Elise Sereni
     Patkotak
Friday, August 10, 2007

Not only do Blue and Blondie eat grass, but they apparently eat bugs too. As we walk, Blue’s head swivels from side to side with each bee or bug that flies by and then I see her jaws snap shut and then she’s chewing. And all I can think is that this is the same mouth that wakes me up with a lick each morning. I know, I know. Dogs do way worse things with their mouths than eat bugs but for some reason, this is the thing that makes me want to run from the room screaming “EEEEEEEWWWWWWWWWW!!!!!!!”

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 06:59 AM •
Thursday, August 09, 2007

There is a part of me that wakes up each morning and wonders what fun headline I’ll read today about Alaska’s politicians. I watch the Daily Show every night on the chance that Ted Stevens may be their star again.  But in between those moments, I’m mostly sad about what’s happening in our state.

I was speaking to my sister about this recently and she snorted and said, “I live in New Jersey and you want to whine to me about corrupt politicians. Are you insane?” She was right.  I grew up in a city whose mayor’s went directly from office to jail with monotonous regularity.
I guess that should make me more understanding and tolerant of our current crop of Alaskan politicians.  They certainly have met what seems to be the expectation most Alaskans have for their elected officials, which is to bring as much money to the state as possible and have as much of that money as possible available for free to everyone.  Alaska’s symbol really shouldn’t be the North Star or the northern lights or a bear with a salmon in its mouth. Alaska’s symbol should simply be a hand held out waiting for something free to fall into it.
At least in New Jersey no one pretended to be the independent frontier type. New Jerseyites know what they want from their politicians and are pretty open about asking for it.  Alaskans, on the other hand, hide behind some coy veil of independent, frontier spirit when, in reality, no one can shovel government money at us fast enough to satisfy our greed.
So it’s no wonder that our choice in politicians is more based on what they can get for us than on how they might represent us. Because honestly, if we didn’t think that way, would we have re-elected Don Young after he threatened someone with an oosik on the House floor?  And we would have been at least a little more embarrassed than we seemed to be with Ted Stevens’ designation as the king of pork barrel spending.  Instead, we named an airport after him. 
I think the only person who saddens and surprises me in this mess is Lisa Murkowski. I like the cut of her jib and the independent streak she exhibited in standing up for us against the current administration when it came time to renew the Patriot Act. I thought that with Lisa, we had a chance to have someone we could proudly call our own.  Because, let’s be honest, even before the latest FBI raids and headlines about various federal investigations, we all kind of knew that both Stevens and Young had stayed too long at the fair; long enough to maybe be in bed with all the wrong people; long enough to have possibly lost their ethical compass in the morass of butt kissing they endure whenever they show their faces in public here. Absolute power corrupts absolutely and we freely gave them both absolute power.
Now this land deal on the Kenai has muddied Lisa and made me wonder if she too developing a deaf ear to the public’s perception of impropriety. She did right to return the land. But the fact that she was embroiled at all in this kind of controversy is really troubling.  Has she already lost her ability to know when she’s overstepping the bounds of propriety?  Especially in a case like this, where the boundaries should have been evident from the start.
There is a story, probably apocryphal, about one of South Jersey’s most famous politicians, Frank “Hap” Farley. He represented my little piece of South Jersey in the state capitol for at least as long as Stevens has represented Alaska in the Senate. The story claims that a person needing a zoning variance went to his office to ask for help, implying he would do whatever it took to get it. Hap threw him out in high dungeon, saying there was nothing he could or would do for him. The man walked out and was about two blocks from Hap’s office when a stranger approached him and said that for $5000 he could make the variance happen.  The moral of the story is that Hap had standards and did not take bribes in his office. But two blocks away, well, that was a different story.
Ted Stevens has an international airport named for him. Hap has the rest stop at the southern end of the Atlantic City Expressway named for him. And Alaska now has the dubious distinction of threatening New Jersey’s almost century old reputation as the most corrupt state in the union.  That’s not a good thing for us.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 06:33 AM •
Wednesday, August 08, 2007

And that means I have a god given right to wear sandals and a t-shirt with capri length pants even when the weather is 60 degrees with blowing wind and rain. For me, this is summer, damn it! I’ll wear my summer clothes and thank you all for not getting me committed.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 06:47 AM •
Tuesday, August 07, 2007

You know you’ve gone around the wrong curve in life when you were raised Italian and some of the only remnant of the culture left in your life is that you are snobby about which box of grated cheese you’ll use.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 06:11 AM •
Monday, August 06, 2007

Let’s set aside one day a year when no one is allowed to carry a cell phone and see whether civilization as we know it collapses or not.  That will be the day I’ll be willing to meet friends for lunch because I know that they won’t be answering their cell phones in what I can only assume is their hope that the person on the other end is more interesting than me. It’s the day I know it will be safe to drive because drivers will have at least one free hand - the other, of course, will be holding their latte - and most of their attention on the road. And it will be the day parents will find out if their kids can actually make the decision to go pee without checking in with them first.
Think of the wealth of knowledge and joy this kind of day could bring.  Wow.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 06:43 AM •
Sunday, August 05, 2007

My sister is travelling somewhere in Europe and I’m not with her. Something is wrong with the world. 

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 06:31 AM •
Saturday, August 04, 2007

I went up Twenty Mile River with some friends this week for a boat ride. I’d forgotten how privileged I was to live in this amazing state.  It was just so gorgeous to go up that river surrounded by mountains and glaciers; to get off the boat and examine bear tracks in the mud; to breathe in air that just smelled good.  Alaskans are really the most lucky people in the world. This whole other universe of wilderness is just outside our front door.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 06:26 AM •
Friday, August 03, 2007

The problem with impeaching Bush is that we end up with President Volde...I’m sorry, I meant President Cheney.  Actually, President Voldemort would be less scary.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 06:35 AM •
Thursday, August 02, 2007

My mother raised me to believe that some things were private and should always stay that way.  Maybe this is why the current trend in America to make everything public, or at least accessible to the government, troubles me so much. Or maybe it’s because I’ve just lived in Alaska way too long and that ornery streak of independence I was born with has hardened into armor on my soul.

