Thursday, July 09, 2020

While All Eyes Were On The President's Tax Returns, The SC Made A Big Decision For Native Americans

This post is here just to draw attention to this case.  Justice Gorsuch wrote the opinion and was joined by Justices Breyer, Sotomayor, Ginsburg, and Kagan.  The opening of Gosuch's opinion in McGirt v. Oklahoma reads:

"On the far end of the Trail of Tears was a promise. Forced to leave their ancestral lands in Georgia and Alabama, the Creek Nation received assurances that their new lands in the West would be secure forever. In exchange for ceding “all their land, East of the Mississippi river,” the U. S. gov- ernment agreed by treaty that “[t]he Creek country west of the Mississippi shall be solemnly guarantied to the Creek Indians.” Treaty With the Creeks, Arts. I, XIV, Mar. 24, 1832, 7 Stat. 366, 368 (1832 Treaty). Both parties settled on boundary lines for a new and “permanent home to the whole Creek nation,” located in what is now Oklahoma. Treaty With the Creeks, preamble, Feb. 14, 1833, 7 Stat. 418 (1833 Treaty). The government further promised that “[no] State or Territory [shall] ever have a right to pass laws for the government of such Indians, but they shall be al- lowed to govern themselves.” 1832 Treaty, Art. XIV, 7 Stat. 368.
Today we are asked whether the land these treaties promised remains an Indian reservation for purposes of federal criminal law. Because Congress has not said other- wise, we hold the government to its word."  (emphasis added)
McGirt appealed his conviction on sex abuse in Oklahoma state courts arguing that because they occurred in Indian Country the State did not have jurisdiction.  The Supreme Court agreed.

From the National Congress of American Indians:
“Through two terms of the United States Supreme Court, and as many cases and fact patterns, this question has loomed over federal Indian law. This morning, NCAI joins the rest of Indian Country in congratulating the Muscogee (Creek) Nation and proudly asserting that its lands remain, and will forever be considered, Indian country – as guaranteed in their treaty relationship with the United States,” said NCAI President Fawn Sharp.

I don't know much about the history of this case, but my sense is that it's a pretty big deal.  I'd note the Chief Justice Roberts argued the Venetiei case before the Supreme Court.  He was a dissenter in today's decision.

State officials in Oklahoma seem to be pledging to make this all work out.

This week's decisions seem to indicate that not all the members of the conservative majority on the Supreme Court are as predictable as some expected.

Tuesday, July 07, 2020

Corona Art - Old Friend Gets Recognized Again

Got an email today from my friend Tomás.  He's a friend I met through the blog.  He left a comment and we connected before he returned with his family to Spain. That story was in 2010 and includes Exit Glacier.  He's been in Kentucky this year while his wife teaches Spanish in a high school.  Tomás is an architect and artist.

He wrote to let me know that the Washington Post invited readers to send in their pandemic art.  They got 650 submissions and Tomás was picked in their top 20.  Here's his picture, Corona Rising.


You can see the other 19 they picked, plus some of the honorable mentions here.  It's an impressive collection of very different visions.  

Sunday, July 05, 2020

History Catching Up To Us - Civil War Statues And Integrating New Orleans Schools

Rick Steves interviewed Jason Cochran, author of "Here Lies America." Cochran spoke about traveling to places where bad things happened and how they've been repackaged.  He talks a lot about the South - he's from Georgia - and how civil war battlefields were rebranded into tourist spots that glorified the world.  Here's a bit about a concerted effort to place Johnny Reb statues all over the South in the first two decades of the 20th Century.
"Drive through American South, and I’m from Georgia by the way, in front of almost every court house  in every town, you’ll see the famous little statue of Johnny Reb, the guy from the Confederate Forces.  Every little town you go to you’ll find this.  What I discovered in the course of researching this is that never were these things placed there right after the civil war.  The war ended in 1865.  Look at the next one you drive past, look down at the plaque, look at the year.  I’ll bet you anything it is probably from the 19 zero years or the 19 teens.  You have to wonder.  This was 50 years after the fact.  There’s a story here.  How did they all suddenly show up. . .  It was a concerted propaganda effort for lack of a better word. I think it was an education effort is the way they would have put it.  Let’s pretend you’re a resident of the South and probably 25 years old in 1900 and your grandfather is a mess because he had been. in the war.  You hear stories about how much land you used to own so you’re upset that you don’t own that anymore.  So there’s a lot of resentment happening in the South.  So the children and the grandchildren of the people who went to the civil war and suffered those blows and death those blows, they were the ones who built these statues. Because they wanted to reframe or expand upon how people saw the South and what they thought they were fighting for at the time.  There are people, even today, who would tell you that what is written on those statues is not what they would have put on them in the 1860s because the passage of time had colored things, but it was an effort.  There were women’s groups, by the hundreds of thousands women joined these groups, they would put out a catalogue and you could pick which statue you wanted and they would send their members to hector and lobby local governments.  They would make sure those statues were never placed in the cemetery, where these statues would usually go, but in front of a school or town hall where people would make sure to see it."
 I was impressed at how apolitically this was all presented, as if there were no controversy going on today about removing statues that glorify the Confederacy.  It's just presented as factual history.

