Thursday, May 21, 2015

It's Not A Cristo - It's Lanie Fleisher Chester Creek Bike Trail Construction Closure

I noticed - how could I not - the orange material on the edge of the bike trail as I rode home yesterday from the LIO.  It looked like pretty nice material, but it didn't really look like a Christo art installation.

Yesterday on the way home there were some construction folks so I asked.

They are, if I understood this right, going to take out the old bike trail and completely redo it with jogging paths along the sides.  The trail certainly could use some repairs, but I couldn't help but think that they would close down the major streets completely for repairs all summer, and the Chester Creek bike trail is the Seward Highway of bike trails in Anchorage.  He said there'd be detour signs and routes.  We'll see.

I asked how long it would take.  He's got 70 days he said.  That's most of the summer here in Anchorage.  They'll do it in sections, he told me, so it won't all be closed at once.  It would be nice if they did this continuously - one short section per summer - and when they were done after, say ten years, they'd start over to keep the trail in good shape.  But I guess securing money over time like that isn't likely.

Anyway, I understood that the portion that's got the curtains - Maplewood west to near the Juneau Street spur - will be shut down on Tuesday for work to begin.  Actually, probably from Lake Otis west. 

I didn't know anything about this, but I found the plans online.  It seems they sent out notices to people who live along the trail.  But lots of folks use the trail who don't live along them.  Signs along the trail might be a good way to let cyclists, runners, and other trail users know about the planning phases.

Here's a link to the written documentation.  It's not at all clear which parts they will do when.

Here's a link to the maps documentation.  Again, not terribly clear about timing.

This is a huge file, so you can click on it and see it much bigger
Phase 1 was completed last summer.  It's beyond my regular routes, so I didn't notice.  

The whole project this summer goes from Arctic to the Arc (near Debarr).  The section near the Arc really, really needs to be repaired.  The roots damage there is horrendous.  And where I was, there are regular big bumps where the asphalt has contoured around pipes underneath. 

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

How Many Of Bin Laden's English Language Books Have You Read?

The Office of the Directory of National Intelligence has a page called Bin Laden's Bookshelf.

"On May 20, 2015, the ODNI released a sizeable tranche of documents recovered during the raid on the compound used to hide Usama bin Ladin. The release, which followed a rigorous interagency review, aligns with the President’s call for increased transparency–consistent with national security prerogatives–and the 2014 Intelligence Authorization Act, which required the ODNI to conduct a review of the documents for release.

The release contains two sections. The first is a list of non-classified, English-language material found in and around the compound. The second is a selection of now-declassified documents.

The Intelligence Community will be reviewing hundreds more documents in the near future for possible declassification and release. An interagency taskforce under the auspices of the White House and with the agreement of the DNI is reviewing all documents which supported disseminated intelligence cables, as well as other relevant material found around the compound. All documents whose publication will not hurt ongoing operations against al-Qa‘ida or their affiliates will be released."

I've highlighted the list of "English Language Books"  but each category has a list on the ODNI website.   I've only read one of the books on the list  and posted about it early on when few people read this blog. 

Here's the list: 
Now Declassified Material (103 items)
Publicly Available U.S. Government Documents (75 items)
English Language Books (39 items)
  • The 2030 Spike by Colin Mason
  • A Brief Guide to Understanding Islam by I. A. Ibrahim 
  • America’s Strategic Blunders by Willard Matthias
  • America’s “War on Terrorism” by Michel Chossudovsky
  • Al-Qaeda’s Online Media Strategies: From Abu Reuter to Irhabi 007 by Hanna Rogan
  • The Best Democracy Money Can Buy by Greg Palast
  • The Best Enemy Money Can Buy by Anthony Sutton
  • Black Box Voting, Ballot Tampering in the 21st Century by Bev Harris
  • Bloodlines of the Illuminati by Fritz Springmeier
  • Bounding the Global War on Terror by Jeffrey Record
  • Checking Iran’s Nuclear Ambitions by Henry Sokolski and Patrick Clawson
  • Christianity and Islam in Spain 756-1031 A.D. by C. R. Haines
  • Civil Democratic Islam: Partners, Resources, and Strategies by Cheryl Benard
  • Confessions of an Economic Hit Man by John Perkins
  • Conspirators’ Hierarchy: The Committee of 300 by John Coleman
  • Crossing the Rubicon by Michael Ruppert
  • Fortifying Pakistan: The Role of U.S. Internal Security Assistance (only the book’s introduction) by C. Christine Fair and Peter Chalk
  • Guerilla Air Defense: Antiaircraft Weapons and Techniques for Guerilla Forces by James Crabtree
  • Handbook of International Law by Anthony Aust
  • Hegemony or Survival: America’s Quest for Global Dominance by Noam Chomsky
  • Imperial Hubris by Michael Scheuer
  • In Pursuit of Allah’s Pleasure by Asim Abdul Maajid, Esaam-ud-Deen and Dr. Naahah Ibrahim
  • International Relations Theory and the Asia-Pacific by John Ikenberry and Michael Mastandano
  • Killing Hope: U.S. Military and CIA Interventions since World War II by William Blum
  • Military Intelligence Blunders by John Hughes-Wilson
  • Project MKULTRA, the CIA’s program of research in behavioral modification. Joint hearing before the Select Committee on Intelligence and the Subcommittee on Health and Scientific Research of the Committee on Human Resources, United States Senate, Ninety-fifth Congress, first session, August 3, 1977. United States. Congress. Senate. Select Committee on Intelligence.
  • Necessary Illusions: Thought Control in Democratic Societies by Noam Chomsky
  • New Pearl Harbor: Disturbing Questions about the Bush Administration and 9/11 by David Ray Griffin
  • New Political Religions, or Analysis of Modern Terrorism by Barry Cooper
  • Obama’s Wars by Bob Woodward
  • Oxford History of Modern War by Charles Townsend
  • The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers by Paul Kennedy
  • Rogue State: A Guide to the World’s Only Superpower by William Blum
  • The Secret Teachings of All Ages by Manly Hall (1928)
  • Secrets of the Federal Reserve by Eustace Mullins
  • The Taking of America 1-2-3 by Richard Sprague
  • Unfinished Business, U.S. Overseas Military Presence in the 21st Century by Michael O’Hanlon
  • The U.S. and Vietnam 1787-1941 by Robert Hopkins Miller
  • “Website Claims Steve Jackson Games Foretold 9/11,” article posted on (this file contained only a single saved web page)
Material Published by Violent Extremists & Terror Groups (35 items)
Materials Regarding France (19 items)
Media Articles (33 items)
Other Religious Documents (11 items)
Think Tank & Other Studies (40 items)
Software and Technical Manuals (30 items)
Other Miscellaneous Documents (14 items)
Documents Probably Used by Other Compound Residents (10 items)
I have to wonder what Bin Laden thought about his access to all this material - that the US was crazy to have this all available, or was there some admiration that a society would allow all this to be read by anyone?  

