Sunday, September 30, 2018

"Graham Promises Investigation Of ‘The Effort To Destroy This Good Man’" - Give Me A Break

I've been thinking how many bizarre, even unimaginable (not long ago) headlines we've been seeing.  Some of this, of course, is hyped by the media (online probably worse than print) to get more hits and sell more ads.  The title quote comes from TPM.

But really, Sen. Graham, I'm so glad you've come to the aid of all men who might be falsely accused of sexual abuse.  From a Stanford (sure, biased source since Dr. Ford teaches there) Men's anti sexual assault group (group of traitors to their gender, right Sen. Graham?):
Only about 2% of all rape and related sex charges are determined to be false, the same percentage as for other felonies (FBI). So while they do happen, and they are very problematic when they do, people claim that allegations are false far more frequently than they are and far more frequently than for other crimes.  Put another way, we are much more likely to disbelieve a woman if she says she was raped than if she says she was robbed, but for no good reason.
On a related note, only about 40% of rapes are ever reported to the police, and this is partly because victims know that if their claim becomes public, their every behavior will be scrutinized, they will be shamed for their sexual history, and they will be labeled as lunatic, psychotic, paranoid, and manipulative.  Just because someone does not report their crime does not mean it did not happen.  Furthermore, only one in two claims lead to prosecution, so if the DA decides not to prosecute, that says nothing about whether or not it happened.
2% are false claims, and 40% of such crimes are never reported, so that would bump down the 2% figure.

And Sen. Graham is worried about men who are falsely accused, the 2%, rather than all the women  (and men) who are sexually abused and assaulted with impunity.  OK, I know this is one specific man.  But unless you are ideologically blinded, or so corrupted by campaign funders, or worried that accusations like this might affect you and lots of other male abusers you hang out with, it's hard not to find Ford's testimony totally credible and Kavanaugh's evasive at best and sprinkled with lies - big and small - at worst.

What we learned, incontrovertibly, at the hearings was:

1.  In a time of personal crisis, Kavanaugh fell apart.  He did not remain calm and rational.  He blew up.  If Dr. Ford had acted like Kavanaugh, she would have been pilloried in the committee.  Anger is an emotion, one that shows great loss of control.  I don't care if this was a personal crisis. This man is being considered for the Supreme Court.  Only nine people get that privilege.  I'm sure there are plenty of qualified candidates who are able to control their anger and act more like Dr. Ford than Judge Kavanaugh.

2.  He lied about the meaning of words he wrote in his high school year book.  He lied about getting into Yale totally on his own merits, that he had no connections.  (He was a legacy student because his grandfather went to Yale.)  [UPDATE 3pm 9/30/18 - Nathan J. Robinson wrote the detailed, lie-by-lie analysis "How we know Brett Kavanaugh is lying" I didn't have the time or energy to do.  And he does a much better job than I would have had I had the time and energy.  So thanks Nathan.  Here's his summary of what he's doing in this piece:
"In this case, when we examine the testimony of Brett Kavanaugh and Christine Blasey Ford honestly, impartially, and carefully, it is impossible to escape the following conclusions:
Brett Kavanaugh is lying.
There is no good reason to believe that Christine Blasey Ford is lying. This does not mean that she is definitely telling the truth, but that there is nothing in what Kavanaugh said that in any way discredits her account.
I want to show you, clearly and definitively, how Brett Kavanaugh has lied to you and lied to the Senate. I cannot prove that he committed sexual assault when he was 17, and I hesitate to draw conclusions about what happened for a few minutes in a house in Maryland in the summer of 1982. But I can prove quite easily that Kavanaugh’s teary-eyed “good, innocent man indignant at being wrongfully accused” schtick was a facade. What may have looked like a strong defense was in fact a very, very weak and implausible one."
It's long, but he needs time to spell it all out,]

I recognize that these are the kind of lies Kavanaugh worked to attack when they were coming from Bill Clinton.  There the kind of lies one tells to avoid bigger consequences - like not being confirmed by the Senate.

3.  He openly showed his political bias.  "Since my nomination in July, there’s been a frenzy on the left to come up with something, anything to block my confirmation.”

He showed himself to be a bitter, self-centered, jerk.

This was not a profile in courage.  He did not pull himself up and and calmly and rationally defend his actions.  I suspect that would have been hard to do.

Graham's accusation of "the effort to destroy this good man,"  which echoes Kavanaugh's words, should be seen in the context of Kavanaugh's own work for Ken Starr on the impeachment of Bill Clinton.
A 1998 memo written by Kavanaugh that was released in full Monday by the National Archives underscores his distaste for Bill Clinton’s Oval Office affair in apparently purposefully graphic terms. As the team prepared to interview Clinton, Kavanaugh advises it to put the president through the wringer “piece by painful piece” when questioning him.
This is what Kavanaugh wanted to do to Clinton - to destroy him.  So naturally he believes the Democrats would do the same thing.  Is the K in Kavanaugh for Karma?

There may be people out to destroy Kavanaugh.  The more I learn about him, the more I realize he's been a political hitman disguised as hard-working former alter-boy, who joined the Federalist Society judicial cult of originalism that favors the powerful over other citizens, and served that cause to the cusp of a still possible Supreme Court position.

I think most people who oppose him fear his ideological commitment to originalism would do great damage to the United States.

His performance the other day, in my mind, disqualifies him for this position for the reasons listed above, regardless of whether he did the deeds Dr. Ford alleges he did.  This hearing is NOT about whether Kavanaugh sexually abused Dr. Ford - though the Republicans are making it that, and short of eyewitness reports, or better yet, video, nothing can prove it to their satisfaction.

It's really - as Graham said earlier - not about truth, but about power.

Alaskans, your calls to Sen. Murkowski carry more weight than those of people outside of Alaska. Call her.  Email her.  Even if you've already done so ten times.  And send copies to Sen. Sullivan.  He's not going to vote against Kavanaugh, but it's important to let him know you're watching and you aren't happy.

522 Hart Senate Office Building Washington DC 20510
(202) 224-6665

Sullivan, Dan - (R - AK)
702 Hart Senate Office Building Washington DC 20510
(202) 224-3004

I did an hour bike ride this morning, had a hot malasada, and now I'm going to play in the water.

And a reminder about Senate courage from the JFK Presidential Library:

And here are some study/discussion questions for students that the Senate Judiciary Committee might want to work on as a group.

And some poetry on courage from a rich, white, male, imperialist poet (Rudyard Kipling) that is sure to appeal more to Sen. Graham.  It begins:

"If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;"

Saturday, September 29, 2018

Happy Birthday Dad From Maui

It's been, this is somewhat shocking to me, 30 years since my Dad died.  But today is his birthday and I celebrated by going for a swim this morning before it got too hot.  What would we talk about if he were here?   Definitely the Kavanaugh hearings.  Our kids were teenagers when he died, but he spent much of his last month with us in Anchorage.  He loved being a grandfather too.  So we would talk about them and their children.

