Steve Haycox

Global warming has been a hot topic this winter. The polar vortex of cold air poured into the central and eastern U.S., carried by a wandering jet stream, possibly a result of more exposed water and less sea ice having caused more rapid warming of the atmosphere over Alaska. The drought in California has led to serious water rationing, and at least one source has revived Wally Hickel's idea of transporting water from Alaska to that paradise. And in his State of the Union address, President Obama noted, "The debate is settled. Climate change is a fact." Taking advantage of the retreat of Arctic sea ice, in September, the M.S. Nordic Orion, a bulk carrier operated by a Danish firm, became the first large freighter to navigate the Northwest Passage, carrying coking coal from Vancouver, B.C...Steve Haycox
It's over half a century since Michael Harrington published his eye-opening analysis of poverty in the U.S., "The Other America." Yet the problem he identified so vividly and effectively is still very much with us: Poverty is growing. In his revelation, Harrington presented a gripping picture of American poverty: the workers who could not earn a living wage; the teens who had nothing constructive to do because their were no jobs for them; the homeless who through no fault of their own slept in their cars or on park benches; the mothers frazzled by their failure most months to make their meager grocery purchases get their families through to the next paycheck; the seniors living on dog food and forgoing their prescribed medicines. Complacent and quite pleased with themselves, most...Steve Haycox
A new book formally published this week has already attracted considerable critical attention nationally. Joel Greenberg's "A Feathered River Across the Sky: The Passenger Pigeon's Flight to Extinction" (New York: Bloomsbury, 2014) tells the extraordinary story of the reduction of a natural species of wildlife from billions to nothing is just a few decades of the 19th century. Passenger pigeons, not to be confused with the chubby, waddly rock pigeons of today's urban parks, once flew around North America in aggregations whose size is impossible to picture. A larger, more slender bird than the rock pigeon, with a long tapering tail, they flew in hordes of billions, literally. When they passed over a region they often blotted out the sun, and might take three days to pass entirely. They fed...Steve Haycox
Income inequality has been much in the news the past several weeks, after Pope Francis' denunciation in November of "trickle down" economics, and President Obama's Dec. 4 speech at the Center for American Progress in which he called income inequality "the defining challenge of our time." David Simon, executive producer of the creative and powerful HBO series "The Wire," speaking at the Festival of Dangerous Ideas in Sydney, Australia, as reported in The Guardian, suggests that America has become a "horror show," that, far more dangerous than a racial divide, what characterizes the U.S. now is a class divide. And former U.S. Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin, former Deputy Secretary Roger Altman and Melissa Kearney of the University of Maryland wrote in the Washington Post this week that...Steve Haycox
It appears that "federal overreach" is going to be a prominent feature of the upcoming political season. Three of the major candidates running -- Gov. Sean Parnell, Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell and former Attorney General and Natural Resources Commissioner Dan Sullivan -- have indicated that they intend to make the most of the notion in their respective campaigns Clearly, they hope to paint their opponents as weak sisters in standing up for Alaska's rights, and too happily in league with federal programs in Alaska that inevitably carry federal oversight and constraint. The system of dual sovereignty the framers of our federal Constitution constructed is subtle and nuanced. Fearing centralized power, and appreciating the legitimacy of local self-determination, the founders hoped both to limit...Steve Haycox
There were commemorations in Washington, D.C., last month of one of the finer moments in American history: the response to the Saturday Night Massacre. What was commemorated was the courage to take a stand on principle by major figures in the Justice Department. During Senate hearings in 1973 investigating the break-in of Democratic Party offices in the Watergate office complex in D.C., a White House aide revealed that President Nixon had a comprehensive taping system in his office. An issue in the investigation was whether Nixon had personal knowledge of the break-in, and any attempt to cover up White House involvement. When Nixon's attorney general, Richard Kleindienst, resigned under a cloud in the summer of 1973, Nixon appointed Elliot Richardson. The Senate exacted a stipulation from...Steve Haycox
The shutdown of the federal government brought about because a Republican rump of the U.S. House refused to vote for an appropriations bill to fund government operations, and capitulated only when a default on government debt loomed, has led many to despair of the honorability of our elected officials. For an organized party in a legislature to allow its internal warfare to get into the public arena so vividly is anathema to the party leadership. In this instance, it led to House Speaker John Boehner being labeled by some as the weakest speaker in memory. In truth, the current civil war in the national Republican Party has been going on since at least the presidential nomination of Barry Goldwater in 1964. A fiscal conservative from Arizona, Goldwater sought to limit federal spending,...Steve Haycox
The shutdown of the federal government this week presents an opportunity for attention to Alaska's historic dependence on the feds. There are two articles of faith in Alaska's popular culture that contradict that dependence, of course. The first is that the people who built Alaska did so on their own, not only without help but in spite of misunderstanding and obstruction by the federal government. The second, corollary to the first, is that Alaskans would have built a better, freer society if the federal government had simply left Alaska alone, left it to the good people who had the courage, adventuresome spirit and risk-taking capacity to migrate here. Neither of these popular propositions is true; neither is consistent with Alaska's real history. We can begin with Alaska's natural...Steve Haycox
There will be a fierce campaign waged over the next 11 months over the ballot initiative to undo the Legislature's rollback of ACES, the Palin-era revision of Alaska's oil tax structure. Oil industry apologists and the Parnell administration will argue that people who signed the initiative petitions and those who support ACES (Alaska's Clear and Equitable Share of oil profitability) are naïve, and fail to understand that with production from current fields on the North Slope declining precipitously, Alaska must do all it can to provide tax incentives for new, perhaps even continued production. Supporters of ACES will argue that industry spokespersons are unable to make any commitment that reduced taxes will generate new production, that North Slope employment is at an all time high under...Steve Haycox
This past Wednesday marked the 50th anniversary of President John Kennedy's speech in Berlin dramatically declaring U.S. support for the people of West Berlin and West Germany, 22 months after the communist government in East Berlin constructed the Berlin Wall to keep East Berliners and East Germans from migrating to the West. This is the speech in which Kennedy spoke the memorable phrase, "Ich bin ein Berliner," meaning, I count myself as one with the people of Berlin, figuratively a Berliner. The phrase was meant to convey America's support for West Berlin in the face of increasing pressure on the isolated city by the Soviet Russian government and its client state, East Germany. The 50th anniversary of the speech was a major event in Germany, particularly in Berlin. The Berlin Wall went...Steve Haycox