Friday, September 04, 2015

For Some, Religious Discrimination Means Not Being Able to Impose Their Religious Beliefs On Others

Kim Davis, a Democratic Kentucky County Clerk, was imprisoned for refusing to issue marriage licenses (to any couples) because she believes God's law forbids marriage of same sex couples.

From a public administrative perspective, this would seem to be pretty cut and dried - she's required to carry out the duties of her job and not let her religious beliefs interfere with those duties.  So I've been poking around the internet to find out more about her and her beliefs to figure out why she isn't doing the obvious.

For those in a hurry, here's my preliminary hypothesis:

1.  She's worked in a very closed system - her mom has been her boss for years.
2.  She found Jesus after a life with less than "Christian values' marriage record.  Her actions may be part what her new faith tells her and part a convert's attempt to prove her faith.
3.  She's represented by a radical Christian law non-profit that is probably pushing her to be a martyr and get the law group more attention. 

For an example of #3, here's what Kim Davis' attorney said: 
“Today, for the first time in history, an American citizen has been incarcerated for having the belief of conscience that marriage is the union of one man and one woman,” Mr. Gannam said after a hearing that stretched deep into Thursday afternoon. “And she’s been ordered to stay there until she’s willing to change her mind, until she’s willing to change her conscience about what belief is."
I guess I'd rephrase this.  She's not being incarcerated because of her religious beliefs.  There are lots of people who share the same religious beliefs and they haven't been incarcerated for them.  She's being incarcerated because as the county clerk, she's not performing her legal duties to issue marriage licenses and that non-performance is interfering with the legal rights of people her office is supposed to serve.


What's religious discrimination at work?
Let's be clear about religious discrimination at work.  The US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission tells us that people may not be discriminated against because of their religious beliefs.  If there is a conflict with an employee's religious beliefs and their job duties, the organization should try to make reasonable accommodations.  From the EEOC website:
"Religious Discrimination & Reasonable Accommodation. The law requires an employer or other covered entity to reasonably accommodate an employee's religious beliefs or practices, unless doing so would cause more than a minimal burden on the operations of the employer's business. This means an employer may be required to make reasonable adjustments to the work environment that will allow an employee to practice his or her religion.
Examples of some common religious accommodations include flexible scheduling, voluntary shift substitutions or swaps, job reassignments, and modifications to workplace policies or practices."
So an employer (and this is aimed at all employers, not specifically at governments as employers where the obligation to serve the public is even greater) should attempt to find an accommodation.  In this case, she could, as the court suggested, delegate the task she finds objectionable, to someone else.  There are deputies in the office who are willing to do this.

But since Davis is the head of the office, I can see her thinking that if she lets a deputy issue a license to a same-sex couple, it would be the same as if she were condoning it.  This gets us to the next level of consideration.  Is making an accommodation an undue hardship to the office and the people it serves?  Back to the EEOC website:
"Religious Discrimination & Reasonable Accommodation & Undue Hardship. An employer does not have to accommodate an employee's religious beliefs or practices if doing so would cause undue hardship to the employer. An accommodation may cause undue hardship if it is costly, compromises workplace safety, decreases workplace efficiency, infringes on the rights of other employees, or requires other employees to do more than their share of potentially hazardous or burdensome work."
In the Davis case, it compromises one of the duties of the clerk's office - to issue marriage licenses - and it causes major harm to some members of the public.  Apparently, Davis' way of accommodating her religious beliefs was to stop issuing marriage licenses to anyone.  She's not, in her mind, discriminating because heterosexual couple also are denied marriage licenses.  The court rejected that. 

To turn this around and say that Kim Davis is being discriminated against based on her religious beliefs is understandable only if you believe that Kim Davis has the right to impose her religious beliefs on the people of her county who  have the legal right to wed.

Here's some interesting background I found while trying to understand Davis' reasoning.

1.  Davis has been a deputy county clerk for over 24 years, working under the chief clerk, her mother.
2.  Working for a relative is legal in Kentucky.  
3.  There were some challenges to her salary which was significantly greater than the deputy sheriff and chief judge deputy.  (I didn't see how long these two had been in office compared to Davis.)
4.  She's an Apostolic Christian.
5.  When her mother stepped down, Davis ran and won.  I'd note she beat her Democratic primary opponent by 23 votes, or by less than 1/2 percent.

