Sunday, March 31, 2019

Signs Of Spring (And Fixing Card Reader)

It's the last day of March 2019, and it's been one of the warmest on record.  Our front yard is clear of snow and the back yard only has snow in the shade of the house.  And I'm avoiding talking about anything depressing by showing you a couple of pictures instead.

A small gift pile from a visiting moose to help fertilize the soil.

The first tulip to poke out of the soil and leaf mulch.

I was finishing breakfast, reading the newspaper on the deck when I heard the tapping behind me.  It was on a neighbor's old cottonwood tree.  But I can't tell if it's a Downy or Hairy Woodpecker.  It seemed pretty big, which would lean toward a Hairy.  If we could see the beak, we could tell.  And a better birder would know.

And finally, inside, the hoya is blooming.

This is not as sharp as I would like because I took it with my phone.  My MacBook Pro card reader stopped working the other day.  But I had to use my good camera with the telephoto lens to get the woodpecker, so I googled and found some video tricks to fix the card reader.  The first one - blow air into the opening - didn't work.  The second one - put alcohol on a piece of paper towel and wrap it around the sound card and put it in the card reader - didn't work either.  The third one - said to go to launchpad and click on 'image control'.  I had to find it in launchpad's search.  But it didn't fix the problem.  Finally, another video said to 1) turn off the computer 2) clean the brass colored part of the sound card with alcohol 3) insert it and remove it from the card reader ten times, and 4) turn the computer back on.  And then it worked again. (I had turned off the computer after #1, and it didn't work.)

Tomorrow, the first quarter of the year will be over.  So remember, don't sit here wasting time on the computer (do things that are important only) and go out and enjoy the world.

Saturday, March 30, 2019

Heartland Forum - Chance for Serious Conversation with Elizabeth Warren, Julían Castro, John Delaney, Amy Klobuchar

When the Republicans had a dozen or more candidates for the 2016 presidential election, the debates were pretty shallow and demeaning.  Having Trump as a bomb-thrower in every debate didn't help.  And the worst of the Republicans is the candidate that party picked.

And some are predicting the 2020 Democratic race will be the same.  I'm hopeful they will actually be inspiring.  The Democratic candidates I've heard from already all have much more positive messages and programs to address the problems.  I've already posted about two lesser known candidates - Andrew Yang and Pete Buttagieg - and a little on Beto O'Rourke.

Here's a video of four more of the candidates.  They each get about 30 minutes on the stage without other candidates.  They each get to make some opening remarks and then they get questions from the audience.

I can't see a way to embed the video, so you have to go there on your own.

I'm not taking any stands on any of these people.  I'll just note that Elizabeth Warren still impresses me.  She comes from a poor family but made her way to the US Senate.  She hasn't forgotten her roots, yet she has done her homework and understands the problems of extreme capitalism and doesn't shrink from challenging the largest corporations.

I know very little about Julían Castro, a former Housing and Urban Development Cabinet Secretary, but he's smart, articulate, and has a good handle on the issues addressed.  

John Delaney, comes from a business background and is a former Congressman.  Didn't know about him.

Amy Klobochar impressed me in the Kavanaugh hearings.  Her prosecutor background was obvious in her questions.  She was polite, but firm.  In this forum we get to hear her on other issues.

Tim Ryan, Congressman from Youngstown, Ohio who apparently is not yet an announced candidate also appears on the stage.

This is two hours long, but I'd argue it's a good way to start getting to know these candidates and hearing their ideas and programs.  Watch each candidate at one sitting, or while your making dinner, cleaning up, or doing exercise.  This is a better use of your time than watching Netflix.  (I know there are other streaming sites, but I just decided I can't watch all the 'best' shows and Netflix has enough.  And Prime is a way to help Jeff Bezos create a new market place where he gets a cut of every transaction without adding value.

So, start your presidential check list where you keep track of their important experience and education and stands on the issues.

Friday, March 29, 2019

Limits Of Religious Freedom, How Do We Know Who Is Good?, And How Many Wheelchairs Do Airlines Lose Or Break A Month?

The title doesn't necessarily reflect the aim of the authors of these three stories, but it does reflect what I took from them.

1.  Limits of Religious Freedom.   This is as good a description of how I view freedom of religion's boundaries.

From Washington Post article on South Bend, Indiana mayor, Pete Buttigieg,  running for president.  The article also offers a way to pronounce his name offered by his husband.
“Our right to practice our faith freely is respected up to the point where doing so involves harming others,” he said. “One of the problems with RFRA* was it authorized harming others so long as you remembered to use your religion as an excuse.”
*Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act in 2015

Of course, this still leaves lots of room for debate on what 'harming others' entails.

The article also discusses Buttigieg's own religious faith (it's not uninformed) and his bid to get the religious left more active in the next round of elections.

2.  Judging People In The Era Of Non-Stop Headline News

This next one is about James Comey and it raises interesting questions about who becomes a hero and who doesn't in our modern age.  It seems - she doesn't say this, but it's my takeaway - we often judge people nowadays by one action rather than the totality of their lives.  (And you can also question why we're judging other people rather than working on ourselves.)

From the Bulwark:  Why Do We Love To Hate James Comey?

"Comey has six children, all with the same woman. He has been married to his wife since roughly the Pliocene epoch and in his spare time they serve as emergency foster parents for homeless kids. No, really. He explained to NPR that, as foster parents, they often get more love out of these relationships than they put into them, even. “Little boy who came to us born a month premature in a homeless shelter to a drug-addicted mother and born in very very difficult circumstances so we got him right out of the hospital,” Comey said of one of his many foster children. That baby boy was later adopted, but, as NPR reports, the Comeys still watch him a couple times a week. “[W]e’ve stayed very close,” Comey said. “We’ll look after him his whole life.”
As I said: A good man. A fine human being.
But good people can still be annoying as fuck and James Comey is proof of this."

