Monday, June 30, 2008

More on AGIA - Responding to Trip1050

A little over a week ago, Trip1050 responded to my post AGIA (Alaska Gasline Incentive Inducement Act)- The Cliff Notes.

I responded to his comments and then he wrote back. Here's a link to the three comments.
Many Alaskans live in very separate worlds. I thought his second comment might be a serious attempt at dialogue. I didn't respond right away because I wanted to think about it, and then other things got in the way. Now, I think this is worthy of a whole new post, not just a comment on a post most people won't ever read again. I hope I haven't waited so long that Trip1050 doesn't see this response. Here's Trip's second comment before I give my response.
Trip1050 said...

It appeared to me that the tone of the article was very much against "Big Oil". However, If I have misinterpreted your context I apologize. I am, in fact, an employee of a major producer here in Alaska. I withheld that information because, in today’s society especially, I do not want to create a situation where my company is held liable for my opinions or statements. Its not that I am trying to be cagey, I just am trying to avoid any legal conflicts in the future.

Several comments you made seemed to imply that companies involved with the Denali project cannot be trusted. That is a very bold statement to make about major corporations that have invested billions of dollars in the state of Alaska to set the standard of environmental practices, safe operating, and community assistance. At no point have any of the companies tried to “hide who is behind the project”. When you are dealing with a joint venture of this size, a very smart business move is to spin the project off into its own entity in order to ensure it gets the resources and focus it deserves. I don’t believe that its intent was to hide anything at all.

As to your analogy about the house, how would you feel about the deal if the attorney and real estate expert told you that the final price of the house could be plus or minus $50,000; but you won’t know until you sign the deal? I wouldn’t sign that. With no tax structure in place, the oil companies have no idea what to expect once they access the reserves. The government could raise the tax at any point, ruining the economics of the project. As with any business venture, you need to fully understand your costs before you embark on a project. My final comment, business is business, these companies exist to turn a profit. However, not at the expense of the community they operate in. These companies have formed great relationships with cities around the world and have operated respectfully for many, many years. I would caution you in your trust of the government, maybe I am a cynic, but I feel that this administration will try to do what makes them look best, not necessarily what is best.

To you sir..

Fri Jun 20, 03:50:00 PM AKDT

Trip, sorry it's taken so long to respond. I wanted to wait a bit, and then other things got in the way. We come to this topic from very different places and it’s easy to have knee jerk reactions. You read my tone, perhaps, more than my words the first time. The second time it sounded like you had engaged what I said more. I’m trying to do the same.

As I read your words I hear, “why are you so suspicious of the big oil companies?” with a hint that I’m naively trustful of government. You tell me
That is a very bold statement [oil companies can’t be trusted] to make about major corporations that have invested billions of dollars in the state of Alaska to set the standard of environmental practices, safe operating, and community assistance.
At this point some of my blogger friends would laugh and say that you are in the pocket of the oil companies, how could you be so naive? I’m trying to understand your position. I see two possibilities:
  1. This is a totally cynical piece of oil company propaganda and you aren't here to seriously engage me; or
  2. You really believe this.
I’m going to assume the second option and try to respond
  • first why
    • a) I don’t trust the oil companies and
    • b) why I’m skeptical about what good citizens the oil companies are;
  • second, to your response to my comments about the oil companies hiding behind the name Denali; (this really is a minor topic, but I don't want you to think I'm dodging);
  • third, your comments on my faith in government and your high praise of oil companies;
  • fourth, your response to the house buying analogy.

First, Trusting Oil Companies
a) My skepticism about oil companies' altruism - or any large company - comes from reading about business, history, and personal experience.

Starting with The Prize a Pulitzer Prize winning book that is an incredibly detailed history of oil starting about 1850, and going through a slew of books and articles including Confessions of an Economic Hit Man, there is a lot of evidence that oil companies (and other multinationals) have a lot of power and they use it primarily to their own benefit. And they’ve been led by men who had had their countries start wars if necessary to protect their interests.

And I know that oil companies take very good care of their employees - as long as the employees follow the written and unwritten rules and until they are no longer needed. Sohio employees were rudely shown this when Sohio made quick and paltry (by oil standards) severances before leaving. I've also watched friends of mine get their salaries doubled and tripled when they moved from government positions into oil industry related positions. I see it this way:
  1. Oil companies pay so much above the local market that it is hard for their employees to match their income and corporate life style in other jobs except in other similar large multi-national corporations.
  2. So it is in the employees’ best interests to be good corporate employees and good for their consciences to believe that their companies are wonderful and benign.
  3. Now, it’s in every organization’s best interests to have loyal employees who identify strongly with them.
  4. But oil companies have the money, unlike government agencies, to be more effective at this.
    (I know that this could push your buttons, but tell me specifically what is untrue in what I’ve said. Go sentence by sentence (1-4 above) and tell me why it is false.)

I also listened carefully to the oil company threats last year that the window was closing on the gas pipeline if we didn't go with the deal that Murkowski had worked out. And now, suddenly, that window seems to be wide open again. Explain to me once more why you think the oil companies have the welfare of the people of Alaska in mind? Actually, you asserted it as if it were an undisputed given, but you didn't explain why they are or demonstrate it.

I sat through the political corruption trials last year - all three of them - and listened to the tapes, watched the videos, and heard the witnesses. It was made very clear that Bill Allen was doing everything he could to impact the legislature - through means legal and illegal - to vote in ways that would be in the best interest of the oil companies. There is no reason for Allen and Smith to have made guilty pleas if they were not guilty. Each received $500,000 for legal fees as part of the sale of VECO. And each has many millions on their own. It was equally clear from those trials that the oil company executives were either aware of what he was doing specifically, or knew generally and were careful not to know specifically.

b) You write, "major corporations that have invested billions of dollars in the state of Alaska to set the standard of environmental practices, safe operating, and community assistance.",

Yes, oil companies make billion dollar investments because their projects bring them even more billions in return. And they make what appear to be large contributions to the community. But these are not out of the goodness of their hearts. I'm sure the various executives who decide where to give the money are happy to be able to help the opera or the university. And I'm sure the organizations treat them very well. But it isn't their money. And the gifts always come with the company’s name prominently attached.

These are corporations whose purpose is to make profits for their shareholders. Their job is NOT to give away money, UNLESS that charity is an investment in greater profits for their shareholders. It pays to make people in a community feel that the company is a generous, responsible corporate citizen. But a $10,000 donation to the Anchorage Opera by Exxon (based on their 2007 profits) would be the same as if a person earning $100,000 before taxes donated two and half cents! So these can sound like staggering amounts of charity, but they really are nothing in Exxon’s big picture. If I sent the Opera three cents, they would laugh at me. When Exxon does the equivalent the Opera publicly salutes them. You can say, but Exxon gives money to different organizations. So do I, but not three cents per organization. I won’t get into the oil spill settlement because I really don’t believe that punitive damages should go to the plaintiffs or their attorneys anyway; they already should have gotten compensated in the original payments. (Though I’m not sure they were, simply because proving much of the damage was not necessarily easy.)

The oil companies fought hard against the environmental standards that the environmental lobby forced on them before the pipeline could be built. Now they embrace them and write about protecting the environment in their ads as if they invented the environment. But despite, BP's green logo and environmental ads, we’ve now been told that BP refused requests for money to protect their pipes from corrosion leading to a significant spill not long ago.

