Saturday, March 27, 2021

Spring Time In Anchorage And Other Thoughts

Springtime In Anchorage

Spring in Alaska is different.  We still have a significant amount of snow on the ground.  

And streets look like streams and small lakes.

But the sun is galloping toward the solstice at nearly 6 more minutes a day between sunrise and sunset.  People still say things like "more daylight" but the daylight starts well before the official time of sunrise and lasts longer than the official sunset.  

Georgia's Voting Wrongs Act

The news, of course, distracts me if I let it.  Reports of Georgia's new Jim Crow laws to suppress voting mention making it a crime to bring food or water to people waiting in line to vote.  Yes, that's outrageous.  But the food and water focus overlooks the fact that these new laws will continue making long lines for undesirable voters into something normal.  Lines long enough that they'll need to get water and food.  Apparently they didn't outlaw bringing bottles that another story says that Amazon drivers carry because they don't have time to pee under their demanding delivery schedules.  

Let's be clear, if people have to wait in line for an hour to vote, it means there aren't enough voting places or staff.  Requiring such long lines are clearly an attempt to prevent people from voting.  Republicans argue voter restrictions are to overcome voter fraud, a phenomenon Trump's lawyers failed to prove in over 60 court cases.  

And that's what the Republican party has been reduced to:  preventing people from voting, ads that lie and unfairly characterize Democrats,  gerrymandering, and voter suppression.  

In the Supreme Court an attorney siding with Arizona's Republican National Committee defended such practices as the only way Republicans can win:

“What’s the interest of the Arizona RNC in keeping, say, the out-of-precinct ballot disqualification rules on the books?" Justice Amy Coney Barrett asked, referencing legal standing.

Because it puts us at a competitive disadvantage relative to Democrats,” said Michael Carvin, the lawyer defending the state's restrictions. “Politics is a zero-sum game. And every extra vote they get through unlawful interpretation of Section 2 hurts us, it’s the difference between winning an election 50-49 and losing an election 51 to 50.”

Just as McConnell pledged to make President Obama a one term president, the Republicans in the Senate and House vote on legislation based on how it will help Democrats or hurt Republicans, not on what's good for the US.   

Democrats and those disillusioned with what the Republican Party has become, have to continue to do everything they can to get all those folks who don't normally vote to the polls.  They have to find ways to revise the filibuster rules so that the minority can't veto every piece of legislation.  

Word Matter - Especially In Headlines

I think it's important for every consumer of news to pay close attention to the words used in headlines.  Getting clicks means making headlines edgier and more confrontational than is warranted.  Republicans are working hard to frame what's happening with immigration as "Biden's Border Crisis."

Let's remember Biden has been in office just over two months.  And that the Trump administration delayed transition briefings that have always been routine parts of the transition of power from one president to the next.  Until Trump.  

By focusing on the border, the Republicans and the media that follow them, reduce the problem to the lump and not to the underlying disease that causes the lump - the dangerous conditions people endure in key Central American countries that force people to flee for their lives.  If you dig deep enough into these conditions you'll find the fingerprints of American Imperialism, from protecting US corporate interests, say in bananas, to the Iran-Contra arrangements that led to the US supporting repressive wars in the area.  

I also saw a link to the first Biden press conference that was headlined something like "hard hitting questions."  The video showed Kaitlin Collins pressing the president on whether he would run for reelection in 2024.  Really?  He's being evasive if he doesn't say yes two months into office?  That's hard-hitting?  No, that's not anything that takes any sort of research.  It's the kind of question that perhaps she's hoping she can get a momentary bump on her Twitter feed for being the first to get Biden to say he's running for reelection.  But it's a political question, not an informed question about policy that would be important for people to hear.  And Biden handled it appropriately, saying it wasn't something he's focused on.  That there are more important issues he's facing.  

Why Hasn't Biden Pushed Immigration and Gun Reform Already?

Biden's also getting criticism from some in his party for not pushing harder on immigration or gun control.  Politicians have to weigh what is important against what is achievable.  Immigration and gun control are still quite controversial.  Look at how the Republicans voted on COVID relief.  They were almost 100% no votes among Republicans.  Voting Rights should also be an easy vote.  Like COVID relief, it has strong the backing of US people, if not of all of their representatives in Washington DC.  Infrastructure is another highly popular and needed endeavor and one with lots of carrots for Republican lawmakers who want better roads and bridges in their states.  

My interpretation is that Biden wants to go after the' easiest' of the important tasks first.  He doesn't want to get bogged down in the most controversial issues.  Once he gets Voting Rights and Infrastructure in place, he can focus on Immigration and Gun Control.  If he starts with the gun control and immigration, everything else could get bogged down and he'd have nothing but COVID relief (a big deal on its own) to show for the 2022 election.  But reporters on deadlines with pressures for clicks and no time for in-depth research, grab what's easy rather than what's important. 

But media that allow their journalists time to dig deep are able to come up with stories that give us background that helps us understand people and situations that are normally just names passing our eyeballs briefly.  

Today's LA Times had a lengthy story about the Ball family's making Chino Hills into a basketball center.  Before this, the only awareness I had of the Ball family was the incident where one of them was suspended from the UCLA team after shoplifting during a team visit to China.  There's a lot more to know - though the article barely mentions the China incident.  It's not the same as many of the stories in the NYTimes or Washington Post on critical issues of the day, but it is a piece that has some depth to it.  

[UPDATED 5:30pm -  Just got back to finishing today's LA Times and there's another article that goes into more depth about something - this time about racism in LA's surfing culture.  It focuses on two black friends who surf every morning and then one day got involved in an incident at Manhattan Beach.

"As emotions climaxed, a different surfer — white and older — inserted himself into the fray. He began calling Brick the N-word repeatedly. Then he called him a “donkey” and violently splashed water in his face. He also called Gage, a 25-year-old dancer and choreographer with painted nails and arms full of scribbly tattoos, a gay slur and told him to “go back to the streets.”

“Go down there … that’s where the Blacks used to surf,” the man added, referencing Bruce’s Beach, a once-thriving Black-owned resort at the center of a fierce land battle in Manhattan Beach today. (The property was taken through eminent domain more than 100 years ago. Local activists are calling for Los Angeles County to return the land to the living descendants of the Bruce family and for the city of Manhattan Beach to publicly apologize and provide restitution for its role in institutionalized racism.)