3.  The importance of diversity in the legislature.  From the LA Times:
"The largest U.S. airlines damaged or lost a daily average of 26 wheelchairs and scooters used by disabled passengers in December, according to a report championed by a lawmaker who lost both legs while serving in Iraq.
From Dec. 4 to Dec. 31, the 12 largest carriers damaged or lost 701 passengers’ wheelchairs and scooters, according to the first report of its kind from the U.S."
It took a wheelchair bound Senator - Tammy Duckworth of Illinois who lost her mobility in a helicopter crash in Iraq - to require the FAA to report such losses.

It took a disabled US Senator to get attention paid to this problem.  I don't know how many people bring their wheelchairs to the airport each day.  I know there's usually five to ten waiting for passengers when I get off planes, so the total number of wheelchairs might be huge and 26 per day isn't that high a percentage.  But it's HUGE for the person who needs the chair.  Can you imagine being dependent on your wheelchair to get around and find out when you got off the plane, yours had been lost or damaged?

Enjoy your weekend!

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Alaska Gov On Koch

Given that our governor got most of his funding from Outside of Alaska;
And that his deputy chief of staff set up the Koch funded Americans for Prosperity Alaska chapter;
And that his budget director is an imported budget cutter who has presented us with a disastrous budget;
He refuses to consider even the possibility of any new taxes;
Or to consider cutting tax credits to oil companies that are almost equal to the gap in the budget

I can't help but conclude:

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Hey Dems - Disagreement Is Human, But Don't Cut Off The Supply Of AOC's

"HOUSE DEMOCRATIC LEADERSHIP WARNS IT WILL CUT OFF ANY FIRMS THAT CHALLENGE INCUMBENTS"  is the headline of an Intercept article that tells us the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC)
"warned political strategists and vendors Thursday night that if they support candidates mounting primary challenges against incumbent House Democrats, the party will cut them off from business."
I don't know if that would have prevented Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez from knocking off one the most senior Democratic representatives last year in the primary.  I don't think they took her seriously or even considered he might lose.  Though the demographics of the district had changed in AOC's favor.

But look at yet one more example of how this young, articulate Democrat is shaking things up among the old white guys in Congress.  And, because of Youtube and other social media, the world gets to see her doing it.

Any one being honest with themselves has to be impressed with her content and delivery.   She's calling out people who have been getting away with murder (if you count all the lives lost because of poor health care access, because of the hundreds of thousands civilians who have died in our war in Iraq to avenge the three thousand or so who died on 9/11.  That's like a hundred eyes for an eyes for an eye.

But let's take heart in the powerful young, diverse, often female voices that are shaking things up in Congress.  I understand that the Democratic establishment is used to doing things a certain way and they have good reasons to believe in things like supporting incumbents.  But do you think you would be watching inspiring videos today if Joe Crowley had beaten AOC in that primary?  Did ordinary people even know who Joe Crowley is?

Competition makes incumbents stronger when they get in the general election.  DCCC back off.  Let the best candidate win the primary.  These young members of Congress will bring younger voters to the polls.  AOC says in the video she will turn 30 soon.  We remember Alexander the Great even though he died in his 3rd year.

The DCCC should be encouraging new young leaders.  It should also be teaching candidates how to run competitively, but fairly and on the issues.  If they must enforce anything, it should be personal attack against other Democrats.  It should help staff and candidates with addiction problems, with relationship and other problems.  Life is difficult in the US these days.  Our moral and emotional support systems are falling apart.  And campaigning is particularly challenging to one's social life and offers lots of temptation to compromise one's ethics.  

[Conservatives who see her as a threat, well, you should.  Your party is supporting the wealthy at the expense of everyone else and your inability to see that climate change is the biggest threat to humanity because of your personal vested interests, is not only tragic for you, but for all the rest of humankind who will suffer because you've refused to take action.  I'm sorry.  All your arguments on this topic are dead wrong.  Fighting climate change, as AOC says, will be much cheaper than not doing anything.  Actually, a carbon fee with dividend (a bill is already in the House) is the easiest and most effective first step.  Working to develop and support alternative energy not only will create significant numbers of jobs and help keep the US competitive in the post carbon world.  Though that won't have much meaning in a world of endless floods, storms, droughts, heat waves, that will result in disrupting agriculture that feeds the world and the wars that will follow.   You believe in the Rapture, but not Climate Change?  And the delay in countering climate change that AOC talks about is already costing us lives and health and disrupting how humans live.  Just a note - the war in Syria was preceded by a multi-year drought that forced farmers off their land and into the cities where they made up a large pool of unemployed and discontented revolutionaries.  There were other issues, of course, but the disruption of the economic system caused by drought was a big factor. But working together to fight this shouldn't be based on fear, but on the much better world that will come of it.]

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Signs Of Our Discontent - Rally Outside Americans For Prosperity's Private 'Public Meeting"

Background:  The Alaska governor Mike Dunleavy introduced a budget that cuts almost everything drastically.  He recently announced public meetings across the state to meet with Alaskans on the budget.  We quickly learned that Koch funded Americans for Prosperity had organized and was running the meetings.  One had to get free tickets online by giving up personal information - name, phone, email, etc. - and agree to lots of stipulations including no signs, no political T-shirts, no recording, need to show ID, and on and on.  More specifics here.  And there was a hearing sponsored by House Finance Committee Sunday afternoon.

Various groups including Senate Democrats and unions called for a demonstration outside the venue where the governor was going to speak in Anchorage tonight.  Anchorage Assembly member Forrest Dunbar acted as the MC.  That was today.  Here's the first of a few posts of pictures of the demonstrations.  I'm guessing there were altogether, about 300 people.  The NYE (New York Equivalent is a metric I came up with a an anti-Palin rally to give people outside of Alaska a sense of what an equivalent crowd would be in New York City.) would be about 9000 people.

This shot I got from the stairs on the side of the 49th State Brewery where the Americans for Prosperity private meeting was held.  (They said they had room for 150, even though various legislators offered larger venues for free if the governor would speak without all the restrictions.)  This picture doesn't show all the people in front of the building, so I took this picture too.

