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

The Alaska statehood campaign that culminated 50 years ago this month manifested a long-standing interest in and support for Alaska by the federal government, a fact somewhat at odds with the notion of Alaska as independent and exceptional.

Statehood certainly did provide Alaskans much greater control over their own affairs. No longer did federal bureaucrats handle most of Alaskans' official internal matters. Additionally, Alaskans now had a governor they selected themselves, not one chosen mainly by the senators from Washington state. Also, Alaska's Congressional delegate was legitimized by being able to vote in the House, and perhaps most remarkable, for the first time Alaskans had their own two U.S. senators...

Steve Haycox

It seems it would be difficult to top this year in Alaska politics. The surprise of Sarah Palin’s emergence as a political media star competes with the trial and election defeat of Sen. Stevens as principal elements in what has been described as a great Alaskan political earthquake. Without those twin tremors, passage of the gas line bill by the Legislature and the awarding of the incentive contract to Trans Canada, together with the extraordinary upheaval in oil prices, would rightly have been the primary focus public attention, along with the lesser importance of the 50th anniversary of Alaska statehood. Any attempt to evaluate the significance of these events, each itself dramatic enough, has been complicated by the deepening global recession, an evolving, distorting backdrop....

Steve Haycox

Today, Dec. 12, marks the anniversary of the first permanent granting of suffrage to women in the United States, in the Territory of Wyoming in 1869. While 2008 did not turn out to be the "year of the woman" in presidential politics, women have made extraordinary political strides in recent years. Neither House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Hillary Clinton as the likely third woman secretary of state, nor Gov. Sarah Palin as the second woman vice-presidential candidate have raised many eyebrows for being female.

Advances in politics do not mean complete equity, however, and gender inequities in pay, status and opportunity are still very pronounced. This was predicted by those women leaders long ago who did not think winning suffrage meant much...

Steve Haycox

From a historical point of view, it was entirely appropriate that in the year 2000, the Alaska Legislature voted Sen. Ted Stevens "Alaskan of the Century." However embarrassing it seems now, it was prescient for understanding his significance to the state's development.

Stevens' elevation to the U.S. Senate in 1968, by a Republican governor sandwiched between two Democratic gubernatorial terms, came at a critical moment in the state's history -- just as the Prudhoe Bay discovery began Alaska's transition to a Republican "Big Oil" state. From the battle to authorize the Alaska pipeline to investigations into oil profits, Stevens has nurtured oil development in Alaska...

Steve Haycox

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