Sunday, October 31, 2010

Hint of Winter

I remember back in the late 70s and early 80s when Halloween meant waist high snow berms while walking with the kids for trick or treat.  Friday night we had hint of winter as we walked to Loussac to see the movie Blood Done Sign My Name about Ben Chavis Jr. (who was there) and it started to hail.

As we got to Seward Highway the sunset was putting on a fiery show.  It was almost 6pm.  Sunrise today was 9:35am.  We're losing about five and a half minutes of daylight each day now.

And yes, the movie was good.  Ben Chavis, in the movie, was a young teacher in a still all black school in Oxford, North Carolina when a returning black Vietnam Vet was shot and beaten by a white store owner and his sons and found not guilty.  As he walks out of the school to take his class to the courthouse, the whole school follows him.   This eventually led to an economic boycott of the white shops in town by the black population and slow changes in how things worked.  It was neat to have the real Ben Chavis there after the film to answer questions.

You'd think that in times of economic stress, more people would take advantage of free events like this where you get to see a recent movie (2009) and even talk to one of the players in the civil rights movement in the United States.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Elitism, Intelligence, Sarah Palin, Joe Miller

[I've been trying to write a concise, coherent and insightful post dealing with the attacks on educated people.  But as I read more, the attack seems not against just the educated, but the Elite.  But Palin's notion of  "The Elite" doesn't simply mean 'smart' and certainly doesn't mean 'upper class.'  Let's just call this a first draft on the theme.]

Sept. 4, 2009 (MSNBC)
“I’m not a member of the permanent political establishment,” Palin said. “And I’ve learned quickly these past few days that if you’re not a member in good standing of the Washington elite, then some in the media consider a candidate unqualified for that reason alone. . ."

October 24, 2008 (WN)

Q:  Who is a member of the elite?
Sarah Palin: . . . just people who think they are better than everyone else. . . John McCain and I are so committed to serving every American, hardworking, middle class Americans who are so desiring this economy getting put back on the right track. . .  [Emphasis added]
Q:  It's not education, it's not income based?
Sarah Palin:  Anyone who thinks they're better than anyone else.  
John McCain:  I know where a lot of them live.
Q:  Where's that?
John McCain:  In our nation's capital and New York City. . . I know who these elitists are, the ones she never went to a cocktail party with in Georgetown. . . They think they can dictate to America what they believe rather than let Americans think for themselves.
[Note:  Merriam's Online dictionary shows that while her definition is vaguely in the ballpark - an outsider's view of 'c' maybe - it doesn't convey the standard usage of that term.  McCain's is close to 'd.' 
a . . .the choice part : cream <the elite of the entertainment world> 
b  . . .the best of a class <superachievers who dominate the computer elite — Marilyn Chase> 
c . . .the socially superior part of society <how the elite live — A P World> <how the French-speaking elite…was changing — Economist> 
d : a group of persons who by virtue of position or education exercise much power or influence <members of the ruling elite> <the intellectual elites of the country>]

January 2009 Anchorage Daily News:
The dinner was held in the heart of Washington, D.C., at the Capital Hilton within sight of the White House. Palin's invitation to the Alfalfa Club was "a coup," said Letitia Baldrige, who served as the White House social secretary and chief of staff to Jacqueline Kennedy.
"It's something that everybody who's anybody in politics wants to be invited to," Baldrige said.
If a roasting by the most powerful people in America is a sign you've made it, then Palin had clearly arrived. Or, at the very least, was acknowledged Saturday night as one of the most interesting women in American politics.

November 23, 2009, From Talking Points Memo

O'REILLY: Let me be very bold and fresh again. Do you believe that you are smart enough, incisive enough, intellectual enough to handle the most powerful job in the world?
PALIN: I believe that I am because I have common sense, and I have, I believe, the values that are reflective of so many other American values. And I believe that what Americans are seeking is not the elitism, the the [sic] kind of spineless... a spinelessness that perhaps is made up for that with some kind of elite Ivy League education and a fat resume that's based on anything but hard work and private sector, free enterprise principles. Americans could be seeking something like that in positive change in their leadership. I'm not saying that has to be me.
So now the elite are spineless and propped up with an Ivy League education and a fat resume - that doesn't reflect hard work or private sector/free enterprise principles.  So the wealthiest of the wealthy who have made their money through free enterprise aren't in the elite?  

October 25, 2010 Right Wing News - Kathleen McKinley:
. . .These Ivy league schools have gone from being training grounds for Christian missionaries and ministers to propaganda factories for every leftist radical failed ideology known to man. Marxism, Darwinism, Freudianism, communism, multiculturalism, relativism, naturalism, positivism, socialism, liberalism, egalitarianism, feminist studies, gay studies, transgender studies, transvestite studies, outcome-based education, and radical environmentalism are not only taught, but celebrated. 
McKinley says this without a trace of irony given that Yale (she starts out mentioning Yale) was among colleges traditionally reserved for the sons of the economic and social upper class of this nation (often known as the elite), which had quotas for Jews and African-Americans, and didn't admit women at all.  No irony at all, even though both Presidents Bush graduated from Yale as well as William F. Buckley, and Clarence Thomas.

And Joe Miller.

Palin argues that elitists "think they are better than anyone else."  Is this as opposed to people who think they know more than anyone else?  After all, Palin, and her protege Joe Miller, talk as if they have a monopoly on the Truth, and everyone else is simply wrong.  Their statements are strong, declarative statements.  There are no qualifiers.  They leave no room for the possibility that they might not be 100% right.  Their opponents are 100% wrong.   It's clearly black and white.  Look at Miler's issues page, for example:
The only answer [There is only one option and I know what it is, if you disagree, you're wrong] is to return our federal government to the limits prescribed by our Constitution. Federal powers not specified in the Constitution are reserved to the States by the 10th Amendment.

I support the repeal of ObamaCare. First and foremost, there is no Constitutional authority for it. [The Constitutional authority isn't just flimsy, it flat out doesn't exist.]
I am unequivocally pro-life and life must be protected from the moment of conception to the time of natural death. [There's nothing you can tell me or show me that will change my mind.]

The problem here is that social truths aren't that easy.  Conception is one point on a continuum of when life could be said to begin.  Another possible point on the continuum to mark the start of life is birth.  There is no way to prove it.  Different communities define these 'truths' differently.  Unless you believe that God has defined all this.  But then, different gods have said different things.  And even different Christians interpret the Christian god differently.  And what is natural death?  Is dying in a motorcycle crash  or from a gun shot a natural death?

What makes Palin and Miller think they have a monopoly on the Truth?  That they know better than everyone else?  Why has Palin tapped into some clear need among many members of the US public?

