Sunday, June 17, 2018

When It Comes To Guns, We Don't Need New Laws 'Cause People Will Still Get Guns, But When It Comes To Immigrants, They Think Taking Away The Kids Will Stop Folks

I know logic and consistency don't matter with the Trump administration, but I think about all the NRA folks swatting away any law that might make it harder for some people to get guns, saying, "Criminals will still get guns.'

And I say, no matter what Congress does, immigrants will still come.

Remember the folks who jumped out of the World Trade Center to avoid burning to death?

The people fleeing from countries where they're in daily danger from community and domestic violence have a much greater chance of saving themselves by seeking asylum in the US than the people who jumped out the windows.  And even if they're told about Trump's policies, it sounds better than the fires burning around them at home.

But the Trump administration thinks taking away the kids - and for many this will mean a life of severe psychological damage, particularly for the youngest kids - will stop people from jumping out of the burning countries.

From the NYTimes:
"But advocates inside the administration, most prominently Stephen Miller, Mr. Trump’s senior policy adviser, never gave up on the idea. Last month, facing a sharp uptick in illegal border crossings, Mr. Trump ordered a new effort to criminally prosecute anyone who crossed the border unlawfully — with few exceptions for parents traveling with their minor children.
And now Mr. Trump faces the consequences. With thousands of children detained in makeshift shelters, his spokesmen this past week had to deny accusations that the administration was acting like Nazis. Even evangelical supporters like Franklin Graham said its policy was 'disgraceful.'”
How much more of this evil* will the Republicans in the Senate go along with?  Certainly those not running for reelection in November need to stand up to this severely troubled man in the White House.


*I don't use this term lightly, but these people, who seriously advocate separating young children from their parents, are morally incompetent, not to mention that whatever possible short term gain, will be far offset by the long-term damage to these kids.

Read this Twitter thread by a reporter who was forcibly separated from his father as a young child.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Anchorage Pridefest and Parade

Thursday was warm (70s) and sunny.  Friday was gray, Friday night it rained a lot.  But this morning the streets were dry but the clouds were still here.  I biked downtown to get in the Congregation Beth Sholom group at the parade, but I couldn't find them.  So I chained the bike to a tree and waited just before where the groups entered the parade route.  (Why the groups don't have
any body on the streets.)  There were lots of bubbles.





The Royal Court.




Here's Mayor Berkowitz (light blue) near the front of the parade with an APD car behind.


Planned Parenthood.



The Alaska Native Health Consortium.















Anchorage Public Library.





























BP














Pride Youth Network







And I joined in when Congregation Beth Sholom arrived.










James was staffing the Full Circle booth and signed up the friend I was with.  They've come a long way from when we subscribed.  Back then they didn't carry Alaska grown stuff, stopping delivery when we were away was tricky, and they didn't deliver to your door.





Brian Conwell was working at the AKDems booth.  He grew up in Dutch Harbor, just graduated from high school, and is headed to Harvard when the summer's over.  This is someone to keep an eye on.  I'll bet we hear his name in the future.












Aaron just arrived in Alaska for the first time ever last week from Chicago.  He's a legal intern at the ACLU.











Kim works with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and I wanted get her take on the Netflix show "13 Reasons Why" which we just finished.  She hasn't seen it yet.  Her organization isn't using it, but she's heard that reactions vary a lot and for some it could well push people to suicide, but she's happy people are talking about suicide.  She said they were getting a lot more people coming to the booth this year.





Bryan was there with his family.  He went to school with my daughter.

















Dani was there representing UAA.


Candidates tend to show up for events like this and I got to meet Dimitri Shein who is running as a Democrat for the US House.  This is the race that Alyse Galvin is in as an independent.  Which doesn't mean an Independent Party member, but just no party declared.  But with a recent Alaska Supreme Court ruling, she's running in the Democratic Primary.  Whoever wins - Alyse or Dimitri - will run against Don Young.   


It was cooler than last year and when the breeze picked up, it was getting chilly.  But all that was good for the many, many bubbles.

The hell and damnation guy was there spouting his vitriol against gays, but not too many were paying any attention at all.  I don't understand how so called Christians can interpret Christ's message as intolerant and exclusive and damning.  It's truly a feat of one person twisting the bible's meaning to support his own unchristian views.    I decided he needs to be noted, but I don't need to include a picture.  

Friday, June 15, 2018

Only A Country Of Sick People Takes Kids From Their Parents

The people who make these kinds of decisions have no conscience.

But people in a democracy bear responsibility for allowing their government to do such things.

Everyone needs to make peace with people of opposing ideologies.
Everyone needs to recognize our society oppresses everyone in one way or another.  Most get over it.  Others grow to become the oppressors.  We all need to smile when we meet people on the street.  To imagine everyone we meet as a brother, as a future Nobel Prize winner, of US president, or great athlete, and our behavior toward others will improve.  (Unless you hate your brother.)

This is just sick.  What did these official not get as children.  Or get too much of?  To use the kids as a political bargaining tool is unconscionable.

And if your members of Congress get a letter, email, or phone call about this, I'm sure most will agree.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Queen Of Sheba - Anchorage Finally Gets An Ethiopian Restaurant


Samrowit and Dwit have opened an Ethiopian restaurant on Dawson, between Northern Lights and Benson.  It's where the Somali restaurant was.

There was an article in the ADN last week which mentioned that it had opened and the couple said they were not quite ready for the crowds.  They only expected people from around mid-town, but it's been people from all over.

We got there about 6:45pm.  We didn't realize that it closed at 7pm (they're open for lunch too).  They'd run out of the veggie dishes we wanted.  They ended up bringing out two chicken orders and a veggie order on the traditional spongy bread and said it was on the house because it wasn't what we ordered.   It was delicious.  Messy, but delicious.  (You eat with your fingers, though if you asked I'm sure they'd get you a fork.

They'd only been open a week when the article came out.  The ADN should have held off and given them some time to get settled. (It was an article about new businesses opening and old ones closing, not a food review.)   On the positive side, because of the article people have promised help, like putting up a website.  They'll figure things out.  They've already ordered a larger mixer so they can prepare more of the bread.    I was hungry so I didn't think about getting a picture of our dinner, but you can see a picture at the link for bread above.

