Tuesday, September 30, 2008


Jewish holidays mean different things to different people - usually depending on how they were celebrated at home. At home for me, although my family was not particularly religious, the High Holidays were days when, as much as possible, you dedicated the day to thinking about spiritual things. Being in the synagogue with so many other Jews all focused on the words in the prayer book and linked with the melodies of the songs to each other and to times past and (I never realized then) to times in the future. In LA as a kid, my mother and I went to a synagogue where the rabbi was an old German rabbi with a white beard. My sense was that this ritual was a connection for my mother to her childhood, before Hitler rose to power. Rabbi Sonderling was really old - it wasn't just my child's sense of old. After he died, we ended up at services in large auditoriums - like the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium - that always seemed strange since I went to the same place to see basketball games and concerts. From sunset to sunrise, we didn't do any normal commerce like shopping or touch money. So today still, that seems to me how one should observe the day. But everyone picks what rules and traditions they care to follow.

The rabbi's sermons last night and today - at least what I took from them -focused on how we have to adjust our observances as times change. 'Reality' 2000 years ago, 1000 years ago, was very different from today's reality and how Jews (and others) have observed their faith has evolved as times change. The key is to take the basic principles and observe them in a way that makes sense today. That's not doing it justice at all, but will have to do.

Services here are special for various reasons. We've been here over 30 years - longer than I've been anywhere else - and we know a lot of people. And somehow we've been able to avoid the always unpleasant practice of having tickets for High Holidays. At other congregations in the Lower 48, this is a common practice. Running a synagogue and high holiday services costs money and space is limited come the High Holidays. So rationally, from a management perspective, having people buy tickets makes sense. But from a religious perspective it always bothered me. But then Jews don't pass the plate at services.

One thing I grew up with was a 'rule' was there is no applause in the synagogue. People are honored, but no one would applaud. So when that happens today, it bothers me. I also do not use my camera during services. That would take me outside of what was going on. So the pictures here are from yesterday, before sundown.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Where Your Jewish Friends and Colleagues Are

Tonight (Monday, September 29, 2008) is the Eve of Rosh Hashanah. Many Jews, even those who rarely go to synagogue, will be eating with friends and going to synagogue tonight and tomorrow. From the University of Kansas Medical Center Website here is a brief description of Rosh Hashanah:

Rosh Hashanah is a solemn celebration of the beginning of the Jewish year. The new year begins at sunset before the first day of Tishri in the Hebrew calendar and lasts for two days. However, Reform Jews usually celebrate Rosh Hashanah for one day.

Rosh Hashanah is a time of introspection when Jews examine their relationship with God. During this period, prayers are said for God's forgiveness, a good year, and a long life. The Ten Days of Penitence begin on Rosh Hashanah (the Day of Judgment) and end on Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement). During these days, God decides who will die and who will live in the coming year.

Synagogue services are held on Rosh Hashanah. During the services, the shofar, a ram's horn that has been hollowed and straightened, is sounded after each of three groups of prayer. The first group of prayers is a reminder that God rules the world; the second group reminds people that God listens and responds to the sound of the shofar; the third group tells people that God remembers the deeds of people. The use of the shofar comes from the time that Abraham prepared to sacrifice his son, Isaac, but was stopped by God and instead sacrificed a ram.

On the first night of Rosh Hashanah, special dishes are prepared. Many of the dishes contain honey which symbolizes the desire for a sweet year. A special bread and many fruits are also included in the meal.

The picture of the shofar comes from Jewish-Art.org.

The Emperor's New Clothes - Kathleen Parker Blows the Whistle

From The Emperor's New Clothes

None of the Emperor's clothes had ever met with such success.

But among the crowds a little child suddenly gasped out, "But he hasn't got anything on." And the people began to whisper to one another what the child had said. "He hasn't got anything on." "There's a little child saying he hasn't got anything on." Till everyone was saying, "But he hasn't got anything on." The Emperor himself had the uncomfortable feeling that what they were whispering was only too true. "But I will have to go through with the procession," he said to himself.

So he drew himself up and walked boldly on holding his head higher than before, and the courtiers held on to the train that wasn't there at all.

Talk of the Nation interviewed a conservative little boy, Kathleen Parker, today. The audio will be available at 2pm Alaska time at this link.
[Update: Audio here.]

Talk of the Nation, September 29, 2008 · In her article, "The Palin Problem," columnist Kathleen Parker writes that Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin is clearly out of her league. Parker says Palin should bow out of the race to save the GOP's chances in 2008.

"McCain can't repudiate his choice for running mate." Parker writes. " ... Only Palin can save McCain, her party, and the country she loves."

She also talks about the viciousness of the attacks she's getting from conservatives.

And the Winner is...

Saturday's last event for us was the Manhattan Short Film Festival screening at Out North. I figure if we're lucky enough to have people in town who work to get us opportunities like this, we should take advantage of them. The films are shown for one week at venues around the world (except Asia, but the website says they are adding it next year.) Audience members get a ballot and vote for their favorite of the 12 finalists.

I thought all the films were technically well done, but I wasn't that impressed with the content. The shorts that were screened at the Anchorage Film Festival last December were better. In the end I couldn't decide between New Boy and Teat Beat of Sex. New Boy subtly caught interactions among school kids in Ireland and their new African classmate. Teat Beat was an outrageously wonderful animated film in several chapters that showed up between showings of other films. New Boy was endearing, but Teat Beat was really the stand out film - great animation and wickedly creative ways of illustrating the sex. In the end I voted for Teat Beat and J voted for New Boy.

I just checked the website to find out the winners.

Hmmm. There was no animated category. There was only one animated film. My guess is that the two were way out ahead of the rest and so they made up an animated category so both could win.

