Saturday, February 28, 2015

Each Candle Represented 31 Years

We had a quiet birthday dinner with my mom last night.  Three candles.  And the food she asked for.  Calf's liver smothered in onions, roasted potatoes, and green peas.  Food she had as a child and thus I had as a child. Dessert was a pflaumen Kuche made by her friend.  We also got to skype with her grandchildren and great-grandchildren.  A good birthday. 

I've enhanced the birthday cake a bit with photoshop.  Pflaume = plums.

Friday, February 27, 2015

TSA Guy Wasn't Happy About Possible Homeland Security Budget Failure

As Congress appears close to at least temporarily approving the Homeland Security budget, I am reminded of a conversation I had last week as we were leaving Anchorage.

As I was gathering my stuff from the security conveyor belt in the airport in Anchorage, one of the TSA workers was complaining, in an irritated tone, about the possibility of Congress not passing the Homeland Security budget.  When I asked him his key concerns he said they'd have to work without pay.  I asked why not just stay home?  It's part of our contract that we have to come to work, even if we aren't getting paid.  (I couldn't find the contract* on line and the AFGE hasn't returned my call.)

Last time the government shut down, he said, when they finally got paid - they missed a pay period - the amount was so much that a much larger chunk than normal was taken out for the IRS withholding.  For folks making under $40,000 a year, missing a paycheck and getting a smaller paycheck because of deductions is a big deal.

When members of congress want to make symbolic points, they don't always consider the many impacts those gestures have on real people.

*Finding a copy of the contract is proving a little difficult.  There are lots of articles about it eing signed, but so far no links to the contract itself.  The union AFGE talks about highlights, but I still haven't found a link to the contract.

        Ensures performance-rating payouts are based on a consistent assessment system.

        Guarantees we have safety standards and equipment that help protect you from risks like chemical exposure and extreme temperatures.

        Successfully expanded the parking subsidy program at participating airports
        Nearly doubled your TSA uniform allowance from $232.00 to $446.00 a year.

        Granted officers permission to wear jackets at the checkpoint and shorts in hot weather

        Stops TSA from denying leave without an appropriate reason or as a form of discipline.

        Allows TSA supervisors to excuse tardiness for up to 30 minutes.

        Creates rules for shift bids and a shift trade policy that all airports must follow.

        Learn more about what's in your Union contract

 The learn more link is just as vague.  Obviously the union isn't going to tout a provision that requires employees to come to work when they aren't assured of being paid.  

Thursday, February 26, 2015

"The last frontier of absurdity" Alaska Reality Shows And The Film Subsidies

Homer writer Tom Kizzia has a long column in today's opinion section of the LA Times about reality shows filmed in Alaska.
"Here in Alaska, TV crews have been everywhere the last few years, clutching scripts for "unscripted" shows and handing out confidentiality agreements, asking us to play along. . ."
". . . So much is exaggerated or flat made up. We see acquaintances exclaim about the indoor plumbing as they shop for houses that we know aren't really for sale. We watch them cry out in mock alarm as they fall into icy rivers with dry suits hidden under their Carhartts. Bristol Bay fishermen formally protest errors on Animal Planet's 'Battle on the Bay.' Eskimos object to their portrayal on TLC's 'Escaping Alaska'.” 
Tom's a gifted writer and the story rings true for me, based on conversations I've had with people  who have tangled with film makers looking for characters.  The piece also points out that the state has been subsidizing a lot of this:
"What's strange is that this cringe-worthy montage has been subsidized by the state of Alaska. One-third or more of a production's costs can be refunded through a film incentive program launched under Palin in 2008. The idea was to attract feature films, create local jobs and publicize the state's charms. But there was a backlash — some legislators didn't like it when actor Ted Danson showed up on a film set to lecture them on the environment, while others complained about $360,000 paid to support Bristol Palin's short-lived show about being a single mom. The state responded by making everything confidential, so we don't even know how much this is costing. The state paid out $44 million up to 2013, and probably at least that much more since then. Officials say the majority has gone to TV, with 29 unscripted programs applying for subsidies last year."
As a film fan, I've tended to rationalize that of all the ways the state is subsidizing Outside businesses - starting with the oil companies and various roads proposed to remote mining sites - a little money to the film industry wasn't a big deal.

But the blogger in me also checked out other states and film subsidies and I realized this was not much different than companies playing states off against each other for various tax and other incentives to build sports stadiums and manufacturing plants.  Few people take the time to seriously compare the value of the lost state revenue to the value of the jobs.  Certainly, the $2 billion (or so) tax break the oil companies were given by ex-Governor Parnell, would have paid for a lot more jobs than the oil companies are bringing to the state.

The Center for Budget and Public Priority's page on film subsidies starts out this way:
"Like a Hollywood fantasy, claims that tax subsidies for film and TV productions — which nearly every state has adopted in recent years — are cost-effective tools of job and income creation are more fiction than fact. In the harsh light of reality, film subsidies offer little bang for the buck.
State film subsidies are costly to states and generous to movie producers. 
Today, 43 states offer them, compared to only a handful in 2002. Over the course of state fiscal year 2010 (FY2010), states committed about $1.5 billion to subsidizing film and TV production (see Appendix Table 1) — money that they otherwise could have spent on public services like education, health care, public safety, and infrastructure. The median state gives producers a subsidy worth 25 cents for every dollar of subsidized production expense. The most lucrative tax subsidies are Alaska’s and Michigan’s, 44 cents and 42 cents on the dollar, respectively. Moreover, special rules allow film companies to claim a very large credit even if they lose money— as many do."
While I'm not a fan of Sen Stolze, he's not wrong to raise questions about the film subsidies.  I'm not sure about eliminating incentives altogether.  I suspect his actions are not based on my reasons for having doubts, since I've never heard about him questioning state subsidies to, for example, the oil or construction industries. and other campaign supporters.  Maybe those film makers or the companies buying the tax deferrals from the film companies should start making more campaign contributions and start lobbying.

Maybe this piece will get more people to read Tom's great book on the Pilgrim family.  I was reluctant to read it thinking I didn't need any more about that family, but my book club chose it and I was surprised at all I didn't know about that strange family living in Kennecott.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

These Guys Are Looking For A Ride If You're Headed North From LA Along The Coast

As I passed these guys on my bike ride yesterday, I thought they made an interesting picture and probably had some good stories, so when I passed them again on my way back I stopped and asked if I could take their picture.  Shaun looked at me for a bit and finally said, tentatively, "For a dollar?"

I know journalists aren't supposed to pay for their stories, but I have trouble separating out my objective journalist self from my human being self.  No, that's not quite right.  I think I do that reasonably well.  My problem is with the idea that when I'm being a journalist, I have to stop being a human being.   They looked like they could use a lot more than a dollar, and so I said, "Sure."  I'd like to think that the human being gave them, actually, a dollar each and two for the dog, Nikolai,  and the journalist reported the story.  I know that won't cut it for 'real' journalists, but at least I'm being transparent about it and you can decide whether anything was compromised.  And the picture itself (above) didn't come out too well.  So here's one I photoshopped together using images from the video (below).