Here's the entrance.  It was (and still is) warm today - in the 70sF - so the shades are down to block the sun.  They put up a sign with their hours while we were leaving.  But the food was good.  Just go earlier than we did.  And yes, we left a tip equivalent to what it would have cost us.

This is a great addition to the Anchorage restaurant choices.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Comparing the Joint Statements of Trump and Kim Jong Un and of Nixon and Chou Enlai

I keep hearing about the statement from Singapore saying little or nothing, so I thought I'd read it and put it up here for people to see.  Then I thought it would be useful to get some sort of benchmark to compare it to.  So I found the Shanghai Communique released after Nixon's visit to China in 1972.

Some things to think about when reading through these two documents:
1.  The basic purpose of Nixon's visit was to simply start a dialogue with the most populous nation in the world after decades of the US denying the existence of China and supporting Taiwan instead.   Trump's visit had some similarities because the US and North Korea had no diplomatic relations for decades either.  However, in the present case, Trump was visiting a pariah nation and there was growing concern about North Korea's nuclear weapons. Trump's goal to 'denuclearize' the Korean Peninsula.
2.  In the current statement, the names of the two leaders are in the title.  In the 1972 statement, they are not.  Probably not a big deal, but still telling.
3.  In both statements there are a lot of vague commitments with no actual specific steps or deadlines.  In the Singapore statement, the most specific commitment is that North Korea "commits to work toward complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula."  A further specific commitment is to return identified remains of POW's and MIA's.
The Shanghai agreement goes through many more issues including Vietnam (the US was still fighting there at the time), peace between India and China in Jammu and Kashmir, peace in Korea,  and China and the US commit to a one China policy and the US will withdraw military bases from Taiwan. This was a huge concession on the part of Nixon radically changing US policy on China. There is also mention of cultural exchanges.
4.  The Singapore statement includes a bit of self-aggrandizement when it mentions "a first, historic summit"   and later, "Having acknowledged that the U.S.-DPRK summit — the first in history — was an epochal event of great significance in overcoming decades of tensions and hostilities between the two countries and for the opening up of a new future . . "  (emphasis added)  The Shanghai statement has no such language.

Nixon went to the most populous country in the world - opening relations that both saw as beneficial for trade and for peace in Asia and the world.  Trump went to one of the poorest nations with a population of 25 million (the 52nd largest in the world).  Trump went to denuclearize North Korea.  And the statement shows commitment to that goal.  As much as the Shanghai Communique shows commitment to any of their goals.  Though in the Shanghai case, the two countries met, if not quite as equals, then as two of the most powerful nations on earth.  And without any clear agenda items (such as the denuclearization goal) other than to establish contact and begin to regularize relations.

Singapore Statement
Joint Statement of President Donald J. Trump of the United States of America and Chairman Kim Jong Un of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea at the Singapore Summit
President Donald J. Trump of the United States of America and Chairman Kim Jong Un of the State Affairs Commission of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) held a first, historic summit in Singapore on June 12, 2018.
President Trump and Chairman Kim Jong Un conducted a comprehensive, in-depth, and sincere exchange of opinions on the issues related to the establishment of new U.S.-DPRK relations and the building of a lasting and robust peace regime on the Korean Peninsula. President Trump committed to provide security guarantees to the DPRK, and Chairman Kim Jong Un reaffirmed his firm and unwavering commitment to complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.
Convinced that the establishment of new U.S.-DPRK relations will contribute to the peace and prosperity of the Korean Peninsula and of the world, and recognizing that mutual confidence building can promote the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, President Trump and Chairman Kim Jong Un state the following:
1. The United States and the DPRK commit to establish new U.S.-DPRK relations in accordance with the desire of the peoples of the two countries for peace and prosperity.
2. The United States and the DPRK will join their efforts to build a lasting and stable peace regime on the Korean Peninsula.
3. Reaffirming the April 27, 2018 Panmunjom Declaration, the DPRK commits to work toward complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.
4. The United States and the DPRK commit to recovering POW/MIA remains, including the immediate repatriation of those already identified.
Having acknowledged that the U.S.-DPRK summit — the first in history — was an epochal event of great significance in overcoming decades of tensions and hostilities between the two countries and for the opening up of a new future, President Trump and Chairman Kim Jong Un commit to implement the stipulations in this joint statement fully and expeditiously. The United States and the DPRK commit to hold follow-up negotiations, led by the U.S. Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, and a relevant high-level DPRK official, at the earliest possible date, to implement the outcomes of the U.S.-DPRK summit.
President Donald J. Trump of the United States of America and Chairman Kim Jong Un of the State Affairs Commission of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea have committed to cooperate for the development of new U.S.-DPRK relations and for the promotion of peace, prosperity, and security of the Korean Peninsula and of the world.
(Signed)
DONALD J. TRUMP
President of the United States of America
KIM JONG UN
Chairman of the State Affairs Commission of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea
June 12, 2018
Sentosa Island
Singapore



And here's the Shanghai Communique (as best as I can tell) issued jointly by China and the US after Nixon's visit in 1972.  

