Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Some Things To Chew On: "angry mob;" '[if] you admit to using pot in the past, you can be banned;” "“'I didn’t do anything illegal."

Trump and the November Elections

An LA Times piece on Trump has this sentence:
"He has taken to describing Democrats as “an angry mob,” “wacko” and “unhinged” and has said they seek to drive the country “maybe into poverty and ultimately into chaos.”
This is Trump's way, apparently, of firing up 'his base' to go out and vote.  Demonize the 'enemy.'   I can't comprehend how Republicans blaming Democrats for the level of conflict in DC these days can keep a straight face when they manufacture and then repeat inflammatory lies like this constantly.

An essay by Nobel Prize winning economist Joseph Stigletz
"Will the US electorate declare that Trump is not what America is about? Will voters renounce his racism, misogyny, nativism, and protectionism? Will they say that his “America First” rejection of the international rule of law is not what the US stands for? Or will they make it clear that Trump’s win was not a historical accident resulting from a Republican primary process that produced a flawed nominee and a Democratic primary process that produced Trump’s ideal opponent?"
He talks about the importance of turnout.  But lets also remember that in many states, the districts have been gerrymandered so they give Republicans a big majority of Congressional seats even though they get just a slight the majority in total statewide vote. And there's the voter suppression campaigns in many states  (which he does mention.)  And the massive disinformation campaigns which the president contributes so heavily to.   But given the vast number of people who don't vote, getting them to vote IS the best antidote for the Republican schemes to thwart majority rule.

And here's a Vox interview on the contradictions in people's views of government and voting:
"In the book, you cite Mitt Romney’s famous “47 percent” comment from 2013, in which he claimed that 47 percent of the population are dependent upon the government and will vote for the Democratic candidate no matter what. But data shows that it’s the so-called “red states” that contribute the least to the federal coffers and rely the most on federal services — and of course, nearly all of those states voted for Romney. What the hell is going on here?
Suzanne Mettler:  Yeah, this is quite frustrating. I spent a lot of time looking at the state of Kentucky to try to make sense of this. Kentucky is a very poor state. And when you look at congressional districts there, you find a bunch of them where the average person gets more than 30 or 40 or 50 percent of their income from federal social benefits.
Yet those same districts are electing very conservative members of Congress who promise to introduce work requirements for food stamps and repeal the Affordable Care Act and so forth. It’s really puzzling.
I think there are a couple of things that might explain this. One is that I found that people who benefit from more visible social programs, like food stamps, are much less likely to vote."

Honesty About Marijuana With Border Officials Leads To Being Banned

US Border Patrol Banning Canadians Who Admit To Having Smoked Marijuana, Ever“If you’re a Canadian tourist in Seattle and you’re over the age of 21, you can buy marijuana. But if on your next trip to the U.S., you’re questioned by border agents and you admit to using pot in the past, you can be banned,” he said. “It’s totally backwards and doesn’t make sense.”
Last year, more than a dozen members of Congress wrote to U.S. Atty. Gen. Jeff Sessions, as well as to U.S. border officials, to express concerns about Canadians and other noncitizens being targeted at U.S. ports of entry.
“We ask that your respective agencies develop policies that ban penalizing noncitizens based on their use or possession of marijuana if they are visiting or residing in states that have enacted marijuana use laws,” the lawmakers wrote."
OK, Rep. Young, why is your party administration doing this sort of stuff.  Does this happen when Canadians cross the border into Alaska?

Hunting Ethics Breach With Appropriate Results

A member of the Idaho Fish and Game Commission resigned after posting pictures of himself and a family of baboons he had killed.  He was at first surprised at the protests against his actions and said,
“'I didn’t do anything illegal. I didn’t do anything unethical. I didn’t do anything immoral,' Fischer said.
'I look at the way Idaho’s Fish and Game statute says we’re supposed to manage all animals for Idaho, and any surplus of animals we have we manage through hunting, fishing and trapping. Africa does the same thing.'
But Steve Alder, executive director of the pro-hunting group Idaho for Wildlife, said he was glad — though not surprised — the governor had called for the resignation and suggested that this would be “a milestone” in how future commissioners might be selected.
It's good to see in a big hunting state like Idaho, that the reaction was swift and that Fischer, rather than deny any wrong doing and fight back, like so many are doing these days, wrote a letter that took responsibility and apologized.  
"In his letter of resignation, dated Oct. 15, Fischer apologized for sending the photos and said he hoped his actions “would not harm the integrity and ethic” of the Fish and Game Department.
“I recently made some poor judgments that resulted in sharing photos of a hunt in which I did not display an appropriate level of sportsmanship and respect for the animals I harvested,” Fischer wrote. 'While these actions were out of character for me, I fully accept responsibility and feel it is best for the citizens of Idaho and sportsmen and women that I resign my post.'”
I'd hope this would be the results of a similar incident in Alaska, but with our forever member of Congress' office wall full of animal heads, I doubt it.  But maybe forever will end Nov 6.  [Later in the day I saw this was reprinted in the Anchorage Daily News (ADN).]

