Saturday, August 31, 2019

Why Everyone Should Turn Off Online Movies Until They Finish Reading Proof Of Conspiracy - Plus A Brief Twitter Explanation

OK, it's hard to read Proof of Conspiracy because it doesn't come out until Tuesday September 3.  So you have the weekend to binge view.

I've already posted about Seth Abramson's previous book, Proof of Collusion which was like the background guide for the Mueller Report.

Here's an overview of what you'll get in Proof of Conspiracy from the author via a 15 Tweet thread:   [*For those who don't know a Tweet from a Thread, skip down to the bottom of this post]
Seth Abramson
Aug 30
1/ Two things are simultaneously true:
(1) PROOF OF CONSPIRACY will shock you and profoundly alter your understanding of what the Trump presidency means for the whole world.
(2) PROOF OF CONSPIRACY is fully sourced: 3,250 endnotes and 4,330 citations are being published online.
2/ In fact, for the first time, I'm going to direct people to the website for the 378 pages (not a typo) of endnotes and citations for PROOF OF CONSPIRACY that are available for free online. All stem from the endnotes in the print book, which is 592 pages:

3/ The Trump collusion narrative that lay outside the scope of the Mueller Report is larger by a factor of 5—at least—than what even those who've read the full Report have seen. Mueller focused on 1 crime and 1 country; PROOF OF CONSPIRACY looks at *many* crimes and 10 countries.
4/ Every day, America is rediscovering the narrowness of the Mueller Report. Not merely because the Report says at its beginning that Trumpworld witnesses withheld, hid, and destroyed evidence—making a proper, conclusive investigation impossible—but because the probe ended early.

5/ I'm not criticizing Mueller. I believe there were pressures/anxieties in play in his investigation we will one day discover. But the investigation ended with *all* counterintelligence information—a far greater stock of information than what was in the Report—being farmed out.

6/ The Mueller probe ended with key subpoenas unfulfilled, key witnesses unquestioned, key issues unlitigated, key cooperation deals wantonly broken, key lines of inquiry that lay outside the narrow scope of the investigation wholly—seemingly carelessly—unexplored. That's a fact.
7/ The problem we have is that not only did media do nothing to consider, explore, or reveal to news-watchers the *vast* narrative that lay outside the scope of the Mueller Report, it didn't even educate viewers on the *Mueller Report*.
Not Volume 1, at least. *That* it ignored.
8/ Tell most people that the Mueller Report reveals that Trump's top Russia adviser for the entirety of the 2016 campaign was a Soviet-born man who currently works for the Kremlin in Moscow and who Putin has described as a "friend," and they'll say, "No it doesn't."
But it does.

9/ Tell most people that the Mueller Report reveals that weeks before the 2016 election a Kremlin ally wrote Trump's lawyer to confirm the existence of blackmail videos of Trump, thereby issuing an implicit threat from the Kremlin, and they'll say, "No it doesn't."
But it does.

10/ Tell most people that the Mueller Report proves that the Trump campaign colluded with the Kremlin—and that an indictment undergirded by that collusion couldn't be brought only because Trump convinced Manafort to lie to the feds—and they'll say, "No it doesn't."
But it does.

11/ Media has so ill-prepared us to understand the foundation upon which PROOF OF CONSPIRACY was written that the book must, at points, remind readers of these facts—with citations to the Report and elsewhere—in order to unfold its even-more-terrifying (and fully sourced) story.
10/ Tell most people that the Mueller Report proves that the Trump campaign colluded with the Kremlin—and that an indictment undergirded by that collusion couldn't be brought only because Trump convinced Manafort to lie to the feds—and they'll say, "No it doesn't."
But it does.

11/ Media has so ill-prepared us to understand the foundation upon which PROOF OF CONSPIRACY was written that the book must, at points, remind readers of these facts—with citations to the Report and elsewhere—in order to unfold its even-more-terrifying (and fully sourced) story.

12/ What we've gotten, instead, is 1,000+ Trump propagandists like John Solomon or anyone at Fox News or Chuck Ross who are lying—bald-facedly lying—every day about what Volume 1 does and does not say, likely because they *haven't read it* and they assume no one else has, either.

13/ If you want to know how carefully documented PROOF OF CONSPIRACY is, consider that whereas most in media ignored Vol. 1 of the Mueller Report—and some lied about having read it and what's in it—I publicly live-tweeted my first reading of it in a thread spanning 500 tweets.

14/ What we're getting:
—a smart, dedicated journalist—arguing with profoundly dishonest Trump cultist
What we deserve: Deep dives on the Saudi- and Emirati-funded Israeli disinformation campaign that the Trumps knew about and that helped Trump win.

15/ Upshot: I'm a ride-or-die Mueller-Report-Volume-1 nerd who owes nothing to corporate bosses or advertisers and will offer long-form analysis of a national emergency whether some scoff or not. I worked harder on PROOF OF CONSPIRACY than anything I've worked on in my life. /end

I'm thinking of sending this Tweet to my US Senators.  Dan Sullivan has said his staff has been reading the Mueller Report, but he hasn't.  Murkowski says it's slow, but she's plowing through it.    It should be high a priority.

And so should Proof of Conspiracy.  Maybe this author written set of Cliff Notes might help Sullivan.

*Tweets And Threads

Twitter is a kind of social media where members can post mini-blog posts of up to 280 characters. It used to be 140 characters but eventually they doubled it. a post on Twitter.  They look like this:

People can add photos and videos.  And people can comment as well.  But you're limited, as I said, to 280 characters.  People can have a Twitter name (here, it's Elstun) and a @elstonL is how you find him.  The @SenDanSullivan in this post will let Sullivan know he's been mentioned in a Tweet.  There's lots more.  Here's a page which explains key Twitter terms.  I mention all this because I know many people never look at Twitter, even though they hear about the President tweeting every day.

A Thread is a series of Tweets all connected.  This is a way to say more than you can with just 280 characters.

