Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Remembering Watergate Heroes - Sam Ervin and Barbara Jordan

It's the second sunny day down here on Bainbridge.  I've been happily busy walking my nieta* to and from school.  She's at a great age and we're having lots of fun.

And then there's the impeachment hearings that are eating up my time.  Just seems like something I should be doing.

My Watergate memories (it was always called Watergate hearings, not impeachment hearings in my memory) are mostly of the Senate Committee lead by North Carolina Democrat Sam Ervin, a man with the charm and wit that no one could demonize.  "Ah'm just a country lawyer," was his disclaimer.

Here's a very short video of him interrogating a witness.

When I think back to the House hearings, only two names jump out.  The incredible Barbara Jordan and the methodical Elizabeth Holzman.

A reminder (and antidote to the likes of Reps. Jordan and Nunes) of the seriousness of these proceedings.

Just some context for what we're living through yet again.

*the Spanish nieta is shorter and sweeter than that English word granddaughter

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

As We Examine Hilcorp's Purchase of BP's Alaska Holdings, Looking at the Charter for the Development of the Alaska North Slope Seems Appropriate

Over ten years ago I came across something called the Charter for the Development of the Alaska North Slope.  This post tells that story.  I've been getting hits on the story form various places and organizations in the last couple of months.  I'm guessing that this interest is related to BP's selling it's Alaska interests to Hilcorp  so I thought I should post this again.  So here it is:

Monday, February 02, 2009

Charter for the Development of the Alaska North Slope

When I wrote a post about the Conoco-Philips ads in the ADN some time ago, the "Charter Agreement" came up and I wrote:
I also know that CP makes other contributions to the community such as $100,000 to the Museum in 2007. And there was a $3.68 million gift to the University of Alaska also in 2007. But we need to put an * on that. The University of Alaska press release on the gift also says,
The annual gifts stem from a charter agreement between the oil companies and the state regarding the BP merger with ARCO in the late 1990s. Part of the charter agreement identifies public higher education as a top priority for charitable donations . . .
So a minimum amount of contribution is required by this Charter Agreement that was a condition for the BP-ARCO merger. I called Scott Goldsmith, the author of the ISER report, to find out how to get access to the Charter Agreement.He wasn't sure if he ever actually saw a copy, but said he'd check for it tomorrow. [Update: I also called UAA Advancement and later the UA Foundation called and said they would find the Agreement and email it to me .] On the internet, nearly all references I find about BP or ConocoPhillips contributions to the University have that standard clause in them.
Well, a few days later, I got an email from the University of Alaska Foundation with a copy of the charter. But we were in high gear preparing to go to Thailand and what with the traveling and getting into things here, I didn't get around to posting that agreement. (It's down below) I haven't had a chance to study the whole charter, but I expect there is plenty to chew on.

For the time being, let's just look at the part that discusses community charitable contributions:

D. Community Charitable Commitment. Within three months after the merger is completed, BP and ARCO [what BP wasn't allowed to buy of ARCO because it would have given BP monopolistic power in Alaska eventually became Conoco-Philips if I got this right] will establish a charitable entity dedicated to funding organizations and causes within Alaska. The entity will provide 30% of its giving to the University of Alaska Foundation and the remainder to general community needs. Funding decisions by the entity will be made by BP and ARCO, with the advice of a board of community advisors. BP and ARCO will provide ongoing funding to this entity in an amount that is equal to 2% of BP's and ARCO's combined aggregate net Alaska liquids production after royalty times the price for WTI. Specific entity funding levels will be calculated annually on the same date each year, referencing the liquids production and the average NYMEX WTI prompt month settlement price for the 12 months immediately proceeding the calculation.

So here are some questions I have:
  1. Who monitors these contributions to be sure that they are making the contributions required?
  2. How do members of the public find this out?
  3. Are they contributing what they are required to contribute?
  4. Are they contributing more than they are required to contribute? (If not, can either company seriously claim to make charitable contributions? This was simply a business deal, a required cost of doing business in Alaska and not really charitable donations.)
  5. Who is on these boards and are the meetings announced and public?

A quick Google search got me to the BP website. Searching there for charter agreement I got a copy of the 2007 annual report on the Charter Agreement for 2006. It is four lines over four pages - for the whole charter agreement. Plus a cover letter to Governor Sarah Palin. The part on charitable giving says this:


The BP Board of Community Advisors met in February, 2006, at which time they
reviewed 2005 community spend [sic] and plans for 2006.

BP spent more than $10.2 million in support of community programs in 2006,
consistent with the formula detailed in the Charter.

Approximately $3 million was contributed to the University of Alaska Foundation
(1/3 of community investment).
ConocoPhilips's website gave me this message:
Connection to server failed (The server is not responding.)

Why do I think that is the extent of the oversight? Even BP didn't think it was important enough to proof read it carefully. Am I being too cynical? Did the Governor's office demand back up information so they could see how the 2% times the price of WTI? I don't know. What about all the other issues in the Charter? What sort of scrutiny do they get? Just this brief annual report?

Since I'm pretty busy right now in Thailand, I'm going to have to hold off on pursuing these questions. Though I might send them to my representatives in the State Legislature.

Meanwhile, here is the rest of the Charter. I hope other bloggers and non-bloggers start reading it carefully to see whether the oil companies are living up to the agreement. I guess first we ought to figure out which state agencies are responsible for keeping track.

Charter for Development of the Alaskan North Slope

1 comment:

  1. I was wondering when you would do the next installment, but didn't expect you'd get to it so soon.

    Brilliant! Time for the hive mind to get to work...

Monday, November 18, 2019

TSA Starts Trip Poorly

We both got flagged by the security machine at the Anchorage airport.  I got a very intimate patting down.  "I have nothing in my pockets"  "You're wearing Levis.  The keep you warm and the machine detects heat."  J got the same treatment.  But she got a second one as well.  Here's my wife the terrorist.

Really, how many 70+ year old American women terrorists have there been in the US?  Ones who have a record of recently flying fairly frequently without incident and have round trip tickets, etc. 

