Tuesday, August 19, 2014

A Different View Of Election Day - Part 1

These backyard visitors weren't at all interested in the election.

This steller jay was looking for the bag of peanut shells we had on the deck.  (I didn't do anything to enhance this photo.)

My presence didn't deter him at all.  He scolded me and told me to leave so he could go about his business.

This black capped chickadee was keeping more to itself in the trees.


Political Sign Battles

Seward Highway, between Northern Lights and Benson, was one of the battlegrounds in the fight over Proposition 1.  On the Benson corner, were the No folks.

On the Northern Lights corner were the Yes folks.

I couldn't help thinking this was like going to a college football game.  There were the good guys (your team) and the bad guys (the other team.)  You sat on different sides of the stadium and yelled for your team and against the other team.

The political sign version includes cars driving by the sign holders and honking if they like the political message, sometimes even waving.  Sometimes showing a thumbs down.

What strange ritual is this?  I thought about it while I was there.  First, Alaska has no billboards, so yard signs and corner demonstrations take the place of billboards.  But the level of discourse between the two sides and between the sign holders and the drivers was the same level as the Bruins and the Trojans.  Or Palestinians and Israelis.

Signs don't expand the rational debate.  But I suspect they impact the emotional debate.  Clearly seeing a group of people holding signs for what you believe must give a sense of solidarity.  And if your position is an underdog position, it's probably encouraging to see your side represented - the more signs, the more encouraging.  I suspect people weigh how the election is going by the number of sign wavers for each side.  And, the ability to get folks out onto the streets is an indicator of how much support each side has. It's about winning and losing, about power, not really about the impact of the different tax schemes on the state. 

Any Proof Signs Matter?

Not a lot.  One professor, Costas Panagoloulos,  did some experiments in New York that say they do, but I'd like to see his findings replicated in other places before I whole-heartedly accept his findings.  Here's an excerpt of a 2012 NPR interview:
SIMON: How did you measure the effectiveness of yard signs?
PANAGOPOULOS: What I designed was a randomized field experiment that randomly assigned to different voting locations in Manhattan during the 2005 mayoral election - to be treated with street signs that said, Vote Tomorrow, that encouraged people to vote. These were nonpartisan signs held up by groups of volunteers at strategically selected precincts. And then after the election, we measured voter turnout, and compared those places where we had volunteers with street signs to those places where we did not have volunteers with street signs. And we found that turnout was significantly higher in those voting locations and precincts where we did expose voters to street signs.
SIMON: But isn't getting someone to vote different and, in a sense, easier than getting them to vote the way you want to because of a street sign or yard sign?
PANAGOPOULOS: Well, I think what we wanted to demonstrate was that this particular technique - holding up some type of sign - can be effective. Now, we had a nonpartisan message. We assume that a partisan message could have been as effective - perhaps it would have been more effective, if anything. But our first cut at this was to see if they could be effective. And given that we found that they are effective, we now presume that they can be effective as partisan messages to promote a particular candidacy.
Instead of waving signs at corners, I'd like to see the active campaign volunteers of both sides sit down for dinner together - six per table - and let voters see videos of their dinner discussions.  That would give a lot more information than signs with slogans.  And the volunteers would find out that 'the enemy' was more rounded and human than they expected.

For instance, I suspect the assumption held by some that oil company employees are all going to Vote No isn't all that accurate.  It's probably true that the most vocal opponents of Prop 1 work for oil companies or subcontractors.  When I went to the public testimony for HB 110, an early version of SB 21, all the people speaking in favor, identified themselves as connected through work or family to the oil industry.

But no employer is universally loved by their employees, who see all the warts of their bosses.  And even though the oil companies, as reported in the ADN, have been sending out emails telling their employees to vote No - I imagine a lot of the employees might disagree or just resent their employer telling them how to vote.  (In today's paper, it says,
"Companies supporting the tax cut were shuttling workers to the polls in vans . . . but officials said they had not told the employees how to vote."
While I was looking for evidence of the effectiveness of sign waving, I found this anti-sign waving blog post that included this tidbit:
I actually have been a sign waver in the past, but only when strongly encouraged to do so by an employer with substantial financial interest in a certain candidate. I did so begrudgingly and hated every minute of it as I tried to fake a smile at drivers who mostly just wanted to get to home as soon as possible without having to send a half-hearted greeting my way.
People with the Yes signs wondered how many of the No sign holders were there as part of their job.  And when someone waved an Alaska flag among the Yes signs, it was suggested the No folks should have a British flag.  See, what I mean?  It's like football fans finding ways to out do the fans of their opponents.

I did see a man near the Yes signs who looked familiar.  Then it hit me - he looked like Vic Kohring.  I don't think I've talked to Vic since the trial.  We had a brief but cordial conversation.  I realized later that I didn't ask why he was standing with signs in mid-town Anchorage if he's running for a Senate seat in the Valley. I checked, now.  He's running for US Senate, not state senate, for the Alaska Independence Party slot.

And I met one of Don Young's Republican primary opponents - John Cox.  Forrest Dunbar, the Democratic house candidate who's unopposed in the primary, came up to say hi and I got this picture of the two of them.

I asked Cox about the gun he's wearing.  He told me he's a strong open-carry advocate.

I should be done now, but after my afternoon in the sign battles I couldn't resist posting this picture I ran across when I got home by Polish artist Pawel Kuczynski published (with other pictures) at The Mind Unleashed.

While there are a lot of informed voters, this picture depicts some of the uninformed.  Not to mention those who have dropped out of voting because they don't see the point.  We'd have a lot different country if they voted.

Art by Pawel Kuczynski; image from The Mind Unleashed

 The election equivalent of the grass these days is "JOBS."