Now, if the world is lucky, J and I will vote for the winners again in November.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Recent Google Searches - Sept. 08

I tend to copy some of the more interesting or bizarre google (and other) search terms people use to get to this blog. So here are some that came in during the last month or so:
  • sarah palin bathing suit - I got a fair number of these right after Palin was selected by McCain. I do have a quote from the Palin biography which linked the words Palin and bathing suit. Those died down after a week or so when, I suppose, more relevant hits showed up. (I was going to say that interest in those declined, but I suspect that wasn't the cause.)

  • where do 5 passengers sleep on a carnival cruise - did this person have any particular five in mind? He got to an old post on cruise line ownership.

  • do the president and the vice president know each other - what can I say? This person got duties of the vice president post, which has been pretty popular, and lists what the Constitution says the VP, President, and Congress' Constitutional duties are.

  • what to do with old ties - I slipped in a video on what to do with old neck ties on a post on renewing old (personal) ties. So it's nice to find someone probably found what he was looking for.

  • high wire fajans - This one took the searcher to a post I really like with a video of Michael Fajans' neat series of life size magician paintings in the Seattle Airport. If the person wanted to see the paintings, he or she scored a bullseye.

  • what's the difference between a hurricane and tornado (from Houston and Louisiana) - This post continues to get regular hits. These two were right as Ike was heading into shore.

  • thai translation mayflower story - here's a google malfunction. All those words show up on my blog somewhere, but not together, but then not that many sites even have those four words I guess. I don't think this person was satisfied.

  • responsible for more deaths: bear or moose (South Carolina) - there were a couple more of these. I did have stats on people killed by bears and by dogs in Alaska, but I don't think I have by moose.

  • gaz thank hole (This one from Montreal made it to Petrol Tank Hole)

  • 22" martini glasses - got to a video of our friend Marty comparing the size of old and new martini glasses.

  • yiddish cat names - don't know if they got what they wanted which was a look at the Michael Chabon's talk here about his book The Yiddish Police Union

  • can i join the army instead of going to jail - the stories of Track Palin's alleged deal that got him into the army has gotten a few people interested in the same deal. This story remains unconfirmed, though people I've talked to who are in positions to know believe it is true, but sealed juvenile court documents apparently remain sealed (or non-existent). One blog I saw says that one of the participants says Track wasn't involved. But given the high pressure tactics of the McCain campaign in Alaska (ie on Troopergate subpoenas), you'll have to forgive me if I don't put it past them to pay people enough to say what they want said. Sorry, but Rove's legacy is win at any cost so I remain skeptical of what people say.

  • how many times has emmanuel onunwor been married - I have no idea how this got here. (He's the ex-Mayor of East Cleveland.)

  • what does the president do to execute laws? This maybe?
    I didn't have this picture up so this person got to the VP duties post instead. (Mariano, if you're looking, I just used Keynote and iPhoto, so sorry about the head.)

  • religion in kenai fjords - They got to Kenai Fjiords National Park, but I don't think there was any religion in that post.

  • what to gain on knowing the firing - This came from someone in the Philippines who got to a piece on the Monegan Firing

Hip Hop Political Activism Summit - Our Time 2008 Anchorage

While it seems like everyone else was out on the park strip at the Hold Palin Accountable Rally, I was at UAA where New York politician and activist George Martinez was stirring up Anchorage Youth to get out and vote. There was music, poetry, inspiration, and local politicians - when I had to leave to enjoy the beautiful fall weather out in the woods. (see last post)

One of the best lines of the day came from Ethan Berkowitz when asked by a participant about dealing with crime and rights of prisoners and rehabilitation programs. He said that it was hard for legislators to advocate more money for prisoners because many voters want retribution, not rehabilitation. Also, he said, only people who know people in prison are sympathetic. But, he said, this is a good time to get legislation in Alaska because all the legislators know people in prison.

They said they invited candidates from all parties and that they'd registered close to 1000 young voters in the last week or so. Their next event is next Saturday.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Life Interferes with Blogging - Fall Colors

Today was Our Time - the rap get out the vote project George Martinez is running. (See previous post.) I'll put up some video of that later, maybe tomorrow. The picture below is almost from the identical spot as the first picture in the previous post. But this morning there was fog burning off.
Then we'd agreed to a hike today with SH so I left Our Time - which had great energy going - and we picked up SH and went to Stuckagain Heights to hike over to the Wolverine Peak Trail. Pictures below. That was followed by a quick dinner at Thai Kitchen and a late, but just in time dash to OutNorth to see Manhattan Film Festival Finalists. So, here's Anchorage in all her glory on an exquisite fall day, that started out with heavy fog.

This is the rock that marks when you've reached tree line on the hike to Wolverine Peak. I've got pictures over the years of the kids sitting on this rock. Since M doesn't get here until Monday, I asked SH to take her place. J was still coming up the hill. You can see downtown Anchorage in the background past the sea of golden birch (mostly.) You can double click to enlarge any of these.

And looking up from the rock.

And there were still some delicious blueberries to be had.

These really are better bigger. Just double click.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Pres Debate and Our Time and George Martinez at UAA

We walked over to UAA for the presidential debate this afternoon - a gorgeous fall day.

The debate team was hosting things in Rasmuson Hall. I was going to write about it, but we got to talking with George Martinez and Julien Jacobs who are running the program.

But I'll just let them tell you about it themselves.

And we got to see a moose trying break into McGlaughlin Correctional Facility after the debate.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Who Cut Off That Invisible Hand? - Paradigm Outsiders Needed in Financial Crisis

[Rant warning! All this stuff has been boiling this week and, well, consider yourself warned.]