There are at least two ways of detecting terrorists:  One is to examine the person - find out if there is anything in their background or behavior that suggests a problem that needs more attention.  That's not what all these airport detectors do.  They examine based on the machine.  They told me when I pointed out that my wife was a very unlikely suspect that "if the alarm goes off, we have to exam."   

This really does feel a lot like theater.  Somewhere there has to be a happy medium between ethnic profiling and terrorist profiling.  How much time and money does TSA spend on people who have .00001 chance of being a terrorist?   I'm sure they have detected plenty of guns with the machines, thrown away lots of pricy water bottles, and someone has sold a lot of scanning machines.  

But once we were in the air, life looked better.

The fresh snow on the Chugach looked magical.  

And the Olympic Range was poking out of the clouds as we neared Seattle.  So was Ranier.

If you look closely, there's an airplane to the right of the mountain against the clouds.  

And walking my granddaughter to school we passed this tree with all its leaves in an almost perfect circle below it.  

The school is really wonderful.  It's part of the public school system, but like Stellar and Polaris in Anchorage, it requires a lot of parental volunteer work.  There's grades 1-6 in two large connected and non-institutional classrooms.  Here's a part.  

Every child should have access to a place like this.  I stayed about 15 minutes.  All the kids had stuff to do and were working quietly.  My granddaughter was writing in her journal.  Then they had a small meeting where they talked about empathy.  And about lice - it's that season.  

Later, after school, we went for a walk through the woods while she was having a music lesson.

There's lots of other things to write about, but I've been busy.  

Saturday, November 16, 2019

Barr: ". . . so-called progressives treat politics as their religion . . Conservatives . . . are interested in preserving. . . the proper balance of freedom and order "

The title quote comes from the US Department of Justice website!  It's from a speech Attorney General William Barr delivered last night at the Federalist Society's 2019 National Lawyers Convention.  Here are three full paragraphs from that speech:

"In any age, the so-called progressives treat politics as their religion.  Their holy mission is to use the coercive power of the State to remake man and society in their own image, according to an abstract ideal of perfection.  Whatever means they use are therefore justified because, by definition, they are a virtuous people pursing a deific end.  They are willing to use any means necessary to gain momentary advantage in achieving their end, regardless of collateral consequences and the systemic implications.  They never ask whether the actions they take could be justified as a general rule of conduct, equally applicable to all sides. 
Conservatives, on the other hand, do not seek an earthly paradise.  We are interested in preserving over the long run the proper balance of freedom and order necessary for healthy development of natural civil society and individual human flourishing.  This means that we naturally test the propriety and wisdom of action under a “rule of law” standard.  The essence of this standard is to ask what the overall impact on society over the long run if the action we are taking, or principle we are applying, in a given circumstance was universalized – that is, would it be good for society over the long haul if this was done in all like circumstances?
For these reasons, conservatives tend to have more scruple over their political tactics and rarely feel that the ends justify the means.  And this is as it should be, but there is no getting around the fact that this puts conservatives at a disadvantage when facing progressive holy far, especially when doing so under the weight of a hyper-partisan media."

You notice how he's arguing that the liberals (I guess the Republicans now vilify 'progressives' as the Left has begun using that term to avoid the taint of the Republicans campaign to make 'liberal' into a dirty word) want to be God - 'holy mission;'  'remake man and society in their own image;'  'deific end.'  

The people I know who see themselves as progressives are interested in making the United States live up to the spirit of the Constitution, whose letter including slavery and other problematic realities.  They believe in justice, equality before the law, freedom, etc.  I'm not sure what Barr is thinking about when he says progressives want to remake man and perfect him.  (I personally would use human instead of man, but for this I'm using his words.)  Does he mean freeing slaves?  Ending segregation? Giving women the right to vote?  And recognizing that all humans, regardless of color, religion, gender, ability, etc. have equal rights under the law?  After all, Republicans have been working hard to 'perfect' humans by passing laws to prevent abortion and other practices they don't like.  

But I didn't post this to argue these points.  I think they are so ludicrous they don't need anyone to point out the problems.  But obviously if an educated man like Barr believes what he's written here, others do too.  So I did a little critique.  I could go on if anyone who sees this doesn't understand what I object to.

My purpose here is to point out the blatantly partisan tripe that Barr has posted on the Department of Justice website.  The attorney general of the US is supposed to enforce the law without bias.  But this speech raises great doubt whether he can actually do that.  I can't help but believe that under his idea of justice, progressives would be given less benefit of the doubt than would conservatives.  Because, he believes they are simply wrong.

Part of me thinks the whole attempt to suppress the actual beliefs of academics and journalists and judges in an effort to make them 'neutral' is a misguided cause.  It's better to know what they believe so we can judge whether they are able to act neutrally when they do research, report news, or pass judgment.   But the ability to put aside one's personal loyalties in one's professional capacity is not something everyone (many?) can do.  

But Barr's behavior regarding Trump suggests strongly that he can't do that - from the misleading summary of the Mueller Report to his defense of Trump over the Constitution and the people of the United States - suggests he can't.  And his comments in this speech are so ideological and so off the mark in both his characterization of liberals and conservatives as to raise question about his abilities to interpret the world.  Or his honesty.  

I should thank two Tweeters for point this out:  Shalev Roisman and Justin Levitt who I follow because he's an expert on voting and redistricting.

My natural instinct was to take a screenshot before they take his speech down.  But in this administration there is no shame.  And they probably see nothing wrong with this speech.  And they really don't care what the liberals think anyway.  They've got the US governments websites to plaster their ideology.  But I did take a screenshot (and of course they can be doctored too, but the forensics team will be able to see that this shot wasn't doctored - but that question should always be in your mind.

And I need to mention Anchorage got its first snow today.  We haven't even had traces.  But we got a good white cleansing today.

Friday, November 15, 2019

Do Bike Studded Tires Really Work?

I imagine that they wouldn't be selling if they didn't work.   Riding on packed snow is one thing.  My winter bike did that fine without studs.  But now that our winters are icier, I broke down and bought a pair of studded tires.

Yesterday was a real test.  It had been drizzling most of the night onto below freezing pavement.  The ice was obvious.  Walking without grippers was a challenge.  Was I going to try out my tires on this horrible day to go to my last Pebble Mine class (there's one more, but we're going south for  a Thanksgiving granddaughter visit.)

