Thursday, October 17, 2019

On The Edge Of Snow - And OLÉ Classes Continue

It was in the mid 30s when I went to Pecha Kucha class yesterday, but the streets were good, so I biked.  My presentation was ok, people said nice things afterward.  Here's the first of the 20 slides.

and I tried to make the case for how learning another languages let's you escape the confines of English (or whatever your first language is) as you learn that the words and grammar of one language reflect the world differently from other languages.  This shows most concretely in the fact that words of one language don't translate exactly into the words of the other language.  Even concrete objects might not translate right.  Banana would seem an easy translation, but in Thailand there are about 20 kinds of bananas that regularly show up in the market and many people there pick bananas off trees in their garden.   And that, say, a black cat, has meanings in one culture that it might not have in another.  And words that describe relationships get even trickier.

The Thai words closest to brother and sister really focus on the older/younger relationship more than the gender relationship, or even the blood relationship

People without any blood connection use the terms for older and younger about each other all the time. (And it's different from the more recent US use of 'Bro'.)  At one point I asked somebody, after he'd introduced me to his sixth or seventh 'brother', how many brothers did he have.  Oh, they aren't that kind of brother, he said.

The class liked the blue and red circles I used to show how much the English and German or Thai words overlapped.  I didn't think of that until I was finishing the last slide, the night before the presentation.  Then I went back and put in circles for the different slides that compared English and German or English and Thai words.  Good thing I did.  I argued that when the words don't overlap completely (usually the case) is when you learn what your own language doesn't capture about the world.  And the less the words overlap, the more you learn about yourself and the world.

It was just starting to rain when I returned yesterday.  It was more a light drizzle, and the drops were tiny specks of hail.  Much better than raindrops, not as good as snow.  I could feel them on my face.  But I got home fine, but I was expecting snow on the ground this morning.

There wasn't any and the street in front of our house was wet, but not icy.  And large chunks of sky were blue.   So I biked.  For the most part it was ok but then I saw a police car's lights flashing ahead and this car on the side of the road.

The culprit seems to have been a piece of light brick colored cement at the intersection.  While all the other surfaces were fine, that piece of cement was really slick.  Was there a second car involved?  I don't know.  A stop sign had been flattened.  (I thought I took a picture, but it's not on my phone.)  I walked the bike around the debris and down the hill.  Back on the flat I rode carefully to the church where today's OLÉ classes were held.

By 2:30 when I came back, the sun was out and any ice or frost that had been there was either a puddle or dry pavement.  But I did have two voices in my head this morning.  One said:  "Don't be such a wimp.  You can't let a little weather threat keep you off the bike."  The other said, "A broken arm would really be a pain.  Don't be stupid."  Stupid beat wimp today, but I know I should be more careful.

The classes today were good.  The Innocence Project class was a continuation of last week's list of reasons innocent people are convicted.  I'll put that into another post.  It's interesting.  And this class is a great one after seeing "When They See Us" the Netflix series on the Central Park Five case.  Everything they talk about in the class happens in the series.

The afternoon class was on Pebble Mine.   We've had a representative from Pebble. A person from the Army Corps of Engineers, whose in charge of the Environmental Impact Statement, and today, was someone from Bristol Bay Native Corporation who are strongly opposed to the mine.

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Invisible Power - How Powerful People Protect Themselves

In a Columbia Journalism Review article,   Lyz Lenz writes about interviewing Alan Dershowitz, the Harvard Law professor who recently resigned after details came out about his relationship with Jeffrey Epstein.

In it she helps clarify how powerful people (usually men) are able to get away with things by wielding their power through fixers.
"Sitrick is a fixer who has made a name for himself cleaning up the messes of rich and powerful men (and some women, too). 
“Mike, am I the lead steer?” I’d asked Sitrick when he called. The “lead steer” is Sitrick’s idea that all it takes to change the direction of a media stampede is for one journalist to take a contrarian view of the story. It’s a theory that holds well for ranchers trying to redirect a stampede. And it’s worked for Sitrick, who has orchestrated positive press for some odious clients.
"4: The Plan
In 2011, Michael Sitrick sued Jeffrey Epstein, over an unpaid bill for PR services. In that lawsuit is a detailed outline of services rendered.
It’s a plan that shows a comprehensive outline of reporters who were contacted about stories and who reached out for interviews. The idea was this: connect with reporters, offer access, overwhelm them with data, threaten their access if things go sideways, go over their heads. That is how men like Epstein went unchallenged for years. How a journalist can know something, but never be able to say it. On August 22, NPR’s David Folkenflick detailed how Epstein allegations went unreported by Vanity Fair. The story alleges that Epstein pressured the magazine’s editor, Graydon Carter, and that Carter caved."

