Friday, September 29, 2017

On Rosh Hashanah It is Written, On Yom Kippur It Is Sealed

According to Jewish tradition, the Days of Awe, between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, Jews are supposed to consider all the transgressions they have committed, large and small, and atone for them and hope for forgiveness.  From God for transgressions against God, and from people for transgressions against people.  So we have these ten days or so, to atone and hope that our names are get onto the more positive lists before the lists are sealed.
On Rosh Hashanah it is written, and on Yom Kippur it is sealed.
How many will pass and how many will be created?
Who will live and who will die?
Who in their time, and who not their time?
Who by fire and who by water?
Who by sword and who by beast?
Who by hunger and who by thirst?
Who by earthquake and who by drowning?
Who by strangling and who by stoning?
Who will rest and who will wander?
Who will be safe and who will be torn?
Who will be calm and who will be tormented?
Who will become poor and who will get rich?
Who will be made humble and who will be raised up?
But teshuvah and tefillah and tzedakah (return and prayer and righteous acts)
deflect the evil of the decree. [from Tablet]

Whether one believes this literally or figuratively, I think it is good to spend time, at least annually, to think back on your morality.

Services begin tonight, the eve of Yom Kippur, and we begin fasting from sunset to sunset.  Wishing everyone a happy new year, 5778.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

When Will Corporations Get The Right To Vote?

I was talking to a friend who's active in the Move to Amend group.  They're working on getting support from the Anchorage Assembly and others to support a Constitutional Amendment already in Congress that would define the word 'people' in the Constitution as referring to individual humans, NOT corporations.  Here's the whole amendment:

House Joint Resolution 48 introduced January 30, 2017
Click here for most up to date list of co-sponsors

Section 1. [Artificial Entities Such as Corporations Do Not Have Constitutional Rights]
The rights protected by the Constitution of the United States are the rights of natural persons only.
Artificial entities established by the laws of any State, the United States, or any foreign state shall have no rights under this Constitution and are subject to regulation by the People, through Federal, State, or local law.
The privileges of artificial entities shall be determined by the People, through Federal, State, or local law, and shall not be construed to be inherent or inalienable.
Section 2. [Money is Not Free Speech]
Federal, State, and local government shall regulate, limit, or prohibit contributions and expenditures, including a candidate's own contributions and expenditures, to ensure that all citizens, regardless of their economic status, have access to the political process, and that no person gains, as a result of their money, substantially more access or ability to influence in any way the election of any candidate for public office or any ballot measure.
Federal, State, and local government shall require that any permissible contributions and expenditures be publicly disclosed.
The judiciary shall not construe the spending of money to influence elections to be speech under the First Amendment.
The key arguments I've heard against this motion is that there are some situations where corporations should have rights that the constitution protects - like free speech.  The response I hear from supporters of the amendments that individual states that set up the laws for corporations can legislate those rights (like lobbying Congress, etc.).
The genesis of the amendment was the Supreme Court case Citizens United which upturned campaign finance laws and allowed corporations and others to contribute huge sums of money.

But you're better off checking their arguments on their website.   There are other attempts to counter act Citizens United.  

Is Corporate Voting Next?
So as I was thinking about this, I thought well, perhaps the corporations, since they are now considered persons, will be asking for the right to vote.  They already have lots of shell corporations for this and that.  Just think how many they could create if there were a tight election.  Would the corporation have to be 18 years old or older?  

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Vietnam, Alabama, Puerto Rico, NFL And Rape - We're With Alice In Wonderland

Just some running thoughts.

Ken Burns' Vietnam series is sponsored by David Koch and Bank of America among others.

Watching planes and helicopters fly into makeshift landing zones in the Vietnam series made me scratch my head when NPR reported that planes couldn't land in Puerto Rico because there was no electricity or navigation.  People have forgotten that navigation is nice, but not necessary in emergency situations.

But then Puerto Rico's 3+ million American citizens can't vote for president and their congress member doesn't have a real vote.  And you thought voter suppression was bad in Texas.  Maybe they should establish residency in Alabama, so they can vote  for Doug Jones for US Senate against the new Republican Senatorial Candidate Roy Moore.  You know, the guy who's been kicked off the Alabama Supreme Court because of his insistence on putting up a Ten Commandments sculpture in the Supreme Court.  Go to the link, this guy got support from Bannon and Palin for a reason.  He's way out there.

Blacks make up 25% of the Alabama population.  But restrictions on voting are a serious obstacle.  If you've been convicted of a crime, and blacks are much more likely to be in Alabama than whites, it's hard to recover your vote.  A Mother Jones article says a new law loosens that, but convicted felons are still barred forever.  The article says about 15% of black voters are affected by these laws.  So with an influx of Puerto Rican voters, maybe Doug Jones could win.  The election's in December so there isn't much time for Puerto Ricans to get their residency.

Then there's football.  People kneel when they pray to God, but if they kneel when the national anthem is played that's bad.  Because they are equating the flag and anthem with God?  That doesn't seem to be the logic.  But, in his Jabberwocky way, Trump is trying to change the debate from killing of blacks to honoring the flag.  Distinguishing between symbols of a false reality of America's justice for all and the harsh reality of rampant white supremacy is hard for most Americans.

Just as the Vietnam series is showing us how killing innocent civilians was  seen as ok to get better body counts,  to show we were winning when we weren't, Americans still believe that killing innocent black American citizens is ok, because - well I guess, you can't tell the good ones from the bad, like with the Vietnamese.

Betsy Devos is showing us the real values, by changing Title IX so that innocent men don't get besmirched by wrongful accusations of rape or sexual harassment.  Yes, that's not good, but it's not as bad as being raped. ["Somewhere in America, a woman is raped every 2 minutes."] and it's very difficult to get justice.  But we protecting men from being falsely accused of such crimes is more important.  As I say, Alice in Wonderland, we're there.  Just like it's better to be outraged that black men don't stand up for the anthem, than be outraged over innocent blacks being killed by police.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Terms I Didn't Know

The Glomar Response - from a tweet -
"Leopold's trying to up the bar now that everyone is getting Glomars."
In response to an image of a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request that was completely redacted.