As the altercation ensued, a crowd of mostly white surfers surrounded Brick and Gage and refused to intervene. A Black passerby named Rashidi Kafele took notice and started filming. He wasn’t used to seeing Black surfers in the water and, upon hearing the N-word, knew he had to document it.

This was the first time Brick and Gage had been involved in a racially charged altercation in the water, but locals had seen instances like this before. Kavon Ward, founder of the organization Justice for Bruce’s Beach, says the situation “shows that nothing has changed in Manhattan Beach.”]

LA Times has an obituary of Larry McMurtry today..  Obituaries of famous people are a little different because newspapers tend to have drafts of them ready, especially as they get older.  

It talks about his growing up in Archer City, Texas listening to cattle herding stories from his grandfather to his opening a bookstore and writing books like Lonesome Dove and screenplays for movies like The Last Picture Show and Terms of Endearment.  Later, recovering from a heart attack and by-pass surgery, he joined friend Diana Ossana who worked to overcome McMurtry's depression.

"Ossana eventually got him back to the typewriter with the story of the 1930s outlaw Pretty Boy Floyd. “It was the way to jump-start him into life,” she said. “He was shriveling up and would have died.”

The pair collaborated on a number of novels and teleplays, but their cultural and aesthetic sensibilities most famously aligned in 1997, when Ossana recommended an 11-page short story about two gay cowboys that was published in the New Yorker.

“I don’t read short fiction,” McMurtry told her.

Twenty minutes later, they were writing a one-page letter to Annie Proulx asking to option “Brokeback Mountain.” They had a first draft in three months and, in 2006, accepted the Oscar for best adapted screenplay.

Standing with the golden statue in hand, McMurtry, who had paired an Armani tuxedo jacket and shirt with bluejeans, gave a special nod to “all the booksellers of the world,” whom he thanked, 'from the humblest paperback exchange to the masters of the great bookshops of the world ... contributors to the survival of the culture of the book, a wonderful culture which we mustn’t lose.'”

I also spent time responding to a long comment about White Privilege.  I won't repeat it here, but if you have any interest, you can see the discussion here.

Enjoy the weekend.   Passover begins tonight.  


Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Blooming Hoya And Dripping Icicle - The World Is Better Than Media Portray


These hoya flowers are past their prime.  It's a natural part of the cycle of birth and death.   

From Bloomscape:

"Hoya plants are some of the easiest indoor houseplants to care for. They are slow-growing vining plants native to tropical and subtropical Asia. They are also known as Wax plants due to their thick and shiny foliage. As Hoyas mature, they produce clusters of sweet-smelling star-shaped flowers."

 They were pretty amazing a week ago.

And even though those blooms are gone, there's a new cluster starting to bud.  

This plant has been growing downstairs in our 'greenhouse' - really a room with lots of south facing windows - for years. It does tend to bloom most years with minimal care on my part.  

Spring is technically here according to the calendar, but we still have plenty of winter on the ground and icicles hanging from our roof.

[While the drop on its way down is kind of neat, I accidentally deleted the drop that was just below the end of the icicle, still suspended by a trail of water.  The whole three foot icicle, after growing for a week or two, came crashing down just after I took this picture.]

[UPDATE March 24, 2021 1:30am:  I found the deleted album on my phone and there was the other picture.  So here it is:                                                                                                          ]

But we are getting significantly more light every day.  At Anchorage's latitude we are gaining almost 6 minutes a day - an hour in 10 days.  That's just the official 'daylight' but we have much longer twilight periods than further south.  

Yesterday I pulled out my bike - the old one with the studded tires - to ride to a routine annual physical not far from our house.  

And here's rider's view on my way home.  I'm still amazed at how well the studded tires worked on the icier parts of the way home.  

This pictures in this post are for Barbara and an Anonymous commenter  in recent days lamenting the sorry state of the world.  Our news media give us a negatively skewed view of things.   

But we also have had a lot of positive things happening.  My sense is that the anger of Republicans that boiled over on January 6 is a reflection that they feel their privilege slipping away.  They, of course, don't think of it as privilege.  They still believe in various mantras that help justify why rich people are rich and poor people are poor.  Mantras that put all the onus on the individual and ignore how social norms and beliefs, economic and legal infrastructure, and the media portrayal of some ideal USA, all combine to advantage white males.  But their anger now reflects that women and people of color have made great strides toward equality.  The election of a black president brought it all home, for many.  White males no longer can assume they get to go to the front of the line.  Now women and minorities have much better access to good education and then good jobs.  Just look at how the number of women doctors and lawyers and members of Congress have increased in recent decades.  The same is true for people of color.  For example.

Our job now is to change the conditions that produce people who understand their place in the world and work to make the world more just for everyone.  No individual has to save the world.  We all just have to take care of our selves and our families and friends.  If we have energy and resources and creativity left over, then we can help others, then we can work for a happier society. 
But when we do work to improve the conditions we live in,  we should working humbly.  Not to prove how good we are.  Not to make others grateful to us.  But in recognition that we've been lucky to have what we have and that in our own gratefulness, we want to share it.  Some of what we have we have earned through our own hard work.  Some because we've been the lucky winners of the birth lottery.

But nature itself is a lottery which affects our happiness.   I've heard that, despite what one might think, more people get down during spring and early summer than other times of the year. I did double check on that and found that indeed, spring and early summer are the worst.  And it's more so further north than closer to the equator.  So I send my hoya flowers and dripping icicle to all.  May you find pockets of peace and hope that you can fill up with good stories, good friends, good food, and good ideas.  

Monday, March 22, 2021

The Law Firms That Sent In Proposals To The Alaska Redistricting Board [Updated]

Five firms responded to the Alaska Redistricting Board's RFI (Request for Information) for proposals for a legal team to advise the Board.  Two were interviewed and one was selected - contingent on negotiations about fees.  I've also highlighted the key attorneys the proposals identified as Lead and Assistant Lead.  Most firms had several other attorneys listed as well.

