Friday, August 31, 2018

The Birther Movement Is Alive And Well In the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP)

Trump got lots of mileage claiming that Obama wasn't born in the United States and thus wasn't eligible to be president.  He knew, all along, that his accusation was false.  But it played well to the sizable racist population that was smarting at the idea of a Black president.  It also got Trump lots of attention and Obama's team had to use up resources (emotional, creative, financial) and time fighting the lies, time that could have been spent constructively.

Well, it's clear now that the Birther Movement is alive and well in the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP), as they question the birth locations of United States citizens who live along the Mexican border.  And it has the same effect of playing to Trump's anti-immigration and racist die-hard fans as well as distracting attention and resources and time from other issues (I don't think I need to list them, though some, I'm sure we don't even know about.)

As the noose around the Trump administration tightens, Trump actions are only going to get meaner and more destructive.  We need to brace ourselves and hang tough until this poison is out of our system - or at least down to a much less toxic level.  (Am I engaging in progressive hate speech here?  I am using a strongly negative metaphor, but I think it's backed up by the example of Trump's administration trying to strip US citizens of their citizenship.  We can argue endlessly about whether there actually are some people whose midwife falsified their place of birth 30 or 40 years ago, but there's a reason we have statute of limitation rules, and it only applies, if at all, to a tiny fraction of the people being harassed.   And these 'crimes' are nothing compared to all the ways that ICE and CBP are treating asylum seekers.)

And to help keep up your spirits, here are some signs of change  as summer prepares to hand over our lives to autumn.

The mountain ash berries seem particularly abundant and large this year.  The Bohemian waxwings will be happy when they come to harvest them during the winter.

The rose hips are also big and red and abundant.  They're still hard, but before long they will be soft and sweet and full of vitamin C.

And this mushroom has also joined the party in our yard.  I first thought I'd just post the picture without looking it up.  I've got things to do while the sun is out.  But I decided that's not me on this blog.  So I looked for my field guide to mushrooms.  But in all the moving stuff round this summer it's not where it used to be.  So after 15 minutes I gave up and made a feeble attempt online to identify it.  I give up for now.  If anyone knows, please leave a comment.  But it's a handsome mushroom.

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Here's What Real Heroes Do - They Take Big Risks To Do The Right Thing

There are countless people you rarely hear about who fight to protect those who don't have the power to protect themselves.  They risk their careers and sometimes their lives to do what's right.

Richard Sipe - ex-priest who worked hard to expose sex abuse in the Catholic Church.  This LA Times piece tells some of his story.

". . . Sipe was ordained in 1959 and soon became aware of priests who had relationships with adults and children. Later, he worked at a Baltimore psychiatric institute where abusive priests were sent for treatment and evaluation, and he began documenting their stories. With the help of his future wife, a psychiatrist at the institute, he published a 1990 book called, “A Secret World: Sexuality and the Search for Celibacy.”
Sipe, an expert witness in hundreds of clergy abuse cases, argued that celibacy and abuse were connected. We’re sexual creatures, he said, so celibacy is an unnatural expectation, and sex and sexual abuse are rampant among priests.
Those who abuse minors, he explained, have a convenient racket going. Peers may keep quiet because they’re predators too, and even if the abuse is reported to superiors, they’ve got reasons to maintain the code of silence. Maybe they don’t want to damage the image of the church. Or maybe they have their own sins to hide.
So pedophiles remain in ministry, or they’re shuffled to another parish, or to Mexico. Often, there’s no attempt to explain what’s happening to parishioners, to call the police or to do the most basic, caring, human thing — to offer an apology, comfort and support to victims. . . 

Hugh Thompson - Stopped My Lai massacre before it got worse.

" . . . Who were the people lying in the roads and in the ditch, wounded and killed?
"They were not combatants. They were old women, old men, children, kids, babies."
Then Thompson and his crew chief, Glenn Andreotta, and his gunner, Lawrence Colburn, "saw some civilians hiding in a bunker, cowering, looking out the door. Saw some advancing Americans coming that way. I just figured it was time to do something, to not let these people get killed. Landed the aircraft in between the Americans and the Vietnamese, told my crew chief and gunner to cover me, got out of the aircraft, went over to the American side."

What happened next was one of the most remarkable events of the entire war, and perhaps unique: Thompson told the American troops that, if they opened fire on the Vietnamese civilians in the bunker, he and his crew would open fire on them. . . ."
[Thanks Dennis for this one.]

