Friday, February 15, 2019

Emergency Evacuations In Planes - Some Thoughts and Recommendations

We've been in the exit row on a lot of flights.  These rows have a lot more leg room but you have to agree that you are able to follow the procedures to open the emergency exit on the window.  But the instructions available are very detailed.  Here's what you get:

Specifically the lower part - Emergency overwing exits.  This is pretty vague.

The flight attendant has to get everyone in the two rows to say 'yes' out loud, affirming that they can and will perform the emergency procedures.  But it's really not clear what that means.  The person at the window has to open it.  But what are the others supposed to do?  What happens when you get the emergency door open?  You're out on the wing.  How do you get off?  It's kind of high off the ground.

These are questions I've had, so I've looked around on line.  Here's what I've found:
  1. Finding videos for what you - as a passenger - are supposed to do, is difficult.  I have some videos below that you can see, but they don't really help much.
  2. An old study says that the more people are prepared, the better they respond. 
  3. Crew gets lots of training.
I was beginning to think that the airlines didn't take this passenger exit row thing too seriously.  That they aren't expecting people to have to use the emergency exits.  

But I looked up how many emergency landings there were.  As a percentage of flights, it's rare, but as the list of emergency landings of commercial planes in the US 2018 below shows, there were 201 emergency landings listed for the US in 2018.  That's almost two every three days.  

( I copied the list so I could  sort it and look closer.  There were several events that were listed as in the US but weren't - from UK, Ireland, Scotland, India.  I got rid of those to get to my total.       And since there were some non-US incidents listed here, there could well be some US incidents listed elsewhere by mistake.)

The category this website allowed me to search for was:
  •  Emergency, Forced Landing, Diversion - Commercial
That doesn't mean all, or even most were landings that involved emergency evacuations from the plane.  Some (many?) involved passenger illness or drunkeness or other disruptive behavior which probably wouldn't require emergency evacuations.   Here's the list by state.  You can see the details at the original site linked above.  You have to fill in the parameters yourself.   I've highlighted Alaska Airlines simply because that's the airline I'm on the most.  I've also highlighted the five states with the most emergency landings in red.  Except for North Carolina (#9 in population), they are the highest population states.

Alaska 5

Arizona 4


California138/12  Alaska Airlines

Connecticut 3





Hawaii34/27 Alaska Airlines















New Jersey3

New Mexico5Alaska  6/11
New York14

North Carolina13

North Dakota3



Oregon2Horizon 4/28
Pennsylvania6Alaska 5/15
Rhode Island2

South Carolina4






West Virgina3


Here are a few of the articles I've found on this topic:

Plane Exit Row Seating is a  Responsibility  - This is written by "John J. Nance, ABC News' aviation analyst, is a veteran 13,000-flight-hour airline captain, a former U.S. Air Force pilot and a lieutenant colonel in the Air Force Reserves."  He recommends training and certifying passengers on how to open the emergency doors and giving them priority to these seats with extra leg room .  It begins:
"Of course I can open that hatch if needed!"
It's the battle cry of the long-legged coach passenger who's figured out that even a middle seat in the emergency exit row of most single-aisle airliners has as much leg room as first class. There are even small turf battles among the highest-level members of different frequent-flier plans as they try to jockey for priority seating in the emergency exit row. And experienced travelers know how to sidle up to the agent at the departure gate and request to be one of the defenders of passenger safety, in the unlikely event of an emergency evacuation.
Because that's exactly what you're asking for when you accept or request an exit row seat: The responsibility to move fast and efficiently to open the hatch in the it-almost-never-happens-but-could event that your jetliner has slid to a stop on the ground and the flight attendants relay an order to get out of the airplane fast.
That moment -- as utterly rare as it is these days -- is not the time for realizing your shoulder won't handle 40 to 50 pounds of unhinged door."

Susannah Fox's personal experience of an emergency exit:  This is her first hand account of having to evacuate a plane which hadn't yet taken off.  An engine had caught fire.  Here's an short excerptt:
"A line from the safety demonstration popped into my head like a snippet of an old song: “the closest exit may be behind you.” That was true in my case, but there was a bottleneck. People were refusing to go down the slide. I craned my neck and saw that some of the people hesitating at the back of the plane were older adults who were understandably afraid of hurting themselves. I could hear the flight attendants cajoling them, telling them that we had no choice: The only way out was down the slide. Their voices grew increasingly sharp as the time ticked by."

Many Passengers In Exit Seats Benefit From Extra Briefings - From the Cabin Crew Safety study. This 2001 publication reviews procedures and studies from different airlines and countries.  They don't really make recommendations, but from one study it says that the more instructions passengers get, the better prepared they are.  Not really surprising.

I had trouble finding good videos, but today, as I'm about to post this I looked again and others popped up.  This first one shows how to open the exit row emergency door and what to do after.  But it's a nine minute video and 'nothing happens' until 6 minutes in.  It's mostly talking - not useless info, but this is not the kind of video that will teach people quickly what to do.

Wall Street Journal Video about evacuations:  This is a passengers video from his phone as he evacuated.

