Saturday, August 31, 2013

Alaska Wine Guy Coming Soon Next To Sagaya's

Yamato Ya was in this space for years and years and moved out last year across the intersection and so as I walked my bike by the entrance and saw someone inside I was curious what was coming next.  I was too close to the building to see the new sign right above me.  Tom Faughnan came out and explained that the Wine Guy would be opening - if all goes well - some time in September.  He explains it all in the video.


The mid-September seems a bit optimistic considering where they are now.

This video is an example of trying to avoid other things I should be doing.  I had pulled back so I could see the sign, but Tom's head was then this tiny blob at the bottom.  So thinking about how to make it more interesting, I thought I might just drop the head from near the sign.  Well, that was kind of dumb until I thought about putting in wine bottle.  It looked much better when I was editing it in iMovie.  I put it up on YouTube, but the result messed up the sound synch with the picture.  Commercial videographers need not fear any competition from me. 

[Youtube video replacing Viddler video 3/11/14]

Friday, August 30, 2013

"The Yeti Of Creative Coding" - Who Is Mr. Doob?

Here's a link to Mr. Doob's own, short answer to this question in 2005.  This is a man you should know about because he's designing and creating your world. 

I first 'met' Mr. Doob when someone got here from Mr. Doob's Google Gravity.  I went to see what it was and discovered a clever, silly, little spoof of the basic Google page that I  then posted about.

Google Gravity Search for Mr. Doob - Click to enlarge and focus

Recently I got someone here who'd googled "Mr. Doob Fire Google." 

Mr. Doob was working for Google?  And they fired him?  Maybe, I thought, I should check on who Mr. Doob is.

It would appear that he is a rather publicity shy coder and designer who's done some pioneering web work.  There's a connection between Arcade Fire and Mr. Doob but I'm not really sure what it all means.  Mr. Doob was the technical director of Arcade Fire's The Wilderness Downtown.  If you haven't participated in that online video, then you should stop now and go there to see why I think Mr. Doob is worth a whole post like this.  The Wilderness Downtown goes way beyond Google Gravity, and is a project Mr. Doob participated in with many others.
Click image to go to The Wilderness Downtown

The Wilderness Downtown

This is a peek at the technology of the future, using technology of today.  Spend about ten minutes and be sure to make your own postcard.

A Webninja interview three years ago tells us that Mr. Doob is from Barcelona.  There's  a lot of tech discussion here which is interesting in the way it's interesting to watch people speaking in a language you don't know.  Instead of listening to the content, you start to pay attention to other things.  He did work for Google a while.  In fact he was working for Google when he did The Wilderness Downtown. 

A 2011 interview at Canonical gets into how he started out.  His brother was a big influence. They discuss many things including the relationship between code and art and why he's a total supporter of open source, 

I just like his attitude on things like this snippet about giving things out free.
Of course, there is always the risk of getting “Angry Birded” — where someone uses your code to retire early without giving anything back to the project — but that’s ok, I want to think that these people give back to society in other ways. Eventually we will be able to bring an idea into life by combining open source projects and call it a day. That would be a pretty efficient way of using human brains.
For some, the concept of giving away your work for free may sound silly, but there are many good side effects when doing that. It speeds up development and steps up global knowledge.
He says things like this that I don't understand but I like the style.
My dream Linux OS would be having Ubuntu’s hardware support, Fedora’s system code (systemd, etc), Gnome Shell desktop experience and Elementary aesthetics. Yum!

Creative JS interview with Mr. Doob.  This is an audio interview.  It's the main part of what sounds like a radio show - creative coding broadcast -  and the interview starts at about ten minutes in.  I found it fascinating listening.  Here's the JS description of this:
There was a special session at FITC Amsterdam last week featuring a live interview between CreativeJS’ own Seb Lee-Delisle and the elusive Ricardo Cabello (aka Mr. doob) . While his work is very well known, interviews or information about Mr. doob himself are pretty rare. In fact, it’s so hard to find anything about him, you might even call him the yeti of creative coding :)

Mr. Doob's Ball Pool screenshot
Here's a brief written interview with Mr. Doob at RealTime Rendering.

Mr. Doob's website. This will give you the chance to interact with Mr. Doob's experiments.

Mr. Doob's Branching screenshot

Mr. Doob's Winning Solitaire screenshot

Here's the 3JS website with examples of images in 3.JS - (Mr. Doob is, from what I can tell, the man who created 3.JS.)

I don't know how much time Ricardo spends in our world and how much time he's off in his own inventions, but it would be great to have a chat with him while he's visiting the rest of us. 

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Court Sets Out Issues And Schedule For Alaska Redistricting Court Challenges

In an order dated 28 August 2013, Superior Court Judge Michael P. McConahy said:


I.  Introduction

Overview of what's happened so far in the case, starting with last December's Supreme Court decision (though somehow 2013 instead of 2012 got past the proof readers).

II.  Consolidation

The Riley challenge and the Alaska Democratic Party challenge to the Redistricting Board's July 2013 Redistricting Proclamation Plan shall be consolidated into one case.

III.  Amicus Curiae

All the parties that filed amicus briefs either before the Superior court or the Alaska Supreme Court shall get copies of all orders of the case and are free to file pleadings though they may not initiate motion practice.  [I think that means they can only comment on the issues that have been raised and not raise new ones.]

IV.  Electronic Filing

Details for filing electronically.

[The points above are paraphrased. For Summary of Issues I've copied it as verbatim as my eyes and fingers allowed]

V.  Summary of Issues 


  1. Compactness issues in House Districts 3 and 5 
  2. Socio-economic issues due to the split of the University of Alaska-Fairbanks in House Districts 4 and 5
  3. Whether the higher deviations from the ideal district population in House Districts 1-5 are justified
  4. Compactness and contiguousness issues in Senate District B.
  5. Whether higher deviations from the ideal district population in Fairbanks Senate Districts are justified. 


  1. Socio-economic integration issues in House Districts 9 and 12 by combining areas outside the Mat-Su Borough with the Mat-Su Borough  
  2. Whether the plan affords proportional representation to voters residing inside and outside the Mat-Su Borough


  1. Socio-economic integration issues in House District 32 by combining areas outside the Kenai Peninsula Borough with the Kenai Peninsula Borough.
  2. Whether the plan affords proportional representation to voters residing inside and outside the Kenai Peninsula Borough.

Rural Alaska Districts

  1. Socio-economic integration issues in House Districts  40, 39, 37, and 6. 


  1. Whether the Board considered improper factors in deciding the truncation of senate terms. 

VI.  Briefing Schedule

  • The judge wrote that since legal standards for establishing house and senate districts have already been addressed previously, they won't be repeated now.  
  • "Therefore any party that objects to the 2013 proclamation plan as violative of the compactness and contiguity requirements of the Alaska Constitution must file a motion for summary judgment regarding all such concerns within 15 days of the date of the distribution of this order. [Which by my count comes to Sept. 12.] The Board shall have 10 days to file its opposition.  Replies, if any, are due 3 days thereafter. "
  • Socio-economic issues "may or may not be able to be decided on the merits" but "any party objecting to the proclamation plan as violative of the socio-economic requirements . . . must file a motion for summary judgment, supported by admissible evidence" in the same time frame.  And it must be in a separate motion.