Sexual Assault 

I’m a sexual assault survivor. And a conservative. The Kavanaugh hearings were excruciating.

The text of this story is worth reading, but more striking even is the picture that accompanied the story.

There's Kavanaugh testifying and behind him the men's legs are covered in long trousers and the women's legs are bare.  This may say more about our sexualized culture and the roles of men and women in it, than most articles I've read.  How many Senators' offices require women to wear dresses and heels?  Or if not require, let it be known they are preferred? 

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Gubernatorial Debate - Walker, Begich, Toien, But No Dunleavy [UPDATE - Walker's Lt. Gov Resigns] [2nd UPDATE]

UAA, the ADN, and a few others sponsored a debate at UAA's Wendy Williamson Auditorium, Monday evening from 5;30pm to 7pm.

It was a pretty low-key affair with each candidate showing courtesy and significant agreement with each other.  My quick crowd estimate (counting people in a few rows and then counting how many rows) gave me a 200-300 estimate.  

Current Governor Bill Walker, Independent, was sincere, practical, sounding a bit frustrated that the legislature wouldn't do the responsible thing and create an overall fiscal plan including new revenues.  He was critical of the fact that they had used up, I believe he said, 80% of the budget reserves in the last four years.

Former US Senator and Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich, Democrat, had similar themes though he also argued strongly that the Permanent Fund needs Constitutional protections or politicians will use it up.  He also called for new revenues.

Libertarian candidate Billy Toien's take was a little different.  He pointed to stacks of documents - 30 years of budget data he claimed - and said there is no crisis.  He argued that there were various special funds - I think he said about 50 - that should all be put into the general budget and the deficit would go away.  Some were mentioned - like the Alaska Aerospace Corporation and the Alaska Railroad.  I'm skeptical that moving them all into the general budget would solve our fiscal problems, but it raises the issue of whether these units get considered for cuts during budget time in the same way that regular government agencies do.

Toien, unlike Walker and Begich, was opposed to all new taxes and existing taxes and seemed to believe that the additional revenues generated by putting the independent units' funds into the general budget should be distributed to the people of Alaska.

Republican Mike Dunleavy, we were told, had a conflicting engagement and wasn't there.  His presence probably would have added some lively debate.  And he was criticized by the other three - they said he was making short term promises with no eye on the future and that all the things he promised - maintaining the permanent fund and current services, plus cutting the budget, and no new revenues - were impossible to achieve.

I thought Begich and Walker treated Toien with the sort of condescending respect one would use for a little kid who participates in an adult activity.   But everyone was very cordial.

There were three ADN journalist who were given a chance to ask question.

Tegan Hanlon.

Annie Zak and Tom Hewitt.  I wasn't taking notes, but all the questions were pretty routine.  Things like, what is on the top of your list of things to cut?

I was waiting for one of the candidates to mention KABATA (the Knik Arm Bridge And Toll Authority), but no one did.

Toien came across to me as the kind of guy who has latched on to a couple of ideas that may, by themselves, have some merit.  But that they were utterly untethered from the bigger picture.

Walker is sincere and has 'the adult in the room' sort of tone.  He takes his job seriously but it seemed all process - we have to do things reasonably, take the revenues seriously - and little content, and he didn't spell out why he would be more successful with the next legislature than he has been so far.

Begich was able, as he always has been, to talk fluently about facts on all sorts of issues and tie things together.  He has the enviable ability to smile and respond with humor to anyone, even those whose ideas he is totally opposed to.  I would have like to see how he interacted with Dunleavy.

Dunleavy appears to believe, as do many Alaskans, that he has the election in the bag because Begich and Walker will cut into each others' vote count.  So he can just skip forums like this one.  If that's true, Alaska is in for a rough next four years.  Begich's strategy on entering the race - that he or Walker would drop out after the primary when it was clear which had the better chance against Dunleavy - hasn't worked out.

[UPDATE Oct 16, 2018 4pm:  Walker's Lt. Gov Byron Mallott resigned last night, apparently due to comments made about women or to a women.  The Governor has replaced him with Valerie Nurr’araaluk Davidson, Director of Rural and Native Affairs.  See ADN for more details.  It's amazing how quickly many Democratic men step down after an incident like this compared to Republican men.]

