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July 12, 2006

Front Page Photo by Vicky Armstrong

Lazy Days of Summer
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Ketchikan: Opponents of "Cruise Tax" Say Alaska's Economy Is Under Attack; Alaska Cruise Ship Initiative Slated for August Primary Ballot By DICK KAUFFMAN - Voters will soon be deciding whether the state should start taxing cruise ships and tighten regulations on these gargantuan vessels that are the lifeblood of Alaska's tourism industry. A sweeping petition targeting the cruise ship industry met the required 23,286 signatures to make it on the ballot and will go before voters in the August 22 statewide primary.

Alaska Cruise Ship Tax...

"There's absolutely no benefit to the city taxpayers, to the residents, to the business people."
Ketchikan City Mayor Bob Weinstein
Photograph by Dick Kauffman

If approved by the voters, this citizen's initiative would tax the cruise ship industry and enforce stricter environmental standards. The initiative would institute a $50 head tax, a 33 percent tax on onboard gambling revenue, and would subject the industry to Alaska's corporate income tax. The initiative also increases fines for illegally dumping waste from $500 to $5,000 and would requires cruise ships to hire marine engineers to monitor wastewater treatment and pollution control equipment.

Ballot Measure 2, more commonly referred to as the "cruise ship tax", is sponsored by Juneau-based Responsible Cruising in Alaska (RCA); the Campaign to Safeguard America's Waters (C-SAW ) an Alaska-based project on the Earth Island Institute; Karen Jettmar of Equinox Wilderness Expedition; and Bluewater Network a national environmental organization based in San Francisco.

The sponsors of the "cruise ship tax" say, "The goal of the initiative is to level the economic and environmental playing fields between the cruise ships and other industrial discharges of polluted wastes into Alaska waters." Sponsors of the initiative say the cruise lines should follow Alaska's taxation and pollution rules like everyone else and the initiative protects Alaska's fisheries and helps pay for cruise ship impacts on Alaskan communities.

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In a statement of support filed with the Alaska Division of Elections, Gershon Cohen and Joe Geldhof with Responsible Cruising in Alaska wrote, "The cruise lines are "selling" Alaska - while impacting our docks, roads, public facilities, wildlife, and the quality of our lives. This initiative will do nothing to turn visitors away; it will help keep our tourism industry sustainable while protecting the needs of all Alaskans."

Those opposing Ballot Measure 2 say Alaska's economy is under attack.

Mounting the fight to defeat Ballot 2 is a group called Alaskans Protecting Our Economy based in Anchorage. This coalition is made up of numerous Alaska businesses including the Alaska State Chamber of Commerce.

Members and visitors to the Greater Ketchikan Chamber of Commerce luncheon on June 21st had an opportunity to hear from those opposing Ballot Measure 2 and how it would impact Ketchikan's economy from guest speakers Dick Coose, businessman Robert Scherer, and Ketchikan City Mayor Bob Weinstein. All spoke about the cruise ship tax and why they oppose the "cruise ship tax" initiative.

Dick Coose speaking as a community representative on behalf of Alaskans Protecting our Economy spoke first. He said, "A citizen's initiative can do a lot of things. Sometimes they're very good, sometimes they can do a lot of harm." Coose said Ballot Measure 2 could do the citizens of Alaska a lot of harm.

Among many things that will impact Alaskans, Coose said the proposed cruise ship tax will force local businesses to disclose confidential information about their businesses, it would create new motives for lawyers to file predatory lawsuits, and the cruise ship tax will raise costs and discourage tourism to Alaska. He added there are nine pages of complex, confusing language and Ballot Measure 2, if passed, will also increase the amount of bureaucratic red tape.

Of Alaskans Protecting Our Economy, Coose said there are 1,200 individuals and businesses across the state that have signed on to defeat this "cruise ship tax". Of those signed up, Coose listed the State Chamber of Commerce and the Resource Development Council.

Alaskans Protecting Our Economy has conducted some research and reports that if this ballot measure passes "ten percent of our current tourism folks will stop coming" said Coose. He said to the chamber audience, "Relate that back to your business. It's going to be a huge impact on folks." From restaurants to gift shops to local sales tax, all would feel the impact said Coose.

