Saturday, June 30, 2012

Photography Is Not A Crime - Blogging, The First Amendment, And Your Camera

Even at this relatively mild blog, I've been threatened with law suits twice, and I was accused on a local talk show of killing someone with a post that didn't even mention the guy and which was much more factual and restrained than the talk show host. 

So I have an interest in people who blog about first amendment rights for bloggers and  for photographers - especially those who are keeping public officials honest.  It began with a Reason post I stumbled on which gave three rules for how to photograph a cop from Carlos Miller:
Get it on video. Police think twice when dealing with video, as opposed to a still camera. If your camera has video capabilities, start rolling. If you have a smart phone, use a live stream service like Qik that stores the video online immediately. Inform the officer that the video is live streaming and people are already watching it online.
Assert your rights. Police also think twice when dealing with people who know their rights. Inform the officers that they need a subpoena before confiscating your camera, even if they demand it “as evidence.” Police can confiscate your camera only if it was used in the commission of a crime, such as child pornography.
Just leave. Ask the officers if you are being detained or are free to leave. If they are detaining you, they must have reasonable suspicion you are committing a crime. Taking pictures or video in public is not reasonable suspicion. If they are not detaining you, then you are free to leave—with your camera.
 This led me to Miller's blog - Photography is Not a Crime - which is full of stories about people having problems when they photograph or video tape cops in action or just in public places.  Here are links to some of his recent posts:

[UPDATE July 30, 2013:  I've updated the link to Photography is Not a Crime above.  I've removed the links below, but if you go to the link above, you'll find lots of examples like these.]
This last one is about a West Point grad who served in Iraq who was arrested.

My short visit to his blog does suggest that Miller tends to take the side of the photographer and while I'm sure there are photographers who provoke police, I'd guess more often than not, police are simply irritated and taking advantage of their power.  In any case,  it is useful to be aware what kind of trouble your camera (or smartphone) can get you into and know your rights before something happens.

That led to looking for other blogs focused on blogging, photography, and the first amendment. - the most recent post I could find was August 2011, but there are interesting stories by " San Antonio photojournalist and law student Alicia Wagner Calzada"

The Radio, Television, Digital, News Association  Website - has Ethics Guidelines for Social Media and Blogging 

The National Photographers and Photojournalist Association - has articles on rights of photojournalists

For the most part there are articles and posts on this topic on blogs and websites that deal with a wider range of topics.  Here are a few:

Chicago police arresting photographers 

DOJ affirms right to photograph police

PATCO:  Photographers are probably not terrorists

Caught on camera:  Lancashire police arrest amateur photographer

All dressed up and nothing to do except arrest photographers


[UPDATE JULY 30, 2013:  See also this video an encounter with a Swedish police officer for a contrast.]

Friday, June 29, 2012

Affordable Care Act - Victory - And Media Framing

Fox News:  The ruling is a victory for the president
New York Times:  In a striking victory for President Obama

Michael Moore on Democracy Now: "This really is a huge victory for our side, in spite of all of my concerns with this law,"

CNN:  Thursday's narrow 5-4 ruling was a victory for Obama,
There's lots to speculate about the Supreme Court's ruling on the Affordable Care Act. Too much.  So I'll just focus here on the media reaction, particularly all those who have framed it in terms of zero-sum games, in terms of winning and losing. 

Game Theory (in brief)
Zero-sum games are those where [the outcome is a fixed amount]  there can only be one winner and one loser.  What I gain, you lose and vice versa.  If there are five slices of pie, the more I eat, you fewer you can eat.  Classic zero-sum games are, in fact, games, like chess or basketball or boxing where there is one winner and one loser.  If we think only in terms of winning and losing though, only about the immediate outcome, we fail to see that these are really, in the larger context, variable sum games.

Variable-sum games are ones where the outcomes can vary, they can be larger or smaller depending on how the players play the game.  For example, in the pie example, if two people fight over the pie, instead of having five pieces between them, the pie pan could crash and smear the pie all over the floor and fill it with glass leaving no edible pieces.  (I've discussed game theory in previous posts - here's one with more detail.)

And a boxing match may have a winner who is given $1 million and a loser who gets $100,000.  That may be the win-lose part, but beyond that the loser may get valuable publicity, even a book deal, or he may get serious brain damage, or all three.  The important game to follow in most situations is bigger than who won and who lost.  It's about all the side effects of the game that ripple into many areas. 

Focusing on victories, on winners and losers, takes our attention off the broader consequences.  Sure, some people's lives will be improved by ACA and others possibly harmed, but let's get our facts right about this and acknowledge it's not zero-sum.  And sure, the health care bill could be much better.  But the Republican insistence on 'market based'  solutions to everything has blocked many options and is another example of either/or thinking, that ignores market failures - such as tens of millions without access to health care - that require government intervention.   Treating everything as black or white, as you're either for us or against us, or you're a good American or a traitor, blurs all the gray in between. 

We see this in the conservatives who have turned on Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts for what they see as his betrayal.   They made the Affordable Care Act into a loyalty test.  If you are for it, you're the enemy, if you are against it, you are an ally.  Until you fail the next test.

