Thursday, March 26, 2015

Suppose Your New Job Was To Betray Your Brothers

Two couples have tried to create the Perfect Arrangement.  It's the 1950s.  Bob Martindale works for the State Department.  Neighbor Norma Baxter is his secretary.  They live in adjoining apartments, appropriately connected by a closet.

March 19 - April 4 Thu/Fri/Sat 7pm
Out North - Primrose and Debarr (kitty corner from Costco)

So this doesn't get lost:   this is a funny play, and you'll laugh, but it packs a punch.  

Bob's assignment of late, has been to root Communists out of the State Department, but they're mostly gone and now his boss has assigned him the task of getting rid of the deviants.  He undertakes this job knowing that he and his lover and Norma and hers are safe in their Perfect Arrangement.

Opening Night Reception After The Performance at Out North
This is a neatly done play by Topher Payne - who was here last Thursday for the West Coast premiere of his work.  There's lots going on in the play.  There are the two different worlds - a social facade of voice and intonation and topic for straight visitors where the ladies chatter about recipes and shopping, the men disparage the women,  and then there's the more open expression of ideas in uncensored vocabulary when the two couples are alone.

But the play is not simply a play about being in the closet or homosexuals for that matter.  Rather it's about marginalized people who have learned to act one way in the outside world and another at home, and who are always worried that their real being will be discovered and always tortured because it can't be.  This play could be about black slaves in the south, or women in a male dominated work place, or undocumented workers. . .

And as the tension rose when Bob was required to make lists of deviants to be fired, I couldn't help think about the Jewish capos in concentration camps who got slightly better treatment for cooperating with the Nazis and keeping tabs on the others.  The dialogue was explicit about the conflict between trying to save oneself and one's duty to the others.  About the small benefits of blending in versus the great losses of denying one's true identity.  We could see the characters' slow debilitating stress of staying hidden, the fear of being discovered and the change it will mean, and the enticing but dangerous thought of standing up and declaring one's identity.  Echoes of the struggle in Selma.  

This is a powerful play with strong acting -  well worth seeing.  Below is a video of the playwright, Topher Payne, talking at the reception after the performance.  You can also see a video with directors/actors Krista Schwarting and Jay Burns here.

McHugh Creek

Here are a few pictures from Sunday's hike on the Johnson Pass trail from McHugh Creek.  The cottonwoods - and everything else - are still naked.  Below you can see them in different states.

Devil's club was budding. 

A couple of weeks ago, we came by and only the lower parking lot (right)  was open, but Sunday, the gate to the upper parking areas was open. 

And the creek was still flowing mostly under the ice. 

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Missouri Senator Blunt Offers Budget Amendment To Preclude Future Carbon Fee

 From Sen. Blunt's website:
 Blunt image from SemoTimes
WASHINGTON D.C. – U.S. Senator Roy Blunt (Mo.) introduced an amendment to the FY2016 budget today to protect families in Missouri and across America from a carbon tax, which would lead to skyrocketing energy costs for families nationwide. Blunt’s amendment, which is co-sponsored by U.S. Senator John Thune (S.D.), would create a Point of Order against any bill that contains a tax or fee on carbon emissions from sources that are direct or indirect sources of emissions. To read the text of the amendment, click here.
This amendment's intent is to preempt legislation that would create a carbon fee or tax and require 60 votes to override this amendment.  The press release also falsely predicts rising energy costs and lost jobs.  (Actually, it probably depends on the assumptions they made about what such a fee would look like, assumptions that are radically different from the carbon fee proposal of Citizens Climate Lobby that I'll discuss below.)

SEMO Times  [Southeast Missouri], seems to just print the press release as is:
 WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Roy Blunt (Mo.) introduced an amendment to the FY2016 budget today to protect families in Missouri and across America from a carbon tax, which would lead to skyrocketing energy costs for families nationwide. Blunt’s amendment, which is co-sponsored by U.S. Senator John Thune (S.D.), would create a Point of Order against any bill that contains a tax or fee on carbon emissions from sources that are direct or indirect sources of emissions. To read the text of the amendment, click here.