We'd talk about how long it's been since we've been to Hawaii, how much it's been built up since the last time we were here.  But also how wonderful the water is, and the local fresh food.

Yesterday, Dad, we went beach scouting.  We decided that Kamaole I would be a good place to try out the snorkeling.  It was hot and windy when we parked ourselves on the sand.

There were two sets of fins and two facemarks and snorkels in the condo we're staying at.  I fiddled with the straps so it would be tight on my face and went into the warm (but a little cooler than the air) water.  I don't remember, Dad, Hawaiian water being so warm, but I've always ever been here between December and March.  The water was very clear and I swam around looking for something other than just a smooth sandy bottom.  A small school of small but colorful fish swam nearby.  The water felt great, floating there felt great.  After a while I decided to head back to J on the beach.  But I'd drifted a ways and decided to swim back rather than walk on the beach.  

That's when I saw the sea turtle up ahead of me.  The water wasn't deep.  I could have stood up.  It was coming straight toward me.  Maybe three or four feet long.  It kept coming my way.  I've snorkeled where there were sea turtles before, but only in places further out from the shore and where I'd been told they were likely to be.  But here it was, still swimming straight at me, a foot or so below me.  I tried to move to the side and it went right by.  

Wow!  I wish I could show you a picture I took, but I don't have an underwater camera.  And without the camera I was totally there with the turtle, not worrying about getting a good picture.  Same kind of thrill as a close encounter with a moose like I had last week.  

Later an old friend of J's - who lives on Maui -  came by.  We snacked on two kinds of poke (in the bowl lower left) we'd just bought as well as star fruit.   And the star fruit was, I realize now, a prelude for what were going to see.*  


As the sun set we shifted to the lanai to catch up on all that's happening in each others' lives.

If you look closely, you can see the windmills on the hill on the right.  

And then the stars came out.  Well, I'm pretty sure they're the planets.  

Time and Date lists the planets we can see tonight  in Maui (and I'm assuming last night wasn't too different) but I'm not sure which planet is which in the picture below.

The camera picked up three.  Venus is supposed to be "Fairly good visibility" and sets at 7:40 (tonight).  This picture was taken last night at at about 7:55pm (last night.) (My camera seems to be on PST and about 20 minutes fast.)  So maybe Venus is the one on the horizon.  Mars is supposed to be "Perfect visibility" and set (tomorrow) at 1:51am, so it could be the one on top.  And I'm guessing the middle one is Jupiter which is "Fairly good visibility" and is supposed to set (tonight) at 8:47pm.  If it's clear enough tonight, I'll track them more carefully.  There is sun but also a lot of clouds now.  

[UPDATE 7:49 pm:  The light on the horizon is probably a boat based on what I see tonight.]

Then we went for a good Thai dinner and lots of conversation.

Dad, you didn't follow the stars that closely, but your grandson does and maybe he'll see this and let us know.  And as long as I'm talking to my Dad here, I can also fantasize that he might be up there with the planets and the stars.  

*Ok, planets aren't stars.  But then stars don't look like slices of star fruit either.  

Friday, September 28, 2018

Kavanaugh Hearings Thoughts - No One Is Entitled To A Supreme Court Seat And This Was NOT A Trial

[UPDATE:  Just moments after I posted this, I see that Sen Flake has called for a week's delay to let the FBI investigate the sexual assault charge.]

1.  Ostensibly, this hearing was about  who is telling the truth.  Dr  Ford or Judge Kavanaugh?
Republicans seemed to have conceded  that  Ford was telling the truth, EXCEPT that she got her assaulter wrong and Kavanaugh was telling the truth when he said he never assaulted her or anyone else.   That takes some tricky brain compartmentalization, but since the Trump presidency, Republicans have gotten lots of practice with that.

Democrats felt Ford was telling the truth including her identification of her assaulter.

My perception, and apparently most people's, was that Ford was very credible  Even the Republicans spoke of her with respectful tones.  The only problem with her testimony, in their eyes, was that she was mistaken about her attacker.

Kavanaugh, on the other hand, provided evidence of what some had alleged was a violent temper when he gets drunk.  Except, I presume, he wasn't drunk.  He certainly seemed to be highly emotional - yelling in obvious fury about the accusations and also crying at times.

I couldn't help but think about the warning:  You don't know how you'll react in a crisis until you are in one.  Kavanaugh was in a crisis yesterday and instead of staying calm and reasoned, Kavanaugh lost it completely.  He was  focused on himself - how unfairly he was being treated.  Although people argue that it is difficult to pinpoint the meaning of 'judicial temperament," what Kavanaugh demonstrated yesterday, surely wasn't it.

And Kavanaugh refused to concede the two things that could have cleared his name.

  1. Unlike Ford, he's taken no polygraph.  
  2. He wouldn't agree to ask an FBI investigation into the assault charge.  Despite telling Senators he would agree to anything to clear his name,  when they offered him such a way - that he ask Trump to order an FBI investigation, he hemmed and hawed and said everything but wouldn't give a clear yes or no.  
    1. He echoed Republican senators that there could have been an FBI investigation if the Democrats hadn't concealed the Ford letter.  (Feinstein said she had done so because of a promise she'd made not to reveal Ford's name.)   
    2. He quoted Joe Biden saying that you could prove anything you wanted with an FBI report, that they didn't make any conclusions, only presented facts.  Yet he also said he had been cleared by FBI investigations any number of times when he was up for previous positions.  
    3. Kavanaugh also claimed that there was no need for an FBI investigation because the Senate Judiciary Committee was investigating.  Yet each Senator gets only 5 minutes, and a skilled candidate like Kavanaugh who has coached nominees in the past, knows he can eat those minutes up by talking without answering the questions.  FBI investigators can ask for as long as they need.
    4. He also said there was no need to have people like Mark Judge testify because he'd already submitted a note saying that Kavanaugh was not involved in the Ford assault.  Yet writing a note - actually it came from his attorney - is clearly not the same as appearing in person and having people ask probing questions and being able to judge how the person responds.  

Overall, the only evidence that Ford was wrong about her attacker was Kavanaugh's denial.  And his claims of inconsistencies in her story, that trauma experts say are normal memory lapses for trauma victims.   That was enough for Republicans.  Even though he, and they, could probably get much closer to the truth with an FBI investigation and him taking a polygraph.

2.  For Republicans, the hearing was about trying to convince people watching, that the Democrats have poisoned the advise and consent process by, 

  • hiding the Ford letter until the last minute
  • by opposing Kavanaugh from the beginning

Someone even said that from now on Supreme Court nominations will simply be bitter partisan fights, not about the candidates' real qualifications, but about winning and losing.

