The prize



pulitzer prizeThirty years ago, the Anchorage Daily News won a Pulitzer Prize for chronicling the problems of rural Alaska in a series titled “People in Peril.”

“Across the state, the Eskimos, Indians and Aleuts of Bush Alaska are dying in astonishing numbers. By suicide, accident and other untimely, violent means, death is stealing the heart of a generation and painting the survivors with despair,” News editor Howard Weaver wrote at the time.

Village Alaska had a poverty problem then as it has today. But People in Peril chose to focus on a rural region drowning in alcohol, suggesting as it did that if the drinking just stopped, things would eventually get better.

They didn’t.

Now the ADN, in cooperation with ProPublica, is back with what it hopes will be another Pulitzer Prize-winning series redefining the problem. This time the newspaper has teamed up with Outside media to argue the problem is a lack of law enforcement to keep people from harming each other.

The crisis of alcohol and despair has evolved into a crisis of crime.

“U.S. Attorney General William Barr says he’s struck by ‘sense of urgency’ on Alaska rural crime crisis,” the newspaper headlined last week, although Barr never used the words “crime crisis.”

On a national level – the level at which Barr deals – it would be hard to describe Alaska’s problems, as bad as they are, as a crime crisis.


Juxtaposed against what is happening in some American cities, Alaska doesn’t look so bad. Alaskans fed a steady media diet of crime news might have trouble believing this, but the data doesn’t lie.

The homicide rate in St. Louis stands at 64.27 per 100,000 people. In Baltimore, it is 51.46 per 100,000.

Parts of both cities are regularly described as “war zones.”

Alaska’s homicide rate is now the highest in 20 years at 10.2 per 100,000, but the number is inflated by the state’s biggest urban areas – Anchorage and Fairbanks.

Of the 78 murders in the state in 2017 (the last year for which complete data is available) 48 or about 62 percent happened in Anchorage, where there were 35 homicides, and Fairbanks, where there were 13. The residents of Anchorage and Fairbanks comprise about 44 percent of the state’s population.

No figures are readily available for the homicide rate in what is variously defined in differing ways as “rural Alaska,” but the 30 murders that happened outside of Anchorage or Fairbanks would put the murder rate for the rest of the state at about 7.2 per 100,000.

That is almost the exact same homicide rate as friendly Minneapolis and below the homicide rate for Boston.  Alaska has horrible problems with sexual assault and domestic violence, but many American cities now have worse problems with murder.

To someone in Barr’s position, deciding where to spend limited federal tax dollars to provide more law enforcement to fight crime has to be difficult because St. Louis and Baltimore aren’t alone as kill zones.

Missouri has the highest black homicide rate in the United States, according to a study by the Violence Policy Center.

“The study…found that the homicide rates for blacks in Missouri is 46.24 per 100,000, more than double the national black homicide rate of 18.67 per 100,000,” St. Louis Public Radio reported last year. “The national white homicide victimization rate (is) 2.67 per 100,000.)

“‘Each day in America, the number of black homicide victims exceeds the toll in the Parkland, Florida mass shootings,” Violence Policy Center Executive Director Josh Sugarmann said in a statement. ‘The devastating and disproportionate impact homicide, almost always involving a gun, has on black men, boys, women, and girls in America is an ongoing national crisis.'”

In Missouri as in Alaska, the statewide rate is driven up by the deaths in poor urban neighborhoods – the same, crime-plagued neighborhoods driving up the homicide rates in so many cities:

Birmingham, 42.1 per 100,000; Detroit, 35.64 per 100,000; Kansas City, 33.37 per 100,000; Memphis, 30.69 per 100,000; New Orleans, 30.42 per 100,000; Newark, 25.26 per 100,000; Philadelphia, 21.12 per 100,000; and much-talked-about Chicago seeming almost comparatively peaceful at 19.71 per 100,000.

The map of homicide death rates at is a map of crisis, and a horrifying commentary on the very different worlds inhabited by the poor and the middle-class in the U.S. today.

“As is true throughout the country, the city’s most insidious issues can likely be linked back to poverty,” the Baltimore Sun observed in February. “It is not really surprising that in Baltimore, where 22.1 percent of people lived in poverty in 2017, well above the state’s 9.4 percent, the crime rate is high, for instance. People will turn to burglary, shoplifting and other crimes to get through life if economic opportunities and jobs don’t exist.

“We beef up law enforcement to attack crime, devote more funding to try and improve inadequate schools and tackle health disparities by getting more people to the doctor. But what if Baltimore could solve all of its persistent social problems by getting rid of poverty?” the newspaper’s editors asked.