NOTE:  For those wondering - especially after the previous post - I was holding a Yes sign.  I'd been called and asked to help out and I don't believe that blogging should cause me to give up participating in the political process.  Pretending I don't have a position on issues doesn't make my blog more objective.  It's better to be upfront about about my beliefs and activities, write as objectively as I can, and let the reader sort things out. 

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Vampire History of Alaska - Why You Should Vote Yes on Prop 1

Everyone knows vampires don't show up on photos.
"According to many tales a vampire will cast no reflection when in front of a mirror; in addition, a vampire's image can not be caught on film. So what then of digital cameras?

Before we tackle that question, we should first know why the myth exists in the first place. Mirrors were thought to show a person's soul. As a vampire has no soul (unless he is Angel) we must logically conclude that there will be no reflection. The same hold true for film and photographs - they too were thought to be creating an image of the soul. (Interestingly enough, some people were even afraid to have a picture taken of them, for fear of having their soul stolen!)

Based on these assumptions we must then conclude that a vampire would not show up in a picture taken by a digital camera for any mechanical device that reproduces and image of a being is actually only capturing their essence or soul. "  (From Everything2)
But I  frequently warn readers not to believe everything they read online.  In fact, this post is made possible by recent advances in vampirology and in technology.  It's been discovered that vampires actually have a negative soul. (Sorry, the link keeps crashing, and as you read on, you'll understand why.)  That vampire knowledge along with new technology that can find the vampire traces left in old photos,  allows historians to reprocess historical pictures (and even drawings) to reveal the vampires who were actually there all along.  This process is not yet available to the public, but through a friend of a friend,  I was able to give them five photos and one picture. That's all I can tell you.

Timber Vampires

The most successful of the ones I submitted has to be this Timber Vampire picture.  I used an historical photo I got from
AlaskaNativeStudies.  Other images came back looking like shoddy photoshopped work.  But the technology is in its infancy.  Additional sources for this and the other images are at the bottom. 

Of course, we all know that famous phrase, often attributed to Churchill, "History is written by the victors."  And so it is, that while vampires have been involved in much of world history, they have done a great job in scrubbing their malicious presence from the history books.  Of course, vampires do not die of natural causes, so they live a very long time.  That gives them a great advantage over humans.  They understand the rhythms of history.  They understand the weaknesses of human beings.  And they exploit them with deadly precision.

Currently Alaska is under a massive vampire attack as they use every trick in their arsenal to get Alaska voters to vote no on Prop 1.  This proposition would overturn SB 21 that gives oil companies a huge tax break and cuts the benefits Alaskans would get from their ownership of state oil.  It's vastly complicated and in this post I just want to put this particular human/vampire encounter into the context of the vampire history of Alaska. 

The basic pattern of vampire invasion of Alaska goes like this:
  • The vampires sense an Alaskan resource is currently worth exploiting.
  • They use any means necessary.  Earliest attempts used great violence, but that was before Alaska was well connected to the world and before media covered what was happening.  
Their schemes became more subtle as mass media and communication evolved.  Typically,
  • they use the legal process to lay claim to resources
  • they disguise themselves inside corporations 
  • they infect a select and useful group of Alaskans such as legislators, business people, Republicans, and media to work for them
  • they brain wash as many of the remaining Alaskans as possible to believe the vampire corporation(s) is 
    • creating jobs, 
    • bringing wealth to Alaska, 
    • retrieving natural resources critical to US security
    • that anyone opposing them is a communist, liar, environmentalist, or a combination of all the evil terms their focus groups discover, and 
    • those evil opponents' agenda is to destroy Alaska and the civilized world
  • they cause discord between urban and rural, Alaska Native and Non Native, public employees and private employees, etc.
  • they deviously convince the poor and undereducated that the interests of the rich are their interests
  • they destroy the land, the water, the flora, the fauna to get what they want as cheaply as possible
  • they get their infected legislators to pass laws to restrict citizen participation, to hamper environmental protections, to build infrastructure needed to exploit the resource
  • they sprinkle crumbs from their bloody profits on public buildings and on arts and charities leaving them indelibly marked with their corporate logos
  • and they send the blood of Alaska back Outside to their vampire bosses
Some examples of vampire invasions in the last several centuries of Alaska history:

Seal Hunter Vampires

Among the first vampires to come to Alaska were those from Russia who killed seals and otters and Aleuts to enrich themselves in the fur trade.

Vampire Miners

Gold Mining Vampires

Minerals have been a favorite target of vampires in Alaska.  Above are some gold mining vampires.  Remember we can trace the pattern of blood sucking listed above in each of these waves of vampire.

Vampire Miners

Copper mining is another example.  In the case above, JP Morgan and the Guggenheim family vampires managed to mine $200 million (1930 dollars) of copper blood out of Alaska.  I'd note that I discovered, doing this post, that there's a whole special class of vampire miner  that tend to look more like computer game icons: 
Vampire Miners appear in cavern-level biomes and follow the Fighter AI. They wear (but do not drop) a Mining Helmet, which provides a small amount of light around them. This light can sometimes reveal sealed caves, much like blooming Blinkroot. Vampire miners can break down doors. Vampire Miners also have a brighter hue of red.  Vampire Miners are immune to the Poisoned debuff.

Fishing Vampires

Then there are the fishing vampires who have sucked the fish blood out of Alaska and sent it all Outside.  They infected some Alaskans, but many were - and still are - brought in from Outside. 

Timber Vampires

Getting the government to build roads, they clear cut forests, destroyed salmon streams, and generally sent raw timber away to be processed elsewhere. 

Oil Vampires

The largest current vampire invasion has been ongoing for over forty years.  The most visible damage of this invasion happened in 1989 in Prince William Sound.

