Saturday, April 25, 2015

Ethical Issues Raised by Electronic Media - AK Press Club Breakout Session Today

I've proposed a breakout session at the Alaska Press Club conference today.

These are issues I've been thinking about, but then I got a 2011 Anchorage Daily News article the other day and it came up like this:


According to the internet, this article was an Alaska Dispatch News article, not an Anchorage Daily News article.   The Dispatch didn't buy the News until 2014.  Does that matter?  Most people outside of Anchorage wouldn't know, and would credit this article to the Dispatch.  That may not be a big thing, but it's a symbol of my concerns - the ability to change history online.  

Someone interested in newspapers themselves, who didn't know about Alaska would think the Dispatch was Anchorage's newspaper since forever.  

But this is just the tip of the iceberg.  With hard copy newspapers in the library or on microfiche, you see the original published version.   With electronic online publications,  that published version no longer exists.  Anyone with access, can change what the newspaper said.

Editing published work

"All entries must be submitted as they were published or broadcast."
But everyone changes their online versions.  Typos get corrected.  Updates get added.  I had two readers this week alert me to spelling errors, which I then fixed.  And when events change, it makes sense to alert readers of an old post of that change.  Either to add information or link to a newer post that has that information.

My own blog rule has been:
1.  For typos and minor stylistic rewording, I just change it without any notice.
2.  For changes that might change the meaning, I strikeout the old and [bracket the new] and I'll mark the date it was updated. 
This seems to be a reasonable approach.  It cleans up sloppy writing that slips here where I don't have an editor, but it prevents me from changing the story in ways that might hide my mistakes or make it look I was prescient.

Blogger also has another feature that's handy, but raises issues.  It lets bloggers change the publication time.  That's useful for scheduling a post.  There have been times, for example, when Feedburner doesn't relay my post and I've gone back and reposted it at about the same time as the original post to wake Feedburner up.  But someone could just as easily backdate predictions about an election or a sports event or anything.

Changing The Records of History
My biggest concern is the ability to change what was written and to backdate.  What if someone gets into the newspaper files and changes history?  It shouldn't be that hard to do.  Most libraries have stopped storing paper copies of newspapers and journals.   Web caching is our only back up, but it's not clear to me that this is a foolproof way to stop or catch online document tampering.

So, these are the kinds of things I'm proposed for a breakout session at 11:45am today at the Alaska Press Club.  There's a bulletin board to see the exact room.  (In fact I will probably tamper, after the the original post, with this post to add the room number later this morning.)

Friday, April 24, 2015

University Budget Cuts to Impact 200 UAA Postions

UAA Chancelor sent out an email to the university community today outlining the impacts of a $19 million cut in the budget.   Here's probably the critical line:
"Over the next few weeks, UAA will announce layoffs, reduced work assignments, position reductions and program eliminations that will affect approximately 200 positions, some of which are already vacant."

Here's the whole email:


Dear UAA community,
 
For several months youve been hearing about the budget challenges the University is currently facing. As a result of combined operating budget cuts from FY15 and FY16, UAA is dealing with a budget shortfall of about $19.5 million. We know this will impact our institution at every level. Despite these fiscal challenges, our goal, as always, is to provide our students with a quality education.
 
To help reduce the overall burden of these budget reductions, UAA will join UAF, UAS and UA Statewide in a leadership-level furlough beginning in FY16. Officers of the University will receive 10 furlough days; senior administrators will receive 7; non-represented academic leaders will receive 5. This will impact 69 UAA employees, all at the leadership level. Though difficult, these furloughs will help save UAA about $270,000 in operating expenses in FY16.
 
This is the second year in a row that UAA is absorbing cuts to our operating budget. In FY15, we reduced spending, implemented service efficiencies, made alignment improvements through Prioritization and left vacant positions unfilled. With another cut in state funding in FY16—coupled with increased utility costs and unfunded building operations—personnel and programs will be affected. Over the next few weeks, UAA will announce layoffs, reduced work assignments, position reductions and program eliminations that will affect approximately 200 positions, some of which are already vacant. This is the most painful impact of the budget shortfall because it hits at the heart of our community—our people.
 
In FY16, the campus community will see fewer support personnel and/or reduced hours in student services, human resources, information technology, facility upkeep and facility maintenance. Academic units will see increases in teaching loads, larger class sizes, reductions in course sections and a reduction in adjunct faculty positions. Program transformations and eliminations identified through the Prioritization process will be finalized by the end of June 2015. Our focus will remain on quality teaching and research.
 
