Sunday, June 28, 2020

Racism Versus Realism With A Touch Of Sadopopulism

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updates on state case counts

Here are a couple of links that help clarify thoughts that often are hard to tease out clearly.

Sadopopulism   Is about pulling off the trick of hurting the people who follow you by "defending" them from enemies you created.  The whole piece isn't very long and worth thinking about.

"Would-be oligarchs instead follow a 4-part plan:
  • They identify an “enemy” (homeless migrants, minority communities, Democrats, etc.)
  • They enact policies that create pain in their own supporters
  • They blame the pain on the “enemies”
  • They present themselves as the strongmen to fight the enemies."
And Trump is creating new enemies to fight every day.  

From a 12 part Twitter thread by Jared Yates Sexton

The link above should take you to the whole thread, but here's another key Tweet in the thread:

Saturday, June 27, 2020

Drive Up Recall Dunleavy Station

Gathering petitions during a pandemic isn't easy.  Without the pandemic, the Recall Dunleavy folks would have turned in their petitions by now and we'd either be having a special election, or it would be going on the August primary ballots.

But as I went to pick the groceries I'd ordered online, I passed the IBEW and other union offices and there was a drive up petition signing space - with everyone masked.  They have stations in Fairbanks and Sitka too.

But when I pulled into the curbside pickup space at Carr's (Safeway), I notice another signature gatherer.

I asked the person who was bringing out my groceries if she knew what he was gathering signatures for.  She didn't, but said she'd check.

She said it was term limits.  I looked that up, but couldn't find anything local, but there is a national term limit petition.

Anyway, he was NOT wearing a mask and approaching everyone coming out the door.  He is standing outside, so I guess even the Mayor's new mask policy that goes into effect Monday doesn't affect him.

Thursday, June 25, 2020

Alaskans Can Choose Ranked Choice Voting This Year

Well, that's ambiguous.  Alaskans can't actually choose a ranked choice ballot.   But we have a ballot measure coming up that, if passed, would change our voting to ranked choice.

You mark your first choice #1, your second choice #2, etc.  And if your first choice comes out last, then your 2nd choice candidate gets your vote.  That way, if there are two candidates you like, you can vote for them both.

I was reminded of this the other night when Hasan Minhaj promoted Ranked Choice Voting on his Netflix show Patriot Act.  But I know that not everyone has Netflix.  What to do?  I haven't figured out how to put up clips from Netflix.  Minhaj is brilliant. If I were still teaching public administration classes, I would use his shows as homework assignments for a number of classes.  Though there is a profanity warning.  (Is that still an issue at universities today?  Berkeley students fought that back in 1965.

But there's a good synopsis of some of the key points on this Youtube based on the show.  Watch it.  If you're an Alaskan, share it with everyone you know to let them know this can be ours.  Maine already does this.  This clip captures the essence of the show, but if you have Netflix, go look at the whole episode.

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Carting Off McCandless' Bus Reflects Alaska's Cultural Bias

The State of Alaska removed the bus where Chris McCandless died and that has become a mecca for those who connected with Chris through the book and movie Into The Wild.  A number of his fans hiked cross country to reach the bus, braving river crossings that can at times be treacherous.  The basic reason given for removing the bus was to save lives and reduce rescue costs.

Note: COVID tab above for daily
updates on state case counts

I've thought about it.  Getting rid of the McCandless bus is a form of cultural discrimination.  The justification is to protect people from danger and death and to reduce rescue costs.

But aside from cruise ships, Alaska tourism is all about attracting people to adventures in the wilderness - camping, kayaking, hunting. (And even cruise passengers die in flight seeing and other adventures sold on board.)

The epitome is climbing Denali.  We love the idea of people overcoming obstacles to reach the peak of North America's highest mountain, even though people die every year trying and we spend tens of thousands of dollars or more in rescue efforts.  It's just that McCandless wasn't the rugged adventurer type that Alaskans idealize and his followers are seen as sentimental and emotional about the wrong things.  (After all climbing Denali is also an emotion driven pursuit.)

And probably most important, no one was making lots of money off the Bus pilgrims, like they do from hunters, fishers, mountain climbers, and other adventure travelers.  No one set up a McCandless Bus guiding expedition.  If they had, the bus would still be there.

From the Anchorage Daily News:
"The removal of the bus comes in response to the public safety hazards caused by its presence and location, Department of Natural Resources spokesman Dan Saddler said.
Between 2009 and 2017, there were 15 bus-related search and rescue operations by the state, according to the natural resources department.
Saddler said he hoped its removal would 'reduce injuries, search and rescues, loss and even death that have occurred in connection with this bus.'”
But really, people die all the time in Alaska following their dreams.

And we're told we have twice the accidental death rate of the US as a whole.  Here are some stats on unintentional deaths.

The National Park Service allows people to climb Denali every year (though COVID spared the mountain this year from all the garbage and waste climbers leave) despite deaths and many rescues.

The National Park Service has a series of reports on Denali from 1979 to 1989.  Here are some excerpts from the 1989 report.  Each paragraph is a separate incident.
On 2/16/89 a very experienced four person Japanese team flew into the SE Fork of the Kahiltna Glacier to attempt a winter ascent of the West Buttress. The leader, Noboru Yamada, was on a quest to become the first person to climb to the summit of the highest mountain on each of the seven continents in the winter. Teruo Saegusa, Kozo Komatsu and Shunzo Sato were the other team members. Sato became ill early in the climb and returned to base camp to wait for the others. The remaining three reached the 17,200' high camp on 2/20... the same day a team of Austrians returned to high camp from a successful summit bid. On 2/21, neither team could move because of severe weather. On 2/22 there was a short break in the weather and the Austrians began their descent. The Japanese team was still in their camp. They were not seen alive or heard from again. Weather soon deteriorated and an extremely severe wind storm enveloped the upper mountain. Wind speeds were estimated to be 200 mph and continued through 2/26. Winds then decreased somewhat to 60-90 mph through 3/9. On 3/10, search flights located what appeared to be three bodies below Denali Pass. Search efforts were terminated on 3/11. It is believed that the climbers tried for the summit during a brief lull in the severe wind storm and were caught near Denali Pass as the winds again increased. The bodies were recovered later in March by a 17 person team of Japanese climbers who came to Alaska for that purpose. The three men died from hypothermia. 