The pit of poverty

Baltimore is the site of a now much-discussed study led by sociologist Karl Alexander from John Hopkins University.  The study spent 25 years tracking the lives of 800 Baltimore school children.

What Alexander and his associates found was that the poor remained largely locked in poverty, and that the social consequences for young men were devastating.

“At age 28, 41 percent of white men—and 49 percent of black men—from low-income backgrounds had a criminal conviction,” the Hub at John Hopkins reported.

Poverty’s similar effect on Alaska Natives are hard to ignore. On a per capita population basis, Natives are approximately 100 percent overrepresented in the state’s prisons and jails, according to the Prison Policy Initiative.

Today as in the ’80s, their problems have little to do with race and a lot to do with poverty. Native village Alaskans are little different from the people struggling in the African American neighborhoods of Baltimore or in the impoverished sections of white middle America, as The Atlantic reported a year ago.

“The decline in life expectancy and health among less-educated white Americans is often attributed to ‘deaths of despair’ – those from conditions like substance abuse and suicide,” reporter Olga Khazan wrote. “Suicides, the CDC reported last week, are up nearly 30 percent since 1999.

Despair. The issue Weaver identified 30 years ago in Alaska.

It is a problem for many in a supposedly classless society ridden with differences in class.

“All-American Despair,” Rolling Stone magazine headlined just days ago: “For the past two decades, a suicide epidemic fueled by guns, poverty and isolation has swept across the West, with middle-aged men dying in record numbers.”

Substitute “Alaska Natives” for “middle-aged men” in that sentence, and you have the description of one of the big problems village Alaska faced 30 years ago and still faces today. The other problems – alcohol abuse, drug abuse, huffing, sexual assault, domestic violence, thievery – sort of go hand in hand with poverty and isolation in today’s electronically connected world.

Weaver long ago understood that many, if not most, of the village problems were tied to the helplessness of joblessness, but that’s not what the newspaper reported. Instead, it said this:

“A growing sense of helplessness simmers in alcohol throughout the Bush. Among a growing percentage of Alaska Natives, life has become equal parts violence, disintegration and despair. An epidemic of suicide, murder and self-destruction threatens to overwhelm cultures that have for centuries survived and prospered in the harshest environments on earth.”

The part economics plays in all of this, Weaver said at the time, was far too complicated and difficult for the newspaper to untangle. The newspaper couldn’t solve that problem, he argued, but would get to it in the future.

In the near term, Weaver decided, the ADN would focus on the problem about which something could be done: alcohol.

A man who’d wrestled with the demon rum himself, Weaver understood well the 12-step program to sobriety advocated by Alcoholics Anonymous. Step one:

“‘We admitted we were powerless over alcohol and that our lives had become unmanageable.’ Taking this first step and admitting you have a drinking problem can be difficult and scary, but it is the foundation of all positive change,” AA says.

Weaver believed that if the drinking problem in rural Alaska could be solved the positive changes were sure to follow. And thus, with the best of intentions, the ADN painted a dramatic portrait of the problems alcohol caused in rural Alaska.

Only there was a little more to it than just this.

Hunting prizes

People in Peril was ADN’s bid to win a second Pulitzer, and the media-government complex that controls journalism’s biggest prize isn’t inclined to hand out awards for complicated and difficult stories that leave people scratching their heads about what to do.

The Pulitzers like to see things simple. The Pulitzers like to see a problem clearly defined. And most of all the Pulitzers like to see stories that spur problem-solving, government action.

As the Pulitzer award noted, the ADN series focused attention on the “despair and resulted in various reforms.” The latter was key to the prize. The series led the government to act.

People in Peril drove a renewed focus on Alaska’s “local option” law that allowed communities to ban alcohol. More communities went “dry.” State efforts to keep alcohol out of villages increased.

A 2009 report by the U.S. Department of Justice concluded the Alaska Alcohol Interdiction, Investigation, and Prosecution Program that built on People in Peril led to the convictions of hundreds of people on charges of trafficking in booze.

But Alaska’s Prohibition did not appear to solve the bigger societal problems of rural Alaska.

“While the program was found to be well designed and executed, we did not find that it had a statistically significant impact on the targeted outcomes of reduced crime, accidental deaths, or injuries,” the report said. “One of the plausible explanations for this finding is that the program is simply ineffective. It is possible that smugglers are finding alternative means of evading detection using air transportation, or are using alternatives to air transport. Local production of alcohol may offset whatever gains the RAI (Rural Alcohol Interdiction) Program makes in deterring smuggling or seizing bootlegged alcohol.