First, her elitist language can clearly be seen as taking on the insiders on behalf of the outsiders.  "People who think they are better than anyone else" and who live in the nation's capital and New York (we all know these as power centers) and have parties that people like Sarah Palin aren't invited to are the Insiders.  All the rest of us are outsiders, in our own democracy.   What Palin has done so well, is create her own clique, her own inside, of which she is the center.

Second, is to attack those insiders as not being as smart as they think they are.  Hey, I taught at a university.  I can tell you a lot more than Palin can about PhD's doing dumb things.  I've worked with them up close.  I've done dumb things myself. But I can also offer an explanation of why many PhD's might look dumb at times. 

Howard Gardner came up with the concept of multiple intelligences.  His  basic argument is that IQ is just one of different ways that people can be intelligent.  In 1993 he listed seven intelligences and later added the last one:
  • Linguistic Intelligence
  • Musical Intelligence
  • Logical-Mathematical Intelligence
  • Spatial Intelligence
  • Bodily-Kinesthetic Intelligence
  • Interpersonal Intelligence
  • Intrapersonal Intelligence
  • Naturalist Intelligence  
You can get his FAQ's regarding multiple intelligence which explains all this with a lot more complexity and nuance.

In his book Extraordinary Minds, Howard Gardner defined intelligence* as
"the ability to solve problems or fashion products that are valued in at least one cultural setting or community."

Of the eight listed above, the linguistic and logical intelligences are those most favored in school examinations. These are the 'smarts' that IQ tests recognize.

But people who have these kinds of intelligences may or may not rank high on the other intelligences - such as interpersonal or bodily-kinesthetic.  We can see 'smart' people, with fancy degrees, who are physically clumsy and awkward and don't read interpersonal signals well. 

So, it is easy for an athlete who barely graduated to make fun of a famous scholar who trips over his shoelaces and is awkward when dealing with the opposite sex.  We all do better in the setting where our best intelligences are rewarded.  

What is critical is that we recognize and appreciate where people are 'smart' and where they aren't.  If I go in for surgery, I want a doctor who has linguistic, logical, and kinesthetic (good eye-hand coordination) intelligence.  If I go to a concert, I expect to hear someone with, minimally, good musical intelligence. 

Sarah Palin, it would seem to me, is shaky in terms of the two key academic intelligences (linguistic and logical-mathematical), but very strong on interpersonal and bodily-kinesthetic.  But people with higher linguistic and logical-mathematical intelligences, while being able to see Palin's strengths, will judge her more by their own strengths, and thus not be impressed. 

Joe Miller, on the other hand, as a West Point and Yale graduate, has strong linguistic and logical-mathematical intelligences.   For some, Miller's elite Ivy League education at Yale might seem to disqualify him in the eyes of  Palin followers because he's clearly part of the elite who got trained in "every leftist radical failed ideology known to man" (from Kathleen McKinley above).

So he's both an elitist insider and all the evil things that means to Palin supporters.  But only people strong in logical-mathematical intelligence get too hung up on consistency of principles from one situation to the next.  Besides, one could argue that he went to Yale as a subversive, to learn what the enemy was teaching.   But Miller hasn't made that point himself to my knowledge.

But he does seem to think he's pretty smart.  As mentioned above, he states his positions with authority and certainty.  There's no question in his mind about his correctness.  Wickersham's Conscience pointed out:
Miller claims he [sic] “He quickly mastered the law.” Shucks, WC has been a lawyer for more than thirty-four years and can’t claim to have “mastered the law.”
A lot of this goes back to Socrates and the notion that a wise man is one who knows what he doesn't know.  I suspect that some of the anger at people with certified intelligence (degrees from elite universities or in respected fields) is aimed at those who assume that their intelligence in their specialized field transfers to other fields.  "Because I have a degree in one field means I must be smart in every other field." 

I think Joe Miller has slipped into this category. He isn't nearly as smart as he thinks he is.  I'm not going to use examples of where I think he's philosophically wrong because those things are impossible to prove.  Instead I'll use more tangible examples, starting with his fiddling with the other attorneys' computers in Fairbanks.   
  • He thought he was clever and knew that he could hide his use of the computers by erasing his tracks.  But he didn't know nearly as much as he needed to know and by clearing the caches, he probably caused the discovery of his antics much faster than had he just left the caches alone, because he erased everyone's passwords for databases they used every day.  He was smart enough to know about caches, but not smart enough to know he only knew part of what he needed to know.**
  • He also wasn't smart enough to understand that having a private security guard was totally out of the norm in Alaska politics and would make him look silly.**
  • And he wasn't smart enough to understand that having his body guards handcuff a journalist would resonate poorly.  He probably thought that people would see it as a legitimate blow against the 'lamestream' media.  And his supporters probably do.
  • And he didn't understand that lying about his departure from the Fairbanks North Star Borough was going to be worse than getting it out of the way early in the campaign.  He seems to have thought that it was protected by personnel rules.  He hasn't been in Alaska long enough to have read about the Supreme Court, in the newspapers, deciding that people applying for high level policy jobs do not have the same privacy rights as regular employees.  And even though he's an attorney, he didn't look it up.
Only when he was up against the wall - with his own words that he lied in the computer incident and that he lied about it in the campaign, exposed - does he acknowledge his wisdom may not be absolute:
Miller has maintained the journalist was acting inappropriately, and he has never disavowed the handcuffing, but he says that other issues in his campaign were the result of naivete.
"Alaskans get to understand that, hey, they're electing someone like them. I've gone through trials, I have not always had a silver spoon, I've had challenges in life," Miller said at a recent debate. (from the Anchorage Daily News)
Naivete.  That just isn't Miller's style.  If he's naive about these things, what about his beliefs concerning the Constitution? 

But he is able to play Palin's outsider theme when he does this.  I'm like you regular Alaskans.  Flawed.  And, implied, an outsider. 

But if you go to the doctor, do you want someone just like you, or do you want some with specialized expertise and skill in medicine?  When you take your car to be repaired, do you want someone like you, or someone getting on-the-job training?

And when you elect someone to the US Senate, do you want someone just like you or someone with expertise and skill in public policy, power, and working with others?  As well as a developed sense of ethics?

I believe that the institution of the Senate forces people to play the game or become irrelevant.  Republicans, in recent years, have been more disciplined in keeping their members in line than the Democrats.  That means Republicans will have a harder time representing their state interests when they conflict with the party interests.

But individuals who use their intelligences well are able to play the game more successfully than others.  Some have the ability to block legislation.  Others can work out deals because they have empathy and can understand other people's needs and values and show respect for people with whom they don't agree.  They have the ability to actually create new legislation that improves people's lives.  No matter what, whoever gets elected to the US Senate becomes an insider compared to most other people.  They are in a club limited to 100 people.  Within that club, it is true, there are also insiders and outsiders. 

I think that's enough for now.  Just a note that this is just one possible line of interpretation of all of this.  I'm trying it out to see how it fits. 