I know this news seems grim, but we all know that UAA is an amazing university with truly outstanding faculty, staff and students. Difficult times promote creative thinking, and I am confident our community will come together to use this situation to become an even better and stronger university. 
 
I’d like to encourage you to continue to celebrate the amazing things our students, faculty and staff are accomplishing every day. Even in times like these, we are doing incredible work.
 
Sincerely,
tom-full-sig-white.jpg 
Tom Case
Chancellor
 

Furlough information: https://www.alaska.edu/hr/hr-procedures/furlough/

Ethics On The Fly

[From Alaska Press Club session - these are rough notes, missed a lot, but it will give you a sense of the session.  Too much happening to do more.  Lots of good discussion.]

Presenters
Jacqui Banaszynski
Lanpher and Banaszynski
Katherine Lanpher

Ethical Responsibilities of an Editor?

Editor and reporter not different - emphasis different.  Reporter more in the field and with resources.  Relationship fraught with conflict - obligation to sources, don't want to lose them, cutting deals with them.

Sports beat reporter didn't do serious sports investigation reports.

Editor's responsibility - ask all the right questions, protect reporters and company.  Both have responsibility to craft.  Pressure points - want to protect reporter, but have bigger responsibilities.

Didn't think we had ethical quandaries, but, yes, off course.

Free lance reporting - consequences.  Al Jazeera has three reporters in Egyptian prison.  Responsibility for safety.  James Foley, Danny Pearl - doing one dumb thing.  Not run dangerous stuff, then others will follow.  If someone takes him hostage, we can't send in rescue.  

Bring back to other end of the spectrum.  Every decision journalist makes is an ethical one.  Who to talk to who not to talk to.  Using one word versus another can be an ethical decision.

Take for granted, fair and ethical, get all sides of the story.  So why do we take police report, maybe talk to victim, but who are we missing?  We do that all over, don't talk to the suspects.

Reporter versus Editor - back to Rolling Stone - we could talk for days.  Huge cohort adamant that reporter should never write again.   She was a freelancer.  She didn't have regular benefits, salary,  . . .

But she still shouldn't have done what she did.

Decision that might be ethical in one situation isn't in another. 

Margaret Sullivan - interface between NY Times and public.

Ethics at a small time publication.

My other half is journalist.  Got fired when economy went bad.  60 year old white guy, unemployed.  Invented his own job.  Funky little fabulous newspaper.  I was invited to big fancy lunch for politician.
You can't go.
I have to.
You can't go to fundraiser, you're a journalist, unless you go to Republican fund raisers.
Publisher, me, had a long discussion with the editor (me), and the publisher won.

New Yorker Piece - Rachel Aviv  - small town newspaper reporting New Town B - editor is a philosopher.  Made decision how they were going to serve their community after watching how the national media covered things.  Consciously decided to do news that would help the community - never mention the name of the massacre.

Ethics is not something you have, rather something you do.  Values is something you have. 

 Discussion of small time publisher going to fund raiser.
Won't vote in primaries - if have to register for a party.  
I don't want anyone to think they know where I am politically and how that would affect my writing. 
This is changing with your generation - they see and question the false neutrality of the press.  Say, wouldn't it be better to be open where we stand on things.  And that raises interesting territory.  Where do you draw the line?  Yes I'm going to be involved in my community and civic life, but will do with with certain guidelines. 
I assume if you go to Occupy Wall Street, you're going to cover it.  My boss, a Brit, at the Guardian, it was policy that you went to the protest.  We've had heated words because we have a South African . . . 

Things got more into advocacy - sending a gay reporter to cover the Obergefell case in the Supreme Court.  There was a long discussion about whether transparency is enough to overcome people's bias.  Early AIDS writing was done by gay press, because they knew what was happening.  What about covering the opening of a new store owned by reporter's sister, who is the only reporter in a small town.  Response:  Disclose the relationship.

Off the record.  Don't assume people use it the same way.  Be clear what that person means.  Public officials owe people information, even private officials in some cases, probably shouldn't let them go off the record.  Exploratory interview - still trying to figure out what the story is.  "I'm still trying to decide if there is a story about how public records.   .  I need help figuring whether there is a story."

"Why don't we try it on the record.  How much can you tell me on the record?"

Different with public officials who know how to dance and private citizens who don't usually deal with the press, need time to explain. 

Moved to small town, people weren't used to reporters reporting everything.  Set up one-on-one meetings with officials and talked about the public meetings law and my roll and how we could get along - and that helped a lot. 



Thursday, April 23, 2015

Alaska Commons Sending Reporter To The Supreme Court Next Week

John Arono tweeted this evening:



What the hell is Obergefell?  Or SCOTUS?

