Thursday, January 31, 2008

Postponing Allen and Smith's Sentencing

[Update Sept. 5, 2010:  Someone pointed out that these links are dead.  This one seems to have both pieces still up.]

From The Anchorage Press website today:

Here's an excerpt from today's filing in Allen’s case, dated Jan. 31, 2008:

"As the court is aware, Mr. Allen has been cooperating with the government in its investigation and he continues to do so. The investigation is exceedingly complex due to a variety of issues and is ongoing. Given the substantial amount of work that remains to be done in the government's investigation, the government requests that sentencing continue to be postponed in order to give the defendant time to fully realize the benefit of his cooperation."


An accompanying story by Tony Hopfinger and Amanda Coyne reports that Anchorage Police Department spokesman Lt. Paul Honeman says they were told to call off an investigation of Bill Allen by the FBI so as not to interfere with the FBI's investigation.

"The feds said that if you go down that road, you'll compromise our investigation," Honeman said. "They said they were working an ongoing case that they couldn't tell us about."

But that conflicts with statements from the FBI. Eric Gonzales, an FBI spokesman in Anchorage, said he has heard rumors about the police investigation, but his agency knows nothing about it. "I've spoken to people here and nobody recalls us telling the police to drop an investigation," he said.
That sounds suspiciously like the kinds of denials Congress has been hearing from the Bush administration people. No one says it didn't actually happen, just that they don't recall it. How can something like telling the the APD to stop an investigation be something they 'don't recall?" The FBI and the prosecutors at the various trials last year seemed to remember every detail and now they can't recall?

The investigation itself was related to the Boehm case where the contractor was convicted of luring runaways into sex parties with crack.

I'm not sure whether there is is any fire here or not. The implication in the article seems to be that Allen was involved in more than the prosecution let on to at the Kott and Kohring trials and their attorneys should have known about it so they could have raised more questions about Allen's credibility as a witness. I'm guessing this story had a tight deadline and that explains why the story itself is not as tight as it could be.

Knowledge, he says, is the antidote to anxiety.

The name of this blog has the word "know" in it because I take particular interest in the idea and power of knowledge - not just knowledge of things, but of how we know what we know.

So, I'm always happy to see people who are clearly experts in their fields talking about the importance of 'knowing'. In a first page story in today's LA Times , Greg Krikorian writes about terrorism expert Brian Jenkins, who has worked on this topic since he was a Green Beret in VietNam and for forty years at the Rand Corporation.


In some ways, Jenkins knows too much. He is immersed routinely in risk assessments and intelligence reports brimming with the stuff of nightmares. His assessment: "We are not going to end terrorism, not in any future I see."...

He is a relaxed frequent flier, traveling more than 200,000 miles a year, much of it to terrorism conferences or briefings around the world.

And he thinks the country can cope as well.

"During the Cold War both the U.S. and Soviet Union spent a great deal of time and money understanding each other. To a great extent, that spared us from mutual annihilation," Jenkins says.

Similarly, he says, in the war on terrorism "we have to have a better understanding of what we're up against." Demonizing terrorists as "wicked and evil" plays into their hands, while learning about "their quantifiable goals and understandable motives" demystifies them.

Knowledge, he says, is the antidote to anxiety.

The challenge is complicated, however, by evolution. Terrorist methods, motives and members keep changing.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Why Did Frank Murkowski Leave the US Senate to Become Governor?

I’ve been waiting for someone to have a contest. The winner would be the person who would write the best answer to the question: Why Did Frank Murkowski Leave the US Senate to Run for Governor? I think we’d get a lot of interesting entries. But since the ADN said yesterday that Murkowski has returned to the state to get the gas pipeline going and no one seems to be holding that contest, I’m just going to have to post my answer here.



Being a US Senator is a nice job. There are only 100 of them. A lot of power concentrated in a few hands. Lots of people with money are suddenly their best friends. If you have any ego at all, you’ll find no shortage of strokers. The basic story, though this one was played out in the minor leagues, was spelled out in the testimony at the Anderson, Kott, and Kohring trials.

Being a Governor isn’t quite as cushy as being US Senator. While there are only 50 of them, they actually have to do things. They are the administrators of their states. What they do directly affects the lives of their constituents every day. Their decisions aren't hidden by 99 other deciders. And they aren’t way off in Washington where their constituents can’t see them. If they are out of state, tv announcers tell people if they are off at some tropical resort on a large corporations expense account.

No one in his right mind would leave the Senate to become a Governor.

But Senator Murkowski did just that. Why? If I recall correctly, one of his reasons was that he wanted to be back home in Alaska, near his grandchildren. (Has anyone seen him in Alaska since he left office? The ADN story yesterday says he'd been missing a year til he just showed up.)

I can’t tell you for sure. He hasn’t called me up to tell me. But after attending the Anderson, Kott, and Kohring trials last year, I’ve got a possible explanation that seems to be consistent with all the known facts. (Well, other people know a lot more of the facts than I do, but at least the ones I know.)

I think there was a careful plan. His job was to go back to Alaska and set up an Alaska natural gas pipeline deal that met the needs of the big three oil companies who don’t seem to have any interest in giving up the natural gas until they have used it to squeeze out every possible drop of profitable oil. Then, and only then, might this be of interest. So, it was with this in mind, that they talked Frank Murkowski into giving up his plush Washington DC life. So what does Frank get out of this? We don’t know what kind of promises they made him for future jobs or other sorts of payments when the various ethical statues no longer covered him. But there was one very public prize he got in his first months in office.

Lisa goes to Washington.

We know this was well thought out before he even announced he was running for governor. The oil controlled state legislature passed a bill that said, in case a US Senate seat becomes vacant, the newly elected governor, not the currently sitting governor, makes the appointment. Everyone knew the purpose was to give Murkowski the power to appoint his successor. If this hadn’t passed, retiring governor Tony Knowles would have appointed the next US Senator. But it did pass assuring that, if Murkowki won, he could appoint his daughter. If he lost, he was still in the Senate.

With a fool proof Republican majority in the state house and senate, Murkowski began closed door ‘negotiations’ with the big three oil companies for a petroleum profits tax, that was the first step toward the gas pipeline deal. The deal included a lot of sweetness for the oil companies, including a 40 year ban on any changes to the tax rate, without their having to guarantee anything. He told us he was negotiating hard to get the best deal for Alaska, except that no one but his closest staff got to sit in. So how do we know what they did behind those closed doors?

As the agreement, kept secret from the Republican legislators even, finally got to the legislature, in spring 2006, the governor kept delaying his announcement of whether he was going to run for a second term as governor. That upstart Republican controlled legislature began asking questions and the bill wasn’t sailing through. It was only at the very last minute, when his critical PPT bill was falling apart, and the deadline loomed for officially becoming a candidate, that Murkowski announced he was running for reelection. At this point, his popularity was lower than all but one other US governor, and polls had him trailing. Why oh why would any sensible politician run in that situation?

