Art Chance: The barbarians have been inside the gates before in Alaska, and they’re back



In August of 1974, I put Atlanta’s violence and racial strife in my rearview mirrors and struck out “North to the Future” with wife, 3 year-old daughter, dog, a Toyota Landcruiser, some camping gear, and something of a stash of cash.

We were astoundingly naïve about Alaska; we had a couple of National Geographic books and a copy of “The Milepost.”  We made a leisurely diagonal trip across the country to Seattle. From there, we drove to Watson Lake and connected there to the Alcan, still dirt in those days except for about 40 miles around Whitehorse. Somewhere along the way we heard that President Nixon had resigned (Aug. 8, 1974); we still had enough college in us to think it was a good thing. 

It was late August getting into September and it was raining and snowing from time to time. I spent a lot more time in four-wheel-drive mode than I would today but we made it to pavement at the border uneventfully. It cost $20 to get some of the mud off at the quarter car wash in Tok. In those days a vehicle that had come over the Alcan was never clean again.

We spent our first night in Alaska at The Big Timber across from Merrill Field, which had a better reputation than it later acquired, and we had our first meal at Peggy’s Café. 

We looked around the next day and the line from The New Yorker about how “the people who built Anchorage, Alaska should never be allowed to build anything again” ran through my head. Anchorage was a scruffy place in 1974.

It became apparent that we had to either give away our beautiful Norwegian Elkhound or give away our kid in order to get a place to live. Housing was cruel in Anchorage. The dog went.

Like everybody else, I wanted a pipeline job, but it wasn’t yet spinning up very much in late 1974 and you had to have a very low union seniority date, which I didn’t have, or know somebody, and I didn’t. I didn’t yet know that $500 in the right hand would get you a dispatch.  I wasn’t dumb enough to sit around union halls polishing pine; I’d long ago learned that when you needed a job, take the first one you can get.   

I’d learned to walk in a retail store so I went to work at Stallone’s, then in University Center mall. I’d been selling high-dollar fashion to the pimps, prostitutes, gangsters and professional athletes in Atlanta, so University Center was a piece of cake. My few months with Stallone’s was a very good Alaska 101 course; you saw everyone from every social status and walk of life there. I quickly learned how different Anchorage was from rigidly class-conscious Atlanta. That tattered brown outfit that old guy is wearing is a Filson that costs as much as the most expensive suit on your rack.

I had a problem; Stallone’s paid well and I was a good commission salesman, but I needed benefits. My daughter needed surgery and I needed good health insurance. That meant the union or public employee or better yet, union public employee kind of health insurance.

I started paying “dobie dues” to the Laborers’ Union looking for a State, Municipality of Anchorage or school district job. The first dispatch was to a graveyard shift custodian position at Dimond High School. It was 40 hours at a good wage, overtime, leave, holidays, and full-ride health insurance after 30 days and no pre-existing conditions restrictions. Hell, yes, I’d sweep and mop floors for that.

After I’d stayed around long enough, I began to dabble in union politics. It didn’t take long to become a shop steward, then executive board member, then vice president. I ultimately wound up with a seat on the Central Labor Council, the District Council of Laborers, head of the Central Labor Council’s Committee on Political Education, their PAC, and more. 

Don’t let the fancy-sounding titles fool you; I served at the pleasure and was mostly just a high-status briefcase toter. My daughter’s medical issues were resolved and I had gotten far enough up the ladder to get myself in serious trouble and not nearly far enough to get myself out of it. It was time to arm myself with the “courage of my connections” and move on.

Along the way I’d had considerable involvement in political action. Blue collar organized labor in those days wanted nothing to do with white collar public employee labor. The long-established trade unions represented most of the blue and gray collar unionized employees and the white collar unionized employees were represented by their independent employee associations; they didn’t want to condescend to being unions.

The trade union leadership was generally conservative. All were Democrats and most were the Democrat version of Catholic and at least went to Mass on Christmas and Easter. The AFL-CIO of the 1970s was mostly anti-communist. Social justice wasn’t a part of the vocabulary. They were social conservatives and really only cared about the wages, hours and conditions of their members; their mantra was Sam Gomper’s: “More.”  

I was younger and much further left than most of the people whose briefcases I toted. Even back then it took several semesters of Life 101 to get over going to college.

The Democrat Party of those days was going through a schism. The old “New Deal” coalition of FDR’s time had broken in the streets of Chicago in 1968 when the Students for a Democratic Society and Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin’s “Yippies” had clashed with Mayor Richard Daley’s cops during the Democrat Convention.  “Four Dead in Ohio” at Kent State University pretty much put an end to Democrat unity for the better part of a generation.