The story at Unredacted about the history of the Glomar Response is fascinating.  CIA told a FOIA requester that it could
 “neither confirm nor deny the existence or nonexistence” of  “the use of unmanned aerial vehicles”


"It was thought by Obama and some of his allies that this toxicity was the result of a relentless assault waged by Fox News and right-wing talk radio. Trump’s genius was to see that it was something more, that it was a hunger for revanche so strong that a political novice and accused rapist could topple the leadership of one major party and throttle the heavily favored nominee of the other."  From Ta-Nejosi Coats, "The First White President" in The Atlantic.
From Merriam Webster:
"Definition of revanche
:revenge; especially: a usually political policy designed to recover lost territory or status"


Also from the Ta-Nehisi Coats article:

"To Trump, whiteness is neither notional nor symbolic but is the very core of his power. In this, Trump is not singular. But whereas his forebears carried whiteness like an ancestral talisman, Trump cracked the glowing amulet open, releasing its eldritch energies." 
From Wikipedia:
"Eldritch is an English word used to describe something as otherworldly, weird, ghostly, or uncanny.
Eldritch may refer to:
Andrew Eldritch (born 1959), singer, songwriter
Eldritch (band), an Italian heavy metal band
Eldritch Wizardry, a Dungeons & Dragons role-playing game supplement
Eldritch (video game), a video game for Windows, Mac OS X and Linux based on the Cthulhu Mythos
Eldritch Moon, an expansion from the Magic the Gathering card game
The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch, a 1965 science fiction novel by US writer Philip K. Dick" 

Topoi (plural of typos)

From a review of Ken Burns and Lynn Novick's Vietnam  in the Mekong Review:

"The even-handedness, the flag-draped history, bittersweet narrative, redemptive homecomings and the urge toward “healing” rather than truth are cinematic topoi that we have come to expect from Ken Burns and Lynn Novick through their films about the Civil War, Prohibition, baseball, jazz and other themes in United States history."

From Merriam Webster:
Definition of topos
plural topoi play  \-ˌpȯi\
:a traditional or conventional literary or rhetorical theme or topic 

I heard today that Twitter is going from 140 characters to 280.  That doesn't sound like a good idea.  As one tweeter responded:  140 characters was my best editor ever.   These terms have been building up as a draft post.  I think four are enough for most people, so I'll quit here.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Cautious Optimism on Upcoming Supreme Court Gerrymandering Case - Gill vs. Whitford

I've mentioned this case before. This post goes through the legal logic for proving gerrymandering.  It's about efficiency and 'wasted votes.'

The case is scheduled before the US Supreme Court October 3.  If the Wisconsin voters who brought this case to the Supreme Court prevail, it would go a long way to curb the egregious gerrymandering that went on in Wisconsin.  Here's an excerpt from a LA Times piece on this case.
"Several crucial factors have aligned to make judicial action both relatively easy and absolutely necessary.
To start, the Wisconsin voters who brought the case aren’t asking the court to rule on everything that’s problematic about the ways our districts are created and our legislatures operate. They simply want the court to determine if Wisconsin’s General Assembly map — a textbook example of extreme gerrymandering — is beyond the constitutional pale. (Of course, a ruling against Wisconsin would have ramifications for extreme gerrymanders elsewhere in the country.)"
Click the link to see the whole article.

The article does mention some bi-partisan support for the bill.  I'd add that given how extreme gerrymandering has made life difficult for traditional/moderate Republicans to win primaries, it may well be that such Republicans are supporting the Wisconsin voters against the state in this case.

A Crime Without Consequences for the Perpetrators?

 However, this doesn't address the issue of when there is election fraud - via gerrymandering, voter suppression, or other means used to help one party win an unfair number of seats - there really is no remedy for the harm they do.  The courts have found Texas and North Carolina to have illegally manipulated their districts after the 2010 census.  But what's the downside for those who committed these acts?  I haven't heard of anyone going to prison and all the legislation passed by the legislatures that were packed with (in these cases) Republicans, still stands.

So there are plenty of incentives to cheat and none that I can see to not cheat.  Perhaps prison sentences and nullification of legislation passed by illegally created legislatures might help, though nullification would probably prove chaotic.  But this is a topic we need to begin discussing.

Of course, whenever I write something like "I haven't heard of (anyone going to prison) . . ." I realize I need to look and see if there are examples.  This Huffington Post article talks about Let America Vote, an organization fighting voter suppression.  Their form of punishment, based on the article, would appear to be by voting them out of office, not prison.  I realize that prison for legislators doing their jobs as legislators is a double edged sword, but when they are plotting to restrict voters from voting, that seems to be a very serious violation of American democracy.

You can check out Let America Vote here.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Getting Into the Woods And Marsh - Swans Fueling Up At Potter Marsh And Eagles

It wasn't raining any more and I needed to get out.  So we headed to McHugh Creek and did a short uphill hike.  I hadn't been there since last summer's fire.  There are signs of the fire, but a lot of stuff is growing back vigorously.

I think this might be an oyster mushroom, but I'm not sure.  My mushroom book* says
"On many deciduous trees, especially willow and aspen."
View from the trail, looking out at Turnagain arm, with Kenai Peninsula on the other side of the inlet.
Luckily, as you can see, we got a fair amount of blue sky and sunshine.

Then back to Potter Marsh where we'd seen lots of swans as we drove by on the way.

They spent most of their time with their heads under water and it took a while to get a picture with both their heads above water at the same time.

I'm pretty confident these are trumpeter swans.

I counted 15 that I could see all at once and be reasonably sure I wasn't double counting.  Seven in the picture above.

Then to the boardwalk, where I got this fall view of the marsh.

Walking on the boardwalk, I notice a dozen or so ducks suddenly take flight, and then this bald eagle flew right by me.   If you click on the image below, you can also see one of the ducks in the air.  It's on the left side, just under the blurred leaf.  The eagle's left wing points at it.

And here's another eagle - or maybe the same one - off in the distance zooming down.  It's the Y shaped thing just about in the middle of the picture.  Again, click on the picture to enlarge and focus.

