Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Is The Alaska Dispatch News For Sale?

Looks like it.  Oliver Optic, an occasional commenter here, sent me a link to this Craig Medred piece that says Alice Rogow is trying to sell the newspaper.  Interesting piece, though not in a good way.

This may be my shortest post ever.  Still occupied with other stuff.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Donald Cried Coming To Netflix August 15

"Donald Cried" was one of the features in competition at the Anchorage International Film Festival last December.  There was a strong group of features, and as I wrote back then, I could have argued for any of them getting one of the three prizes.  But Donald didn't.  But it made a very powerful impression on me.

Here's what I wrote in after seeing the movie:
"Donald Cried starts with Peter coming back to the small town where he grew up to sell his grandmother's house and settle things after she's died.  You don't know all this as the film starts - you pick up more and more details as things progress.  He's lost his wallet on the bus and so he has no money and goes across the street to a neighbor's, who greets him like a long lost pal and practically kidnaps him taking him around town.  The neighbor, Donald, seems like he's got Asbergers or something as he constantly crosses normal conversational boundaries in politeness and topics.  But the history of Peter, Donald, the grandmother, and others slowly is revealed.  But there were still so many questions I had.  And reading the credits - Kris Avedisian was listed as the writer, the producer, the director, and actor - I knew exactly who I wanted to talk to.  My wife asked, which one was he?  I assumed he played Donald, but then I had this thought, whoa, what if he played Peter?  That would have been so weird.  But as the cast scrolled by, he did play Donald.  So I was ready to go home and start looking for an email address for Kris."
I found that email address, sent a bunch of questions, and got a quick response back with a link to a video interview of Kris at a different film festival talking about the film.  (None of his team made it to Anchorage.)  I posted about that and the video here.

This is a quirky film festival type film with powerful characters and an interesting reveal of these two characters' past relationship which you wouldn't have guessed from the beginning, but ultimately makes sense.  And the interview at the link above answered a lot of my questions.

So yes, I'm making a recommendation to watch this film.  The schedule of August movies was on Lifehacker.  

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Wisconsin State Journal Gives Preview Of Upcoming Supreme Court Gerrymandering Case

A large part of the Republican control of the US House is due to the last redistricting based on the 2010 Census.  From Five Thirty Eight:
"Republicans’ astounding state legislative gains in the 2010 midterms — the year before the decennial redistricting cycle — allowed them to redraw four times as many congressional districts as Democrats in 2011 and 2012, stretching their geographical edge even further. As a result, in 2012, Democrats won 51 percent of all major-party votes cast for House candidates but just 47 percent of all seats. In 2014, Democrats won 47 percent of all major-party votes but just 43 percent of the seats. Amazingly, just 16 of 247 House Republicans won their races by fewer than 10 percentage points."
There's currently a redistricting challenge that has been accepted by the Supreme Court.   From the Wisconsin State Journal:
"The three-judge panel that heard the Whitford case last year weighed the evidence and ordered the maps redrawn. The state has appealed the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court, arguing the process was lawful. The Supreme Court stayed the lower court order and agreed to hear oral arguments as early as this fall."
The Court hasn't ruled on political gerrymandering saying it was hard to get an objective sense of it.  But the Wisconsin legal team has come up with a way to measure
"the Whitford plaintiffs devised a three-pronged standard for partisan gerrymandering: Proving discriminatory intent, demonstrating a discriminatory effect, and finding no other justification for how the maps were drawn.
To prove the discriminatory effect, the plaintiffs measured the election results based on what is known as the "efficiency gap," which seeks to calculate how many votes for a given party are "wasted" because its voters are "packed" into certain safe districts or "cracked," that is, placed into districts where they still can't muster enough support for their candidate to win.
The Whitford plaintiffs argued the Wisconsin legislative districts were the most gerrymandered in the past 40 years, with 13 percent of votes wasted in 2012 and 10 percent wasted in 2014. Based on an analysis of 786 legislative elections across the country, they argued a gap of more than 7 percent should be deemed unconstitutional."

This will be a huge case either way it is decided.  If the Court goes with the plaintiffs, it should slow down partisan gerrymandering.  If not, it probably signals the issue is probably dead until there is a significantly new Supreme Court.

I wrote about this case back in February.

Friday, July 21, 2017

The Rule of Law Is Protecting Trump

For the time being anyway.

The Rule of Law is a foundation of our democracy.  It means that we follow the rules, the laws, that are created by our elected officials which are based on the legal foundation of the constitution.  We aren't supposed to take short cuts, but rather follow through the process of administering justice.