  • Holmes, Weddle, and Barcott
    • Former Attorney General Jahna Lindemuth lead counsel
    • Stacey Stone
  • Dorsey and Whitney
    • Jill McLeod
    • Mike Grisham
  • Schwabe, Williamson & Wyatt
    • Matt Singer will serve as Lead Attorney. 
    •  Lee Baxter will serve as Second Chair.
  • Craig Richards
    • Craig Richards, Lead Attorney was Bill Walker's Law Partner and Alaska Attorney General from 2014-2016
    • Nicole Corr
  • Birch Horton Bittner & Cherot
    • Holly Wells, Lead Attorney
    • Jennifer Alexander
The Board selected Schwabe, Williamson & Wyatt.  I'd note that the Schwabe proposals says they will have retired attorney Michael White as an advisor.  Mike was the attorney for the Board in the 2010 round of redistricting and will be a huge asset to the team.  The Board has not yet released the name of the second firm that was interviewed.  I was hoping to find that out before posting this, but I've only eliminated one firm.  Two to go.  [UPDATE March 22, 2021, 3:43pm:  The other finalist was Dorsey and Whitney.]

The Board is required to give these proposals to people who request them.  I've put them up on SCRIBD  so you can see them here.


Dorsey Whitney Proposal to ... by Steve

Schwabe Williamson Wyatt Pr... by Steve

Craig Richards Proposal to ... by Steve

Birch Horton Bittner Cherot... by Steve

I've scanned through these to see what experience each proposal said their attorneys had that was directly related to redistricting.  This is a unique specialty since redistricting only happens every ten years and unless an attorney is working for the Board or an entity that is very interested in redistricting up to the point of suing the Board, there aren't that many attorneys with direct hands-on experience.  I imagine there are other attorneys who have made redistricting a research interest, but probably not in Alaska.

Many of the firms discussed an attorney's experience with state or local government, with boards and commissions, with election law, public meetings and records, etc.  But there was relative little discussing direct experience with redistricting.  

Holmes Weddle Barcott

Jahna Lindemuth was the attorney general in the Walker administration, but as I scanned through proposal I didn't see anything in this firm about direct experience in redistricting.

Craig Richards

"Nicole A Corr: As counsel for the Alaska RedistrictingBoard in 2010, Ms. Corr is intimately familiar with the redistricting process and the specialized knowledge it takes to defend the Board and its plan.  Ms. Corr advised the Board on public hearing protocol and answered questions from the public during public meetings regarding the Board's legal obligations.  She also provided memorandums to the Board on the Alaska Open Meetings Act, interpreting the constitutional provisions applicable to theBoard, and advising compliance with the federal Voting Rights Act.  Ms. Corr served as assistant trial counsel when several entities challenged the Board's final plan, which included a two-week trial, two appeals to the Alaska Supreme Court, and a redraw within a year of adopting the final plan.  Ms. Corr successfully the Board's second plan, defeating the new challenge on summary judgment." 

Schwabe Williamson 

"In 2011, Matt [Singer] was hired by private clients interested in evaluating the Board's redistricting maps.  That work required Matt to develop a close understanding of the body of law that governs the work of the Redistricting Board.  We are well-versed in the constitutional requirements for contiguity, compactness, and socio-economic integration of house districts and will be well prepared to advise the Board about the procedural and substantive steps required by the Alaska Constitution and the Alaska Supreme Court." 

"At no additional expense to the Board, Schwabe has also arranged for retired attorney Michael White to serve as an advisor to this project. Mike was the Redistricting Board’s counsel in the 2010 round of reapportionment, and will bring a wealth of knowledge to the Team."

"For this project, Schwabe has also arranged for Michael White to serve as a senior advisor to its team. Mike represented the Alaska Redistricting Board in the 2010 reapportionment, and was lead challenger’s counsel in the 2000 redistricting litigation. Mike is the most experienced redistricting lawyer in Alaska, and will share his experience as an advisor to the Schwabe team."

Birch Horton Bittner Cherot

"Ms. [Holly] Wells' redistricting law experience includes serving on the Firm legal team representing the Petersburg Borough in connection with the 2010 redistricting plan.  During the course of that representation, Ms. Wells gained an understanding of the redistricting process and procedures, the nature of the challenges and claims that are typical in the redistricting process, and the relevant case law and authority pertaining to such claims and challenges."

Dorsey and Whitney

"Jill McLeod is a lifelong Alaskan. Born in Juneau and raised in Anchorage, Jill is deeply committed to serving the Alaska community and upholding the Alaska Constitution. In this redistricting cycle, Jill was appointed by the Chief Justice of the Alaska Supreme Court, and then elected to lead, the Redistricting Planning Committee, the committee responsible for the initial preparations and arrangements necessary for the Redistricting Board to successfully complete its work implementing Alaska’s decennial redistricting plan. During her year long tenure as the Chair of the Redistricting Planning Committee, Jill became intimately familiar with the redistricting process, voting rights, electoral system design including redistricting software, redistricting and voting rights issues pertaining to redistricting and the redistricting requirements under state and federal law, including the Voting Rights Act. With her understanding of the redistricting requirements, Jill will be able to assist the Board in preparing a defensible redistricting plan. In her role as the Chair, Jill ensured compliance with the Open Meeting Act for all public meetings."

Saturday, March 20, 2021

Is A Hate Crime Terrorism?

There's a new Hate Crimes Act in Congress.  From the LA Times yesterday:

Less than a week before eight people — including six Asian women — were killed in the Atlanta-area shootings congressional Democrats introduced legislation that would bolster the Department of Justice’s ability to address COVID-19 hate crimes.

The bill, introduced by U.S. Rep. Grace Meng (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), has been co-sponsored by more than 60 lawmakers and on Friday was endorsed by President Biden, who condemned the “ongoing crisis of gender-based and anti-Asian violence” and urged Congress to “swiftly pass the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act.”

So it seems appropriate to repost something I wrote in September 2012.  Back then I titled the post Is Terrorism A Hate Crime?  This time I've reversed the key nouns in the title. Basically, Republicans love Anti-Terror laws but not Hate Crime laws.  They argue that hate crime laws are "thought control" because you have to no the person's intent.  They ignore that intent is what makes an ordinary crime into a terrorist act.  Or that differentiates first degree murder from second and third degree murder.  

