Wednesday, March 04, 2015

Eliminating Alaska Daylight Savings Time Deja Vu

Or we could also title this, "The More Things Change, The More They Stay The Same."

Here's the beginning of a front page article in the Alaska Dispatch News today:

"Daylight saving time bill springs forward in Alaska Legislature

Molly Dischner | Associated Press
JUNEAU — A Senate committee advanced legislation Tuesday that would eliminate daylight saving time in Alaska and allow for consideration of another time zone in the state.
The bill would exempt Alaskans from advancing their clocks each spring. It would also direct the governor to ask the U.S. Department of Transportation to consider moving part or all of Alaska to Pacific time.
Sen. Anna MacKinnon, R-Eagle River, originally proposed the bill to end daylight saving time in Alaska, then introduced the amendment to consider another time zone."
I've highlighted "originally proposed the bill because, this year isn't the first year that she's been pushing this bill.

Below is a repost of what I wrote March 18, 2010 when I was blogging the Alaska legislature.

There are some differences.  Representative Anna Fairclough is now Senator Anna MacKinnon (same person.)

HB 19 to End Daylight Savings Time

Thursday, March 18, 2010

The other two meetings going on right now are dealing with issues of far greater impact on Alaska I presume.  But this is one most Alaskans can understand easily and are impacted by most directly and tangibly.

Here is the table with copies of emails and letters for and against the bill. 

[Update:  I looked through these and they are all [mostly] dated March 18 and some 17.  Actually this stack is misleading.  I didn't realize I have one big stack twice.  The vote was 62 for HB 19, 18 against, and four had other options, like get the US to change, but not just Alaska.]

Sen. Olson and Sen. Menard listen to phone testimony on the ending daylight savings time in Alaska. 

Rep. Anna Fairclough, the bill sponsor, responded to the comments received through the mail, email, and by phone today.  She said there were two reasons that have real justification for not changing:

1.  People in Southeast Alaska have a real issue because they are basically in Pacific time, so they get less light in the evening while the sun comes up 3am at solstice.
2.  The difficulty in coordinating with people outside of Alaska.  (I think this was the second one)

Other than these two points, most people prefer getting rid of daylight savings time.  A lot of this is about having to change and the disruption that causes with relatively little daylight impact for most Alaskans (further north and west than Southeast.)

Other issue:  Why don't we just spring forward and stay on daylight savings time the whole year.  There area a couple of issues:
1.  Feds, not states, can change time zones.
2.  Western Alaska would be even further off of sun time (opposite problem of Southeast.)

Meeting was adjourned just about 5pm with the decision postponed.

The bill did not pass that year.  I was curious whether the bill has been defeated every year since so I called Sen. MacKinnon's office and staff member Erin gave me a brief history of previous bills to end daylight savings time in Alaska. 

1999 - 21st Session - HB 4 introduced by Rep. Kohring
2002 - 22nd Session - HB 409 introduced by Rep. Lancaster
2005 - 24th Session - SB 120 and HB 176 introduced Sen. Olson and House State Affairs committee
2009 - 26th Session - HB 19 introduced by Rep. Fairclough

[Note:  Each legislative session is two years starting with the newly elected legislature in January of the odd year following the election in the even year.  So, HB 19 introduced in 2009 was still in play in the second year of the 26th session (2010) when I reported on it.  HB = House Bill, SB = Senate Bill.]

Here is my commentary on daylight savings time in Alaska from a post on the failed legislation in November 2010 on the weekend we were about to fall back. 

My personal feelings are that in Alaska it probably doesn't matter one way or the other except in Southeast, which is the result of having the state in one time zone.  In the winter it's going to be dark and in the summer it's going to be light.  And I don't mind getting an extra hour this weekend in the fall.  But I hate losing an hour of weekend in the spring.

My tweak to daylight savings would be, in the spring, to make the change (skip ahead one hour) at 4pm on Friday afternoon.  Then people at work would get to go home one hour early.  Yes, I know there are all sorts of potential economic impacts, but not much work gets done in the last hour of Friday afternoon anyway and people would feel happy to get a free hour and would spend more on entertainment that weekend to offset the loss.  (Gross generalization based on gut feeling but absolutely no evidence.) 