But, of course, that needs to be put into the context of all the federal judges that the Republicans held up when Obama was president, including never even holding hearings for Merrick Garland.
And the fact that Trump had relatively little trouble getting Neil Gorsuch approved.
The problems are also exacerbated by the elimination of the 2/3 majority requirement for approval of Supreme Court judges.  With that rule, presidents knew they had to nominate a judge moderate enough that some members of the minority could vote for.  With the simple majority rule we have now, a president can appoint a much more extreme judge if he can get all of the majority to vote yes.

3.  Kavanaugh's testimony made this all about Kavanaugh.  He was obsessed with how this process was ruining his reputation, his life, and his family.  All the things that happen to rape and sexual assault victims, he claimed for himself.  Yet as much as he was feeling sorry for himself, many decisions he's made as a judge don't seem to show much empathy for other people who have far more difficult problems in life.  See this overview of some of his decisions.

But this process wasn't about Kavanaugh really.

Yes, he is the nominee, but this was a hearing to confirm a presidential nominee to the Supreme Court.  No one is owed a Supreme Court position.  And no one is 'the only possible good candidate.' The president should nominate the best person he can find that the Senate will approve.  In the Senate's vetting process, some problems have arisen.  Problems, which if true, should disqualify Kavanaugh.

A candidate who had the best interests of the country in his heart, rather than ranting about his victimhood,  might realize that the debate over his nomination was not only hurting the country now, but would hurt the credibility of the Supreme Court if he were to serve.

4.  No one is entitled to a Supreme Court seat.  He acted as if he were owed this Supreme Court position.  It was his and he sees the Democrats trying to snatch it away.  I understand that being accused of sexual assault does have a great impact on one's life.  But far worse things happen to people every day - innocent people get shot by police, others die because they can't afford medical treatment, or they lose their home so they can pay for medical treatment.  Their kids die of violence in schools.  And my sense is that Kavanaugh, as a judge, has little sympathy for their plight.  But, I give him credit that, like all the Republican senators there, he made sure not to insult Ford or to question her integrity.  But one can't help thinking that's because in the #metoo era, they knew it would make them look bad in front of millions.

But Kavanaugh made it clear - this wasn't about the good of the country, it was about him and his entitlement.  He yelled in anger.  He cried in (not sure, frustration?)  And he told us how his life had been ruined.

Most of us have survived not being appointed to the US Supreme Court.  And most of us have been turned down for something we felt was important - whether a job, a marriage proposal, a job.  And we've all been upset for a while and then gotten on with our lives.  Most of us have not had temper tantrums during the job interview.   The temporary fuss over Kavanaugh's confirmation will blow over.   His children will still love him and he will find lucrative opportunities.  In fact, his fallback position, should he not be confirmed, is his current life time appointment as a judge.

5.  This isn't a trial.  Neither Kavanaugh nor Ford were on trial yesterday - though the Republicans hired a woman prosecutor to question Ford for them as if she were on trial.. There will be no verdict of guilty or innocent.  No one will face jail time or other penalties as a result of these hearings.  And because this is not a courtroom, their resolution of which person is telling the truth, need not be "beyond a reasonable doubt."

6.  Kavanaugh was too clever for his own good.

Kavanaugh knows this Senate process well.  He's coached other court nominees when he worked in the Bush administration.  But all rules of strategy are meant to be broken when conditions change.  One rule most judicial candidates have adopted is to be as evasive in answers as possible. Don't let the Senators pin you down.  Kavanaugh has become an expert in not saying yes or no.  As mentioned above, he skirted the issue every time Democratic Senators urged him to ask for an FBI investigation to clear his name.

But in another question - Did he wish that Dr. Ford had never come forward? - he again weaseled.  This really seemed like a softball question.  There was no one watching (I'm sure) who didn't believe that Kavanaugh would have preferred to have his hearings over with without Dr. Ford's accusations.  Yet he wouldn't say yes.  I assume that his training in evasion wouldn't let him acknowledge what everyone knew to be true.   In my opinion, he would have sounded uncharacteristically candid had he just said, "I would love not to have to be here today, so yes."  He couldn't.  All he could do was continue playing dodgeball as Democratic senators kept throwing questions at him.

There was so much to think about during yesterday's hearings.  These are just a few observations I had.

And I can't help but imagine what people who did NOT see the testimony and are relying on news reports might think.  Even reports I heard on NPR seemed to be bending over backwards to not suggest any bias - thus depriving the listener of how different the testimony of the two was.

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Just Spent My First Daylight Hours In Maui Watching Senate Hearings, But Reminded That Universe Will Continue Unaffected

We got in late last night.  I didn't set an alarm for this morning, but I woke up early enough to only miss the first half hour - much of which was repeated during breaks.

But as important as the Kavanaugh hearings may be to many of us, really, the universe isn't paying any attention.  My evidence?

We finally took off about 7pm last night from Seattle as the sun was starting to set.  We were headed southwest to Maui so we had a sunset backdrop for a long way.  The picture above - well it really looked like that from my window seat.  The sun and the rest of the universe are oblivious to what we do here on earth.

There’s still a fiery glow along the horizon at 9pm Seattle time (7pm Hawaii time).

These are just a few examples of the changing sunset over the first two or more hours of our flight, though the first picture is by far my favorite.

And as I look out over the cloud covered ocean, the sky and the water seem unaffected by the Senate Hearings as well.

Though here on earth, the activities of humans are affecting the oceans and the wind patterns and how the clouds move and how long they hang over places while they drop their load of water back to earth.  Who gets on the Supreme Court and the decisions they make about climate change, about regulations on carbon, and about various things - like campaign financing and gerrymandering - that affect who gets elected to Congress will make a difference on our planet.

Long Delays at Seatac

We landed with a thump and soon we were stopped.  In line, waiting for other arriving planes to  get gates, for planes to take off, and finally for a gate.  It was about 45 minutes sitting on the tarmac when we arrive this morning.  We had a long wait til our connecting flight to Maui, so it was sort of ok.  Except the long layover was so we could catch the train in to Seattle to see our daughter and granddaughter.  But we still had four hours of bliss.  But this post is about the delays at Seatac.

When we got back to the airport and onto the plane, we left the gate on time.  But it was another 45 minutes before we took off.  But we made it to Maui on our scheduled time.  

Here’s a plane that just arrived crossing the take-off runway.  

And here’s part of the line-up of planes behind us once we got to the head of the line.  There are four in the picture and there were four more behind the Alaska plane on the left.  

The pilot said there’s a runway being repaired which is most of the delay.

I'm not complaining, just noting.  We still had a wonderful time with the little one and now we're sweating in warm and humid Maui.