Baltic Air Training Video - it starts with talk, but then demonstrates how to open the door and how to use the safety strap on the wing.

Here's an ancient (1960sh)Western Airlines training video for evacuating a 737  Despite its age, this was the one that gave the most practical visuals of what happens.

Training Video for Chinese - a little odd.  In one scene smoke comes out and the passengers sit there until they disappear in the smoke.  This seems to be intended for crew.

On a February 9 flight from Seattle to San Francisco we were once again in the exit row.  The flight attendant perfunctorily asked each of us if we could and would carry out exit row responsibilities.  She had to ask one person to say it out loud.  Then at the other end of the row she asked a person I couldn't see several times until she said 'yes.'

Later, another flight attendant came by with the drinks tray and to take food orders.  The person at the other end wasn't answering her questions.  The flight attendant realized she didn't understand English and said she had to move to another seat.  And sitting behind her was one more person in her party who didn't understand English.  I complimented the flight attendant, Sherry, for doing her job and told her I was working on this post.  I told her the emergency info they hand out are just pictures and not particularly clear.  She answered some of my questions:

  • When you pull down the handle in these planes, the window automatically pulls itself up and out of the way.  
  • That the back wing flaps lower so it's not so far up off the ground.  (I said that it looked pretty high from the wing to the ground  - were we supposed to just jump?)  She added that when you open the emergency door, a rope comes out that people can use to sort of rappel down to the ground.  (Or is this just the rope that gets tied to the wing to hold on to on the wing?)
  • She also said our job was to get the emergency door opened and go on the wing, then crew will help people get down.  
  • They get lots of training on this.  

After rereading all this, here are my recommendations.
  1. Alaska Airlines (or Boeing or Airbus) should make an emergency training video for passengers that shows exactly what someone like me, sitting next to the emergency exit window, would do in an emergency - opening the window, getting on the wing, how the rope works, what the others in the exit row do, what the crew's role is, etc.
    1. This can be available:
      1. in the inflight video entertainment package
      2. in the terminals
      3. on the Alaska Airlines website (and all other airlines of course)
  2. Put emergency exit windows in the terminals where people could try them out.  If this is too costly, then videos showing how they work.
  3. Airlines allow passengers to get the same kind of training that flight crew get for emergencies
    1. Then, exit row seating would only be available to people who had taken the training and been certified.  Because exit rows have lots more leg room, this would be a bonus for many.
    2. I'm guessing many people would pay a reasonable fee for this training if it meant priority seating in exit rows.
I realize that airlines don't want to alarm passengers by showing them videos of people having to evacuate a plane.  The Jaws effect, if you will.  For example, Alaska Airlines asked a non-profit they were sponsoring, to change the name of an event from "Turbulent" to "Tail Winds."  
"Alaska Airlines, an event sponsor, suggested the change at the last minute because of turbulence’s negative connection to air travel."
So they are clearly sensitive to these issues.  

But if kids can do lock down drills in schools, airline passengers can watch videos that show them how to get out of the plane quickly and safely in an emergency.

The February 2019 Inflight Magazine on Alaska Airlines has an article saying that Alaska has been rated as one of the 20 safest airlines in the world.  The article quotes Max Tidwell, Alaska's VP for Safety as saying:
"Safety is our top priority and is firmly ingrained in our culture, as we are personally committed to the safety of our guests and one another."
I'm hoping he will pay attention to the issues I'm raising here and consider implementing the recommendations that I'm borrowing from people with greater expertise than mine.

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Heavy Rains In San Francisco While Alaska Hit By Unnatural Disaster As Dunleavy Reveals Budget

From Accu Weather:
"Atmospheric river to fuel torrential rain in California"

It was raining steadily, but not terribly hard as we caught the bus to the CalTrain station this afternoon to visit good friends who live a little south of SF.

But the disaster happening in Alaska is totally man-made.  The ads promised a balanced budget and Permanent Fund Dividends forever.  They were paid for, in large,  by candidate Dunleavy's brother.  And the people who vote based on such ads and party identification - but ignore any kind of obvious signs, like the ones I saw at the special hearings set to pass Erin's Law.  

The Alaska state budget is a daunting document.  While I acknowledge that it is complicated, often the people preparing a budget have a vested interest in making it as confusing as possible.  Terms aren't clearly explained or the explanation is hard to find, especially online.  The lists of budget terms online like this one and this one don't explain all the terms and acronyms used in the budget.

Quantities aren't always clarified - like how many zeros you need to add to the numbers in columns to get the actual number.  Often people hide things they don't want people to discover - like funding for a pet project or removal of funding from an agency.

And there are different types of budgets.  Operating and Capital Budgets for instance.  But also Unrestricted General Fund That's all preface to the next item.


Note:  I'm not even sure what LF means on this page GF is General Fund.  Unrestricted means the funds are restricted to a specific use.  This page comes from here.  But at the State's Budget page you can find a whole slew of different takes on the budget.