“Western Alaska may have experienced what most other U.S. prohibition efforts have experienced: the demand for alcohol may be strong enough to motivate bootleggers to overcome whatever obstacles law enforcement places before them.

“It is also possible that the program ‘dosage’ was insufficient to make a large enough dent in the availability of alcohol in the target areas to produce a measurable effect on outcomes. There may be so much alcohol transported into dry villages that even doubling the amount interdicted or deterred may reduce the overall amount of alcohol by only a small percentage, and if so, the program would have to be much larger in scope and to interdict much more alcohol in order to produce a statistically significant impact.

“The true baseline amount of alcohol in dry villages is not readily measurable and would be difficult to estimate accurately. One way to test whether the program was too small in scope would be to significantly expand the program, track process and outcome data for several years, then test whether there are effects of the increments from no program to the present RAI, and then from the present RAI to an expanded program.”

The ADN is now advocating that the “dosage” can be increased enough to shift the dynamic. Maybe it can. No one knows. The question of whether hiring more police reduces crime is much debated.

Certainly everyone wants to believe more law enforcement means less crime, but “experts say there is little evidence that more cops equals less crime,” The Marshall Project, the Memphis Commercial Appeal and USA TODAY reported after an in-depth examination of the subject earlier this year.

“Responding to public panic over urban violence during the 1990s, President Bill Clinton signed off on millions of dollars in federal funds to hire thousands of local cops across the country,” they reported. “In 1997, two years after the money started to trickle out of Washington, the nation had 242 police officers for every 100,000 residents. By 2016, that number had dropped to 217 as law enforcement agencies shed jobs in the aftermath of a national recession while the nation’s population grew.

“The national violent crime rate, over those 19 years, dropped by 37 percent. According to FBI data, in 1997 the national violent crime rate was 611.0 per 100,000 inhabitants. In 2016 the violent crime rate was 386.3 out of 100,000 inhabitants.”

Today, Maine has by far the lowest rate of violent crime in the country and employs about 195 officers per 100,000 residents. 

The District of Columbia has the highest rate of violent crime in the country – more than eight times that of Maine – and employs 722 officers per 100,000 residents, the highest proportion of law enforcement per citizen in the country, according to Wikipedia.

Alaska, which is second only to the nation’s capital in terms of violent crime, employs about 189 sworn officers per 100,000 residents, close to the same as Maine. New Mexico, which has about the same violent crime rate as Alaska, employs 252 per 100,000 residents. 

Vermont, which has a low crime rate near that of Maine, employs about 178 per 100,000. Anchorage employs 128 sworn officers per 100,000.

The national average of near 220 is driven up by the nation’s murder capitals which employ huge numbers of police compared to most communities: Birmingham with 371 per 100,000; Chicago with 442 per 100,000; Detroit with 321 per 100,000; Memphis with 347 per 100,000; New Orleans with 408 per 100,000; Philadelphia with 432 per 100,000; and St. Louis with 384 per 100,000.

Despite all the police, their homicide rates are horrendous.

Among the nation’s largest cities, Irvine, Calif., has the lowest police staffing rate at 92 per 100,000. It also has the lowest rate of violent crime of any U.S. city of more than 250,000.

Despite this, “residents are exposed to what can feel like a constant flow of reports about crime on news and social media,” the Orange County Register reported. “However, the chances of Irvine residents becoming a crime victim in recent years are lower than ever — at least according to data — and that’s consistent with declining crime rates nationwide since the early 1990s.”

“I’ve heard people say it’s getting worse and there’s just no evidence of that,” John Hipp, a professor of criminology at UC Irvine told the newspaper.

“If the city’s safer than ever, then why are at least some residents feeling the opposite?” reporter Tomoya Shimura asked.

Hipp had a simple answer. There is reality, and there is what the media portrays as reality, and sometimes they differ.

“Clearly, public perceptions of the risk of crime are driven less by statistics than by compelling stories and graphic images,” as criminologist Gary LaFree observed at The Hill earlier this year. He warned against an “apparently natural predisposition to regard crime as more serious than it is, accelerated by the electronic media and harnessed by politicians for their own purposes.”

Fear sells. It doesn’t always solve things.

“Over the past 40-plus years, hundreds of millions of dollars have been invested in the Bush (to solve the problem),” observed an Alaska attorney intimately familiar with the issues of rural Alaska since the 1970s. “And what has been the outcome? Today, the rates of alcohol and drug abuse, domestic violence, child sexual abuse, teenage and adult suicide, and acts of violence are way worse than they were when I arrived and prior to the expenditure of those hundreds of millions of dollars.

