Friday, December 31, 2021

Sun And Rain In LA Keep Me Distracted

 There's been a lot of rain here in LA.  For LA anyway.  It was one day rain, the next day sun, then rain.  We just finished two days of steady rain, but today the sun's out.  But with all this, trying to be on vacation yet get things done and gramping, I totally missed Wednesday's hearing.  And while the Superior court has it live on video, they don't leave the recorded (was it recorded?) video up for people to see later.  But they're still talking technical, procedural stuff.  Though listening in would have given me some hints of things might go.  Next meeting is next Wednesday.  But meanwhile here's some LA.

Sunday was sunny and I went for a bike ride with B, an Alaskan friend who's moved down here to be near kids and grandkids.  He took this picture of a house in Marina Del Rey.  This is NOT a typical house.  

It had this sign in the lower left.

Some gentlemen fishing at the boat docks in Marina del Rey.  

Monday morning it was still sunny, but clouds were rolling in as we went to Will Rogers State Park for a hike back into my earlier life.  This is where Will Rogers lived.  His house is there and there's a polo field that's active on weekends.  And also a trail that loops around the property.  

The rain was a fine mist by this point.

All tree bark fascinates me, but eucalyptus trees hold a special place

Here's Will Roger's stable/barn in the wet Monday.

And here it is when it was finished in 1927.

One of the things I like about this park is that it's surrounded by chaparral covered hills.  A smell that takes me back to childhood.  I think it might be why I like David Hockney's swimming pool picture, which I once had to recreate digitally in a computer art class I took.  It was painted at a house not far from here with hills like this in the background. I want you all to know I really liked this picture well before it sold for $100 million.  

In the past when I've hiked this trail I've seen coveys of California quail.  But not this time. 

It was raining when we went to the cemetery to put flowers on my mom's and other family members' graves.  When my brother died young, my mother went to the cemetery weekly to keep fresh flowers from her garden on his space on the wall.  My mom was a lab technician and X-ray technician and so she filled test tubes with water and taped them to the wall.  Many years later, the cemetery got plastic vases and put holders up on the wall.  My inlaws and step father were added to the wall, and more recently my mom.  So when I'm down here I gather flowers - mainly epidendrum, what my mom called 'poor man's orchids' and jade plants - because the last longer.  
A couple of years ago I filled some of the vases with soil and put  jade plant in.  When we came again nearly a year later, they were still alive.  One of the cemetery caretakers was making sure they got water.  Because of COVID I wasn't sure what I would find this time.  We haven't been there for almost two years.  But I shouldn't have worried.  Each vase had a healthy jade plant, one had a different succulent, alive and thriving.  We added the flowers we brought and I have to leave a thank you for the caregiver before we return to Anchorage.

Nearby my mom's spot is this one.  

Yesterday it was raining again.  I had an appointment in Beverly Hills with the eye doctor who's been checking my contacts since 1975.  I took my granddaughter with me and she had a number of questions.  

They had a COVID testing site in the parking lot.  
And most of the nearby shops (but not all) had very COVID warnings.

oops, this one needed higher res, sorry

These were near where we parked the car and I thought they were pretty.  Picture didn't turn out that well.
After we went by a park where both my wife and I attended summer camp.  We didn't know each other then at all.  We only found out we'd both been there when I found an old camp picture in my mom's garage, after she died.  I should my wife my 8 year old self and she then pointed out her own image on the picture.  

They've take out most of the features that made it a wonderful place for kids - different spaces separated by different kinds of bushes and a swimming pool on one end.  The pool is gone - the the playground there was blocked off yesterday by tape because there were several inches of water.  This trail was the nicest part of the park now - and it was a giant puddle.  Basically they wiped out all the park and put in two baseball diamonds.  
And driving home down Olympic, the clouds were playing hide and seek with the tops of the buildings in Century City.  

Today's sunny again, and so we have a bike ride scheduled.  We got the brakes fixed on my granddaughter's bike and she wants to use it.  

Tuesday, December 28, 2021

AK Redistricting: The Valdez Challenge Part 1 - #s 5, 4, and 1- How Do You Solve A Problem Like Valdez?

I've been taking notes and trying to figure out how to post about this in a way that gets the point across, without putting everyone to sleep.  But that, of course, assumes I know the point.  Sunday, I came up with this overview of my dilemma.

This chart is more or less in the order I tackled the problem.  But at this point it seems to make more sense to start with 5 and go backwards.  [I've since decided to add #1 at the end of this post.] 

NUMBER 5:  Probably the easiest for me and for the reader is to start with number 5.  

This is what's been playing in my head for a while and I think it's apt:

"How do you solve a problem like Maria,  How do you catch a cloud and pin it down"

So you can listen to this song as you read this:

Valdez has about 4000 people.  There are no other similar population centers anywhere near Valdez. The closest population centers are Anchorage, Mat-Su, and Fairbanks - but they aren't very close.  Southeast Alaska has four districts worth of population.  It basically has to go up from the south because the southern and eastern borders are Canada.  The western border is the Pacific Ocean.  I've thought they could use Prince Rupert, but, of course, they can't.  

Valdez has been paired with Mat-Su and it's been paired with the Richardson Highway up almost to Fairbanks.  Essentially, Valdez is the thorn in redistricting boards' side.  It's essentially a white oil community connected by water to fishing communities and by land to some areas with more Alaska Natives.  

So lets go to #4 and look at maps.

NUMBER 4:  Where is Valdez now and where did the different proposed maps put Valdez?

First, let's look at the current district that includes Valdez - from the 2013 Proclamation plan. [Not interactive.] I've circled Valdez in red - bottom, middle right.  The district goes to Whittier in Prince William Sound, includes the Richardson Highway communities along the pipeline (Valdez is the terminus of the Alaska pipeline) almost up to Fairbanks and also goes into Mat-Su. 

Click on image to enlarge

Second, let's look at the 2021 Proclamation map for Valdez - in D 29.  The link will let you look at the map in greater detail.  This is the map that Valdez is protesting. 