So these posts are going to focus on signs.  There were lots of signs!  Some were printed up and distributed - particularly supporting education.  But there were a lot more home made signs.  I've  grouped them into categories.  Like all such groupings, there are instances that easily fit into more than one category.  But this at least tries to capture what people were expressing in a bit more organized way.


This first group seems to be focused on the fact that this 'public' meeting wasn't public.  That a private organization was staging what the public was going to hear from the governor and limiting what the public could say in the meeting and could even document to tell others.  (An ADN story did quote an AFP person saying that individuals could use their phones to record, so they loosened up, but still people had had to sign a document forbidding recording.)


Tomorrow I'll put up more.  There was a lot of focus on raising revenues instead of cutting, opposition to the governor's budget in general, and more specific concerns, particularly cutting education.

Monday, March 25, 2019

Nah. . . Forget Politics For Now - Anchorage Trails Along Streets Are Snow And Ice Free!

So many things nationally and locally to ponder, but I checked out the sidewalk/trails along a loop from Tudor, Elmore, Dowling, and Lake Otis back to Tudor (that being my warm up run until the the greenbelt trails are clear in the spring) and things were snow and ice free.

I actually didn't take any pictures of trail, except for this one on a bridge on Elmore.

I checked on last year's posts and this one from March 22 is the first bike ride I did last year.  I wrote the

 "for the most part the trail was ice free.  There'd been one spot where a thick chunk was floating over a puddle, but there was a bit of room to go around it.  But then, almost home, I got to this hard packed ice near Providence."
As I recall, there were places where there were big puddles and snow was melting from where it was piled next to the trail.  And the bridge over Campbell Creek (at Lake Otis) still had snow on it.

This year the trail was basically like in the picture.  There were wet areas, but no ice or snow that I was riding through.  There's  a picture in last year's post of trail full of ice and snow on both sides near Providence.  But this time I went in the other direction so I didn't go by there at all.  But I suspect it's clear too.

Anyway, here's Campbell Creek, north fork, from the bridge at Elmore.

And a little further down the road, the south fork of Campbell Creek.

Here's what this spot looked like on March 22, 2019 - with blue sky and sunshine.

Then west on Dowling and north on Lake Otis - here I am at Campbell Creek again, but here both the north and south forks have already converged into one creek.

It seemed a bit early to be so snow and ice free this year, even before I check last year's post.  But I also saw a tweet:

I think this would be clearer if it said "we've had 13 fewer days that dipped below 40˚ than the year with the next fewest days"  it would be clearer.

The End Of The Mueller Investigation - Day 1

Attorney General Barr reduced Robert Mueller's report to four pages [link goes to Barr's report] which he gave key Congressional committees.  In response, Seth Abramson, who's been following all this closely for years now tweeted today:

So before people fall for this, "nothing to see, keep moving" interpretation from Barr, here are a couple of others who seem to agree with Abramson.

From Marty Lederman's "How not to think–and what the Mueller Report won’t tell us–about Trump’s efforts to obstruct the investigation "at Just Security today:

". . .That’s why you’re already familiar with many of those acts:  Trump pressured Comey to back off on Michael Flynn.  He fired Comey in order to take off the “great pressure” he faced “because of Russia” (as he said in his contemporaneous boasts to Russian officials!).  He constantly disparaged, and called in into question the impartiality of, Mueller and his team of lawyers.  He insulted countless career and Trump-appointed DOJ and FBI officials of extraordinary integrity.  He said he wouldn’t have appointed Jeff Sessions if he knew Sessions would recuse himself from the Russia investigation, tried to get Sessions to reverse his decision to recuse, and humiliated Sessions when he wouldn’t budge.  Eventually he fired Sessions and then displaced Rod Rosenstein as Acting Attorney General with a lackey, deviating from centuries of practice.  He persistently referred to the critically important Russia investigation as a “witch hunt.”  And on and on.
These things have become so regular, so commonplace, that we’ve come to take them for granted.  Make no mistake, however:  They are not things any other president would ever do.  Any other president would–of course–do everything in his power to support, praise and cooperate with his own officials as they were engaged in an investigation of one of the most serious foreign threats to the nation in recent years.  And any other president would abide by the decades-long norms prohibiting presidential interference with, and commenting, on, DOJ investigations–especially when DOJ is investigating the president himself and people in his orbit.
Trump’s behavior with respect to the investigation has been deeply deviant, and inexcusable.  Moreover, it has been–quite obviously–part of a concerted, multiyear effort to obstruct, and undermine the legitimacy of, the Russia investigation.  No serious person would dispute that.  (Indeed, Trump virtually boasts about it.)  And most of it has been out there in plain view already–which is why the Mueller report to Barr is unlikely to contain any great surprises or revelations. . ."

From "Trump Aided and Abetted Russia’s Attack. That Was Treachery. Full Stop. The scandal may not be a crime. It’s a betrayal."  by David Corn in Mother Jones today:

"On Sunday afternoon Attorney General William Barr sent a letter to Congress noting that Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation “did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities.” The message also noted that Mueller could not exonerate President Donald Trump of obstruction of justice, but that Barr himself had decided that the evidence Mueller developed was “insufficient to establish” that Trump had obstructed justice. Trump proclaimed it was “complete and total exoneration.” And Trump champions popped the cork and declared case closed, nothing to see, end of story, no need for further investigation, Trump did no wrong.
Well, that is fake news."

There's so much more that we've seen that Trump has done and as some are telling us to move on now that the report is in, while they didn't say that while Trump demanding Obama present his birth certificate and that we should "Lock her up!"  

When I think back to when the Supreme Court ordered Nixon to turn over the tapes he'd recorded of all the meetings in the oval office, times were really different.

  • First, it was pretty clear that the tapes showed that Nixon had lied.  There had been a cover-up and it went all the way up to the top. 
  • Second, the idea that the president had lied about this mattered.   
  • Third, the Democrats controlled both the House and Senate - but Nixon didn't have the hold on the congressional Republicans that Trump has.  