Monday, March 02, 2015

How People Comprehend and Evaluate Argument - 5pm UAA Bookstore Today

This one is just too on-target with this blog's basic theme - how do we know what we know? -  for me to not post.  Free parking, free admission, And they usually have snacks at the bookstore talks as well.

UAA Prof Yasuhiro Ozuru will be talking about a subject that everyone seems to be an expert on and yet so few can get through to the people with whom they disagree.  

So what does this UAA Pscyhologist have to say?  Find out at 5pm today.  (If you can't make it, there's a link below for UAA podcasts.  I'm not sure when it will be up though.  But if you go, you'll be able to ask follow up questions too.

From the email I got: 

Yasuhiro Ozuru presents

'Argumentation: How People Comprehend and Evaluate Argument'

When:   Mon, March 2, 5pm – 7pm
Where:  UAA Campus Bookstore, 2905 Providence Drive, Anchorage, AK 99508map   (The map's not great - it's the big mirrored glass box next to the old sports center)

Description:   Yasuhiro Ozuru analyzes the relation between comprehension (understanding), validation and evaluation of argument content. People's confusion between argument based on factual evidence and an explanation about why things occur will be examined.

Yasuhiro Ozuru is an associate professor of psychology at UAA. He received his Ph.D. from New School University in 2003.

All UAA Campus Bookstore events are informal, free and open to the public.

There is free parking for bookstore events in the West Campus Central Lot (behind Rasmuson Hall), the Sports Lot and the Sports NW Lot.

For more information call Rachel Epstein at (907) 786-4782, email or visit the bookstore website.

Note: UAA Campus Bookstore podcasts are posted in iTunes or iTunes U–just search UAA or UAA Campus Bookstore.

[I'm reposting this in hopes the feedburner kicks in this time.  Sorry to those who did get here already - not too many of you.]

Sunday, March 01, 2015

"Much of the budget work happens behind the scenes, said Rep. Charisse Millett, R-Anchorage, House Majority Leader"

This quote in Nathaniel Herz's ADN article today struck me.   She was defending the legislature from the charge that they were focused on frivolous things instead of working on the budget. 

We have an open meetings act in Alaska.  The point is that government decisions should be made in public.  There are some exceptions - like to avoid revealing an ongoing investigation, to protect the state's interests in various negotiations, etc. - but they are limited.

It's dismaying to know that the House Majority Leader really doesn't care about letting the public know how the budget is being developed.  I was further dismayed to find out, that the legislature has legally been above the rules.

Attorney Gordon J. Tans has a lengthy treatise on the Alaska Open Meetings Law (updated in 2002):  

As applied to the Alaska Legislature, the OMA, like the legislature's Uniform Rule 22, is viewed by the court merely as a rule of procedure concerning how the legislature has determined to do business. While by its literal terms the OMA is applicable to the legislature, a violation of the OMA by the legislature will not be considered by the courts, absent infringement of the rights of a third person or violation of constitutional restraints or a person's fundamental rights.  25
In 1994 the legislature enacted a law requiring itself to adopt guidelines applying open meetings act principles to the legislature.26
This was to have been done during the 1995 legislative session, but it has still not happened as of this writing .
 This is what happens when people give up on democracy and stop voting and stop keeping their elected officials accountable.  Most of the important work of the state budget is done behind closed doors.

I don't know whether this loophole has been corrected, but I suspect not.  So now we need some citizens who can make a persuasive case that their fundamental rights are being infringed by the legislature making key decisions out of public sight.  

Perhaps our reporter should have asked Millett a followup question about government transparency and why the legislature is not following the open meetings law. 

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Each Candle Represented 31 Years

We had a quiet birthday dinner with my mom last night.  Three candles.  And the food she asked for.  Calves liver smothered in onions, roasted potatoes, and green peas.  Food she had as a child and thus I had as a child. Dessert was a pflaumen Kuche made by her friend.  We also got to skype with her grandchildren and great-grandchildren.  A good birthday. 