District 29-O does NOT include the Richardson Highway, nor does it go anywhere near Fairbanks or the other communities along the pipeline.  Instead it goes deep into Mat-Su, smack up against Palmer and Wasilla.  But in this district, since the Richardson Highway is mostly in the neighboring district, people in Wasilla driving to the Matsu part of their district have to travel out of D-29 on the Richardson Highway.  Below you can see how Route 4 - the Richardson Highway - is in the tan colored district (36-R), the district the Valdez folks want to be in.  Not only is Valdez in a different House district, but also a different Senate district.  If you look at the map on the Board's website, you can see that for the most part the Highway is in District 36-R.  (If it weren't, then the people in 36-R would have to leave their district to travel to other communities in their district.  But this raises questions of contiguity, a Constitutional requirement for districts.  

Third, AFFER and Senate Minority Plans put Valdez with Kodiak and goes into the Lake and Peninsula Borough, bordering Anchorage from the west and Mat-Su from the west and south.  These two maps are very similar - I can only see some differences around the Homer area.  This is probably not surprising because the architects of these maps - Randy Ruedrich and Tom Begich - have been doing this for years and this reflects a similar current district that connects Cordova to Kodiak. (But does not include Valdez.)

Fourth, we have the Doyon Coalition map.  They've put Prince William Sound all together in one district - with Cordova and Whittier.  But it cuts Valdez from the Richardson Highway communities the lawsuit says they belong with, and also takes the district to the edge of Palmer in Mat-Su.  But this looks like the most compact district.  The Coalition wants to keep various Native Corporation villages in the same districts.  

Fifth, we have the AFFR map.  This puts Valdez in a sprawling district that does keep them connected with the Richardson Highway communities, almost into Fairbanks, around Fairbanks, and also gets them into Mat-Su near Palmer.  But the few people who mentioned specific maps at the Valdez hearing said they preferred this map.  

Finally, we have a map - Valdez Option 1 - that is attached to the lawsuit - which Valdez is proposing.

It connects Valdez with Prince William Sound communities of Cordova and Whittier and goes up along the Richardson Highway.  But it would also require the Board to make a LOT of changes to other districts and there will be complaints from the Doyon Coalition among others I'm sure.

So this should give you something to chew on.  I've put links to the Board's interactive maps for each of these maps so you can see the details if you wish.  

I'm also going to skip to #1 - an outline of the Valdez legal challenge, with my additions in blue.  Part 2 will be #3 and #2.  


I've condensed the filings and added (in blue)  some of the things they've cited or notes you I thought would help


  1.   On November 10, 2021, the Alaska Redistricting Board (“Board”), pursuant to its constitutional authority under Article VI of the Alaska Constitution, promulgated a new redistricting plan to govern legislative elections in Alaska for the next decade. This plan places Valdez into House and Senate Districts in violation of 
    1. The Open Meetings Act, 
    2. Article VI, Sections 6 and 10 of the Alaska Constitution, and 
    3. the equal protection and 
    4. due process clauses of the Alaska Constitution. 
    5. This Complaint seeks 
      1. judicial review of the Board’s redistricting plan and 
      2. an order invalidating that plan and 
      3. requiring the Board to redraw the districts in accordance with the Alaska Constitution


2-11 - City of Valdez, and Mark Detter, a resident of Valdez, 

The Board and each member.




14- 42  There are almost 30 allegations here.  It would have been more helpful if these were better tied to the Five Claims at the end.  One has to go through these 28 allegations and match them to the claims.  I’ll try.  

First Claim - Violation of the Open Meetings Act

43-48  Gets you to Open Meetings Act - not long, but too much to add it all here

43. Paragraphs 1 through 42 are incorporated as if fully set forth herein.   

44. The Board, as a governmental body of a public entity of the state, is subject to the requirements of AS 44.62.310-320 (“Opening Meetings Act”). The deliberations and decisions of the Board are activities covered by the Open Meetings Act.

45. Upon information and belief, the Board has violated the Open Meetings Act in the following ways:

(a) It conducted deliberations in secret. 

(b) It failed to properly conduct votes.

(c) It conducted a serial meeting.

(d) It withheld documents from the public that were used in formulating the final redistricting plan.

(e) It failed to clearly and with specificity state the subject(s) of each executive session or its reasons for addressing the subject(s) in executive session.

46. Plaintiffs and others have been harmed by these violations.

47. As a result of these violations, the actions of the Board resulting in adoption of the final redistricting plan including senate pairings, should be voided.

48. The Board’s proclamation of redistricting should similarly be voided, as it was based solely upon the redistricting plan.

Second Claim - Violation of Article VI, Section 6

49 - 55

§ 6. District Boundaries

The Redistricting Board shall establish the size and area of house districts, subject to the limitations of this article. Each house district shall be formed of contiguous and compact territory containing as nearly as practicable a relatively integrated socio-economic area. Each shall contain a population as near as practicable to the quotient obtained by dividing the population of the state by forty. Each senate district shall be composed as near as practicable of two contiguous house districts. Consideration may be given to local government boundaries. Drainage and other geographic features shall be used in describing boundaries wherever possible.

Third Claim - Violation of Article VI, Section 10

56 - 59  

(a) Within thirty days after the official reporting of the decennial census of the United States or thirty days after being duly appointed, whichever occurs last, the board shall adopt one or more proposed redistricting plans. The board shall hold public hearings on the proposed plan, or, if no single proposed plan is agreed on, on all plans proposed by the board. No later than ninety days after the board has been appointed and the official reporting of the decennial census of the United States, the board shall adopt a final redistricting plan and issue a proclamation of redistricting. The final plan shall set out boundaries of house and senate districts and shall be effective for the election of members of the legislature until after the official reporting of the next decennial census of the United States.

(b) Adoption of a final redistricting plan shall require the affirmative votes of three members of the Redistricting Board. [Amended 1998]

Fourth Claim - Violation of Article I, Section 1 (Equal Protection)


§ 1. Inherent Rights

This constitution is dedicated to the principles that all persons have a natural right to life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness, and the enjoyment of the rewards of their own industry; that all persons are equal and entitled to equal rights, opportunities, and protection under the law; and that all persons have corresponding obligations to the people and to the State.

Fifth Claim - Violation of Article I, Section 7 (Due Process)

64 - 68

§ 7. Due Process

No person shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law. The right of all persons to fair and just treatment in the course of legislative and executive investigations shall not be infringed.