*From the FAQ's Gardner defines intelligences differently:
an intelligence refers to a biopsychological potential of our species to process certain kinds of information in certain kinds of way. As such, it clearly involves processes that are carried out by dedicated neural networks. No doubt each of the intelligences has its characteristic neural processes, with most of them quite similar across human beings. Some of the processes might prove to be more customized to an individual.
The intelligence itself is not a content, but it is geared to specific contents. That is, the linguistic intelligence is activated when individuals encounter the sounds of language or when they wish to communicate something verbally to another person. However, the linguistic intelligence is not dedicated only to sound. It can be mobilized as well by visual information, when an individual decodes written text; and in deaf individuals, linguistic intelligence is mobilized by signs (including syntactically-arranged sets of signs) that are seen or felt.

**A newer story in the Alaska Dispatch cites Fairbanks co-workers saying Miller was paranoid about his personal safety and possible computer attacks on him and even requested a security detail.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Traditional Values Movie Loussac Tonight at 7pm Free

The Tea Party talks about restoring traditional American values. The Anchorage chapter of the NAACP and Out North are showing a film tonight at Loussac Library that shows us what things used to be like the US. 

Come be reminded what traditional values mean before you vote.

 From Out North's website:
Based on the book by Tim Tyson, the movie recounts the small town murder of Henry Marrow, a 23 year-old black Vietnam veteran, who was shot and beaten to death by a prominent white businessman and his grown sons. In response to the crime, and the sham trial that followed, many young African American men took to the streets, engaging in riots and vandalism. However, Ben Chavis, Marrow's cousin, decided that the best way to protest the injustice would be to organize a peaceful march on the state capitol.Starring Nate Parker, Rick Schroder , Lela Rochon. Running time: 128 minutes. Rated PG-13 (for an intense scene of violence, thematic material involving racism, and for language).

Post movie discussion with renowned African American civil rights leader Dr. Benjamin Chavis, Jr. Dr. Chavis is known as one of the Wilmington Ten. Because of Dr. Chavis' scientific background, in 1981, he was the first person to coin the term environmental racism: “Racial discrimination in the deliberated targeting of ethnic and minority communities for exposure to toxic and hazardous waste sites and facilities, coupled with the systematic exclusion of minorities in environmental policy making, enforcement, and remediation.” Since 2001 he has been CEO and Co-Chairman of the Hip-Hop Summit Action Network, which he cofounded with hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons.

Miller and Murkowski Trade Halloween Cards

From Lisa Murkowski:

 From Joe Miller:

As I put these up, I thought it would interesting to have a national political ad archive where people could compare what ads are being used in all the states.  (Well, you'd need a a lot of space to fit all the Murkowski mailouts that have been coming every day. The money probably could have funded ten teachers for a school year.) Murkowski's could easily be reused by other campaigns - just replace the word Alaska and put another face on the zombie Miller.   I wonder what the religious right think about this celebration of a pagan holiday by the two Republican candidates.  (Yes, I know that Murkowski isn't the official Republican candidate, but she assures us she's still a Republican and will always be one.)

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Frozen Grin's Miller Time

The genius of a good cartoonist is to encapsulate what's happening with a simple picture and a few words. 

Peter Dunlap-Shohl at Frozen Grin manages to portray

in far fewer words than I could.  Check it out at the link.  (For a cartoonist, the cartoon is the whole post, so it doesn't seem fair for me to post it here.  Besides, I didn't ask permission.  So, you should go there to see it.)

You have 90 Minutes to Be a Write In Candidate for US Senate

After the Superior Court decision NOT allowing the State to hand out a list of names of certified write in candidates to voters who ask for them was blocked by the Supreme Court, it sounds like the list will be available to voters until the Supreme Court gets a further appeal and decides differently.

Sound confusing?  Well, here's the instruction in my voting booth when I voted early yesterday.

Should the election officials tell people the names of the write-in candidates?  Should it be as easy to vote for a write-in candidate as it is for one that has been vetted by the candidate's party?  Why can't voters just bring in a piece of paper with the name of the candidate they want? 

On the other hand, why shouldn't it be made as easy as possible for someone to vote for the candidate they want? 

And what about absentee voters?  Should they be given a list of official write-in candidates?  The names on the ballot are randomized and listed in different order on different ballots so that the first on the list bias is neutralized.  Will that happen on the write in list?  You can see this can get really absurd.  

What I did notice when I voted, was that every office had a list of names and then a space for a write-in.  That made me realize that voters not only have to remember the name of the person they want to write in, but also which office they're running for.  If someone puts in Lisa Murkowski's name for governor, that will be a vote for governor, but won't affect the US Senate race. 

I suspect we're going to have a long wait for all the votes to be counted in the Senate race.  Long.  And then all the write-ins will be challenged. 

An acquaintance checked with the Division of Elections today and found out there is still time to become a certified write-in candidate for US Senate or House of Representatives.  Til 5pm today. 

From: Wilson, Lauri L (GOV) [/src/compose.php?]
Sent: Thursday, October 28, 2010 10:59 AM
Subject: Letter of Intent for US Senate


Here is the Letter of Intent you need to complete and return to our office by 5:00pm Alaska Time today, October 28th.  You may return the completed form via fax, email or in person to any of our office locations. I have listed additional links below for contact information for each election office location, write-in information from our web site and to the Federal Election Commission. 

Director’s Office

Regional Offices:

Additional information on write-in candidate’s office:

Web site for Federal Election Commission:

Please let me know if you have any questions.

Thank you,

Lauri Wilson
Election Coordinator
State of Alaska
Division of Elections
(907) 465-3049
(907) 465-3203 fax
 Here's what that form looks like (My screen isn't large enough to copy the whole thing in a legible way, but you can get your own copy here.  You can get one for the other offices too at the link above for additional information on write-in candidate's office.)

Unlike in other elections, this time your name will be on a list that voters can see.

You have until 5 pm to get it in today.  And don't forget, you'll have some filing requirements like all other candidates. 

Dana Fabe - Vote Yes!

Seeing many sides of any issue makes it hard to take a really strong stand.  You know that there are also good arguments against your position or that the situation isn't black and white.  A person may have some flaw, but there are other parts to him that are worthy.   A policy may solve a number of problems, but it also raises new ones.

Once in a while there comes an issue where there is no other legitimate side.  Where there is only one right and the other is simply wrong.  Voting yes to retain Dana Fabe on the Alaska Supreme Court is one of them. 

I first met Dana Fabe when a student in a class on administrative law, who worked for the court system, was curious about how judges got evaluated.  This was a very smart student who had been raised in a fundamentalist family.  He'd made some accommodations with the world - while he personally felt homosexuality was a sin, as a government employee, he felt he did not have the right to treat gays differently from anyone else. 

