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Chapter 13 of Eric Boehlert’s “Bloggers on the Bus” – An Alaska Update

Chapter Thirteen of Eric Boehlert’s fascinating new book, Bloggers on the Bus: How the Internet Changed Politics and the Press, discusses issues surrounding how the elevation of Alaska governor Sarah Palin to being John McCain’s running mate in the 2008 presidential election campaign challenged Alaska’s fledgeling blogger community. The chapter is essentially divided into two sections: The first details how our ad hoc team of progressive Alaskan bloggers dealt responsibly with getting information about Palin to the public, how we helped Outside (those who aren’t from Alaska) journalists, and how we shared resources openly and responsibly. The second part of this chapter of Eric’s book describes how the story of Palin’s youngest child, Trig, was handled, comparing responsible coverage in the blogosphere to the rest.

I only have two mild points on the Alaska chapter. It misses the story of how many false tales about Palin – Sambo beat the Bitch being the best example – that we killed or tried to kill. But how was Eric supposed to know? We killed the stories’ credibility, usually within minutes or hours. He does clearly differentiate between our progressive bloggers’ veracity and article quality, compared to the material covered in the second half of the chapter.

My second point is that I felt uncomfortable being the focus of such lavish praise by somebody for whom I have enormous respect. I never quite saw my role in our journey last fall as being as central as Eric describes it. I organized some hellacious parties, though, and hope Eric can make it up here soon, so we can toast him and feed him Alaska salmon and halibut, as we did so many of his colleagues from around the globe last year.

Boehlert’s chapter on Alaska does us honor, simply by stating many obvious facts that haven’t yet been dealt with by the Alaska mainstream press, which has come around to generally avoiding mention of our community in their stories, as 2009 has rolled along. Eric describes how we got together on one particular issue – the undeniable shortcomings of Sarah Palin to be Vice President of the United States – and, as the author states, helped create an authoritative narrative:

The Bridge to Nowhere, Troopergate, Palin’s unorthodox religious beliefs, her former love affair with Federal earmarks, her anti-science beliefs, and her dubious claim to being "commander-in-chief" of the Alaska National guard: it was a smorgasbord for local bloggers…..operating with clear-eyed skepticism, who for long stretches of time owned the Palin story.

Boehlert was already working on Bloggers on the Bus when Palin was picked. And the book, of course, ends with the election of 2008. But the sense of unity of mission we Alaska bloggers found last year continues into the middle of 2009. As part of the firedoglake preparation for the author’s appearance at fdl’s Book Salon on Sunday, here’s an update on what Eric’s subjects of Chapter Thirteen, Saradise Lost, have been up to since early November, 2008:

Two phenomenal developments that thrived over the cold Alaska winter have been the growing popularity ( up to 400,000 hits per month recently) of The Mudflats, and the increasing traction of Shannyn Moore (from Just a Girl from Homer) as a national level independent commentator. This occurred in spite of an attempt by an Alaska legislator to stifle the voice of The Mudflats, and by the station manager at Anchorage’s only progressive radio station, to thwart the growth of Shannyn Moore’s access to media, locally and nationwide.

The Mudflats was and still is the only Alaska progressive blog to enjoy daily comments that routinely reach into the hundreds. In January, the Mudflats community helped birth the increasing links between rural – mostly Alaska Native – bloggers, and the rest of us. This was very important this past winter, as the emerging food and fuel crisis on the lower Yukon River became apparent.

As Boehlert describes in his book about how Alaska bloggers got the word out on Palin, so we led the way on providing information from and relief to these communities. With The Mudflats as central node, Alaska bloggers raised thousands of dollars in cash relief, and helped bring in tens of thousands of dollars worth of relief supplies, from February, through this week. We also raised serious questions about the Governor’s sole visit this year to the impoverished Native areas, as a guest of Rev. Franklin Graham, and with Alaska’s most prominent homophobe, Anchorage’s Rev. Jerry Prevo.

The winter food and fuel crisis in the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta was followed by the worst spring breakup ice jam flooding on those two rivers, in more than a generation. Alaska bloggers, along with relief agencies, local, state and Federal governments, cooperated in getting the story out, help in.