203. Joint Statement Following Discussions With Leaders of the People’s Republic of China1Shanghai, February 27, 1972.President Richard Nixon of the United States of America visited the People’s Republic of China at the invitation of Premier Chou Enlai of the People’s Republic of China from February 21 to February 28, 1972. Accompanying the President were Mrs. Nixon, U.S. Secretary of State William Rogers, Assistant to the President Dr. Henry Kissinger, and other American officials.
President Nixon met with Chairman Mao Tse-tung of the Communist Party of China on February 21. The two leaders had a serious and frank exchange of views on Sino-U.S. relations and world affairs.
During the visit, extensive, earnest, and frank discussions were held between President Nixon and Premier Chou En-lai on the normalization of relations between the United States of America and the People’s Republic of China, as well as on other matters of interest to both sides. In addition, Secretary of State William Rogers and Foreign Minister Chi P’eng-fei held talks in the same spirit.
President Nixon and his party visited Peking and viewed cultural, industrial and agricultural sites, and they also toured Hangchow and Shanghai where, continuing discussions with Chinese leaders, they viewed similar places of interest.
The leaders of the People’s Republic of China and the United States of America found it beneficial to have this opportunity, after so many years without contact, to present candidly to one another their views on a variety of issues. They reviewed the international situation in which important changes and great upheavals are taking place and expounded their respective positions and attitudes.
The U.S. side stated: Peace in Asia and peace in the world requires efforts both to reduce immediate tensions and to eliminate the basic causes of conflict. The United States will work for a just and secure peace: just, because it fulfills the aspirations of peoples and nations for freedom and progress; secure, because it removes the danger of foreign aggression. The United States supports individual freedom and social progress for all the peoples of the world, free of outside pressure or intervention. The United States believes that the effort to [Page 813]reduce tensions is served by improving communication between countries that have different ideologies so as to lessen the risks of confrontation through accident, miscalculation or misunderstanding. Countries should treat each other with mutual respect and be willing to compete peacefully, letting performance be the ultimate judge. No country should claim infallibility and each country should be prepared to re-examine its own attitudes for the common good. The United States stressed that the peoples of Indochina should be allowed to determine their destiny without outside intervention; its constant primary objective has been a negotiated solution; the eight-point proposal put forward by the Republic of Vietnam and the United States on January 27, 1972 represents a basis for the attainment of that objective; in the absence of a negotiated settlement the United States envisages the ultimate withdrawal of all U.S. forces from the region consistent with the aim of self-determination for each country of Indochina. The United States will maintain its close ties with and support for the Republic of Korea; the United States will support efforts of the Republic of Korea to seek a relaxation of tension and increased communication in the Korean peninsula. The United States places the highest value on its friendly relations with Japan; it will continue to develop the existing close bonds. Consistent with the United Nations Security Council Resolution of December 21, 1971, the United States favors the continuation of the ceasefire between India and Pakistan and the withdrawal of all military forces to within their own territories and to their own sides of the ceasefire line in Jammu and Kashmir; the United States supports the right of the peoples of South Asia to shape their own future in peace, free of military threat, and without having the area become the subject of great power rivalry.
The Chinese side stated: Wherever there is oppression, there is resistance. Countries want independence, nations want liberation and the people want revolution—this has become the irresistible trend of history. All nations, big or small, should be equal; big nations should not bully the small and strong nations should not bully the weak. China will never be a superpower and it opposes hegemony and power politics of any kind. The Chinese side stated that it firmly supports the struggles of all the oppressed people and nations for freedom and liberation and that the people of all countries have the right to choose their social systems according to their own wishes and the right to safeguard the independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of their own countries and oppose foreign aggression, interference, control and subversion. All foreign troops should be withdrawn to their own countries.
The Chinese side expressed its firm support to the peoples of Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia in their efforts for the attainment of their [Page 814]goal and its firm support to the seven-point proposal of the Provisional Revolutionary Government of the Republic of South Vietnam and the elaboration of February this year on the two key problems in the proposal, and to the Joint Declaration of the Summit Conference of the Indochinese Peoples. It firmly supports the eight-point program for the peaceful unification of Korea put forward by the Government of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea on April 12, 1971, and the stand for the abolition of the “U.N. Commission for the Unification and Rehabilitation of Korea.” It firmly opposes the revival and outward expansion of Japanese militarism and firmly supports the Japanese people’s desire to build an independent, democratic, peaceful and neutral Japan. It firmly maintains that India and Pakistan should, in accordance with the United Nations resolutions on the India-Pakistan question, immediately withdraw all their forces to their respective territories and to their own sides of the ceasefire line in Jammu and Kashmir and firmly supports the Pakistan Government and people in their struggle to preserve their independence and sovereignty and the people of Jammu and Kashmir in their struggle for the right of self-determination.
There are essential differences between China and the United States in their social systems and foreign policies. However, the two sides agreed that countries, regardless of their social systems, should conduct their relations on the principles of respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all states, nonaggression against other states, noninterference in the internal affairs of other states, equality and mutual benefit, and peaceful coexistence. International disputes should be settled on this basis, without resorting to the use or threat of force. The United States and the People’s Republic of China are prepared to apply these principles to their mutual relations.
With these principles of international relations in mind the two sides stated that:
—progress toward the normalization of relations between China and the United States is in the interests of all countries;
—both wish to reduce the danger of international military conflict;
—neither should seek hegemony in the Asia–Pacific region and each is opposed to efforts by any other country or group of countries to establish such hegemony; and
—neither is prepared to negotiate on behalf of any third party or to enter into agreements or understandings with the other directed at other states.
Both sides are of the view that it would be against the interests of the peoples of the world for any major country to collude with another against other countries, or for major countries to divide up the world into spheres of interest.
[Page 815]
The two sides reviewed the long-standing serious disputes between China and the United States. The Chinese side reaffirmed its position: The Taiwan question is the crucial question obstructing the normalization of relations between China and the United States; the Government of the People’s Republic of China is the sole legal government of China; Taiwan is a province of China which has long been returned to the motherland; the liberation of Taiwan is China’s internal affair in which no other country has the right to interfere; and all U.S. forces and military installations must be withdrawn from Taiwan. The Chinese Government firmly opposes any activities which aim at the creation of “one China, one Taiwan,” “one China, two governments,” “two Chinas,” and “independent Taiwan” or advocate that “the status of Taiwan remains to be determined.”
The U.S. side declared: The United States acknowledges that all Chinese on either side of the Taiwan Strait maintain there is but one China and that Taiwan is a part of China. The United States Government does not challenge that position. It reaffirms its interest in a peaceful settlement of the Taiwan question by the Chinese themselves. With this prospect in mind, it affirms the ultimate objective of the withdrawal of all U.S. forces and military installations from Taiwan. In the meantime, it will progressively reduce its forces and military installations on Taiwan as the tension in the area diminishes.
The two sides agreed that it is desirable to broaden the understanding between the two peoples. To this end, they discussed specific areas in such fields as science, technology, culture, sports and journalism, in which people-to-people contacts and exchanges would be mutually beneficial. Each side undertakes to facilitate the further development of such contacts and exchanges.
Both sides view bilateral trade as another area from which mutual benefit can be derived, and agreed that economic relations based on equality and mutual benefit are in the interest of the people of the two countries. They agree to facilitate the progressive development of trade between their two countries.
The two sides agreed that they will stay in contact through various channels, including the sending of a senior U.S. representative to Peking from time to time for concrete consultations to further the normalization of relations between the two countries and continue to exchange views on issues of common interest.
The two sides expressed the hope that the gains achieved during this visit would open up new prospects for the relations between the two countries. They believe that the normalization of relations between the two countries is not only in the interest of the Chinese and American peoples but also contributes to the relaxation of tension in Asia and the world.
[Page 816]
President Nixon, Mrs. Nixon and the American party expressed their appreciation for the gracious hospitality shown them by the Government and people of the People’s Republic of China.2
Source: Public Papers: Nixon, 1972, pp. 376–379. Commonly known as the Shanghai Communiqué.↩
A Note following the text of the communiqué reads: “The joint statement was released at Shanghai, People’s Republic of China. On the same day, the White House released a statement by Press Secretary Ronald L. Ziegler and the transcript of a news briefing on the joint statement. Participants in the news briefing were Henry A. Kissinger, Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs, and Marshall Green, Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs. The statement and the transcript are printed in the Weekly Compilation of Presidential Documents (vol. 8, pp. 480 and 476).” On February 14, the White House released a statement by Ziegler on further relaxation of trade with the People’s Republic of China. The statement is printed in the Weekly Compilation of Presidential Documents (vol. 8, p. 438). On February 21 the White House released a statement and transcript of a news briefing by Ziegler on the President’s meeting with Chairman Mao Tse-tung. The statement is ibid., p. 466.↩
CHINA, 1969–1972
Optimistically, one could argue that Trump understood Kim as he understood the white working class in the US.  He saw them as having a strong need for respect from others.  A need that Trump himself seems to have.  If he's right on this, perhaps being on equal footing the president of the United States will give him what he needs to stop his nuclear weapon program.  It's possible.  But as all but the most ardent Trump fans have been saying, there are no timetables, not concrete steps, no discussions of how to verify. It would be great if things progressed as Trump sees things.  I'd be willing to acknowledge Trump did a great thing, if it works out.  But there's a lot that can go wrong, not the least is Trump's twitter addiction.  Some one night stands become more than that.  But in most cases the glow fades quickly.