Skillet (the guy with the guitar) hails from Florida.  Crae (in the middle) is originally from Utah, and Shaun is from Northern California.  They've all been traveling around the country.  It took them two or three days to walk from Hollywood to Venice Beach.  But the guy they were looking for wasn't there.  They heard he was up the beach to the north so they were walking their way, hoping he was still there.  It was four miles from the border between Venice Beach and Santa Monica.  The weather was great - in the mid 70s - with a strong north wind in their faces. 

It wasn't quite the opportunity to get too deep into their lives and what this wandering around is like, but they clearly weren't going first class, but they seemed to be enjoying themselves.  I asked about hitching and they said it was bad in town, but going up the coast it was the way to go.  When I asked if it was ok to blog about them, they thought that was a good idea and might help them get a ride.  I didn't have the heart to tell them I'm an Alaskan blogger, but people in LA do drop by now and then.  When I said I thought it was harder to hitch today than when I was their age, they said everyone said the same thing.

When I asked Skillet about his guitar (on the video) he showed me it needs strings and a little repair work and asked if anyone watching could help, he'd sure appreciate it.  I have Shaun's email address if anyone can help Skillet with the guitar.

Here's the video.  I tried to get Shaun so the wind wouldn't be blowing into the mic on my camera.  I was moderately successful with Shaun, but not with the others.  I used iMovie's background sound reduction, but it's still pretty bad.  Sorry.

If I saw them on the side of the road, I'd certainly hesitate about picking them up.  But having talked to them, they're just three young men on an adventure.  If I had room in the car, I'd certainly stop and take them up along the road. 

I did check on the spelling of their names, so I think I've got that right, but I didn't ask about how to spell the dog's name.  Maybe they haven't ever written it down, and so maybe it doesn't matter.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Now That Pot's Legal In Alaska, How Do You Get It?

Pot's legal in Alaska as of today, but buying and selling it isn't.

So what should a law abiding Alaskan who wants to smoke some legal pot do?

I thought I'd check Craigslist to see what might be out there.   Here's what I found posted for today - February 24, 2015.

Under "events":
 2/24: First day of legal marijuana I'm packing!

Hey prohibition in the great state of Alaska has come to an end. It seems to me everybody is all about the taxes and the money side of it and no legal stores till next year...well I think smoking weeds is about a lot more than that, including low cost pain relief in comparing prescription drugs, better recreation than alcohol and less addicting, and I've never seen a violent stoner.So if you have never tried the stuff give me a shout I'd love to stop by and pack you a nice bowl to try it for the first time.Enjoy the first day of a good future for Alaska. If you are already a fan I hope you can get your own but if not reply with a good storie and I'll see what I can do.
Under "groups":

Join the Alaska Cannabis Club - gain access to Alaska's first Medical Marijuana DISPENSARY and take part in recreational and educational cannabis-themed events.

Members of the Club also gain access to the Alaska Cannabis ClubHouse - the only social environment where you are free to partake in a safe, secure space with like-minded cannabis enthusiasts (medical marijuana patients, cultivators, entrepreneurs, and consumers from all walks).

Walk - ins are welcome but priority is given to those who apply online prior to the membership drive.
Apply here:
Under "services":

marijuana grow

The property that houses my garden is being repossessed, as the owner didn't pay the mortgage. I must move my entire garden.
In exchange for the use of an appropriate structure, I will set up and operate an equal sized grow, at your expense, that is yours. I can provide your clones.
I require one larger space that I can build rooms within, or 2 seperate rooms. I harvest once a month, so would have yours on the same schedule. My yield has not been less than .76 gram per watt of light since I learned what I'm doing. It seldom drops below .9. When everything goes right, I yield 1 gram per watt of light.
If you think you might be interested, please give me a call.

And there was a Feb 16 post under services that shows the spinoff benefits of legal pot, for a cannibis friendly realtor, but he appeared to be in Denver.

I'd point out here that I'm reporting, not recommending any of these links.   I'm sure everybody in Alaska knows someone who can give them some pot. They just might not realize who those people are. 

If people have any questions about what's legal and what's not:

Historical Context Of Tanaina, Equality For Women, And Title IX

I arrived at UAA as a new faculty member in 1977 with a wife, a three year old and a six week old baby.  My wife quickly got a part time job in her technical specialty and we needed child care.  At first our daughter was in a private home where a very nice lady took care of about five babies.  But when I picked my daughter up on the third day, I told the caregiver that we would have to take our daughter out.  The place smelled of cigarets in the afternoon.  To the caregiver's credit, she told me she'd been thinking that was a problem and said there would be no more smoking. 

There was talk at the university about a place called Tanaina - a day care center on campus and also a place where the education department could do research and have student teaching experience in early childhood development.  I remember well that my dean at the time was strongly opposed to $10,000 of university funds that was proposed to go to Tanaina.  I asked him, "If a private donor offered to pay the $10,000 instead of the university, would you stop protesting?" At least he was an honest man, and he said no.  Young children belong at home with their mothers, not in day care centers.  "But," I repsonded, "you told me that I couldn't afford to live here on my salary alone, that my wife would have to work too.  So what are we supposed to do with the kids?"  "Steve, you and your wife are different, you take great care about your kids education and development." 

You can see where that discussion was going.  Round in circles.  So, the ones who take good care of their kids can use child care, but the ones who don't - the ones whose kids need it most - shouldn't?  My dean's religious background made him adamantly opposed to day care, even if it conflicted with real life practicalities, like the economic need for my wife to work. 

Our daughter did get into Tanaina shortly after it opened.  It meant I could take her with me to campus, drop her off, and I could look in on her when I had some free time during the day.  And it offered peace of mind to know that if anything happened, I was nearby.  Tanaina was good for her and she still has a best friend, 30 odd years later, that she met at Tanaina. 

I tell this story, in part to give some history.  In part to remind everyone that child care was then and is still today, loaded with political and religious controversy.

It was great to have child care on campus.  But the person who benefited most in my family - besides my daughter who got great socialization and early education - was my wife.  We came to Alaska because I got a full time job offer.  My wife took part time work in her specialty - they really wanted her full time, but she did want to more time with the kids - and she was able to do that because we had child care available. 

Child care is something that first and foremost benefits women.  Wives still tend to be the ones who drop out of work to take care of kids.  And women overwhelmingly have the kids when there is a one-parent household.  Without affordable child care, women slip backwards economically, along with their kids.

So I find it particularly ironic that as UAA is on a federal Title IX watch list, the administration decided to evict the campus child care/child development center.  The link between the campus climate for women and availability of child care apparently never crossed their minds.  They also had no sense of the deep loyalty people have toward a place like Tanaina, how important Tanaina is and was to the kids who went there, the faculty, student, and staff parents who were able to get their kids into Tanaina.   Good child care makes an enormous difference in a young couple's lives. 

Tanaina is also intended to be a laboratory for the early childhood education program in the College of Education.  Over the years this has worked better in some periods than others.  But it is an important role that campus based daycare usually serve. 

But the issue is bigger than UAA.  There just aren't that many good, affordable places available in Anchorage or anywhere in the US, certainly not enough for all the people who need them.  So evicting Tanaina not only hurts the university community, but the Anchorage community as a whole.  
The people who made this decision apparently had no sense of how important this issue is in people's lives, particularly women's lives.    They were taken completely by surprise by the strong community response and also by the response of - I'm told - four regents who told them at last Thursday's meeting that this was an important issue and they should go back and try harder.