And what oil companies are doing in Nigeria, Burma, or Central Asia where they haven’t been forced to maintain US level environmental or social standards seems to me to be in stark contrast to your statement that
These companies have formed great relationships with cities around the world and have operated respectfully for many, many years.
Well, I'm sure that the organizations that receive the oil companies largesse have good things to say. I'm sure the leaders of Burma and Nigeria have high praise for their international oil partners. But few in Alaska today think that Exxon was respectful of the community.

Second, your response to my comments about oil companies hiding behind the name Denali.
You write
At no point have any of the companies tried to “hide who is behind the [Denali] project
OK, I can see how you read this. That was part of my response to the oil companies taking an Alaskan icon - Denali - and making it the name of their plan AND then trademarking that name. By calling it Denali, it sounds like an Alaskan plan, not the plan of companies headquartered in Texas and London.

I wasn't trying to say that they literally were concealing who was behind the plan. Anyone who pays attention should be expected to know who is promoting this. But most Alaskans, or other US citizens, are not keeping close track of what’s happening. When they see “Denali Plan” they don’t instantly go, “Oh yes, that’s the Conoco-Phillips/BP plan.” It would have been more honest to call it the CP/BP plan. That was the sense I intended when I said they were hiding. (And I've heard critics of the Trans Canada Alaska proposal who said that by referring to it as TC Alaska, the State wasn't simply trying to make it easier to write and say, but trying to hide the Canadian link. That may be true, but it's not nearly as blatant as taking the name Denali.)

This may seem trivial to someone like you who would not for a moment mistake the supporters of the Denali plan, but for people who aren't close to this project, it isn't nearly that obvious. And I can't imagine that the people who named the plan Denali didn't think it through very carefully. I would be surprised if they didn't test it in focus groups even.

Third, my faith in government.
You write:
I would caution you in your trust of the government, maybe I am a cynic, but I feel that this administration will try to do what makes them look best, not necessarily what is best.
If you've read other parts of this blog, you'd know I don't blindly put my faith in government. Whether Republican or Democrat, the politicians have many interests to balance and I have to look closely to determine to what extent one option looks better than another. I look at the people who are doing particular things and evaluate who is likely to be most trustworthy.

Sometimes the choices are pretty grim. But in this case, the State team has offered us an enormous amount of data they’ve developed with the help of hired experts. The history that I know of the State people tells me that their honesty and dedication to the people of Alaska are as good as the oil companies’ executives dedication to their shareholders’ interests. In fact, the original post had a fairly long section on that.

While there are things the Palin administration has done that raise giant question marks in my mind, there is nothing to point out that the Governor would sell out the people of Alaska to maker herself look good. Whether she's making the right judgment is another issue. But my leaning toward TC Alaska is based on Tom Irwin's staff and experts, not on the governor's judgment of this.

I can't help but find it ironic that you question MY faith in government at the end of a paragraph that basically says the oil companies would do absolutely no harm.
My final comment, business is business, these companies exist to turn a profit. However, not at the expense of the community they operate in. These companies have formed great relationships with cities around the world and have operated respectfully for many, many years.
I've addressed my reasons for not buying that in that in the first point above.

Fourth, the house buying analogy.

You write:
As to your analogy about the house, how would you feel about the deal if the attorney and real estate expert told you that the final price of the house could be plus or minus $50,000; but you won’t know until you sign the deal? I wouldn’t sign that. With no tax structure in place, the oil companies have no idea what to expect once they access the reserves. The government could raise the tax at any point, ruining the economics of the project. As with any business venture, you need to fully understand your costs before you embark on a project.

My response:
  • When we buy a house, we know the exact price because this is a relatively simple exchange - a house for a sum of money. The parties agree, and you make the exchange. But few brokers are able to foretell the political, natural, or economic events ahead. They won’t tell me whether future zoning changes, or highway construction, or mortgage scandals are going to lower my future property value. Nor will they likely tell me a wetland nearby is going to flood my basement. We go into all business deals with a certain level or risk.
  • Like most metaphors, my house buying one, works at one level, but not at all levels. The issue of whether I should trust my broker or the seller’s broker has relevance in both the house buying situation and the public policy decision. Sure, I have to consider that the more I pay, the more commission my broker gets. And I have to be sure that my government representatives aren't taking bribes, and that they are smart and powerful enough to make the best deal.

    But comparing the uncertainty one faces in buying a house and the uncertainty faced in building a multi-billion, multi-year, international pipeline is not a good analogy. The political, economic, and technical uncertainties in such a pipeline are infinitely greater than those in buying a house.

    And because of the many uncertainties, the larger and longer term the project, the less likely a company can “fully understand your costs before you embark on a project.” But they do make best and worst case forecasts and decide the probability of each, and then decide whether to take the risk.
  • But you also change the actor in the same line. In answer to the question of whether I would take a deal with a $100,000 (plus or minus $50,000) uncertainty, you write
    I wouldn’t sign that. With no tax structure in place, the oil companies have no idea what to expect once they access the reserves.
    “I wouldn’t sign” that, relates to what you were saying about trusting MY experts with that much uncertainty. But then you go on to say the oil companies shouldn’t sign an uncertain agreement either. But in this case, the people they would have to trust are the other party. Of course, they should listen to their own counselors. If they don't like the conditions the State is offering, well, they don’t have to sign on.

    As I understand it, Conoco and BP haven't signed. They are proposing to build their own pipeline. Trans Canada decided the state's deal was worth the risk. All the producers really have to do is decide whether to put gas into the pipeline. They don't have to build a pipeline. If they need to transport the gas one day, well then TC is going to build a pipeline. While there is economic risk still there, I see this more as a power play. If it were economically infeasible to use the gas, then why offer the Denali Plan? It sounds to me that when they didn’t submit a proposal, they really didn’t expect anyone else would submit a credible proposal. But TC Alaska did. And now they are trying to get back into the game. There are lots of reasons that owning the pipeline, on their own terms, would give the producers lots of benefits.

At least that's how I understand things. The point of posting this on the blog is NOT to convince others, but to have others point out where my reasoning and/or facts are flawed.

I don’t have a vested interest in either TC Alaska or the oil producers. I never heard of TC Alaska until a few weeks ago. I’m just an Alaskan who is trying to figure out what the best deal is for the state. I could be totally wrong, but this is my way of seeing it.

I’m sure, Trip, that nothing I’ve written here has changed your mind in any way. But I’ve addressed your questions in detail. Tell me where my facts and/or assumptions are wrong. And give me your evidence and reasoning to support your contentions.

Or anyone else out there.

Almost Midnight Sun, Blue Sky Building, Permanent Moose

These pictures were going to be part of the last post, but Blogger kept having internal problems with the pictures. But they work on this new post window.

When I posted some pictures of new buildings last week, I didn't know that the ADN was posting pictures of this new one on Northern Lights and C that same day. I found the article yesterday looking for something else. They don't have a name for the building either, but they did know a little more information. As we walked home from dinner at the Tofu House last night we saw the building from a different angle.