But looking at the two documents, I'd say that the China one has more detail on a wider range of topics and is more diplomatic in its language, but there aren't any more specifics about the next steps and no deadlines.  That peace on the Korean peninsula they both supported, well, it's 35 years later and we've been in one of the tensest periods in decades.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Supreme Court Decision Allows Ohio To Drop Voters For Missing Election And A Post Card

Justin Levitt, a redistricting expert I respect, wrote a very detailed analysis of yesterday's Supreme Court decision which allows Ohio to purge voters who miss an election and a follow up post card. The whole thing is worth reading; here's a snippet:
"And then there’s the Supreme Court decision, its own bundle of disappointments. It’s a disappointing approach to have so little regard for what Congress was trying to achieve.  Congress set out to limit unwarranted purges of eligible voters, and it’s hard to believe they approved a process allowing voters to be kicked off of the rolls without any reliable evidence that they might in fact be ineligible.
It’s a disappointing triumph of empty formalism. Recall that the statute says that individuals can’t be removed because they haven’t voted. At one point, Justice Alito explains that Ohio does not purge people because they haven’t voted, because purging also turns on the failure to return a postcard. This is an astonishingly thin conception of causation, and a mechanical version of textualism that should by all rights fail the Turing test.
It’s a disappointing trivialization of the franchise. Magazine subscriptions lapse because of inactivity. But part of the whole reason for this portion of the federal code is the notion that access to fundamental rights doesn’t.
And it has disappointing consequences. Some eligible voters who have not recently participated and who miss a single mailing will be unaware that they are no longer registered, and in states without same-day registration, will discover the problem too late to cast a valid ballot. Joe Helle registered in Ohio in 2004, missed a few elections while serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, and arrived home to find himself purged from the rolls and shut out from the coming election, despite no change in his underlying eligibility. The process will likely have inequitable ramifications beyond servicemembers, as well: groups that tend to vote less often, the very citizens we should be making more efforts to engage, will naturally be more affected."

I'd also like to know what sort of accountability the department has on their purging activity. Are people in all areas treated the same?

And if anyone is wondering if they have been purged from the voting rolls here in Alaska, I called the Election Office and spoke to Rachel who showed me where to check online.  So it's pretty easy to make sure you're still there.

But the process here is much more lenient.  After four years of voter inactivity (that means not voting) they send you a post card and ask you if you want to stay registered.  If that comes back with a forwarding address, they'll send a second post card.  After that you are put on a list called "inactive purge."  That lasts another four years, for a total of eight years without having voted.

If you're on inactive purge and you go to vote, you won't show up on the list of voters in your precinct or anywhere else.  But you can vote a questioned ballot and if you're on the inactive purge list, your vote will count.  But, as I understood it,  you will only be able to vote for statewide offices - say this November, Governor, House of Representatives, and any propositions.

Within and hour of posting, I decided there needed to be more.  It's not quite long enough to call it an update.  

I looked up whether you could check online to see if you were registered in Ohio as well.  You can.  Here's the link to the page.

I've complained in the past that Alaska has way too many registered voters.  People die, people move away from Alaska.  Few of them (or their heirs) notify the state.  Other people move to different parts of the state.  And we have a pretty low voter turnout.  Not voting for eight years, seems like a pretty lenient policy.    And no one has presented evidence that people are falsely voting on behalf of any of these no-longer-here voters.

If voter fraud isn't a problem, what difference does it make if ghost voters hang around eight years?  Nothing too serious, certainly not serious enough to accidentally purge people who think they're registered.

Candidates will have more voters to contact when they run for office.  But they tend to ignore people who haven't voted for a number of years.  Many just go after the super voters in their party (and independents).  So that's not a big problem.

Perception of voting turnout.  If there were 100,000 registered voters (an easy number to calculate with) and 20,000 voted in an election, we'd say the turnout was 20% of the registered voters.  Not very good.
But if 30% (30,000) of those 100,000 no longer lived in Alaska but were still on the list of registered voters, then there'd really be only 70,000 registered voters.  20,000 voters out of a total of 70,000 registered voters would come out to 28% turnout.  That's quite a bit better, but still pitiful.