CS HB 44, After Long Discussion, Passes Unchanged From Education Committee

Sens.  Stevens, Giessel, Dunleavy, and Huggins before the hearing

This was a long discussion.  My impression was that the committee wasn't planning on changing anything, but that there was enough heat on them that they had to listen to some objections - mainly from Cindy and Butch Moore, whose daughter was shot by her boyfriend last June, and Sen. Liesel McGuire, who had sponsored one of the Erin's Law bills and had added the 'Bree's Law' section which added teen dating violence education.

Basic objections from the Moores was changing from opt out to opt in.  That is, that instead of letting parents opt out of sex abuse education classes, they now would have to give permission before they can take the classes.  The second objection was to changing "school districts shall"  to "school districts may" adopt the sexual awareness training.
Butch Moore with Sen. Stevens before hearing

McGuire's objections were 1) that there were constitutional questions about whether the committee could amend the bill with unrelated issues and 2) on practical legislative procedures grounds about whether adding parts that hadn't been vetted before committees, some controversial, might doom the bill to fail. 

Committee Chair Dunleavy at various times defended the changes in the bill.  He pointed out that making amendments to bills was part of the legislative process and not some evil activity, comparing the changes the committee made yesterday to the changes that Sen. McGuire made to the bill to add the teen dating violence aspects.  Staffer Sheila Peterson related the gist of a legal opinion about whether the amended bill would survive in court:  Depends on whether the judge interprets 'same subject" broadly or narrowly.  If judge says the subject is education it should be ok.  If the judge says the subject is 'sex abuse education'  probably not.  Everyone was acting excruciatingly civil, being sure to acknowledge each others' integrity and good intentions.

Huggins called McGuire the great omnibus bill creator and passer - presumably saying that was all they were doing here.  McGuire said one tip is to leave out controversial parts that might cause trouble.  I would add that omnibus bills try to tackle large complex issues with many parts - like energy policy - and that isn't quite the case here.  Rather, these other issues from failed bills were jammed in, presumably to try to piggy back them onto this bill that was likely to pass.  At least before the amendments were added.  

Toward the end, Sen. Giessel said that the common theme was parental rights and that these were given by God, not by the state.  After the bill had been passed out of committee, Sen. Dunleavy did a soliloquy on the importance of parental rights, the threat from the state to take away those rights, and this was an excellent bill and he didn't understand how anyone could be opposed to it.  This is worth reading or listening to because I think it helps understand Dunleavy's logic here and some of his basic values.   I might note that no one addressed, during the meeting, the language  "prohibiting a school district from contracting with an abortion services provider" or the part "prohibiting a school district from allowing an abortion services provider to furnish course materials or provide instruction concerning sexuality or sexually transmitted diseases."

Now it's supposed to move on to the Finance Committee.

Warning:  Below are my rough notes as I sat and listened.  I've cleaned them up a bit with spell checker.  As always, I caution readers that this is not verbatim, that things are missing, and words might not be exact, but it gets the gist of what was discussed until a more accurate record is available.  Which will probably be tomorrow.  (Yesterday's video and transcript are available today. Here's the link, though I'm not sure how long it will be good.)

Senate Education Hearing On Erin's Bill, Special Session Anchorage, May 20, 2015

11:01 am - meeting opens - Huggins, Stevens, Giessel, Dunleavy  - Sen. McGuire in the audience

Dunleavy goes over minutes of yesterday's meeting.
Testimony for several hours.  Previous to this meeting several hours of testimony.  Except funding and work ??? [I'm pretty sure this was about cutting out funding for ACT and SAT exams as well as the WorkKeys exam] ??? Rep. Gaddis - brand new program, budget issue, wanted to end it as a cost saving measure.

Sen. Stevens:  Something happened, I need to explain.  Lisa Parady, with the Alaska Council of School Administrators, sent email upset with me.  I think Erin's law is excellent piece of legislation and should pass.  As the father of two daughters and one son.  Ms. Parady was talking about everything and unfunded mandates.  I focused on unfunded mandate on Erin's law.  Sure, it's unfunded.  Many districts already doing this.  The Rasmussen Foundation has come forward and said they'd help, online training, in person training, and materials.  There are obstructionists saying it is unfunded.  That's baloney.  I say just go ahead and do it.  Apologize if I offended.  Not my intention.  People dragging their heals on excuse of unfunded mandate.

Dunleavy:  Further discussion, questions, if not, I'd like to remove my objection for purpose of discussion.  Any objection to adopting the CS?  No objections.  People waiting online and in the audience.  Sheila has numerous notes, public testimony in your packets.  Many sections of the bill - Erin's law well vetted.  The teen dating component, the Moores are intimately tied to and we understand, and that's been well vetted.

The only issue is the bill that passed in the house - Gaddis - it doesn't preclude a school from helping a kid take the SATs, but the law was that every student had to take it.  That the only issue that I believe that was not vetted by this committee.  Are there any questions that committee members have at this point?   [Gets note]  Cindy and Butch Moore you want to come forward and give closing statement?

