Archive for December 2010
Despite the wretched outcome of his wishes for 2010, WC will once again set out his wishes for 2011. While it is tempting to moderate his wishes, WC is not inclined to lower his expectations in the hope of greater success. But to offer some additional inspiration, WC will frame his wishes for 2011 in the great words of others.
If by a “Liberal” they mean someone who looks ahead and not behind, someone who welcomes new ideas without rigid reactions, someone who cares about the welfare of the people — their health, their housing, their schools, their jobs, their civil rights, and their civil liberties — someone who believes we can break through the stalemate and suspicions that grip us in our policies abroad, if that is what they mean by a “Liberal,” then I’m proud to say I’m a “Liberal.”
- John F. Kennedy, 1960
WC wishes that the Republican House and the Democratic Senate recognize that health care reform isn’t a political football, or a springboard to electoral success in 2012, but the best solution so far to the looming health care crisis facing our nation. An imperfect solution, but the best Congress has been able to enact to date. Tearing it down will not solve the crisis.
Now this conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence — economic, political, even spiritual — is felt in every city, every Statehouse, every office of the Federal government. We recognize the imperative need for this development. Yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. Our toil, resources, and livelihood are all involved. So is the very structure of our society.
In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist. We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes.
- Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1961
If the political power of the military-industrial complex was a problem in 1961, it is a nightmare today.
The Department of Defense today is the largest single part of the federal budget. If the budget is to be balanced, it must be reduced. Unlike social security, which is funded, defense spending is a direct drain on taxes and the biggest contribution to the deficit. WC wishes Congress would recognize and address the problem. Sure, some defense-related industry in Congresssman Bushmat’s district will take a hit, but the alternatives are worse.
In some respects, science has far surpassed religion in delivering awe. How is it that hardly any major religion has looked at science and concluded, “This is better than we thought! The Universe is much bigger than our prophets said, grander, more subtle, more elegant. God must be even greater than we dreamed”? Instead they say, “No, no, no! My god is a little god, and I want him to stay that way.”
- Carl Sagan, 1994
The ongoing horrors committed in the name of God and what He has Told us are surely one of the greatest problems facing the world. Whether it’s a Muslim deciding his God has ordered him to kill innocents, a Catholic Pope inveighing against birth control or a fundamentalist Christian calling for superstitions to be taught in the public schools; the list of religious offenses against the world is endless. WC wishes that the Gods imagined by shepherds, nomads and farmers could see fit to adapt their edicts to a world with finite resources, doomsday weapons and horrific overcrowding. And that those Gods’ followers would listen.
For whenever men are not obliged to fight from necessity, they fight from ambition; which is so powerful in human breasts, that it never leaves them no matter to what rank they rise. The reason is that nature has so created men that they are able to desire everything but are not able to attain everything: so that the desire being always greater than the acquisition, there results discontent with the possession and little satisfaction to themselves from it.
- Niccolo Machiavelli, 1517
Sarah Palin, Alaska’s very own half-term governor, is no longer obligated to fight from necessity; she has enough money and enough fame to be comfortable the rest of her life. As Machiavelli points out, she is now motivated solely by ambition. But Palin cannot see that she doesn’t want responsibility or accountability; it’s largely the reason she quit as governor. Her ambition will force her to run for president, even though she doesn’t want either responsibility or the accountability that would come with the job. WC wishes that Palin would develop enough self-awareness, sufficient insight, to recognize Machiavelli is right.
None of this is likely to happen, but it’s a new year, the occasion for hope. Happy New Year, everyone.
Certain nattering nabobs of negativism have pointed out that The Quitter actually won her Big Lie Award WC described in late 2009.
But WC is happy to report that even as late as December 22, 2010, our ex-governor was proving she still had what it takes to draw the derision of her intellectual superiors. Mario Almonte, writing in The Huffington Post, awarded Sister Sarah Hubris of the Year Award for 2010. At one level, the ex-gov’s shocking, breathtaking arrogance kept it from being much of a contest. At another, there are an amazing number of arrogant politicians running loose right now, and some of the Tea Baggers among them could have made this a contest. Nor is Palin’s attitude hubris, exactly, although the flavor is definitely present.
Here are some quotes, with WC’s comments, from the citation that went with this award:
Last year, Palin’s assertion that President Obama’s health care reform plan would create government-sponsored “death panels” that could kill her down-syndrome baby helped fan the flames of opposition to the complex bill. She actually knew nothing about the bill – it is doubtful she had ever even read a single passage from it; yet, even while a barrage of experts came forward to systematically disprove the claim, she continued to proudly stand by her comment.