So as a class project he dove deep into this issue.  What he discovered, and presented to class, was the complex and thorough system by which judges are evaluated. 
The Judicial Council is directed by law to evaluate the performance of judges due to appear on the ballot. The Council collects evaluations from attorneys, peace and probation officers, jurors, social workers, public hearings, and information from many other sources. The Council then recommends to the public whether each judge should be retained. The recommendations, as well as information about the evaluation of each judge, are sent to each voter in the Official Election Pamphlet.  [from Alaska Judicial Council]
The other students got into this project and Dana Fabe, who then I think was a court administrator or perhaps a superior court judge, was invited to class.  For a couple of hours she talked and answered students' questions.  There are times when you just know - this person is both highly competent and public spirited.  This was a long time ago and I don't remember the details of what she said.  Only that I was left with complete confidence in her abilities. 

What I learned is that Alaska has one of the best systems for selecting judges - a system that favors merit while keeping the political aspects of evaluation judges to a minimum.  And we have a comparatively outstanding set of judges in the state.

Later, when I got a small grant to set up a group of five outstanding women administrators to create a process to pass on their wisdom to public administration students, Dana Fabe was one of the five.   Everyone I asked brought up her name.

Then they set up a class for students where we had panel discussions each week made up of different women administrators talking on different subjects.  There were even a few men that were on some of the panels.  So this was a second chance to work with Dana Fabe and see how remarkable she was. 

To get on the Supreme Court, you submit your name and the paperwork.  Then all the surveys go out to the various groups listed above.  And those that get back scores above a set level are then sent on to the Governor who then selects one who then must be confirmed by the legislature.  That was how Dana Fabe got selected. 

Then every election that includes retention of judges, all the surveying goes on again and the Judicial Council makes a recommendation.  It's in your voter pamphlet for each candidate. 

So, why am I writing all this?  If Judge Fabe is so good, what's the big deal?

Well, this year, a last minute campaign has been made to get people to vote no for Judge Fabe's retention.  Alex Brynner, a retired Supreme Court judge began an Anchorage Daily News editorial on the campaign this way:
Barely two weeks before next Tuesday's election, a special interest group with a nationwide agenda and big pots of Outside funding launched an attack against Alaska Supreme Court Justice Dana Fabe, who is on the ballot for retention. The last-minute attack is timed to prevent any response: As the challengers know, rules of ethics prevent judges from campaigning for retention absent "active opposition." Even then, they can't answer directly but must organize a committee to respond.  [Read more:]

Jim Minnery, the head of the Alaska Family Council wrote an editorial supporting NONretention.  The Alaska Family Council's values and mission are to promote through public policy their fundamentalist Christian views on
Christians and Politics
Defense of Marriage
Education & School Choice
Judicial Activism
Pornography & Obscenity
Religious Liberty
Sanctity of Life

The Alaskapride blog, which also favors NON-retention has a set of links to white supremacist websites under the title  "Alternative Media."

OK, I've suggested there aren't two sides to this issue.  Well, yes, there are.  The right side and the wrong side.  But, you might argue, it's just a matter of differing values.  Yes and no. 

Judges are supposed to support one value:  The Rule of Law.  You aren't supposed to have pro-abortion or anti-abortion judges (much of the opposition rests on this issue).  They aren't supposed to go onto the bench with a list of policies they want to forward.  There is only one policy judges should be promoting - the rule of law.  You are just supposed to have pro-law judges, judges who look at the law and determine how a particular case should be decided based on how the facts of the case square with the law, whether it's a statue or the Constitution. 

Yes, there are times when an individual judge's personal life experiences affect a decision. For good judges, that should only happen when the law is unclear and/or there may be contradictory laws.  Only then, should a judge's personal values legitimately have some influence on the decision. 

Justice Fabe introduced in State House
As Wickersham's Conscience points out - Justice Fabe didn't make the kind of decisions that she is being accused of.  The non-retention campaign is twisting the facts.  Essentially, they want to oust a superb jurist who interprets the law as neutrally as it is possible to do.  Then this would give Gov. Parnell the chance to appoint a judge steeped in the same religious view of the world that Minnery and his ilk favor.  Their website says they are against activist judges, yet they favor the judges who have made the Roberts US Supreme Court  activist.  In the direction Minnery wants it to be activist. 

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Which Alaska Senate Candidate Feeds Volunteers Best?

While there has a been a lot of attention on this race, most of it has been about the candidates and not about the issues. This post brings that discussion to a new level of triviality. Which candidate has the best volunteer food? I visited all three offices this afternoon and this was what I found.

I started near the Anchorage Campaign Headquarters center - Fairbanks Street near Northern Lights.  Fairbanks houses the McAdams campaign, the Democratic headquarters, Democratic State Legislators headquarters, and the Parnell headquarters.

Down Fairbanks St. is the McAdams office.  Doesn't look like they are wasting any money on rent.  This is decidedly down-scale.

But, what about the food? 

McAdams volunteer food looks pretty good.  


Then back to Northern Lights to the Miller headquarters.  But when I got there, I found out there were two different Miller headquarters on Northern Lights.  One for staff and another one - further down - for volunteers. 

So, back on the bike and further down down Northern Lights to this office.  

Hmmmm, there they are right between the Great Alaska Pizza Company and Quiznos.  Plus there is an Indian restaurant and a Korean restaurant just behind me and to the right.  So they should have terrific food.

Not too much here.

Now up Arctic to 36th to the Murkowski headquarters, right next to the European watch repair.

So, I walked into the door straight ahead there, but didn't see much food.  Plus there was a sign for volunteers to go next door.

Next door I found two people at a table that had a jar of hard candies.  That couldn't be all there was.  I told someone what I was doing and she took me back to where I started and found Kristin (I didn't ask her how she spelled her name, sorry if I got it wrong.)  Kristin, when she realized I was really asking about volunteer food for a blog post, was very friendly and showed me what food they had - spread out in different spots. [UPDATE:  Kristin commented to correct the spelling.  I did it two different ways, both wrong, but now I've got it fixed.  Thanks!]

So it looks like I got there at a low point and they have room for more food.  But there wasn't much out. 

She also said sure when I asked to use their restroom, where I found a bit of campaign humor.

Finally, she showed me a Murkowski trend setter - campaign bracelets.  She showed me hers and explained they were to help people remember what to write in.

I asked if they would be allowed into a polling place and she assured me that they had been approved "as long as they are kept under a sleeve" until they get into the voting booth.

That's going to be easy to monitor I'm sure. 

So, if how you feed your volunteers correlates with winning elections, and if what I saw was representative of how the three campaigns feed their volunteers, then McAdams will win hands down.