*The Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Mushrooms

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Been Raining, Creek's Rising, But Nothing Serious

Took advantage of a long break in the rain as well as in my lethargy to get on the bike and move my legs.  The rain's made an obvious difference on Campbell Creek.

Last time I looked, that picnic table was on gravel.  (This is near Campbell Creek park.)

I went on.

There was a bit a blue sky reflected in a puddle on the bike trail.

And when I got near the State Troopers Headquarters, I saw the only white stuff near the mountain tops was cloud.   It's September 23, and no termination dust so far.

Then up the new bike trail along Campbell Airstrip Road.  You can see a greener version of this spot about a month ago here.

I figured the bridge at the Campbell Airstrip trailhead would be a good place to turn around.  That gives me about 9 miles round trip.

Here is today's picture on top of one 11 days ago.  I wanted to compare the water levels.  If you click on the image, it will enlarge and sharpen and if you look carefully you can see differences in the water level.  But nothing like the picnic table.

Here's looking to the west from the bridge.  On this one the water level is more apparent.  The gravel bank is now an island, and there's white water along the left bank.  Again, clicking on it will enlarge it.

On the way home, I stopped on the viewing platform that just reopened a couple of weeks ago.  There's a little stream of water coming in from the east.  There's a much bigger one coming from the west (the creek flows basically east to west but has various loops.)

I'm not quite sure what I thought the many other times I've been at this spot.  Maybe it was the bright yellow/orange of the birch tree, but I focused on this little water way coming in from the left (east).  I wondered how Campbell Creek had gotten so small.

Then I looked right (west) to see the much larger flow of water.  I think I'd always thought this was a loop in the creek, but both bodies of water were flowing toward the platform and the little one essentially joined the bigger one.  Were these two different creeks?

Humility is a good trait.  All these years and I never even thought about this.

So when I got home I checked the maps.

The red is the reduced sized platform (see this post) with the boardwalk from the bike trail.  You can see clearly from the map the one from the east is the North Fork of Campbell Creek and the one from the west is the South Fork.  Unless you go out onto the platform, you never see the North Fork join the South Fork.

Below is a map of the Campbell Airstrip road a few miles east of the top map.  We still have both the north and south branches of the creek.  The bridge I took the pictures (above) from is the red rectangle going over the south fork.  The bike trail ends at the turnout for the Campbell Airstrip trailhead.  The new bike trail ends just before the bridge over the north fork of the creek.  I took that bridge picture for the post about the new bike trail.  The pics are there just to help anyone who's trying to connect the pictures and the location.

Click on image to enlarge

Friday, September 22, 2017

By-Lines Alaska Dispatch Readers Won't See Anymore At The ADN [UPDATED AGAIN]

[UPDATE 9/24/17:  Charles Wohlforth has filled in a lot more information in his column this morning at the ADN - personal comments on colleagues he's worked with.]

The Alaska Dispatch News had a story Thursday (Sept 21, 2017) about layoffs at their newspaper.  We all know that the paper has been going through bankruptcy and is struggling to survive and that the new owners are trying to keep it going.  So, we were expecting some cuts and that hard decisions would have to be made - as the article says.

Two things struck me about the article:

1.  The new owners wouldn't say how many people were let go
A "significant" number of employees have been laid off at Alaska Dispatch News as part of a restructuring under the company's new owners.
Every department in the company — the newsroom, advertising, circulation, production and finance — was affected. The job reductions began last week and continued through Wednesday. Layoffs in the newsroom included editors, reporters and others.
"It's a significant change in the size of the newspaper," said Ryan Binkley, one of the new owners of ADN. He would not say how many people in total were let go.
The Binkley family, who bought the ADN, are more experienced in business than running newspapers so I understand going with their business instincts to keep things close to the vest.  But newspapers report on other businesses all the time and when there are layoffs, they push for a number or at least a percentage of people being laid off.  It's a matter of public interest to know how something like this is going to affect the local economy.  Newspapers should be models of transparency.  After all, other companies can now point to the ADN example when they decline to give ADN reporters this sort of information.

And how much is a reporter going to push her new boss to get more information, especially when the boss has just laid off a 'significant number' of her colleagues.  She doesn't want to get to the point where he says, "I told you 'no' now back off or I'll add you to the list."

Binkleys:  Bite the bullet and be good newspaper owners and set the example for other companies that your paper will be covering.  The information is going to come out eventually anyway - especially if you are a media organization.

2.  They didn't tell us which reporters', photographers' and others' by-lines we won't see any more were.

Publishing the names of people laid off may be a sensitive issue.  Shouldn't the employees involved have the right to let people know on their own terms?  Generally, I'd agree.  But in this case, we're talking about people whose names appear on by-lines every day in the newspaper (and, of course, online.)

Should readers just start guessing when names stop appearing?  "Oh, maybe this guy got laid off."

So, when I got a chance to talk to someone who worked at the ADN yesterday, I asked.  The person gave me a list of names, including some involved in less visible positions, like copy editors.  I didn't post yesterday because I wanted to get confirmation from another source.  I did that today.  For all but two of the names.  I got through to one, who confirmed, but not the other.  But he had on his Twitter account that he was a "former reporter."  I was told that Lisa Demer has posted on her Facebook account (not her public one so I couldn't confirm it) that a total of 17 were let go. [UPDATED 9/22/17 5pm - Lisa let me see her post.  In part (she goes on to pay tribute to all the people who were laid off) she wrote:
"One-third of the newsroom was cut — 17 newsroom positions gone — and the rest of ADN experienced something similar."

So here's a list of some of the people I know about, whose work appeared regularly in the ADN, some very prominently and frequently, others not so much.  I'm leaving out copy editors and advertising people who aren't directly responsible for telling us what is happening in our state. I must acknowledge though, that while their names aren't common knowledge, copy editors certainly influence how we see and read the stories.

Below is a list of people who work(ed) for the ADN.  You might have noticed these lists aren't showing up in current editions of the ADN in print or online.  I was able to find an old one online.  (It says 2012 and updated 2016, scroll down past the gibberish.) Then I went through ADN online bylines to get as many current folks as I could.  If you click on someone's by-line you get all their articles and a brief description of the reporter.  That's where I got my descriptions.  I put the folks laid off on top and bolded their names.

