Nicole Klauss/Kodiak Daily Mirror/AP Images
A whalebone arch in Utqiagvik, the city formerly know as Barrow, in 2012.

How Did I Miss That? Utqiaġvik, Alaska Reclaims Stolen Name From Sir John Barrow

Steve Russell

Utqiaġvik, Alaska has voted by referendum to take its name back. Frederick William Beechey stole it in 1825 and gifted it to Sir John Barrow. The city formerly known as Barrow is the oldest permanent settlement so far discovered on the real estate claimed by the U.S.

When the colonists showed up, the area was inhabited by the Iñupiat, who had names for everything worth naming, so naturally the invaders had to steal some to celebrate having frozen their butts off to “discover” lands that would eventually be proven to contain gold, both yellow and black.

Utqiaġvik means “place for gathering wild roots.” Not gold. Not oil. Wild roots.

My cousin Ray Sixkiller observed that if you lived there, you might find wild roots more useful than gold or oil. Then he posed the question on everybody’s mind: “How do you say it?”

Lisa Demer of the Alaska Dispatch News reported:

Say it this way, with guttural back-of-the-throat sounds for the representative “k” and hard “g” in the middle: oot — kay-ahg — vik.

Cousin Ray and I agreed that’s almost as hard as conjugating Cherokee verbs.

Continuing with the theme of naming things, The Texas Observer reported that the misnamed Railroad Commission of Texas sailed though the sunset process every state agency has to navigate periodically. The Sunset Commission staff had recommended that the elected Railroad Commission have a name that fairly reflects what it does.

The Railroad Commission has nothing to do with railroads, but it manages state land (a big deal in the only state that retained title to its public lands) and regulates mineral exploration, principally oil and gas. The staff report suggested a name change to the Texas Energy Resources Commission.

Some legislators are partial to Texas Oil and Gas Commission, but the oil and gas lobby is opposed. If the voters understood what the Railroad Commission does, they might get the idea that oil and gas exploration can be regulated.

Names do matter.

There was some more news from that great big state, as it’s known everywhere but Texas. You know, the cold one?

KIRO’s website used a headline proclaiming, “Alaska Airlines makes history with flight powered by wood.” With some really odd pictures running though my mind, I read the story and quickly discovered it meant that the jet fuel was a bio-fuel that started out as wood chips.

The Alaska Dispatch News reported on the “20 Anchorage marijuana shops closest to opening.” Alaska became the third state to legalize recreational use in the summer of 2015, but it takes time to create a bureaucracy and more time for the bureaucracy to act.

Bill Maher on the elections: “This election gave us permission to smoke weed—and a reason we need to.”

The Associated Press reported that Pamela Ramsey Taylor, director of Clay County, West Virginia Development Corporation, posted the following on Facebook after Donald Trump’s election win:

It will be refreshing to have a classy, beautiful, dignified First Lady in the White House. I’m tired of seeing a Ape in heels.

The good news is Clay Mayor Beverly Whaling responded right away. The bad news is she said “Just made my day, Pam”

“Just another day,” Cousin Ray snarked, “in post-racial America.”

Reuters was reporting within the week that both Taylor and Whaling had resigned. No comments by Taylor were reported, but Whaling denied being a racist.

“Sounds like,” Cousin Ray grumbled, “she was pretty tolerant of other people’s racism.”

On another day in post-racial America, Chili’s Grill & Bar was doing its annual practice of free meals for veterans on Veterans Day. Army veteran Ernest Walker of Cedar Hill, Texas, was about to leave Chili’s when an elderly man wearing an American flag shirt with a Trump sticker complained that Walker was wearing his cap indoors, could not be a veteran, and should not get a free meal.

The manager asked for Walker’s DD 214, which he showed. The manager also complained that Walker’s service dog was not a service dog. The dog had a red service vest and certified service tags.

Walker caught the conversation on video as he surrendered his to go food and left Chili’s. At home, he posted the video on Facebook, where it quickly went viral. Eventually, Chili’s apologized and fired the manager.

The veteran served with the 25th Infantry, but was wearing a uniform without insignia because he did not want to be mistaken for an active duty soldier. The lack of insignia must have been the reason for the trouble, because in post-racial America it could not possibly matter that the veteran was black or that his service dog was named “Barack.”