Cindy Moore:  Here because of my daughter, Worked with Sen McGuire and Rep Millett, want to talk to objections.  Proven fact, children who are physically and sexually abused are not operating normally in class, can't learn, truant, aggressive, all problems for teachers.  If we teach them preventive measures, this will free up teachers' time.
Unfunded mandate - we've had many organizations saying there are grants available to implement this.  So not unfunded mandate.  What all need to realize.  Having our kids take that first step and come forward to authority figure to say they are being abused is the first step in recovery.  They won't do that if they don't have education on how to do that and who to talk to.  The CS version yesterday is a real slap in the face to the mother of  daughter who was killed.  Why is it ok for the committee chair to make it mandatory, but take away the part on teen violence and sexual awareness making it optional.  A slap in the face to all parents who have had their children sexually assaulted and their children abused.  I want you to think about that.

Butch Moore:  I'm Breanna's father.  This is a special section.  The gov asked for Erin's Law and Medicaid.  I'm in construction, if you were asked to complete a task - two line items - this train is moving.  What you have done, Sen. Dunleavy, is added a bunch of junk that has nothing to do with this bill that will kill the bill.  When you say schools 'shall', they will do it.  You've changed it to' may'.  You've taken all the power out of the bill.  You are killing the entire intent of the bill.  Cindy and I have been very polite, particularly in the meetings.  I'm asking you to go back to the three page bill, to the senate, the governor will sign it and our kids will be protected.  10,000 kids a year and that doesn't count teen dating.  Our daughter was in Oregon when her sister was killed.  She has two daughters.  Not coming back to Alaska.  We lead the nation in these numbers.  How will it look nationally to learn that this bill was blocked by three Senators - Dunleavy, Giessel, and Huggins.  I'm a contractor, if I took this long to get my job done, it would be terrible.

Liesel McGuire:  Thanks for opportunity to testify.  The version of the bill before the committee today is not the version the Senate passed two years ago.  Most of the senate has already voted for the clean version.  There is broad bi partisan, regional support.  Rep. Millett, Sen. Garner, and Rep Tarr have all taken this bill.  All four have had wide public hearings.  My worry is multifaceted.
  1. Constitutionally, the specific item was HB 44, fear that it is being expanded that I don't think is defensible.  Should this bill pass, would it undermine the langauge of Erin's and Bree's law.  Constitutional.
  2. Process and Fairness - it's exciting to be doing this in Anchorage.  The Moores can participate without having to buy a $600 plane ticket.  But I'm embarrassed by how it looks like the process is being distorted.  None of the three other bills are free of controversy.  None have passed unanimously.  They have valid public policy points.  It's within your rights to hear things as you will, but to roll it into an uncontroversial bill could kill it.  Alaska leads the nation in abuse and violence in every category, age, race, gender.  We do not want this to continue.  Every year try to take one more piece to pull back the veil and shame of domestic violence.  Still the most dangerous place in America for women and children.  Today is an opportunity to change the culture in Alaska, by empowering the victims, who have been shamed and threatened into silence.  We've heard powerful testimony from people like David Holthouse.  David contemplated suicide and murder of his perpetrator.
Cindy and Butch Moore - this was a good bill.  The additions, I may support later, I don't know.  Millet is the Majority leader in the house and isn't sure it will pass.  If you want my support and other people's support to pass the other measures, let's talk about it.
Let's not muddy this up.

Dunleavy:  Last year Erin's Law passed 20-0.  Was Bree's Law in there?

McGuire:  No

Dunleavy:  Folks might not like what is occurring.  I've been in committees where things are amended.  Not shady, unconstitutional, illegal, part of the process.  We actually slowed the bill down so you could add Bree's Law to it.

Stevens:  I think I understand the implication to our school districts and departments, about Erin's law.  But I don't understand the teen dating violence curriculum.

McGuire:  Sen Dunleavy is right.  The bill that passed the Senate was titled Erin's law.  It was mandatory not optional and did not contain Bree's law.  The Moore family asked me to add Bree's Law in.  I agree, and both have been vetted.  I agree that nothing was shady.

We already have the Greendot program.  That is the base for the teen dating violence program and Rasmuson Foundation has also offered to help.  I believe STAR will also come forward.
You are right that many districts have already adopted and for those districts that are concerned, we're trying to offer help.

Stevens:  Can you explain the shall to may change.

McGuire:  You all require in an earlier hearing.  Should parents have the right to opt in or out.  Agreed that parental rights were retained.  Later, the bill still had snags over concerns of unfunded mandated issues, rural issues not equipped to put it in place.  Discussion for opt in language for parents and shool districts.  The genesis for shall to may.  Don't let the perfect get in the way of the possible.  Look at the most important thing - giving info to vulnerable children.  Give it to as many as you can.  If making it optional makes it possible for the bill to pass, then I'm for it.  I think the three additional parts may be a bridge too far.

Huggins:  If I were to portray you in getting legislation done, you are a master of omnibus bills.  Each piece of an omnibus bill carries it's own merit.  My standard - we aren't seeking to pass something in the house.  I'm confident it will pass the Senate and I've talked to the Moores.  What advice do you have for omnibus bills?

McGuire:  Thank you for compliment.  I've tried to bring broad base of support.  Things they are cut for me are when there is too much controversy that might jeopardize other parts.  I've even done it with my own things.  I appreciate what's been said.  I respect you all, I think you are ethical people.  You are dealing with a highly emotional issue, with frustrations about not getting it passed.  Then you add, perfectly in your right, three other bills with their own constituents, and that is problematic.

I want to see the basic part of the bill passed.

Huggins:  We all have children.  I have three.  I feel comfortable with what my kids are learning.  Some of the things in the bill, when I see opportunity to empower parents, we shouldn't miss that opportunity.