The rules for removing a president are laid out in the constitution.  There's impeachment.  From the University of Chicago:

Impeachment Clauses
Article 1, Section 2, Clause 5
The House of Representatives shall chuse their Speaker and other Officers; and shall have the sole Power of Impeachment.
Article 1, Section 3, Clauses 6 and 7
The Senate shall have the sole Power to try all Impeachments. When sitting for that Purpose, they shall be on Oath or Affirmation. When the President of the United States is tried the Chief Justice shall preside; And no Person shall be convicted without the Concurrence of two thirds of the Members present.
Judgement in Cases of Impreachment shall not extend further than to removal from Office, and disqualification to hold and enjoy any Office of honor, Trust or Profit under the United States: but the Party convicted shall nevertheless be liable and subject to Indictment, Trial, Judgement and Punishment, according to Law.
Article 2, Section 4
The President, Vice President and all Civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.
Article 3, Section 1
. . . The Judges, both of the supreme and inferior Courts, shall hold their Offices during good Behaviour. . . .  (emphasis added)

I started this a week ago, and planned to go into each of the grounds for impeachment.  I thought I'd have to abandon this post, because I just don't have the time to complete this properly.

However, today I ran across a Tweet that cites a short 1974 book by Charles L. Black, The Impeachable Offense, which does all the work for me.   And Lawfare blog has excerpted key parts.  Critical  reading for anyone who wants to talk about impeaching the president.

There's also a commentary by Jane Chong that speculates on how this might be applicable today.  (For example, Black dismisses treason as not relevant in Nixon's case, but because the word is being used today, Chong discusses it, though only to show that it is still not relevant, despite the use of the term by some.

For the time being, though, the rule of law protects Trump.  From my perspective, Trump is actively doing damage to our laws and institutions that protect people's safety, health, and even lives.  Just as many people are supportive of taking legal shortcuts during a crisis, I have that instinct now with Trump. But I know we have to take it step by step and do it right.  We'll have to clean up the damage later.  Chong too makes that point, of taking it slowly.
"Last month I made a pragmatic argument against pushing too early for Trump’s impeachment. But as Black makes clear, hasty action on this front is more fundamentally a failure of principle. “Everyone must shrink from this most drastic of measures,” he declares on page one. Acknowledging his own status as a longtime political opponent of then-President Richard Nixon, Black nonetheless expresses 'a very strong sense of the dreadfulness of the step of removal.” Impeachment must be treated like high-risk surgery, he insists, “to be resorted to only when the rightness of diagnosis and treatment is sure.'”

Thursday, July 20, 2017

"the discrepancy has been resolved"

It's hard not to blog, but the stuff I'm working on is using that part of the brain that I would blog with, but I can't blog it.  Yet.

Check out my favorites in the tab above in the mean time.  (Or see previous post.)

But here's a little follow up of something long ago.

I wrote last year, June, that the income tax problems from my mom's estate - really it was about the tax withheld from her caregiver's checks - was resolved.  And I got letters to that account and refund checks.

But this was zombie resolution and it came back this May.  They Social Security records didn't match the IRS records.  I'd sent all that information in once already, but I sent it again.

Today I got a new resolution letter.

I would remind people, as I did in the post last year, that a lot of the trouble here is due to continuous cuts to the IRS budget.  They simply don't have the people to keep up with all this.  And the people who get screwed are the small fry.  The really rich guys and corporations have lawyers who can run circles around a tax bill forever.  And that's true for all the other agencies that protect the public health, the environment, worker safety, and on and on and on.  Corporations know if government isn't properly funded, regulators can't come out and regulate them.  And they can get away with murder.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Some Of My Favorite Posts

The next few weeks I'm enmeshed in a project that will take a lot of time and about which I can't blog about until it's all over.

I'll try to put something up now and then, but only if I think I can write something that isn't a waste of your time.

However, I've been putting together a "Page" which is what Blogger calls Tabs at the top of the site.  And I've help off putting it up until now so you could look at some good older posts you might have missed.  You can either go to the top of the page and click the tab that says "Favorite Posts" (right next to "About This Blog") or you can click here.  But while this post will flow down the river of posts, the tab will stay at the top.  Below is what it looks like on this page.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Early Flowers Fade, New Ones Bloom - And A Link to a "Happy Uterus Tea" Recipe

Let's get this out of the way first.  My favorite gardening book is Bob Flowerdew's No Work Garden.  Most of the yard is natural birch, spruce, willow, cottonwoods, and high bush cranberry.  What was here before houses.  The 'lawn' has grass, dandelions, and clover.  The neighbors have accepted the fact that it's never going to look like a Sunset Magazine yard.

But I do have a rock garden in the front - we have a hill and I was trying to capture water so it doesn't run into the street as much - and over the years I've put in various perennials and that part looks ok.  And through no fault of my own (this was purely accidental) the plants bloom at different times of the summer.  We start off with lovely pink phlox, and then other plants bloom, and we have color all summer.

And this post shows some that have started blooming now.  But, to make my point, here's a lily that has finished its bloom.  (Budding and Blooming shows these lilies budding in early May.)