And the media, by focusing on this idea of winning and losing, play into this way of seeing the world.  Life is not a zero sum game.  The economies of nations can have many outcomes from the bleak world of North Korea to the bustle of Brazil.  We can have everyone poor, we can have many poor and a few rich, we can have many relatively well off with a few poor and a few rich, and many other combinations.  We can have health care where millions of people cannot get care.  We can have a system that distributes care based on wealth,  or based on the number of years of life a procedure will save, or based on corruption and connections.  It's a variable sum game.  And we must get past simplicities, like, "poor people are poor because they are lazy."  It may be true for some, but there are lots of other explanations, including how society is structured, and why, for example,  baseball players can make tens of millions of dollars and teachers can only make tens of thousands of dollars. 

Not all the media focused on the winner/loser meme.  And the President himself recognized the problem with framing the decision as a victory for Obama.  
President Obama:  I know there will be a lot of discussion about the politics of all of this - who won and who lost. That discussion completely misses the point.  Whatever the politics, today's decision was a victory for people all over this country, whose lives will be more secure because of this law and the Supreme Court's decision to uphold it.
But he's still talking in terms of victory.

Court Questions

There are lots of other issues in this decision to parse out.  What does it mean about the court?  Earl Warren, a Republican Chief Justice appointed by a Republican president got his court to vote unanimously in their landmark 1954 Brown v Board of Education decision to end school segregation.  Was Roberts thinking about Warren in this decision?  Was Roberts unable to get a unanimous decision or didn't he try?  Was he worried about the reputation of the court as partisan so he found a way to support ACA?  Or did he think that this was unquestionably constitutional?  Or did this simply fit his pro-big business bias?   Was he trading this one for a negative vote on a future important case?  Say gay marriage?  Or more power for business?  Are there hidden precedents embedded in this decision that he can use to forward his Federalist Society values in future cases?  We don't know what he was thinking and probably won't for quite a while if ever.

Health Care Questions
There are questions about how to get better health care for Americans.  About the cost of health care and the affect of ACA on the US budget deficit.  And how this will affect the election.  The Republicans during the primaries were worried that the creator of the Massachusetts health program wouldn't be the strongest candidate against Obama.  Will Romney's obvious shift from being a supporter of universal health care with a mandate in Massachusetts to a harsh opponent of Obama's very similar plan be credible?

Media Questions
And there are questions about the media's rush to be the first to announce the Court's decision that led to Fox and CNN incorrectly reporting the outcome.  Ironically, HBO's new program The Newsroom's first episode which was broadcast Sunday and posted online, included a newsroom debate over how to report the just beginning to unravel story about a BP oil well explosion in the Gulf of Mexico. 

The media, of course, will argue that the market demands digestible soundbites, brevity, simplicity, so they need to use understood story lines like winners and losers.  Israelis and Palestinians have been caught in a zero sum game for decades now.  Is that what is ahead of us as Republicans* force Democrats into a zero sum game over the future of the US?  Or can we step back and and see our common interests and get off this road to destruction and back onto the road toward more justice, more peace, more cooperation, more prosperity for more people?

So, while the media felt compelled to dissect this decision before they even read it, it seems to me that we'll be figuring out all the implications for a long time.

*I think there's plenty of evidence of Republicans stonewalling everything Obama, epitomized with the Republican Senate minority leader's declaration that their top priority was to prevent Obama from getting a second term.  Anything that might put Democrats in a favorable light, they opposed.  Democratic animosity exists, but not nearly at the same the level.

The Hot Club of Nunaka's Gypsy Jazz

The Hot Club of Nunaka played gypsy jazz Thursday night at Out North's Black Box Theater.   This is part of the Anchorage Music Co-op, one of the many arts groups incubating over at Out North.

Derek Christianson, Karl Pasch,             Eric Rogers,              Nathan Levine,   Carter Bancroft

We enjoyed chronological tour starting in the 1920's and I thought about how much of what happens in a community is invisible to the people just passing through the neighborhood. (Though a door was open a bit so maybe some of the music drifted out.)

I also thought about the Klez-X, the klezmer group we heard in San Francisco in January.  One can't help but hear the connection between the gypsy and klez music.  The key thing missing last night was the accordion.  And Klez-X were all incredible musicians.  The kind that make performing music look easy.  Nunaka reminded me how hard it really is.  Although they were really good nearly all the time, there were points where, to my untrained ear, it didn't quite make it.  This is just a local group that I assume plays after work.  But they are so good, I want them to have some impresario take them under his wings and polish them up the few places they need it.

It's much easier to give a sense of the night by just playing the music, than talking about it, so here's a brief video sampler from the concert. Because of where I was sitting, Carter Bancroft was cut off for most of the video.  But at the end the person blocking my view left and you can see him on the right in the last clip.  And think about this like listening to a concert over the phone.  The sound on my tiny Canon Powershot is pretty good, but it can't do justice to music.

You can hear more, better quality samples at Hot Club of Nunaka's website.

By the way, Nunaka Valley is an Anchorage neighborhood with, generally, moderately priced houses, and not a place one would associate with hot gypsy music.  A band joke, I would assume.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Is America The Greatest Nation? The Newsroom's Response

HBO has posted the complete first episode of its new show The Newsroom.

It starts at a dreary Crossfire type debate at Northwestern College [University].  Newsman Will McAvoy (Jeff Daniels) is avoiding giving straight answers. 

A student named Jenny asks:

Can you say in one sentence or less, you know what I mean, why America is the greatest country in the world?