McGuire:  I do agree.  I appreciate this committee's good discussion.  You don't want to remove the right and obligation of parent to interact with schools on these issues.  Why I accepted this in the first place.  I agree, if you would poll, Alaskans, they would want parental input.  That said, what I like about it as an underpinning in school, many parents are not there for their kids, and are in fact perpetrators.
ADN's Nat Herz and Sen Dunleavy

Huggins:  We probably have as good a rapport from Matsu with superintendent and I'm sure our superintendent will take this and run with it.  Is there a difference in the Anchorage School District

McGuire:  Yes there is.  I've highlighted them in other places.  What you've done in the valley is competition driven.  ASD is more diverse - 120 languages - that's one challenge.  Politically a little more liberal.  I wouldn't say the challenges faced by kids in ASD are that much different from those in Matsu.  Repealing SAT - I'd have concern with students who might be raised in families where the families are trying to curtail the opportunities their kids have.  I've heard these stories.  Sometimes a test like this is the key for a kid to be able to follow her dreams.  I want to study these bills.  We have immigrant families who don't know about college the way others do.  Or there is a scholarship available if you score high enough on the test.

Huggins:  I feel comfortable that no one who wants to take the test will be denied.  And a number take the tests earlier.  We face budget issues.  People who want to take the test . . .

Dunleavy:  It's a program that's one year old.  If we have a low income child, they will be able to take the test.  It's easier to stop new project.
Another question.  One reason we slowed down this bill, because you wanted to amend the bill.  You were gone because of illness in the family.  But I want to emphasize that you amended this bill.
I had bills that I slowed down because of amendments.  No one on the committee will say that children should be harmed in any fashion.  I have three daughters - 22, 16, 18?    If anyone says that anyone who changes it is in favor of hurting kids or is complicit in hurting kids.  You feel adamant about your parental rights.  Part of the reason we are here is because of your unfortunate absence.  Bree's section is an amendment.

McGuire:  I haven't heard anyone question the commitment to kids.  My testimony, to be clear, is that I had two main concerns around practicality.  Not to imply motive or that it's not in your purview.  I said it was based on the Governor's call for HB 44, which contained only the Brees Law and Erin's Law.  That's my first concern.

Number 2, one of practicality.  I've never heard the bill on AZT SAT.  From a practical point of view - trying to get across the finish line.  What I amended was something closely related and had broad support.  I want to be clear on the record.  Not saying you don't have the right or the right motive.  I believe you are all great.

Giessel:  Glad you brought up issue of   children.  There is actually a centralized theme.  It goes back to central authority of parents to direct their kids education.  This right is not given by government.  It is God given.  That is the central theme.  While you may think these are unrelated issues.

Dunleavy:  We agree that Erin's law is a good bill.  Would you agree that you made it better by adding Bree's law?

McGuire:  Yes.

Dunleavy;  Most of us have been working through this special session.  Trying to find out that if we run bills they are constitutional.  Sheila, is a CS that we have before us, what did legal counsel share.

Sheila Peterson:  I work at ??? - Asked me to work closely with Doug Gardner at Legal Services.  One question I asked was whether the topics were germane to topic.  It is constitutionally required that it cover only one subject.  It would go to the court to get determination.  Legal services want to look at all possibilities.  Doug wrote the opinion and I can make copies.  he did say in a regular session, it would be germane.  One topic, public education.  In a special session, with the governor saying HB 44 - Sexual Abuse and Dating Violence - we have heard several bills 31 and 37 on the same subject.  Sen 31 - two amendments added were in 31  fingerprinting and ???.  But that is a little more complicated.  Doug said court will look at broad range of interpretation, then ok.  Nothing in the bill not about public education.  if the court takes a narrow view, there may be a problem.  Some of these do not relate to sexual abuse. 

Dunleavy:  Did Doug say it was unconstitutional?

Sheila:  No

Dunleavy:  He can't determine that, it's up to the courts.  Fiscal note?

Sheila:  Substitute was designed for zero fiscal note.

Dunleavy:  When we constructed the bill we wanted to not add any money to the budget.  No additional costs.  That's one reason the bill is in, because it reduces costs.  It's not a lot of money, but it's a little bit.  I think it's a good addition to the bill.  Still have DOE on line and Dr. Lisa Parady with Council of School Administrators.

Stevens:  Complex bill.  Part that I have concern about is testing.  High School exit exams - parents said that HS diploma has no meaning any more.  So exit exam was installed to correct that and it didn't work and we did away with it.  Now we're going to the next step and getting rid of these tests.  What does a HS diploma mean?    If we do away with these tests, what do we have left?  What is the accountability. 

 Dunleavy:  That was part of the discussion last year when we got rid of exam.  If you didn't pass the exit exam you only got a certificate of attendance.  That high stakes test was gone.  Prior to that school districts and children always taking tests - ACT and SAT.  They were aimed at kids entering college, but not to evaluate academic performance.

Stevens:  It seems to me that the Work??? is a good demonstration.

Les Morse:  Dept of Ed. Early Development - Whole idea behind the ACT and SAT to move from basic skills assessment to determine if kids with academic ed in HS, were they ready for college.  the Work Key on work preparedness.  Work Keys could be designed for all students no matter what the student's objective.  But when we put this requirement in place, concern about how many tests.  We eliminated the HS qualifying exam that too 3 or more days.  Hesitated to have everyone to take the Work Keys, we didn't want to require college bound kids who wanted to take the ACT or SAT.
In terms of student accountability - it helps the kids to think about the future and the way we do it, a lot more students have access.  Students still have to pass the local district requirements - state has minimum requirements.  That would be the individual student accountability.  None, now, are high stakes tests.  For students.

Stevens:  Where are we now?  If we pass this, what does that mean?  What does a HS grad have to do?  You said, pass their classes.  Would you have to take any of the tests?

Morse:  If passed, that part of it - removal of college readiness component - the last time they would take a statewide test would be in 10th grade and has no impact on going on to next grade.  They could choose to take the ACT and SAT if available in the community.  The Work Keys test would not be available.  Dept. of Labor isn't set up for doing that.  The funding is no longer in our budget.

Stevens:  Still concerns about this.  Especially ACT and SAT.  Probably means kids in smaller communities won't have access.  Kids would have to fly somewhere to take it.

Dunleavy:  When I taught in rural Alaska in the 80s and 90s I actually proctored the SAT.   If all children took the ACT or SAT and question of accountability came up - again, these tests aren't for accountability are they?  Are the scores posted - show what percent of student.