WHEREFORE, Plaintiffs pray that this Court:
1. Enter a judgment declaring the Board’s redistricting plan promulgated pursuant to the proclamation dated November 10, 2021, to be in violation of the Open Meetings Act, Article VI, Sections 6 and 10 of the Alaska Constitution, and the equal protection clause and the due process clause of the Alaska Constitution; 

2. Enter a judgment declaring the Board’s redistricting plan promulgated pursuant to the proclamation dated November 10, 2021, to be null and void; 

3. Enter an order enjoining the State Division of Elections and the State of Alaska from conducting any primary or general election for state legislative office under the Board’s redistricting plan, or otherwise taking any step to implement the plan; 

4. Enter an order requiring the Board to promulgate a new redistricting plan consistent with the requirements of the Alaska Constitution or, in the alternative, enter an order correcting errors in the Board’s redistricting plan;
5. Enter an order declaring Plaintiffs to be public interest litigants as constitutional claimants and awarding costs and attorney’s fees;
6. Enter an order for such other and further relief as may be just and reasonable. DATED this 10th day of December, 2021. 

BRENA, BELL & WALKER, P.C. Attorneys for Plaintiffs 

Robin O. Brena, ABA No. 8511130 Jake W. Staser, ABA No 1111089 Laura S. Gould, ABA No. 0310042 

Monday, December 27, 2021

E. O. Wilson Died Yesterday. I'm Reposting This 2010 Post In His Memory

[And I've added a video of a conversation between Alan Alda and Wilson  at the bottom.]

The Future of Life - Why is this so hard for people to deal with?

It's a battle between two narratives:

Narrative 1:
The free market is the most economical system for bringing prosperity to the world and government regulation just screws things up.

Narrative 2:
The free market has many positive benefits, but it also commodifies our collective resources resulting in the catastrophic destruction of the Earth's species and if we don't stop this trend immediately, we will destroy those things that makes life possible on earth.

I am much closer to the second narrative than first.  One of the most persuasive arguments in Wilson's book (he favors Narrative 2)  comes in the chapter "How Much is the Biosphere Worth?" A 1997 study estimated the annual value at $33 trillion.
Ecosystems services are defined as the flow of materials, energy, and information from the biosphere that support human existence.  They include the regulation of the atmosphere and climate;  the purification and retention of fresh water;  the formation and enrichment of the soil;  nutrient cycling; the detoxification and recirculation of water;  the pollination of crops;  and the production of lumber, fodder, and biomass fuel. [p. 106]
Reading this book as oil floods the Gulf of Mexico and eight years after it was published, my basic view of the world was reinforced and my frustration with my fellow humans who choose to ignore the impact human population increases have had on the earth and who choose to ignore the impact of their gluttonous consumption of the world's resources.  It's as though we have been selling off pieces of our back yard garden where we've been growing our food and now we are taking the wood off our house for heating fuel without thinking about where we will get our food and where we will live in the future. When will we realize that consuming our resources like this can't end well? 

I sympathize with people who cling to the material things that were part of the American dream as they were growing up.  But I'd also point out that happiness can be found at lower levels  of material consumption.  Sure, we need a basic level of comfort - housing, food, security, etc.  But where is that basic level?  How is it that generations of humans lived well without big screen televisions, without SUVs, without 2200 square foot homes, etc?  Are all these things worth an unsustainable exploitation of the earth's resources?  Wilson says strongly no. 

My book group met Wednesday night to discuss E. O. Wilson's book The Future of Life.  It's a short (189 pages) but difficult book.  It's data heavy and could use, as one of the group members suggested, much better headings and titles.  For example, Wilson talks about biodiversity for much of the book and I was looking for where he was going to tell us why this is important.  It wasn't obvious.  I finally found it in the chapter called "For the Love of Life" which would more usefully have been titled "Why Biodiversity Matters."   

Wilson also doesn't do a good job of clearly telling us his key points.  They're there, but hidden in all the data.  I did read the book carefully, taking lots of notes, so I did get some of them.  But without Wilson spelling them out, I have to guess that these are the ones he thinks are the key points.

1.   Biodiversity* is shrinking.  We are losing species and genetic variety at a faster and faster pace every year.

2.  The Causes of Biodiversity are summarized as HIPPO;
Habitat destruction.  Hawaii's forests, for example, have been three-fourths cleared, with the unavoidable decline and extinction of many species.

Invasive species.  Ants, pigs, and other aliens displace the native Hawaiian species.

Pollution.  Fresh water, marine coastal water, and the soil of the islands are contaminated, weakening and erasing more species.

Population.  More people means more of all the other HIPPO effects.

Overharvesting.  Some species, especially birds, were hunted to rarity and extinction during the early Polynesian occupation.  [p. 100;  Hawaii is just the example of what is happening around the world here]
I need to emphasize population because he spends a lot of time on this.  The increase in human population underlies the other four factors.  

3.   It's late in the game to stop this destruction of biodiversity but if humans become aware and have the will, it is possible.  The final chapter is called "The Solution."  I have problems with the idea of a "solution" in human affairs.  We don't solve issues as though they were math problems.  Rather we better balance the factors that affect the issue, and we may well unbalance it in the future.  And given the negativity of most of the book, one wonders whether the author really believes things can be changed or if the editors said it needed a happier ending.  But here are some of the things he offers in that chapter.

  • Ethics - Humans, he argues, have a genetic propensity toward fairness.  If people see that some people are destroying the planet by using more than their fair share, they will fight for fairness. (But what if they are the ones gaining unfairly?)
  • The way is to change people's narrative. We think of the environment (all of its resources) as capital.

    Having appropriated the planet's natural resources, we chose to annuitize them with a short-term maturity reached by progressively increasing payouts.  At the time it seemed a wise decision.  To many it still does.  The result is rising per-capita production and consumption, markets awash in consumer goods and grain, and a surplus of optimistic economics.  But there is a problem:  the key elements of natural capital, Earth's arable land, ground water, insects, marine fisheries, and petroleum, are ultimately finite, and not subject to proportionate capital growth.  Moreover, they are being decapitalized by overharvesting and environmental destruction.  With population and consumption continuing to grow, the per-capita resources left to be harvested are shrinking.  The long-term prospects are not promising.  Awakened at last to this approaching difficulty, we have begun a frantic search for substitutes.   
    This leads to two problems:
    • Economic disparity and
    • Accelerating extinction of natural ecosystems and species

    He suggests adding statistics that take into account the value of the biosphere into our  evaluations of economic assets and deficits as one way to change how we use our resources. 