VII. Scheduling

  • "It is the intent of this court to have all issues resolved within 90 days"
  • "If testimony is required the court anticipates setting a trial week on short notice"

So, What Does This All Mean? 

Administrative Issues

  • The Riley and Democratic Party challenges were consolidated into one case
  • Administratively, the judge has outlined the issues to be discussed - most of the issues raised by Riley and the Alaska Democratic Party.  
  • However,  the requests to appoint a master to draw the maps  wasn't mentioned.
  • Amicus can comment on the issues outlined but not bring up new ones
  • The parties have 15 days (Sept. 12 if that's calendar days and not working days) to support their claims.
  • The Board has 10 days to respond.
  • The Parties have 3 more to respond to the Board.
  • 90 days is the target to get everything to be done.  That should fall just before Thanksgiving Day.

Substantive Issues

I've covered the Fairbanks issues in some detail in these two posts:
The line  "Socio-economic issues may or may not be able to be decided on the merits" probably means that this is pretty much a judgment call.  Facts play a role, and there are some precedent standards - such as everyone in a borough boundary is considered to be socio-economically integrated" but there is no clear up or down test for this. 

I haven't even looked at Kena, Mat-Su, or the other  rural districts.  I'll try to get something up.
I have covered truncation (second link above) and I'm working on a post comparing the 2000 Board's truncation method and the current board's method.

In the meantime, you can read the Judge's full order below:

Also, there is a response from the Board to the two filings (Riley and Alaska Democrats) on the Board's website.  Most of the documents filed on this are also on the Board's website here.

Thanks to  EW.  

Did You Know That Tom's Of Maine Sold To Colgate? In 2006?

At the dentist yesterday, my hygienist commented that Tom's of Maine - the green toothpaste begun in 1970 - was now owned by Colgate.  She'd gotten a sample with a Colgate shipment and that's how she learned this.

When I checked online it turned out Colgate bought Tom's for $100 million!

 Organic Consumer wrote in 2006:
Best known for toothpaste, Tom's of Maine got its start in 1970 by
making a phosphate-free laundry detergent. Over the years, cofounder Tom Chappell, 63, poked fun at major brands like Colgate, saying they put artificial additives in their toothpastes while Tom's of Maine used natural ingredients.
Chappell said he will continue to run the brand from its Kennebunk headquarters. None of the privately held firm's approximately 170 jobs will be lost, he said.  ''We'll be a stand-alone subsidiary," said Chappell. ''And we have a commitment from Colgate that our formulas will not be tampered with.
Tom's of Maine's website paints a public service oriented company image:
"Tom’s of Maine is a leading manufacturer of natural and environmentally–friendly products, including natural toothpaste, alcohol–free mouthwash, natural dental floss, natural deodorant and antiperspirant and natural bar soap. Founded in 1970 in Kennebunk, Maine, the company is inspired by and committed to sustainable business practices as well as supporting people and communities. Each year, Tom’s of Maine gives 10% of its profits back to organizations that support human, healthy and environmental goodness and encourages employees to use 5% (12 days) of employee time to volunteer. Tom’s of Maine products are vegan, Kosher, Halal–certified and all packaging is recyclable through a partnership with upcycling leader TerraCycle or participating municipalities."
Natural Society  sees it differently:
"In fact, Tom’s of Maine isn’t even from Maine, and it’s owned by a well-known corporate giant — Colgate-Palmolive of New York. Purchasing an 84% stake in Tom’s back in 2006 (yes, they have owned Tom’s since 2006!) for 100 million dollars, Colgate-Palmolive’s share of the global toothpaste market has risen to 44%. In the United States alone, Colgate-Palmolive controls 35% of the market. Unfortunately, part of the companies success relies on a patented gingivitis formula which contains a toxic chemical substance called triclosan that reacts with the chlorine in tap water to become chloroform — a deadly chlorinated aromatic.
Shockingly, the result of the reaction is similar to the dioxins found in the compound Agent Orange that was responsible for 400,000 people being killed or maimed, and 500,000 children born with birth defects after being used in Vietnam by the U.S. military as a herbicide. This is the chemical reaction taking place in your mouth when using Colgate’s gingivitis formula. Interestingly enough, Agent Orange was developed by the biotech company responsible for the rampant genetic modification of the world’s food supply — Monsanto.
It gets worse. Triclosan is only one of the hazardous chemicals found in oral care products. One visit to the Tom’s of Maine official website and you will see the invitation to view all of their product ingredients, organized from A to Z. There is even a statement declaring that not only are all ingredients “naturally sourced,” but that they are “sustainable and responsible.” A look at the ingredients list, however, and you will find that Tom’s of Maine was not being very responsible or sustainable with ingredients such as titanium dioxide and zinc chloride added to their products."

There may be problems with Tom's, but Natural Society's post has its own problems.  If Tom's isn't from Maine - their website says they are in Kennebunk, Maine and they get their water from a Maine aquifer - where are they from?  A recent post at Grist says the potatoes for new packaging are from Maine and that Tom's is in Maine.  Greenbiz writes:
The research [to turn potatoes to plastic] is part of a partnership that includes the University of Maine and the Sustainable Bioplastics Council of Maine, which are seeking ways of recapturing local agricultural waste.
Natural Society seems to be doing a little sleight of hand here - in one hand Tom's and in the other hand Colgate.  Tom's isn't from Maine because Colgate is headquartered in New York.  From what I can tell, Colgate has left Tom's to do its own thing.  It may be that Colgate uses Triclosan, but Natural Society hasn't actually said Tom's does and I don't see it listed in the ingredients of my tube.  Nor is it listed on the website for the tube I have.   

Sodium monofluorophosphate 0.76% (0.15% w/v fluoride ion) Decay prevention Fluorspar (calcium fluoride), an ore
Calcium carbonate Mild abrasive Purified calcium from the earth
Water Consistency Maine aquifer
Glycerin Moistener Vegetable oils
Sodium bicarbonate pH adjustment Purified sodium bicarbonate from the earth
Carrageenan Thickener Seaweed (Chondrus crispus)
Xylitol Flavor Birch trees or corn
Natural Flavor Flavor Peppermint (menthe piperita) leaves
Sodium lauryl sulfate Dispersant Derived from coconut and/or palm kernel oil

It may also be true that some of the zinc products Natural Society cites from the Tom's website may be in other products, but I don't see them in the toothpastes.

There are also complaints online about dropping the aluminum tubes for plastic tubes, but I suspect the potato based plastic tubes are in response to that.