The same day that people were telling the regents they were opposed to the eviction of Tanaina, the university was sending out emails to all faculty, students, and staff about a campus climate survey they were going to receive as part of the university's getting back in good graces over Title IX.  While the survey is specifically about sexual harassment, the eviction of Tanaina from the space they'd been in for over 35 years, doesn't send a good message to the feds about the administration's understanding of how all the components of a university, including child care,  work together, to create a campus climate that's welcoming to women. 

I also need to say that while I'm pretty disturbed about the administration's initial actions here, I also know that the Chancellor is a decent man.  Since the eviction notice has gone public, he has taken moves that offer the possibility of improving the campus day care situation.  Tanaina, like all good day care centers, especially those on campuses, has a long waiting list.  The space they are in is too small. There's a task force working to find alternatives for Tanaina.  The timing is tight and it's not clear that things will work out for the best, but there is a chance.   In the best possible world, this will lead to Tanaina getting a bigger space on campus.  In the worst possible world, Anchorage will lose a much needed day care option. 

I'd also mention that the university's contribution to Tanaina now, as I understand it, is the space.  That's estimated to be about $27,000.  I also understand that the board of Tanaina has said that they could absorb that cost through increased tuition.  So this isn't about 'entitlements' as the president suggested at the board of regents meeting on Friday.

I'd also say that there are lots of problems with many child care programs.  We need more and better affordable child care.  So many human problems could be alleviated through early intervention in children's lives that the cost of good child care should be more than made up for in the drop in other agencies that deal with the results of poor child rearing practices. 

I'll report on last Friday's task force meeting in a new post before too long. 

Monday, February 23, 2015

Patrick Gamble to Tanaina Supporters: Are You Saying Tanaina's Location Is an Entitlement?

That's a question that University of Alaska president (until June) Patrick Gamble asked at least two people who spoke to the board of regents last Friday about keeping Tanaina Child Development Center open and on campus after the University of Alaska Anchorage administration abruptly notified the Center that it would have to move, soon.  

I've been thinking about how to write about this pre-school closing by the university. (It's not exactly a done deal - there's a task force that's been set up to find some options.)  I understand the bigger contextual issues, but I needed to get my facts about the specifics at UAA better.  I went to the board of regents meeting Friday and task force meeting Friday afternoon and so I have more facts.  Too many for one post.  So I'm going to start here with the president's use of the word 'entitlement.'  

I try pay attention to words, and as most of you are probably aware, 'entitlement' is one, heavily loaded  term these days.  The New York Times pointed out how Mitt Romney's team was using the term back in 2011, so this isn't anything new:

"Romney and his aides have designed his rhetoric to define pretty much all spending on entitlements, including provisions for the injured, unemployed, sick, disabled or elderly as benefits to the poor who, Romney implies, are undeserving. And it doesn’t matter whether the money to pay for these programs comes from employer and employee contributions and not just tax revenue — they are all under suspicion. 

Will the United States be an Entitlement Society or an Opportunity Society? In an Entitlement Society, government provides every citizen the same or similar rewards, regardless of education, effort and willingness to innovate, pioneer or take risk. In an Opportunity Society, free people living under a limited government choose whether or not to pursue education, engage in hard work, and pursue the passion of their ideas and dreams. If they succeed, they merit the rewards they are able to enjoy. [emphasis added]

Basically, we have the lazy welfare cheats who want government to supply them with everything versus the Horatio Alger go-getter who makes his fortune on his own.  This view of the world helps explain why people can be against Obamacare - they see it as lazy people getting something for nothing.  Which is how the Koch Brothers (I guess that's becoming the metaphor for those on the right who want to shape public opinion to reflect their political interests) want people to think.  In this model, people are poor because they choose to be and they prefer to live the great life provided by welfare.

An opposing model, one that is much more realistic for me, is that some people in this society either are born into privilege, get lots of lucky breaks, and/or genetically have been blessed with the right skill set that can be successful in today's United States.  The rest are blocked by big and little structural barriers - from parents who were ill-prepared to raise them, schools that teach to academically (or athletically) oriented kids, a society that assumes certain skin colors and other physical characteristics are less intelligent, more violent, and otherwise threatening or disgusting, to student loans that force them to get any job they can just to pay off the debt.  (This is just scratching the surface, of course.)

In any case, it was disturbing to hear Gamble question people about whether they thought the Tanaina location was an 'entitlement.'  It was like a trap question - what would have happened if they said yes?  They didn't, and he said, "That's good, because you're going to have to compromise."  The very fact that he used that word in the context was scary.  Was he, in fact, trying to trap them into admitting they thought it was an entitlement?  Was it just his own emotional reaction?  Is he just around people who use that term so much that he doesn't even realize others see it as a code for bad and undeserving?

It's also kind of strange, because by my calculations, Gamble is getting what some would call  'entitlements' in the guise of military and Alaska Railroad retirement checks that boost his annual income from the University to close to $500,000 a year.  And on top of that he wanted, and got the board to agree (before they changed their minds) a  $320,000 longevity bonus.   Of course, I don't think that pension money is an 'entitlement' but Republican governors in Illinois, New Jersey, and other states have used attacking pensions as part of their budget reducing strategy.   Are there abuses of some pensions?  Of course, just as there are abuses in all systems that are made up of people.  But, that is yet another post.

Let me say that the news isn't all bad.  Going to the meetings was a good idea because I've gained some factual data that changes my view of things to a certain extent and I hope to lay this out in future posts.  

Sunday, February 22, 2015

LA Clouds From Above, In The Middle, And Below

Our flight to LA was delayed about 90 minutes - they said something about a crew member on his way.  Then later that his replacement would be there soon.  Arriving at 5:50 am is not great any way, so it didn't matter too much.  Last month we saw the first light of dawn as we got the bus station, just going on 7 am.  But this time, we were still in the plane.  But I did see the first glow of dawn through a window across the aisle.

Then we made the big arc to the left as we headed toward downtown LA before looping back around to land back near the coast.  Only today everything was hidden by thick low clouds.

Then finally we got some glimpses through the fuzzy suspended moisture.

That's the Harbor Freeway (sorry, everyone uses numbers these days, but to me it's still the Harbor Freeway) looking south, with the coliseum and exposition park on the bottom right.  The University of Southern California (USC) campus would be under us.

Below, we are on the ground, sun to the east, overpowering the cloud cover.  There were some drops on the bus windshield, and the streets had a wet sheen, but walking the last mile was a good break from all that airplane time.  And I was glad my foot was up to it.  The heel has been on an off lately.

When we got to my mom's, the tv news was covering the impending rain at tonight's Oscar celebration as if it were something important.  They should spend so much time explaining important issues.

Oh, yeah.  It was mid 30s and raining when we left Anchorage last night.  My fanaticism about keeping our driveway clear of snow and ice paid off.  Our neighbor's similar south sloping driveway was a dangerously slick patch of ice.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Trying to Figure Out The Board Of Regents

 The University of Alaska Board of Regents are the policy body for the University.  They make the final decisions at the policy level - including hiring the president and approving the budget.  I've written about the university and the regents from time to time and that's made me realize the board needs to be more visible to the people of Alaska.