I've just highlighted the education parts of the budget.  Despite the fact that Dunleavy taught in public schools in rural Alaska as well as being principal and a superintendent, this budget show total disdain for public schooling.  That was already clear when he talked about 'parental rights' at the Erin's Law hearings.  The parental right movement is related to the father's rights movement.  It's also connected to the home-schooling movement.  There's a touch of anti-government and a tough of fundamentalist religion and a touch of so called 'traditional family values.'  And it was clear to me back in 2012 that Dunleavy would try to cut public schooling if he were in a position to do it.  (Let me say that like in any group that forms, there are people with legitimate issues about how they were treated.  But a number of movements are really protests against losing power they once had - like men's power over their wives has eroded quite a bit over the last 100 years.  See this article on father's rights groups.
"The fathers’ rights movement is defined by the claim that fathers are deprived of their ‘rights’ and subjected to systematic discrimination as fathers and as men, in a system biased towards women and dominated by feminists. Fathers’ rights groups overlap with men’s rights groups and both represent an organised backlash to feminism. Fathers’ rights groups can be seen as the anti-feminist wing of a range of men’s and fathers’ groups which have emerged in recent years, in the context of profound shifts in gender, intimate and familial relations over the past four decades (Flood, 2010). While fathers’ rights groups share common themes, there are also diversities in their degree of opposition to feminism, their involvements in political advocacy, their reliance on Christian frameworks, and so on.Three experiences in particular bring men into the fathers’ rights movement. Painful experiences of divorce and separation, as well as accompanying experiences of family law and the loss of contact with one’s children, produce a steady stream of men who can be recruited into fathers’ rights groups"
And here's a piece on parental rights from a Home School website.

I offer those links, not as 'proof' or as an exhaustive review of the topic, but just as an appetizer to become more aware of the code words 'parental rights' which sounds very reasonable on the surface.  I think the link to the Home Schooling movement helps predict this budget.

The other issue that people have raised with this budget is the 'visiting budget director' as Dermot Cole dubbed Donna Arduin.  I haven't done adequate research on her, so for the time being, you can look at this (Sarasota) Herald-Examiner article form 2014 that reviews her run as a Libertarian 'expert' budget slasher, whose budget analyses are regularly debunked by real economists.

Sometimes being in Alaska and late on Lower 48 trends is a good thing.  We can learn from others' experiences.  Here's hoping that Alaskans will figure out really quick what we've done by electing Dunleavy before too much damage is done. Here's hoping we can learn from what's happened in Kansas, Oklahoma, Michigan, Wisconsin, and elsewhere.  [UPDATE Feb 14, 2019:  I added Kansas and links for a little more background about those states' outcomes of cutting taxes and government.]

Hopefully, those who blindly believed Dunleavy's promises to get people all their back PFD checks AND balance the budget without any new revenues, will realize it was all a scam before the state infrastructure for schools and health and safety are destroyed.  Perhaps the people who are now finding out that those tax rebates Trump promised are not really coming, will transfer that awareness to what Dunleavy is trying to pull off.

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

It's Abe's Birthday Already? This Post Took Me Places I Didn't Expect

I've been derelict here.  We've been spending a lot of time away from the computer - either transporting the grandkids to pre-school and elsewhere, or playing with them.  Or helping with food and pajamas and story times.   Also we had lunch yesterday with a former student from Beijing who is visiting the US.  It's been nearly 15 years since we've seen each other, though we've kept online contact.  But there were lots of questions we had for each other.

So here are a few pictures of the last few days until I have more time to think more clearly.  Some of these building pictures lead to architectural and technology issues I wasn't expecting.  And Lincoln's birthday tempted me into the question of whether the civil war was necessary and had it been avoided would we be more united today.  I'm still working on exit row issues including a promising incident on our flight to San Francisco.  Stay tuned for that.

The building with the turrets on top is an Episcopal Church whose red doors are usually closed.

But Sunday I was strollering by with my nieta (the Spanish word for granddaughter sounds so much nicer and is much shorter to write) and the doors were open.  We got invited in to listen to the organ.

We looked at our shadows at the playground and while we were walking.  

We also experimented with foot prints since the grass was wet.  

My nieto (o makes it grandson) and I spent about 90 minutes at the Japanese Garden.  He was interested in all the bridges and shrines and paths and, of course, the dragon made of a winding hedge and a rock head and rock tail.  

We also checked out St. Mary's Cathedral.  the basic structure is set on four points like the one in the lower center of the picture.  Arch Daily gives lots of details and more pictures:
"Pylons support the 19-story cupola at each corner of the floor plan, each constructed to withstand ten million pounds of pressure. With a circumference of 24 feet at their narrowest points, the pylons are embedded 90 feet down into the bedrock. A surprising 1680 pre-cast triangular coffers comprose the inner area of the cupola, featuring 128 different triangular sizes. These transfer all the weight of the structure down to the ground, while allowing large windows to frame views of the city of Saint Francis of Assisi. To call on memories of historic mission architecture, red brick is used on the floor in sweeping patterns."

And San Francisco is not without broken glass.  Here's part of the bus stop on the way to pre-school yesterday.  I've seen a couple of vehicles with broken windows and the shattered pieces lying on ground below. like in this picture.