So here's the original post:

People get upset over anti-American attacks, like the consulate attack and deaths in Libya.  There's something about terrorist attacks against Americans that adds, literally, insult to injury for most Americans.  Terrorist attacks take, collectively, a minor toll on American lives compared to many other causes of death we pay little attention to.  But they get media attention far out of proportion to their actual impact.  From the Cato Institute, for example:
Any violent crime is terrible, but terrorism is extremely rare in the United States. The risk that any given American will be killed by a terrorist is about the same as the chance that a randomly selected high school football player will one day be a starting quarterback in the Super Bowl. One's chance of being killed in a terrorist attack is many times less than one's chance of drowning in a bathtub or being killed by a fall from scaffolding or a ladder. We would not adopt the "if it saves one life'' theory to justify a ban on bathtubs, even though hundreds of lives would be saved each year. Accordingly, America should reject terrorism legislation that will probably not save any lives and that demands that Americans give up things far more important than bathtubs. 
But emotionally, we are far more affected by terrorism than other causes of death.  We've been willing to compromise basic freedoms to prevent terrorism and punish terrorists  (ie, assassinations, habeas corpus violations, 'extraordinary rendition').   We've been intimidated by terrorists (or manipulated by politicians using terrorist attacks as an excuse) to spend huge amounts to invade the privacy of every airline passenger.  We've committed violence to our justice system to punish those we call terrorists.  The Obama administration's attempt to try Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in a New York federal court instead of a military court, for example, caused sharp protests.  From the Carnegie Council:
The response of prominent members of the Bush administration and other leading Republicans to the announcement was swift, as they accused the Obama administration of failing to understand the danger of trying a terrorist on US soil. A secondary concern, expressed at Attorney General Holder's testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee on November 18, was that the trial would give the accused the chance to avoid conviction. The protections of a legal team and the vagaries of juries, it was argued, could result in a suspected terrorist escaping justice.  
There is no presumed innocence until proven guilty for terrorists here.  Somehow these crimes are different, are more heinous, are less deserving of the American justice system. 
The Patriot Act was passed, in part to increase the penalties for terrorists.
From the Department of Justice website:
4. The Patriot Act increased the penalties for those who commit terrorist crimes. Americans are threatened as much by the terrorist who pays for a bomb as by the one who pushes the button. That's why the Patriot Act imposed tough new penalties on those who commit and support terrorist operations, both at home and abroad. In particular, the Act: 
  • Prohibits the harboring of terrorists. The Act created a new offense that prohibits knowingly harboring persons who have committed or are about to commit a variety of terrorist offenses, such as: destruction of aircraft; use of nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons; use of weapons of mass destruction; bombing of government property; sabotage of nuclear facilities; and aircraft piracy. 
  • Enhanced the inadequate maximum penalties for various crimes likely to be committed by terrorists: including arson, destruction of energy facilities, material support to terrorists and terrorist organizations, and destruction of national-defense materials. 
  • Enhanced a number of conspiracy penalties, including for arson, killings in federal facilities, attacking communications systems, material support to terrorists, sabotage of nuclear facilities, and interference with flight crew members. Under previous law, many terrorism statutes did not specifically prohibit engaging in conspiracies to commit the underlying offenses. In such cases, the government could only bring prosecutions under the general federal conspiracy provision, which carries a maximum penalty of only five years in prison.
  • Punishes terrorist attacks on mass transit systems. 
  • Punishes bioterrorists.
  • Eliminates the statutes of limitations for certain terrorism crimes and lengthens them for other terrorist crimes.
There is something different about a lone angry man shooting up a theater and a terrorist who does the same thing.  The latter apparently commits a crime that is even worse than the former.  It's murder plus. One difference seems to be intent.

Here's how the US Congress has defined terrorism 18 USC §2331 from Cornell Law:
As used in this chapter—
(1) the term “international terrorism” means activities that— 
(A) involve violent acts or acts dangerous to human life that are a violation of the criminal laws of the United States or of any State, or that would be a criminal violation if committed within the jurisdiction of the United States or of any State;
(B) appear to be intended— 
(i) to intimidate or coerce a civilian population;
(ii) to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion; or
(iii) to affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination, or kidnapping; and
(C) occur primarily outside the territorial jurisdiction of the United States, or transcend national boundaries in terms of the means by which they are accomplished, the persons they appear intended to intimidate or coerce, or the locale in which their perpetrators operate or seek asylum;
These are acts as 1(A) tells us, that are already illegal and now are getting the extra label of terrorism added to them.   

The Justice Department defines Hate Crimes on its website : 
Hate crime is the violence of intolerance and bigotry, intended to hurt and intimidate someone because of their race, ethnicity, national origin, religious, sexual orientation, or disability. The purveyors of hate use explosives, arson, weapons, vandalism, physical violence, and verbal threats of violence to instill fear in their victims, leaving them vulnerable to more attacks and feeling alienated, helpless, suspicious and fearful. Others may become frustrated and angry if they believe the local government and other groups in the community will not protect them. When perpetrators of hate are not prosecuted as criminals and their acts not publicly condemned, their crimes can weaken even those communities with the healthiest race relations. 
What the two acts - hate crimes and terrorism - seem to have in common are:
  • Violence
  • Intent to intimidate (and I think coerce plays a role in hate crimes too, though the word isn't used in the definition above.) 
If you read white supremacist or white nationalist websites, there is also a clear  goal to change government policies related to race (usually separate the races to save whiteness)  and there is talk of inevitable civil war in the US.  I won't link to those sites, you'll have to find them on your own.

Given the similarity between terrorism and hate crimes, why is there opposition to hate crimes laws by people who support anti-terrorism laws?   

For instance a statement by House Majority leader Boehner (from CBS News):
All violent crimes should be prosecuted vigorously, no matter what the circumstance," he said. "The Democrats' 'thought crimes' legislation, however, places a higher value on some lives than others. Republicans believe that all lives are created equal, and should be defended with equal vigilance." 
To be fair to Boehner, CBS contacted his office to see if he objected to all hate crime legislation or just adding gender and sexual orientation:

In an email, Boehner spokesman Kevin Smith said Boehner "supports existing federal protections (based on race, religion, gender, etc) based on immutable characteristics." 
It should be noted that the current law does not include gender, though the expanded legislationwould cover gender as well as sexual orientation, gender identity and disability.

"He does not support adding sexual orientation to the list of protected classes," Smith continued.
Of course, religion is NOT an immutable  characteristic.  People choose to change religions all the time and while individual sexual acts may be choices, sexual orientation surely isn't.  But that's besides the point here.

Another legislator also saw the idea of hate crimes as creating "thought" crimes: 
Rep. Tom Price, who heads the GOP conservative caucus, also complained last week that the expansion of hate crimes legislation amounted to "thought crimes," and he labeled the bill's passage – tied to a defense bill – an "absolute disgrace." 