With smart phones and iPads on the campaign trail, candidates and their supporters can go online and show potential voters whether they are still registered or not.  Yes, it's an obstacle, but given how many people don't vote at all, it's probably a rather small bump.  But as Justice Sotomayor pointed out in her dissent in this case, it affect low income and minority voters much more than suburban white neighborhoods.
"It is unsurprising in light of the history of such purge programs that numerous amici report that the Supple- mental Process has disproportionately affected minority, low-income, disabled, and veteran voters. As one example, amici point to an investigation that revealed that in Ham- ilton County, “African-American-majority neighborhoods in downtown Cincinnati had 10% of their voters removed due to inactivity” since 2012, as “compared to only 4% of voters in a suburban, majority-white neighborhood.” Brief for National Association for the Advancement of Colored People et al. as Amici Curiae 18–19. Amici also explain at length how low voter turnout rates, language-access prob- lems, mail delivery issues, inflexible work schedules, and transportation issues, among other obstacles, make it more difficult for many minority, low-income, disabled, homeless, and veteran voters to cast a ballot or return a notice, rendering them particularly vulnerable to unwar- ranted removal under the Supplemental Process."
I'm sure some see this just as a simple task that responsible citizens take care of, others see this as an intentional tactic to lower Democratic voter turnout, and along with the myriad of other ways of stacking the vote from voter id to gerrymandering, each of these attempts all together create a sizable obstacle for some voters.  

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Is Trump Walking Into Kim's Trap?

Some folks keep suspending reality and hoping that maybe Trump can pull this off.  He'll know, he's said, in the first  minute, whether he and Kim will click.
“Within the first minute, I’ll know. My touch, my feel — that’s what I do,” 
That reminds me of Bush's assessment of Putin:
"I looked the man in the eye. I found him to be very straightforward and trustworthy. We had a very good dialogue. I was able to get a sense of his soul; a man deeply committed to his country and the best interests of his country." 
I understand how people often connect on some sort of physical/psychic level instantly.  But people don't always admit to how wrong some of those first impressions were.  Many psychopaths are pretty good at dissembling.  Ted Bundy was said to have been charming, before he raped, mutilated, and killed his victims (at least 30.)

We know that Putin has charmed Trump already, or has enough on him to get Trump to wreak havoc with Western unity, a plot that can only strengthens Putin's hand in dealing with Europe and the rest of the world.

An LA Times story offers some history lessons on summits:
"But Kennedy’s most consequential summit, which came just months into his presidency, was an unmitigated disaster, according to historians.
Despite careful preparation, the young president did not heed the warnings of advisors familiar with his Soviet counterpart, Nikita Khrushchev, whom he met in Vienna in June 1961. Kennedy’s attempts to establish a friendly rapport, which experts had cautioned him against, came across as weakness.
After the summit, he knew immediately he’d blown it, as did William Lloyd Stearman, a national security aide who traveled with Kennedy to Vienna.
'It was Al Capone meets Little Boy Blue,” Stearman said last week. “Kennedy was not used to dealing with a thug like Khrushchev. And the Cuban missile crisis can be traced back to Khrushchev’s feeling that Kennedy was weak.'”
Of course, this means that Khrushchev's take on Kennedy was wrong as well.  

The Times article says later:
“This [Trump] is a neophyte who has given every indication that he does not like to do his homework, and the cost could end up being very great,” said presidential historian Michael Beschloss. “We’ve never seen a president who wears as such a badge of honor that he won’t prepare. There’s no president in American history that has done that, and certainly not on a summit as important as this.
I'm sure Trump supporters love this stuff.  They voted for Trump to thumb his nose at the 'elite' (how is a billionaire not a member of the elite?) and to do it his way.  The article goes on further to compare Trump to Nixon and his negotiations with China.  

And while Trump says he doesn't need to do homework for the summit, another LA Times article argues that the North Koreans have been preparing for this meeting a long time.  
"Kim and a team of advisors who have followed U.S. politics for decades have been studying Trump since before the 2016 presidential election, hanging on to statements he made as a candidate, such as his now-famous offer at a rally in Atlanta in 2016 to sit down with Kim over a hamburger.
“Maybe nobody else was paying attention, but the North Koreans listened to every word,” said Leon V. Sigal, director of the Northeast Asia Cooperative Security Project at the Social Science Research Council.
Since then, each move has been carefully coordinated, including sending Kim’s attractive kid sister (North Korea’s “Ivanka,” the media has called her) in the delegation to the Winter Olympics in South Korea, and the enormous white envelope that North Korean envoy Kim Yong Chol handed Trump at a White House meeting on June 1.
'Trump’s psychology is pretty obvious to just about every leader in the world. He doesn’t like to be criticized. He loves to be stroked. He’s interested in the bold stroke, especially if he’s at the center of it,' Sigal said. 'And that gave the North Koreans the sense that this was somebody they could work with.'”

Trump probably has a lot more experience dealing with thugs than Kennedy had.  As many have noted, he and Kim have a lot of similar characteristics.  But I'm pretty sure Kim is focused on the substantive stuff much more than Trump.  For one thing, just meeting with Trump will be a huge victory for Kim. Such a meeting IS substantive for Kim.  No other US president has deigned to meet with a North Korean leader.  But it's a concession for Trump, even though he will take full advantage of what great television it will make.

But Trump wants 'denuclearization' and Kim wants relief from sanctions.  Denuclearization doesn't happen overnight, but relief from sanctions could.  Kim could promise all sorts of things over time, and then not deliver.  Trump could call it a victory.  And probably will no matter what happens.  Trump, in his own press releases, always makes the greatest deals in world history  But, barring things blowing up in Trump's first minute assessment of Kim, we probably won't know for at least a year or two if Kim follows up on his promises.

Or Trump may not even care.  Giving Kim what he wants may be just what Putin ordered Trump to do.  Russia does border North Korea - to take one more dive that hurts the US and helps Putin's long-term geo-political power.  But Trump will paper over whatever the outcome and call it a great victory, just as he's done with Climate Change, Brexit, his tariffs, etc.  all of which would seem to be great victories for Putin.

It's in Kim's and Trump's interests to be able to declare these talks successful.  And both will want that to be how the summit is framed.