The word 'paradigm' is used by every two bit local politician these days - most of whom have no idea where the term comes from or what it means. For those of you unfamiliar with Thomas Kuhn, here are some links from an earlier post:
Thomas Kuhn (link to Science Friday audio about Kuhn), whose The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (Wikipedia link) introduced the word paradigm into the modern American vocabulary, said that even when scientists (he used the word only about scientific paradigms) know their paradigm isn't quite right, they hold onto it until they have a better one with which to replace it.
After I posted last week briefly on the Financial Crisis, I called an economist at UAA to ask if this was the economic equivalent to 9/11. I intended to ask a couple more economists for their thoughts and never posted his reply. As time has passed, the things he said were not significantly different from what we are hearing on the air, on the internet, in newspapers. No, it's not 9/11. It's what we need to do, but we need some safeguards, etc.

But my economist friend, like Treasury Secretary Paulson, comes to this from the perspective of an insider, living inside the paradigm of economics. It seems to me mainstream economists simply want to rebuild the system that didn't just broke. I'm not saying we don't need to include them in solving this, but that it generally takes someone from outside the paradigm, someone who is smart, reasonably informed, but not an expert in the area. Someone to ask dumb questions. Dumb in the sense that insiders wouldn't ask because the question is so basic and they take the answer for granted. But those dumb questions raise new possibilities. Chip away at the assumptions the insiders long ago stopped questioning altogether. So, here are my dumb questions and comments.

First, let me point out the most appealing sound bite I've heard - "We have to take care of Main Street, not Wall Street." I point it out just to remind people that journalists who vaguely, if at all, understand all this, love a catchy sound bite. But what the hell does it mean? Basically, we will watch out after the common person, not the rich Wall Street types that got us into this. Yeah, but operationally, what does that mean? There may be meat behind this - provisions for people who were sucked into liar loans, accountability for those who made obscene profits from this, etc. But I'd suggest caution when you hear the cute phrases. Keep asking questions about what they mean.

OK, What happens if Government doesn't bail out the financial institutions? A McClatchy article in today's ADN says:

Without a government rescue of U.S. financial markets, experts say some worst-case scenarios could ensue:

Your employer won't be able to make payroll because the company's bank account has been frozen in a bank failure.

Your credit card will be rejected when you try to pay for groceries or fill your gas tank.

Your bank may close.

But are there other options?
These are creative folks (they made up all sorts of convoluted ways to package loans and make profits on them each step of the way) but only within a narrow set of parameters. Here are some factors I'd toss out:

  1. There's other money out there besides the US Government's. For example, Money Markets have about $3.5 trillion dollars - money that investors have on hold since other investments look so grim.
  2. How many institutions need to be saved to save the economy? Can some be left to die while the stronger ones are saved?
  3. Who is out there that has impeccable credibility to set up an investment opportunity for people with money-market accounts? My personal nominee is Warren Buffet. I'm sure he could set up a team of insiders and outsiders to create attractive, patriotic crisis investment funds that would help fix the problem and offer the possibility of not losing much or even making a profit.
  4. Add in some tax incentives for people who invest.

This should be a bonanza for the homeless
Everyone's talking about how terrible it is that housing prices are so low. What about all the people who haven't been able to afford houses when prices were high? Where does the Department of Housing and Urban Development fit in all of this? There's a certain irony in having a homeless problem while we have so many vacant houses. Let's use some outside the paradigm brain cells to work on this. (OK, I realize that you can't take the mentally ill homeless and just stick them into foreclosed houses. But you can set up programs to assure that people moving into houses for the first time can maintain their new home values.)

Reinstate steep taxes for the higher income brackets
I'd argue that one of the factors that helped move us to this point was the lure of millions and millions of dollars - to the real estate industry that sold houses to people who couldn't afford them, to the financial industry that loaned the money to home buyers, and then repackaged those loans.

A friend who was on a grand jury looking into the mortgage problems says that all sorts of schemes - some illegal and some merely unethical - were concocted. Everyone along the way made a profit when a home was sold, a loan was made, a repackaged loan scheme was sold. Often very big profits. Yes, they knew the buyer didn't have enough money - they even called them liar loans. They knew the loans they repackaged and resold weren't worth anything. But the commission system paid them for whatever they sold and sell they did. And their bosses were making even more money in salaries, bonuses, etc. They were in the proverbial money pit and no one was going to blow the whistle while they were grabbing all they could for themselves. You could make all this money and keep most of it after taxes.

If those high end taxes were reinstated, the incentives for all this would be dampened considerably.

Create Opportunities for Patriotic Service for the US and World
This is a national and international crisis no less than was 9/11. We need - as John McCain said yesterday - to get beyond politics to solve this. (Though I question the altruism of McCain's attempt to cancel Friday's debate.) The money-market funds I mentioned above could be sold in the spirit of US savings bonds - this is a patriotic opportunity which may even result in a loss, but will keep the economy stable and protect everything else you have. Let's take a second look at the CEO's who have been making $30 million a year and the new MBA's making multi-million dollar salaries a year or two out of school. Is this really being a good American or just high stakes theft? Let's wean ourselves from our rampant consumerism and reinvest in human beings - mental and physical health, education, families, community.

This is Bigger than Financial Problems
But if we just focus on the the financial crisis and getting us back to, say 2002 status, we're missing the point completely. This is about the war (how many trillion is that now?), this is about international trade (how much of our money and jobs does China have now?), this is about energy (where would we be if Gore had been elected in 2000 and we'd taken the energy crisis and global climate change seriously then?), this is about fair health care, education, and the pursuit of happiness. This is about Americans recognizing that there are about 6.4 billion people in the world in addition to the 300 million Americans and that we have to learn to live with them not as superiors but as equals, as brothers and sisters. Or is it only majority rule when we are in the majority?

I'm willing to believe that not making a fix now could lead to serious problems. But I'm also leery of turning the solutions (there need to be many different fixes, not just one giant one) over to the people who got us here, the people who told us all was fine not too long ago. Their definitions of fine aren't, apparently, the same as mine.

And remember, many of these are the same people who haven't done anything about climate change either. What are they waiting for on that score?