I found one other webiste that had problems with Tom's of Maine:  The Cornucopia Institue does health research related to small farms.  Their website says:
"The Cornucopia Institute will engage in educational activities supporting the ecological principles and economic wisdom underlying sustainable and organic agriculture. Through research and investigations on agricultural issues, The Cornucopia Institute will provide needed information to consumers, family farmers, and the media."
Their problem is that Tom's uses carrageenan, which is one of the ingredients in my tube and it's listed above.  
There is simply no way around it: dozens of scientific, peer-reviewed studies used food-grade carrageenan and found it caused gastrointestinal inflammation, ulcerations, lesions and even colon cancer in laboratory animals.  Most of these recent studies were funded by grants from the National Institutes of Health.

They cite their March report "Carrageenan: How a “Natural” Food Additive is Making Us Sick."  Carrageenan is made from one kind of seaweed and is used in lots of products as a thickener - soy milk, almond milk, ice cream, canned soups, frozen pizza - and the Center for Science in the Public Interest has put downgraded its rating:
CSPI also downgraded the seaweed extract carrageenan from "safe" to "certain people should avoid." Used as a thickener and stabilizing agent in many dairy products, a World Health Organization committee concluded that it is inadvisable to use carrageenan in liquid formula designed for infants under one year of age. Carrageenan is still used in some varieties of Similac, though not varieties sold in the U.K.
 I'd say that the at this point the food industry is not concerned with carrageenam, but some researchers have found reasons to be concerned.

So, that's what I've learned about Tom's.  I can't blame someone who has worked hard for 40 years for taking $100 million for his company.  It's easy to call someone else a sellout, but not many people would turn down an offer like that.  You can do a lot of good in the world with that much money.  But it's also an example of the shrinking of competition, that basic driver of a good market system.   

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Matthew Desmond's List of Seven Types Of Republicans And How To Debate Them

I ran across Matthew Desmond's list of Seven Types of Republicans and How to Debate Them not too long ago.  Here's the boiled down list of the types:
  • The Educated Republicans
    • He doesn't mean so much they went to college, but that they've learned about their issue, at least from the Republican perspective.
  • Fox News and Conservative Talk Radio Republicans:
  • Christian Republicans:
  • Tea Party Republicans:
  • Birther Republicans:
  • Racist Republicans:
  • Extremely Uneducated Republicans:
    • These are folks who are Republicans because the people they're with are Republicans, otherwise they don't know anything but the sound bites
Lists can range from gimmicky fluff to thoughtful organization of ideas.  This one falls somewhere closer to thoughtful.  But it suffers from common list problems like simplification and  tempting us to pigeon hole people into established categories instead of seeing the nuances of each individual.  

This list makes some useful distinctions and might, at the very least, inspire readers to come up with other types of Republicans - I'd certainly add 'economic Republicans' and 'Republican by birth' for starters. 

What makes this list special, is that it links the types of R's to different strategies for debating.  Most people have a basic style when they debate or argue without thinking too much about what might be effective with the specific person they are debating.  They have, de facto, just one strategy that they use. 

Matthew forces us to recognize there are different strategies, to assess the person we're talking to, and then adjust our style to them.  It's a good lesson for talking to anyone. 

I've pulled out some of the strategies he offers, but you need to go to the original to see how he links them the different types.  
  • Hit them with facts and don't let them get off the subject.
  • Keep demanding the facts that back up their assertions.
  • Hit them with facts about the separation of church and state and ask questions about the positions Jesus would take on today's issues.
  • Refuse to answer their questions until they answer yours.
  • Instead of trying to argue with them, try explaining algebra to your dog.

And since we've gotten to debate tactics, here are some links that look at this from different perspectives:

Toastmasters is an international organizations that helps people develop skills in public speaking.  They have meetings everyday in most US cities and many other countries.  Here's the Toastmasters' intro to debate skills.

Here's a talk with slides of more formal debates from Monash University in Australia.

And here's an attempt to develop a hierarchy of debate, beginning with the lowest level (Name calling) and going up to more legitimate tactics.

And here's one that is presented totally seriously, but clearly is showing you how NOT to debate.  That's also a good lesson.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Who's Calling From 1 800 816 3521?

Today I got a call from  1 800 816 3521 and chose not to answer.  They left no number.  So I googled.

The site that had something that looked the most authentic was  It had this chart and then comments below.

Doesn't tell a lot, but it's consistent with the comments I saw from people posting about calls from this number on other websites.  Most comments seem to be around October and early November 2012 - the last presidential election.  Others say they've gotten calls from non-profits.   They don't seem to leave a message.  Some report they ask for someone by name, but then hang up.  Others say they are pushing a particular client or ballot measure or a charity. 

The everycall site offers a device to block such calls from your home phone.  I have no idea who they are or how legit they are.  They have a Kickstarter campaign at the moment with a picture of a little white box that says:
"Plug into your home phone and those pesky telemarketing and robocalls just stop. The 1st crowd sourced spam blocker for the home."
 Kickstarter does screen the people that use them, so there was at least one level of scrutiny.  they have raised - as of today - $5,361 out of a target of $100,000.  There a Bellvue, Washington company, so they are in the heart of Techland, USA. 

There's a small industry popping up on the net to help people find out who is generating the annoying calls that come from 800 numbers. Here are a couple of the websites where people leave comments about 1 800 816 3521:

I've previously posted about 1 800 695 6950.  There I was able to find out it was a collection agency.  I also posted a link there  to the Do Not Call registry.  But that doesn't work for political calls.  And I'm not sure I want to block political calls.  I have to think through the free speech implications more.  But there is a website where people are trying to block political calls at home with a registry.  It says on there:
Join the National Political Do Not Contact Registry a non-partisan grass-roots movement to take control back by asking our elected representatives to stop calling us at home.
 Yeah, I can see them setting up the registry, but I can't imagine too many legislators limiting their right to call you at home. 

Monday, August 26, 2013

"An extra huzzah to Penny Simon for her friendship and expertise at getting me to do things I don't want to do"

This gem of a thank you comes on the sixth page of Erik Larson's Sources and Acknowledgments in Garden of the Wild Beasts which I finally finished this morning.

I don't know about others, but I sure could use someone like Penny to get me to do the things I don't want to do. 

It's a burden people shouldn't have to bear alone.  My wife does this sometimes, but someone other than a spouse, who doesn't have so many other responsibilities, would be helpful. 

May everyone have such a friend.  

(Just out of curiosity, I googled Penny Simon.  She's Larson's publicist at Random House.)

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Climate Warming Denier ADN Letter Writer Dr. Maccabee Linked to Koch Brothers

Dr, Howard Maccabee wrote a letter to the Anchorage Daily News ridiculing the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change draft report. 

His letter begins:
"Justin Gillis' Aug. 20 article "Sea Level Could Rise 3 Feet by 2100"  is speculation, not science.  The assertion that seas will likely rise by 3 feet is almost absurd, since current levels rise about 2 mm. per year (about 6 inches in 80 years)."
The title of Gillis' article in the print version of the ADN is unfortunate, but not inaccurate reporting.  The online title is "Climate Panel Reports Near Certainty on Warming" the same title as the original NY Times article.

In any case, the article does NOT assert "that seas will likely rise by 3 feet."  What the article actually says is
"that sea levels could conceivably rise by more than 3 feet by the end of the century if emissions continue at a runaway pace."
 I would say that "could conceivably" is not even close to Maccabee's "will likely."