Exxon Valdez Oil Vampire Work

Alaska's Current Vampire Threat Level

Image from here.
You can also see and hear the vampire handiwork today in newspapers, on television, on radio, on lawn signs as they use their huge corporate profits to convince Alaskans that if they don't vote no on Prop 1
  • Alaskans will lose their jobs, 
  • the oil companies will leave the state, 
  • oil production will collapse, 
  • income and sales taxes will be law
  • everything that is good in Alaska will disappear.  

By Tuesday they'll be telling people Prop 1 will cause guns and penises to stop firing.

Just vampire business as usual in Alaska, as well as in their corporate colonies around the world.

Image from here.

If Prop 1 passes, none of those things will happen.  ACES will get revised in the next legislative session so that the tax rate at the high end will be adjusted.  And there will be enough money in the state budget to support schools and even reformed vampire support groups.  Sean, there's a way out.  The first step is
"admit to [your]self that something is seriously wrong in [your] life."
And where does Sarah Palin fit in here now that she officially supports Prop 1?  All I can say is there is a big difference between vampires and zombies.

Image sources:

Timber Vampire:
MLP Wikia
The Loneliest Vampire

Seal Hunter Vampire:
St. John's College, Cambridge

Gold Miner Vampires:

Copper Miner Vampire:

Fish Vampire:

Oil Vampire:

Saturday, August 16, 2014

What Would You Do If Your Fiancé Bought Wedding Insurance?

I didn't know such a thing existed until we passed this banner last night.

How does one go about buying this insurance?  Does the couple buy it?  How do you bring this up?  "I love you and here's a fancy ring, but I bought wedding insurance just in case we change our minds"?  Does one person buy insurance without telling the other?  Does the wedding planner offer it in the wedding package?

Essentially, this sounds like bad decision insurance.  We could all use that.

"Hello, Allstate?  I just saw a really bad movie, could you send me a refund on the admission price?  Oh, and the dinner before the movie wasn't very good either."

"Geico, we've been in our new house three months now and we know it was a big mistake.  Please send our check to this new address."

"State Farm, I really thought an English major would be fantastic, but I'm graduated now and my unemployment runs out next week, so could you please refund me my tuition?"

Lots of opportunities.  "Travelers?  Look, our kids are turning 13 and 15 this year and it's clear we never should have had kids.  Could you please send the check?  Where should we drop off the kids?"

And you know how there are people who stage accidents or burn their businesses down to collect insurance?  Well, I'll bet there are guys who ask women to marry them so they can cancel and collect the insurance.

As is my wont, after writing all this, I decided to google and see what this is all about.  I was much too cynical.   Here's what Travelers' says:

Is your wedding at risk? Not to worry.
Travelers has covered customers through many wedding-day mishaps, including:
  • Postponement due to family illnesses, untimely deaths, and travel delays
  • Flowers and wedding photography that failed to arrive when promised
  • Bakers, caterers, bridal boutiques, and wedding venues that went out of business
  • No-show photographers and DJs
  • Lost or damaged wedding rings, dresses and attire
  • Damaged wedding cake, spoiled food, and other glitches in catering and entertainment
  • And more…
Travelers starts at considerably more than $300.  

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Title IX Training Suggests Big Changes On Campus: Being A Jerk No Longer Acceptable At UAA

I used to have to tell faculty, when I was a faculty union grievance rep, that simply being a jerk was not a grievable offense.  A supervisor had to violate a specific provision of the contract, the university policies and procedures, or the law before an action could be grieved.  The rules against harassment were very vague.

But if yesteday's Title IX training at UAA is serious (and I have no reason to question it), then being a jerk, if it manifests itself as bullying or other harassing behaviors, is now grievable.  This is big.  (Other jerk behaviors that are irritating, but not mean or intimidating are probably still ok.) And, of course, unwanted sexual advances have been taboo for a while now, but victims have a lot more with which to fight back.

This was mandatory training for faculty.  As people walked in, they had to sign the list of names that they were there.  If your name wasn't on the list - mine wasn't since I'm retired and not teaching this semester - you signed another elsewhere.  I don't know what happens to faculty that didn't get the training yesterday or earlier in the summer.  But the auditorium was pretty much full.

What I Thought Was Significant

    1.  This is serious.  
    • It was mandatory.
    • Chancellor Tom Case opened it and supported the idea of treating everyone with respect, but also said there were significant consequences for universities that are not in compliance.
    • The United Academics (the faculty union) president Abel Bult-Ito was down from Fairbanks to say the union was co-sponsoring the event, emphasizing protections are in place not only for students, but for faculty and staff as well.
    • Faculty Senate President Diane Hirschberg then briefly discussed national and local cases.  She said that Jerry Sandusky had cost Penn State, just in fees and fines, $69 million.  Hirschberg's own alma mater Berkeley had its own recent case, and UAA's women's volley ball coach was our own recent incident.  She also talked about a New York Times story about how badly a new student's rape by football team members was handled by campus authorities
      • This training was happening because UAA is on a list of school being investigated on their Title IX implementation.
      • And she told the faculty that new legislation has been introduced that includes fines up to 1% of a school's budget and $150,000 per incident.

    "Originally known as the Campus Security Act, the Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act (20 USC § 1092(f)) is the landmark federal law that requires colleges and universities across the United States to disclose information about crime on and around their campuses. The law is tied to an institution's participation in federal student financial aid programs and it applies to most institutions of higher education both public and private. The Clery Act is enforced by the United States Department of Education."

    2.  There are people to back this up and these folks appear to be good
    Whaley, Micek, and Trew

    The three main presenters - Stephanie Whaley, Jerry Trew, and Mandee Micek - are key people in the team of investigators and support staff for faculty and students.  Jerry and Mandee are both former police officers and are attorneys.  The presentation was straightforward, the content was to the point, and I got the sense that these people knew what they were doing and did it well.

