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Michael Carey

Alaskans are celebrating the 50th anniversary of statehood. How strange the moment in which we honor our founders and reflect on the past half-century.

Sen. Ted Stevens is on trial in Washington, D.C.; Don Young, our lone Congressman, is under federal investigation; state legislators and local businessmen have been indicted for political corruption, several have pled guilty, others have been convicted by juries; Gov. Sarah Palin is the Republican candidate for vice president; and every Alaskan is receiving a $3,269 check from the state just for being an Alaskan.

"We're In," the huge headline with which the Anchorage Times announced the arrival of statehood in the summer of '58, now means we're indicted, we're in jail, we're in the limelight or we're in the money...

Michael Carey

Sarah Palin may be making new friends as she campaigns the nation, but at home, she's making new enemies. She better get elected vice president. If she returns to Alaska as governor, the reception will be frosty -- and not because winter has arrived.

In the last month, Palin has become something inconceivable during her first two years as the state's chief executive: A polarizing figure rapidly emptying the storehouse of good will she accumulated...

Michael Carey

Throughout her political career, Sarah Palin has benefited from establishing and exploiting contrasts. The contrast between Palin the women-of-integrity and dishonest Republican bosses. The contrast between the fresh new Palin and old clumsy incumbent governor, Frank Murkowski. The contrast between women-of-the-people Palin and screw-the-people oil companies. Even the contrast between young, vital Sarah Palin and aging, stiff John McCain - which perversely enough has helped McCain in the polls.

Now the contrast is between Sarah Palin as she really is - the Mat-Su Valley woman with limited exposure to the world despite less than two years as governor - and the Palin look-alike mouthing McCain phrases, slogans and assertions...

Michael Carey

George Orwell once said that the word "communist" had become so debased that it had lost its original meaning. In Orwell's England, toffs dining at posh restaurants called inattentive waiters "communists," and on the way home said the same thing about cab drivers who got lost.

The term "McCarthyism" has suffered a similar fate -- as I was reminded when I read a press release in which Anchorage lawyer Kevin Clarkson, stepping in to defend Gov. Sarah Palin, invoked the specter of Joseph McCarthy to condemn Sen. Hollis French and others investigating so-called Troopergate...

Michael Carey

The Sept. 8 New Yorker contains a brief "Talk of the Town" in which reporter Philip Gourevitch interviewed Sarah Palin in her office. Gourevitch was in Alaska working on a story about Alaska politics: Palin plays a role but is not the whole story.

The "Talk of the Town" is mostly Palin herself talking. About her values. About Alaska. About political change. The voice is familiar. It's the voice of the woman from Wasilla who became governor -- relaxed, informal, amiable, nonpartisan.

It might be the last time we hear that voice -- ever...

Michael Carey

My father-in-law was in show business, an amateur who learned the rules of performance. One of them is "Leave 'em laughing, leave 'em calling for more -- don't overstay your welcome on stage."

Sen. Ted Stevens has been on the public stage more than 50 years. He never learned this lesson. Now the man who expected to be senator for life might end his life in jail.

In 2000, an Anchorage civic group said Stevens was Alaskan of the Century. Already, some people are saying that was the last century...

Michael Carey

Should Alaskans paying soaring fuel bills, especially Bush residents, receive state checks to help with their expenses?

One legislator said, in response to Gov. Sarah Palin's aid proposal, "I think the argument is going to come up that people live in rural Alaska by choice."

Well, people live in Fairbanks by choice -- some of the military excepted -- and folks along the Chena River are as unhappy as folks in McGrath.

Nevertheless, the lawmaker raises an interesting question. Should the state respond to needy citizens based on where they live -- and the assumption that they chose to live there?...

Michael Carey

"There we are a long time ago. ..."

Somebody wrote this inscription on the inside cover of a small tan photo album containing more than 75 family photos.

Maybe the same somebody who left the album on an Anchorage People Mover bus in October.

"People Mover has an agreement with us," says Anchorage Police Department community service officer Catherine Diehl-Robbins. "Their lost and found goes to us if they can't find the owner. We get a lot of wallets, cell phones and Walkmen -- items with monetary value."

The photos don't have monetary value, but Diehl-Robbins took them anyway and made them "a personal project."

"It's haunting me," she says." It's like the photos are screaming 'Find my owner.' "...

Michael Carey

Fairview Lawn Cemetery in Halifax, Nova Scotia, attracts visitors from all over the world. They come for one reason. Fairview Lawn is home to 121 victims of the sinking of the Titanic.

I arrived on a bright May afternoon, drawn by a half-century of reading about the disaster, starting with Walter Lord's best seller "A Night To Remember" published when I was 10...

Michael Carey

Hard to believe, but I have seen stories suggesting Eliot Spitzer will be prosecuted for "white slavery" -- violating the Mann Act. Does any Alaskan younger than Ted Stevens, who prosecuted violators of the Mann Act in Fairbanks in the '50s, know the history of this country's white slavery law?

The term "white slavery" is so lurid, so evocative of yesterday's pulp fiction and men's magazines, so central to the history of pornography, one struggles to put it in focus as a matter of law. The mind conjures up scantily clad blondes in chains imprisoned by swarthy foreigners with cigarettes dangling from their lips.

As a matter of law, the statute that prohibited white slavery was the White Slavery Act of 1910 or Mann Act, named for U.S. Rep. James Mann of Chicago...

Michael Carey