So I went to Friday's board meeting at UAA.  I haven't been to a board meeting - well, it's been so long that I don't remember at all.  So I wasn't quite sure what to expect.  It was relatively easy.  I knew a couple of key people there who could tell me what was happening.  I got to talk to three of the regents during breaks, and have a video tape of one (below).

There is lots of information (and then again, in some cases, not so much) online at the board's webpages.  For instance:
Board of Regents Annual Retreat January 22-23, 2014 Anchorage, Alaska

1. Approval of Bargaining Unit Agreement between the University of Alaska and United Academics AAUP-AFT/AFL-CIO (UNAC)
"The Board of Regents approves the collective bargaining agreement between the University of Alaska and United Academics AAUP-AFT/AFL-CIO (UNAC) for the term of January 1, 2014 through December 31, 2016. This motion is effective January 23, 2014."
That's it.

The Official Minutes tend to add a little more - like who made the motion and who seconded it and who voted yes and who voted no and the language of what was passed.  It's focused mostly on technical details, and it's light on substance. There's no sense of the discussion before the vote and how the discussion went.  You'd be hard pressed to understand the reasons for and against any issue.  The minutes spends more words  on how they went in and out of executive session, but doesn't explain the subject of the executive session, which seems to be counter to the Alaska Administrative Procedures Act requirements for Executive Session which says: 
"The motion must state specifically what will be discussed and must be approved by a majority vote. The motion must contain enough detail that the public (and if necessary a court) will be informed of exactly why the executive session is appropriate, without defeating the purpose of going into executive session. Only the item(s) identified in the motion may be discussed in the executive session. "  [emphasis added]
 This clearly requires more than the minutes tell us.
  • There are other items like Agendas (these tend to have links to all the documents used at the meetings - follow links to boarddocs),  By-Laws,  and  Policy and Regulation (lots of detail here - all the rules of the university).

There were two major items that caught my attention at Friday's morning meeting.  The first was the tuition increase of 5 percent across the board.  Two regents voted against it - Regent Fisher arguing (and these are from my quick notes as he spoke):
Since on the board, our headcount declined 8.4% and credit hours up 5%.  But budget has increased.  Two reports by national experts on operation of university.  Both told us we needed cost containment for administrative costs.  Even thought headcount and credit hour count went down, our administrative costs have gone up.  I don't think the students
of Alaska and their parents shouldn't bear the costs of our inability to contain costs.   
But otherwise, there wasn't much opposition and no students were there to protest.  A couple even said it was fine.  The president said the administrative cutbacks would come with the current round of budget cuts.  Here's the table that was in the agenda for the budget increases:

The second item of interest to me was public testimony about the eviction of the Tanaina Child Development Center from their space in the sports complex basement.  It's on hold, sort of, while a task force looks at options.  This is a topic I've been thinking about and wanting to post about.  I went to the task force later that afternoon and will do a separate post on that soon.

Here's the video of Regent John Davies I took.  While my camera work could have been better, he gives a good description of his background and what he thinks he can contribute to the board.

It's good I went yesterday, because they don't meet too often.  The next two meetings are:

  •  April 9-10, 2015 - Bethel
  •   June 3-5, 2015 - Fairbanks

Friday, February 20, 2015

Sam Mack And Jade Ariah Opening At UAA Art Gallery

I'm taking the easy way out tonight and offering a glimpse of an art opening at UAA this evening.  I'll figure out what to post about the Board of Regent's meeting and their 5% tuition increase and about the Tanaina Child Development Center Task Force meeting later.

Above artists Sam Mack and Jade Ariah stand in front of the gallery at the opening of their exhibit Contentment in the UAA Student Center.  At some point as people were talking about finding space where either Tanaina  or the Student Services group that is slotted to move, the art gallery was mentioned, and I said, no, no, no.  Not an option.  And as I came out of the task force meeting to find the opening happening, I understood where my instant response came from.  We need art in our lives to refocus our attention and get us thinking about what's important.  And it shouldn't be shunted off to museums only, but be right in the middle of where we pass by every day.  And it was this evening and did the trick.

Here's a closeup from Jade's Contentment Pt V.

And from Sam's  Held Heart.    I jokingly said to the artists that they should have pictures of each other in the exhibit, and Sam pointed out that she had a picture of Jade in the exhibit.

Here's the exhibit Facebook page.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Halcro's Key Issues Seem Pretty Close to Coffey's

I'm only a week late on this, but the mayoral election isn't until the beginning of April, so we're ok for
now.  But if I'm going to get some video of some of the major names among the other candidates (I was told there are 12 in all), I'm going to have speed things up.

Overview here, and in depth transcript (and soon the video) below

Halcro's three main reasons for running for mayor were pretty close to what Dan Coffey said were his reasons a couple of weeks ago (see that interview here). There does seem to be a difference in how they might approach these though.  Coffey comes from a career as an attorney who's represented developers and the alcohol businesses and he served on the Assembly.  Halcro has been involved with his family business (Avis)  and been in the state legislature and has run for governor. Halcro is smart and I think he sees things more boardly than most.  He's certainly very sure of himself.  I think choosing the colors yellow and black for his campaign sign makes that point. 

I'd also note a real contrast in the two meet and greet evenings.  Halcro's was in a huge warehouse like room that was industrial cold, in the back of the TriGrill on 76th off of Old Seward.  While he probably had as many people at his event as Coffey did at Don Jose's (near the very busy intersection of Lake Otis and Northern Lights), the room was ten or twelve times the size as the cozy restaurant setting at Don Jose's and it looked like there was nobody there.

1.  Deal with the budget deficit.  (Actually this was a secondary issue for Coffey, but the first one that Halcro raised.)  He said he's been through this before in the legislature when oil fell to $10 a barrel.  He knows the conversations and the exercise, so he knows how to respond.

2.  Inebriates and homeless people.  And like Coffey he pushed the idea of Housing First (getting housing for this group).  Like for Coffey, this was a biggie for Halcro.  He said inebriate (or inebriation)  and homeless five times each.    Both candidates seemed to be interested in this issue because of the nuisance factor, though Coffey at least said we need to have compassion for these people because addiction is a disease and he mentioned that many of these folks were mentally ill, Halcro never raised that point.

3.  Developing Fairview.  Actually Halcro was broader on this issue.  He identified three areas near downtown that are undervalued and underdeveloped - east downtown, Fairview, and Mt. View.  He foresees cool neighborhoods for millenials who want to be near the restaurants, bars, and downtown in general.  He also saw this as a way for Anchorage to keep growing.  When I asked him if this development would help people living there or simply be gentrification forcing the current residents out, he strongly said it wouldn't be gentrification.  He wants, he said, everyone living there now to be able to stay if they want to.  This development was also one of the reasons he wants to get the inebriates and homeless out.   But if the point is to make this an area that developers want to go in, exactly what will they do there if they don't buy lower priced properties, tear them down, and put in more upscale property?  And as the price goes up, so will property taxes.  People who sell because the offers seem attractive, won't have any place else to move that they can afford.  He may not want people to move out, but I don't see how that won't happen.  And he wants the city to give developers incentives to do this.  (OK, I'm juxtaposing his words and my words, but he does want the city to give developers incentives to develop there - by making it safer (getting rid of inebriates and homeless) and with tax incentives.)