SCOTUS is the Supreme Court Of The United States.

Obergefell is short for  Obergefell v. Hodges.  It's the Ohio case challenging the state's ban on recognizing same-sex marriages performed outside of Ohio.  But there are actually four cases combined under Obergefell.  From SCOTUS blog:
The merits brief filed in the Kentucky case (Bourke v. Beshear) is the only one that discusses both questions: the validity of state bans on same-sex marriage, and the validity of state bans on the recognition of existing same-sex marriages.   The brief filed in the Michigan case (DeBoer v. Snyder) discusses only the marriage question, and each of the briefs filed in the Ohio (Obergefell v. Hodges) and Tennessee (Tanco v. Haslam) cases deals only with the recognition question.  (When a final decision is issued, it will have the Obergefell v. Hodges title, simply because that case was the first to reach the Justices.)
 Got that?  Two challenges:

1.  Can states ban same-sex marriages?
2.  Can states ban recognition of existing same-sex marriages?


This will be heard Tuesday (April 28) in the Supreme Court.


So what lies ahead for Mr. Roulet?  SCOTUS blog has a special page telling journalists what to expect at the Supreme Court Tuesday.

First, reporters are told they need to get press passes.  This, Mr. Roulet has succeeded in doing.  Next, they are told to get familiar with the case and this page for reporters has a section briefing them on how to do that.

Then comes the section on what actually happens at the Supreme Court.  I wish I had had something like that when I went to the Federal Court hearings in Anchorage back in 2007, but it was not near as competitive getting in and I was able to learn on-the-job.  Plus the rules changed from the first trial to the next.  (Reporters could bring cell phones past security and their computers into the court room after the first trial.)

Here's what Mr. Roulet has ahead of him:
"On the day of the oral argument, plan to arrive early. The Court’s Public Information Office will tell you when to check in, but give yourself plenty of time before that, because you will need to go through security to enter the Court building, and there may be lines to do so. Once you are through, head to the PIO for your pass, which will include a seat assignment, and information on using the wifi in the press room, which is right next door to the PIO. You can’t take any electronics into the Courtroom, but you can leave your laptop, phones, and other belongings in the press room. The press room will be crowded: most of the room is devoted to cubicles for the roughly two dozen reporters who cover the Court on a regular basis, so there will be lots of people milling around (and packed into) the remaining space.
The staff of the Public Information Office (who are, by the way, extremely helpful) will take reporters up to the Courtroom in groups, based on their seat assignments. If you are in one of the early groups, be prepared to sit and wait for a while. (On the bright side, that will give you plenty of time to observe, and perhaps participate in, a time-honored tradition for reporters covering really high-profile cases: standing up and craning your neck to see what celebrities – or what passes for celebrities in Washington – are in the public seats.)
Before you enter the Courtroom, you will have to go through a second security screening. This one involves both passing through a metal detector and a close visual examination of anything you want to bring in with you. Be warned: this inspection can include opening up smaller items like wallets or lipsticks, so it may be easier just to leave everything but your notepad and pens (and, if you are over forty, your reading glasses) in the press room.
At about five minutes before ten, one of the police officers in the Courtroom will make an announcement that includes instructions for the audience: Remain completely silent throughout the proceedings, notify an officer if you see anything suspicious, and in the event of an emergency do exactly what the officer tells you to do.
At ten o’clock, you will hear a buzzer, the Court’s marshal will call the Courtroom to order, and everyone (including you) will stand up as the Justices enter the Courtroom. The Chief Justice sits in the middle, and then the other Justices are arranged around him in order of seniority: Justice Antonin Scalia, the most senior Associate Justice, is on his right, while Justice Anthony Kennedy, the second-most-senior Associate Justice, is on his left. This continues through (in order of seniority) Justice Clarence Thomas, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Justice Stephen Breyer (who sits next to Justice Thomas and often has animated conversations with him), and Justice Sonia Sotomayor, until you get to Justice Elena Kagan, the Court’s junior Justice. She sits on the far right (the Chief Justice’s left) end of the bench."  [emphasis added]
 If you want to know what happens next, you can go to the SCOTUS blog "A reporter’s guide to covering the same-sex marriage cases at the Supreme Court."

The piece talks about what might happen next:

There could be
1.   summaries of opinions for earlier cases.
2.   swearings-in ceremonies for members of the Supreme Court bar.

The regular Supreme Court bar will run upstairs and take their assigned seats in the press section after hearing the opinions downstairs.  It also mentions that there are seats from which you can't see the justices and recommends people listen to tapes so they can recognize the voices.