    He then goes on to list the action that can be taken to turn things around

    • Salvage the world's hotspots - those habitats that are both at the greatest risk and shelter the largest concentration of species found nowhere else.
    • Keep intact the five remaining frontier forests (combined Amazon Basin and the Guianas; Congo of Central Africa;  New Guinea;  the temperate conifer forests of Canada and Alaska combined;  the temperate conifer forests of Russia, Finland, and Scandinavia combines.)
    • Cease all logging of old growth forests everywhere.
    • Everywhere concentrate on lake and river systems, which are the most threatened ecosystems of all.  
    • Define and prioritize the marine hotspots of the world.
    • Complete the mapping of the world's biological diversity
    • Use most advanced ecosystem mapping techniques to ensure full range of the world's ecosystems are included in global conservation strategies.
    • Make conservation profitable.
    • Use biodiversity to benefit the world economy as a whole.
    • Initiate restoration projects to increase the share of the Earth allotted to nature.
    • Increase capacity of zoos and botanical gardens to breed endangered species.
    • Support population planning

There are other issues the book raised for me:

1.   What is a reasonable human population on earth where humans can live a comfortable live style that doesn't use up the Earth's resources?

2.   How do we get there?

3.  How do we get people to see the collective impact of individual behavior as we try to balance saving the biosphere and biodiversity with the market economy?

4.  How do we conceive the difference between the death of individuals and the death a species?

5.  How do we understand what is a normal rate of species extinction versus a human caused rate of species extinction?

All of these are addressed in the book to some degree, but need much more discussion.

Some group members expressed the bittersweet hope that the oil spill might help raise people's awareness of how our resource use endangers the planet.  

*From his glossary at the back of the book:

Biodiversty:  All of the hereditary variation in organisms, from differences in ecosystems to the species composing each ecosystem, thence to the generic variation in each of the species  As a term, biodiversity may be used to refer to the variety of life of all of Earth or to any part of it - hence the biodiversity of Peru or the biodiversity of a Peruvian rainforest.  (p. 213-214)

NOTE:  Blogspot sent out a notice that they have a new agreement with Amazon to enable bloggers mentioning books to automatically link to Amazon so that readers can easily buy the  book and the blogger would get a percentage.   I have resisted ads on this blog for various reasons - including aesthetics, conflicts of interest, and the fact that the size of my readership isn't large enough to earn me significant profits anyway.  But I thought I'd mention this.  There are some books I mention I wouldn't encourage my readers to buy.

But this one I think everyone should read.  Including our governor and mayor who strongly support economic development without calculating the costs to the biosphere of the projects.  Neither cares if we wipe out the Cook Inlet beluga whale population - which NOAA has declared an endangered species - if it means that we'd have to think more creatively to maintain our current economic situation.  But the governor has vetoed money that would have added about 1200 kids and about 100 mothers to Denali Kid Care health insurance because some of the money might be used for an abortion.  The intentional loss of one potential human being is more important to our governor, it seems, than the loss of a whole species.

The original post had a few comments

I'm adding this conversation between Wilson and Alan Alda.

Saturday, December 25, 2021

Birds And Wrack

We'd gotten a bike at Bikrowave for my granddaughter.  They're all used bikes that the do-it-yourself bike repair shop takes in and fixes up.  Yesterday we were going to bike down to the Venice Boardwalk.  But we hadn't gotten far when we discovered her fingers aren't strong enough to squeeze the handbrakes tight enough to stop the bike.  She ended up against a low wall with a hedge on top.  

And the bike rental places at the beach weren't open.  It had rained all day Thursday and more rain was predicted and I'm sure they just said 'it's Christmas Eve, just stay home.'  But while clouds surrounded us, it was sunny though cool by LA standards - high 50s.  That didn't stop my granddaughter from ditching her shoes and pushing up her pants and playing tag with the surf.  

There were various layers of wrack on the beach after the storms this week.


"Natural material that washes onto the beach is referred to as wrack and includes algae, sea grasses, and some invertebrates such as sponges and soft corals. Wrack serves as the primary source of nutrients to beach communities and is the foundation for the food chain."  [from Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission]

And there was a fair amount of non-natural material in the wrack.  

There was even a woman picking plastic out of the wrack.  

Sanderling were also racing the surf - running down the wet sand as the water retreated, looking for little critters.

"Although Sanderlings are still considered fairly common, some surveys in the Americas show troubling declines of up to 80 percent since the early 1970s. Sanderlings' Arctic tundra breeding habitats are threatened by the rising temperatures associated with climate change, while their migratory and wintering habitats are at risk from coastal pollution such as oil spills as well as coastal development and other forms of habitat loss." [from the American Bird Conservancy]

There are lots of kinds of shore birds with longish legs and beaks, so I won't say for sure these are sandpipers, who moved in after the much smaller sanderlings.  

And we were even treated to a flying octopus.  

And toward the end this enormous flock of sea gulls took off at once and dotted the sky.  

Today was much grayer.  We opted for a walk along Ballona Creek.  This time I took my telephoto lens along.  

I'm including this one because I think the bird on the left is a female bufflehead.  The one in the water slightly to the right of center is possibly a male.  

"Black-necked Stilts are among the most stately of the shorebirds, with long rose-pink legs, a long thin black bill, and elegant black-and-white plumage that make them unmistakable at a glance. They move deliberately when foraging, walking slowly through wetlands in search of tiny aquatic prey. When disturbed, stilts are vociferous, to put it mildly, and their high, yapping calls carry for some distance."[From All About Birds] 

The waterborne American Coot is one good reminder that not everything that floats is a duck. A close look at a coot—that small head, those scrawny legs—reveals a different kind of bird entirely. Their dark bodies and white faces are common sights in nearly any open water across the continent, and they often mix with ducks. But they’re closer relatives of the gangly Sandhill Crane and the nearly invisible rails than of Mallards or teal." [from All About Birds]

There's a bike trail along the creek - really a cement waterway.  

