Daniel's blog

Listen Today 2/15/2006: VR, Bush & Kurds

If you act today, you can hear a Vatican Radio interview with Laura Bush and the success story that is Iraqi Kurdistan.

Unfortunately, Vatican Radio only keeps the latest week online, so these interviews will not be available tomorrow.

Jan/Feb 2006 Catholic Worker Digest posted

I have finished and posted the January/February 2006 Catholic Worker Digest.

Back issues of the digest can be found on my personal projects page.

New FGI Discussions: Februrary 13, 2006

Both the volunteers at Free Government Information () and Michele McGinnis, FGI's guest blogger for February posted new stories this week.

We hope you will join us and add to the conversation. Remember, you can always comment without registering.

Michele's Posts:

Fun Facts on Alaska Population

The February 2006 issue of Alaska Economic Trends has a very clear overview of the American Community Survey.

The same article contains these interesting facts about Alaska:

Politics Thursday: Iran - An Alternative

This the last of my "modular" Politics Thursday postings. Other topics discussed this week were:

Feel free to discuss of this Thursday's postings here or with the actual topic post.

As I write this, war is once again in the air, this time against Iran. I suspect we'll see some kind of military action by the US between Fall 2006 and Spring 2007. I say this by comparing the rhetoric today against Iran with the rhetoric against Iraq in 2002.

Before we bomb or invade Iran, we should consider the following:

  • They have invaded no country since the 1979 revolution.
  • Their hatred of Israel and/or support of Islamist terrorists is matched by many Muslim countries including American "allies" like Saudi Arabia and nuclear armed Pakistan.
  • Like Iraq, Iran has no operational ties with al-Qaeda.
  • The most current publicly reported National Intelligence Estimate states that Iran is a decade away from nuclear weapons.
  • The Iraqi government is heavily influenced by Iran and would likely make life difficult for our occupation forces.

For these reasons and the basic immorality of so-called preventive war (at least for a superpower that cannot be destroyed from without), we should not launch a first strike against Iran.

But since a nuclear armed Iran is a legitimate concern in view of their extreme rhetoric against Israel, what should we do instead.

We should use carrots and sticks the Europeans were incapable of offering.

We should offer Iran what Europe could not - a formal US-Iranian non-aggression pact. We would pledge not to attack Iran overtly, or use the CIA to bring down the gov't like we did in 1954. In exchange Iran would pledge not to attack the US, its deployed forces or its allies including Israel with its military forces.

The non-agression pact would not require the Iranians to give up on peaceful nuclear development, but would be voided if Iran acquired nuclear weapons.

Additionally, in exchange for Iranian recognition of Israel, we would reestablish full diplomatic and trade negotiations.

If the Iranians did not take us up on these offers, then we'd offer this two-part warning:

1) If you use nuclear weapons on the US, its deployed forces, or any of its allies, we will destroy all Iranian cities with a population greater than 10,000.

2) Given your possession of nuclear weapons and your declared intention of destroy Israel, we will assign any nuclear attack on Israel as coming from Iran and carry out the terms threatened above. Only full diplomatic relations with Israel can deactivate this paragraph.

It must be made explicitly clear to Iran that they can obtain national security without nuclear weapons and that their millenia old culture would not survive their first use of nukes. I honestly believe that the current regime would prefer survival.

Sounds harsh? It's a better deal then we gave the Soviets. And at least it would be in response to an actual harm instead of trying to wipe out a nation for what they MIGHT do down the road.

We've been there, done that and continue to pay the price in blood, treasure, and diminished security. It's time to do something different besides what President Bush and Senator Clinton have to offer us.

Politics Thursday: SOTU questions

After reading the President's latest State of the Union speech, I was left with many questions that I challenge any of the President's supporters to answer. Administration opponents are welcome to speculate, but profanity is unwelcome.

My top seven questions are:

Politics Thursday: Incomplete Multiculturalism

Some commentators have blamed the cartoon riots on multiculturism. They say it was a mistake to allow immigrants to Europe to retain their ethnic and religious distinctiveness. Their refusal to assimilate is the root cause of rioting.

The other NSA provides Wiretap Briefing

The George Washington University based National Security Archive has compiled a new briefing book on the history of electronic surveillance:

Wiretap Debate Deja Vu

Documents show Ford White House embraced wiretap law
instead of claiming "inherent" Presidential authority in 1976 despite objections from Rumsfeld, G.H.W. Bush, Kissinger.