Well, here's a later tweet from Seth Abramson:

Sunday, March 24, 2019

Legislative Info Office Hearing on the Budget [UPDATED]

Given that the Governor's 'budget roadshow' is being handled by Americans for Prosperity, a Koch funded group, and requires one fill out a form online with more personal information than I want to add to AFP's data base, the House majority caucus is having its own hearings around the state.

It was jammed today with people testifying (mostly) against the Dunleavy budget and for reinstating an income tax.  I did hear two folks (one after the other) say they wanted their full PFDs and the state shouldn't subsidize lazy people.  But everyone else were ready to reduce their PFDs for public education, health care, etc.

If you click on this image it will get much bigger and clearer

I'll add to this later.


There was a line that went out the front door, and I didn't get there until about an hour into the hearings.

There was an overflow room with a video of the session in the next room over.

And there was another overflow room.

And the hallway was full of people from the line that went out the door.  This was really the only big sign that I saw and did not seem to reflect the sentiment of most people testifying.

The control room was between the hearing room and one of the overflow rooms.  It had dark smokey windows.

Saturday, March 23, 2019

Anchorage's Temple Beth Sholom Get's New Alaskan Rabbi

Rabbi Abram Goodstein, at his installation last night told this story. (Loosely paraphrased.)

My bar mitzvah was right here at this bimah.  Afterward, we went into Rabbi Rosenfeld's office and I said, " It's over!!"
And the rabbi said to me, "No, this is just the beginning."
And here I am now at the same bimah, and that office is now my office.  

The synagogue was packed with members of the congregation and many community fans.

If you look closely, you can see the children's klezmer band playing "mazol tov".

This was a joyous occasion and bodes well for Anchorage.   And, of course, there was a lot of food.  This is the dessert table.

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Big Bright Vernal Equinox Moon Greets Us After Move To Amend Panel

After attending a  panel discussion on "The 28th Amendment" we walked out to see this giant moon pushing up over the mountains and not quite out of the clouds.

Here it's a little higher and we're out of downtown.

I'm still fighting my camera when the auto settings can't figure out what to do.  The manual settings just aren't intuitive and I use them so rarely.  The moon wasn't - as I remember it - so yellow.  

The panel was interesting and very civil.  The basic concern is with the impact of Citizens United and the problems of unlimited money from corporations and other non-human entities on elections in the United States.  The key objection I heard was that by limiting constitutional rights to human beings (Citizens United ruling was based on their First Amendment Right to free speech) organizations will be stripped of important rights, such as due process.  In response, Dr. Sharman Haley (standing at the mic in the picture) argued that such organizations are created and sanctioned by states and it is there, not in the constitution, that their rights should be established.  At least that's what I understood.  

To learn more, check out  Move To Amend.  

Another idea that was raised to make elections less contentious was ranked voting.  Dr. Haley argued that first, this would eliminate the need for primaries.  And second,  if candidates want to win, they have to be listed second on a lot of ballots.  Thus taking an extreme stand will likely lose them the election.   There's more on ranked choice voting here.

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Alaska Governor's Roadshow Sponsored By Koch Funded Americans For Prosperity

We knew before the election that Dunleavy's campaign was largely financed by his brother in Texas.  But now it looks like that was just the beginnings of an actual coup.  The Koch's Americans for Prosperity have arranged and organized a set of what were advertised on the Governor's website as public meetings to discuss the Governor's budget proposal.  I'm starting to think that AFP actually had a lot to do with the budget itself now.  In fact, just after the election in November, Jeremy Price was appointed Dunleavy's Deputy Chief of Staff.  According to Must Read Alaska, a blog written by the former communications director of the Republican party in Alaska, 
“In 2014, Price was tapped to begin a branch of Americans for Prosperity in Alaska and has since grown the organization to a well-known voice for economic freedom. The group is supported locally and receives organizational support from its national parent, Americans for Prosperity, which is back [sic] by the Koch Brothers.”

The governor announced a road trip:  From the Governor’s Webpage:
“Governor Announces Statewide Roadshow to Outline Permanent Fiscal Plan for Alaska
March 18, 2019
Juneau, AK – Today, Alaska Governor Michael J. Dunleavy announced “A Statewide Discussion for a Permanent Fiscal Plan” a series of community focused discussions and meetings to outline a permanent fiscal plan for Alaska, including the vision behind his FY2020 budget proposal and a package of constitutional amendments meant to address the state’s long-term fiscal stability.”

Then there’s a long explanation of why his budget is necessary to save Alaska from deficit — cutting the state functions drastically is ok.  Raising any revenues — taxes —  is not.  (Trump seems ok with a trillion dollar deficit, but Dunleavy will have none of that.)  So here’s the posted schedule:
“Upcoming Events and Locations:
Kenai, AK – Monday, March 25, 2019
6pm – Public Event at The Cannery Lodge
Anchorage, AK– Tuesday, March 26, 2019
10am – Talk of Alaska
6pm – Public Event at 49th State Brewery
Nome, AK– Wednesday, March 27, 2019
4pm – Public Event at Old St.  Joseph’s Hall
Fairbanks, AK– Thursday, March 28, 2019
8am – Fairbanks Chamber of Commerce
6pm – Public Event at Westmark Hotel
Mat-Su, AK– Friday, March 29, 2019
6pm – Public Event at Everett’s
*Times and locations are subject to change.”
But there aren’t any links to these events on this announcement.  The Anchorage Daily News reports that 
“JUNEAU — A day after Gov. Mike Dunleavy announced he will hold a series of public meetings across Alaska to discuss his budget proposal and long-term fiscal plan, ticketing arrangements reveal the meetings are being sponsored and managed by the conservative-libertarian group Americans for Prosperity.
That sponsorship was not disclosed when the governor said he would hold public meetings in Anchorage, Nome, the Matanuska-Susitna Borough, Kenai and Fairbanks next week.”
Well, it’s not exactly clear what’s happening now.  I went to Americans for Prosperity (AFP) websiteand found six events listed for Alaska Public Policy Forums.   I’m posting a screenshot because I don’t know how long this will be there.  (The sixth one (another one for Kenai) just didn’t fit easily in the screen shot, but it looks just like the others.)