The point is not whether the bill was a good one or not – but that she maliciously promoted a blatant lie for the simple fact that she enjoyed the attention she got. She did not care to find out if the firestorm of controversy she caused was a positive or negative thing to the people the bill would supposedly impact.
WC would regard this as being as much utter selfishness as hubris. It was undeniably outrageous, and like most pathological liars, Palin probably believes what she was saying, even if it was patently false. In another sense, it comes down to that arrogant, invincible ignorance that she flaunts.
Successfully pandering to that fan base, she is now, increasingly, portrayed as a viable presidential candidate. Yet, rather than feeling the humility of such a possibility and being humbled by the enormous weight of responsibility the job entails, she has become emboldened and more ambitious, more crafty and strategic in her words and action. We’ve had other equally calculating and unqualified people in the White House before, but what makes her dangerous is that she does not seek the highest power in the land to change the world for the better, but to wield the power and to even scores.
That’s an exact and precise explanation of Caribou Barbie’s motives, but, again, it’s not classic hubris. Vengefulness is not a quality WC looks for in a president (think Dick Nixon here). It makes The Quitter exactly the wrong person to choose as President.
Still, it’s not WC’s award to give. And apart from possibly mischaracterizing arrogant ignorance and selfishness as hubris, Mr. Almonte’s description of her conduct and her motives is exactly right.
So congratulation, Madam Ex. The awards and trophies just keep coming in.
 Vice President Spiro Agnew, vice William Safire.
 WC thanks one of his readers for bringing this tidbit to WC’s attention.
The Chicago Cubs finished 16 games behind the Cincinnati Reds in the National League Central, in next-to-last place. Sigh. They were pretty awful. One hundred two years and counting. Some National League team from the west coast ended up winning the World Series. The American League continued to play some other game where the pitcher doesn’t bat. And yet another MLB star was outed as a user of performance enhancing drugs. On the brighter side, Major League Baseball survived another year with Bud Selig at the helm.
There are other, less important sports than baseball. Let’s see. WC will think of one in a moment. Oh, golf. In 2009 Tiger Woods crashed his Cadillac Escalante, his reputation, his integrity and possibly his marriage. In the words of The Capitol Steps, he couldn’t keep his bowsers truckled. In 2010, he did the same thing with his golf game. WC can be corrected on this (the subject isn’t baseball), but Woods, for the first time as a pro, went the year without winning a tournament.
American football, at all levels, was revealed to be a cumulative long term hazard to the health of the players. Repeated concussions, even symptom-free concussions, can cause very severe brain damage. Amazingly, this came as news to the National Football League.
The National Basketball Association playoffs once again lasted into mid-summer. Presumably, some folks watched to see who won. WC didn’t.
Apparently auto racing, and specifically NASCAR, remains the most popular sport in the U.S. WC has never understood sitting in stands for hours, damaging your hearing and watching internal combustion engines waste fuel. Is this a southern thing? Is it a white thing? WC doesn’t get it.
ESPN, the Eastern Sports Network, continues to believe there are no college football teams worth noticing west of the Rockies except Southern California. Despite a series of humiliations and five losses, post-season ineligibility and finishing tied for third in the Pac 10, USC remained the darling of ESPN. Five Pac 10 teams were ranked in the BCS. Seven teams are in post-season bowl games. Boise State finally lost a game and, in sharp contrast to other 10-1 teams, was relegated to something called the MAACO Bowl, administering an object lesson to Utah. Yet EPSN pretends the west doesn’t exist.
And despite the buckets of ink, petabytes of digital content and the passionate beliefs of a depressing high percentage of Americans, none of it really matters. It’s entertainment. Usually farcical. In the case of the Cubs, almost always farcical. But passion is unrelated to importance in the real world. Despite what Auburn fans may think.
WC has been accused of always attacking Sarah Palin, and never offering praise. Well, WC is here to proudly announce that Alaska’s very own Caribou Barbie is the winner of Politifact’s inaugural Lie of the Year contest. Let’s have a big round of well-deserved applause for The Quitter.