From The Morehead News:
"The highest staff wage in 2011 – $63,113 – was paid to Bailey’s chief deputy clerk, Kim Davis, who also happens to be her daughter.     Davis is listed at $24.91 hourly for a 40-hour work week and an annual wage of $51,812. She received an additional $11,301 in overtime and other compensation during 2011.     Her rate of pay apparently triggered most of the complaints, The Morehead News has learned from various sources.     Kentucky law permits elected county officials to employ family members and to set their levels of pay. It is a common practice throughout the state."
 She has been married four times to three different men, according to US News and World Report. Wikipedia (which has put most of these references together) describes her marriages this way:
Davis has been married four times to three different husbands. Her second and fourth husbands are the same. The first three marriages ended in divorces in 1994, 2006, and 2008. She is the mother of twins, who were born five months after her divorce from her first husband in 1994. Her third husband is the biological father of her twins, who were adopted by her fourth husband, Joe.
Look, I'm not judging her here.  Love and marriage is hard to figure out, especially when you get married at 18.  We don't know what her circumstances were.  But I suspect this past, which is not the ideal of her new faith, puts some pressure on her to show that she is now truly committed, like standing firm for her idea of God's will in this case. 


She became an Apostolic Christian in 2011.  Their website may help people understand the stand she is taking. 
Apostolic Christian beliefs are rooted in a literal interpretation of the Bible. We believe that the Bible’s teachings are applicable to all times and all cultures.
I'm not sure this is how they mean it, but the words suggest that they believe that everyone should obey the doctrine they believe.  

Their doctrine might also help us understand why a woman who has had a somewhat turbulent married life might now be standing firm with her new beliefs:
We believe salvation is obtained by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. True faith is evidenced by obedience to God's Word, which instructs a soul to do as the Lord Jesus emphatically taught, "Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand."1 The biblical pattern of repentance is observed, which includes godly sorrow2 for a past sinful life, confession of sins, restitution for past wrongs, and becoming dead to sin. The wonderful and matchless grace of God is given to those who are humble in heart, along with peace and forgiveness from God.
Following conversion, which is manifested by a new walk of life in Christ, the convert gives a testimony of his or her faith and conversion experience to the congregation. This is followed by water baptism by immersion.3 Baptism symbolizes the burial of the old sinful nature into the death of Christ, and the subsequent rising of a soul out of the baptismal waters as a new creature in Christ Jesus. This is followed by the laying on of hands, whereby a church elder prays over the new member. This prayer acknowledges and entreats the presence of the Holy Spirit in the believer's heart, and consecrates the new child of God into a life of service for him. The new member is thus formally united with the church, which is Christ's body.
Self-denial, separation from sin and unfruitful works, and nonconformity to worldliness are integral parts of the Christian walk of life and they lead to a life of peace and joy." [emphasis added]
 So as a convert to a religion that frowns on her former lifestyle, she could feel strongly compelled to stand firmly by the new teachings of the church.  We'll see whether this ultimately leads to peace and joy. 

The proper action for a government official whose religious beliefs are in conflict with his official duties is to either find an accommodation or resign from the position.  An accommodation was offered - allow others in the office to issue the licenses - and rejected by Davis.  Her key option now is to resign and find a job that is consistent with her religious values.

Another contributing factor may be the legal non-profit - Liberty Counsel - supporting her.  Other clerks in her situation apparently have found resolutions without resorting to lawsuits.    Raw Story reports that another right wing Christian legal non-profit that fights against same-sex marriage, Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), has found solutions for their clients.
"Jim Campbell, an ADF lawyer, said his group has not consulted with Liberty Counsel on the Kentucky case and is not representing any county clerk in related litigation. Campbell said he worked with a few employees of county clerk offices outside Kentucky seeking to avoid issuing licenses to same-sex couples based on religion and said those situations were resolved within those offices and had not escalated to a lawsuits."
The RawStory article includes a comparison between the ADF and the Liberty Counsel:
Among those who support gay marriage, Liberty Counsel has a reputation for being more extreme than ADF.
“Liberty Counsel is among the most irresponsible of ‘Religious Right’ organizations,” said Greg Lipper, an attorney at Americans United for Separation of Church and State. “ADF at least tries to fit its legal arguments within existing law; Liberty Counsel openly flouts it.”
 It's hard for anyone to know what is in the heads of people like Liberty Counsel executive director Matthew Staver, a former law professor at the Jerry Falwell founded Liberty University.  To a certain extent, he probably believes his cause is right and just.  But possibly there's also a need to get attention.  Is Kim Davis a perfect client to make this losing case with?  Or is she an imperfect client who finds herself in way over her head?  Her life has been difficult already.  This may not be the best option for her future well being.  Right now she's in jail and Staver isn't.