Coose said, "The tourist industry in Alaska is the fourth largest industry. It provides over 26,000 statewide jobs." He said, "Here in Southeast Alaska we've lost a lot of people, a lot of jobs in the last decade. To lose what we rely upon now to keep us afloat would not be the thing we want to do."

According to Coose, Alaskans Protecting Our Economy also conducted a survey which reported that many people surveyed said they would not come to Alaska if they had to pay a $50 head tax. He noted that Ketchikan voters just passed a bond to build new docks so Ketchikan can accommodate tourism in a better way. "How does that affect how we pay for that dock?" asked Coose. - More...
Wednesday PM - July 12, 2006


National: Good news on budget masks grim longer-term view By CAROLYN LOCHHEAD - President Bush is crediting his signature tax cuts in 2001 and 2003 for an anticipated 30 percent drop in the deficit to $296 billion. Although some analysts agreed that tax cuts helped produce higher economic growth and tax revenue, they warned that Bush and the Republican-led Congress are spending the money very fast.

The revenue burst, while welcome, masks a dangerous longer-term picture, the analysts said.

"I think you should buy yourself a very small brownie, light a candle and blow it out," said former Congressional Budget Office Director Douglas Holz-Eakin. "This is tiny compared to the big problem, and it's on the wrong side of the budget. The big problem is on the spending side, and there is a question of just how permanent this will be."

If Republicans hope to calm their base over spending, they will find scant help from conservative budget analysts.

Since Bush has been president, "We've had the biggest education bill ever, the biggest farm bill ever, the biggest highway bill ever, and the biggest Medicare expansion ever," said Brian Riedl of the conservative Heritage Foundation.

In addition, the cost of the war in Iraq has topped $300 billion and spending on Hurricane Katrina and other hurricanes from last year has now reached $123 billion.

"There is no fiscal discipline at all going on," said Veronique de Rugy, a budget analyst at the conservative American Enterprise Institute. "It's utterly shocking for me to hear an administration that claims to be conservative focus exclusively on the deficit, because the deficit is a pretty meaningless measure of the size of government. ... If they were fiscally responsible, they would want the total size of government to shrink, and that's not happening." - More...
Wednesday PM - July 12, 2006

National: Critics see a political motive in Internet gambling bill By EDWARD EPSTEIN - The House, seeking to advance its Republican leaders' conservative election-year agenda, handily passed a ban on most Internet gambling this week, but critics said the legislation could force banks to snoop on computer users and censor the Internet.

Advocates said the bill is needed more than ever because the rapid growth of online high-stakes poker playing and sports betting is fueling gambling addictions.

But Republican leaders also hoped passage would minimize the damage to the party from the scandal involving lobbyist Jack Abramoff. Abramoff's machinations, which are weighing down Republicans as they seek to keep control of the House in November's elections, sank a previous effort to ban Internet gambling in 2000.

Online gambling sites are based primarily overseas because most aren't allowed in the United States. But the legislation, which passed 317-93 with the backing of a bipartisan majority, tries to strangle the betting sites by making it illegal for those businesses to accept payments via credit cards, checks or from electronic payment services. - More...
Wednesday PM - July 12, 2006