Her winning lie was the infamous “death panel” quote, a provision in a late draft of the health care reform legislation that only Sarah could find. While Politifact handed out a lot of its “Pants on Fire” awards for Big Lies, out of all of those lies told by all of those politicians, it was our Sarah’s that was selected as the biggest whopper of them all. She must be so proud!
She infamously said on her Facebook account,
The America I know and love is not one in which my parents or my baby with Down Syndrome will have to stand in front of Obama’s ‘death panel’ so his bureaucrats can decide, based on a subjective judgment of their ‘level of productivity in society,’ whether they are worthy of health care. Such a system is downright evil.
As anyone who read the draft bill knows, there weren’t any “death panels” or bureaucrats making subjective judgment about who would live or die. What the bill did was was propose to allow Medicare to pay for counseling for patients who chose to get advice on end of life planning. Things like living wills, health care directives and palliative care in final illnesses. It was the benign, useful, helpful provision that Palin twisted beyond recognition.
The Quitter has shifted her ground since her award-winning fib. She says now that she is opposed to rationing health care. Never mind that she seems to be supporting U.S. Representative-elect Paul Ryan’s plans for rationing Medicare. Consistency has never been Sister Sarah’s strongpoint.
But Sarah, darling, answer me this: suppose there’s a medical procedure that will extend your loved one’s life for 30 days. The procedure will cost Medicare and the U.S. $10 million. Will you do the procedure? Or will you “ration” health care?
Doh. WC has gone and made you think. WC’s bad. And when you should be celebrating, too. Enjoy your moment of fame. Or at least infamy. After the party? Maybe you should reflect on the problem with big lies in public discourse: they don’t make the problem go away. They just make it that much harder to solve.
U.S. District Court Judge Beistline, in a slightly surprising move today, not only lifted the stay on certification of the U.S. Senate election; he also threw out Miller’s lawsuit. Judge Beistline was brief, but he wasn’t kind.
For those of you who are keeping score, since his upset win in the Republican primary, Joe Miller is 0-5:
- He lost his fight to keep secret his felonious conduct at the Fairbanks North Star Borough Department of Law.
- He lost the general election by 12,000 votes to a write-in candidate.
- He lost his attempt to defeat the will of the voters in Alaska Superior Court.
- He lost his second attempt to defeat the will of Alaska voters in the Alaska Supreme Court.
- And he lost his attempt to overturn the election in U.S. District Court.
Miller will, no doubt, appeal his U.S. District Court loss to the Ninth Circuit. After all, he’s not spending his own money, and the man is plainly delusional. But while he may not be done, he is finished.
According to the Anchorage Daily News, Miller claims through his lawyers:
The number of votes by which a candidate loses an election is an important consideration that affects public opinion and perceptions regarding the candidate; the candidate’s continued viability as a public spokesperson or representative for the causes that he or she supports; the candidate’s fundraising ability, both for himself and others; and his or her future viability as a candidate.
A personal note to Joe Miller: Dude, WC thinks you need to see a professional. Right away. Your “future viability as a candidate” after your conduct during and after the vote count can be measured in single digits. And not very large digits, either. You have embarrassed everyone in Alaska. Except maybe Joe Miller, who is obviously oblivious. Your name has become a watchword for futile litigation, arrogance and self-deception.
So move along, folks, nothing more to see here. Move along.
BP is a huge part of Alaska, politically, economically, socially and financially. It’s also responsible for the safety and reliability of the North Slope oil field production system. That makes the New York Times article on the final hours of the Deepwater Horizon critical reading for Alaskans. The article is long, but absolutely riveting. And carries profound lessons for BP’s role in Alaska.
View the slide show, too.
Joe Miller announced over the holiday weekend that he “will not oppose state certification of the U.S. Senate race in Alaska. For the sake of the integrity of the election, Miller will go forward with the federal suit.”
Now before WC’s readers get all maudlin about Miller’s Christmas gift of new found sensitivity to protecting Alaska’s representation in Congress, consider that he didn’t have a prayer, not a proverbial snowball’s chance, of avoiding certification, possibly as early as today. After the Alaska Supreme Court decision last week, there was no credible basis for avoiding certification. So that part of the announcement is simply putting the best possible face on Miller’s ongoing post-election defeats.
As for the “sake of the integrity of the election, the only threat for which there is any evidence is Miller’s own shotgun barrage of unsupported claims. If you wanted to undermine the integrity of Alaska’s electoral process, what better way to do it than to bring in some outside meat axe like Floyd Brown? Have him make a lot of wild, unsubstantiated allegations, and then slink back out of state. WC thinks it’s roughly like a wolverine pissing on a wolf kill. It smells really bad. Nothing else will touch it. But the only thing wrong is what the wolverine did.