Actually, a carbon fee, such as the one proposed by the Citizens Climate Lobby, would distribute the money raised by the fee back to the American public - much like the Alaska Permanent Fund. 
"A national carbon price, with full revenue return and border adjustments, will do four things:
  • internalize the social cost of carbon-based fuels, 
  • rapidly achieve large emission reductions, 
  • stimulate the economy & 
  • recruit global participation.[1]"
I know about this because I'm a member of the Citizens Climate Lobby and I've been going to their monthly international phone meetings and have done the homework to see that the carbon fee proposal is the most politically feasible option to reduce carbon emissions.  A carbon fee is supported by a number of conservatives because it uses market forces rather than regulation.  

A REMI study showed that the 'dividend' paid back to the public would off-set any additional costs of carbon products.

"The results of the study demonstrate that there are probable benefits to taxing carbon dioxide emissions and returning the money to consumers through F&D [Fee and Dividend]. The following are highlights of the national level results of the study in 2025.
    • 2.1 million more jobs under the F&D carbon tax than in the baseline
    • 33% reduction in carbon dioxide emissions from baseline conditions
    • 13,000 premature deaths saved from improvements in air quality 

  • These principal results are not to say the outcome is universally positive, and there are certain industries and regions in the United States that may do better or worse under a carbon pricing system. For example, the industries tied directly to households, such as healthcare, retail, and housing construction, tend to do well because F&D increases the overall level of consumer spending. There are other important results in 2025. The F&D rebates return nearly $400 billion to householdsor almost $300 per month for a family of four, and the carbon tax aids in retirements of coal plants and accelerates investments in wind, solar, and nuclear power. The impact to the total cost of living is less than 3% from the baseline, and gross domestic product (GDP) increases between $80 billion and $90 billion."
The REMI study assumes a carbon fee that is refunded to the public. 

"Such a carbon tax would begin at $10 per metric ton in 2016 and escalate in a linear fashion at $10 per year upward, although this study’s timeline ends with the models’ horizon in 2035."
REMI (Regional Economic Models Inc.) is an economic modeliing research company that specializes in projecting the economic impacts of various proposals on the economies of states and the US as a whole.  It used the same basic model it uses for the many studies commissioned by US states and its assumptions about the carbon fee were those in the CCL carbon fee proposed legislation.  CCL commissioned the study. 

In contrast, a study by NERA, presumably the same study or a similar one used for the dire predictions of Sen. Blunt's press release used different assumptions:
"A carbon tax that begins at $20/metric ton of co2  in 2013 and increases at 4 percent per year."
The revenue is not used to pay US consumers as in the CCL proposal that REMI tested.

So, while the NERA study is probably just as accurate as the REMI study, it starts with different and questionable assumptions and numbers.  I didn't find the proposed legislation  they used to make those assumptions.  The way to produce the kind of results your clients want is to use the right assumptions as you start your modeling.

The REMI study also showed that the fee would create jobs, not reduce them.

So, which study should you believe?  One commissioned and paid for by corporate interests whose basic product is the source of climate change or one commissioned by a citizens group that is concerned with the sustainability of the planet and whose motivation stems from concern for their children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren?  Actually, CCL was hoping that such a study would show that the economic impacts were much less damaging than opponents (like Blunt) claimed.  They were pleasantly surprised to find out the impacts would actually add jobs and stimulate the economy.  There certainly can be biases in both studies, but we seen how the tobacco industry fought tooth and nail to hide the health effects of tobacco and a new movie - Merchants of Doubt - is supposed to show how a similar campaign is being waged to attack legitimate climate change science.

Sourcewatch (Center for Media and Democracy)  has this entry about NERA and a study for the coal industry: 
In June 2011, a coal industry front group, American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity (ACCCE) released a report stating that clean-air rules proposed by the Obama administration would cost utilities $17.8 billion annually and raise electricity rates 11.5 percent on average in 2016.[2][3]
ACCCE paid for National Economic Research Associates Inc. to conduct the report, which a Bloomberg report described "as part of a campaign to delay compliance deadlines in the pending rules." The report estimated that regulations cutting emissions of mercury, sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides would lead to the “premature” retirements of coal-fired power plants that can generate 47.8 gigawatts of electricity, about 15 percent of coal’s U.S. production capacity.
Representative Ed Whitfield, a Kentucky Republican and chairman of the energy subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, has said he plans to introduce a bill to give utilities more time to comply with the rules. New maximum levels for nitrogen oxides, a component of smog, and sulfur dioxide, which causes acid rain, are scheduled to take effect in 2012. The US Environmental Protection Agency is under a court order to produce a final mercury rule in November 2011. Utilities would have as long as four years to meet the mercury standard.[4]
Unfortunately, this doesn't analyze the data or compare it to other studies on the topic.  Its key point is that the study was for a coal company front group that Bloomberg says was a campaign to delay regulations.  A red flag, but not quite damning proof.