Palin stalls on Stevens endorsement

Tracy sent a second email I didn't even see because the first one was the trial fix I needed.

Thanks, Tracy.

When a reporter asked Palin, Alaska's governor, if she supports the re-election of Stevens, she replied: "Ted Stevens' trial started a couple of days ago. We'll see where that goes."

Palin also talks about Putin in the article from KWGN Denver:

When Couric asked how Alaska's closeness to Russia enhanced her foreign policy experience, Palin said, "Well, it certainly does because our ... our next-door neighbors are foreign countries." Alaska shares a border with Canada.

Palin didn't answer directly when Couric inquired about whether she had been involved in any negotiations with the Russians.

"We have trade missions back and forth," she replied. As she continued, Palin brought up Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.

"It's very important when you consider even national security issues with Russia as Putin rears his head and comes into the air space of the United States of America, where — where do they go? It's Alaska. It's just right over the border. It is — from Alaska that we send those out to make sure that an eye is being kept on this very powerful nation, Russia, because they are right there. They are right next to ... to our state," she said.

Trial Withdrawal Symptoms - Call the Yellow Pages - Thanks ADN

As one of the folks who attended the three political corruption trials in Anchorage last year I'm suffering pangs of angst that I'm in Anchorage while the Stevens trial is going on in DC. I really feel like I should be there posting my impressions on the blog. I even toyed with going, but my daughter is due in town here next week and being with her is much more satisfying than being with Ted Stevens. (Don't feel guilty M, there were other factors too, you just clinched it.)

Apparently someone at the ADN understands my problem. I got this email this morning:

Hey all -

I wanted to give you a heads up that today was opening statements in Ted Steven's corruption trial. Below you'll find the full article outlining opening statements - but this seems to be the hottest quote:

"If the defendant needed an electrician, he contacted Veco. If the defendant needed a plumber, he contacted Veco," she said. "We reach for the yellow pages, he reached for Veco."

Jurors also will hear about a 2006 conversation between Stevens and the chief executive officer of Veco Corp., Bill Allen, who was already cooperating with federal authorities. In the conversation, Stevens told Allen that the worst that could happen to them if anyone found about what the company had done for him is they would have to spend a lot of money on lawyers – and perhaps serve a little jail time.
As always, let me know if you have questions!


So there you have it. I can send you a little tidbit thanks to the ADN. If you can't wait for tomorrow's newspaper you can go to the ADN Website for the rest of this story you.

But wait, if you read that carefully it says, "she said." Who is 'she'?

In the whole article it says, just before the excerpt:

"You'll learn that the defendant never paid Veco a dime for the work on the chalet. Not a penny," the lead Justice Department prosecutor, Brenda Morris, told jurors in the opening minutes of the trial against the senator.

Who is Brenda Morris? Well, going back it turns out I missed her in Tuesday's ADN back page:

BRENDA MORRIS: A longtime prosecutor with the Justice Department’s Public Integrity Section, Morris now serves as its principal deputy. She has helped supervise the investigation into disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff and has prosecuted corruption cases around the country. She teaches corruption investigations within the Justice Department and is a professor at Georgetown Law School.

The other four prosecutors who were in court for the previous trials - Joseph Bottini (Anchorage), James Goeke (Anchorage), Nicholas Marsh (PIN, DC), and Edward Sullivan (PIN, DC) - are still on the team, but now they have a new captain. Did they bring out Brenda to tease the defense that is led by Brendan?

Is this just a plug for the ADN? Hey, they have reporters in DC, we bloggers are sitting here at home. But to see another perspective, the Washington Post starts their report on today's court session this way:

Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens (R) paid every bill sent to him for extensive renovations to his home and did not lie about the work on financial disclosure forms, his attorney told jurors this morning.

"The evidence will demonstrate that you are dealing here with a man who is honest and would not have intentionally violated the law," the lawyer, Brendan Sullivan, said in opening statements in Stevens' corruption trial in federal court.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Blackmail Note

I was sitting at the computer in my computer art and design class at UAA this afternoon when someone walked in and handed me this note.

Ripped off by Sarahpalinvalues and Plagiarism Today to the Rescue

I guess there is some sort of twisted rightness about being ripped off by something called Sarahpalinvalues (SPV). Here's the story. Other bloggers, help me out here, please.

Someone got to my blog from this link. If you go there, you'll see this:

Would Your Mother Make a Good VP?

I got asked in a telephone poll yesterday whether I viewed Sarah Palin favorably. How do you answer that? Fortunately, the pollster was pretty loose and accepted my non-responsive answer of, Yeah, I'd like her to stay my governor. You may love your mom and still not think she'd be a good vice president or president. Rating Palin as a Person My first personal interaction with Sarah Palin - an early political talk and question and answer session at the University of Alaska Anchorage being the

Well, that's a post from What Do I Know? But there's nothing on there to tell you. Only if you click on the title will you get sent here. But the first time someone would see this post would be on their main page. Click on the title and you get to a second SPV page. Only then will clicking the title get you to the original source.

OK, fellow bloggers. This is not just about my post. All their posts are used without citation from other blogs. They're simply taking our posts to generate traffic for their ads. Here are a few other blogs that have also been ripped off. I'm listing them in hopes they'll see this and send in DMCA letters (see below.)

No Ordinary Moment and here's the ripped off version.
Corrente and here's the ripped off version.
Eternity Road and here's the ripped off version.
Brothers Judd.com and here's the ripped off version.
The Burnside Writers' Blog and here's the ripped off version.
Morialekafa and here's the ripped off version.
Dandelion Salad and here's the ripped off version.

They do give credit to larger organizations like USA Today and Huffington Post, but not not smaller blogs. Other sites (see Blognetnews for example) carry pieces from other blogs, but the legit ones tell you where they are from and have links to the original on the first page you get to.

OK, so what do we do about it?