Will avoids a serious answer, but the moderator pushes.  A woman in the audience has a sign that says:  “It’s not.  But it can be better.”

Pushed by the professor who is moderating - “I want a human moment from you” - Will’s dam bursts:
It’s not the greatest country in the world, professor, that’s my answer. . .

. . . You know why people don’t like liberals, cause they lose.  If liberals are so fucking smart, how come they lose so god damned always? 
And with a straight face, you’re going to tell students that America is so star spangled awesome that we’re the only ones that have freedom?

Then he gives a list of statistics where the US is lower than many other countries. 
7th in literacy. . .  27th in math . . 22nd in science . . .   We lead the world in only three categories:  number of incarcerated citizens per capita, number of adults who believe angels are real, and  defense spending where we spend more than the next 25 countries combined. . .

. . . So when you ask what makes America the greatest country in the world, I don’t know what the fuck you’re talking about.  Yosemite?

But then he gets positive.

We sure used to be. . . and gives a long list of things we used to do.

OK. this is a scripted speech, and the rankings on these scales depend on how the factor is defined and measured.  Information Clearing House, for example,  also attacked the question of America’s greatness ranking back in 2005, but it says we’re 49th in literacy and 28th out of 40 countries in mathematical literacy.

But the basic premise, that we aren’t the greatest, is important for Americans to hear.   Too many Americans believe the myth of our being the greatest country like alcoholics believe they can stop drinking any time.  The first step in recovery is getting past denial.  Until we recognize there are many ways to be great and we don’t monopolize them all, we’ll continue to slide, just as Rome did, as Spain did, as Great Britain did, to name a few former greatest countries in the world.   

And his nostalgia for the past leaves out slavery and segregation and killing off of our indigenous population, the denial of rights for women, American imperialism around the world, and a lot of other nasty stuff. 

But the episode is a promising start for a new series brought to us by the people who gave us the Sopranos, Six Feet Under,  and The Wire.

You can see the whole episode here. 

Thanks to Gryphen at Immoral Minority for posting this video.

I'd also note that while 'America' is a common abbreviation for the United States of America, its use slights the rest of the people who live in the Western Hemisphere in North, Central, and South America.

"Women I almost slept with"

I left Fischer's Under the Frog in LA, not intentionally, but I'd already prepared this post because  I love how he writes, the wit, the words, the sly understatement, the original imagery. (Maybe it's not original for Hungarians, but it is for me.) 

His themes are universal stories of humans and their individual and collective foibles and problems.  In this case with the background of Hungary under the Nazis and then the Communists.

 Gyuri is having trouble with women.
He had met Zsuzsa a fortnight before the camp.  She represented a change of tactic for Gyuri.  He had been pursuing a number of attractive women, who far from considering docking had recoiled from his greetings as if his hello were a wielded knife.  'Communism and celibacy, that's too much,' Gyuri had moaned.  Rather like an injured player seeking a fixture in the division below to repair his pride, Gyuri had met Zsuzsa at a dance.  Gangs of hormones, supported by a sense of desperation, had unearthed beauty from an unpromising surface.  Even though they had only met three times, Gyuri had been unpacking the equipment, setting up the furnishings of affection and a good part of his time in Trabánya was spent contemplating the ransacking of her fleshy treasure.  (p. 121)

But when he visits her apartment unannounced, there's a young AVO (Hungary's hated secret police) officer visiting her.  After the AVO man has left, Gyuri tries to explain to her how terrible it was to entertain an AVO man.
The other great disappointment he suffered that evening was the realization that Zsuzsa was heavily involved with stupidity.  Her occupation (florist) should have warned him but Zsuzsa, although she inhabited Hungary, didn't seem to live there.  She didn't understand what was going on, she hadn't noticed what was going on and couldn't grasp what Gyuri was saying.  Gyuri also noticed that her nose was looking too large that evening but on the other hand he couldn't help being envious of her total lack of contact with 1950.  She had an airtight insulation of dimness.  (p. 122)
(Seems I know some of her relatives today.)  But his story telling gets better.
This was going to be, he sensed, another fine addition to his collection of failures.  He could see the title of his autobiography:  Women I almost slept with.  Not Kissing and telling.  '1950 was a good year, I almost slept with four women:  a heroic production increase, under strict Marxist-Leninist principles, from 1949, when I almost slept with two women.'
. . .Gyuri took his leave and reflected deeply on the absurdity of living in a country more than half full of women (demography being on his side since the erasure of the Hungarian Second Army in 1944) and being unable to transact some romantic commerce.  Standing in the tram, with the passengers packed as tightly as cigarettes in a carton, centuplets in the oblong womb of the tram, even with the back of three other citizens coupling with him, Gyuri felt sappingly alone.  Crushed, but lonely.  How do you find people you can talk to?  There should be  a shop.  And once you've found people you can talk to, how do you hang on to them? (p. 122)
Universal questions.  So all this keeps Gyuri from sleeping.
Mental eructations* growled up clearly from the cerebral digestion  It was three o'clock in the morning, the hour favoured by the back-seat drivers in his  cranium for interrupting his sleep.  Whatever was bothering him would be thrust up, and although he couldn't name the issue, a strong discontent was emanating from his cerebral colon. (p. 124)
*I had to look up eructations.  It's apter when you know it means 'the act of belching' .
 Switching on the light, Gyuri referred to his watch.  Three minutes after three.  Why was it when he wanted to wake up with punctuality he couldn't but the seething rage inside always popped out at its self-appointed seething hour and why was it that when he wanted to feel awakened in the mornings he could never feel as fresh as he did now? 
I think we've all been there, but not as eloquently.  He still hasn't fallen asleep when there's a knocking at the door.  It's four plainclothes AVO who take him to headquarters.  He's still being cheeky when they can't find his name on the list.  He's looking at the young AVO officer.
Gyuri studied him and thought:  if only I hadn't been born with moral vertebrae, with intelligence, with dignity, I could be sitting there comfortably. (p. 126)
Of course, this is a burning question today - why are some able to do humanity's dirty work while others' moral vertebrae prevent them from doing evil's bidding? 