I would be more than happy forTrump to seriously ease tensions in the Korean Peninsula, but in a way that doesn't give away the farm.  Some have argued that Kim wants not only the removal of economic sanctions, but also the removal of US troops from South Korea.  And then he can unite the peninsula under his rule.  As China takes over a greater part of the waters of Southeast Asia, in ten or fifteen years, the US wouldn't be able to stop such a takeover.  Particularly if US troops leave South Korea.  

We'll see.

Once again, this weekend has proven how well Trump plays the media and makes sure his antics are in the headlines every day, distracting from all the damage his administration is doing while they can.  

Getting Out: Prospect Heights Trail Toward Wolverine Peak

Easy access to Alaska is the reason I live here.  But we've been spending a lot of time getting the house back to 'nice' - freshly painted, new front steps that aren't cracking and threatening come apart, and shedding stuff that's collected over the years.  Mostly we're down to stuff that has sentimental value.  Things that are connected to people we like or remind of us when we were one place or another.

But it was just too nice today and I'm determined to get my money's worth for the State Parks Pass on both cars this year - that means about 20 trips would cover the $5 parking fee at most state park parking lots.  

So even though it's Sunday, we headed for Prospect Heights trailhead to go up the Wolverine Peak trail.  I wanted to get to the rock just above treeline that's been a landmark in family pictures since we started hiking Anchorage - our first full summer 1978.   
The parking lot, which is more than double the size since we got here, was crowded, but with a few spaces when we got there about 12:30pm.  



































This is the south fork of Campbell Creek from the bridge.  This creek then wanders through the Campbell Tract, south of Tudor to Campbell Creek Park, then on past the Arctic Roadrunner to Taku Creek and on west to the Inlet.  And it wanders through various posts in this blog as I post pictures from the trail along the creek.  But it's much wilder here on the mountain headed down to flatter terrain.

J stopped at the fork in the trail where you decide between Near Peak and Wolverine Peak.  I wanted to get up to "the rock."  I'm guessing the rock is roughly 3 miles in, from the fork, starting to get much steeper.



My sense is that this rock used to be up above all the brushy area, pretty much out on its own in the tundra.  But in this picture you can see the brushy stuff going well past the rock on the left.  When we got home I went looking through early photo albums looking for this same picture.  I'm sure there are a number of them somewhere.  What I found was a picture of the rock, May 1979 looking up toward Wolverine Peak.

It's pretty much tundra around the rock, though the right side (left side on the previous picture) is cut off.  I did also take a picture today looking up, but from from the rock or a little above it.


I used a wide angle lens for the picture today, so it look a bit more stretched out, but it's essentially the same picture (but without the rock).  Trees and brush have crept up the mountain as the climate has warmed since the 1979 picture.  I can't say when in May the top picture was, but things hadn't greened yet and there was a lot more snow.  The little guy is in shorts, so I'm guessing it was later in May rather than earlier.  Some now used to last most, if not all the summer, on the mountains.  And we used to hike through snow patches on the way up to Wolverine Peak.  Here it is early June - and we had a relative late (for recent years) spring - and there's not much snow left.


And the Labrador tea flowers were beginning to bloom.

Hiking uses different muscles than biking.  I can feel them.  I need to do this much more often.





Saturday, June 09, 2018

FB Wants You To Opt In To Face Recognition - For Your Good, Not Theirs (Yeah Sure)

I got a notice from Facebook about managing my settings.  One was about personalizing ads and the second one was about letting Facebook use Face Recognition.  Here's what it said.  (For the visually impaired, I've written out the text in this image below.)





So, they want us to leave face recognition turned on so they can warn us if someone is using our pictures falsely.

As if that's the only reason they use it - to protect us.  I just don't believe that.  I googled to see how FB uses facial recognition and the results are vague, and I suspect incomplete.  But others are suspicious too.

USA Today has an article that supports my concerns.  It says in part:

"The question of whether you should let Facebook save your face is gaining in urgency as it  moves to expand its deployment of facial recognition, rolling it out in Europe, where it was scrapped in 2012 over privacy concerns and scanning and identifying more people in photos.
At the same time, the giant social network is attempting to quash efforts to restrict the use of facial recognitionin the U.S., from legislation to litigation. And consumer groups are asking the Federal Trade Commission to investigate Facebook's widening use of the technology.
The biggest threat to Facebook’s collection of facial recognition data is a class-action lawsuit in California brought by three Illinois residents who are suing Facebook under a state law, the Biometric Information Privacy Act, one of only two in the nation to regulate commercial use of facial recognition."
Later the article says:
"Facebook’s facial recognition technology analyzes photos and videos to create a unique "template" to identify you. The technology is a shortcut that scans photos to suggest names of friends to tag.
The company says it has no plans to make people's facial recognition data available to advertisers or outside developers. But the more Facebook can glean from users’ photos about their interests, activities and social circles, the more precisely it can target advertising.
Facebook says it has tight control over its database of people's likenesses. Even if someone were to obtain a "template," it does not function like other face recognition systems.
'When we provide our biometric information to Facebook, we don’t know where that information is going,' Electronic Frontier Foundation senior attorney Jennifer Lynch said. 'Facebook says: 'Trust us to keep it safe.' But Facebook has shown time and time again that it makes the wrong choices when it comes to protecting users' data.'"

The fact that this explanation of why we should leave face recognition on ONLY talks about  how face recognition helps us and not how it helps FB should be a giant red flag.  This announcement makes it seem the whole purpose is to protect us.  That already is terribly misleading.

But for those who put their pictures up regularly, I'm sure the option to leave face recognition on to protect from stranger danger, is probably compelling.  Undoubtedly, some folks will be alerted to someone impersonating them (or at least their image.)  But billions more people will be giving up their faces for whatever ways FB comes up with to use them to make more money.


____________________________________
*For those who can't see images and whose text readers can't read text on images, here's the text of the image above:

Face Recognition
Before you manage your data setting, these examples can help you decide what choice to make.

  • Face recognition technology allows us to help protect you from a stranger using your photo to impersonate you or tell people with visual impairments who's in a photo or video through a screen reader. 
  • If you keep face recognition turned off, we won't be able to use this technology if a stranger uses your photo to impersonate you. If someone uses a screen reader, they won't be told when you're in a photo unless you're tagged.