And so called liberal organizations have also looked for good situations to make their legal and political points.  But this seems such a totally lost cause, so out of step with the law.  

Wednesday, September 02, 2015

'How important is it for hoarders to address the psychological underpinnings of their condition before cleaning up?"

The LA Times had an interview with, among other things, author Barry Yourgrau, about his book,
"Mess: One Man's Struggle to Clean Up His House and His Act" while I was working on cleaning up my mom's place.  His response to the title question:
"Addressing the psychological aspect is always essential.  I'd say, as part of any cleaning up.  Hoarding a clutter often become acute after trauma;  the objects are a buffer against the pain.  This was the case for me.  So one needs to peel away of-so-carefully.  And people hang on to emotions as much as objects [and] are unable to face the pain of letting go of either.  This is deep-rooted stuff."

This is just one of many, many similar drawers.


To be fair, my mom lived in the same house for 59 years.  And she knew where things were. If anyone moved things around, she wouldn't any more.  There were enough times when I'd ask for something and she'd tell me exactly where it was.  








Trying to group similar things together.  Here it's scissor like items plus that lamp that didn't fit anywhere else.  



When I'd ask if I could throw some things out, she'd say, "You can do what you want when I'm gone, but not now."  There were a few times when I got her to sit in the garage and go through old boxes with me and allow me to throw some things out.  

I brought this tiny book with me to Seattle to give to my granddaughter, but the pages started to fall out.

This recent trip we managed to get about ten big garbage bags to the thrift shop.  We filled the garbage cans and used a couple of the extra garbage tags I got for $2 each from the city sanitation service. 




Before there was Dilbert . . .










I also got rid of some things through freecycle.org  a website where you can advertise things for free, including things like opened shampoo bottles. 

 This dried fuchsia fell out of a book.


But there was something of the hoarder in my mom.  There were a number of deep seated issues that would have contributed to that.  She lost pretty much everything when she left Germany alone as a 17 year old.  Some family things her brother had gotten out of Germany when he left, but most of the family's possessions never made it out.  Nor did her parents.  While she used that to teach me that things were not important when I was a kid, I suspect that what items from her childhood that did survive the move to the US and eventually California had very great value. 


I'm sure this book had belonged to my step-father.



She also lost a 23 year old son in an accident and the things in his room were always untouchable.

Another factor was that as a child in post-WW I Germany, things were scarce and so lights were never left on if no one was in the room and water wasn't left running while you brushed your teeth and everything that could be recycled somehow was.  Waste was bad.  So throwing things out if they might be used sometime in the future was hard.  This was much more exaggerated in her later years.

So I understand some of those deep seated issues that kept this all around and as we go through it, I don't resent it.  My mom did lots for me and this is the least I can do.  And I get new connections to her and others in the things I'm finding.    

So if clutter is an issue for you, be sure to read the interview.  (He distingishes between cluttering and hoarding.)

Tuesday, September 01, 2015

California Water Savings: “We never thought [conservation] was a bad thing."

Every change has consequences.  From the LA Times:
 ". . .  in a paradox of conservation, water agencies say the unprecedented savings — 31% in July over July 2013 — are causing or compounding a slew of problems.
   Sanitation districts are yanking tree roots out of manholes and stepping up maintenance on their pipes to prevent corrosion and the spread of odors. And when people use less potable water, officials say, there’s less wastewater available to recycle.
   Water suppliers, meanwhile, say the dramatic decrease in consumption has created multimillion-dollar revenue shortfalls. .  . 
 
   “It’s unintended consequences,” said George Tchobanoglous, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at UC Davis. “We never thought [conservation] was a bad thing. Every citizen thinks he or she is saving mankind, and I’m sympathetic, but it just so happens that our basic infrastructure was not designed with that in mind.”
 