Screenshot showing five of the six forums AFP are sponsoring about Alaska

Note that these are labeled “AFP Presents:  Fortifying Alaska’s Future.  So, the public tour for the governor to discuss (that implies two way conversation, right?)  the budget with the public, turns out to be a propaganda event organized and paid for by Americans for Prosperity.  But clicking on these events gets you to a page that basically says this link doesn’t work.  

The ADN article touches on what I would have found at the links, I’m assuming, before the linked pages were taken down:
“The events’ ticketing web pages says [sic], “this is a private, policy focused event dedicated to discussing Americans for Prosperity’s issues,” but that isn’t true, said Ryan McKee, Alaska state director of Americans for Prosperity.
“They are open to the public, absolutely,” he said.”
Dunleavy press secretary Matt Shuckerow agreed, adding in an emailed statement that the administration ‘partnered with AFP-Alaska and the Alaska Policy Forum to assist in hosting, organizing, coordinating these events’.”
And there were some restrictions.  From a press release from Alaska Senate Democrats 
“On the event website, Americans for Prosperity provided a 415-word disclaimer on the terms and conditions of the event which threatens Alaskans if they do not comply with their rules. If you don't follow these set rules, you will be denied admission or forced "to leave the event."
From the terms and conditions document.
“This is a private, policy focused event dedicated to discussing Americans for Prosperity’s issues.”
But the Gov was passing these off as public meetings from the governor’s office.  Here is an abbreviated and somewhat paraphrased version of the conditions:  

  • All attendees must register themselves and guests with real names and may be asked to show IDs
  • No signage allowed, No candidate stickers, pins, t-shirts etc.
  • By attending you irrevocably consent and authorize AFP to distribute, use, broadcast, or disseminate into perpetuity your likeness in such media for whatever purpose without further approval from you and with no compensation forever and wherever
  • But you may not record, reproduce, or transmit by any means any portion of or the entirety of any AFP event without specific written permission.  
You can see all the terms at the link.  [As I read the terms, I suspect this is a standard AFP document, not particularly written for these events.  I’m guessing they stuck it in rather than getting their attorneys to make a special one.]   Mind you, this is how the governor was going to explain his budget to the state, and, since they were called public meetings and discussions  by the governor, most of us thought there would be two way communication.  Governor's explanation and public responses.  

Instead this shows how completely Dunleavy has been bought by the Koch’s to do their bidding.  And raises serious questions about how much of Dunleavy’s budget and policies have been crafted by Koch and Americans for Prosperity

Fortunately, unlike  in Wisconsin and Kansas and Michigan and other states that have had this sort of attack, in Alaska Gov. Dunleavy doesn’t have a fool-proof supportive legislature.  A lot of Republicans in the Senate (which they control), are not happy with the governor’s budget.  And somehow — I still have figured out how — the Democrats pulled off a coalition of all the Democrats and a number of Republicans in the House. 

It’s still not clear to me that this roadshow is going to actually happen, and if it does, how one is to get tickets, or whether the AFP Terms and Conditions can legally apply to ‘public’ events of the governor. 

We’ll see.*  And for folks who have been through this in the last decade in other states, pay attention and let us know who these imported characters — like our ‘visiting budget director’ Donna Arduin — and what they did before they got here.  We are doing lots of research, but first hand knowledge is helpful.

And if you want to keep track of what’s happening, long-time Alaska reporter Dermot Cole seems to be the most relentless interpreter of Alaska political events at the moment on his blog Reporting From Alaska.

*Before posting this, I just called Noah Hanson, press secretary for the Senate Democrats and learned that Sen. Donny Olson of Golovin has offered to pay for a venue for a public forum in Nome if there are no stipulations such as the AFP agreement discussed in this post.  

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Break Up

Ice shelf at end of driveway last week
The temperature has been well above normal - sometimes the lows being higher than the normal high - but it's also been cloudy and grim out.  The warm days have been causing snow to melt and then freeze up at night.  The city plowed the street, but never cleared the berm they left.  It's melted a little each night into a shelf of ice that's 4 inches or more in places.

I've been going out and chopping ice and making a channel.  The picture on the left was a week ago.

This morning there was a powdering of snow on the ground, but from the dentist's chair, I could see sunshine to the south.

And this afternoon, the sun had made it into town.  (Of course the sun was there all along.  It's just the clouds cleared, but it really did feel like the sun had come.)

And with the sun beating down, the shelf was getting slushy and the ice and snow in the part of the streets the cars crunch was mostly gone.

Here you can the melting remnant of the berm.  It's hasn't been snow for a while.  Rather it's a hard crusty icy wall.  I went to the corner to see if I could shovel out the drain, but it was not going to happen.

But I was able to play with the ice chopper at the end of the driveway.  With the warmth and the sun, the shelf was changing composition.  And parts broke off with a single chop.  And then I had lots of ice to clear away.  I know that all this will go on its own, but if I gain a week that's good enough for me.  And I get some exercise.  Out in the sun.

It's a great time of the year.  We're a day from the equinox when every part of the world has the same amount of light.  After that, those places further north get more light.  And around 60˚ north, we gain almost 6 minutes a day now.  And there should be close to a full moon tonight as well.

There were even patches of ground showing up as snow melted and evaporated.

I think the green is just some grass that made it through the winter under the snow.  The berries are from the mountain ash tree that the bohemian waxwings didn't find.

Monday, March 18, 2019

Salmon Roe Technicians Wanted

For something a little different today.

Sunday's Anchorage Daily News classified section included a bunch of long ads for:

1.   Salmon Roe Technicians:  5 Temporary, full time positions to work from 6/1/2019 to 9/20/2019. Work will be performed at plant in Valdez, AK.  Responsible for processing salmon roe to produce Ikura and Sujiko (Japanese salmon roe products) for export to Japan.  [Then there's a long description of all they have to do such as "sorting, salting, preserving, brining, seasoning, mixing, agitating, dewatering"  and then inspecting and packing, and providing technical expertise in grading and quality control  . . .]