Then there will be oral arguments which have been allotted two-and-a-half hours - 90 minutes longer than normal.   The first part (90 minutes) is for the marriage questions and the second part (60 minutes) is for the recognition question.  The plaintiffs (those challenging the ban) go first.  The SCOTUS blog goes into detail about each of the attorneys on both sides of each question. 


If you want to know details of the arguments themselves you can't go wrong by going to the SCOTUS blog page that indexes all their posts on this case.

Congratulations Brandon and Alaska Commons!  We're looking forward to hearing your first hand account. 

If you want to hear the proceedings yourself, here's what the Court posted on March 5:
 The Court will provide the audio recording and transcript of the oral argument in 14-556, Obergefell v. Hodges, and consolidated cases, on an expedited basis through the Court’s Website. The argument is scheduled to be heard on Tuesday, April 28 from 10 a.m. until 12:30 p.m.
           The Court will post the audio recording and unofficial transcript as soon as the digital files are available for uploading to the Website.  The audio recording and transcript should be available no later than 2 p.m. on April 28.
           Anyone interested in the proceedings will be able to access the recording and transcript directly through links on the homepage of the Court’s Website. The Court’s Website address is www.supremecourt.gov.
 So, by 10am Alaska time, next Tuesday, you should be able to listen in.

What will they decide?  A SCOTUS blog commentary predicts, after a lengthy explanation in part 1 and part 2, the Court will overturn the bans on same-sex marriage.

I looked for a conservative opinion and checked the CATO Institute's post on this case.  While conservative, CATO also leans libertarian.  So I guess I shouldn't have been surprise to read this:
"Joining with noted originalist scholar (and Federalist Society co-founder) Steven Calabresi and Yale law professor William Eskridge—one of the leading experts on American legal history—we urge the Court to reverse the Sixth Circuit’s decision and finally fulfill the Constitution’s promise of equal protection under law to millions of gay Americans and their children. We argue that the lower court’s ruling was inconsistent with the original meaning of the Fourteenth Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause. The fact that the provision’s ratifiers didn’t automatically or explicitly understand that it would eventually require states to recognize same-sex marriages is irrelevant; all that matters is what it meant in 1868 for a state to 'deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.'”
But we won't know until June (probably) what they actually decide.  


I have no idea how the court's public information office decides who gets passes.  I'm wondering though, whether the fact that Alaska is listed on one of the amicus briefs helped secure the pass.  While I decried the decision to put us on that brief, maybe this is a positive side-effect.  Or maybe it has nothing to do with it. 

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Is This The PSA That Comes Up On The Alaksa House And Senate Majority's Screens?

Things I find on Twitter:





[UPDATE for non-Alaskans:  Pick.Click.Give. is the campaign to get Alaskans to make a donation to a non-profit organization by deducting it from their Permanent Fund Dividend checks each year.  The video is from Alaska Robotics out of Juneau.  They do great stuff.]

I DON"T Judge You When You Use Poor Grammar

But I might help you understand how to write it correctly if it seems important.

As a teacher, I've read a lot of poor grammar.  And, modeling my English teachers,  I started out pretty picky about it.  But eventually I learned about things like dyslexia and the arbitrary origins of our grammar rules*, and I got a lot mellower.  Mind you, I still think that good grammar and word choice improves people's ability to communicate.  And I still mark students' bad grammar.  But my comments are focused on their grammar, not on their moral character.   However, I would suggest to students that bad grammar in their writing was like a big spot on your shirt.  Some people will judge you on it. 

In the last two days, two readers have contacted me to point out spelling errors.  I don't have an editor, so errors slip through now and then and I appreciate the extra eyes.  They were alerting me, not judging me.  

Thus, I found this book title offensive.  OK, can you find something offensive without judging yourself?  A reasonable question.  I don't have to be judging the person to be offended.  I'm merely stating my reaction.  Shaming people, whether it's over their gender or their grammar, is still shaming.  It's hurtful.  And one has to wonder why someone feels the need to put other people down.  Rather than judging, I find my self wondering what kinds of personal issues Sharon Eliza Nichols has that she has to so publicly shame people who have problems with grammar? 



We all have different natural strengths and weaknesses.  Some people simply don't see letters and words that well.  Other people see them so well that it causes them distress when they're wrong.  That may be Nichols' stimulus for this book.

I've seen other books that offer examples of signs written in English by speakers of other languages - often non-English speakers trying to communicate with visitors who don't speak the local language.  But usually those books are written with an eye to the humor, not to shaming the creators.  They're written by people who know how hard it would be for them to write such signs in other languages.

 I don't know that I would be doing a post on this, if it hadn't been for the first picture inside the book. 