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Avoiding The Dark Because It's Too Nice To Stay Inside

Yesterday, after watching Dark Money at the Bear Tooth, the sun came out.  Not so dark.  So I did a bike ride around the Universities bike trail.

South fork of Chester Creek runs through the UAA campus.

Goose Lake was telling the sky, Backacha.

And even though the sun was getting down low on the horizon, the amanita mascara were brightening up the groundscape everywhere.

And this morning when I took the kitchen scraps up to the compost, I picked my morning raspberries.

But I am still thinking about Dark Money.  It's not that I didn't know the basics - how Citizens United has made it possible for large corporations to invisibly support candidates with tons of unmarked campaign dollars - but the details of the movie's example of stealing seats in the Montana legislature is still disgusting.

I'm not sure how many hurdles would have to be overcome, but what's bothered me about politicians getting to office through various undemocratic shenanigans is that no one really gets punished.  Laws that get passed by such politicians stay passed, benefiting their shadowy supporters and screwing everyone else.  (OK, the guy in the movie got fined about $60,000, but I doubt his supporters didn't help him out there.  He didn't resign, though his term was up shortly.)

 Besides murky campaign help, I include gerrymandering as well. Today's ADN had a Washington Post  article about how a federal appeals court had found - once again - that North Carolina had illegally gerrymandered the state so that while Republicans had 53% of the vote they got 77% of the state's delegation to the US House.
“I think electing Republicans is better than electing Democrats,” said Rep. David Lewis, a Republican member of the North Carolina General Assembly, addressing fellow legislators when they passed the plan in 2016. “So I drew this map to help foster what I think is better for the country.”

He added: “I propose that we draw the maps to give a partisan advantage to 10 Republicans and three Democrats because I do not believe it’s possible to draw a map with 11 Republicans and two Democrats.”
To say this out loud, in public, shows that he knows there's nobody who's likely to hold him accountable.

At least the judges understood that the Republicans had essentially stolen that last three elections and weren't inclined to let this next election go as is - despite how late it is in the election cycle.  After all, it's late because the Republicans kept appealing the decision and making more mischief.
"He said the court was leaning against giving the North Carolina legislature another chance to draw the congressional districts.
“We continue to lament that North Carolina voters now have been deprived of a constitutional congressional districting plan — and, therefore, constitutional representation in Congress — for six years and three election cycles,” Wynn wrote. “To the extent allowing the General Assembly another opportunity to draw a remedial plan would further delay electing representatives under a constitutional districting plan, that delay weighs heavily against giving the General Assembly another such opportunity.”
This sort of stuff is a threat to the whole idea of democracy.  The movie made it clear how corporations can set up shell organizations to hide money and then spend tons of money on last minute ads that lie about  and smear their anointed candidate's opponent.  And once they have them elected, the movie narrator said, there's no longer even the need to lobby, because they own that official.

I don't think removal from office, prison terms, even nullification of ill-gained legislation are too harsh a punishment for the both the corporate manipulators and their elected stooges.  And people like Rep. David Lewis.  These are domestic (well not all the corporate funders are necessarily domestic) terrorists, taking over our democracy.

Have some fresh raspberries.

Sunday, August 26, 2018

The Elephant In The Womb And Other Kavanaugh Protest Signs At Anchorage Rally

The street was wet and the sky was gray and my let's go biking mantra sounded a bit flat.  But there was a rally downtown to protest the appointment of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court.  I'm much more for a rally about things people want to do, rather than things they don't want.  But, really, from my perspective, Kavanaugh would push the court way to the right, making decisions that favor the wealthy (corporations and individuals) and harm the overwhelming majority.  Kavanaugh would continue to interpret the bill of rights to apply to corporate 'persons' over individual human persons.  And we've already heard that he doesn't think a sitting president can be indicted, constitutionally.  I know people are focused on abortion, but in my mind, that's a proxy issue - one that gets a certain set of people imagining evil doctors torturing babies to death - but it's the advertising that gets people to support a judicial candidate who will find ways to ignore the blatant gerrymandering that some Republican dominate states have undertaken, and allows them to find ways to make it much harder for Democratic voters to vote.

It wasn't actually raining.  So I stuck a raincoat into my backpack and enjoyed my ride downtown via the Chester Creek bike trail.  And found a parking spot at a street light right next to the rally.  Here are some photos and a video.

I like a good play on words, so I thought this was a pretty nifty poster.