Googling, I found this post at tech blog mikeduncan.com where the blogger complains (far more eloquently than I have) that his post has been ripped off and posted at a tech site that takes stuff from other sites and posts it as their own. He at least is mentioned and linked, but as a having a 'similar post." Most important, he has about 80 comments, including this one:

#17 Jonathan Bailey on 03.24.08 at 4:42 pm

I’m sorry to hear that this has happened to you. It’s becoming more and more common I’m afraid, not just in the tech world, but pretty much all lines of blogging it seems.

As someone who has handled over 600 of these types of cases, I can say with some certainty that there is no need to hire an attorney, taking these guys down is a pretty simple matter. In this case, you should be able to send a DMCA notice to their host by using the email address legal at contegix.com.

If you need any help with that, let me know. I’ve got stock letters on my site and I can help draft it if needed. You can also send the notice to the search engines as well if you want to launch that kind of an attack first.

Just let me know if there is anything In can do and I’ll gladly assist!

Baily's link takes you to Plagiarism Today.

Plagiarism today has lots of resources for taking care of this. Basically, write letters to the site itself and to the host and tell them to take down the material. He even has a page with stock letters to send.

But one does have to find out where to send this. Plariarism Today has a page on that too. I'm going to post this for now and will read that page more carefully to see if I can figure out that information. Maybe someone will jump in and help me figure that out.

I'm hoping some of the blogs I've listed will see this and contact me so we can get as many letters in as possible. It's not just about my post. Ideally Sarahpalinvalues will put up the names of ALL of the blogs and webpages they steal from, not just the big ones that will (or have?) notified them. And that the first link goes direct to the original website, not to another page on their own website.

I'll either add further information here or on a new post.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Random Shots at the Beginning of Fall (in one case after the fall)

Lesson of the day: Do not pick up the peppercorn container by the top.
(This is the after-the-fall pic)

Sunday night before dinner from the Thai Kitchen parking lot.

And again after dinner.

Monday afternoon after class - the UAA library.

Looking down the street to the west.

It does bother me how urban features like street lights interfere with my views, but since they are part of my life, I've decided to not crop them out.

Important Boraas Article on Palin's National Fundamentalist Ties

Saturday's ADN article by Kenai Peninsula College Professor Alan Boraas' article on Sarah Palin outlines ties between Palin and Billy Graham's son Franklin Graham, the hiring of Chuck Kopp (to replace the fired Walt Monegan, only to be withdrawn when old sexual harassment issues arose), and Jerry Prevo (Alaska's version of Jerry Fallwell), and others. It's worth reading:

Kopp hiring proved Palin's fundamentalist street cred.

Ted's Three Sullivans

There are three Sullivans connected with the Ted Stevens trial - the Judge, and one attorney for the defense and one for the prosecutor.

The Judge: Emmet Sullivan

The photo and information are from the excerpted from the D.C. District US Courts website where the photo is credited to Beverly Rezneck.
  • Judge Emmet G. Sullivan was born in Washington, D.C. and attended public schools in the District of Columbia until his graduation from McKinley High School in 1964. In 1968, he received a from Howard University and, in 1971, a from the .
  • Howard University, Bachelor of Arts Degree in Political Science,1968
  • Howard University School of Law, Juris Doctor Degree, 1971
  • In 1973, Judge Sullivan joined the law firm of Houston & Gardner. He subsequently became a partner and was actively engaged in the general practice of law with that firm until August 1980, when his partner, William C. Gardner, was appointed as an Associate Judge of the Superior Court of the District of Columbia. Thereafter, Judge Sullivan was a partner in the successor firm of Houston, Sullivan & Gardner.
  • appointment by President Ronald Reagan to the Superior Court of the District of Columbia on October 3, 1984
  • On November 25, 1991, Judge Sullivan was appointed by President George Bush to serve as an Associate Judge of the District of Columbia Court of Appeals.
  • On June 16, 1994, Judge Sullivan was appointed by President William Clinton to serve as United States District Judge for the District of Columbia.

Brendan Sullivan, Defense

Georgetown University, A.B., 1964

The photo and text are from the Williams and Connolly LLP website:
Brendan Sullivan is a senior partner at the firm with nearly forty years of litigation experience in federal and state courts throughout the country. Mr. Sullivan is recognized nationally as one of the best known and most able trial lawyers in America, with an extraordinary record of successes. His principal areas of practice include all types of complex commercial litigation, including securities, antitrust, banking, RICO, and license disputes; the defense of major law firms in malpractice cases and the defense of accounting firms; products liability and mass tort; will contests; as well as high-profile criminal litigation. Typical clients include Fortune 500 companies involved in criminal investigations, litigation, or government regulatory matters.

Edward P. Sullivan, Trial Lawyer, Public Integrity Section, US Department of Justice

The photo is courtesy of Dennis Zaki at AlaskaReport.com. I found out in the previous trials that it is hard to get information on the Anchorage based and Public Integrity Section (PIN) Department of Justice attorneys. The websites have nothing. Edward Sullivan is a very common name and Googling doesn't seem to yield much. There is a law review citation, but I couldn't find the actual article in the Syracuse Law Review and there is no guarantee that this is the same Edward P. Sullivan, but the timing is reasonably close. Edward P. Sullivan, Reshuffling the Deck: Proposed Amendments to the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, 45 Syracuse L. Rev. 1107, 1126 (1995).

Here is information on the PIN:

Public Integrity Section
The Public Integrity Section oversees the federal effort to combat corruption through the prosecution of elected and appointed public officials at all levels of government. The Section has exclusive jurisdiction over allegations of criminal misconduct on the part of federal judges and also monitors the investigation and prosecution of election and conflict of interest crimes. Section attorneys prosecute selected cases against federal, state, and local officials, and are available as a source of advice and expertise to other prosecutors and investigators. Since 1978, the Section has supervised the administration of the Independent Counsel provisions of the Ethics in Government Act.