I'm also putting up the whole list (that I could gather, I may have missed some people) so you have a sense of the large impact of the layoffs.  These are the people whose names appear on articles or photos or illustrations only.

Those Laid Off:  
*Rich Mauer - Pulitzer Prize winning reporter and more recently a news editor [Updated: Sorry, I lost this name as I was reformatting the original list.]
*Columnist Dermot Cole, who lives in Fairbanks, has been a reporter, editor and author. For 40 years, he has written extensively about Alaska politics and history. 
*Yereth Rosen has been a journalist in Alaska since 1987. For most of that time, she was the sole Alaska-based reporter for Reuters. She has been reporting on energy issues, the environment, politics and all things Alaska  from oil spills to sled-dog races. She enjoys running, skiing and other outdoors pursuits. She lives in Anchorage with her family. 
*Erik Hill has been with ADN since December of 1984. Before that, he worked at The Kansas City Star following stops in Jacksonville, Florida, and Charleston, West Virginia. Originally from Oregon, Hill earned degrees at Stanford University and Ohio University. Memorable assignments have included the Exxon Valdez oil spill and several Iditarods. 
*Pamela Dunlap-Shohl - [couldn't find her description, but she does most of the charts that graphically help tell the stories hidden in numbers.]  
[UPDATE Sept 25, 2017 - I'm told now that Bob Hallinan was NOT laid off so I'm moving him down to the other list]  *Bob Hallinen has been a photojournalist in Alaska since the 1980s and has traveled extensively around the state. 
*Jerzy Shedlock is a reporter. A graduate of the University of Alaska Anchorage, he worked at the Peninsula Clarion before coming to Alaska Dispatch News. [I couldn't get a second confirmation on this one, but his twitter account says "former reporter."] 
*Rugile Kaladyte is a visual journalist for Alaska Dispatch News. 
*Doyle Woody grew up in East Anchorage and is in his fourth decade at the ADN. He's been covering hockey since the Ice Age 
*Jeannette Lee Falsey joined Alaska Dispatch News as a business reporter in 2015. She has worked as a staff writer for The Associated Press and as a researcher for the federal government's Alaska gasline office in Anchorage and Washington, D.C..
Some of these folks were getting ready to retire.  I know that one volunteered to be laid off.  But most were not ready and I wish them a gentle landing and hope that the jolt ignites lots of new opportunities and ways of telling the stories they tell.

People Who Apparently Are Still On the ADN Staff 

Alex DeMarban is a longtime Alaska journalist who covers the oil and gas industries and general assignments for Alaska Dispatch News 
Michelle Theriault Boots is a reporter for Alaska Dispatch News. 
Marc Lester is a multimedia journalist for Alaska Dispatch News. 
Charles Wohlforth's column appears three times weekly. A lifelong Anchorage resident, he is the author of more than 10 books, and hosts radio shows on Alaska Public Media. More at 
Michael Carey is an Alaska Dispatch News columnist and the former editorial page editor of the Anchorage Daily News. 
Erica Martinson is Alaska Dispatch News' Washington, DC reporter, and she covers the legislation, regulation and litigation that impact the Last Frontier. Erica came to ADN after years as a reporter covering energy at POLITICO. Before that, she covered environmental policy at a DC trade publication.    
[UPDATE Sept 25 - told today that Bob was not laid off so moving him down to this list.  Bob Hallinen has been a photojournalist in Alaska since the 1980s and has traveled extensively around the state. ]

Annie Zak covers business and general assignments for Alaska Dispatch News. She previously wrote for the Puget Sound Business Journal and the Orange County Register. 
Tegan Hanlon covers education and general assignments. She also covered the 2016 and 2017 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race. Reach her at 907-257-4589 or Bob Hallinen has been a photojournalist in Alaska since the 1980s and has traveled extensively around the 
Devin Kelly covers Anchorage city government and general assignments. 
Beth Bragg is Alaska Dispatch News sports editor. 
Zaz Hollander is based in Wasilla and covers the Mat-Su region for the ADN. 
Lisa Demer is based in Bethel and covers rural Alaska stories. She has been a reporter more than three decades. Reach her at 907-543-3555. 
Nathaniel Herz covers politics and general assignments. 
Kelsey Lindsey is a 2017 graduate of the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and is covering Arctic-related issues as part of an Alaska Dispatch News-Columbia fellowship. 
Laurel Andrews was born in Bethel and grew up in Fairbanks. She covers cannabis and general assignments. Reach her at or 907-257-4382. 
Stephan Wiebe writes about all things Alaska sports. 

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Getting Rid Of Disgusting Online Ads

I was seeing a disgusting ad over and over again on a blog using the Blogspot platform, which is run by Google.  It just was a visibly disgusting picture advertising something I have no interest in.  It was so bad - the visual and the repetition - that I finally googled "how to stop seeing of ads on website."

I got to this page that google runs: titled "Remove unwanted ads."

It tells you how to get rid of adds on different platforms that google runs.  Since Blogspot is owned by Google (it wasn't when I started here, nor was Youtube when I started there, nor was Twitter, do you see a pattern here?)

It's really simple and seems to work.  I'm sure lots of people take care of this through some sort of ad blogging app or they already know this.  But I figure if I didn't know about this until now, there are probably other Neanderthals like me.  This is for you.

I didn't want to subject you to the disgusting visual and so I found a less obnoxious ad to show you how to do this.

No guarantees here,  But it seems to have worked for the offending ad.Not all ads work this way, but if they have an x in the corner you can try.  Here's another option I found doing that:   Opt Out Information

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

1. Bird House 2. Northern Lights Inn Is Out

1.  I didn't realize that the bird was INSIDE the window until J pointed that out.

It was a black capped chickadee and it was trying to figure out how to get out to those trees.  I did wonder how it was sitting on the glass like that.  But it wasn't.  We have shades that you can pull up from the bottom or down from the top.  If down from the top, there are cords which I can't even see in the photo.  It was holding on to that.  