Here's the previous post on Under the Frog.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Redistricting Board Gets Preclearance From DOJ

The Alaska Redistricting Board announced today that it received preclearance from the the Department of Justice for the Amended Proclamation Plan: 

Anchorage, Alaska - The Alaska Redistricting Board announced today that its Amended Proclamation Plan has received "preclearance" from the U.S. Department of Justice.

A copy of the preclearance letter is available for download here

Alaska Redistricting Board Chairman John Torgerson issued the following statement this afternoon:  
"Now that the Amended Proclamation Plan has been approved by both the Alaska Supreme Court and the U.S. Department of Justice, the 2012 elections can move forward without interruption. This is an important milestone for the Board and for the state of Alaska. We have worked hard to balance the multiple competing legal standards in building a plan that will fairly represent all Alaskans. Today's decision validates those efforts."

Under Section 5 of the federal Voting Rights Act, a number of states - including Alaska - are required to submit new redistricting plans to the U.S. Department of Justice for review in order to ensure that the proposed change is free from discriminatory purpose or effect and will not result in retrogression. An Alaska redistricting plan is retrogressive if it is drawn in a manner that worsens Alaska Native voting strength as compared to the previous district configurations.   

 Detailed information about the Section 5 review process can be accessed at

This means that the Department of Justice did not find the plan to be retrogressive - or to give Alaska Natives less of a chance of electing candidates of their choice than the last plan established ten years ago.  Alaska needs the preclearance before its plan can be implemented.  Since the Amended Plan is relatively close to the original plan that was rejected by the Alaska Supreme Court for other reasons, the preclearance was expected, but not certain. 

However, the letter from Assistant Attorney General Thomas E. Perez does say lack of objections by the Attorney General "does not bar subsequent litigation."

This Amended Plan was approved by the Alaska Supreme Court for the August 2012 primary and the November election.  But it was accepted by the Supreme Court because the Board said there wasn't enough time to create a new plan the way the Court required in time for the election.  So it would appear that the Board either has to come up with another plan that gets Supreme Court and DOJ approval - for the rest of the decade.  Or, they have to convince the Supreme Court to let them permanently adopt the Amended Plan. 

Alaska's DMV Director, Whitney Brewster, To Head Texas DMV

Brewster in Juneau March 2010
From a Texas Department of Motor Vehicles News Item:

TxDMV Board Selects Whitney Brewster as New Executive Director
On June 27, 2012, the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles (TxDMV) Board announced the selection of Whitney Brewster as the agency’s new executive director.
Brewster currently serves as the director of Alaska’s Division of Motor Vehicles and has led the agency for the past five years. Previously she directed Alaska’s Division of Elections, was deputy chief of staff for the lieutenant governor and worked for the Alaska State Legislature.
“Following a very thorough search process and careful consideration, we believe that Whitney Brewster is the best person to lead this agency into the future,” said TxDMV Board Chairman Victor Vandergriff. “Whitney is a visionary who can effectively guide us toward our strategic goals of being performance driven, customer focused and dedicated to delivering optimized and innovative services to Texans.”
The complete item is here.

Whitney was a student of mine at UAA, is very capable, and this is a big loss for Alaska. Whitney, I wish you well.

I'd been getting a lot of hits today from Texas to this old post that mentioned Whitney which led me to poking around on google. 

Night to Day - LAX to ANC

Leaving from the Lower 48 in the summer at night flying north to Anchorage always gives that bizarre experience of flying from dark to light as it gets later at night.

We left LAX at 8:55pm.

Leaving LAX 8:55pm Pacific Daylight Time (PDT)

Still light to NW - 9:01 PDT

12:25 am PDT (11:25 Alaska DT)

Looking North 12:26 am PDT (11:26 ADT)
Over clouds 1:01 am PDT (12:01 am ADT)

Over the Chugach Range 12:34 am ADT

Approaching ANC at 12:47am ADT

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Waxing or Waning?

The crescent moon in the western sky looked like a backward C.  So, was it moving toward fullness or newness?

Taking the picture with my little camera is tricky.  I played around, but mostly I kept getting too much light and so you couldn't see the crescent.

I finally got it by setting it on automatic, night.

So, is it waxing or waning?

There are lots of websites that answer that question, but most of them are pretty complicated.  Or maybe this one (below) made sense because I'd seen so many already.  This is from eudesign:

"When Coming (or rriving), it is really departing.
Departing ), it is really coming."
Another way of telling is this:
L-E-FT hand curve = D-E-CREASING.
R-I-GHT hand curve = -I-NCREASING.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Would You Convict A Man Who Beat Up His Abuser?