The floor had been installed and the electricians were finishing up their second day of converting our house to the 21st century.  I was really skeptical, but Erick, one of the electricians encouraged me.  He's rode on studded bike tires one winter and he was fine.  Never fell off.  Just keep my bottom on the seat.  Skeptically, I decided to try it out on our block.

Let me tell you.  It was amazing.  There was never a dicey moment, except in my head.  I was cautious all the way, checking the brakes as I went down hills and slowing before going around corners, but the bike never wavered.  It never slid, it never let on that it was basically on ice all the way.

My aging body tells me to let up sometimes, and my rebellious inner child says, don't be a chicken, keep moving.   I know this probably isn't the smartest thing for me to do, but if I only did the safest think in life, my life wouldn't have been as interesting.

And now I know these tires are really good.  I also know they aren't fool proof.  But if they worked today, they should be good most of the time.

So, Jacob*, yes, they work.  

*comment #1

Meanwhile we're scrambling to get the house back in order after the disruptions from the workers, get things ready for our house sitter while we're gone, take care of last minute loose ends to tie up (you now have to 'join' the US Postal Service to stop your mail, but you can buy stamps online too and they say they'll let me track the incoming envelopes and packages online), and get packed.

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Some Impeachment Cleansing - Old Post On Confucius And Thomas Jefferson

Serendipity plays a big role intros blog.  I got an email from someone who claims to be an English teacher praising an old post of mine and linking to her blog.  It has the normal SEO (Search Engine Optimization) fingerprints, but I did look at the link to my blog in the email.  I didn't see any naturally connections to her theme, but the page did include this four year old post about a movie on Confucius and also Thomas Jefferson useful for Trump induced brain damage. 

Think of this as an attempt to reset our national political/moral thermostat to normal and away from the crazy settings the Trump administration has reset it to.  Or think of it as a lozenge for the political sore throat Trump has given us all.  

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Something For Alaska And US Majority Leaders To Think About

 This comes from the movie Confucius. (孔子 (Kong Zi) Director: Mei Hu).

Confucius consents to an audience with the royal consort of Wei against the wishes of his disciples.  She has a reputation as a beautiful woman with a sketchy past and she clearly is intent on seducing the great scholar.

She starts off by asking about the Book of Odes, and the love poetry in it.

Screen shot from Confucius. (孔子 (Kong Zi) Director: Mei Hu)
He politely rejects her request to become his student and to meet again.  She then asks about his theories of government. 

Screen shots from Confucius. (孔子 (Kong Zi) Director: Mei Hu)

Screen shots from Confucius. (孔子 (Kong Zi) Director: Mei Hu)

Screen shots from Confucius. (孔子 (Kong Zi) Director: Mei Hu)

While there is much about Confucian teaching that is problematic today - particularly his rigid hierarchical power structure and his low regard for women - there is also much of use to our political leaders today.

I'd note that Thomas Jefferson, one of the inspirations of the Tea Party,  was something of a China scholar.  From a scholarly paper "Thomas Jefferson's Incorporating Positive Elements From Chinese Civilization" by Dave Wan. 
(Note that the poem Jefferson clips out in the passage below, is the one referred to by the Royal Consort of Wei in the film - "The Book of Odes."  The poem is a tribute to the Prince of Wei - several hundred years prior to Confucius.)
"Founding Inspiration from the Confucius’ Classics

       In the nineteenth century intellectuals in the United States often enjoyed creating personal scrapbooks, in which they would cut out their “favorite newspaper articles and poems” and past “them onto the backs of old letters to create a sort of personal literary anthology.”  None of us will feel surprised to know that Thomas Jefferson, “an Enlightenment intellectual,” created a scrapbook in his own way. Some time from 1801-1809 Jefferson included in the section of his scrapbook titled Poems of the Nations an ancient Chinese poem from The Book of Odes. His love of the poem provides us with a window through which we can look into his efforts to learn from Chinese culture. What he wanted to learn from the poem?

       Below is Jefferson’s clipping of the poem:

                                           A Very Ancient Chinese Ode
Translated by John Collegins seq
Quoted in the To Hio of Confuciues
(….from a manuscript presented in the Bodlein Library )

SEE! how the silvery river glides,
And leaves' the fields bespangled sides !
Hear how the whispering breeze proceeds!
Harmonious through the verdant reeds!
Observe our prince thus lovely shine!
In him the meek-ey'd virtues join!
Just as a patient carver will, Hard ivory model by his skill,
So his example has impress'd Benevolence in every b[re]ast;
Nice hands to the rich gems, behold,
Impart the gloss of burnish'd gold:
Thus he, in manners, goodly great,
Refines the people of his state. True lenity,
how heavenly fair !
We see it while it threatens,—spare!
What beauties in its open face!
In its deportment—what a grace!
Observe our prince thus lovely shine!
In him the meek-ey'd virtues join!
His mern'ry of eternal prime,
Like truth, defies the power of time!

       The poem pays tribute to Prince Wei from the State of Wei, who was loved, respected and remembered by the people of his state. Confucius (551-479 BC) highly praised Prince Wei, described in the poem, when he quoted this poem in his famous book, The Great Learning, to provide a standard to inspire other princes and leaders of various states to follow. Confucius said,

In the Book of Ode, ‘Ah! The former kings are not forgotten’ Future princes deem worthy what they deemed worthy, and love what they loved. The common people delighted in what they delighted them, and are benefited by their beneficial arrangements. It is on this account that the former kings, after they have quitted the world, are not forgotten."

Important themes that we should remember from Confucius is his emphasis on ethics, on education, on harmony and treating people with respect and taking care of the poor and less fortunate. 

Just something to think about on a cloudy Saturday.

I don't particularly recommend this film as a film.  But as an easy (and visually beautiful) overview of the life of Confucius it will do.   It tends to give us a series of vignettes of his life,  with very little character development.   The two actors in these screenshots are (from Wikipedia):
Zhou Xun was in Dai Sijie's Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress (2002) a film very much worth seeing.  She was also in Cloud Atlas.  