Friday, December 24, 2021

" . . .it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair"

This book was published in November 26, 1859.  It takes place from 1775 through 1793 in Paris and London.   Dickens wrote about a period that began 85 years earlier and ended 67 years earlier.  He himself wasn't born until 1812, nineteen years after the end of the time he wrote about.  

Today, that would be like writing about the period between 1936 and 1954.  There are folks alive today who were alive in that period who could be consulted.  

Looking ahead, it would be like a writer in the year 2093 writing about events between 2008 and 2026.  How much of today's social media posts and videos will be available to that writer?

A Tale Of Two Cities  begins with this single sentence paragraph.

"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness,  it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way - in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on being received for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.


It does seem to describe the times we're living in.  

And many of us might see similarities between the inside cover illustration and January 6, 2021.

It's still less than a year since that infamous day. But quickly it will be further and further behind us.    Most of us see it as a day of infamy when Donald Trump hoped to overthrow the election and install himself permanently in the White House. A troublingly noisy and large minority see it as a day when patriots tried to overthrow a democratic election.  I'm hoping it's the worst Trump legacy, but I worry there will be more and worse.  

How many years will it take for historians to give the verdict?  And how long will that verdict stick?


Thursday, December 23, 2021

Chile's Election of Gabriel Boric Is A Positive Sign For The Future

 I've been wanting to post something, anything, to note that the people of Chile elected a young leftist to be their new president Gabriel Boric.  This isn't meant to be exhaustive, but rather to remind people of this victory of Progressives over the Far Right in Chile Sunday. These stories tend to get lost in the clutter of what passes for news media today.  

The next generation is ready to assume power.  It's a hopeful sign and a reminder to invest in our younger generations and let them work on the decisions that are going to affect their futures.  

He was running against a Kast who had come out slightly ahead in the general election, but lost by over 10% in the runoff this past Sunday.  Kast admires Chile's previous dictator Pinochet.  Kast also was against gay rights - gay marriage has passed the Chilean legislature and is about to go into effect - and against abortion, against immigration.  

In Santiago in July 2019, a local guide (AirBNB, besides having places to stay, has lots of local guides who take you on small very specialized tours) was giving President Allende's history. (When Pinochet took over in a coup, Allende committed suicide in the President's palace, which was being bombed by the military, rather than risk being captured and tortured into revealing other supporters.  Or so the guide told us.  But it fits with a fascinating film at the 2019 Anchorage International Film Festival - Nat Pasaran - about Scottish defense workers who refused to continue working on jets that Pinochet was using.  

As our guide was talking, a man in his 50s or 60s, well dressed, walked by and made very negative comments about Allende.  I'm sure he voted for Kast at this election.  

And supports an economic system that favors the wealthy.  In many ways he's like a Trump clone.  But radically different from Trump, 

"in a model of democratic civility that broke from the polarizing rhetoric of the campaign, Kast immediately conceded defeat, tweeting a photo of himself on the phone congratulating his opponent on his “grand triumph.” He then later traveled personally to Boric’s campaign headquarters to meet with his rival." [From CNBC]

My young friend in Santiago sent this picture on Monday with the comment, "Graffiti I found walking home."

I don't know how well Boric will serve as president.  Running a government takes but there's no reason to think he's not capable.  Alexander the Great was dead already at 32.  Kennedy became president at 43.  

A couple of other ways (besides Wikipedia) to find out more:

TNI:  Beyond the headlines: 10 preliminary questions and answers on Chile’s recent presidential election  - this one gives context of Chile and Latin America as well as Boric and Kast

The Guardian:  Gabriel Boric vows to ‘fight privileges of the few’ as Chile’s president

LA Times:  Chile’s new president (Taylor’s version): Gabriel Boric is a Swiftie - a lighter take. 

Wednesday, December 22, 2021

AK Redistricting Board Hearing Today: Rough Notes [UPDATED]

[UPDATED Dec 23, 2021:  Here's a link to the 3rd Pretrial Court Order that came out of this meeting yesterday.  Thanks to the Redistricting Board staff for getting this up quickly.  Much harder to track these things through the Court system. And the Supreme Court has given the Superior Court two more weeks (to February 15) to make its decision.]

The Court met today from 10am Alaska Time to about 12pm (I'm a little confused as I track this in Pacific and Alaska time.  I thought the judge said it was going on three hours.  Did it start at 9am?)  There are a number of questions about how to track what is being done.  The YouTube channel I was checking didn't do anything even though it said it was starting today at 10am.  I had the same thing in a different window and that one was already in session a few minutes after ten (eleven here in California.)  

Basically, they debated and/or raised questions about::

1.  What the Board has to turn over to the five plaintiffs - all the email and other records, or just the ones that the Board decides doesn't compromise attorney-client privilege and personal information like passwords.  Should the Board be in charge of deciding what was privileged or should the plaintiffs?  The compromise was to do it in stages which I'm not totally clear on.  The Board will use search words to try to sort things out and give the rest to the plaintiffs, but the judge will make other decisions as the process continues.  There was also debate about whether the Board was being overzealous in what it considered Attorney-client privilege give this is a public agency.

2.  How many witnesses do the parties get?  This was complicated by the question of how many witnesses the intervening party (Calista) gets.  And it's complicated by the fact that some cases may overlap.

3.  There was discussion about what was going to be live and what would be done in court.  Depositions and affidavits will be take for direct testimony and live trial time will be devoted to cross-examinations, redirects, etc.  And whether everything would be done via Zoom or whether there would be live in court time.  It seems to be leaning toward all Zoom.

4.  There will be weekly meetings with the judge and the judge told the plaintiffs and the defendant to have their own meetings to work out as much as they could. 

It's still not clear to me whether those attorney meetings (without the judge) will be available for the public to view or how we keep track of changes that might come up.  Or how the public will get to hear the direct testimony that is shared electronically, but when the trial is going on.  

But right now my granddaughter wants to go biking along Venice Beach/Santa Monica bike trail.  Don't feel too jealous, it's cloudy and cool (low 60s) and threatening to rain.  