He also mentioned strengthening public education.  I'd note Halcro was the only member of the State House Sustainable Education Task Force who did not vote to approve their report which did appear to be the aim of key members from the beginning:  push for public money to go to private schools. 

A second major initiative of his presidency of the Anchorage Chamber of Commerce he discussed was his diversity initiatives.  

I asked him about the gentrification potential in Fairview - I didn't get a chance to ask Coffey - which I've addressed above and I asked about the extension of Bragaw through the university lands, despite overwhelming community council opposition, and despite the fact we have a budget problem and this would be an easy $20 million to recover since it hasn't been spent yet.  He acknowledged that he doesn't know this issue well, but his response also shows he doesn't know the university neighborhood well either.  At one point he said, " UMed district really hasn’t changed since I was a kid."  That's completely wrong.  In the last five to ten years there are four new roads that connect 36th and Tudor between Lake Otis and the new sports center.  And since Halcro was a kid, Providence and Lake Otis have become four lane roads, and DOT made a molehill out of mountain to punch 40th through from Lake Otis east to just past Dale Street.  And Bragaw (now Elmore) became four lane, and was pushed through to Abbot and MLK Blvd was added south of Tudor.  He talked about the growing University, but apparently he forgot he mentioned the State's budget problems at the beginning and the University's budget cuts being submitted right now.  Options for getting to the University include all people on campus with a university id card get free People Mover passes.  There's a campus shuttle bus that even takes people to the University Center where the University has expanded.   But I'm getting off the interview now to my own pet issue.  And Halcro acknowledged he hadn't studied this.  But he did say there hadn't been improvements in roads to the campus since he was a kid and that's flat out wrong.  And he implied, when he said the local folks couldn't be against progress, that progress means roads.  In education progress means more and more opportunities to attend class without driving there - like through online classes and audio conferencing and even Skype.

[As I prepare to post this, I realize that I'm comparing Coffey and Halcro here - which makes sense because they both emphasized the same issues.  But I'm thinking ahead of posts on other mayoral candidates and if I continue to do it this way, the posts are going to get longer and longer.  So I'll probably not do this in the future posts on individual candidates.  But I can link to here and eventually have some posts on all the candidates.]

So, here's the transcript I wrote up.  It's pretty close, and I think it captures the meaning if not the literal words.   I'm not sure you can call it an interview.  I did get a couple of questions in.  Andrew talks so fast, that even in 50% audio speed I had trouble keeping up with him to write these notes. [Video's up.]   It's taking its time to upload, so I'll post this tonight and tomorrow, the video should be ready to embed.  I'll put it here:  

Transcript of video:
Steve:  Andrew, you’ve got a good life, why would you want to run for mayor?

Andrew: Well,  That’s exactly why I want to run for mayor. There are three reasons.  One, I think the economy is going to be uncertain in the next few years  with the state in a $3 billion budget deficit and You need somebody in the mayor’s office who understands  how to contain the cost of government, not to mention I was in Juneau, I served in the legislature 15 years ago when they were going through the same thing. Oil was $!0 a barrel and we had a $1billion budget deficit. In fact we spent a lot of time looking at solutions.  We also spent a lot of time talking about where to cut the budget.  So as the next mayor, I know exactly what those conversations are and therefore I know how to plan  and how to contain costs. 

The second thing is,  I really want to make the community healthier and safer, my last couple of years as president of the Anchorage Chamber of Commerce, we’ve really had an issue with downtown public safety, certainly the crime rate, the chronic inebriate problem, the homeless problem

We have to take the long view of these problems.  From the management standpoint we like to nibble around the edges  or we like to adopt what we think are going to be these silver bullet programs.  We have to realize we’ve got to have a comprehensive approach.  With public safety you have to put more officers on the street,

We’re 50 officers short  …..  They’ve decimated the   gang  task force, they’ve decimated the sexual assault task force because they want more officers in patrol cars.  And that has really hurt our ability to go out and be proactive.  Addressing the gang issue and some of these criminal issues that are now percolating to the top

The communities does need to get healthier the chronic inebriate problem, the homeless problem    needs to finally be addressed.  We need to look at expanding things like the housing first model that works, it really works.  Not only does it get people off the street, it makes them safer, but it also reduces public safety calls to that area.  Police will tell you that it’s been a success.

And the third thing is really to just continue to grow the economy and  manage the cost of government.    Growing the economy in the sense where we get where we get in and doing that    should have been done a long time ago.  I think some of the greatest areas of our town are the most underdeveloped and undervalued.  

I’d like to see huge redevelopment downtown and East Anchorage.  I’d like to see us go into Fairview and clean up the area.  And provide a just really cool part of town for people to live in.  The demographics are changing.  We have 82,000 millennials that live and work in this city and they have different needs than I do or you do. It’s a different generation.  They want to live downtown, near to bars and restaurants.   They want easy access to  downtown.      In order to attract that kind of investment, you have to address the public safety concerns and you have to address the chronic inebriation and homelessness problems. Because those Developers aren’t going down there to redevelop unless those areas are ripe for development.

So really those things are why I’m running.

My last two years at the Anchorage chamber, we’ve done some groundbreaking work,  Our education initiatives to strengthen public schools.  I’m chair of the 90% by 2020.  I have been for two years which seeks to strengthen public school outcomes by promoting 90% graduation and 90% attendance by 2020 

I’ve also been very active in the community with diversity,  One Anchorage One Economy has brought in all types of diverse groups.  Sitting down and talking about how the business community how we can integrate them into the business community.  Talking about how work all one Anchorage, we all live in the same economy and go to the same schools and have all aligned concerns and the same goals.  We all want a successful and happy and healthy city.  And that’s really why I want to be mayor.

I think, I've lived here for 50 years in the community.  Its been stagnant in some places I think we need to move forward on.  There are some intractable problems that we haven’t addressed that we really need to address.  But by and large, this city has been amazing to me and amazing to the people I love,  and I just want to make it stronger for future generations.

Steve:  You talked about Fairview, and when I talked to Dan Coffey, he also talked about redevelopment of Fairview.  My concern is whether development the people who live there now and get their neighborhood cleaned up and they get to stay there making their lives better, or are we talking about gentrification, and we get rid of the poorer people so the wealthier an move in?

Andrew:  No, in my view, redeveloping Fairview is keeping people in their homes who want to stay there.  Be more aggressive on the chronic inebriation and homeless problems.  Here’s an example,  years ago they went into Fairview and they created these neat little parks and put up all kinds of accessaries, then within a year or two they had to take them out because they became gathering places for crime and inebriates and the homeless.  I want to see a time when people who live in Fairview today and tomorrow have little pocket parks, I want to see when it’s safe to walk to the store at 11 at night.  I want to finally look at 13th and Gamble and say how do we clean this up.  This has been a problem since I was 16 years old.  It’s not about gentrification, it’s about cleaning up the neighborhood.  I want people to stay there.  I don’t want anybody to move out of their neighborhoods.  I want to use the city’s leverage with tax incentives   to tax deferral credits to get in and make the area safer, make it more of a great little community.  I mean, they really have a good community council, the Fairview community council the Fairview business association.  They’ve done an amazing job and what they need is a little more help from City Hall  They have overlays, they have development plans, and they need   leadership from city hall, because when I look at this city, there are three areas - there’s east downtown, there’s Fairview and Mountain view.  They have the greatest promise, because they are three of the oldest areas of town that are really ripe for people who want to live in cool little neighborhoods.