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Three Thats, Caterpillar Liquefaction, The Electrician, And Impeachment Banter

1.  This first one has me in mild awe of this sentence that has three 'that's in a row, correctly.  

From New Republic article on Frosh* Member** of Congress Katie Porter:
"She discovered as much during her teaching days, when students declared the subjects she taught to be “too hard”—“my classes were like, ‘oh my God, what even is that that that lady teaches?!’”—but she remains devoted to breaking the concepts down."
The article is worth reading to get to know this interesting young Congress member.

*Frosh is a gender neutral substitute for Freshman
**Member of Congress is gender neutral for Congressman or Congresswoman (Just plain Rep. can work too, but it could be confused with a state rep)
And while I'm at it, I'll mention a term that many people still use - "to man (ie a booth)" when a non-sexist alternative for most cases exists:  "to staff".

2.  Under, "whoa, I didn't know that!"

From an LA Times article about Art Shapiro,  a 73 year old professor of evolution and ecology at UC Davis  who has been tracking butterflies in ten locations in California every two weeks as long as the weather permits.  He's been doing that for 47 years.

"Butterflies are not the only insects that go through a dramatic metamorphosis, but they may be the most well-studied.
Even so, as recently as 50 years ago scientists weren’t sure how this transformation occurred, but in the last few decades researchers learned that between the caterpillar and adult stage the animal’s body liquefies inside the pupa and then reorganizes itself to form the butterfly. Only the nervous system stays intact."

3.  We had the electricians out to convert light to LED's,  work on our out-of-date electrical panel, and other things around the house - including dealing with the wire cut accidentally by the floor guy.  So here's a picture I couldn't resist of one electrician and his shadow.

4.  Impeachment Quotes

After Rep. Jim Jordan said he wanted to question "the person who started all this"  Rep. Welch replied:  (from Talking Points Memo)
“I say to my colleague, I’d be glad to have the person who started it all come in and testify,” Welch said.
“President Trump is welcome to take a seat right there,” 
This was a rare bit of snark from the Democrats today.  There was one more spot where I was hoping for one more.   Here's part of Rep. Maloney's questioning: (from's transcript)

Patrick Maloney: (00:25)
So when you’re top 1% of your class at West Point, you probably get your pick of assignments, but you picked the infantry didn’t you, sir?
Bill Taylor: (00:35)
I did, sir. Yes, sir.
Patrick Maloney: (00:36)
You were a rifle company commander?
Bill Taylor: (00:38)
Patrick Maloney: (00:39)
Where’d you serve?
Bill Taylor: (00:41)
In Vietnam.
Patrick Maloney: (00:41)
Did you see combat in Vietnam, sir?
Bill Taylor: (00:44)
I did. 

I was hoping he'd ask one more question:

Patrick Maloney:  Did you have bone spurs?

But he didn't, and it's probably just as well he didn't.  

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Lunch With Rich Curtner (AIFF) And Visit to Seward Highway Planning Meeting

I had lunch with the chair of the Anchorage International Film Festival to catch up on change to how things are being done this year.  Here he's checking films on his phone.  There have been some significant changes with a non-local Festival Programer who is also a film maker who lives in Norway.  Some of that has to do with which films got selected into the festival.  There still were local programmers, but the last word went to the Ida.

Also there were no 'films in competition.'  All films that were selected are eligible for prizes.  But
the juries this year are only partially local.  There are also international jurists and the final decisions rest outside of Anchorage.

And Festival Genius is out and GOELevent is in.  Those are film festival websites for managing the schedules and online ticketing.  I'm just starting to play with GOELevent and there have been some glitches - films that didn't show up when searched and things like that.

Will there be Audience Awards this year?  Stay tuned.  The board meets Saturday to work out remaining decisions.  I did a short video, but I'm having trouble between iMovie and Youtube.  Good thing I tried today so I can get this cleared up before the festival starts.

I'll catch up more on this later.  It was a beautiful sunny day.  A little cooler this morning, but no snow at all and the only ice I saw riding over to lunch was in puddles.

Later I went to Loussac to check out the public meeting on the midtown transportation project.  Basically it's focused on the Seward Highway between Tudor and Fireweed.  They've been working with some community councils and it's a big, long term project.  36th would go under the Seward Highway, then the highway would go below ground under Benson and Northern Lights.

The more I think about this, the more I think there are better ways to spend half a billion dollars.

The bottom/left is going north, the toplight  is going south.  The white box on the right side is Midtown Mall (old Sears Mall) and the white boxes on the upper left are Fred Meyer.  Seward Highway goes underground just before Benson and comes back up after Northern Lights.  They don't have any plans for the large space between the north and south lanes.  

This is another view.

But they also said that most of the traffic coming from the south is going to midtown, so there will still be a lot of traffic crossing Tudor, 36th,  Benson,  Northern Lights, and Fireweed.  There were so predictions of increased traffic in the next 20 years, but even with the long light at 36th and Seward Highway, I can still get most places in Anchorage in 15 minutes (except at 5pm when it might take 20 or 25 minutes.

90% of the 1/2 billion dollar price tag would be paid for by the Federal government, or at least that's the plan.  I can't help but think that the construction industry is going to be the big winners here and folks in Anchorage will get years of torn up roads and then some marginally improved traffic at the end.

Pedestrians and bikes should come out better with wider trails and easier crossings of the Seward Highway.  I don't enjoy crossing the highway on my bike, but I've learned how the lights work and just relax as I wait for them to change.  And I watch out for people making right turns when I have the walk sign.

The only part that I endorse 100% is a fix for the tunnel along Chester Creek at Seward Highway.  Here's a picture of the tunnel and the pipe for the creek now from the east side.  Riding on a bright day, you get into the tunnel and it's hard to see.  Even on a gray day.  And the creek is reduced to a pipe going under the highway.

This is significantly better for bikes, walkers, joggers, and fish.

The biggest benefit is for people driving north and south through midtown.  They won't have to stop for lights.  But people going into midtown will have to stop for lights and people on the east-west streets will still have to cope with lights and traffic coming off the highway.  Pedestrians get shorter streets to cross (going east and west) but it will now take two lights to get across both directions because the median between north and south lanes will be significantly wider.