Rachel Maddow Broadcasts from Spenard* Bar in Anchorage

I don't know how many national nightly news shows are broadcast live from a bar (in Spenard no less), but Rachel Maddow packed the Taproot Tuesday night.  Shannyn Moore had announced first-come-first-served tickets on her KUDO radio show Monday and on her blog, and by 4pm when the doors opened the crowd stretched way back into the parking lot.  (Yes, the clouds had rolled in and the beautiful morning was now grey.)

The setup was much different from last week's Moore Up North show last week.  MSNBC had tons of equipment in and the focus was the middle of the dance floor.

This was about 4:40pm.  The teleprompter is on the left there.  When it got started she really talked fast.  I don't know that I could read something out loud that fast without stumbling

She walked in right past us and I barely had a chance to snap a quick blurry picture.

Vic Fischer, one of two or three surviving writers of the Alaska Constitution was a guest on the show along with Anchorage's version of Maddow, Shannyn Moore.  He's certainly the most active and visible of the survivors.  He's in the middle of the picture in the blue jacket.  Maddow's comment when she introduced him was something like, "In Alaska when they want to know about original intent, they call one of the drafters of the Constitution."  I did that with Vic last March in Juneau when I had a question about a constitutional intent concerning the Boundary Commission which had come up in a session. I got his answer on video then.

There was some extra time before 5 pm, so Maddow took questions from the audience.

Maddow had been in Anchorage a couple days getting interviews with US Senate Candidates Lisa Murkowski, Scott McAdams, and finally, Joe Miller.  The session cut back and forth from Maddow talking about the Senate race and Alaska and the video she'd already done which we could see on monitors.  In one of the live segments she talked to Shannyn Moore and Vic Fischer. 

And then the hour was up and the MSNBC crew had to tear everything down and get to the airport for a 13 hour stop tomorrow in Las Vegas.


But on the way out, Maddow had time to sign autographs. 

*Spenard is a street that winds its way from the airport (almost) to downtown (almost.)  When we got to Alaska 33 years ago, it was the seedy part of town full of strip clubs, massage parlors, and hookers on the streets at night.  A Spenard divorce involved a gun.  It's been cleaned up a lot since then and the show was in the Taproot, a fairly new bar in what used to be Mr. Whitekeys' Fly-by-Night Club. 

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Beautiful Fall Day - New Snow on Mountains

I had an appointment at 1pm for teeth cleaning at Providence, but an errand downtown.  It was almost noon, but the day was so beautiful I biked downtown.  There were lots of great pictures, but I knew that my hygienist would poke extra deep if I was late.  But I couldn't help but stop for this shot. 

My hygienist is really very cool and we give each other a bad time.  She likes to talk to me when I can't talk back.  I suggested she do a blog.  We agreed on the title, "Which tooth can you do without?"

There was a decent view of the new snow on the mountains, but I couldn't get it without including the reflections of the office. 

Then home and off to catch Rachel Maddow's show live from Anchorage at the Taproot.  More on that later.

By dark, it was raining and I suspect the snow will be a lot further down the mountain tomorrow morning. 

Rosy Fingered Dawn

Looking out the window about 9:30 this morning my thoughts went back to a college classroom where Professor Pasinetti* lectured us in Humanities at UCLA. He recited in whatever language was appropriate - Latin, Italian, Greek, English - and he recited it so beautifully, that I was transported, even when I couldn't understand a word.  (Most of the time he lectured in English)  It was in that class that I read some of the greatest books ever written, including the Odyssey.

And as I looked out at the fleecy pink clouds, the words "Rosy fingered dawn" immediately came to mind. So here's a bit of Homer - from Chapter IX - where he's plotting how to deal with Cyclops.

"When the child of morning, rosy-fingered Dawn, appeared, he again lit his fire, milked his goats and ewes, all quite rightly, and then let each have her own young one; as soon as he had got through with all his work, he clutched up two more of my men, and began eating them for his morning's meal. Presently, with the utmost ease, he rolled the stone away from the door and drove out his sheep, but he at once put it back again- as easily as though he were merely clapping the lid on to a quiver full of arrows. As soon as he had done so he shouted, and cried 'Shoo, shoo,' after his sheep to drive them on to the mountain; so I was left to scheme some way of taking my revenge and covering myself with glory.

"In the end I deemed it would be the best plan to do as follows. The Cyclops had a great club which was lying near one of the sheep pens; it was of green olive wood, and he had cut it intending to use it for a staff as soon as it should be dry. It was so huge that we could only compare it to the mast of a twenty-oared merchant vessel of large burden, and able to venture out into open sea. I went up to this club and cut off about six feet of it; I then gave this piece to the men and told them to fine it evenly off at one end, which they proceeded to do, and lastly I brought it to a point myself, charring the end in the fire to make it harder. When I had done this I hid it under dung, which was lying about all over the cave, and told the men to cast lots which of them should venture along with myself to lift it and bore it into the monster's eye while he was asleep. The lot fell upon the very four whom I should have chosen, and I myself made five. In the evening the wretch came back from shepherding, and drove his flocks into the cave- this time driving them all inside, and not leaving any in the yards; I suppose some fancy must have taken him, or a god must have prompted him to do so. As soon as he had put the stone back to its place against the door, he sat down, milked his ewes and his goats all quite rightly, and then let each have her own young one; when he had got through with all this work, he gripped up two more of my men, and made his supper off them. So I went up to him with an ivy-wood bowl of black wine in my hands:

"'Look here, Cyclops,' said I, you have been eating a great deal of man's flesh, so take this and drink some wine, that you may see what kind of liquor we had on board my ship. I was bringing it to you as a drink-offering, in the hope that you would take compassion upon me and further me on my way home, whereas all you do is to go on ramping and raving most intolerably. You ought to be ashamed yourself; how can you expect people to come see you any more if you treat them in this way?'
You can read it all at  I don't have any cyclops to battle today, but I do have some things to do. 

*This is for college students.  I googled Prof. Pasinetti to make sure I spelled his name right and found a whole Wikipedia page on him.  I really had no idea (until now) who he was when I was his student - I was a freshman.  I knew he was a fantastic lecturer, but I had no idea about who he was beyond that lecture hall.  So, check out your professors.  Know who they are.  And go talk to them about their lives and yours.  Get the most out of your education.

"Akbar was obsessed with exploring the issues of religious truth"

[I think I may have tried to put too much into one post.  This material is related, but may be pushing the patience of surfers looking for a quick hit.  So, if that fits you, read the material from Aslan this time and from Dalrymple in a second visit later.]

I'm getting a lot of education on Islam these days.  My book club discussed Reza Aslan's No god but God tonight.  And last week I heard Nihad Awad at APU.

Additionally, I have a Pakistani friend who regularly sends me interesting things to read.  I got a three year old article from The Times by William Dalyrimple yesterday.  An American friend of Indian descent has recommended Dalrymple as one of the best writers about India.  So he comes recommended from both a Pakistani and an Indian. 