Morse:  They are posted in State Report Card to the public.  That's always been in place - statewide aggregate.  Also need to clarify.  There are places in rural Alaska where these are given, but not in all sites.  One district with 11 sets, offer ACT in 2 of their 11 sites.  Costs incurred.  We did increase ACT testing significantly by using a state contract.  Passage of this bill which removes the Work Keys, ACT, and SAT.  The kids would get nothing from the school, they would have to pay for it.  Access would be gone for kids.

Dunleavy:  How long has ACT been around that required ?

Morse:  Since 2010.  There was no limitation for one - the Work Keys.

Dunleavy:  Eliminating to save money was this year?

Morse:  That model was crafted to say for SAT, ACT, and Work Keys.  Now it removes all the money?

Dunleavy:  This program was not in place?

Morse:  In the past we only paid for Work Keys.

Giessel:  We eliminated exit exam because it was so dumbdowned.  Was it effective assessment to know how the schools?

Morse:  I wouldn't say completely ineffective, but the population was for the population of students who were really struggling.  It didn't necessarily tell the public how our students were doing.

Norm Wooten:  Association of Public School Boards

Huggins:  I move that the bill is moved.

Dunleavy:  Any objections?  Seeing none, the bill will move to the next committee.

Stevens:  Plan is to go to Finance committee?

Huggins [Dunleavy (sorry!!!)]:  I think it's a very good bill.  I think it's crucial that we train students in what is good touch bad touch, the Stranger Danger notion in the past is unmasked.  There are folks that kids know who take advantage of them.  I think component that we put in there after Bree is also crucial.  Especially in this modern age of cell phones.  Even great parents don't know what is happening to their kids.  I came from a family of all boys.  Not just women.  Mostly perpetrated by men on women.  This goes a long way to make sure this doesn't happen.  I think the parental rights component is crucial.  I have lots of parents who feel they are not citizens, but subjects of the state of Alaska.  It has become such a coercive relationship between citizens and the state.  This bill says, wait a minute.  We don't think this particular survey is right for our children.  We aren't ready to cede to the state that parents are not fit at best and criminal at worst.  The mandates we are taking off of school districts - as a teacher, principal - I've seen and even participated in the piling on of the greatest latest methods.  Components in training teenagers learn to relate properly.  I believe that most parents will not opt out.  I certainly won't.  I don't think I'd opt out.  I'd want to see the curriculum.  What is really happening in the schools.  We thought it was math, science and history.  We're finding out it's more.  No rush of parents saying we want to adopt common core, we want high stakes testing.  This was not done by parents.  Parents were asking me, what rights do we have left as parents.  There is no other place where people not charged with crime are coerced into doing things.  Don't do this elsewhere.  But with education it's there.  I think it's a great bill.  Any one who would vote against this bill because of some of the components in the bill, should give it another thought.  I don't want to see us knocking on doors with police officers because we want to drag off their kids to educate them they way we want.  There's a good private school  There is too much fear with government.  We talk about overreach of federal government.

Will there people having a tough time voting for this bill?  Maybe.  This is a serious bill with serious topics.  I think the passage of this bill, Alaska takes a step forward.  Parents, people expected to help them with homework, put them on the bus, their first teachers, should be part of the process.  I think this bill goes a long way to prevent that.

For folks thinking maybe not, they'll have to follow their conscious.  Public process not always easy.  Sometimes very difficult.  Thank the Senators here, including Gardner, but I want to emphasize, if you have a son getting a PhD from MIT, you have to be there.

 School supporters and Medicaid supporters in front of Legislative Information Office when I left. 

Sen. Dunleavy Plays Politics With Bill To Protect Kids From Sexual Predators

I'd put down a public hearing on Erin's Law today on my calendar.  5:30pm at the newly refitted Legislative Information Building.   But then I saw tweets during the day that the Senate education committee was tinkering with the bill.

At the evening hearing it sounded more like they gutted the bill.  This bill, simply, requires that schools give age appropriate instruction about inappropriate touching, what to say when someone tries to touch, and how to get help.  Most importantly, that it's not your fault and you need to tell someone so the person stops and so other kids also don't get abused.

In the Senate hearing, Sen. Dunleavy's committee made a few significant changes to Erin's Law.
  • Changed student attendance in these classes from parents opt out, to parents opt in.  That is, the original bill allowed parents to pull their kids from the classes.  The Senate changes require the parents' approval before the kids can take the classes.  
  • Changed the mandate for schools to use the program from 'shall' to 'may'. 
But I think the language that some used to describe the changes - hijacked the bill - is more accurate.  In Alaska, the title of the bill has to accurately describe what's in the bill.  That means names like "Save the Children Act" cannot be used for a bill that actually leaves kids unprotected.  That's a good thing (that the name must reflect what's in the bill.)  So, to give you a sense of the changes that took place in Tuesday's Senate education committee meeting, I offer you the title of, first, HB 44 as it was yesterday:

HB 44 Title (the original bill that has already passed the House)
"CS FOR HOUSE BILL NO. 44(FIN)                                                                   
"An Act relating to sexual abuse and sexual assault awareness and prevention efforts in  public schools; and relating to dating violence and abuse awareness and prevention efforts in public schools."  

[Update 12:24am: I originally put up the earliest version of the title.  This one changed to add the section on dating violence because of the efforts of the Moore's (see below.)  You can see the whole bills HB 44  and CSHB 44.]

And, second, the education committee's substitute bill title:

SCS CSHB 44(   ) Title (I don't remember any more what the SCS means for sure.  The CSHB means, committee substitute for House Bill 44)
"An Act relating to a parent's right to direct the education of a child; relating to course mastery requirements; relating to the duties of the Department of Education and Early Development; prohibiting a school district from contracting with an abortion services provider; relating to questionnaires administered in a public school; relating to the duties of school districts; relating to training for school employees and mandatory reporters of child abuse or neglect; relating to physical examinations for students; relating to physical examinations for teachers; relating to sexual abuse and sexual assault awareness and prevention efforts in public schools; relating to dating violence and abuse awareness and prevention efforts in public schools; prohibiting a school district from allowing an abortion services provider to furnish course materials or provide instruction concerning sexuality or sexually transmitted diseases; relating to national criminal history record check requirements for employees of child care facilities and residential child care facilities; and repealing the requirement for secondary students to take college and career readiness assessments."

