Elise Sereni
     Patkotak
Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Every once in a while I wonder what it would be like to be rich enough to actually buy a politician. It’s been so long since there has been anyone in DC who represents me and not their moneyed overlords that I really do forget what it feels like to actually be part of representative government.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 03:07 AM •
Monday, January 26, 2015

I didn’t think a deafening silence could get much quieter than the one that greeted Mitt Romney’s statement that he’s might make another presidential run. The lack of anyone actually excited by the announcement seemed truly monumental. Then Sarah Palin goes to Vegas and hints she might run. And lo and behold, the silence greeting this news nationally was even more deafening than the one that greeted Romney. For Hillary’s sake, I’d like to see either one of them run. 

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 03:03 AM •
Sunday, January 25, 2015

It occurs to me that Penny will be to Kaley Cuoco as Rachel is to Jennifer Aniston.
And those are the thoughts that will sneak up on you as you try to go to sleep sometimes.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 03:01 AM •
Saturday, January 24, 2015

Filled my tank today. Had 60 cents off per gallon from Safeway thanks to the vast quantities of medication I take each day. Brought the cost of a gallon of gas to $1.97/gallon. Wow. I know this hurts Alaska’s economy buy it felt good!

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 03:06 AM •
Friday, January 23, 2015

Or does John Boehner strike you as the guy you dread your daughter will bring home and introduce as her fiancee?

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 03:31 AM •
Thursday, January 22, 2015

I was a bit taken aback at the vehemence expressed by some commenters on my column last week towards seniors in this state. Who knew some viewed us with such dislike? According to these commenters, cutting senior benefits will cause us to leave the state, thus saving the state enormous amounts of money spent on our pensions and tax exemptions. Before kicking us all to the curb, however, let’s review some of the things seniors provide that would be hard to replace.

As I wrote last week, we should all share the pain of budget reductions. Seniors are not exempt from that. But even if benefits are reduced, a lot of seniors will stay here anyway because this is our home and we still have something valuable to offer. So while taking away some economic incentives may force certain seniors to relocate for financial reasons, many of us will just tighten our belts and stay put.
Look at the benefits that accrue to children who have their grandparents, great grandparents, and great aunts and uncles (honorary or otherwise) in their lives. For working parents, retired grandparents are a lifesaver when kids get sick and parents can’t take off from work. Or kids need a ride to an after school activity and parents have to work late. Or kids just need an adult they trust to talk to about something and don’t want to talk to their parents. Grandparents often take up the slack created by an economy that almost requires a two working parent household. They cook meals, watch kids, attend events and are an integral and vital part of family life. Everyone benefits.
If that doesn’t do it for you, look at the multitude of non-profits in this state. Check out how many of them keep their doors open because of seniors who not only work for free, but often bring a lifetime of experience and expertise that the non-profit could never otherwise afford. It’s retired seniors who have the time to spend at these non-profits, even in the middle of the week. There are lots of young people who also volunteer but their time is limited by work and family demands. It’s seniors who can respond to a last minute call for someone to cover a shift or deliver a meal or help out with a program.
Seniors hold the institutional memory for this state. We are a young state, blessed to still have some who were here at the beginning. Imagine having John Adams or Thomas Jefferson around to ask what was really being discussed back in 1776. Well, we have Vic Fischer, for one, and he can tell us exactly what was said at our constitutional convention because he was there. We have elders at our Native corporations, both profit and non-profit, who can speak knowledgeably about the corporations’ beginnings because they began them. This is not something to be lightly tossed away.
Equally important given the financial situation we’re in, many seniors have disposable income that they spend right here in this state. Those of us who were lucky enough to earn a state pension often take the money we receive each month and plow it right back into the local economy. We’ve reached an age where saving for old age is a bit silly since we’re already there. Now we get to do what we said we’d do all those years ago when we started saving. We get to spend it. Without kids to feed or homework to do, we’re much more likely to be the ones keeping the restaurant and art scene vibrant. We can afford to.
As I said at the beginning, the pain of budget cuts will be felt by all of us in one way or another. Some seniors will be able to weather a cut in their benefits. Others will have to leave. Some young people will look at the benefits we receive as the Baby Boomers having taken care of themselves when they were in charge of government by voting themselves a helluva retirement package. Whatever your view is, just remember this. We may be old. We may be gray under the hair dye. Our bones may squeak a bit and our eyes may squint a little more. But we are not freeloaders. Retired or not, we contribute to Alaska every day. Lose us and you’ll lose that.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 03:37 AM •
Wednesday, January 21, 2015
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BuddhaBubba gets up in the morning long enough to get her pain pill. I turn the heating blanket on under her bed and she goes right back to sleep. About two hours later, after everyone else has gone downstairs to my office to get some work done, I hear her race madly across the floor upstairs. She doesn’t go anywhere. Just apparently jumps up off the bed and runs through the kitchen and living room. If I go upstairs to see what’s happening, I usually find her standing by the counter in the kitchen looking shocked, shocked I say, that her food dish is nowhere to be found… and her brother and that annoying other little dog are also missing. And so is that big person with thumbs who cuts up the chicken for her. We go through the same thing at night before she goes to bed. She’ll wander through the living room, kitchen and dining room looking for god knows what. Suddenly, she’ll go from just pacing to racing madly… well, as madly as she can at this point in her life… around the entire second floor. She’ll see me or one of the other dogs, stop as though astounded others live here, and then take off again. About five minutes later, I’ll find her in her bed snoring.
Maybe those pain pills are making her just a little happier than I expected. Can dogs hallucinate?.
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Elise Sereni Patkotak • 03:38 AM •
Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Do you have your beer chilling and your nachos melting? Are you ready for tonight, the annual Superbowl of presidential speeches?  I do hope you’re planning to watch. After all, where else would you get to watch a man who deliberately makes himself orange preside over a house full of sound and fury and signifying nothing more really than the failure of today’s education system to produce anything that even resembles a statesman… or woman.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 03:39 AM •
Monday, January 19, 2015