The LA Times  has a story by Maria L. LaGanga in Thursday's (June 21, 2012) edition about a man on trial for tracking down and beating the priest who raped him (when he was seven) and his four year old brother then made him perform incest on his brother.  The article reports that the Deputy District Attorney Vickie Gemetti showed a larger than life picture of the beaten priest and told the jury that William Lynch (now 45) beat him. 
"The defendant planned and executed the violent attack against the man who molested him 30 years ago,"  she continued, saying Lynch acted as a vigilante.  And revenge, Gemetti said, "is not a defense, ever, to a criminal act."
Knowing that the other side had powerful evidence of its own, she showed
. . .a nine-minute video of Lynch describing for the San Jose Mercury News how Lindner had raped and strangled him and forced him to commit incest as the priest watched.
Then she told the jury that the evidence in the trial "will show that he molested the defendant all those years ago."
In addition, Gemetti said, Lindner [the priest] "will probably lie to you" and say the abuse never happened.  But Lynch is the one on trial, she said, and "the evidence in this case will establish the defendant beat this man. It will be undeniable."
 I'm a firm believer in rule of law.  Having the community at large bring someone to justice has lots working in its favor.  It substitutes the emotionally distraught victims with people who can more objectively determine the guilt of suspects.  It also moves the punishment to the more neutral government which is upholding the rule of law and away from family, shutting off never ending feuds and chains of revenge.  But there are many situations where the justice system has fallen down, even in the United States, from unpunished lynchings to DNA proven wrong convictions. That said, what happens when the rule of law doesn't work?

That appears to be the case here.  The two Lynch boys kept quiet (the priest had threatened to do terrible things if they told anyone) until they were in their 20s when the younger brother told his parents and the boys brought a civil suit against Lindner to get him out of the classroom.
The case was settled for $625,000, and Lindner was removed from Loyola High School in Los Angeles, where he had been teaching.  The church never informed law enforcement about the allegations. 
The statute of limitations is up for the 67 year old Lindner.

What exactly did Lynch do?
Witnesses testified during the preliminary hearing that Lynch had punched and kicked the elderly priest, yelling:  "You ruined my life.  Turn yourself in.  You molested me."
(67 Elderly?    Elderly is a state of mind and health, not an age thing, but that's a different post.)

I found myself writing ex-priest, but I looked through the article to see if he is an 'ex.'  He's called Father Lindner in the story and it says he was assaulted in his Jesuit retirement home. 

No one (except the the priest) seems to be disputing the molestation or the later beating.  The only dispute seems to be whether this was revenge or whether Lynch, who, the article says, has "suffered from depression and alcohol abuse and twice attempted suicide," simply "needed to confront Father Lindner about what he'd done."

OK, so if you were on the jury, given this much information - and at trial there is always more - how would you vote?  Guilty or Not Guilty?  You can read the whole article here before making your decision.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

From AA to Yoga at Venice Beach

Ran down to Venice Beach this morning.  Blue,  blue sky.  Not too warm.  Took off my running shoes and socks and went down to the water.  Modest surf, nice kelp.

On the beach there was a large crowd for the Sunday morning AA Meeting.  (I know AA is anonymous, so I took the picture from far away and I don't think anyone could be identified.  The resolution is low enough that blowing it up won't help.)

And a little further down the beach was Brad's Yoga.

And then I got off the sand.  Put my shoes back on and ran back. 

Alaska Airlines Sneaking Milk Runs Into Their Seattle-LA Options

Inside Q400
We took my mom home from Seattle yesterday.  I have to say, it didn't quite register when I made the reservation and it said it stopped in Santa Rosa.  I was looking at departure time and price.

We've been flying between Anchorage and LA for over 30 years now and the Seattle - LA flight has almost always been non-stop.  A few times there was a stop in Portland.  But now it seems Alaska Airlines is listing a bunch of their local flights (via Horizon Air) as Seattle-LA flights among the options.  We flew in a little Q-400.  But it took 4 hours from Seattle to LA (including 30 minutes in Santa Rosa.)  It will only take 5 1/2 hours to fly to Anchorage non-stop from LA Tuesday. 

I've been on small planes like this for short trips - like Chicago to Cleveland - but this was a long time to be on a small plane.  And when we landed in Santa Rosa we were tipping and bouncing a lot as we got close to the ground, but we landed ok, with just one bounce.

[UPDATE 5:30pm Alaska Time:  On Alaska's behalf, they would say, I'm sure, they are giving people more options.  After all, you could get a flight from Anchorage to Juneau that stops in Cordova and Yakutat.  But those are on 737s and they don't increase the flying time so much.  Yes, I could have thought this through a little more before booking the flight, but it was such a change from what I'm used to that I didn't think about it.  This post is simply a warning to others to pay more attention than I did.]

Saturday, June 23, 2012

". . . the idea that injection is safe rests on science that has not kept pace with reality, and on oversight that doesn't always work."

Externalities are the costs of production that are not reflected in the price of goods because they are passed off by the manufacturer to the community as a whole.  The most common example is pollution.   Milton Friedman, in his classic Capitalism and Freedom called them Neighborhood Effects.  Neighborhood effects, he said, were one of capitalism's failures and a reason for government regulation.   But many of today's capitalists acknowledge no failures and see all regulation as bad.  These aren't really market capitalists, it would appear, rather they are capitalists whose philosophy is based on a need for personal wealth and power, not how economics works.