We already know about the insidious use of Non-Disclosure Agreements (NDAs) that require someone to never mention what happened to them again as a condition for a payment - generally known as hush money - like Trump's deal with Stormy Daniels and others.

 I'm putting this short paragraphs from Lenz here like  research notes.  These sorts of explanations of tactics get lost in the longer article.  I want to record this clearly and as I come across similar flickers of light shining into the dark shadows that protect the powerful, I'll add new posts.

[This was supposed to go up yesterday, but I've been so busy prepping my pecha kucha presentation that I forgot.  The presentation is tomorrow, and if I get far enough along with it today, I'll tell you more about it later today.  Don't hold your breath.]

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Euphemism Alert: What The Hell Is An 'Associate'?

Lots of media outlets used the word "associates" of Giuliani to describe the men arrested the other night trying to leave the country.  From Google:

2 Giuliani Associates Arrested With One-Way Tickets at U.S. ... › politics › lev-parnas-igor-fruman-arrested-giuliani 
Two Giuliani Associates Who Helped Him on Ukraine Charged › articles › two-foreign-born-men-who-helped-giuliani... 
Two Giuliani associates were just arrested. Here's what we ... › opinions › 2019/10/10 › two-giuliani-ass... 
Two men connected to Giuliani's Ukraine efforts charged with ... › politics › guliani-client-arrested-campaign-finance
 (CNN) Two associates of Rudy Giuliani connected to efforts to dig up dirt in Ukraine on Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden were ... 
2 Giuliani Associates Arrested On Campaign Finance ... - NPR › 2019/10/10 › 2-giuliani-associates-arrested-on-campai...
Arrest of Giuliani associates tied to Ukraine scandal renews ... › Politics › story
Two Giuliani associates arrested on campaign-finance ... › politics › story › donors-arrested-giuliani-ukrai...
2 Giuliani associates connected to Ukraine probe arrested ... › live-news › impeachment-inquiry-latest-2-giuli...

CNN at least wrote "with links to" in the headline, but then in the first sentence we see "associates."  NPR used 'with links to" in the lead sentence instead of 'associates."

The word 'associate' just seems wrong here.  It seems to have too good a connotation.  It sounds like a euphemism for a darker kind of connection than an "associate."  And besides that, what exactly is the connection among Giuliani and these two men?  I suspect a more sinister term would be more appropriate, but there's not quite enough information for me to figure out what it is.  In what sense did these men 'work with' or 'work for' Giuliani, and by extension, the president?

I looked up associate to see if I was just out of touch with other uses of the word.

associate noun from Merriam Webster 

1: one associated with another: such as

aPARTNERCOLLEAGUEbusiness associates

bCOMPANIONCOMRADEa close associate during his college years

2aan entry-level member (as of a learned society, professional organization, or profession) an associate of the Royal Academy

3often capitalized a degree conferred especially by a junior college associate in arts

Definition 1a seems the closest - "one associated with another such as: PARTNER, COLLEAGUE"

But the two men are  not attorneys in Giuliani's firm.  Does this mean that Giuliani was a 'business partner' of these two men?  And what business is that exactly?

The articles talk about what these men did for Giuliani - basically

The NPR article only says this about their connection to Giuliani:
"Two Florida-based businessmen who helped President Trump's personal attorney Rudy Giuliani in his efforts to dig up dirt on former Vice President Joe Biden in Ukraine have been arrested and charged with campaign finance violations in a separate matter.
It goes on to quote the indictment:
According to the indictment, Parnas and Fruman face two counts of conspiracy and one count each of false statements and falsification of business records. Two others, David Correia and Andrey Kukushkin, each face one count of conspiracy.
The indictment alleges the men "conspired to circumvent the federal laws against foreign influence by engaging in a scheme to funnel foreign money to candidates for federal and state office so that the defendants could buy potential influence with candidates, campaigns, and the candidates' governments." 
So is 'co-conspirators' a better word?  "Fellow schemers?"  What exactly is the connection between Giuliani and the men?  Did he hire them like someone would hire a private investigator?  That wouldn't make them associates.  Did he ask them to do this work like a Mafia boss would ask an underling to do his dirty work?  Did he pay them a fee?  A bribe?  A reward?