The online article has more of the original NYTimes article than the print version.  It says, later in the article:
"Regarding the likely rise in sea level over the coming century, the new report lays out several possibilities. In the most optimistic, the world's governments would prove far more successful at getting emissions under control than they have been in the recent past, helping to limit the total warming.
In that circumstance, sea level could be expected to rise as little as 10 inches by the end of the century, the report found. That is a bit more than the 8-inch increase in the 20th century, which proved manageable even though it caused severe erosion along the world's shorelines.
At the other extreme, the report considers a chain of events in which emissions continue to increase at a swift pace. Under those conditions, sea level could be expected to rise at least 21 inches by 2100 and might increase a bit more than three feet, the draft report said."
 The "8-inch increase in the 20th century" is very close to Maccabbee's own figure of "6 inches in 80 years."  Actually, Maccabee's figure comes out to 1.5 inches per 20 years.  Add 20 years to Maccabee's figure to get a century and you're at 7.5 inches. Another two inches in the 21st century is not only conceivable, but probably highly optimistic.

Maccabee asserts this is 'speculation, not science' but goes on to use words like absurd and ridiculous - distinctly unscientific terms - to challenge the report.

I've linked Maccabee to the Koch brothers in the title. I don't want to commit the rhetorical fallacy of guilt by association.  The facts about how Maccabee mischaracterizes the report speak for themselves.   However, to a certain extent, it doesn't hurt to look at the credentials of the people involved, how they do their work, and who supports them.

The IPPC is made up of climate scientists from around the world reviewing the scientific works on these issues.  They won a Nobel Prize in 2007 for their work.  You can read more about what they are doing and how here

One should also ask about Dr. Maccabee's credentials on Climate Change.  He's an MD who has a UC Berkeley PhD in Radiation Biophysics.** A Heartland video presentation he made on Climate Change says Dr Maccabee is the President of Doctors for Disaster Preparedness.  His environmental resume says he was President from 1982-4 and is still on their Board.   Their website has lots of pseudo scientific articles that deny climate change.  But there is nothing on it to say who they are or who funds them.  But Sourcewatch reports:
Doctors for Disaster Preparedness (DDP) "promotes homeland defense and prudent preparedness for disasters of all kinds, including war or terrorism," according to its website. Topics addressed by DDP include "global warming, ozone 'depletion,' radiation hazards and radiation hormesis." [1]
DDP is skeptical of climate change, as the title of their web page on the subject suggests: "Ozone hole, Global warming, and other Environmental Scares." [2]Doctors For Disaster Preparedness was a co-sponsor to the Third International Conference on Climate Change , which in turn was sponsored by the Heartland Institute.
The Heartland Insitute is  funded by ALEC and the Koch Brothers - the main source of Climate Change Deniology. ( I first wrote about ALEC when I attended a presentation they gave to legislators in Juneau in February 2011.)

These are the hard core climate deniers.  Guilt by association can be fraught with logical dangers.  But it's also helpful to know where speakers come from.  Using someone from the Heartland Association to talk about climate change is like inviting a member of the Nazi Party to talk about Jews.  (I know that using Nazi similes is frowned on, but I'm reading a book that takes place in Berlin in 1933 and the similarities are striking for both make a science of propaganda.  I'm not saying these people are Nazis, but their objectivity is about the same as Nazi objectivity.  And Climate Change deniers, to the extent that they hold back Congress and other governing bodies from taking serious action now, could endanger the lives of far more people than the Nazis killed.) 

Here's another article by Gillis specifically looking at water level reports.

** This is almost totally unrelated, but quirkily interesting.  When I first tried to look up Maccabee's academic field, I switched around the terms and googled "Bioradiation Physics" I didn't find anything until page three where I found "professor of medical radiation and physics."  Clicking on it got me to this page of  Berkeley at War : The 1960s
by W.J. Rorabaugh Professor of History University of Washington.

click to enlarge and focus  from Berkeley At War
Heynes was the new UC Berkeley Chancellor in 1965 after the Free Speech protests on campus.  I'd note these events at the Berkeley campus took place 30 years before Maccabee got his PhD there and that Professor Jones was probably long gone.  But it is eerie. 

Saturday, August 24, 2013

How's Uncle Adolf? Surveillance Then And Now

'It was Rudolf Diels who first conveyed to Martha the unfunny reality of Germany's emerging culture of surveillance.  One day he invited her to his office and with evident pride showed her an array of equipment used for recording telephone conversations.  He led her to believe that eavesdropping apparatus had indeed been installed in the chancery of the U.S. embassy and in her home."
Martha, an attractive 20 something, is the daughter of the US Ambassador to Germany, appointed by FDR in 1933.  She has a lot of suitors from all different political shadings, including Diels, head of the Gestapo.
"Prevailing wisdom held that Nazi agents hid their microphones in telephones to pick up conversations in the surrounding rooms.  Late one night, Diels seemed to confirm this.  Martha and he had gone dancing.  Afterward, upon arrival at her house, Diels accompanied her upstairs to the library for a drink.  He was uneasy and wanted to talk.  Martha grabbed a large pillow, then walked across the room toward her father's desk.  Diels, perplexed, asked what she was doing.  She told him she planned to put the pillow over the telephone.  Diels nodded slowly, she recalled, and 'a sinister smile crossed his lips.'"** 
Author Erik Larson, in his non-fiction In The Garden Of The Beasts,  goes on to talk about the insidious effects of a government listening in to its people's phones.  And we can extend that to emails and video cameras all over I'm sure.
"She told her father about it the next day.  The news surprised him.  Though he accepted the fact of intercepted mail, tapped telephones and telegraph lines, and the likelihood of eavesdropping at the chancery, he never would have imagined a government so brazen as to place microphones in a diplomat's private residence.  .  .

"As time passed the Dodds found themselves confronting an amorphous anxiety that infiltrated their days and gradually altered the way they led their lives.  The change came about slowly, arriving like a pale mist that slipped into every crevice.  It was something everyone who lived in Berlin seemed to experience.  You began to think differently about whom you met for lunch and for that matter what café or restaurant you chose, because rumors circulated about which establishments were favorite targets of Gestapo agents - the bar at the Adlon, for example.  You lingered at street corners a beat or two longer to see if the faces you saw at the last corner had now turned up at this one.  In the most casual of circumstances you spoke carefully and paid attention to those around you in a way you never had before.  Berliners came to practice what became known as "the German glance" - der deutsche Blick - a quick look in all directions when encountering a friend or acquaintance on the street.  .  .