I chose not to 'embed' Seth's Twitter Thread (then it would have looked like it does on Twitter) so I could edit out things that you really don't need, including all the comments.  But if you want, here's the same link as in the beginning which will take you to Seth's Twitter Thread on Twitter.  And no, you don't have to be a member of Twitter to read Tweets there.

Friday, August 30, 2019

"I thought that they, like myself, simply wanted to 'save the lives of unborn babies.' I have come to the conclusion that I was a dupe."

I was going to have a couple of short links to interesting sites, but it's hard.  I know brief is good, but life is complicated and brief means simplifying the complications.  I do strive for clear, but not simple.  So I'm just going to do this one link on abortion.

How I Lost Faith In The Pro-Life Movement  - This post is several years old, and the basics are well known to anyone who has any awareness of the facts of abortion.  Basically:

  • Promoting contraceptives decreases abortion more than anything else.
  • Banning abortion doesn't decrease number of abortions, but increases deaths of mothers getting illegal and unsafe abortions.
  • Much of the anti-abortion movement is men trying to control women

There's also an interesting discussion about when life begins and how the body sloughs off many fertilized cells naturally - more in women not taking birth control than in those using birth control pills.  Here's a sample of what it sounds like:

"I have to be honest, this blog post totally shocked me. I wondered about the numbers Sarah used, so I went looking for verification. As I did this I opted to use the pro-life movement’s own numbers on the rate of fertilized eggs that fail to implant for women on the pill. Remember, once again, that scientific studies have found again and again that the pill does not result in fertilized eggs failing to implant. However, I felt that if I used the pro-life movement’s own numbers I could not be accused of simply using studies with a liberal bias. And so I explored the numbers."

There's lots of numbers to back all this up, numbers most people don't have when discussing abortion.  And numbers I need to check up on (the link right above goes to another of her own posts that goes into more detailed numbers.  The author of all this this is listed as Libby Anne on the website Patheos which describes itself as:
" is the premier online destination to engage in the global dialogue about religion and spirituality, and to explore and experience the world's beliefs. Patheos is the website of choice for the millions of people looking for credible and balanced information about religion. Patheos brings together faith communities, academics, and the broader public into a single environment, and is the place where many people turn on a regular basis for insight, inspiration, and stimulating discussion."
Libby Anne's brief bio is:
"Libby Anne grew up in a large evangelical homeschool family highly involved in the Christian Right. College turned her world upside down, and she is today an atheist, a feminist, and a progressive. She blogs about leaving religion, her experience with the Christian Patriarchy and Quiverfull movements, the detrimental effects of the "purity culture," the contradictions of conservative politics, and the importance of feminism."
For now, I'm going to trust Patheos to have checked up on Libby Anne's background.  But I'll also email them and find out how they vet authors.  I'll let you know when or if I hear back.

Meanwhile, when the anti-abortion group pickets in front of Planned Parenthood, nearby, I'm going to give them all copies.  But I realize that for some people out their picketing, being anti-abortion is their self identity.  If they aren't anti-abortion, who will they become?  It's hard changing.

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

2000 Pound Pumpkin And Other Alaska State Fair Shots

That's the champion pumpkin grower just after his pumpkin was weighed.  That's 907 kilos!  A lot bigger than last year, due, he things, to our warm summer.

From Time:  (The quotes are from different pages in the slide show)
"State and county fairs have been organized in the United States since 1841, when the first such gathering was organized in Syracuse, New York. Food — both its production and enjoyment — has been their centerpiece from the very beginning."
"Credit for the idea of the state fair is often given to Elkanah Watson, a wealthy New England farmer and businessman who showcased his sheep in the public square of Pittsfield, Massachusetts in 1807."

You can learn about the history of  the Alaska State Fair at their website.  I can't cut and paste from there so you'll have to just go there yourself.  But it began in Anchorage, it says, in 1926, and moved to Palmer in 1936.

I hadn't been to a fair for quite a while.  And I was amazed at how much it had grown.  If I recall right, last time I went the maps identified all the food booths.  This time there was a color fold out guide and map, just for Tuesday August 27!  But having a 6 year old in the house was a strong incentive to go.

I have to admit that the highlight, for me, was seeing about 100 or so Sandhill Cranes in the field on the road you turn off the highway to get to the fair.  (No pics because it was tricky parking there and my camera was in the back of the car.)

But here are some pics of the fair itself.  Starting with things up in the air.

There were animals  and crops and flowers:

And lots of prizes

A goat milking contest.

And more exotic animals:

And lots and lots and lots of food. And people seemed to be spending lots of money.  We all had a great time

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

This Old Dog Learning New Tricks

When I started blogging people didn't have smart phones, or at least not very smart phones.  I had my Canon Spotmatic which I quickly realized I could use to make videos or audio recordings as well as photos.  And I learned how to get them up on YouTube, well I also used .  So in 2007 when I was first blogging news stories - the political corruption trials in Anchorage - I could type up a post, add photos, and even videos before I left the federal building.  I was just doing what came naturally to me at the time.  I didn't realize this was the new journalism.

But as time went by, Google took over Blogger (here, where my blog is) and YouTube, and smartphones added cameras and videos and internet and I fell behind.  Yes, I could still do it the old fashioned way I'd cobbled together, but journalists with a smart phone could do it all from that one device.

Let me pull in another thread to this story.  The warm, dry weather has meant we have wasps joining us for dinner out on the deck.  No one's been stung, and we get a bit of exercise waving our hands to move them away, but it's a bit annoying.  I've got some jars out on the deck with the lids off and a bit of salmon inside.  A wasp inevitably gets curious and flies in and I cover the jar with the lid.  This clashes with my Buddhist tendencies, but I remember the explanation they gave me in Thailand for leaving out poisoned meat for feral dogs to eat.  If the dog chooses to eat the food, then they didn't kill the dog.  The dog did itself in.

So I was trying to take wasp pictures at dinner tonight and I accidentally had it on 'live' instead of just 'photo.'  That means you get a second or two of motion as part of the photo.  So I looked up how to turn that into a GIF.  I figured out then how to send it to someone on WhatsApp and then how to get it up here.  But I'm not sure it worked.  It's not working on my draft nor in preview.  It might work when I post it.  Or not.  We'll see.