I found this portrait of Blunt on what appears to be a Boston College  Model United Nations website
The United States Chamber of Commerce has awarded Blunt a 97% pro-business rating, he has consistently voted in favor of deregulation, and he maintains close ties with the Koch Brothers in Kansas City. [Koch's are headquartered in Topeka, Kansas, just 63 miles from Kansas City, Missouri.]  With a son that was a former governor and considerable real estate holdings in Missouri, Blunt is among the most powerful Senators in terms of constituent influence. Among the largest businesses located in Missouri is Monstanto. Blunt's Farmers Assurance Provision was dubbed the "Monsanto Protection Act" by liberal lawmakers. It is more than likely that Blunt maintains close ties with Hugh Grant, Pierre Courduroux, and Brett Begemann, Chief Executives at Monsanto. Blunt is consistently accused of promoting corporations and providing slack to companies that benefit his son, Andrew, and power brokers in Missouri.
Republican Allies
Blunt allies with Senator Ted Cruz, as well as much of the Tea Party core with his radical stance on healthcare. Conversely, his conservative stances on business, social issues, and public insurance enrage Democratic leadership.

 I think there are probably a lot of loose ends here, but you get the point.  It probably wouldn't hurt to call your Senator - whatever state you're in - and let him or her know that you oppose this amendment and they should vote against it.  

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Lazy Blogger; Low Budget Candidates; Who We Be

I've been having trouble getting posts finished.  It's not for lack of subjects, it's just they weren't coming out right.  So this is going to be a quicky just to get something up.

Low Budget Mayoral Candidates

First there was this sign:

I think I heard Dustin has spent less than $100 on his campaign. 

And then yesterday I saw this sign:

This is a fence that's seen a number of signs posted and then get removed.  This was the only one up.

There's an advantage to not having much money - it forces you to think differently about how you're going to do things.  These signs have a refreshing simplicity and homemade quality that clearly distinguishes them from all the very similar professional signs. 

Then I went to the Bartlett Lecture at UAA tonight.  The audience size was a bit disappointing.  Jeff Chang talked about his new book Who We Be and the evolution of race as an issue in the US from the 60's to today.  From a time when the majority was be
hind fairness and equality, through the backlash period, to today when things are particularly polarized.  Jeff has a passion for hip-hop and he talked about how it was the non-establishment multi-cultural movement.  (Sorry if I'm putting words in your mouth.)  There was also a good audience Q&A that got into questions about young activism in Anchorage - whether it was happening or not. 

  Here are a couple of the people I talked to afterward.  

Troy Buckner is the Executive Director of New Life Development in Anchorage, a non-profit that works with prisoners as they come out of prison and transition back into life without bars.  He also worked with Jeff years ago on documenting hip-hop.    He's with one of his board members, Carey Brown. 

Jeff Chen works at the Student Conservation Association (SCA) which involves students in various conservation projects.  No, that's not his conscience sitting on his shoulder, it's one of the book sellers in the background. 

Here's Jeff Chang after the talk listening to one of the audience members talk about Soviet multi-culturalism in the 1920s. 

Jeff, if you see this, here's a link to the movie Shield and Spear I mentioned to you. 

There's just so much going on in Anchorage and the weather's so good.  It's nice having easy walking and biking so early in the year. 

Monday, March 23, 2015

Alaska Legislature Runs State Finances Like Poor People Run Theirs

I want this to be a short, to-the-point post, but I have a feeling it's going to wander a bit, because life isn't as simple as we'd like to believe it is.  [Not too long.  Just be patient.]

What Do Poor And Rich Mean?

I'm talking economically rich or poor - not spiritually, emotionally, culturally, or one of the many other ways people can be rich or poor.

Poor, in my head, means that you are in danger of not being able to cover your necessities - food, shelter, health - because you live on the edge.   While homeless folks probably come to mind first, this also includes people working at minimum wage jobs where food gets scarce toward the end of the pay period.  And while we think of this being month to month, for some it's a slightly longer time frame - maybe year to year. 

Rich has more levels.  