You get my point I think.  I think 'associate' is a much nobler sounding term than the stories suggest is the actual relationship between Giuliani and these two hence men.

And all this raises another issue.  The pack journalism that the use of this term by all these different media outlets indicates.  Someone used the word 'associate' and they all grabbed it, presumably in their rush to get something published.  And since editors, rather than reporters, tend to write headlines . . .

The race to be the first to print a story is an old one in American journalism along with the lurid and often misleading titles that sell newspapers, and now clicks.  Getting the best story should be the goal.  The only people who can change the behavior of the media are the consumers of media - by being thoughtful about where they spend their clicks.  But as long as clicks are free, that's not going to happen.  And the construction of paywalls by the media outlets who think of themselves as the best (because, they believe people will be willing to pay for their stories) means that as people realize that the NYTimes, Wall Street Journal, and Washington Post all will require a subscription, these will get fewer clicks.  Unless they have something you can't get anywhere else.

Saturday, October 12, 2019

The Sun's Been With Us All Day

After several days of rain, the sun finally came out, and stayed out all day.

Went to the monthly Citizens Climate Lobby (CCL)  meeting.  This is the first time I remember that the main speaker was an Alaskan - from Ketchikan - Kiera O'Brien.    She's also a Harvard grad who was head of the Harvard Republicans, and she's organized a national group called Students for Carbon Dividends.

You can watch to the video of the national call here, and see the CCL website here. Kiera was on a delayed flight, so one of her co-workers Alexander Posner also participated.  He did an excellent job as well.

Now that most people accept the reality of Climate Change, it's important to know that there are things that can be done to reduce the impacts.   The Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act is CCL's main focus.  It's  been called the most effective single act that can be done to reduce carbon.  You can learn more about that here.  If you feel you want to do something about climate change, I urge you to check the link and then call your members of Congress and tell them you want them to pass the Act.

Then a stop at the library to pick up a  book and then a short loop on the bike trail to enjoy the sunny - if chilly - morning.

The snow is much lower on the mountains that before the rain.  This is from the Alaska Native Medical Center campus.

Here are some late grasses shining in the morning sun.  As we go toward winter, the sun gets lower and lower on the horizon during the day.

There was ice on most of the puddles on the trail.

And here's a picture from yesterday.  Not sure where else to put it.  It's dinner at the Queen of Sheba Ethiopian restaurant last night.

I planted most of the leftover daffodil bulbs.  I've had mixed results in the past, but I'm going to be optimistic.  I hope I can post pictures of yellow flowers in the spring.

Friday, October 11, 2019

OLÉ Courts Class Does Tour of State Court Buildings Anchorage

This first picture is to remind my non-Alaskan readers that since we are post equinox, we're losing 5 minutes a day of daylight.  So waiting at the bus stop at 7:25am it was still dark!

Here's the courthouse directory on the wall.

We first stopped in a courtroom and Superior Judge Una Gandbhir talked about the kinds of cases she normally hears (civil) and answered questions.  OLÉ folks tend to have lots of questions.  The comment that got my attention was that there was a growing number of people who defend themselves these days.  Fortunately, someone else asked a follow up on that and she expanded.  This only works with civil cases (not criminal) and without a jury.  It's difficult if one side has an attorney and the other is self representing.  

In civil cases, there's no court appointed attorney for those who can't afford one, so that's probably one reason for this.  The judge also said there are lots of material available to help people find the forms they need and learn what they need to do.  

I didn't know what the rules for photos was.  I know that reporters take pictures in state trials.  So I took this one as we were settling down and didn't take a picture when the judge came in.  
There's a tunnel between the Nesbitt and Boney Courthouses, that goes under the street.  We watched the video they show jurors, which I'd seen when I was called to jury duty.  It's quite good going explanations that jurors should hear about their role, the judges' role, the jury's role, etc.  

Then retired Superior Court Judge Elaine Andrews came in and started talking about work she's doing now to help educate people about the court system.  But time was short and we went back through the tunnel to the security office.   This office is responsible for the prisoners who come to court each week and they had a selection of cuffs on the table.  After that we got to see the room where they monitor all the security cameras - including the cells with awaiting prisoners.  We could see some of the cells from that room.  It did not look like a cheerful space.  And I was thinking I'm glad I'm taking the Innocence Project class at the same time as this one.  