I've enhanced the birthday cake a bit with photoshop.  Pflaume = plums.

Friday, February 27, 2015

TSA Guy Wasn't Happy About Possible Homeland Security Budget Failure

As Congress appears close to at least temporarily approving the Homeland Security budget, I am reminded of a conversation I had last week as we were leaving Anchorage.

As I was gathering my stuff from the security conveyor belt in the airport in Anchorage, one of the TSA workers was complaining, in an irritated tone, about the possibility of Congress not passing the Homeland Security budget.  When I asked him his key concerns he said they'd have to work without pay.  I asked why not just stay home?  It's part of our contract that we have to come to work, even if we aren't getting paid.  (I couldn't find the contract* on line and the AFGE hasn't returned my call.)

Last time the government shut down, he said, when they finally got paid - they missed a pay period - the amount was so much that a much larger chunk than normal was taken out for the IRS withholding.  For folks making under $40,000 a year, missing a paycheck and getting a smaller paycheck because of deductions is a big deal.

When members of congress want to make symbolic points, they don't always consider the many impacts those gestures have on real people.

*Finding a copy of the contract is proving a little difficult.  There are lots of articles about it eing signed, but so far no links to the contract itself.  The union AFGE talks about highlights, but I still haven't found a link to the contract.

        Ensures performance-rating payouts are based on a consistent assessment system.

        Guarantees we have safety standards and equipment that help protect you from risks like chemical exposure and extreme temperatures.

        Successfully expanded the parking subsidy program at participating airports
        Nearly doubled your TSA uniform allowance from $232.00 to $446.00 a year.

        Granted officers permission to wear jackets at the checkpoint and shorts in hot weather

        Stops TSA from denying leave without an appropriate reason or as a form of discipline.

        Allows TSA supervisors to excuse tardiness for up to 30 minutes.

        Creates rules for shift bids and a shift trade policy that all airports must follow.

        Learn more about what's in your Union contract

 The learn more link is just as vague.  Obviously the union isn't going to tout a provision that requires employees to come to work when they aren't assured of being paid.  

Thursday, February 26, 2015

"The last frontier of absurdity" Alaska Reality Shows And The Film Subsidies

Homer writer Tom Kizzia has a long column in today's opinion section of the LA Times about reality shows filmed in Alaska.
"Here in Alaska, TV crews have been everywhere the last few years, clutching scripts for "unscripted" shows and handing out confidentiality agreements, asking us to play along. . ."
". . . So much is exaggerated or flat made up. We see acquaintances exclaim about the indoor plumbing as they shop for houses that we know aren't really for sale. We watch them cry out in mock alarm as they fall into icy rivers with dry suits hidden under their Carhartts. Bristol Bay fishermen formally protest errors on Animal Planet's 'Battle on the Bay.' Eskimos object to their portrayal on TLC's 'Escaping Alaska'.” 
Tom's a gifted writer and the story rings true for me, based on conversations I've had with people  who have tangled with film makers looking for characters.  The piece also points out that the state has been subsidizing a lot of this:
"What's strange is that this cringe-worthy montage has been subsidized by the state of Alaska. One-third or more of a production's costs can be refunded through a film incentive program launched under Palin in 2008. The idea was to attract feature films, create local jobs and publicize the state's charms. But there was a backlash — some legislators didn't like it when actor Ted Danson showed up on a film set to lecture them on the environment, while others complained about $360,000 paid to support Bristol Palin's short-lived show about being a single mom. The state responded by making everything confidential, so we don't even know how much this is costing. The state paid out $44 million up to 2013, and probably at least that much more since then. Officials say the majority has gone to TV, with 29 unscripted programs applying for subsidies last year."
As a film fan, I've tended to rationalize that of all the ways the state is subsidizing Outside businesses - starting with the oil companies and various roads proposed to remote mining sites - a little money to the film industry wasn't a big deal.