While we love the days of increasing light each year, we do tend to take the late sunsets for granted after a while. But sometimes the light shines in a way that we can't help notice that, oh yeah, it's not staying light as long, the sun's setting and it's only 11:07 pm.

And I often pass these moose on one of my regular running routes, but I don't usually have my camera when I run.

Glass Maker John Vincent and Summer Palace

We went with friends to see the Chinese movie at the Anchorage Museum of History and Art yesterday evening. It wasn't totally clear why it was called Summer Palace - though there were some scenes in a boat on a lake that could well have been at the Summer Palace in Beijing. This was an interesting movie because the year we spent in Hong Kong began a couple months after Tiananmen, a key event in this movie. Plus, much of the movie takes place at Beijing University and I've taught at nearby People's University and visited the Beijing University campus. But it was long (almost 2 1/2 hours) and I had trouble keeping track of who was who.

But before the movie, we talked to some of the artists in the atrium, including this glass maker, John Vincent.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Protests in Thailand - Did You Even Know This Was Happening?

A Thai teacher friend sent an email answering someone's questions about the protests going on in Thailand against the current government.

Thanks so much for concerning on Thai Politics, it has been our big problem for 8 yrs. Do you know Thai former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra ? He is very clever, but his cleverness is dangerous for Thailand and Thai people . During 5 yrs of his government, many projects were corrupted. Some policies damaged Thai people , economic development and Thailand etc. He could do everything for his power, earning much more money without getting worried or caring about the bad effect . The anti-government People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) has been protested since 2006. Finally , his party was punished by the the court in 2007 to be canceled. He gave a lot of money to covetous officers and someone who are greedy . This present government is his nominee. Mr Samak Sundaravej , the priminister announced by himself before the election . We can't let his system be longer anymore . The more this government adminsteres, the more bad effect damages our country . This government works only 4 months, but he tried to revise the Constitution of Thailand made in 2007. Just only want to help his Boss ( Mr. Thaksin Shinawatra and his staff ) . He doesn't mind or concerns on the other problem based on Thai people life and tried to do some projects mainly benefit to himself and his staff .
I'd like to attach you some events confirmed my telling .
( I'm quite Sorry that my English is not good enough to tell you completely. )
Stay Well,

Thai Pundit blogged the June 20th protests live.

My teacher friend also added this, though I'm not sure where it's from:

By Thinida Tansubhapol
The embattled Foreign Affairs Ministry may seek to appeal against an injunction granted by the Administrative Court against its support for Cambodia's proposal to list Preah Vihear temple as a World Heritage site.

The court decision came after the anti-government People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) asked it last week to rule on the matter, alleging that the support for Cambodia's bid is in return for business concessions in the neighbouring country for former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra who was ousted in a 2006 coup. Mr Thaksin and both the Thai and Cambodian governments deny the claims.

The court order could affect a joint declaration Foreign Minister Noppadon Pattama signed with Cambodia. In the joint communique, Thailand expressed ''active support'' for Cambodia's plan to unilaterally list the the 900-year-old Khmer ruins at a Unesco meeting in Quebec which begins on Wednesday. Yet it remains unclear how the order will affect the heritage push by Vientiane.

Mr Noppadon, who is to head a Thai delegation to the Quebec meeting, called an urgent meeting with officials at the Foreign Ministry yesterday to discuss the ministry's response after the court issued the injunction.

However, the minister cancelled a press conference and refused to answer reporters' questions in a show of respect for the court decision.

Permanent secretary for Foreign Affairs Virasakdi Futrakul said Mr Noppadon would ask for a cabinet decision on Tuesday to see if it would appeal against the court order.

Mr Virasakdi said a change could be made to the delegation's composition, apparently a reference to Mr Noppadon as delegation head.

The opposition and other government critics yesterday hailed the Administrative Court's injunction.

Opposition and Democrat leader Abhisit Vejjajiva said he would lodge a petition tomorrow with 21 country members of the World Heritage Site Committee.

He said the petition is aimed at stopping Cambodia's bid to unilaterally list the Preah Vihear temple and averting any possible damage to Thailand.

He said removal of the foreign minister from office is not now a priority.

Mr Abhisit yesterday lodged a petition objecting to the minister's signing of the joint declaration, which had bypassed parliament.

The petition was submitted to the Constitution Court via the parliament president. The petition was also signed by Democrat MPs and some senators.

Pikulkaew Krairiksh, chairwoman of the Senate committee on foreign affairs, said the injunction must be presented to Unesco.

She said the court order was a blessing for the government as it was likely to deter people who had considered joining the PAD-led anti-government campaign.

Chart Thai's Somsak Prisanananthakul agreed that the court order would ease political tension, saying the Foreign Ministry should use this opportunity to clarify the matter with the public.

Academic Preecha Suwannathat called on the government to resign as a show of responsibility.

Mr Preecha, former dean of Thammasat University's law faculty, said the government must review or cancel the joint declaration which it signed with Phnom Penh, or it would be violating the constitution and breaching the Criminal Code.

Historian Nidhi Eowseewong urged the government to forward the court injunction to Unesco.

He also called on Mr Noppadon to step down and warned that Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej will face pressure if he allows Mr Noppadon to stay on.

He said he believed Cambodia's unilateral bid to list Preah Vihear temple would be rejected.

''It is not easy. Normally, surrounding areas should also be listed.

''I think they will not approve it,'' he said.

He suggested Thailand should seek the listing of Prasat Phanom Rung and Prasat Hin Phimai historical parks as World Heritage sites along with Preah Vihear temple if possible.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Before I Forget - Avant que j'oublie

I walked out of the theater in something of a daze. If Eleven Minutes played at 78 rpm, then Whirlwind was 45, and Before I Forget was 33. Things moved very slowly. The director (and lead actor) Jacques Nolot probed deeply into one man's life. A man, who at 60, faces the uncertainty of old age as the inheritance he expected slips away and his body is no longer young, beautiful, or healthy.

I was a little squirmy during the movie, it really was moving at a speed unknown in American films. Not for those with attention deficit disorder. But it was powerful and unrelenting. This was not light entertainment, this was a harsh contemplation of the meaning of life for this one individual and those of us watching.

Elliott Stein
at the Village Voice writes:

Why is it that nearly all the best recent gay-themed movies are French, while most American gay flicks these days turn out to be empty wastes of time?

Of the three features we saw this week at Out North, this was the only one that took a central human question and dealt with it with enough universal depth that it will have meaning in 10 or 50 years. Eleven Minutes dealt with a relatively trivial question in a technically snappy and entertaining picture. Whirlwind took on issues that were closer to Before I Forget's issues, but was a high school level essay compared to Forget's polished, professorial treatment of the subject. It was complex, deep, subtle, an ambiguous in its examination of a life.

Warning: This was one of those movies where my tastes probably differ greatly from most people's. It's slow, has subtitles, digs deep, and has no answers.

And again, Anchorage gets to see the newest of the new. It plays tomorrow afternoon in New York. For more specifics on what the movie is about, you can go read Drier than dry, 26 October 2007 7/10 by Chris Knipp from Berkeley, California on IMDB.

Thanks Rob. This goes so much faster without video to edit.