Telling Alaska's Story: Akiachak

Today's featured Alaska Community is Akiachak. The information was obtained from the Alaska Department of Commerce's Community Information Summaries.

Location and Climate
Akiachak is located on the west bank of the Kuskokwim River, on the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta. It lies 18 miles northeast of Bethel. The community lies at approximately 60.909440° North Latitude and -161.43139° (West) Longitude. (Sec. 36, T010N, R069W, Seward Meridian.) Akiachak is located in the Bethel Recording District. The area encompasses 6.8 sq. miles of land and 0.1 sq. miles of water. The area averages 16 inches of precipitation, with snowfall of 50 inches. Summer temperatures range from 42 to 62 degrees Fahrenheit. Winter temperatures range from -2 to 19 degrees Fahrenheit.

History, Culture and Demographics

The area was used by the Yup'ik Eskimos as a seasonal subsistence site. Called "Akiakchagamiut" in the 1890 census, the village had a population of 43 at that time. A post office was established in 1934. It incorporated as a second-class city on February 7, 1974. The city government was dissolved on January 31, 1990, in favor of traditional village council governance.

A federally-recognized tribe is located in the community -- the Akiachak Native Community. The population of the community consists of 96.4% Alaska Native or part Native. Akiachak is a Yup'ik Eskimo village with a fishing and subsistence lifestyle. It has a strong traditional community, and was the first city in Alaska to dissolve its city government in favor of the Native village government. The sale, importation and possession of alcohol are banned in the village. During the 2000 U.S. Census, total housing units numbered 150, and vacant housing units numbered 17. U.S. Census data for Year 2000 showed 149 residents as employed. The unemployment rate at that time was 25.5 percent, although 58.15 percent of all adults were not in the work force. The median household income was $35,833, per capita income was $8,321, and 21.16 percent of residents were living below the poverty level.

----------------

Akiachak has a combined school community library. Here is information for this library for FY 2003 from the National Center of Education Statistics:

Akiachak School/community Library

Location:
#1 Main Street
Akiachak, AK 99551

County:
Bethel

Region: Far West
Library ID: AK0095

Library Collection
Book and Serial Volumes: 11,657
Subscriptions: 60
Video Materials: 590
Audio Materials: 130

Total Circulation: 9,675
Childrens Mat. Circulation: N/A

Attendance and Services
Library Visits: 11,650 (an increase from FY 2001)
Childrens Program Attendance: 4,398
Turnover Rate: 0.78
--------------

Next week we turn to Akiak.

How to tell day from night

Answer in response to the question, "How can one tell when night has ended and the day has begun?":

When you look into the face of any man and recognize your brother in him; when you look into the face of any woman and recognize in her your sister. If you cannot do this, no matter what time it is by the sun it is still night. - Anthony de Mello, SJ (via Prayer for Daybreak and Day's End (Feb 6), ISBN 0-86716-147-7)

Ravens, Rainbows and Juneau in winter

I haven't done a photo entry for awhile, so here are a few new pictures from my Flickr collection:

Ravens - Taken on January 29, 2006

A rainbow outside my back window on January 22, 2006

A picture of downtown Juneau in morning twilight taken on February 4, 2006

New FGI Discussions: February 6, 2006

As we welcomed FGI's first guest blogger, the volunteers at Free Government Information () began the discussions listed below. We hope you will join us and add to the conversation. Remember, you can always comment without registering.

Good summary of ALA President's program

The subscription-worthy blog from the Library and Information Technology Association (LITA) has what appears to be an excellent summary of the ALA President's Program with Michael Gorman, Bill Johnson, and Andrei Codrescu.

This might provide some additional context for GregS' recent post Am I dreaming?. From the summarized remarks, I think Codrescu makes a good case on behalf of Cuba's informal librarians.

PT: Strangling Democracy / Allied Torturers / Papal Msg

For this week's Politics Thursday, I'm pulling together several somewhat unrelated topics, a few of which have spent weeks waiting to be heard. Next week I may address the President's 2006 State of the Union address, if I think I'm not beating a dead horse. Until then, besides Durst's excellent post, try reading FactCheck's debunking of many SOTU claims, and the Cunning Realist has a good first take.

Strangling Democracy
This week America had a choice to show its commitment to democracy. We could have showed that “democracy� means more to us than agreement with our policies.