“When your dog came in from outside he was all yellow and wet. One of the big dogs peed on him. We gave him a bath.”
You find yourself just wishing that your dog would have been smart enough to move. But he apparently wasn’t. Thank god he’s cute. It’s obviously getting him further than his brains.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 03:34 AM •
Sunday, January 18, 2015

At least it’s warm enough for me to leave the door open for the dogs to go in and out of the yard without being assaulted by a squadron of crazed mosquitoes.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 03:35 AM •
Saturday, January 17, 2015

Hate is easy. Love is hard. Intolerance is easy. Tolerance is hard. Violence is easy. Non-violence in response is so hard as to be almost unbearable. So when Jesus told us to turn the other cheek, he was asking us to do something that most of us resist doing with every fiber of our being. When someone hits us, we want to hit back, and we want to hit back even harder. I guess that’s the part of being a Christian that truly tests just how deep your faith really goes.

In our memories, Dr. Martin Luther King and Gandhi stand out as the two most visible proponents of non-violence. I find myself wondering what their response would be to what happened in Paris last week. I know that no matter how much I fight the impulse, I would be lying if I said that some part of me didn’t want us to bomb the mid-east into oblivion and start all over. I know that impulse is heinous and wrong and is nothing more nor less than a response to the heinous acts of last week perpetrated by Islamist extremists. I know there are decent people, Muslim, Christian and just about every other religion on earth, living there. If I give in to that impulse, do I allow the extremists to win because they have dragged me down to the lowest level of existence in which they seem to live? Have they succeeded in making me just like them?
Good people all over this world condemned last week’s occurrences. Those of us in the media who make a living offering our opinions to the public were probably particularly affected by what happened. You want to think, as you write your opinion for the world to read, that whether everyone agrees or not, there is at least agreement on your right to express yourself. But clearly there are people for whom only their expressions are valid and all else must be eliminated. I’m guessing if you want to know what a world like that would look like, you don’t really need to read science fiction. You just need to look at life in North Korea. And even as I write that sentence I find myself thinking, “Screw you, Kim Jon Idiot. You can hack my computer all you want. Enjoy the seven thousand videos of cute dogs, cute kids and my family’s 1950 home movies.”
The Middle East has, for much of the past two centuries, been viewed as the property of Europeans, to be carved up and used as needed in order to access the resources in which the Middle-East wallows. The people there have been treated as something less than human because we did not consider them as civilized as we were. In fact, we viewed ourselves as bringing civilization to them. If you think about it that way, you can start to understand why there might be some anger out that against us. But that does not justify the slaughter of people for expressing an opinion or shopping in a grocery store for Shabbat dinner. Nothing justifies that. Just as there are probably people in Pakistan and Syria mourning the loss of their loved ones and thinking there is no justification for the drone strikes that killed them as collateral damage when the US was taking out a terrorist cell.
Killing begets more killing. It’s pretty much never the answer. Seems amazing to me that the same species that can figure out how to put a man on the moon can’t figure out how to stop the slaughter.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 03:25 AM •
Thursday, January 15, 2015