And related, is this passage from the book I'm reading for my next book club meeting - The Yellow House, by Sarah M. Broom.
"Woodson Elementary, McDonogh 96, Hoffman Junior High, and Booker T. Washington - Josephe's, Elaine's, and Ivory's schools - were segregated for all of their school years and long after the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education, the results of which were not seen in New Orleans until November 1960 when three six year-olds, Tessie Provost, Leona Tate, and Gail Etienne, dressed in full skirts and patent leather shoes, with massive white bows atop their heads, arrived in an all-white McDonogh 19, where they would remain the only three students in the school that entire year, taught in classrooms with brown paper taped to windows, blocking sun and jeers from white parents raging outside.  The same day in November first grader Ruby Bridges, the lone black girl surrounded by three US marshals, integrated William Frantz Elementary, spending half a school year as the only student.  A decade later, on the even of the 1970s, integration in New Orleans high schools would still cause riots.  Four decades later, it would remain factually incorrect to describe New Orleans schools as fully integrated."
Karens and Kevins have been around a long time.  

Saturday, July 04, 2020

Hope This Independence Day Gave You Time To Reflect

European royalty was assumed to be anointed by God.  From Wikipedia:
"The divine right of kings, divine right, or God's mandate is a political and religious doctrine of royal and political legitimacy. It stems from a specific metaphysical framework in which the king (or queen) is pre-selected as an heir prior to their birth. By pre-selecting the king's physical manifestation, the governed populace actively (rather than merely passively) hands the metaphysical selection of the king's soul – which will inhabit the body and thereby rule them – over to God. In this way, the "divine right" originates as a metaphysical act of humility or submission towards the Godhead."
While the Declaration of Independence uses words like 'Creator' it only mention's God once, and then it is "Nature's God."
The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America, When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
The Declaration then goes on to talk about 'consent of the governed.'
"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, , ,"
That's a break from being anointed via the Divine Right of Kings.  The colonists weren't without precedent.  Medieval barons had forced concessions from an English King centuries before with the Magna Carta.

That "the governed," by the time the Constitution was written,  didn't include women, men without property, or Native Americans, or Africans raises questions about the ideals.  Though as we know from modern times, politics requires compromise, and if all the colonies were going to be in this new union together, resolving the conflict by abolishing [slavery] was not a negotiable item for slave owners.

The NYTimes has a podcast up called 1619 (link to Apple podcasts) - the date the first shipment of slaves arrived in the colonies - that attempts to tell the history from a black perspective.  Adam Serwer has an Atlantic article that outlines the controversy it's raised among some prominent historians.

Hope you've been able to safely enjoy this holiday and that our nature imposed restrictions enabled you to ponder it in a new light.

Friday, July 03, 2020

Short Takes - RPCV Joins Alaska SC, Maxwell Arrest, Racism Like Apple Pie, Russian Bounty

Note: Another big COVID increase today.  Click COVID tab above for daily
updates on state case counts

1.   Alaska's newly appointed Supreme Court justice Dario Borghesan is an RPCV (Returned Peace Corps Volunteer) who served in Togo.