The only explanation I can think of that makes any sense is that he had a sweetheart deal with the oil companies that he was going to go back to Alaska and deliver them their tax deal and then their guaranteed “if it eventually looks ok for us, we’ll build the damn pipeline, but until we're ready you can’t harass us” pipeline deal. It should have been done by then, but it wasn’t, so he had to run again to finish the business. I don’t know what they all promised Frank. John Perkins, who wrote Confessions of an Economic Hitman, says that he (Perkins) got a do-nothing six figure job to NOT write a book about how multinational corporations operated. The limit on US Senators going to work for companies with connections to their Senatorial work would be over by then. I think he had a two year limit then after being governor. So in the meantime he could get, say, six $50,000 a pop speaking engagement a year for $200K, or the oil companies could find some friendly company that had no involvement that could hire Frank.

But it didn’t pass in the regular session. Frank had to call a special session. And it didn’t pass, the way they wanted it, in the special sessions. And there was still the pipeline deal to finish. But at least now, he would have until January to do the deed. But then the unthinkable happened. Frank lost the Republican primary. It was clear that he wouldn’t get away with the deal, even though there were rumors he was going to do it administratively. So what went wrong?

Frank couldn’t wait. He’d gotten too used to all the perks and to everyone agreeing with whatever he said. Getting Lisa her Senate seat riled a number of folks, including Republicans - some who just thought it was unseemly, others who had coveted the position themselves. Then he just couldn’t wait for his own private jet. He didn’t care what anyone thought. Then he went on to rile a bunch of people by cutting the Longevity Bonus and various other actions that left few people on his side.

Frank, I’m guessing, thought he could take all these politically unpopular actions because he knew he wasn’t going to run again. He would have delivered his part to the oil companies and then they would deliver whatever it was they had promised to him. His life would be sweet and rich. His daughter would be in the US Senate. All would be well in his world

While the oil companies worked directly with the governor, their intermediary, Bill Allen was taking care of the legislature. But they didn’t count on how obtuse Frank could be and how badly his actions would antogonize the electorate and other Republicans. And no one could have counted on a former small town mayor, a former jock and beauty queen no less, who would stand up to the party bosses and call them on their corruption. Well, maybe they could have imagined that, but they couldn’t have imagined that she would not only get away with it, but that she would rally the voters to her cause.

In the end, he couldn’t deliver. Are they going to reward him anyway? In most years, we would never know. But this year we have the FBI checking out all sorts of things, and there is a chance we might find out if my story bears any resemblance to what actually took place.

And now he's back negotiating. As who? As what? Well, clearly they must have offered him something really good and he's not going to give up that easy. Of course, there's also the possibility that he only has the state's best interests in mind and he sees Sarah screwing things up, so he's back, like Daddy, to fix the mistakes us voters (like rebellious, immature children) made by electing Sarah.

Victor Lebow Bio


I'm in the parking lot of the Fairview branch library in Santa Monica where I borrowed tons of books as a kid. I'd walk home with a pile of ten or twelve books a week or so balanced under my chin. Now I'm using their wifi since my Mom's computer is difficult (I'm not complaining, she uses email and checks my blog in her mid 80s) to load pictures on and I don't have the right connectors to hook into her modem. So, I'm doing as much as I can while I'm here. I could go in now, but they weren't open when they arrived so I started here in the car.

I've been getting lots and lots (at least for my little blog) of traffic from people looking up Victor Lebow. I earlier posted the complete article that his most famous quote (that has gotten lots of play on the internet) came from. So, before I left Anchorage I asked the Interlibrary loan folks if they could get me the beginning of Lebow's Free Enterpirse: The Opium of the American People so I could see if there was more info on Lebow. Well here's the brief bio at the beginning of the book. I haven't read what they sent me yet, and if it is worthwhile, I'll post more. This was published in 1972 - 36 years ago.

Screen Writers Guild Strikers



Driving back from the eye doctor - I see him when I'm in LA. He checked - my first appointment with him was 1975 and he opened in 1974. So he squeezed me in even though I only gave him a day's notice I was coming. Well, driving back, I got off of Olympic because the traffic was so bad. Here, I'm in the left turn lane looking toward Century City.

On Pico I passed the Twentieth Century Fox (Is that still the name? The studio that sold most of its land that became then Century City if I recall right) and the Screen writers Guild Picketers.



Hungarian Dinner Birthday Party



Went to my other Mom's for her 86th birthday dinner. Unfortunately, she doesn't cook any more. But they have C who speaks Hungarian and cooks almost as well. Here are a couple pictures of dinner last night.

SeaTac Art - High Wire - Michael Fajans

The art at SeaTac International Airport (Seattle-Tacoma) has always been fun. Since so many flights out of Anchorage stop at SeaTac on the way to somewhere else, I’ve gotten to see it often. The video shows one I’ve always enjoyed, though I’m not sure why it’s titled High Wire. It’s in Terminal B.




[Update: June 29, 2009 - From a 2004 paper on Michael Fajans:

Similarly, Fajans most well-known mural, High Wire, uses a repeated image to evoke a core concept embodied by the space it inhabits. Displayed along Concourse D of the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, High Wire is a one-hundred-eighty foot long explication of a vaudeville magic act that uses multiple appearances and manipulations of a large, decorated box by a magician and his assistant to celebrate our disappearances and reappearances during plane flight. Fajans could very easily use his mastery of representational technique to churn out pop visual quips or variations on the surrealistic still life, but he has never shown any interest in manipulating objective reality in this way. His career-long preoccupation has been with humanity and human character made accessible through carefully painted facial expressions and gestures with complementary extensions and backgrounds, sometimes involving very carefully
and realistically painted objects, other times employing the techniques of minimalist abstraction.

Though he does not paint portraits per se, he almost always paints people, and the figural paintings he has created over the years involving one, two or more figures record a remarkable collection of objects as well: a crushed and smoldering cigarette, a zebra-striped vinyl purse strap, a map laid out on the hood of a car, sunglasses, a bathing suit, an inflatable plastic headrest or, quite richly, an extensive catalogue of beautifully realized and recognizable fabrics and hair style.


And here's more from a Seattle Post Intelligencer 2006 article about High Wire.

He died in a motorcycle accident at age 58 in 2006 in Seattle.]


There was another great little exhibit - about 15 pictures of Ranier Valley immigrants. The photos were compelling as were the short biographies. Here are a couple. The exhibit shows how immigrants add so much richness to our culture and why it's a good thing the Assembly voted Tuesday against having the police intimidating people who might possibly be illegal immigrants

































But, Anchorage’s airport has free wifi, but in SeaTac if you aren’t already part of ATT you have to pay. So this will wait til I get to LA.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Good Discussion on Immigration - Justice Talking

Justice Talking had a pretty extensive discussion of laws requiring that police check immigration status of people who might be illegal immigrants when making routine traffic stops.


Overview (from the site)

The issue of immigration has been a flashpoint in the Presidential debates. Border fences, identification for illegal immigrants, and other reforms have all been debated. And Mitt Romney has been in the hot seat because some say he didn't act fast enough when he found out illegal persons were cutting his grass. All of these issues raise important questions about U.S. immigration policies, particularly the current crack-down on hiring illegal workers. What happens to workers caught working without papers? Join us for this edition of Justice Talking for a look at our nation's work rules and what they mean for illegal immigrants.