From what I understand, they added two bills [UPDATE 5/21/15: turns out it was three] into this one.  Bills that hadn't made it through the legislature.  The governor specifically asked that Erin's Law be passed, and so they took the opportunity to add their own two [three] laws into this bill.   If you read the second title, you'll notice stuff prohibiting school districts from contracting with abortion service providers, duties of school districts, physical exams of students and teachers, and on and on. 

I can't even begin to write out the testimony I heard this evening at the Minority Caucus' public hearing, nor to explain what happened at the earlier Senate education committee hearing.  Fortunately, John Arono at Alaska Commons took good notes and you can check his explanation if you like.

Like everyone who testified - mostly people who had personally been abused, had had family members abused, or worked with abused people - I can't help but feel that Sen. Dunleavy has totally trashed Erin's Law.  If he really thinks he's made minor changes, he's just ignorant.  If he realizes what he's done, he's venal.  Because Erin's Law would, as people testified it had in other states,  help kids recognize when inappropriate behavior is taking place, learn how to respond to such behavior, and know how to report it.  They would learn the threats of abusers - "No one will believe you."  "If you tell, I'll come back and kill you and your family." "If you tell, you will only ruin the whole family." - and know these are what abusers always say.  Learn that these are signs that you need to tell [a parent or other authority figure about.]

As people testified - and I listened to earlier testimony on this bill - they emphasized that child abuse has long lasting debilitating impacts on kids.  Without an Erin's law, kids will wait until many years later before confessing (yes, many are made to feel it's their own fault) to anyone what happened, allowing the perpetrator to molest other kids, and they usually do.  That these things devastate families and even communities.

One of the objections some legislators have made is that this is "an unfunded mandate."  That, of course, is one of the Republican buzzwords to tar legislation they don't like.  But I'd argue that not passing this bill is a huge unfunded mandate - to provide all sorts of services to the victims, to deal with the victims' loss of interest in school and life, and victims' inability to get and hold jobs later on.  And, in some cases, to victimize others themselves.

When I spent a fair amount of time at Covenant House, it soon became clear, that many, if not most of the kids there had left home because of various kinds of abuse.  The various young men that I mentored there all had histories of sexual abuse as kids.  It really screws you up.

Erin's Law is the simplest and most effective way the legislature can stop the enormous toll on Alaska kids.  Stats presented at the meeting included:  1700 kids have been abused this past school year.  April had 302 allegations of sexual abuse that, from what I can tell from the handout, reached the Office of Children's Services.  852 reports were screened by Protective Services in April.

Not providing kids with the information they need to recognize and respond to sexual predators is unconscionable.   John Arono writes:
“People were concentrating on the big issues that affected the state versus other issues that didn’t quite get to the top of the pot,” House Speaker Mike Chenault (R-Nikiski) told KTOO’s Lisa Phu at the time.
If preventing hundreds of incidents of sexual abuse of children a month is on [not] one of the 'big issues' then these legislators have their priorities totally wrong.  Not only are we preventing suffering, but prevention efforts save all sorts of money in the future when we deal with the dysfunction of adults who have been abused as kids.  (And I don't mean to imply that all abused kids don't find ways to function as reasonably responsible adults, but a high proportion of people who end up in prison, were abused as kids.)

As a reporter, I took lots of notes at the public testimony.  But what was most compelling was people telling their own stories.  But, even though this was a public hearing, I felt whipping out my camera and video taping people's testimony was much too invasive.

But I did find this video of Cindy Moore whose daughter was shot by her boyfriend last June.  Cindy and her husband Butch both testified.  This will give you a sense of how important this is.  

video platformvideo managementvideo solutionsvideo player

[UPDATE 12:24 am:  There will be another hearing on this bill Wednesday, May 20, 2015 in the Legislative Information Office on 4th Avenue at 11:00am. You can go in person or listen online.  Scroll down to Senate Education Committee. ]

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Do You Know Any Of These People? They Gave $500 Or More To Mike Chenault

And maybe they could talk to him about Medicaid expansion.  

I put together this chart using information from the APOC Campaign Disclosure pages.  The site doesn't seem to allow me to link to the main search results I got.   The link takes you here and then you have to fill in the time period (I did 12/31/2013 to 05/18/2015) and then Chenault.  That will give six pages of contributions.  I've listed the ones that are $500 or more.  I've put them basically in alphabetical order by donor name, though I tried to group donations from the same organization.  There are some links in the chart - it's hard to tell, but they're underlined.  And while I'm trying to present this neutrally, the legislative majority's fuck you attitude to anyone who doesn't agree with them makes it pretty hard.  But at least I hope I've got the details reasonably accurate.

(There was a lot of data and I did keep checking, but you might double check before you use these numbers elsewhere.  I also left out contributions of less than $500 that might have added to the amounts given by organizations mentioned above.)

(If you look closely, there's lots of oil related money.  Some of the larger contributors include  GCI (Citizens for Competition and the GCI Pres and VP) has $2000 in there, construction interests, dentists, and the Penney and Wells families.)

Why am I doing this?

Mike Chenault, the Speaker of the Alaska House of Representatives, is part of the Alaska legislative leadership that passed a budget that is underfunded by about $3 billion.  (These are Republicans mind you.)  Although for most things the Republican majority in Juneau can do whatever they want without  cooperation from the Democrats, they can't take money from the Constitutional Budget Reserve (CBR) without help from Democrats. And they need $3 billion from the CBR to balance the budget.    Democrats are willing to cooperate, but they'd like to see some changes made first.