As I interpret this sign, it's not a typo, it's not a mistake, but rather a pun.  You might not like or get the pun, but I'd bet money that the owners of this store knew full well how to spell bistro.  What this suggests to me is that Nichols might not have a very good sense of humor.



Most of the examples in the book are like this one - problems with apostrophes or other spelling or grammar errors.  One could get picky and say a spelling error is not technically a grammar error.  People who harshly judge others get no mercy for their own failings.  



And here's another example.  For the life of me, I can't think of a word that fits here that someone could have incorrectly written as "penis.'  My guess is that it said something like "Fresh Cut Peonies" and some joker removed the 'o' and the 'e'.

Being judgmental has the problem of others scrutinizing what you do harder than they might have.  I'd suggest that Nichols lighten up.  Maybe these people wrote these various signs simply to help you write your book.  Or maybe to get your goat.  If this really bothers you so much - and the introduction to the pictures suggests it does, and that you really do look down on the writers - then you might consider where this need to judge comes from.  Anger tends to tell us more about the person who got angry than the objects of the anger.  Especially when the angry person doesn't even know the offender.

All that said, let me also say, yes, of course, there are times when anger is a legitimate reaction.  And yes, I could write a bunch of blog posts about the benefits of good grammar and spelling.  But I've got my weaknesses and I'm glad people don't look down on me for them, and I try to understand, rather than judge, others who don't live up to my expectations.  Starting with respect is generally the best way to help others improve anyway. 

*I converted on grammar precision when I read chapter 12, "The Language Mavens," in Steven Pinker's The Language Instinct. He wrote that English grammar became important in the eighteenth century when England became the center of a powerful empire and the London dialect became an important world language. 
"The period also saw unprecedented social mobility, and anyone who desired education and self-improvement and who wanted to distinguish himself as cultivated had to master the best version of English.  These trends created a demand for handbooks and style manuals, which were soon shaped by market forces.  Casting English grammar into the mold of Latin grammar made the books useful as a way of helping young students learn Latin.  And as the competition became cutthroat, the manuals tried to outdo one another by including greater numbers of increasingly fastidious rules that no refined person could afford to ignore.  Most of the hobgoblins of contemporary prescriptive grammar (don't split infinitives, don't end a sentence with a preposition) can be traced back to these eighteenth-century fads."
  Here's a more recent example of Pinker on the topic of questionable grammar rules.

NOTE:  8:15pm My apologies to people who've been here already.  Another Feedburner failure I'm hoping to remedy by reposting.  [8:24pm it worked]

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Indoor Flowers









It is still April and while there are some tulip leaves along the side of the house, and I saw the first iris leaves peeking out, it is still very early for flowers outside.  And yesterday's enemic  [anemic] snow fall was a reminder that we are in Alaska.



But we do have a couple of flowering plants in the house right now.

The hoya flowers are always spectacular.  Each is about the diameter of a dime.



Here's some good advice I didn't know from Guide to Houseplants:
 "You can prune back long vines if you want to keep it compact. The best time to prune is early spring, before Hoyas start their most vigorous time of growth. Don't prune off the leafless stem -- or spur -- where flowers have been produced because flowers will form on the same spurs year after year."



The Dracaena fragranta   

"It is also very tolerant of neglect, and has been shown by the NASA Clean Air Study to help remove indoor pollutants such as formaldehyde, xylene and toluene.[4] The plant is known as "masale" and is a holy plant to the Chagga people[5]"

of Tanzania.



Monday, April 20, 2015

Refugees Dying In Boats Is Not Unique To the Mediterranean In 2015


The world's media today is focused on the deaths of boat people fleeing Africa for Europe.  There's a lot of wringing of hands and talk about ways to prevent future such disasters.

But I would argue that it would make more sense to step back and remember that refugees fleeing persecution by boat has a long history.  I'm sure there are examples that go back much further than mine, but they are hard to find.  The Israelites fleeing Egypt across the Red Sea is different because they didn't go in boats.  But I'm sure there were plenty of people who fled various wars and famines by boat.

Let's look at these and consider at the end what they have in common and how the world might develop mechanisms to mitigate future such migrations.  Each of the examples below are just snippets from larger posts that you can view through the links.

