has ever been done.  There is a candlelight vigil that is going down soon (or could have happened.  Either way, this needs to be talked about) with the group UAA Students for Life.  These are basically anti-choice (pro-life) activists who are doing this vigil for Roe v. Wade.

For real, they are actually having an candlelight vigil to say this is something that people should be mourning.  Let’s examine that fact, because if one thinks about it, not only is this horrible, but it says something really bad about the people involved.

Roe v. Wade was an act that gave a woman the right to her own body.  The holding in this case was a law in Texas that made it a crime for a woman to get assistance when getting an abortion, and that this was a violation of her due process rights.  The courts agreed, and from that day on, women got to have the rights to their own bodies.  It was a fantastic day for women, and for pro-women activists.  However, for another group of people, that isn’t the case.

From the moment it passed, the opposition took to the streets.  The irony of modern times is that the more options, pharmaceutically, that exist ot prevent women from getting abortions, the louder the opposition becomes.  But why is this?  Well, the simple argument is that they believe that life begins at conception.  A million and a half brilliant minds have already torn that argument to pieces, so we won’t go into that here.

But in the end, it doesn’t matter.  This is like gay marriage – it is something that politicians have no right or good reason to be getting involved in.  A lot of Ron Paulites say, “let the states decide!”  No, wrong!  This is something that either America has to be totally for or totally against.  We cannot have the double-standard in this country that we do.  And you see it all the time.

An interesting thought about these anti-choice people is that they want to protect the unborn, but the moment you are in the world, they don’t want to hear about you.  No health care, no Head Start, no food stamps, no school lunch.  Nothing.  They don’t care about you until you reach military age.  When they can send you overseas to die in pointless wars, that’s when these anti-choice people like to hear about you.  But other than that, nothing!  Absolutely nothing.

But getting back to the UAA Students for Life vigil, let me ask you something – do you not want women to have rights over their own bodies?  Surely that’s the case.  You must truly believe that women’s interests should be subjugated by the state.  And since it is almost universally white conservatives who take this view, I find it surprising that you take this standpoint, especially considering that you all seem to want this “small government.”  Yeah, small enough to watch over each woman and make sure her pregnancy goes to term.

What was it that George Carlin said about these kinds of people?

They’re not pro-life.  You know what they are?  They’re anti-woman.  Simple as it gets, anti-woman.  They don’t like ’em.

And that’s the simple truth.  They dont’ like women.  Or at the very least, they don’t like the fact that they can choose what to do with their own bodies.  And so, giving them the right to do so is worthy of a candlelight vigil.

It’s bigotry.  Simple as that.

Peace out,

Lefty

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