. . .   Shorter showers, more efficient toilets and other reductions in indoor water usage have meant less wastewater flowing through sewer pipes, sanitation officials say. With less flow to flush the solids down the system, those solids are collecting and can eventually damage pipes.
   “The costs that we’re going to face due to corroding pipes is going to be astronomical,” Tchobanoglous said. “It’ll dwarf everything else.”

Climate change costs are going to be much greater than anyone has really anticipated.  Every change will have hidden costs because the infrastructure was designed to be used differently.  The more we cut down on carbon use now, the less staggering climate change will be.  The costs of cutting back are tiny compared to the costs of not cutting back. 

The president is talking about glaciers and saving them for our grandchildren to see.  But since most people in the world have never seen a glacier, losing sightseeing opportunities is the least of the problems global climate change is bringing.  It's the hidden, unforeseen things like the impact of less water in the LA sewer system that will eventually cost people in convenience and in dollars.

Monday, August 31, 2015

Sunsets Good Here, But Wish I Were In Anchorage With The Pres - Plus Notes From Harding's Visit In 1923

The Santa Monica pier as the sun sets.

I'm spending my days going through closets and drawers, calling government agencies and companies, and trying to get an evening beach bike ride.  Well, it's been so hot that around sunset is the only time it's reasonably comfortable to go ride.  And last night the sunset and the balmy cool air almost made up for not being home.



It was Sunday, so there were lots and lots of people on bikes, foot, skateboards, segways, and something I noticed for the first time today, a segway like vehicle that looks like a skateboard moving sideways, just feet, no handle.  (I just checked - it's an IO Hawk, you can see a German video of it at the link.)

Palms at Venice Beach

















But I'm sorry I'm missing the big day when a US president comes to Alaska for a meeting on the Arctic.  I won't miss the street closures, but given his gift to Alaska  - renaming Mt. McKinley to Denali - and all the attention to climate change, this first visit to Alaska of a sitting President since 1923 is a pretty big deal.


Obama's trip compared to Harding's
 
But President Obama's trip to Alaska is going to be a whirlwind three day tour whereas Harding took a leisurely two week vacation in Alaska after a cross-country speaking tour to San Francisco.  From SitNews, July 23, 2003:
"So the Hardings set off on the rail trip to San Francisco, where they would board the U.S. Navy transport the S.S. Henderson. It was smooth sailing en route north, with card games for the men, jerky silent movies enjoyed by everyone, books to read and plenty to eat and drink, in spite of Prohibition.

The first port of call was Metlakatla where Florence [Harding] was startled by accomplished Native Alaskan musicians in their bare feet playing for the presidential couple! They visited the grave of the world famous Anglican missionary, Father William Duncan. (Future President) Herbert Hoover, Harding's Secretary of Commerce, was personally interested in the call at Metlakatla. Hoover's uncle, the man who had raised him after the death of both his parents, had been an Oregon Indian agent who later traveled to Metlakatla to study Father Duncan's unique methods with the Tsimshian people. The widower uncle, John Minthorn, had married a Metlakatla woman.
Mrs. Harding was also given a salmon in Metlakatla on July 8.  They also visited Ketchikan, Wrangell, Juneau, and Skagway.  They got to Seward on July 13 and took the train to Anchorage.
"From Wasilla to Willow the President himself drove the train while the First Lady sat in the fireman's seat.
The President drove in the golden spike to ceremonially complete the Alaska Railroad in Tenana and then to Fairbanks to open the agricultural school.  I'd add that the party spent the night in Talkeetna. 

They returned to Seward and this time stopped in Cordova and then a stop at Sitka on July 23.   And ate the shellfish that some say caused Harding's death barely a week later in San Francisco.

Photo of Harding in Valdez - from White House History
There was also a stop in Valdez according to White House History where the above picture was taken.


You might also find this link interesting:  LaVern Keys recalls President Harding's visit to the new college on July 16, 1923.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Alaska's $400K Donation To Support DC Law Firm's Anti-Obama Care Campaign

How else can we explain this? 