Europeans of various religious denomination fleeing to the New World - 1600s - 1700s 
from the Library of Congress
The religious persecution that drove settlers from Europe to the British North American colonies sprang from the conviction, held by Protestants and Catholics alike, that uniformity of religion must exist in any given society. This conviction rested on the belief that there was one true religion and that it was the duty of the civil authorities to impose it, forcibly if necessary, in the interest of saving the souls of all citizens. Nonconformists could expect no mercy and might be executed as heretics. The dominance of the concept, denounced by Roger Williams as "inforced uniformity of religion," meant majority religious groups who controlled political power punished dissenters in their midst. In some areas Catholics persecuted Protestants, in others Protestants persecuted Catholics, and in still others Catholics and Protestants persecuted wayward coreligionists. Although England renounced religious persecution in 1689, it persisted on the European continent. Religious persecution, as observers in every century have commented, is often bloody and implacable and is remembered and resented for generations.

The African Slave Trade

While the circumstances of the slave trade were different from the situation of refugees, the experience of horrendous sea voyages to distant lands is relevant.   From the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History.
The level of slave exports grew from about 36,000 a year during the early 18th century to almost 80,000 a year during the 1780s.
The Angolan region of west-central Africa made up slightly more than half of all Africans sent to the Americas and a quarter of imports to British North America.
Approximately 11,863,000 Africans were shipped across the Atlantic, with a death rate during the Middle Passage reducing this number by 10-20 percent. As a result between 9.6 and 10.8 million Africans arrived in the Americas.

Irish Fleeing the Potato Famine in the 1840s:
Image from Historyplace


"Of the 100,000 Irish that sailed to British North America in 1847, an estimated one out of five died from disease and malnutrition, including over five thousand at Grosse Isle.
Up to half of the men that survived the journey to Canada walked across the border to begin their new lives in America. They had no desire to live under the Union Jack flag in sparsely populated British North America. They viewed the United States with its anti-British tradition and its bustling young cities as the true land of opportunity. Many left their families behind in Canada until they had a chance to establish themselves in the U.S.
Americans, unfortunately, not only had an anti-British tradition dating back to the Revolutionary era, but also had an anti-Catholic tradition dating back to the Puritan era. America in the 1840s was a nation of about 23 million inhabitants, mainly Protestant. Many of the Puritan descendants now viewed the growing influx of Roman Catholic Irish with increasing dismay."

Jews Fleeing From Nazi Germany

 Both my parents participated in this story, though their passages across the Atlantic were relatively civilized and they had managed to get proper papers.  But their parents did not.

Here is one harrowing story of a ship that was sent back to Europe

From the US Holocaust Memorial Museum:

The voyage of the St. Louis attracted a great deal of media attention. Even before the ship sailed from Hamburg, right-wing Cuban newspapers deplored its impending arrival and demanded that the Cuban government cease admitting Jewish refugees. Indeed, the passengers became victims of bitter infighting within the Cuban government. The Director-General of the Cuban immigration office, Manuel Benitez Gonzalez, had come under a great deal of public scrutiny for the illegal sale of landing certificates. He routinely sold such documents for $150 or more and, according to US estimates, had amassed a personal fortune of $500,000 to $1,000,000. Though he was a protégé of Cuban army chief of staff (and future president) Fulgencio Batista, Benitez's self-enrichment through corruption had fueled sufficient resentment in the Cuban government to bring about his resignation. . . .
Following the US government's refusal to permit the passengers to disembark, the St. Louis sailed back to Europe on June 6, 1939. The passengers did not return to Germany, however. Jewish organizations (particularly the Jewish Joint Distribution Committee) negotiated with four European governments to secure entry visas for the passengers: Great Britain took 288 passengers; the Netherlands admitted 181 passengers, Belgium took in 214 passengers; and 224 passengers found at least temporary refuge in France. Of the 288 passengers admitted by Great Britain, all survived World War II save one, who was killed during an air raid in 1940. Of the 620 passengers who returned to continent, 87 (14%) managed to emigrate before the German invasion of Western Europe in May 1940. 532 St. Louis passengers were trapped when Germany conquered Western Europe. Just over half, 278 survived the Holocaust. 254 died: 84 who had been in Belgium; 84 who had found refuge in Holland, and 86 who had been admitted to France.