Steve:  Let me ask another question.  There’s $20 million sitting out there to build a road through the university campus.  All the community councils around there have protested and don’t want the road. Where do you stand on this?

Andrew:  I haven’t really studied this project.  But I will tell you the area is growing and we need to have better access in and out.  Whether that means adopting that road plan I can’t say.  I do know  is you have a growing University you’ve got a hospital that’s growing fast, if there are ways we can improve access without cutting the road through the CC areas, we should do that.  But there’s no question that area needs better transportation access.  The road system in the UMed district really hasn’t changed since I was a kid.  I access from Northern Lights to 36th to Providence Dr.  None of the roads in that area have matured.  Maybe instead of doing the road through the university, maybe we should look at approach roads that get people into the university district.  As a former community council president, I’m very sensitive to the wishes of community councils, they work hard, they get their people out every month, they have the best interests of their community at heart.  We went through the same things at Sand Lake when they wanted to build homes in a gravel pit.  So I understand the frustration.  It does require some collaboration.  You can’t just show up and say we’re going to build a road in that area.  But you also can’t just say we’re not going to have progress, because that area is going to continue to grow and it’s continue to be served by underdeveloped roads. 

Steve:  Any other critical issues you want to talk about?

Andrew:  No, thanks. 

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Rachel Barton Pine Does Paganini In Anchorage

I just want to at least note this.  We did go to the second concert.  I listened to a couple of the Paganini caprices online, but I wondered how I was going to appreciate all 24. caprices.  Would I count to keep track?  Yes, I'd like it, but if I knew more about them before I went it would be so much better.

That's true, of course, but I needn't have worried.  Barton Pine knows that most people are not Paganini experts.  For the first half, she stopped after every two caprices and talked about Paganini and about the caprices themselves and demonstrated different techniques that the specific caprices would highlight.

The second half there were fewer explanations, but we'd been coached enough in the beginning to be able to listen and watch for the different bowing techniques and other tricks Paganini used to expand what the violin could do.

Paganini was born in 1772 - four years before the signing of the Declaration of Independence.  What did news reports of the new nation mean to this child prodigy?  The loss of Britain's colony in the New World and the emergence of this new 'democracy' was something he would have known about.  There is even some speculation of his visiting America, but this interesting account of his life says it never happened.

In early 1828 Nicolo began a six and half year tour that started in Vienna and ended in Paris in September 1834. During the two and half year period from August 1828 to February, 1831 he visited some 40 cities in Germany, Bohemia, and Poland. Performances in Vienna, Paris, and London were hailed widely, and his tour in 1832 through England and Scotland made him wealthy.

His playing of tender passages was so beautiful that his audiences often burst into tears, and yet, he could perform with such force and velocity that at Vienna one listener became half crazed and declared that for some days that he had seen the Devil helping the violinist.
Rachel Barton Pine
Also of interest, was Barton Pine's description of her violin which is on loan to her and was  made by Joseph Guarnerius del Gesu in 1742, two years before his death and 40 years before Paganini's birth!  The violin is known as ex-Soldat for one of the violinists who played it - Maria Soldat.  The story includes Brahms and Ludwig Wittgenstein, the philosopher. But that will have to be another post.  I'm sure regular readers can already anticipate the directions that post might take.

It was an incredible evening and the 800 seat Discovery Theater was pretty much full.  It's a theater, while four times the size of the location of the previous night's concert, where every seat gives you a great view and great sound.

And just to end this with a totally different note, here's a link to Rachel Barton Pine playing her version of Metallica's One.   And if you must (and you must) here's Metallica's version.

Final, final note - The picture above was taken at the end of the concert during the standing applause.  The picture below was taken in the lobby while Rachel Barton Pine talked to fans and signed autographs.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

If People In East Think Their Weather Refutes Climate Warming . . .

It's climate change.  And a cold spell in the East doesn't change the overall trend.  While it might be freezing in New York, our indoor/outdoor thermometer reads 48˚F here in Anchorage.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Replacing Jon Stewart

When a teacher has a 'problem' student in class, the easiest response is to get him (or her) out of the class.  But experienced teachers know that another one will take his place.  The real answer is to analyze your teaching and find if there is a different way to get your message across or find out what the underlying problems are that the kid has and find help.

I thought about that when I watched this video of John Oliver over on Immoral Minority.  People have been lamenting the departure of Jon Stewart from the Daily Show.  And Stewart does have a knack for getting right to the issue and nailing it.  Of course it helps to have a great staff of researchers and production folks to back you up.

But my thought was, when one leaves, another one will pop up to take his place.

We are a country of 300 million people.  1% of 300 million equals 3 million.  Half of that is still 1.5 million.  So there's a pool of 1.5 million Americans in the top one half percent of the funniest/smartest Americans.  Surely among that group we can find plenty of talent to not only replace Jon Stewart, but to find new and amazing ways to expose the corrupt and crazy among the powerful.  We  have the talent to put on 100 different Daily Shows if we look and nurture the very best.

Jeff the Diseased Lung and John Oliver
So, here's the segment that inspired that thought.  John Oliver takes on the tobacco industry for suing nations over tobacco restrictions.  Yes, nations.  They lost in Australia's supreme court, according to Oliver, but then they appealed it over technical issues in trade treaties.  And for Uruguay and Togo, two more countries they sued over restrictions on cigaret packaging, the threat of a huge lawsuit is more than such a country can handle.

The whole segment is definitely worth watching  to
  1. see how truly evil the tobacco companies are
  2. think about how we empower these companies so they can violate the health interests of independent nations
  3. consider what they are doing to us in the US (think "global warming hasn't been proven")
  4. realize that there are plenty of other Jon Stewarts waiting out there to take his place, and then some.
  5. have a good laugh or three at Phillip Morris' expense

On The Difference Between Al Qaeda and ISIS

Most of us know almost nothing about ISIS.  There's a name, news reports, and photos and we each create our own story to explain them.  My friend Jeremy linked to an Atlantic article which gives us more.  Of course, we take the author's words with a grain of salt.  But it's evidence to put into the record to compare with the other evidence that is gathered.  I recommend reading it. 

Here's a snipped that contrasts Al Qaeda with ISIS, says one is  modern and corporate while the other is 7th Century:
We are misled in a second way, by a well-intentioned but dishonest campaign to deny the Islamic State’s medieval religious nature. Peter Bergen, who produced the first interview with bin Laden in 1997, titled his first book Holy War, Inc. in part to acknowledge bin Laden as a creature of the modern secular world. Bin Laden corporatized terror and franchised it out. He requested specific political concessions, such as the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Saudi Arabia. His foot soldiers navigated the modern world confidently. On Mohamd Atta’s last full day of life, he shopped at Walmart and ate dinner at Pizza Hut.

There is a temptation to rehearse this observation—that jihadists are modern secular people, with modern political concerns, wearing medieval religious disguise—and make it fit the Islamic State. In fact, much of what the group does looks nonsensical except in light of a sincere, carefully considered commitment to returning civilization to a seventh-century legal environment, and ultimately to bringing about the apocalypse.