Thursday, June 07, 2018

Moose On Trail



This is not an unusual Anchorage situation. A moose browsing on the side of the bike trail.  You can see how, despite its size, it's not all that obvious.  I probably would have biked past it.  I would have been too far along to stop by the time I saw it, except there were two runners stopped on the trail and a biker on the other side of the moose.

Basically, moose that browse like this are used to people going by them on the trail and tend to ignore you.  And the biker on the other side rode by eventually, and two more bikers rode by at a pretty fast clip.  The moose didn't stop browsing.   I was in no rush and I enjoy watching these critters.  Eventually, it moved along, ate a little more, the crossed the trail and went further off the trail.




I stopped on way past him to get this last shot.


It is beautiful out and lots of people are on the trails.

This is the Campbell Creek greenbelt bike trail, with city not far off on both sides.  But along the creek is a lovely bit of urban wilderness.

Wednesday, June 06, 2018

"I grew very fond of these scorpions."

George Durrell, who became a noted British naturalist, spent five years exploring nature while his family lived on the Greek island of Corfu.  I can relate to his fascination with the insects and reptiles and birds and flowers that made up natural encyclopedias.  Here's a typical piece of his writing on the natural world he explored as a kid.
"The inhabitants of the wall wreee a mixed lot, and they were divided into day and night workers, the hunters and the hunted.  At night the hunters were the toads that lived among the brambles, and the geckos, pale, translucent with bulging eyes, that lived in the cracks higher up the wall.  Their prey was the population of stupid, absent-minded crane-flies that zoomed and barged their way among the leaves;  moths of all sizes and shapes, moths striped, tessellated, checked, spotted and blotched, that fluttered in soft clouds along the withered pluster;  the beetles, rotund and neatly clad as business men, hurrying with portly efficiency about their night's work.  When the last glow-worm had dragged his forty emerald lantern to bed over the hills of moss, and the sun rose, the wall was taken over by the next set of inhabitants.  Here it was more difficult to differentiate between the prey and the predators, for everything seemed to feed indiscriminately off everything else.  Thus the hunting wasps searched out caterpillars and spiders;  the spiders hunted for flies;  the dragon-flies, big, brittle and hunting-ping, fed off the spiders and the flies;  and the swift, light and multicolored wall lizards fed off everything"
The next paragraph gets into his favorite wall dwellers - the little black scorpions.   And the next one begins,
"I grew very fond of these scorpions."
There was still a fairly large swamp within a quarter mile of my house when I was growing up (it's a public golf course now) and I spent hours exploring the hills and ponds rich with life as a kid.  But unlike Durrell, I didn't have a doctor of zoology to accompany once a week in my explorations.  

I mentioned this book earlier when I was intrigued by the title - My Family and Other Animals. Some of you wrote to say it was made into a BBC mini-series, which I haven't seen.  Just enjoying my way through the book.

His family included his older brother, the well known writer of the Alexandria Quartet, Lawrence Durrell, his sister, mother, and another brother.  Having your little brother write about you from the eyes of a 10 year old is rarely flattering, and Larry doesn't come across too well.

When I tried to pinpoint the dates they were on Corfu, I checked Lawrence's brith year - 1912, and since he was 23 when they went to Corfu, it was 1935 to 1939.  But when I did that, I also learned that Lawrence brought his wife to Corfu, but she does not exist in the book.  I think he'd divorced her by the time the book was published.  Lawrence also wrote a book about this period, but it cuts out even more of the family.  Both parents and the children were born in India as part of the Raj and when Lawrence eventually wanted to return to Britain, he learned that they did not consider him a British citizen.

Monday, June 04, 2018

Unsettled - A Baker's Right To Not Bake For A Gay Wedding

I've combined two topics in the title - but it seems to fit today's US Supreme Court decision.  But I did stop at the Anchorage Museum today and saw the Unsettled exhibit, which the Museum's website begins describing this way:
"Unsettled amasses 200 artworks by 80 artists living and/or working in a super-region we call the Greater West, a geographic area that stretches from Alaska to Patagonia, and from Australia to the American West. Though ranging across thousands of miles, this region shares many similarities: vast expanses of open land, rich natural resources, diverse indigenous peoples, colonialism, and the ongoing conflicts that inevitably arise when these factors coexist. . ."
The exhibit was POWERFUL with lots of interesting exhibits and I want to post about it more.  But I did want to give you a preview now as a way of showing the wide range of this show.  This first is from Sitka artist Nicholas Galinin, called THINGS ARE LOOKING NATIVE, NATIVE'S LOOKING WHITER.  This is merely a reproduction of it on the elephant sized elevator at the museum.  He had several other works that work striking that I'll put up later.



Below is Bolivian Sonia Falcone's Campo de Color







I don't ever recall an olfactory art piece in a museum before.  Here's Bruno Fazzolari's Unsettled scent.

As you can see, this was the only art piece in the exhibit that you were allowed to touch.  It wasn't bad.  You can buy it at the museum gift shop (the only art work in the exhibit you can buy) or for those of you not in Anchorage, at Fazzolari's website.

Did he name the scent for the exhibit, or did it get in because of the name?


Truly, there was something there to interest everyone.  Chris Burden's All The Submarines In The United States of America had model submarines suspended in the air.  There was a list of all their numbers and names on the wall, and notebook with a brief description of each.  It was opened to the page which included the USS Thresher.







Rodney Graham's Paradoxical Western Scene looked like a photograph (it wasn't) and the setting in Yosemite Valley with El Capitan in the background was definitely eye-catching.  And different from everything else.  You might even tempt the kids by telling them there's a chocolate room.

I'll add more from the exhibit in another post, but I wanted to get Anchorage folks' attention so they head down to the museum to catch this before it leaves in September.

The advantage for me of having an annual membership at the museum is when I'm downtown, I can take a break and spend time looking at one part of the museum without thinking about the $18 admission price each time.  Though it's only $15 for Alaskans, $12 for seniors, and $9 for kids.  Still that's steep for an hour visit to look at one section only.  And for members, there's a machine to scan your card and go in without having to stop at the front desk.  But remember to take a quarter for the lockers for you bulky stuff - but you get it back when you pick your stuff up.   So, with an annual membership, I can make many short trips to look at small portions of the museum without thinking about the cost.  For those who want to see this exhibit and not pay a big chunk of change - the museum is free on First Fridays (of the month) from 6-9 pm.