Jewish Refugees Trying To Reach Palestine After WW II

The ship Exodus 1947 became a symbol of Aliya Bet — illegal immigration. After World War II, illegal immigration increased and the British authorities decided to stop it by sending the ships back to the ports of embarkation in Europe. The first ship to which this policy was applied was the Exodus 1947.
Image source

The ship sailed from the port of Site, near Marseilles, on July 11, 1947, with 4,515 immigrants, including 655 children, on board. As soon as it left the territorial waters of France, British destroyers accompanied it. On July 18, near the coast of Palestine but outside territorial waters, the British rammed the ship and boarded it, while the immigrants put up a desperate defense. Two immigrants and a crewman were killed in the battle, and 30 were wounded. The ship was towed to Haifa, where the immigrants were forced onto deportation ships bound for France. At Port-de-Bouc, in southern France, the would-be immigrants remained in the ships’ holds for 24 days during a heat wave, refusing to disembark despite the shortage of food, the crowding and the abominable sanitary conditions. The French government refused to force them off the boat. Eventually, the British decided to return the would-be immigrants to Germany, and on August 22 the ship left for the port of Hamburg, then in the British occupation zone. The immigrants were forcibly taken off and transported to two camps near Lubeck.
Journalists who covered the dramatic struggle described to the entire world the heartlessness and cruelty of the British. World public opinion was outraged and the British changed their policy. Illegal immigrants were not sent back to Europe; they were instead transported to detention camps in Cyprus.
The majority of the passengers on the Exodus 1947 settled in Israel, though some had to wait until after the establishment of the State of Israel.

Cuban Boat People 1960 - 2015
After Castro's revolution in Cuba, people have been trying to make the 100 mile boat trip to Florida, many making it, many not.  There were many, many small boats over the years.  There were a few times when large number of boats left Cuba.  But I didn't find a succinct overview of the number of people who left Cuba during all that time.  Here's a photo essay from 1994









Vietnamese Boat People 1975-1980s

Starting in 1975, after the US left Vietnam in defeat, many Vietnamese fled, disastrously, by boat.
Image source
When the Americans lost the Vietnam War there were many who did not wish to stay in Vietnam. Those with influence were airlifted out by the Americans but many had to make do with crowding onto leaky boats and making the journey from Vietnam to the gulf of Thailand. In doing so they unwittingly wrote themselves into modern pirate history.
Conditions were perfect for piracy. The local fishermen were poor and were looking for an easy means to supplement their income. The Vietnamese government did not care about them and the Thai government was not anxious to receive large boatloads of refugees. No one cared about the fate of the boat people so allegations of piracy were often ignored. It was only when the incidents became more shocking that pressure was brought to bear on the Thai government by maritime interests led by the Americans. By then thousands had been robbed, raped and murdered.

These are just a few examples, ones that got some attention.

So what do they have in common?
  1. Leaving conditions where their lives were threatened by religious or political persecution.  In the case of the Irish hunger was added to the other two reasons.
  2. The quotas for accepting refugees in other countries was much lower than the number of refugees.
  3. Conditions on the ships ranged from relatively comfortable to nearly suicidal.  

Thus solutions will involve:
  1. Improving economic and political conditions around the world so people have no reason to flee so perilously.
  2. When that fails, have reasonably decent housing and living conditions for refugees until they can find a permanent new homeland.
  3. Increase understanding of destination populations so they are more welcoming.  
These are pretty broad recommendations.  I don't claim to have all the answers.  But as the species that produces great art, great music, and such wonders as the Hubble telescope, and a map of the human genome, surely we can find ways to reduce the need to flee, and when it does occur, we can make the reception more humane. 

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Steve Heimel, Bill Weimar, Joe McKinnon, Paul Fuhs, and Cal Williams Talk About the Old Days - Monday Evening

Photo from 2007 at Federal Court Building
Looooooong time radio news man Steve Heimel will do a public oral history collection session

Monday (April 20) at the  KAKM studio, 
6:30-8 pm.

Subject will be the Ad Hoc movement of the early 1970's in Alaska

Participants:   Bill Weimar, Paul Fuhs, Joe McKinnon, Cal Williams.

The public is welcome.

Jack Roderick, former Anchorage Borough Mayor, writes about the ad hoc Democrats on page 359 in  his book Crude Dreams:



Now this is a particularly colorful group.   Bill Weimar later ran private prisons and halfway houses, and made a $30,000 loan to Frank Prewitt, who was commissioner of corrections at the time.  The FBI's stake out in the Baranof Hotel in Juneau that led to a string of convictions, started with interest in the private prisons.  Frank Prewitt decided to cooperate with the FBI and was a key witness in the trial that convicted Tom Anderson.

I remember in court when Anderson's attorney cross-examined Prewitt about that $30,000 loan from Weimar.  From my blog June 29, 2007: 
"When Stockler finally did get to start his cross examination of Prewitt at 3:45pm, he lit right into him and then he began to try to show Anderson's behavior in a more positive light. First he hit Prewitt with a series of incidents that he suggested he could have gone to prison for.