Do I need this?  It's more compelling than just a still picture of a wasp, but it's not really necessary.  But there may be something where the motion does matter.  I promise not to use these as visual snark.  Just in case it doesn't work, here are a couple of pictures from a stop at Potter Marsh this afternoon.

This has been sitting as a draft for a couple of days.  I'm going to put it up, not sure if the GIF will work.  Took nieta to Apple store for a kids photo class yesterday and Chris there showed me an app to make gifs.  But I'm having trouble getting it from my phone to my computer as a gif.  Maybe later.  [UPDATED a few minutes after posting:  Well, you can see the 'live photo' but it's as a movie, not a GIF.  More work to do.]

Sunday, August 25, 2019

Blog maintenance takes up a certain amount of time and is generally not visible to most readers.  Most technical things are pretty static now.  Every now and then I try something new - like I have a post with a gif I made on my iPhone ready to be posted, except I'm not sure it it's working right and it appears I'll have to actually post it to find out.  I also had a lot of issues trying to post from my new iPad while in Argentina this summer.  It didn't get along with Blogger at all.  I thought about post for others with similar problems - tricks I learned to make it better, but my basic advice is don't even try if you can help it.  It's a pain.

Then there are updates to old posts.  I can't do this all the time and I really hope that people look at the dates of posts they read online and realize something six years old might be out of date.  But some things seem worth updating.  Here are a couple of recent updates.

Juries  - The LATimes had an article today about a US supreme court case challenging Louisiana's former majority rule for juries.  (The voters overturned that in favor of unanimous decisions in 2018, but the case was 2016.)  I updated a 2017 post on whether hung juries reflect the US cultural divide, which mentioned that Louisiana and Oregon both had majority rule juries.  So I've updated that post.

Hong Kong - I also added a link to an article by a Chinese Human Rights worker to my recent post on Hong Kong.    I also got messages from one former Hong Kong student and one former Beijing student saying my post on Hong Kong was generally accurate, but they didn't want me to quote them.

And then there is following up on comments by readers.  Often there really isn't anything for me to add.  Do the commenters want me to acknowledge their comments?  Or do they look at my follow up comments as my trying to have the last word on something?  If I don't have more to add, I just leave it, especially if I'm particularly busy.

But some comments are particularly welcome because they add information I didn't know about.
For example, a comment by Dennis on my post the other day about whether the airport couldn't get the runway finished faster, gave details about how the grooves in runways have to be 3mm wide and spaced about 25mm apart.  But then he was vague about how long it would take - "a long time."  My comment asked for specifics of 'a long time.'  

And I realize now, as I'm writing this, that I probably should have put a link in that post to one I did last year about the widening and repairing the north-south runway.  So I'll do that now.

Saturday, August 24, 2019

Reposting: "The scum of creation has been dumped on us,"

I was looking through old posts trying to find one where I suggested a statue and campaign support for the first 10 Republican Senators to pledge to fight Trump.  I'm still looking for that one, but I also found this very relevant post from July 2016.

I hope you don't think I'm being lazy here.  I know that very few people have the time to read even 50% of what I post and this seems particularly relevant today.

It's my thoughts on reading The Big Burn by Timothy Egan, with more relevance today than when I first posted it.  (Well, it was relevant then and had enough people paid attention it might be less relevant today.)  Let's see what's in it:
√  an account of huge forest fires in Montana in the early 1900's
√  a president attacking government employees' valiant attempts to preserve the environment
√ outrageous treatment of and discrimination against immigrants

Here's the old post:
From Timothy Egan's, The Big Burn:
"What passed for law and constitutional protections in Morenci, [company owned mining town in Arizona, 1910] were thugs hired by Phelps Dodge.  They maintained a three tier wage system:  one for trouble-free whites, one for Mexicans, one for Italians.  Such attitudes are typical in a decade when nine million immigrants came to the United States, and one-third of the population was either foreign-born or a child of someone born abroad.  The Italian surge in particular angered those who felt the nation was no longer recognizable, had lost its sense of identity.  And they hated all these strange languages spoken in shops, schools, and churches.  The Immigration Restriction League, founded by Boston blue bloods with family ties to the old Tories of England, campaigned to keep "undesirable classes" from entering the country.  They meant Italians, Greeks, Jews, and people from eastern Europe. 
"The scum of creation has been dumped on us,"  said the native politician Thomas Watson.  "The most dangerous and corrupting hordes of the Old World have invaded us."  It was not just pelicans [auto-correct changed my version of politicians to pelicans] who attacked Mediterranean immigrants as a threat to the American way of life.  Francis A. Walker, president of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, called Italian and Greek immigrants "beaten men from beaten towns, representing the worst failures in the struggles for existence."  Another educated expert cautioned Americans against "absorbing the equitable blood from Southern Europe." (pp. 131-2)

I'd note that Fredrick Trump, Donald's grandfather arrived in New York on October 19, 1885  (a year before the Statue of Liberty was unveiled) from Germany at age 16.  Twenty-six years prior to the mining and timber rush described in the book in the summer of 1910 (see below), Trump
"moved to the mining town of Monte Cristo, Washington in Snohomish County.[7] Monte Cristo was expected to produce a fortune of gold and silver because evidence of mineral deposits were discovered in 1889. This led to many prospectors moving to the area in hopes of becoming rich, with the financial investment of billionaire John D. Rockefeller in the entire Everett area creating an exaggerated expectation of the area's potential."
He returned to Germany in 1901, found a wife, and returned with her to the US in 1902.  The Trumps, coming from northern Europe, while part of this huge surge of immigrants, came from a more privileged group of immigrants, they weren't Italians or Greeks or Jews.  Though by 1917 the US was at war with their country of origin.

Mike Pence's grandfather didn't get to the US from Ireland until much later - April 11, 1923.

From what I can tell, Hillary Clinton's paternal grandfather immigrated from England and her paternal grandmother was born in the US to Welsh immigrant parents.