Avant que j'oublie - Bande-annonce 1 - Français - kewego
Avant que j'oublie - Bande-annonce 1 - Français - kewego

Oil Companies S(p)end Their Messages Through ADN

The AGIA plan had its mini
state tour with stops in Anchorage, Juneau, Barrow, Fairbanks, Kenai, Matsu, and Ketchikan. Since it doubled as a legislative information session as well and legislators traveled around the state to be present, the costs of presenting the state's findings to the people of Alaska were pretty high. Wesley Loy wrote in the Anchorage Daily News

Nobody has an overall cost estimate for the trip.
Legislators and legislative support staffers say they won't know the full tally until after all the travelers file for payment of their expenses.

The most expensive destination is Barrow, a predominantly Inupiat village of more than 4,000 people about 725 miles north of Anchorage.

As of Tuesday, 37 lawmakers had signed up to go to Barrow for a hearing on July 1. At about $800 for a round-trip ticket, airfare alone for the group will total some $30,000.

[Double click any picture to enlarge it.]

And now the various oil companies and oil support groups are paying to give their side of the story. But while the State provided days and days of information all backed up on the internet, the advertising campaign by the oil companies - at least what is covered in the ADN ads - is long on pictures and feel good text and short on information.

Only one of the ads offered a website address - was on the Alaska Gasline LNG ads. But if you link to it, you'll see it is just a bunch of oil industry related links. Even the link to gasline map has no map.
So, the most popular links on the site are for computer notebooks, music downloads, and online dating? This is a serious attempt to educate the public on the gasline issues I see.

All of you who have heard of Udelhoven raise your hands.

Here's how I figured the costs from the ADN's NAA quick fact sheet.

2 The information and statistics contained in this document are intended to provide a general overview of our products, their market and their readers. These rates only represent an overview of rates and ad units this newspaper accepts. Please contact a sales representative (or refer to the Media Kit) for a complete listing of all category rates, ad units and other specifications. While the data is correct overall, a salesrepresentative should be contacted for further details and/or clarification.

As footnote 2 suggests, there are lots of contingencies for determining the cost of ADN ads. The ones I could calculate directly were: weekday v. Sunday; color or black and white; and size. Well, there are prices for full page ads, but less than full page ads I had to approximate with square inch comparisons. Other contingenices that I had no way to figure were related to discounts for multiple ads. There are other pages with tables and numbers that I can't figure out at all. I'm sure if you're in advertising you've learned the code, but there is not enough information on the web to make sense out of it. And footnote 2 seems to acknowledge that the numbers in the chart are just general numbers.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Whirlwind - the Movie

I liked this movie. It was an entertaining 99 minutes. It took me into a different world that turned out not that different at all. And all of the characters were likable, even the villain, though they all had their issues. It's not a great movie and I'm going to explain why I think that, but I did want to say it is well worth seeing.

This was another feature in the Anchorage Pride Fest Film Festival at Out North. (The link shows the current scheduled events, so if you look at this after June 28, you probably won't get anything about the film festival.) No one's competing for awards, but rather it's a chance for people in Anchorage to see films that wouldn't normally be shown here, or we wouldn't see until years from now. This film, for example, was first shown in New York and L.A. this month.

I enjoyed watching Whirlwind. It's not a great film. It's not even a good film, as films go. OK, I'm picky. With a good film, I get so caught up in the film that I forget I'm watching a movie. The actors ARE the characters. The music helps tell the story, but it never calls attention to itself. The same with the camera work. It moves the story along, but not in ways that pull you out of the story to think, "Wow wasn't that a cool shot?"

But, I enjoyed this one. I like the look of not as polished independent films. You don't need $100 million to tell a good story. If we rate movies on a scale of product per dollar spent making it, this would be much better than most Hollywood movies.

The acting was good most of the time, but there were a few times when I felt the actor and the character separated. words were being recited rather than spoken naturally.

That the story follows a formula, by itself, isn't a problem. But it shouldn't be quite so close to the surface. And the explanation for Drake's behavior, and his one-night stand counterpart in the group (he's the one character whose name escapes me - Desmond is in my mind, but I'd remember that if it were really Desmond), were the opposite of subtle.

Here we have a group that appears to be working well. Then something comes in to disturb and test them. They face the challenge and overcome it. It made me think of the tv show Friends. And The Big Chill. There the friends had scattered and it's the death of one of the group that brings them back together and tests them. Whirlwind's group is five gay men and a couple of women who sometimes hang out with them. They're planning a 25th Anniversary party for a gay couple they know, when sexy Drake slips into their circle and attempts to destroy it by exploiting each of their weaknesses. (I'm not giving anything away that wasn't on the blurb in the brochure, and that you can't figure out pretty quickly.)

I knew exactly where things were going. But it was ok. I wanted to see how it got there. I cared about the characters. I think that was the strength of the movie. They were all real people with a real mix of strengths and weaknesses trying to be happy. We can all identify. Not every movie has to end badly. It's just when that happy ending is totally improbable that there's a problem. Here there is no reason why these folks shouldn't get back together and shouldn't be stronger for the challenge.

This is NOT a gay movie. It's a movie about human beings who just happen to be gay. One could change the script slightly and film it over again with completely straight characters.

I had my Canon Powershot with me at the movie, but after emailing back and forth with Rob Tate, one of the directors of Eleven Minutes [see added comments under the YouTube trailer that replaces the video I posted], I've decided to try out just sticking with the trailers I can find online rather than using my own video. I think the video is useful in conveying the feel of the movie. While I understand Rob's concern that the quality of the video I post is terrible and doesn't reflect what he worked so hard to create, I think mine gives the feel of being in the theater watching the movie and the readers here understand that. And as I look at the trailer for Whirlwind (and this is no different from other movies) it also distorts the movie in a different way.

I don't know how television movie reviewers select the video they show in their reviews, or if they just take what is given to them. But it seems to me that if you are going to review a movie, you should be picking out the shots you want to talk about. Of course, if you have a whole movie to choose from, it could take a while to pick exactly the right shots. Fortunately, my memory disk doesn't hold too much video so I have to make do with the shots I get by trying to anticipate what might be good. An iffy proposition at best. Anyway, I don't know that my clips are more of a distortion than the trailer. Each just distorts the film in different ways.

The Film Panel Note Taker has an interview with Director Richard LeMay & Screenwriter Jason Brown. The Rob Tate link above goes to a brief YouTube video of the two directors and Jay McCarroll.

[Update: In my review of Before I Forget (Avant Que Joublie), a couple days after seeing Whirlwind, I was able to explain why my review of Whirlwind was just lukewarm. "Before I Forgot" was a much more penetrating look at the human condition.]

Church of Cod

A friend shot this while on a short business trip to Seldovia.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Etaoin Shrdlu - Thai Keyboard Update

Etaoin Shrdlu is:

A place for McClatchy editors and others to talk about the changing news media landscape.
I stumbled onto this blog while I was posting about McClatchy and the Anchorage Daily News. I knew the title had to have some meaning, but I couldn't figure out the code. Fortunately, they have a link to Wikipedia explaining the letters:
Etaoin Shrdlu is the approximate order of frequency of the twelve most commonly used letters in the English language
Back in Thailand I did a post about finding stick on letters so I could have a Thai letters on my keyboard without getting a new keyboard. Well, time has not been kind to my Thai key labels. But we can use the keyboard to test Etaoin Shrdlu

Pretty close.