letter KEEP IT SIMPLE By John Binkley - Tuesday
letter Why accept anything less than half of the oil profits? By Samuel Bergeron - Tuesday
letter Peace-niks By Anita Hales - Tuesday
letter The real end-game of the radical environmentalist By Marvin Seibert - Tuesday
letter Jim Pinkerton By Bert Blackmon - Tuesday
letter Rotary Youth Exchange By Marrissa Barker - Tuesday
letterState, Especially Rural Areas, Can't Afford to Wait on Oil Tax by Senator John Cowdery - Monday
letterOffended by the anti-war propaganda By Gerry Kay Olmstead - Monday
letter'Go to the gross' for oil tax solution By Rep. Ethan Berkowitz - Monday
(And We Thought Gateway Forest Products Was Bad)
By David G. Hanger - Saturday
letter The governor, the jet and right or wrong By Sen. Kim Elton - Saturday
letter Consolidation By Robert McRoberts - Saturday
letter Re: Offended by anti-war Bug! By Charlotte Tanner - Friday
letter Raw Data and Concerned Scientists By Jay Jones - Friday
letter Thank You All By Cindy Inouye - Friday
letterConsolidation / Round Two by Rodney Dial - Thursday
letter Dirty Bug By Dawna Vigil - Thursday
letter Legal machinations obscure our rights By Gregg Erickson - Thursday
letter Pipeline deal should benefit Alaskans for generations By Rep. Les Gara - Thursday
letter Freedom of Speech By Alan R. McGillvray - Thursday
letter An open letter to Sealaska and Sealaska's original shareholders By Michael Nelson - Thursday - Thursday
letter Offended by anti-war Bug! By Cindy Inouye - Thursday
letter Global Warming By Robert McRoberts - Thursday
letter More Viewpoints/ Letters
letter Publish A Letter

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Newsmaker Interviews

Bill Steigerwald: What's up with North Korea? - North Korea stirred up big-time diplomatic trouble in northeast Asia Wednesday by test-firing seven missiles into the Sea of Japan. The missiles didn't hit anyone, and the most sophisticated weapon, the long-range Taepodong-2 that could reach U.S. territory, fizzled and broke apart less than a minute after launch.

But North Korea -- a backward, highly unpleasant communist dictatorship with a nuclear weapons program that is run by Kim Jong Il -- has earned the condemnation of almost every country in the world. With Japan calling for U.N. sanctions to punish North Korea, and North Korea threatening to test more missiles, I called Charles E. Morrison on Wednesday. Morrison is president of the Hawaii-based East-West Center (, an education and research center established by Congress in 1960 to focus on the Asia Pacific region: - More...
Tuesday - July 11, 2006

Columns - Commentary

Steve Brewer: Talking yourself through your day - When you talk to yourself, you're guaranteed an audience that's sympathetic, if not always fully attentive.

You might not even realize you're mumbling all alone at your desk. Still, some part of your brain is listening. You always seem to pick up the general drift and you find that you're a person who, by golly, thinks the same way you do. How can a conversation get any better than that?

As more of us work in pods remote from our colleagues and customers, each home office is filled with a Greek chorus of one, exhorting its own efforts and commenting on its every move and posing scintillating questions such as "Where have I put my keys?" - More...
Tuesday - July 11, 2006

Paul C. Campos: No wonder Democrats are angry with Lieberman - I sometimes get e-mails from conspiracy theorists about 9/11. These people always claim that the attacks were actually carried out by the U.S. government to create a pretext for the Iraq war.

I also get e-mails from people who encourage the American public to believe something just as crazy: that Saddam Hussein was personally involved in the 9/11 attacks.

There's a subtle distinction between the former and the latter correspondents. I'm pretty sure the former e-mails come from pathetic lunatics living in basements, who post their rants on Web sites that get 10 hits per day. I'm completely sure who sends me the latter messages: the White House Office of Communications. - More...
Tuesday - July 11, 2006

Computer Central

James Derk: Bartering up to homeownership on the Internet - Kyle MacDonald's story will make a great Internet movie some day. No, not a silly one like Sandra Bullock in "The Net." A real Internet story. About how something with an idea can make people smile.

MacDonald, 26, wanted a house. He didn't have any money. All he had was a blog. That, and a large red paper clip.

So he set out on a great Internet bartering adventure. Could he barter his way from a paper clip to a house?

Bartering, to those not in the know, is trading even. Your thing for my thing. No cash.

So MacDonald, from Montreal, put his red paperclip up for barter on Craigslist, one of the largest classified ad sites on the Internet, last year. He promptly traded his shiny paperclip for a fish-shaped pen.

He posted the pen back on the barter section of Craigslist. He bartered that for a ceramic doorknob. Back to Craigslist. That became a camping stove, a beer keg, a lighted beer sign, a generator, a snow globe, an afternoon with rocker "Alice Cooper", a broken snowmobile, a trip to the Rockies, an old supply truck and then a recording contract. - More..
Tuesday - July 11, 2006

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