And the group was gathering post cards with people's messages to Sen. Lisa Murkowski, on the other few Republican Senators who's shown any backbone at all since Trump was elected.  I can't even imagine all the things she's being offered in exchange for a yes vote here.

It started drizzling as I was on my way home, but it never rained very hard.  Being out on the trail, moving blood through my veins is always a reward.

Saturday, August 25, 2018

Which Parts Of A Man's Life Matter? Good Bye John McCain

It was only 2008 and when John McCain plucked Sarah Palin out of relative obscurity and opened the way for the totally unprepared to run for president.
He's also known to have been something of a womanizer when he was younger.  And the privileged son and grandson of an Navy admirals.  From NYT books:
"As far back as he could remember, Johnny McCain knew he was going to Annapolis, knew it with such unshakable finality that he never really thought twice about it, at least not seriously. It was part of the air he breathed, the ether through which he moved, the single immutable element in his life. He also knew that if he said what he thought — hold it, screw Annapolis, the place sucks — shock waves would reverberate through countless generations of McCains, shaking a military tradition that could both inspire and bully."
Roberta gave birth to Johnny at Coco Solo Naval Air Station in the Panama Canal Zone on August 29, 1936. The timing was auspicious. The base commander was his grandfather, who earlier that month, at the advanced age of fifty-two, had earned his wings as a naval aviator. Johnny's father was stationed nearby, at a small submarine facility. Jack McCain was transferred to New London a few months later, but for that brief period Panama became the epicenter of three generations of a family whose distinguished naval service would eventually span the great national upheavals of the twentieth century, from World War I through Vietnam and its still murky aftermath.
Johnny's father and grandfather may have made history, but nobody ignored his mother, the spunky, occasionally ditzy Auntie Mame of Navy wives. Though the family lived on Jack's salary, Roberta Wright McCain was born to wealth. Her father struck oil in the Southwest as a young man, made his fortune, and retired at forty, soon after Roberta and her identical twin, Rowena, were born. 
His time as a prisoner of war in Vietnam, no doubt, played a huge role in his calling out 'enhanced interrogation' as torture.  His last years he became a hero to the left as he stood up to Trump and voted to save Obama-care.

I recount all this on the evening of McCain's death - to ponder why some men are brought down by actions that other men can weather.   Some of it's timing - in the #metoo era, Sen. Franken left the Senate for behavior that was relatively mild compared to what other men got no penalty for.

I suspect in McCain's case, he was given a lot of passes due to being a prisoner-of-war in terrible circumstances.  And while he was sometimes impulsive - choosing Palin, for example - people tended to trust his sincerity and willingness to stand up for his principles.

I do think, though, that we ought to be discussing how we evaluate a person's life - how we balance the good and the bad.  Who gets passes and who doesn't.

Thursday, August 23, 2018

A Cry For Imagination From Trump Opposition

This Tim Miller essay at Crooked is titled Embarrassingly Timid Trump Opposition.   He posits that when he asks people to name a trait of Trump's that they would want their children to emulate, they are silent.  If they come up with anything, it's that he's imaginative.  And Miller would like Trump's opposition to be imaginative too.  Here's an excerpt:
"As things stand today, that conventional wisdom lags far behind the reality: The writing of his demise is on the wall and it is past time his critics started acting like it.
This is not actually new, so much as it is finally coming into focus. The fact that Trump’s orbit is thick with garden-variety criminals has been staring everyone in the face from the outset. Paul Manafort was a known Russian agent, with deeply shady financial entanglements when he became Trump’s campaign chairman. Michael Cohen is such a walking cliche, he could make extra cash as a Paulie Walnuts stunt double. Trump’s first national security adviser was on the take from, and thus compromised by, Russia, Turkey, and Qatar. I have yet to find a single person in Washington, even among Trump’s supporters, who believe that a thorough scrubbing of the Trump and Kushner Organization books wouldn’t uncover dozens of felony-level financial crimes and fraud offenses. And yes, Trump stooges, Trump has already engaged in a treasonous level of collusion with Russia in plain sight, the President’s and media’s claims to the contrary notwithstanding 
All of these nefarious crimes and misdemeanors are apparent right now—before the New York Attorney General has moved against the Trump Organization, or Special Counsel Robert Mueller has obtained his most significant indictments, all of which are sure to reveal much we don’t yet know. 
Against this backdrop, most Democrats seem satisfied with business as usual, banking on a midterm wave this fall, and Republicans—even those who privately dislike the President—either continue to openly enable him or have abandoned the political field altogether. 
While Trump creatively fights for his survival, his opposition has tried nothing and is all out of ideas."
It's not original to say that Trump is a classic bully, of the Mafia variety. But people seem to require a regular reminder.   All the Republicans in Congress are afraid to stand up to him because he comes at critics with a noisy attack.  But being called names on Twitter, or even having Trump support your opponent in November, is a small price to pay to minimize the damage this president is wreaking on the US and the world.