Here in Alaska we’d had little of the civil rights and anti-war conflict, but the Great Society programs had brought us a flock of fresh-faced college graduates as Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA) and others working for all the “community action” programs created by The Great Society.   

The majority of the Democrat politicians of the 1970s came to Alaska as a VISTA volunteer or as an employee of one of the community action programs. The hot ticket seems to have been to come to Alaska as a VISTA volunteer, marry an Alaska girl who was either Native or who had good Democrat bona fides, and pursue your rocket to stardom. If you don’t believe me go check out the bios of most of the Democrat office-holders of the day.

That cadre of Great Society emigres and some local talent created “The Ad Hoc Democratic Coalition” in the early 1970s. They were what the media and political scientists styled “The New Left.” Few of them knew it, but they were mostly Trotskyite communists. Many of them still had the marks on the pocket of their Levis from the copy of Mao’s “Little Red Book” that they’d carried through college. 

I knew a lot of them and had even spent time sitting cross-legged on the floor smoking dope and planning the revolution with them.

They took over the Alaska Democrat Party and in 1974 defeated the Democrat nominee, the legendary Gov. Bill Egan, by supporting a Bush Republican, Sen. Jay Hammond. Gov. Hammond may have been a Republican, as that was understood in Alaska in those days, but his administration was mostly Ad Hoc Democrats and just this side of openly communist.

Today’s Alaska was formed during their time in power. They controlled the Legislature in the middle 1970s and many maintained power into the 1980s. Rep. Hugh Malone, House speaker who many consider the father of the Permanent Fund, wasn’t a “Ad Hoc’er,” but he worked with them and the Permanent Fund and the dividend are products of their time in power.   

The 1970s and 1980s were a time of great growth in the size and power of state government and most of the laws and regulations that direct it are products of that era. The best indicator that the government was controlled by a bunch of hippies is the statute from the 1970s that prohibits the State from imposing a dress code.

To my point: We’ve been here before, and we’re here again. The barbarians are inside the gate. I’ve railed in these pages for years about the false flag Republicans, and even going back to the 1990s and the Gingrich Revolution and candidates who flew an R as a flag of convenience.

Think about it folks; the thing that most motivates you politically is the dividend. The whole Permanent Fund and dividend scheme is from a time when state government was run by a bunch of communists. They’re back; think about what you’re going to do.

Art Chance is a retired Director of Labor Relations for the State of Alaska, formerly of Juneau and now living in Anchorage. He is the author of the book, “Red on Blue, Establishing a Republican Governance,” available at Amazon.

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  1. Generally Art has a lot of insightful posts. This one is a message that is a little bit vague, but it comes with a warning on where we are at in our political observations. Great job highlighting the similarities that you have once noticed before. They say generally if you live long enough, you will see an entire circle of events happen.

  2. “……..Think about it folks; the thing that most motivates you politically is the dividend……..”
    Not me, but yeah, just about everybody else. I also got here in 1974, and didn’t come for oil money. That money can all burn up, and I’d be just fine with it. In fact, the sooner it’s gone, the sooner the communists and pretty people blow away with it, and that sounds like music to me.

  3. You qualify for pre-pipeline (just barely) Alaskanship, Art. Because of what oil royalties have paid into the state, and because of what the PFDs have paid into our individual pockets, being Alaskan is mostly about watching state government grow for the past 45 years. You either like it or you despise it. And the same general cross-friction between opposing factions will continue to go on. We are about equally divided on the issue at any given time. The next two years in Juneau will be nothing but fighting between the governor and legislative leadership. The citizens might as well back the guy who is going to give us the largest PFD possible, because the legislature will take whatever is left over and distribute it to their cronies, and more government growth.

  4. It would be interesting to explore the history of the PFD and the initial intent for residency requirements. The Zobel case would be a good start. Good article.

  5. Socialism, communism, Marxism, and all the other ‘isms’; they’re all the same. The only difference is how hard they shove the rifle barrel into your belly as they take your money and property in order to ‘distribute’ it to those it deems more deserving.
    And for you progressives preaching socialism lite, anyone with a brain understands that socialism, in any amount, cannot exist alongside capitalism (or simple freedom for that matter). They are a case of matter/anti matter

    • Social security, medicaid, medicare, sick leave, family leave, 40 hour work weak, 8 hour work day, worker protections, public schools, , the PFD, minimum wage, child labor laws, agriculture and energy subsidies, these are socialist programs we have in the US. It is not black and white socialism or no socialism in this country, it is a matter of what balance we have.