The link shows you who all was in the discussions and there's a link to the show. Given that Assemblyperson Bauer is trying to get this back on the agenda, I'd suggest Anchorage folks listen to this.

I really don't understand what drives people on an issue like this. An interesting point made - that is relevant to Anchorage - is that the purpose is overcome laws that prevent police from checking. At the hearing the Assembly had, the police chief, as I recall, said there was nothing to prevent police from checking, but they should be forced to check.

Listen for yourself. There's a Windows Player link and an MP3 download link.

Monday, January 28, 2008

To L.A.


Sitting at the Anchorage Airport on my way to visit my mom before we head off to Thailand. After waiting longer than we expected, I've been matched with an NGO in Northern Thailand- we spoke on the phone Sunday evening (AK Time). So, to catch my other mom's 80something birthday tomorrow, I'm headed down in an hour or so. Security was empty, the TSA folks were friendly and there's not too many people here at 11:30 pm on a Monday night. Will stop in Seattle on the way back for several hours to have dinner with my daughter at the end of the week.

Spent much of the day getting my tickets, getting J's ticket to Thailand, and digitizing old slides so I can leave a DVD of late 60's pictures with my old school in Thailand. Got a little exercise biking over to the University library.

So Brock, if you read this, email me and maybe we can get together.

Can't believe I'm posting such a lame post. Oh well, better add a picture.

Savoy Family Cajun Band - Anchorage Folk Festival



We got to catch the end of the Anchorage Folk Festival and hear the Savoy Family Cajun Band. This free, two weekend festival of music, held at the Wendy Williamson - the same venue as Revelation Now a couple weeks ago, and the Sierra Leone Allstar Refugee Band last year - has been happening close to 20 years now. Lots of great music.

Here's a peek.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

"Resisting ~ it's the thing I'm absolutely worst at."

One of the blogs I visit is run by a heroin addict whose subtitle reads:

HAMSTERS & HEROIN: Not all junkies are purse-snatching grandmother-killing psychos. I'm keeping this blog to bear witness to that fact.


I think it's good to get as many view points as possible. Gledwood takes me into a world I otherwise never see. He shares favorite videos, there's lots on his hamsters, food, the book he's writing that he hopes will pay for rehab, and now and then we hear about his habit. Today's post had a mini lecture on heroin:

RESISTING. Resisting ~ it's the thing I'm absolutely worst at. Every decision, pledge and scheme; every about-turn I've made or promised to make: nothing has worked.
And it's all been down to "brown" ~ that Afghan brown crap (illustrated) that's swilling about the streets of Britain like pigs' diarrhoea.

Heroin... what is this stuff that's captured me, impaled my heart?

There are three types of street heroin in the world, from four places: Columbia, Mexico, Afghanistan and the Union of Myanmar (Burma)...


The rest, it gets more informative, is at Gledwood Vol. 2.

Polar Bear Rehap and Training

[Photo from fogonazos.blogspot.com.]

The Anchorage Daily News had a feature story today by Tom Kizzia on the Palin administration's opposition to having polar bears put on the endangered species list. Maybe we need some creative thinking here.

It appears that in Ontario, Canada they are already relocating polar bears and training them how to live off the polar ice. You can check it out here.

Let Erin and Hig Stir Your Adventure Juices

There are still people who do more than just talk about wild adventures they want to take. Phil has been reporting on the progress of Erin and Hig who also have their own blog.

They've been using non-motorized transportation (rafts, feet, skis, etc.) to get from Seattle to Anchorage. They're on their way to Umimak Island via the proposed Pebble Mine site.

Tuesday they will be at UAA to talk about their trip so far.



UAA Fine Arts Building Recital Hall

7:30 p.m. Tuesday January 29, 2008

FREE EVENT --- FREE PARKING

Join Erin and Hig as they share their experiences pack rafting, hiking and skiing from Seattle to Anchorage.

They started at Seattle?s University District in June, negotiated the BC and Alaska Inside Passages, walked and rafted the Wild Coast from Gustavus to Cordova, traversed Prince William Sound to Valdez, and hiked
and skiied from there to Palmer, packrafted down the lower Mat, Knik and Knik Arm - all without using any motorized transport!

Hear how they intend to finish their trek past Pebble Mine?s proposed site, on their way to Unimak Island.

It's always good to see people who do what everyone says is impossible.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Border Cafe

We don't know much about Iran. TV gives us the images that quickly convey "Iran" in our minds - women covered head to toe in black, people demonstrating, etc.

Movies made by local nationals is one of the best ways to get past those kinds of images. Even if they are making propaganda movies, they unconsciously show us bits and pieces of everyday life that tell us more than a year's worth of tv stories.

So getting to see Border Cafe - it also shows up as Transit Cafe - at the museum tonight was a double treat. We saw a good movie and got a bit of a vaccine against American media Iran stereotyping.

Yes, there were women with just their faces showing, there was family pressure for the widow to move into her brother-in-law's place to protect the family's reputation. But here the brother-in-law explained, cajoled, begged his foreign sister-in-law to move into the new apartment he built for her in his family compound. Meanwhile she reopens her husband's cafe near the Turkish border and creates a community of her own.

OK, eventually the restaurant gets shut down, but partly because it is so successful that it is badly hurting the other restuarants in town. The traditional male hierarchy that reinforces the brother-in-law's power isn't a good thing. Yet it wasn't that long ago that husbands had the legal right to make the decisions in the US, and women here still face a lot of discrimination. Seeing the movie puts a whole different face on life in Iran. It's not THAT different from ours - different in degree, yes, but the movie protrays an Iran that is a lot more decent and humane than are shown usually.

I also never thought about all the foreign truck drivers who carry goods into Iran everyday - Russians, Turks, Greeks, and who knows where else. Watching people who had no common language communicate was also a pleasure.

So how many of you even knew that Iran had a border with Turkey?



Louise Kennedy of the Boston Globe has a thoughtful review.


The winter twilight sky is staggeringly beautiful as it flows from a deep velvet indigo to pastel blue. This evening we had one of those great skies. You can just see a touch of it in the picture above as we were going into the museum for the movie.

To Thailand Soon ไป เมือง ไทย ใน ไม่ นาน

Working this out has taken a while. The American Jewish World Service (AJWS) had a spot for me at one NGO, but political issues ruled that out. So they worked out another one. I'm not sure how much I can blog about specifics, but I will keep blogging in general. If all works out I'll be in Chieng Mai for about 2 1/2 months. Will be helping with management activities. English level is low to non-existent I'm told, so I have to get my Thai back up to speed. Actually it was pretty serviceable last spring when we were there and I have been listening to the audio for "Thai for Advanced Readers." I need to start practicing writing again. My spelling's terrible.

Here's a page from the reader. This story is about Thais in the US.



Here's the title with a little help.



Two of the words in the title are in the title of this post. (The 'h' after the K and the T means you blow air out of your mouth when you say them. So Th is like a T sound, but T alone is the same sound but without the air coming out. A little like a D, but Thais have two different sounds. KH is like a K, K without the h is a K without the puff of air, or like the G in 'go'. So, that's why Thai, has an h, but isn't pronounced thigh.)