It didn't panic when I went toward the window.  It just flew to a nearby lamp.  I closed the shades and we opened the sliding glass door to the deck and it found it's way out quickly.

2.  I had a chance last night to take a picture of the lot that used to house the old Northern Lights Inn. It's totally gone now.

The four or five story structure has stood there empty since 2002 according to this ADN story from last October. (It has pictures too)  It went down sometime last month.   It seems like the building has been empty for much longer than 15 years.  Builders complain about no available land in the Anchorage bowl.  But places like this remind us it's there.  But the owners aren't ready to do anything with it.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Trump Threatens To Kill (At Least) 25.3 Million People

[Note to Readers:  This was meant to be a short response to Trump's comment at the UN this morning about destroying North Korea.  But as I read the whole speech, (which you can read here) I realized that there was a lot more to it than just that comment.  Though that comment certainly stands out.  Analyzing the whole talk is worthwhile.  My initial reaction is: 

  • There are a lot of worthwhile aspirational ideals
  • There are lots of contradictions between those ideals in some places and what he says in other places.
  • There is nothing particularly thoughtful or detailed.  
  • There are some parts that might be revealing of how Trump thinks about the world (though I suspect he tends to 'feel' rather than 'think')
When I tried to find some factual reference for the consequences of the US attacking North Korea, I found a long New Yorker article dated yesterday by Evan Osnos who was in North Korea in August.  The article itself offers a lot of context for North Korea's behavior, for our (mis)interpretations or them and theirs of us.  

So I'm going to stick to the comment on destroying North Korea in this post, recommend the New Yorker  article to readers, and maybe be able to review the speech and the article in separate posts.]

Post starts here:

Trump doesn't exactly say he's ready to kill 25.3 million people.  I doubt he has any idea of the population of North Korea or has visualized what his threat would mean. Here's what he actually said:
"The United States has great strength and patience, but if it is forced to defend itself or its allies, we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea. Rocket Man is on a suicide mission for himself and for his regime. The United States is ready, willing and able, but hopefully this will not be necessary. That’s what the United Nations is all about; that’s what the United Nations is for. Let’s see how they do."
There are SO MANY different angles one could (and should) address this.  I'm just going to look at the implications of "totally destroying North Korea."  

1.  North Korea had 25.37 million people in 2016.  But experts argue that an attack on North Korea cannot be undertaken without North Korea also attacking South Korea, whose population was estimated to be 51 million in 2016.  

From a long New Yorker article by Evan Osnos, dated September 18, 2017: 
"The Obama Administration studied the potential costs and benefits of a preventive war intended to destroy North Korea’s nuclear weapons. Its conclusion, according to Rice, in the Times, was that it would be “lunacy,” resulting in “hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of casualties.” North Korea likely would retaliate with an attack on Seoul. The North has positioned thousands of artillery cannons and rocket launchers in range of the South Korean capital, which has a population of ten million, and other densely populated areas. (Despite domestic pressure to avoid confrontation, South Korea’s President, Moon Jae-in, has accepted the installation of an American missile-defense system called Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense, or thaad.)
Some two hundred thousand Americans live in South Korea. (Forty thousand U.S. military personnel are stationed in Japan, which would also be vulnerable.) A 2012 study of the risks of a North Korean attack on Seoul, by the Nautilus Institute for Security and Sustainability, estimates that sixty-five thousand civilians would die on the first day, and tens of thousands more in the days that followed. If Kim used his stockpiles of sarin gas and biological weapons, the toll would reach the millions. U.S. and South Korean forces could eventually overwhelm the North Korean military, but, by any measure, the conflict would yield one of the worst mass killings in the modern age."
Were Trump to really attempt to 'totally destroy North Korea' he would find himself moved high onto the top ten list of the world's mass murderers - along with Stalin, Hitler, and Mao.

There are many ways one can look at this statement.

  • Is it just bluster?  
  • What kind of language is appropriate in the UN?  
  • How will the UN members react?
  • How will North Korea react?
  • Does Trump's behavior give license to others to act badly?

All of these could be discussed seriously.

  • Are there times when bluster is appropriate and inappropriate.  One could argue that Kim Jong Un and Donald Trump might have a lot of similarities and thus can understand each other's bluster.  But that's open to a lot of debate.  
  • One could argue that the UN is overly stuffy and people say what's polite and never confront serious issues and thus some bluster is needed to shake the place up.  I think that might be true on some issues, but frank talk does not equal bluster.  
  • Maybe, as the rest of the paragraph suggests, this 'totally destroy' language is simply to provoke the UN to do its job of ensuring peace.  

I would note that Kim Jong Un might rather like the nickname "Rocket Man."  From the New Yorker  article:
"On an embankment near a major intersection, workers in gray coveralls were installing an enormous red sign that praised the 'immortal achievements of the esteemed Supreme Leader, comrade Kim Jong Un, who built the nuclear state of Juche, the leader in rocket power!'”

Go read the New Yorker article, it's got much more meat than I can add here.  

Monday, September 18, 2017

Sanctuary State - Why It's Harder For Trump To Dominate US Than It Was For Hitler To Dominate Germany

Back in February I did a post called Structural Difference Between US and 1930's Germany That Makes It Harder For Trump which recalled the lessons I learned from my mother who grew up in Nazi Germany and how that helped me see, as a Peace Corps volunteer in Thailand, the stark differences between a centralized national bureaucracy and one where each state had significant independence from the capital.

Screenshot LA Times 9/17/17

Yesterday I was reminded of that lesson once again when I saw this headline for an LA Times story:  State to become a 'sanctuary'.

In a centralized bureaucracy like they had in Nazi Germany or have in Thailand, all government is controlled out of Berlin or Bangkok - education, police, health, everything.

But in the US the federal government is in charge of certain things and states have the power over everything else.  The Tenth Amendment to the US Constitution:

"The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people."
(Article 1 of the Constitution which enumerates the federal powers is not nearly as brief.)

Some of that state independence has eroded as Congress has, over the years, tied federal funding to compliance with the federal mandates.