Alaska Superior Court judge Frank Pfiffner soundly rejected the Legislative Council's court challenge to Gov. Bill Walker's expansion of Medicaid in Alaska.  The expansion will proceed next Tuesday, Sept. 1.  Some 40,000 Alaskans will gain access to affordable medical care.  The state will get an influx of over a billion dollars.

But it appears the Republicans want to appeal.  The ADN online post of Aug. 29 ADN reports
"By the end of the day, the Alaska Supreme Court had already received the Legislature’s request for emergency review and ordered Walker’s attorneys to respond by Monday at noon."
[UPDATE Tuesday Sept 1, 2015The ADN reports the Alaska Supreme Court agreed with the Governor's attorneys to let Medicaid expansion begin today, Sept 1.  They did not rule on other parts of the suit.]

In either case, the $400K has been appropriated to the DC law firm Bancroft PLLC.  I posted a bit about them two weeks agoThe Nerve reported in Jan 2013 that Bancroft PLLC had charged South Carolina over $3 million to defend their voter id law. 
"Bancroft PLLC, located in Washington, D.C., billed a total of 6,290 hours from September 2011 through last September at hourly rates of $520 for attorneys, $200 for research associates and $180 for paralegals. With other litigation costs thrown in, the firm's total invoice came to $3,419,439. .  .
Federal online court records show that eight Bancroft attorneys represented the state in the voter ID case, which, based on a total cost of $3,419,438.28, works out to an average cost of $427,429.78 per lawyer."
If you read that quickly, you might not have realized that 6,290 hours equals 157 forty-hour work weeks, just about three years of work in about 13 months.   Divide that by eight (for eight attorneys) and that's over 19 weeks per attorney - almost five months full time each.  OK, I realize attorneys bill more than 40 hours per week and that there were paralegals and others.   But also note it was a Bancroft attorney who lost a case over billing when he charged for his commuting time.

One wonders how the Alaska legislature will monitor the bills from Bancroft.  Basically we're paying them for research work they will use to fight Obamacare in other states.  Again, I realize that's how things work, but I don't think most Alaskans want to be making this sort of subsidy to this sort of firm.  It's especially galling since a) it's likely to lose and b) for most Alaskans, based on their views on Medicaid expansion, it would be worse if they won. 

Do our state Republican legislators even care?  I don't think so.  This is a way for the firm to get it's new friends in the Alaska legislature to move money from Alaska's treasury to theirs.  Nothing Chenault and gang say to defend their actions makes sense on the face of it.  Herz quotes House Speaker Chenault as saying,
“We are by no means looking for a way to stop Medicaid expansion; we are trying to do it the right way so that we have a reliable, sustainable system.”
Yeah, sure.  This appears to  really be  part of a national ideological fight against Obamacare. Every state that signs up for Obamacare is a loss for these anti-Obamacare forces.  I'm sure they've come to the legislative leaders and convinced them (using logic? promises of future support?) to fight this Medicaid expansion at all costs. That's why they hired Bancroft, the key law firm that specializes in anti-Obamacare lawsuits.  Who were the brokers who connected Chenault and his merry gang with Bancroft?  The same folks who pushed them to fight the expansion in the first place?  Even though a strong majority of Alaskans favor Medicaid expansion?  I'm sure Koch funded groups like Americans for Prosperity who opened an Alaskan office this year played a role.  Sourcewatch writes:
According to the Center for Public Integrity, Americans for Prosperity "spent a staggering $122 million (in 2012) as it unsuccessfully attempted to defeat President Barack Obama and congressional Democrats," including $83 million on "communications, ads, and media."[3]
http://www.bancroftpllc.com/scott-v-u-s-dept-of-health-human-services/
 to the US Supreme Court.  They lost the critical one NFIB v Sibelius that would have shut down the Affordable Care Act  and won the second Scott v. US DHSS
Note:  Bancroft was the anti-Obama care law firm in both those suits - NFIB v Sibelius and Scott v. US DHSS.

[Addition 7pm - I forgot to mention that the Governor got an Anchorage law firm to work with the AG's office to represent his (our) side for free.  People of Kenai, really, are you going to reelect Chenault?]


Note 2:  The South Carolin Voter ID law mentioned above:  A Washington Post article reports that while the Department of Justice rejected the law in Dec. 2011, a unanimous three judge panel of the US Court of Appeals for DC approved it October 2012, but delayed implementation.]

