Monday, February 28, 2011

Cold Wind, Overlapping Roles, University Boosters Caucus, Blogging

I saw on BASIS that the new UAA Chancellor Tom Case was going to be in Juneau today.

Feb 28 Monday 4:00 PM CAPITOL 106
Special Legislative Briefing:
Welcoming Chancellor Brian Rogers of UAF,
Outgoing Chancellor Fran Ulmer and Incoming
Chancellor Tom Case of UAA, and Chancellor
John Pugh of UAS
Final Update from Chancellor Ulmer and
Celebration of her Career in Public Service
Being a blogger sometimes puts me in conflict with other roles I have.  With my children, it's clear.  They are mentioned only when necessary, not by name, briefly, and if more than that, with their permission.   But I've been blogging about the UAA chancellor search that picked Tom Case.  As a former faculty member at UAA who served under then Dean Tom Case, I was in a potentially awkward position.  I didn't hesitate to identify my relationship with Case and the fact that my experience suggested his integrity was not something I questioned.  But I hadn't talked to him since last March (or April)  and I did feel the need to talk to him about all this.

So, I took off into the piercing downtown Juneau wind - it got colder and windier since I posted the video of Saturday's wind.  But whatever loose snow there was to make that Saturday video convincing has been blown away.  Sunday we were going to walk the seven or eight blocks to the Nickelodeon to the see the Academy Award nominated animated shorts, and the wind was so strong, we turned back and drove.  It wasn't as bad today, but it still is a factor to calculate as you take each step.   

I did get to see Tom Case and we did get to spend some 'quality time' together and affirm our respect for each other and I got to identify my concerns - which he indicated he'd already read.  I don't think there is much to blog about here.  I did say I was talking to him in various capacities.  More it was a private checking-in between two people who haven't talked for a while and making sure we were both still ok with things.  I know he learned a lot as dean and I know that he was already more sensitive to academic culture than President Gamble has so far proven to be.  He also assured me that President Gamble has learned a lot in the last month. 

For *Photo Details See Below
The Booster Caucus is basically Senators and Representatives who support the University - mainly from the three main campus sites of Fairbanks, Juneau, and Anchorage.  Today's main activity was to honor outgoing UAA Chancellor Fran Ulmer.  Ulmer's career has included being city council member and mayor of Juneau, state legislator from Juneau, Lt. Gov., head of the Institute for Social and Economic Research at UAA, and Chancellor of UAA.  But that's just a list.  She is one extremely smart, efficient, and personable person who has impressed me since I first met her.  If only the world had seen Fran Ulmer as a representative of Alaska instead of a certain former Governor, they would have seen a one of the many extremely talented women leaders whose hard work in support of Alaska has helped make us as good as we are.

You don't have to take my word for this. You can see Ulmer for yourself wearing yet another hat - member of the National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling - when she spoke in the Capitol today at lunch.  

*Photo Details:  From right to left - Sen. Linda Menard, UAS Chancellor John Pugh, UAA Chancellor Fran Ulmer, UAF Chancellor Brian Rogers, incoming UAA Chancellor Tom Case, Rep. David Guttenberg, and Rep Sharon Cissna

(OK, I had a couple of pictures.  One close and one with more people in it.  The close one wasn't as clearly focused as this one.  So, instead of having two of the same picture, I opted to cut most of the others out so you could see the four chancellors up close.  But, it turned out that Sharon Cissna was on the edge of this.  Since I've done several posts on her this week already, I didn't think I needed her in this one as well.  But cutting her out would have cropped the picture too closely.  Now that I've said all this, I guess I should show you what the original picture looked like before I cropped it.

The extra people on the left (excluding the photographer) are Sen. Joe Thomas and  Rep. Bill Stoltz and on the right side (l-r) Reps. Pete Petersen, Tammie Wilson, Anna Fairclough, and Sen. Johnny Ellis.)

Did TSA Know Sharon Cissna Was A Politician?

Some of the emails sent to Rep. Cissna, who refused to submit to a TSA 'patdown' last week, suggested that as a politician she probably got better treatment than others might have.  So when I had a chance to talk to her Friday, I asked if she had told them that she was a politician.  Her answer was basically 'no.'  She answers more fully in the video.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

If Conservatives reject Darwin, how can they embrace Social Darwinism? Thoughts on seeing ASEA at State Capitol

While state employees in Wisconsin are demonstrating in protest of their Governor's move to end collective bargaining, Alaska's unionized employees - mostly represented by the Alaska State Employees Union  - were happily doing what lots of groups of Alaska residents do:  walking the state capitol, talking to legislators about issues, and posing in front of the Capitol building for a picture just as the Key Campaign folks had done the day before.

I don't want to get into the pros and cons of labor unions.  *My short personal sense of unions is at the bottom of the post.

But thinking about unions,  Walker's attack on them in Wisconsin, and their beginnings in the US, brought social Darwinism to mind.  Darwin's Origin of the Species came out in 1859 and Darwin's theory about evolution was debated through the Europe and North America and other parts of the world.

One of the offshoots of Darwinism was something called Social Darwinism.
Social Darwinism was a sociological theory popular in late nineteenth-century Europe and the United States. It merged Charles Darwin's theory of natural selection and Herbert Spencer's sociological theories to justify imperialism, racism, and laissez-faire (i.e. conservative) social and economic policies. Social Darwinists argued that individuals and groups, just like plants and animals, competed with one another for success in life. They used this assertion to justify the status quo by claiming that the individuals or groups of individuals at the top of social, economic, or political hierarchies belonged there, as they had competed against others and had proven themselves best adapted. Any social or political intervention that weakened the existing hierarchy, they argued, would undermine the natural order. [Emphasis added]

Social Darwinism was embraced by the ruling class because it justified their wealth and relieved them of any obligation to help the poor. This was 'scientific' support for the market and competition.

Social Darwinism lost influence during the Great Depression but the term came back in the era of Ronald Reagan.

But given that in 2009 only 4 in 10 Americans professed to believe in Evolution and in some states people are supporting the teaching of Creationism and Intelligent Design in schools, it seems that there is an inconsistency. 

If the hard core Republican base doesn't believe in Darwinism, why are they supporting a party that seems to continue to believe in social Darwinism, continues to favor policies that help the very wealthy and cut supports for the poor?

I can find fault with unions just as easily as anyone.  But those who attack the flaws of unions seem to overlook the equally, perhaps more, problematic faults of business.  Just because the private sector has faults, we don't call for abolishing it, nor should we try to abolish unions.  We should set up safeguards that increase the likelihood that both will do what they do well and not do what they do poorly.