Here's an example why from Propublica:
No company would be allowed to pour such dangerous chemicals into the rivers or onto the soil. But until recently, scientists and environmental officials have assumed that deep layers of rock beneath the earth would safely entomb the waste for millennia.
There are growing signs they were mistaken.

Records from disparate corners of the United States show that wells drilled to bury this waste deep beneath the ground have repeatedly leaked, sending dangerous chemicals and waste gurgling to the surface or, on occasion, seeping into shallow aquifers that store a significant portion of the nation's drinking water.

In 2010, contaminants from such a well bubbled up in a west Los Angeles dog park. Within the past three years, similar fountains of oil and gas drilling waste have appeared in Oklahoma and Louisiana. In South Florida, 20 of the nation's most stringently regulated disposal wells failed in the early 1990s, releasing partly treated sewage into aquifers that may one day be needed to supply Miami's drinking water.

There are more than 680,000 underground waste and injection wells nationwide, more than 150,000 of which shoot industrial fluids thousands of feet below the surface. Scientists and federal regulators acknowledge they do not know how many of the sites are leaking.

Federal officials and many geologists insist that the risks posed by all this dumping are minimal. Accidents are uncommon, they say, and groundwater reserves - from which most Americans get their drinking water - remain safe and far exceed any plausible threat posed by injecting toxic chemicals into the ground.

But in interviews, several key experts acknowledged that the idea that injection is safe rests on science that has not kept pace with reality, and on oversight that doesn't always work.
 The whole Propublica piece is here.

Short term profit for long term health problems of human beings. 

Friday, June 22, 2012

Stunning Beauties In The Volunteer Park Conservatory

It's been a rainy day in Seattle, but I got to spend it with all the people in our immediate family line - my mother, wife, son, and daughter - plus a few other newish family members.  And we spent some of our time at the Volunteer Park Conservatory.   We got there pretty close to closing time so I didn't get enough names to go with the flowers.  So just sit back and enjoy nature's spectacular imagination.

Look at the face on this orchid.

Bromiliad  Flower

This one goes by Cryptanhus Fosterianus 'Elaine'.

Another Bromiliad Flower Up Close

White Passion Flower

Cerebral Chewing Gum

On page 3 of Under the Frog,  Tibor Fischer writes, 
"The streetsweeper was a sort of cerebral chewing gum that Gyuri popped in on long journeys." 
Cerebral chewing gum.  A little more substantial than eye candy.  Gyuri was on the train, chewing on the benefits of being a streetsweeper, a job that seemed possible, anywhere, and

"wouldn't need an examination in Marxism-Leninism, you wouldn't have to look at pictures of Kákosi or whoever had superbriganded their way to the top lately.  You wouldn't have to hear about gamboling production figures, going up by leaps and bounds, higher even than the Plan had predicted because the power of Socialist production had been underestimated.  Being a streetsweeper would be quite agreeable, Gyuri reflected.  You'd be out in the open, doing healthy work, seeing things.  It was the very humility of this fantasy, its frugality that gave the greatest pleasure, since Gyuri hoped this could facilitate its coming to pass.  It wasn't as if he were pestering Providence for a millionaireship or to be handed the presidency of the United States.  How could anyone refuse a request to be a streetsweeper? 

This book, which the author bio and everything I can find online says,  was shortlisted for the Booker Prize in 1992, is full of such cerebral chewing gum.  Images that are startlingly fresh and potent, as Fischer follows Gyuri (also with the surname Fischer), a Hungarian basketball player through the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s.

One of the more endearing characters is the Jesuit Ladányi who was a former champion of eating contests.  He talks to the 19 year old Gyuri about his belief that it was time to leave Hungary (1949.)
"'Not at all.  Firstly, as I'm sure you know, it's not easy to get out any more, and secondly, and I should point out this is not an idea patented by the church, matter doesn't matter.  It's not physical conditions that count, but your opinion of them.  Take the farmer in the small village in the middle of China who is the happiest man in the world because he has two pigs and no one else in the village has got one.  Living isn't like basketball, it's not a question of points, but what's here.'  Gyuri saw Ladányi touch his forehead with his forefinger.  'You only lose if you give up - and if you give up you deserve to lose.  In basketball, you can be beaten.  Otherwise you can only be beaten if you agree to it.  You're lucky, you're very lucky.  We're living in testing circumstances;  unless you're very dull, you should want to be stretched.'" (pp. 76-7)
Of course, this paragraph neatly espouses a belief of this blog - what matters is how your head interprets the 'facts' your senses send it.  And that constantly being stretched is a good thing.  So, savor the fact that we live now in testing circumstances. 

The originality, and occasional oddness, of Fischer's prose caused me to look to see who the translator had been.  None was mentioned.  In the bio I discovered that Fischer is British.  Online I discovered he'd been born to two Hungarian basketball players,  who'd only come to England three years earlier.

There was a torn piece of paper in the book on which was written, "This is Carol's book, return it to her. M"   So, Carol, as soon as I'm done, it will be yours again. Thanks.

Here's a follow up post - Women I Almost Slept With.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Ansel Adams Manzanar Photos at Bainbridge Island Historical Museum

Ansel Adams photo at Bainbridge Island Historical Museum

 We stopped at the Bainbridge Island Historical Museum because I saw poster saying there was an exhibit of Ansel Adams photographs of Manzanar - one of the internment camps for West Coast Japanese Americans during WW II.  My first awareness of the these camps came in the 6th grade when I moved to a new school and there was a Japanese girl in my class who had been born in a camp.