Someone told me I could get stick on letters with a plastic coating. I guess that's what I'll have to do next time


Below is the Syllabus of the Supreme Court Decision on the Exxon-Valdez Case. I have not read it as carefully as I'd like yet. But I have changed the format slightly. I've enlarged and bolded the numbers of the sections and bolded some of the lines that seemed to be the essence. But that's just my take. I'm still trying to figure out how everyone voted. I'll have to look at the whole thing to figure that out. The link should take you to the PDF file with the whole decision.

I should probably read the whole thing before I start commenting. Their formula for determining the punitive as no more than the compensatory seems a little arbitrary. For me, punitive should mean that it would discourage the company involved and other companies from doing damage. Which means that the award should spur them on to be careful and to take proactive steps to make sure that they aren't going to have an accident. Not simply that they shouldn't do it intentionally. Therefore, punitive damages shouldn't be connected to the compensatory damages as much as it should be connected to an amount high enough to get the company's (and those companies watching) attention. It should be high enough to hurt, but not to put the company out of business. Given Exxon's profits, $500,000,000 is a relief, not a deterrent.

But the Supreme Court needs to make its decisions based on the law, so I have to see what it is that led to that particular formula.

NOTE: Where it is feasible, a syllabus (headnote) will be released, as is
being done in connection with this case, at the time the opinion is issued.
The syllabus constitutes no part of the opinion of the Court but has been
prepared by the Reporter of Decisions for the convenience of the reader.
See United States v. Detroit Timber & Lumber Co., 200 U. S. 321, 337.
No. 07–219. Argued February 27, 2008—Decided June 25, 2008

In 1989, petitioners’ (collectively, Exxon) supertanker grounded on a
reef off Alaska, spilling millions of gallons of crude oil into Prince
William Sound. The accident occurred after the tanker’s captain, Jo-
seph Hazelwood—who had a history of alcohol abuse and whose blood
still had a high alcohol level 11 hours after the spill—inexplicably ex-
ited the bridge, leaving a tricky course correction to unlicensed sub-
ordinates. Exxon spent some $2.1 billion in cleanup efforts, pleaded
guilty to criminal violations occasioning fines, settled a civil action by
the United States and Alaska for at least $900 million, and paid an-
other $303 million in voluntary payments to private parties. Other
civil cases were consolidated into this one, brought against Exxon,
Hazelwood, and others to recover economic losses suffered by respon-
dents (hereinafter Baker), who depend on Prince William Sound for
their livelihoods. At Phase I of the trial, the jury found Exxon and
Hazelwood reckless (and thus potentially liable for punitive damages)
under instructions providing that a corporation is responsible for the
reckless acts of employees acting in a managerial capacity in the
scope of their employment. In Phase II, the jury awarded $287 mil-
lion in compensatory damages to some of the plaintiffs; others had
settled their compensatory claims for $22.6 million. In Phase III, the
jury awarded $5,000 in punitive damages against Hazelwood and $5
billion against Exxon. The Ninth Circuit upheld the Phase I jury in-
struction on corporate liability and ultimately remitted the punitive
damages award against Exxon to $2.5 billion.

1. Because the Court is equally divided on whether maritime law
allows corporate liability for punitive damages based on the acts of
managerial agents, it leaves the Ninth Circuit’s opinion undisturbed
in this respect. Of course, this disposition is not precedential on the
derivative liability question. See, e.g., Neil v. Biggers, 409 U. S. 188,
192. Pp. 7–10.
2. The Clean Water Act’s water pollution penalties, 33 U. S. C.
§1321, do not preempt punitive-damages awards in maritime spill
cases. Section 1321(b) protects “navigable waters . . . , adjoining
shorelines, . . . [and] natural resources,” subject to a saving clause re-
serving “obligations . . . under any . . . law for damages to any . . . pri-
vately owned property resulting from [an oil] discharge,” §1321(o).
Exxon’s admission that the CWA does not displace compensatory
remedies for the consequences of water pollution, even those for eco-
nomic harms, leaves the company with the untenable claim that the
CWA somehow preempts punitive damages, but not compensatory
damages, for economic loss. Nothing in the statute points to that re-
sult, and the Court has rejected similar attempts to sever remedies
from their causes of action, see Silkwood v. Kerr-McGee Corp., 464
U. S. 238, 255–256. There is no clear indication of congressional in-
tent to occupy the entire field of pollution remedies, nor is it likely
that punitive damages for private harms will have any frustrating ef-
fect on the CWA’s remedial scheme. Pp. 10–15.
3. The punitive damages award against Exxon was excessive as a
matter of maritime common law. In the circumstances of this case,
the award should be limited to an amount equal to compensatory
damages. Pp. 15–42.
(a) Although legal codes from ancient times through the Middle
Ages called for multiple damages for certain especially harmful acts,
modern Anglo-American punitive damages have their roots in 18th-
century English law and became widely accepted in American courts
by the mid-19th century. See, e.g., Day v. Woodworth, 13 How. 363,
371. Pp. 16–17.
(b) The prevailing American rule limits punitive damages to
cases of “enormity,” Day v. Woodworth, 13 How. 363, 371, in which a
defendant’s conduct is outrageous, owing to gross negligence, willful,
wanton, and reckless indifference for others’ rights, or even more de-
plorable behavior. The consensus today is that punitive damages are
aimed at retribution and deterring harmful conduct. Pp. 17–21.
(c) State regulation of punitive damages varies. A few States
award them rarely, or not at all, and others permit them only when
authorized by statute. Many States have imposed statutory limits on
punitive awards, in the form of absolute monetary caps, a maximum
ratio of punitive to compensatory damages, or, frequently, some com-
bination of the two. Pp. 21–23.
(d) American punitive damages have come under criticism in re-
cent decades, but the most recent studies tend to undercut much of it.
authorized by statute. Many States have imposed statutory limits