Then back through the tunnel to the Boney Courthouse and up to the Supreme Court chamber, where I wanted to be Wednesday afternoon to hear the case of the Alaska youths suing the state for policies (development of oil and gas) which endanger their future by worsening climate change.  I had been up here once when i was covering redistricting.  It's a much nicer space than the cells we'd just been in.

Appellate Judge Tracy Wollenberg was our host here.  She talked about conditions for appealing a case.  A small percentage of cases actually go to trial.  So those that do are people who feel strongly and she said a large number appeal.

She did point out that in Alaska only criminal cases go to the appellate court and are heard by three judges.

Civil cases that are appealed go directly to the Supreme Court.  But the court only hears a relatively few cases.  I think I got that right, but check before you bet money on that.

The tour was over at 10 am (we met at 8:15am) and it was plenty light out by then.  We didn't have any snow in the Anchorage bowl yet, but someone on the tour said there was snow falling (but not sticking) at her Hillside home.  Not sure where this truck started out this morning.

Thursday, October 10, 2019

International Ombuds Day Finds 3 Alaskan Ombuds At Loussac

My first book chapter was on the Alaska State and Anchorage Municipal Ombudspersons.  And later I did some follow up chapters.  So I have a special place in my heart for people serving in this office.

Basically, an ombudsperson's job is to take complaints about government service, investigate it, and make recommendations.  An honorable job and the people who carry out these jobs well are on my hero list.

After dropping off a book due at the Loussac library today, I saw the big ombudsman signs and learned it was International Ombudsman Day (2nd Thursday of October for those looking ahead to next year.)  From the International Ombudsman Association website:
"On Thursday, 10 October 2019, IOA invites you to participate in National Ombuds Day. This is the second celebration of a profession that has existed for centuries, yet remains relatively unknown and underutilized.
This Year’s Theme Is
Ombuds: Unusual Name. Important Service.
Ombuds Day serves as an additional opportunity to educate and raise awareness among the public about the history and practices of the ombuds profession including the various ombuds models, the roles they play, the services they offer and the value provided."

Here's Anchorage Municipal Ombudsman Darrel Hess and his  Deputy May Ramirez-Xiong today.

I also got to talk to the State Ombudsperson, Kate Burkhart, who works out of Juneau, but Anchorage also has a state ombuds office as well.  (Note:  She was standing in front of the Long Term Care Ombudsman sign, so, to avoid confusion, I blocked out some of the writing on that sign.)

Also, there was Kathryn Curry, Deputy Long Term Care Ombudsman, of the State's Long Term Care Ombudsperson.  That's a very specialized office that's mandated by Federal Law Older Americans Act.  They specialize, as the name suggests, in investigating complaints about long term care facilities.

And maybe I'll find some time to write about the next installments of the Project Innocence and Pebble Mine classes I attended before the library.

[There's always a non-sexist way to say something.  Ombudsman is the original Swedish word that comes from Old Norse.  The ombuds community discusses different ways to actually say it in non-sexist ways.  My preferences are ombuds and ombudsperson.  I suspect the names above are in statute and people rather not go through the process of changing it.]

Tuesday, October 08, 2019

"All of this violates the Constitution, the rule of law, and every past precedent. Never before in our history has the House of Representatives-under the control of either political party- taken the American people down the dangerous path you seem determined to pursue." [UPDATED]

[UPDATE Oct 9:  Here's a Lawfare analysis that's more informed than my comments were, but comes to the same conclusions.]

Here are the second and third paragraphs of an eight page  letter Donald Trump's counsel sent to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and to three House Committee Chairs (Eliot L. Engel Chairman
House Foreign Affairs Committee, Adam B. Schiff Chairman House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, and Elijah E. Cummings Chairman House Committee on Oversight and Reform).