As both the superior court and the supreme court have pointed out to Miller, there’s no persuasive evidence for his claim of felons voting, or massive numbers of ballots with the same handwriting. His claim that he hasn’t had time to investigate fully is laughable: the election was almost two months ago. He has the very impressive financial resources of Senator Jim DeMint and his cash machine at his beck and call. If there was anything out there that made a difference, they’d have found it. The strong inference is that there isn’t.
WC’s prediction is that U.S. District Judge Beistline will have no more sympathy for Miller’s unsupported claims than Superior Court Judge Carey or the Alaska Supreme Court did. The case will be dismissed in due course, with Miller muttering about the unfairness of it all.
The ironic thing is that the Alaska election system seems to have worked perfectly. The problem is that Alaska has a sore loser.
A few readers took WC to task for his examples of conspiracies used in his post on the subject last week. It’s difficult to give examples, WC supposes, without treading on someone’s favorite conspiracy theory.
But while researching a recent blog essay, WC stumbled across an entry that seems to conflate in an alogical sprawl the largest number of classic conspiracy theories yet. David Allen Rivera’s post, titled “The Federal Income Tax – Final Warning: The New World Order,” seems to have them all: the Illuminati, the illegality of the 16th Amendment, the unconstitutionality of the federal government and the New World Order, all in a single post mashup of false premises, non-sequiturs, misquotes and logical flaws. Of course, the article ends with an advertisement for credit repair, which sort of undercuts a challenge to the national monetary system, but a foolish consistency, after all, is the hobgoblin of small minds (Emerson, of course).
So here’s WC’s challenge to his readers for the new year: Find a single blog post on the Web that claims a conspiracy theory and contains more logical flaws and non-linear arguments than Mr. Rivera’s essay. Essays you write will not count, although WC may sponsor a similar contest. WC is looking for genuine crackpot theories, not ones his readers invent for themselves. To put things in the right mood, the contest will close at 11:11 AM ADT on January 11, 2011.
Entries should be submitted in comments that include a link to your candidate. Essays by Dave Barry are ineligible.
If there is a sufficient response, WC will submit the real zingers to a poll here for your vote. The winner will have 15 minutes of very-nearly-fame.
In this age of tweeting and texting, slang and appalling grammar, the importance of punctuation has nearly been lost.
For example, the normally punctilious Sheila Toomey, writing in her Alaska Ear column, wrote about the report that Palin spawn Bristol has purchased a house in Arizona:
Does Bristol want to put Alaska in her rear view mirror, or is Mama looking to establish residence in a state that likes her better than we do? Go Sarah go!
Now that’s a good line, but that punchline can get more punch with more careful selection of punctuation:
In context – and much of punctuation is context – a period creates more punch than a comma.
In a dispute involving more than making a comment snarkier, Canadian company Bell Alliant was allowed out of a contract with Rogers Communication because of the interpretation of a contract clause. The early exit saved Bell Alliant about $2 million Loonies. (And probably cost the lawyer that wrote the contract $2 million Loonies as well, but WC won’t go into that.)
A misplaced comma reportedly cost Lockheed $70 million in a contract dispute with an unnamed vendor. The article is a little fuzzy: the dispute may have involved European use of a comma as a decimal in writing numbers.
But the point still stands: commas matter. Punctuation matters. Tweet it out if you must.
WC approaches a discussion of the Joe Miller-backing, Lisa Murkowski-bashing Senator Jim DeMint in the same dispassionate way he approaches all his blog entries: WC wishes that hypocritical busy-body DeMint would mind South Carolina’s business, and not meddle in Alaska’s.
His fund-raising site, Senate Conservatives Fund, has finally taken down its plea for money to support Miller’s endless, frivolous litigation. Although copies of his message are still all over the Web. The copy posted at Texas for Palin averages bout 1.5 lies per paragraph. And the paragraphs are pretty short, doubtlessly targeted to DeMint’s intended audience.
This is the same man who has stated gays should not be permitted to teach in public schools, that single mothers living with boy friends should not teach in public schools and that unmarried, sexually active people should not teach in public schools. South Carolina is welcome to elect this kind of homophobic bigot if it wishes, but WC would respectfully ask that it refrain from inflicting DeMint and his far-right values on Alaskans.