But individual states, police departments, school districts, can risk the funding if they object strongly enough to the federal demands.  They can, essentially, tell the feds to go to hell.   In this sanctuary case they are telling state employees not to enforce (partially at least*) immigration laws because those are federal, not state, responsibilities.  And in this sanctuary case, it appears that so far, the courts have agreed with the states that the feds can't withhold federal funding to sanctuary cities.  (That's also mentioned in the LA Times story.)

Of course, states rights are a good thing when they protect what you feel is important, but not when they protect things to which you object.  The rights of African-Americans were horrendously violated in the post-civil war south through to Jim Crow and even after the civil rights acts of 1964, on the grounds of 'states rights.'  And the states that have legalized marijuana are improvising a tricky dance with the feds around conflicting laws.

But I'm pleased to see how many Americans are standing up for the rights of immigrants, particularly the DACA folks.  We've come a long way since Japanese-Americans, including US citizens, were incarcerated during WW II, with very little objection from the rest of the population.

*The new sanctuary law in California, the article tells us, does allow some cooperation, mainly regarding immigrants with criminal violations.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Having Trouble Figuring Out What's Politically Correct And What's Just Correct?

I don't see much difference in concept among these events.  But some have been called politically correct while others aren't.  Can you guess which of these events have been labeled 'politically correct' and which ones haven't?

The only distinction I can see is if the action is taken by liberals, it's political correctness.  If by conservatives it's not.

Which just helps demonstrate what I've said all along - political correctness is when someone behaves  a certain way so as not to rile the powers that be.  But the Right has done its PR magic to make it seem that only the Left is politically correct.  When the Right does this, it's just the right thing to do.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Turntable's Working Right Again Thanks To Old Fashioned Craftsman

The turntable is old.  From the sixties, and it had a serious problem:  the arm didn't lift high enough when the record was finished and it scratched its way back.  The only way I could safely listen to a record was to be careful to catch the arm when the record was done.  You know I'm going to miss my cue now and then.

I'm listing to Aftermath as I write this thanks to Jan Ok Han who runs Sunset Service out of his house.  I got his name from Obsession Records a while ago and I finally called him a couple of weeks ago.  He repairs electronic equipment, like turntables, and he also teaches guitar.  When I dropped the turntable off we had a wide-ranging conversation that included a history lesson on Korea and Japan and information on classical guitar in Anchorage.  That's what I meant in the title about old-fashioned techie.  

There are folks at Best Buy or the Apple store who will take time to talk to you about your computer or camera, but Mr. Han is really an artist who takes great interest in and care of items he works on.  He explained to me in detail what he was going to do and today, what he did.  No giant corporation is tracking data in this transaction.  This is an interaction of love (of what he's doing) and trust between the customer and the  craftsman.  There's both the time and interest for there to be a human interaction rather than just a commercial one.  

Here he's showing me his own guitar which he repaired.  He was showing me how the finish where he repaired the hole wasn't perfect.  It was hard to tell.  He doesn't repair guitars for others now.  This one took too long to do for a customer he said.  

David Oistrahk is playing Prokofiev now.  It reminds me of an incredible concert I went to in Florence the year I was a student in Germany.  Oistrakh was magnificent.  There was a standing ovation at the end, but most of the people left.  There were maybe 40 people left in the audience, yet he played another encore.  It was one of those concert experiences when you leave your body and fly with the music.  

Thanks Han for the pleasure of meeting you, for fixing my turntable, and reconnecting me with Oistrahk right now.  

Friday, September 15, 2017

For Something Totally Different - Casting Out Nines

My son-in-law sent me this video.  It's always cool to learn new tricks, especially when they are 'simple.'  I've put quotes around that because this trick is simple up to a point.  The practical part.  The explanation of why it works might need a couple of reviews to catch.

Trust me here and just start watching this.  If you don't like it, just stop.  But you won't stop if you have any curiosity at all.

He does say that people used this trick back in the old days, before calculators. Well, I learned arithmetic before there were cheap, readily available handheld calculators, and I don't remember anyone ever mentioning this.

He explains why the nines don't matter by giving the example of there being seven days in the week so the sevens don't matter.  But he doesn't exactly say that we're just using nine digits (which I guess get us back to zero which also doesn't matter).  I'm assuming that's the link to seven days of the week.    Anyone know if that's right?

Also, anyone know where he comes from?  I'm assuming UK, but what part?  Listen to how he says Monday for example.  That must narrow it down for people who know British dialects.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Vietnam War, Fiber Infrastructure, Chinese Language, Community Engagement

I was in meetings most of today and then went to see the Alaska Humanity Forum's preview of Ken Burns documentary on the Vietnam War.  We saw excerpts of each episode.  As someone who lived through that period, I didn't hear anything new.  There was discussion afterward.  But first AKHF director asked audience members who were veterans to stand.  Then those who were Vietnam veterans to stand.  Then those who had family members of friends who were veterans.  Then questions were asked - "Why did you come here tonight?" was the first one - and we were asked to discuss them with people nearby.  

I was struck, after watching the excerpts that covered soldiers from both sides as well as protesters, that people who protested the war weren't asked to stand.  And one of the audience did make that comment to the whole group.

The series will be worth watching when it comes on - not only for people who lived those years, but more so for those who only know the historical myths of that period.

But that's all excuse for why I haven't posted today and to explain why I'm taking the easy way out and letting you know about some talks coming up in the next few days at the UAA bookstore.
They are all free.
(There's free parking for these events in the parking lot near the bookstore.  And for people who can't make them, the videos will eventually be online, probably here.)