[UPDATE Oct. 16, 2018 5pm:  A FaceBook post 15 minutes ago::
Kate Laird: This is the most interesting bit: Asked whether Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mark Begich could replace Mallott on the lieutenant governor ticket, akin to the formation of the 2014 “unity ticket” between Mallott and Walker, Heckendorn [Walker's campaign manager] said, “We have been in conversations with Begich about the best way to move forward for Alaska, and those conversations will continue. We’ve been in conversations before we had any idea of what had happened with Byron. We’ve been in conversations with Begich for a few days about how to move forward in a way that’s best for Alaska.” <nevermind my minor question about why they couldn't have had that chat before ballots were printed ...>]

Monday, October 15, 2018

Today is Día De La Raza In Much Of Latin America

From what I can tell, various forms of Columbus Day have become - or in some cases always were - broader than just celebrating Columbus and also celebrate the indigenous peoples of the Americas.  I'd note that traditionally Columbus Day in the US was celebrated on October 12.  But in the name of efficiency and three day weekends, it has been moved to the second Monday in October in the US.  Like Presidents' Day and Memorial Day have been moved to Mondays.  But this year, October 12 is closest to the 3rd Monday of October which is why it's today in Chile and other Latin American countries.

From Viva Cuernavaca:  
"In Mexico, since 1928, we have officially noted Día de la Raza (Day of the Race, or Day of the People). However, rather than a celebration of discovery, the day originally referred to the Hispanic influence in the Americas. Día de la Raza has come to be seen by indigenous activists throughout Latin America as a counter to Columbus Day; a celebration of the native races and cultures and of the resistance against the arrival of Europeans in the Americas. In the U.S.A. Día de la Raza has served as a time of mobilization for pan-ethnic Latino activists, particularly in the 1960s. Since then, La Raza has served as a periodic rallying cry for Hispanic activists. The first Hispanic March on Washington (U.S.A.) occurred on Columbus Day in 1996. The name has remained in the largest Hispanic social justice organization, by the National Council of La Raza.
During the four hundredth anniversary in 1892, in the U.S.A., teachers, preachers, poets and politicians erroneously used Columbus Day rituals to teach ideals of patriotism. These patriotic rituals were framed around themes such as citizenship boundaries, the importance of loyalty to the nation, and celebrating social progress. Columbus was from Italy, but gave his allegiance to Spain. As we shall see in the following paragraphs, Columbus did little to bring about social progress to the New World.
However, most do not celebrate the day as a joyous one, but as a day of resistance, of sorrow and in respectful memory of the millions who were killed by the Europeans or died from the infectious diseases brought upon the Americas. Today, most know that Columbus did not discover the Americas, he invaded them. Should we continue to pay homage to Christopher Columbus in light of the many atrocities that he instigated on those who had greeted him with kindness and gifts, a man who was responsible for the mass decimation of millions of individuals, all in the name of greed by a foreign government?"
It's hard for most US Americans to accept this perspective, because it means their prosperity is based on what European settlers took from the original inhabitants here.  It's easier to try to block this out than to consider the implications - like giving something, anything, back.

Here's a blog post about Dia de la Raza in Santiago, Chile in 2015.  Pictures and some short video as well as words.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Following Seth Abramson on Trump, Russia, And Now Khashoggi And the Saudi Ties

I was reading enough retweets of Seth Abramson on Twitter, that I decided I should follow him as well.  He has been tweeting prolifically about Trump, particularly about the Russia scandals.  He knows a lot about this because he's been writing a book on the topic which comes out in November - Prood of Collusion:  How Trump Betrayed America.

He seems to know a lot.  He seems particularly good at putting all the pieces together, at picking up any new bit of news and showing how it fits into the larger picture.  We don't get a lot of that in the media.  Mostly, it's a lot of jumping from one thing (which then disappears) to the next, without all the pieces being fit together.

You can read the whole thread here.  (While each tweet is limited to 280 characters, Twitter now lets its users set up threads of tweets that you can read consecutively.  There are 25 tweets in this thread, then comments.)