“Why that is – and what, if anything, Alaskans of good will can and should be doing to try to improve the situation – is the real story about which…ProPublica should be reporting, not the lack of law enforcement.”

That may or may not be true. But what is certain is that the simple and dramatic story is easier to both write and digest than the complex and complicated story, much more likely to spark government action, and thus much more likely to win a prize.




39 replies »

  1. Craig. An award should go to the reporter who can outline a solution to bush substance abuse . It ties into the facts prohibition doesn’t work. The war on drugs doesn’t work. It creates the degregradation of society on many levels . Not just America’s. But also south/ central and countries over seas . It’s an enormous wracket that effects our society in so many ways. Prohibition of substance drives the market which drives crime murder and domestic abuse , prisons and destruction of families. You are very right village rum runners just find different ways to acces markets. Worse and worse people step into the void as demand and profit soar . = Terorism finance – gang finance ect ect . Totally beyond asinine circle . There are solutions. Civilized solutions. What is it they say – doing the same thing again and again but expecting different results = insanity. That’s the picture of the drug war since the 80s . Obvious solution is to destroy the buisness model that drives profit and crime. Don’t fight harder fight smarter.

    • Opinion,
      The simple answer is the private corporate prison system is making too much profit off of mass incarceration to allow things to change.
      Many of the 2.5 million incarcerated in America work for $1 a day…in Idaho prisoners harvest potatoes accross the state.
      This business model brings in huge profits for corporate shareholders who then hire lobbyists to see that draconian drug laws are put in place.
      Remember most of the incarcerated are in prison on non-violent crimes.
      “More Americans are arrested for marijuana possession than for all violent crimes combined. If passed, the Marijuana Justice Act would legalize marijuana nationwide, and these statistics would be nonexistent”
      Hopefully the U.S. can follow Canada and Mexico and legalize Cannabis nationwide this would be a step to slowing the mass incarceration rates across the Nation.

      • Interesting side note . I believe Alaska has some non compete laws for prison labor . Not sure on details. There is a problem with feeding the prison contractors money via needing to fill prisons I’m told . America prisons are not a great place but South American prisons are beyond horrible. Look up some of recent issues . Prisoners and guards kill hundreds in certain prisons per year. If we legalized all drugs we would reduce strife in Mexico, south and Central America . Reducing immigration and prison problems. As Mathew said less prisoners means a more stable nuclear family which is basically major part of solution combined with legal work for those families and men . Tariffs suck for big businesses but they are needed to bring back jobs to this country restablize job base which stabilizes families. Reduce social problems.

      • No Steve. That has long been debunked. I can’t speak to the arrest rate number, but the increase in prison population is because of violent crime. Many who get arrested for marijuana don’t get jail time because of our permissive culture.

      • Lance,
        Your perception is clouded by the thirteen or so states which have legalized the use of Marijuana for adults.
        The reality is that MANY of the remaining 30+ states still have harsh penalties (including incarceration) for marijuana possession alone.
        This is still the heart of “the war on drugs” in America and began with Nixon’s administration years ago.
        Here are some recent statistics on the subject:
        “Amount spent annually in the U.S. on the war on drugs: $47+ billion…
         Number of arrests in 2017 in the U.S. for drug law violations: 1,632,921…
        Number of drug arrests that were for possession only: 1,394,514 (85.4 percent)…
        Number of people arrested for a marijuana law violation in 2017: 659,700.
        Number of those charged with marijuana law violations who were arrested for possession only: 599,282 (90.8 percent)”

      • Steve,

        A problem I have with the stats as presented by activists isn’t that they are wrong, but that they are over-simplified and without context. For instance, “possession” applies to “intent to distribute” amounts, not just personal use. “Drug law violations” is also over-broad if the actual topic is marijuana.

        It’s just bad use of the stats, instead of making a precise rational argument, there’s too much reliance on hyperbole and rhetoric. Which is actively unhelpful to trying to make policy decisions.

      • Matthew,
        Playing symantecs or calling an opinion you disagree with “activist” does not change the statistics…
        Adding additional terms like “intent to distribute” does not change the facts…
        Wasting $47 billion a year on a failed War on Drugs does nothing to treat the symptoms which cause so many to self medicate in America.
        Nor does it disrupt the supply and demand.
        The reality remains…
        660,000 are arrested for marijuana each year in America and over 90 percent of these charges are possession alone…
        These are ALL non violent crimes and do not involve a “victim”…
        That is my point.

      • “Playing symantecs or calling an opinion you disagree with “activist” does not change the statistics…”

        Whoa. You need to turn off the emoting right there. Where did I say I disagreed with your opinion? I even explicitly stated the statistics were correct, insofar as they are presented in an imprecise and unhelpful way.