"After vacations and weekends away, the family's return was always darkened by the likelihood that in their absence new devices had been installed, old ones refreshed. 'There is no way on earth one can describe in the coldness of words on paper what this espionage can do to the human being,' Martha wrote.  It suppressed routine discourse - 'the family's conferences and freedom of speech and action were so circumscribed we lost even the faintest resemblance to a normal American family.  Whenever we wanted to talk we had to look around corners and behind doors, watch for the telephone and speak in whispers."  The strain of all this took a toll on Martha's mother.  'As time went on, and the horror increased,' Martha wrote, 'her courtesy and graciousness towards the Nazi officials she was forced to meet, entertain, and sit beside, became so intense a burden she could scarcely bear it.'" [pp, 224-226]
 The book's kept my close attention.  There's lots that's applicable today.  While we're still a distance from experiencing the fear described here, it's a slow process as security agencies slowly access more personal information about people.  And then when an administration willing to exploit it comes into office, any one who disagrees with the leaders has to be concerned.

Larson cites a joke that was common:
"One man telephones another and in the course of their conversation happens to ask, 'How is Uncle Adolf?'  Soon afterward the secret police appear at his door and insist that he prove that he really does have an Uncle Adolf and that the question was not in fact a coded reference to Hitler."
This sort of thing does happen in the US today if you are involved with Muslim organizations.  The ACLU's Blog of Rights has the story of a twenty year old American born Muslim working for a Muslim charity.  Here's a part of the story:
In March 2012, a man named Shamiur Rahman messaged me on Facebook. I didn't know at the time that he was working as a police informant. Rahman told me he was trying to become a better practicing Muslim, and that he wanted to get involved with FSNYC. He asked me whether there were "any events or anything" he could attend soon. We had several friends in common, and I was happy to help him in his quest for religious self-improvement, so I introduced him to my friends in FSNYC. He started to attend all our meetings and became a part of my circle of friends. On several occasions, I invited him to my family's house, where he met my parents and ate with our family. Once, he spent the night in my family's home.
Rahman would ask everyone he met for their phone number, often within minutes of meeting them. He also often tried to take photos with or of people he met through me.
The next month, two friends separately told me that they had heard that NYPD informants had infiltrated FSNYC. I was advised to step down to avoid being targeted, but I decided not to step down because I knew that I had not done anything wrong. Still, I stopped publicizing FSNYC's activities and following up on many matters regarding the organization.
When I told other FSNYC members about the NYPD informant, one board member decided to be less active in the organization, and several members told me that they would stop their activities with our group largely because of their fear of being spied on by police informants. In June 2012, FSNYC stopped functioning. [for the whole story click here.]

 Perhaps there's extra poignancy for me.  My father had three or four older aunts who ran a boarding house in Berlin.  They and my father's half brother, also in Berlin, were all eventually taken to concentration camps.  I have letters from them downstairs that my father had kept, from before they disappeared. 

But Janet Maslin, the NY Times reviewer of In the Garden of Beasts  also found it compelling.  It's non-fiction based on diaries kept by Ambassador Dodd (an unlikely appointment, he was a history professor in Chicago, but had done his undergraduate work in Leipzig, Germany years before), Martha's papers and books, and hundreds of other sources.

**Of course, there are other interpretations possible here.  Larson cites Martha's book here for this, and she's interpreting his smile as sinister.  Perhaps he was pleased to encourage her belief that he was tapping this phone.  We always have to be careful not to turn possibilities we encounter into facts.  

Don't Eat Contaminated Fish And Other Tales Of The Last Day In LA

I made a few phone calls and then biked an hour down along Venice Beach to Marina del Rey where I found this sign that belied the healthy look of the water of Santa Monica Bay.

The fog had been pushed way out, but you could see it off in the distance.  (Not in this picture, but further out on the left.  

We did odds and ends for my mom, made more phone calls to clear up bills that we'd thought had been cleared up.  There's no end to having to check and double each statement.  We also managed to drive my mom to the cemetery - Monday is the anniversary of my brother's death.  He died in a work accident at age 23.  It's 38 years now.  My mom used to take flowers there every week for years and years, but now that she can't drive and getting in and out of the car is hard, it's not so often.   And then back home and then the caregiver dropped us off at the bus stop.  We had lots of time, but it was getting into rush hour.  The first bus was packed and I figured the next one would be emptier.  They wouldn't let us onto that one, too full.  But we had a good time talking to various folks waiting for the bus.  A guy from the music industry who'd gone to Hollywood to pick up his new $8,000 bike, but the bank didn't release the money, so he had to take the bus back home instead of his new bike - as in bicycle, not motorcycle.  And there was a fellow in a wheel chair who was a little pissed at not being let on the bus.  But before too long a relatively empty Rapid bus picked us up and we got to the airport in plenty of time.   On the bus we fell into a conversation with a guy who'd live on 30th and Spenard in the early 90's and it was clear he remembered Anchorage fondly. 

The sun was over the horizon as we took off.  In this picture I'm looking over the south beaches (the opposite of the previous picture.)

I don't recall ever flying so close to the Channel Islands off of Santa Barbara and Ventura.  You can see the fog bank just beyond the islands.
My travel preference from long ago is to go somewhere for a long time - say three months or better yet a year.  But with kids and mom scattered along the west coast, and mom needing more and more attention, we've racked up enough miles to be MVP (20,000 miles or more on Alaska Airlines) the last few years. 
That means when you book in advance, you have your choice of all the seats to choose from.  It also means two free check-in bags - though we usually just do carry on.  But with Alaska's 20 minute guarantee, we have checked them in sometimes.  Especially if we have a long layover somewhere and want to get out of the airport.  But we also get bumped up into First Class every now and then.  
The times we've been in first class, we've gotten a meal that I would call a nice snack.  Hot, nicely put on the plate, but not much food.  This time it was different.  We had a Niçoise Salad, a pasta dish, and Salted Caramel Budino.  (The ones I saw online seemed solid.  This one was a hot liquid.  I knew it was full of things I wouldn't normally eat.  Looking at the recipes was a mistake.  Impressive.  And then a little bowl of warm nuts.  

The Niçoise Salad
Maybe we got all this food because this was the non-stop flight - almost 5 hours.   Which also gave me lots of time to read my book for Monday's book club meeting - Erik Larson's In The Garden Of Beasts.  It's a fascinating non-fiction account of a history professor who gets appointed ambassador to Germany in 1933 when Roosevelt got turned down first by several more likely candidates.  It takes place in mostly Berlin, a place I first visited as a student the year I spent in Germany.  It's fascinating to see the conflict from the people who get around and know what's going on and the newcomers to Germany who see the surface and don't believe things are that bad. 

We'd been hearing that it's been raining while we were gone, but that it should be sunny Saturday.  The tarmac was wet when we landed.  And it's late August and by midnight it was actually dark.

Landing in Anchorage
But it wasn't raining and the air felt fresh and comfortable.  Nice to be home.  But these trips to visit Mom are going to be pretty regular.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

The Dark Side of the Internet: Anonymity After All?

 KCRW had an interesting discussion of Internet security.  In light of NSA's spying, they discussed the small minority of web surfers who use anonymous surfing software like Tor which is triple encrypted.  One of the panel members suggested NSA only reads email of ordinary folks because the people with something to hide, use Tor.  Tor was created by the US government to help out journalists and dissidents in countries that persecute dissenters.  But it seems it is also what makes black market websites possible too.