What's become clear to me in all this recent dipping into Islam, is that like Christianity (and all other religions), Islam, the ideal, and Islam, as practiced, is not always the same.  Reza writes how problems began after Muhammad's death. When he was alive, questions not addressed in the Quran could be brought to him for clarification and after his death the followers of Islam relied on people who had known Muhammad. 

As the first generation of Muslims - the people who had walked and talked with the Prophet - the Companions had the authority to make legal and spiritual decisions by virtue of their direct knowledge of Muhammad's life and teachings.  They were the living repositories of the hadith:  oral anecdotes recalling the words and deeds of Muhammad. . .

. . . [I]n less than two centuries after Muhammad's death, there were already some seven hundred thousand hadith being circulated throughout the Muslim lands, the great majority of which were unquestionably fabricated by individuals who sought to legitimize their own particular beliefs and practices by connecting them with the Prophet. . .

Thus, when the Quran warned believers not to "pass on your wealth and property to the feeble-minded (sufaha)," the early Quran commentators - all of them male - declared, despite the Quran's warnings on the subject, that "the sufaha are women and children . . and both of them must be excluded from inheritance" (emphasis added) [emphasis added in the original].

When a wealthy and notable merchant from Basra named Abu Bakra . . . claimed, twenty five years after Muhammad's death, that he once heard the Prophet say "Those who entrust their affairs to a woman will never know prosperity," his authority as a Companion was unquestioned. (from pp. 67-69)
The last one is particularly ironic because Muhammad's life was changed by his marrying a wealthy independent woman 15 years his senior, and he consulted her and his later wives about his business affairs constantly. 

I offer this because the original Quran, as it is portrayed in the book and in last week's talk, has ideals in it that many US citizens could readily identify with.  Yet, it is clear that people over the centuries have interpreted the Quran to suit their needs as Aslan writes.  (Of course, I always have to question whether Aslan isn't doing the same himself.) 

I also can't help but think of the many religious leaders in the US who interpret the Bible in ways that benefit their financial and political power.  Nothing new here. 

But I also mention it to put this piece (below) about Akbar into some context.  It's not hard to find examples of people who misuse Islam.   In fact that's mostly what we are exposed to because the US narrative on Islam seems to be that it is a barbaric, if not evil religion and the media write stories that project the image they expect to find and their audience will believe. 

So it is useful to have examples of enlightened Muslims as well who can just as easily be contrasted to bad examples from the West.  So here are a few excerpts from the Dalrymple piece this post begins with. 
About 100 miles south of Delhi, where I live, lie the ruins of the Mughal capital, Fateh-pur Sikri. This was built by the Emperor Akbar at the end of the 16th century. Here Akbar would listen carefully as philosophers, mystics and holy men of different faiths debated the merits of their different beliefs in what is the earliest known experiment in formal inter-religious dialogue.

Representatives of Muslims (Sunni and Shi’ite as well as Sufi), Hindus (followers of Shiva and Vishnu as well as Hindu atheists), Christians, Jains, Jews, Buddhists and Zoroastrians came together to discuss where they differed and how they could live together.

Muslim rulers are not usually thought of in the West as standard-bearers of freedom of thought; but Akbar was obsessed with exploring the issues of religious truth, and with as open a mind as possible, declaring: “No man should be interfered with on account of religion, and anyone is to be allowed to go over to any religion that pleases him.” He also argued for what he called “the pursuit of reason” rather than “reliance on the marshy land of tradition”.

All this took place when in London, Jesuits were being hung, drawn and quartered outside Tyburn, in Spain and Portugal the Inquisition was torturing anyone who defied the dogmas of the Catholic church, and in Rome Giordano Bruno was being burnt at the stake in Campo de’Fiori.
 Dalrymple wrote his piece in response to
. . . Douglas Murray, a young neocon pup, who wrote in The Spectator last week that he “was not afraid to say the West’s values are better”, and in which he accused anyone who said to the contrary of moral confusion: “Decades of intense cultural relativism and designer tribalism have made us terrified of passing judgment,” he wrote.
Dalrymple's piece is intended to demonstrate that actually, most of the ideals of the West had precedents in the East.
Murray named western values as follows: the rule of law, parliamentary democracy, equality, and freedom of expression and conscience. He also argued that the Judeo-Christian tradition is the ethical source of these values.

Yet where do these ideas actually come from? Both Judaism and Christianity were not born in Washington or London, however much the Victorians liked to think of God as an Englishman. Instead they were born in Palestine, while Christianity received its intellectual superstructure in cities such as Antioch, Constantinople and Alexandria. At the Council of Nicea, where the words of the Creed were thrashed out in 325, there were more bishops from Persia and India than from western Europe.

Judaism and Christianity are every bit as much eastern religions as Islam or Buddhism. So much that we today value – universities, paper, the book, printing – were transmitted from East to West via the Islamic world, in most cases entering western Europe in the Middle Ages via Islamic Spain.

And where was the first law code drawn up? In Athens or London? Actually, no – it was the invention of Hammurabi, in ancient Iraq. Who was the first ruler to emphasise the importance of the equality of his subjects? The Buddhist Indian Emperor Ashoka in the third century BC, set down in stone basic freedoms for all his people, and did not exclude women and slaves, as Aristotle had done.

I recommend both Aslan's book and Dalrymple's short article.  If you are already a defender of different religions, but don't really know all that much about Islam, (I'd put myself in that category and thus can't guarantee the accuracy of these authors) reading up on this important world religion - and boogey man of US politics - will help make you a better spokesperson when you do encounter ignorance.

If you think Islam is a backward evil religion, then I merely ask you to consider whether your knowledge of Islam comes from people who love or hate Islam.  Then consider whether you would recommend Muslims around the world read books about Christianity and the West written by lovers or haters of Christianity and the West. 

I don't see it as about us or them, about winning or losing.  The religions are even besides the point.  History shows us (as in the examples quoted above about early Islam) that people who want to dominate others, use what they can to get that power - whether it is physical might, economic might, or ideological might, such as using a religion to get people to comply. 

The challenge for humankind is to keep those among us who lean towards competition and physical battle from dragging the rest of us into their wars. 

Monday, October 25, 2010

Bill Clinton to Liberal Politicians: It Gets Better

Former President Bill Clinton announced yesterday the establishment of a new website for liberal politicians.

Pointing to the rallies of angry people that are attacking liberal politicians for being educated, for being deliberate, for using data; to blatantly false ads by anonymous third party groups; and to television and radio talk-thugs who smear liberals with ridiculous lies in an attempt to destroy their careers, Clinton said he felt it was necessary to make this video to let liberal politicians know,
"It gets better.  The bullying begins with those first signs of liberalism.  Maybe you decide to become a vegetarian or you start a recycling program or bike to work.  It starts in earnest if you run for office.  Even if you call yourself a moderate instead of a progressive instead of a liberal, they can detect your liberalism.  For example,  if you oppose abortion but not for rape victims. It ratchets up if you get elected. If you run for reelection, it can become debilitating.  But you shouldn't give up.  I want you to know, that after you've been out of office a couple of years, things change.  You will be seen as a sage who had it right all along.  Trust me, I know, it gets better."