I'd also like to salute Nat Herz who did a great job of sending out tweets from the judge's reading of the decision on Friday.  He also tried to live feed it, but I wasn't around for it live, so I'm not sure how that went.

Screenshot of Nat Herz tweeting from the courtroom Firday


Saturday, August 29, 2015

Forbes Tells It Like It Isn't - Bluster Meets The Judge

From a puff piece in Forbes online:
"Gov. Bill Walker and his lawyers plan to argue that Medicaid expansion is required by federal law. Who better to combat that false claim than the very same attorneys who successfully argued the issue before the U.S. Supreme Court in the first place?
Gov. Walker Should Walk Away From Obamacare Plan
Walker’s unilateral Medicaid expansion isn’t just bad policy, it’s also illegal. He now knows that lawmakers stand ready to block his actions. It’s time for Gov. Walker to give up his misguided attempt to circumvent the legislature in order to expand Obamacare in Alaska."
That's dated August 25, 2015.  Alaska Superior Court Judge Frank Pfiffer, a Parnell* appointee, apparently missed this, because yesterday he ruled decisively in favor of the governor's position and rejected the challenge approved by the Legislative Council.

It was written by 
"Jonathan IngramNic Horton and Josh ArchambaultMr. Ingram is Research Director, Mr. Archambault is a Senior Fellow, and Mr. Horton is Policy Impact Specialist, at the Foundation for Government Accountability."
And who is FGA?   According to SourceWatch:
The Foundation for Government Accountability (FGA) is a right-wing advocacy group based in Naples, Florida. It is run by former Maine legislator Tarren Bragdon. It is affiliated with the State Policy Network (SPN), a web of state pressure groups that denote themselves as "think tanks" and drive a right-wing agenda in statehouses nationwide.
The FGA describes its own agenda as developing free market public policies that “achieve limited, constitutional government and a robust economy that will be an engine for job creation across [Florida].” The FGA “believes personal liberty and private enterprise are key to our economic future,” the website states.
 SourceWatch also says there are links to the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) which means there are Koch connections. 

Is this total BS PR-piece part of the package deal the Council got for our $400K when they hired anti-Obamacare DC law firm Bancroft PLLC?  What else comes with this deal?  What sort of future benefits do the key culprits in this waste of Alaskan dollars get?

Bancroft bills itself as a high stakes player. Chenault and Meyer (Speaker of the Alaska House and President of the Senate and Legislative Council members) have been rolled by these high stakes ambulance chasers.  With our dollars. 


*For non-Alaskans, Parnell was Palin's Lt. Gov and became governor when she resigned.  He lost to Walker, a former Republican who ran as an independent in November 2014. 

Friday, August 28, 2015

LA Gas Prices, Freeway And Weather Notes

Last December, I reported on LA gas prices.  We'd just gotten gas fpr $2.39/gal at Costco and I compared that to Anchorage prices (lowest then was $2.83) where the tax is significantly lower.

I also remarked that the Anchorage Costco prices were not even the same.  (Costco told me then, that price depends on the competition near the stores.)


I caught this Chevron sign this afternoon as we were coming back from visiting relatives in the valley.

Lowest price at this station is $3.78.   This is noteworthy because J filled the tank last night at the nearby Costco for $2.99.  I wonder about all the folks who let stations get away with this sort of price difference.  I realize that location is important.  Costco isn't far from my mom's place, but there is also something called planning.  Especially with an 80 cent per gallon difference!  But with the way prices fluctuate, getting gas last week at Costco may not have been such a bargain now.

By the way, I checked on Anchorage Gas Prices and the lowest in Anchorage is $3.13 right now.  But with such websites, people can find the lowest nearby prices easily.  And if they only shopped within ten cents of the lowest local price, I guarantee that 80 cent spreads would disappear soon.

We got home fairly quickly after we got past the jam behind this accident on Ventura Freeway. (Sorry, I'm old school and still call them by their names, not by their numbers.)



By the way, the temperature for where we visited is predicted to be only 101˚F (38˚C) by 4pm today (in 30 minutes).  It's supposed to be only 88˚F at my mom's by 4pm.   It doesn't feel that much cooler - the humidity here (closer to the beach) is 47% but only 21% in the valley. 