I also checked on Wikipedia about Abramson.  He's a got degrees from Dartmouth, Harvard Law, Iowa Writers Workshop, and a doctorate in English from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.  Related to this thread on Trump-Russia and Saudi Arabia, here's a some of what Wikipedia has on Abramson and which seems to confirm my sense that what he's writing is important.:

After the 2016 U.S. presidential election, Abramson received widespread attention for his tweets alleging collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian government. By synthesizing reporting from major news outlets, Abramson has documented repeated contacts between multiple members of the Trump campaign and the political network surrounding Russian President Vladimir Putin.[19] Based on the timing, publicly known content, and personnel involved in those meetings, Abramson suggests that, through intermediaries, Trump and Putin came to an understanding in 2013 that Trump would run for president and push for an end to U.S. sanctions against Russia, and that Putin would in return greenlight a multibillion dollar Trump Tower Moscow deal and other potential Trump ventures in Russia while using Russian capabilities to aid the Trump campaign.[20] 
Writers at several media publications – including The New Republic,[21] The Atlantic,[22] and Deadspin[23] – have described Abramson as a conspiracy theorist. While Ben Mathis-Lilley of Slate argues that Abramson is "not making things up, per se; he's just recycling information you could find on any news site and adding sinister what-if hypotheticals to create conclusions that he refers to, quite seriously, as 'investigatory analyses.'"[24] The Chronicle of Higher Education also contests the moniker, noting that Abramson "feuds with anti-Trump conspiracy theorists whom he sees linking to dubious sources and making claims without evidence."[25] 
Meanwhile, Virginia Heffernan writes in Politico that Abramson's "theory-testing" is "urgently important."[26] Der Spiegel calls Abramson "a quintessential American figure: an underdog who became an involuntary hero."[27] The New York Observer writes that "events like Trump's 2013 trip to Russia for Miss Universe were covered extensively on Abramson's feed prior to the mainstream media catching on, a fact that has given him a reputation for being early to connect events within the broader Russia story."[28]
[This link tells how to create a twitter thread.  There's also something Twitter calls  a moment.  From what I can tell, the difference is that threads are one person's tweets collected, but in a moment you can add other tweets in.  But if someone knows this better, please enlighten us.]

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Back To Anchorage - Realizing Our Wetlands Abundance

The Kealia Pond National Wildlife Reserve was near where we stayed in Maui and we had the chance to explore it while we were there.  It's about 700 acres if I recall right.

But as we flew into Anchorage yesterday, I was reminded of yet another reason why I live here -We have wetlands, bogs, etc. that seem to go on forever.  That's not an invitation on my part for developers and manufacturers to destroy them.  It's partly a prayer of thanks that the predominant image of Alaska around the world is 'a giant icebox.'

Here's a view as our plane flew around across the inlet waiting for a time to land.

It was a very grey day, but it was in the 50's (F) - continuing a warm spell since September.

At Kealia Pond, they say that only 10% of  Hawaiian wetlands are left.  Probably this picture shows more than all the wetlands Hawaii ever had.

What if Alaska were the same size as Hawaii?  Would our habitat destruction be similar?

My first visit to Hawaii was ia quick overnight in Honolulu in 1969, followed by nine weeks in Hilo working at a Peace Corps training program in 1970.  The first trip to Maui was a couple years later.  The changes are staggering - the development everywhere, the traffic.  And who gets the benefits?  People raised in Hawaii often can no longer afford to live there.  Hawaii, once a tropical paradise, is now 'an investment opportunity."

Alaska is big enough and the biggest development is remote enough that most people don't see the impacts.  But in Hawaii it's obvious.  And tourism is probably now the biggest culprit.

Another view just before landing.

And here we were on the tarmac headed to the gate.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Intergoernmental Panel On Climate Change (IPCC) Report

Amidst all the serious issues the Trump administration is causing, the really big issue facing everyone is global warming.  But the IPCC report that just came out is not a page turner for most people.  I challenge Netscape, Disney, Prime, and all the other producers of blockbusters to take on the issues of climate change that in a way that is both entertaining and educational.  In the meantime. . .

This is NOT easy stuff to understand.  But people should know this report was done (it's the continuation of work from the Paris Climate Change Agreement, agreed on by basically most every country except Trumpia. (This Mother Jones article gives more nuance)

It looks like the Press Release is the most understandable part of the report, and it's still work to get through.  Here's some key excerpts.
“One of the key messages that comes out very strongly from this report is that we are already seeing the consequences of 1°C of global warming through more extreme weather, rising sea levels and diminishing Arctic sea ice, among other changes,” said Panmao Zhai, Co-Chair of IPCC Working Group I.
For instance, by 2100, global sea level rise would be 10 cm lower with global warming of 1.5°C compared with 2°C. The likelihood of an Arctic Ocean free of sea ice in summer would be once per century with global warming of 1.5°C, compared with at least once per decade with 2°C. Coral reefs would decline by 70-90 percent with global warming of 1.5°C, whereas virtually all (> 99 percent) would be lost with 2oC.
“Every extra bit of warming matters, especially since warming of 1.5oC or higher increases the risk associated with long-lasting or irreversible changes, such as the loss of some ecosystems,” said Hans-Otto Pörtner, Co-Chair of IPCC Working Group II.
Limiting global warming would also give people and ecosystems more room to adapt and remain below relevant risk thresholds, added Pörtner. The report also examines pathways available to limit warming to 1.5oC, what it would take to achieve them and what the consequences could be.