I would also note, that when people claim that their ancestors were legal immigrants, as the passage above suggests, the laws were much, much easier back then for European immigrants.  

Actually, immigration is but a small part of the book.  The main focus is the boom towns of Idaho and Montana as the railroads opened access to the forests just after Teddy Roosevelt, with the guidance of Gifford Pinchot, created millions of acres of national forests and parks in the West.  But they had to fight Eastern corporations that were ravaging the new public land with their rapacious taking of minerals and timber.  This included a huge scandal over Alaska coal.  Roosevelt's second term was up and he chose not to run again.  (He'd come in to office from the vice presidency when president McKinley was shot and had only served seven years.)  While he was off on safari in Africa,  Taft, who had promised Roosevelt to protect the forests and the new concept of conservation, had instead appointed pro-development  Richard Ballinger as secretary of the interior.
"The interior secretary, whose duty was to oversee an empire of public land on behalf of the American people, had once backed a syndicate as it tried to take control of coal in a part of Alaska that was later added to the Chugach National Forest. .  ."  
"Beyond the Alaska coal deal, Ballinger was now showing his true colors - as a traitor to the progressives, Pinchot believed.  "You chaps who are in favor of this conservation program are all wrong,"  Ballinger said in a speech.  "You are hindering the development of the West.  In my opinion, the proper course is to divide it up among the big corporations and let the people who know how to make money out of it get the benefits of the circulation of money."  (pp. 94-5)

That's all backdrop to the story of a band of well-trained and highly motivated new rangers  whose job was to oversee huge tracts of land newly designated as national forests and parks. ("Supervisor Koch . . . felt protective about his five million or so acres . . .")  Land that was being exploited by mining and timber companies and hordes of folks taking the new railroad into the tiny boom towns hoping to get rich.

As the title of the book suggests, the book is about fires, as the rangers struggle on meagre salaries to protect the towns and even more, the newly created national forests from the ravages of fire in the bone dry summer of 1910.  There was no rain, but lots of  thunder and lightening, which started thousands of fires that summer.

I'm not through with the book yet, but I thought the sections on immigration give some historical perspective to today's political debates.  And overall, the book shows that the fights between the corporations looking to exploit natural resources and the government fighting to preserve some of the natural space of the continent, wasn't much different then, though time allows us more facts about what was happening back then.

In a book Pinchot wrote at the time - The Fight for Conservation - 
"He predicted that America might one day, within this century, be a nation of two or three hundred million people.  And what would his generation leave them?  Their duty was to the future.  To ensure that people in 2010 would have a country of clean water, healthy forests, and open land would require battle with certain groups, namely 'the alliance between business and politics.'  It was, he said, 'the snake that we must kill.'"(p. 158)
Given that today corporations once again have great influence over Congress - enough to prevent or pervert what they most oppose - and the importance of money in politics is major issue, I'd say his view of things was pretty prescient. 

Friday, August 23, 2019

The Fact That Trump Is Still In Office Reveals A Huge Flaw In Our System

Andrew Sullivan is a gay conservative.  Some things I agree with, others not.  But I think this assessment of the president is accurate and makes those who still support the president (other than those ready to drink the Kool-Aide on command) deeply problematic.*  Particularly those in the US Senate.

From Andrew Sullivan at NYMagazine:

"President Donald Trump is absurd. His presidency is absurd. His party is absurd. We have known this ever since that absurd journey down an escalator, and the surrealism has only intensified since. Perhaps it takes a sane foreigner, not subject to years of almost hourly Trump abuse, to point out the obvious. We have no Executive branch in any meaningful or serious sense. We have a joke that’s wearing thinner by the day. There is no institution or company in America, small or large, that would allow Donald Trump to run or represent it for more than a few days — because most sane institutions see immediately that a rape-y racist with no knowledge base or capacity to learn is an embarrassment, and a huge liability. If appointed the head of, say, a local library on January 20, 2017, Trump would have been fired by January 21."

Think about the history books twenty years from now.  I hope they list those who had the power to get rid of him, but have kept this president in office this long.  Germany - the US helped you out after WW II, which could be considered a self-inflicted catastrophe, just as Trump is our self-inflicted catastrophe.  Remember us when we're picking up the pieces.

*I'm using this term because I realize there are different reasons different Senators have for not opposing the president.  So I won't brand all of them as despicable or cowardly or __________ (fill in the blank.)

Thursday, August 22, 2019

Airport Runway Repairs Update

[Last year I reported in some detail on the repairs and widening of Anchorage Airport's north-south runway, diverting jets to take off over Anchorage last summer and this summer.  This post is something of a follow-up]

I'd been meaning to call the airport and find out where they are on the fixing and widening the north-south runway.  After all, we've had almost no rain this summer (none in August, normally a rainy month) and so it seemed they should be ahead.  I got a couple of people who passed me on to Jason Lamoreaux and I left him a message yesterday afternoon.

He called back today.

It should be completed on time.  They have to (sorry my notes are sketchy) do some coordination of flight checks before the runway is back up.

Q:  But since you're a bit ahead now because of no rain, can't we get this done early so we can stop the noisy planes flying over Anchorage?

A:  FAA folks who do the checking come from out of town so hard to coordinate.

He told me I could sign up for the update emails, but I said, since the update video was from early 2018, I wasn't sure waiting for updates was better than just calling the airport.

The rest that needs to be done is some paving and painting and electrical which are weather dependent, so we can't predict finishing early.

So, basically he said it would be done by end of September and by beginning of October planes can use the north-south runway instead of taking off to the east over Anchorage.

I did look around on the website before calling to get as much info from there as I could. I did get to the runway project page. But the "Construction Update Video" appears to be the one they put up at the beginning last year.  It's pretty pictures and PR talk.  No real details at all.  And no updates.

The FAQ link goes to a bad link.

There's two maps - last year and this year, without much detail about the work.

These maps made more sense later, but they still don't show much.  The talk last year was that they were going to widen the runway so bigger planes could use it.  There's still only going to be one runway I guess.

So after looking around the site I finally found a number related to the project that I could call.