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Mystery Solved - It Was Kardashians

Tuesday was our first night in LA.  We were already in bed.  A little after midnight.  Loud booms.  There were clouds, but thunder?  I didn't think so.  And it kept on and on.  Guns?  Bombs?  More like fireworks.  I looked out the window, but couldn't see anything.  Don't know of any holidays that call for fireworks in late August.  So, we forgot about it. 


But today's LA Times had a story that seems to explain it all. 
Los Angeles County Supervisor Don Knabe will present a motion Tuesday calling for an investigation into a loud midweek fireworks show, reportedly at a boat party thrown by Khloe Kardashian, that angered thousands of Westside residents.
The eight-minute show shined brightly in the sky above Marina del Rey and could be seen as far as Venice and heard in Redondo Beach.
For many residents, the midnight fireworks display early Wednesday was an unwelcome surprise that caused chaos in their households. Children were roused and dogs were left shaken.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Work, Then Play

Spent the morning on the phone doing things like negotiating with Verizon to put my mom's  tv on hold, but keeping the phone and internet.  Cell phone reception in here is terrible and I need the internet when we're here.  Also cancelled her supplemental insurance and arranged for reimbursement for the two months they've taken through their 'easy pay' system.  I don't like any system where someone else is taking money out of my account until I say stop.  Also stopped by the bank to give them some more paperwork.  Everyone was very polite and helpful, which makes it easier to go on and do the rest of these chores. 

We had lunch with friends and then started the second attack on my mom's room.  We made the first attack last July before we left, but there is still so much we hadn't seen yet.  Like this self-defense tear gas permit.  Never knew she had this.


Also found an old invitation to a baby shower for my wife.  And lots of purses and necklaces.  And pens.   Readers, recycling and reusing are both great, but if you haven't used it in the last five years, consider starting the process of giving away, selling, or tossing.  Rubber bands, I've learned, have a short shelf life.  Paper clips last much longer. 

I didn't mention it's hot in LA.  And it's humid.  Hot and humid didn't use to happen in LA.  And it's supposed to be warmer for the next two days.  I was feeling sticky most of the day and needed a break. 

We got to the beach just as the sun was going down. 


I went down and tested the water.  It's almost always chilly when you do that here in LA, but after you catch the first wave, it's fine.  This time it felt only refreshingly cool.  So I got rid of my shirt and watch and went to get unstickied.  It was fantastic.  The surf was not very big and just rolled gently down.  Easy to catch, and even though it was breaking close to sure, it was just deep enough not to scrape the sand.  Body surfing a few waves was heaven. 

I watched others enjoying the small, but catchable surf  as I dried off.


Then before it got much darker,  we walked back to La Fiesta Brava for a little Mexican food.

Now, let's see how my Achilles tendon reacts to the sand walking and sandals.  It's been fine for a couple of months now.  No problems walking, though I still know it's there, and I'm not running yet.  That may be a thing of the past. 

Tomorrow more garbage bags to give away and throw away, plus consolidating the things to keep this round in smaller piles. 

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

My Plan To Save The State Of Alaska At Least $700,000

Before I offer my plan to save all that money, let me offer some background

Decision to sue governor
The Alaska Legislative Council - 14 legislators who represent the other 46 legislators when the legislature not in session  - voted to authorize $450,000 to pay an expensive DC law firm (plus some Anchorage attorneys)  to file a court challenge of the governor's decision to expand medicaid coverage for Alaskans.  (I posted the names of the Legislative Council members and the law firms here.)

I figure the state of Alaska will have to expend at least another $300,000 to defend the decision.  (The Legislative Council leaders are the same folks calling for budget cuts because of the revenue drop.)

Public Opinion supports governor, not the legislators
The Legislative Council is doing this despite the fact that a March poll by Ivan Moore found that 65% of Alaskans favored medicaid expansion then.
Chart from Ivan Moore


Will the suit against the governor win in court?
In any case, these legislators are taking a pretty big risk of losing.  But it's not their money.  It's Alaskans' money, and, as I mentioned, 65% of Alaskans were with the governor on this decision.  So they are spending this money in defiance of what is a pretty large majority in politics these days.