The hosta is just starting to flower.

So's the Maltese Cross.  Wikipedia lists 20 common names for this flower.

And the trollius.

This lily doesn't really count.  My neighbor gave it to me a few weeks ago and its still in a pot.  But it's there and smiling to the world.  

And the Achillea is starting to bloom as well.  From the Vintage News:
"Achillea millefolium, commonly referred to as yarrow, is a flowering plant that belongs to the family Asteraceae.
Depending on the region where it’s found and used, the plant goes by many names such as little feather, nosebleed plant, devil’s nettle, old man’s pepper, soldier’s woundwort, thousand-leaf, and more. . .
According to the legend, the plant’s original name, Achillea, was given it by Achilles who carried it on the battlefields and used it to cure battle wounds."

The Herbal Academy tells us that:

"Lady’s mantle is a powerful female herb for anytime during a women’s reproductive life. It helps relieve mild aches and pains during menstruation, with a tea or tincture able to stop spotting between periods and lessening excessive menstrual bleeding (Soule, 1998). Lady’s mantle has astringent qualities so it is useful for loose stools, and shrinking sores in one’s mouth or skin (Hoffman, 2003). Lady’s mantle is also helpful for the menopausal years (Hoffman, 2003), easing those troubling symptoms due to its astringent and anti-inflammatory actions."

They have recipes too.  

And finally, the Clustered Bellflower (Campanula glomerata):

I'd note a post from 2009 called "Trojan War Reenacted In Our Garden" shows many of these flowers eight years ago and also features the book No Work Garden mentioned up top.  The Veronica spicata - or Spiked Speedwell also mentioned in the older post - is almost ready to bloom.  

So, should I call this an example of repetitive posts?  I'd prefer to think it's a reminder of the seasons' returning visitors.  

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Living In Different Worlds

While adult Americans are enmeshed in topics like Russian influence in elections, health care reform, and immigration, I'm watching our visiting four year old going about her life blissfully unaware of any of that.

She's enjoying helping her grandfather water the garden, sifting the compost, making bread, putting away the dishes.  She's enjoying when her grandfather is being silly, but also learning to distinguish between when he's telling a joke and saying something serious.  And when he's working on something else, she has ways to poke him, pull his shirt, call his name repeatedly, wiggle her way onto his lap to get him to reengage with her.

She's been enjoying the magpie family that stops in our yard now and then and this morning while we were eating breakfast on the deck a Steller Jay got very close looking for loose peanuts.  On this trip she's seen a real wild moose for the first time, musk oxen at the musk ox farm, and various other Alaska animals at the zoo.

She's adding words to her vocabulary daily.  She's got projects she's working on - like getting across the monkey bars by herself, and riding a bike.  She wanted me to take the training wheels off the bike and worked on the bolt with the monkey wrench.  But keeping balance, pedaling fast enough, and steering without the training wheels proved much harder than she expected.

She can recognize all the letters and some words and she's learning how to write them.  When I'm doing the Sudoku in the newspaper, she wants me to do the crossword puzzle with her.  I have to figure out the word and tell her how to spell it and she tries to write the letters in the little boxes.  The letter S tends to backwards.  When I say things like, "That's great, but it is upside-down," she quickly replies, "Not if you are sitting over there."  This morning she said she couldn't make a B, so I showed her to make the line first, then one loop, then the other.  She copied what I did and made B after B after B, reveling in her new B writing skill.  In the picture it's easy to spot what I wrote and what she wrote.

She's got this whole world that she's absorbed in that overlaps with mine in many places, but the larger world of politics is definitely not part of her realm.  Lucky her.  And lucky me to have her visiting and getting to enter her world.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Chinese Nobel Prize Winner And Anchorage Judge's Opinion

I'm busy with granddaughter duties and I have a project that's going to consume me for the next several weeks that I can't blog about until it's over.  I'll try to put up some posts.  But mostly, I'm afraid, they will be brief.  But worth a look, I hope.  Here are a couple of things others have written that are worth checking out.  

From a Washington Post piece on Chinese Nobel Prize winner Liu Xiaobo
"Why are they so afraid?
Why would they keep Liu Xiaobo in his cell until his cancer was so advanced that he was near death — and then keep him from traveling abroad, where he might yet have gotten care?"
"Perhaps most perilously, the Communist Party rules over a population that no longer believes in communism. The regime’s only remaining justification is that it delivers economic growth. Yet, as the economy becomes more complex, growth becomes more and more dependent on people being free to think, read, challenge and compete. The regime is caught in this paradox — and afraid."
The article says they tell the story of China's economic development that has lifted tens of millions of people from poverty.
"The story, it’s important to note, is partly true: The regime has, in the past quarter-century, presided over steady economic growth that has brought hundreds of millions of people out of poverty and into the middle class. On its scale, it is a unique achievement in human history.
But their story is also, in many respects, false. Far from being selfless patriots, the ruling elite has grown fat off the state. They do not want Chinese people reading about their overseas bank accounts or their children attending elite foreign prep schools and universities."