Although some studies show the dollar amounts of awards growing
over time, even in real terms, most accounts show that the median
ratio of punitive to compensatory awards remains less than 1:1. Nor
do the data show a marked increase in the percentage of cases with
punitive awards. The real problem is the stark unpredictability of
punitive awards. Courts are concerned with fairness as consistency,
and the available data suggest that the spread between high and low
individual awards is unacceptable. The spread in state civil trials is
great, and the outlier cases subject defendants to punitive damages
that dwarf the corresponding compensatories. The distribution of
judge-assessed awards is narrower, but still remarkable. These
ranges might be acceptable if they resulted from efforts to reach a
generally accepted optimal level of penalty and deterrence in cases
involving a wide range of circumstances, but anecdotal evidence sug-
gests that is not the case, see, e.g., Gore, supra, at 565, n. 8. Pp. 24–
(e) This Court’s response to outlier punitive damages awards has
thus far been confined by claims that state-court awards violated due
process. See, e.g., State Farm Mut. Automobile Ins. Co. v. Campbell,
538 U. S. 408, 425. In contrast, today’s enquiry arises under federal
maritime jurisdiction and requires review of a jury award at the level
of judge-made federal common law that precedes and should obviate
any application of the constitutional standard. In this context, the
unpredictability of high punitive awards is in tension with their pu-
nitive function because of the implication of unfairness that an eccen-
trically high punitive verdict carries. A penalty should be reasonably
predictable in its severity, so that even Holmes’s “bad man” can look
ahead with some ability to know what the stakes are in choosing one
course of action or another. And a penalty scheme ought to threaten
defendants with a fair probability of suffering in like degree for like
damage. Cf. Koon v. United States, 518 U. S. 81, 113. Pp. 28–29.
(f) The Court considers three approaches, one verbal and two
quantitative, to arrive at a standard for assessing maritime punitive
damages. Pp. 29–42.
(i) The Court is skeptical that verbal formulations are the best
insurance against unpredictable outlier punitive awards, in light of
its experience with attempts to produce consistency in the analogous
business of criminal sentencing. Pp. 29–32.
(ii) Thus, the Court looks to quantified limits. The option of
setting a hard-dollar punitive cap, however, is rejected because there
is no “standard” tort or contract injury, making it difficult to settle
upon a particular dollar figure as appropriate across the board; and
because a judicially selected dollar cap would carry the serious draw-
back that the issue might not return to the docket before there was a
business of criminal sentencing. Pp. 29–32.
need to revisit the figure selected. Pp. 32–39.
(iii) The more promising alternative is to peg punitive awards
to compensatory damages using a ratio or maximum multiple. This
is the model in many States and in analogous federal statutes allow-
ing multiple damages. The question is what ratio is most appropri-
ate. An acceptable standard can be found in the studies showing the
median ratio of punitive to compensatory awards. Those studies re-
flect the judgments of juries and judges in thousands of cases as to
what punitive awards were appropriate in circumstances reflecting
the most down to the least blameworthy conduct, from malice and
avarice to recklessness to gross negligence. The data in question put
the median ratio for the entire gamut at less than 1:1, meaning that
the compensatory award exceeds the punitive award in most cases.
In a well-functioning system, awards at or below the median would
roughly express jurors’ sense of reasonable penalties in cases like this
one that have no earmarks of exceptional blameworthiness. Accord-
ingly, the Court finds that a 1:1 ratio is a fair upper limit in such
maritime cases. Pp. 39–42.
(iv) Applying this standard to the present case, the Court takes
for granted the District Court’s calculation of the total relevant com-
pensatory damages at $507.5 million. A punitive-to-compensatory
ratio of 1:1 thus yields maximum punitive damages in that amount.
P. 42.
472 F. 3d 600 and 490 F. 3d 1066, vacated and remanded.

SOUTER, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which ROBERTS,
C. J., and SCALIA, KENNEDY, and THOMAS, JJ., joined, and in which STE-
VENS, GINSBURG, and BREYER, JJ., joined, as to Parts I, II, and III.
SCALIA, J., filed a concurring opinion, in which THOMAS, J., joined. STE-
VENS, J., GINSBURG, J., and BREYER, J., filed opinions concurring in part
and dissenting in part. ALITO, J., took no part in the consideration or
decision of the case.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Press Reports: Obama Coming to Alaska

The Anchorage Press reports online:

Tuesday night, in a conference room in the Loussac library, Barack Obama State Director Kat Pustay told about 50 Alaskans that Obama would be coming to campaign here sometime before November.

Once he does, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee will be the first major party nominee to campaign here since Richard Nixon did in 1960.

Pam of Grassroots Science Visits Anchorage

An example of blogging networks at work. Pam from Grassroots Science is in town. She emailed me before coming and I invited her to lunch yesterday. She had a beautiful day, probably the nicest we've had all summer and we were able to eat on the deck.

And she told me about things she's working on/interested in. She lives in Bethel, is a Biological Anthropologist by degree, and she tries to make science understandable so people can benefit from it.

It was clear there were people in Anchorage she should know, so we went over to ISER (Institute for Social and Economic Research), the Institute for Circumpolar Health Studies, and to ANSEP (Alaska Native Science and Engineering Program).

The ANSEP program is run by Professor Herb Schroeder and has been phenomenally successful in doing what few higher education programs have been able to do - recruit, retain, and graduate Alaska Native students. In Engineering this is even more unusual. Herb has done this by recruiting at high schools around the state, working with the high schools to make sure students get the curriculum they need to do the work, having summer prep programs, dorm space for the students participating so they can lessen the shock of moving from village Alaska to Anchorage and so they can eat some of their traditional food together.

The program got a cover story in the December 2007 issue of PE (The Magazine for Professional Engineers.) Herb said it was the engineering equivalent of being on the cover of Rolling Stone. (The PE song hasn't come out yet.)

We also stopped at the UAA Bookstore where she (and I) picked up a copy of Traditional Food Guide. And I went upstairs to the Apple store and finally got Leopard. But I've been too busy to install it.

The book is really quite amazing, combining Western knowledge about nutrition with Traditional knowledge about the various animals and plants that Alaska Native peoples have eaten for centuries. Here are some examples. Books can be purchased through ANTHC.

So now I know what to do with all the cow parsnips we have around here.

I've picked out some of the more exotic foods for non-Native people.

She was staying with a friend whose RV is parked downtown at the Ship Creek Landings RV Park, a place I never knew existed. It's at the end of Ingra on First Avenue. It was surprisingly well surrounded by trees to hide it from its industrial surroundings. But it is basically a parking lot.

My way of thinking about transportation has made a serious shift since we got back from Thailand and I found myself hesitating before offering to drive her around. I thought about us taking bikes to do our errands, but eventually I was going to have to get her downtown and come back alone.

Anchorage 2008 Pride Fest Film Festival - Eleven Minutes

There were about eight other people for Eleven Minutes, the feature documentary about Project Runway winner Jay McCarroll's first fashion show. There wasn't time to get bored as the film rushed through the year of preparation for the 11 minute show.

[June 27: I got an email from Rob Tate, one of the directors of Eleven Minutes in which he said that he didn't have the rights to post anything on the Video and directing me to take down the clips I had up. Since I've been in murky waters on this I took it down immediately. He redirected me to a YouTube trailer of this movie. I must say his email was very polite and decent. This does raise some issues of free speech. Book reviewers regularly put short passages of the book into their reviews. TV reviewers also put clips of the movies they review. Without the clips it is difficult to give the reader a sense of the movie. Some film makers from the Anchorage International Film Festival have linked to my comments (and short video clips) on their own websites. So some people do appreciate the coverage and overlook the video issue. I've assumed all along that what I did was pretty low on the priorities of the big film companies and for small film makers it would generally bring more attention to their films. But I will think about what Rob has emailed carefully as we try to work out how technology affects things.]
So why were so few people there? Some guesses.

  1. It was too nice a day to go to the movies.
    We stayed for the second show - a series of shorts, some of which I didn't need to see and others (like "Tryout" the Israeli film about a father who has his kid for the weekend and his lover wants to meet the kid; or "Fabulousity", about parents who are about to have a special baby and the advice they get) were outstanding. Since we were the only ones who did stay, we offered to go home and let the projectionist go home early, but he said no. So we had the whole place to ourselves. By the time we got out from it was starting to rain for our bike ride home.
  2. It was a Tuesday night.
    You get the theater to yourself.
  3. So much else to do.
    So you won't get it all done anyway. Go see some mind stretching movies instead.
  4. Tired.
    It's dark. You can sleep there.
  5. Don't want to see gay movies.
    Well, none of these were 'gay' movies. They were movies that had a gay theme - some only barely. Gay marriage is a big issue these days still. Here's a chance for people on all sides of the issue to get to know what gay folks are saying, what their lives are like. There was nothing icky in any of these films - well there were some same sex kisses for the very squeamish.
  6. Someone might think I'm gay if I go to these movies.
    Come on now. This is 2008. There are gay people who go to these films. But so do lots of straight folks. If this is a worry for you, then you really need to go. Get out of your comfort zone, live dangerously. And so what if they do? Keep 'em guessing.
  7. It's too expensive.
    Online it is $6.50 a show, it's $7 at the door. Less than a regular movie discount price.

