Steve Haycox

The unfolding Sarah Palin story, perhaps the most interesting political saga in Alaska's young history, has been difficult to understand and place in context because it is so unprecedented. We use history to orient ourselves to reality, and Palin is, as she has said, mavericky; there's nothing like her in our Alaskan past...

Steve Haycox

One hundred years ago this month a remarkable mini-world's fair opened in Seattle on what is now the University of Washington main campus, the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition. Presented at a time when world's fairs were all the rage, Seattle's leaders intended the exposition to take their town beyond its rowdy, gold rush heritage and place it firmly among America's respected cities.

To a large degree they succeeded. But at the same time they inadvertently contributed to the perpetuation of a highly negative notion of indigenous peoples, a notion which retarded America's mainstream population from realizing the equal dignity and capability of people unlike themselves...

Steve Haycox

From the early days of the civil rights movement, John Lewis was a symbol of the fight against segregation, inequality and inhumanity. He was publicly beaten senseless by state and local police on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Ala., on "Bloody Sunday," March 7, 1965.

A key figure in the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, Lewis has represented Atlanta and vicinity in the U.S. Congress for more than 20 years. He has been called the "conscience of the U.S. Congress." He is a graduate of the American Baptist Theological Seminary, as well as Fisk University.

John Lewis opposes restrictions on the freedom of gays and lesbians, particularly their freedom to marry...

Steve Haycox

In 1735 one of the most respected attorneys in the American colonies, Andrew Hamilton, defended John Peter Zenger, a New York City newspaper publisher, in one of the most famous libel cases in American history. Zenger had criticized New York's colonial governor in the pages of his New York Weekly Journal. The government's lawyer argued that "government is a sacred thing," and in the interest of its authority, upon which public order depended, it ought not to be brought publicly into disrepute.

Hamilton argued that the sanctity of government did not place it above criticism, a superiority that would invite tyranny. Criticism that could be proven to be true, Hamilton averred, should not be called libel...

Steve Haycox

Like Redoubt volcano, the political earthquake that shook Alaska at the end of 2008, comprising Gov. Sarah Palin's nomination for vice president and Sen. Ted Stevens' conviction on corruption charges, continues to roll through our collective consciousness, disrupting our constructions of reality. Stevens was a convicted felon; now he's not. Instead, historically, he's a veteran politician who was defeated in a re-election bid near the end of his career...

Steve Haycox

The New Deal and the Great Depression have been much in news and commentary recently as analysts search for a reference point for understanding the present economic crisis. Writers wonder whether today's crisis is as great as that of the 1930s, and many statistics take those years as the measure of how bad things are now, as in "we haven't seen numbers like these since the Great Depression."...

Steve Haycox

One hundred six years ago today, a gold rush miner, Homer Bird, was hanged in Sitka for killing a man in front of several witnesses in a mining camp on the Yukon River. Bird was executed in Sitka because his trial was held there. He was one of probably 15 men executed in Alaska before abolition of the death penalty in 1957, just before statehood...

Steve Haycox

Eagle River state House Rep. Anna Fairclough generated considerable stir week before last when she questioned University of Alaska President Mark Hamilton during a House Finance Committee meeting about her perception of anti-development bias among university students and faculty. Both the tone and content of her remarks in the exchange left the impression that she resented that bias and thought that Hamilton ought to do something about it.

Hamilton, a retired U.S. Army general and firm advocate of free speech in the university, was quick to respond that he did not spend a career defending American freedoms just to turn around and violate them as a university president...

Steve Haycox

In the last half of the 19th century and into the 20th, one of the most popular graduated "readers" in American public schools was the set assembled by William Holmes McGuffey. Unabashedly dogmatic, the McGuffey readers sought to combine teaching reading with strict moral lessons. Here's an example.

An employer sought an honest young boy for an after-school job taking the day's receipts to the bank. To test three applicants for the job, he called them to his office one at a time. Upon arriving, each found a note telling him to wait in an anteroom until he was summoned; it would be a few minutes. They were to touch nothing. In the room were two chairs, one straight-backed, the other a rocker, and a large dresser with multiple drawers, along with several small tables...

Steve Haycox

It is quite extraordinary that in this year of the bicentennial of Abraham Lincoln's birth, we should witness the inauguration of a president perfectly evocative of Lincoln's central role in American history. Recognized as the most influential American ever by a panel of experts gathered by Atlantic Magazine, Lincoln freed the slaves, and in so doing saved the American union and American democracy. As the first black man elected U.S. president, Barack Obama represents not only the culmination of the cause to which Lincoln called the nation, and which he made his own, but also at long last the redemption of that cause from the tragedy of its callous abandonment by a craven North in the electoral Compromise of 1877...

Steve Haycox

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