Today I took my son-in-law to the airport.  He's got to go back (but my daughter and nieta have more time here, yeah!).  So I decided to go see if I could find out what they were doing and how far they'd gotten.

Across the road and over the fence, past the tractor but in front of the plane, is the north-south runway.  We're looking northward.  (Yes the smoke from the various forest fires north and south of Anchorage totally obscured the mountains.)  So this part is in.

And here's the runway looking north.  It looks like it's paved all the way.  Lamoreaux did say it needed painting and electrical.  But there were parts that had stripes and little things sticking out of the ground that looked like they might hold lights.

And there didn't seem to be many people working.

This tractor was digging something.  This is another track of pavement that I thought, at the time, they still had to finish to the north end.  But when I got home and looked at the maps (above) that didn't seem to be the case.  Just one runway.  This must be a road or taxi way.  This was very close to the exterior fence.  (*You can see it on the map with the green and yellow markings below.  It's on the far left side.)

And here in the middle it was shiny - wet asphalt?  water?  something else?  I don't know.
There was equipment here and there, but I didn't see any movement.

So now I had more questions.  It doesn't look like the noise over Anchorage is much of a priority.  They've got until October and they seem not to be in much of a hurry.  OK, I can't make a judgment like that from one short visit to the airport.

But when I got home I went poking around on the website again and this time I found a little bit more.

I found the document library.  There's another map there and there are three 2019 updates.  One from January, one from March, which doesn't say anything they hadn't said before:
"2019 Construction
In 2019, the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities will rehabilitate and widen the remaining portion of the North/South Runway. The magnitude of this construction effort will require a full runway closure in summer 2019. Operations and noise levels will return to normal upon completion in October 2019."
And one from August 16, 2019 which says a little bit more.

"The Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport (ANC) North/South Runway Renewal project is progressing well through the final phase of construction. Active work on the runway started in April.  As of today, the construction work effort is about 75% complete.  All paving south of Taxiway T is complete.

Currently, the contractor is grooving the runway.  This will provide traction so that airplanes can come to a stop on the runway when it rains. Grooving the runway takes about 45 days to complete. Next up, the contractor will begin work on painting runway markings.
We recognize that construction has resulted in increased aircraft noise in different parts of Anchorage. The construction team is working hard to keep construction on schedule in order to minimize those impacts and complete the renewal work as quickly as possible.  We anticipate the runway will be open early October 2019, and the airport will return to normal aircraft operations."
Now I have a bunch more questions.  Mostly they have to do with why it takes so long.  How does it take 45 days to put grooves in the runway?  Really?  In China they build ten story buildings in three months.  I'm not sure I want to live in one of those, but putting grooves in the runway seems a lot less complicated than putting up a building.  

Besides, 45 days from August 16 gets us to the end of September.  That would mean it will NOT be the beginning of October.  (I'm hoping this is wrong.  It's not what I heard from Lamoreaux.)

It says (as of August 16 when the memo is dated) they are 75% done.  Counting just this summer, they had used up 75% of their allotted time.  But what about work?  Are they really only 75% done?  

What does completed mean here?  That the green part is all paved?  Because from what I saw today, the yellow part is paved too.  Does it mean the green is paved and grooved?  Surely it can't take 45 days to grove the yellow part.   Does it really need to take 45 more days to paint the lines and put in the electrical?

The website is treating us like children.  It's not giving us much information at all.  Lamoreaux didn't even mention grooving.  He just talked about painting and electrical.  The amount of time has more to do with scheduling.  There's work the FAA needs to do and their contractor will apparently only come as scheduled originally, not early if, because of the good weather, they ready for them ahead of schedule.  And the same is true with the FAA inspectors.

My sense is there's no need to rush - from the airport administration's perspective.  They really don't seem concerned about relieving us from the noise of jets taking off over our houses and whatever jet fuel exhaust is added to our air.  They've set what appears to be a fairly comfortable schedule and they're expecting to be able to say it was done on time and - we'll see, or not- within the budget.

*As I look at the map with the green and yellow, the tractor that was actually working today when I was there, seems to be at the end of the pavement on the left of the green/yellow markings.  So that stretch of pavement doesn't seem like it's going any further.

I expect that asking all these questions, at this point, probably won't make any difference.  They're scheduled to open the north-south runway at the beginning of October and until then we (depending on how close you live to the pathways of the jets) will continue to endure 24 hours a day of jets taking off over us.

But maybe we can find out when the runway needs to be repaired again, so we can start earlier to  get more consideration of noise in their planning process.

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

If economists think the economy is doing well, then they are tracking the wrong numbers

When I hear newscasters tell us the economic indicators are up and the economy is doing well, my reaction is, "Whose economy are they talking about?"  The economy may be working well for banks, but for many people it's a disaster and getting worse.

Here are some things I think are missing from what the official economists track:

  • unrecovered negative externalities - pollution, environmental degradation, carbon footprint, etc.
  • income distribution - measures such as
    • gap between highest and lowest paid employees in organizations;  
    • various stats on the amount and percentage of wealth held by people in various points across the scale from lowest to highest wealth;  
    • number of homeless per billionaire; 
  • other miscellaneous numbers (here are some examples of the kinds of things I mean, though once a good list is drawn up, it can be determined which metrics most consistently reflect economic health:
    • number of personal bankruptcies and their causes
    • indicators of mental health of the population (if the economy is working right, then people should be reasonably content and not subject to mental health problems)
    • collective cost of health care/health indicators

You get the idea.  But since this basically my intuitive sense of things (with unconscious influences from various sources).  So I looked to see what others have done on this.  Here are some examples from an untitled document at McGregor Consultants with some alternatives to the GDP:

First, the document looks at what's missing in the GDP (Gross Domestic Product).  Then it offers some alternative systems.  Here are a couple of examples.
"A. Fordham Index of Social Health (FISH)
Measures 16 socio-economic indicators: 1. infant mortality
2. child abuse
3. child poverty
4. teen suicide
5. drug abuse
6. high school drop-outs
7. average weekly earnings
8. unemployment
9. health insurance coverage
10. poverty among elderly
11. health insurance for elderly 12. highway deaths due to alcohol 13. homicides
14. food stamp distribution
15. housing
16. income inequality
Since 1973, the FISH index has declined as the GDP increased in the US.
In Canada, the FISH index has stayed constant since 1985 as the GDP increased."