Or Senator DeMint could pay attention to his state’s embarrassing problems, rather than blasting vitriol in campaigns 3,500 miles away. South Carolina has the 8th highest poverty rate in the nation, for example, and a truly abysmal high school graduation rate – next to worst nationally. Or its 13th place finish in unwed teen pregnancies. Or South Carolina’s next-to-last finish in No Child Left Behind test scores. WC’s not picking on the great state of South Carolina; he’s suggesting that Senator DeMint may be playing Find the Lady with the voters of that great state.
If WC were to engage in similar fundraising efforts against Jim DeMint in a South Carolina Senate race, the calls of “carpetbagger” would be heard clear out in Nome. It works both ways, Senator. Please take your bigotry, lies, distortions and twisted priorities back to South Carolina. And stay there.
The Alaska Supreme Court today issued a per curiam decision rejecting each of Joe Miller’s challenges to Superior Court Judge Bill Carey’s earlier decision. Bottom line: Miller loses, again, and badly, even worse than in the Superior Court.
For example, here’s what the Alaska Supreme Court had to say about Miller’s argument that minor misspellings should invalidate the vote:
Miller urges that only his interpretation of the statute will “preserv[e] the integrity of the electoral process as a whole.” But it is Miller’s interpretation of the statute that would erode the integrity of the election system, because it would result in disenfranchisement of some voters and ultimately rejection of election results that constitute the will of the people. We have consistently construed election statutes in favor of voter enfranchisement.
When the Supreme Court turns your own argument against you, it’s a really bad sign.
Notably, the state supreme court takes Miller to task for choosing to initiate a lawsuit in federal court, rather than either obtaining a recount or filing an election contest. The case is in the Alaska state courts only because U.S. District Judge Beistline forced it there. By choosing the litigation path he did, Miller, in effect, limited the issues he could raise.
Whatever sympathy WC might feel for Miller’s pleading himself into a corner has to be tempered by Miller’s claim to have “mastered the law.” You see, Mr. Miller, we are stuck with the choices we make, the words we use and the tactics we choose.
Slight change of subject: All bloggers and most Alaskans are quick to take state officials to task when they get something wrong. WC thinks it is equally important to offer praise and congratulations when they get it right.
Director of Elections Gail Fenumiai had to make thousands of difficult, high pressure decisions under tight time constraints, the national media spotlight and the badgering of hordes of lawyers, including her own. WC notes she appears to have made each and every one of those decisions correctly. As much as telling Miller his claims are wrong, the Alaska Supreme Court has affirmed all – every one – of Director Fenumiai’s decisions. Congratulations to her on a job well done. WC is deeply grateful to her.
Which leaves WC with Joe Miller and the ruins of his campaign. Under Judge Beistline’s order, Miller has 48 hours to resume his case in federal court. He doesn’t have a prayer. While WC has the lowest possible expectations for Miller and his advisors, surely now even Joe Miller can see that it is over. He has lost. It’s time to do the right thing, to concede, and allow the election to be certified.
The final penguin species WC saw was the Magellanic Penguin. Not in order seen; the only place WC saw it was in the Falkland Islands, at least one of the places it breeds. It’s the only burrowing penguin among those seen on WC’s trip. And it’s probably the shyest.
Given that they nest in dirt burrows, a clean Magellanic, by definition, is one just out of the ocean.
At Gypsy Cove, outside of Stanley in the Falkland Islands, a small group of Magellanics was resting after foraging.
Gypsy Cove is also the only place WC has birded that has portions of its terrain closed because of the hazards of unexploded mines from the Argentine War.
The sixth species of penguin that WC saw on his recent trip was the handsomest, the runway model of penguins, the King Penguin. Beautifully marked, as elegant as a penguin can be, outside of molting it’s hard for a King Penguin not to look drop-dead gorgeous.
Most penguins are colonial breeders, but none are quite as enthusiastic about colonies as Kings. At Salisbury Plain, on South Georgia Island, an estimated 125,000 pairs breed, meaning that as many as 300,000-350,000 penguins were present. This photo shows only a small part of the mind-boggling numbers.
The noise and the smell of that many penguins is stunning, a sensory overload. And the implications of the food requirements of that many birds beggars the imagination. While growing, the King Penguin kids require twice as much food as an adult.