I was trying to find a website with the Thai alphabet. But then I found this one which looks like a great source for studying Thai.

As I keep looking for a simple Thai alphabet page with the English sounds I'm finding a lot of neat resources for learning Thai. Here's a page that shows how to write the first few consonants in the Thai alphabet.

OK, after much time exploring Thai sites, many with interesting stuff, I finally found a reasonably simple Thai alphabet with English phonetics. It has more than you need, but it's good.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Wow!!! Bridgman and Packer! Best Show I've Seen in a Loooooong Time

We went opening night. That means if you read this right away, you can still get tickets for this incredible show on Friday, Saturday, or Sunday.

Yeah, I know I don't like to see something that's been hyped as great because then I'll compare it to my high expectations. I had no idea what to expect. I didn't really read the details of the article in the paper the other day, but I just got a feeling that we should go to this. Besides, it was our anniversary. Sorry Ropi, they were in Budapest last April, so I guess you missed them.

My reactions:

Wow!!!
How'd they do that?
Damn, I feel like a hick. I didn't even know people did stuff like this.
Wow!!

You should go if you like at least three of the following:

Watching water ripples in a stream.
Magicians doing really amazing tricks.
Shadow leaves dancing on your sunlit white walls.
MC Escher.
A cello dancing with a human voice.
Surprises.
Precision.
Optical Illusions.
Hand drumming.

Wait. There is no rippling stream in the show. I'm just trying to give you a sense of this show without giving anything away.

If you took this list literally, maybe you shouldn't go see it. Or, if you can't stand stuff that is NOT:

Linear.
Predictable.
Melodic.
Clear and straightforward.


There aren't a lot of seats at the Alaska Dance Theater, which by the way was another neat surprise. I'd seen the building once and thought, hmmmm, that looks interesting, but this was the first time we've been inside. (Our daughter hasn't gone to dance lessons in many years.) Anchorage has a wonderful new venue that was just perfect for this performance. But,as I was saying. There aren't a lot of seats and they weren't all full!!!! Just because it was a snowy Thursday night is no excuse.

But if everyone there tonight tells five people (and everyone else seemed just as amazed as I was) you'll be lucky to get a seat for the next performances. Get tickets on-line at Outnorth.org
.

I don't really want to tell you more. Being surprised by what they do is part of the fun. The first piece was amazing. The next ones got progressively amazinger. Yes, despite the flesh in the ADN promo article, it's fine for kids. They'll love it.

If you must, go to the Bridgman/Packer Dance website. But it isn't nearly as good as the show.

Oh, and a tidbit about the cellist/voice guy, Robert Een (that's two syllables). He sang in one of the temples at Ellora in India. These are a set of magical temples carved out of the rock hillside over an 800 year period. Based on what Robert told me, I think it might be the temple in this picture I took in November 2006. The acoustics were incredible. It would be - I'm running out of breathless adjectives so pick your own favorite - to hear him in there.

I'm not really a hick, and I don't get this excited easily. These guys are first class.

Creative Thinking - Rejection Letter

Here's a good example of someone NOT thinking routinely that I found at The Zohar Class.


Herbert A. Millington
Chair - Search Committee
412A Clarkson Hall
Whitson University
College Hill, MA 34109

Dear Professor Millington,

Thank you for your letter of March 16. After careful consideration, I regret to inform you that I am unable to accept your refusal to offer me an assistant professor position in your department.

This year I have been particularly fortunate in receiving an unusually large number of rejection letters. With such a varied and promising field of candidates it is impossible for me to accept all refusals.

Despite Whitson’s outstanding qualifications and previous experience in rejecting applicants, I find that your rejection does not meet my needs at this time. Therefore, I will assume the position of assistant professor in your department this August. I look forward to seeing you then.

Best of luck in rejecting future applicants.

Sincerely,

Chris L. Jensen

[Originally from here]

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Propaganda Techniques

To get a little perspective on political propaganda, check out this video. I'm guessing it is 1950's vintage. Things have gotten a lot more sophisticated.





But, it still doesn't hurt to use their checklist:
1. Recognize the technique
2. Get the facts
3. Know the purpose
4. Weigh the facts against the purpose and techniques

I found this YouTube video on a Barcelona blog that had linked to my blog.

Golf or Trees?

Yesterday on the ADN front page:

Twenty-three acres of forest would be cleared under current plans to upgrade the nine-hole golf course and surrounding areas at Russian Jack, a 320-acre park that is the largest oasis of green in East Anchorage and one of the oldest parks in the city.


Today in the ADN Community Datebook:

Plant trees for clean water, 5:45- 7:30 p.m., Russian Jack Springs Park chalet. Tammie Wilson with the Municipal Watershed Management Division will describe how to make attractive gardens that capture and filter runoff before it reaches storm water drains. Hear about Habitat for Humanity's innovative housing project where plants and new construction materials and techniques eliminate runoff. Sponsored by Anchorage TREErific. Free.(343-4288)


Does an expanded golf course at Russian Jack at the expense of 23 acres of trees make sense?

Cable Starlings, a former state amateur golf champion and president of the Anchorage chapter of First Tee," thinks it does. He's pushing golf as a way to "reach [low-income] kids how to play golf, [and also teach] social skills..." I think it is great when someone takes his sport or hobby and uses it to help others in his community. But one also has to consider what the community has to pay for this and who in the community loses from the effort.

The problem I see here is that Cable has started out with 'golf' rather than starting out with kids. If we are really trying to help kids, especially low-income kids, to develop life skills, we would start with a study of programs that have been successful doing that.

We should also consider, given that developers constantly tell us that Anchorage is 'land scarce', how many kids can we serve per square foot? If we use that measure, I bet there are a lot of other projects that would serve a lot more kids with a lot less land with equal or better outcomes. We should also consider serving these kids for as many months per year as possible. Golf is certainly not a year round activity in Anchorage.

If one were suspicious, one might wonder whether the kids are an excuse to get the city to upgrade Russian Jack so it can be accredited by the US Golf Association. (The article says "One of the requirements [of First Tee] is a course accredited by the U.S. Golf Association, which Russian Jack is not.) The Alaska Railroad used commuter service to Matsu and Girdwood by 2005 as part of their justification for the Bill Sheffield Railroad Depot whose trains still only serves cruise passengers. I have no reason to believe Cable isn't truly interested in programs for kids. And he likes golf. But is this plan the best way to help those kids?

And, then there are the environmental issues that they are talking about at Russian Jack tonight.


The United States Golf Association does ongoing studies on the effect of pesticides and fertilizers on surface runoff and groundwater contamination:




Environmental Impact of Golf



In response to public concerns about the effects of golf courses on the environment, the USGA has funded research examining the fate of turfgrass pesticides and fertilizers since 1991. The USGA continues to support scientifically based investigations on the environmental impact of golf courses. The focus remains on research to understand the effects of turfgrass pest management and fertilization on water quality and the environment.

Research on best management practices evaluates pesticide and fertilizer programs for golf courses in order to make turfgrass management recommendations that protect environmental quality. The research is conducted on university experiment stations and participating golf courses. Projects evaluate pesticides or nutrients that pose an environmental risk, and identify cultural practice systems that minimize volatilization, surface runoff, and groundwater contamination.