Here's their description:

Are 'Dark Networks' a Threat or a Haven Online? (1:08PM)

Revelations about the government’s electronic surveillance have raised alarms about privacy. Today's Wall Street Journal reports that the National Security Agency’s capacity is even broader than has reported before—enabling it to reach " roughly 75% of all US Internet traffic."Is there any way to use the Internet secretly? Yes, there is. It's the Darknet, available through software that allows anonymous browsing—and, increasingly—provides opportunities for organized crime. On Silk Road, for example, customers can find LSD, cocaine and heroin as if they were shopping on Amazon — anonymously. Why hasn't the government cracked down? Are there legitimate reasons for Internet users to conceal their identities?
You can listen to it here:

The Dark Side of the Internet: Anonymity After All? - To the Point on KCRW

Condom Law For Porn Films Doesn't Violate Free Speech, But . . .

I reported here last November that Los Angeles Country voters were voting on a law requiring condom use by actors in porn films.  The law was quickly challenged by some film makers.  And less than a year later a court has ruled.   The LA Daily News reports:
A federal court judge delivered a mixed ruling to the adult film industry late Friday, saying that while making actors wear condoms during porn shoots doesn’t violate the First Amendment, enforcing such a law raises constitutional questions.
So, it seems, the health benefits outweigh the First Amendment rights to make sex films without condoms.  However, there are apparently some problems with how the county will enforce the law.
“Given that adult filming could occur almost anywhere, Measure B would seem to authorize a health officer to enter and search any part of a private home in the middle of the night, because he suspects violations are occurring. This is unconstitutional because it is akin to a general warrant,” Pregerson wrote
Conflicts between different values, in this case freedom of speech and reasonable rights to privacy versus health, are what make life interesting, and why we regularly have to find ways to balance the tensions between different values.

My guess is that the film maker's real value is money, not free speech.  That's just the legal concept he needs to get this to court.  When it comes to balancing a business owner's right to make more money against the health of the employees, I'd tend to lean toward the health of the employees.  But even then, the judge is going to have to weigh the amount of money to be lost against the severity of the health risks. 

But apparently there will be appeals. 

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Was Fairbanks Gerrymandered? Riley Challenge to Alaska Redistricting Board's 2013 Plan Part 2: Truncation

In Part 1, I looked at the parts of the Riley challenge that dealt with Fairbanks issues of compactness, contiguity, socio-economic integration, and deviation issues.  That post has an explanation of terms, maps, a population deviation table, and other information to help people understand the Riley challenge to the latest Redistricting Plan.

There was one more Fairbanks related issue, truncation, that wasn't as intertwined with the other issues which I left to a future post.  Now is the future.   Here, again, is what was in the Riley challenge concerning truncation:
25.  The Board's Truncation Plan for Senate Districts improperly considered improper factors (a) substantial changes from an unconstitutional Interim Plan as opposed to the prior Final Plan in effect for the 2010, b) incumbency protection relative to Senate District B; and (c) previously considered partisan voting patterns of persons within the Ester/Goldstream Area. 

[Let me note here that I started this about two weeks ago, but I've been interrupted for and by a lot of other things.  Plus this wasn't altogether clear.  I thought I should call Michael Walleri, Riley's attorney, to see if he could clarify things.  But when I called him about Part 1, he didn't return my call.  Part of me thinks there is value in just posting my take on things.  I've watched enough of this process to be relatively well informed, but in this part of the challenge I had real questions.  Tuesday afternoon I decided that before posting this I should give Walleri's office a try.  This time I got through.  I've decided to leave my original post as it was and then add what I learned in the phone conversation.  How will you know which is which?  If it's in blue, it's new.]

 Here's how I explained truncation in the previous post on this:
Truncation:   Senate terms are for four years, while house terms are for only two.  Senate seats are also staggered.  Half (10) are voted on in one election and the other half (10) in the next election two years later.  If redistricting significantly changes the constituency of a senate seat, then a large number of the voters of the new district are represented by someone they didn't vote for.  Thus, senate seats with significant changes are subject to truncation.  This means that regardless of when the term is up for the sitting senator, the population should be able to participate in choosing their senator in the next election.

So, all the new districts whose terms expire in 2016 that have a significant change will be up for election in the next election (2014).  Those up for election in 2014 will be up again anyway so they don't need to be truncated.  But this messes up the staggered terms, so some have to be designated as two year terms and others as four year terms to get ten up for election one year and the other ten the next election. The 2012 election used a new redistricting plan in which all but one of the seats were truncated and then the Board assigned two or four year terms to them. And now they have to do that again. 

I think there is an extra 'improper' in their point number 25 (way above the truncation explanation), but I'm not sure.  I think they are saying . . . well, actually it's not all that clear to me so I won't guess. 

Here's what I know.

The first time this board made a plan, their standard for truncation was 90% or more of the district was the same.   Only one Senator's district was that high - Sen Egan of Juneau.  All the other Senate districts were truncated.  This time they changed the threshold for truncation to 75% and they they all but said that that was to exclude from truncation one incumbent - Sen. Coghill - who lives in the new Senate seat B.

Item 25 includes three itemized points.  Here's the first:
(a)  substantial changes from an unconstitutional Interim Plan as opposed to the prior Final Plan in effect for the 2010

I'm not sure what (a) means.  Perhaps they are saying that they should have compared the new plan with the 2010 plan instead of with the interim plan to determine how different it was.  If that's what they meant, then (a) is a good example of why it's important to write clearly, because that actually says the opposite to me; that there's a bigger difference between the new plan and the interim plan, than the new plan and the 2010 plan.

[Mr. Walleri told me Tuesday that in fact there is a greater difference between the most recent redistricting plan and the districts used in the 2010 election.  And that if Senate District B were compared to the 2010 districts there would be a greater than 50% change in constituency and the seat would have to be truncated.  But, I asked, so what?  I remember somewhere in my brain that this issue came up before Shelby County v. Holder determined that Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act was invalid and thus there were no standards for determining which states were required to undergo Section 5 pre-clearnace.  The Board's attorney, I believe, told the Board that for pre-clearance they would be using the Interim Plan in place for the 2012 election, not the 2010 election districts.  

But Walleri was arguing that that might have been the standard for VRA benchmarks, but not for the Alaska Supreme Court.   The Interim Plan was declared unconstitutional and was used only because there wasn't enough time to create a constitutional plan.   

I suspect that this might be unexplored legal territory in Alaska.  According to the Board's attorney (from a memo to the Board):
"There are no statutes, regulations or case law guidance on how to ascertain the seating process."
The only justification for truncation I recall was that voters shouldn't be represented by people they didn't have the chance to vote on.  Michael White's memo to the Board goes on to talk about how this evolved from a Supreme Court decision.  Thus if a district were substantially different, a substantial number of voters would not have had a chance to vote for the senator.  Therefore those voters should have a chance to vote on that senator in the very next election.  Thus the justification for truncation. 

Walleri claims that that 2012 plan was declared unconstitutional and thus it shouldn't be used.  But if the issue is disenfranchisement of voters, then it seems that the 2012 districts would be the most pertinent because those are the people who voted for the sitting senators.] 