You can see more images from the exhibit at the link.



Well that doesn't leave much room for MASTERPIECE CAKESHOP, LTD. v. COLORADO CIVIL RIGHTS COMM’N, which is ok, since I haven't had time to read the whole opinion.  Conflicts between two protected rights is always tricky.  While I have posted about the issue of artists (photographers and wedding cake makers) and same-sex marriages and sided with the couples in the past, I could also see the baker's point of not wanting to help make something as critical as the cake for a gay wedding, if his religious beliefs truly found such weddings sinful.   I also didn't think it likely that too many same-sex couples would want anti-gay marriage businesses involved in their weddings anyway.  That post, by the way, looked at an argument that was comparing those situations with whether a kosher baker could refuse to cater to serve ham.   The case was chosen, if I recall correctly, to make a point, but I never thought it was the best case and apparently and 7-2 majority of the court didn't either and from what I understand, the decision very narrowly is focused on this particular baker and the particular decision by the Colorado Civil Rights Commission.

So, it would seem, the issue is still unsettled, as I say in the title.




Sunday, June 03, 2018

All My European, Canadian, Mexican, and Chinese Readers Will Have To Pay 25% More

But fortunately, 25% of zero is zero, so the tariffs should [NOT] affect you reading this blog.

[Thanks Barbara, once again for proofing.  Yes, I left out the not!]

Saturday, June 02, 2018

Extravagantly Green

Summer began the last couple of days.  Today is magnificent.  I went to a rally against guns in Fairview and here are a couple of shots of the bike trail.  It's the kind of green that first awed me on a half-day layover in Anchorage 51 years ago.  And made me susceptible to a job offer ten years later.






This is the Chester Creek bike trail (the Lanie Fleischer trail) and now I'm getting ready to go in the opposite direction on the Campbell Creek trail for a party for someone special turning two.

Friday, June 01, 2018

Trump's Actions Clearly Advance Russian Interests

"In 1969 Richard Nixon’s Attorney General John Mitchell advised the press to 'watch what we do, not what we say.'”  (I double-checked this at HistoryNewsNetwork)
If we listen to what the Trump administration says, there's been no collusion with Russia, though he does seem to like Putin and other authoritarian leaders like the Philippines' Duterte, Turkey's Erdogan, and the feeling is apparently mutual.

If we look at some of the Trump administration's key 'achievements'*, they all seem to help Russia, mainly by weakening the West's alliances that keep Russia in check.
*I put quotes around 'achievements' because most of them are about breaking things rather than creating things.

1.  Getting out of the Paris Climate Treaty
2.  Getting out of the Iran Nuclear Agreement
3.  Tariffs for Europe, Canada, and Mexico, etc.
4.  Getting out of the Trans Pacific Partnership
5.  Trump's support of Brexit

All these actions weaken alliances by a) removing the US, b) building distrust for the US  c) making it harder for the remaining countries to reach an agreement.  The last one has particular benefits for China by weakening US influence in the Asia Pacific region.  And by removing the US  from these situations, Russia gains more influence.

6.  North Korea

Let's see where this goes.  As I've said before, I would guess that North Korea is far better prepared for any summit talks than the US.  Since the armistice (not end)  of the Korean War (which the North Koreans call, “Victorious Fatherland Liberation War,”) the North Koreans have been far more focused on the US than vice versa.  The US walked away and most US citizens have forgotten, if they ever knew, that
“The physical destruction and loss of life on both sides was almost beyond comprehension, but the North suffered the greater damage, due to American saturation bombing and the scorched-earth policy of the retreating U.N. forces,” [Charles K. Armstrong, a professor of Korean history at Columbia University] wrote.  [From Washington Post]
They've been rehearsing for this meeting since the 1950s.  Meanwhile, Trump's assault on the State Department (through budget cuts, position cuts, and demoralization that has led to a large scale resignations) means we lose the expertise we had on North Korea and Asia (not to mention everywhere else), which makes it harder for us to be prepared.  This echoes the purging of China experts in the 1950s.

It's also important to remember that besides South Korea, North Korea borders China and Russia, so both have an interest in what happens there.  If, in the end, North Korea denuclearizes, that's good for China and Russia.  If they don't, and the US loses face, that's also good for China and Russia.

And we have to remember that meeting with Kim Jong Un is NOT a victory for Trump.  Any American president could have met with him.  BUT, it is a huge victory for Kim Jong Un, who is seen by the world on equal footing with the president of the United States.  This is something other presidents have refused to give him without reassurances of ending his nuclear program in advance.

7.  Trump's anti-immigration rhetoric

Aside from securing military bases in Syria, which help assure that the Russian navy can get out to the world through the Bosporus in Turkey, Putin's benefited by the build-up of refugees trying to get into Europe.  This issue, probably more than any other, has weakened the European Union.  Rising nationalism in the Eastern bloc of the EU, particularly in Hungary and Poland, is fueled in large part by immigration that threatens linguistic and cultural identity.
Brexit added UK to this, and now Italy is shifting right, in both cases immigration played a role.
All this means that Europe is less united in standing up to Russia in the Ukraine and possibly the Baltic states and who knows where else.  Even Sweden is preparing to better protect itself from Russian aggression.  

8.  Trump's destruction of civil discourse and traditional presidential norms

Anything that makes the US less able to take on new challenges, to look positively toward the future, and to have a united population that can strongly support its government, makes it harder to  maintain the US's strong role in the world.  I'd add a few caveats here:

  • we were already losing our civility and unity, though Trump was a key player in this by keeping the birther movement going and stoking the racist hatred of a black president
  • many would argue that we were too strong at times - waging wars that basically supported US business interests (including the arms industry) at the expense of the economies of developing countries.  
But there is no doubt that Trump's actions have further divided the US and our Congress can't move because of the radical right wing of the Republican party and the inability of the 'traditional Republicans' to deal with Trump.  This leaves him to willy-nilly wreak havoc.  


Consider this a thought piece.  A draft. I've offered some links where you can get more info to support my claims, you can check the others as well as I.   It's way too nice a day to be inside at the computer.  Even outside at the computer.  Much better things to do.