      • The PFD, if handled as it should be, is not a socialist grant. It is a dividend, or interest, or whatever you want to call it, distributed to all Alaskans equally. But when it becomes part of the overall budget and an appropriation then yes, it becomes an entitlement. Which it is not meant to be.

      • Medicaid/medicare maybe. Subsidies, for sure. None of the rest as there are ways around them. It’s not socialism if you pay in and receive back. Paying in and not receiving back the correct amount is just theft. Having a government entity run the PFD is just a license to steal. Look at real socialism such as the china virus ‘mitigation procedures’ in china. The virus came from a government lab. In order to ‘protect’ the population, the government literally locked people into their homes. The only way to get out of their locked homes is to follow government instructions and receive government mandated vaccines. Even after they get released, the government decides when they go back to their government assigned jobs.
        Do I think the PFD needs to go away or at least be a private entity with a board and paid membership? Absolutely. But it’s hardly the government controlling the means of production.

      • There is a difference between socialism and statism. In their original conception Social Security and Medicare were simply state run insurance programs. Later additions of people who were made eligible for benefits but who had made no contribution to the plan made them both more socialistic. Medicaid is largely a socialist program since most beneficiaries have made no contribution. Some agriculture and energy subsidies are socialistic but particularly with regard to so-called subsidies to the energy producers there is a lot of propaganda involved; not taxing is not subsidizing.

        The rest of your list is really statism; with the consent of the governed the government taxes to provide a wanted service or benefit. It is a shared burden and a shared benefit and doesn’t involve the confiscation of wealth with democratic process.

  6. Well, after reading this twice,I would speculate that you are still sitting with your legs crossed smoking dope. However, I do agree that the dividend unfortunately seems to motivate most alaskan voters. That is why we are forced to endure another 4 years of the worst governor(in my opinion) we have had in my 47 years living in this great state.

    • Left that, along with being a Democrat, behind in the ’70s. ‘Course, anymore if I sat down cross-legged on the floor I’d never get back up

  7. The thing that motivates me isn’t the PFD. It’s the general out of control nature of the legislature.

    The PFD is a symptom of the arrogance, not the problem. They created it, they ignore the statute and take it away. Why? Because they want to.

    Since you’re from the south, you should be familiar with Huey Long and the way his family ran Louisiana. They were openly corrupt, but understand at some level Louisiana had to work for them to be corrupt successfully.

    That measure of self survival is missing here.

    I would argue the barbarians never left. They just did what evil does and bided their time before burning Alaska to the ground.

  8. Art was ok with the communist unions until he no longer needed the health benefits. He can now rail against the State he draws a pension from

    • So it’s a different Frank than yesterday. I guess Sybil has cycled personalities.

      1-It’s called growing up and leaving behind the stupid things we do as youth. Try it sometime.

      2-The pension was earned via years of service. Not even progressives walk away from honestly earned money.

      You get worse at this every day. But I appreciate your posts. The work like Exlax for a old man.

    • A pension that I paid for. In my time in organized labor the trades unions were decidedly not communist and most were vehemently anti-communist. The AFL-CIO boycotted loading ships with grain that Nixon was selling to the Soviet Union. Most of the trades union rigorously purged open communists in the ’50s. The communists made their big comeback in organized labor in the 80s through the public employee unions. If you wondered what happened to the SDS’ers, Yippies, and the like of the Sixties look no further than the offices of the big wall-to-wall public employee unions in the ’70s and ’80s.

    • That’s not how I interpreted the story. It was a good living until it became clear that the ideology would eventually destroy him. It was then that he went to the other side, which will also eventually destroy you, but everybody else goes down at the same time.

  9. Art, I enjoyed the historical ramblings above very much and I would say that you mostly nailed it with one possible exception. The P-Fund. I think it is important to note that Oral Freeman devised the plan to LIMIT GOVERNMENT SPENDING. Keeping 25% of the Oil windfall monies away from the Political Parasitical Class is seldom a bad idea. The intent of the Fund was to keep $ out of the hands of the Government Spenders and reserve it for the people, to that end Hammond and Malone and others worked out the Dividend program in an effort to insure that the “people” had skin in the game.

    I hardly think Oral was a Commie, I can still recall his stern look as he pulled out his pipe from his mouth as I inquired if any of the dividend was ever to be used to fund Government. Hell No! Oral shouted, the whole purpose of the funds was to keep that money from being spent by the Bastards!

    Speaking of Ad Hoc, whatever became of Chip Thoma? I lost track of him in the early eighties? Tim Sunday was involved in that movement also I think, Tim settled in Gustavus I believe after a career with the Alaska Teamsters. Oh well, it’s been a long time ago now. I hope you are doing well and we need to have a drink soon along with Suzanne and JMARK. My treat, this month?