Without unions, individual employees are at the mercy of organizations (I'm not talking Mom and Pop businesses here) with the resources and information that tips every confrontation in favor of the organization against the employee.  Unions provide a base of knowledge for workers - knowledge of the organization's policies, precedents, historical practices, and knowledge of the law and their rights.  Unions give some power to people at the bottom of the heap.  Power to fight abusive bosses, unfair and illegal work and pay practices, power to fight illegal orders and unfair termination.  Without the counterbalance of unions, managers - in public as well as private organizations - have overwhelming power over workers. 

*My Short View of Unions
The fight between unions and management is about power.  My experience, as an employee and as a reader of history, is that American workers are inherently anti-union.  They believe in the individual over the group.  They only vote for unions when management has been so overbearing and unreasonable that joining a union looks like a better alternative. 

And because, despite our rhetoric, we are only moderately good at democracy (look at how many people don't vote and can't tell you the individual candidates' positions). 

And so unions, which are ostensibly more democratic (officers are selected through elections of the members rather than appointment from the top), are easily taken over by those who like to play power games. 

The people on top of organizations aren't very different.  There will be times when unions have sway and times when they have to make concessions (such the current economic downturn).  A good reading of history suggests that without unions, working conditions would be dismal.  And even employees in non-union organizations have unions to thank for things they take for granted, like 40 hour weeks, vacation and sick pay, and a myriad of other benefits. To get a reminder of US working conditions before unions, read Upton Sinclair's The Jungle.  It's short and available free at any public library. 

Costco Changes Fish Policy

Last July I posted this in the post  "Costco Reigns as Biggest Offender" from a Greenpeace report
. . . And while most U.S. supermarkets could stand to improve their sustainable seafood policies, Costco reigns as the biggest offender. Everything at Costco is huge—the same is true of the store's environmental footprint. Of the 22 IUCN Red List species, Costco sells 15: Alaskan pollock, Atlantic cod, Atlantic salmon, Atlantic sea scallops, Chilean sea bass, grouper, monkfish, ocean quahog, orange roughy, red snapper, redfish, South Atlantic albacore tuna, swordfish, tropical shrimp, and yellowfin tuna. The store's fish coolers really serve as a one-stop shop for oceanic destruction. . .

 Greenpeace has a new message up this week:

Costco has agreed to remove over a dozen red list items, pursue better practices in aquaculture and assume more of a leadership role in the ongoing global effort to develop a more sustainable tuna industry.

If you want to know all the specifics (I know I like hearing about all the details), Costco has publicly announced that they’re going to:
-- Eliminate 12 red list species, which will not return unless the company can find an MSC-certified option. This is certainly not perfect—we’d like to see these unsustainable options off the shelves until the populations recover—but it’s a major step forward. The species are:

     - Atlantic cod
     - Atlantic halibut
     - Chilean sea bass
     - Greenland halibut
     - Grouper
     - Monkfish
     - Orange roughy
     - Redfish
     - Shark
     - Skates and rays
     - Swordfish
     - Bluefin tuna

-- Pledge to play more of a leadership role within aquaculture;

-- Partner with World Wildlife Fund to examine their remaining wild-caught species and determine how to best transition to the most sustainable alternative; and

-- Acknowledge the role that the canned tuna industry plays within the global sustainable seafood movement and is in the process of shifting to more sustainable tuna sources in all sectors (fresh, frozen, and canned).
It’s fantastic that Costco's leadership has taken some incredibly important steps forward. Still, this is just the beginning—the company has a long way to go, and just as we monitored the continued progress with the victory around Trader Joe's, we’ll also be keeping an eye on Costco to make sure that they follow through on these policies and continue improving their stewardship towards the oceans.

I'm quoting from Greenpeace, which is touting this as a big victory, because I can't find anything about it on the Costco site.  Here's what I got when I used their search tool:

And the link shows what I got when I just searched for 'fish".

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Windy Day in Juneau

Alaska State Rep. Cisnna Gets TSA Stories by Email

Rep. Cissna in her office Friday afternoon
Alaska State Rep. Sharon Cissna's office recorded 92 e-mails for Monday regarding her refusal to be patted down at SEATAC.  There was an equal stack on Tuesday.  Maybe not a great many, but a lot for an Alaskan State Representative.

Rep. Cissna is now back in her office and we discussed the propriety of posting parts of some of the emails.  They were sent to her, she assumes, with the expectation of respect for people's privacy, but they were also sent with the hope that she would find a way to use what they have said to let people know that this is a problem - particularly the issue of people who have had some sort of surgery that now sets them up to be singled out for the 'pat-down.'  So with Rep. Cissna's permission, I have pulled out some representative comments that leave out anything that might identity the writer. 

"Thank you for standing up for your privacy rights and those of other women" - Daughter of a Breast Cancer Victim, Connecticut

"I would like to visit Alaska this year, but at this time I decline to fly. Please do what you can to push back against the TSA, and to beat back this obtrusive and unconstitutional procedure" Colorado

"How can any legislator in any state or any of our US Senators and Congressional members allow this stupidity to continue?" Fairbanks

"With two titanium knee joints, I am a 'victim' every time I fly, which has been four to eight times a month"

"Good for you standing up against the thugs at TSA!" Juneau

"It's not acceptable, it simply defies common human decency." Seattle

"I have two young children who should never be touched as these TSA people touch them!" Juneau

"I regret for you what must surely have been an embarrassing and upsetting incident; not to mention the publication of your personal health matters! But that is what we all face these days." North Carolina

"I was always told that the terrorists only won if they forced us to change the way we live and altered the freedoms Americans enjoy. What goes on today in US airports leads me to believe they won. By the way, I am a retired US Air Force Master Sergeant that was once cleared to work on Air Force One. Yep. I'm a real threat." Washington

"I'm am Oregon conservative and registered nurse who wants to thank you for standing up to TSA. . . However, you may not be aware that the scanning you underwent is dangereous to your health." Oregon

"If more of us refused and chose other forms of transportation, this rubbish would end. Thanks for standing up for your rights and dignity and by doing so, the rights and dignity not only of Alaskans but of all Americans." Arizona

"It's a very sad state of affairs we have reached when TSA has to subject a traveler to a pat down because the nude-o-scope reveals that the passenger had major surgery." New Jersey

"It is utterly obscene that so many elderly, disabled and medically challenged people are disproportionately subjected to repeated enhanced physical searches at the hands of this out of control and wasteful government agency. It is my fervent hope that there are more people like you who are willing to step up and say "enough is enough". Florida

"I am a retired law enforcement officer with both domestic and foreign experience. I find these procedures to be largely a waste of resources and time."

"For many of us who travel frequently this so-called "Security Theater" has finally gone too far. . . This should be a bipartisan issue on which we can agree as Americans that these latest search "procedures" have gone too far, from the X-Ray scanners to the euphemistically and inaccurately named "pat-downs," which in truth are groping and invasive searches to which my wife and I have already been subjeted a total of three times in 2011, including once each at SEATAC."