By the afternoon, most of the glass was swept up and there was tape across the ad.  

And this car was making its point pretty loudly.

We ate at a Ramen place in Japantown with my Chinese friend.

And finally, here's the tallest building in San Francisco with its top in the clouds.  It's called the Salesforce Tower, though it used to be called the Transbay Tower.  And since I dislike branding everything so that people are forced to say some corporation's name when they mention it (it's much worse for public or semi-public places like stadiums), I'll stick with Transbay. From Wikipedia:
The site of the tower was in a dilapidated area, formerly used as a ground-level entrance to the San Francisco Transbay Terminal, which was demolished in 2011. The TJPA sold the parcel to Boston Properties and Hines for US$192 million,[14] and ceremonial groundbreaking for the new tower occurred on March 27, 2013, with below-grade construction work starting in late 2013.[15][16] The project is a joint venture between general contractors Clark Construction and Hathaway Dinwiddie Construction.[16][17]
The footprint of Salesforce Tower rests on land fill near San Francisco's original waterfront, an area prone to soil liquefaction during earthquakes. To account for this seismic risk, the tower uses a design that is modeled to withstand the strongest earthquakes expected in the region.[18] Its foundation includes 42 piles driven down nearly 300 feet (91 m) to bedrock and a 14-foot (4.3 m) thick foundation mat.[19]
My son explained to me exactly what Salesforce (the company) does.  They make and run the software for tracking communications between companies and customers.  So when you call up a company and they can look to see all the times you've called and what you said and what they said, they could be using Salesforce technology.  Here's how their website describes it: 
Customer relationship management (CRM) is a technology for managing all your company’s relationships and interactions with customers and potential customers. The goal is simple: Improve business relationships. A CRM system helps companies stay connected to customers, streamline processes, and improve profitability.

Select Hub offers some alternatives to Salesforce CRM technology after this introduction:
"Saying Salesforce is a big name in the CRM software space is like saying Christianity is a popular religion — it’s pretty obvious to most people who know anything about CRM. But it doesn’t have to be the only option. For those who may be looking for something else, we gathered data on the best Salesforce alternatives to help you find the right match for your organization."
So, I bet you weren't expecting some of this.  Neither was I.  Happy Birthday Abraham Lincoln.  What would the US be like today if didn't have the Civil War?  Would slavery have died out naturally because it became economically unsound?  Would African-Americans gained legal status without creating the race divisions that our president has reignited today?

Could Slavery Have Died A Peaceful Death?

Would Slavery Have Survived Without the Civil War?   This is a journal article you need a library connection to reach.  For those without that access, here's an excerpt from the intro to the article:
"My argument here is two-fold: (1) slavery, though generally profitable, had a harmful, long-term developmental impact on the southern economy; and (2) that the institution would gradually have evolved into something else in the late nineteenth century even without the Civil War. Before moving on, however, a necessary disclaimer: I well recognize the moral enormity that was slavery, and my comments here pertain only to the economic aspects of the peculiar institution, and, even delimited to the economic realm, should be seen as an attempt to analyze “what was” rather than “what ought to have been.”1"
Here are some interesting, related articles that don't address the question head on:

Without Slavery, Would The U.S. Be The Leading Economic Power?

Could Compromise Have Prevented the Civil War?

Civil War's dirty secret about slavery

The Economics of the Civil War - This one gives a lot more detail, but doesn't really answer the question

Would there be less animosity between Americans today had we not fought the civil war?  I'm guessing not.  Scapegoating the other is practiced by the power hungry throughout time and in all parts of the world.  The legacy of slavery would still have left the US divided, in my humble and unsupported opinion here.  Perhaps the support is for another post.

Saturday, February 09, 2019

Deicing As We Leave Seattle's Snow For San Francisco's Rain

There was about 6 or 7 inches of snow this morning when we headed to Seatac.  Someone had plowed a snowy/icy path along the sidewalk and the walk back to the airport wasn't too bad.

A lot of flights had been cancelled, but our was scheduled to leave on time.  But then they had to deice.  I had a pretty good view.  So here's a minimally edited video of part of the process happening outside my window.  (As I was editing, I realized that often my purpose is not to just cut to the most dramatic few seconds here and there.  Rather I figure someone who knows a lot more than I about deicing (that would be anyone who knows anything at all about deicing) might get more out of my leaving most of the footage in.)