Monday, September 24, 2018

Alaskans In LA Times Stories

Saturday's  LA Times' page 2 had just one story,  by Alaska's Zachariah Hughes , about a transplanted North Carolinian in Kotzebue.  In part:

“I like the fall up here,” said Jay Denton, an educator raised in North Carolina who’s spent the last decade in the small towns and villages of the region. Now he lives in Kotzebue, the town of some 3,200 residents about 20 river miles from Hugo’s bald dome. 
Denton stared down at the broad cursive of the Noatak River as it trickled from the western edge of the Brooks Range toward the Chukchi Sea, flanked by taxi-yellow willows and spiky green spruce and miles of rolling tundra.

Fall in the Arctic is something to behold. It begins with a rush of chilled air that prompts the vegetation to change, a shift in the light, and a flurry of movement, both human and animal. It is a season of paradoxes as the flora and fauna come alive on the cusp of winter. But there’s also the inevitable feeling of decay, of an ephemeral landscape slipping away.

Lillian Lennon photo in LA Times

Today, a long story on the ups and downs for transgender folks nationally, includes a picture of Anchorage's Lillian Lemon, who worked to defeat the referendum that would have repealed transgender rights in Anchorage.

"In April, transgender people got some support from voters in Anchorage. By a 6-percentage-point margin, they defeated a ballot measure that would have repealed a trans-inclusive civil rights ordinance and required transgender people to use public bathrooms and locker rooms consistent with their gender at birth.
For activists, that result was heartening in light of events in Houston in 2015 after its City Council adopted an ordinance that included protections for transgender people using restrooms based on gender identity. Opponents of the ordinance gathered enough signatures for a repeal referendum, then campaigned using the slogan “No Men in Women’s Bathrooms.” By 61% to 39%, the anti-bias ordinance was repealed."
I included the Houston part, just so Alaskans don't get complacent.  The article also mentions a similar referendum is on the ballot in Massachusetts.  

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Autumn Equinox Is Gone

We hiked the Wolverine Peak Trail today as the colors are changing.

Bark on an old birch trunk.

Meanwhile at home, the birch leaves have begun to fall as well.

Saturday, September 22, 2018

I could laugh at this, except that a Supreme Court seat is at stake

When I read about Kavanaugh confirmation strategist Ed Whelan concocting bizarre stories to explain Kavanaugh out of trouble over Dr. Ford's charges of sexual assault, I couldn't help but think of 10 year olds thinking they could outsmart their grandmother with some crazy story about how the window got broken but not by them..  (For those who have been marooned on a desert island, the story Whelan came up with, is that Ford misidentified the person who sexually assaulted her.  It was really some other guy.)

The excuse is so full of holes, I just had to look online to find the worst ever alibis.  

Whelan's efforts seem about as simple-minded as the ideas listed in a post at Cracked  entitled, "The 7 Stupidest Alibis in the History of Crime"

First, there are the stories that, like Whelan's, try to blame someone else:

#7  "My cat downloaded all that child pornography."
#1  "It was my evil twin!"

Whelan's story falls right into this pattern. The evil twin seems to be the best fit -  the other guy supposedly looks a lot like Kavanaugh.   But Whelan's efforts have fallen apart, badly. 

Just in case he's working on more cockamamy excuses, we can look at the other five stupidest alibis.  

Here are two I'll call the  "I'm immune" alibis:

#5  "I am a Texas Republican sovereignty."  

I guess Kavanaugh was counting on a version of this one before Ford showed up, only Kavanaugh's variation is "I'm a member of the Federalist Society."  I guess he's still using that and Grassley is still accepting that as a valid excuse for anything.  Though Whelan (the head of the "Ethics and Public Policy Center, mind you, and a fervent Federalist) is helping, along with Kavanaugh to strip off the veneer of purity and respectability the Federalist Society has long dazzled Republicans with.

The other example of "I'm immune":
#2  "I worship the Norse gods!"
Kavanaugh's offers, "I worship the constitution” which up til now has made him immune to most everything.

What should I call this next one?  The plagiarist alibi?
#4  "Did you see Law and Order last night? It was exactly like that."  
Actually, Democrats are using  this one:"Did you see the Anita Hill hearings?  It was exactly like that."

Then there are these two that blame "things" for their behavior.   
#3 "I shot someone six times because I was on a diet."  
This worked for Dan White, and perhaps Kavanaugh would argue the alcohol made him do it, but that would acknowledge he did it.  But given what Whelan's done already, who knows? (Actually Snopes explains that White didn't actually claim the Twinkies made him do.   I'm letting you know so I'm not spreading false rumors.)

# 6 "The alignment in my car is bad."  (You really have to go to Cracked to appreciate the absurdity of how this and the other alibis were used.)

This would be a variation of the diet alibi, like "the bed in that room knocked me on top of her."

As the title says, I could laugh at this, except that a Supreme Court seat is at stake.

 [The #s are the rankings that Cracked gave these alibis.]

Friday, September 21, 2018

Reading Press Releases Between The Lines - Anchorage Airport

Here's a press release I got by email from the Anchorage Airport today.  My comments are below.
Cargo Ranking: Up one spot to #5 in the world, remains #2 in the US
(ANCHORAGE, AK) — Airport Council International (ACI) released its Annual World Airport Traffic Report yesterday with 2017 numbers. Last year, more than 2.7 million tonnes of cargo transited through the Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport.
Airport Manager, Jim Szczesniak said, “The airport remains a substantial part of the world air cargo system, that’s good for Anchorage and good for the State. We continue to promote our strategic location, and the synergies that Anchorage can provide in air cargo transfer, e-commerce distribution centers, major and minor aircraft maintenance and repair, and aircraft parts warehousing. This all translates to good paying jobs for Alaskans.”
Anchorage Airport is located on transpolar flight routes between Asia, North America and Latin America.
Total cargo volumes handled by airports experienced a record increase of 7.7 percent from the previous year.
Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport is less than 9.5 hours from 90 percent of the industrialized world and serves more than 5 million passengers annually. The airport accounts for 1 in 10 jobs in Anchorage, accounting for more than 15,000 jobs in Anchorage and a $1 billion in earnings.
The Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities oversees 239 airports, 10 ferries serving 35 communities, more than 5,600 miles of highway and 731 public facilities throughout the state of Alaska. The mission of the department is to “Keep Alaska Moving through service and infrastructure.” [emphasis added.]

Let's look at the wording.

We are told in the headline and first paragraph that ANC went up one spot in the world rankings in 2017 and that we increased by more than 2.7 million tonnes of cargo.  

The every next paragraph begins by mentioning Airport Manager Jim Szczesniak.  I would suggest that the placing of his name like that would imply that he should take credit for this increase.  But I'd note that Szczesniak's appointment as the Anchorage Airport manager came in January 2018.  So he had nothing to do with the 2017 increase.  It might have been nice to give former airport manager John Parrott credit.  But then Parrott was asked to leave by the governor last October for undisclosed reasons.

But I'd also note things that the article doesn't mention:

If you click on it you'll be able to read it better.  Or go to the original here.