5pm Wednesday - Out Late - about gays coming out in their 50's, 60's, and 70s.

7pm Wednesday - Ask Not - Asks why the military lowers its standards to meet recruiting goals and takes in convicted felons, but not gays.

9pm Wednesday - Women Shorts - five short films.

For the whole list of films - the festival goes through Friday - go to OutNorth.

Kohring Leaving Court Video

When John Henry Browne was Vic Kohring's attorney, Vic Kohring would stop and talk and talk with the reporters waiting outside the security barriers at the Federal Court building. Browne would show up a little later and say with a smile, "I thought I told you not to say anything until I got here." Then the two would continue talking to the press.

But today, Kohring walked out and quietly said, his attorney told him not to talk. Then he walked on. Public defender Curtner had nothing to say either. Things might have been a lot different for Kohring, if Curtner had had Kohring's case from the beginning. You can also see David Shurtleff in one of his last APRN assignments before joining the Berkowitz campaign. I asked if he had a comment on the Berkowitz-Benson race. He said, "Not until Monday."

Other posts on Kohring trial.

US Marshals Flying Vic Kohring To California Monday

U.S. District Court for the District of Alaska

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

11:00 AM 3:07-CR-00055-JWS Judge Sedwick ANCHORAGE COURTROOM 3


(Joseph Bottini) (Richard Curtner)

(Edward Sullivan)

Session began about 11:06am

Kohring public defender Richard Curtner said that Kohring's surgery requres 6-10 weeks of physical therapy and he is now into week 4.

Also, Kohring has been assigned to the Taft Facility, in Taft, California without going through the Taft Medical designator. They do have medical facilities in Rochester, which has better facilities. Taft is minimum security, but does not have physical therapy.

Trying to get proper answer for Mr. Kohring on the prisons.

2. Mr. Kohring does not have the funds to fly to Taft, and would just like to self-surrender here. Prosecutors said this would not be a problem.


Nothing we see in the doctor's report that suggests he couldn't get adequate treatment at Taft. If he needs further assessment, that can be done fairly expeditiouslyIf at Taft. If he wants to self-surrender here to the Marshal's, we do not have a problem with that.


Concur with Botinni. Not to minimize Mr. Kohring's condition, there are many people with far more serious medical and mental conditions who report to prison.

Need to report morning of June 30 to Federal Marshals in Anchorage by 12:00 noon.

11:15 am Done

After the session, Vic came out to just a couple of reporters and said his attorney had instructed him not to say anything. Well that certainly speaks well for the attorney. Too bad he didn't start off with Curtner.

Approximately 15 percent of the Bureau's inmate population are confined in secure facilities operated primarily by private corrections companies and to a lesser extent by state and local governments, and in privately-operated community corrections centers. Contract facilities help the Bureau manage its population and are especially useful for meeting the needs of low security, specialized populations like sentenced criminal aliens. Staff of the Correctional Programs Division in Central Office provide oversight for privately-operated facilities.

Inmate Mail/Parcels
Use this address when sending correspondence and parcels to inmates confined at this facility. Inmate funds may also be sent directly to this address.

P.O. BOX 7001
TAFT, CA 93268

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

McClatchy CEO Gary Pruitt's Anchorage Speech Part 3

There is a part 1 and part 2 to this discussion of Gary Pruitt's April speech at Commonwealth North in Anchorage. The first is an overview. The second covers the models/stories/assumptions that appeared to underlie Pruitt's talk. This one talks about the numbers. They appeared here and there. I've gone through the speech to pull out the sentences that had numbers. Numbers are hard to talk about, so I've prepared this little slide presentation. Then I'll talk about a few of the numbers below.

Read this document on Scribd: Pruitt Presentation

Slide 2: 50% of adults in US read the news paper. He was trying to show that the newspaper wasn't dead. I'm not sure what this statistic means. has a very thorough discussion of the meaning of such statistics. Here's a clip from State of the of the News Media 2007 .

A third way to look at audience is to add together traditional print audience, unduplicated — exclusive — online audience, and unduplicated audience for the newspapers’ specialty niche publications. The industry has different terms for what that adds up to — total audience, integrated audience, total reach or market footprint. But they mean the same thing.

A major reason the industry likes this metric is that the audience for newspaper online sites and niche publications continues to grow at double-digit rates. Hence the Newspaper Association was able to headline its analysis of results for the six-month period ending September 2006, “Eight Percent Increase in Total Newspaper Audience.”

Is it a valid measure? Certainly it helps the industry’s battered image. It is less clear how well it sells financially.

BTW, on McClatchy's map, I could only count thirty papers total. Maybe I miscounted. It's late.

Slide 3: If his numbers are correct - 90% of original reporting done by newspapers - then the decline of newspapers would be a serious problem. Even if bloggers were to fill in the gap, newspapers pay their reporters, and most bloggers write for free, or minimal Google ad revenues. It's also hard to make sure that all the important stories are covered through blogs. But we could question whether this happens in most newspapers, but so far, newspaper coverage has probably been better than blog coverage.

Slides 4 & 5 are probably the most interesting. 33% of cash profits (not sure why he says 'cash' here) come from non-newspaper sources. BUT print accounts for 80% of revenue.

Internet accounts for 11% of revenues - $200 million. I'm not sure what the other 9% is (that is neither internet nor print).

Slide 5 raises the issue of non-newspaper related internet business. Classified ads revenue, he'd said in the speech, were the first to disappear to the internet. What he's saying in Slide 5 is that they simply went out and bought their way back into the classified ad business by buying big chunks of internet classified ad sites.'s About button says:
Homescape is a division of Classified Ventures, LLC, which is owned by five leading media companies: Belo Corp. (NYSE: BLC), Gannett Co., Inc. (NYSE: GCI), The McClatchy Company (NYSE: MNI), Tribune Company (NYSE: TRB) and The Washington Post Company (NYSE: WPO). To execute on its objectives, Classified Ventures has four leading businesses -,, HomeGain and Homescape.
I'm assuming Pruitt knows something I don't when he included the NY Times in the list of owners of Homescape. It's also interesting that Homescape owns two of the three other companies that Pruitt named separately.

Slide 6:
There were (2000 Census Data) in 2000 184,412 Anchorage residents 18 years and over. 80% would be 147,530. Does he really mean the Anchorage market, or is he talking about the ADN market beyond the Municipality of Anchorage? It would mean 80% of the readership was from outside of Anchorage. That could be, but it does seem unlikely.

We better operate the leading local internet business in each of our markets and have the leading internet site with the most traffic and the most revenue of all of the local sites. And we do.