So I'm going to just give you these raw notes below.  I reserve the right to clean them up a bit later after we bike.  But thought I should get this up now.  Mr. Brenna, representing Valdez, says his office will come up with transcripts for all these meetings.  

click on image to enlarge

Rough Notes Dec 22, 2021 - Zoom meeting of plaintiffs, the Board, and Judge Matthews

About 10:05 am - Discussing whether the Board can give the plaintiffs (Brenna - for Valdez) a copy of the software so they can see how it was instructed to come up with the maps.  Looking for plans they put out for public comment or finalized - the data, political parameters, the data they considered when they made the maps.  

Matt Singer (ARB attorney) is arguing that for licensing reasons they can't share the data.

Holly Wells (attorney for Anchorage plaintiffs)- our office uses remote access to use computers.  I'd suggest that instead the 9-4 office access we use remote access.

Brena:  I asked for that if it's possible so people can review them wherever they are to do it.  

Singer:  No one suggested it.  Easiest is Mr. Brenna's expert can contact us directly and we'll set it up.

Matthews:  I'm going to assign remote access.  All we can settle today

We have huge group of lawyers with lots of experience.  Suggestion, need to meet and confer, is crucial in this case.  In addition to weekly meetings with the court, I'm going to require a weekly meet and offer between the lawyers.  Bring your experts.  By Zoom or in the same room.  

Matthews:  Question of emails and communications on the record.  I understand Mr. Singer's concern about how big a task this is.  

Singer:  Working on record for six weeks.  Original paper filed before the board and proceedings.  That's the record.  Probably 50K emails.  Most of it coordinating travel to distant meetings or coordinating Anchorage meetings.  Going to be thousands of pages that have no bearing.  More appropriate - let's do corporate discovery.  Uploading all emails sent and received into data bases so we can do word searches.  Brenna concerned about Valdez, we can get that communication to him unless advice of counsel.  Use discovery, time and keyword descriptions.  Give us everything approach - here's the password for the Alaska Airline - this should not be part of the public record that sits in the court records forever.  Courts going to have to, 'give us everything' approach is going to take a while.  Board deserves appropriate privacy.  We need a manageable approach in light of limited time.  In past, this was handled through discovery and not part of the record.  

Privileged documents - different from identifying everything and 500 item privilege log.  Not supported by rules of evidence or any case law.  chilling effect on future counsel of the Board - every time I was advising my client I was telling the world.  Invasion of attorney client privilege

Matthews:  Who wants to speak for plaintiffs?

Brenna:  Happy to defer to others

Wells:  Think there's misunderstanding by Board.  Talking about Attorney-Client privilege when talking about a government entity.  We know when we send emails to public agencies, many of those are public record.  Access to these records is important and something the Board should have prepared for from the beginning.  Tells us Board will retain reading files, including emails.

Whether in record or in discovery, we get material due us from a body - one that is sued whenever formed - Board has no rights of privacy.  Board is required to do things under Open Meetings.  I want to see the Board understand its obligations as a public body.

Stacey ?  Mr. Singer proposed a protective order.  Extent to concern about firehouse opening - should err on side of protective order.  If party finds a document that doesn't appear to be public, that can be pulled out.  

Brenna:  Board members have emails - I can tell you I've spent in multiparty cases, more than a month trying to determine what search is reasonable.  We're asking all communications regarding Redistricting.  Scheduling flights can be cut out, or not.  Or we get them all and we exclude what isn't relevant.  Yes, if they want to search for passwords or other things not related to redistricting.  Send us the emails and let us take it from there.  We're entitled to the communications.  They did work of public, supposed to do it by consulting with the public.  We have the right to know who they were doing it????   I can't imagine that many privileges that need to be asserted.  

Singer:  Board aware of public entity obligations.  We anticipated litigation  The lecture is posturing.  We spent weeks of meetings at Wells office.  Does not compel attorney-client communications.  The privilege does apply.  How can we do this in an unprecedented time crunch of five plaintiffs in 6 weeks.  Do we throw out basic rights of Board's privilege or do what we normally do and ask for what are related to the case.  Provide us your searches and we'll conduct them. 

Binary choice - go for everything - then we won't complete the task in next weeks, or do something manageable.  There aren't that many issues in the case.  Valdez doesn't like not being with Richardson Highway.  Matsu and Valdez cases the same. Overpopulated.  Board decided that was the best solution.  We should be able to conduct searches needed for the complaints.  I suggest the Board move on to pretrial order.  Say ten days to get responses fast.  Two weeks have gone by and no one has said, "Give us this or that."

Brenna:  First, redistricting is like a jigsaw puzzle.  What's wrong with one piece goes on to other pieces.  This process.  They're going to have to conduct a search for protected emails anyway.  It's going to work out ... These aren't narrow.  They aren't going restrict 50K to 5K.  Going to have to do the work anyway.  Why do key word search and not even know if search done correctly.

Counsel keeps suggesting why don't we work it out.  We've started that right out of the gate - ask about software from beginning, but no info coming our way.  When you do legal research, you find something that leads to something else.  We've done millions of documents, this is nothing.  We find something that leads to something else.  We need to start putting our case together immediately.

Singer:  I have subpoena to State of Alaska, state has largest law firm in Alaska - 90 days out and still working on the response.  Asking for all communications is .....  How do this on extraordinary timeframe.  Refusing to work with us .... enormous taks.  Only so many hours in the day.  

Matthews:  Two dif issues.  1.  Request to expand to include all correspondence will unnecessarily gum up works for this courts review.  2.  Discovery of those emails is entirely different.  OK to ask for all correspondence that went into the decisions here.  I'm not going to automatically expand the record, but give plaintiffs a chance to expand.  50K emails is a modest number.  Time frame, but tight time frame.  Board should have anticipated.  Glad you started the process of downloading.  That should continue.  Turning it all over is a bit much, potentially private and client-attorney privilege.  Board's job to call those out.  Communications in this cycle are ....

Plaintiffs should come up with joint list of search words.  Board should continue downloading everything.  If time were no issue.  Key topics and search terms short list.  