From what I can tell, the report  is basically is comparing what will happen under the goals of limiting global temperature rise to 1.5˚C or to 2.5˚C, the feasibility of both these goals, and the impacts on the earth and life for each.

I tried to skim the main headings of the summary of findings, but they are pretty dense reading, so I've picked the list of terms listed at the end.  If people learn these terms, that would be a good start.  Then they look at the parts of the report.

Box SPM 1: Core Concepts Central to this Special Report
Global mean surface temperature (GMST): Estimated global average of near-surface air temperatures over land and sea-ice, and sea surface temperatures over ice-free ocean regions, with changes normally expressed as departures from a value over a specified reference period.
When estimating changes in GMST, near-surface air temperature over both land and oceans are also used.
Pre-industrial: The multi-century period prior to the onset of large-scale industrial activity around 1750. The reference period 1850–1900 is used to approximate pre-industrial GMST. {}
Global warming: The estimated increase in GMST averaged over a 30-year period, or the 30-year period centered on a particular year or decade, expressed relative to pre-industrial levels unless otherwise specified. For 30-year periods that span past and future years, the current multi-decadal warming trend is assumed to continue. {1.2.1}
Net zero COemissions: Net-zero carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions are achieved when anthropogenic COemissions are balanced globally by anthropogenic COremovals over a specified period.
Carbon dioxide removal (CDR): Anthropogenic activities removing COfrom the atmosphere and durably storing it in geological, terrestrial, or ocean reservoirs, or in products. It includes existing and potential anthropogenic enhancement of biological or geochemical sinks and direct air capture and storage, but excludes natural COuptake not directly caused by human activities.
Total carbon budget: Estimated cumulative net global anthropogenic COemissions from the preindustrial period to the time that anthropogenic COemissions reach net zero that would result, at some probability, in limiting global warming to a given level, accounting for the impact of other anthropogenic emissions. {2.2.2}
Remaining carbon budget: Estimated cumulative net global anthropogenic COemissions from a given start date to the time that anthropogenic COemissions reach net zero that would result, at some probability, in limiting global warming to a given level, accounting for the impact of other anthropogenic emissions. {2.2.2}
Temperature overshoot: The temporary exceedance of a specified level of global warming.
Emission pathways: In this Summary for Policymakers, the modelled trajectories of global anthropogenic emissions over the 21st century are termed emission pathways. Emission pathways are classified by their temperature trajectory over the 21st century: pathways giving at least 50% probability based on current knowledge of limiting global warming to below 1.5°C are classified as ‘no overshoot’; those limiting warming to below 1.6°C and returning to 1.5°C by 2100 are classified as ‘1.5°C limited-overshoot’; while those exceeding 1.6°C but still returning to 1.5°C by 2100 are classified as ‘higher-overshoot’.
Impacts: Effects of climate change on human and natural systems. Impacts can have beneficial or adverse outcomes for livelihoods, health and well-being, ecosystems and species, services, infrastructure, and economic, social and cultural assets.
Risk: The potential for adverse consequences from a climate-related hazard for human and
natural systems, resulting from the interactions between the hazard and the vulnerability and exposure of the affected system. Risk integrates the likelihood of exposure to a hazard and the magnitude of its impact. Risk also can describe the potential for adverse consequences of adaptation or mitigation responses to climate change.

Climate-resilient development pathways (CRDPs): Trajectories that strengthen sustainable development at multiple scales and efforts to eradicate poverty through equitable societal and systems transitions and transformations while reducing the threat of climate change through ambitious mitigation, adaptation, and climate resilience.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Why People In Anchorage Don't See Much Of Alaska

Alaska Airlines extended its Permanent Fund Dividend sale.  I've just copied the first six destinations from Anchorage that were listed.