I want to see clear estimates for how much time people will save.  They mentioned pedestrians who have died in this area crossing streets in the last ten years or so.  The speaker (not the slides) went on to say, "That's just non-motorized deaths."  Really?  These are deaths of pedestrians running into each other?  I'm guessing a motorized vehicle was involved in all the pedestrian deaths.  How many deaths would prevented if we spent $500 million on Medicaid including much better mental health treatment?  A lot more than six I'm sure.

Those are my initial thoughts.  More trees along the Midtown mall parking lot would improve things for a lot less, and fixing some sidewalks.  I think about the Tudor bridge with the very narrow sidewalks.  Why didn't that get reasonable sidewalks from the beginning?  Or when they widened the highway more recently?

What corners are they going to cut when funding doesn't match their current dreams?  Non-motorized transportation will get shortchanged yet again?

I need to be convinced with more details that show this will
a)  indeed improve the flow of traffic significantly
b)  make things much easier for pedestrians, bikes, runners, etc.
c)  give us more bang for our buck (or more benefit for the cost) than spending money on health care and education.

I do recognize that this money is tied to Federal highway monies, so we can get it for the roads, but not the other areas that probably would see much greater benefits.

Monday, November 11, 2019

Been Busy - New Kitchen Floor, Not Yet Winter, Fog

It's November 11, 2019.  We haven't had any snow in town.   Friday when I went to my OLÉ Homeless class, it was sunny and comfy and the snow was disappearing on the mountains.

And this yarrow flower is hanging in there outside in the yard.

A few times things have gotten frosty,

like Saturday when I rode over to UAA for the Citizens Climate Lobby meeting.

It was also foggy that day.

Our delayed winter has me not wanting to stop biking and Saturday didn't offer any problems, but I decided to break down and get studded tires for my old mountain bike that I've used for winters.
 I didn't realize how speedy [spendy] studded tires are.  It cost more than the old bike, which I'd gotten at a YMCA auction maybe ten years ago.  But if they keep me from breaking an arm, they'll be worth it.  This bike's old wheels were perfectly fine in packed snow, but as winters have gotten warmer, there are a lot more icy days.  We'll see how often I actually use the bike and how well the studs work.

This morning was probably the coldest this fall - about 27˚F outside.

Meanwhile, inside has been rather chaotic.  Our old carpet is wearing out, very noticeably in spots.
And the linoleum in the kitchen was getting yellow, so we went for a new floor there too.  But they said to do the kitche/dining area first.  And that had to be shipped up from Outside.  We've been waiting for a few months now,  It looked pretty bad from time to time as TK determined that the old floor had to go so the kitchen wouldn't be higher than the carpet with the new bamboo panels.  

But he cleaned everything up pretty well each evening.  But there are tools all over the place.

But we're almost done.  This was actually Saturday night when we put up a temporary folding table up.

This side was finished today, but there's a little more on the kitchen side where a wire to two outlets got cut.  Fortunately, the electrician is scheduled for Wednesday to do some work on our old fixtures and putting in LED fixtures and other trickier jobs.

So we've juggling things a bit this last week.  And I'm working on more film festival posts.  The documentaries look great.  I'm just going through the features and they look interesting too.  My enthusiasm has been renewed and I'm looking forward to the festival which begins Dec. 6.  There's a new AIFF 2019 tab under the header.  Good night.

Sunday, November 10, 2019

Thoughts On Pebble Mine After 6 Classes

I've been to six of the planned eight OLÉ classes on Pebble Mine. Here's my sense of this mega project to extract copper, gold, molybdenum, and other metals in a remote area adjacent to the world's largest salmon fishery.

1.  Obsession:   Anyone who wants to undertake a project of this scope in the United States has to be an obsessive gambler. The amount of time and effort it takes to get all the permits, to get to the site, to put in infrastructure, to put in all the safety procedures, to woo the local communities, and to so raw mining and then to clean up everything is enormous.   I suspect that for some people this is a challenge, like climbing the peaks of the world's highest mountains.  I imagine for all who undertake such projects, the promise of great riches is a key factor.  And apparently, getting a project along a certain part of the way, means the project can then be sold to someone else.  And I'm not exactly sure who's money is at risk and what sort of tax benefits some may get out of losses in a project like this.
For example here are some of the Pebble Mine presentation slides that show a sense of the enormous scope of the project without getting into minutiae:

They have to process such enormous amounts of ore because the amount of valuable minerals is a tiny fraction.

This is just the site for the current 20 year planned mine.  There's a much richer ore deposit to the east of this, but it's buried under bedrock and harder to get at.  No one seems to believe that this project is going to end after 20 years.  That's just the point where they will begin this process over again to then go after the rest of the ore.

2. Complexity.  There is no one person who has the knowledge and experience to be able to assimilate all the data in order to make a yes or no decision on a project like this.  There's way too much technical data from too many different areas.  We've been told about tests of chemical reactions, groundwater studies, surface water studies, acidity, toxicity, bulk tailings and pyritic tailings,  porphyry intrusions, how copper affects salmon's ability to smell, the many federal and state regulations, and  growing demand for copper in green economy,

Here's an overview of the Baseline Study - an attempt to document the existing conditions.  Who is really going to read 30,000 pages?

3.  Many Decisions.   There isn't just one decision.  There are many permits and approvals to get - some of which can stop the project.

On the left are the US Army Corps of Engineers authorities.  On the right are other federal laws. (clicking on any of the images will enlarge and focus them)

And there are approvals and permits needed from Alaska.

And here are all the groups involved in the Army Corps of Engineers Environmental Impact.

Although we got charts showing the decision making process, no one ever said who exactly makes the final decision.  Is it just one person?  Or several people?  We still have two more sessions so I can ask next week.  (I'll miss the last session, unfortunately.)

4. Risk.   In fact, this is NOT a technical decision. Ultimately it's a decision about risk.  How much risk is there and is that risk worth the possible consequences?  It's about the level of comfort with risk the decision maker has.  There isn't just one risk, but many.  At the extreme is the potentially catastrophic consequence of destroying the salmon in Bristol Bay.  McNeil River bears are also nearby.  Then there are the possibilities of lesser impacts on the salmon and other parts of the environment around the mine site.  On the other side are the benefits, which the Pebble folks identified as employment for local people and the importance of copper in the new green environment.  And, of course, the hundreds of millions of potential profit.