"Is there ANYTHING myself, friends, family, and colleagues can do to stop this disgusting intrusion into our personal privacy?"

"American women such as myself, and I am 60 years of age, need a spokeswoman to cut off the balls of the TSA and DHS. I'm not asking you to do it single-handedly, but your sisters across the country are going to stand with you if you decide to go viral on all the news media with the truth about the outrageous procedures which made you cancel your flight plans."

"I live in California and am almost embarrased to have my daughters fly in to visit us from Kansas. By simply declining the search you have taken a stand and I for one appreciate it." California

"My wife is now disabled and has had neck surgery. As a result, she has plates and screws in her neck. We are pretty sure that they would want to do an enhanced pat-down screening as a result of her medical situation. So. . .we have decided to not fly anymore. I just can't believe that our country has come to this. It is so degrading, humiliating, and really unnecessary. Bless you and take good care."

"I just made myself space out and pretend I was on another planet while having this woman poke in my crotch from front and back, run circles with her hands around both of my breasts, make me lift my blouse so she could put her hands inside my waistband. . . I traveled through several airports in Europe all through the month of October and not once did I have to endure this humiliating experience."

"[After having a bad experience with TSA, she writes] That next month, I showed up to fly, and stripped down to nothing but my speedo swimsuit at 6 am so they could get a better look. NEVER regretted my decision! I am a survivor of cancer and sexual abuse, and being touched sends me to the deep end."

"You should be ashamed of yourself and the way you represent the State of Alaska."

"I travel with a co-worker with a prosthetic leg, he experiences similar personal invasion and loathes the experience." Georgia

"When I (a chubby grandmother) have been pulled out for extra observation it burns me up. Like you, I have decided not to endure this anymore. If I never fly again, so be it." Kentucky

"My husband has an artificial hip, carries a card stating such, but every time he flies the TSA attendant says "I'm not interested in our card, please step over here for a more thorough search." He has to unbutton his slacks and turn the waist band out and the attendant runs his hands around his waist and down his groin on both sides, and down the insides of his legs. My husband is 71 yrs. old." Washington

"Our family is in [the prosthetic business]. . . Due to HIPPA regulations, we could lose our Medicare accreditation if we were to tell 'anyone' the private medical diagnosis of a client. So why is TSA allowed to "out" passengrs' medical conditions for all the world to hear and know about?"

"I have a leg amputation . . .I had a female TSA agent literally shove her hand agressively up between my legs. I am not a person who has a big personal space issue, but this went way beyond anything decent. If I had been outside the airport I could have had this woman arrested. I was so shaken that I asked the TSA suprvisor if this was standard procedure. I was given a very abrupt "yes" and sent on my way."

"Thanks for your willingness to stand up against the charade." Virginia

"Since Gov. Parnell is so keen on thumbing his nose at the federal government over the health care law perhaps you could introduce a resolution or bill urging him to do the same over the TSA:s invasive and probably unconstitutional procedures."

"I am a rape survivor and have PTSD and can't imagine what kind of state I might be in when groped by these thugs."

I think the emails speak for themselves.  I would add that I just flew out of Seattle last week.  While I almost always am conscientious about putting all the metal into my jacket pocket and putting and  almost never set off the alarm, this time my cell phone was in my shirt pocket and I didn't realize it until they told me to stand facing the blue wall.

This is obviously not a random sample of Americans, or even of her emails.  There was the one - in here - that clearly found Rep. Cissna at fault.  There was one other that wasn't clear. Here there are 19 positives and one negative.  The actual count was 90 to 1 (maybe 2).

The raw emotion in some of them says very clearly that we have thrown the baby out with the bathwater.   TSA  says, we haven't had any domestic terrorists because of our security.  I think it's more like the man in Central Park who scattered torn up newspaper around his bench.  When asked why he did that, he said, "To keep away the elephants."  "But there are no elephants here." the questioner pointed out."  And the man said, "See, it works." 

I'm not saying terrorism doesn't exist, or that the intelligence agencies shouldn't be vigilant, but I suspect that subjecting grandmothers to groping TSA inspectors isn't what is keeping the terrorists away.  And no one has been killed, to my knowledge, by a terrorist in the US since 9/11.  But 40, 000 a year (pushing the total close to 400,000 this year) have died in car crashes.  Many more have been injured and maimed.

Friday, February 25, 2011

House Passes Law to Make Folding State Flag More Complex

Here's the current Alaska Law (ec. 44.09.030.) for Display and retirement of flags.

(a) The official flag of the state shall be displayed with the flag of the United States only from sunrise to sunset, or between the hours designated by proper authority. However, the flag may be displayed after sunset upon special occasions when it is desired to produce a patriotic effect.

(b) The flag of the United States and the flag of the State of Alaska shall be displayed daily, weather permitting, in the following places:

(1) on or near the main administration building of every institution under the authority or control of the state government;

(2) in or near every schoolhouse during school days.

(c) An official flag of the state that is no longer a fitting emblem for display because it is worn, tattered, or otherwise damaged may be respectfully retired by fire.
Short and sweet.

Here's a law sponsored by Rep. Craig Johnson (and co-sponsored by Reps. Hawker and Keller), making it more complex.  About 140 words in the old law, 440 in the new one.

01 "An Act relating to display, folding, presentment, and retirement of the state flag."
03 * Section 1. AS 44.09.030 is amended by adding new subsections to read:
04 (d) When displayed horizontally, the flag shall be positioned with the hoist on
05 the left and the North Star in the upper right corner.
06 (e) When displayed vertically, the flag shall be positioned with the hoist at the
07 top and the North Star in the lower right corner.
08 * Sec. 2. AS 44.09 is amended by adding new sections to read:
09 Sec. 44.09.032. Folding and presenting the state flag. (a) When folding the
10 state flag, the following procedure shall be followed, whenever possible:
11 (1) hold the flag waist-high with another person, so that the flag is
12 parallel to the ground and the hoist is on the left;
13 (2) fold the flag lengthwise, with the open edge up;
14 (3) holding the edges securely, rotate the flag so that five stars are< 15 facing up; 01 (4) fold the flag lengthwise a second time, with the open edge up; 02 (5) holding the edges securely, rotate the flag so that two stars are 03 facing up; 04 (6) fold the flag widthwise, with the North Star facing down and the< 05 hoist on the right; 06 (7) holding the edges securely, fold the flag widthwise a second time, 07 with the North Star facing down and the hoist on the right; 08 (8) fold the flag widthwise a third time, with the North Star facing up. 09 (b) When presenting the folded flag to another person, the folded flag should
10 be turned so that the North Star is nearest the receiver.
11 Sec. 44.09.034. Retirement of the state flag. An official flag of the state that
12 is no longer a fitting emblem for display because it is worn, tattered, or otherwise
13 damaged may be respectfully retired by fire in a ceremony or other dignified manner
14 honoring the flag as a fitting emblem for the state. When practicable, retirement of the
15 state flag should occur in a public ceremony under the direction of uniformed
16 personnel representing a state or federal military service or a patriotic society. If a
17 formal ceremony is not practicable, a private ceremony is acceptable.
18 * Sec. 3. AS 44.09.030(c) is repealed.