From Anchorage (ANC) to
Adak Island (ADK)
Purchase by October 15, 2018.
one way
From Anchorage (ANC) to
Albuquerque (ABQ)
Purchase by October 15, 2018.
one way
From Anchorage (ANC) to
Atlanta (ATL)
Purchase by October 15, 2018.
one way
From Anchorage (ANC) to
Austin (AUS)
Purchase by October 15, 2018.
one way
From Anchorage (ANC) to
Baltimore (BWI)
Purchase by October 15, 2018.
one way
From Anchorage (ANC) to
Barrow (BRW)
Purchase by October 15, 2018.

one way

[The out-of-state distances come from convert it]

So let's see how much that comes to when converted to cost per mile;

From Anchorage to Adak = 1,192 miles  or $.38 per mile
From Anchorage to Albuquerque = 2578 miles  or $.07 per mile
From Anchorage to Atlanta = 3365 or $.07 per mile
From Anchorage to Austin =  3125 or $.06 per mile
From Anchorage to Baltimore = 3317 or $.07 per mile
From Anchorage to Barrow =  725 miles or $.21 per mile

[UPDATE Oct 10, 2018  8pm- here are some more Alaska destinations (miles from air miles calculator)
Anchorage to Bethel = 399 miles (at $99) = $.25 per mile
Anchorage to Cordova = 160 miles (at $99) = $.62 per mile
Anchorage to Dutch Harbor = 792 miles (at $349) =  $.44 per mile
Anchorage to Fairbanks - 261 miles (at $77) = $.30 per mile
Anchorage to Juneau =  571 miles (at $137) = $.24 per mile
Anchorage to Ketchikan = 775 miles  (@ $169) = $.22 per mile
Anchorage to Kodiak = 253 miles (@ $109) = $.43 per mile
Anchorage to Kotzebue =  548 miles  (@ $129) = $.24  per mile
Anchorage to Nome =  539 miles  (@ $129) = $.24  per mile
Anchorage to Petersburg =  671 miles  (@ $149) = $.22  per mile
Anchorage to Sitka =  592 miles  (@ $148) = $.25  per mile
Anchorage to Yakutat =  373 miles  (@ $149) = $.40  per mile]

I understand that airline prices are related to prices offered by competitors and that Alaska Airlines has little to no competition when flying around Alaska.  But what it means is that:
  • Unless someone's job requires Alaska travel paid by the  employer, most Alaskans can fly out of state for much less than they can fly in state
  • Rural Alaskans, whose income is below the state average, are a big part of Alaska Airlines' profits
  • If they aren't (if Alaska Air is making plenty with out of state flights) then why not give rural Alaskans a break here?
And I got a notice today from the Alaska Permanent Fund that they deposited my $1600 into my checking account.  And Alaska Airlines, like every other business, wants their cut of every Alaskans PFD.

Tuesday, October 09, 2018

You Notice Things Biking That You Miss Driving

I've been riding about 8-10 miles round trip each morning along the bike path next to the Plane Highway.  The first days on this route I notice the big things.  Here's a previous post that shows what I noticed then.

Like litter.  A couple of days ago, I started to notice how much trash there was.  Lots of plastic, fast food debris - cups, styrofoam.  Sometimes bigger stuff - mattresses, a refrigerator today on the other side, down a hill.  From a car, a lot of this stuff isn't visible.  The clear plastic bottles might just be a sparkle, or things are hidden by the grass.  But on a bike you can see them.

It's scattered around, not obvious, but I suddenly realized how much there was.  I wondered as I rode along how many bags of trash I could collect.

And then the next day, I got my answer.

From the point where the bags were sitting, there wasn't any trash any more, but they only collected a portion of the roadside.

Biking also gives you the opportunity to stop and check things out.  The red car along the side of the road was still there today, a week after I first saw it with its emergency lights blinking.

Sunday it had a handicapped permit hanging from the rear view mirror.

Yesterday (Monday) it was gone.

But there was a lot of other stuff in there.

And there was another car on the side of he road today/

You notice other stuff.  Like the telephone wires.  They go along most of the highway across the road.  (There are some on the side with the bike path too.)  Here are two other landmarks I haven't posted that show those wires across the road.

The Still Missing Wall lists people and the dates they went missing.  The wall looks different in a 2017 Maui News story on the building, which it identifies as a telephone exchange building built in 1942 at the navy air base.   And here's another source that tells a little more about the wall and the names.    If you click on the image, it gets bigger and sharper.

But also notice the telephone wires.

Here's another building - that's advertising for foster parents on that side of the road.  It also has the wires in front of it.

But in this picture, there's no telephone wires.  I took the picture because I noticed there were no wires, but when I wanted to take a similar picture, there were always wires in the way.  So I paid closer attention.  There's about a quarter mile (maybe half mile) stretch of the highway with no wires.  Well, there are wires, but they have been routed away from the highway and then back again a little later.  The thing I noticed was this:  the section without the wires along the west side of the highway includes the entrance to the electric company.  A coincidence?  Bears more research.