But the blogger in me also checked out other states and film subsidies and I realized this was not much different than companies playing states off against each other for various tax and other incentives to build sports stadiums and manufacturing plants.  Few people take the time to seriously compare the value of the lost state revenue to the value of the jobs.  Certainly, the $2 billion (or so) tax break the oil companies were given by ex-Governor Parnell, would have paid for a lot more jobs than the oil companies are bringing to the state.

The Center for Budget and Public Priority's page on film subsidies starts out this way:
"Like a Hollywood fantasy, claims that tax subsidies for film and TV productions — which nearly every state has adopted in recent years — are cost-effective tools of job and income creation are more fiction than fact. In the harsh light of reality, film subsidies offer little bang for the buck.
State film subsidies are costly to states and generous to movie producers. 
Today, 43 states offer them, compared to only a handful in 2002. Over the course of state fiscal year 2010 (FY2010), states committed about $1.5 billion to subsidizing film and TV production (see Appendix Table 1) — money that they otherwise could have spent on public services like education, health care, public safety, and infrastructure. The median state gives producers a subsidy worth 25 cents for every dollar of subsidized production expense. The most lucrative tax subsidies are Alaska’s and Michigan’s, 44 cents and 42 cents on the dollar, respectively. Moreover, special rules allow film companies to claim a very large credit even if they lose money— as many do."
While I'm not a fan of Sen Stolze, he's not wrong to raise questions about the film subsidies.  I'm not sure about eliminating incentives altogether.  I suspect his actions are not based on my reasons for having doubts, since I've never heard about him questioning state subsidies to, for example, the oil or construction industries. and other campaign supporters.  Maybe those film makers or the companies buying the tax deferrals from the film companies should start making more campaign contributions and start lobbying.

Maybe this piece will get more people to read Tom's great book on the Pilgrim family.  I was reluctant to read it thinking I didn't need any more about that family, but my book club chose it and I was surprised at all I didn't know about that strange family living in Kennecott.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

These Guys Are Looking For A Ride If You're Headed North From LA Along The Coast

As I passed these guys on my bike ride yesterday, I thought they made an interesting picture and probably had some good stories, so when I passed them again on my way back I stopped and asked if I could take their picture.  Shaun looked at me for a bit and finally said, tentatively, "For a dollar?"

I know journalists aren't supposed to pay for their stories, but I have trouble separating out my objective journalist self from my human being self.  No, that's not quite right.  I think I do that reasonably well.  My problem is with the idea that when I'm being a journalist, I have to stop being a human being.   They looked like they could use a lot more than a dollar, and so I said, "Sure."  I'd like to think that the human being gave them, actually, a dollar each and two for the dog, Nikolai,  and the journalist reported the story.  I know that won't cut it for 'real' journalists, but at least I'm being transparent about it and you can decide whether anything was compromised.  And the picture itself (above) didn't come out too well.  So here's one I photoshopped together using images from the video (below).

Skillet (the guy with the guitar) hails from Florida.  Crae (in the middle) is originally from Utah, and Shaun is from Northern California.  They've all been traveling around the country.  It took them two or three days to walk from Hollywood to Venice Beach.  But the guy they were looking for wasn't there.  They heard he was up the beach to the north so they were walking their way, hoping he was still there.  It was four miles from the border between Venice Beach and Santa Monica.  The weather was great - in the mid 70s - with a strong north wind in their faces. 

It wasn't quite the opportunity to get too deep into their lives and what this wandering around is like, but they clearly weren't going first class, but they seemed to be enjoying themselves.  I asked about hitching and they said it was bad in town, but going up the coast it was the way to go.  When I asked if it was ok to blog about them, they thought that was a good idea and might help them get a ride.  I didn't have the heart to tell them I'm an Alaskan blogger, but people in LA do drop by now and then.  When I said I thought it was harder to hitch today than when I was their age, they said everyone said the same thing.