Thursday, September 14 from 5:00 pm-7:00 pm
Darrel Hess presents Leave It To Beaver, Cocaine & God: My Journey to Community Engagement

In  Leave It To Beaver, Cocaine & God: My Journey to Community Engagement Darrel Hess talks about growing up in the shadow of domestic violence, his arrest for selling cocaine to an undercover Alaska State Trooper, coming to terms with his sexual orientation, his relationship with God, and his struggles to find himself and his place in the world.
Today, Darrel Hess works as Anchorage’s Municipal Ombudsman and is a member of the Advisory Council for UAA’s Center for Community Engagement and Learning.   A pillar in the Anchorage community, Darrel Hess has served as Anchorage’s first Homeless Coordinator and was a member of the Anchorage Equal Rights Commission.  He has served on the board of Identity, Inc.  and is the recipient of the 2014 Alaska First Lady’s Volunteer of the Year Award.
Everyone is encouraged to welcome and meet the dedicated and amazing Darrel Hess. 
There is free parking for this event in the South Lot, Sports Complex NW Lot, West Campus Central Lot, and Sports Campus West Lot.

Friday, September 15 from 3:00 pm-5:00 pm
Dr. Shinian Wu presents Linguistic Challenges in Learning Chinese
Dr. Shinian Wu presents linguistic challenges and cultural congruence in learning Chinese as a second language. His talk will discuss contrasts between Chinese and English, how languages create socio-cognitive processes in language socialization.

 Dr. Shinian Wu. Professor of English and director of the graduate program in Applied Linguistics, English Department, Grand Valley State University, Michigan.
This event is sponsored with the UAA Confucius Institute. Everyone is welcomed to attend. There is free parking at UAA on Fridays.

 Saturday, September 16 from 1:00 pm-3:00 pm
Dr. Sebastian Neumayer presents Fiber Infrastructure and Natural Disasters
Dr. Sebastian Neumayer, Department of Computer Science & Engineering, UAA, shares his research on the effects of natural disasters on fiber infrastructure. While investigating the survivability of networks in the face of geographically correlated failures, he will discuss algorithms that identify the most vulnerable parts of real-world networks to large-scale disasters.
In addition to his academic research, Sebastian Neumayer will discuss The BTC Ring, an open-source Bitcoin project that integrates jewelry and digital assets. The BTC Ring can mitigate the risk that traditional jewelry has to loss and theft as well as can be used as an alternative to diamond engagement rings.
Everyone is invited to attend this fascinating event and learn how we can better prepare for "natural" environmental and emotional disasters.
There is free parking at UAA on Saturdays.  

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Falling - A Blue Bridge, Morning Nip, First Yellow Leaves, End of Summer Anchorage Botanical Garden

I woke up and looked out into the backyard.  The sun lit up a a section of yellow cottonwood leaves.  Fall's on the way.  But when I went back out later to catch it in my camera, the light had changed and it wasn't as obviously fall.

Here's a bridge I cross on my most common bike route.  The morning light, as the sun rises later and from a more southernly angle, isn't summer light any more.

OK, so it's not Amsterdam, but the bike rack was full when I visited the dermatologist this morning for a checkup.  It's been a while, but he didn't find anything of interest.

Then after a lunch with a friend, I went off to go home the long way.  I felt sluggish and the bike seemed  particularly clunky, but slowly I got into it and when I got to the cutoff where I had to decide to keep riding further or loop back home, I found myself going for the longer ride.

I turned around at the Campbell Airstrip trail head, but first went to the bridge and listened to the creek a while.  Here is the view from the bridge looking west.

And looking east.  There was a man sitting on a bench near the parking area with his little white dog and we chatted a bit.  He talked about dredging for gold near Nome.  There was a guy from Yugoslavia, he told me, who had a young son, maybe four or five.  One day the guy was going out on the water to dredge and asked the man to watch the boy.  They did some work in the sand and the boy was very helpful.  At the end of the day, he told the boy he worked so hard that he should pay him a dollar.  And the boy looked at him and held out two fingers.  Smart kid, he said.

Then I stopped at the botanical garden on my way home.  Here are some shots as most of the flowers are gone, but there still are many out.

I looked around for the sign that seemed to be connected to this pinkie. I just confirmed with google that this is the flower for that sign.  It's a filapendula Kahome or Meadowsweet.  From the Missouri Botanical Garden:
"Genus name comes from the Latin words filum meaning a thread and pendulus meaning hanging for the root tubers in some species that hang together with threads.
‘Kahome’ is a dwarf form of meadowsweet. It is an upright, clump-forming perennial that typically grows only 8-12” tall and features branched, terminal, astilbe-like panicles (corymbs) of tiny, fragrant, rosy pink flowers in summer. Compound-pinnate, bright green leaves (7-9 lance-shaped leaflets each) provide a fern-like appearance. This is a good foliage plant that is valued as much for its leaves as it is for its flowers."

This one's a Globe Thistle.

And here's a lily finishing out its life cycle.

And the seed pods of a peony.  

This is part of Lile's Garden.  It's a wonderful spot, though at first I was a bit conflicted.  Originally, the garden was dirt paths through the woods with an opening here and there with some planted things in amongst the natural Alaska landscape.  But the Alaska Botanical Garden has worked hard to be more than a bunch of volunteers putting some plots in the wilderness (quite literally.)  And this space is elegant and beautifully designed with a great array of plants and flowers.  Most things are gone now in early September.  I sat down on a bench.  It was cloudy, but felt comfortable enough to sit down and enjoy the garden.  I went to pull my book out of my backpack and that's when I discovered that I must have left it where we had lunch.

Now that I'm home, I checked a little more on this serene (I just saw that ABG uses the same word, so it must be true, right?) spot.  From the Alaska Botanical Garden website:
"Lile’s Garden
This peaceful and serene garden is named in honor of Lile Bernard Rasmuson. Recently completed, it was designed by renowned landscape  architect, Carol R. Johnson, in conjunction with local firm, Earthscape. Plantings and selections were guided by local artist and Garden Designer Ayse Gilbert. Fruit trees hardy to Southcentral Alaska are showcased  here, as well as a  “Gold Medal” Peony collection and Primula collection."
'Renowned landscape artist.'  So I checked on that too.  She's headquartered in Boston.   Check out what other things Carol R. Johnson's company has designed.  We're in good company.

Finally as I was leaving I was struck by the quiet beauty of this ornamental cabbage.

The Thai Kitchen had my book waiting for me.

Monday, September 11, 2017

"...when burdens like poll taxes and literacy tests were imposed on citizens and registering often required a trip to the local courthouse, voter turnout was far higher than it is now."