The US Air Force Center for Engineering and the Environment Golf is optimistic about golf and the environment:

"Golf has come nearly full circle in its relationship with the environment. The game began as an ecologically benign pursuit. In the second half of this century, golf ran roughshod over the landscape. Lately a more balanced and subtle approach has emerged with anew generation of course designers: moving less earth, preserving wetlands and shifting from the obsession of lush lawns." With the many societal responsibilities prominent in today's world, we cannot avoid the fact that we must respond to them. Conservation of water, energy, and maintenance man-hours have taken on as much importance as playability and aesthetics."

Compared to even a decade ago, today's superintendents use less water, fertilizer, pesticides, and fossil fuel than their predecessors, but without a reduction in turf quality." Good environmental management and design is the result of a multitude of factors including a thorough understanding of how these factors interrelate on a specific site in a specific locale.

"In general, golf can become part of any environment and materially affect it, and if proper planning, construction, and maintenance are done it can enhance the site." "The golf industry conveys a more cooperative sensibility towards environmentalism than it did a decade or two ago."



Other sites that discuss the impacts of golf courses:


America's 18,000 Golf Courses Are Devastating the Environment
Japan Golfcourses and Deforestation (JPGOLF Case)
United Nations Environmental Programme

Environmental Institute for Golf
discusses the Golf Course Superintendent Association of America’s Golf Course Environmental Profile Project

"typically you receive $4 for every story"

I got this email today. Obviously not from a native English speaker. Fits in the category of too good to be true (at least the $4 per story just to post it). What's the angle? Are they going to need my bank account number to pay me? Legitimate advertising? Anyone have any ideas?

Hi,my name is Tracey
I took a look at the site , and Its good what you have so far. http://whatdoino-steve.blogspot.com/
We would like to hire you to update your blog , with simple little articles,
we write the articles, you just have to post it. Its simple really.

We have added your blog site here in order to get started.

typically you recieve $4 for every story ( 2 paragrapgh) you post on
your site for us.
you an't only limited to that. You can receive up to $10 for posting a story more than 1 story is post daily,so thats good.
they are on average sometimes 10 posted daily.

Talk on stories of interests
  • travel
  • entertainment
  • news
  • music
  • biz
  • sports

How to post our story.

- log in to blogger
paste the story we give you,
hit publish
email me the url of the published story
thats it
estimates time
You are paid daily for each published story

1 mminute.

Let me know if your interested . You begin today , your paid today.
Thanks Tracey

I just googled the domain name from the email. It goes to a website with lots of hearts and flowers and romantic - but not pornographic - links. Not going to send people there for free though. :)

[9:33pm - Just saw the awful font this was in and cleaned it up so you can read it]

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Rural Sexual Abuse - Anchorage Daily News coverage v. Tony Hopfinger's Newsweek coverage

The Anchorage Daily News had a front page story today on sexual abuse in rural Alaska. It gives no context at all. If I were relatively new to Alaska, or just uninformed about rural Alaska, I might conclude, from this story, that Alaska Natives are nothing but sex abusers. We get statements, undoubtedly true, but without context, such as:

Ground zero is the Bethel region, where troopers investigated 17 percent of the cases, more than any other post in the state, TePas said.

"We have an epidemic," she said. "It's a statewide epidemic, but the epicenter, our data shows, is the Bethel region."
The early figures paint a disturbing picture of rapes and other sexual violence against adults and children in Western Alaska, where the population is largely Alaska Native and villages are often loose extensions of family.
In all the 989 cases, family members and friends sexually abuse or assault each other in more than 90 percent of the incidents, she said.

While the ADN chose to run a Tundra Drums piece which just gives statistics but no discussion of the context on today's first page, to my knowledge, they have not given any coverage to Alaska writer Tony Hopfinger's in depth Newsweek article mentioned last week by Alaskan Abroad on the multi-million dollar settlement of sexual abuse cases by the Roman Catholic Priests in the Yupik community of St. Michael. [January 23: They did run a good piece on the settlement in November by Lisa Demer.]

I can't give you a precise account of why the sexual abuse levels are so high in Western Alaska. There are probably multiple causes. Alaska Natives being inherently evil is NOT one of them. Tony's other article on Wales that I mentioned in two previous posts gives a lot of context into why a young man in that community might commit suicide. All the issues he raises in that article might help us understand what is happening in Western Alaska. Alcohol is clearly a factor. But the St. Michael's article also suggests that perhaps the church[es] helped cause some of the sexual abuse problems in these villages. In St. Michael's the abuse, according to the article, was extensive - one specific priest had about 60 victims. We know that people who were abused are more likely than others to become abusers, though, as this article from the National Criminal Justice Reference Service suggests, it is not inevitable and it is far more complex than a simple correlation.

It would be nice to see the ADN do a more careful job of reporting about rural Alaska. The Tundra Drums, according to the Alaska Newspapers, Inc website,

is an independent newspaper dedicated to being the definitive informational medium for the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta and is published weekly by Alaska Newspapers, Inc.
Its audience is in rural Alaska. They have a better understanding of the context than people in Anchorage and other places in Alaska where the ADN is read. You can't just take such an article and drop it onto the front page without some background.

It is important that the problems of rural Alaska be covered by the ADN, but raw data without context may do more harm to urban-rural understanding than no coverage at all.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Pollution of Public Discourse

Anonymous commented last November, "You seem to be infatuated with Dan Fagan." I had been wondering myself why I was spending so much time on this guy.

Pollution of Public Discourse.

What's that? Suppose some chemical seeps into the water system. You can't drink the water anymore til you take the time to clean out the whole system, if it's even possible.  Or you can drink it and sooner or later it makes you sick.

Well, when we have civic debate, theoretically, the idea is that through debate we can work out our disagreements. Say Sam makes a proposal of some sort. We should do X and these are the reasons why. Ben tries to find flaws in the argument, questions Sam on a few points. Sam responds. He explains his reasoning, pulls out his supporting facts. Ben might challenge the facts, or even the underlying assumptions. They go on until they eventually get to a point where they've worked out a way to do the thing Sam wants to do without messing up Ben's needs.

When people come to the public forum, but insult their fellow citizens, spout half truths and complete lies, don't learn the complexity of issues, they are really civic outlaws who pollute the public forum. I see Dan Fagan in this sort of role. His columns aren't a part of a discourse. They're simple ranting and raving. He's not interested in hearing what others think, he's just interested in venting. I stopped writing about his columns because they were so totally ridiculous, but a few people told me that my posts helped them see the holes in his arguments. That they just hadn't known enough to see through his misleading arguments.

When someone like Fagan makes up facts or throws out false generalizations, he pollutes the public square. Our progress to finding alternatives that we can all reasonably live with is thwarted. Instead, the public forum is cluttered with rhetorical litter - lies, falsehoods - that have to be cleaned up before we can go on. But it's not as simple as picking up trash. We have to disinfect the brains of those who have found his platitudes convenient excuses to continue being noisy and selfish civic outlaws.