Dan Savage, when asked to comment on this, speculated that as bullies grow up the gays they picked on in high school move away and get a whole life.  So as adults, those bullies look for new victims. In the post-rational world, liberal politicians have proven easy targets.

Watch for additional videos from Jimmy Carter and Al Gore soon.


Understanding, communicating, and managing risks across stakeholders and cultures

That was the title of a lecture in the email I got last week.  How could I resist?  It has all sorts of issues I'm interested in all tied together.  The 'trailer' was this:
Dr. Weber works at the intersection of psychology and economics. She is an expert on behavioral models of judgment and decision making u . [It was like that in the email] Recently she has been investigating psychologically appropriate ways to measure and model individual and cultural differences in risk taking, specifically in risky financial situations and environmental decision making and policy. Weber is past president of the Society for Judgment and Decision Making, coeditor of Risk Decision & Policy and associate editor of Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes. She serves on the editorial boards of two other journals, on the executive councils of INFORMS's Decision Analysis Society and the Society for Mathematical Psychology and on an advisory committee of the National Academy of Sciences on Human Dimensions in Global Change.

So I went over to UAA this past Friday to hear Dr. Elke Weber of the Center for Research on Environmental Decisions, Columbia University.

How do I even write a post about this?  I have to say, though, that I found it all very exciting.  These are all topics I've studied and taught and had, informally, pulled together into my own sort of model which turned out to be very consistent to what Dr. Weber has come up with using more formal research.  So it was gratifying to have these loose understandings confirmed.  But I certainly don't have enough notes - I did start taking photos of the slides though - to be sure I understood it as she intended, though it did all make sense, except for some of the statistical calculations.  She did talk very fast and following the slides and listening to her at the same time was tricky.  But she had a lot to cover. 

Anyway, the talk was totally related to the main theme of this blog - What Do I Know and How Do I Know It?

I'll try to pull together a few of the points. 

  1. how to understand how different people faced with/dealing with the same situation 'know' the situation - that is, 
    1. what narratives do they have to explain the situation 
    2. how do they perceive where the situation is should be placed on a continuum from
      Terrible Danger____________________________________Great Opportunity;

  2. Then, how can local knowledge and scientific knowledge be combined to communicate back and forth to find mutually satisfactory strategies for policies?   
A lot of the talk was about measuring people's risk taking comfort.  She and colleagues have developed a tool to measure something called  Domain Specific Risk Taking (DoSpeRT).  They've decided that there are five key domains in a person's life (and they believe this works cross-culturally) and people's comfort with risk is not necessarily consistent from domain to domain:
  1. Social
  2. Ethical
  3. Recreational
  4. Health/safety
  5. Financial
The slide to the right shows, I think, some of the questions people answer, which helps determine where they fit on the scale. 

Interesting findings were that people were not very consistent in the risk aversion from domain to domain. 

Then she went into explanations of the differences of risk taking between people.  For instance: 

Greater familiarity leads to reduced perceptions of riskiness. (So the first day you work at a nuclear power plant, your sense of risk is relatively high.  But after working there for 20 years - without experiencing an accident or other hazard - your sense of risk is much lower.)

Emotional and psychological reactions play an important role.  And Weber had on one slide:  "Technical experts and public differ in degree they rely on cognitive vs. emotional assessment of risk."

Citing Douglas and Wildavsky, Weber listed other culturally related factors that influence people's perception of risk:

  • structures of social organization as source of perceptions that reinforce those structures in competition against alternative ones
  • technologies or events that threaten desired social order and ways of life are seen as risky
  • Egalitarian/collectivists perceive different risks than do hierarchical/individualists
And she cited Leiserowitz et al. (2009) on Segmentation analysis of Global Warming's Six Americas.  You can go to the link and find out which segment you are in. 

Another interesting part of the discussion was about human limits.  She started with Human Cognition and Motivation.  People have a limited attention and processing capability - so if they are focused on one task, they may miss completely other things that are going on.  You can test yourself on this watching this YouTube experiment.  I think I even linked to this on here once before, but maybe I just saw it but didn't link to it.  Go ahead, try it.

Then there was limited emotional capacity, and automatic versus analytic ways of knowing about probabilities.  

I won't go on and on.  Must readers will have disappeared long ago.  Those of you who are still here might understand my interest in all this. 

Really, this is the kind of thing this blog is about as I try to understand why some people are going to vote for Miller, others for Murkowski, and others for McAdams.  And why some Democrats are going to vote for McAdams and why some who profer McAdams are going to vote for Murkowski.  It goes back to the level or risk taking they are comfortable with.  Whether they will vote for their values or against their fears. 

Eventually, this talk may be up as a podcast.  They are only up to the end of September so far.  But you can go look at what else is available, including Chancellor Fran Ulmer on the Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Do You Think You're Being Pissed On?

Perception makes all the difference. 

Some people think the Obama administration is pissing on them. 

Others think Obama is spraying them with cool water on a hot day. 

We jump to conclusions based on our past experiences and expectations as this video so humorously demonstrates. 

Thanks to Archi's blog where I found this after he commented here. We all need a good laugh every day.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

A Break For Something Amazing

This is not my stuff.  See what Cal Lane does with this (LINK) tank.

Constitutional Amendment to Enlarge Alaska Legislature - Ballot Measure #1

[UPDATE: January 2014:  Here's the link to the July 2013 Proclamation Plan that was approved by the courts.  It has maps and other information.  This plan will be in effect until the 2020 census data and the new plan then.  For coverage of the Redistricting Board go to the Redistricting Board tab under the Blog Heading above or click here.]

 [UPDATE January 2013:  Although the current districts (here and linked in the Aug 2012 update) have been rejected by the Alaska Supreme Court, the 2012/2013 districts are in effect now.  There will be new districts for the 2014 election.]

 [UPDATE August 2012:  GO HERE FOR CURRENT - 2012/2013 - DISTRICT MAPS]

[UPDATE JULY 2011:  I blogged the Alaska Redistricting Board's process spring 2011 and an overview of all those posts is available at this redistricting page (or click the Alaska Redistricting Board tab just above this post) and you can find information on the process and the final new maps they created.  And yes, Southeast Alaska lost a seat as predicted.]

In addition to candidates, Alaskan voters will have two bond measures (A and B) and one Ballot Measure.  I sat through some of the committee meetings in Juneau during the legislative session where this proposed constitutional amendment was debated, and while I don't claim to totally understand it, I'll try and convey what I did get.  And I'll try to make it as easy and clear as I can. 