With bi-partisan fervor, America failed. The Palestinian Authority did what we told them to, democracy-wise. They held internationally acclaimed free and fare elections. The old regime did not resort to vote fraud to keep power. Self-determination and democracy are what we claim to want. But they chose a party that is against American and Israeli policy. So instead of finding a way to fund the Authority with transparency to ensure the funds are spent on peaceful purposes, Democrats and Republicans alike vied with one another on how best to defund and punish Palestinians for exercising their democratic rights.

Don't get me wrong. Hamas is a terrorist organization and should be watched very closely. But so was Fatah. By failing to prevent attacks by the various "Fatah factions", Fatah demonstrated that they didn't really accept Israel's right to exist. They lied for power. Hamas is just upfront about its hatred.

For that matter, no Arab countries except Egypt and Jordan accept Israel's right to exist. Remember the deafening silence in the Arab world when Iran called for Israel's destruction? Hamas is simply expressing what the other governments in the region are thinking – and what is routinely preached in Saudi Arabia's mosques.

So, what should have we done instead? Congratulate the Palestinians for a successful election and inform the Hamas government that they will be funded for one fiscal year IF they can show that the money is being used for humanitarian needs and economic development. After that, future aid will depend on the government of the PA recognizing Israel's right to exist. Give them enough time to sort things out, get a government into office and see if the responsibilities of governing curb their rhetoric. A better choice than making it crystal clear that we value compliance, NOT democracy.

Allied Torturers - I've created a new page on my personal web site listing countries that the US should stop providing gov't-to-gov't aid to if we want to be serious about standing against torturers. Since we're trying Saddam Hussein (rightly) for torture, we could at least stop writing checks to torturers who support our policies. Of course, perhaps some of these countries harbor secret prisons.

Pope and bishops on peace and war

Since the beginning of the year, the Catholic Church has issued a number of interesting statements that bear on peace and relations between nations. Because this post is getting long, I'll highlight two.

On January 1st, Pope Benedict issued the message In Truth, Peace for the celebration of the World Day of Peace. A day that gets no coverage in this country.

In this message, Pope Benedict XVI asserts that peace cannot exist without Truth. He boldly asserts "Any authentic search for peace must begin with the realization that the problem of truth and untruth is the concern of every man and woman; it is decisive for the peaceful future of our planet." Recalling the lies of the 20th Century, he warns us "to be seriously concerned about lies in our own time, lies which are the framework for menacing scenarios of death in many parts of the world."

Contrary to those in both parties that are convinced that "September 11th changed EVERYTHING" and all past rules of wars have flown out the window, Pope Benedict reminds us:

The truth of peace must also let its beneficial light shine even amid the tragedy of war. The Fathers of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, in the Pastoral Constitution Gaudium et Spes, pointed out that ''not everything automatically becomes permissible between hostile parties once war has regrettably commenced''.(7) As a means of limiting the devastating consequences of war as much as possible, especially for civilians, the international community has created an international humanitarian law. In a variety of situations and in different settings, the Holy See has expressed its support for this humanitarian law, and has called for it to be respected and promptly implemented, out of the conviction that the truth of peace exists even in the midst of war. International humanitarian law ought to be considered as one of the finest and most effective expressions of the intrinsic demands of the truth of peace. Precisely for this reason, respect for that law must be considered binding on all peoples. Its value must be appreciated and its correct application ensured; it must also be brought up to date by precise norms applicable to the changing scenarios of today's armed conflicts and the use of ever newer and more sophisticated weapons.

While the Pope strongly condemns terrorism in this message, the focus is on the powerful and their obligation to seek the truth.

A few weeks ago, the US Bishops put out a statement called Toward a Responsible Transition in Iraq. The document, while not calling for an immediate withdrawal does deplore the "stay the course" chant coming out of the White House. I think the whole thing is worth reading, but would like to share this bit that bears directly on the falsity that "supporting the troops" means supporting the Iraq occupation and asking no questions about how we got here:

Our Conference wants to be clear. Raising grave moral questions regarding the decision to invade Iraq is not to question the moral integrity of those serving in the military. Expressing moral questions regarding the treatment of U.S. prisoners and detainees is not to question the professional integrity of the vast majority of those on deployment. In fact, asking difficult questions is a patriotic and moral duty that reflects our values and serves the bests interests of our nation and those who serve it with honor.

Need a form? Try Forms.gov!

Thanks to a Search Engine Watch review of the new FirstGov search engine, I learned about a site called forms.gov.