2.   Just hearing her name on the news for being involved with Jeffrey Epstein doesn't give you a sense of Ghislaine* Maxwell's role in the Jeffrey Epstein world.   The Netflix series Jeffrey Epstein:  Filthy Rich brings their crimes clearly into the light.  And how well connected rich people can get away with things on a scale 'normal' folks would never even imagine.  Well worth watching.


This says it all.  But for many people it makes no sense at all.  Which proves the point.**

4.  Did Russia pay the Taliban bounties to kill US troops?  Of course.  Just like we armed and paid the Mujahideen to do the same in Afghanistan when the Soviet Union took over there.  But since Afghanistan bordered the Soviet Union** and the US is half a world away - it's much easier for Russia to do.  But even with the geographic advantage, the Soviet Union was forced out of Afghanistan.

*Throughout the Netflix series the pronunciation of her name was in serious conflict with my natural visual bent.  I'd have done better had I never seen it written.  But this is irrelevant.  She's a seriously evil person and her arrest may bring some comfort to her many victims.

**I realize this is a bit enigmatic for those who don't think of racism as being like apple pie.  If this leaves you scratching your head, just leave a (civil) comment and we can talk about it.

***Tajikistan and Turkmenistan were then part of the Soviet Union.  Today they are independent countries and are between Russia and Afghanistan.

Wednesday, July 01, 2020

Summer Visit By Downy Woodpecker And Fledgling

There was a Downy woodpecker in the yard.  In a tree next to the deck, and our presence didn't seem to bother it at all.

It was making holes.

Then there were two.

It turns out, the first one was the parent, mom, I'm guessing because of the coloring.  And she was getting bugs and feeding them to the second one.  This was the best picture I could get of a feeding.

Then she pecked away for more food.  Our trees must have lots of bugs in them.

Then she'd fly off to another tree.

Sunday, June 28, 2020

Racism Versus Realism With A Touch Of Sadopopulism

Note: Click COVID tab above for daily
updates on state case counts

Here are a couple of links that help clarify thoughts that often are hard to tease out clearly.

Sadopopulism   Is about pulling off the trick of hurting the people who follow you by "defending" them from enemies you created.  The whole piece isn't very long and worth thinking about.

"Would-be oligarchs instead follow a 4-part plan:
  • They identify an “enemy” (homeless migrants, minority communities, Democrats, etc.)
  • They enact policies that create pain in their own supporters
  • They blame the pain on the “enemies”
  • They present themselves as the strongmen to fight the enemies."
And Trump is creating new enemies to fight every day.  

From a 12 part Twitter thread by Jared Yates Sexton

The link above should take you to the whole thread, but here's another key Tweet in the thread:

Saturday, June 27, 2020

Drive Up Recall Dunleavy Station

Gathering petitions during a pandemic isn't easy.  Without the pandemic, the Recall Dunleavy folks would have turned in their petitions by now and we'd either be having a special election, or it would be going on the August primary ballots.

But as I went to pick the groceries I'd ordered online, I passed the IBEW and other union offices and there was a drive up petition signing space - with everyone masked.  They have stations in Fairbanks and Sitka too.

But when I pulled into the curbside pickup space at Carr's (Safeway), I notice another signature gatherer.

I asked the person who was bringing out my groceries if she knew what he was gathering signatures for.  She didn't, but said she'd check.

She said it was term limits.  I looked that up, but couldn't find anything local, but there is a national term limit petition.

Anyway, he was NOT wearing a mask and approaching everyone coming out the door.  He is standing outside, so I guess even the Mayor's new mask policy that goes into effect Monday doesn't affect him.

Thursday, June 25, 2020

Alaskans Can Choose Ranked Choice Voting This Year

Well, that's ambiguous.  Alaskans can't actually choose a ranked choice ballot.   But we have a ballot measure coming up that, if passed, would change our voting to ranked choice.

You mark your first choice #1, your second choice #2, etc.  And if your first choice comes out last, then your 2nd choice candidate gets your vote.  That way, if there are two candidates you like, you can vote for them both.

I was reminded of this the other night when Hasan Minhaj promoted Ranked Choice Voting on his Netflix show Patriot Act.  But I know that not everyone has Netflix.  What to do?  I haven't figured out how to put up clips from Netflix.  Minhaj is brilliant. If I were still teaching public administration classes, I would use his shows as homework assignments for a number of classes.  Though there is a profanity warning.  (Is that still an issue at universities today?  Berkeley students fought that back in 1965.