        See, this is the problem with making emotional appeals instead of calm, precise, rational ones. People stop thinking and start projecting.

        My training and education is in Criminology, this is the stuff I follow and dig into. I completely agree that that the stats on non-violent drug arrests for personal use (among a host of other over-criminalized conduct) are in fact horrific.That is a very different thing than saying all those who sell illegally and are arrested with “possession with intent” quantities are non-violent criminals. Which is nonsense.

        My point was the, yes, activist, as in, “that particular presentation of the numbers was deliberately created with rhetoric and imprecision to push a particular point by an advocacy organization,” deliberate conflation of dissimilar things, and lying by omission, is actively unhelpful in actually solving particular problems in a rational way.

        If everyone is operating with their feelz ablaze, the proper corrections are likely to be missed, or even overshot with unintended consequences.

      • Steve Stine said “These are ALL non violent crimes and do not involve a “victim”…
        That is my point.”

        matthew said “It’s just bad use of the stats, instead of making a precise rational argument, there’s too much reliance on hyperbole and rhetoric. Which is actively unhelpful to trying to make policy decisions.”


        Saying those are “ALL” non violent crimes proves matthews point. First of all, barring any actual proof, there is no way you could possibly know those were “ALL” (as in 100%) non violent.

        I personally don’t have a problem with legal marijuana, but making definitive statements like you did is wholly unhelpful, as matthews statement pointed out.

      • Matthew,
        You are stuck with twisting my statements…
        Unless there are other charges that I am unaware of “intent to distribute” tagged onto a mere possession charge is still a “non violent” crime….
        Remember from your training that you need a victim for a violent crime to occur such as in the case of domestic violence…
        These 3/4 million people arrested annually across America (for marijuana) while 13 states, Canada and Mexico have LEGALIZED the substance is a total WASTE of taxpayers dollars.
        The states that incarcerated folks on marijuana charges for possession (like Idaho) use the incarcerated as slave labor for $1 a day to pick potatoes.
        This war on drugs only feeds the private prison corporate model of the new industrial slavery happening across America.
        This is not just my opinion, but also the opinion of many scholars across the country.
        Ron Paul speaks of ending the war on drugs on his national Libertarian party talks as well as other 3rd party candidates for president have.
        Many see the $47 billion a year wasted on the War on Drugs as a failed program.
        This is just the plain old truth…there is nothing emotional, activist or irrational about coming to these conclusions.

      • Steve, you obviously haven’t seen enough of the damage done with toxic mind-altering drugs. Like alcohol, it may not be the ultimate cause of the violence and despair in the villages and the U.S., but it certainly accelerates it as it destroys the mind and spirit of individuals.

        It is certainly a violent act to sell someone a toxin and tell them it’s ok, if you gave someone koolaid spiked with poison you’d certainly be considered to have performed a violent act. It’s the mind-altering drug dealers that are the evil in our society today, they make money off of destroying others.

      • “That is a very different thing than saying all those who sell illegally and are arrested with “possession with intent” quantities are non-violent criminals. Which is nonsense.”

        What words did I “twist,” exactly?

        Read the above again. I did not say that possession with intent to sell was a violent crime, I said that a blanket statement that people arrested for possession with intent, which covers a wide range of quantities, are non-violent criminals is nonsense. Many people who deal drugs are not “hippy Bob down the street” but are, or willingly associate with, actual criminals who use violence as part of their illegal sale business.

        And, again, I agree that we have over-criminalized a lot of otherwise innocuous conduct, but blanket statements that “all drug possession cases involve non-violent criminals” are actually harmful to that discussion.

      • So Matt lance and Steve , I think the important point that’s being missed is that if you legalize all drugs you will drive down all crime . Worldwide. Getting lost in the minutiae can be distracting. There should be no argument there should just be a discussion how do we make a viable solution. Illegalizing any of it is a false path for a permanent solution. It’s time for politicians and the public to look at another way as their current method has failed and is working a part in destroying society. Take away the profits you take away the crime . Let the government tax it . Heck if you want to totally solve the problem Let the government subsidize it next door to treat facilities with a sighn that says free drugs for losers . Change the cultural outlook about using drugs and provide complete mental and drug rehabilitation help for people. That’s not socialism it’s solutionism . I have seen the bad effects of drugs in all forms . It’s time to fight fire with intelligence. Destroy the buisness model of criminal drug organizations. Let freedom win by its merits .