Monday, September 22, 2008

The Beginnings of the Wasilla Library - Edith Olson's The Library and I

Last week at the Loussac Library Alaska Room I found the book The Library and I
by Edith Olson. It tells the history of the Wasilla library from 1938 until she left Alaska in 1959. I did try to contact the publisher, but it appears to no longer exist. I also tried calling an Edith Olson I found in Washington State.

While I was initially interested in this because of the discussions of Sarah Palin, when she was Mayor of Wasilla, firing the Wasilla librarian, the book seems to have nothing that is relevant to that issue at all. However, these two chapters are an interesting look at early Wasilla and the way the library came into existence.

American Idol Style Poll on Palin's Eligibility

So it comes to this. PBS has a poll that asks: Is Sarah Palin qualified to be VP?

[Poll as of 12:30pm (Alaska Time) today]

The email I got said:

The Right is having people vote that Palin is qualified

PBS has a poll that asks: Is Sarah Palin qualified to be VP?

Let's turn this around..... You don't have to give your name or

email address in order to vote. It's very simple.

Here's the link:


This is such a joke. Both sides stirring up their followers to vote. The results will mean little.


[This was an email from Catherine and I asked if I could post it and did she have any pictures.]

I was up in the mountains picking blueberries... finally found some! oh joy. Picked with four other women... haven't laughed that much in ages. It was terribly fun. Now I'm cleaning, freezing, making pies and crisps... the freezer is getting stuffed with berries and I am in heaven.
Oddly enough, we had a beautiful day while it was raining here! I was surprised. I picked more than I've ever picked in one outing...

almost 3 gallons... then a friend who went with gave me almost 2 more gallons as a thank you for sharing this most amazing spot...(years ago) although she's the one who found this spot due to a hurting knee and not being able to climb as high up as we usually pick.
Oh I tell you it's heaven.
Now I have to decide if I want to start one of the pies I made last night this morning for breakfast... or not... heehee.
It's a new pie day!

Sunday, September 21, 2008


I've been getting links to the YouTube of Sarah Palin talking about fungibility and it's already up on various blogs. It's shown as an example of Palin's not being very clear. I've listened to it and I have one possible explanation of what she was trying to say. It's not easy to transcribe what she says with absolute certainty. Here's my transcript:

Oil of coal, course, is is a fungible commodity and they don’t flag, ya know, the molecules where, where it’s going to where it’s not but and in the, in the sense of the Congress today they know they are very, very hungry domestic markets that need that oil first. So I believe that what Congress is going to do also is not to allow the export ban to such a degree that it’s Americans who get stuck holding the bag without the energy source that is produced here, pumped here, it’s gotta flow into our domestic markets first.

The YouTube description transcribes the opening as: ""Oil and coal? Of course, it's a fungible commodity..."

I think she meant to say, "Oil, of course,..." but accidentally said, "Oil of coal..." and then corrected herself with " course".

Now, what is that fungibility stuff? Wikipedia says:

Fungibility is the property of a good or a commodity whose individual units are capable of mutual substitution.
And then there's the phrase

they don’t flag, ya know, the molecules where it’s going to where it’s not...

Here's my guess at what she was trying to say, based on attending the AGIA conference in Anchorage this summer. Critics how, with [of] AGIA [wanted to know how] we would be sure that Alaska's natural gas actually got to the Lower 48. It would go through Canada and then it would all be mixed with Canadian gas. So, the gas that actually went to the US, wouldn't necessarily be Alaska gas. But that would be ok, we were told, since we'd know how many cubic feet of Alaska gas went into the larger pool and how much went on to the US.

My guess is that this is what she was thinking, even though she didn't articulate it very clearly. Maybe she thought if people couldn't understand her jargon they'd think she was really smart. Some academics do that. Also, I'm not sure if the same is true for oil. We know that there are different grades of oil and they sell for different prices, so they wouldn't be fungible. But there are different qualities of natural gas as well, so I'm not sure on this. Next.

"...what Congress is going to do also is not to allow the export ban to such a degree that it’s Americans who get stuck holding the bag without the energy source..."

Grammatically, let's see if we can make this work:

"Congress is not going to allow the export ban to such a degree that Americans get stuck without oil."

It seems to me that if she meant oil wouldn't be diverted from the Lower 48 and exported to other countries, then Congress SHOULD allow the export ban.

If you haven't seen the video, you can below.

It Goes Without Saying - Mime Bill Bowers at Out North

Out North is a small theater. It holds, maybe, 100 people and we were sitting in the front row. So, I put away my camera before the show started. This is the stage. A flip chart with the names of the stories he's telling. And the stool. The rest of the space a blank slate for Bowers to paint with mime.

The title - It Goes Without Saying - is a little misleading - the mime actually talks. He tells stories of his life and why he mimes for a living starting with growing up in Missoula through gigs at trade shows, through studying with Marcel Marceau, through caring for his dying partner.

I got drawn into the stories and the mimed illustrations. A key theme was silence. His family, his community, as he tells it, didn't talk about the important aspects of life around them. This theme seemed to climax when he told us about meeting a mime in Romania, who he said was the most famous man in Romania, dubbed "The Voice of Romania." (I'm not sure I've got the title right and the "Voice of Romania" hits I got on google didn't give me any mimes, but the image of a mime being the voice of a country where repression ruled for so long is a delicious conceit.)

This was an interesting evening, delving into places I've never been. Yet I went home with a feeling of incompleteness. A one person, autobiographical show, only works if I feel I'm hearing directly from the performer's heart. After a night's sleep, I have the feeling that Bower's voice wasn't completely authentic. Maybe because he's really a mime, not a talker. Maybe he's done the show too often. My sense is that perhaps he hasn't yet found his own true voice and he's still trying too hard to get our approval instead of just his own.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Work Accommodations for Palin in the VP Debate

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires that employers should make reasonable work accommodations for employees with disabilities. But there has been a lot of debate on the meaning of 'disability' and 'reasonable accommodation."