    And there are others on campus.  There is a web of different offices and as I look at my notes and pictures and what's on the web, I'm a little confused.  This needs to be more straightforward.  I know they talked about a Care Team yesterday and there's a Title IX team, and there are others doing overlapping work in different parts of the campus.  Stephanie Whaley came to the Title IX team form Residence Life which handles things in the dorms.

    The sense I got was that there now are people on campus whose job it is to:
    1.  investigate complaints
    2.  advocate for victims
    3.  help faculty and staff and students report problems
    4.  help potential offenders get help to modify their behavior

    And there are requirements to report violations.  It doesn't have to include a name, but if someone finds out about a sexual assault or about harassment, they have a mandatory duty to report.

    I had a chance to talk to Jerry and Stephanie afterward.  I came in with some skepticism based on over 30 years at UAA.  But I'm impressed with these folks.  They could disappoint me down the line, but I suspect that will only happen if they don't get the support they need from the administration. It's encouraging to learn that two colleges rescheduled major functions so faculty could attend this training yesterday. 

    3.  It includes various forms of harassment including bullying.  

    Faculty and supervisors and students who bully, who intimidate, who create a hostile environment are no longer just jerks, they are in violation of university policy and (if I understood this right) federal law.  They can be complained against and there are people who are there to advocate for the victims.

    This is big.  I can tell lots of stories I've experienced, witnessed, and heard over the years at UAA.  Bullying had plenty of practitioners. There is now an avenue for correcting these folks who make working and student life miserable for others.  Administration is no longer looking the other way, no longer saying "he's just that way, don't let it bother you."  This is big.

    4. If You Can't Remember What All Was Covered (highly likely) Call  The Office of Campus Diversity And Compliance 786 4680

    There was too much information, much of it was general and putting it into practice is a lot easier said then done.  People need to do role-playing to develop scripts for responding to students who are in trouble or to confront harassers.  You can't just tell people to not be emotional.  If it were that easy, we'd all get along fine.  But I talked to Jerry and Stephanie afterward and they understand this.

    There's still a lot of conversation to be had.  During the break, three different people touched me when the talked to me.  This was right after a discussion about touching others.  There was nothing wrong with the pats on the arm, but I suspect discussions on welcome and unwelcome touching would be useful, because there's a big gray area here where people could conceivably get into trouble for what they thought were innocent touches.  (And I want people to be able to continue touching.)

    The reporting requirements need more explanation - like what to report, when to report, how to report, and to whom to report.  All that was discussed, but people need to walk through this.  It's all new territory for many.

    But that's why I say, a key point I took out of the meeting was just to call.  And there will be other options to get more specific behavioral training on all this.

    All in all, this was an auspicious start.

    My Conclusion 

    This is BIG!  This is bigger than the end to smoking in classrooms and then in buildings completely.  And that was huge.  This sets in place people who are trained to deal with sexual assault victims.  This makes campuses accountable to the federal government with large potential fines for violations.  It sets in place more training and education for potential victims and potential perpetrators.

    But within the package here, yelling and bullying are no longer acceptable behaviors.  I'd suggest buying stock in anger management training, because people in authority who have been used to bullying their staff will now be sent to anger management classes and if they don't learn, they'll be out.

    Of course, this all requires enough resources and follow through.  And some of the worst offenders are those in positions of authority.  There will be resistance.  And smoking was a much more tangible behavior - it was clearly visible and the odor lingered long after.

    But with everyone carrying around a audio and video recorder in their phone these days, and with text messages recorded as well, I don't think there will be any lack of evidence.

    When I think of the oppressive environment I moved into here in 1977, this is huge. I can think of a number of women faculty who suffered from the arrogance and power of male colleagues and supervisors.   Power is still power though, even if it is more polite.  But life should become a lot more pleasant on campus.  And as people learn to see their own behavior as unacceptable, they may even grow as human beings.

    One final note.  It will take time for folks to work out the difference between acceptable and unacceptable behavior.  When is something legitimate disagreement and when does it become intimidation?  When is touching a means of communication and when is it just creepy or menacing?  Those who see things in black and white will want clear-cut descriptions of what is and isn't ok.  And that won't be possible.  These folks who have trouble reading non-verbal communication will need to err on the side of very conservative interpretation.  If they aren't sure, they shouldn't do it. 

    Wednesday, August 13, 2014

    Happy Birthday Party In Absentia For Walt Parker Monday Night

    I always thought I had a special relationship with Lydia Selkregg.  We'd both started teaching at UAA the same semester, though she'd been in Anchorage a long time and I'd just arrived.  She treated me like family and we even shared the same birthday.  When I went to her memorial at the Fourth Avenue Theater I listened in as person after person said they had a special relationship with her.  I was a bit chagrined to find out that so many other people had their own special relationship with her.  But I quickly realized what a great reflection  that was on her as a human being.  It was a quality I wanted to strive for even though I'm much more introverted than Lydia was.

    I thought of Lydia Monday night at the Hilltop Ski Area chalet as people great and humble gathered to celebrate what would have been Walt Parker's 88th birthday.  Walt shared that quality with Lydia - everyone felt they had (and did have) a special relationship with Walt.  Including the Selkregg family.

    There were a number of notables there, including former Democratic Governor Steve Cowper who appointed Walt as head of the Exxon-Valdez Oil Spill Commission.  Also there was Republican Lt. Governor Mead Treadwell.  A number of Walt's sled dogs were outside.  They've all found new homes.  Someone said that when Walt died, they all began to howl and Monday evening's festivities ended with everyone howling for Walt.

    Prop 1 Boils Down To: Who Do You Trust?

    This truck was parked outside the Bear Tooth when I came out of the  Alaska Dispatch News and UAA sponsored debate on Prop. 1. 