But contacted about his position on hate crimes legislation overall, Price took a different position than Boehner. According to Price communications director Brendan Buck, the congressman opposes all hate crimes protections, including existing ones. 

"We believe all hate crimes legislation is unconstitutional and places one class of people above others," said Buck.
Intent, of course, is the basis for finding someone guilty of murder.  No one cries "thought police" there.  And despite the law, despite Boehner's assertion that "all lives are created equal, and should be defended with equal vigilance,"  the ACLU points out that some murder victims get less vigorous legal attention than others. 
While white victims account for approximately one-half of all murder victims, 80% of all Capital cases involve white victims. Furthermore, as of October 2002, 12 people have been executed where the defendant was white and the murder victim black, compared with 178 black defendants executed for murders with white victims. 
The emotional attachment of the public and of officials affects how they react to events.

The hatred of a specific group of people makes a normal crime into a hate crime.  It's not  just about the criminal and victim, but about all people who share the targeted characteristic of the victim, whether it's race or religion or gender.

In terrorism, we have the same reaction - it isn't about what the victim did, but who the victim was - an American.  I'm an American, so I too could be randomly victimized if I'm traveling abroad.    The impact is wider and stronger because of the intent of the terrorist to use violence to intimidate anyone who is a member of the group American, just as in hate crimes.

Where's this all going?

I would hope that at least some of the readers can see where this is leading.  For some people - especially those who live in a society in which they are among the dominant population (ie a white male Christian in the US) and are never victimized because of their personal characteristics - it is hard to understand the effect of hate crimes on individuals within that group and on the group collectively.  (Though some people who call themselves Christians claim they are discriminated against.)

It seems to me that when the idea of America is attacked - as when the world trade center was destroyed - Americans react the same as members of traditionally victimized groups (racial and religious minorities, women, gays, etc.).

Even if they can't feel  what an African-American feels when seeing a Confederate flag, perhaps they can understand it's the same way they feel when they see video of planes crashing into the World Trade Center.  It doesn't diminish their feelings to know that the Confederate flag can cause the same feeling to many African-Americans.  It's like translating an emotional context from one culture to another.  

That, of course, assumes logic and consistency, and a real desire for the ideals of democracy and freedom.  There are many who are too fearful to be concerned about anyone else.  There are many whose goals are simply personal benefit and for whom American ideals are merely tools to use to get their own way. (Using American slogans to convince people to vote for them.)

And, there are some who, while emotionally impacted by crimes against the US, would advocate that terrorists deserve no more and no less punishment than those who commit similar crimes without an ideological or political motive.

But deep down, we're all humans who should be able to understand all this.   Even Clarence Thomas spoke up when the Supreme Court considered a cross-burning case and convinced his black robed colleagues that cross burnings were more than free speech, they were acts of intimidation.

Symbolic acts can intimidate and cause other real harm, beyond any direct physical harm to the victim.  


Thursday, March 18, 2021

Lots of FaceTime With My Granddaughter, Blog Suffers, But World's A Better Place

My oldest granddaughter is eight.  She's been FaceTiming with me fairly regularly.  Also teaching me the whole emoji alphabet and how to custom design emoticons.  And she shares her explorations with the effects options.  She also plays the piano for me. In exchange I've been providing an appreciative audience. And loving challenges.  I've been  introducing codes.  We've had a lot of exchanges where every second letter is the real one.  Slbigkne rtshwims.  And I've finally got her working with me on the newspaper Cryptoquotes.  And she dazzled me with her magic trick of making a toothpick disappear and reappear.  Her calls come whenever and I just don't think there is anything I can do that is more important than being available for her.  

But there was also a local Citizen Climate Lobby meeting yesterday.  I helped tutor reading in my granddaughter's class via zoom.  That's easier than it sounds.  I just sit there and listen to first and second graders read books they've chosen.  

And Wednesday is the zoom with my SF grandkids for a couple of hours.  And I've been keeping up with my DuoLingo Spanish (I'm taking a break from the Turkish - they started introducing too many new words and grammar patterns at once.)  

After dark - it gets later and later now - is Netflix time, though their algorithm is now sending us lots of bloody sword fight combat movies.  This seems to have started by our watching Marco Polo - which is an interesting fictionalized account of Polo's time in Mongolia with Kubla Khan.  There are some bloody hand to hand battles with swords.  Not my thing, but getting a sense of the history, even fictionalized, was interesting. The costume designers must have been in heaven.  This led to The King - about Hal and Falstaff moving up to King and his general and a lot of blood and swords as they attack France.  

That's when the algorithm seems to have gone crazy.  We got offered Age of the Samurai; Rise of Empires: Ottoman.  All take place around the 15th Century and include lots of battle scenes which include sword fighting, some rudimentary guns, catapults, and some canons to break down the walls of sieged cities.  The blood and guts has gotten too much for us. A couple episodes were enough. We passed when they offered The Lost Pirate Kingdom.  When we do watch these sorts of shows, we have to clean our our brains with something sweeter, like the Great British Baking Show.  

But there are lots of more serious things I want to blog about, but those things take more time.  There's lots that needs to be done on the Alaska Redistricting Board, like profiles of the Board members and some contextual pieces on how to evaluate how much the final maps have been gerrymandered.  I'm also trying to get information on the law firm that was chosen to advise the Board.  

So, no, I've not abandoned the blog - and I do update the Alaska COVID numbers daily (see the tabs up top.)  And thanks to the commenters on the last post.  I'm thinking about what they wrote.  

And while I'm rambling, some thoughts from reading today's obituaries:

"... is survived by his loving wife. . .; children . . . ; two snakes; a goldfish; a turtle; and a cat."

". . .  and gave hugs to family and friends to show how much he cared for them and never wanted anyone to feel left out or unloved." 

The second one, about the hugs, relates to another issue I've been thinking about - the evolution of what men are allowed to do in their relationships with women.  While many Republicans may have been distressed by Trump's admitted (on the tape) use of his star power to abuse women, they still voted for him.  Meanwhile, they're all aboard in calling for Gov. Cuomo to resign.  