"For example, you have denied the President the right to cross-examine witnesses, to call witnesses, to receive transcripts of testimony, to have access to evidence, to have counsel present, and many other basic rights guaranteed to all Americans. You have conducted your proceedings in secret. You have violated civil liberties and the separation of powers by threatening Executive Branch officials, claiming that you will seek to punish those who exercise fundamental constitutional rights and prerogatives. All of this violates the Constitution, the rule of law, and every past precedent. Never before in our history has the House of Representatives-under the control of either political party- taken the American people down the dangerous path you seem determined to pursue.
Put simply, you seek to overturn the results of the 2016 election and deprive the American people of thePresident they have freely chosen. ManyDemocratsnowapparently view impeachment not only as a means to undo the democratic results of the last election, but as a strategy to influence the next election, which is barely more than a year away. As one member of Congress explained, he is "concerned that if we don't impeach the President, he will get reelected." 1 Your highly partisan and unconstitutional effort threatens grave and lasting damage to our democratic institutions, to our system of free elections, and to the American people."

Let's hope that Trump retains this attorney as one of his top legal defenders as things drag down into the chaos ahead.  As Kellyann Conway's husband George tweeted about this letter:

There are so many outrageous claims in these two paragraphs, it's overwhelming.  First, the House impeachment is to determine if there should be an indictment.  It's sort of like a grand jury that is closed to the public and only the prosecutor presents information.  The 'court' part doesn't happen until an impeachment is accepted by the Senate for trial.  So all this about violating civil rights is nonsense.

"violates every past precedent" - truly an amazing claim.  Every one of them, so he doesn't have to list them or show how they are violated  I wonder how many past precedents there are.  Hundreds?  Thousands?  Just name a few, ok?

Overturning the 2016 election claims - Well, yes, if a president is eventually convicted in the Senate, it has the effect of ending that president's tenure in office.  Just like when a criminal is convicted and sentenced to prison, it ends the criminal's right to freedom.  But the problem began with the criminal behavior, not the conviction.  His argument would mean that a president could never be impeached.

And let's remember that Hillary Clinton had about 3 million more votes than did Trump in 2016, so let's cool it with the crocodile tears.

So, I'm guessing this is just part of Trump's long time standard operating procedure - Attack, Counterattack, and Never Apologize.  It's the bullies' creed - make it so hard and so expensive that most people give up and let you have your way.  It's how Trump has gotten away with so much shit.  (Sorry, there's no really polite word.)

One point of this letter is to waste time, possibly intimidate some members of Congress, and to drag out the handing over of any documents to Congress.

But this letter is really for Trump's supporters who will eat up every accusation and start filling FB and Twitter with quotes that show Trump as the victim of Democratic abuse.  And the hypocrisy of Abuser In Chief accusing others of his modus operandi?  Well, bashing Democrats and keeping them from trampling on their values and destroying their way of life appear to be the things Trump's hard-core supporters like best.  From Jane Coaston at Vox:

"Trump stands accused by his enemies of, in essence, fighting dirty. But to conservatives who sincerely believe themselves to be under assault from an increasingly left-wing movement that itself fights dirty, that’s more a feature than a bug."  (emphasis added)

One more thing.  Here's Trump's legal counsel's signature on page 8 of the letter:

It's about 10 lines high!  John Hancock would be impressed.  I'd love to have a scientific graphologist do some analysis of this signature.  I'm guessing this suggests confidence, maybe the kind you get when you live in a bubble where everyone agrees with you.

Monday, October 07, 2019

What We Need To Know About Homelessness In Anchorage - Working My OLÉ Class Notes

Our Friday Homelessness OLÉ class speaker was late Friday afternoon.  The class monitor, at one point, was going to call the day's class off.  But someone in the class suggested we get to know each other and why we were taking the class.  And as we did that, we learned the speaker was on the way besides.  I had my iPad and took notes.

There were about 30 students.  Everyone's 'older' since OLÉ classes are aimed at retired folks.  A lot more women than men.  I gave the class monitor my notes to go along with hers to give to the speaker - there are seven more sessions.

I went home and sifted through the notes which were chronological by speaker.  I wanted to focus more on the ideas than the speaker.  I grouped similar comments.  Then I tried to see differences in the kinds of comments, the different perspectives they represented, etc.   I was trying to condense this as much as possible without losing content, but also to help make us as conscious as possible of how different kinds of comments reflected different needs and interests.

Then I did that again.  Here are my final two iterations of people's comments.

Here's the second cut:

General Issue Specifics
Opinions - general                

Never seen it so bad
System isn’t working
Need to do something
Opinions - Specific

Protect public spaces
In My neighborhood
Tired of being afraid
Solutions  - housing Build Housing
Homeless Housing on Park Strip
Use empty buildings - like Sam’s Club
Tiny Houses

Need to Know more Learn from the homeless
What are the resources?
What are the different types of homeless?
How much low income affordable housing is there in Anchorage?
What are trends from past until now?
Definitions of homelessness.