When I asked Skillet about his guitar (on the video) he showed me it needs strings and a little repair work and asked if anyone watching could help, he'd sure appreciate it.  I have Shaun's email address if anyone can help Skillet with the guitar.

Here's the video.  I tried to get Shaun so the wind wouldn't be blowing into the mic on my camera.  I was moderately successful with Shaun, but not with the others.  I used iMovie's background sound reduction, but it's still pretty bad.  Sorry.

If I saw them on the side of the road, I'd certainly hesitate about picking them up.  But having talked to them, they're just three young men on an adventure.  If I had room in the car, I'd certainly stop and take them up along the road. 

I did check on the spelling of their names, so I think I've got that right, but I didn't ask about how to spell the dog's name.  Maybe they haven't ever written it down, and so maybe it doesn't matter.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Now That Pot's Legal In Alaska, How Do You Get It?

Pot's legal in Alaska as of today, but buying and selling it isn't.

So what should a law abiding Alaskan who wants to smoke some legal pot do?

I thought I'd check Craigslist to see what might be out there.   Here's what I found posted for today - February 24, 2015.

Under "events":
 2/24: First day of legal marijuana I'm packing!

Hey prohibition in the great state of Alaska has come to an end. It seems to me everybody is all about the taxes and the money side of it and no legal stores till next year...well I think smoking weeds is about a lot more than that, including low cost pain relief in comparing prescription drugs, better recreation than alcohol and less addicting, and I've never seen a violent stoner.So if you have never tried the stuff give me a shout I'd love to stop by and pack you a nice bowl to try it for the first time.Enjoy the first day of a good future for Alaska. If you are already a fan I hope you can get your own but if not reply with a good storie and I'll see what I can do.
Under "groups":

Join the Alaska Cannabis Club - gain access to Alaska's first Medical Marijuana DISPENSARY and take part in recreational and educational cannabis-themed events.

Members of the Club also gain access to the Alaska Cannabis ClubHouse - the only social environment where you are free to partake in a safe, secure space with like-minded cannabis enthusiasts (medical marijuana patients, cultivators, entrepreneurs, and consumers from all walks).

Walk - ins are welcome but priority is given to those who apply online prior to the membership drive.
Apply here:
Under "services":

marijuana grow

The property that houses my garden is being repossessed, as the owner didn't pay the mortgage. I must move my entire garden.
In exchange for the use of an appropriate structure, I will set up and operate an equal sized grow, at your expense, that is yours. I can provide your clones.
I require one larger space that I can build rooms within, or 2 seperate rooms. I harvest once a month, so would have yours on the same schedule. My yield has not been less than .76 gram per watt of light since I learned what I'm doing. It seldom drops below .9. When everything goes right, I yield 1 gram per watt of light.
If you think you might be interested, please give me a call.

And there was a Feb 16 post under services that shows the spinoff benefits of legal pot, for a cannibis friendly realtor, but he appeared to be in Denver.

I'd point out here that I'm reporting, not recommending any of these links.   I'm sure everybody in Alaska knows someone who can give them some pot. They just might not realize who those people are. 

If people have any questions about what's legal and what's not:

Historical Context Of Tanaina, Equality For Women, And Title IX

I arrived at UAA as a new faculty member in 1977 with a wife, a three year old and a six week old baby.  My wife quickly got a part time job in her technical specialty and we needed child care.  At first our daughter was in a private home where a very nice lady took care of about five babies.  But when I picked my daughter up on the third day, I told the caregiver that we would have to take our daughter out.  The place smelled of cigarets in the afternoon.  To the caregiver's credit, she told me she'd been thinking that was a problem and said there would be no more smoking. 

There was talk at the university about a place called Tanaina - a day care center on campus and also a place where the education department could do research and have student teaching experience in early childhood development.  I remember well that my dean at the time was strongly opposed to $10,000 of university funds that was proposed to go to Tanaina.  I asked him, "If a private donor offered to pay the $10,000 instead of the university, would you stop protesting?" At least he was an honest man, and he said no.  Young children belong at home with their mothers, not in day care centers.  "But," I repsonded, "you told me that I couldn't afford to live here on my salary alone, that my wife would have to work too.  So what are we supposed to do with the kids?"  "Steve, you and your wife are different, you take great care about your kids education and development." 