Here are some slides from the presentation of Bristol Bay Native Corporation which opposes the mine:

And this slide from the Pebble Mine folks:

5.  Ultimately It's A Values Based Decision.  Aside from the decision maker(s) comfort with and exposure to risk in this situation, this all boils down to two opposing world views:

  1. The United States is based on individual freedom and capitalism which allow, even encourage, individuals and corporations to go out and exploit the world's God given natural resources to become rich and make the general economy better
  2. Human beings are part of nature, not APART from nature.  Humans have been exploiting the planet and now it has reached the point that human caused climate change will make life and survival for humans and most other species of life much harder.

6.  The Decision.   The decision on Pebble will probably be determined not so much by all the technical details that are being presented, but by where on the spectrum between World Views #1 and #2  the decision maker(s) sit.

7.  Money.  As I review all this, I realize that one important aspect* of the Pebble Mine project has not been discussed in the class - how the project is being financed.  I made the assumption in #1 above that this was a gamble.  But bits of conversation after class with presenters makes me question that.  At one point I made a comment about Northern Dynasty (the company that has been at the lead in this project) and someone said, they won't be the ones who actually carry all this out.  They will be sold out.  So I have questions about how a deal like this is put together.    Who actually has money at risk?  Who is investing in this?  What are their motives?  How much of the expenses of doing all the preparation costs are only paper losses?

These all boil down to who is actually risking how much money and what do they stand to gain?  To what extent do tax payers end up underwriting this because of tax deductions for business expenses or tax offsets for losses?

*Of course there are other important aspects that haven't been discussed that I haven't yet thought of, I'm sure.

Friday, November 08, 2019

NO, NO, NO - They're Using Vaclav Havel To Sell Guns

Here's the email I got yesterday:

Hey Steve,
Vaclav Havel isn’t just the one man perhaps most personally responsible for bringing down Communism -- he was also cool and with a compelling personal story.
I noticed on your website that you’ve talked about Vaclav Havel in the past, so I assume you’re still interested in the topic, and what better time to re-address his life than the day the Berlin Wall fell -- November 9, 1989.
We recently published Vaclav Havel: The Forgotten History of the Political Dissident Who Founded the Czech Republic which chronicles the life of one of the men who did tireless and often dangerous work to tear down Communism.
When you get a minute do you think you could give it a look-see and let us know how we could make it better?
Stay free,
- Alex Horsman
My post that Alex links to just mentions Havel as part of a long list of Central and Eastern European statesmen asking the President Obama not to forget them because there are other pressing issues like Iraq and Afghanistan. Another post focuses much more on his ideas.  Havel's resistance was much more sophisticated than guns.  He developed theoretical models of how authoritarianism worked, so that people could find ways to fight it - not by shooting at it, but by taking it apart.  Using Havel to sell guns is like using the Joker to raise funds to help hungry refugee children.  Bizarre.

I realize SEO (Search Engine Optimization) folks spend their time trying to get links to their material.  I get comments daily from people in places like India, Vietnam, Ghana, who write glowing praise of a post  in slightly odd English that has some vague connection to a subject in a link they leave. The most persistent topic lately is on my posts that mention vampires, telling people how to become a vampire.

But this one is a little different.  It was an email.  I've gotten things like this before, often asking me to let them do a guest post on my blog.  But this is just asking me for a comment.  So I checked out the article.  What struck me first was that this is a site that sells weapons and ammunition!

That's why I left the url, for the really curious, but didn't put in a link.

The article is about Vaclav Havel and starts:
"Our historical unsung heroes are generally impressive figures. But there are very few one might accurately call “cool.” This is an exception. Václav Havel, the founder of the modern-day Czech Republic (also known as Czechia) is undoubtedly cool by any definition of the word. A political dissident under the Soviet-backed regime, he served hard time in Communist prisons rather than bend the knee to their authority. His moral courage acted as a beacon of hope for the entire resistance movement behind the Iron Curtain."
I never thought of Havel as a hero for the gun set, but reading that paragraph, I can see it.  But, of course, Havel was an intellectual, a playwright, not a gun packing survivalist.  But here he's being repackaged for the rabid right, who would take up arms to overthrow the coming.  From the Atlantic:
"Havel's revolutionary message -- which helped oust the world's second strongest power from his country, but which Americans and in that moment the American Congress have not always been ready to hear -- is that peace does not come by defeating enemies, it comes by making people free, governments democratic, and societies just. "The idea of human rights and freedoms must be an integral part of any meaningful world order. Yet, I think it must be anchored in a different place, and in a different way, than has been the case so far. If it is to be more than just a slogan mocked by half the world, it cannot be expressed in the language of a departing era, and it must not be mere froth floating on the subsiding waters of faith in a purely scientific relationship to the world," he said in a 1994 speech."
But as I read the gun seller's post on Havel, it's relatively accurate.  It talks about his upper class background and his literary career.  It does seem wrong to me, even like appropriation, for a gun seller to use Havel to sell guns and ammo.  And Havel is only one of a nine other "Unsung Heroes" in their Resistance Library.  Others:

  • S.B. Fuller: The Forgotten History of a Legendary Black American Entrepreneur
  • Annie Oakley: The Forgotten History of the Most Iconic American Woman Sharpshooter
  • Edward Snowden: The Untold Story of How One Patriotic American Exposed NSA Surveillance
  • Sam Colt: The Forgotten History of America's Legendary Firearms Inventor and Manufacturer
  • Davy Crockett: The Forgotten History of the King of the Wild Frontier & the Battle of the Alamo
  • Susan B. Anthony: The Forgotten History of the Woman Who Inspired the 19th Amendment
  • Milton Friedman: The Forgotten History of the Godfather of Conservative Libertarianism
  • Vaclav Havel: The Forgotten History of the Political Dissident Who Founded the Czech Republic
  • Charlton Heston: The Forgotten History of America's Favorite Actor and Gun Rights Advocate

Not sure how many of these could be considered "Unsung" heroes.  Havel is pretty sung.  So is Davy Crockett and Susan B. Anthony.  How would Snowden feel if he knew he was being used to sell guns?  I guess he'd say his name had been used in worse ways.  I get Annie Oakley, Sam Colt, Davy Crockett, and Charlton Heston.  They all have connections with guns.