Now, as the ice is freshly gone, Alaska bloggers are following the reaction of villages along the Yukon and Kuskokwim, as those 7,000 year-old communities are forced to refrain from fishing commercially, and are severely limited in how much subsistence catch they may bring in – all this while the nearby, 25-year-old, incredibly wealthy, Seattle-based, foreign-owned Bering Sea trawler fleet catches hundreds of thousands of valuable Yukon and Kuskokwim Chinook, Coho and Chum salmon, as permitted "by-catch," only to be thrown overboard to perish.

Some Native leaders are threatening civil disobedience, while Gov. Palin is sending extra law enforcement officers out to the Yukon far more quickly than she ever thought of sending effective relief last winter. Alaska’s blogging community, led by Anonymous Bloggers, Alaska Real, The Mudflats, No Trawl Zone, Progressive Alaska and The Alaska Report will be reporting on this from the viewpoint of the villagers, which has not happened in the past.

While the ties between people in Alaska’s bush areas and The Mudflats’ growth were very important this past winter, so was the growing importance of the voice of Shannyn Moore. After working in Anchorage progressive talk radio for almost two years, Moore was fired from Anchorage’s KUDO AM radio last summer. At the time, she didn’t have a blog, and hadn’t written any articles at national blogs. Her partner, Kelly Walters, myself and a few others encouraged her to start a blog. She felt she wasn’t strong enough writer.

When Palin was chosen by McCain, Moore had recently begun Just a Girl from Homer. Soon she was writing articles for Huffington Post. Other Alaskans had written there earlier than Moore, but over the winter, Moore’s articles have often made it to the top of Huffington Post’s daily lists. One of her most recent HuffPo pieces, Christian Fundamentalist Terrorism, posted on May 31st, now has 2,295 comments. Moore, who was so concerned about the strength of her writing, has proven to be a powerful writer, with a gift for wit:

The tickets were free. Michael Reagan and Sarah Palin…dream team for liberals’ nightmare.

I don’t care for the politics of either, but more than that, I consider them both dangerous.

Sarah Palin held her anti-choice stance up like the Lion King baby after her RNC speech last fall. Michael Reagan suggested the remarkably late late term abortions of children with the name Hezbollah via hand grenade. In August of 2006, Reagan said of such named children, "You know what I’d get ’em for a first birthday? I’d put a grenade up their butts and light it. Happy birthday, baby. Bye bye." When a caller suggested infants are not responsible for their given names, he stated, "So what’s wrong with killing the mothers and the babies?"

Nice guy. What is that? Seven trimesters?

and for incisiveness:

The right wing media hacks make targets of the left. The fundamentalist reverends blather their intolerance of other Americans. Their marriages are in jeopardy if the GLBT community can walk down an aisle. Their children are going to be molested if you have to rent to a same sex couple. Fear…fear…fear the queer.

Bill O’Reilly’s hit piece on Dr. Tiller is a training tape for Christian Fundamentalist Terrorists. Never did he ask the woman interviewed how she, as a 13 year old, got pregnant, who was the father, or where her parents were when she underwent an abortion at Dr. Tiller’s clinic. I’m sure O’Reilly’s drivel will insist on personal accountability for the murderer. I’m sure he won’t be in line for any "accountability" for calling the doctor "Tiller the baby-killer" or his clinic a "death mill."

Shannyn Moore has been a frequent guest commentator on MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow Show and on Keith Olbermann’s Countdown. Over the winter she did subbing for hosts on Air America. Five weeks ago, she was picked up by Anchorage right-wing talk radio icon, KBYR, for a two-hour Saturday evening progressive program. It is quickly becoming the most popular weekend radio talk slot in Alaska, and is webcast. Between her Huffington Post readership, her own blog, local talk radio, and monthly national TV appearances, Moore has become a progressive media figure like Alaska has never before seen.