This positions is 40 hours a week plus up to 40 hours overtime for $14.50/hour and $21.75/hour overtime.  It includes transportation to the site, housing and meals, and transportation back "if the worker completes half the employment period or is dismissed early by the employers."

Experience needed?  two years of this work processing roe for the Japanese market and knowledge of processing and grading standards for the Japanese market.

The employer is Pac-Maru Inc.  Seattle (which is a subsidiary of  Toyo Suisan Kaisha Ltd..)

2.  Salmon Roe Technicians:  5 temporary, full-time positions to work from 5/5/2019 to 9/20/2019.  These will be at "3 land plants in Kenai  and Kasilof, AK.  This one is pretty similar, but it's up to 44 hours overtime and pays $15/hour and $22/hour overtime.

This one is from North Pacific Seafoods, Seattle

3.  Also Salmon Roe Technicians - this one for Cordova, Naknek, Togiak, Unalakleet, and/or Kenai, AK.   $14.50/hour and $21.50/hour overtime.

The employer Nomura Trading Co., Ltd, Bellevue, WA.

4.  Peter Pan Seafoods is looking for 9 Salmon Roe Technicians - for Dillingham and Valdez.  This ad has much the same details though the language is a little different.  It only pays $14.48/hour and $21.72/hour over time, but it has up to 50 hours of overtime possible.  They'll also pay for visa and border crossing expenses.  And you apply, not to the company, but to the Alaska Dept. of Labor.

Here are some worker comments about Peter Pan Seafoods.

5.  Westwood Seafoods has openings for 7 seafood processing technicians (surimi and roe) in Dutch Harbor.  "Must be willing to work up to 12 or more hours per day, 7 days per week, depending on fish availability.  Big difference here:  Wage is $20-$40/hour DOE plus health insurance and potential for bonus.  Overtime at $30-$60 per hour DOE.  Free room and board as well, however, return transportation paid only if employee works the whole contract or is dismissed.  (Getting back from Dutch Harbor is a lot more than Valdez or Kenai!)  And the contract is from 5/24 to 10/24/2019.  Again, apply at Alaska Dept. of Labor.

6.  Premier Pacific Seafoods, Inc has openings for 3 seafood processing technicians (surimi and roe) on board M/ Excellence or the Phoenix vessel in the Bering Sea and North Pacific.  Wages here are $16.65 to $30/hour and $24.98 to $45/hour overtime, depending on experience, or if higher, $235 - $300 per day, plus health insurance, possible bonus, and room and board.
Here are some worker comments about Premier Pacific. 

7.  Finally Nicherei U.S.A. LLC has 25 openings for Salmon Roe Technicians "at multiple work sites in SW Alaska, incl. plants in Cordova, Kodiak, Naknek, and Valdez.  35 regular hours at $14.48/hour and up to 30 additional at $21.72/hour overtime.  This one has slightly different wording about food and lodging.  The others said this was free.  This one includes it in a sentence about travel to site (reimbursed if complete half the period) and travel back (if complete whole period.)  The wording suggests that meals will be covered if half the contract is worked.

I understand that lots of college students go work in fish processing plants and on fishing ships over the summer for the adventure and the pay that comes with all the overtime.  But it would seem to me that a Salmon Roe Technician with two years experience are harder to find and should get paid more than minimum wage.  The only two companies here paying more than minimum wage are Westwood Seafoods and Premier Pacific Seafoods, though the later is on a ship which adds more adventure but also much more risk.

NOTE:  I saw these ads in the print edition and couldn't find them online. They're on pages C-2 and C-3, of the Sunday Anchorage Daily News, March 17, 2019.

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Folks Crowd Anchorage Muslim Community Center In Show Of Support

I'd never been to the mosque before - it's only been completed in the last couple of years and it's hidden on a side street in a neighborhood I don't normally go.

The Interfaith Council probably wasn't expecting so many people - the room was pretty full when we got there and people just kept coming in.  I only knew about this because I'd sent an email to the Center after I heard about New Zealand, and I got one back telling me about the vigil.  Watching the doorway - we were seated near it - I suddenly looked for other ways out because the door wasn't that big.  And there were two more exits directly outside.  They kept bringing more chairs.  Then little kid chairs.  I don't even want to guess at a number because it was, I'm sure, way beyond what the Fire Department would allow.  And I have to admit that I thought about the exits because my mind imagined what it would be like if someone started shooting in there.

Here's a mashup of three pictures to give a sense of the crowd, even if the perspective is all messed up. (The left side is actually mostly the back of the room.  Maybe I should learn to use the panorama feature on my phone camera.) The middle picture was when we got there when there was still some room.

Although there were speakers, it was pretty low key.  There were people from different religious groups - Buddhists, Christians, Jews, and of course Muslims.  Mara Kimmel, the mayor's wife said a few words too.  I noticed three other returned Peace Corps volunteers.   More important were all these people most of whom were strangers talking to each other with respect and love.   The people from the mosque were so incredibly nice.  As we came in we started to take our shoes off, as Muslims coming in were doing, and they insisted that we keep them on, in the nicest possible way.

We do have to keep in mind that most people are good and decent when they aren't afraid and stirred up by bigots.  Let's keep tapping in to that basic goodness.  Let's get more people talking to each other in safe spaces on safe topics, people who are now mostly living in bubbles with people who reinforce what they believe.

Saturday, March 16, 2019

Vigil in Support Of Alaskan Muslims - Tonight (Saturday) at 7pm

The Interfaith Council is sponsoring a vigil tonight.  From the Facebook page:

"In light of the tragedy in Christchurch, New Zealand there will be a vigil tomorrow at 7pm, at the Islamic Community Center of Anchorage.  All are welcome to attend, and stand with our Muslim neighbors at this time of loss."

The Islamic Community Center of Anchorage is at 8005 Spring Street.