From Wikipedia:
On the ground, when there are freezing conditions and precipitation, de-icing an aircraft is crucial. Frozen contaminants cause critical control surfaces to be rough and uneven, disrupting smooth air flow and greatly degrading the ability of the wing to generate lift, and increasing drag. This situation can cause a crash. If large pieces of ice separate when the aircraft is in motion, they can be ingested in engines or hit propellers and cause catastrophic failure. Frozen contaminants can jam control surfaces, preventing them from moving properly. Because of this potentially severe consequence, de-icing is performed at airports where temperatures are likely to be around 0 °C (32 °F). 
In flight, droplets of supercooled water often exist in stratiform and cumulus clouds. They form into ice when they are struck by the wings of passing airplanes and abruptly crystallize. This disrupts airflow over the wing, reducing lift, so aircraft that are expected to fly in such conditions are equipped with a de-icing system.
De-icing techniques are also employed to ensure that engine inlets and various sensors on the outside of the aircraft are clear of ice or snow. 
Chemical de-icing[edit]
De-icing fluids consisting of propylene glycol (PG) and additives are widely used by airlines for de-icing aircraft.[2]:43 Ethylene glycol (EG) fluids are still in use for aircraft de-icing in some parts of the world because it has a lower operational use temperature (LOUT) than PG. However, PG is more common because it is less toxic than ethylene glycol.[3]:2–29

Alaska Airlines' blog also has a post on deicing.  

When we took off, the wing was green.  It was its normal color when we landed in San Francisco where the sun was out as we landed.  But when we got out the BART station downtown, it was raining.  But when i'm with my grandkids, the sun is always shining.

I'd also like to point to an article in the Alaska Airlines Magazine for February 2019.  It was about how CEO Brad Tilden spent a week shadowing employees in Alaska.  Yes, putting it in the magazine is hype, but the fact that he was on the ground (and in the air) with employees doing their jobs with them says good things about him and the airline.  He wasn't just in Anchorage, he also flew out to Dutch Harbor on PenAir.  And in Anchorage he did a night shift.  You can see the piece here.

Friday, February 08, 2019

Seattle Readies For Snow Storm, We Decide To Get Closer To Airport

We have tickets for tomorrow back to San Francisco for more grandkid duty.  But our daughter warned us a storm was coming.

* WHAT...Heavy snow expected. Total snow accumulations of 4 to 6inches expected. Local snowfall accumulations of 8 inches. Northto northeast winds will increase late tonight and Saturday to 15to 30 mph with some local gusts to 45 mph. The wind will likelyreduce visibility at times due to blowing snow, especially nearshorelines of the inland waters.
* WHERE...Portions of northwest and west central Washington,including Seattle, Everett, Tacoma, Bremerton, Bellevue, NorthBend, Redmond, Kent, Port Angeles, Sequim, Oak Harbor, and MountVernon.
* WHEN...From Noon today to 4 PM PST Saturday. The heaviestsnowfall accumulations for most of the area will occur between 3PM this afternoon and 10 PM this evening.
* ADDITIONAL DETAILS...A period of 2 inch per hour snowfallaccumulations is likely during todays late afternoon and eveningcommute in the Tacoma, Everett, Seattle, and Bremerton area.Travel is likely to become very difficult. Areas of blowing snowcould contribute to reduced visibility late tonight intoSaturday.

The island is a 35 minute ferry ride from downtown Seattle.  Then it's a short walk to the train, and about 40 more minutes to the airport.  And when storms hit the island, trees fall onto power lines and people lose power for days sometimes.  And they said the ferry can't dock if there's no power.

But the ferry only comes once an hour so last time we had to get the 7:05am ferry to get to a 10:45am flight.  (The 7:55am ferry probably would have gotten us there on time, but if anything went wrong on the way we'd have missed our flight.)

Snow falling as we depart ferry,  barely see Seattle buildings
So we decided we should get a room near the airport for tonight.  But that was easier said than done.  Everything in the SEATAC area was full.  I finally got a room at Motel 6.  We could check in at 3pm.

Last night the snow wasn't going to start for real until about 3pm so we decided on the 1:15pm ferry.  But we decided if we were packed we could go for the 12:20 ferry.  And then we learned the advisory had been moved up to snow beginning at noon.  So as we were walking to the ferry, the first flakes began.

We walked up to the Link (light rail) station past Pioneer Square.  If you click on these pics you can see the snow.  They were big flake and coming down seriously.

As Alaskans we take all this snow preparation as a little strange, but they don't have the plowing equipment and they don't have snow tires or studs, and there are lots of hills.

The train station was a surprise.  It looked like everyone had decided to take the afternoon off to get home before the snow got bad.  The buses and trains were packed.  After not being able to get on the first two trains, we got a little pushier for the third.

This was after things got a little better.

By the time we got to the SeaTac station, the snow was sticking on the side streets and sidewalk, but
it was less than a mile walk so we enjoyed the snow.  We've reduced our luggage to one carryon and two backpacks.  (We've heard about but haven't watched Marie Kondo.  We've generally traveled light enough so we can walk with our stuff if we have to, but for this week in San Francisco we've rethought anything that had any weight.  Here's the view from our no frills hotel room - but there is heat, to compensate for the gaps in the door frame.

Thursday, February 07, 2019

Trump Lists "Abolishing Civil Rights" As One Of Our Nation's Greatest Strides

Let's start with what he says here at this morning's Prayer Breakfast speech:

"Since the founding of our nation, many of our greatest strides, from gaining our independence. to abolition of civil rights, to extending the vote for women, have been done by people of faith and started in prayer.  When we open our hearts to faith, we fill our hearts with love."