And neither of my two Senators  are up for election this year.  And one of them has already stood up against her party when she lost in the primary.  And Alaskans supported her.  I understand it's considered prudent to try to make nice and negotiate for as many goodies as you can for your state.  But that's like [fill in a better metaphor than rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic, my mind isn't producing anything].  Actually, in the face of climate change, every day we don't work hard to reduce carbon in the atmosphere does mean we're aggravating the effects of extreme climate in the future.  And you don't have to look past current forest fires to get this.

So each day waiting for the Trump card castle to collapse on its own, adds to the number of lives that will be terribly altered or lost by floods, droughts, fires, and dislocation in the future.

Sometime ago I posted (or so I thought, I can't find the post anymore) a call for a statue for the first six Republican US Senators and 20 Republican Representatives to unite and hold firm against Trump.  The point was we should award those brave enough to stand on principles early on, when it wasn't yet safe.  These congress members would be able to sleep at night, knowing their grandchildren would see their names as people who were not afraid to stand up against the corrupt and disgusting president.  

I'm not sure anyone should get rewarded now - except maybe those like Jeff Flake, who have resigned themselves to not running again so they could critique the president.  Let's hope we have a Congress that will and can do something after the November election.  People who will use imagination and creativity to stop the insanity and lead the country back to some semblance of justice and rule of law.

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Learning The News By Seeing Who Visits What Post On My Blog

A post on the Earth Null School has suddenly started getting lots of hits from people in Korea.  So I decided to see if I could figure out why.

Earth Null School has a dynamic map of the world showing wind, currents, air,  among other things. [Click on EARTH in lower left to get options.]  So I went to the site and looked around.  You can see the hurricane headed toward Hawaii.  And then I spun the globe, so to speak, and saw two more little swirling balls - one off Japan and one headed to Korea.

Japan is the island with the orange weather pattern.  And to the left of that is a yellow ball at the southern tip of Korea.  If you go to the Earth Null School page, all these wind patterns are moving.

Accu-weather says:

"After grazing southern Japan, Severe Tropical Storm Soulik is on track to sweep across the Korean Peninsula through Friday.
As AccuWeather predicted, Soulik reached the equivalent of a Category 3 major hurricane in the Atlantic or eastern Pacific basins at its peak. Soulik has since weakened to a severe tropical storm."
And here's a Washington Post story on all three storms - Hawaii, Korea, and Japan.

"Three tropical cyclones are lined up in the Pacific Ocean, and one, Hurricane Lane, may hit Hawaii in a few days. The other two, Typhoons Soulik and Cimaron, will crash into east Asia, directly affecting South Korea and Japan later this week.
All three storms contain winds of at least 74 mph, indicating hurricane strength (typhoons and hurricanes are the same kind of storm, but have different names depending on the section of ocean they traverse). Typhoons Soulik and Cimaron are on a collision course with the Asian continent, and effects from torrential rain, strong winds, and dangerous surf appear unavoidable"
 I'm assuming that as Koreans are preparing for some weather, the word got out that you could see it coming toward them at Earth Null School and google offered them my old post.  That's purely speculation.  

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

What Happens When Pipes Get Old?

They've been replacing old water pipes much of the summer.  Here are a few pics from July 27, a couple of weeks into the project.   And here are some recent pictures of the work.

Here's stuff they pulled out:

And what's going in:

And here's where it's going:

And here's the excavator they're doing much of the work with:

Monday, August 20, 2018

The World Didn't Start When You Began Paying Attention

The difference between Trump and many past presidents and their advisors isn't that he's racist and misogynist and arrogant.  It's that he says what's on his mind and many past presidents knew how to conceal what they were thinking.