But there's a good synopsis of some of the key points on this Youtube based on the show.  Watch it.  If you're an Alaskan, share it with everyone you know to let them know this can be ours.  Maine already does this.  This clip captures the essence of the show, but if you have Netflix, go look at the whole episode.

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Carting Off McCandless' Bus Reflects Alaska's Cultural Bias

The State of Alaska removed the bus where Chris McCandless died and that has become a mecca for those who connected with Chris through the book and movie Into The Wild.  A number of his fans hiked cross country to reach the bus, braving river crossings that can at times be treacherous.  The basic reason given for removing the bus was to save lives and reduce rescue costs.

Note: COVID tab above for daily
updates on state case counts

I've thought about it.  Getting rid of the McCandless bus is a form of cultural discrimination.  The justification is to protect people from danger and death and to reduce rescue costs.

But aside from cruise ships, Alaska tourism is all about attracting people to adventures in the wilderness - camping, kayaking, hunting. (And even cruise passengers die in flight seeing and other adventures sold on board.)

The epitome is climbing Denali.  We love the idea of people overcoming obstacles to reach the peak of North America's highest mountain, even though people die every year trying and we spend tens of thousands of dollars or more in rescue efforts.  It's just that McCandless wasn't the rugged adventurer type that Alaskans idealize and his followers are seen as sentimental and emotional about the wrong things.  (After all climbing Denali is also an emotion driven pursuit.)

And probably most important, no one was making lots of money off the Bus pilgrims, like they do from hunters, fishers, mountain climbers, and other adventure travelers.  No one set up a McCandless Bus guiding expedition.  If they had, the bus would still be there.

From the Anchorage Daily News:
"The removal of the bus comes in response to the public safety hazards caused by its presence and location, Department of Natural Resources spokesman Dan Saddler said.
Between 2009 and 2017, there were 15 bus-related search and rescue operations by the state, according to the natural resources department.
Saddler said he hoped its removal would 'reduce injuries, search and rescues, loss and even death that have occurred in connection with this bus.'”
But really, people die all the time in Alaska following their dreams.

And we're told we have twice the accidental death rate of the US as a whole.  Here are some stats on unintentional deaths.

The National Park Service allows people to climb Denali every year (though COVID spared the mountain this year from all the garbage and waste climbers leave) despite deaths and many rescues.

The National Park Service has a series of reports on Denali from 1979 to 1989.  Here are some excerpts from the 1989 report.  Each paragraph is a separate incident.
On 2/16/89 a very experienced four person Japanese team flew into the SE Fork of the Kahiltna Glacier to attempt a winter ascent of the West Buttress. The leader, Noboru Yamada, was on a quest to become the first person to climb to the summit of the highest mountain on each of the seven continents in the winter. Teruo Saegusa, Kozo Komatsu and Shunzo Sato were the other team members. Sato became ill early in the climb and returned to base camp to wait for the others. The remaining three reached the 17,200' high camp on 2/20... the same day a team of Austrians returned to high camp from a successful summit bid. On 2/21, neither team could move because of severe weather. On 2/22 there was a short break in the weather and the Austrians began their descent. The Japanese team was still in their camp. They were not seen alive or heard from again. Weather soon deteriorated and an extremely severe wind storm enveloped the upper mountain. Wind speeds were estimated to be 200 mph and continued through 2/26. Winds then decreased somewhat to 60-90 mph through 3/9. On 3/10, search flights located what appeared to be three bodies below Denali Pass. Search efforts were terminated on 3/11. It is believed that the climbers tried for the summit during a brief lull in the severe wind storm and were caught near Denali Pass as the winds again increased. The bodies were recovered later in March by a 17 person team of Japanese climbers who came to Alaska for that purpose. The three men died from hypothermia. 

. . .He placed an anchor, climbed about 40' above it, then encountered an ice window. He grabbed under the window then leaned out for a better look at his options. Suddenly the entire formation upon which he was climbing collapsed. Sweeney, and the 15'-wide, 35'- high and 6'-thick ice formation fell down the couloir. His anchor held, but his hip was fractured in the resulting 100' fall and avalanche. The events of the next seven days are too involved to detail here (CIR #890016) but proved to be a test of endurance and of their will to survive. During this time, either one or both of the men were hit by eight different avalanches. Weather deteriorated and prevented all access to the mountains by rescue teams. The two men were eventually rescued by a military helicopter on 4/26.