Findlaw reports that:

"U.S. Supreme Court Narrows ADA Protection--Inability to Perform Work Tasks Alone is Not a Disability Under the Americans With Disabilities Act"
The Court stated that the central inquiry in identifying an ADA-protected disability is whether the claimant is unable to perform tasks central to most people's daily lives. Some tasks of "central importance to daily life" include tending to personal hygiene, household chores, bathing, and brushing one's teeth.

The McCain campaign hasn't notified the world of any physical disabilities that Palin has. But the law also covers cognitive disabilities, if I understand it correctly. They haven't announced any of these for the candidate either. Furthermore, Republicans have generally taken very conservative stands on these accommodations, siding with employers who are concerned with the expense of making accommodations.

So it heartwarming that the McCain-Palin Campaign is setting a totally new precedent by arguing for accommodations because of, not disability, but lack of experience. Usually, lack of experience disqualifies an applicant from the job completely. But we hear, via the New York Times, in relation to the upcoming vice presidential debate:
McCain advisers said they had been concerned that a loose format could leave Ms. Palin, a relatively inexperienced debater, at a disadvantage and largely on the defensive. [emphasis added]

I thought they had been touting how experienced Gov. Palin is. Must be my hearing. Anyway, I'd like to challenge readers to come up with ways to make accommodations should she should become Vice President. Well, strictly speaking, that job isn't too difficult. But should she be called on to step in for the President, what sorts of accommodations need to be made for her lack of experience?

How about "All major emergencies must be announced at least seven days in advance so that Palin can get tutoring on how to respond" for the first one? I'll leave it your imaginations to craft additional accommodations to help Gov. Palin succeed should she become our president.

Somehow though, I have the feeling that if Biden asks for similar accommodations in the televised moose skinning contest between the vice presidential candidates, the McCain operatives will cry "FOUL."

Laughing til it hurt - Aasif Mandvi in Anchorage

Friends suggested we join them at UAA* last night to hear the Daily Show's Aasif Mandvi. As a cable-less household member, I only get to see the Daily Show when at friends' homes or on YouTube. So I wasn't prepared for this guy.

The first time he approached politics, he mentioned that (paraphrasing) 'you guys are getting a lot of attention these days .... well, I think Gravel is great too."

Later he mentioned that he's here and he's looked really hard, but "you just can't see Russia from here."

At the end, some of the people asking questions seemed either like shils or like they were auditioning. The combination of their questions and his responses had me laughing so hard it hurt, literally.

*University of Alaska Anchorage

What Don't We Know and Why Don't We Know It?

Yesterday's Anchorage Daily News headline was BIG. Today's is BIGGER. We know something big and bad has happened, but what?

How many of you went about your day yesterday as usual?

How come we weren't glued to our televisions all day watching the news unfold, watching economists explaining what was going on? How we got into this? What it means? What might happen next?

Because there are no good visuals for this story. This story could be the economic equivalent to jets crashing into the World Trade Center, but that's a VISIBLE story, which means it's a story we can understand, at least emotionally. We can see it, we can imagine "what if I were in that building?" We can FEEL it. We certainly didn't agree afterward on the causes and what to do about it.

But this story is one we can't see. Unless we've defaulted on a loan and lost our home, we can't connect to it. It's basically INVISIBLE except for the large headlines. It's harder to get film of millions of people losing their homes. Shots of for sale signs don't have the same emotional impact as giant buildings collapsing. We don't understand it, can't feel it, it doesn't fit into our brains in a way that connects directly to our emotional processing.

The debate about this election suffers from the same problems. While we might relate to some of the issues emotionally, the explanations and options require serious intellectual work. We don't want to take the time or don't know how to understand the policies the candidates propose. It takes time. It takes work. It takes intellectual training and rigor. And at the end, we still don't know for certain which options will be best.

But we rarely know for sure if we are making the optimal decision - even in more tangible situations like ordering dinner in a restaurant, buying a car, or getting married. How many of you have gone to the candidates' websites and actually looked at what Obama and McCain have to offer as solutions? (Probably those who get this far have looked at those links already.) It takes a certain level of intellectual ability [and curiosity.] These ideas are difficult to visualize. It is easier to simplify complex situations into emotional slogans like "Vote for Change" and "Country First: Reform, Prosperity, and Peace." (If you went to those links, you'd recognize these.)

The key here is how we know things. We seem to be wired to immediately get emotional messages - be they accurate or not - about whether we are in danger. In danger because we believe we are losing constitutional guarantees or because we believe we are under threat of a terrorist attack. To actually understand whether we are in danger or not (in situations less obvious than someone with a gun demanding our money) requires a lot of hard work gathering and analyzing facts that most people are unable or unwilling to do.

So, is the financial crisis an economic equivalent to 9/11 that we aren't registering because there are no easy to understand emotional symbols (like planes fying into buildings) and the facts and are too difficult to analyze intellectually? What do I know?

Friday, September 19, 2008

Troopergate Investigation Announcment

I went to the Legislative Information Office to hear Senator Hollis French's announcement about the progress and lack of progress in the Troopergate investigation. Here's the whole 6 minute presentation. I'll post this now (it's taken forever to upload the video) and then add some photos and comments.

So what's the context? The Rovian Men in Black from the McCain campaign have arrived in Alaska to take charge of damage control. One national reporter - they seemed to
outnumber the Alaskans - said it was similar to Florida after the 2000 Election.