Clearly, he misspoke.  (Some may argue, with some merit, it was a Freudian Slip.) I understand how that can happen.  My eyes sometimes play games with me when I'm trying to read something on a page.  But he is so disengaged from what he's saying that he doesn't even catch his error.  He's just reading words.  Flatly.  This is probably the president least likely to actually believe the last line about hearts open to faith filling with love.

What's he thinking about while he's robotically reading the teleprompter?  That he hates being there? The places he'd rather be?  Golfing?  Watching Fox News?  Is he thinking about how his world is starting to crumble around him and what options he has?

I've started a much more significant post than this that looks at one of the documents on the Buzzfeed document dump the other day.  But you have to think a bit to grasp the depth and breadth of the Russian collusion charges and this is so much easier to see.  But his wheeling and dealing for the Trump Tower Moscow and signing the Letter of Intent in October 2015 is far more significant.  I'll do that post later today or tomorrow.

For now watch a president whose mind is disconnected from his mouth.  (And other places in this speech, where he strays off script, are bizarre in a different way.  He seems to just have a collection of phrases that he randomly puts together without worrying about how much sense they make.)

I took me a while to figure out again how to get a youtube to start and end at  particular points.  Unfortunately if you try to replay this it seems to start at the beginning.  You can refresh the page, or go to 2:23:36 - 2:24:06.  Or you could listen to more of this prayer breakfast.

Wednesday, February 06, 2019

Beto O'Rourke Goes On A Road Trip

Beto O'Rourke's blog offers an introspective, somewhat introverted voice as he contemplates what his next steps should be.  An LA Times piece on O'Rourke's maybe yes, maybe no candidacy for president mentioned the blog on a platform I didn't know about (Medium), so I checked it out.

He offers himself as wanting to learn about the people he meets rather than talking about himself.  Last week he was traveling. Before this trip, his last post was in December.  The next post is January 16 and he's in Tucumcari, New Mexico.
The next morning I ran. Just a couple of miles. Down 66, then through neighborhoods, past the History Museum. My leg has really been bothering me since the campaign and so I had stopped running for a while. This was my first run in more than a month. Felt good, running in new shoes. 
Have been stuck lately. In and out of a funk. My last day of work was January 2nd. It’s been more than twenty years since I was last not working. Maybe if I get moving, on the road, meet people, learn about what’s going on where they live, have some adventure, go where I don’t know and I’m not known, it’ll clear my head, reset, I’ll think new thoughts, break out of the loops I’ve been stuck in.
I'm trying to piece together the trip on maps.  From Tucumcari he stays on 54 to Liberal, Texas.   Driving alone it appeared.  It's not clear how many planned stops there were.  His great grandparents had lived in Tucumcari.  In Bucklin, Kansas, where they were married, he went to the library to find their wedding certificate.  He reads about Bucklin history and offers tidbits, like this one in his Jan 17 post:
"From 1923: 'Visit by the Klan at revival services of Methodist Church. 5 members of the Ku Klux Klan, wearing the robes of the order, visited church and contributed $50 but refused the invitation to stay for the services.'”
January 18, 2019, he's in Ulysses, Kansas where he's in a funk.  This is a long quote, but I think it all needs to be there to get the context.

"I drove back to the hotel, passing the First Baptist church where kids were throwing snow and slush at each other in the light of the headlamps of their parent’s car. Made me think of our kids, and I missed them. Added to the low altitude I was experiencing. 
Maybe I’d been hoping for some kind of connection that day and hadn’t found it. All the conversations had been pleasant, everyone was kind, but there hadn’t been anything more than that. The waiters at Alejandro’s were nice but they were finishing their shift, they wanted to eat their dinner after having served everyone else all night and close up.
I called Amy. Kids were in the car, she was a little distracted, we didn’t connect either. Maybe you could meet people at a bar she said as we hung up. 
I pulled into the bar next to the hotel and started to feel self conscious. They aren’t going to want some stranger from out of town at their place. I walked in and took a seat at the bar, said a quick, probably nervous, hello to everyone and ordered a beer. Pro forma acknowledgement from the three or four guys who were already there. 
I focused on the college basketball game, thinking I’ll finish this beer and then get out of here. I told myself at least I tried. 
And then two seats down to my right the guy says do people ever tell you that you look like Beto O’Rourke? 
I said yes, all the time. 
The guy next to him says who the hell is Beto O’Rourke? 
First guy says oh he ran against Ted Cruz in Texas, and goes on to talk about Beto O’Rourke and I’m worried that it’s going to get weird and so I say sorry I meant to say that I am Beto O’Rourke. 
No shit! Laughter."
I'm thinking, "How do you write a blog that's honest, somewhat self-revealing, yet doesn't make you look foolish or disingenuous?"  Of course, I think about those things all the time as a blogger but for me it's about giving context for why I think something.  I'm not running for office, nor do I intend to, so what I'm writing won't be scrutinized by opposition research teams looking for pictures of me in blackface or admissions that could be twisted for political gain by others.

The impression is that he's writing all this himself, like Trump tweets.  (The analogy is only about who does the writing and editing.)  But clearly he's making points about issues - like the story of Klu Klux Klan visit to the church above.