In a Patheos piece called "White Supremacist Roots of Evangelicalism,"  the author (can't find an author name) starts with another article written by an Evangelical who is leaving the group because of Trump's arrogant bullying of everybody.  But the Patheos author says she doesn't disagree with most of what the ex-Evangelical says until she gets to
"In fact, [Trump] somehow, mysteriously to me, gained momentum and endorsements."
The Patheos writer then gives some historical context.
"As historian Randall Balmer writes, white evangelicals were largely apolitical until the Supreme Court upheld an IRS decision to deny tax exemptions to segregated private schools. The outrage over that ruling was the spark for religious-right powerhouses like Jerry Falwell to launch a massive political movement. It’s only after overt racism became unacceptable that abortion was chosen – basically, picked out of a hat – as the new cause for religious conservatives to focus their ire on (you may have seen Samantha Bee’s ferociously funny segment about this).
Evangelicalism has always been the tool of choice for propping up racial hierarchies. For instance, Christianity Today was founded by a segregationist and promoted segregation. It’s plausible that the “otherworldly” emphasis on heaven and salvation was invented as a means to justify slavery and other earthly evils."

We all become politically conscious at some point.  And most of us don't know too much about what happened before we started paying attention.  That's natural.  And when one had to search book after book in the library to find out about history, it took effort to get past the narratives of the main media outlets.

But today, google offers lots of ways to find out what went on before.  Sure, there's lots of crap out there designed to confuse and confound.  But good stuff should make sense and have references you can follow.  And you can easily find ten articles from sources in various camps and compare.

Every politician has a history.  Every group, every organization has a history.

Our Supreme Court helped maintain segregation and inequality nearly a century after the Emancipation Proclamation.  The Courts supported the rich over the poor more often than not.  None of this is new.  What's depressing is that now that the people of the United States have moved ahead, the courts are poised to keep pulling us back to a world dominated by the wealthy.

Sunday, August 19, 2018

The 1964 Alaska Earthquake & Northern Acorn Barnacles - Why Knowing Lots And Integrating What You Know Is Useful

I'm reading Henry Fountain's The Great Quake:  How the Biggest Earthquake in North America Changed Our Understanding of the Planet.  It's for my October book club meeting.  We're actually discussing David McCullough's  The Johnstown Flood at our next meeting, but it wasn't in the library and Quake was.

The whole Quake book is about figuring things out - basically, how the field of geography was still resisting the idea of earthquakes being caused by shifting tectonic plates.  I took geography at UCLA in 1963 (a year before the Alaska earthquake), and I don't recall anything about plate tectonics in that class.  Fountain argues that what the learned from the Alaska earthquake moved the field to accept plate tectonics.

But I want to focus on a tiny part of the data collected after the earthquake.  Fountain focuses particularly on a field geologist with the US Geological Survey - George Plafker, who had done a lot of summer field work in Alaska.  The USGS sent him and Arthur Grantz and Reuben Kachadoorian to Anchorage immediately after the quake.  They did a lot of flying around, taking pictures, talking to folks, and generally documenting changes in the landscape immediately after the quake.  (I'd note the turned out a report on the earthquake on April 27, 1964, just one month after the quake.  I can't imagine too many government agencies pulling that off today.  It was a preliminary report with lots of qualifications, but still, it was out there.)

Pince William Sound Google Map 
He came back up again for the summer to study uplift and subsidence in Prince William Sound.  Fountain writes that so much of the land to be studied was on the water where things were easier The Don J. Miller -  at their disposal.  (Don Miller was an old mentor of Plafker who had drowned in Alaska.)
to see and measure.  He points out that Prince William Sound (about 100 miles from east to west - Cordova to Whittier) has about 4000 miles of coastline.  But they had an agency flat-bottomed motor barge -

"The Don J. Miller, Plafker realized, would make most of [the coastline] easy to reach.  And measuring the changes in elevation along it would be made easy by something else:  the barnacle line.
Plafker had first learned of the barnacle line during his two weeks in Alaska immediately following the quake and had talked to marine biologists then to better understand how barnacles fit into the environment of the Alaskan coast."
Newfoundland Rock Barnacles - *see note below
Barnacles had been used to measure uplift and subsidence after a previous earthquake, but Fountain says that Plafker and his crew perfected the technique.