Speculation abounds about people being paid off for various acts that will improve the odds of McCain winning. Don Mitchell writes about how he would have negotiated on behalf of Levi Johnston's family for him to play the boyfriend, fiance until after the election, while everyone is hearing stories from the Wasilla kids that Bristol and Levi are history. A reporter's wife is called and asked what the hell her husband is doing asking her those questions. A politician is threatened with revelations about his sex life. No I don't have hard proof of this, people are still figuring out how to respond to the new consequences of doing one's job. Is there a pro bono law group to help targets of the Rovian MIB?

And here we have this bi-partisan (Republican majority) created investigation that everyone agreed to cooperate with now reneging. The ADN reports today that Todd Palin's attorney has explained that Todd won't respond to the subpoena:

"...because his spouse is her party's nominee for Vice President of the United States, his scheduling obligations over the next two months [translation: until after the election] will make it virtually impossible for him to prepare for and present the testimony called for in the Subpoena at the specified location during that time period."

Excuse me? My wife's job duties mean I won't be able to respond to the subpoena? Do you think that would get me out of court? But Bush has made a habit of being above the law, even Karl Rove has stiffed the US Congress and refused to appear when subpoenaed.

The media is scolded for taking sides in its reporting of event, but sometimes there aren't two valid sides. Sometimes one party is right and the other is wrong. There is no shame when people claim Sarah Palin has foreign policy experience because Alaska is next to Russia. It shows complete disdain for the American public. And stonewalling the law as they are doing does too.

I'm hoping that enough people will start to say, NO WAY! THAT IS TOTAL BS! IF YOU TREAT US LIKE THAT, WE VOTE AGAINST YOU. If that isn't the case - and this isn't about McCain vs. Obama, this is about Rule of Lies or Rule of Law and Rationality - the US is toast.

After the announcement, Sen. Gene Therriault and Fred Dyson strolled out and talked to reporters. I'll try to edit and upload some of that later.

I know Phil, you're going to be laughing about Steve letting his passion show again, but I just want people to know that there's some heavy duty stuff going on to snuff out any threats to the Palin image. And the change in how this investigation is going is one very clear example.

Alaskans, wake up. After loudly and proudly proclaiming that she was protecting our state sovereignty from the oil companies, our Governor has now turned over control of her office and family to the RNC.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

One thing leads to another

So I went for a run, but with a destination - Lowe's to get some washers for the leaky faucets downstairs. And to enjoy the rare blue sky and sunshine. I took my camera along - I'm getting the hang of the new one. Here's a new building planned for east of the northeast corner of Tudor and Old Seward Highway.

And gas prices are going down, but still over $4 here.

I got to Lowes. Clearly this is a sign of approaching winter.

I went to the part of Lowes that used to have drawers of screws and washers and things and you could buy one or two for two or three cents apiece. I asked for help and the sales person showed me those above - two for $1.09!!!!
I was at a rubber factory in Pune, Maharashtra State, India where they make things like this. They cost something like 10 for a penny. I decided these weren't the right kind of washer anyway and went over to the plumbing department where I found these.
They look cheap only in comparison to the ones for $1.09. [But the faucets aren't leaking any more.]

Outside, headed home, I could see the mountains sparkling in their fall glory with a bit of termination dust. But there were too many poles and buildings in the way. So I headed toward Cuddy Park to see if I could get a better view.

The park looked good, but still not high enough for a good view. On to Loussac.

In this picture the library looks pretty forbidding, but I like to think of it as a fortress of learning and freedom. Anchorage, back when the state was flush with oil money in the 1980s, built this huge library. We're flush again, but hardly building libraries. And the parking lot here is always full - people really use the library. Even on Thursday midday.

This fountain was supposed to be an ice sculpture originally. The water was supposed to drip in the winter causing interesting ice formations. We were excited. The sculptor was Finnish I think so he should know about ice. But it had problems from the beginning. A year or two ago a group of folks raised money to rehabilitate the fountain. And it is nice to see the water spraying skyward, but to me it looks like they just stuck some water spouts in the middle of the sculpture. They really don't mesh with what was there. Anyway, I got the last picture with the flowers. The crew was there taking them out for winter as I shot this.

[Update 9/21/08 - email from Catherine - "I wanted to tell you about the fountain at the Loussac. The artist's name is Carl Nesjar, he's from Norway. He's still alive! Born in 1920. We met him when he was here, working on the fountain, he worked with my studio partner Bob Pfitzenmeier. Carl is also a painter and printmaker, I have 2 (wonderful) lithographs he did in Paris. He has also worked with Picasso. There are only a few of his ice fountains in the world... they are very tricky (obviously) to keep functional. The project at the library came in over budget, of course, no one made any money from it. I was really glad when they tried to get it going again."]

I went up on the grassy hill that rises up to the door of the library to get a view of the mountains. It's not great, but you can get an idea. But I thought, I could go upstairs and get even higher.

Here's the children's part of the library. Yes, there are Alaskans who believe in libraries and teach their kids to love books. It's a wonderful child friendly library with great kid lounge chairs and nooks with big pillows and a little theater even.

But I'm headed for the good windows of the Alaska room. That takes me through the Ann Stevens room. This is like the an old fashioned library in huge mansion that anyone can come and sit in. The room was named for Senator Ted Stevens' wife who died in a plane crash that the Senator survived. Some have said our airport should have been named after her instead of Ted, but she's not the only one to have died at the airport. I have to think about that more.

And here's the Alaska room, one of the round silos. A great place to study and while I tried not to invade people's privacy, there were people in here. Actually, the views through the windows weren't that much better, but given I was here, I decided to look in the catalog to see what they had on Wasilla. Thirty two items showed up for the Loussac Library. There were a lot of phonebooks and land studies for various projects. But this one looked really interesting.

This is a book on the creation of the Wasilla library. I'll try to give some excerpts in another post. An interesting story about early Wasilla life. The book ends in 1959 when the author had to leave Alaska - before Sarah Heath was born and moved to Alaska. Olson sold her house to the "husband of Katie Hurley."