The press release tells us that world-wide air cargo increased by 7.7%.  It doesn't tell us (but the chart does)  that Anchorage increased only by 6.7%. In fact, of the top 10 airports internationally, Anchorage's increase was the 7th highest, or fourth from the bottom.  Of course, to be fair, the less you have to start in actual quantity, the easier it is to get a higher percentage increase.  But then again airports #1 (Hong Kong) and #3 (Shanghai) increased by 9.4% and 11.2% respectively.

The Airports Council International's press release, on which the Anchorage Airport press release is based, also tells us that the biggest growth in passengers and cargo comes from Asia.  So, in some ways Anchorage's growth is due to our lucky global location equidistant between Asia, Europe, and Eastern US.  (The press release doesn't mention Europe, but does mention Latin America which didn't used to be in the airport's publicity.)

International passenger service via Anchorage is way down (since 1990) due to planes that fly longer distances and passengers who want to get wherever they are going faster. (It was great for Anchorage residents who could fly directly to Europe and Asia.)  But freight fleets would rather carry more paying cargo weight than fuel weight, so a stop in Anchorage lets them carry more cargo and less fuel and then pick up more fuel in Anchorage. And credit must be given to the airport for being ready to take on more traffic.

I understand that the purpose of the press release is to make their organization look as good as possible.  But it's also the role of journalists to point out what they don't say.  On that count, I'd like to also note how the press release talks about all the jobs the airport provides.  It doesn't talk about all the noise Anchorage residents had to endure this summer and the even more noise they will have to endure next summer.  It also doesn't talk about all the pollution that is added to Anchorage's air and water.  (I found lots of interesting information and you can easily find studies that downplay the amount of air pollution  But check the dates of the studies.  And who did them.)

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Why I Live Here - Meeting Friends On The Bike Trail

I was biking home.  Just got under the first bridge under Seward Highway (going east), along Campbell Creek, when I see this moose coming in my direction.  I pull out my pocket camera and shoot a bit of video.  Then back up.  Then back up more - this time to the bike trail bridge over the Creek.  It's still coming.  But then it veers off into the bushes below the bridge.

This is why people can't move away from Anchorage.  These encounters are just too cool.  The greenbelt cuts through town.  About 10 minute bike ride from my house.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Failures of Truth, Failures of Justice, and Failures of Love

There are parts of the Gates of Repentance Prayer Book that keep me coming to High Holiday Services every year.  The section that outlines all the sins we may have committed this last year and should strive to avoid next year is a good example.  This is useful to reflect on more than annually.
Failures of Truth 
We sin against you when we sin against ourselves.
For our failures of truth, O Lord, we ask forgiveness. 
For passing judgment without knowledge of the facts,
and for distorting facts to fit our theories.
For deceiving ourselves and others with half-truths,
and for pretending to emotions we do not feel. 
For using the sins of others to excuse our own,
and for denying responsibility for our own misfortunes. 
For condemning in our children the faults we tolerate in ourselves,
and for condemning in our parents the faults we tolerate in ourselves.   

Failures of Justice
For keeping the poor in the chains of poverty,
and turning a deaf ear to the cry of the oppressed.
For using violence to maintain our power,
and for using violence to bring about change.
For waging aggressive war,
and for the sin of appeasing aggressors.
For obeying criminal orders,
and for the sin of silence and indifference.
For poisoning the air, and polluting land and sea,
and for all the evil means we employ to accomplish good ends.  

Failures of Love
For confusing love with lust,
and for pursuing fleeting pleasure at the cost of lasting hurt.
For using others as a means to gratify our desires,
and as stepping-stones to further our ambitions.
For withholding love to control those we claim to love,
and shunting aside those whose youth or age disturbs us. 
For hiding from others behind an armored of mistrust,                                                and for the cynicism which leads us to mistrust the reality of unselfish love.  
I'm not very religious.  I'm fairly certain man created God and not the other way around.  But I've been lucky to have the ability to pick out the useful from the problematic.

I can read academic theories and find those parts that seem to be a good description of how the world works and not be hung up on those parts that seem less useful.  Theorists trying to put together an explanation of some aspect of the world, often get parts right and parts wrong.  

And with religion, the same is true.  I'm not much of a theist.  I can take the bible as stories from which to learn, but I also recognize that many of the laws we find there made sense in the context of social and political and economic life of 3000 years ago, but no longer are make sense.  And can even be harmful when twisted to the ends of the ambitious.   There are parts of the High Holiday services that I find offensive.  But many parts are still wise.

I'm not alone in picking and choosing.  Few people follow all the 613 commandments Maimonides extracted from the Torah. (You can see the history of this and list of commandments at Wikipedia.)

Some say that the dietary restrictions were connected to health - eating shellfish in hot climates with no refrigeration is risky.  Some may be moral - slaughtering animals in the quickest and least painful way.  Others say that keeping Kosher requires a self-discipline that is useful in other parts of one's life.  Other than Orthodox Jews, I'm not sure there's anyone who follows all the bible's dietary laws today.  Though lots of Jews try to observe a few of the commandments - like not eating pork.  (Sources conflict and tell us they do, partly because the Bible doesn't explain the reasons.  Here are a couple:  Judaism 101 on Kashrut;  Biblical Archeology on Making Sense of Kosher Laws; or Jewish Food Hero on Kosher Explained. )  

There have only been one or two years when I've failed to go to High Holiday services.  It began  family custom.  My mother would take me every year, though we didn't go to services weekly.  I think for her it was a connection to her parents, who she never saw again after she left Germany as a teenager.  And the rabbi we went to for many years was an old  white bearded, German rabbi who is still my image of a 'real rabbi.'    It's also way of staying connected with a community bigger than just the family.  The Jewish New Year celebrations are also an important personal day of reflection.  

It's a time to think about how one has lived one's life during the year that's ending and to ask forgiveness for one's sins.  And also to forgive those who have sinned against us.  The ten days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are a time for repentance.  On Rosh Hashanah "it is written" but on Yom Kippur "it is sealed." 

"It" is who shall live and who shall die during the next year.  Those ten days are one's time to convince God that your repentance is sincere.  In my mind, what's written is in pencil and can still be erased.   Do I believe someone is writing everyone's name in the book of life or the book of death?  Not really.  But it makes the abstract more concrete.  It reminds me that it is a time for me to reflect on how I can be a better person in the next year.  

So I focus on those parts that reflect my values, and take as metaphorical those parts that portray a patriarchal God demanding total obedience.

Attending to these Failures of Truth, Justice, and Love would bring the United States and the world to a much better place.  These values don't require anyone to adhere to any religion.  They are self-evident to most human beings.