They'd like to see Medicaid expanded using federal dollars which would add  40,000 or so more Alaskans will have health care coverage and save the state money.  The Republicans refuse.
They'd like to see Erin's Law passed, so kids recognize sex abuse and know how to avoid it and report it.  The Republicans refuse. 
They'd like to see some of the large capital expenditures - like the Knik Arm bridge and the extension of Bragaw - cut out of the budget.  The Republicans refuse.
They'd like to see education cuts restored.  The Republicans refuse.

The governor says he can't sign a budget that isn't fully funded and called the legislature into a special session in Juneau. 

But, there is not even the slightest show of respect or cooperation on Chenault's part.  He's spitting on the governor's order for a special session in Juneau,  meeting there just long enough to adjourn.  He's calling for the special session to be held in Anchorage, which may not even be legal.  And House Majority Leader Rep. Charisse Millett said the governor may have to sue them to get them back to Juneau.  These are supposed to be civilized people working in a democracy.  (Note to Rep. Reinbold, there is hope for your resurrection.  Millett was persona non grata like you just a couple of years ago and now she's Majority Leader.)

Now that I've given that background, let's get back to Medicaid Expansion.which has the support of 65% of Alaskans.  Here's a small portion of the organizations in support as listed on the state Health and Social Services website:

Alaska AFL-CIO
Alaska Brain Injury Network 
Alaska Chamber of Commerce
Alaska Federation of Natives
Alaska Heart Association/Alaska Stroke Association
Alaska Injury Prevention Center
Alaska Municipal League
Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium
Alaska Nurses Association
Alaska Pharmacy Association
Alaska Physical Therapy Association
Alaska Physicians & Surgeons
Alaska Primary Care Association
Alaska State Hospital & Nursing Home Association (Gave $250 to Chenault)
Alaska State Medical Association
Anchorage Chamber of Commerce
Anchorage Municipal Assembly
Bartlett Regional Hospital
Catholic Social Services
Doyon Limited
Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly
NANA Regional Corporation (INUU a PAC of one of NANA's companies gave $500 to Chenault)
National Association of Social Workers Alaska Chapter
United Way of Anchorage

This list includes Native organizations, many professional organizations involved in health care, municipal organizations, and even the Anchorage and Alaska chambers of commerce.  I've noted a couple of organizations here that have also given money to Chenault.

Presumably, the people on the list of contributors up top should have some clout with Chenault.   The money he raised was far, far more than what he needed to win. His opponent, Rocky Knudsen, raised $10,190 including, $3500 of which he apparently borrowed and paid back at the end. 

So Chenault's fund raising wasn't about winning the election, he raised a lot more money than he needed.  It was about showing loyalty to and buying access to the House Speaker. 

In fact, Chenault's reports show his campaign used less than half the money he raised. 

Chenault raised about $46,000 for his 2014 campaign.  At the end, he had nearly $25,000 left over.  Well, technically, it's all been spent, but about $9500 was donated at the end to organizations like the Girls and Boys Clubs and to PTAs of schools in Chenault's district.  $10,000 (the limit allowed) went into his POET account.  From the APOC FAQ page:
"Public Office Expense Term account.  The money in the account may be used only to pay expenses associated with the candidate’s serving as a legislator or municipal official and all expenditures must be disclosed in a year end P.O.E.T account report. "
And he was able to put another $5000 into his future campaigns account.

It's clear to me that his campaign contributors were buying access more than they were helping him win his election, because he didn't need the money.   These are people who should be able to talk to him.  Most, I'm sure, were more interested in protecting their business interests than things like Medicaid expansion.  Some, of course, were just old friends with deep pockets.  Others may share Chenault's stand on this Medicaid expansion.  Though I'm guessing Chenault's refusal to budge on Medicaid is less ideology and more about enticements and threats coming from national organizations like Americans for Prosperity on this issue.

What Can You Do?

In any case, if you know any of the folks on the list, you might check with them where they stand on Medicaid expansion.  Surely $500 buys them the right to have their phone calls answered by Chenault and they could check on why he's favoring outside interests who want to stick it to Obama rather than get health coverage for 40,000 Alaskans and save the state money.   Or even if you don't them, you can contact them and let them know you're disappointed in Chenault's boorish behavior and their support of it. 

I know, it's a longshot, but refusing to expand Medicaid is crazy.  Even the Chamber of Commerce sees the value of it.  I figure reason isn't going to make a difference, but if ten or twenty folks ($5000 - $10,000)  on the list were to talk to Chenault, maybe that could make a difference.  

But maybe not.  As I was researching this post I came across this interesting tidbit.  Alaska's highest paid lobbyist had, as one of her assignments, getting Medicaid expansion passed.

"1. Wendy Chamberlain — $1,111,000 in annual contracts
Biggest Contract — $100,000. Hired by the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium to work on all issues relating to Alaska Native healthcare, including Medicaid expansion. . ."  

Denali's Big, But Don't Forget The Tiny

Denali National Park is known for its huge vistas, where a moose becomes a tiny spot.  But I like to focus on those tiny spots.

Here's a whole world on a tree stump.

And here, bigger than life-sized, is the leg and foot of a yellow rumped warbler.

Rocks and mosses.

There weren't too many flowers open yet, but there were some mountain aven.

And this frigid coltsfoot.

When you get this close to a white crowned sparrow, you can start to see individual features that would allow you to distinguish one bird from another.

Spectacular orange lichen on the rocks.  I'm going with Xanthoria Elegans on this one.  You can check out a lot of different lichens hereFrom Wikipedia:

This species grows on rock, both calcareous and siliceous, occasionally overgrowing moss or litter or rock. It is often found on exposed to somewhat sheltered sites, often near bird or small-mammal droppings.[4] It has also adapted successfully to growth on man-made and natural growing surfaces from the sea-water spray zone to the boreal forest and in the grasslands of the continental interior.[10][11][12] It can thrive in areas having less than 6 centimetres (2.4 in) annual precipitation and can survive submerged in streams for much of the growing season.[5]
Xanthoria elegans has an extremely broad circumpolar and alpine distribution, and is found on all continents except Australia.[13] It is widespread in Antarctic regions.[14]
The lichen is used as a model system to study the potential to resist extreme environments of outer space. Out of various lichens tested, it showed the ability to recover from space-simulating situations, including exposure to 16 hours of vacuum at 10−3 Pa and UV radiation at wavelengths less than 160 nm or greater than 400 nm.[15] X. elegans has survived an 18 month exposure to solar UV radiation, cosmic rays, vacuum and varying temperatures in an experiment performed by the ESA outside of the ISS.[16]

Monday, May 18, 2015

Campground Wifi? Changing Icons

I saw this sign at the Riley Creek campground at Denali National Park last week.