Here's the quote from the New York Times article:
"Mr. Gardner said he did not necessarily favor imposing new qualifications for registering and voting, but he added that when burdens like poll taxes and literacy tests were imposed on citizens and registering often required a trip to the local courthouse, voter turnout was far higher than it is now."
So who, you are asking, is Mr. Gardner?

He's the Democratic Secretary of State from New Hampshire (who is in charge of voting there) and he's on Trump's commission to investigate voter fraud.

There's lots more to this article, but lets just address this idea first.

When states had poll taxes and literacy tests (which the US Supreme Court at first ignored by ruling these issues  fell under states' rights, but eventually ruled unconstitutional), a relatively few people were actually allowed to vote.

So, yes, if you count 'turnout' as the percentage of people registered to vote who actually voted, turnout was probably pretty high.  But if you count the voting age population, most of whom were blocked from voting because of poll taxes and literacy tests, then actually, the turnout was dismally low.

Carol Anderson wrote in White Rage:
"1898 Williams v. Mississippi 
"the justices approve the use of the poll tax, which requires citizens to pay a fee - under a set of very arcane, complicated rules - to vote.  Although the discriminatory intent of the requirement was well known prior to the justices' ruling, the highest court in the land sanctioned this formidable barrier to the ballot box.  In fact, Justice Joseph McKenna quoted extensively from the Mississippi Supreme Court's candid admission that the state convention, 'restrained by the federal Constitution from discriminating against the negor race,' opted instead to find a method that 'discriminates against its [African Americans'] characteristics' - namely poverty, illiteracy, and more poverty." (p. 36)
 Anderson notes the impact of this decision.
"As late as 1942, for instance, only 3 percent of the voting-age population cast a ballot in seven poll tax states." (p. 36)" [emphasis added]
Given that Mr. Gardner is a Democrat, my question is whether he made this statement sarcastically or  whether he was seriously thinking about one of the stated goals of the commission:  to find out why voting turnout is so low.

The article states that the entire New Hampshire Congressional delegation asked Mr. Gardner to resign from the commission, but he refused, asking
"whether any of the legislators had ever quit a congressional committee because they disagreed with the views of another member."
I'm not sure that's a fair analogy because Congress members have an obligation to their constituents and sitting on committees is just one of their responsibilities.  On the other hand,  Gardner was appointed to this commission which is seen by many as a way to push the conservative goal of reconstructing obstacles to voting by black and other people of color who are likely to vote for Democrats.  The leader of the committee is the Kansas secretary of state Kris Kobach who has made voter suppression a career goal.  

The New Hampshire congressional delegation's request that Mr. Gardner to resign, according to the article,  came about because:
"the commission’s de facto leader has warmed up for the session by suggesting that the election in November of Senator Maggie Hassan, a New Hampshire Democrat, was rigged. . .
His accusation was based on data from Mr. Gardner’s office showing that 6,540 people in New Hampshire registered to vote on Election Day using out-of-state driver’s licenses to verify their identities, but only 1,014 of the registrants later obtained a New Hampshire license.
Mr. Kobach said that was evidence that the remaining 5,313 registrants were illegal voters from other states — enough voters, he noted, to supply the narrow margins of victory for both Ms. Hassen and Mrs. Clinton."
The article goes on to explain that New Hampshire law allows college students, whose homes may be out of state, to vote in New Hampshire.  They can have out-of-state drivers' licenses as proof of identity.  And most of the incidents where out-of-state licenses were used, were in college towns.

I'm tempted to write, "In this age of fake news . . ." but really, fake news has been part of US history from the beginning.  The difference today is

  • there are more 'publishers' thanks to the internet making everyone a potential publisher, who can spread fake news far and wide
  • there are more 'publishers' and so there are now actually challenges to fake news and people are aware of this phenomenon, whereas in the past, if the three main network television stations or the key newspapers said something, most people didn't have access to the underlying facts that would challenge the 'news'
It's always good to go through these exercises of hearing statements and then getting to see the rest of the context of the story.  It reminds us to always be asking, questioning, and then finding out the whole story.  

Sunday, September 10, 2017

One Story of Irma Refugees: Friend And Her Family Flee Sarasota

I just talked to my friend Lynne.  She moved to Sarasota to be with her then 90 year old dad last year. Lynne has been my guide into the world of blindness and it was with mixed feelings that she decided to leave Alaska.

Sarasota is on the west coast of Florida.  It's low lying, near the water.  And in the path of Irma.  She told me they were looking to get to higher ground - probably a nearby hotel. [UPDATED:  They were in a mandatory evacuation area and had been told to get out.]   But her son called from Seattle and told her to get out of Florida.  She has a cousin in Tennessee.  Her dad, who's pushing 92 now and her older brother weren't sure about the 760 mile drive to Tennessee, but finally agreed.

The three of them, plus Lynne's guide dog, got in the car at 7:30 pm Friday night and drove 20 hours to Franklin, Tennessee.  Dad drove.  Oh year.  The cousins are there.  There on vacation in Hawaii, but they told them they could stay in the house.  They arrived yesterday (Saturday) afternoon about 2:30 Central time.  So now they are adjusting to the new situation.  For a blind person, that's a lot more difficult than for sighted people.  She has to figure out the paths she can take around the house without bumping into things.  And she can't just look into cabinets and closets, she has to feel for things.  And cans of food don't usually have Braille labels.  There are apparently lots of stairs which are harder on her dad than on her.  She just needs to know where they are.  He can see them, but has trouble getting up and down them.  She's still trying to figure out how to connect to the wifi.

But they're out of the storm (for now anyway).  They don't know how long they'll be there or how it will work out when the family gets back.  Their condo is on the ground floor and they're worried about what will be ok when it's over and they get back.

But for now they are safe and adjusting.

[UPDATE Monday Sept 11:  Lynne got word that there's no flooding but the evacuation is still in place and roads are impassable - lots of trees down and still falling.  They're also waiting for the electricity to go back on.  Maybe they'll spend the night somewhere on the road so they don't have such a long drive.]