Pruitt says the ADN gets 250,000 hits. I wasn't sure if he meant per day or per week or per month. The advertising section says 243,000 readers per month. If that is true, then it appears that the ADN is getting trounced by the AlaskaReport which gets around 400,000 hits a month. (Dennis gave me figures in an email.) Actually the media kit at the ADN gives significantly higher numbers for the online hits. Here it says they get 10 million page hits a month and 994,000 monthly unique users.

Monday, June 23, 2008

MSNBC article on Alaska Congressional Race

MSNBC has an online article by L.D. Kirshenbaum on Berkowitz' campaign against incumbent Don Young for Congress.
The Alaska race is the one of the most dramatic examples of a national trend in which incumbent Republicans are fighting to keep formerly safe seats in Congress, particularly because Alaska has only one congressman. On Wednesday, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee placed Berkowitz on its list of “Red to Blue” candidates who will receive strategic and financial support leading up to the November election.
Although the article mentions that Don Young has a primary challenge
Before squaring off with Berkowitz in November, Young is facing a challenge from within his own party. Sean Parnell, the lieutenant governor, has entered the state’s Aug. 26 primary and has the popular governor’s support. Parnell also has been endorsed by the Club for Growth, which works to promote anti-tax candidates and to defeat what it sees as free-spending incumbents.
A search of the article using "Benson" turned up nothing. "Primary" got the above quote. Nothing about LeDoux either. Another example of outside writers ignoring a serious candidate in the Democratic primary. Wouldn't they all be surprised if this person they don't even know exists became the Democratic candidate in August?

I don't think there is anything Alaskans don't already know. All I can find (I'm being called to go for dinner) about the author is:

L.D. Kirshenbaum ’84 is a freelance writer in Seattle.
B.A., Reed College. M.A., N.Y.U.
I know about this article because people are coming to my site from it. There's a link to the audio of Berkowitz on the House floor May 2006 that I have posted when the three politicians were indicted last May.

[Later: For a much more thorough and informed overview of the Alaska races see this post by Phil Munger at Progressive Alaska.]

Another Kohring Court Appearance

[Wed. pm: For hearing results go to Kohring Trial label.]

Someone passed this on to me.

Full docket text for document 202:
AMENDED JWS ORDER as to Victor H. Kohring re [201] Order; At docket 200 defendant moves to continue the date for his surrender to begin commencement of his sentence. The court will hold a hearing on that motion at 11:00 AM on June 25, 2008, in Anchorage Courtroom 3. The United States may, but is not required to, file a written response prior to the hearing. The hearing will not be under seal. cc: USM, USPO (RMC, COURT STAFF.

Apparently, what this means is that Vic Kohring has filed for a delay in his starting his prison sentence and the judge has agreed to hear this in court.

Here's what I wrote at the sentencing on May 8. This is the judge talking:

Good candidate for self surrender. He won’t be required to surrender any earlier than…
Monday June 30, 2008. Because Mr. Kohring needs to have surgery. That should give him adequate time to have the surgery and recuperate.
And you can see and hear Kohring telling all who would listen about what he saw as the judge's outrageous conflict of interest.

Black White + Gray, Museum, Bernie's Bungalow

We biked down to the museum to see Black White + Gray, a movie about Sam Wagstaff, Robert Maplethorpe's patron. It gave a lot insight into how a photographer whose best known images were homo erotic photos became such a celebrated artist in a homophobic nation. Essentially, Wagstaff an extremely handsome, wealthy gay man who had become the major collector of photographs, took Maplethorpe in. According to the film, Wagstaff made photography a recognized art form. Maplethorpe, over 20 years Wagstaff's junior, showed Wagstaff some of the wilder sides of gay New York. Both died of AIDS, Maplethorpe in 1989, Wagstaff in 1987.

This April 2007 NY Times review gives more details of the film.

We walked out of the movie past one more of the new buildings in Anchorage - the still very much under construction addition to the museum.

We wandered down the street to Bernie's Bungalow. We hadn't been to Bernie's since it was in the Sears Mall. Bernie talked to us about Thailand a while - he'd been in Chiang Mai for a week while we had been there - and he said it was 11 years since he'd been at the Sears Mall. He's ready for warmer climes and is looking for a buyer.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Partial Ear Mea Culpa and Other News Media Odds and Ends

Last week I mentioned that the Alaska Ear had used a graphic from the AlaskaReport without permission even though the ADN has sent notices to at least two bloggers that they had to pay $100 or take down ADN photos. Well, today the Ear apologized for mispelling the AlaskaReport link, but nothing about the use of the graphic.

And I remembered an instance where the ADN posted a video I'd taken of John Henry Browne, Vic Kohring's attorney before Vic's money ran out. But in that case, Lisa Demer had asked permission to use it and I said sure. And they linked back here.

Also, while I was working on the second Pruitt post, I didn't find much while seeking info on whether Gary Pruitt had been a journalism major or even worked as a reporter. But Printing and New Media Marketing was much different from most of the official sites that popped up. It's headline: "How Is It That McClatchy CEO Gary Pruitt Is Still Employed?" The blogger, Metapriner, had just learned that Gary Pruitt had been named the Chairman of the Newspaper Association of America.
A $100 stake in MNI [McClatchy] purchased on April 23, 2005 would today be worth $12.40. This represents an 87.6% decline in shareholder value. Here is how other newspaper publishers have fared during that same time span:
He then lists the better, if still dismal, records of eight other publishers (the two worst were -77%, the best, the NY Times, was -40%).
From [1996] until 2005 he increased shareholder value almost 600% But the times have changed. The paradigm has shifted. McClatchy needs a new LEADER not a lawyer to lead and inspire in this new media landscape. For him to be the choice for NAA Chairman speaks volumes about how out of touch and lost that organization has become.
So, today I looked at Metablogger's most recent post which led me to this Wall Street Journal article about the Washington Post's experiment with a hyperlocal website
For believers in the power of rigorous local coverage to help save newspapers, the Washington Post's launch of last July was a potentially industry-defining event. It paired a journalistic powerhouse with a dream team of Internet geeks to build a virtual town square for one of Virginia's and the nation's most-affluent and fastest-growing counties...(go to the link for the rest)
and a blog response by the architect of the Post experiment,, Robert Curley.
From the second I was contacted by the Wall Street Journal for the story, I knew exactly what I wanted to say in the interview, which was to point out that I thought the two biggest problems with were poor integration of the site with and not enough outreach into the community … ala basically me speaking with every community group that would have me.

And that both of those problems were my fault. Completely.

And, more importantly, I had learned from those problems and wouldn’t make those mistakes in Las Vegas, especially since I planned to make entirely new mistakes in Las Vegas. :) (go to the link for the rest)
Curley's website is probably one I need to check more often:
My name is Rob Curley. I'm an Internet nerd from Kansas who is in love with local news and the evolution of traditional media.
An interest in the evolution of the traditional media is the reason I've been posting a lot on the ADN.

BTW, I never put in a label for the Anchorage Daily News because most of the times I had ADN in a post, it was not about the ADN, but just a citation. But since the ADN has become a more regular topic, I've started to use a label to make those posts easier to find. I went back and updated some old posts, but I'm sure I didn't get them all.