Cousin Ray tried not to crack a smile when he cited this story as “one more reason names matter.”

First Look showed video of a fist fight interrupting debate in the Ukrainian parliament. Cousin Ray was all excited because he mistook the incident for the rivalry between Stephen Bannon and Reince Priebus over who gets the last whisper in President Trump’s ear

The Washington Post ran a piece headed, “Is Steve Bannon really as bad as all that?” Bannon came from Breitbart News, a fixture in the right wing media echo chamber, to be “CEO” of Donald Trump’s campaign. I don’t know what “CEO” means, but Trump’s campaign manager was Kellyanne Conway, a mainstream Republican.

The Post question was prompted by Bannon also having a new job in the White House, “chief strategist and chief counselor.” Bannon combines establishment background (Georgetown University and Harvard Business; banker at Goldman, Sachs) with a reputation for having steered Breitbart News (already tilted far starboard) into a forum for the Alt-Right.

Reince Priebus, among other establishment figures, vouched for Bannon’s character.

Stormfront, white power center on the web, commented, “It doesn’t get any better than this.”

Ken Reed of the Aryan Resistance Society posted on Facebook, “Can you say WINNING boys and girls?”

If Bannon is not in bed with the Alt-Right, he’s got the Alt-Right fooled.

One thing hard to understand for those of us who lived the Cold War is how the radical right in the U.S. got to a place where they would cheer Russia interfering in a U.S. election. They seem to want to smooth things over with Vladimir Putin, who keeps having Cold War flashbacks from when he was a KGB hand.

Russia’s one aircraft carrier, the Admiral Kuznetsov, has arrived on station off the coast of Syria and is launching Su-33 fighters against Aleppo. This is the first time Russia has ever used a carrier in combat. The Kuznetsov also carries four MiG 29Ks, but one crashed on takeoff on November 13. The pilot ejected safely.

Foreign Policy reported that the Chinese government announced on the same day the Russian carrier attacked Aleppo that its one carrier—a refurbished Soviet antique—is ready for combat.

So our potential enemies, Russia and China, each have one obsolete carrier, although both have modern versions on the drawing board. How about the U.S.?

The U.S. has four carrier strike groups deployed and three more on training missions. There are ten operational strike groups and one more ship is likely to become part of one—the Gerald R. Ford—representing new technology beyond the Nimitz-class carriers, has been launched but not yet commissioned.

All told, the U.S. has 19 operational carriers with three Ford-class on the way. The entire rest of the world has 20, 18 of them fielded by U.S. allies.

President Trump has promised to rebuild our shrunken military and make America great again.

In a less critical case of “What were they thinking?,” WGN reported that Continental Nursing Home and Rehabilitation Center in Chicago was fined over $100,000 after five residents overdosed on heroin. All five recovered, but two of them were high again within hours of returning to the nursing home.

Fast Company reported that Walmart is discouraging its employees from downloading an app called WorkIt that recently launched in an Android version. WorkIt offers advice on employees’ legal rights and Walmart policies and the opportunity for workers to chat among themselves about workplace issues.

Cousin Ray wanted to know how an employee can assert legal rights against a transnational corporation with a GDP bigger than Belgium?

Carefully. Very carefully.

The Associated Press reported that the National Park Service released a report requested under the Freedom of Information Act describing the death of Colin Scott, 23, on June 7 in Yellowstone National Park. Looking for a place to soak in hot water against park rules, Scott fell into a boiling and acidic hot spring while his sister recorded his last moments on smart phone video. The gory details of his death were redacted from the report and the video was not released.

Robert Wise was a staffer for two secretaries of the interior, Cecil Andrus and Bruce Babbit. The New York Times published a letter from Wise critical of the “Bundy Gang” acquittal and suggesting it is not OK to “destroy Native American cultural assets.” He summarized:

Make no mistake, these outlaws want beautiful federal lands, the endowment of every American, sold to the highest bidder or given to them free of charge.

It was good to ring the tocsin about the intersection of history for halfwits and guns for all, but it would have been nice to see some awareness that the Northern Paiutes have a bigger dog in the fight than the public generally.

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