. . .He placed an anchor, climbed about 40' above it, then encountered an ice window. He grabbed under the window then leaned out for a better look at his options. Suddenly the entire formation upon which he was climbing collapsed. Sweeney, and the 15'-wide, 35'- high and 6'-thick ice formation fell down the couloir. His anchor held, but his hip was fractured in the resulting 100' fall and avalanche. The events of the next seven days are too involved to detail here (CIR #890016) but proved to be a test of endurance and of their will to survive. During this time, either one or both of the men were hit by eight different avalanches. Weather deteriorated and prevented all access to the mountains by rescue teams. The two men were eventually rescued by a military helicopter on 4/26.

Early the next day, a National Park Service Mountaineering Ranger camped at the 14,200' basin on the West Buttress, noticed what appeared to be bodies at the base of the Orient Express, a couloir which cuts across the upper West Rib. The rescue team discovered all three of the Brits died in a fall. It appeared the men were probably descending the West Rib, roped together, in extremely poor weather, when one of them slipped and pulled the others down the couloir.

 One especially violent gust tore one of the tents, with three occupants, from its anchors. The tent and occupants began a tumbling fall toward the Peter's Glacier. One occupant, John Richards, the assistant guide, was ejected early in the fall and came to rest 300' below the ridge campsite. The other two occupants, Jim Johnson and Howard Tuthill, fell 1,000' and came to rest on a small ledge dressed only in polypro underwear. All equipment and clothing were lost in the fall. The assistant guide was able to ascend to the camp and alert others of the accident. The chief guide, Dave Stahaeli, was able to descend and provide some survival equipment to Johnson and Tuthill. Others on the mountain, including the Denali Medical Project personnel and private mountaineers, organized a difficult and dangerous rescue effort, eventually stabilizing the two men who were flown off the mountain the following day via helicopter. Johnson suffered a compression fracture of a lumbar vertebrae and Tuthill frostbit his fingers. Both men were saved by the rescue efforts.

High Altitude Pulmonary Edema, ground evacuation:
A Genet Expedition trip led by Dave Stahaeli reached the 17,200' high camp on 6/21/89. There they waited three days for weather to improve. One of the clients, John Michel, had been feeling poorly earlier in the trip. At high camp, he lacked energy and spent most of the three days sleeping. It was decided he would not attempt the summit. On 6/24 all expedition members left for the summit except for Michel who remained in camp. No other parties were at high camp. Late that afternoon, another Genet team arrived at high camp and discovered Michel to be suffering from HAPE. They evacuated him to the 14,200' camp where Michel received treatment and recovered. There were other incidents of altitude illness and frostbite this season. Most of these were treated at the Denali Medical Project camp at the 14,200' basin on the West Buttress.
Surely rescuing people at Denali elevations and weather extremes is more costly and dangerous than where the McCandless bus was.

While Denali climbs involve complex preparations, lots of money, and registration, the cost of rescues is not covered by the person rescued.

Here's from a US Senate Report on Denali rescues:
At 20,320 feet, Mt. McKinley is the highest mountain in
North America. In 1998, 1,166 climbers from 38 countries
attempted to climb the mountain, an increase of 250 percent
since 1978. Largely because of bad weather, only 36 percent of
all climbers successfully reached the summit in 1998, down from
a historical average of about 50 percent.
    The 1998 climbing season was typical in that it involved
climbing deaths and several life-saving rescue missions. The
policy of the National Park Service is to ``make reasonable
efforts to search for lost persons and to rescue sick, injured
or stranded persons.''
    As a general rule, the National Park Service does not
recover search and rescue costs. When individual search and
rescue incidents cost more than $500, they are paid from a
central account
The [now canceled] 2020 climbing season has this information about fees for permits to climb Denali:
Q: Do I have to pay anything at the time of registration?
A: Yes, climbers are required to pay the full permit fee when they submit the registration form. The cost of a mountaineering permit for the 2020 season (October 1, 2019 through September 30, 2020) is $375 US currency. Climbers who are 24 years old or younger at the time their expedition begins are eligible for a $275 youth fee. Note that each year the mountaineering special use fee is subject to increase based on Consumer Price Index changes.
It is also important to be aware that when you arrive to check in for your climb, a park entrance fee of $15 per person will be due. Interagency passes are accepted in lieu of the entrance fee. Passes must be presented at the time of check in along with identification. 
Cultural bias comes in many different colors.  Methinks the dreamy, listless image of McCandless and his fans clashes with the rugged, macho adventurer image Alaska likes to promote.  And that's why the bus was removed.  After all, adventure and risk is part of the Last Frontier image.

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

University Of Alaska President Resigns - Good Time For Board of Regents To Eliminate Statewide

The Anchorage Daily News just announced that UA President Johnson is resigning as of July 6.

 Johnson was making $325,000 in salary so I'm guessing with his 12 years of previous employment at UA plus his five years as president he'll get an annual retirement of somewhere between $70,000 and $110,000.  (It says he's retiring on July 1 and his appointment was announced July 28, 2015, which is just short of five years. I'm not sure if his pay is based on highest 3 years or highest 5 years.  He first worked at UA in 1996 and July 1, 1996 appears to be the cutoff for counting 3 years of 5 years.  But I'm sure the Regents could give him credit for the missing month if they chose to.) And I'm not even considering bonus pay which he appears to have received.  While he says he donated that back to the University, it would still count (at least it used to) toward his highest salaries.   (Calculating pensions is relatively straight forward, but there are some variables you have to know and I haven't been involved for 14 years now.)

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updates on state case counts

Why Not Leave Position Unfilled?
 It had occurred to me when he was the finalist for the University of Wisconsin statewide presidency that it would be a good time to rethink whether we even need a statewide president.

Better Yet, Why Not Cut Out Statewide Altogether?
I also wondered why we couldn't just cut back on most of the positions in Statewide and use that money for faculty who actually teach students and do research and service?