    • Thoma had a sweet grant funded exempt sinecure in department of Labor during Knowles. When Murkowski became Governor, his COS, Jim Clark did Thoma the honor of personally firing him. I’m sure he landed up with some lefty front group; they always do.

      I knew and liked Oral, an old-fashioned business/conservative Democrat. After ’80 or so there wasn’t much room for that sort of person in the Democrat Party. No doubt that back then the political impetus was to spend, spend, spend. Hammond referred to Hickel and his friends as the “rape, ruin, and run” crowd. i was on the union side back then and we certainly liked getting our hooves in that Capital Budget.

    • “…….I think it is important to note that Oral Freeman devised the plan to LIMIT GOVERNMENT SPENDING. Keeping 25% of the Oil windfall monies away from the Political Parasitical Class is seldom a bad idea. The intent of the Fund was to keep $ out of the hands of the Government Spenders and reserve it for the people…….”
      Using basic greed to limit the political class access to the earnings, which is why the Permanent Fund was created in the first place. It was NOT created to provide dividend income to Alaskans, which us clearly and undeniably a socialist program.
      Now the problem us protecting the PF earnngs from the socialists among the public. Hiw many times have you read a dim-witted opinion that the entire PF should be distributed among residents and just do away with it? “Oh,” you say, “these people aren’t serious……..”
      Yeah, sure they aren’t……….
      Look at the Norway Sovereign Wealth Fund, set up 16 years after the Alaska Permanent Fund, and now standing at $1.19 trillion, 29 times larger than the PF.
      Eventually, whether the street trash get it, or the political parasite class gets it, the PF is nothing but a target. You simply can’t hold a pot of money like that in this society without attracting more parasites than you can protect it from.

      • Reggie,
        Explain this to me then, there is a statue regarding how the “dividend” is formulated, further on there is a Constitutional Amendment which authorized the Fund, how was it that the “Men in Black” found some fantastical loophole to give the Parasitical Political Class an end run around paying the dividend?

        To plagiarize William F Buckley, “I would rather be Judged by the first 100 names of Street Trash appearing in the Wasilla Phone Book, (do they still have them?) than the esteemed members of the Alaska Bar who picked the Judges that came up with this ruling for Walker. Oh, didn’t Sarah plug Walker? Hmm.

    • Chip Thoma sued Sarah Palin and the suit was dismissed not that many years ago. He still may live near the Governor’s mansion.
      I met Chip on the ferry from Haines to Juneau in early 70s after getting married and bringing new wife to Alaska. He offered a place to crash in early morning hours at a house he was living in on the water on Fritz Cove. I’ve always thought of him as a fun and interesting guy.

      • Billy Boy, For what grievance did Chip file suit against Sarah? I wonder who payed the Court Costs? I get that it gives a lefty street cred when they sue a Republican, but it would be interesting to know what the basis of the suit was all about. Was it the cut of her jib?

  10. The property rights in MOST private title were removed, scathed away, any private, familial, resource wealth opportunity. A big unconstitutional scathing. We have a national due process for that “taking”. The process is not meeting for private drinks. The process due is professionally known as rights of way takings as written and adopted in CFR Title 49 (a thick volume studied lazily by Alaska Rights of Way Agents). This due process WAS NOT done or in evidence by the certified US state of Alaska. It was done in good but errant will and in good haste. The permanent fund dividend was designed as an afterthought to possibly ameliorate “the taking” of the resource right from the bundle of property rights title” from someone the once percent currently in private Alaskan recorded title. Some private rights escaped by (huge) “virtue” of miniscule rights going from federal title to private title with no state title interval attached due to no recorded state interest recorded chronologically in fulfillment of the order of ancient land recordation rites established by barristers in England through to this day. A deed records all interests chronologically in writing completely and if not written your interests aren’t there unless it is desired to bastardize that oracle Also. And, yes that will stands up to be counted in corrupted Alaska. Remember strong drink erodes your free will.

    • Guy AK, after reading your epistle above I’m pouring my self a very strong drink! Cheers and Merry Christmas!

  11. Government aka “corporations”/imaginary persons and not a living man, are created by living men to “secure and defend” the property and other rights of living men as per the US Constitution. That is the express language giving jurisdiction of duty in order to lawfully personally obtain a warrant of funds from the public trust funds. A sworn statement to defend the rights (not the physical safety from imaginary “viruses” etc since the US men and wo-men have an absolute right contained within the US Constitution to defend our own life and safety). Is that what has ever happened in the 49th state? Just a wee bit curious.