"The concept was relatively simple.  Because northern acorn barnacles establish themselves at a certain spot on rocks and pilings - at or close to mean high water - they could be used as a reference point to measure both uplift and subsidence.  In an area where the land had risen up, the prequake barnacle line would now be higher than it was before, and out of the water.  After a few weeks the barnacles would have died, but their white- colored plates remained, firmly cemented to the rocks or wood.  For ears where the land had sunk, the barnacle line would now be underwater most or all of the time.  Either way, to determine the amount of elevation change, in most cases all that was needed  was to know the stage of the tide - which the US Coast and Geodetic Survey had been busy recalculating all over Alaska after the earthquake - and them measure from the waterline to the top of the barnacle line."
Fountain explains it's a little more complicated than that and gives details, then writes:
"Later in the summer the work became easier and Plafker found that often he didn't need to worry about the tides at all.  Late summer was when juvenile barnacles, which had hatched after the quake and developed, settled down for good - at the new, post-quake mean high-water line.  Then Plafker would have two barnacle lines - before and after - and determine the elevation change was simply a matter of measuring the distance between the two."
There were, Fountain points out, areas where there were no barnacles, such as where the rocks were exposed to strong waves.  But there was a type of seaweed - Focus distichus, or Rockweed - that offered a similar mark that could be used.

I'm writing about the norther acorn barnacle here because I think it's cool, the way that these scientists used knowledge in one field to assist them in this difficult task of measuring how much the land had risen or sunk due to the earthquake.   The more we know, or communicate with people who know other things, the more we are able to integrate that knowledge to know more.  I also have to think about Alexander von Humboldt, about whom I wrote not long ago, who had this incredible breadth of knowledge across different fields that enable him to see what most people couldn't.

*Newfoundland Nature calls this a 'northern bar 'acorn barnacles' AND '  balanus balanoides.  I found other pictures labeled 'northern acorn barnacle' but also called semibalanus balanoides.  The Effects of Land Level Changes on Intertidal Invertebrates, which references George Plafker's use of the barnacle line, his barnacles are identified as balanus balanoides.  Other northern acorn barnacle pictures I found were also labeled semibalanus balanoides. They also required permission to use.  But I'm sure these are very close, if not the exactly the same sort of barnacle. I was hoping to find some pictures of the barnacle line - I'm sure I have my own somewhere from pictures I took kayaking in Prince William Sound.  If I find one I'll add it.

Saturday, August 18, 2018

Recycling Plastic Flower Pots At Alaska Botanical Garden

I gather a bunch of old pots from the ancient greenhouse in the yard and washed them as best as I could in the wheel barrow for the Botanical Garden's recycle your pots day.

Then today we took them to the Garden and added them to their collection.

And then we did a quick walk through the garden to see what was still blooming.

There's a tall fence to keep the moose out, but bears can squeeze under the gate.

Here's a globe thistle not quite open.

And here's one open.

And a Masterwort.

There aren't too many peonies left, but here's one.

Here's a bed of geraniums.

Most of the garden is full of perrenials, but there are a few beds with annuals, like this snapdragon.

Friday, August 17, 2018

"There Is No Way To Tell" - Hogwash

In an Anchorage Daily News story Thursday about Chinese attempts to hack Alaska state computers, reporter Alex DeMarban writes:

"It is not unique, nor would we draw conclusions about its timing or source," Baird [a spokesperson for Gov. Walker] said. "There is no way to tell if the activity is related to the recent trade mission to China, and a review by the Office of Information Technology has found no evidence that state networks were hacked in this instance."
I find phrases like "there is no way to tell" troubling.  Most times, especially when we're talking about human acts, there IS a way to tell.  It's just that Baird doesn't have access to the people who know.

I'm sure Baird would say, yeah, Steve, of course - all that is implied.  I can't explain every little detail.

But it does matter, because most people don't think past those words.  Don't think, well, somebody most know and therefore, there is, actually a way to tell.  They just accept it at face value.  It would be much more transparent if he said something like, "Computer people at Tsinghua University know, but so far they haven't told me what happened."

"Nobody knows" is another way to say "I don't know" without sounding so bad - after all, nobody knows.  There are things nobody knows - events in the future, or so long ago that no one who remembers is still alive.  But when police inspecting a crime or politicians tell us 'nobody knows' be ready to ask follow up questions.  Sir, somebody must know.

This is often just a power phrase, a way to say something that makes you look stronger or smarter or better than you really are.  It was only about two weeks ago I posted about another power phrase - Make No Mistake.

These are terms that should cause you to listen up really carefully and to push back on the person talking.

I don't think that everyone who uses these phrases is consciously attempting to manipulate others.  They are said so often, that people's tongues seem to utter them as filler.  But then, that's a clue that they aren't paying close attention to the words and phrases they're using, which leads to other problems.