Basic:  A family could be self-supporting, without cash -  hunting, gathering, possibly some farming, and self-sufficient enough to build their own homes and make their own clothes.  Alaska Natives lived like this for thousands of years.  They were poor, only in the sense that a bad year could threaten their survival.

Similarly, It could be a working family that has a sustainable source of income - a job with a steady salary and even better, a defined-benefit retirement plan.  There are dangers.  One could get sick and be unable to work, or the company could go out of business, or be bought out by another company that liquidates the pension fund. 

Strong:  A family that has not only a steady income, but a nest egg that can keep them going if the steady income is threatened.

Really Rich:  A family that has so much wealth, that there is almost no conceivable way that their money will ever run out.

You'll notice here that security is a relative term.  No one is totally secure.  Disasters come in many expected and unexpected forms.  Natural and human-made disasters can threaten the richest families. But the really rich can use their money to influence the social, economic, and political systems so that their security is protected, not just by their family, but by the governmental system.

The key is access to the political power of the society. In the past, royal families simply owned the country and the governmental structure including the army.  Today, large multinational corporations are able to do this better than most others.

Why Are Rich People Rich?

They are rich, not because they have a steady income, but because they've invested enough of the excess income, so that it provides a steady stream of money to meet all their reasonable (and in extreme cases, unreasonable) future needs.   They have resources, they store their excess wealth.  They can sell when prices are high and buy when they are low.  The society protects their interests.  In capitalistic societies, they have financial investments that earn and grow.

OK, here's where this is all leading.

The state of Alaska has managed to set up some funds for the future.  That's what the Permanent Fund was all about.  Recognizing that today's Alaskan's shouldn't be the only beneficiaries of the unsustainable oil resource.  The Permanent Fund was supposed to capture that wealth and sustain Alaskans in the future.  But it's become, in too many people's minds, a quick, easy October cash infusion.  And other budget reserve funds were also attempts at protecting the wealth for future generations.

But we're spending and saving like poor folks.

Alaska Headlines Sunday March 22 and Monday March 23
"State sells $4B in stocks:  Cash may be needed as budget reserve is emptied to cover deficit"  [Note:  the online headlines are different from the paper versions] 
Alaska lawmakers look to once-forbidden sources for money
Those forbidden sources are the funds that some in previous legislatures managed to stash away for rainy days.  But rich people, and when Alaska discovered oil it won the lottery and became a rich state, make those funds sustainable.  They don't drain them, because that means they will stop being rich.

Groups of people will always have a hard time managing finances.   Collective management is tough.   Different folks have different ideas of what to spend their money on and how to manage it.  Even families have those kinds of problems.  And there are always the sharks and vultures that sense wealth and coming running to find a way to get their share. 

But let's not let the Republicans in this state pull the wool over people's eyes.  It was legislatures with Democratic majorities and/or with Republicans whom today's Republicans would call Democrats and socialists, who created the Permanent Fund, and many other rainy day funds.

But it's been a totally Republican controlled state government that has had the highest state budgets, ever, and by a large margin.  And it's Republicans who are running the state like poor folks.  People who won the lottery but didn't stop thinking like poor folks and quit their jobs (abolished the income tax) and then spent all the money.  Some was spent on important stuff - like schools and health care, but a lot was spent on boondoggles and luxuries.  Rural Alaska still has honey buckets after all these years, but we've got the Dena'ina Center and the newly refurbished Legislative Office in Anchorage.  And there were Democrats who took part in some of the frivolous spending as well (the train station at the airport), but Republicans have held sway for much longer.

And now, instead of seriously looking for a job (in state terms that means finding revenue sources like taxes) to pay for things, our legislature is raiding the piggy banks.  I say piggy banks because that's where the poor, if they save at all, save their money.  And that's how our legislature is responding to the crisis.  They're going to stop paying basic bills and raid the piggy banks they can find.  OK, some of the stashed away money is left over money on projects that we probably shouldn't spend on, but some are endowments to help sustain important programs. 

I hope readers realize that I do not mean to disparage the poor - at least those who are poor because of structural societal systems that keep them from having a good education and good health care and jobs that pay a decent wage.  Poor people have fewer choices - even if they manage to secure a decent wage, their education hasn't prepared them for all the sharks waiting to take their money - bar owners, gambling establishments, sellers of fancy consumer products at "Amazing deals" and promises of painless credit, "Worried about your credit?  DON'T BE!  Let our credit experts help you now." [From ADN Saturday, p C-8]

A number of our legislators have moved up from being poor.  They still think like the poor.  And they're still dazzled by their corporate sponsors and do as they're told, while thinking they have power and independence. 