Is this accurate?  Time will tell.   Meanwhile this article offers much to chew on.  More than the simplistic coverage we mostly get. 

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Grrr! Feedburner Problems - My Most Recent Post Isn't Showing Up On Blogrolls

Feedburner usually gets my posts to subscribers and to blogrolls on other blogs.  But frequently enough to bother me, it doesn't get them to the blogrolls.  Here's my latest post that isn't getting to blogrolls, though I posted it over 12 hours ago.  My fixes include:

1.  Going directly to Feedburner an giving it a manual update instruction.  Sometimes this works, and sometimes this doesn't.    This doesn't seem to be working today.

2.  Simply copying and reposting.  Sometimes this works.  But today there's already a comment on the post and if I do this and turn off the original post, that comment will be lost.  I could, I guess, copy the comment and repost it with an explanation. 

3.  Check the html for lots of extraneous code that might have been introduced when I cut and pasted something from another website.  If I get rid of the unnecesary code, sometimes that works.  But I'm never sure if it works because I got rid of the extra code, or because I reposted it.  Sometimes I've tried reposting without fixing the code and it doesn't work, and then after cleaning out the weeds in the html, and repost it works.

When I repost, I disable the original post so I don't have the same post up twice.

But options 2 and 3 both have the comment problem.  If I disable the original post, the comment goes away. 

So, I'm using this fourth option.  Talking about the problem and redirecting people to the post titled:

Why I Live Here:  Zuill Bailey, Rachel Barton Pine, Eduard Zilberkant Play Down The Street

For Anchorage folks, it tells them about a great musical opportunity tonight (Sunday Feb. 15).

Why I Live Here - Zuill Bailey, Rachel Barton Pine, and Eduard Zilberkant Play Down The Street

We went to the Sitka Music Festival's Winter Classics at UAA Saturday night.  Three incredible musicians, world class musicians, playing in the incredible concert hall in the UAA theater arts building.

Many readers have probably never heard of these people, though I did write about Zuill Bailey
Bailey and Zilberkant
before.  You've heard of sculptors who release the sculpture living inside a piece of marble.  My sense of Zuill Bailey is that he sets the music free from inside the cello.  He doesn't so much play the cello as help it sing.

Eduard Zilberkant was the pianist.  Let me just say he was also amazing, even though I'm partial to the strings.  Listening to the three instruments together,  trading off sounds then coming together, yet not quite, it was breath taking. Literally.  There were points where I had to remind myself to start breathing again. Go to the link, I'd be up all night if I tried to do these musicians any justice at all.

And then there was Rachel Burton Pine.  (Just go to the link.)  As is painfully clear to anyone who knows about music, I'm just a casual listener.  I can't tell you really why in musical terms, I can just tell you what it did to me.  In this case, I'm going to use someone else's words to tell you who she is and what she does.
Barton and Zilberkant

Because she plays again tomorrow night and at the Discovery Theater downtown there are more seats and it's not sold out yet.   From the Daily Beast,  why you should get tickets and go:
Violinist  Rachel Barton Pine’s life is a seemingly unending list of extraordinary achievements, from her soloist debut at age 10 with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra to her recent live performances of Paganini’s ‘24 Caprices For Solo Violin’--a series of virtuosic pieces so technically challenging that very few violinists perform them in sequence. She has published a book of her own arrangements and cadenzas, recorded 24 albums, and travelled with the world’s most prestigious ensembles. 

She's going to play those Paganini's '24 Caprices for Solo Violin' Sunday evening (Feb. 15)  at 7:30pm.  This isn't something you can see very often.  And it's here, in Anchorage, with a premiere violinist.

The Standing Ovation

Let's go back to the title of this post.  Why I Live Here.  Most of the posts that have that label are about getting to nature quickly.  But another advantage of Anchorage is that we have world class performers who we can see in intimate settings for much less than people pay in big cities.  The University venue they were in Saturday is a 30 minute walk from my house, a five minute drive, with free parking.

If you look at the pictures you can see how intimate it was Saturday night - there were 20 overflow seats on stage!   Not a good place to sit if you're prone to fall asleep in a concert.  But if you're that close, it would probably be hard to do.

Saturday night's tickets were less than half the cheapest tickets when we went to a mediocre concert at the Disney Concert Hall in LA.  The UAA Concert Hall is a magical acoustical music box seating only 200 people.  The Disney in LA seats eleven times that many - 2,265.  The Discovery Theater, where Rachel Barton Pine plays tonight (Sunday,) seats 800, still a relatively small venue.

This is most of the audience on the main floor.  There's a smaller balcony above.  Thank you Michael Hood for fighting for this building and getting it built with such incredible performing spaces.  These people played here Saturday because Zuill Bailey loved the acoustics.

Here's a little preview of Sunday night's concert.  (Sorry, this post is getting a bit cluttered.)

Caprice # 12 - from Violin Sheet Music

And if you don't read music, here's a different sort of preview of the music (be sure to listen to the end.)

I do have to make a minor disclosure here.  I learned this week that a college friend of my son  is Rachel Barton Pine's husband.  But that's not why I'm gushing here.  This was fantastic and tomorrow night will be too.

Friday, February 13, 2015

How Many Alaska Legislators Are Child Molesters?

I realize that's a pretty inflammatory title, but bear with me.

I was listening yesterday online to David Holthouse's testimony to the Senate Education Committee about SB 31, a law to enact Erin's Law in Alaska, mandating schools teach teachers and children to detect signs of sexual abuse and to learn what actions they can take. [You can hear, for now at least, the full hearing here.] Sen. Gardner's (who is the sponsor) aide emphasized that lessons must be age appropriate and that the schools themselves would be given the power to choose the materials they wanted to use.

Below I have Holthouse's full testimony, my transcript, and audio from the legislature's website.  But first, here's the part that triggered the question above:
"And then when I was sixteen, a remarkable thing happened.  I was in a humanities course in East High School in Anchorage and the teacher was lecturing on something to do with denial on a societal level, and she mentioned, almost as an aside, how high the rate of sexual abuse of children was in Alaska. She looked out at the class and she said there’s about 25, 30 of you here, statistics say two to three of you have already been sexually assaulted and you haven’t told a soul."
 The teacher used statistics.  Gardner's aide said that nationally
1 in 4 girls   and
1 in 6 boys
are sexually abused before the age of 18.   And only 1 in 10 will say anything about it. 

She used the numbers to figure out how many students in her class, statistically, would have been abused.  And there was, in fact, at least one student who had been sexually abused in that class.  Maybe there was another.   Holthouse's response was:
And I was riveted in my seat and I felt a great sense of relief, because it had been acknowledged in public, in a school, by a teacher what had happened to me.  And it gave me tremendous comfort, even though I didn’t say anything.
 So using statistics and looking at the Alaska legislature, if one in six boys and one in four girls are sexually abused before they are 18, there must be a fair number of abusers out there in our population. How many are there?  I'll get to that shortly. 

So let's get some help from the Child Molestation Research and Prevention Institute.(CMRPI)

First, definitions:

A child molester is any older child or adult who touches a child for his or her own sexual gratification.

Child molestation is the act of sexually touching a child.

A child is a girl or boy who is 13 years of age or younger.