You can see where that discussion was going.  Round in circles.  So, the ones who take good care of their kids can use child care, but the ones who don't - the ones whose kids need it most - shouldn't?  My dean's religious background made him adamantly opposed to day care, even if it conflicted with real life practicalities, like the economic need for my wife to work. 

Our daughter did get into Tanaina shortly after it opened.  It meant I could take her with me to campus, drop her off, and I could look in on her when I had some free time during the day.  And it offered peace of mind to know that if anything happened, I was nearby.  Tanaina was good for her and she still has a best friend, 30 odd years later, that she met at Tanaina. 

I tell this story, in part to give some history.  In part to remind everyone that child care was then and is still today, loaded with political and religious controversy.

It was great to have child care on campus.  But the person who benefited most in my family - besides my daughter who got great socialization and early education - was my wife.  We came to Alaska because I got a full time job offer.  My wife took part time work in her specialty - they really wanted her full time, but she did want to more time with the kids - and she was able to do that because we had child care available. 

Child care is something that first and foremost benefits women.  Wives still tend to be the ones who drop out of work to take care of kids.  And women overwhelmingly have the kids when there is a one-parent household.  Without affordable child care, women slip backwards economically, along with their kids.

So I find it particularly ironic that as UAA is on a federal Title IX watch list, the administration decided to evict the campus child care/child development center.  The link between the campus climate for women and availability of child care apparently never crossed their minds.  They also had no sense of the deep loyalty people have toward a place like Tanaina, how important Tanaina is and was to the kids who went there, the faculty, student, and staff parents who were able to get their kids into Tanaina.   Good child care makes an enormous difference in a young couple's lives. 

Tanaina is also intended to be a laboratory for the early childhood education program in the College of Education.  Over the years this has worked better in some periods than others.  But it is an important role that campus based daycare usually serve. 

But the issue is bigger than UAA.  There just aren't that many good, affordable places available in Anchorage or anywhere in the US, certainly not enough for all the people who need them.  So evicting Tanaina not only hurts the university community, but the Anchorage community as a whole.  
The people who made this decision apparently had no sense of how important this issue is in people's lives, particularly women's lives.    They were taken completely by surprise by the strong community response and also by the response of - I'm told - four regents who told them at last Thursday's meeting that this was an important issue and they should go back and try harder.

The same day that people were telling the regents they were opposed to the eviction of Tanaina, the university was sending out emails to all faculty, students, and staff about a campus climate survey they were going to receive as part of the university's getting back in good graces over Title IX.  While the survey is specifically about sexual harassment, the eviction of Tanaina from the space they'd been in for over 35 years, doesn't send a good message to the feds about the administration's understanding of how all the components of a university, including child care,  work together, to create a campus climate that's welcoming to women. 

I also need to say that while I'm pretty disturbed about the administration's initial actions here, I also know that the Chancellor is a decent man.  Since the eviction notice has gone public, he has taken moves that offer the possibility of improving the campus day care situation.  Tanaina, like all good day care centers, especially those on campuses, has a long waiting list.  The space they are in is too small. There's a task force working to find alternatives for Tanaina.  The timing is tight and it's not clear that things will work out for the best, but there is a chance.   In the best possible world, this will lead to Tanaina getting a bigger space on campus.  In the worst possible world, Anchorage will lose a much needed day care option. 

I'd also mention that the university's contribution to Tanaina now, as I understand it, is the space.  That's estimated to be about $27,000.  I also understand that the board of Tanaina has said that they could absorb that cost through increased tuition.  So this isn't about 'entitlements' as the president suggested at the board of regents meeting on Friday.

I'd also say that there are lots of problems with many child care programs.  We need more and better affordable child care.  So many human problems could be alleviated through early intervention in children's lives that the cost of good child care should be more than made up for in the drop in other agencies that deal with the results of poor child rearing practices. 