Early the next day, a National Park Service Mountaineering Ranger camped at the 14,200' basin on the West Buttress, noticed what appeared to be bodies at the base of the Orient Express, a couloir which cuts across the upper West Rib. The rescue team discovered all three of the Brits died in a fall. It appeared the men were probably descending the West Rib, roped together, in extremely poor weather, when one of them slipped and pulled the others down the couloir.

 One especially violent gust tore one of the tents, with three occupants, from its anchors. The tent and occupants began a tumbling fall toward the Peter's Glacier. One occupant, John Richards, the assistant guide, was ejected early in the fall and came to rest 300' below the ridge campsite. The other two occupants, Jim Johnson and Howard Tuthill, fell 1,000' and came to rest on a small ledge dressed only in polypro underwear. All equipment and clothing were lost in the fall. The assistant guide was able to ascend to the camp and alert others of the accident. The chief guide, Dave Stahaeli, was able to descend and provide some survival equipment to Johnson and Tuthill. Others on the mountain, including the Denali Medical Project personnel and private mountaineers, organized a difficult and dangerous rescue effort, eventually stabilizing the two men who were flown off the mountain the following day via helicopter. Johnson suffered a compression fracture of a lumbar vertebrae and Tuthill frostbit his fingers. Both men were saved by the rescue efforts.

High Altitude Pulmonary Edema, ground evacuation:
A Genet Expedition trip led by Dave Stahaeli reached the 17,200' high camp on 6/21/89. There they waited three days for weather to improve. One of the clients, John Michel, had been feeling poorly earlier in the trip. At high camp, he lacked energy and spent most of the three days sleeping. It was decided he would not attempt the summit. On 6/24 all expedition members left for the summit except for Michel who remained in camp. No other parties were at high camp. Late that afternoon, another Genet team arrived at high camp and discovered Michel to be suffering from HAPE. They evacuated him to the 14,200' camp where Michel received treatment and recovered. There were other incidents of altitude illness and frostbite this season. Most of these were treated at the Denali Medical Project camp at the 14,200' basin on the West Buttress.
Surely rescuing people at Denali elevations and weather extremes is more costly and dangerous than where the McCandless bus was.

While Denali climbs involve complex preparations, lots of money, and registration, the cost of rescues is not covered by the person rescued.

Here's from a US Senate Report on Denali rescues:
At 20,320 feet, Mt. McKinley is the highest mountain in
North America. In 1998, 1,166 climbers from 38 countries
attempted to climb the mountain, an increase of 250 percent
since 1978. Largely because of bad weather, only 36 percent of
all climbers successfully reached the summit in 1998, down from
a historical average of about 50 percent.
    The 1998 climbing season was typical in that it involved
climbing deaths and several life-saving rescue missions. The
policy of the National Park Service is to ``make reasonable
efforts to search for lost persons and to rescue sick, injured
or stranded persons.''
    As a general rule, the National Park Service does not
recover search and rescue costs. When individual search and
rescue incidents cost more than $500, they are paid from a
central account
The [now canceled] 2020 climbing season has this information about fees for permits to climb Denali:
Q: Do I have to pay anything at the time of registration?
A: Yes, climbers are required to pay the full permit fee when they submit the registration form. The cost of a mountaineering permit for the 2020 season (October 1, 2019 through September 30, 2020) is $375 US currency. Climbers who are 24 years old or younger at the time their expedition begins are eligible for a $275 youth fee. Note that each year the mountaineering special use fee is subject to increase based on Consumer Price Index changes.
It is also important to be aware that when you arrive to check in for your climb, a park entrance fee of $15 per person will be due. Interagency passes are accepted in lieu of the entrance fee. Passes must be presented at the time of check in along with identification. 
Cultural bias comes in many different colors.  Methinks the dreamy, listless image of McCandless and his fans clashes with the rugged, macho adventurer image Alaska likes to promote.  And that's why the bus was removed.  After all, adventure and risk is part of the Last Frontier image.