Things individuals can do to help out

Larger societal problems that create homeless people

And here's the third cut.

General More Specific
Perspectives for Looking at Homeless  View of ‘victims’ of the homeless
View of the homeless population
View of ‘solvers’ of homelessness
Ways to ‘solve’ homelessness Solve problems caused by homelessness
-To community
-To homeless
Solve problems that cause homelessness
Information we want Definitions of homeless
Categories of homeless (assuming different categories can be handled in different ways)
Total # of homeless
# in each category of homeless
# of those transitioning out of homelessness each year
# of new homeless each year
# of chronic homeless
Definitions/categories of low cost housing
Data on available low cost housing in Anchorage
Data on successful approaches elsewhere
Current costs of homelessness to
-Residents with homes
-Homeless residents
Resources available
-Funds allocated
-Positions allocated
-Expertise available
-Resources still needed
Sources of homeless people (why people become homeless)
Solutions Money
More low cost housing
Mental health services
Addiction help
Employment help
Health Costs help

There are a lot of savvy people in the class coming at this from different perspectives.  I hope I've been reasonably faithful in how I've pulled together the comments.  Once I had these frameworks, I did add a few more items in (particularly things we want to know).  I was concerned that we distinguish between short term fixes to help individuals who are homeless and people who are affected negatively by nearby homeless cams on the one hand, and how to 'fix' the societal changes in the US that are causing homelessness, that Anchorage, on its own can't 'fix'.  Changes in wages, job security, student debt, veteran's physical and mental health issues resulting from their service, access to health care, etc.  It's in there, but not that explicitly.

We've got different people coming in to talk to us over the next seven weeks.  Though I don't think that we've got any homeless folks coming in to talk.

Sunday, October 06, 2019

Please Go To The Alaskan Youth Climate Change Lawsuit At The Supreme Court Wednesday - I Have A Conflicting Obligation

I saw this message today:
As wildfires rage across Alaska and salmon die in the state’s warmed rivers after a summer that reached the hottest temperatures on record, these young Alaskans are standing up for their rights and for a future free from climate chaos.
WHO: The 16 young Alaskans who are suing the state of Alaska for violating their constitutional rights by knowingly contributing to climate change.
WHAT: The youth plaintiffs have a hearing before the Alaska Supreme Court after appealing a lower court’s ruling against them and they need YOU in the courtroom to show the public that their community stands behind them in their fight for climate justice.
WHY: The lower court mistakenly ruled that the youth had not identified a state policy that contributes to climate change, even though the youth clearly identified the statute declaring the State’s Energy Policy to promote fossil fuels and explained how the State’s implementation of that policy causes climate change and violates the constitutional rights of young Alaskans.
WHEN: Wednesday, October 9 at 1:30 p.m. Arrive early to secure your seat in the courtroom. There will be a press conference following the hearing at about 2:30 p.m. near the courthouse (location TBD) where you will have a chance to hear from some of the youth plaintiffs and their attorneys.
WHERE: 303 K Street, Anchorage 99501
I should be there!

But Wednesday is also Yom Kippur.  Although I have lots of issues with the persona of the Old Testament God, the time between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur is an important, traditional period set aside to think about one's deeds of the last year.  Whom have I wronged?  Who has wronged me?  How can I make things right?  Can I forgive those who did me harm?  And just as important, it is time to think about how I can be a better person in the next year.

And there is something much greater than thinking about attending Yom Kippur  as one individual act.  Going to high holiday services, even though I miss most of the other services during the year, is a way to honor my ancestors who struggled hard, and even died, because of their membership in this family of people that goes back to Moses and Abraham.  I can't just walk away from that. So I cringe at the demanding, paternalistic diety in the prayer book, and the fatalistic sealing of people's fate:
Oh Rosh Hashanah it is written,
on Yom Kippur it is sealed:
How many shall pass on, how many shall come to be;
who shall live and who shall die;
who shall see ripe age and who shall not;
who shall perish by fire and who by water;
who by sword and who by beast;
who by hunger and who by thirst;
who by earthquake and who by plague;
who by strangling and who by stoning;
who shall be secure and who shall be driven;
who shall be tranquil and who shall be troubled;
who shall be poor and who shall be rich;
who shall be humbled and who exalted.*
OK, you've got ten days to change what is written, before it is sealed, in this narrative.  You do have some say in this.  And while some of these seem like ancient fates, most are still fairly common even in the US.  And around the world there are people still being stoned to death, but how are these sorts of fates due to an individual's unholy behavior? Are the people dying by fire more sinful than those who have less painful deaths or even those who live for another year?  Are the rich really better people than those who are poor?  There are so many examples of this not being true.  (Of course I'm accepting our society's belief that rich people are somehow better than poor people.)