The 2020 Alaska State Budget says , if I'm reading it right, that Statewide had 142 employees making a total of $16,385,300 in salary and benefits.  (That's an average of $115,389 per person).

Instead of having a backup bureaucracy in Fairbanks for every administrative function, they could cut back to just do the things that need to be done to coordinate the three campuses as a whole?  Oregon has already done this.  
"Established in 2011 and vested with its current authorities in 2013, the Higher Education Coordinating Commission is a 14-member volunteer commission appointed by the Oregon Governor, with nine voting members confirmed by the State Senate. The Higher Education Coordinating Commission is supported by the state agency by the same name, comprised of eight distinct offices led by Executive Director Ben Cannon.
The HECC develops and implements policies and programs to ensure that Oregon’s network of colleges, universities, workforce development initiatives and pre-college outreach programs are well-coordinated to foster student success. It also advises the Oregon Legislature, the Governor, and the Chief Education Office on policy and funding to meet state postsecondary goals.
Agency Mission and Values
Agency Mission Statement
By promoting collaboration and coordination between Oregon’s education and workforce partners, as well as through our own programs and policy leadership, HECC staff ensure that Oregonians experience increased access, equity, and success in completing their higher education, training, and career goals.
Agency Values
Transparency, Equity, Integrity, Trust, Collaboration, Accountability, Lifelong Learning"
So there's a volunteer commission and a state agency with 8 offices, each of which presumably has a few staff members.

Growth in higher education administration and administrative salaries is a key factor that many people point to as the reason for the increase in college tuition.  Here are just a few references:

The Reason Behind Colleges' Ballooning Bureaucracies
Universities’ executive, administrative, and managerial offices grew 15 percent during the recession, even as budgets were cut and tuition was increased.

​​​Colleges Must Cut Administrative Costs to Survive This Crisis

There are other articles that say the cost has gone up because of student loan programs or  that for public universities the biggest factor is legislatures cutting budgets.  I'd note that Johnson's here - the UA president he wrote his doctoral dissertation on - was known for going down to Juneau and convincing Republican legislators that money spent on the University was an investment rather than an expenditure, and he reversed cuts.  Johnson was never able to do that.

However, it would appear among the costs universities have direct control over, the biggest factor is administrative costs.  The $16 million figure is just salaries, not any other expenses like upkeep for the buildings they occupy or travel to see what's happening on the various campuses.

If the Board decides to keep the president position, I hope they make fund raising the primary job and let the campuses run themselves with minimum interference.

Friday, June 19, 2020

Election Fraud - Why Trump Could Win Again [UPDATED]

Election fraud is not new.  Mayor Daley in Chicago was know to be a master.
"During the 1928 primary election, shootings and bombings were used to frighten and eliminate opponents. That election — which saw two political figures killed and 62 bombings, including one at the home of a senator and Cook County State's Attorney candidate — became known as the "Pineapple Primary," using the slang term "pineapple" for a grenade."
While the Republicans are screaming about VOTER fraud - which is really a minor issue - the real danger for the upcoming elections is ELECTION fraud - manipulating the ballots, the voting machines, suppressing the vote, and variations of those themes.

I came across Greg Palast's name during the April 2012 Anchorage Municipal election when many polling places had no ballots and the election was challenged.  He's been primarily focused on ways people rig elections.

Georgia's recent primary election was an example of how Republicans are manipulating elections now.  One key aspect is just to shut down most polling places in minority areas.  The Corona Virus offers a great excuse - "We can't get poll workers."  Republican governors are opening every business they can, except election polling places.

This is a topic I expect that I will be posting on more frequently.  It's like Climate Change - it's invisible to most people, affects poor people more than the affluent, and it's in the future.  Some people are very aware about it and making as much noise as they can, but for most people it just seem like a big deal, or anything they can do much about.

I'm hoping the fear of Trump's use of election fraud to win the 2020 election might get more people excited.

This video is not quite my style, but the content and enthusiasm may get some people to get alarmed.
This is, pretty much, a shameless plug for Palast's book How Trump Stole 2020.  But I encourage you to watch it, because my style is much more serious than most folks and perhaps you'll start acting your local officials how your elections are being protected.

[UPDATE June 20, 2020 - Here's a newer Tweet with a shorter video on the problems in the recent Georgia election.  Worth a minute of your time before this happens to you too.]

Here's another example of this:

Alaska has had a pretty good election system.  We've always had back up paper ballots.  Anchorage has all mail-in elections (with back up polls on election day.)  But there's concern that our voting has been hacked in the past.

As I say, expect more on this topic.  I'm pretty much convinced that Trump can't fairly win the 2020 election.  But I'm just as convinced that he's going to do everything he can to win it unfairly.  We all need to get educated on this topic and militantly start educating our legislators.

Because, if you checked the video, you'll know that Palast's assertion is that 20% of mail-in votes are rejected for minor errors and it's predominantly ballots of people of color and young voters. Already, the Division of Elections in Alaska has decided to send out mail-in ballot requests to all voters over 65.  So it's started already.  Fortunately we have legislators challenging this, arguing that everyone should get those applications mailed to them.  Now they have to set up safeguards so those mail-in ballots don't disappear before being counted and aren't rejected because someone used an X instead of filling in the bubble.

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Social Media And Trump's Attempts To Shut Down All Unflattering Information

Here are some links you might find worth following up on.

Substack is a group trying to counter the growing power of Facebook and Google by starting their own subscription based site that journalists can join:

Substack -
"This is one of the key reasons we started Substack. We’re attempting to build an alternative media economy that gives journalists autonomy. If you don’t rely on ads for your revenue, you don’t have to be a pawn in the attention economy – which means you don’t have to compete with Facebook and Google. If you’re not playing the ads game, you can stop chasing clicks and instead focus on quality. If you control the relationship with your audience, you don’t have to rely on outside parties to favor you with traffic. And if you own a mailing list, no-one can cut you off from your readers."