It passed the House of Representatives today with no dissenting votes.

Rep. Johnson's website says the law was brought to him by the Dimond High ROTC

As part of Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps (JROTC) curriculum, "Service Learning Project", the cadets of the A. J. Dimond High School JROTC Program realized there were several issues concerning the handling of Alaska's state flag, including statutory ommissions. Based on their research, the following three issues were identified and are recommended for inclusion in statute:

Even though this new bill would triple the words in the flag statute, it's still much shorter than the US Code.

I thought less government, less regulation were important to the party of the sponsors. But at least it's written as a guide, not a mandate. There don't seem to be any penalties for getting it wrong.

But I don't understand why military should be favored over civilians in retiring the flag. It just seems a way to link the flag and patriotism to war. I would hope think that it would be better if people around the world saw our flag as a symbol of peace and prosperity.

Key Campaign Rally for Families with Kids with Serious Health Problems

 When I got back from the Alaska ferry terminal to see Rep. Cissna's homecoming, there was a rally in front of the Capitol. They had a song book and were singing their message with familiar tunes with new lyrics.

I wasn't completely sure who was putting this on or their specific objectives, so I looked on line.  The information is on the Hopealaska website - I think this is the organization that used to be known as Hope Cottages:
Anyone who is concerned about the rights, dignity and dreams of individuals who experience disabilities is encouraged to join in the efforts of our Key Coalition. The Key Campaign will be held in Juneau February 23-24, 2011, with similar advocacy rallies across the face of urban and rural Alaska, taking place on Thursday, February 24.

In addition to joining the rallies, you are asked to contact your legislator personally by sending an email or submitting a Public Opinion Message (POM): Submit POM Online or Download the POM Form.

Their specific objectives are:

The Key Coalition has identified four major priorities to be addressed during this year’s Key Campaign.

Wait List Reduction—Currently the State of Alaska has committed to drawing 50 people from the State Wait List for Community Services each quarter. This initiative encourages the State to increase the draw to 75 people per quarter (from 200 people to 300 people annually).

Periodic Rate Review—Establish a periodic rate review into statute. This statute would address an equitable process to establish rate increases for community services that are in place for institutional services.  All we are asking in community programs is a simple matter of equity—the same ability to predict consistent budgets in a similar process dictated under state law.  This discrepancy between institution and community resulted in a previous period of a four year rate freeze for programs similar to Hope, while nursing homes and hospitals received much needed annual adjustments.

Complex Behavior (HUB)—Support the Hub component (point of entry) of the Alaska Complex Behavior Collaborative, which is an investment in Alaska's workforce and services for individuals with cognitive disabilities and complex behavioral needs.

Autism Insurance— Pass HB79 and SB74 requiring insurance coverage for autism spectrum disorders.  Most insurance policies specifically exclude coverage for treating autism, even when the services are otherwise covered by the health plan. Coverage of medically necessary autism treatment in Alaska will enable many children to access the services they need and live more productive lives. 
 But the real reason this is important comes through in this short video of a mother of a severely brain damaged child.  She and her husband had no one to turn to until Key Campaign organizations helped them out.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Alaska Rep. Sharon Cissna Finally Arrives in Juneau via Ferry

I went out to the Alaska State Ferry terminal about 14 miles north of downtown to be there when Rep. Sharon Cissna disembarked after her long journey following her refusal to be patted down at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEATAC) security.  (For those unfamiliar with the situation, she had a mastectomy and did not want TSA people putting their hands on her chest as they did on her last trip.)

My Juneau host was headed to a meeting at the university anyway, and she graciously offered me the car for the rest of the way.  The M/V Matanuska was already in dock, but people hadn't disembarked.

I probably should note that I've known Rep. Cissna for a while.  Although, she had a masters degree already, when she was elected to the State House, she decided to take graduate classes in public administration.  That was when I got to know her quite well.

As a member of the minority, Rep. Cissna knew she had limited power, but she decided to become an expert on health care and education (the U-Med - University-Medical - district is in her house district) and she has traveled the state and researached to be, I'm quite sure, the most knowledgable legislator on these issues.  She even canoed (or rafted?) down the Yukon River with her husband to visit remote villages and talk to folks on their own turf.  Plus she is the warmest and most caring person you could want to meet.

Although the video ends abruptly, that was the end of things. This video captures about 98% of what Rep. Cissna did and said as she came off the ferry.

ALEC's Clinton Woods Helping Legislators Fight Obamacare, the EPA, and Other Conservative Nightmares

Like lots of other people, I looked into room 106 of the Capitol because it was lunch time and someone had provided free sandwiches, potato chips, fruit, and cookies to attract legislators and staffers to their talk.  I had no idea who was talking.   The bins were full.  You can see that lots of folks made off with sandwiches.  But only a few stayed.  I got a sandwich for a nearby staffer, but there was nothing vegie, and I had brought my own, so I only took a banana for me. 

It turned out to be the American Legislative Exchange Council - an organization I hadn't heard of.  A young man named Clinton Woods was recruiting people for this organization which is a smaller competitor of two other organizations state legislators traditionally belong to:

These are non-partisan organizations dedicated to basic principles of good government such as these:
The National Conference of State Legislatures is a bipartisan organization founded to:
  • Improve the quality and effectiveness of state legislatures;
  • Promote policy innovation and communication among state legislatures;
  • Ensure state legislatures a strong, cohesive voice in the federal system.

The American Legislative Exchange Council (he kept calling it ALEC) clearly states that they are based on Free Market, Jeffersonian Principles and are open to the private sector members as full partners.

I noticed Rep. Carl Gatto there. He reported last year getting $2249.68 to attend a Heartland Institute conference in New York on International Climate Change.  Heartland doesn't believe much in Climate Change and pushes market solutions in any case. Also present were Reps. Keller and Tammie Wilson and Sen. Dyson.

Their brochures made their position on the political spectrum fairly clear.  This is not a neutral better government organization.  It's an anti-government organization.   

In his talk, Clinton Woods said they create model legislation for their members to push, "Over 1000 of our model bills spread across the US with 20% enacted."

Clinton Woods

They have various task forces working on these model bills. 