  2. The best thing that ever didn’t happen to me was that the State of Georgia did almost nothing to preserve the lifestyle of independent subsistence agriculture that dominated the rural areas of Georgia, and both the State and federal governments had programs that enabled people to leave that life in large numbers. The face of poverty in the US until well into the 1960s was the face of rural farmers and farm labor in The South and Appalachia.

    Much of The New Deal was aimed at creating a moveable industrial workforce. Social Security enable young people to leave the farm rather than stay to care for it and ageing parents. The Fair Labor Standards Act’s prohibition of most child labor and establishing a minimum wage encouraged hiring adults as industrial workers and helped to stop the race-based death spiral of Southern industrial labor wages; all the employers had to do was threaten to replace white workers with blacks and nobody would be seen talking to a union organizer. Interestingly, neither was applied to working family members or to agricultural labor and still don’t apply today.

    I left for college in the fall of ’67 and never spent another night in my parent’s home or my hometown again except as a guest. I returned for my 20th HS graduation reunion and only a handful of my 128 graduating class mates were still in the town or county and many of us lived far away. The only ones that remained either had family wealth and station or chose to live cheaply on old family land and commute to work elsewhere. Those farm to market roads that the State built moved kids too. What the New Deal and WWII didn’t take, the Great Society and the Civil Rights and Voting Rights laws did, and the blacks that had lived as sharecroppers and day labor either moved to “the project” or to the city. 100 acre farms that once supported a family or two became 1000 acre farms often corporate, highly automated, and using minimal and often transient labor. By the mid-70′ the saying was that in Georgia parents could be assured that their first-born son, good-looking daughter, and all your money was going to Atlanta.

    Today a few of my peers have returned now that we’re all at or near retirement because you can live so cheaply there, but you’re going to have to drive to buy much of anything. What was a vibrant courthouse square business area is now all but deserted; the courthouse isn’t even on the courthouse square anymore. The nineteenth and early twentieth century buildings mostly sit empty or have become junk, excuse me, antique shops or government offices the retailers having been replaced by a Wal-Mart on the outskirts of town. The only growth industries are the funeral homes and the nursing homes. As some singer said, “there’s nothing left but the dead and dying in my little town.”

    Most of rural Alaska’s villages exist only because of state and federal spending there. Few have any intrinsic economic value. Moving to more urban areas will be a wrenching transition for some; it was for some of my peers. Many of us had dalliances with drugs and alcohol; some had more than dalliances. A few had run-ins with the law, but I know of none who committed major crimes, or if they did, they did it well enough that they didn’t get caught. I saw fifty or sixty of them for the 50th reunion in ’17 and they seemed a prosperous enough lot. I even saw for the first time since graduation my classmate who also lives here in Alaska and has since the ’70s.

    Just as a social welfare net protected the elderly in the transition from a rural to an urban society elsewhere, it should remain in place for the elderly in rural Alaska, but young people must be provided with education and incentives to live productively in the urban economy.

    • Art Chance,

      Versions of this intervention approach have happened elsewhere too. From the earliest days of the Colonies there were runaways, who established growing populations of Undocumented citizens in the hinterlands. They had no Rights to the land they were on, or any of the resources they were using. The Rabble.

      The New England rabble was enticed & cajoled to migrate south into Appalachia and the northern South, by a combination of their own internal leadership, and special individuals in Government with connections to the rabble culture.

      The early New England farm-base & culture collapsed, and there are old stone fences and cabin foundations scattered through what is now timberland. Many early farmers moved into little towns that grew up around watermill sites, and the availability of this quality-but-distressed labor-pool helped drive investment & development of a new waterpower-based industry. Which itself later became the first Rust Belt.

      The Alaska villages & villagers (and the Corporations & Regions) are in a special ‘spot’, because although they lack a good cash economy, they do have a form of “wealth and station”, mainly in their extenisve land-holdings, and of course their Tribal-Cultural identity. Plus they have a degree of special control, and resource access, likewise tied to their locale.

      Some young villagers leave. There is some in-migration. Some villages are stable, but others are a constant struggle to keep viable. Same for Regions and Corporations.

      Some reforms are difficult, because they drive villagers out. I was a teenage runaway on skidrow Seattle in the winter of 1969-70, living with 5,000 Alaska Natives who mostly left/were kicked out of (“dry”) villages because of drinking/alcoholism. Versions of this Catch-22 continue.

      But the general process you describe, of the changing of times & opportunities, and the finding of ways to address the challenges, is important, intriquing, and worth study.