    It seemed to sum up the question that voters have to answer to vote on this.  Do they trust the oil companies that worked hard to pass SB 21 (that Prop. 1  would overturn)?  Or do they trust those who are saying SB 21 is a giveaway to the oil companies?

    Wielechoski and Croft

    Speaking for Prop 1 (to repeal SB 21 and return to ACES) were Senator Bill Wielechowski and former Senator and University Regent (when the Board hired Mark Hamilton) Chancey Croft. 

    Smith and Hamilton

    Opposed were Mark Hamilton,  President Emeritus of the University of Alaska and Doug Smith, CEO of Little Red Services.

    It cost $15 a head to get in, but the theater was full.

    The debate was moderated by Steve Johnson, speech professor and director of the amazing UAA debate program.  And much of the proceeds were to support the UAA debate program.

    Even though this was probably the debate with the most well prepared presenters I walked out still scratching my head over the facts.  Wielechowki went through a history of broken oil company promises and asked why we should trust them now.  Hamilton said it wasn't about trusting the oil companies, but about trusting facts.

    But what are the facts?  Both sides cite facts that support their position and both sides say no one can predict the numbers when the facts don't support them.

    • Did state oil revenue go up under ACES?  Both sides agree it did.  
    • Will SB 21 raise our oil production to 1 million barrels a day as the governor predicted?  Both sides agree that isn't going to happen, but the No side says SB 21 will produce more oil than ACES.
    • Would a return to ACES destroy incentives to develop more oil in Alaska?  The two sides disagree strongly here.  The No folks say the high taxes when prices are high scare away oil companies and at low oil prices SB 21 brings in much more.  The Yes folks say the high taxes in ACES are paired with high tax write-offs that spur new production.  
    • Did ACES cause oil companies to leave Alaska for North Dakota and other states?  The No folks make this argument strongly.  The Yes side say it wasn't the taxes but the lower costs of extracting shale oil in locations closer to markets. [I heard that in other places, they didn't actually say that tonight.
    • Will ACES or SB 21 give Alaska more revenue in the future?  That's where both sides differ greatly.  It depends on whether oil prices stay above a certain level and how much production there is.  And no one can predict that.  

    Doug Smith said SB 21 should be given a chance and if, in a few years, the predicted new development doesn't happen, then he will be right in front of the line to get the legislature to change the law.  But with oil companies helping to elect legislators, is that really going to happen?  However, if Prop 1 passes, I guarantee that ACES will be amended in the next session to deal with some of the tax issues when oil is at a very high price.

    Other issues that came up:

    The Yes side raised the ethical issue of two legislators who are highish level Conoco-Philips employees who recused themselves, but were then told they had to vote and ended up voting in favor of SB 21. Without their votes it wouldn't have passed. The No side said these were honest and honorable men and wouldn't have voted against the state's interests and that not voting disenfranchises their constituents.
    The Yes side countered with:  Can you see an oil company employee going back to his Conoco-Philips bosses and saying, "I thought it through and decided against saving you $600 million a year"?
    Now, I suspect that an oil company employee probably thinks that changing to SB 21 is a good idea anyway and that their constituents knew they were oil company employees when they elected them.  On the other hand, if legislators who had this kind obvious sort of conflict-of-interest were not allowed to vote on issues they had a direct vested interest in, then voters would know that if there were a lot of oil bills, then a particular candidate would not be able to vote.

    Both sides agreed that ACES earned more revenue for the state than SB 21 would have in the last few years - though they didn't agree on how much more.  And they completely disagreed on what would happen in the future.  And since that depends on the price of oil and the amount of oil, we can only guess on that.

    It was pointed out that the oil companies very legitimately work to maximize their profits and that bargaining with them requires state negotiators to be doing the same thing for Alaskans.  The Yes folks didn't think having a former Conoco-Phillips attorney/lobbyist act as the state's negotiator was a good sign. 

    Wielechowski said that the Norwegian Fund which began in the late 1990s now has $900 billion while our Permanent Fund, begun well before, only has about $51 billion.  Smith countered that Norway continues to tax its citizens at a high rate and uses only a tiny percentage of the fund each year.  He personally didn't want to pay that kind of tax.

    But I thought about that.  Since Norway is a country.  Leaving it means changing one's nationality.  Alaska is but one state in the United States and a large percentage of oil company employees either moved to Alaska from other states or commute from their home states to work in Alaska.  Having a state tax and a large fund for the future would weed out people coming to Alaska to make a quick fortune and leave from those who plan to stay.  It would also weed out people who come to Alaska to get the Permanent Fund dividend.  Personally, I'd rather have people here who plan to stay and who are interested in investing in Alaska's future.

    There was more, but you get the gist.  I agree with Mark Hamilton that we should focus on facts, to the extent that we can.  The historic facts seem to say that ACES was a better deal for the state than SB 21 would have been - even if people disagree on how much better.  Looking to the future, the facts are more slippery.  It depends on a number of things:
    • the future price of oil
    • the amount of oil produced
    • the cost of recovering Alaska oil compared to the cost of recovering oil elsewhere
    • the impacts on large and small producers
    • the impacts on old and new fields

    In my mind, it really does boil down to Who Do You Trust?  The 'facts' are too complex for most voters to determine, and too dependent on assumptions about the factors listed above for anyone to know with certainty. 

    Should the public trust the oil companies who had behind-closed-doors meetings with Gov. Murkowski to come up with PPT which crashed when the FBI found Bill Allen paying legislators to vote for the oil bill?  Who send huge profits out of the state each year?  Who were unwilling to make any promises in exchange for the huge tax cuts they got  in SB 21?  Who are spending millions to defeat SB 21?

    Or should they trust those Alaskans who are working on their own time with their own money and who stand to gain no more than any other Alaskan?