What's the age difference between a molester and a child? It is five years, so a 14-year-old "older child" sexually touching a nine-year-old is an example. This is the accepted medical definition.
It appears that some statistics vary because researchers use different definitions.  Just take that into account.  I'll be using these, fairly broad, definitions.

How many child molesters are there?  CMRPI writes:
In fact, approximately one out of 20 men, and approximately one out of 3,300 women are sexual abusers of children.
There are 60 legislators - 20 senators and 40 representatives.  There are 43 men and 17 women. Just as Holthouse's teacher used statistics to estimate the number of students in her class who had been molested, we can do the same for the legislature.  We know that there was at least one child who'd been molested in that class.   One out of 20 men statistically would suggest there are two child molesters in the Alaska legislature.  The odds of a woman molester in the legislature is statistically low.

But, legislators are upstanding, church-going respectable people, you say. 

Again, according to the CMRPI, child molesters mirror the population.   Here's a chart they posted comparing characteristics of male child molesters to the general male population   

Admitted Child Molesters American Men
Married and formerly Married 77% 73%
Some College 45% 49%
High School only 30% 32%
Working 69% 64%
Religious 93% 93%
Source: The Abel and Harlow Child Molestation Prevention Study and the 
1999 U.S. Census Statistical Abstract
Note: All people in both groups were at least 25 years old.

They have another chart with ethnicity, which matches fairly closely with ethnicity in the general American male population.  A little higher for Caucasian (79% molesters v. 72% in the population), a little lower for Hispanics, African-Americans, and Asian, and a little higher for Native American (3%  v. 1%). 

There's no reason to think that members of the legislature are less likely to be child molesters than anyone else.  In fact, the position of respect and power gives them a certain cover.  We're only talking about child molesters here, not men who abuse adults.

This question came to mind, as I said, because of Holthouse's testimony about his teacher's use of statistics.  But I was also concerned a little about the fact that they tended not to ask questions of people who urged them to pass the bill.  They did ask questions of people who raised concerns.

Concerns they had were:

1.  Would this be another unfunded mandate?
2.  What's preventing the schools from adopting this on their own?
3.  Would schools have time for yet another mandated subject?
4.  Who would pay for this?
5.  What would the curriculum be like.

OK, it is their job to craft legislation that will work.  They should ask questions.  But their statements of the seriousness of this problem sounded so perfunctory, like something they had to say.  They seemed  much more interested in talking about the reasons it might not be a good idea.  Some of this is because they just don't understand the huge impact this has, not just on the kids, but on society as a whole.  And some of this may be due to the fact that a couple of legislators are actually child molesters,  The statistics would suggest that. 

Erin  Merryn, the woman now, that this law has been named after, testified by phone.  She said that 19 states have adopted this law and 18 more are introducing it this year. 

Looking at those questions, I have to ask, "What is in the school curriculum that is more important than this?" 

The CMRPI estimates that there are 3 million US kids who have been molested.  Compared to that, all other threats to kids pale.  Accidents are the biggest killer of kids.   While over 30,000 people a year (the number has been falling steadily) are killed in car crashes, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration,  the CDC's figures shown at the Incidental Economist, show that a very small number of those deaths are kids - less than 1400 1-14 year olds.  The odds of getting sexually molested are way, way greater than the odds of getting killed in a car crash.  I realize that death is different from molestation, but the long term pain and subsequent dysfunction of being molested is lasts, for many, for a lifetime.  And for many leads to suicide.  [I know, using the Incidental Economist instead of the CDC numbers is a bit lazy, but he highlights the key numbers.]

Yet parents and schools don't give kids the basics they need to know to prevent child abuse in the first place and to overcome the threats of predators to report it if they do get molested.

Listen (or read) Holthouse's testimony.  It's short and very compelling.  The legislators all acknowledge it's a serious problem, but . . . There shouldn't be any buts here.  They should be finding a way to make this law work.  Every year they delay, means kids are going to be molested who wouldn't be if the law were in effect.  And the molesters aren't reported and keep on molesting more kids. 

[UPDATE Feb 15: No one mentioned that the audio wasn't here. I'm adding it again, let's see if it works this time.] Here's a recording of David Holthouse's testimony (and the beginning of Jeff Jessie's):

[The transcript below isn't exact, but it's pretty close]

Holthouse:  Here’s what I remember about being taught to keep myself safe in grade school growing up in Anchorage.  I remember what to do in an earthquake, I R  what to do if I caught on fire - stop, drop, and roll - and  IR to watch out for strangers bearing candy or toys.  But what I didn’t learn was that a vastly greater danger to me than catching fire or being crushed by falling light fixtures in an earthquake, or even being lured into a car, far greater than one of those dangers was that someone I knew and trusted would hurt me and terrify me in ways that I did not understand and did not have the words for.   And that happened in 1978  when I was seven years old.  I was raped by a family friend at a dinner party in an upper middle class household in Eagle River.

When it was over the rapist told me three things.  He told me , one, that I’d done a bad thing and that my dad would spank me if I told anybody.  And he said if I told, that he’d say I was lying and no one would believe me.  And he said furthermore if I told anybody, he would come into my house in the middle of the night and gut me like a salmon and do the same to my parents.  I know now that this is typical predator behavior.  So for 25 years I didn’t tell I kept it a secret and I did so at signifiant cost to my own well being.

Here’s how Erin’s Law would have made a difference for me.  First,
there’s a chance it would have protected me from being raped in the first place.  These types of predators depend our collective shame, denial, and silence about this issue.  Even though we all know what the rates are in Alaska.  They depend on it.  They thrive on it.  I think it’s quite possible that  having know I was being taught at school about people like him, and how to tell on people like him, and what language to use to tell on people like him, he would not have committed the crime in the first place.  There’s no way to know that for sure. 

I also think that had I been taught about safe touch, unsafe touch, none of this language needs to be graphic for 2nd graders.  All I needed to know was a word like “a bad secret” or just the very concept that someone who was a family friend might do something wrong to me and then tell me “You must keep this a secret” and if that happened, it was ok to tell a cop or my parents, or teachers, and that someone would step in and protect me. If I had been armed with that information, I think I would have told.  There’s no way to know that for sure either.

What I am certain of, is that had the public school system acknowledged the prevalence of this issue in our culture, and had I been taught that in school, I would have felt not so alone.  The loneliness was the worst part of it, feeling I had been affected by a freak occurrence and that made me some kind of freak.

And then when I was sixteen, a remarkable thing happened.  I was in a humanities course in East High School in Anchorage and the teacher was lecturing on something to do with denial on a societal level, and she mentioned, almost as an aside, how high the rate of sexual abuse of children were in Alaska. She looked out at the class and she said there’s about 25, 30 of you here, statistics say two to three of you have already been sexually assaulted and you haven’t told a soul.

And I was riveted in my seat and I felt a great sense of relief, because it had been acknowledged in public, in a school, by a teacher what had happened to me.  And it gave me tremendous comfort, even though I didn’t say anything.

So, I think that  it is important that it be mandated.  It sends a message to predators that it’s time for them to be afraid and it sends a message to kids that is of top priority to protect them.  And so, thank you for hearing me out. 

Chair:  Thank you.  Questions?  Thank you very much.