And I guess it's legitimate counting the others as freedom fighters.  But is putting them here simply recognizing them as heroes of freedom or is it a way to coop them and their legacy to promote guns and in the fight against any form of gun control?

I've long believed that if you go far enough to the right and far enough to the left, there is a lot of overlap and anti-authority similarity.  But the anti-government wing of the Republicans tends to be more for a libertarian individual's freedom to do whatever he wants, while on the left it's for more to get the government to respect the rights of everyone, not just the individual protesting.

Maybe that's my biased view.  Or maybe there's ground here for the left and right to discuss some common ground.  I don't know.  My gut reacts strongly to Vaclav Havel being used to sell guns, which is ultimately what this website is about.

Thursday, November 07, 2019

AIFF 2019: Feature Docs -Survival (Peoples, Rhinos), War & Protest, Siberia to Alaska, Growing Up [UPDATED 11/11/19]

This looks like strong group of films.  Many link directly or indirectly to Alaska, They'll take you to Siberia,  to visit Canadian and South American Indigenous Peoples and Sami in Finland, to Kenya, Scotland and Chile, Alaska, Germany, and Vietnam.  This is all the feature docs.  You can see the list of films from all the categories in my previous AIFF2019 post.  I'll try to do something similar for the narrative features (fictional feature length films).  There are simply way too many shorts in all the categories to cover them like this, but I'm thinking of ways to help film buffs find out about them as easily as possible.

To help people plan their viewing schedules, I've put the documentaries up in the order that they will be show (I'll put up the time for The Power of Yoik as soon as I find it.  Also, a couple of cases I'm not sure of country.)


 SATURDAY, Dec 07, 2019

ALS ICH MAL GROSS WAR  (Back When I Was Big)
Directors:  Philipp Fleischmann & Lilly Engel
82 minutes
Showing:  SATURDAY, Dec 07, 2019 3:00 pm  Alaska Experience Theatre - Small

I'm having trouble finding much about this film in English, but never fear. ]Google Translate is has gotten really good.  First, for those literate in German from the film's website:
"Können Sie sich noch daran erinnern, wie es war, als Sie ein Kind waren? Als das ganze Leben noch vor einem lag, aufregend, verheißungsvoll, voller Abenteuer und Träume... Was wird eigentlich aus diesen Träumen, wohin verschwinden sie beim Erwachsenwerden? Das sind die Fragen, die ALS ICH MAL GROSS WAR stellt. Und mit Humor, Herz und Poesie beantwortet.

Fünf Jahre haben die Filmemacher Lilly Engel und Philipp Fleischmann die drei Kinder Lucas, Marius und Renée dokumentarisch begleitet. Der Zuschauer kann sie auf dem Weg vom Kind zum Teenager erleben – und gleichzeitig die Veränderungen ihrer Träume. Für die Alter Egos der Kinder in der Zukunft konnte mit Isabell Polak („Vaterfreuden“), Constantin von Jascheroff („Picco“) und Sebastian Schwarz („Ballon“) ein prominenter Hauptcast gewonnen werden.

ALS ICH MAL GROSS WAR ist eine so noch nie gesehene Mischung aus Dokumentar- und Spielfilm, ein kindlicher Blick in die Zukunft und ein erwachsener Blick zurück in die eigene Vergangenheit. Eine berührende und humorvolle Geschichte, die von großer Freundschaft erzählt, vom Erwachsenwerden, und die uns mit Leichtigkeit und Witz zum Lachen und Nachdenken bringt."
While this is in the documentary category, the description says it's a mix of documentary and fiction.

"Can you still remember what it was like when you were a child? When the whole life was still ahead of you, exciting, auspicious, full of adventure and dreams ... What will become of these dreams, where do they go when they grow up? These are the questions that once I asked WHY. And answered with humor, heart and poetry.

Filmmakers Lilly Engel and Philipp Fleischmann accompanied the three children Lucas, Marius and Renée documentary for five years. The viewer can experience it on the way from the child to the teenager - and at the same time the changes of their dreams. For the future alter egos of children in the future, a prominent main cast could be won with Isabell Polak ("Vaterfreuden"), Constantin von Jascheroff ("Picco") and Sebastian Schwarz ("Balloon").

WHEN I'VE BEEN GREAT is an unprecedented mix of documentary and feature film, a childlike look into the future and a mature look back into your own past. A touching and humorous story that tells of great friendship, about growing up, and that makes us laugh and think with ease and wit."

Nae Pasaran
Directed by:  Felipe Bustos Sierra
Showing:  SATURDAY, Dec 07, 2019 6:00 pm   Bear Tooth Theatrepub

This looks like a great movie, and not just because this summer I was at La Moneda, the building that was bombed in this clip.  But having recently visited Santiago, I have a little more connection to the story of the director and the story he tells in this film.  Felipe Bustos Sierra's father is a journalist who was exiled from Chile to Belgium during Pinochet's rule.  The director grew up in Belgium and now, lives in Scotland.

The film is about factory workers who realize that the engines they are supposed to repair are from the Chilean air force that has been bombing its own capital.  They manage to not work on the engines for years.  They info I've found on the film doesn't tell impact of 'losing' those engines, but it hints that the film will.

SUNDAY, Dec 08, 2019

Follow the River - Searching for freedom in Alaska
Director:  Tilo Mahn
67 minutes
Showing:  SUNDAY, Dec 08, 2019 12:00 pm   Alaska Experience Theatre - Large

From German Documentaries:
Mike and Nate Turner believe in a life consistent with nature. Father and son have decided to quit their old life and go back in time to start a new life in the wilderness of Alaska. Surrounded by vast forests, mountains and rivers they follow the roots of the early trappers and hunters. Mike and Nate want to leave everything behind that had determined their former life. Getting away from civilization is a way for them to live their ideals and dreams: to live off the land just like the early trappers and hunters did. Their story tells a story of people who want to break away from the rest of the world.