It seems that each day another piece of our lives becomes either government or public property. If we object, we’re told it’s to fight terrorism or for our own good.  No matter what part of your life the government is trying to pry into on any given day, the reason for it is only scant steps short of mom and apple pie so that you feel like a mean, nasty traitor to even question it.  More and more though, I find myself not only questioning it, but resenting it.
There was a story recently in the news about how efforts are being made to create some sort of data base from telephone records that the government would have access to if needed for - what else - the war on terror.  Object to this invasion of privacy and you obviously want jihad in your hometown.  The government spokesman who was discussing the project said that the feds would still need a subpoena or letter indicating it was needed for the war on terror to get access. Hmmm, why does that not provide me any comfort?
It’s bad enough that when I log on to the Internet, something called cookies track my every step so that they (whoever they may be in this context) end up knowing me better than I know myself. But to know that the government can use my tax return to find out exactly what charities receive my donations greatly disturbs me.
And do we even want to get into what a joy flying has now become thanks to the war on terror?  Short of requesting that we all fly naked, could the government be any more intrusive?  But again, to complain is to be unpatriotic because this is all being done for our own good.  The nanny state has arrived in America and it doesn’t even have the courtesy to sing to us to make the medicine go down.
Our government now invokes the public good or the need for safety during the war on terror for each piece of privacy taken from us. The question that keeps recurring to me is exactly when will I be safe enough?  Every time I raise that question, of course, I am told I’m being silly, that the government is only taking a little piece here or a little piece there.  But I look around and the cumulative effect of what they’ve taken from me in the way of privacy is pretty frightening.
I don’t want jihadists dancing in the streets of Anchorage.  But I also don’t want Big Brother breathing so heavily down my neck that it feels like foreplay. I don’t want government in my bed, in my house, in my computer...in every part and parcel of my life so that it has become more omnipresent than god.
If we continue down this primrose path, so much will have been lost to the war on terror that the terrorists will have won without firing a shot within our borders.  We will allow our fear to rule us to the point where we hand over everything to the government in the name of safety and end up with the kind of safety that the Soviets enjoyed for so many years under communism. Their government denied them their most basic right to privacy in the name of state security.  Why is what’s happening in America today all that different?
I have a dear friend who is an ardent member of the NRA. Being raised in New Jersey, the only people I knew with guns were people my mother didn’t want me to hang out with.  So I never developed a deep attachment to my Second Amendment rights. My friend used to insist that when jackbooted government thugs were marching in the streets to take my rights from me, I’d be glad that people like him had fought for their right to stay armed. I used to find that argument specious.  Now, I’m not so sure. There may not be jackbooted thugs marching in the name of our government down Minnesota Drive, but thanks to computers, they no longer have to. They’re marching down my computer’s paths.  Either way, my government is starting to really scare me.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 06:11 AM •
Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Just so there’s no mistake. That mealy mouthed little twerp who looks like kids took turns beating him up in grade school, by the name of Alberto Gonzales, is supposed to embody the rule of law in our country today? Yep, in view of this administration’s total disdain for the law and the constitution, that would be about right.  I don’t know about you, but if I were Hispanic, I’d be way pissed that this is what became the first Hispanic United States Attorney General. It’s not unlike John Gotti becoming the first Italian president...except, of course, no one beat John Gotti up in school or anywhere else without highly regretting it very soon thereafter.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 06:12 AM • (1)
Tuesday, July 31, 2007

If Alaska’s entire congressional delegation ends up indicted, will we be represented by the guy who represents DC?  You know, the one with no voting power or muscle? And if that happens, will Bush be able to nationalize our Permanent Fund for the fight against terror without any opposition?  Inquiring minds want to know.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 06:03 AM •
Monday, July 30, 2007
imageimage

I know. I know. I’m only the godmother so I really had little to do with this beautiful mom and her son. But damn it, I changed her diapers too so I helped a little. And I’ve changed his diapers, even though it is now exponentially harder for me to get down on the floor for the task. So I should have some bragging rights. And if this isn’t one of the most beautiful mother/child combinations ever in the history of this whole, wide world, then you don’t know squat...because it is.
Emily and Rhodes Vann Pruett.  What a gorgeous duo.  I know dad can’t wait to get back from Iraq so he can complete the picture. He’s all that’s missing to make it perfect. Hurry home, Greg. We all miss you.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 06:45 AM •
Sunday, July 29, 2007

So I’m wandering around my flower bed pulling out handfuls of what may or may not be stuff that shouldn’t be there when my neighbor from across the circle stops by to ask me if I want some Kenai River reds.  Anyone in Alaska immediately knows he’s talking about fresh salmon. I eagerly accept and have two fresh, never frozen fillets waiting for me and my company tonight. And that’s how to be a good neighbor.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 06:27 AM •
Saturday, July 28, 2007

Could there be much that is more reprehensible than torturing dogs so that they become mean and want to fight? What horrible impulse drives that behavior in humans?  It scares the hell out of me.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 06:06 AM •
Friday, July 27, 2007

Reading about all the US cash missing in Iraq that seems to have mysteriously found its way into politicians’ pockets, it occurs to me that we have quite successfully exported political corruption there. If only democracy could actually flouish as well. But I don’t suppose Halliburton is as anxious to teach that.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 06:03 AM •

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