    There are well known and respected people on both sides.  Some of the difference in opinion can be traced to different world views - Republicans tending to trust business more than government and Democrats leaning the other way.  But the key players on the No side are oil companies, oil industry related companies, and their employees.  Their payoff from the tax cuts are immediate.  

    Doug Smith said we should give it a chance (which reflects the latest oil company ads and is far different from the governor's certainty when he was pushing this in the legislature) and come back in three years if it isn't working.  I think the odds of that happening are pretty slim.  After the last round of redistricting we're likely to have strong Republican majorities at least until the next census data in 2020 and redistricting, and they're not going to repeal SB 21.  But, if Prop 1 passes, there's no doubt in my mind that ACES will be on the table for changes in Juneau next session. 

    What I think everyone should agree on, is looking at what Alaska will do when the oil runs out.  We've been kicking that barrel down the road since the oil began to flow.  Both sides pointed out that our (Republican-controlled) administration and legislature have spent wildly the last couple of years.  And since we don't have $900 billion, or even $100 billion, in our Permanent Fund, we need to start thinking seriously about the future.

    Monday, August 11, 2014

    How to Shake Hands and Other Pictures and Notes From The Republican Senate Debate

    The Wendy Williamson auditorium stage was converted to a television studio.  The media panel is seated waiting for the candidates to take their spots.  I sat at this angle because there were tv cameras on stage blocking  closer views of the candidates.

    It was a pretty empty auditorium. People were scattered all around.   This photo was just before the debate began.

    Joe Miller supporters were the most visible and vocal part of the audience.

    I'd brought my notebook, but I took a smaller backpack that didn't have any pens or pencils.  So my notes are all in my head, and unaided memory is tricky.  So double check what I write.  I did look to see if KTVA or ADN has the whole debate up [If either does, I couldn't find it] and I checked on what others wrote to confirm my memory. And make corrections.
    [Wrong again - I found it linked at the #akdebate Twitter feed - you can see it all here.  I don't have 90 minutes right now.  But I may do updates or a follow up post later if I have time.  Updates done after I post - unless they're minor typos or style cleaning without changing the meaning - are identified with "UPDATE" and the date.]

    NOTE:  I strive to be as objective as I can.  Usually that means describing what I see.    This post will also describe how I felt, which gets a little squishier, but I'm still trying to give description rather than judgment.  Others (Mudflats and ADN for example)  have written about what was said last night.  I'm going to try to add to that my sense of the non-verbal communication.  And my collective gut reactions that seemed to come together at the debate.

    Sullivan's Handshakes - Not Much Eye Contact

    Looking at the photos afterward, I was struck by the initial handshaking among the candidates.  These are just photos, not video, so it may be a fluke of the moments I shot the pictures, but look at Dan Sullivan's eyes as he's shaking hands with his opponents. [I did check the video on this before posting.  It cuts to the audience when Miller and Sullivan shake, and in the brief part they got of Sullivan and Treadwell shaking hands Sullivan does look at him.]

    Miller and Sullivan shaking hands

    Sullivan and Treadwell shaking hands

    What I learned about shaking hands long ago is consistent with this advice from About.com:
    Make eye contact and offer a sincere smile to show that you are happy to be where you are.
    Be still and face the other person to prevent giving the impression that you are in a hurry to get away. If you are walking, try to stop, turn, and face the other person, unless it creates an awkward situation.
    As I proof this post, it's clear that it was body language like this and how he talked  that shaped my impressions of Sullivan.  He didn't show he was 'happy to be where [he was].'  He didn't prevent 'giving the impression that [he was] in a hurry to get away.'   These photos are the only tangible evidence I have of this, but I kept getting the message throughout the debate.

    Treadwell and Miller seem to have learned the proper handshake protocol.  
    Miller and Treadwell shaking hands

    Miller - Had the Most Fun

    Miller seemed to be having the most fun.  He got easy questions from his opponents, he had his crowd in the audience, and when you have a black and white view of the world, it's easy to give firm, definitive answers.  He wanted,  for example,  a total freeze on all new regulation and absolutely no amnesty.  But life isn't black and white.  He said something like, "I believe in family and the children on the border should be sent back home to their families."  What if their  parents are living legally in the US?  Or one is?   [KTVA's coverage has this:
    “The most humanitarian thing, in my view, is to reunite them with their families in their countries,” Sullivan said.
    So I probably have Miller and Sullivan mixed up on this one.  Or maybe both said something similar.] 
    Photo from Histor-C

    Watching Miller, I couldn't help thinking of Richard Nixon.  I think it was the hair, the bags under his eyes, the five o'clock shadow and the finger pointing.  He also conveys the same belief in his possession of the truth. 

    Miller:  Some of My Best Relatives are . . .

    Those weren't his exact words, when challenged by panelist Dermot Cole about the tattooed hoodlums on his mailer that said "Begich wants them to vote . . . and if 20 million illegals vote you can kiss the Second Amendment goodbye."  At least he's being honest about his opposition to amnesty - he doesn't want these folks to become US voters.
    He followed this up by telling the audience he has a Mexican son-in-law and an Indonesian brother-in-law.  There was another brother-in-law but I forgot where he was from. [Joeforliberty says the other one is from India.]  Is that supposed to make his racist* mailer ok? The other two took somewhat more nuanced positions, though all three were against federal regulations and Obama's handling of immigration.

    Sullivan:  The Perfect Resume in the Wrong State?

    Sullivan seemed the most out of place.   There's something about the way he talks.  While he spoke articulately and without hesitation (most of the time) I felt he was a bit defensive and he sounded like he was trying to figure out what the best answer would be for this audience.  When asked in the lightening round if he had written in Lisa Murkowski in the last election, there was a long pause.  His team hadn't prepared him for this one.  Finally he said 'no.'