This obituary raises a cultural issue about touching and hugging.  Some people grew up in families where hugging is a natural form of greeting.  (In France people kiss each other on the cheeks as a form of greeting.)  So when men come from hugging families and cultures, that kind of greeting for someone you care about, is usually pretty innocent.  But for a woman who comes from a family with little or no affectionate touching, or who has been abused, those touches can have a very different meaning.  I'm not downplaying the ways men abuse their power to make sexual overtures to women who work for them.  I even suspect a fair amount of male support of Trump is in support of their own right to rule over women.  But I am saying that in some cases it may not be about power or sex, but simply cultural differences in how people show platonic affection.    

I'd also note that in this second obituary, there are long lists of people who preceded him in death and those who survived him, including "his pride and joy" two sons.  But nowhere could I find mention of the mother of those two sons.

So, this is to let you know I'm not brain dead.  More like overloaded.      

Friday, March 12, 2021

Who Isn't Delusional?

I've been thinking out a blog post about delusions.  The title has been up as a draft for a while.  My basic premise here was something like:

Lots of so called progressives believe Trump supporters are delusional because they believe the election was stolen, despite all the evidence, despite the 60 plus court cases decided against Trump's claim, in many cases by conservative judges, even Trump appointees.  (And I agree that the stolen election story is fabricated and those who believe it are deluding themselves.)

But then, I was going to go on and argue that everyone - of all political persuasions - believe in their own delusions.  To some degree, most Americans have believed to some extent the following untruths.  

"Freedom and Justice for All"  - even though there was slavery, then Jim Crow, and then  continuing economic and justice systems that create obstacles for people of color and women that make achieving "The American Dream" much more difficult than it is for white males.  (Not impossible, but more difficult.)  This is fine as an aspiration, but it's a delusion when it's used to cover the gross inequities due to racist and sexist policies and administration of those policies.

The US gives billions of dollars in aid to help poor people around the world - when in reality helping humanity is the last of the three key goals of these programs.  According to, a 2019 Congressional Research Service report   they key objectives are National Security, Commercial Interests, and the Humanitarian.  

"Commercial Interests. Foreign assistance has long been defended as a way to either promote U.S. exports by creating new customers for U.S. products or by improving the global economic environment in which U.S. companies compete."

Often the Humanitarian goals are linked to supporting the commercial interests.  It's how the budgets get passed in Congress - appealing to the benefits to a member's district and/or funders. So, in essence, while we proclaim that we are being humanitarian by helping the world, that humanitarian aid tends to help the US economy by requiring all the aid items - from food to weapons - to be grown or made in the US.  Such aid can also undercut the farmers or businesses of the country getting the aid. And that aid is often used to prop up dictators in countries we have an economic interest in and also to be a soft bribe for support of the US in international bodies - like the UN. 

I have a personal relationship with . . . my god - people with different religions - even different variations of the same religion - believe in different creation stories, different beliefs about what happens after death, about women and LGBTQ folks, and have varying ideas about the role of their gods in daily life.    Some people believe their religious teachings literally and others metaphorically.  But many people of different beliefs, believe fervently that their beliefs are the only true ones.  

What's good for General Motors is good for the US - that capitalism is what makes us a great country, when in fact unbridled capitalism, that doesn't deal with the inherent flaws of capitalism such as monopolies and externalities, doesn't benefit the US or the world.  Instead it leads to the worship of money to the detriment of all other values.  Even people who understand this, look the other way as they continue to order boxes from Amazon even as that system destroys the natural world to extract resources and creates punishing work conditions for many of its employees and seeks to monopolize the market itself..  The need for continuing growth leads to destroying the ocean through destructive fishing technologies and plastic wastes, to bulldozing forests for wood, destroying not only the trees, but the habitats of millions of species of plants and animals. We have to go to the moon and Mars to find rare minerals to keep our phones and other electronics working. And this system disrupts indigenous cultures around the world in the need to turn people into consumers.

We should all recycle - While recycling has benefits, the way we do it raises real questions.  From, The Walrus:

The limitations of a market-driven system mean that, once industrial- and commercial-waste streams are factored in, about two-thirds of Canadian waste still ends up in landfills.

It helps us feel better about the waste we produce: according to one estimate, 850 kilograms of garbage, per capita, every year.

And so as these delusions are revealed, we come to the next delusion. 

"There's nothing I can do about it" - even though we spout maxims like "You can do anything you set your mind to" we also ignore issues like Climate Change or police killings of blacks because "there's nothing I can do about it."  Although we say we live in a democracy and that gives us freedoms to change things for the better, it's so much easier to be distracted by our consumer toys - from snow machines to hover boards to video games and Netflix movies - than to actually take the responsibility to do the work that keeping a democracy functioning as a democracy.  

Basically, we've all absorbed -from our parents, religious leaders, schools, and the various means of mass communications - a lot of delusions about how our country and the world work.  And the more we personally benefit from something the better we are at ignoring the inconvenient truths that poke holes in our beliefs.  We see the good in something when it suits our values forgetting how it also harms us.  So liberals look on with smug satisfaction,  as law enforcement uses facial recognition technology to find and arrest Trump supporters who joined the insurrection   But they forget that they protested the use of these very same technologies when they were used against Black Lives Matter protesters.  

While some of this was written, I hadn't really pulled it all together yet.  

And then this morning on NPR,  Shankar Vedantam was talking about his new book - Useful Delusions.  The interview covers a lot of what I've been thinking about, but adds the idea that delusions can be useful.  

I've considered this too, but I think there's a difference between the wonder of watching a magic trick, yet knowing it's an illusion, and actually believing it the woman was cut in half and then put back together.   I have no problem with those who find one of many competing religions helpful because they give hope, if they understand their religion isn't necessarily the one true faith AND if they don't use their religion's beliefs to limit the freedoms of other people.  

Shankar talks about people who were scammed online by a man pretending to be a woman but defended that man because his love letters brought them hope and joy.  I'm guessing many of these people, deep down, understood this was a fantasy relationship.  But what about the others who gave this online lover money they couldn't afford to give and whose lives were hurt badly in the end?

In any case you can read the interview highlights here, or listen to the whole interview below.  