I added "Hogwash" to the title as an afterthought.  I've gotten a few hits on an old post entitled, "The Origins of Hogwash."    Enough that I figured that term had come up somewhere that lots of people saw.  Today I read an analysis of the spat over former CIA chief John Brennan's losing his security clearance.  Brenna says 'hogwash' several times in his response.  And 'hogwash' is a good answer often, when someone says, "There's no way to tell."

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Can You Figure Out What's Wrong with These Alaska Crime Report Charts?

Alaska's CRIME IN ALASKA 2017:  Uniform Crime Reporting Program Annual Report came out today.  You can get to the whole report  here.  I haven't read through the whole thing, because the first chart was so bad.  I got distracted looking at what was wrong with this chart.

Charts are supposed to help visual words or numbers, help you see relationships the column of numbers or verbal descriptions the visualize.  So here's the first chart in the report.

Look at this chart.  Can you tell what the numbers represent?  The gold (Non-Reporting) if I understand this right, is the number of people in jurisdictions that do not report crime statistics.  That makes sense because the population in 2017 was 739,000 people.

That is a problem, but not the major problem I see here.

Can you tell what my real problem is?  I'm going to distract you with some pictures that have nothing to do with this so you can think and not be distracted by my corrected chart.  Think about jeopardy music playing while you look at the pictures.

The raspberries are ripening daily in the back yard.

Have you figure out what's wrong with the chart?  If yes, scroll down.  If not, go back and figure it out.

A while back I posted about the city turning off the water one day because they're doing work on the old pipes.

Well, there are some upsides to this.  They're putting in new sidewalk/bike path along Lake Otis. Unfortunately, I think it's not related to which parts need it the most, but rather to where they had to dig to put in new pipes.  But it's better than nothing.  It was pretty gnarly.

OK, now go look at the chart I made of these numbers.  (I'm afraid I got green instead of gold for the non-reported population. I'm doing this in Mac's Numbers and it has limited combinations of colors.)

Here's a more accurate representation of the numbers:

As I said, the point of a chart is to help visualize the meaning of the data.  In the State report's chart, the vertical columns segment out the two different populations, but the length of the blue and gold has no relationship to the numbers.  The gold for 2013 is about 40% of the chart, when the actual number of unreported population is less than 1%.  The same distortion exists for all five years.   And the difference in total population for each year is also exaggerated.  In fact, the differences are so small that in a proportionally correct chart, you can barely see the gold (green in my chart) or the differences between the years.  They're really insignificant.  

Here's another unrealized chart.  (I'm trying to be diplomatic here.)  

The chart is better than trying to find this information in the text, but it could have organized the information in much more useful ways.  

My biggest problem is that I can see no order in the crimes selected.  The point seems to be to graphically show us how frequently different crimes occur.  So why not put them in order from least frequent to most frequent?  

The spacing around a clock isn't really relevant to anything.  The clock tells us nothing except this is about time.  But why is ROBBERY at the 3?  All the critical information is presented in words, not images.  As I said, all this does (and this is not unimportant) is highlight these frequencies by pulling them out of the text of the report and putting them in an image.  But the image itself doesn't show much thought about how to convey the numbers visually.  

Data visualization is one of the hottest fields in journalism today.  DATAVIZ folks are taking vast amounts of data and putting them into great charts that help people see complex ideas.  Here are some ideas on this from one of the leaders in the field, Alberto Cairo.

But these examples take Stone Age data charts and botch them.  

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Traffic Jam Anchorage Style On My Way To Ask Voter Registration Questions

The traffic wasn't moving on Benson as I was heading to the elections office to turn in to registrations and ask some questions about PFD registration and registering homeless folks.

I got onto Benson at Spenard and the left lane wasn't moving shortly after that.  The two right lanes were empty.  Here I was at Benson and C after the light's been red a while.

The two left lanes weren't moving because the folks in the right lanes were merging because at A street they were completely blocked off.  My lane had a dying flare in it, so basically everyone had to move over to the far left lane.

At A Street and Benson, the problem was revealed.  I'm guessing someone ran a red light, just can't tell which one.

I think I waited about four or five extra red lights, maybe fifteen extra minutes.  This is just normal conditions in lots of parts of LA.

At the elections office I learned 

Yes, when you register for the Alaska Permanent Fund  Dividend (PFD) check, you're automatically registered.  Some people, they told me, complained because they had no choice.  She did refer me to the Elections website which has a PDF updated August 2018, which answers all my questions.