And the people of Alaska are watching our wealth drained by their ignorance and greed. 

Sunday, March 22, 2015

It Always Looks Different: Turnagain Arm

Thirty eight years later, Turnagain Arm still is awesome (in the original sense of the word.)

Driving south from Anchorage is never just a drive.  It's a beautiful adventure.

So, let's start with the typical post card picture of Turnagain Arm and then will look at some variations that I took today.  None of these were altered except for some cropping.

Now, let's look just at the wet stuff.  Every time you look, it's different.

And  back to another typical post card view.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Delta Buying Alaska? Really Bad News


It's not just because Alaska Airlines has the name of my state on it (even if it is headquartered in Seattle.)

It's not just because Alaska has been relatively good as US airlines go.  (even if it has taken advantage of its monopoly in the rest of the state.)

It's not just because we travel a lot to visit my mom and have learned how to best use Alaska to travel. 

It's not just because Delta screwed us over in the very worst way once - canceling our trip to Thailand at the very last minute without telling us.  Our travel agent (yeah it was that long ago) checked and found it out and after lots of trouble was able to rebook us on Korean (the flight we were originally booked on with Delta tickets).  And then on the way back, they again changed our tickets, flying my wife out of Thailand two days after her connecting flight out of Seoul (yes that makes it hard to make a connection) and wouldn't let us fly the Seoul - Anchorage Korean flight, but forced us to go Seoul - San Francisco - Salt Lake City - Anchorage  adding over 24 hours to our trip home. 

It's because when there's no anti-trust enforcement, all the good smaller companies get bought up by the less good bigger ones and then there's just a few big companies, there's no competition.  Even if they don't collude, they just copy each other and adjust prices up, add all kinds of extra fees, and generally screw over their customers.   There's nothing good that could come out of this for consumers. 

No, no, no. 

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Ideology Is A Bitch

 It allows you to answer all questions with slogans.  It allows you to ignore facts.  It lets you get away without serious analysis and it lets you do horrendous harm to civilization without guilt.

In ideological capitalism, government is bad.  Taxes are bad.  Deficits are bad.  Corporations are good.

Those are part of the mantra of the far wrong.

With these phrases guiding Republicans in Washington and Juneau,  programs that took years to nurture and grow, and which provide benefits not only to the immediate recipients, but to society (and ironically that budget deficit) are being whacked.

The wrecking crews cannot distinguish between the flowers and weeds.  The projects that tend survive are the projects favored by corporate interests. 

There is a commonality between the Republican use of ideology to destroy everything they can that smacks of 'government' and other evils in their interpretation of capitalism,  and the ISIS use of ideology to destroy everything that smacks of idolatry or other evils in their interpretation of the Qur'an.  

So, in the far wrong budget, the military and war and destruction (Lockheed Martin,  Northrup Grumman, Boeing, General Dynamics, Raytheon, and many others) get increased funding.  Programs that grow, nurture, and protect the most vulnerable humans (Headstart, foodstamps, health programs) get dismantled or destroyed. (see NY Times for example.) 

Just like ISIS terrorists who demolish ancient statues that took skill and time to build and, because of their survival for millennia, give us clues to understanding our human cultural origins, the Republicans are attempting to destroy social programs that have taken sweat and ingenuity and dedication to build.  Destruction is easy.  If you've spent time with a two-year old, you know they can knock things down far more easily than they can build things up. They also repeat the word 'no' over and over again.

In Alaska, today's ADN has a front page article about Rep. Lynn Gattis' amendment to scrap WWAMI* - the program Alaska uses, in lieu of a medical school, to grow Alaskan doctors.  The program is a cooperative program with other northwestern states to share medical school investments.  The article says that 14% of Alaska doctors are products of the WWAMI program.  Considering how small the program is, that's quite a bit.  If we consider the costs of just recruiting doctors to rural Alaska, WWAMI is a major investment in lower future costs.  Unlike the ISIS ideologists who condemn the statues they destroy, Gattis at least acknowledges WWAMI and other programs being cut as "great programs. .  .  We just can't afford them."   A variation of the mantra. 