1. A $30,000 loan Prewitt, while Commissioner of Corrections, got from Allvest another firm that subcontracted with the Department of Corrections (I think that's what he said.) Prewitt said he got the loan and paid it back.
Stockler: Is there anything in writing? Isn't it true it was a bribe?
Prewitt:  No.
Stockler:  How did you pay it back?
Prewitt:  I worked for Allvest for four months - $7500 per month.
Stockler:  Did you pay taxes on the $30,000?
Prewitt:  No, it was a loan.
Stockler:  But you say you worked for it.
Prewitt:  No, I was paying him back.
Stockler:  So, all of us could avoid paying income taxes by having our employer loan us our pay before, and then we'd repay it by working and not have to pay taxes?"  [I've reformatted the Q&A to make it clearer.]

Here's Weimar's indictment from an August 11, 2008 post:
  • Count 1
...William Weimar, Candidate A, Consultant A, and others known and unknown, did knowingly and unlawfully conspire . . . to deprive the the public of the honest services that Candidate A would provide as an Alaska State Legislator, through a scheme to disguise WEIMAR’s direct payment to CONSULTANT A of approximately $20,000 in expenses for CANDIDATE A’s campaign for the legislature, without reporting the payment as required by applicable Alaska law and regulations and without routing it for payment through CANDIDATE A’s campaign, and through the foreseeable use of the mails, interstate were communications, in violation of Title 18 US Code Section 1341, 1343, and 1346.

  • Count 2
Weimar concealed the money through breaking the $20,000 into three payments to avoid the required reporting of transactions over $10,000.

And here's Michael Carey's  bio of pre-Alaska Bill Weimar.   [Monday, April 10, 10:30am  I've fixed this link]


I knew about Paul Fuhs as a fish guy.  He's been mayor of Dutch Harbor and commissioner of the Department of Commerce and Economic Development.  While looking for more on Fuhs I found this video on Youtube
"This performance by Steve Nelson (piano, vocals) and Paul Fuhs (vocals) with accompaniment by members of the Soviet Border Guard Military Band and their conductor was recorded in Vladivostok, Russia in May 1990 at the studio of the local state television station."  [The link gives a longer account of how this video came to be.]






I met attorney Joe McKinnon at the redistricting board meetings.  Actually I think I met him during the political trials - I think he was representing one of the witnesses.  This link goes to a brief video of Joe after one of the redistricting board meetings.


Finally, Cal Williams, who moved to Alaska in 1973 after working for civil rights in his home state of Louisiana.  He's been involved in Alaska politics since. 

This should be good stuff.


Tuesday, Steve's going to reading from a manuscript, "My First 50 Years in Broadcasting" at the UAA Bookstore."  4pm.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

"Why Should I Do All The Work?" Mariano Gonzales

Mariano has done a lot of work, so it's not like he's being lazy.  The title will make more sense when you read the artist's statement below. 

A.

If you live in Anchorage, I'd strongly recommend getting to the museum Sunday April 18, 2015, the last day of the Mariano Gonzales exhibit.  It's in the small gallery on the 4th floor.


I took a couple of computer art classes from Mariano and I can only say, he's one of those incredible people who do world class work, live in Anchorage, and most people are totally unaware of their existence.  Don't just take my word. 

Mariano can work in any medium, with incredible craftsmanship.  But it's the concepts and social statements Mariano is making that are always important. 







The titles of the works in this post are (not in this order)
  1. Number 3
  2. Oh Say Can't You See?
  3. Don't Touch My Cheese
  4. A Man In The Shadows
  5. Tsunami
I think you should be able to match them to the right works.  Answer key at the bottom.




A Man In The Shadows is the name of the exhibit.  There are lots of possible meanings of that in this exhibit.  One of the most obvious are the shadows in the the three dimensional works he has.  




B.

I've tried below to give a sense of the next work as a whole and then the details.  This one is full of military vehicles.  I've saved it in higher than normal resolution so you can enlarge it to see it better. 


C.

Here's what Mariano says about the work in this exhibit - particularly the three dimensional pieces. 



Below I tried to capture a sense of the shaped aluminum and the metal frame behind these works. 






And here's one more.  The whole work is in the upper right and the background and other two images are details from the larger work.  There's a lot of amazing stuff in this piece. This one can also be clicked much larger.

D.


Not all the work is in this form.  There are a number of other pieces that have different media - from scrimshaw, to canvas, to silver, and the one below. 

E.

Again, Sunday, today for most who read this, is the last day of the exhibit.  And you can check out the Captain Cook exhibit while you are there.   Though it will be around a lot longer.

By the way, there was a sign that said the work could be purchased through the museum gift shop.  So even if you're not in Anchorage, you can inquire about purchasing one of these pieces.  

Titles Code:
A=4
B=1
C=2
D=5
E=3