Order:  Continue doing download.  If you want to assert privilege, do so.  But if wholesale categories - won't make privilege log, but tell me base numbers and catalog is there is a challenge.  some communications between the law firm and Board not privileged.  Someone left a password - not individual ....  Board can call those out.  If you search for word password.  1000 emails where someone listed with password or mention of password.  Or Matt space Singer, get attorney emails.

Plaintiffs as a group, you are all competent and should be able to come up with a list.

Brenna:  so I'm clear? They're going to cull out info and give us what is left?

Matthews:  Cull out attorney-client privilege.  I'm anticipating a phased approach.  Culling out will narrow down the process.  Don't know how to determine if there is completely irrelevant material.  I could determine later that all material turned over, but not making that decision today.

Brenna:  If Board goes thru material and culls out client privilege docs.  And they search for and take out private data, then why isn't the rest just being given to us?

Matthews:  Will also include irrelevant material and privilege and private data.  Not sure how that can be done quickly without individual review.  Willing to put out protective order saying that info is not to be disclosed.

Brenna:  Board set up specific accounts for work, not their businesses.  So, we're happy to enter into a protective order that says we'll keep all of it protected.  Most efficient, have them turn it over and then give them an opportunity to review it if we want to use it.  But we're only get some leftovers?  Then keyword searches on top of that?


Wells:  I do think scope of our motions - communication between Board members, whether on private computer or on Board computers, we would want to see all of that, because one thing we're trying to address is the decision making process we don't see in the video.  

Brenna:  Final thought.  In terms of what's relevant to our case - that's our call, not opposing attorney's call.  If we have protective order that addresses these issues.  Trying to figure out why we are asking them to do keyword searches instead of us doing the keyword searches.

Matthews:  If we pull out attorney-client privilege.  

Singer:  Normal expedited discovery - if court wants us to pull out attorney-privilege then there should be a callback provision, for things not caught.  Just don't know how long it would take.  

Brenna:  Callback provision is something we see often.  That helps address the issue.  If we have an issue, we can ask your honor to address it.  How will we be able to test that things are being properly protected, and can test the assertion of privilege. 

Miss Dunn:  There are relevant documents they would be automatically discoverable.  One proposal I made that the Board produce members for discovery.  We do anticipate we'll have their email discoveries before that.  We need rapid actions.  Your honor proposed, get protected order, Matthey Singer Schwabe.  Need to move timeline in accelerated fashion.  

Matthey:  Mr. singer.  I think the discovery needs to happen - clawbackand protective order appropriate.  Parties should get that in as quick as possible.  Point over testing privilege is a fair one but not one that needs to be addressed next week.  May need to be litigated and will need to know what has been withheld.  So 90% can be done quickly.  

Singer:  I have this notion because expedited that means we have to catalog so they can test the privilege is ....  This is an agency appeal.  Appreciate right to discovery, but idea that we should have anticipated and catalog every communication.  Has the court ever seen that?  Highly unusual.  We will continue uploading each member's .... 

Brenna:  Talking about communications with law form, needs to be individual.  Shouldn't be that many attorney-client memoranda.  That privilege requires supplying supplemental advice.  

Singer:  That requires me to read everything to determine.  Eyes of attorney.  Need to make clients ready for deposition.  

Matthews:  We could spend hours here.  I'm letting attorney-client privilege an be pulled out now, but we could change that later.  Mr. Brenna you may be correct that only a few qualify.

Let's talk about time frames.  Mr. singer, since much is falling on your shoulders.  Taking several weeks ins't reasonable.  A dump of those emails need to be ready by next week. 

Singer:  We'll do that, no later than one week from Friday.  Strive to do it by that day.  Make it a burst download to share file and provide all counsel.

Brenna:  After we get info we have to go through it.  Talked about a deposition schedule.  We need to take deposition of Board members, need to review that info before it occurs.  We aren't going to get a week or ten days to go through it.  

Wells:  One quick point.  Doing affadavit, permitted to cross or redirect and redirect on documents that weren't available when we do depositions.  Speak only for East Anchorage plaintiffs. 

Brenna:  Allowed three deposition witnesses.  Affidavit file might speed things up.  Can we deal with the six witnesses forefather process - preservation deposition takes more time than by affidavit.

Singer:  Misgivings or doubts whether affidavits might be more efficient.  Allocate time and track it carefully, Ms. Wells talks about redirecting.  Might it not be better to let witnesses testify in standard flow.

Brenna:  two things:  1.  Having profiled direct testimony is routine, saves , only have so many hearing days.  Preservation deposition take more time, but outside of limited hearing days.  Logic Judge Morse used.  

Matthews:  two issues  1.  providing disclosure to all of you will give more efficient process instead of waiting for trial days, more efficient, only so many days to complete case 2.  Allow me to start work on understanding what the case is and do reading before trial.  You all have staff members and I don't mean to whine, but you are all going to give me lots of info in advance gives me more time.

Time frame:  All this is condensed.  Trial start of Jan 18, getting your witness list.  Would like to move it up a day,  Don't know how much testimony we're looking at or how much overlap until I see the witness lists.  I know it adds more work.  At least the lay witnesses by 28th if you want the experts by 29th.  

     : What dates do you want for lay and expert witnesses.  It was Dec. 29 and Jan 4 but don't have it 

Matthews:  By 30th december, intervenors by 4 January.  I don't think you can wait any longer than those dates.  Leave those deadlines in place.  If Supreme Court comes back and gives us two more weeks, we can slip a little further.  Still pretty condensed.  Don't see how to start before Jan 18 and still looking at 12 trial days.  

Amdur-Clark - Morse's order assumes the same plaintiffs and timing as defense.

Brenna:  Discussed.  Intervenors intervened - They were in with the Board.  They were getting extra witnesses.  That's between intervenors and the Board.  They seem to be asking for more witnesses.  That wasn't what Morse intended.  Frankly, I would have objected to their intervention if I knew they wanted more witnesses.

Amdur-Clark - I don't agree with the characterization of Morse's remarks.  We don't align completely with the Board.  Forcing us to share witnesses.  No point in having intervenors if they don't have a role to play.  

Singer:  The order already unfair, three witnesses per client, Matsu and Mr. Brown each get three = they get 15 witnesses and we get 7 witnesses and now saying that we have to share with intervener.  We can live with the seven but intervenor should have it's own witnesses.