  3. Another great article. Alas, more insightful than what ADN/ProPublica has written or will write about the issues. And of course, by the best journalist the ADN ever had! Enemies are unnecessary, they have themselves.
    Much will be written about symptoms. Writing about the obvious problem is not appreciated. Initial good intentions (benefit of doubt) rendered the traditional male role – protecting and providing food for the family – unnecessary. Many of the people who live in rural Alaska are part of an aid-based economy. Likewise, for many urban blacks. People need meaning. What becomes of the meaning of a male when the female gets money for food and shelter for having children and not being married?
    Then add really inferior educational systems in both places. Substance abuse, suicide, violence, property crimes, high incarceration rates etc. are guaranteed.
    Democrats are the real problem. Everything else is a symptom. Democrats are responsible for the Great Society that resulted in the traditional role unnecessary beyond breeding and they have had increasingly dominant control of education for generations. They run most or all of the cities where blacks are suffering.
    Now they want to swindle us with the GND.

  4. The problem is clear, in areas where government heavily subsidizes living by way of making people dependent upon government for the basics of life crime is a problem because government cannot provide a sense of achievement or pride or a sense of worth. Where there is opportunity and jobs crime is lower, government dependency is lower, and people thrive.

    • Blacks only make up 13% of the population yet commit 70% of the violent crime in America. What is sad is they were better off back in the 1950-1970’s with the nuclear family then after the Democrats doled out trillions to keep them down on the “plantation”. With the likes of Jackson and Sharpton sitting up on the porch in their rockers, sipping Mint Julip, while reporting any offenders. All a toxic control game. Same with that racist klansman Byrd in WV. Just offer up free chit for votes. The villages are no different. An old saying goes like this: “if I take everything from you, I know longer control you”.

  5. The problem in the Bush isn’t poverty, booze or drugs. The problem is rampant stupidity. It’s absolutely stupid to procreate and bring a child into a culture of hopelessness. Where there is no future for the kid except a dismal and hopeless existence until they can’t take it anymore and choose a way to kill or incarcerate themselves. If the Bush stopped irresponsibly pumping out kids, their social problems would dissipate. But that would involve thinking, which is not something that most Bush Natives can be bothered with.

  6. Lots of similarities between rural villages and urban centers in America.
    I just watched a documentary on the rising prison population in America (which is by far the greatest of any western nation at over 2.5 million incarcerated with another 2.5 million awaiting trial or on probation/ankle monitors). This is the real crisis facing our state budgets across America.
    Illiteracy seems to be the Number 1 determining factor in a child’s outcome in life.
    Currently over 50 percent of black children cannot read by 4th grade….eventually 1 in 4 black men in America will be dead by age 25.
    Also our lack of background checks on many firearms sales and transfers plays into the factors of gun violence and crazy homicide rates in our country….like guns are illegal in Chicago yet a short drive to an Indiana “gun show” has No Background Checks?
    “The United States is the only nation in the world that has more guns than people.” 
    But as we see in Alaska, our education system is failing many students (especially those in remote areas) across the state…
    Martin Luther king said it best in his “I have a Dream” speech:
    “But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. So we’ve come to cash this check, a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice.”

  7. A good comparison would be the villages with no local job centers vs. places like Kotzebue where they have good jobs from the Red Dog mine. Another factor with alcohol is that it’s getting replaced by many with marijuana, with similar disastrous results.

    • Lance,
      Remember that Cannabis has been in America since our founding fathers laid the foundation for this Nation.
      The reality is that ending the Prohibition on Cannabis has decreased the amount of violence associated with Black Market sales and trafficking especially from the Mexican cartels.
      “The introduction of medical marijuana laws has led to a sharp reduction in violent crime in US states that border Mexico, according to new research…
      While the Mexican cartels smuggle other drugs such as cocaine, heroine and metamphetamine across the border, the market for marijuana is the largest drug market in the US and the one from which the cartels can make the fattest profit.”

    • Steve,

      “St. Louis Public Radio reported last year. “The national white homicide victimization rate (is) 2.67 per 100,000.)”

      We do not have a “gun (access) problem” in this country, we have a sub-culture of violence problem, which is related to, but not created by, generational poverty and which to a degree transcends race.

      Whatever the race involved, the violent crime and homicide rates are concentrated within and between those with the least legal access to firearms. Among those with the easiest legal access, again of any race, rates, as noted above, are about the same as the rest of the industrialized world even with our much higher levels of legal ownership.

      If we want to deal with the problem of cultural despair which drives violent crime (and which also drives suicide rates), we need to address the deliberate destruction of the nuclear family and of societal controls on behavior which evolved for that purpose over millennia, that destruction in large part being driven by (often well-meaning) government policies and non-govt social movements.