Basically, the change would be from 40 representatives and 20 senators to 44 and 22. 


Primary Reasons:

  • The 2010 Census will show an increase in population in Anchorage, Matsu, Kenai Peninsula and probably Fairbanks.

  • This will necessitate redistricting to adjust for the increased population in part of the state.

  • With the current number of districts, rural Alaska districts will lose seats to the urban areas.  That may not sound like a problem, however it will mean

    • In rural districts, some of which are already enormous but sparsely populated and often without road access,  representatives and senators will not be physically able travel to many areas in their districts without enormous expenses and time allotments.  This is already a problem and will get worse.   In comparison, many Anchorage legislators can walk across their districts in a several hours. 
To get a sense of this, you can see on the map below how big some of the districts are.

Senate districts have letters (A, B, C, etc.) and two House districts (numbered 1-40) make up each Senate district.    So, House districts 5 and 6 are in Senate District C.  Senate District C is geographically the largest state Senate district in the United States.  To make it easier to see that on the map, I've added more red 6-C (Senate Seat C, House Seat 6) and 5-C symbols so you can see how huge Senate District C is.  You can double click the map to make it bigger or get your own, much larger, pdf of the map from the State Division of Elections.    I'd guess Senate District C is larger than most states.

Just for some perspective I've circled the Anchorage bowl which has 7 Senate districts.

Rep. Peggy Wilson of Sitka (House District 2) who introduced the House version of the bill, said there's one village in her district that costs her $1000 to fly to so she doesn't get there too often.  You get the point.  In some of the rural areas, people are scattered in small, isolated communities.  They are off the road system.  You can't easily get 300 people into a school auditorium like you can in Anchorage.  Or walk door-to-door and hit 200 households in a day.  So, legislators from these areas argue that if their districts get even larger, the quality of representation, of communication with their constituents, will get even harder.

I realize for people outside of Alaska who have never talked to one of their state reps, let alone their US Senators, this might not sound like a big deal.  But in Alaska, we all have access to these folks if we want. 

Primary reasons continued:

Federal Voting Rights Act. Besides the difficulty meeting constituents, visiting and knowing every part of their districts, there are some legal issues as well.  Alaska is one of 16 states monitored under this act.
Section 5 is a special provision of the statute (42 U.S.C. 1973c) that requires state and local governments in certain parts of the country to get federal approval (known as"preclearance") before implementing any changes they want to make in their voting procedures: anything from moving a polling place to changing district lines in the county. [emphasis added]
In Alaska's case, we are in this category because of violations of voting rights for Alaska Natives.  And the districts that would lose votes are in the rural areas with larger Alaska Native populations.  So, any changes in those districts will get special federal scrutiny to be sure that Alaska Native voting rights are not diminished.

Another reason, mentioned, mainly by urban legislators and generally not publicly, is that enlarging the legislature will keep some current legislators from losing their seats.  I can't imagine any legislator would put personal needs over public needs, so let's assume that their personal needs and the public needs overlap.

Redistricting Constraints

Voting Rights Act  - That was already discussed.

Alaska Constitution

The Alaska Constitution, Article 6, spells out requirements for house and senate districts.

[NOTE:  I like these boxes because they highlight key points for people, but they aren't accessible to the blind because they are images but the technology they have can only read text.  For any blind readers, the text of this box and the next are from Article 6, Section 6 of the Alaska Constitution.]

Alaska has, according to a Wikipedia chart based on 2005 population estimates of incorporated cities:
  • 26 communities with populations of 1000 or more. 
  • 123 communities with populations under 1000 including
    • 89 below 500
    • 15 with 100 or fewer people.
A lot of these are scattered about far from other populations and off the road system.

What does 'integrated socio-economic area" mean?  The Brennan Center lists the language above from the Alaska Constitution along with language from 23 other states and says they are versions of the idea of "community of interest."
Several redistricting criteria — like following county or municipal lines, or drawing districts that are compact — are in some ways proxies for finding communities of common interest. These are groups of individuals who are likely to have similar legislative concerns, and who might therefore benefit from cohesive representation in the legislature.
 I'm not sure how this criterion can even be met in Anchorage where many different types of communities - ethnically, politically, economically, etc. - live side by side.   Maybe they are united in their urban view of the world.

Other Issues


The original bills in the legislature called for increases of 8 representatives and 4 senators.  One of the questions that came up was whether there was enough room in each Chamber to house all the new legislators, plus whether additions to the capitol would need to be made to give everyone offices.  Cutting back to only six new legislators seemed to take care of most of the construction questions.  Below is a view of the House chambers.  There's room to squeeze in four more seats.  There's already an empty seat for the speaker who sits up front anyway. 

And the Senate should have no problem moving things slightly to fit in two more desks.
From the Legislative Website's Publication page
After HJR 38 passed the House State Affairs committee, with the change from 12 new legislators to six. I wrote following based on what was said in the committee.
This basically cuts the fiscal note in half. The estimated costs of the original resolution was about $4,470,000 million plus for each year and with the cut, it reduces the annual extra cost to $2,342,000. Also, wouldn't have to do any reconstruction changes.
If there have to be any new buildings, that will be more.  At one session Rep. Carl Gatto offered to build a new Capitol building in Wasilla.  Others suggested evicting the Governor and taking over the 3rd floor of the Capitol

A few more  points (which I haven't verified) made in the bill's Sponsor's Statement include:
  • Alaska has the smallest bicameral legislature in the nation. 

  • Since 1960 (Statehood was 1959) to 2006, 29 states have increased the size of their legislatures. 
  • Of the nine smaller states (509,000 - 1,429,000) the average size of the legislature is 134 (compared to our 60). 
  • The state budget has gone from $104 million in FY '61 to $7 billion today. 
  • All redistricting plans, after 1960,  have been successfully challenged in the courts and any reduction in rural districts is likely to make such a challenge a certainty again. 

So, should you vote to enlarge the the legislature?

Urban legislators don't seem to care too much unless they are interested in rural Alaska.

This is an important item for rural Alaska.

No matter what happens, given Gov. Parnell's appointments  to the redistricting board [the only report I could find after ten minutes of googling about the make up of the board - not simply the appointments - is the Alaska Ear], my guess is that the plan will be challenged no matter what.

I believe that the voice of rural Alaska is not well heard in Juneau as most of the legislators are from urban areas.  The ratio will be worse, even with the extra seats.  The size of the rural districts and the expense of traveling to all the towns and villages in those huge, roadless expanses make representing one's district far more difficult than in urban areas.

But if we could allocate the extra $2 plus million a year that the additional seats will cost to rural Alaska projects instead, that might be a better deal all around.  But that would never happen.

According to Article 13 of the Alaska Constitution, it will take a majority vote to pass. (It needed 2/3 vote in both houses of the legislature.)