This is a good time to support one of our many communities that is particularly under attack in the US and around the world.  To show them we care and support them.

Friday, March 15, 2019

How Social Media Allow Fringe Candidate To Get An Audience - Andrew Yang In San Francisco

I don't even know who Andrew Yang is.  I'll look him up in a second.  But below is a video of him giving a talk on the street with a Twitter transcript/commentary.  (Double click on the Tweet to see the whole thread.)

Here's a long interview with Yang which he begins by talking about universal basic income and cites Alaska as an example of it working. I hope our current fight over the PFD doesn't "prove" to people that this idea won't work. Though it sure shows us that some people only think immediate, short term, and 'that's my money, not the state's." But that's another discussion.

What I like about all these young Democratic presidential candidates is that they are bringing to the table important ideas that the older, politically conservative (and by that I don't mean ideologically, but rather people not willing to take risks, people who only back ideas after they look at the polls) have kept off the agenda.

[As I listen to the rest of this two hour video, he talks about the places Trump won are the places that jobs got replaced by robots.  Then he said he went to Washington and started talking to politicians about this and they said, "We can't talk about that."  about 49 minutes in.]

Elizabeth Warren's pushing breaking up the tech industry.  Kamala Harris is talking about reparations for African-Americans in the sense of help dealing with generational trauma.  Beto O'Rourke champions immigrants as necessary to the prosperity and vibrance of the US  ("El Paso has been the safest city in America, not despite immigrants, but because of immigrants.").  Jay Inslee is focused on Climate Change.   You get the point.   Let's get these issues out there so the American people start seriously talking about other options.

And let's hope the candidates continue to care more about making this a much better country and world, than they care about who is ultimately in the White House.  Let's hope they stay positive and see themselves as a team, and may the best candidate be their leader from the White House.

One last note:  This is not an endorsement of Yang or any other candidate.  I like the ideas they are all raising.  As we get to know them better, we'll find out more about their strengths and weaknesses.  But I'm pushing them to all work together as a team.

Thursday, March 14, 2019

US House Votes 420 - 0 For Transparency. Sen. Graham Blocks Bill In Senate

From Intelligencer:
"Democrats passed a House resolution 420 to zero in support of releasing the [Mueller Report] to the public, serving as a gesture to pressure William Barr into showing as much of the report as possible. In the afternoon, Graham promptly shut down the symbolic gesture, blocking Chuck Schumer’s request to pass the House resolution. Graham, the chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, went a step further, requesting that AG William Barr should appoint a second special counsel to investigate “misconduct” in the Department of Justice over the handling of Hillary Clinton’s emails, and the government surveillance of Trump campaign staffer Carter Page."
Look for Hillary Clinton's emails to be part of the 2020 Republican platform.

Here's an assignment for the writing class today:   Bring to life the backstory to Graham's action.

Emails Bloggers Get

Here's a bit of behind the scenes blog stuff.
"Hi Steve,
I came across your site while looking for resources for our next blog and I knew I had to reach out immediately, kudos on a fantastic blog. My name is Vincent, and I'm reaching out on behalf a leading construction industry supplier who operates in the same marketplace as Travis Perkins.
This month, we're looking to secure sponsorship placements with five prominent blogs and your site jumped straight to the top of our list. Would you also be willing to accept link placements on pre-existing content on your site?
Please let me know if this is something you're interested in discussing further.
Kind regards,

I get stuff like this now and again.  Despite the personal touches and "five prominent blogs" I know these go out to hundreds or thousands of blogs.  This one at least takes the step of finding out and using my name.

The fact that I don't have  ads - perhaps that is attractive to someone that just wants links.  Notice there is no offer of payment, but they do offer to put links to my site.

Rest assured, readers, my only interest in stuff like this is as a reporter.  I'm always curious about who does this, what they expect to get, whether they get what they expect, and the mechanics of how they identify blogs to contact.

Should I get an offer for something that I think would be of interest to my readers, I would make it very clear to the readers why it was posted, where it came from, and what, if anything, I was offered in exchange.

Here's another one from this week:

"Good Morning,
I have been sober for 2 years and I am passionate about sharing my story, as a mom in recovery, through writing and reaching out to other websites looking to do the same. I have become super passionate about spreading awareness on addiction by collaborating with new organizations/blog publications, sharing my experience, strength, and hope. I also have an archive of informative/interactive guides and resources that would educate and interest your audience.
I would love the opportunity to contribute to your site with a personal story or any topic relating to addiction/recovery. If possible I'd like to post your link on my site as well. Feel free to message me with any questions, I look forward to hearing from you!
Have a great day!
Tricia Moceo"

You'll note that this is a completely generic email.  She hasn't even taken the time to get my name.  Nevertheless, I did google her and found a few posts.

One phrase struck me:  "I’d indulge in books."  Wow, I never thought of reading as indulging.  I guess there are some genres where reading could be seen as indulging.  I emailed her on Dec. 14 to ask her to explain what she meant.  And she did.  Quickly.
"Thanks for taking the time to read over some of my work. I didn't particularly intend to convey a negative connotation with that statement. The context was more of an example of the progression and how my addictive nature was present long before I ever picked up a drink or drug. For as long as I can remember, oblivion was my solution. To escape reality, I would read book after book. I got lost in the plot, completely disassociating from the world I was living in. Furthermore, the same desired effect that I got from reading and escaping... I also got from drugs and alcohol."

And yet another - this one has sent me three messages now:

12/18/2018 11:18PM 
Hi Steve,
I reached out last week but haven't heard back so I wanted to try one last time. Is there an opportunity to sponsor a post on your site?
Please see my initial email below.
Best wishes,
On Thu, Dec 13, 2018 at 8:20 AM, Vincent Greene <> wrote:
Hi Steve,
I reached out last week but haven't heard back. I wanted to see if there was an opportunity to sponsor a post on your site.
Please see my initial email below.
Best wishes,
On Fri, Dec 7, 2018 at 8:22 AM, Vincent Greene <> wrote:
I came across your site while looking for resources for our next blog and I knew I had to reach out immediately, kudos on a fantastic blog. My name is Vincent, and I'm reaching out on behalf a leading construction industry supplier who operates in the same marketplace as Travis Perkins.
This month, we're looking to secure sponsorship placements with five prominent blogs and your site jumped straight to the top of our list. Would you also be willing to accept link placements on pre-existing content on your site?
Please let me know if this is something you're interested in discussing further.
Kind regards,

Don't want emails from us anymore? Reply to this email with the word "UNSUBSCRIBE" in the subject line.