Thursday, March 11, 2021

Pictures After A Snowy Night

 They said we'd get 4-6 inches of snow overnight.  I decided to put my car in the driveway before the snow hit.  We have a one car driveway.  My wife's all-wheel drive Subaru with studded tires is in the garage.  I don't drive my van much in the winter and getting up our sloped driveway can be tricky if it's icy and the street is slushy with six inches of new snow.  Slushy doesn't quite describe the snow today, because it wasn't wet.  But it didn't give much grip.  Slushy like dry sand.  So this morning I was glad the van was in the driveway when I started shoveling.  I actually measured the snow this time - it was 14.5 inches deep.  

My windshield, even though it was it was a couple of feet from the garage door, had a serious amount of snow.  In the afternoon I had an errand to do and went by foot.  Our street hasn't been plowed.  But a nearby street I went along was plowed and I'm guessing it was the truck with the plow in one of the driveways that cleared the street.  Even the little footpath from the end of the street into the parking lot was well cleared.  

And the bikepath/sidewalk had been cleared already along Lake Otis.

That wasn't the case along Tudor.  There was knee deep packed snow - looked like it was pushed there by the plows clearing the road.  There were, however, previous footsteps into the snow that were better than if it was just deep snow.  I was able to use some of the plowed parking lots.  

It was nice to see the "Masks Required" sign flashing on the bus.  

Because walking on Tudor was so unpleasant, I slipped into the Campbell Creek greenbelt on the way home to get me back to Lake Otis.  I'd note that Lake Otis is cleared by the Municipality of Anchorage and Tudor by the State.  

The only clue that Campbell Creek is running below snow here is 

[March 12 update I'm adding this picture which is the same view in October - if you look closely you can see the leaning trees in both. One of the things I love about living in Anchorage is that there are two entirely different worlds - the dark, white world of winter and light, green world of summer.]

now continued from above]  that it's a narrow, winding  strip of snow with no trees and has bridges over it here and there.  Like this one below.

And here are two ravens high up in a cottonwood tree.

Because the walking route I've been taking lately doesn't get into the greenbelt along the creek, I've forgotten how pretty it is there.  And with all the snow it was a real delight.  

Wednesday, March 10, 2021

AK Redistricting Board Selects Schwabe, Williamson, and Wyatt For Legal Counsel

I missed the Board Meeting on Saturday afternoon and so I waited until the audio tape was up to report it. I'd note that the recordings are available at a different legislative website than before because the previous meetings were still during the 31st legislative session and now we are in the 32 legislative session. 

They are also up on the Board's own website, but you have to look a bit.  There's a  ≡ symbol in the upper right hand corner of the website and a click there will give you a drop-down menu with some additional pages, including one for "Minutes and Audio."

I'd also note that I used Board Members' first names, because that's how they identify themselves and each other and mentally trying to substitute last names as I listen really slows me down.  No disrespect intended.

Meeting Highlights

1.  Legal services selection - Board had five responses to the Request For Information.  They interviewed two firms and selected Schwabe, Williamson, and Wyatt.  There are still some negotiations to finalize the agreement ahead. 

2.  Protocol for meeting and information requests from public - Board decided to hold off this decision until Schwabe is on board and can help with potential legal issues for deciding this.  Since Census data have been delayed, this shouldn't be a problem.

3.  Time for public testimony at regular meetings - The Board decided to set aside time to do this at meetings.  There was also discussion of using the Anchorage legislative info office for future meetings and that with COVID restrictions loosening in Anchorage, this could be soon.

4.  Next meeting Friday, March 26 at 2:30pm

Below are my notes after listening to the tape.  The numbers are time on the audio tape at:

It was much easier taking notes from the tape than it is from a live meeting.  I cleaned things up a bit, but remember this is a rough transcript, but it should let you know what was discussed and where you can find things, more or less, on the tape.

4:18  John - Call the meeting to order and ask Peter to take roll and establish quorum. 

John:  Draft agenda.  Legal services and meeting protocols.  Motion to adopt agenda.  Adopted. 

First item is discussion of legal service RFI and responses - ask Peter to go through the process up to this point

6:05 Peter:  Legal process - Constitution Article 6 Section 9 requires board to contract for  

Alaska Constitution Article  6 § 9. Board Actions  
The board shall elect one of its members chairman and may employ temporary assistants. Concurrence of three members of the Redistricting Board is required for actions of the Board, but a lesser number may conduct hearings. The board shall employ or contract for services of independent legal counsel. [Amended 1998]
independent counsel.  RFI in January - five responses obtained.  We are required by law to keep them confidential until decision made.  After that we can share with the public who request it.

Board subcommittee picked two.  First firm had multi-slide presentation on how to avoid litigation and if we get sued, perhaps,  how to prevail.  

Second interview also went well - firm offered a question and answer format. Frank  discussion  about litigation strategy.what to expect and how the Board should prepare.

Thanks to both firms for candid advice.  Board has had several days to consider the interviews.  How to proceed.

John:  Did discuss in Executive Session (ES.)  Do we want to go back to ES?

Budd:  I think we want to - hard to understand - we had a total of 5 firms that responded.  All fiver were good, well regarded firms.  Hard to narrow down, but two that had a little more horse power or something going for them that got them to the interviews.  Let them know all were good and hard to get to short list.  Move to ES to discuss legal counsel.  Relying on - involving consideration of public records not allowed by law for public disclose.


John:  A couple of items we asked the ED to return to law firms to discuss with them financial arrangements  and fee structures etc. and I think that's appropriate to discuss in ES.  We'll be back in public session to make decision.  Don't know how long.  Hope less than 30 minutes.  Back into public session.  Legislative telecom folks to work that out.  

12:26  recording:  "You've been muted"

31 minutes in, unmuted.

John:  Out of ES.  Chance to discuss further nuances of responses:

Budd:  Based on discussion and interviews and five proposals I would make motion that we select Schwabe, Williamson and Wyatt Firm - subject to negotiation and execution of a satisfactory agreement.

2nded - 

John:  Discussion

Melanie - Call the question.

John:  Objection?  Passed by unanimous consent.  Will ask ED, Budd and Nicole to put that agreement together.

Budd:  Along the lines of the quality of the other responding firms, ask that ED prepare nice letters to other respondent firms, thanking them for interest and quality of responses, indicating it was difficult selection, but we have selected Schwabe.  

John:  I know it takes time to put these together and we're genuinely appreciative.

35:  Next is protocol

Peter:  Draft on the website.  We're going to forward to help evaluate.  Board members can assist and ask for assistance.  Record from last cycle says we'll get a lot of these.  Reporting them as they come in is the best way.  