 Another interesting entrance is one to Maui Concrete.  As you can see, the highway above is asphalt.  But the road that goes to Maui Concrete looks like this:

Lots to see and ponder when you bike.  Especially when you take the same route for a while.  And walking, you see even more of the detail, but for a smaller area than cycling.

The Kealia Pond Nature Reserve had a tour today at 9am, so I met J there near the end of my bike ride.  There was a local couple with their 20 month old and 4 year grand children.  I'm afraid I didn't learn that much about the reserve, because they let me play grandpa with the kids.  Only two days left on Maui.  Then maybe we can catch some of the great October weather we've been hearing about in Anchorage.

Monday, October 08, 2018

Where Do We Go From Here? Republicans And Power

Democracy is not about outcome - it's about the process we take to get outcomes.  We are supposed to make decisions in ways that represent the will of the people.  That's, of course, an ideal that originally didn't include women, Indians, or blacks.

The constitution was intended to set up processes that would insure a reasonably decent life for, at least, white males with property.  Over the years, others got added, at least on paper, to the decision making as voters. The representation of women and people of color has grown in Congress.  We saw some very smart women in the Senate Judiciary Committee last week, yet in the end, it was white males who dominated once again.  "She's credible and poised, but we're going with our guy."  For the Republicans, democratic process was short circuited so they could get the outcome they wanted.

The US Constitution begins:
"We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America."
I hope our newest originalist pays attention to these basic goals (particularly the ones I've highlighted.  We certainly are not succeeding when it comes to domestic tranquility and the general welfare is getting less important than the welfare of the wealthy.  Senators Graham and McConnell and the president were more worried about justice for some man who might get falsely accused than they were about all the women that have been and continue to be actually sexually harassed, abused, and assaulted.

When Supreme Court justices required 60 votes for confirmation, presidents had to offer justices who were moderate enough to garner at least some votes from the party out of power.  The Republicans lowered the bar to 50 votes.  And Saturday they got 50 votes from Senators representing only 44.2% of the US population.  Those 48 Senators who opposed Kavanaugh represented 55.8% of the US population.

This can be, because every state gets two senators - my state, Alaska, with only under 800,000 people gets the same number of U. S. Senators as California with nearly 40 million people.  This disconnect between the idea of  majority rule and what really happens has reached the breaking point as McConnell pushed Kavanaugh onto the Supreme Court, against popular will and without allowing the FBI to do a real investigation.  (The real story - not the he said/she details the media got all over - was what deals people were offered behind closed doors, and what threats were made if they didn't take those offers.  The Alaska Republican Party is already considering stripping Lisa Murkowski of her red R.

Such a sharply divided decision bodes nothing good, except maybe stronger calls for reform.  It lays bare the partisan nature of the Republicans packing the court.  Obama's choice of Merrick Garland was met with bi-partisan recognition of his qualification to be on the court, and McConnell's refusal to even hold hearings.  The Democrats had relatively mild opposition to Neil Gorsuch.  It was only when a candidate as openly partisan, as Kavanaugh revealed himself in the hearings, was nominated that Democrats really dug in to oppose him.

We are in a crisis of confidence in our government.  Here are a couple of possible scenarios I to watch for::

  1. Chief Justice Roberts has shown at times, that he understands that the court needs credibility.  He broke with his fellow (I can use that term because they are all men) conservatives to preserve Obamacare.  If he recognizes the crisis that is coming to the court with his name on it, he may well take Kennedy's swing role from time to time.  
  2. If Roberts doesn't work to moderate the courts' decisions, there will be growing calls to increase the size of the court.  If you look carefully through the Constitution, you won't find the number of justices set.  It's set by Congress and has changed several times over the last two hundred plus years.   You can read more about the size of the court here and here   
  3. Since Republicans have taken off their nice masks, it will be hard for Democrats to not follow suit.  In Game Theory, the Prisoners Dilemma to be precise,  the Tit for Tat strategy wins in the long run.  It requires a player to mimic the moves of his opponent.  Start by cooperating, but if the opponent 'defects' (in the language of Game Theory), then you need to defect too.  If the other side doesn't wise up, this strategy can lead to endless warfare.  

Sunday, October 07, 2018

What I Didn't Say To The Guy Wearing The Trump Hat

Yesterday Kavanaugh was approved and quickly sworn into the Supreme Court.  A sad day for many Americans.

We ate at a Thai restaurant and the man in the table across from me had on a "Trump 2016" hat.  I wanted to go up to him and ask him why he supported this man.  But it didn't seem appropriate.  But I've been thinking about what I might have said.

Excuse me sir, but I couldn't help noticing your hat.  My name is Steve and I'm one of those Democrats that the president says is conspiring to overthrow the country.  I don't see myself in that role at all.  We're both eating at a Thai restaurant, which means we have at least that in common.  And I'm sure we have many other things in common.  Do you have children?  Grandchildren?  Well we share the joys and pains of parenthood.