All the pictures originally were in a book published in 1944.  Copies of a newer addition were on sale in the museum.

A poster on the wall explains that Adams, living in Yosemite in WW II, was visited by an old friend, the director of Manzanar, who invited Adams to come photograph the camp.   Then:

You can read Ansel Adam's book, Born Free and Equal online from the Library of Congress.  Page five has the 14th Amendment to the Constitution.  Then this statement follows:
. . . . As a nation we began by declaring that “all men are created equal.”  We now practically read it “all men are created equal except Negroes.”  When the Know-Nothings get control, it will read “all men are created equal, except Negroes and foreigners and Catholics.”  When it comes to this, I shall prefer emigrating to some country where they make no pretense of loving liberty. . . . where despotism can be taken pure, and without the base allow of hypocrisy.
Watching the Video
Pretty strong statement, but the references to the Know-Nothings means this probably isn't Ansel Adams writing.  Turns out it was written in a 1855 letter from Abraham Lincoln to John Speed.  

We watched a 15 minute (or so) video about Manzanar.  There are a number of videos on Manzanar online, but I couldn't find the one we saw.  I chose this one because it connected the events of WW II with today.  It's the story of Muslim-Americans visiting Manzanar in 2008 and learning about what happened from Japanese-Americans who had been interned there.  Some of the footage was in the film we saw. 

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Two Married Kids Now

On a beautiful sunny day, with cranes and eagles and geese and Mt. Ranier in the background my daughter got married.  It's a momentous day and it was good to have our family together, including my mom. 

"Religious-economic idealism is the belief that the free-market works because God is guiding it"

Paul Froese, in a Religion and Politics article, "How Your View of God Shapes Your View of the Economy" argues that the thesis of Thomas Frank's book, What’s the Matter with Kansas? is false.
Frank championed the narrative that working-class Americans vote against their economic interests, having been lured into the GOP tent largely with what he sees as insincere religious rhetoric. “The people at the top know what they have to do to stay there,” writes Frank, “and in a pinch they can easily overlook the sweaty piety of the new Republican masses, the social conservatives who raise their voices in praise of Jesus but cast their votes for Caesar.”
Instead, Froese, writes that there is no dichotomy between the economic and cultural interests of many Republicans.
 " . . . approximately 31 percent of Americans, many of whom are white evangelical men, believe that God is steering the United States economy, thus fusing their religious and economic interests. These individuals believe in what I call an “Authoritative God.” An Authoritative God is thought to be actively engaged in daily activities and historical outcomes. For those with an Authoritative God, value concerns are synonymous with economic concerns because God has a guiding hand in both. Around two-thirds of believers in an Authoritative God conjoin their theology with free-market economics, creating a new religious-economic idealism. Nearly one-fifth of American voters hold this viewpoint, signaling that it can be a major political force.

Religious-economic idealism is the belief that the free-market works because God is guiding it. (Its adherents are, of course, not your typical laissez-faire, Ayn Rand devotees.) The popularity of this ideology explains two supposed paradoxes. First, it indicates why some religious working-class Americans have embraced the GOP. It is not that these individuals ignore their class interests, but rather that they believe issues of abortion and gay marriage are linked to whether God is willing to help solve both social ills and their economic woes.

Second, the fact that income does not predict whether an American believes in an Authoritative God indicates that this is not a class-based ideology. Instead, it is a cosmic worldview, which appeals across economic divides. Most clearly, it benefits the wealthy because conservative economic policies tend to favor them. But wealthy Americans with an Authoritative God can also have a religious-like devotion to their economic conservatism. In this way, their economic pragmatism transforms into a type of religious dogmatism. And dogmatism does not bend to changing circumstances and outcomes, so that we can expect believers in religious-economic idealism to cling to laissez-faire policies even when they appear not to work.

It's an interesting explanation worth thinking about.  Thanks to J1 for the link. Here's Froese's whole article.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Another Anchorage-Seattle Flight

We flew to Seattle Monday.  Wednesday my baby gets married.  It's a very small family event.  But I'm supposed to keep family matters to a minimum here, so let's leave it at that.  There was rare thunder Sunday night and the big clouds were still hanging around when we left, but it was sunny and warm (pushing 70˚F). 

 There was a recent issue in Anchorage about the airport wanting to swap part of the coastal trail for some other land.  But from up here across the inlet, you can see how much land the airport already takes.  It's that gray blob in the center right.  It would be interesting to figure out how many times downtown or the university are would fit inside the airport land. 

For a few minutes clouds blocked the Chugach, then it was just snowy peaks and puffy clouds.  That's Turnagain Arm in the upper left.

The non-snowy land is Girdwood valley, again with Turnagain Arm in the background.

This is the east end of Prince William Sound, Whittier is at the end of the lower arm, if I had my bearings right.   And soon enough it was mostly cloudy and read and snoozed.

There were breaks in the clouds and here we're crossing back into the US from Canada. 

Seattle was covered in thick clouds.

Monday, June 18, 2012

William Cruz Wants You To Vote

William Cruz, in the video below, says he set a goal to register 100 new voters.  Since we did the video last Friday, he says he's gotten six so far.