And for those I've wronged in the past year.  Please forgive me.  As I forgive those who have wronged me.  Shana Tova.  (As I read the first article I found on the meaning of Shana Tova, I quickly realized this was not the message I wanted people to get.  The next google hit turned out to be a response that expressed my feelings about the first article.) 

Monday, September 17, 2018

Anchorage's Great September

The warm (for Anchorage high sixties and low seventies) sunny days began just before Labor Day and today continued the trend.  But it's getting darker faster each evening, it's colder in the mornings, and when the sun slides out of sight, the temps drop quicker each day.  Down into the low forties at night.  Still eating on the deck, savoring this great weather.

But the birch out front is now all yellow.

(The tree branch in front is a mountain ash. Those leaves are green and the berries are as fat and red and plentiful as I can ever remember.}

But the birch is having trouble holding all its leaves.

While North Carolina and Southern China are experiencing the worst of what climate change means for humans, Anchorage, for now, are getting one of the more comfortable side effects. (But Alaskan villages are being captured by the sea, as winter sea ice that protected the land from the ravages of winter waves thins and even disappears.  And as permafrost melts, roads and buildings built on top of it lose their footing.  And the oceans warm and acidify changing the life cycles of salmon and other marine creatures.)

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Does An Accusation Of A 33 Year Old High School Sexual Assault Matter?

We've been hearing about a letter alleging Brett Kavanaugh sexually assaulted a girl in high school. Should that have any bearing on Kavanaugh's confirmation to the US Supreme Court?

None of us are the same people we were in high school.  Or so we would like to think.  Sure we change in many ways, but many of our behaviors then, good ones and not so good ones, still are part of us.

But is the story true even?  The Washington Post has an article today about the woman who wrote the letter detailing why she didn't talk about it sooner (well she did with her therapist and her husband) and why she did now.  Why she wanted it to be anonymous and why she's coming out publicly now.

After reading the article, I'm going to assume that it's quite likely this did indeed happen.  Kavanaugh categorically denies it, but the article brings out aspects of Kavanaugh's past that didn't surface in the Senate Judiciary Committee hearings.  These facts lend credence to the accusations.

"In his senior-class yearbook entry at Georgetown Prep, Kavanaugh made several references to drinking, claiming membership to the “Beach Week Ralph Club” and “Keg City Club.” He and Judge are pictured together at the beach in a photo in the yearbook.
Judge is a filmmaker and author who has written for the Daily Caller, The Weekly Standard and The Washington Post. He chronicled his recovery from alcoholism in “Wasted: Tales of a Gen-X Drunk,” which described his own blackout drinking and a culture of partying among students at his high school, renamed in the book “Loyola Prep.” Kavanaugh is not mentioned in the book, but a passage about partying at the beach one summer makes glancing reference to a “Bart O’Kavanaugh,” who “puked in someone’s car the other night” and “passed out on his way back from a party.”
Through the White House, Kavanaugh did not respond to a question about whether the name was a pseudonym for him."
Kavanaugh was an athlete, his mother was a judge.  I suspect if there were any serious issues in his life, his parents were positioned to make sure he didn't get into serious trouble for them.

The accuser is a college professor in Palo Alto, California who teaches at a college that is in a consortium with Stanford.  So she teaches Stanford graduate students psychology.  On the surface, there is nothing in her life - aside from a 33 year old sexual assault - that might account for her wanting to put her life onto a Republican target with a letter that probably wouldn't stop Kavanaugh's nomination anyway.

And the overwhelming number of sexual assault accusations turn out to be true.  There's no evidence so far that she was paid or otherwise pressured to make these accusations.  I'm sure that will come - the accusations, probably not the evidence.

So should a 33 year old drunken romp on a bed with a girl who didn't want to be there, matter in the nomination of Kavanaugh?

Again, these points I'm making, assume this happened.  (I'll make some points later that assume it didn't happen.)

1.  Kavanaugh never was confronted with this accusation and has never been held accountable.  And this stuff happened often back then (and still today).  Girls and women simply had to deal with things like this on their own.  This would be one example of a situation where he suffered no consequences for his inappropriate behavior.  Getting drunk during high school when his drinking was illegal, is another.  Sure, lots of people get drunk in high school, but for this future judge, it's another example of breaking the law with no consequences.  He even bragged about it in his yearbook.

2.  Kavanaugh categorically denied this ever happened.  That's textbook response for powerful men being accused of rape or sexual assault.  Though some, like Sen.  Franken, take responsibility for what they did and resign their positions.  If this did happen, Kavanaugh is lying.

3.  If a 33 year old high school indiscretion doesn't matter, then why not acknowledge it, apologize, and say that was long ago and I've learned and I'm no longer that person?  Trump didn't even have to apologize or say he was no longer that person.  But Supreme Court judges are expected to be truthful.

4.  In many of the #metoo cases we've seen in the last year or so, after a high profile accusation, other women come forward.  By rushing the vote to approve Kavanaugh, the Senate might be able to get him onto the court before anyone else comes forward.  Though this sounds like a particularly inept assault and perhaps it was a one-off.  Even if it wasn't, it may not have happened often or past high school or college.  But we should give others a chance to come forward.

5.  The accuser's hired an attorney who specializes in women accusers.  The attorney told her to take a lie detector test before she did anything else.  She passed the test.  I'd like Kavanaugh to take such a test if he's so certain it never happened.

6.  Republicans had a list ready of 65 women* who knew Kavanaugh in high school who all attest to his upstanding character.  (Does that include his self admitted drunken parties?)  If there are questions about the accuser's credibility, I'd like to see some reporters check with these women on how their names got on the list and whether they knew their names were going to be used to counter a sexual assault charge.

 Kavanaugh, and his Senate supporters, at his confirmation hearings, repeatedly talked about how Kavanaugh hired more female interns and people of color than the average judge.  While this is admirable, there's also something about men who surround themselves with women subordinates.  (It's interesting that google did poorly when I asked "male executives with mostly women subordinates."  It gave me articles about whether men or women are better bosses for women.  So I'm going to go with undocumented hunches here.)   My sense is that women, generally, are less confrontative than men.  Women are socialized to make nice.  (See Deborah Tannen's classic work on how men and women talk and act at work.)  I'd guess that, on average, life is easier, more pleasant, with women subordinates who are more grateful for getting an opportunity and less likely to challenge their boss.  He talked about all his mentoring - as girls basketball coach, all the women interns, the black students at Harvard.  All these are laudable things, but he actually used the young basketball players as props as they sat behind him one day during his hearings.  One can't help but wonder how much of this is stuff he's done to make his Supreme Court application look better.  Like high school kids volunteering at soup kitchens so they can put it down on their college applications.

7.  If Kavanaugh gets confirmed to the Supreme Court, we'll have two judges on the court who got there despite credible accusations of sexual harassment/assault by women college professors.

What if the accusation is false?