Thus, Fagan's column is not some harmless set of paragraphs that shows up in the paper every Sunday. Instead it pollutes our discourse. It pisses off some because of its arrogance and bombast. It encourages others who want to believe simplistic nonsense about how people should live. Our public forum has to be unFaganed before we can have a civil discussion on how to work through the challenges facing the citizens of Anchorage.

OK, I've made some generalizations, let me give some examples from Sunday's column.
[For more detailed critiques of other Fagan columns go here. Then skip down past this post.]
Of all the lessons history teaches, none is more clear than this. When government punishes good decisions and rewards bad ones, that society is doomed to economic failure.
He just says this sort of thing all the time. How did this become the the clearest lesson history teaches us? Simply because Fagan declared it so. I've never heard this one before. Examples please? Not just the historical examples that prove government punishes good decisions, but the other lessons that history teaches us so we can compare to see if there is none more clear.
The problem with the American dream of home ownership: It's not attainable. As least not in Anchorage.
Alaska Housing Finance Corporation's 2004 Annual Report says:
Alaska’s homeownership rate reached an all-time high of 70 percent, exceeding the national rate of 68.3 percent, according to the latest U.S. Census data. Alaska’s homeownership rate was higher than the nation’s once previously, in 1997.

Harvard's diversity data site tells us that in 2000:

HOUSING OPPORTUNITIES: Home ownership rate: 2000 by Race/Ethnicity, 2000
Metro Area
Hispanic 41.9%
Non-Hispanic White 65.3%
Non-Hispanic Black 36.8%
Non-Hispanic Asian 51.3%

Definition: The share of occupied housing units that are owner occupied.
Source: U.S. Census Bureau, 2000 Census Summary File 2

We seemed to be doing pretty well nationally, and Non-Hispanics Whites aren't doing badly at all. Of course, we'd have to compare a lot of things like age, level of education, how long they've been in Anchorage, etc. to figure out what this all means. But contrary to what Fagan says, home ownership seems to be attainable to more Alaskans than in at least half the other states.
So if for the most part poverty is self-inflicted, what business does government have punishing those who make good decisions and rewarding those making bad ones?
He never made anywhere near a convincing argument that most poverty is self-inflicted, and his other idea, that property taxes is government punishing those who make good decisions is another one of his made up truisms. It's true because he says so. First, we are the government. Second, the tax payers approved of the property tax rate. Third,
Alaska was ranked as the most tax-friendly state in the nation, with Alaskans paying 6.3 percent of their income towards taxes. [source]
and if Anchorage property taxes are somewhere in the middle, so what? It's the only tax we pay to an Alaskan entity. And many families get enough through their permanent fund dividend to pay most if not all of their property tax. Dan's solution is an 8% sales tax instead of property tax. Of course, he maybe forgot President Bush said
Consumer spending accounts for about 70 percent of our economy
so as patriotic Americans keeping the economy going we should all be out shopping. If we have to pay a sales tax, it would only be "punishing people for making good decisions." Consistency isn't one of Fagan's weaknesses.

But it's clear that there's a whole political industry creating out-and-out lies (Swiftboat type stuff) to pollute the public forum so that every truth is questioned to divert from realities that might hurt one's position. If you can't win through logic and facts, then trash your opponent to distract people's attention. Everything is about winning, truth has no role. Unless people grow up and face inconvenient truths, the US as we know it will disappear. The Dan Fagans of the world are part of this disintegration of public discourse, the backbone of democracy.


Charles Fox and Hugh Miller suggested some conditions for participation in a public discourse. The participants should all possess the following:
  • Sincerity - authentic discourse requires trust between participants that they are being honest and truly wish to find a solution.
Fagan's outrageous statements - both made up homilies and nasty tirades - mean there is absolutely no sincerity in his participation in public discourse. His is a one way rant.

  • Focus on specific issue - not simply ideological posturing without reference to some specific situation.
Well, he touches down momentarily on an issue, like property taxes, but then goes off on his ideological tirades that have no link to the world most of us live in.

  • Willing attention - Sincerely interested in the problem, willing to do the work necessary to get through the issues seriously, including listening attentively to what others say.
Well, he may be interested in the issue - getting rid of property tax - but he's not willing to listen to someone who would reframe the issue into "How do we fund the services the market can't provide nearly as well as government can?" He's a one track bulldog, he grabs his target and won't let go. No matter how reasonable anyone else is.

  • Substantive Contribution - having a unique point of view, specific expertise, or something that helps the discussion move along - even just the ability to express the concerns of a class of people.
The only column I read of his that had a substantive contribution was one about Vic Kohring, because he added his own personal knowledge of Vic's interactions. Otherwise, there is nothing but ill will that Dan contributes.

Basically, Fagan is about winning, not about learning.

That's why I've written so much. To point out the nonsense for those who've watched so much tv that they have trouble thinking critically, but aren't so far gone that they can't see the path toward reason when someone points it out. I don't claim to know all the answers, but I do have a sense of logic and consistency and I know how to look up facts.

Bohemian Waxwings return to the Mountain Ash

The waxwings live through winter harvesting mountain ash berries and similar fruit stored on trees around Anchorage. Swarms of up to 100 or more birds perch on the telephone lines or giant cottonwood. Then small groups swoop down into the tree an pick at the berries. Then fly back as another group takes over. Later, with berries all over the snow below, they return to get what's left.

The video is a compromise between what's reasonable for normal people, and all the video I actually captured for the hard core bird freaks. Well, it's only 3:25 minutes altogether. So view as much as you can take. Catherine and Dianne, enjoy. The slow motion is for you.




The quality is much worse than the original. It's hard because our windows look south, into the light. But the birds are right there. But I'll eventually learn the technical necessities of getting better quality onto the web. This was January 5, 2008. I would have loved to get the natural sounds of the birds, but I was inside and there were in the house noises, so I added the Chinese flute music.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Under 30 at Out North

Under 30 means the piece has to be under 30 minutes. We've gone to a number of these in the past and this set of four pieces was by far the most polished we've seen. For very different, very striking short pieces. B. Hutton's time machine was center stage for the first piece as he explored various aspects of time. Great sounds, including the two violins on stage.

Gabrielle Barnett's riff slid from cliche to cliche spoofing (at least that's what I got out of it) those with simplistic answers to life's complex issues from the environmental/eco crowd to those who invoke Jesus for everything.

These first two are not for those who like concrete linear action.

Allison Warden and Wendy Withrow were much more straight forward. Allison was various arctic players from a polar bear to different villagers as she interpreted different stories about polar bears from her hometown of Kaktovik. In the background on a large screen we saw images of ice and polar bears.

Wendy talked and sang us through her college years 1965-69 in a Christian girls college in Texas.

One test of good theater for me is when you forget there are actors on stage. In each of these the character was real, completely into their parts. B.'s was probably the most abstract, but I like that sort of play of music and sounds and ideas that doesn't necessarily have a beginning or end, and whose meaning isn't obvious.

Good stuff. One more performance as I understanding - Sunday afternoon at Out North (kitty corner from Costco on Bragaw). And in the Q&A at the end, they said they would do this again in Homer late February.