Wow, I thought, the campgrounds have wifi now.  Amazing.  But why would it be over in one spot?

When I asked a ranger about the sign and whether there really was wifi, she paused to think what I might be referring to.  Then she smiled and said, "That's the sign to the amphitheater."

And when I looked on my computer, of course, the wifi symbol has the longer waves on the top. 

Actually, we enjoyed three days without any news media intrusion and just a few minutes a day of wifi (sitting outside the not yet open visitors center) to post pictures of animals we saw at the Park. 

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Shell In Seattle, Power, Americans For Prosperity Leading Opposition to Medicaid Expansion [Reposted*]

A What Do I Know? reader in Seattle sent this picture he took Thursday from the ferry of Shell's oil rig. (But I was in Denali Thursday so I just got the picture.)

Think about people used to power, used to getting their way.  People in positions of authority in large organizations that have the money to convince the weak to agree and to destroy those who would stand up against them.

The large oil companies are used to getting their way, whether it's in places like Africa or Asia where they can buy government leaders or US states where they can do the same.  In Alaska, Conoco-Phillips put one of their lawyer/lobbyists into the governorship and two more of their employees into the legislature.  They are so used to getting their way, they  pay no attention to those who disagree with them - including the Democratic minority.

Think about the people who are currently keeping the Alaska Republican leaders from agreeing to expand Medicaid, despite the overwhelming support for its expansion.  NPR had a piece on five states
that have been dealing with Medicaid expansion - Florida, Wyoming, Utah, Montana, and Alaska.  In all these places the Koch Brothers' supported Americans for Prosperity (AFP) has spent a lot of money in opposition to Medicaid expansion

Montana's a slightly different case from the others.  Legislators got angry at AFP for going behind their backs and connecting directly with constituents. 

In Alaska, it seems they've gone directly to Chenault and Meyers, the heads of the state house and senate respectively.  Because they're saying no to everyone else and refusing to make any concessions.  As I said, if you get used to power, you think you can do whatever you want. 

Salon has an article on how Americans for Prosperity "blew up" the Tennessee Medicaid expansion bill.


Forbes puts David Koch's wealth at $42.7 billionThey also put Charles Koch at the same amount.  I wasn't sure if that amount was combined or individual.  Bloomberg, though, puts them jointly at $100 billion

To get a sense of things, suppose your net worth was $100,000.  If you spent the same percentage of your wealth as the Koch brothers it would be something like:

Koch brothers spend $1 million.
You spend $1.

You spend $200 on a candidate.
The Koch brothers would spend $200 million.

This is why people like Tom Hayden were talking about economic democracy back in the 1970s.  Because without a reasonably level playing field, we lose democracy.

As we see in the Medicaid fight.  And the way Shell can tell Seattle to go to hell, we'll put our oil rigs wherever we damn well please.  

* I'm reposting because Feedburner didn't catch this one to blogrolls. Apologies to those who came here earlier.  I'm trying to figure out a good way to signal you, so you don't come back to a post you've already seen. 

Saturday, May 16, 2015

No Lions Or Tigers, But Bears. And Moose. And . . .

I'm pretty sure these are the same bears we saw on Wednesday.  But this time they were out of the brush, clearly visible, and on a mission.  They walked with purpose.  I'm just not sure what it was.  Along the Savage River just before it goes under the bridge at the end of the paved road in Denali National Park.  Then up onto the road, through the parking lot and up the mountain.  They didn't run, but they sure got up the mountain fast. 

Having hiked up a couple of miles earlier that day (this was Thursday), we were well aware of how much faster they got up the hill than we had.  We found out later that the trail we took - from near the Savage River campground - the Savage Alpine Trail actually ends four miles away at this spot where the bears ended up.  

Fortunately, we didn't see any bears while we were hiking - though they had something in mind and it didn't seem to be people.  But we did see Dall sheep on the hill above us.

Actually, on Thursday we saw the bears, the dall sheep, caribou (there were lots of caribou), and moose.  Despite seeing moose fairly regularly in Anchorage, it's still neat to seem them out in the wilderness as well. 

Then on Friday, we went back to the Savage River trail and on the way back, J shouted from behind "Stop!'  She pointed ahead of me and there was a caribou coming across the trail about 25 feet ahead of me. 

There were four more after that.  One at a time, each carefully checked us out and then crossed the trail.

And then there were a few ground squirrels who were not at all shy.  Suggesting they'd learned that people were a source of food. 

Friday, May 15, 2015

Denali Birds - Warbler, Robin, Sparrow, Ptarmigan, Pintail, Eagle, And Bufflehead

Some of the feathered critters we encountered this week at Denali. 

This yellow rumped warbler visited us at our campsite every morning and evening.  I chose this picture because it displays its namesake best.  I'm lucky to live in Alaska and see this bird at its best.  From Allaboutbirds:

"Though the color palette is subdued all winter, you owe it to yourself to seek these birds out on their spring migration or on their breeding grounds. Spring molt brings a transformation, leaving them a dazzling mix of bright yellow, charcoal gray and black, and bold white."


Another campground visitor, the robin seems almost out of place in this huge, wild, northern national park.  It should be on a lawn somewhere pulling out worms. 

This northern pintail couple on a pond near Teklanika campground. 

This bufflehead was in the same pond.  From Audubon:  

"The name "Bufflehead" is derived from "buffalo-head," for the male's odd puffy head shape."

A white crowned sparrow.

The willow ptarmigan is the Alaska state bird.  It's shedding its white winter plumage for its summer browns. 

A golden eagle hunts along a mountain ridge.  Their wingspans go up to seven feet.