1.  The committee could wait to be sure that accuser is lying.  They could wait to see if any other women come forward.   They could ask Kavanaugh to take a lie detector test.  (While they're at it, they could ask him some of the questions he seemed a bit cagey about during the public hearings.)

2.  Even if Democrats took the Senate in November, the Senate would still have a almost 2 months to confirm Kavanaugh before the new Senators are sworn in.  But given Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years, it would be tight.

3.  Senator Harris quoted Kavanaugh on 'rushed decisions.'
"As Judge Kavanaugh relayed to me in our meeting, with respect to judicial decisions, rushed decisions are often bad decisions. I agree. But this time, this is for a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court."

3.  If would end up hurting the credibility of Democrats.

I suspect the Republicans and Kavanaugh, want him on the court so bad, and they feel like they are so, so close, that they want to rush this through before anything comes up that might quash their hopes.  They've already rushed the hearings through without hundreds of thousands of pages of documents that Democrats requested.  They're going to accept Kavanaugh's denial and not give time for others to come forth.  They want this done before the November election, even though the numbers suggest that they have a decent chance of keeping the Senate majority.

*I randomly picked a name from the list of 65 women who signed the letter supporting Brett Kavanaugh - Cindy Urgo - and google got me to her Youtube channel.  It has four videos up.  All with religious songs.   This is the most recent (2013):

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Good Analysis Of How Television Subtly Influences How People Are Perceived

This tweet - and the comments - shows us how people can be influenced by the setting of the interview.   If you click on the tweet, you can see the thread of comments that analyze the setting.  Most comments, I think, are on the mark.  A few may be seeing more than is there.  It would be interesting to hear from the people who set this up.  How much of this was done consciously - was the bust behind Banning really lit up more than the other one intentionally?

Click on the tweet to see the thread of analysis.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Great Day For A Long Ride To A Short Hike - Bodenburg Butte

With all this sunny dry weather I've been wanting to get out in the woods, but there were meetings and various chores that got in the way.  But today it was nice once again and we had nothing to interfere.

I wanted to go to Hatcher Pass, but talked myself into Bodenburg Butte - a hike I'd never been on.  All these years, it just never was a destination.  Hatcher Pass seemed like a more spectacular location.  I heard the views were good, and it's only a 3 mile round trip - though half of the hike is up.  So we got onto the Old Glenn Highway just before the Knik River.   Haven't been on that road for a long time either.

Even though I'd read the directions saying to go past Bodenburg Loop as we approached from the south, I turned there anyway.  Oh well.  This got to the south trail that was not recommended.  But since I don't think I've ever been on the loop, it was good to see.

Here's the Butte from the south.

A sign about a third of the way up - where we stopped to eat lunch - explained the geology:

I guess reading this is a bit of an eye exercise.  It says:
"Bodenburg Butte is an example of a Roche Moutennee, a French word describing a rock formation created by a passing glacier.  During the last ice age, the Knik Glacier moved through this valley, shaping the landscape that you see today.  As the frozen river of ice flowed through the area, it carried away tons of softer rock, carving out a valley.  The knob of much harder bedrock that was unmoved by the glacier's advance is what we know today as the Butte." 

This is looking up from the lunch spot.  I was trying to figure out where the trail was when I heard a familiar, but bizarre croaking/cackling sound.  There were lots of trees above, but for a moment I could see a flock of Sandhill cranes flying way above.

Soon I saw our way up.   First wooden stairs.

Then they changed to wood with earth packed in and  cable replaced the wooden handrails

This really is the most unAlaskan hike I can think of in Alaska.  It's a hump not a mountain.  It's in a rural area with farms and houses all around it.  And it has stairs.  A sign at the top said there are 505 steps.  That's not counting the unstaired trail.  But my knees said thank you.

And soon we were at the top and there were wonderful views in every direction.   Here's looking south.  I was near that white roof in the lower right when I took the top picture of the whole Butte from below.  There's even a reindeer farm down there.

And to the east is the Knik Glacier and the braided Knik River that flows from it.

And then I saw something moving down below.  I think it's a juvenile bald eagle - the head and tail feathers are white yet.

And it did lazy circles up on the warm, calm air.

Until it was above me.  

Needless to say, the trip down took much less time than going up.  Altogether, with a lazy lunch and some time enjoying the views on top, it was about two hours.  I'm guessing this is Palmer and Wasilla's version of Flattop.  But it's a lot easier to get great views.  As you can see it was a mostly sunny day, but the air wasn't particularly clear and sharp.  

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

If They Tell You To Evacuate Before Florence Hits, Do It! Lessons From The Johnstown Flood 1889

My book club's book for this month is David McCollough's The Johnstown Flood.  We've got two The Great Earthquake, which I've already read and posted about.  
disaster books in a row.  Next month is Henry Fountain's

As Florence bears down on the mid-Atlantic, the harrowing scenes I've been reading about seem appropriate.  The Johnstown flood wasn't because of a hurricane, though it did rain for days and those rains brought water higher into the towns along the river than ever before.

But the real horror was the bursting of a damn about 15 miles up the river.  The scenes described by McCullough remind me of the most over-the-top disaster movies.

While some people had concerns about the dam, there had been false alarms about possible dam failure in the past.  (Though it had burst once many years before, but had more recently been rebuilt.)  People were concerned about the rain swollen river, but not too many were concerned about the dam.  But then it burst and a huge wave of water, and increasingly, as it moved along the narrow passage way, trees and houses and train cars.

Here are some accounts from the book, as reminders to those in the path of the hurricane, that it's better to be safe than sorry.

