Steve Haycox

Alaska has opted out of several national initiatives recently. Medicaid expansion has the limelight just now, but there’s also protection of same-sex marriage. And there are the Common Core education standards. Because so many students across the nation are leaving school without adequate training to perform well in the workforce, without much knowledge of how public policy is made and how it affects them, or without being college ready, the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers seek to raise the level of preparedness-for-life of the nation’s youth by raising the level of knowledge students should master before graduating. They hope uniformity across states will facilitate employment opportunities. NGA and CCSSO are not government agencies; they’re...Steve Haycox
As soon as the luggage was stowed in the plane’s forward belly compartment, the DC-3 made for the runway and lifted off into Quebec’s autumn sky. The date was Sept. 9, 1949. Flying from Montreal, the flight had stopped in Quebec City to pick up additional travelers before continuing on to Baie-Comeau, farther down the St. Lawrence River. Among the passengers who boarded at Quebec were three American businessmen, and the promiscuous wife of a philandering jewelry salesman. Half an hour into the resumed flight, the plane exploded without warning. All 19 passengers and the four crew were killed. Unbeknownst to the wife, Rita, her husband, Joseph-Albert Guay, had placed a homemade bomb in her luggage, wanting her out of the way so he could marry his mistress. It was the first criminal bombing...Steve Haycox
Elections, normally thought to be straightforward affairs, often turn into rather complicated exercises in civic responsibility. In the general election in Alaska in November 1982, for example, voters went to the polls to choose among four gubernatorial candidates and eight ballot propositions. Bill Sheffield, Tom Fink, Dick Randolph, and Joe Vogler ran respectively as Democrat, Republican, Libertarian and Alaska Independence Party candidates. Voters on the right split their votes between Fink, 37 percent, Randolph, 15 percent and Vogler, 1.5 percent; Sheffield won election with 46 percent of the total. Of the eight ballot propositions, three garnered significant interest and commentary before the election: one to repeal a rural preference for subsistence harvest of traditional resources...Steve Haycox
It may be a new day for oil drilling in the Chukchi and Beaufort seas off Alaska’s North Slope. Despite President Obama’s announcement two weeks ago that certain biologically sensitive areas of the Chukchi and Beaufort off the Slope will be off limits to drilling, it seems increasingly likely that offshore drilling there will pick up soon. Just this week, following a federal court ruling against environmental challenges, the Interior Department’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management began the validation process for leases it sold in 2008, leases Shell Oil attempted to drill with its drill vessel Kuluk. The bureau estimates there are 4.3 billion barrels of oil and 2.2 trillion feet of natural gas in those leases. In addition, the bureau has announced its intention to undertake two additional...Steve Haycox
President Barack Obama’s announcement last week that he endorses renewal of the Interior Department’s management plans for the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and National Petroleum Reserve, and that certain biologically sensitive areas of the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas are off-limits for oil drilling, generated a political firestorm in Alaska. Our political leaders cried foul. They argued that the federal government doesn’t have the right to do whatever it wants in Alaska, that Alaska has a sovereignty that empowers it to limit what the federal government can do here. Their anger is misplaced. Where might such empowerment come from? Some say from the "compact theory" of federal governance. Others say from promises the federal government made. What is the compact theory? It’s the idea that...Steve Haycox
The respected Southern Education Foundation recently released the results of a study showing that for the first time in more than half a century, over 50 percent of public school students nationwide are considered low income, i.e. poor. Those who have been fleeing the public schools and advocating public funding for alternative schools must consider this a significant victory: The prospects of sending their children to school with “those people” diminish as the number of charter schools grows and the voucher movement succeeds in more and more communities. As well, those who are hoarding the nation’s wealth and who disparage as wasteful and useless spending for such wrap-around services as public school hygiene and health care, mental counseling, after-school programs, summer programs and...Steve Haycox
Dan Sullivan was sworn in as Alaska’s junior U.S. senator last Tuesday, and there’s an unprecedented aspect to his upcoming service: A direct connection to the 1 percent who run the country. It comes through the remarkable fortune of his family business, RPM International. RPM’s annual net sales top $11 billion; its net income is over $101 million. Sullivan’s grandfather started the company; its current chair and chief executive officer is his brother. RPM owns companies that make and market coatings, sealants and building materials; think RustOleum and DAP, but the industrial manufacturing sector is where the real money is. RPM is an elite investment: for over 40 years it has paid shareholders an increased dividend, something matched by only one-half of one percent of publicly traded U.S...Steve Haycox
The Christmas holiday is mostly over, and with it the persistent refrain of “Jingle Bells,” the overeating of irresistible cookies and treats, the patience of department-store Santa Clauses and the orgy we call Christmas shopping. The usual complaints about the “commercialization” of Christmas have again fallen on the closed ears of the American consumer, especially those with children, for whom this holiday seems especially designed. Christmas is a secular celebration, like it or not; it’s a cultural and commercial icon that a great many Americans would have trouble relating somehow to the birth of the baby Jesus. The buying bacchanalia may represent a corruption of the meaning of the season but it’s hard to fault a society that spends such a big chunk of its annual gross domestic...Steve Haycox
“The times they are a changin’,” and you can feel the wind without a weatherman. If ever Bob Dylan’s lyrics were apropos, they surely are now. But some folks can’t resist resisting the sweep of history. Respect for cultural differences notwithstanding, history is sweeping new definitions of family and women deep into mainstream culture. It’s six weeks since the U.S. Supreme Court denied Alaska’s request for a stay of court actions that allow same sex marriage in the state. The state has said it will continue to appeal the court decisions that allow such unions, though the new administration has yet to weigh in. And it is not clear whether the Supreme Court will take up a Michigan case that challenges the only circuit court decision in the country that bans the unions. But at this point,...Steve Haycox
Standing with tens of thousands of others on Bernauer Strasse in Berlin last Sunday evening, as 7,000 large, illuminated, helium-filled balloons were set free into the dark sky and the crowds cheered and clapped for joy, one could be pardoned for being overwhelmed. News outlets reported that a million people were out in Berlin that night, taking part in what Berliners called “25th Mauerfall,” the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin wall. The balloons were spaced about 10 feet apart all along the 14-kilometer path of the wall through central Berlin; people had been walking the route all weekend, and various displays recounted the sad history of the DDR, the East German state, and the euphoria of Nov. 9, 1989, when one of every four East Germans crossed into the West. It took an hour...Steve Haycox