(b)  incumbency protection relative to Senate District B

This could mean a couple of things.  It might refer to the Board lowering the percentage that would require truncation to 75% to let Coghill escape truncation.  At the July 7, 2013 meeting, Board chair John Torgerson said,
"MR. TORGERSON:· Thank you.· Again, that's 22· ·three-quarters of the district or more is the threshold 23· ·that we're establishing, and in this case, it only 24· ·affects the one district, Senate District B." [from the July 7, 2013 transcript, p. 114]
Two years ago, in a post on truncation, I quoted a memo from Michael White:
"Where there is substantial change to the population of a district, and the previous district is mid-term in 2012, Egan appears to require the incumbent's term be truncated and that an election be held.  What constitutes a substantial change is not defined by law or court decision.  In 2000, the three districts the board found substantially similar, all had less than 10% change in population between the previous plan and the new plan. The next highest percentage of maintained population was 66.2%.  The data does not indicate whether that seat was a mid-term truncation or not. " [See the 2000 truncation plan here.]
[Actually the data do tell us.  I looked at the 2001 Board's Proclamation Plan, but I'm going to save that for another post.  This gets really wonky and I still need to analyze how the current Board did the truncation and the setting of two and four year terms to put the previous Board's work into context.]

So he said there is no specific law or court decision defining substantial change.  However, he also tells us that in the previous redistricting - 2000 - three districts that were NOT truncated all had less than 10% change.  It wasn't clear, he tells us, whether the next highest - 66.2% same population- was a mid-term truncation.  [Note:  the follow up post will raise questions about these figures.]

Then the current Board decided that 75% should be the cut off point (15% lower than their previous standard and the 2002 standard and less than 9% higher than the 66.2% mentioned above for the 2002 Board.)  They set it at this point because they knew - and talked about it at the meeting - that Coghill's new district was 77% the same.  This level would save Coghill from truncation.  I could argue persuasively both for and against the proposition that 75% of the population makes the district substantially the same.  But public bodies don't usually set such standards AFTER one knows how they will affect the outcome.  Usually you determine these abstract standards before you know who will be affected. 

But that isn't really what I think of when it comes to incumbent protection.  To me that means making a district safe for an incumbent.  Senate district B is made up of districts 3 and 4.  Coghill lives in the new HD 3.  The new HD 4 tends to be a liberal district as I understand it.  But is HD 4 liberal enough to defeat Coghill?  I'm not from Fairbanks, but my encounter with Coghill in Juneau tells me he's a very likeable guy and will be hard to beat.   I'm not sure this is making B safe for Coghill.  Rather, by splitting what seems a natural pairing of HD 3 and HD 5, they've prevented, probably, a likely Democratic Senator.

[What I understood Walleri to say was something like this:  the Board discussed protecting incumbents by making sure that not only was the Senate staggered statewide as required by the Constitution, but also that it should be staggered by communities, and thus Coghill was saved from truncation by lowering the percentage from from 90% used in 2001 and 2012 to 75%.  It's true that Board member PeggyAnn McConnachie made this local staggering seem like it was a Constitutional requirement at that meeting, but I don't think that was related to truncation percentages directly.  The discussion on staggering districts came after truncation was settled.   I think the percentage needed to be substantially the same is probably an issue the judges will be interested in. That plus the pairing of HD 3 and 4 into SD B and HD 4 and 5 into SD C, combined with de facto non-contiguity of HB 5, and the lowering of the percentage to 75% all combined in the Fairbanks area, drawn up by former Rep. Jim Holm who lost his seat in 2006 to Scott Kawasaki, one of the Democratic incumbents (whose sister's house* he gouged out of the district) do all add up to something worth paying attention to.  
*A house listed as S. Kawasaki in the phone book was drawn out of Rep. Kawasaki's district in the first maps of Fairbanks Board member Holm offered the Board.  It turned out to belong to Scott's sister Sonia. Redistricting insiders call this protuberance on the map the Kawasaki finger.]

(c) previously considered partisan voting patterns of persons within the Ester/Goldstream Area.

Again, I'm not really sure where this is going.  I do know that the Ester/Goldstream areas in the new HD 4 were identified as high voter turnout Democratic precincts the first times around.  They were paired with Bering Strait villages on the grounds that this would meet the Voting Rights Act (VRA) criteria.  This gets a bit complicated, but they were trying to make a 'Native District' which, for the VRA, would mean a district where the Native choice candidate was likely to be elected. Since Alaska Natives tend to vote Democratic, if they added Democrats to the district, it required a lower percentage of Natives to qualify than if they added population less likely to vote the same as the Native vote. 

The Board very clearly discussed the partisan voting patterns of the Ester/Goldstream area, but I don't know what the implications are here concerning truncation.

[When I asked about this, Walleri started talking about packing districts.  Yes, he was referring to the fact that the Board had pointed out the liberal nature of these two communities as justification for putting them into Native House District 38 last time round.  He also acknowledged that there was some self-packing involved simply by the fact that these folks all lived near each other.  Time was limited at this point and so we didn't discuss this too much.  He did say that he'd submitted an amended challenge that was edited, which I haven't read yet, but which you can find here.  He also mentioned that White is arguing that these challenges should only be about the law, not about the facts.  But since the facts are so changed, I don't see how you could exclude them.  I guess that should be the Board's position, but the Court, so far, hasn't been that friendly to some of the Board's positions that seemed to be contrary to the public good.

I thought that once I talked to Walleri I'd be able to finish off this post.  And I am bringing it to a close.  But in double checking some things after we talked, I've discovered issues  I need to post, but I need a little more time to put them all together.  Stay tuned, this should get good, in a very technical way.]

Santa Monica Sunset

I've been busy doing things for my mom - making calls, arranging repairs, checking bills, etc.  I've also had a sore heal [heel] for the last two days.  This has happened before and I need to stop wearing the shoes I was walking in the other night and see if that stops this.

So I was eager to get some exercise and finally got some time just before 7 pm to ride the bike down to Venice Beach.  I decided to head north, into Santa Monica, this time. As the sun was getting low on the horizon.  It drops much faster than it does in Anchorage.

There's Santa Monica pier in the background.

Here's a guy slack lining as the sun sets. says this sport began among the rock climbers camped for months at a time in Yosemite Valley.
"After the long days of jugging, hammering, scoping, bolting, cleaning, smearing, crimping, jamming, bleeding, taping, sending and summiting, people would flock back to camp 4 for the evening. Just as new routes were being created on a daily basis, so were new ways to spend down-time. The inhabitants of camp 4 could be found walking parking lot chains, hand railings, and even ropes strung up between the trees. In the mid to late 70’s this type of hobby became increasingly popular, as local hotshots and visitors alike were seen balancing on the rope. It appeared to have positive effects in honing balance for climbing, and strengthening the legs and core."
 And riding along the beach in the cooling evening air definitely had positive effects on my state of mind and body.