The January 20 post has him arriving at a scheduled visit at Pueblo (Colorado) Community College where he meets with students:
What followed was one of these transcendent moments in public life… something so raw and honest that you want to hold on to it, remember every word… a flow between people. But going through my notes right now, I know that my recounting of the words and themes won’t do it justice. 
Raw. People adding to what the previous speaker had said, or challenging what someone else shared, respectfully but directly. Moved to speak up, to share, to add. At first politely raising hands and asking questions. And then, just speaking, having a conversation and not asking polite questions but sharing experience, suggesting solutions.
He goes on at length about the different people who spoke and what they had to say.  Was he really alone and taking notes on all these people and what they said?  Impressive.

The next post comes four days later (January 24) where he gets to the Taos Pueblo Day School in Taos, New Mexico.  An excerpt: 
"She told me about movie nights back then. Since the village had no electricity (and still doesn’t), movies were shown in the school gym. She said it’s hard to believe this now, but they’d often show Westerns, cowboys and Indians movies. And she said all of us kids, not knowing any better, would be cheering for the cowboys! She made the point that back then, the school suppressed the culture of the Pueblo, confusing children about their identity and roots. How dangerous for their development, their sense of self and their possibilities. And yet, that didn’t stop Mildred. Not only is she now teaching Tiwa at the school, she also opens her home in the summer for language classes and as the point of departure for nature walks with the children of the community. 
It made me think of the evolution of dual language education in El Paso. In the same schools where kids were punished for speaking Spanish in the 1960s, they are now being encouraged to speak Spanish, in fact to learn throughout the day in every subject in both English and Spanish."
Again, he recounts many people and the conversations and how good it felt to be connected to people who want to make everyone's lives better.
"We’re all connected, related, part of one another’s lives through the stories we tell ourselves and each other. For good and for bad. Our long memories hold the stories of what our people accomplished, but they also hold the prejudices, the injustices, the harm that we’ve received from others. Our short term memories can forget the kindness most recently rendered, our vision can become focused on the divisions and lose sight of the way up and out. And there is always someone, usually on cable TV or Twitter, to remind you how small or stupid you’re supposed to feel. Our side is truly American. Yours, not so much."
That's the last post.  I supposed being on the road, staying at hotels by himself each night, gave him plenty of time to write these long posts.  From Taos back to El Paso is an easy day's ride, so maybe he went from their home and life is more hectic so he hasn't written more.

Other politicians I've followed, have been on Twitter and that's a much, much different medium.  I'm going to link to this blog on the side column and see how it progresses.

Tuesday, February 05, 2019

The Trumps' State of The Union Guests - What Do They Tell Us?

The White House has announced 13 guests of the President and First Lady will attend the State of the Union.  It's a great way to have viewers connect to the speech, but is there any real substance to it?  This post is mostly based on the optics and descriptions the White House is presenting us, though I've done a little bit of further research.  The descriptions are taken from the White House announcement though a couple are abbreviated,)

From the pictures and names in the WH release there are:
  • 9 whites
  • 1 hispanic
  • 3 blacks  (two of whom are former criminals saved from prison by God &Trump)
  • 6 women (all of whom are there because they are victims of crime, drugs, or illness)
  • 7 men (Four are police or military related, one an ex-con saved by God, one business man, one bully victim kid named Trump)

Let's look at the messages Trump is sending out:

  1. Three generations of women relatives of Gerald and Sharon David of Reno, Nevada, who were tragically murdered in their home in Nevada by an illegal immigrant in January 2019.  [MESSAGE:  Illegal Immigrant Menace - We need a wall.  But   his crime only happened in January 2019, The suspect has not yet been charged with murder according to Snopes which calls this claim "unproven." Alternate message; Guilty without a trial.]
  2. In 1996, he was sentenced to 35 years in prison for selling crack cocaine and other related offenses. While in prison, Matthew found God, completed more than 30 bible studies, became a law clerk, taught GED classes, and mentored fellow inmates. On January 3, 2019, Matthew was the first prisoner released as a result of the First Step Act.  [MESSAGE:  I guess this is to the religious right and perhaps African-Americans.  See more about the First Step Act below.*]
  3. At 9 years old, Grace was diagnosed with Germinoma, a germ-cell brain tumor, and in May 2018, Grace started cancer treatment. Throughout the rest of the year, Grace stayed positive and strong, making the rounds in the hospital, cheering up other patients, and always having a smile for the many caring medical professionals who treated her. [MESSAGE:  A feel good "child beats cancer with a smile" story.  She was a NY Jets honorary captain in August 2019]
  4. Ashley Evans has struggled with opioid and substance abuse for much of her life.  In 2017, she was pregnant and suffered a relapse. Her recovery began with the birth of her daughter along with the help of Brigid’s Path, a medical care facility in Kettering, Ohio. Ashley has persevered and overcome many obstacles to maintain her sobriety.  [MESSAGE:  Not sure.  A recognition  of the opioid crisis?  A nod to Ohio, a swing state? BTW, Brigid's Path has not been rated by Charity Navigator, because, "7 years of full IRS Forms 990 are needed to complete a rating"
  5. Elvin Hernandez is a Special Agent with the Trafficking in Persons Unit of the Department of Homeland Security’s Homeland Security Investigations division. He has more than 18 years of Federal law enforcement experience investigating narcotics, gangs, and human trafficking. During his current 7-year assignment, Elvin has conducted numerous successful international human trafficking investigations involving transnational organized crime groups. [MESSAGE: Homeland Security is vital to your safety and we can check off Hispanic on the list.]
  6. Roy James is the Plant Manager of the Vicksburg Forest Products lumber facility. He had worked at the sawmill for 26 years and become Vice President of Operations when he was told that the facility would close its doors. Thankfully, last year, Vicksburg was designated an Opportunity Zone through provisions in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. The plant soon reopened and Roy was hired to oversee the entire facility. [MESSAGE: Trump is creating jobs, putting people back to work.  Another nod to African-Americans.  See more below**]
  7. Timothy Matson joined the Pittsburgh Police Department in 2005 and made the SWAT team in 2016. As a key member of the SWAT team, he would breach the entrance during raids, a very dangerous task. In October 2018, Tim responded to the mass shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue. He suffered multiple gunshot wounds and saved countless lives in that heinous, anti-Semitic attack. [MESSAGE:  Police are our heroes.  And an indicator that Trump is against hate?]
  8. Judah Samet is a member of the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh. In October 2018, he survived the horrific shooting that killed 11 members of his community. Judah is also a survivor of the Holocaust. Judah immigrated to Israel after the war and was present for the declaration of the Israeli State in 1948. He served as a paratrooper and radio man in the Israeli Defense Forces and moved to the United States in the 1960s. [MESSAGE:  There's nothing here to suggest this is an anti-gun thing.  Probably, I like Israel.]
  9. Joshua Trump is a 6th grade student in Wilmington, Delaware. He appreciates science, art, and history. He also loves animals and hopes to pursue a related career in the future. His hero and best friend is his Uncle Cody, who serves in the United States Air Force. Unfortunately, Joshua has been bullied in school due to his last name. He is thankful to the First Lady and the Trump family for their support. [MESSAGE:  The left is a bunch of bullies.]
  10. Tom Wibberley is the father of Navy Seaman Craig Wibberley, a Seaman killed on the U.S.S. Cole. Craig grew up in Williamsport, Maryland, and enjoyed fly fishing, snow skiing, and working with his father on old Corvettes. He had a passion for computer science and decided to join the Navy to serve his country and pursue an opportunity to further his training in computers. Craig served aboard the U.S.S. Cole with distinction and was accepted to the Navy Information Technician School. His commander planned to recommend him for Officer Candidate School. However, on October 12, 2000, Craig and 16 fellow members of the crew were killed in a terrorist attack. [MESSAGE:  Thank you for your service.]
  11. President Trump granted Alice Johnson clemency on June 6, 2018. Alice had been serving a mandatory life sentence without parole for charges associated with a nonviolent drug case. During her nearly 22 years of incarceration, Alice accomplished what has been called an “extraordinary rehabilitation.” [MESSAGE:  I listen to my friend Kim Kardashian who said I should do this one.]
So, the men are mostly John Wayne hero types, except for a Black con who was released by Trump and a young kid bullied because his name is Trump.  The women are highlighted for their victimhood.  Not their achievements.   There's a Hispanic hero, but there are three women victims of illegal immigrant crime to balance that off.

Just introducing this group will take up probably 20 minutes alone.  It's going to be a long night.  

*The First Step Act - passed and was signed into law in December 2018.  The Brennan Center notes:
While still President-Elect, Trump nominated Jeff Sessions, a vocal critic of any reduction to the U.S. prison population, to be the nation’s chief law enforcement officer. Nonetheless, Grassley and Durbin reintroduced the SRCA again in October 2017 and navigated it through committee in early 2018. The bill looked poised to stall once again due to vocal opposition from Sessions.
But the momentum started to pick up in early 2018, when the White House brokered the Prison Reform and Redemption Act, a bipartisan bill aimed at improving conditions in federal prisons. This bill, which was renamed the FIRST STEP Act after some modest improvements were added, still lacked any meaningful sentencing reform component, meaning it would have done little to reduce the prison population. For the White House, that was part of the appeal: Republican leaders believed that SRCA’s sentencing reform provisions made it a nonstarter among conservatives. But because of that, the Brennan Center and a coalition of more than 100 civil rights groups opposed the bill, arguing that the votes were there for sentencing reform — if only Republican leaders would put a bill on the floor. Nonetheless, the FIRST STEP Act passed the House of Representatives by a wide margin of 360 to 59.  [You can read more at the link, how some Republicans worked hard to block this law.]

**Vicksburg, Mississippi Industrial Wood Products plant.  A timber industry journal, Timber Processing,  notes that this North Carolina company is taking over an existing facility in Vicksburg and credits $220,000 in assistance from Mississippi.  It doesn't mention any federal help, though Vicksburg did qualify for opportunity zones.