Meanwhile we find out (officially anyway) that Facebook has been lying to us:

Bombshell report reveals Facebook knew for years about its dangerous potential — but rejected the warnings
"Despite internal research that Facebook’s platform was exploiting and exacerbating divisiveness among its users, top executives ignored the findings that the algorithms were doing the exact opposite of the company’s stated public mission to bring people together.
That’s according to new reporting Tuesday from the Wall Street Journal which in a comprehensive dive into the company’s treatment of its platform’s capabilities to divide users found that executives knew in 2018 what the site was doing to users but declined to take action.
“The most persistent myth about Facebook is that it naively bumbles its way into trouble,” tweeted New York Times tech columnist Kevin Roose. 'It has always known what it is, and what it’s doing to society.'”

Trump Admin Doesn't Want To Tell Us Who They Gave The CARES Money
If you put money down on March 27 on a bet that the Trump administration would do its best to block oversight of the $2-trillion coronavirus rescue program, congratulations: You’ve won the bet.
Since President Trump signed the CARES Act 81 days ago, he has fired government inspectors general who had been assigned the task of monitoring the disbursements of this cash to businesses big and small.
The day after he signed the act, Trump signaled his intention to restrict the information his appointees can submit to Congress about rescue program spending.
Trump’s Treasury secretary, Steve T. Mnuchin, flatly declared this month that he wouldn’t disclose the names of small businesses receiving loans through the act’s $600-billion Paycheck Protection Program.
Meanwhile Trump's trying to keep us from reading John Bolton's book.
“I will consider every conversation with me as president highly classified. So that would mean if he wrote a book and if the book gets out, he’s broken the law and I would think he would have criminal problems,” Trump added, later claiming he hadn’t viewed the book’s contents. 
Even if he had any legal chance to stop the book's distribution to the public, there's no practical possibility.  CNBC says the book is #1 best seller based on pre-sale orders, and Trump's niece's tell-all book is #5. And the Washington Post writes (in an article republished in the ADN) that the book is
"due to go on sale June 23 and has already been shipped across the country."
If the book has been sent to bookstores, there is absolutely no way that someone isn't going to leak a copy, even if Trump's law suit succeeds.  Bootleg copies will get out.

But all this raises the complicity of the Republicans in the US Senate who refused to call Bolton as a witness in the impeachment trial.  And refused to take any step to oppose Trump's stonewalling Congress and the people of the USA.

So, in your weekly email to your members of Congress (all my US based readers do this of course, right?) you  request they make public where the CARES Act money has gone, prohibiting government agencies from requiring Non-Disclosure Agreements (Bolton's cleared the book with NCS to be sure there's no classified information), and generally putting pressure on Trump to rehire the various Inspectors General and other watchdogs he's fired, and to comply with subpoenas for various officials.

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

It's Been Sounding Like Last Summer In Anchorage

I noticed we had planes flying over our house again last week.  Lots of them.  Last summer was the
From my backyard today
second summer of widening the North-South runway at the Anchorage Airport.  Thus all the planes took off to the east - over probably half the population of Anchorage.  But that was supposed to leave us with quiet summers.

Yesterday I talked to Terri Tibbe, Operations Airport Operations Manager.  There are two basic reasons for the noise:

  • Seasonal Maintenance 
    • Every year there is some maintenance of the runways - repainting, striping.  And that was happening yesterday.
  • Winds Aloft
    • She described these as winds above ground level but low enough to affect planes taking off.  The pattern recently has dictated planes taking off to the east.  

In addition, she pointed out that 6-8 weeks ago there has been an increase in cargo flights and they are bigger and heavier than passenger planes and make more noise as they take off.

The airport controls the maintenance, but FAA makes decisions about wind affecting take-off direction.

I did google 'winds aloft' because I didn't quite catch what Terri said.   So, for instance, I found this map of winds aloft 200 MB for Alaska for June 17.

But what does this mean?  There were several other charts available at different MB levels.

"'bar' is the unit by which we measure pressure."
The lower the millibars the lower the pressure and the higher the altitude.  So the 200 MB is at a much higher altitude than the 850 MB chart, which is the lowest they show.    Here's the same location, same time, but for the 850 MB

"Constant Pressure Charts: 850 mb
This pressure level is near an elevation of 5,000 feet though it ranges from 3,800 feet (1,170 meters) to 5,200 feet (1,590 meters). As with all other constant pressure charts the heights are in meters with the last digit (zero) truncated. So, a height value of 132 represents 1,320 meters."
So the wind directions and speeds vary significantly at different altitudes.

And here's a bit more to help understand symbols on the maps above.

Wind Speed

When the height contours (lines) are close to each other, it means there is a more rapid change in altitude of the constant pressure level, and indication of a large temperature gradient.
As the temperature gradient increases (more rapid change) so does the pressure gradient. Wind is created when there is a pressure gradient, and the stronger the gradient the stronger the wind.
Wind speeds on weather maps are in knots (kt) where one knot equals 1.15 mph and 1.85 km/h. Toggle the "Wind Barbs" check box to display the speed and direction of the wind across the map.
The wind barbs indicate wind direction and wind speed (rounded to the nearest 5 knots). The longest line (shaft) points in the direction FROM which that wind is blowing.
The shorter lines, called barbs, indicate the wind speed in knots (kt). The speed of the wind is determined by the barbs.
Each long barb represents 10 kt with short barbs representing 5 kt. A pennant is used to represent each 50 kt. Total the barbs and pennants to provide the wind speed at that location.
When lines of equal wind speed are drawn (called isotachs) the regions of greater and less wind speed stand out. Isotachs are typically drawn for every 20 kt.

I've gotten myself further into this than I ever intended, but not far enough to understand clearly why the planes are taking off over midtown and whether the wind patterns are going to change soon.  And I know enough to realize that a little knowledge can be a dangerous things.  But it is also the first steps to more knowledge.  But if you go to this page at the Weather Service you can start exploring.  They even have some cool lessons.  