      “”All-American Despair,” Rolling Stone magazine headlined just days ago: “For the past two decades, a suicide epidemic fueled by guns, poverty and isolation has swept across the West, with middle-aged men dying in record numbers.””

      Rolling Stone also simplistically puts too much emphasis on the “guns”, while ignoring, or being unaware of, the fact that rising rates of suicide by adult men, not in poverty but the middle-class, span the industrialized world. Changes in business and industry have left men, who too often define their identity by their job, adrift, while simultaneously a concerted assault on the intrinsic value of men in traditional roles has come from the Left. In the US those men have the easiest legal access to firearms and choose to use them due to their lethality. However, the problem can’t be “guns,” as our suicide rates are not remarkable. In other places, men simply use the most lethal means they can access. Hanging being the most common. Suicide is also a social and cultural problem, and as with violent crime, there is little evidence from any nation that restricting legal gun access could have any positive long-term effect on overall rates.

      • Mathew. Great analysis. Deal with the problem not the symptoms. Thumbs up !!!

  8. Impressive information in this article ! Sheds a much more accurate light on the subject than most simplified veiws . Especially on law enforcement

  9. Factor in the homicides of pre born black babies by the Eugenics based Planned Parent Hood and the murder rate sky rockets in almost all the big urban centers like NY where 90% of blacks are murdered before they are even born.

    • Excellent points Mongo. Good ole Margaret “Nazi” Sanger and her exterminatiin of the black race is celebrated by Hollywood blacks and Democrats alike. As for Baltimore, a typical Democrat craphole like NYC, L.A., Detroit, Atlanta, Houston, D.C., Chicago, etc.. Never learn… Different decade, same results. Same with the dry villages. Prohibition anyone? Tell a teen he cant have a joint he will find one, tell an adult he cant have a beer he’ll make his own.

    • Interestingly, there have been studies on the crime rate and legalized abortion here’s one

      Freakonomics had a chapter devoted to it in their first book, here is a response to some of the questions that were brought forward after the release of their book

      Whether you believe abortion is a morally corrupt thing or not, it leads to lower crime rates.

      • Steve-O: hopefully you won’t sidetrack the discussion here into another hopeless debate about abortion.

        but there is no denying that if the abortion rate goes up among poor women, the reduction in crime in almost certain to go down. those John Hopkins numbers from Baltimore on the fate of young men born into poverty ought to make everyone sit up and take notice:

        “At age 28, 41 percent of white men—and 49 percent of black men—from low-income backgrounds had a criminal conviction.”

        it would be interesting to know what the numbers are for Alaskan kids born into chronic poverty.

      • Craig,

        I usually steer clear of the abortion conversations since for many and/or most there is no room for actual conversation. This seemed an appropriate time to link some data about crime, poverty, and abortion since all three subjects were already brought up.

      • Crime to reduce crime…………… rather Eugenics and Fascist move that leads to what logical end? Perhaps a death camp for the unwanted or the untermensch.

  10. Within the last year I think, Pres. Vladamir Putin was in the news upping the ante on a Russian program to lure investment & investers & newcomers to their Far East … which is a lot like our Alaska. He was making it so if you plunk down say $10 million, you get Citizenship, without having to learn Russian, etc, etc. There are aerial pictures of nice timberland, you can be a modern Baron. Or they’ll give you a train/plane ticket & free lodging, if you get your butt out there and go to work.

    The old Soviet Union ‘promoted’ the Far East, pretty crudely, and when that project folded, residents left in droves, the economy ceased, investment vacated the premises.

    Sound familiar? It certainly should. Alaska is one wore-out pipeline – and Cyrillic – from Post-Soviet devastation.

    US AG Barr is in Alaska, because our own leadership recognize the hazard here. It doesn’t hurt, that rural Alaska, with a major Native Alaska sub-theme, is a political demographic that punches well over its weight. As Sen. Murkowski knows well.

    Let’s hope that Bill Barr is infected with the same bug that overpowered Alice Rogoff … and that it proves to be a happier chronic condition for him & what he represents, than was the case for her.

    I think there’s a good chance for good things here. Barr knows what he’s doing, whereas Rogoff was in personal experimentation mode.

      • Steve,

        Thanks … sure, Alaska is a Project, like Siberia and the Far East, in which the central governments take a close & keen interest.

        We ‘confront’ the Russians, over the Arctic. And they read their lines in the script, sending bombers that splash across mainstream America’s TV screens … greatly assisting in getting this new Fairbanks windfall for military base development.

        A lively & successful – enviable – Alaska, helps Moscow to get Russians interested & involved in their own Projects. Another Bust cycle across the Bering Strait is not in their interest.

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