This is a democracy, and William and I agree on the point that voting is important.  If you don't vote, you've given up.  Many argue that there are no good choices.  I would argue that when we are down to two candidates, there's generally a better and worse candidate.  But I'll acknowledge that the current system sets up all candidates to be in debt to the people who fund their campaigns.   And so they are required to be polite and responsive to those who pay.  And to spend an obscene amount of time raising money instead of legislating or governing.  The Citizens United case is making money even more important.

But the fact of the matter is that a democracy doesn't work if people aren't involved.  Our last Municipal election, 65% of eligible voters didn't vote.

Say there's a storm coming and your house might get flooded.  You can get things out or move them upstairs.  You can put up sandbags.  It won't be easy. You can work your tail off attempting to save your house or you can just give it up and say it's impossible.

Giving up on democracy is a pretty radical concession. But we are facing a flood.  The current Supreme Court has made some critical decisions, starting with Bush v. Gore and including Citizens United. If the next Supreme Court justice is of the same ideology as the Citizens United majority, our chances at saving Democracy get even slimmer.*  If we keep electing enough people who vote to protect the 1%, life in the US is going to get grittier and grittier for the other 99%.

If the candidates aren't any good, then it behooves people to make sure good candidates run.  Voting is important, but we also have to get good candidates on the ballot and help make sure they get elected.  We simply have no choice but to be involved unless we just give over our governments (the various local, state, and the federal governments) to those with deep, deep pockets.   Our job is a lot easier than it was for individuals to fight the Nazis or to help slaves escape from the South or to demand change in Egypt*.  It involves investing time and money in good candidates.

We aren't risking our lives. Or even giving up much of what we have. At least not yet. OK, that's my soapbox for today.  Here's William's story.  The last minute or two is in Spanish.

 I should disclose that William took two classes from me a six or seven years ago and that he did invite me to do this video. We did a couple of questions more than once and I picked what I thought would best tell his story.

*OK, I know that these statements sound fairly absolute but I recognize that the scourge of many right wing politicians - the ACLU - was on the winning side of Citizens United, so it's more complicated.  The idea of corporate personhood is not something the court created.  The change in Egypt is not necessarily going to be for the better.  So, I'm letting you know that I know down here.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

How Do You Know?

I've been reading Jeffrey L. Buller's The Essential College Professor, as I'm thinking about this mentoring program for new faculty.  I thought I'd pass on some ideas from the chapter on Assessing Student Learning. This is probably the hardest and most time consuming (if done well) activity of teaching.  While for some this is well known, I'm sure there are those for whom this is new or needs refreshing.

Buller points out that you have to know what your learning goals are for the students before you can assess them.  And as part of this discussion he identifies different ways people have described 'knowing.'

Column 1Bloom’s Taxonomy of Learning and Knowing Processes (1956)
  • Knowledge
  • Comprehension
  • Application
  • Analysis
  • Synthesis
  • Evaluation

Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences (1983)
  • Musical
  • Bodily-Kinesthetic
  • Logical-mathematical intelligence
  • Linguistic intelligence
  • Spatial intelligence
  • Interpersonal intelligence
  • Intrapersonal intelligence
  • PLUS (2003)
  • Naturalist intelligence
  • Spiritual intelligence
Anderson and Krathwohl’s Respose to Bloom (2001)
6 Cognitive processes
  • Remembering:  Recognizing, recalling, and retrieving relevant knowledge from long-term memory
  • Understanding
  • Applying
  • Analyzing
  • Evaluating
  • Creating
4 Kinds of knowledge
  • Factual knowledge
  • Conceptual
  • Procedural
  • Metacognitive

The links will give you more information on each model.
Fink’s Taxonomy of Significant Learning
  • Foundational Knowledge.  Understanding and remembering:
    • information
    • ideas
  • Application.  Utilizing
    • skills
    • thinking  - critical, creative, practical
    • managing projects
  • Integration.  Connecting:
    • ideas
    • people
    • realms of life
  • Human dimension.  Learning about:
    • oneself
    • others
  • Caring.  Developing new:
    • feelings
    • Interests
    • values
  • Learning how to learn by:
    • becoming a better student
    • inquiring about a subject
    • improving as a self-directed learner

It's useful to recognize that there are different ways of 'knowing' and different kinds of intelligence. Mostly college grades focus on logical-mathematical intelligence, but as Gardner points out, there are other kinds of intelligence that are important.

The chapter doesn't really tell us how to apply these models to construct class goals and to assess student work except in the most general way.  It does highlight an important thought on teaching:
Truly effective instruction is not measured by how much college professors teach, but by how much college students learn.

That ought to be posted above every college professor's desk. 

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Blooming in the Yard

Don't be fooled. Our yard looks much nicer here. where I can focus where you look, than it does in real life

Himalayan Blue Poppy

Chocolate Lilies

This one is new this year and I can't find the tag that tells me what it is, but I like it.


 I tried to find where I posted this once before and a reader identified it.  But I couldn't.  Anyone know?

The flax are about dime sized and they come up each year on delicate stems that sway in the gentlest breeze and make it hard to capture in the camera.

Daisy and friend

Phlox (not to be confused with the flax above)

I also filtered some of last year's compost to get rid of the bigger twigs and roots and added this to the top soil I put into the side of the garage where I added that insulation last fall.