I guess this is the key question, all the others, clarify this one:

"Why is the Division of Elections sending me mail?
The law requires the Division of Elections to send each PFD applicant that is eligible to vote an opt-out mailer giving the applicant/voter the option to opt-out of being automatically registered to vote or have their voter registration record updated."
I take this to mean that everyone who applies gets a letter from the Division of Elections, either to opt out, change information (namely address), or do nothing.  If I got such a notice, I've totally forgotten it.  If you do nothing, and you're already registered, everything stays the same.  If you aren't registered and do nothing, you get registered to vote.

I'd note that in October 2016, when the initiative to add automatic PFD registration  was coming before the voters in November, Paul Jenkins had an opinion piece saying it was a waste of money, that people already had lots of ways to register if they wanted to.   But then his real opposition to the initiative is revealed when he writes near the end:
"To argue the initiative is not about advancing Democrat fortunes at our expense is nonsensical. If the left wants to register voters it should pick up the check and not pass it on to a cash-strapped state while pretending it is for the civic good."
I would have to do some more research to see if his predictions that more Democrats will be signed up is true.  I suspect that would be hard to determine since people are automatically registered as "undeclared."  They would have to opt to change their party registration and I'm guessing most won't.

My guess is that Republicans wouldn't have any problem with spending money on this if they thought it would add Republican voters.

The Hill cites a recent Brennan Center report:
"Nine southern states previously had to get approval from the Department of Justice to change voting policies under a provision in the 1965 Voting Rights Act, but the Supreme Court struck down that measure in 2013.
“Across the board, formerly covered jurisdictions increased their purge rates after 2012 more than noncovered jurisdictions,” the report found.
The center highlighted Texas, Georgia and Virginia as states impacted by the 2013 Supreme Court ruling with higher rates of voter purging."
Actually there were 16 states overall that had to get preclearance from the Department of Justice before the Supreme Court ruling and Alaska was one of them.

But with the PFD registration (more people get PFD's than drivers licenses) Alaska has to be one of the most aggressive states actually getting people onto the rolls instead of off.

And it's nice to live in a state that's making it as easy as possible for people to register to vote.  Unlike states where they are now aggressively purging the roles.  

I'm curious what this means for voter registrars.  How many people aren't registered.  Of the two I registered last Friday, one had moved from out of state, so he clearly hadn't registered yet.  But the other seemed to be someone who would have gotten a PFD check last year.  But they checked and he wasn't registered.  And, of course, all the people turning 18 before the election.

Homeless Registration?

People can use Bean's Cafe, or any other place they regularly eat at as their address.  If they are living in a homeless camp off the bike trail through the woods, they can give the closest intersection or whatever description that will allow the elections office to determine what district they are in.  Of course that won't work too well for mail-in only elections.  But you can still go and vote early at various locations.

Monday, August 13, 2018

Standing For Salmon 2: Fish [Ship] Creek Fishers

The last post was about standing for salmon politically.

This one is about literally standing for salmon - at Fish [Ship] Creek in downtown Anchorage next to the Port of Anchorage.

We'd made a trip to Alaska Mill and Feed, but they close at 4pm on Sunday, it turned out, and it was 4:30.

So we decided to walk around the area.  We hadn't done that for a number of years and things have been spiffed up.  The Bridge Restaurants crosses over Ship Creek and has an upscale menu and there have been lots of improvements.  Here's the fanciest outdoor public restroom I've ever seen in Alaska.  If you look closely (you may have to click on it to enlarge and focus it) you can see they're labeled Dollies and Chums.

It had rained during the night and much of the day, but it was surprisingly warm - low 70s F.  And it was windy.  Weather reports said it was a remnant of a typhoon in Japan.  I'd say we had about 10 mile/hour winds most of the time with gusts over 30 mph.

Here's a guy sloshing through the mud, his rod had snapped.

Here we walked down to a look out point, next to the boat launch into Cook Inlet.  The picture is looking north to the mouth of Ship Creek with the Port of Anchorage in the background.  If I'd turned around and taken a picture to the south, you'd see downtown Anchorage about half a mile away.

We sat there watching the clouds move past us in the wind.

To get a sense of how fast the clouds were moving, the series of shots below span just under two minutes.

Another shot to the north, geese in the foreground and the port in the background.

Another view of the fishers as we cross a bridge and return on the other side.

And yes, folks were catching fish.

[UPDATE Aug 16, 2018:  Jim Kerr pointed out this is Ship Creek, not Fish Creek.  I seem to have used both names in this post.  Thanks Jim, I've made the corrections now.]