I'll bet they wouldn't take this action if this was their own money.  Or even if they only had to reimburse the state if they lost.  And those 65% of Alaskans (the number could be higher now) probably want them to lose because they feel we're better off squandering the $450,000 than NOT expanding Medicaid.

I looked at the section of the statute that they say the governor violated, the part that says the governor needs a vote of the legislature.

I'm not a lawyer and I don't know the larger context of the law,  but I'm guessing the governor wouldn't make this move without feeling confident of his legal standing and an opinion from Legislative Legal Services for example, to Rep. Andy Josephson, concludes:
"For the above reasons, the governor likely has authority to accept additional federal funding to provide expanded Medicaid coverage.  If insufficient state funds are available, he could also request supplemental state funding.  A request for supplemental appropriations would be subject to legislative action."

The ADN has a link to AS 47.07.020 as the basis for the lawsuit.  Here is a section from the statue in question:
"(d) Additional groups may not be added unless approved by the legislature."
 But that comes after (a) and (b) which state:
"(a) All residents of the state for whom the Social Security Act requires Medicaid coverage are eligible to receive medical assistance under 42 U.S.C. 1396 - 1396p (Title XIX, Social Security Act).
(b) In addition to the persons specified in (a) of this section, the following optional groups of persons for whom the state may claim federal financial participation are eligible for medical assistance:" [emphasis added]
It goes on to list 15 'groups' of eligible Alaskans. I'm guessing that there aren't any additional groups not already listed in the 15.  As I understand this, there aren't any additional groups, but the income level for eligibility for federal Medicaid is higher to include people who can't afford coverage, but I'm not sure. I contacted my representative, attorney Andy Josephson, because he requested the opinion above from the Legislative Legal Office.  He's writing a piece for the ADN on this, so look for that for more detail.  He wrote that besides the legislature's legal office, the attorney general's office also said the governor's move to expand medicaid was legal.   Sam Kito, the only legislator on the Council to vote against suing the governor, also cites both opinions favoring the governor's action.   
Josephson's piece will go into a bit more legal detail.  He also talks about the mandatory/optional distinction.  He starts his opinion piece with a quote from US Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts from the Sibelius decision on Medicaid expansion and Josephson concludes:  
"Chief Justice Roberts’ quote . . . makes it plain and unmistakable:  once a state opts to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, the expansion population becomes a mandatory group that enjoys coverage.
My bet is the suit against the governor is going to lose.   


My Plan 
So, here's my simple plan:  If the suit is going to lose anyway, why pay so much?   I'm willing to lose this suit for only $1000 instead of the $450,000 they've allocated and that would also save the governor's legal costs defending his action.  After all, if you're going to lose a case, why spend $450,000 if you can do it for just $1000?
An extra note on this:

Why are the legislators spending all this money to thwart the governor and public?
Why is this group (there's only fourteen because the Leg Council takes care of business when the full legislature is not in session) doing this? They tend not to answer questions like this publicly,  but I'm guessing  there are some pretty influential folks who want to keep Alaska (and other states) from doing anything that might make Obamacare more successful.  And these folks seem to have influence over key people in the Legislative Council.  I'm assuming Americans for Prosperity, the Koch funded group that set up an Alaska office last year, is somehow involved.  Their website has this note:

AMERICANS FOR PROSPERITY ALASKA REACTS TO LEGISLATURE’S LEGAL ACTION AGAINST GOV. WALKER

August 19, 2015
Following Governor Walker’s attempt to unilaterally expand Obamacare’s Medicaid, Legislature will Sue ANCHORAGE — Americans for Prosperity – Alaska, would like to applaud the members of the Alaska House and Senate for deciding to sue Governor Walker over his unilateral decision to expand Medicaid under Obamacare. Upholding the rule of law is vitally important to Alaska’s future; […] 
 But this is merely speculation.  Rep. Chenault and Sen. Meyer (the leaders of the two Alaska legislative houses)  offer us far more principled, but hard to believe, reasons.   They tell us, for example, at the end of the linked opinion piece, they are doing this "for checks and balances."  These are the folks who kept the minority voice pretty much silent and prevented legislation they opposed - including medicaid expansion - from getting to the floor when it stood a chance of getting a majority of votes.  Pardon my skepticism, but this seems more like a protest that there now is a governor who checks and balances the legislature.