  • Civil Justice (working on tort reform, which tries to limit the liability or organizations who have done harm) 
  • Commerce, Insurance and Economic Development
  • Education
  • Energy, Environment and Agriculture (lots of stuff on fighting the EPA)
  • Health and Human Services (repealing Obama's health care legislation)
  • International Relations
  • Public Safety and Elections
  • Tax and Fiscal Policy
  • Telecommunications and Information Technology
  • Federal Relations

Wikipedia's post on ALEC includes charges that the corporate members call the shots on the kind of policies they pursue:


ALEC has approximately three hundred private sector members including corporations, state and national think tanks, and trade associations. Some corporations and trade groups that have supported ALEC include: American Nuclear Energy Council, American Petroleum Institute, Coors Brewing Company, Texaco, Pharmaceutical Research & Manufacturers of America, Philip Morris, R.J. Reynolds Tobacco, VISA, Exxon Mobil, the National Rifle Association, Amway, Koch Industries, and others. Groups critical of ALEC claim that the organization is controlled by the entities that fund it, subsequently promoting donors' agendas and goals, along with attempting to advance legislation that favors their interests. NPR reported that the Corrections Corporation of America was present at meetings when legislators were introduced to model immigration laws, used for example as the template for Arizona SB 1070, passed in 2010. The report suggested that the group could be used to avoid state laws requiring legislators to disclose meetings with and gifts from politically unpopular corporations. Shortly after the report was published, ALEC released a response statement addressing some of NPR's accusations.

People for the American Way, the self-proclaimed left-wing advocacy group, refers to ALEC as "a right-wing public policy organization with strong ties to major corporations, trade associations and right-wing politicians" with an agenda that includes "challenging government restrictions on corporate pollution, limiting government regulations of commerce, privatizing public services, and representing the interests of the corporations that make up its supporters."

Truthout identifies ALEC as a Koch Industries supported organization that has helped Wisconsin's Governor in his labor busting attempt in Wisconsin:
A Koch-financed front group, the American Legislative Exchange Council, has prepped Wisconsin GOP lawmakers with anti-labor legislative ideas.
I haven't been able to verify that.  Charity Navigator rates them 49 (out of 70) and got two ** out of four.  It says they do not have audit data, nor are IRS  990 forms available so their accountability is low. 

You can watch part of Clinton Woods' presentation. 

[UPDATE March 19, 2011: Hector Solon at Daily Kos has a more thorough piece on ALEC, links to this post. It would be nice if he also credited the photo of the brochures from here that he posted.   LATER, as he says in the comment below, he added the links and credits.]

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

". . . no one should have to sacrifice their dignity in order to travel"

[Update, Feb. 24: New post with video of Rep. Cissna talking to media as she gets off the ferry.]
The Alaska State House passed a "Sense of the House" resolution today in support of Rep. Sharon Cissna, offered by Rep. Chris Tuck. His introduction was:

Last weekend the long-time member of this body from District 22 chose respect. She stood up for her rights, her sense of decency, and her prior commitments to herself at the Seattle airport by not submitting to an intrusive search of her body.

The sense of the house that passed stated:

"It is the Sense of the House that efficient travel is a cornerstone of the economy and our quality of life, especially in Alaska, and that no one should have to sacrifice their dignity in order to travel."

The vote was 36 yeas, 2 excused (Cissna, Fairclough), and Representatives Bob Lynn and Dan Saddler voted against.  

Cissna's office has been inundated with supportive emails from around the country.  The stack in the photo above is just Monday, and an equal sized stack came in Tuesday.  

Meanwhile there was a lively forum at (Not sure the link works if you don't register - for free - to flyertalk.)  Here's a post that apparently was also sent to Rep. Cissna:
Dear Rep. Cissna,

I wish to congratulate you on your bold stand against the TSA at SEA as recently reported in the Seattle press. Please know that a number of your fellow Americans stand behind you, and we, too, are tired of the ongoing abuse leveled by this agency. No one wants less security. What we do want is security that is safe, sane, effective, respectful, and doesn't make people like Michael Cherthoff richer. Instead what we have at the hands of the TSA are expensive machines that can't detect guns (recently reported in Dallas), thieves who have stolen a combined total of nearly $300,000 from innocent travelers (Newark and New York - JFK), and people who are literally sticking their hands in our pants. The images created by the full body scanners would make decent people blush, and as you are unfortunately aware do not protect anyone from an invasive body search demanded under threat of authority. I wish you good health, and as a fellow Democrat hope for your continued political success.

 Here's another:

And check out TSA's reaction:

TSA spokesman Kwika Riley was asked to respond to Cissna’s comments when contacted by The Associated Press. But a general statement issued later did not mention her or her claims, saying the agency is "sensitive to the concerns of passengers who were not satisfied with their screening experience and we invite those individuals to provide feedback to TSA."
Translation: Stuff it, you whiner.

A number focus on TSA's treatment of people with medical prosthetics:

Originally Posted by BubbaLoop View Post
As usual, the TSA fails horribly when dealing with prosthetics. Lucky for us, it was with a public figure. This has to get out to more news media.

I´ll do my share to make this link go viral.
Problems with abusive and humiliating treatment of breast cancer survivors has been reported before. In that case, a TSA agent put her full hand on the (prosthetic) right breast of a US Air flight attendant and made her remove the prosthesis from her bra for inspection.

This post gives contact info for various beast cancer organizations.

These organizations should be "strongly encouraged" to fight for the rights of women to continue with their lives and careers after surviving breast cancer, including the right to travel without harassment, humiliation, and abuse.

Mental Health Wild Game Feed

I've got a couple of posts backed up - synthetic marijuana bill, driver's license time for non-residents, election booklet for primaries - but I'm trying to make them less tedious, so I'll slip in this easy one.

There is a lot of food offered to legislators and staffers in and around the Capitol each year.  Tuesday afternoon several mental health related organizations - the Advisory Board on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse, Alaska Mental Health Board, Statewide Suicide Prevention Council (and maybe others) - had a wild game feed.  The food and cooking were provided by board members of these organizations.

These are justified by all as a chance to talk less formally about important issues.  And the food does tend to attract people.  And people do talk.  I've gotten to meet and/or just talk to folks in a more casual setting.  Legislators are right there and not rushing off to a committee hearing.

Legislators and staffers and the people who want to influence them (they would say educate and that's also true) do get to connect more as human beings than as players in political theater.

The video has Kate Burkhart (Advisory Board on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse) briefly describes this event and Kris Duncan (Alaska Housing Finance Corporation) talks about what AHFC does and what they want from the legislators. 

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The Mobile Billboard Business - Lots of License Plate Bills

[I need to run, so I'm going to post this now and try to do more proofing later. Sorry.]

There are six license plate bills that I can find on BASIS.

l-r Sens. Geissel, Meyer, Wielechowski, Paskvan, Staffer Karla Hart testifying
Right now, as I understand this, people can get vanity license plates in Alaska and there are special organizational license plates.  Whenever constituents call their representative to ask for a special license plate - such as the bills today heard in the Senate State Affairs Committee for Choose Life, Breast Cancer Awareness, and the National Rifle Association - the legislator has to write a bill and it has to go through all the hoops of the legislative process.  And legislators being legislators, politics plays a role.  So Sen. Bill Wielechowski has offered SB (Senate Bill) 93 to take this process out of the legislature and let the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) handle these administratively.