The Institute for Social And Economic Research (ISER) has been predicting the decline in oil revenue for 30 years.  Technology changes and the increase in oil prices have delayed the inevitable to some extent.  And the legislature has at times heeded that warning, and set up rainy day funds.   The Alaska state budget has tripled since 2000, most significantly in latter years when the Republicans have had their greatest power in Juneau.   They funded all sorts of capital projects for the benefit of their contractor supporters - the Knik Arm Bridge, renewed studies for a Susitna dam, a road from Juneau to a mine that Sen. MacKinnon's husband has significant (in terms of money if not percentage) interests in, a loopy program to save orphaned moose.   In my own neighborhood a road has been given $20 million in last minute maneuvering in Juneau - a road that all the community councils in the area have strongly opposed.

While some legislators are raising the politically sensitive issues of increasing revenues (sales taxes, income taxes, marijuana taxes, and dipping into the Permanent Fund), most are either ideologically opposed to such measures or too timid to be leaders.  Instead they will destroy programs like WWAMI.  Dr. Tom Nighswander is quoted in the ADN article,
" . . .  it took years to build the program's capacity to keep students in Alaska for the first two years. He said he fears that if the program disappears, it would not be able to bring back all of the clinical faculty it currently prizes.
“If you dismantle the program, you can’t restart it again,” he said. "
Ideology is a bitch.  It allows you to answer all questions with slogans.  It allows you to ignore facts.  It lets you get away without serious analysis and it lets you do horrendous harm to civilization without guilt

NOTE:  This is more of an opinion piece than I normally do, but sometimes stuff gets so thick, you have to stand up and call it out.  I realize that the ISIS metaphor will attract criticism, but I'm focused on one aspect of ISIS - their ability to use ideology to justify everything they do.  You can kill directly, immediately, using violence and personally drawing blood and you can kill in the long term by destroying institutions that nurture humans, maintain health, and save lives. 

*Washington, Wyoming, Alaska, Montana, and Idaho

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Tanaina Update: No Return To Old Sports Center Spot, But University Vows To Help

There was a Tanaina task force meeting Monday afternoon, though the time and place was different from what was decided at Friday afternoon's meeting. 

The basic topic was:  How did the chancellor's cabinet respond to the options the task force presented earlier that day? 

The key points I heard were:

1.  The space Tanaina has been in since it opened in the late 1970s is not an option for interim use.  This had been a key question since the task force had gotten conflicting messages from task force members who are also university administrators. 

2.  The chancellor's cabinet strongly endorsed the idea of Tanaina and offered unspecified support - possibly physical space, possibly financial, definitely moral.

Other things were discussed, but those were the two key issues. 

The task force is looking at three time frames:

Short term - For when they have to move out of the sports center on campus because there is contracted construction scheduled.  That should take the summer and possibly to October or so.  For the summer, Tanaina has an agreement with St. Mary's. 

Mid term - Once the short term is done, the question will be where to house Tanaina until a long-term solution can be realized.  There are some options here, but the one that the task force seemed to prefer - getting back to their old space - was shut down by the chancellor's cabinet which said they are committed to part of student services moving in there.  Staying longer at St. Mary's is a possibility, but there are things that would need to be worked out.  The board of Tanaina has to look at the impacts of moving on enrollment, costs, and income, to determine the overall feasibility.  But there was a possibility that the university might find ways to assist if necessary.  My notes say:  "UAA is vested in your success for the short term, mid term, or long term."

Long term -  This period has the most uncertainties at this point.  Dennis McMillian, the head of Foraker is a part of this task force because of his experience with non-profit development and fund raising.  He voiced cautious optimism about the long term and the task force had a number of serious options that they discussed, but at this point they're vague and there were concerns expressed about the sensitivity of publicly mentioning specifics at this point.

The sense I got from the meeting was one of mixed disappointment and optimism.  Disappointment because the old location has been shut off as a medium term possibility.  Optimism because, as reported by the task force reps who presented the options to the whole task force, the chancellor's cabinet expressed strong support for Tanaina and a continuing relationship with the university and that they were adamant about not closing Tanaina.   What wasn't clear was the nature of that relationship and support.  The possibilities of a physical space on campus or financial support or faculty expertise were brought up at the meeting, but nothing concrete was specified.  It was suggested that during this time of fiscal stress, the administration would have to deal with the immediate problems of the budget cuts on campus before they could commit to anything in the longer term with Tanaina.  But, the implication I heard, was that it would be there. 