Rather than go through each index (the link above does that) I'll just offer you the list at the bottom  the linked document.  [When I checked out the links they were all squirrelly.  I'm guessing the original document I found on the McGregor site was pretty old and the links are either wrong or out of date.  But you get the general idea.  I've added new links where I could find something that looked worthwhile.)

GROSS SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT PRODUCT GSDP  (this link is all about sustainability measures, but not exactly an index called GSDP) GROSS ENVIRONMENTAL SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT INDEX GESDI"

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Thoughts On Hong Kong [Updated]

I'd been to Hong Kong various times for short visits, but in July 1989 I arrived for a year long stay. As a Fulbright Scholar, I would be teaching public administration at Chinese University of Hong Kong.  July 1989 was barely a month after Tiananmen Square crackdown ended the student and worker demonstrations for democracy in Beijing.

The Chinese government has done its best to erase that event from Chinese consciousness.  The median age in China is 37.3 years.  That means half the population today was seven years old or younger, or not yet born.  And of those who were around, never knew much about what actually happened.  And prosperity has meant that many people would rather spend their time pursuing consumer goods than dwelling on Tiananmen.

1989 was eight years before the British lease on Hong Kong was about to end and Tiananmen really shook up the residents of the British colony.  Another disturbing thing that happened around that time was people's discovery that the words "right to abode" were not in their renewed British passports.  That meant that although Hong Kong residents were technically British subjects the right to move to Britain had evaporated.

A giant liberty statue had been created and was featured in demonstrations at that time.

The truth of the matter was that Hong Kong was not really much of a democracy.  My university students knew very little about how the Hong Kong government worked or what their rights were. When I asked them to contact government agencies, you'd have thought I'd asked them to jump from the tenth floor.  There was no democracy, not even the semblance until after Tiananmen.  From a 2010 article called "Hong Kong's Elite Structure, Legislature and the Bleak Future of Democracy under Chinese Sovereignty"  (this will get you to an abstract, you need access through a library to get the article free.)
Since Hong Kong was ruled by Britain's designated governor during the colonial period (1841‐1997), the government has been commonly described as executive-led. This means that the colonial governor had all the power and authority to exercise policies and legislations in the territory. Appointed by the governor, the Executive Council (ExCo) merely gave advice to the governor. Established in 1843 under British rule, the LegCo had contained no democratic seats until 1991 when 18 out of 57 members were directly elected. Before that, the LegCo was, to quote Sing (2003 Sing, Ming. 2003 29), “a place for mild politics and perceived simply as a ‘rubber stamp’.”. 
There were dozens of periodicals on sale whose key purpose was to help people find ways to emigrate from Hong Kong.  Botswana had full page ads in the South China Morning Post enticing people with $250,000 I believe, to get citizenship in Africa.  There were any number of scandals revolving around diplomats from different countries selling citizenships.  Vancouver was known as Hongcouver.

Here to give you a sense of how opaque the bureaucracy was, is a sample of questioning about such emigration hustlers in the Legislative Council about the time I got there in July 1989:
"Oral answers to questions     -   Consumer protection against emigration counsellors
1. MR. PETER WONG asked: Sir, will Government inform this Council what consumer protection measures, if any, are taken to protect Hong Kong people who wish to seek assistance from emigration specialists who hawk their skills and wares for reward in Hong Kong?
SECRETARY FOR ADMINISTRATIVE SERVICES AND INFORMATION: Sir, this is an area of consumer affairs where the guiding principle must be Caveat Emptor, that is, buyers beware.
The Hong Kong Government neither encourages nor discourages emigration consultants setting up business in Hong Kong, nor does it encourage or discourage Hong Kong people from using their services. The services available vary from filling forms outside consulates to mapping out an investment strategy to qualify as an investor. The decision on whether to consult, on what to consult, and how much it is reasonable to pay for the services provided, must be one for the individual to make.
    Sir, I can only suggest that the best advice can probably be provided by the
consulate of the country concerned.
Of course, if there is any evidence of a criminal act such as fraud or deception, then a report should be made to the police.
MR. PETER WONG: Sir, the "caveat emptor" answer given by the Secretary suggests that the Government does nothing to protect Hong Kong people in this hour of their need. Does this mean that the Securities and Futures Commission, the Registrar General's Department, amongst others, allow the flood of advertisements in the newspapers to go completely unchecked?
SECRETARY FOR ADMINISTRATIVE SERVICES AND INFORMATION: Sir, in the famous words of one of our illustrious former Financial Secretaries, "the Hong Kong Government believes that if something is not broken, do not try to fix it"; and this is an area falling into that classification. From 1 January 1987 to date, the Consumer Council has only received 11 complaints and this shows the size of the problem.
MRS. LAM:  Do consulates in Hong Kong accept responsibility for the actions of
immigration specialists from the countries they represent?
SECRETARY FOR ADMINISTRATIVE SERVICES AND INFORMATION: Sir, I have no knowledge of what the consulates do with respect to particular immigration consultants.
MR. DAVID CHEUNG: Sir, many of these immigration specialists are lawyers specializing in the immigration laws of their own countries. What measure of supervision, if any, does the Law Society or the Government of Hong Kong exercise over their activities?
SECRETARY FOR ADMINISTRATIVE SERVICES AND INFORMATION: Sir, I believe we are now wading in the area of foreign lawyers. I wonder whether I should not defer to the Attorney General?
After Tiananmen, with less than ten years to go before Hong Kong would officially be given back to China, things got really tense.  Negotiations between England and China to establish an agreement about the handover was a major concern for Hong Kong residents.  The Joint Declaration came out in 1984, but then the Chinese came up with "The Basic Law" in 1990, a pretty touchy time.  Hong Kong might not have had much democracy under the British, but China's legal protections, punctuated by Tiananmen,  augured even worse under the Chinese.  