Thailand Teacher of the Year - Somprasong Mang-ana


Old Peace Corps buddy Jim Lehman sent me to Wednesday's Bangkok Post to this story on four Thai teachers who were honored on Teachers' Day as the Thai Teachers of the Year. One of them, Somprasong Mang-ana, was my student when I was a Peace Corps volunteer in Thailand in the late 1960s. We got to visit his school for a few days last March. I certainly was impressed and I'm delighted to see that more important people than me were also impressed. Here's a link to the five posts I have labeled Umphang. There are pictures of the school in the last three posts. From the Bangkok Post article:


Awards given to mark Teachers Day today

SIRIKUL BUNNAG

The Education Ministry has honoured four teachers for their teaching spirit and devotion to their work to mark Teachers Day today. The four are Somprasong Mang-ana, director of Umphang Witthayakhom school in Tak; Pol Sgt-Maj Sophon Ritthisarn, a teacher at Wat Chonglarp school in Ratchaburi; Banchong Sombat, a teacher at Nong Rua Witthaya school in Khon Kaen; and Suleela Chanthanu, director of Ban Samnak in Ranong.

Mr Somprasong has been praised for his campaign to provide education opportunities for marginalised children in Tak while Pol Sgt Maj Sophon developed a remote school into a quality one. . .

Mr Somprasong said he chose to work at Umphang Witthaya school in the remote district of Umphang on the Thai-Burmese border because he was determined to help tribal and marginalised children get access to basic education.

''When I first took up my job at the school, there were 398 students and only seven were tribal or stateless pupils,'' said Mr Somprasong.

''I thought those children deserved an education, so I decided to travel to remote villages to persuade parents to send their children to study at my school, which offers free education.

''Now, our school has a total of 845 students, of whom 284 are stateless hilltribe children.''

He donates his 5,600-baht monthly academic entitlement allowance to cover the expenses of poor students. . . .

Kasama Voravan na Ayudhaya, secretary-general of the Basic Education Commission, said the four teachers would each be granted a certificate of honour, a golden plaque, a golden pin and a 300,000 baht cash from Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont on Teachers Day today.

Congratulations to New US Citizens!


Friday morning we went downtown to the Alaska Lands Information Center in the old Federal Building to see our fellow blogger become a US citizen. Go over and congratulate him.



The ceremony was in the auditorium, but first we gathered in the Information Center, surrounded by stuffed animals. I had to think about why I thought this was different from the two bears at the Hilton. I asked one of the Park Service people here where the animals came from. A group of large ones came from a private collection that was going to be thrown away. It was donated. A taxidermist had stuffed a dead otter that had washed up on the beach. The others had been confiscated from illegal hunters. None had been commissioned or paid for. They were there to help Alaskans and visitors become more aware of the wildlife in the state. He said some places - like Denali - have artificial sculpted models. I saw those in Denali, they just aren't the same. He said they were necessary there because they don't heat the visitor center in the winter and the stuffed animals would burst in the cold.

I have to say that while watching the new citizens was wonderful, the ceremony itself was tired. The opening film was full of the Ellis Island cliche pictures of immigrants of the early 20th Century. Where were the faces of immigrants getting off of jets, the immigrants of today? Most of the government officials who spoke seemed like they were the ones who got stuck with this duty. The guy from the National Archives talked about what you could see in the Archives in Washington DC.





Yes, it's interesting, but hardly a top priority for these new Alaskan Americans. He should have left it with the register of the first new citizens in Anchorage in 1916 - beginning with a Dane. The Park Service could have had some slides to go along with the talk on Alaska's magnificent National Parks. The logistics were clumsy. The oath a little stilted. Why are we making an older woman in a wheelchair from a war torn country swear that she "will bear arms on behalf of the United States when required by law?"

The George W. Bush videotape was the most sincere and uplifting greeting of all.

Nevertheless, it was the kind of thing Americans should see once in a while. And I suspect the government officials aren't given much time to prepare for this event or resources to do it better. But we really should make this much warmer, better organized, and congratulatory. The last time I went to one of these at the Federal Court it was much better done.


The Oath of Citizenship

I hereby declare, on oath, that I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen; that I will support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I will bear arms on behalf of the United States when required by law; that I will perform noncombatant service in the Armed Forces of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform work of national importance under civilian direction when required by the law; and that I take this obligation freely without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; so help me God. In acknowledgement whereof I have hereunto affixed my signature.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Yippee It's Friday

KSKA went on the air in 1978. One of the Anchorage traditions that I've enjoyed, is hearing Bede Trantina's Friday morning, 9am greeting, "Yippee, it's Friday." It's hidden in there between other announcements. The KSKA website says

Trantina was hired as KSKA’s Morning Edition host in 1980 and “Yippee, it’s Friday” became part of her weekly greeting within a few months of getting up at 4:00 a.m. to sign on.


Default-tiny Yippee, It's Friday recorded by AKRaven
[I thought this got posted this morning as I was leaving, and just found it "Your request could not be processed. Please try again. Sorry.]

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Rockin Dentist



I was going to be late if I walked, so I grabbed the bike. Part of the bike walk had been covered by the snow plowed off the street. Now, I think riding your bike on the road in the winter is more than tempting fate, but I did two blocks when the traffic thinned out and found the guy with the plow for the sidewalks. The rest of the short trip was easy. And mine wasn't the only bike in the Prov parking lot.



I didn't know I wasn't going to see my dentist. They usually ask and I always say I want to see Mark. They did ask about the hygienist, but not the dentist. Well as Tom worked on my teeth he told me about a great little concert he heard at Girdwood over the weekend. He's a closet guitarist and all was fine. But he hasn't been able to improve the inhouse music in the office. Without the staff, the dentists can't do much, and when it comes to what station is on in the office, the staff rule.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Conflict of Interest - California Supreme Court Judges' Portfolios Deny Citizen Justice

From and AP story in yesterday's Anchorage Daily News


For years, Braxton Berkley was exposed to chemicals while helping build top-secret military planes at Lockheed Martin's storied Skunk Works plant. He says those chemicals made him ill - but his case reached a dead end at the state's highest court.

The California Supreme Court has refused to hear his appeal not on legal merits, but because four of the seven justices cited a conflict of interest because they controlled stock in oil companies that provided some of the solvents at issue in the case.
Conflicts of interest are natural. They occur when our personal obligations conflict with our public or professional obligations. They aren't inherently bad. They are potentially unavoidable. People's public and private lives sometimes, unforeseeably come into conflict. But people whose personal interests and obligations are going to frequently and significantly interfere with their ability to perform their public duties, simply shouldn't run for office.

The California Supreme Court is an example of personal obligations not only conflicting, but totally thwarting what they are there to do. Mr. Braxton's right to appeal has been denied, because the court members have conflicts of interest. Not all cases get accepted by the Supreme Court. But if this case was otherwise accepted and is now rejected because of the conflict of interest, then this is completely unacceptable. Their portfolios are more important than their duty to provide justice.

The article says:

It's common for at least one justice to bow out of a case because of a financial or personal conflict. California Chief Justice Ron George, for instance, recuses himself from cases handled by the prominent law firm where his son practices. In those situations, an appellate judge is temporarily appointed to the Supreme Court to hear that case.