We've all been played by many parties, encouraged to demonize each other, by various media outlets whose revenues go up the more conflict they report.  By politicians preying on people's fears to get people to vote for them.  And, it seems, by Russians and probably other foreign operatives, who seem to believe that by sowing internal discord in the US (and other countries) they can weaken our power in the world, just as Brexit has weekend the European Union.

There are probably basic values we disagree on.  Republicans seem to believe much more in the idea that people are responsible for their own successes and failures.  Democrats seem to believe that we are all parts of communities that help or hinder individuals as they make their way in the world.  But I'm sure if we could sit down and talk about specific situations, we'd find we agree on far more than we disagree.

So one question I'd ask is:  Do you really think the I'm an evil person who wants to destroy America?  Can you look me in the eye and say that honestly?  If not, why are we so divided?  What things do you fear that people like me want to take away from you?

If you have the energy and the wherewithal to talk to people who vote the opposite of your vote - whether you support Trump or oppose him - look for things you have in common: hobbies, favorite foods, sports teams, religion, nationality, family size, health issue, musical tastes.  Listen to the other person.  Ask questions:

  • what experiences in your life got you to believe this?
  • what do you fear most if 'the other party' has control?
  • how do you explain the contradictions in your party of choice?
  • how has your life improved or declined in the last 10 years?  How?  What explains it?
  • why do you believe that?  
  • how would one go about proving something like that?
  • how do you evaluate the truth of something you hear?
If the first encounter goes ok, make a schedule a second one.  I know this is a difficult assignment, but we don't have any choice.  Talking politely with the people you've labeled your enemy (or have labeled you theirs) is one thing everyone can do.  You don't need money.  You don't need an organization backing you.  You just need tolerance, curiosity, patience, courage, and decency.  

Some Morning Biking Pictures As I Get Ready For This Morning's Ride

The Pilani Highway, that goes from near the airport to Kihei, has a separate bike path - there's a painted path, grass, then a paved path, well away from the cars.  And I can just ride off for 30 minutes no real interruptions and then turn around.

 So that's my route now.  Yesterday it felt so good after 40 minutes I didn't want to turn even.  But I did.

But Friday, my ride was interrupted.  I had a serious flat - a couple of big thorns.

Calls to the rental place.  I had to drive there, get a bike rack, go home and get the bike, take it in, switch out to a new bike.

But now I'm back in the groove.  Some shots from yesterday.

The West Maui mountains from the bike trail.

This car was parked here on Thursday with the emergency lights blinking.  I didn't get this far on Friday before the flat.

Saturday the gas tank fall was gone, and presumably the gas, and someone seems to have gone through the contents inside and scattered a lot of the papers outside the car.

 Near the National Guard are these 'billboards' for Motocross.

And there's this memorial, but I couldn't find a name.  

So I'm off now for today's ride, before it gets too hot.

Friday, October 05, 2018

Well Judge For Yourself - " — Lisa Murkowski jewish"

I had a sudden rush of hits today on a 2010  post "Does Lisa Murkowski's Religious Preference Matter?"  Over 60 hits today.  It was a post I put up in 2010 after getting lots of hits from people searching variations of "Is Lisa Murkowski Jewish?"  The post was responding to all those hits surmising why people wanted to know that.

Nowadays, most google search words are no longer visible to the websites the get to, but this bing search made it clear:

Greensboro, Georgia, United States
IP Address:
Hargray Communications Group xxxxxxxxxxx  
Search Referral:
Visit Page:

I googled "Lisa Murkowski" and my post didn't show up in the first 13 pages.

I googled "Lisa Murkowski Jewish" and it showed up number 2. Though since google tailors searches for the searcher, that's probably higher than most people would get.   Nevertheless,  I'm guessing many if not most of the people getting to that post today - maybe 50 - googled "Murkowski" and either "jewish" related or "religion."

You can see what they got here:  "Does Lisa Murkowski's Religious Preference Matter?" The comments confirmed one of my suspicions - anti-semitism.

Meanwhile, I saw a Tweet asking people to support a fund for Susan Collins' next opponent.  I understand the sentiment, and I don't understand how she made her decision at all.  But at least she was one of a few Republican senators who even entertained the possibility of voting 'no.'  She's not the one who should be jumped all over.  There were 47 who never gave any public indication they would do anything but vote yes.  Their opponents are the ones to be raising funds for - starting with the senior senator from Kentucky.

It's dark now, but this was my view about an hour ago.