From a Hong Kong government site in 2008:

"The Sino-British Joint Declaration on the Question of Hong Kong (The Joint Declaration) was signed between the Chinese and British Governments on 19 December 1984. The Joint Declaration sets out, among other things, the basic policies of the People's Republic of China (PRC) regarding Hong Kong. Under the principle of "One Country, Two Systems", the socialist system and policies shall not be practised in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) and Hong Kong's previous capitalist system and life-style shall remain unchanged for 50 years. The Joint Declaration provides that these basic policies shall be stipulated in a Basic Law of the HKSAR.
The Basic Law of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (The Basic Law) was adopted on 4 April 1990 by the Seventh National People's Congress (NPC) of the PRC. It came into effect on 1 July 1997.

The Document
The Basic Law is the constitutional document for the HKSAR. It enshrines within a legal document the important concepts of "One Country, Two Systems", "a high degree of autonomy" and "Hong Kong People administering Hong Kong". It also prescribes the various systems to be practised in the HKSAR.
The Basic Law consists of the following sections -
a. The full text of the Basic Law which comprises a total of nine chapters with 160 articles;
b. Annex I, which sets out the method for the selection of the Chief Executive of the HKSAR;
c. Annex II, which sets out the method for the formation of the Legislative Council of the HKSAR and its voting procedures; and
d. Annex III, which sets out the national laws to be applied in the HKSAR."

The current demonstrations were sparked by a new law that allows extradition to China for trial for Hong Kong residents.  Just imagine Trump allowing extradition for trial in Russia in the United States.  When the extradition law was withdrawn temporarily, the demonstrators were not satisfied.  The people of Hong Kong have come a long way since my students' shyness.  (But also consider that to get into Chinese University of Hong Kong, my students had had to toe the line and not ever cause any trouble.  They were not representative of their peers in Hong Kong.)

China does, of course, hold most of the cards.  When the British left, the removal of 'the right to abode' from people's passports was an indicator that Britain had no real concern for the people of Hong Kong.  They were principally concerned about British held property, 'real' British citizens, and appearances.  Fighting China over Hong Kong was never an option.  While they won that fight a century earlier with in part by addicting the country to opium, China now had the upper hand.  

And there is no way the US is going to fight to protect the rights of Hong Kong residents.  Even if Clinton were now president, the US simply has no way to got to war against China over 400 square miles in the south of China.  And Trump doesn't seem to even want to use it as a bargaining chip in this trade discussions.  

So I don't see this ending well.    The only danger to China is that its own population might see Hong Kong demonstrations as a model for more freedoms in China.  China appears to be doing a massive propaganda campaign to its own mainland population,  making the demonstrators appear to be criminals and thugs and American backed haters of China.  I suspect they'll succeed.  I know when I was teaching in Beijing in 2004, there were three things that my students believed religiously - Tibet was better off under China, that it's population had been slaves to the monks before China took over;  the Japanese were evil; and Taiwan was part of China.  But that said, they were great students, and once the trusted me not to punish their active participation in class, they had lots to say and were very curious and creative.

I suspect the government is working hard now to make sure their views on Hong Kong are similarly loyal and unmovable. But the size of Hong Kong's demonstrations should give China reason to pause and reconsider how much it changes the Basic Law.  China has blindspots when it comes to challenges to its control.  China's way of handling this in Tibet has been to simply ship enough Han Chinese there that the native Tibetan population becomes a minority.  They could try something similar in Hong Kong.  In fact there already are a lot of mainland Chinese in Hong Kong.  

But with that said, let's remember that the US has serious ideological blinders when it comes to China too.  And that China has 1.4 billion people.  

That means that the smartest 10% is 140 million people.  The same is true for the richest 10%.  And the most athletic 10%.  And while those groups will overlap somewhat, they make up more than 50% of the US population.  Ten percent of the US population is 3 million.  

If China unleashes the potential of its top 10% there's no way anyone else can beat them.  Especially now with Trump destroying the potential of the US through ethnic and cultural war.  

I'm not a China expert.  My serious interest in China is about 25 years old now, and even then it was limited to a very narrow focus.  So consider these musings based on experience and some serious research once upon a time.  

[UPDATED August 21, 2019 - Here's an opinion piece in the LATimes today by a Chinese researcher at Human Rights Watch, using his own experience as a student in the US to  explain why overseas Chinese students are anti-Hong Kong protesters.  It's consistent with what I wrote yesterday, but adds more detail.  It also causes me to see Americans in the same pattern - unable to give up their ingrained beliefs, even in the face of the obvious.  One's identity is caught up in these beliefs.]

Monday, August 19, 2019

Anchorage Birding On Smoky Day

My birder friend Dianne agreed to take my daughter, nieta, and me birding today.  We hit some Anchorage spots, then went onto the military base.  Here are a few highlights - though I increasingly frustrated with my inability to take consistently clear pictures with my camera of distant birds.

A common loon with her big chick

 This is an osprey that flew to the top of the tree with a good sized fish.  It's dangling pointed toward 5 o'clock from the birds talons.

 And salmon were spawning.

By mid day I realized how smoky it was.  The paper this morning had said that we had a big fire (spread by yesterday's strong winds) to the South and another to the north.  By midday it became really obvious.

Best I can tell, this is an F-22.  One of four or five that flew over.

This is a white winged cross beak. The colors are hard to see silhouetted against the smoky sky.

And this is the smoke shrouded sun later in the day.

Nothing heavy today except the smoke.

Sunday, August 18, 2019

More Wind, More Gramping Bike Time

Not much to say today.  Mi nieta* is amazing.  After she showed how comfortable she is on the bike trail yesterday, we tried something a little trickier.  No problem.

Here we encountered a tree branch that fell victim to the wind.

Then into the sanctuary.

This tree trunk has been on the ground a while.

If you click on this photo above, you might be able to see a blur of blue through the grass where the trail turns to the right.  I don't think this violates the no pictures of the nietos rule.