    So, did he vote for his current opponent Joe Miller?  Jeanne Devon, at the Mudflats, raises the possibility that he was still technically a resident of Maryland and so didn't vote here at all.  But he was the Alaska Attorney General.

    He also hesitated when asked if he'd ever been arrested. He said no.  Was he weighing whether it had been expunged from the record or not?    I think his comments on tribal governance and the lawsuits he worked on for the state bear some scrutiny.

    His body language was like the handshake - it all said he didn't want to be here, he'd rather be somewhere else.

    When I first encountered Sullivan at his confirmation hearing for Attorney General in 2010, I felt he had the perfect resume and wrote at that time:
    "And I wouldnʻt be surprised to see Mr. Sullivan running for Governor or Senator sometime.  How about a Republican primary with Mayor Dan Sullivan running against AG Dan Sullivan?"
    Now both Dan Sullivans are running for statewide office, just not the same one.

    In the military, there is almost a checklist for the things you have to do if you want to keep getting promoted.  Sullivan's resume looks like he was following a checklist for higher office.  It's really impressive.  And then he lucked out by marrying a woman from a state with a very low population where the odds were better than in his home state of Ohio.  This is the United States and people can travel from state to state and become residents of other states.  Ted Stevens grew up in California and became "Mr. Alaska."  But Sullivan's opponents have been hitting hard on this point - he's not really an Alaskan yet.  Usually people run for lower level offices before tackling US Senator, so that rubs people the wrong way too.

    Watching Sullivan last night I got the feeling that he isn't quite comfortable here - he has crashed the party so to speak.  Were my gut reactions after sleeping on this just based on what I brought to the debate last night or does what I already knew merely help explain what I saw?  I can't tell.

    Treadwell - The Real Alaskan Who's Peeved These Others Are Blocking His Rightful Place?

    That's the sense I got from Treadwell last night.  He suggested several times that he'd been
    working on projects others raised - sustainable energy in rural Alaska, Alaska's role as an arctic state - and with people they mentioned - Wally Hickle mainly - before they were even in Alaska.  I got the sense from what he said, that he was thinking, "Look, I'm the sensible one in the room, the real Alaskan.  I don't simplify complex issues like immigration or global warming. You guys shouldn't even be on this stage with me."

    If I had had a pen and taken notes, I could flesh this out better.  When Sullivan talked about natural gas as the salvation for rural Alaska energy costs, Treadwell said he'd been doing alternative, sustainable energy projects in rural Alaska since the 1990s.  In response to a question from one of the panelists - I think Cole again - on whether they would keep coverage for pre-existing conditions now in Obamacare, he rebuffed Miller's "I don't think the government should tell people what they have to do.  They should choose what they want." (Huh?  Did he mean the insurance companies?  Or did he mean people with pre-existing conditions should be able to choose coverage that no one is offering?)  Treadwell referenced his wife's cancer and how pre-existing conditions shouldn't prevent one from getting health care.  [Is this just one more example of how people only 'get it' when they have personal experience with an issue?]  He also was more nuanced about regulation - though he said he's changed his mind about approving the Law of the Sea treaty.  I believe he conditioned it on the US not being controlled by outside interests. 

    This Was A TV News/Entertainment Show

    We had a bit of dramatic music leading in to each segment with the appropriately serious deep voice telling us what was about to happen.

    Candidates and panelists got make-up touch-ups during breaks.  Now, that's a manly Alaskan image.  But since Nixon's poor performance in his debate with Kennedy, everyone gets makeup now.
    ADN's Nathaniel Herz - Dermot Cole fuzzy on right

    The media panelists stood their ground in attempts to get the candidates to answer the questions and not change the subject.  ADN's Nathaniel Herz jumped in several times to interrupt a candidate who'd veered off track.  And you could hear both voices playing chicken before one or the other gave up.  Nat won most of those rounds.  Sometimes with the help of the moderator.

    Moderator Joe Vigil - KTVA 11 News - was ruthless when it came to time limits.  I realize that one has to do that to be fair to all the candidates, and that television news is often more about advertising, and thus entertainment, than news.  So time is of the essence. But letting the candidates talk longer when things get heated either leads to them explaining better or saying what they really think instead of their prepared scripts.

    KTVA's Rhonda McBride during break

    Rhonda McBride asked hard questions about conflicts between what candidates said (say about not bringing home earmarks) and Alaska needs (like the severe infrastructure problems in rural Alaska.)  Miller seemed to dismiss the lack of running water and toilets as a choice, citing his use of an outhouse when he was a magistrate in Tok.  

    This gets to my problem with not giving the candidates more time.  With Vigil cutting them off, they could say something glib and not having to really address the issue.

    When it was all over, I didn't think anything had really been resolved.   Should you take my gut reactions as worth anything?  Probably not.  But, my gut did tell me the first time I saw Sullivan live, that he would be running for higher office.  And I saw a lot of other folks being confirmed that legislative session and didn't make that prediction of anyone else. 

    Joe Miller's website quotes a twitter comment he made at #akdebate:  

    I'm not sure anyone won or lost, but Joe definitely had the audience - small as it was in the auditorium - on his side.

    Debates are trickier for candidates these days.  It used to be that you could say one thing to one interest group and another to a different interest group.  But with everyone carrying at video camera in their phones and with Youtube available to post the video, candidates have to be more careful.  While the live audience at this debate appeared to be mostly Republicans - and Miller Republicans at that - this was also being carried live on television and on the web.  So candidates had to have answers that worked for all audiences.  Only Joe Miller didn't seem to care about sanitizing his message for the tv viewers.  Maybe that's why it seemed he was having the most fun.

    *racist - applying characteristics of a few to a whole group of racial group.  In this case Miller is using the same sort of fear mongering the Republicans used to get Southern Democrats to move to the Republican party.  Another similarity to Nixon.