Saturday, June 13, 2020

Ripples And Waves Of George Floyd's Murder

I read this in yesterday's Los Angeles Times:
"With its soaring arches, international flags and globe-topped tower, the Von KleinSmid Center for International and Public Affairs is one of the most prominent buildings at USC. Its namesake, the late Rufus B. von KleinSmid, has held a place of distinction as the university’s fifth president.
But on Thursday, USC announced it had stripped Von KleinSmid’s name from the building as the university at last reconciled with his disturbing leadership role in California’s eugenics movement.
The scholar, who is credited with expanding the university’s academic programs and international relations curriculum as president from 1921 to 1947, believed that people with “defects” had no ethical right to parenthood and should be sterilized. His “Human Betterment Foundation” was instrumental in supporting the 1909 California legislation that authorized the forced sterilization of those deemed “unfit” — essentially anyone nonwhite, said Alexandra Minna Stern, a University of Michigan history professor and expert on eugenics.
His active support of eugenics is “at direct odds” with the university’s multicultural community and mission of diversity and inclusion, President Carol L. Folt announced.
“This moment is our Call to Action, a call to confront anti-Blackness and systemic racism, and unite as a diverse, equal, and inclusive university,” Folt wrote. 'You have asked for actions, not rhetoric, and actions, now.'”
This name removal has special meaning to me because I spent seven years as a graduate student in this building.  I never spent much time thinking about who Von KleinSmid was and I certainly didn't know about his role in the eugenics movement in California.  

And it makes me think of my days as a UCLA undergraduate when I actually did think about the names that were put on buildings.  A new basketball arena was built on campus in the years the Bruins were first winning national championships.  Although the obvious name for that arena was Wooden Pavilion, it was named after an oil company owner who donated money.  That started me thinking about the names on all the buildings.  I didn't necessarily want to change them.  I just wanted to put up big plaques that detailed how the building's namesake had earned the money that he'd used to buy his rich man's name carved onto the building.  

The USC building name change is but one result of George Floyd's death.  The renaming of the Southern military bases has gotten much more attention along with the pulling down of statues of people of dubious honor.  I think my plaque idea still has merit.  By simply tearing down a statue or erasing a name, we lose the opportunity for a lasting history lesson about power and ideology and how eventually both of those change.  Von KleinSmid's name should no longer be honored on this building, but the history of how it got there and why it was removed should be prominently displayed on a plaque on the building.  So that people can start wondering who among the prominent people of the current day have pasts that their money is able to cover up.  

And that statues that are being torn down should be put into appropriate museums so the history of the wrongs done by the people they were originally supposed to honor can be told.  It's important for people to see how prominent people of one age are often prominent because those in power could hide their misdeeds.  

But I'd also like to point out a phrase that's been used too often in the media lately:  "...sparked by the death of George Floyd."  

George Floyd's death was the place where the fire was ignited this time.  But the firewood of racism, sexism, and injustice is littered across the country, around the world.  Police kill about 1000 people a year for the last five years.  Blacks make up a larger proportion of those deaths than they do of the population.  But more whites are killed, so this isn't just a black issue.  In any case, Floyd's death alone would not have gotten so many people out in the streets.  His was just the last straw.  A death among many, but one that was egregious and captured on video. And without the video taken by a 17 year old young woman, the reaction wouldn't have been the same.  And if we hadn't been in a pandemic with most people cooped up at home for the previous month, and laid off or otherwise free from work obligations, the mass protests surely wouldn't have had so many people, nor lasted so long.  These demonstrations are the result of hundreds of years of injustice and cruelty.  The successes of the MeToo movement showed people that the powerful can, sometimes, be overthrown.   There have been outbreaks of outrage before that have been put out.  This outbreak is simply the largest by far.

But will we get more substantive change than just the toppling of a few statues and the changing of names on buildings?  Will the institutional structures that have reinforced racism - the red lining, that kept blacks in poor neighborhoods and kept the value of their houses low;  the poor schooling in those neighborhoods that kept blacks less educated and less likely to get into and succeed in college;  the lack of jobs in those neighborhoods;  the lack of jobs for blacks outside those neighborhoods due to poor schooling and movie and television reinforced images of blacks and Hispanics as dangerous criminals; and racist police and judicial treatment of blacks for all those reasons?  Will these things change?  

Not all at once, but there's going to be a big shift.  

Blogger note:  I'd love to add a picture to this.  I'm sure somewhere I must have a picture of former  the Von KleinSmid Center hidden away among my slides.  It is definitely a distinctive architectural statement, though a bit odd.  If I can find one easily in my stuff, I'll add it later.

Thursday, June 11, 2020

Chinese And Blacks And Asian Americans

Some Chinese Americans I know passed this article on to me.  They were angry about anti-black racism by fellow Chinese in the US - particularly those from Mainland China.  From China-Gate:

来源: 鲁迅九 于 2020-06-02 09:17:36 [档案] [博客] [旧帖] [给我悄悄话] 本文已被阅读: 4339 次 (1450 bytes)
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I asked them to translate and then compared their translation of this to Google's and they agreed that the Google Translate version was good.

"The police should be condemned for killing. However, if there are Chinese who sympathize with black people, it will be Mr. Dong Guo* and the wolf.

  Even a Chinese student who was a takeaway deliveryman became the target of the demonstrators' attack. He was seriously injured in the head, hydrocephalus in his brain, fracture of both eye frames, and his life was in danger.
   Black people are the most willing to attack Chinese or Chinese students. Once they are angry, unhappy, and need to vent, Chinese often become the target of their attack. During the previous epidemic, many Chinese and Chinese students were attacked by black people:
Because the Chinese were wearing masks, a black man hit him with more than 40 punches in the head
A black man poured sulfuric acid into the head of a Chinese woman who came out and dumped garbage, causing serious injuries
  Black people look very pitiful and cowardly when facing white people, but when they face Chinese or Chinese students, they are different."
*"The term Mr. Dongguo (Dōngguō Xiānshēng) has now become a Chinese idiom for a naive person who gets into trouble through being softhearted to evil" people.

The friend who sent this to me was very upset and wanted to report to someone about this racism being spread via one of the most popular American Chinese language online newspapers.

I really wasn't sure what to do with this.  What was my role as a white American to make this point?  My experiences in China showed me the one seemingly universal national prejudice of Chinese was against Japanese.  One can understand the rationale behind that - the resentment of how viciously Japanese soldiers slaughtered Chinese during WW II.  One can say that was 70 years ago, but Chinese will report that the Japanese have never apologized and still honor their WW II soldiers without acknowledging their barbarity towards Chinese.  I only met a few African students in China and they felt they were not treated well.