Key issues raised:

  1. Should the State license plates be made into mobile billboards for various not-for-profit organizations?
  2. How will the DMV decide to allow a particular organization to have a license plate? 

    Another issue that I had, but that I didn't hear raised is:
  3. Whether the state should be in the business of helping fund raising for not-for-profit organizations?  
Should the State be in the mobile billboard business?
From what I heard in the committee meeting, while Sen. Paskwan asked if the state should get into the "mobile billboard business."  it didn't seem that anyone really cared, or if they did, whether they take the political heat they would get from organizations that already have such plates.  Sen. Paskwan asked and then the subject was dropped as they went on to other things.   The answer is the state is and will be.

How will the DMV decide to allow or not allow plates?
This was the focus of most of the discussion.  Whitney Brewster, the head of DMV, spoke by phone and described the process they would follow.  Now they have standards for vanity plates that allows them deny plates that are
  • vulgar, 
  • indecent, or 
  • have a sexual connotation,  
  • patently offensive to a racial, ethnic, or religious group
Pennsylvania was identified as a state that has the DMV administer the specialized organizational license plates and Brewster and Wielechowski staffer Karla Hart reported that Pennsylvania does not report any serious problems.  There are also legal cases that have identified precedents to follow.  You can click here to see all the Pennsylvania organizations that have specialized plates.

Most of the people calling in to testify were in favor of either the NRA plates or the Choose Life plates.  Jeffrey Mittman, Executive Director of the ACLU, called in to say their main concern was that the process has to be viewpoint neutral. 

Should the state be raising funds for non-profits?
The state gives money to non-profits all the time in grants and contracts to do business the state wants done.  The State has something no one else has - license plates.  In the case of vanity plates, individuals agree to pay a premium, which goes to the state, to get their own personal license plate.  But this is different.  Here, non-profits can raise money using the state's special monopoly on plates.  There may even be a sense to some that the state endorses the organizations since they are on the plates. Russ Amerling, National Publicity Coordinator, Choose Life License Plates, testified by phone that his organization nationally had raised over $13 million through license plates. Obviously, the more supporters in an organization, the more money they can raise. So, essentially, the state is aiding larger organizations more than smaller ones.

How the money gets distributed
Neil Moss, head of the Scholastic Clays Target Program, who testified by phone that he had initiated the idea of the NRA plate, said his organization would use the money for youth gun safety education.  He even said it wouldn't be limited to SCTP.  SCTP would allocate monies to organizations around the state that do these types of youth safety programs.  But there was no discussion of how this money would be audited.  Instead, the organizations would collect the money from people, then send a portion of it to the state.  What they then did with the money afterward was never discussed.

Another issue is that some organizations take their cut and others don't.  The National Rifle Association people will get, if I understood it right, about $20 per license plate.  But the money for the Breast Cancer Awareness would go to the state.  I would note that the Breast Cancer Awareness was being pushed by Rep. Holmes, who is in the minority and less likely to get it through the Republican dominated House, so she was able to get Republican Sen. Linda Menard to add it to her NRA bill.  But when asked where the money should go, Menard said that the Breast Cancer folks hadn't asked to keep the money, so it should go to the general fund.  I wonder if the question had even come up in the prior discussions.  Why didn't Menard suggest it go to the Breast Cancer group?  I don't know.

A plate for a Planned Parenthood related group, if I understood this right, got added to the Choose Life bill (SB 16) before today's hearing.  

Related Bills
In addition to the organizations mentioned in the committee today, there's a bill for the Lao Vets to have their own license plate.  They didn't take a vote today and I'm guessing that Wielechowski is hoping that SB 93 will be passed and all this will be delegated to the DMV so that the legislature doesn't have to deal with it any more. 

There are also two bills on driver's licenses - one to limit the validity of licenses for non-residents to the length of the person's permission to stay in the US.  That will be heard in the House Finance Committee this afternoon. 

"An Act relating to issuance of driver's licenses."

And there's this one.  I don't really know any more about this than what it says:

"An Act relating to drivers' licenses and to immunity for persons who report persons
who have a medical or other condition that may impair the ability to operate a motor

Below are my notes for the discussion of SB 2 and SB 16:


Linda Menard - would create two new optional license plates for additional fee.  NRA commemorative license plate and Breast Cancer Awareness.  NRA will cost $50 fee and then $30 extra fee above regular fees.  Breast Care bill $50 extra.

Extra fee goes to skeet shooting - money will be appropriated directly to those programs.

Wielechowski: Can you talk about how your dept. administers these sort of bills
Brewster: Specialty license plates that are fund raisers - we account for those funds separately for legislature. Dealing with plates in excess of our costs. It costs us about $10 per set plus shipping charges, so anything above that is reported to finance and those funds go into the general fund.

Neil Moss: Live in Wasilla - state director for Scholastic Clay Target Program - my idea to get this on board. Alaska has more NRA members per capita than any other state, I'm involved with youth shooting sports. Always in search of money. Firearm safety literature. Always scrounging around to pay for something. This bill is a great fund raiser - successful in Tennesee - I don't have exact numbers and have spoken with the director there and they're happy with program. ASCTP is a 501 - it's not all for the clay target program, it would be available to any youth shooting project in the state of Alaska through our board of directors. I'm aware of all the state programs,ASCTP is primarily a shotgun program. About firearm safety and and I started this.

BW= For sponsor = Breast Cancer Awareness plates - where would you like the excess funds to go.
Menard: They haven't specified this so they can just go to the general fund.

Senate Bill 16: Senator Meyer
Choose Life/Pro-Family Pro-Choice
Bills Previously Heard/Scheduled

Michele Seideman - inclusion of pro-family pro-choice license plate, establishes where those funds will go for these plates.

Meyer: Comments to original bill. Allow AK drivers to purchase a specialty license plate "Choose Life". We have a lot of license plate bills and so think your bill is probably the answer to this. This is not a fund raiser - an additional $30. 26 other states have these license plates and brought to us by our constituents. I personally like the idea. My family adopted a child. I see this as a pro-adotption message. Also strong pro-life message. And also the suicide prevention people like it. So it can mean whatever people wish. Not intended as a license plate.

Brewster: [No Questions]

Jeff Mittman: ED of ACLU for the state of Alaska, we've raised issues in other bills. These raise significant speech issues. The previous bill SB 96 addresses those, but there are still some. Process has to be viewpoint neutral.

Russ Emerling: Natl Publicity Coordinator for Choose Life License plate. 26 plates approved in US. 24 on the road, 2 in pre selling stage. It is a fund raiser in the other states. $13.? million raised to support adoption. I didn't know there would be no fundraisers. Intended to support life and get unwed pregnant mothers to choose life and choose adoption.