I'll report on last Friday's task force meeting in a new post before too long. 

Monday, February 23, 2015

Patrick Gamble to Tanaina Supporters: Are You Saying Tanaina's Location Is an Entitlement?

That's a question that University of Alaska president (until June) Patrick Gamble asked at least two people who spoke to the board of regents last Friday about keeping Tanaina Child Development Center open and on campus after the University of Alaska Anchorage administration abruptly notified the Center that it would have to move, soon.  

I've been thinking about how to write about this pre-school closing by the university. (It's not exactly a done deal - there's a task force that's been set up to find some options.)  I understand the bigger contextual issues, but I needed to get my facts about the specifics at UAA better.  I went to the board of regents meeting Friday and task force meeting Friday afternoon and so I have more facts.  Too many for one post.  So I'm going to start here with the president's use of the word 'entitlement.'  

I try pay attention to words, and as most of you are probably aware, 'entitlement' is one, heavily loaded  term these days.  The New York Times pointed out how Mitt Romney's team was using the term back in 2011, so this isn't anything new:

"Romney and his aides have designed his rhetoric to define pretty much all spending on entitlements, including provisions for the injured, unemployed, sick, disabled or elderly as benefits to the poor who, Romney implies, are undeserving. And it doesn’t matter whether the money to pay for these programs comes from employer and employee contributions and not just tax revenue — they are all under suspicion. 

Will the United States be an Entitlement Society or an Opportunity Society? In an Entitlement Society, government provides every citizen the same or similar rewards, regardless of education, effort and willingness to innovate, pioneer or take risk. In an Opportunity Society, free people living under a limited government choose whether or not to pursue education, engage in hard work, and pursue the passion of their ideas and dreams. If they succeed, they merit the rewards they are able to enjoy. [emphasis added]

Basically, we have the lazy welfare cheats who want government to supply them with everything versus the Horatio Alger go-getter who makes his fortune on his own.  This view of the world helps explain why people can be against Obamacare - they see it as lazy people getting something for nothing.  Which is how the Koch Brothers (I guess that's becoming the metaphor for those on the right who want to shape public opinion to reflect their political interests) want people to think.  In this model, people are poor because they choose to be and they prefer to live the great life provided by welfare.

An opposing model, one that is much more realistic for me, is that some people in this society either are born into privilege, get lots of lucky breaks, and/or genetically have been blessed with the right skill set that can be successful in today's United States.  The rest are blocked by big and little structural barriers - from parents who were ill-prepared to raise them, schools that teach to academically (or athletically) oriented kids, a society that assumes certain skin colors and other physical characteristics are less intelligent, more violent, and otherwise threatening or disgusting, to student loans that force them to get any job they can just to pay off the debt.  (This is just scratching the surface, of course.)

In any case, it was disturbing to hear Gamble question people about whether they thought the Tanaina location was an 'entitlement.'  It was like a trap question - what would have happened if they said yes?  They didn't, and he said, "That's good, because you're going to have to compromise."  The very fact that he used that word in the context was scary.  Was he, in fact, trying to trap them into admitting they thought it was an entitlement?  Was it just his own emotional reaction?  Is he just around people who use that term so much that he doesn't even realize others see it as a code for bad and undeserving?

It's also kind of strange, because by my calculations, Gamble is getting what some would call  'entitlements' in the guise of military and Alaska Railroad retirement checks that boost his annual income from the University to close to $500,000 a year.  And on top of that he wanted, and got the board to agree (before they changed their minds) a  $320,000 longevity bonus.   Of course, I don't think that pension money is an 'entitlement' but Republican governors in Illinois, New Jersey, and other states have used attacking pensions as part of their budget reducing strategy.   Are there abuses of some pensions?  Of course, just as there are abuses in all systems that are made up of people.  But, that is yet another post.

Let me say that the news isn't all bad.  Going to the meetings was a good idea because I've gained some factual data that changes my view of things to a certain extent and I hope to lay this out in future posts.