Then today I saw this article:   Asian-American Anti-Black racism - My fellow Asian Americans, we must address the anti-Blackness rampant in our community which raised this issue for me again.  With this second article, I decided to post on this topic.  But it's a slightly different topic.  It reminds me that there are layers and layers here.  The top article - I was told - is aimed at Chinese born Chinese living in the US.  This second article is more broadly aimed at Asian-Americans, presumably, many if not most whom, were been born in the United States.

And a further layer in all this are people like the University of Alaska Anchorage's Dr. EJR David, a Filipino-American who came to discover (and then eventually to write about) his own mental colonization as a Filipino, while living among Alaska Natives in what was then called Barrow, Alaska.  He frequently points out that brown Asians tend to be forgotten when people talk about Asian-Americans, a term, he argues, generally means East Asian Americans.

So consider this post a heads-up.  I'm just calling attention to something going on that probably is not on the radar of most white Americans and only understood from specific view points by many Asian-Americans as the second article suggests.  And I really can only guess that only those African-Americans who have contact with Asian-Americans think much about these issues.  I don't recall the issue coming up in the Netflix series Dear White People, though Wikipedia says there was an 'Asian' character - Ikumi - in Season 1 Episode 5.

And that's not even mentioning African born blacks living in the US and their own views on American whites and blacks.  (See for instance, Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.)

My experiences living in Germany, Thailand, and China is that there are many forms of racism or other prejudices based on skin color, religion, nationality all around the world.  One of the key differences between other places and the US, is that the US is one of the few places which has ideals about equality for everyone that are regularly taught in schools, and which are recited and have been believed to generally prevail by the white majority.   Even if those ideals aren't practiced.  And now we have a president who is demonstrating for the world the hypocrisy we've been living.

And ironically, it's led to a higher level of awareness and  discussion than this nation has ever had.

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Prep Phone For Protests And Anti-Racism Resources

Alaska is now surging on a second COVID-19 wave.  We hit 190 active cases today (19 more from yesterday- State says 20).  Our previous high was April 22 with 188 active cases.  The isolation measures got us down to 33, but now we're rising and likely to keep on going up.  See the Alaska COVID-19 tab above for more details.

Meanwhile here are a couple of useful links:

How Do I Prepare My Phone for a Protest?

Here are the basic recommendations:

  1. Subdue Your Signals (and Download Signal)
  2. Lockdown Location Tracking
  3. Harden Your Hardware
  4. Use a Passcode, Not a Fingerprint
  5. Neutralize Notifications
  6. Think Before You Share
  7. Physicalize Your Phonebook

If these don't make a lot of sense to you, then that's all the more reason to go to the article to find out what it all means.  Our phones do lots of things for us in ways few people understand.  Not knowing means you don't have to worry, but knowing means you can take some basic steps to protect yourself.

These ideas apply to travel to police state countries where the authorities may just take your phone.

Anti Racism Resources
"This document is intended to serve as a resource to white people and parents to deepen our anti-racism work. If you haven’t engaged in anti-racism work in the past, start now. Feel free to circulate this document on social media and with your friends, family, and colleagues."

Here are the categories:

  1. Resources for white parents to raise anti-racist children:
  2. Articles to read:
  3. Podcasts to subscribe to:
  4. Books to read:
  5. Films and TV series to watch:
  6. Organizations to follow on social media:
  7. More anti-racism resources to check out:

Monday, June 08, 2020

Blogging During A Pandemic [Updated]

Trying to keep current on the State's COVID-19 statistics has consumed a lot of space on this blog and time.  June 1 I added a tab up top and am doing briefer updates along with updating numbers on the chart.
Also trying to get things done around the house - almost have our taxes ready to go to the accountant.  Trying to get out early - or on rainy days - so I don't pass too many people on the bike trail, and balancing that with a knee that acts up has been tricky.  Late Netflix watching makes getting up early harder.  We have managed to limit that too evening.

Zooming with my granddaughter - never know when I'm going to get a text "May I please zoom with you and Bubbie? Now?"  followed shortly after by "I'm waiting" - takes precedence over everything else.  And my son and I are working out how to play games with my SF grandson.  He really likes things like DinoTrains on PBS Kids.

Our garden brings joy.  It's green and sitting on the deck is like being out in the woods almost.

The COVID-19 updates on the tab are like a mini-post every day already.  Plus there are so many things to post about, things important enough that I need to think carefully and do some research.

Like what does "Defund The Police" mean in practical terms?  I love the idea of focusing on the reducing the long term causes of crime rather than on militarizing the police.  And it seems like when the police presence faded away in the last few days, the protests were much more positive.  And what happens to the police let go, particularly the bad apples?  In Iraq, when Saddam Hussein's army and police were disbanded, those highly trained officers became an anti-government force - the insurgency.  I don't think we need to add more folks to white supremacist groups here, so there needs to be a plan for what to do with the old police.

And how are the 2020 elections going to work?  While Republicans cry voter fraud, the real problem seems to me to be Republican election fraud and voter suppression.  Ideally, the folks out in the streets and those supporting them in isolation will all vote and crush Trump so badly that no amount of election fraud will matter.  But I don't know that we can count on that.  

Then, there's redistricting coming up next year after the census numbers are in.  I spent three years of my life reporting on Alaska's Redistricting Board ten years ago.  I didn't intend to, but no one else was covering it.  And the tab on top of this blog on Redistricting has been getting a constant flow of visitors.  It's basically the only real serious source of material on what happened.  And since the state's redistricting website has been dismantled, many of my links to maps don't work any more.  Are we going to have mapping software this year that everyday people will have free access to so that they can make their own maps?  Will there be legislation that will make the new Board's website something that won't disappear so only those who had sway with the Board can use the information on it now?  Lots to think about.