Jim Minnery: Rep the Alaska Family Council representing 1000s Alaskans across the state. 1000s of people whose lives have been affected by adoption.

Mike Paulson: Chair of Choose Life Alaska, here to answer questions.

Kelly Foreman: Also with Choose Life Alaska - discussion on this for two years and we came on in February to get sponsors, worked with DMV to design the plates. We encourage. We see that there is another license plate added. We asked so they would need to go through the same process we did for design.

Bob Head: Juneau resident 35 years. Dir. of American Family Association of Alaska - I've had the privilege to raise an adopted son, he's gone on to be research science and would be a mind that would be wasted. My wife and I have been chaplains who worked at half-way house and with ???

Sid Hydersdorf: Juneau resident. I support SB 16 that would allow the Choose Life license plate. Some critics may exist - result of our abortion culture. I think this is good public policy. I hope the committee will support the idea of affirmation and celebration of life, promote a culture of life.

Karen Robinson: Representing Alaska's Women Lobby and Planned Parenthood. We support the committee substitute. Thank the offices for their assistance. I'm still not clear that it would raise dollars, would support agencies that help with adoption. I'd suggest the Children's Trust which already has a Kid's License plate and get money from that.

Gorgeous Juneau Dressed in Snow and Blue Sky

There was a good amount of snow on the ground when I arrived Friday night.  It snowed Saturday.  Sunday morning was beautiful.  By Sunday night it was snowing again.  And this was Monday morning.  By Juneau standards, this is a fair amount of snow I'm told.  It was in the mid 30s during the day. 

And the Presidents' Day war protesters in front of the Capitol when I got there were also enjoying the sunshine. 

House Minority Leader Beth Kerttula is in the black boots.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Cissna Ferries To Juneau and Other News from the Capitol

Some notes while walking through the Capitol Building today.

Rep. Cissna Says No to Airport Pat Down

Traveling and staying with friends, I haven't heard any news for a couple of days, so when I was in Sharon Cissna's office and meeting her new staff person Marie, she was a little amused that a blogger didn't realize he was in the eye of the storm. That's where I learned that Rep. Cissna is a national news item for refusing to be patted down by TSA. Marie was answering phone calls from news outlets and having to say, "Sorry, I can't tell you any more than you know, because I don't know." Readers of this blog know that I find TSA's strategy to be serious lacking.

While Marie was not answering questions, Time magazine was saying that Cissna was going to take the Alaska ferry to Juneau.  I heard from others as I walked the halls that  Rep. Cissna is on an Alaska ferry and should arrive in Juneau Wednesday.  Time got this response from TSA:
. . . the TSA issued a general statement that they are "sensitive to the concerns of passengers who were not satisfied with their screening experience." Whatever Cissna's reason for declining to fly, we can only imagine it was worthy enough of enduring the 1,000 mile + journey to Juneau by sea.
I'm in Juneau, so people reading this listening to the radio and watching TV probably know more about this than I do.

Coastal Zone Management

Gov. Sean Parnell has allowed the CZM regulations put in place by Gov. Murkowski,  to continue for another six years.   I'm told, that local governments were pretty much cut out of any say over what happens on their coasts and the state has all the authority.  But in response to a question asked at a State Chamber of Commerce luncheon, apparently backtracked on this.   (Sorry I'm vague here, this is my first day, and I'll have a firmer grasp of things as days go by.  I'm trying to give a sense of things I heard as I talked to folks.  House Bill 106 as I understand it, is an attempt to make the renewal much shorter.
"An Act extending the termination date of the Alaska coastal management program and relating to the extension; relating to the review of activities of the Alaska coastal management program; providing for an effective date by amending the effective date of sec. 22, ch. 31, SLA 2005; and providing for an effective date." 
Or Senate Bill 56
"An Act extending by one year the date the Alaska coastal management program will be subject to termination under the statute establishing a procedure for evaluation of agency programs and activities; providing for an effective date by delaying the effective date of the repeal of the program; and providing for an effective date." 
These bills are not easy to understand.  I need to get more information.  

Jay Ramras,  former legislator, is making money in Fairbanks and Southern California and has taken up gardening.

North Slope Facilities Access - Rep. Gutenberg is sponsoring a bill to give companies not already on the Slope access to facilities.  OK, that isn't completely clear, but I'm trying to give you a sense of being here and getting lots of information very fast and trying to put things into context.  What I understood was that the current companies are making it difficult for companies that don't have facilities necessary for getting oil and gas to market. HB 138, from what I see, adds certain oil and gas facilities, whether publicly or privately owned, to the list of public utilities regulated by the Regulatory Commission of Alaska.  The specific activities added to the statute in this bill would be:
(H) furnishing, to the public for compensation, the service
12 of
13 (i) oil, gas, and water separation;
14 (ii) gas dehydration, compression, and reinjection;
15 (iii) natural gas liquid production; or
16 (iv) water treatment and reinjection;

Restricting Drivers' Licenses for Non-residents to the length of their US visas.

House Bill 3 is sponsored by State Affairs Chair Rep. Bob Lynn and a bunch of others:
REPRESENTATIVE(s) LYNN, HAWKER, CHENAULT, JOHNSON, GATTO, Millett, Thompson, Fairclough, Keller, P.Wilson, Olson, Pruitt, Dick, Saddler, T.Wilson, Doogan 
Does having Doogan as a co-sponsor make this a bi-partisan bill?  Maybe now that Eric Cordero  has become a Republican, he can have some influence on his new party's views on this.    Here's the the whole bill:
01 "An Act relating to issuance of driver's licenses."
03 * Section 1. AS 28.15.101 is amended by adding a new subsection to read:
04 (d) Under regulations adopted by the department, the department may issue to
05 a person a driver's license with a duration of less than five years if the person is
06 authorized to stay in the United States for less than five years or the period of
07 authorized stay is indefinite. The department shall issue the license for the period of
08 the authorized stay. If the period of authorized stay is indefinite, the department may
09 not issue the license with a validity of greater than one year.
I notice that although Rep. Millet is a co-sponsor, Rep. Johansen voted NR ("no recommendation") rather than DP ("do pass") when it was heard in the House State Affairs committee.

Divesting Investments in Iran, the Sequel 

Rep. Gatto has reintroduced his bill to Divest State Holdings in companies doing business in Iran, though I was told a major supporter of the bill last year, David Gottstein, has changed his stance on this as a strategy given changes in the international situation.
[Update Feb. 22: I ran into David Gottstein on the stairwell in the Capitol today and asked him about this.  My informant wasn't well informed.  He said that he still supports the divestment, but that his focus is on gas pipeline and so he thought there wasn't enough time in the 90 day session to get the divestment bill through.]  The summary of HB 2:
"An Act relating to certain investments of the Alaska permanent fund, the state's retirement systems, the State of Alaska Supplemental Annuity Plan, and the deferred compensation program for state employees in certain companies that do business in Iran, and restricting those investments; and providing for an effective date."
You can read all of HB 2 here.  You can see my account of the debate in the State Affairs Committee where Gatto was a member and where the bill failed last year.  A problem that Republicans had with the bill was that it would require the state to stop doing business with major oil related companies that are doing things in Alaska. 