So if I understand the situation correctly, Alaska is deep in a financial hole due to the drastic decline in oil prices. We are therefore dependent on the moral strength and integrity of our legislators to do the right thing and balance the state budget no matter the political cost. I’ll pause here for a moment to give you time to laugh hysterically. Call me a pessimist, but I’m going to bet that legislators will find a way to make a few cosmetics cuts and then kick the rest of the pain down the road. After all, this is Alaska. We live with our fingers crossed that the price of oil will go up or we’ll tap a new, equally rich, resource that will continue to allow us to live rich without any pain.

I’ve lived here for over forty years and I still find the Alaskan mentality a challenge to understand. We seem to want government to pay for everything without contributing much of anything to the pot of money needed for those payments. We want government off our backs except that we want government on our backs at PFD time. We want our boom and bust economy to constantly find a new boom so that the bust never lasts long enough to be really painful. We don’t want to pay an income tax. We don’t want to pay a sales tax. And we squeal like stuck pigs if anyone even hints at using the Permanent Fund in any way that cuts into our dividends. We think of ourselves as a state of independent people, rugged individuals who challenge the great wilderness without fear and live off the land. But that land better have a mailbox on it for our PFD check.
Our stalwart legislators will try to figure out a way to manipulate the situation so that they can boast of being fiscally responsible while kicking the bill down the road to the next legislature, or the one after that depending on when our savings run out. Meanwhile we make our reservations for Juneau to explain why no cuts can happen to programs that affect us. The cuts clearly have to come from someone else’s pet pot of money. Nowhere in this mix will there be anyone suggesting new revenue streams that might affect the ordinary Alaskan because that’s political suicide.
So what’s the answer? How do we solve this budget deficit without cutting your favorite program or asking Alaskans to bear some of the costs? Well, we could start printing our own money. That seemed to work for Bit Coins. We could burn incense to the god of resources to find us a new one quickly that is easily accessible and can be marketed at a high price. We could try to actually diversify our economy based on the gazillion studies that show any state dependent on one source of revenue is inevitably going to face a crash at some point.  Or we can do what I’m guessing the legislature will eventually have done when all the dust has settled – created a lot of sound and fury that will signify absolutely nothing.
Alaskans need to grow up, stop whining and accept that they either have to start contributing at least a little to the state coffers or stop going to Juneau to defend every program currently being funded as absolutely critical to Alaska’s future. Because seriously, if we aren’t willing to help pay for it with our money as opposed to oil taxes, then how really important is it to us?
For years now Alaskans have been told that the party is ending, the revenue stream is slowing down to less than a trickle and we need to look at different ways of funding state government. And for the same number of years Alaskans have pretended that there is a Santa Claus and if they wait just a little longer, he’ll be down the chimney with a bagful of money. And who knows? Everything is cyclical and there is every chance that oil prices will go back up. If the legislature is lucky, that will happen before they run out of savings to tap. If they’re not, then Alaskans are really going to have to start seriously thinking about where the money comes from, where it’s going and how much they are willing to kick in to keep those programs funded.
Let the hangover begin.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 03:42 AM •
Wednesday, January 14, 2015
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Elise Sereni Patkotak • 03:07 AM •
Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Tolerance and love are hard.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 03:16 AM •
Sunday, January 11, 2015

In Alaska news, Charlo Greene lost her court case and was evicted from her store. She ran a “social club” that centered on pot. But that’s not the strange part. The strange part is that she lost out to the downstairs business which indulged in BSDM… an apparently alternative lifestyle. I’ll leave you to figure those initials out. I got a headache just reading about it.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 12:03 PM •

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