FOLLOW THE RIVER_ALASKA_Trailer 2018 from Salomé Lou Römer on Vimeo.

Northern Travelogues
Director:  Kira Jääskeläinen
58 minutes
Showing:  SUNDAY, Dec 08, 2019 2:00 pm    Alaska Experience Theatre - Large

From the film director's website:
In 1917 Finnish explorer Sakari Pälsi travelled to north-eastern Siberia carrying a cinematograph and 13,000 feet of film with him. The journey birthed a unique documentary film and a travelogue.

A hundred years later director Kira Jääskeläinen returns to the Bering strait in Pälsi's footsteps. By combining old and new film footage, Pälsi's notes and the stories of the local Indigenous peoples, the film tells the story of the Chukchi and Siberian Eskimos from the days gone by till today. 

Northern travelogues TRAILER from Illume Ltd on Vimeo.

Also from the website, about the director:
Kira Jääskeläinen was born in Warsaw into a Finnish-Polish family.  She moved to Finland as a child, and the first part of her life she studied classical cello under the supervision of professor Seppo Laamanen in Helsinki.

Wanting to explore other countries, Kira moved to Copenhagen at the age of 19. She studied Russian studies at the University of Copenhagen. During several expeditions to north-eastern Siberia, Kira's interest in documentary filmmaking grew. She has studied at the All Russian State Institute of Cinematography in Moscow and in several international documentary workshops, including Eurodoc and Nipkow Program.

Since 2010 Kira has worked in different aspects of filmmaking for companies in Finland, Denmark and Germany.  Her debut film Tagikaks - Once Were Hunters (2012) has been screened & awarded on festivals all over the world. Kira was the artistic director of Polish Film Weeks in Finland during 12 years. She is a regular guest curator and jury member at international film festivals.

Currently Kira lives and works in her country house in Southern Finland. She has just finished a new documentary film Northern Travelogues, which will premiere in the beginning of 2019. 

MONDAY Dec 09, 2019

Director:  David Hambridge
USA - Kenya
79 minutes
Showing: MONDAY Dec 09, 2019 6:00 pm  Bear Tooth Theatrepub

From the Hollywood Reporter:
Kifaru, David Hambridge’s account of efforts to protect the only surviving northern white rhinos in the wild, arrives at a critical stage in the preservation of the species. Confronting the possibility of extinction through the eyes of a dedicated team assigned as Sudan’s caretakers adds another layer of urgency, transforming the film from competent conservation documentary into compelling real-life drama.
Relocated from a conflict area in his namesake country as a juvenile, Sudan ended up in a Czech zoo for years, before he was transferred to the Ol Pejeta wildlife conservancy in central Kenya, along with his captive-raised daughter Najin and granddaughter Fatu. Besides sheltering a variety of other dislocated species, the refuge’s goal is to protect Sudan from poachers and care for him long enough for wildlife scientists to develop a method to clone his DNA, a completely unprecedented task. Surrounded by armed rangers guarding the reserve’s perimeter, new recruits JoJo and Jacob join the privileged ranks of Sudan’s caretakers under the watchful guidance of veteran keeper James.

This is a film from North Carolina State of the director talking about his work and this film.

 WEDNESDAY,  Dec 11, 2019

The American War
Director:  Dr. Daniel Bernardi
USA/Vietnam (not certain)
Showing:  WEDNESDAY,  Dec 11, 2019 8:00 pm   Alaska Experience Theatre - Large

Excerpt From Veteran Documentary Corps Blog:

SC: How did you come up with the idea for the film?
Daniel Bernandi: After successfully producing roughly 25 short films on 25 different veterans, I knew it was time for Veteran Documentary Corp to begin making feature-length documentaries to tell deeper, more developed stories of the veteran experience. I selected Vietcong veterans as the subject of our first feature for a couple reasons.  First, despite the fact that many Americans have seen stories or read about the Vietnam War, the story of the Vietcong veteran has not been told — at least not for American audiences. Why did the Vietnamese fight? What was their experience of, for example, Agent Orange or South Vietnamese torture? What was it like being Veterans in a county that includes veterans from the “other” side (e.g., South Vietnamese soldiers)? Second and equally important, I wanted to address experiences shared by veterans across time and country. The experience of war is more universal than era or nation might otherwise suggest.

 FRIDAY Dec 13, 2019

Cumhachd a' Yoik/The Power of Yoik
Directed by Paul-Anders Simma
58 minutes
Showing:  Friday Dec 13, 2019 6:00 pm  Anchorage Museum Auditorium

From IDFA:
Yoiking is the sacred chanting style of Europe’s only indigenous peoples, the Sami’s. Yoiking was a powerful tool for the shamans to reach the spirit world. When Lapland was colonized, the invaders forbade the yolk. Many Shamans where burned as witches, when they refused to stop to Yolk. Young Sami woman Inga Gaup- Juuso belongs to a nomadic family. Tourists are invading their lands, and the herds are driven out of the best grazing grounds. When the family reindeer herd is struck by starvation, Inga decides to test the power of Yoik.
The closest I can find to any video of The Power of Yoik is embedded in this Tweet from last year. The video is no longer up at the BBC link.

SATURDAY  Dec 14, 2019

The Condor & the Eagle
Directors:  Clement Guerra & Sophie Guerra
90 minutes
Showing:  SATURDAY  Dec 14, 2019 12:00 pm   Anchorage Museum Auditorium
Video from the film's Indiegogo campaign.

From Indigenous Again:

Four Indigenous leaders embark on an extraordinary trans-continental adventure from the Canadian plains to deep into the heart of the Amazonian jungle to unite the peoples of North and South America and deepen the meaning of “Climate Justice”.
This film documents the stories of these four well-known Native environmental spokespeople who are at the forefront of a perspective shift in the identity of their people, from forgotten voices to strong shared communities with the power to bring change to the entire world. Their path through the jungle takes them on an unexpectedly challenging and liberating journey, which will forever change their attachment to the Earth and one another.