These are just two of the bloggers mentioned in Eric Boehlet’s Bloggers on the Bus, Chapter 13. Eric described us as a community, and in that sense, since the 2008 election, we’ve tackled some important local and statewide issues, with varying degrees of success.

The elevation of public awareness of the rural crisis this winter and spring was certainly important. But perhaps our greatest success was our important role in the defeat of Gov. Palin’s nominee for Alaska Attorney General. She picked Wayne Anthony Ross to succeed her first attorney general, Talis Colberg, who resigned in the wake of his having had to follow Palin’s still-hidden illegal order, to direct state employees not to answer subpoenas issued by the State Legislative Council, regarding what became known as "Troopergate."

All of Alaska’s progressive blogs mentioned in Eric’s book, plus other blogs, many from Alaska’s LBGTQ community, united to inform legislators, local media and concerned voters, about Ross’ questionable past actions and present views. The combination of Alaska Native voice blogs, gay rights blogs and cross-issue progressive blogs working together, was stunningly successful. In the end, Ross, over-reacting to questions from legislators who had been besieged by callers and e-mailers we had motivated, helped do himself in. But his defeat, and it was a sound defeat at that, was the first ever of a nominee for an Alaska Governor’s cabinet.

These past two weeks, the Anchorage area progressive bloggers have been helping the Anchorage LBGTQ community get people to call their Anchorage Assembly members, regarding an upcoming civil rights ordinance there, that will end discrimination against lesbians, bisexuals, gays, transgendered and questioning citizens, in housing, and in the workplace. We’re hopeful.

Palin’s staff and her supporters
on right-wing radio actually blame us for her plummet in popularity from 85% last summer, to 54% this spring. Right-wing radio hack and misogynist, Eddie Burke says we’re responsible for "all of it!" Thanks, Eddie, but we just helped out. A lot.

Palin’s camp is claiming that bloggers and liberal "ankle biters" are responsible for Palin’s growing legal bills, as she fights a series of so-called "ethics complaints." The governor claims to have won all of them that have so far been settled, but she had to plea bargain one of them, involving about $10,000.00 in travel expenses for her kids to travel to events they shouldn’t have attended at state expense. Her claim that this was a victory is specious. Additionally, between that complaint’s negotiated settlement and her own complaint she filed against herself (that resulted in the Petumenos Report) these sole two undoubtedly represent more than 4/5 of her legal expenses, if not almost all of them.

The blog whose coverage of these executive ethics challenges has reached the highest levels, has been Celtic Diva’s Blue Oasis. Better than all the rest of us, Linda Kellen has posted detailed analyses of each of the complaints filed against the governor that have been made public. She has attended many public hearings on these and related issues. More than any of us, she has been hounded by the Palinbots at TeamSarah, and at Conservatives4Palin (I refuse to provide links). One thing I’ve noticed about Palin’s somewhat rabid supporters, is that they have attacked AK Muckraker at Mudflats, Shannyn Moore, Linda Kellen and women who filed ethics complaints against the governor.

Only women have been attacked.

They’re typical WATB pricks, who only know how to attack women.

This past week, while almost all Alaska media failed to report on the Anchorage appearance of film maker John Ziegler (actually, "film maker," John Ziegler), wingnutty murder advocate Mike Reagan (with Gov. Palin introducing him with a huge helping of her special, word salad), and the Teabaggers’ Wasilla picnic (and the immense importance of the fact that these events were all very poorly attended), Alaska’s bloggers were there. In force.

Yesterday (Friday), Alaska’s best video blogger, Dennis Zaki, confronted one of the chief spokespeople for the projected mega-disaster, Pebble Mine, on an entire range of issues. The evening news will show our blogger-videographer asking tough questions, with the local media lobbing softballs.

When Eric Boehlert’s book came out four weeks ago, our motley crew of Alaska bloggers – anonymous, pseudonymous and public, were all buoyed by recognition from one of America’s most valuable figures on the web.

Thanks, Eric, on behalf of our entire community, for our small chapter in your big, important book! Hopefully, when you get to your next one, we’ll have helped paint this very red state blue.

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Alaska progressive activist, notorious composer and firedoglake devotee.