Brenna:  1.  There's a difference of opinion of Judge Morse's conversation.  Getting transcription   2. Mr. Singer's unfairness point.  Skagway is entitled to seven witnesses.  And Skagway's concerns are distinct from other plaintiffs.  We have seven witness.  Have opportunity to put 17 witnesses against us.  Board gets twice as many witnesses to oppose Skagway as we have.  We aren't a collective whole.  Two are roughly aligned - Matsu and Valdez.  

Seven affadavits and preservation depositions.  Beendisagreement between our characterization of Judge Morse. 

Amdur-Clark - He made my point.  Our interests are different from the Boards.  As he points out that Skagway has a case to make, we have to make arguments different from Valdez and Matsu's/

Matthews:  To extent that there is a transcript.  I could also go back and listen.  I will listen to transcript.  Judge Morse's order may not have spoken to number of witnesses, but elsewhere he seems to contemplate number of intervenors witnesses.  

Brenna:  That's the date we are supposed to file.  That's the reason for the transcript. 

Singer:  We hear different things.  We now have a permanent judge and it's your case.

Matthew:  I kept you for longer than I anticipated.  Let's talk about motion response time.  I have motion to dismiss from Mr. Singer.  Just saw it came in.  Appears to be directed to discrete portions of four of the complaints.  Realistic time frame to resolve.  Mr. Brenna one is directed to one of your complaints.  I need to be reasonable but I need your response.

Brenna:  We can get a response by Monday.

Matthey:  Reply, by 10am Wednesday.

Matthew:  Next Wednesday's hearing won't deal with that.  

Wells, Stacy Stone?, Brenna - missed this about dismissal and ability to go to SC there would be no way to remedy an injustice. . .

Matthews:  Seems appropriate but allow Singer to reply.

Singer:  Topic is one the redistricting board is required, the Board is required a second round of public hearings.  Purely legal question.  Not contested.  Board did not have a second round of public hearings.  Binary choice.  Board is to issue plan get input then adopt the final plan.  That was affirmed by the SC.  Issue is resolved.  Should waste limited trial time.  Everyone should be permitted to put into the record what they want.  But time limits are important.

Matthews:  I'm not sure pure legal issue, that there are factual issues.  What does it mean in this case.  Disagree with Singer that it's neat and clear.  Preview of argument to come, if there is an issue Ms Stone and Ms Wells, put that in your .  . .   Won't make ruling today.  Appreciate your raising it today so I'm alerted.

Fairly well covers my list.  At least weekly discussion hearings, motion practice.  May need to be adjusted depending on SC  - Next Wed 29 at 1pm  then on Wed Jan 5 at 10  Monday  and Wed 14th 

Schechter:  Number of witnesses - six plus expert or six including witness.

Brenna - five different complaints, not fair to put someone in position where Board gets twice as many witnesses plus intervenor and Valdez gets half.  Match Valdez witnesses and Board witnesses. Morse put forward that each plaintiff has a day.

Matthews:  Morse did anticipate each plaintiff has a day and Board gets 4 or 5 days.  My understanding six witnesses - three by video - three would be plus experts  Some for Board.  We still have to consider how much time this requires.

Brenna:  One more thing to considered.  The way this is structured not clear - we have a day for case, but witnesses on video outside of the day or affidavit.  So actually cross examination or redirect.  Then Board gets 3-5.  On Valdez' day what do we do if not direct.  Have preservation deposition, nothing live but redirect.  I interpret that he anticipates that the Board had 3-5 and plaintiffs one to do as they choose.  

Amder-Clark - Singer is nodding, do you agree?

Singer:  yes, we have to make choices about how much cross. I may not want to cross all of Mr Brenna's six witnesses.  In past, played a bit like a chess match.  Ended up with three minutes for closing argument. 

Brenna:  That one day, Mr. singer crossing my witnesses.  That sort of chess match approach - did with Valdez case.  Makes no sense to be on one particular day.  I'll have to make choices like Singer does.

Singer:  We'llknow wha days we can cross different witnesses. 

Stone:  Raised issue earlier about posing the Board - video depositions ahead of the trial, if Singer has profiled direct testimony.  May expedite trial and give your honor more time to review.  

Matthews:  Want to deal with trial time, important for all  I contemplate allocation of a day is basically clock management.  Time for cross, redirect.  someone takes 3 minutes to make an objection is 3 minutes off your clock.  Helps if we know which witnesses and order and it could change based on witness availability.

Board depositions is fair question and needs to be addressed.  Ms. Wells?

Wells:  We agree with Ms. Stone.  Our issues are specific to Senate pairings and not house districts.  It could save a lot of time.  We need to talk to all the parties including the Board.  

Brenna:  I agree and also two staff members of the Board.  

Matthews:  This kind of discovery planning, is prefect reason why we have meet and onfer, all together with calendars.  Like to see results of that meet and confer by next meeting.  Sorry to play Grinch, but that was given to me.  I suspect Mr. Singer has depositions he may want to take.

Singer:  To the degree that plaintiffs want depositions from Board, we certainly will cooperate.  

Brenna:  Judge Morse opened the opporunity for live and zoom and preservation depo, his concern if you have a map you want to be live.  I've gone through many zoom trials and the maps can be done Zoom.  This is going to be complicated if we have some live and some zoom.  I would encourage everyone to just have this zoom and we know that and it helps focus our timing.  If Board wants a live witnesses and main concern was not a problem in Zoom hearings.  We can do that effectively with maps in Zoom.

Matthew:  The concept yesterday that this would be Zoom trial.  He seems to have felt it might not work for maps.  Assuming this will be a Zoom trial.  One thing if I'm here in court.  If all of a sudden - just having all of you and teams means we have to move to the multimedia courtroom and there are other demands for that room.  I'm assuming Zoom.  I've done dozens of Zoom trials.

Clock management.  I'm looking at the three hour mark coming quickly.  We've covered a lot of ground coming quickly.  Mr. Brenna if you want today's words transcribed, please send me a copy.

Brenna:  Our intent to transcribe every hearing.  Happy holidays  

Matthews:  Happy Holidays.