George said the remaining justices decided to dismiss the case because they were concerned that a Supreme Court ruling made with a majority of temporary justices wouldn't hold the same weight as an opinion of the permanent court.

Maybe it would be a better decision. And what happens to Mr. Braxton is also important.

Other options include selling the offending stock or resigning from the bench and postponing the case until there are enough new justices without such conflicts. I realize that is may sound extreme, but overall, we've become much too forgiving to public office holders' needs to make money outside of their offices.

Regular readers of this blog know I usually attempt to lay out as many of the cards as I can and just let the reader make her own opinion. And I can give lots of reasons why there might be good people kept out of office by the various restrictions and disclosure requirements. And I think we should pay our elected officials enough so they don't have to go looking for outside payments. But overall, people whose work or whose fortunes are going to create conflict after conflict simply shouldn't run for office. The work got done before these justices were on the California Supreme court and it will get done when they leave. They aren't indispensable.

Overall, I think it is a great embarrassment that these justices felt it was ok to dismiss Mr. Braxton's case because, well, you know, too many of us have a conflict of interest. You know, it happens. Well it shouldn't.

OK, I shouldn't get quite so righteous from reading one article which may have left out some crucial information. But this is a sore point for me - officials who think they are so important and so indispensable that we should make allowances so that on the side they can make lots of money. On the other hand, I don't see anything wrong with public officials juggling with the schedule to attend significant events in their families.

Backyard Snow Dragon







with thanks to:

www.xtremesled.com/newtemplate/catalog/images
http://www.freewebs.com/doragon15/snake%20eyes.jpg

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Jury Got Filled Without Me



I caught the 7:19 bus (well it came at 7:29) and got to court with 15 minutes to spare.






Here's the jury waiting room. It got packed. The 12 jurors called today for Judge Volland were told at 9 that we could have a break til 10. So I went out and walked in the snow.



There were ice sculptures in the town square.





I stopped in the Hilton to warm up a bit and shake off the snow. I know this guy must be tremendously proud of shooting these bears. And I'm sure some biologist could make an argument about it being ok with the balance of nature. But personally I don't understand why he thinks killing this bear and having it stuffed is a great thing.


Well, sure, I remember the thrill of proving my power by breaking windows and other destructive acts, but I got over that when I was nine or ten. I understand it more when they actually eat what they kill. And I'm sure there's a hunting gene or two that helped humans survive when we had to hunt. But I can't help but think its a sign of arrested moral development when grown men spend tens of thousands of dollars to kill magnificent wild animals for trophies. Do you think he has a trophy wife too? (The sign is in the lower left corner of the bear case)






We had to wait until 12:15 before they told us we could go. But the twelve of us (minus one or two who weren't there) were pretty much the only ones left in the waiting room. And this clock. While being on the jury would have been interesting, this wasn't the right time for a three work trial as we're getting ready to head out for Thailand. So I was glad they were able to fill the jury without even calling us into court.




Well, the next bus wasn't for 30 minutes. I figured I could walk home in an hour, so off I went to the bike trail.





I saw a robin several times around the house last winter, but it is always a little strange to see them here in January. The second one was a little camera shy. It is a Robin, right Catherine? It isn't some bird I never heard of is it?


















Well, I didn't quite make it home in an hour. An old friend, PM, skied past me and then looped back and we talked for nearly half an hour.

[double click on a picture to enlarge it]

Frank Prewitt's Book Deal - Bridges to Nowhere

[Update: September 13, 2008. The book is out and I've reviewed it here.]

Someone tipped me off to this, but I forgot to ask permission to use a name. I'll add it later if it's ok.

Makes Prewitt sound like this great public servant doing all this work for the FBI as a great citizen protecting the public interest. It doesn't mention they came to him because of his shady reputation and that there was some sort of plea agreement involved. Doesn't mention the: [from my second post on these trials this summer]

$30,000 loan Prewitt, while Commissioner of Corrections, got from Allvest another firm that subcontracted with the Department of Corrections (I think that's what he said.) Prewitt said he got the loan and paid it back. Stockler: Is there anything in writing? Isn't it true it was a bribe? No. How did you pay it back? I worked for Allvest for four months - $7500 per month. Did you pay taxes on the $30,000? No, it was a loan. But you say you worked for it. No, I was paying him back. So, all of us could avoid paying income taxes by having our employer loan us our pay before, and then we'd repay it by working and not have to pay taxes?


Nor does it mention that he asked to be paid for all the work he was doing for the FBI, but they turned him down. Was getting to write a book in lieu of pay?


Bridges to Nowhere
Nov. 11, 2007

Author:
James "Frank" Prewitt

Category:
Non-fiction: History/Politics/Current Affairs

Description:
As you are reading this, one of the biggest cases of political corruption in U.S. history is unfolding – reaching from Alaska to the United States Congress in Washington, DC. At issue is the high stakes game of taxing and developing a natural gas pipeline from Alaska to the Midwestern United States – and the spin-off, toxic culture of political waste.

BRIDGES TO NOWHERE is written by the confidential source the FBI relied on to help uncover an intricate web of bribery, money laundering and criminal conspiracy – with more indictments of major political figures expected soon. The story begins in 2004, when the author finds himself a “person of interest” to a federal investigation. To clear his name, the author agrees to “cooperate” in exchange for leniency over crimes the federal government knew he didn't commit – but could have, if their theory had been correct.

As CS-1 (Confidential Source One), the author teams with FBI Special Agent Kepner to expose a sobering and far-reaching network of political corruption. Wired for light and sound, CS-1 embarks on an incredible journey into the world of undercover surveillance and the corrupting influence of money, corporate power and politics.

While the events invite serious reflection about our system of government, the actual conspiracies unfold more like a season of Desperate Housewives Go to Washington…political intrigue and provocative crime in a delicious wrap of irreverence.

Senator Ted Stevens (Senate Appropriations Chair, President of Senate Pro Tempore) and Congressman Don Young (Resources and Transportation Chair, and 7th ranking member of the House of Representatives) play a pivotal role in this saga. Young, alone, has spent over $400,000 in attorney fees from his campaign funds preparing for the inevitable shoe of indictment to drop. Early '08 promises a season of indictments and scandal in Washington.

BRIDGES TO NOWHERE is based on thousands of hours of interviews with “perps” and “persons of interest”, off and on-the-record conversations with agents and attorneys of the Department of Justice, confidential records, transcripts of secret recordings and first hand accounts. Incredibly, every person, every event, every dialogue is real.

The author, James “Frank” Prewitt has a law degree from Seattle University School of Law. He is a 34 year resident of Alaska, and has served as the Commissioner of the Alaska Department of Corrections, adjunct professor of Justice at the University of Alaska, Director of the Alaska Psychiatric Institute and an Alaska Assistant Attorney General. He currently has a Government Affairs consulting practice. In addition to working undercover investigations as a Confidential Source, Prewitt provided indispensable strategic consultation to the U.S. Department of Justice on the behind-the-scenes world of contemporary politics and the legislative process.


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Contact:
Diane Nine
Nine Speakers, Inc.
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phone: 202-328-6861

Item number:
5094


[Source: PublishersMarketplace]