But other parts of the prayer book are more subtle and relevant to today's world.  So I concentrate on those parts.  Such as:
We sin against You when we sin against ourselves.
For our failures of truth, O Lord, we ask forgiveness.

For passing judgment without knowledge of the facts,
and for distorting facts to fit our theories.
For using the sins of others to excuse our own,
and for denying responsibility for our own misfortunes.
For condemning in our children the faults we tolerate in ourselves,
and for condemning in our parents the faults we tolerate in ourselves.

For keeping the poor in the chains of poverty,
and turning a deaf ear to the cry of the oppressed.
For using violence to maintain our power,
and for using violence to bring about change.
For waging aggressive war,
and for the sin of appeasing aggressors.
For obeying criminal orders,
and for the sin of silence and indifference.
For poisoning the air, and polluting land and sea,
and for all the evil means we employ to accomplish good ends.
These are behaviors that people do every day and these lines force them to face the consequences of their seemingly minor and benign behavior.    And I'm comfortable with "O Lord" being a metaphor for humanity or nature, or some other collective being other than a tyrannical deity demanding obedience of the imperfect creatures he's created.  (So very much like many parents.)

*After writing all this, I found a discussion above of the list of ways people might die, by Rabbi Danya Ruttenberg who shares some of my reactions, but offers this more as a collective rather than individual fate.
". . .how can we accept that tefillah (prayer) and teshuvah (repentance) and tzedekah (acts of righteousness, usually translated as “charity”) are going to save us from earthquakes, car accidents, persecution? We know that lots of very good people suffer every day, and that many people who do horrible things prosper. One could write off the prayer as reflective of an era in which people found solace in trying to control their fate, but I think that’s unfair and dismissive of the liturgy. . .
What if it weren’t about my individual repentance as it affects my individual fate? What if our repentance as a society (which demands that each individual do his or her part) is the thing that affects our collective fate? What if the reason a person gets cancer is not because he or she personally has done something wrong, but because we as a nation and a globe have poisoned our air, our water, and our food with toxic chemicals and negligence? Are the tsunami of two years ago and the hurricanes of last year a sign that entire sections of the world were filled with sinners, or a tragic by-product of global warming? Are the women killed by stoning–yes, today–in honor killings around the world guilty of insufficient prayer, or should we assign responsibility to everyone who perpetuates a culture in which this is considered acceptable? Are the war refugees (like those fleeing the genocide in Darfur or the Lost Boys of Sudan) who sometimes fall to wild beasts personally responsible for their situation, their fate? Of course not. "
I can live better with this interpretation, but why not change the language of the prayerbook to reflect this?

So, in my life, I've accepted that attending High Holiday services is something I should do.  My mother took me with her, even though she didn't go to weekly services.  And there were times when going was difficult - as a student in Germany when the Jewish community was not yet visible again, and as a Peace Corps volunteer in a remote Thai province.  But I usually attend.  I work past the language that's troubling, and focus on the language that connects me, individually, with righteousness and humanity.

And so, I hope that many of my friends who believe in the importance of fighting Climate Change in as many ways as possible, are at the Supreme Court Wednesday afternoon to support the 16 who are suing the State of Alaska.

Saturday, October 05, 2019

A Recovery Day

That's me, like the sun, trying to see through the clouds.  101˚F, chest full of crud.  It wasn't quite that bad yesterday when I went to my OLÉ classes.  But I did try to sit away from others.

I'm staying in today.  I'm not good at being sick  I'm drinking lots of hot water with honey.  But I'll try to get some stuff done.

The sun has broken through a couple of times.  The trees are losing their leaves.  I do want to write a bit about SB 91 - the criminal justice reform bill that was essentially repealed this year because that was the main topic of our state and federal courts class yesterday.  And also about how our class talked about homelessness (the other class) while waiting for the speaker to come.  Actually, it was a good thing we had time to get to know each other better.