This is an official federal site aiming to be a comprehensive catalog of forms offered by federal agencies. Forms may be searched by Form Number, Agency, Agency List, Alphabetic List.

I like the agency search because it is a set of drop-down boxes, so you don't need to know the exact form of a sub-agency name.

Telling Alaska's Story:

This week's selection from the Alaska Community Database is Akhiok:

Location and Climate
Akhiok is located at the southern end of Kodiak Island at Alitak Bay. It lies 80 miles southwest of the City of Kodiak, and 340 miles southwest of Anchorage. The community lies at approximately 56.945560° North Latitude and -154.17028° (West) Longitude. (Sec. 28, T037S, R031W, Seward Meridian.) Akhiok is located in the Kodiak Recording District. The area encompasses 7.9 sq. miles of land and 2.5 sq. miles of water. The climate of the Kodiak Islands is dominated by a strong marine influence. There is little or no freezing weather, moderate precipitation, and frequent cloud cover and fog. Severe storms are common from December through February. Annual precipitation is 35 inches. Temperatures remain within a narrow range, from 25 to 54 degrees Fahrenheit.

History, Culture and Demographics
The original village of Kashukugniut was occupied by Russians in the early 19th century. The community was originally a sea otter hunting settlement, located at Humpy Cove. The name Akhiok was reported in the 1880 Census. In 1881, residents relocated to the present site at Alitak Bay. The community's Russian Orthodox church, Protection of the Theotokos Chapel, was built around 1900 at the site of an earlier structure. A post office was established in 1933. Residents of nearby Kaguyak relocated to Akhiok after the 1964 earthquake and tsunami destroyed their village. The City was incorporated in 1972.

A federally-recognized tribe is located in the community -- the Native Village of Akhiok; Kodiak Island Inter-Tribal Council. The population of the community consists of 93.8% Alaska Native or part Native. Akhiok is an Alutiiq village dependent upon fishing and subsistence activities. During the 2000 U.S. Census, total housing units numbered 34, and vacant housing units numbered 9. Vacant housing units used only seasonally numbered 2. U.S. Census data for Year 2000 showed 30 residents as employed. The unemployment rate at that time was 14.29 percent, although 47.37 percent of all adults were not in the work force. The median household income was $33,438, per capita income was $8,472, and 9.89 percent of residents were living below the poverty level.

Akhiok has no public library.

New FGI Discussions: January 30, 2006

This week was a busy one for the volunteers at Free Government Information () as we posted the numerous stories below. We hope you will join us and add to the conversation. Remember, you can always comment without registering.

Politics Thursday: The Case for Open Borders

I wrote this post before I heard about World Migration Day, or Pope Benedict XVI's remarks in commemoration of this day. But it seems in keeping with it's spirit, so I'm offering it today instead of something on Iraq, Iran or our motion towards an elected monarchy.

For what it's worth, I'm officially endorsing an open border policy for the United States. What I mean by an "open border" is that everyone entering this country would be required to register with the federal government. Their names would be run against a database of aliens who were convicted of crimes against life or property in the United States. If the alien doesn't appear on this list, they're waived through. If they are flagged, they are arrested and if they can't prove a case of mistaken identity are jailed for a year and deported to their home country.

I believe this system will strengthen US security, lower crime, improve wages and working conditions and ultimately lower the number of permanent aliens. I also think there is a moral case for an open border. Why do I think that? Let's start with the pragmatic considerations:

  • Strengthen US Security – In order to prevent terror attacks, we need as much information about potential terrorists as possible. Some of this information will need to come from the immigrant community. But people in that community have no incentive to come forward if going to the authorities means immediate arrest as an "illegal alien." Also, by ensuring everyone registers at the border will allow their names to be run against a unified terrorist watch list (if we ever come up with one).
  • Lower Crime – Many of the same points made under antiterrorism can be made for crime. People won't come forward with information about crimes or report crimes if doing so results in arrests and deportations. Police agencies across the country understand this and that's why so many will not assist INS or ask about documentation status when investigation criminal cases. Still, many undocumented aliens won't report crimes or come forward as witnesses in criminal cases. Removing the fear of deportation will increase resolution of criminal cases.
  • Improve wages and working conditions – Illegal immigration is big business, sometimes facilitated by large firms such as Tyson and other corporations. According to Business Week, undocumented aliens "illegal immigrants now comprise fully half of all farm laborers, up from 12% in 1990, according to a recent Labor Dept. survey. They're a quarter of workers in the meat and poultry industry, 24% of dishwashers, and 27% of drywall and ceiling tile installers, according to Pew senior research associate Jeffrey S. Passel." Most of these people work for far less than minimum wage and in horrible conditions. Some undocumented workers labor under slave-like conditions. But if aliens complain, they are turned over to immigration – or worse. Legalizing residence for all would allow us to fully enforce wage and labor laws. This would have two good effects – labor conditions would improve and the costs of foreign labor would go up.
  • Lower the number of permanent aliens – I think this would happen for two reasons – 1) As the cost of foreign labor rose as a result of improved wage enforcement, employers would have less incentive to hire aliens and/or facilitate their transport and 2) Undocumented aliens often are afraid to visit their families because they risk losing everything every time they cross the border. Without that fear, they will visit their extended families more often and possibly stay home once they've earned enough money for their families. Some will choose to stay in the US, but I doubt most will.

I admit that I don't have research to back these assertions, but any approach seems to better than our current bipartisan immigration regime which causes the following tangible harms:

  • Hundreds die crossing the border each year.
  • Families are broken up, contributing to social dysfunction.
  • Operation of sweatshops and slave sex trade.
  • Waste of resources by imprisoning thousands of people every year whose sole "crime" is violating immigration laws.
  • drugs being smuggled in with immigrants.

Our current immigration system generates these harms without solving the problems it's supposed to solve. So we need to do something different. That's the pragmatic case for open borders.

The moral case for an open border is simple – The whole earth is God's and every human being created in His image as His children. We simply do not have the right to decree where any of God's children can live on God's earth. This was recognized in the Bible, where the Israelites could regulate the lives of foreigners in their midst, but could not prevent migrants from coming to the land of Israel. In fact, foreigners, along with the poor, were to be afforded special protection. If Egypt had had border controls in the New Testament, Christ would have been slaughtered as a child. If the nations of the known world had restrictive immigration laws, Paul couldn't have built the Church.

So, now that I've offended people on both sides of the political spectrum, what do you think of my idea?

Peace Corps Builds Libraries

The January 2006 issue of American Libraries has an article on how the Peace Corps Partnership Program is helping to build libraries in poor countries around the world.

Author Karen Fjeld provides an example how these libraries make a difference:

Telling Alaska's Story: Afognak

This week's selection from the Alaska Community Database is Afognak:

Afognak
(uh-FOG-nack); also see Port Lions

Afognak is an unpopulated community or a seasonal-use area. Consequently, there is no "complete" Community Profile.

The information below provides a brief overview of the community.

Community Overview

This traditional Alutiiq (Russian-Aleut) village was located on Afognak Bay, on the southwest coast of Afognak Island, north of Kodiak Island. The Kodiak Archipelago is warmed by the Japanese current. The climate is similar to Southeast Alaska, with less precipitation. January temperatures range from 14 to 46 degrees Fahrenheit. July temperatures vary from 39 to 76 degrees Fahrenheit. Average annual rainfall is 74 inches.

The village name was derived from Afognak Island, and was first reported in 1839 by Sub-Lt. Mikhail Murashev. The Census of 1890 noted a series of settlements along the beach, including Rutkovsky village, a group of retired employees of the Russian American Company. A post office was maintained intermittently from 1888 to 1958. The Good Friday earthquake of 1964 generated a tsunami which destroyed the village. A new community was constructed on the northeast coast of Kodiak Island, called Port Lions, and the residents of Afognak moved there permanently in December 1964. There are a few small logging camps and fishing lodges on Afognak Island. A community of Russian Old Believers have also settled on the Island, at Aleneva.

The economy is based on subsistence and logging activities. Transportation is provided by float plane from Kodiak. Float Plane access is found in various areas around the island.

Whenever I come across a community where I have some personal knowledge, I'll share that along with the profile. That won't happen too often as I am not as well traveled in Alaska as I should be. As with Adak, I hope that anyone with knowledge of the community will leave a comment.

When I remember, I'll also provide an Open WorldCat link to books for the community in question.

Afognak Reading List from Open WorldCat.

Here is the list I should have included for Adak.

Keep in mind that Open WorldCat is a subset of the whole database, so I'm not pretending these links are comprehensive. I'd also welcome similar links to RLIN's RedLightGreen if such can be made.

Next week: Akhiok

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