And then there are helpful emails, like this one:

I was reading your page and found a broken link referring to the 'Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt' Supreme Court's decision.
Your Page:
Dead link title: 'click here'
Dead link:
It looks like the document no longer exists, and after browsing for a while, I was able to find the same document in PDF format here:
Working link:
Maybe you could update the link on your page to help other users.
Have a great day,
I quickly made the updates.  

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

While Death Penalty Executions Have Gone Down, Police Still Meting Out Death Penalty On The Streets

California's new governor, Gavin Newsom, has imposed a moratorium on the death penalty in California.

However, the death penalty is being meted out by police officers around the country.  And while convicted murderers and rapists are spared the death penalty, often innocent citizens are not.

Killed By Police* lists 197 people who have been killed by police in the US this year (and we're only in the middle of March.)

Death Penalty Info lists 3 people killed so far this year as a result of death penalty executions.

The Root tells us 2165 people were killed by police in 2018.
Mapping Police Violence puts the number at 2166 people killed by police in 2018.  They also have a lot of related information and graphics - including comparisons between cities, crime rates, and other factors which show huge differences.
The Washington Post lists only 998 people killed by police in 2018.   (Including 7 in Alaska.)  These are only people shot and killed by police.  The others include all deaths caused by police.

Death Penalty Info lists 25 people dying by state sanctioned death penalty executions in 2018.  (Of that number, 11 are identified as Black or Latino.  13 (more than half) were in Texas.)

Killed By Police Killed By Execution

When police shoot and kill 'suspects' - the victim gets no  presumption of innocence, no trial, no jury. No appeal.  And police shooters almost never get prosecuted, let alone convicted.

OK.  Let's acknowledge that police have a difficult job.  They meet most of their 'customers' at some of the worst times in their lives.  They're asked to intervene in crimes being committed, often, by people with guns and other weapons.  They have to make fast decisions.   Most of us don't want to do these jobs.

Chart from PEW Research

Does It Have To Be This Way?

But when we look at the numbers, only a relatively small percent (less than 1/3) of police officers ever report firing their gun while on duty!  From the  Pew Research article (and reflected in the chart):

"To start, male officers, white officers, those working in larger cities and those who are military veterans are more likely than female officers, racial and ethnic minorities, those in smaller communities and non-veterans to have ever fired their service weapon while on duty. Each relationship is significant after controlling for other factors that could be associated with firing a service weapon." 
The article points out that there is no cause and effect relationship proven between these characteristics.

My main point for using the data is to show that the vast majority of police NEVER even fire their guns in the line of duty.

In a 2000 Associated Press article we get this quote:
"Well over 95 percent never shoot their weapons here," said New York City Police Commissioner Howard Safir.

But we don't know if that's because they aren't ever in situations where they apprehend armed suspects or because they handle those situations differently from officers who do shoot.  (Well maybe someone does, but this study didn't make any such claims.)

But the data do suggest that shooting suspects is NOT necessary in most cases.

Are there ways to reduce the number of police caused deaths?

I would also suggest that officers who do kill suspects are also victims of systems that make that option more likely.  They see innumerable shootings on television, in movies, and in video games they participate in the shootings.  They are nearly all given guns, which makes shooting (rather than other options, like talking, like waiting, like non-lethal weapons) an easy option.  (We tend to use the tools we have to solve most problems.**)  They don't necessarily get adequate training for dealing with the mentally ill.  Internalized racism (again, television and movies play a big part here) will make many if not most officers more likely to assume the worst for suspects of color.  (And officers of color are also the victims of internalized racism so when they are the shooters it's not proof that racism wasn't involved.)

Use of Force Project offers specific systemic actions that reduce deaths by police.  (In this list the wording is reversed - what departments DON"T do that they should.  There's a lot of info on this site, including a long list of police departments (including Anchorage) and which of these these standards they meet.)

  1. "Failing to require officers to de-escalate situations, where possible, by communicating with subjects, maintaining distance, and otherwise eliminating the need to use force
  2. Allowing officers to choke or strangle civilians, in many cases where less lethal force could be used instead, resulting in the unnecessary death or serious injury of civilians
  3. Failing to require officers to intervene and stop excessive force used by other officers and report these incidents immediately to a supervisor 
  4. Failing to restrict officers from shooting at moving vehicles, which is regarded as a particularly dangerous and ineffective tactic
  5. Failing to develop a Force Continuum that limits the types of force and/or weapons that can be used to respond to specific types of resistance
  6. Failing to require officers to exhaust all other reasonable means before resorting to deadly force
  7. Failing to require officers to give a verbal warning, when possible, before shooting at a civilian
  8. Failing to require officers to report each time they use force or threaten to use force against civilians"

I think it's important as fewer Americans die because of death penalty executions, to remember that in essence, police who kill suspects are, de facto, applying the death penalty.


*Killed By Police lists a cumulative number for 2019 (197), but they don't for 2018.  Each page is a month, and so I looked for other sources rather than try to count each specific death they list.  The sources I used for 2018 did not have (at least I couldn't find) 2019 data.

**I learned about The Law of The Instrument long ago in a research methodology book  It goes something like this:  If you give a a child a hammer, it will find that most things need to be pounded.

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

After A Week Home, We Finally Visit Alaska

Yes, Anchorage is in Alaska, but I wanted to get out of town a bit, so we drove down to McHugh Creek.  Here here is why I love living here.

It started out a sunny day today, but by late afternoon, it was mostly cloudy.