"And these boards were jagged . . . and I looked at my aunt, and they didn't say a word then.  All the praying stopped, and they gasped, and looked down like this, and were gone, immediately gone."
She felt herself falling and reaching out for something to grab on to and trying as best she could to stay afloat.
"I kept paddling and grabbing and spitting and spitting and trying to keep the sticks and dirt and this horrible water out of my mouth."
Somehow she managed to crawl out of a hole in the roof or wall, she never knew which.  All she saw was a glimmer of light, and she scrambled with all her strength to get to it, up what must have been the lath on part of the house underneath one of the gables.  She got through the opening, never knowing what had become of her aunt, Libby, or her baby cousin.  Within seconds the whole house was gone and everyone in it.
The next thing she knew, Gertrude [she was a 6 years old at the time] was whirling about on top of a muddy mattress that was being buoyed up by debris but that kept tilting back and forth as she struggled to get her balance.  She screamed for help.  Then a dead horse slammed against her raft, pitching one end of it up into the air and nearly knocking her off.  She hung on for dear life, until a tree swung by, snagging the horse in its branches before it plunged off with the current in another direction, the dead animal bobbing up and down, up and down, in and out of the water, like a gigantic, gruesome rocking horse.
Weak and shivering with cold, she lay down on the mattress, realizing for the first time that all her clothes had been torn off except for her underwear.  Night was coming on and she was terribly frightened.  She started praying in German, which was the only way she had been taught to pray.
A small white house went sailing by, almost running her down.  She called out to the one man who was riding on top, straddling the peak of the roof and hugging the chimney with both arms.  But he ignored her, or perhaps never heard her, and passed right by.
"You terrible man," she shouted after him.  "I'll never help you."
Then a long roof, which may have been what was left of theArcade Building, came plowing toward her, looking as big as a steamboat and loaded down with perhaps twenty people.  She called out to them, begging someone to save her.  One man started up, but the others seemed determined to stop him.  They held on to him and there was an endless moment of talk back and forth between them as he kept pulling to get free.
Then he pushed loose and jumped into the current.  His head bobbed up, then went under again.  Several times more he came up and went under.  Gertrude kept screaming for him to swim to her.  Then he was heaving himself over the side of her raft, and the two of them headed off downstream, Gertrude nearly strangling him as she clung to his neck.
The big roof in the meantime had gone careening on until it hit what must have been a whirlpool in the current and began spinning round and round.  Then, quite suddenly, it struck something and went down, carrying at least half its passengers with it."
The book doesn't really give good footnotes to document this account.  But we can imagine a six year old (I think of my 5 year old grand daughter) retelling this event, and we know McCullough must have filled in a lot of details here.  Or, if Gertrude retold this many years later, the story must have taken on a life of its own in all the retellings.  Nevertheless, it was a horrible scene as the houses that weren't totally destroyed when the wave hit, floated in the current with people in or on them hurtling toward likely death.
William Tice, who owned a drugstore on Portage street, described what he saw soon after he ha been fished out of the water near the bridge.
"I went on the embankment and looked across the bridge which was filled full of debris, and on it were thousands of men, women, and children, who were screaming and yelling for help as at this time the debris was on fire, and after each crash, there was a moment of silence, and those voices would again be heard crying in vain for the help that came not.  At each crash hundreds were forced under and slain.
"I saw hundreds of them as the flames approached throw up their hands and fall backward into the fire, and those who had escaped drowning were reserved for the more horrible fate of being burned to death.  At last I could endure it no longer, an had to leave, as I could see no more."
The fires in the piles of debris, it was speculated, were caused by fuel in train cars and fires in wood stoves of houses swept away.

The Johnstown Flood was a horrible disaster.  McCullough lists 2, 209 victims of the Johnstown Flood.   Whether it's a dam burst tsunami or merely rising rain waters, if you are caught in it, it is equally terrifying.  I'm sure that survivors like  Mr. Tice, quoted above, had nightmares for the rest of their lives.

The death toll for Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico is said to be 1427.  There's a reason that floods are one of the  major biblical catastrophes.

So, people of the mid-Atlantic being told to evacuate.  Do it.  If you want some adventure, read the Johnstown Flood.  It's horrific enough in a book.  You don't need to experience it live.

Monday, September 10, 2018

The Future Of Tipping - Every Solution Has Unintended Consequences

But that doesn't mean we should just stop and take things as they are.

I started thinking seriously about tipping when we had breakfast in Talkeetna last May.  I read this sign and as we left, without leaving a tip, I mentioned the policy to the person taking our payment.  Who then started talking about some of the side effects.  For one thing, I asked about the legal obstacles to tipping mentioned in the sign.  (I think that was part of what held up this post - I didn't have much internet access when we were at Denali and didn't want to spend on legal research.)

Basically he said that they went to this policy - abolishing tips and raising prices - because only the wait staff could legally benefit from tips, and they didn't think that was fair.  Some of the issues he brought up included:

  1. The serious loss of income for the best servers.  People here on vacation or for climbing often have a lot of money and will tip a good server quite a bit, so when the policy was announced - after discussing it with everyone, if I recall right - some went to other restaurants were they could earn a lot more money through tips.  
  2. They had to raise prices to pay everyone minimum wage without tips.  I get that, but I also figured the difference wasn't that great and was probably what I would have paid in a tip anyway.  
  3.  Not everyone left tips and those people don't feel the way I do about the raised prices.  

This was last May and I can't find the notes I wrote down so I'll stop there.  I know I did want to look into the law, but I'm guessing that after several days at Denali, this slipped from my conscious todo list.

But Sunday, two things brought tipping back to my attention.  First, I got a thank you note for a tip I put into my check for a year of the Anchorage Daily News.  Our news carrier leaves our paper right  at our doorstep every day.  She doesn't throw it into the bushes or two steps from our door.  It's right there.  I can open the door barefoot and lean down and pick it up.  This is particularly appreciated in the winter.  How much should one tip a mail carrier?  My decision wasn't so much thinking about what she is paid, but more about saying, "Even though I've never seen you, I want you to know that I appreciate your great service."  Apparently I tipped her more than most others because she wrote the thank you.  Maybe it's just her route isn't full of fancy homes with high income earners.

She also noted in her thank you  - which was taped to the orange plastic bag the paper comes in - her appreciation that I was the only one of her customers who recycles the plastic bags.  I called the ADN once and asked about that, and they said to leave them outside and the carrier will pick them up.  Since then, I've been stuffing the new bag each day into one of the bags until the bag is
full.  Then I leave it out on the front steps - secured so it doesn't blow away - and in the morning it's gone.  I mention this so others who think about recycling plastic bags know you can do it this way.  (And the Assembly recently passed a law banning plastic bags at stores, but not for newspaper delivery.)  I'm not sure how they reuse the bags - since I'm sure it's easier to pull one off a role than to try to retrieve them out of a used bag, but knowing she thought that was a good thing and not a pain in the neck, was also positive.

Finally,  a Washington Post article reprinted  in the ADN Sunday about tipping and getting rid of tipping by requiring restaurants and hotels to pay the minimum wage not counting the tips.  It doesn't deal with the issue of losing servers (which wouldn't happen if a law were passed instead of one restaurant voluntarily making that decision).  Here's one snippet that I wanted to push back on a bit:
"Customers shouldn’t have to subsidize an employee’s wages through their tips, whether they’re ordering a pizza or taking a white-water rafting trip. And now, finally, it looks like we’re slowly reaching the point where we agree: This can’t go on."
My quibble here is the phrase "subsidize an employee's wages."  I'd argue we're subsidizing the owner's profit.  After all, the owner should be paying a fair wage.  And our tips, as important as they are, don't pay for health care or retirement.  And I want to acknowledge I know there are differences between small family owned restaurants and large corporate chain restaurants.

Of course, this is should all be in the larger context of the laws and customs that favor the educated and wealthy in ways that increase the gap between the very wealthy and everyone else, and our continued clinging to the morality of the Protestant work ethic to blame the poor for their poverty and assuage any guilt the wealthy have (since they deserve it for their assumed hard work.)

And I'll try to check on the Alaska laws about tipping to see how that fits in.