And here she's zoomed along the boardwalk before I could catch her in the distance.  It's so neat to see her go from determined but really careful last summer, to comfortable,  this summer, even on challenging trails.

She loves riding the bike and we have much better biking and closer trails in Anchorage than she has at home.

Tomorrow morning we go birding.

* couldn't link to the google translate page that showed mi nieta means my granddaughter.

Saturday, August 17, 2019

"You haven't got the disqualifications. . ." Plus Carrots Radishes And The Bike Trail

I'm reading Lucky Jim by Kingsley Amis for my bookclub.  I don't consider myself Lucky Steve for having to read it.  It's a 1950s British.  It's supposed to be an academic comedy I guess.  The cover says, "No one has been so funny in this vein since Eveyln Waugh was at his best."  It also says, "$1.45."

But I did find a redeeming quote today.  The feckless main character has just given a disastrous lecture to the whole academic and local elite community and lost his job as a professor.  But he gets a phone call offering him a new job.
"I think you'll do the job all right, Dixon.  It's not that you've got the qualifications, for this or any other work, but there are plenty who have.  You haven't got the disqualifications, though, and that's much rarer."
I'm not quite sure what that means, but I suspect that it's the unspoken reason many people do get jobs.  If anyone has some examples, I'd love to hear them.

Meanwhile mi nieta (Spanish does granddaughter so much better than English) is here with her parents.  We went to the Muldoon Saturday market at Chanshtnu Muldoon Park (Muldoon at the end of Debarr.)  This market has a mix of fresh veggies, baked goods, and hadn't  [hand-]made items from knits to lego earrings.

The produce was beautiful  Look at those radishes and carrots!

These are Somali baked goods.  Here's the ingredients of Kac Kac:

Z took this and the next picture.  These are squash.

And this is one of the Nepali farmers.

Just look at these onions.  I guess we're so used to food that's taken a week to get to Anchorage from Outside, that when we get fresh locally grown crops, they look sooo good.

After we got back, we took out the bike that Z learned to ride last summer.  We'd gone to a nearby empty parking lot and she got the hang of it.  Then I told her the second most important thing you need to know is how to use the brakes.  But when she left last summer, she was riding a bike.

Today we got out the bike to see how she was doing a year later as a 6 year old.  The alley near our house was paved this summer and it's perfect - a couple hundred yards, no traffic.  Well two other girls showed up on their bikes.  It's slightly downhill from our end, but she had no trouble, including looping around and coming back.  So later we went to Campbell Creek and rode the bike trail.  After about a mile and a half, I mentioned that however far we go, we have to go back.  She decided it was time to turn around. I didn't know how far she'd last so I didn't push to go further.
But the trail through the woods is beautiful and she was going up and down the small hills like a trooper.  Family pictures are not allowed on here.  Not sure how long she can avoid being captured by the online data vultures, but for now trying to keep her free.

However, I did take a short video of the grasses dancing in the wind on the bike ride.

(The wind apparently was responsible for knocking out the power in the area around our house too today.)

Wonderful day.

Friday, August 16, 2019

The Great Hack - Why You Should See It

Netflix was dangling The Great Hack in front of me, but I just didn't want to deal with more bad news.  Let's wait for a better time I said.  Then I heard something somewhere about how good and important it was.  But then Netflix threw The Family and I could justify avoiding Hack with the assumption that Family was also 'educational.'

Well, we bit the bullet Thursday night and watched The Great Hack.    It wasn't nearly as depressing as I expected.  In part because I knew the general outline already, I just didn't know a lot of the details and people involved.  There are some real heroes here:

Carole Cadwalladr is an investigative journalist for the Guardian and focused maniacally on Cambridge Analytica and teased out lots of important information.

David Carroll is a professor of  who sued Cambridge Analytica for his own personal data.

Ravi Naik was David Carroll's solicitor in his data rights case.

Chris Wylie is the guy with the fluorescent red hair and nose ring who worked for Cambridge Analytica who became a whistle blower

Brittany Kaiser also worked for Cambridge Analytica  and also became a whistle blower and is  the major character of this documentary.

There are villains too, particularly Alexander Nix, the head of Cambridge Analytica.  And Mark Zuckerberg doesn't come across too well either.

If Climate Change is the most important issue to focus on for the physical survival of humans on earth, then Data Rights is the most important issue to focus on for the political survival of democracy.  We may all think we're smart enough to resist the bombardment of fake ads, but I had to keep reminding myself, despite all the Lock Her Up chants, that Clinton was a very well qualified candidate.  Much more than the lesser of two evils.

All I can say is WATCH IT if you have Netflix and if you don't, find a friend who does who will invite you to watch it.  (The other day I suggested reading an article by convicted Trump supporter Sam Patten.  The Great Hack is a much easier way to absorb this kind of background information.

Get a better understanding of how Cambridge Analytica got enough Facebook data to be able to personalize ads that would emotionally anger voters into voting for the candidate they were supporting or get opponents' supporters to not vote.  Cambridge Analytica (and its parent company Strategic Communications Laboratories (SCL) did this in Trinidad, Malaysia, India, Brazil, Nigeria,

I'd also note that back in 1977 my doctoral dissertation on Privacy was completed and approved.  (At that time there were mainframe computers and the first personal computers became available as kits in 1975.  We didn't get our first computer - a Vic 20 - until 1981.  It was pretty primitive.)

But I argued back then that most people had focused on privacy as a psychological issue - a human need to keep things hidden from others.  But I argued that privacy wasn't so much a psychological need, but rather it was about power.  Who had the power to get others information and who had the power to prevent others from getting their information?  Hiding info wasn't so much about a psychological need as it was about  the consequences of others knowing.  Publicizing sex life and drug use was good for most rock stars, but a career ender for a teacher or a priest.  (At that time for a president too.)  Privacy, I argued, was about power.  And this film essentially meshed people's private information with data being the most valuable commodity on earth now and how the large tech companies have all the power and individuals have no control over their information.    I'd figured that this was a privacy was about power back in the mid 1970s, and it's why I think about why I try to read the privacy notices, despite the fact that the they are way too long and unintelligible.