  12. Art, if you’re against the PFD why don’t you just say it? Further, if you think it’s communist methodology why don’t you just say that !! If I remember correctly, I believe the state constitution states that the natural resources of the state belong to the residents. And it was written before you and your hippies friends ever got here!!

  13. Art, great post. Would love to join you, Suzanne, and my old buddy Bobby S sometime at the Triangle and throw back a McNaughton’s. You brought back some great memories of what it was like growing up in the 70s before we started seeing Deadhead stickers on the Cadillacs. In Juneau, besides the Vista’s we had the Jesus People from Eureka to help broaden our perspectives. Cheers to Joe Walsh, who brilliantly closed out that decade with “oh oh, here comes a flock of wah wahs”.

    • The ultimate Cadillac with a deadhead sticker belonged Bill Wiemer, the money man for the Ad Hoc Democrats. His was a miraculous journey that only a Democrat could make. He went from the man thought to be the drug kingpin of Alaska in the ’70s to running the State’s drug testing program and the halfway houses. Finally wound up in jail though.

      • Wait, wut? I thought that guy who owned the old Crystal Saloon on S. Franklin back in the day was the big drug kingpin of Alaska. Could be mistaken, because maybe that was just Juneau.

  14. ERRATA: A friend reminds me that the hotel was “The Mush Inn” back in those days and only became “The Big Timber” later.

  15. This article reminds me of cigarette-smoke filled rooms with a whiff of cultured tobacco from a cigar or two at some random City Hall meeting, the pink-tinged morning light of the Great One painting by Sidney Laurence in the foyer at the auditorium, afters at Don’s Green Apple, the ‘new-style’ overhad Cold War beige fluorescent circular light fixtures, tramping through just one more exhibit of the Alaska Society Gem & Mineral Show in the narrow hallways of the basement of Z.J. Loussac at Fur Rendezvous, behind my father in his long wool coat, bottle green fedora, zip-up galoshes, and cashmere scarf. It reminds me of working at Hewitt’s and thinking of the ‘softened to gray’ black and white photograph on the front page of Anchorage Daily Times. Another time. Same place. Same people. Just another time.

    I recall annexation of my hometown to the big city and how we’d benefit from so many services the Anchorage Borough could provide and how no one in my town voted nor wanted to be swallowed up and how the PeopleMover service all the way past Peter’s Creek was gradually cut off as there’s no more land to swallow up to expand its tax-base and I understand Wasilla is the designated population growth area, but the dairy assets in the Valley have evaporated. And no one seems to be looking for the answers for those mentally ill living on the streets, but is dwelling in the swill of scoffing at public health measures and appointing people to leadership positions who’ve no interest in furthering their obligations

    Reminiscing is fine and part of moving along, but call things as they are. There never was a chance of becoming communist communist nor socialist socialist. Yes, Humana Hospital still thrives as well as Providence, although no longer on the Parkstrip when I was born in the Territory.

    As Anchorage is often the face of the Alaska population, my hope is that folks look ahead and beyond it becoming an anachronism mired in old-timey politics. If it goes, then what’s left?

    • Mrs N,
      You and I have more in common than you think, I too was born in the Territory in the Hospital down along the Park Strip which I believe has long since been demolished and reared in Spenard where packs of Dogs were a real threat. That said, I believe that we are in danger of losing something precious, it is our freedoms and rights as individuals. Sometimes we need to look back to gat a sense of how to move forward. Think about that please.

  16. May I be a voice crying out in the wilderness of detestable things being done? People are homeless because of placement in the family. Youngest in the family are catered to until age 18. Then, the world is cruel. “What me? Conform? That’s not my job! My job is to be cared for by my overworked, conformist, sucker, older sibling(s), if any (left). Disloyalty is my job.” How do you fix that, taxpayer? Or, the needy “I’m so lonely and no one has checked me for three entire weeks! Who cares if no one has checked on you for seventy years! It’s your job to take care of me Mom said.” Or the old “It’s not my fault I creosote my brains with drugs with pleasant women or unpleasant women and now I can’t think with my brain. It’s YOUR job to care for me. I thought Christians were supposed to be good suckers; and you aren’t! Come over here right now at 3:00AM and bring your handsome husband over here too. Our cousin is begging, needing to see him again.” Ah, life in AK. So compelling.

  17. All this discussion about money, who gets what, etc., when the pie is divvied up is kind of interesting, but the real issue that will be coming along is more foundational: What is the basis upon which the loot being divvied up calculated. Allocations and appropriations based on Federal Reserve Notes could get very dicey not too far down the trail. It’s worth examining Art. I, Sec. 10 of the U.S. Constitution with an eye towards what we Alaskans might do in terms of fiscal policy and spending.

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