John:  Discussion?

Bethany - this is for private presentations, not public hearings, right?  

Peter:  Yes, if Board member requests and we'll forward to you.  

Bethany - Someone private group requests meeting with Board meeting.  

Melanie - I was going to ask if ever going to open LIO line to let people ask questions of us?

John:  Good idea

Peter:  Anchorage opening up restrictions and reached out to Anchorage LIO and they have big room and people can actually see us.  Happy to allow us to use when not used by other legislative body.  So Public Meetings in the future.

Melanie - Then can I suggest public comments allowed in future meetings.  Nome is relaxing travel regs too for people to travel, so my ability to travel is opening up.

John - hopefully by spring or summer can get back to regular meetings.  Peter and I will review with law firm how we interact with public - both in public and privately - so we don't get challenged on this in future litigation.

???:  I propose we wait then on this until we can hear from the law firm.  

???:  Since data is so delayed, we have plenty of time until we have attorneys on our payroll.

John:  next, unless comments, we are at item 7 - adjournment.

Nicole - want to thank Budd for his leadership on dealing with the law firm selection, a pleasure working with him.

John - Leg teleconferencing crew, we appreciate your help, especially coming in on a Saturday.

???:  Confirm next meeting.

Peter:  Proposed March 26, 2:30pm.  And will try to preload meetings for second Friday.  Anyone can request to be on email alert list.  

John - also lets start taking public testimony at next meeting.  

Nicole second motion to adjourn.  Adjourned  45 min.  

Sunday, March 07, 2021

White Privilege, Underprivilege, and White Supremecy

 We hear a lot about 'privilege' these days.  Whites, particularly males, deny they have any special privileges.  Blacks and other people of color insist whites do have privilege.  This use of the term seems to be of recent currency, though for some white folks, the first introduction to the term 'white privilege' came in 1989 in Peggy McIntosh's article, White Privilege:  Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack.  She brought the point home by asking people to answer 26 questions such as:

13. I can speak in public to a powerful male group without putting my race on trial.

14. I can do well in a challenging situation without being called a credit to my race.

15. I am never asked to speak for all the people of my racial group.

But I'd like to point out that white folks unconsciously acknowledged the idea of privilege (if not exactly white privilege) well before that. As we looked for more delicate terms for 'poor' we hit upon "underprivileged."

"Synonyms of underprivileged

Find synonyms for:  


1. underprivileged (vs. privileged), deprived, disadvantaged, underclass(prenominal), poor, unfortunate

usage: lacking the rights and advantages of other members of society"

Jeff Kunnerth wrote in the  Orlando Sun in 1989:

Euphemisms have eliminated old people from America, a place now populated by "senior citizens." They have done away with the poor, retarded and ambitious, replacing them with the "underprivileged," the "mentally handicapped" and the "upwardly mobile."

 And people in the US tended to think of blacks as poor, so underprivileged has a racial tinge too.

Writing in 2009, Marcus Bell, in  Reflections of Whiteness: The Origins, Progression, and Maintenance of White, writes:  

"Today there is a term used to describe people who are at the bottom of the socio- economic spectrum. The term is “underprivileged.” This can be applied to poor people, minorities, women, or any group of people who are now, and have historically been exploited or discriminated against. Paraphrasing Tim Wise (2004), the passive voice of the term underprivileged implies that no one did anything. “It’s as if one day someone said ‘here is privilege and I’ll be damned, there you are under it’” (p. 36). This addresses the overall structure of American society as it pertains to race. Speaking socially, culturally, politically, and economically, America was initially shaped and flourished under the banner of white supremacy. As a result, America has established generally accepted “race neutral” policies that inherently advantage whites but are not considered racist because these policies do not specifically mention race."

So, the term "underprivileged" has been around a long time and has been used as a euphemism of poor.

As Bell writes, the term doesn't mention race. It just implies people who did not get all the 'privileges.'  Who then, gets the privileges?  

The implication - since this is about being poor - is people who aren't poor.  The term, again, following Bell, doesn't mention social, economic, and political structures that keep the poor 'underprivileged.'  It's a step up from the belief that the poor are poor because they are simply lazy and don't want to work, but not by much.  It still implies that fixing the problem means fixing the individuals by providing them something that will allow them to get out of poverty.  

This is a long introduction to the idea that the term "White Privilege" doesn't ring true to many whites.  

First, because 'underprivileged' means to them neutral (race-less) poverty.  Privilege, in reverse, is not something you get because of race, but by having enough money. 

Second, whites, particularly blue collar males, in the US have seen their economic status slip over the years.  Unions that protected them have been badly weakened.  Blue collar jobs have been sent overseas or lost to automation. Pensions have evolved from defined benefit to defined contribution, or disappeared altogether. Health insurance tied to jobs disappeared with the jobs. Minimum wage has been stagnant while maximum wage seems to be limitless for the few.  Though, Republicans have blamed the change in economic security on others - particularly immigrants - who are willing to work their jobs for less money.

So, when people talk about White Privilege, these folks don't see any privilege attached to being white.  They see it attached to not being poor. And as their own economic situation worsens, they feel more and more that they themselves are underprivileged.  So their whiteness gives them no special privileges.  They don't see that their whiteness gives them a privileges compared to blacks in their same economic situation.  

And while it's true that a larger percentage of blacks and other POC are poor than whites, whites still make up the largest number of poor people of any ethnic group.

And, of course, this doesn't account for the whites who still are economically comfortable.  What they can see, though, is that today they are competing for jobs with women and POC.  In the 50s and 60s this was pretty much NOT the case.  Women were to stay home and take care of the kids, and POC were simply not  given access to the better jobs.  These are people whose power was taken for granted.  And with the idea of the work ethic part of the mythos of the United States, those who succeeded understood it was because of their own superiority and hard work, not the fact that women and blacks were not in the competition.  

The ironic part of all this is that we now 'see' whiteness.  White people conscious now, in a way they weren't 40 years ago, that they belong to a group called white.  Sure, they knew that in the past, but then it was conflated with American.  Now, lots of people who are not white, are also claiming their equal rights as Americans.  

I think it's the losing of privilege that is freaking whites out.  And their resistance, in part, stems from still being in denial that their relative good life in the past was due, not to their own merit, but to their own privilege compared to people of color.  

And some are coming out from hiding and declaring publicly the supremacy of whiteness.