And I've got a birthday book I'm trying to create for my grandson.  I got one done for his cousin when she was two years old and hoped he would get one too for his second birthday.  Life and an errant muse got in the way.  He's going to turn six now, so I'm way behind schedule, but I do have a number of pages in draft form.  Just getting the story to match the pictures now and then get it printed.

And I picked up Philip Caputo's Hunter's Moon this weekend - Barnes and Noble brought it out to the car - and I have to read that before my next book club meeting.

Isolation really hasn't been that great a change in my life.  Just don't see our friends at all, or go out to eat, or hike or camp.  We missed our annual May trip to Denali National Park and our grandkids won't come visit this summer.  But there's plenty to keep us busy.  Another crimp in our lives is our upstairs carpet.  It was supposed to be replaced last fall.  (It's about 25 or 30 years old now and it shows.)  But we also had the kitchen linoleum replaced with a bamboo floor.  They wanted the floor in first because it makes it easier to connect the wood to the carpet that way.  But the bamboo was delayed until November and by the time they got it in we headed out for Thanksgiving, then December again with family and then again January and February Outside with family.  By the time we got back and were arranging the carpet, COVID came.  I was sick (but couldn't get tested for COVID) and since then we've been wary of someone in the house for two days.)
The crimp comes from us having started last fall to move things downstairs so they could do the carpets.  So lots of stuff is in temporary storage downstairs, things we would like to use, but are having trouble finding.

Hope everyone else is surviving reasonably well.  I hope all the demonstrators are getting COVID tests and taking appropriate actions to minimize bad health impacts of the demonstrations.

[UPDATE June 8, 2020 12:20pm:  I totally forgot to mention blog subscriber problems.  That was one of the reasons I was doing this post.  I've had two folks contact me to let me know that they are no longer getting their email notifications of new posts.  I then realized I'm not either.  I've been trying to figure out the problem.  I'm not sure if this affects all subscribers or just those using the subscription option in the upper right hand column.  I'm working on it, but it's just one more of the many leaks I'm trying to plug in my life right now.  None serious, but just irritating and time consuming.]

Friday, June 05, 2020

Is Facebook Trying To Steal Your Library Records?

It was my understanding that librarians were zealous about keeping library patron's reading habits private.  Here the first part of the American Library Association's Privacy and Confidentiality Q&A at their website:

From the American Library Association:
"In a library, user privacy is the right to open inquiry without having the subject of one’s interest examined or scrutinized by others. Confidentiality exists when a library is in possession of personally identifiable information (see No. 2. “What is personally identifiable information“) about users and keeps that information private on their behalf. Confidentiality is a library’s responsibility. This responsibility is assumed when library procedures create records including, but not limited to closed-stack call slips, computer sign-up sheets, registration for equipment or facilities, circulation records, what websites were visited, reserve notices, or research notes.
Libraries should limit the degree to which personally identifiable information is collected, monitored, disclosed, retained, and transmitted while fulfilling their duty to comply with their state’s library confidentiality statute. Libraries involved in training volunteers, new employees, student assistants, or trustees should inform them of the requirements that they not abuse confidentiality and that they protect library users’ rights of privacy.
For ALA’s privacy policies and “Privacy: An Interpretation of the Library Bill of Rights,” see the web site, 'Privacy and Confidentiality.'” 
So when I got an email from my local library (Loussac in Anchorage) saying I could pick up some books on hold under their new post Corona policy, I checked how to do it.  You have to set up an appointment - like picking up groceries you've ordered in advance.

So I clicked on the video.  Immediately there was a drop down window

Do you want to allow "" to use cookies and website data while browsing ""?
This will allow "" to track your activity.
Don't Allow   Allow

When I hit "Don't Allow" the video wouldn't start.  The window sits there waiting for you to click on "Allow."   And I'm sure a lot of folks will.  The video wasn't that important to me (I can't think of anything important enough for me to allow Facebook to track my library record.  But I get it that they are probably tracking a whole lot more than I realize.)

I figured out if I did nothing, the video starts, but when I hit Don't Allow as the video is running it would stop.  This is clearly set up to get people to hit "Allow"

I immediately emailed the head librarian - with this image - and she quickly thanked me for the alert.  

That was two days ago and it's still happening at this page as I write this.  

So I'm just warning folks about this.  If this is really Facebook trying to sneak into people's library records, it's horrendously outrageous.  It's like a backdoor around the American Library Association policies.  

Or perhaps it could be some hacker using Facebook as a cover.  Either way, I'd strongly warn people to avoid hitting the Allow button.

Tuesday, June 02, 2020

Trump Puts Lincoln Under House Arrest, So He Won't Join Protestors, And Other Thoughts Today

The photo of the secret military force (they wouldn't identify themselves) at the Lincoln Memorial led me to add these words to the photo.

And this video exchange between a protestor and a soldier led me to think that we need to set up sanctuaries for military who find themselves ordered to confront and attack American citizens peacefully protesting.  We need safe places with good attorneys so they can put down their weapons and refuse to participate in Trump's war on people who don't adore him.

This thought was presented by someone on Twitter and people weren't getting his point:

"liberals have learned to call racism "systemic" but then suggest exclusively non-systemic fixes like police trainings as solutions"
They wanted to know what was wrong with police trainings as solutions.  Well, this is something I know a little about.

1.  Police training aims at changing individual attitudes & behavior
2.  Systemic reform changes structures and procedures in institutions that reinforce racist attitudes and behavior

Trying to 'train' people out of racism when the system they're in continues to reward racist behavior and punish people who fight racism just doesn't work.  How do police systems structurally support racism?  The police code of honor punishes police who inform on corrupt, violent, and racist behaviors of their fellow officers.  Selection and promotion procedures have obstacles for minorities that whites don't face.

My first direct encounter with this was while I was doing research in the City of Pasadena for my doctoral dissertation many years ago.  I was interviewing department heads on the privacy practices for personnel files.  I was taking notes as the city's doctor - who did physical exams applicants particularly for the police and fire departments - showed me how the files were managed.  At some point he showed me some X-rays he used to screen out applicants.  One had a different curve in the spine from the other.  If they have this curve, he told me, they are going to have back problems in the future, so we screen them out.  Then, almost as an afterthought, he mentioned that all blacks have that curve.  He'd known me all of maybe 45 minutes and just assumed I would see nothing wrong with that.  He didn't know that the new City Manager was questioning me every day about what I was finding.