Poll: Alaska Worst Food And Most Underrated State

A Business Insider poll asked people about the various states.  I normally wouldn't put something like this up, but it was interesting to see that Alaska is on other people's minds.   It was rated top in Worst Food and Most Underrated.  But while many states were white  (no reaction) on a lot of the maps, Alaska showed some color (the darker the most votes) on 19 of the 22 questions.  (Some it was hard to tell.  And some it was good to be white.)  OK, this is silly and I'm being parochial, but here it is.

Which state has the (is your)(is)

1.  Weirdest accent?  Massachusetts 16%
2.  Best Food?  New York 20%
3.  Worst food?  AK with 5%, followed by Alabama. 
4.  Favorite?  California 12%, AK shows some color here.
5.  Least Favorite?  Texas wins hands down 11% AK shows faintly here too.
6.  Craziest? California 25%
7.  Hottest residents?  California again 51%
8.  Ugliest resident?   While Alabama got the highest with 11%, Alaska shows some color.
9   Most beautiful scenery?  Colorado got 11% but Alaska shows some color.
10.  Worst scenery?  Kansas. 12%
11.   Drunkest?  Louisiana 11%, Alaska shows color.
12.  Best vacation spot?  Hawaii 32%  Alaska is one of only nine states in this one.
13.  Most arrogant?  New York (39%) beats out Texas and California
14.  Rudest?  Again New York (44%)
15.  Nicest?  Georgia 7% Most states got some color on this one. 
16.  Smartest?  Went to Massachusetts. 24%
17.  Dumbest?  Alabama (16%) beats out Mississippi.
18.  Best sports fans?  New York 13%
19.  Worst sports fans?  New York 11%, but lots of color on the map including Alaska.
20.  Would you like to kick out of America?  Texas wins hands down.  21%  Then CA.
21.  Most overrated?  California 28%
22.  Most underrated?  Alaska 5%

See the maps here.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Gov Cited Jobs in Oil Tax Relief, Now Cuts Job Preference For Alaskans

From the Anchorage Daily News:
The Parnell administration, in an unprecedented move, has ruled that Alaska hire requirements for state and local public works contracts won't apply to the entire state but only to limited, mainly rural areas.
No longer covered as of Friday: Anchorage, Fairbanks, the Mat-Su, Juneau and the Kenai Peninsula.
The Juneau Empire reported a Parnell speech in June where he defended HB 21 which cut oil taxes drastically:
“If we can garner more investment from the tax changes we made with the More Alaska Production Act,” Parnell said, “Alaskans will benefit immensely from the jobs and opportunities that are created.”

But with this new policy change it's clear that the Governor doesn't care all that much if those jobs go to Alaskans.  And anyone who has flown to Anchorage regularly notices the planes have a lot of folks flying in from Outside for their shift on the North Slope.

Parnell talks about jobs and benefits to Alaskans, but the record seems to indicate that his true purpose is benefit to large corporations such as the oil company he lobbied for before becoming Lt. Governor and then Governor when Palin resigned. 

While his administration argues that DC doesn't understand Alaska's problems and thus shouldn't have power over the state, they see no reason why local governments and communities or the general Alaska public should have any say over what the State does.  They overturned the guts of the people's initiative to regulate the cruise industry and they destroyed the state's Coastal Zone Management structure making Alaska the only coastal state in the country without a Coastal Zone Management program.  Despite the fact that our coast is larger than all the others.

The purpose of all this?  The pattern we see would appear to give large corporations (as well as smaller businesses) free run in the state of Alaska with little or no interference from the Federal government, from the State government, from local governments, or from Alaskan people in general.  People's rights to protect their own communities have been cut drastically by Parnell's administration in moves like the gutting of the Coastal Zone Management program. 

Federal Overreach is a buzz ward in the Parnell Administration.  But not State Overreach. 

The language may be about "Alaska's economy" and "jobs"  but behind the facade is the real purpose:  making life easier for large corporations and business in general.  No one should hold up their projects for any reason, whether it destroys local neighborhoods and communities, pollutes, or threatens endangered species, or salmon streams.  Business gets an automatic green light at all intersections between their interests and the people's interests. 

I'm sure people like the governor and his supporters also believe that making life easier for large corporations makes life better for everyone.  Fundamentalist capitalism is just as blind and intolerant as fundamentalism in any other religion.  They forget that the reasons they dislike government - its potential power over others - is the same reason that many people dislike multinational corporations.  And as those corporations have gained increased power over government through election contributions and lobbyists, they have gotten larger and larger.  In most industries - media, airlines, foodmining, oil, defensefishing, cruise lines, etc. -  consolidation has decreased the number of competing companies, giving fewer companies more control over people's lives.  Many corporations have larger budgets than many countries.  Government is the only viable counterbalance to their power. 

Of course the governor's new policy raises the question about whether local hire is even legal in the first place.  Back in the late 70s or early 80s Alaska local hire laws were ruled unconstitutional, so I did some checking to see if things had changed.  There are localities - like San Francisco - that have local hire laws.  For now, I'm just raising the point, and saying it appears that there are circumstances when local hire appears to be legal.  Here's a place to start reading about the law on this.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Self Made Myth

There are ideas that individuals and groups have so embedded in their minds that they never question them.  But often, these conceits do not hold up to close scrutiny.  Here's the start of an article that looks at the myth of the self-made man - a myth that underlies many conservatives, and certainly those Ayn Rand libertarians.  It's useful to review a thoughtful take on it so you're prepared when the opportunity arises to raise someone's consciousness. 

From the Hedgehog Review where you can read the whole article.

Problems and Promises of the Self-Made Myth

Jim Cullen

Reprinted from The Hedgehog Review 15.2 (Summer 2013). This essay may not be resold, reprinted, or redistributed for compensation of any kind without prior written permission. Please contact The Hedgehog Review for further details.

The Hedgehog Review

The Hedgehog Review: Summer 2013

(Volume 15 | Issue 2)
A self-made man means one who has rendered himself accomplished, eminent, rich, or great by his own unaided efforts.
—John Frost, Self-Made Men of America (1848)
These have not been good days for the self-made man. The very phraseology offends: in an age when even corporate titans ritualistically affirm the value of teamwork, “self-made” sounds unseemly. “What’s wrong with the ‘self-made’ theory? Everything,” says Mike Myatt, a prominent CEO consultant, in a 2011 article in Forbes, a publication where one might expect to see such a figure affirmed. “If your pride, ego, arrogance, insecurity, or ignorance keeps you from recognizing the contributions of others, then it’s time for a wake-up call,” he admonishes.1 In the 2012 book The Self-Made Myth, authors Brian Miller and Mike Lapham define the phrase as “the false assertion that individual and business success are entirely the result of the hard work, creativity, and sacrifice of the individual with little outside assistance.”2
Such objections do not even begin to broach the difficulties of a phrase like “self-made man” in a postfeminist era, when any generic citation of “man” is at best a faux pas. Given the institutional, much less biological, realities that govern our lives, the very idea of the self-made man sounds like a contradiction in terms. No man is “unaided” because every man is some mother’s son.
Here's the whole article.