From the Alaska Dispatch News, Charles Wohlforth follows up on his earlier coverage of the lawsuit by two Anchorage police officers against the department for discrimination.  Why all power - even those we want to trust - must always be questioned and not given the benefit of the doubt.  Alaskans particularly should pay attention, but it's relevant to all.
"In his decision, Pfiffner wrote, 'The citizens of Anchorage could well conclude, that (the municipality) and its lawyers were more interested in winning the lawsuit than protecting the citizens of Anchorage from sexual assault and illegal drug dealing by members of the Alaska National Guard.'
'The 'hide the ball' litigation tactics that (the municipality) employed in this case rarely work. The consequences of such action are usually not good if the dirty tricks are discovered. Richard Nixon learned that lesson the hard way in an incident known as Watergate,' he continued.
'(The municipality) has learned the same lesson in this case. Part of the lesson for (the municipality) will be an enhanced attorney's fees award to the plaintiffs,' the judge wrote. . .
He likened the litigation to World War I trench warfare, with scorched-earth tactics designed to make the other side give up."
I'd note that Judge Pfiffner was appointed to his position in 2009 by Gov. Sean Parnell.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Grit And Determination

She's only four years old, but she has a mind of her own.  And she even sets goals, though she wouldn't put it that way.  

We went to the zoo the other day, just the two of us.  The whole notion of a zoo is worth a blog post or two and I want to talk to someone at the zoo before I write that post, so this one is about my granddaughter and the monkey bars.

When we got to the zoo and looked at the map, she wanted to go to the playground.  I silently groaned, thinking we could go to the playground any time without paying to do so, but I smiled and off we went.

Then she found the monkey bars.  It turned out they were perfect for her.  Low enough that she could drop off without any harm.  And she set out to get across.  I didn't realize that at first.

She wanted me to hold her as she let go with one hand to reach for the next bar.  I did, but lightly.  My hand was really a placebo.  She waited patiently as other kids wanted to use the monkey bars too.  She would get two hands on one bar.  Then wildly let go and grab for the next bar with one hand.  Then she was stuck.

With my help she could get across.

It was crowded and I suggested we look at some animals and come back at the end.

When we got back, it wasn't so crowded.  With my hand on her back and tummy, gently, she started reaching from one bar to the next and then swinging the other hand all the way from last bar to the next one.

And then I moved away to take a picture and she managed to swing from one bar to the next to the next until her feet reached the other side.  This was what she'd wanted to do and it involved periods of hanging with a very pained look on her face before she dropped to the ground.  But she was so determined to make it happen.  She yelled and whooped when she was done.

And so yesterday, we searched for another playground that had monkey bars low enough for her to drop to the ground safely.  Our second playground, at the Midtown Cuddy Park by Loussac Library (which is closed while they rush to be ready for the reopening July 18), had what she needed.  Again, she needed my steadying hand the first couple of times.  And again there were frozen poses as she was stuck in the middle with pain on her face before dropping.  But eventually she screwed up the courage to just go.  And as painful as it was to watch as one little hand let go and struggled to reach the next bar, she was determined and she did it.

It was so exciting to see her setting a difficult goal for herself and overcoming everything to reach it.

And I think of all the little kids who aren't being nurtured and given the opportunity to explore the world and their possible roles in it.  The ones whose parents are both working full time just to pay the rent and get food on the table.  The ones who are earning a good living, but must give up family time to do that.  The ones who end up in foster care because their parents can't provide what they need.   Or whose teachers can't provide what they need.   And I think about all that society loses when we turn a potentially great human being into an angry, frustrated person.  The chart below shows that in May 2017, 3,103 kids were in some form of foster care in Alaska, up almost 100 from June of last year. (From DHSS website.)

This is less than 1%, but it's still too many, and the Department of Health and Social Services (DHSS) is overworked and can't really keep track of all these kids well.  Here's a 2012 workload study for the Office of Children's Services (OCS).  It said they needed nearly 50% more first line employees.

And here's from a June 29, 2017 KTUU story by Kyle Hopkins:
"Q: What about the number of cases per worker?
A: We’re shooting for a national average of 12 families per worker. So, if you think of a family having two children in it. That would mean that worker would be responsible for maintain records for two children as well as their parents as well as any relatives that may be involved with that case. So what we’re shooting for is the national average of 12 families per worker.
The reality is, what we’re seeing, is we have caseloads that are as high as 43 in Wasilla and can be as low as say five in Valdez.
And most cases are averaging in the 20 to 30 range in other areas of the state."