More recently I served as an expert witness for a fire fighter who sued the Municipality of Anchorage because of discrimination when he couldn't pass the subjective part of the promotion exam several times.  He scored well on the objective parts, but not in the parts where the all white panel makes judgments about people's 'moral' strengths.  He won a $700,000 judgment.  But only after taking significant personal financial risk of hiring an attorney for years of preparation and court time.  If he had lost the case he would have been financially ruined.  I'd note the Fire Fighters union also found nothing wrong with the process when he went to them for help, but then they represented the members of the promotion panel too.  It was then I began to see that police and fire fighter unions make large contributions to mayors and council candidates.  Police reform is hard when the union is made up of 80 or 90 percent white officers.  I strongly believe in the importance of unions, I also see where they can perpetuate racist systems.  Mayors are reluctant to make significant changes that would negatively impact the members of unions that donate big to their campaigns.

Changing these hidden parts of the system, which few people understand is what we mean by systemic or institutional change.

Monday, June 01, 2020

"Voters must dispatch his congressional enablers, especially the senators who still gambol around his ankles with a canine hunger for petting."

Yesterday I sent an email to my senior US Senator Lisa Murkowski urging her to gather enough Republican colleagues to block Trump's destruction of the United States.  I'm not generally a confrontative person and I tried to be polite.

But I just read George F. Will's Washington Post column for today.  He made my email look like a fan letter.

George F. Will is a well known conservative writer.  His Wikipedia page starts out with this:
"George Frederick Will (born May 4, 1941) is an American conservative political commentator. He writes regular columns for The Washington Post and provides commentary for NBC News and MSNBC.[3] In 1986, The Wall Street Journal called him "perhaps the most powerful journalist in America," in a league with Walter Lippmann (1889–1974).[4][5] He won the Pulitzer Prize for Commentary in 1977."
After trashing the president he goes on to do the same to the Republicans in the US Senate:
The nation’s downward spiral into acrimony and sporadic anarchy has had many causes much larger than the small man who is the great exacerbator of them. Most of the causes predate his presidency, and most will survive its January terminus. The measures necessary for restoration of national equilibrium are many and will be protracted far beyond his removal. One such measure must be the removal of those in Congress who, unlike the sycophantic mediocrities who cosset him in the White House, will not disappear “magically,” as Eric Trump said the coronavirus would. Voters must dispatch his congressional enablers, especially the senators who still gambol around his ankles with a canine hunger for petting.In life’s unforgiving arithmetic, we are the sum of our choices. Congressional Republicans have made theirs for more than 1,200 days. We cannot know all the measures necessary to restore the nation’s domestic health and international standing, but we know the first step: Senate Republicans must be routed, as condign punishment for their Vichyite collaboration, leaving the Republican remnant to wonder: Was it sensible to sacrifice dignity, such as it ever was, and to shed principles, if convictions so easily jettisoned could be dignified as principles, for . . . what? Praying people should pray, and all others should hope: May I never crave anything as much as these people crave membership in the world’s most risible deliberative body.
A political party’s primary function is to bestow its imprimatur on candidates, thereby proclaiming: This is who we are. In 2016, the Republican Party gave its principal nomination to a vulgarian and then toiled to elect him. And to stock Congress with invertebrates whose unswerving abjectness has enabled his institutional vandalism, who have voiced no serious objections to his Niagara of lies, and whom T.S. Eliot anticipated: 
We are the hollow men . . .Our dried voices, whenWe whisper togetherAre quiet and meaninglessAs wind in dry grassor rats’ feet over broken glass . . ."

In a remarkable and far more complex and academic article in The Atlantic,  "History Will Judge the Complicit:  Why have Republican leaders abandoned their principles in support of an immoral and dangerous president?"  Anne Applebaum asks why some people become collaborators (in the negative connotation)?
"Since the Second World War, historians and political scientists have tried to explain why some people in extreme circumstances become collaborators and others do not. The late Harvard scholar Stanley Hoffmann had firsthand knowledge of the subject—as a child, he and his mother hid from the Nazis in Lamalou-les-Bains, a village in the south of France. But he was modest about his own conclusions, noting that “a careful historian would have—almost—to write a huge series of case histories; for there seem to have been almost as many collaborationisms as there were proponents or practitioners of collaboration.” Still, Hoffmann made a stab at classification, beginning with a division of collaborators into “voluntary” and “involuntary.” Many people in the latter group had no choice. Forced into a “reluctant recognition of necessity,” they could not avoid dealing with the Nazi occupiers who were running their country.
One East German she interviewed said that was not an interesting question.  More interesting was why some people do NOT become collaborators.  This article puts the question about why Republican Senators stay loyal to Trump into a much larger historical context.  She looks at the Nazi occupied France, East Germany, and Poland - all countries taken over by a different ideology - and looks at people who did and did not become collaborators with the new regimes.  Then applies that discussion to the Republicans in the Senate.   She goes far beyond voluntary and involuntary.

Alaska COVID Updates Now In Tab Above

I'll continue to track Alaska's COVID-19 cases in the tab up top.  Seven more today.  Terrible weekend in the United States, yet also a promising one as people take to the streets,  apparently believing that racism is a greater threat to them and the nation than the virus.  And as people on the right attack them and the violence that has touched the demonstrations, I'm reminded that peaceful demonstrations haven't changed things much.  That Colin Kaepernick's peaceful protest was attacked just as vigorously.  It's not the type of protest that folks object to, it's that people are pointing out the pervasiveness of racism in the US.  These are probably the same people who complain that Jews didn't fight back during the Holocaust.  Well, blacks and their allies are fight back now.  (By the way, Jews did fight back when they could.)   And the president is hiding in a 'bunker' at the White House.  Trump fears weakness more than anything, and yet he's displaying his own impotence as president of the United States.  He tends to accuse people of what he's doing himself - if you haven't noticed, pay attention.  Now he's accusing the Democratic governors of being weak.