    How Moose Hide In Plain Sight

    After the Republican Senatorial debate, I needed to get some exercise, so I took off on the bike trail.

    There's a new detour - the bike trail is closed off - north of the sports center at UAA to UAA Drive.  But after going around, I got to Goose Lake where this duck was taking in the long slow sunset.

    On the edge of the Northern Lights bike trail I saw the moose.  I stopped to take pictures and it drifted into the foliage so I could no longer see him.  If I didn't know he was there, I'd have ridden right by him, but I did know he was there.  At this point the bike trail is separated from Northern Lights Boulevard by a small strip of woods.  Another biker came and I mentioned the moose.  He turned around and headed for the light at Bragaw and crossed over to the East High School side.  I followed him.  And there was the moose just on the street side of the narrow woods.

    Yes, you can find the moose in this picture, but let me give it some context.  Although it looks like I'm deep in the woods . . .

    . . . I'm really on one of Anchorage's busiest roads - Northern Lights.  The cars were barreling past, and I'd guess most didn't even know he was there.  If I weren't talking about a moose here and if you hadn't seen the previous picture, I bet most of you would skip over this picture without  seeing the moose.

    And if we step back a bit, you can see why most drivers would whiz by without noticing.

    Oh yeah, this is right near the spot the state wants to build a road through these woods.

    Sunday, August 10, 2014

    "Never climb a tree or fence, or do anything awkward with a loaded firearm."

    And other things I learned checking out this ad in the Saturday morning's Alaska Dispatch News.  It fell out as I pulled the paper out of the plastic bag.  [The quote in the title is from the safety chart below.]

    The back side of the flier has stuff about Anchorage  and shows the engraving on the right (Petroleum Industry) and left (Fur Traders) cylinders and says

    "Only 100 will be made in the edition."

    If layaway starts at $200, what's the total price?

    So I called and got a recording.  I looked on line.  There was a safety page and that got me to thinking - if this is a fancy 'heritage' revolver, wouldn't I want to display it?  How could I do that and be safe at the same time.  While I was mulling that over, the phone rang and it was a guy from American Legacy Firearms.

    I asked about the price.  The full price, he said . . . it's gold plated and engraved, is $2495, but there's a special promotion, $300 off.  So it's $2195.  And only 100 will be made.

    Then I asked about how one would safely display such a gun, since one is buying it because it is a special beautiful piece.  Well, they don't actually advise on that - was I thinking of a wall display, a display case?  A glass case, with a lock is possible, but it could be broken and the gun stolen.  We've had some customers who got really high quality glass that couldn't be broken and cemented it in - really elaborate.  It would be unloaded, of course.  You could put on a gun lock, but a big burly lock wouldn't look very good.  You could have a gun smith remove the firing pin, but then you wouldn't be able to use it.

    I asked how long the discount would be in place.  There will be only 100, so when they are sold it's over.  25 have been ordered already and we hope to have them sold by the end of the year.

    I looked further on line to see what safety storage options there might be.  The Kruger website sent me to the National Shooting Sports Foundation site where I found this from Project ChildSafe (from the National Shooting Sports Foundation):
    "The decision to maintain a firearm in the home for self-protection is a serious, personal matter. Unlike passive safety devices, such as alarm systems, firearms used for home protection require significantly more involvement by the owner. Any added safety benefit that may be derived from a firearm depends in large measure on the owner’s commitment to appropriate training and a clear understanding of safe handling and storage rules. Are your security concerns realistic and consistent with local crime rates? Do other adults in your household support the decision to maintain a gun in the home? If they will have access to the firearm, will they join you in a firearms training and safety program? What precautions will be practiced to safeguard children? Do risk factors such as drug and alcohol abuse exist within your household? In addition, issues such as individual temperament, reaction to emergency situations, and specific family circumstances should also enter in the decision.
    If you must have quick access to a loaded firearm in your home, you need to take special safety measures. Keeping a gun to defend your family makes no sense if that same gun puts your family members or visitors to your home at risk. Home firearms accidents can occur when unauthorized individuals – often visitors – discover loaded firearms that were carelessly left out in the open.
    If you choose to keep a firearm for home security, your objective should be to create a situation in which the firearm is readily available to you, yet inaccessible or inoperative to others. Special lockable cases that can be quickly opened only by authorized individuals are options to consider.
    You must exercise full control and supervision over a loaded gun at all times. This means the gun must be unloaded and placed in secure storage whenever you leave the gun in your home or elsewhere. Secure ammunition separately.
    Your most important responsibility is ensuring that unsupervised children cannot encounter loaded firearms. The precautions you take must be completely effective. Anything less invites tragedy and is a serious violation of your responsibility as a gun owner."
    I looked for safe storage.  Number 3 below is

    "Firearms should be unloaded and securely stored when not in use."  But how exactly?

    Here are basic safety rules from Ruger.
    Click to enlarge and focus

    These are all very reasonable and logical in the abstract, but, for example, will the person who's had a few drinks heed this kind of advice?

    Click to enlarge and focus
    I finally found this chart on safe storage (p.16). The commentary lists some of the problems.  There aren't any perfect solutions - especially if you want a gun for self-defense at home at night. The cable can be cut.  Electronic lock boxes won't work if their batteries die.  And all say to keep keys or combinations away from children and unauthorized people.  Easier said than done.

    I also wanted to know how much this revolver would cost without the gold plating and the engraving.  I found this auction site that listed this sort of gun.  They ranged, as you can see, from $450 to $679. 

    I don't know how many folks are ready to plunk down $2100 for one of these - though I'm guessing a lot more than I imagine.  But someone suggested that with the "petroleum industry" engraving, it might make a great retirement present for oil company employees in Alaska