It was mentioned that the Tanaina situation has made the issue of child care/development centers a statewide university topic.  Other issues were raised about improving the infrastructure for child care in Anchorage in general, because fewer people seemed to be willing to take on the responsibility of small, home-based child care, so the demand for more institutionalized child care was growing.  There was talk of changing the structure of the Tanaina board, which tends to have high turnover as board members' kids leave Tanaina in two or three years, which hurts institutional memory.  Plus the parent board members, already have very busy lives because of their young children.  And for parents new to Anchorage, with no family nearby, it's even more hectic. 

It was a meeting with mixed messages.  Cutting the ties with the old space seems certain, and facing uncertain change is difficult.  Especially with things that so hugely affect family life as child care.  But Tanaina is ripe for a larger space.  It's just that the path there didn't have to be so disruptive and unplanned. 

No new meeting of the task force was scheduled.  They're waiting until after a Friday meeting with the Tanaina board. 

"Facing Human Vulnerability in a Dangerous World"

I'd love to do an in depth post on this, probably starting with something about how human behavior and moral dilemmas and the debates about what is the right ethical path has been hotly and insightfully debated for over 2000 years.   Professor Aaron Stalnaker is going to be here tomorrow (Wednesday March 18) to talk about what ancient Chinese philosophers said about the same kinds of issues we face today.   I'd like to write about how easy it is for us to think that people living today are so much smarter than those who lived in the distant past.  But that there were people living then who whose abilities to think through complex human issues were as powerful as anyone alive today. 

But I've got lots of other things to do and this talk is tomorrow evening, so I'll just send this on for people who might wish to gain some perspective on our current ethical debates. 

Here's the official announcement: 

Confucius Institute invites you and your family to join our next academic Lecture, to be held in the UAA/APU Consortium Library, Lewis E. Haines Meeting Room, Room 307, on Wednesday, March 18, from 7:30 to 9:00 p.m.
Facing Human Vulnerability in a Dangerous World: 
Two Chinese Responses.
This lecture will address Mengzi’s (and perhaps Xunzi’s) defense of ritual as an appropriate response to human desires and aspirations, given our nature and the nature of the world as a whole; and then turn to Zhuangzi’s criticism of received ritual forms, in favor of a more radical acceptance of unstoppable change.  

Our speaker Dr. Aaron Stalnaker is a distinguished scholar and philosopher. He is an associate professor of Religious Studies, Philosophy, and East Asian Languages and Cultures at Indiana University. He is a core faculty member in the Department of Religious Studies, serves as the Dean of Graduate Studies, and has made tremendous contribution to the Department of Religious Studies in building its strong academics. He earned his bachelor’s degree from Stanford, and obtained his PhD from Brown. He is an expert in ethics and philosophy of religion, giving serious attention to both Chinese and Western theories and practices.

He is the author of Overcoming Our Evil: Human Nature and Spiritual Exercises in Xunzi and Augustine (Georgetown University Press, 2006), a comparative study of different models of moral and religious personal formation. He recently co-edited Religious Ethics in a Time of Globalism: Shaping a Third Wave of Comparative Analysis (Palgrave Macmillan, 2012). He has lectured at many leading universities, including Harvard Divinity School, Princeton University, University of Michigan, Georgetown University, etc.

And for those who want to do a little homework first, here's an excerpt from a review of Stalnaker's book Overcoming Our Evil:
Having made these points about Stalnaker's interpretation and analysis of Xunzi's theory of self-transformation, let me turn to a lingering concern about the overarching goal of comparative analyses. Stalnaker makes a very strong case for needing forms of spiritual exercises to accomplish self-transformation toward better, moral forms of life. Furthermore, he, like I, wants to be able to retrieve some of these practices for contemporary purposes, to be used to transform lives today. Yet our desire to retrieve these spiritual exercises must confront the problem of whether or not they can be divorced from their conceptual and cultural context and still remain effective practices for self-transformation. Stalnaker believes it may be possible to retrieve some practices once we untangle the complex web of relations between the context and the practices themselves, the kind of work he undertakes in this book. 
 I picked this paragraph because it raises questions about the extent to which the ancient Chinese practices are applicable, as I suggested above.  

Events like this are just one of the many benefits of having a good university in our city.