That should give you enough to chew on. 

If anyone is asking, yes, I'm back in Juneau - as Harpboy so precisely commented in my previous post Where's This?  And back in the Capitol.  But only for a few weeks this year.  Some good friends have offered me a place to sleep - and since I'm not an employee of the legislature, or even a volunteer, I can accept their offer - and I'll blog the Legislature while I'm here.  But I want them to continue to be good friends so I can't mooch off them for too long. 

It's a spectacularly beautiful today in Juneau.  More fresh snow and a brilliantly blue sky. (I didn't bring my card reader with me to the Capitol so I can't post pictures, but I will.)   I can tell how much I learned last year as I walked over to what are now familiar digs. So I walked around and visited different offices to let people know I was here and find out what people think is important this year. So, this is just a very superficial first take.

Conversation With a Brigittine Monk

This past Wednesday, I got to visit a Brigittine Monastery, the Priory of Our Lady of Consolation in Amity, Oregon. I really didn't know what to expect, but drove out through the brown February rural landscape. There were patches of blue after the mostly rainy Tuesday.

The monastery is back off the main roads and secondary roads amidst farm lands.

The parking lot was empty and it was quiet as  I walked the short path to the priory church.

 I sat in the empty church and read what I thought was the Monastery newsletter - The Rosary Light & Life - which had a long story by Father Reginald Martin about going to Lourdes.  As I look at it now, that turns out to be from the Rosary Center in Portland.  But the Monastery's newsletter is online.

Then I walked over to the main entrance and rang the doorbell and entered into a small shop where the chocolate made at the Monastery is sold.

It was there that I met Brother Francis, who's been a Brigittine monk for 32 years.  I told him I'd heard the monastery was here, but didn't know what I'd find, but I did know they had chocolate.

He said, unfortunately, that was what most people knew about it.

I said that I was more interested in learning about what life was like here.  But no, to his question, I wasn't interested into looking into the possibility of entering the monastery.

We talked for about 20 minutes.  First he told me some of the basics of the order - things I'd read online already.

The Order of The Most Holy Savior, popularly known as Brigittine, was founded in the year 1370 by St. Birgitta of Sweden to give praise and honor to God. Elements which characterize the Brigittine Order include a deep love of Christ, especially in remembrance of His sufferings, the fullness of liturgical worship, a respect for learning and authentic devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, the holy Mother of God, all incorporated into a simple monastic life style.
The Brigittine Order exists at present with thirteen monasteries of contemplative nuns and a congregation of contemplative -apostolic sisters whose mother-house is located in Rome, in the actual former dwelling of St. Birgitta.
The Brigittine Monks existed from the fourteenth to the middle of the nineteenth century, when they were dispersed, largely due to the European wars. (In 1970, a Brigittine Monk, Richard Reynolds, martyr, was declared a saint.)
. . . In March of 1976 Brother Benedict Kirby founded a new branch of the Brigittine Monks. This monastery has the canonical status of a Priory "Sui Iuris."
Then he told me their schedule, which is also online. 
4:45 am Rising
5:05 am Office of Readings, Lauds
6:00 am Solitude
7:45 am Mid-morning Prayer
8:00 am Conventual Mass
8:45 am Conference/Work
12:00 nn Mid-day Prayer
1:oo pm Solitude
3:00 pm Mid-afternoon Prayer
3:30 pm Work
6:00 Evening Prayer
6:30 pm Collation
7:00 pm Recreation
8:00 pm Rosary, Night Prayer
 They basically live, work, and stay at the monastery which is about ten acres - plus they have an agreement with local farmers to be able to walk around on the farms neighboring the monastery.  They have a day off every year when all the monks go on an outing.  They've been to the coast, to Mt. Hood, Crater Lake, and I think Brother Francis said they'd been to Portland.  They can leave the monastery for doctor and dentist visits. 

I was interested in how they kept contact with the world.  The prior of the monastery gets email, a major way they get requests for prayers, which the prior passes on to the other monks.  Prayers can't tell God to do anything, they have to be conditioned - God willing.

They don't watch television (I didn't ask about radio), they have magazine subscriptions, and his favorites were the Smithsonian and National Geographic.  They also get a number of Catholic journals.

Silence was not a part of this order, if I remember correctly, though it is part of some meditations

Originally, the monastery was just south of San Francisco, but they knew it was a temporary location and was too noisy right next to a busy street.  They eventually found this spot in rural Oregon, well off the main road and some minor road until you get to the dirt road Monastery Lane.

New Advent tells us about St. Bridget of Sweden:

The most celebrated saint of the Northern kingdoms, born about 1303; died 23 July, 1373.
. . . Her father was one of the wealthiest landholders of the country, and, like her mother, distinguished by deep piety. St. Ingrid, whose death had occurred about twenty years before Bridget's birth, was a near relative of the family. Birger's daughter received a careful religious training, and from her seventh year showed signs of extraordinary religious impressions and illuminations . . .
In 1316, at the age of thirteen, she was united in marriage to Ulf Gudmarsson, who was then eighteen. She acquired great influence over her noble and pious husband, and the happy marriage was blessed with eight children, among them St. Catherine of Sweden. The saintly life and the great charity of Bridget soon made her name known far and wide. She was acquainted with several learned and pious theologians, among them Nicolaus Hermanni, later Bishop of Linköping, Matthias, canon of Linköping, her confessor, Peter, Prior of Alvastrâ, and Peter Magister, her confessor after Matthias. She was later at the court of King Magnus Eriksson, over whom she gradually acquired great influence.
 Her husband died in 1349.

Bridget now devoted herself entirely to practices of religion and asceticism, and to religious undertakings. The visions which she believed herself to have had from her early childhood now became more frequent and definite. She believed that Christ Himself appeared to her, and she wrote down the revelations she then received, which were in great repute during the Middle Ages. They were translated into Latin by Matthias Magister and Prior Peter.
St. Bridget now founded a new religious congregation, the Brigittines, or Order of St. Saviour, whose chief monastery, at Vadstena, was richly endowed by King Magnus and his queen (1346). To obtain confirmation for her institute, and at the same time to seek a larger sphere of activity for her mission, which was the moral uplifting of the period, she journeyed to Rome in 1349, and remained there until her death, except while absent on pilgrimages, among them one to the Holy Land in 1373.
It was an interesting and peaceful morning.   (I could take pictures, but not of the monks, who wear grey robes.)