More than any statistic WC can get out, the sheer food requirements of this many birds speaks to the amount of krill in Antarctic waters. Handsome, fecund and elegant, the King Penguin may be the poster child for the South Polar region.
As a nature photographer, the weight of your gear is always a serious consideration. Big lenses are heavy; there’s no way around it. And in the age of digital photography, you simply have to carry a laptop computer to review what you have shot. Since there’s no practical way to reduce the weight of lenses, WC decided recently to try and reduce the weight of the laptop, and sprang for a new MacBook Air.
WC doesn’t want to get into the Mac/PC holy wars. WC is a Mac user; he’s comfortable with the Mac operating system, owns Mac software, and appreciates the greatly reduced risk of malware. What WC was looking for was a Mac laptop that would support Aperture, WC’s photo management software, and Adobe Photoshop CS5, his photo-editing software. The laptop would have to have enough storage to accommodate the very large numbers of photos WC takes, especially because WC shoots in RAW mode, resulting in very large files. The laptop had to have decent battery life, even when running processor-intensive software like Aperture and Photoshop. And finally, the idea was to save weight over WC’s aging 2006 MacBook Pro 15 inch laptop, which weighs in at 8 pounds. An iPad lacks the storage and still doesn’t have the software to manage large RAW files.
Initially, WC feared the new 13 inch MacBook Air might be under-powered for his needs. But there is a processor upgrade available as an option. There’s also an upgrade to the flash drive from 128 GB to 256 GB. Photoshop always runs better with more RAM, so WC also sprang for the maximum available RAM, 4 GB. The upgraded MacBook Air wasn’t inexpensive, but like all Apple products, it wasn’t cheap, either.
The laptop is a pleasure to use and a featherweight to carry. the 13 inch model weighs just 2.9 pounds and tapers from an astonishingly thin .11 inches to .68 inches. It has two USB ports, a headphone jack, a microphone jack, an Smart Disk port for direct insertion of SD cards and a Mini DisplayPort for connecting to external displays. The keyboard is not backlit, which makes it slightly less usable on those long night jet flights. Screen resolution is very good and color calibration is awesome.
WC timed the battery life on a flight from Los Angeles to Lima, doing Photoshop work the whole way. From full charge to the 5% shutdown warning, WC got 6 hours and 36 minutes of use, more than twice the time his old MacBook Pro could muster.
The laptop has no moving parts; there’s no hard disk to be damaged by air turbulence or the mountainous waves of the Drake Passage. The flash drive is much, much faster than a hard disk. For example, Photoshop launches in 7 seconds, compared to 45 seconds on WC’s Mac Pro workstation. Photoshop’s performance on the MacBook Air is perfectly acceptable.
The 256 GB flash drive easily held the 11,000 photos WC took on his last trip, along with WC’s oversized selection of application software and his fairly extensive iTunes library.
Bottom line: This is a wonderful laptop, that does everything its thicker, heavier cousins can do. Yes, it’s a bit spendy, but if you compare it with similarly configured Windows machines, it’s not that much more expensive. If weight is an issue, if extended battery life is an issue, this is a near-perfect laptop. Solidly built, too.
WC’s very highest recommendation.
The delicately designed Chinstrap Penguin is another species we saw only around the Antarctic Peninsula. With its elegant little chin line and reddish-pink feet, it’s a snappy little bird among all of the ice and rock.
Even if you have never seen a Chinstrap before, it’s a species you can identify on sight. For a colonial species, they can be surprisingly quarrelsome.
But mostly Chinstraps go about their business of eating and breeding, and, occasionally, posing for a photo.
Folks, it’s -40 F outdoors right now. Keeping warm isn’t just comfortable, it can be a matter of life and death. Or at least serious risk of frost bite. Stuff that keeps you warm is absolutely critical. And keeping your feet warm is an important part of the goal.
Which takes WC to Steger Mukluks. They are simply the very best way to keep your feet warm in the very coldest temperatures.
WC is partial to the Ojibwa short style, which comes about halfway up your calf. They have a crepe rubber sole that provides good traction on even glare ice. The lower parts are tanned moosehide, which is durable but allows your feet to breathe. The upper parts are canvas, water-resistant but, again, breathable. The liners are 9-mm wool, with a 9-mm wool inner sole. WC places plastic arch supports between the liners and the inner sole for arch support.
If your feet overheat and sweat, the moisture can escape instead of chilling your feet. So you can wear them inside without your feet drowning in sweat. The mukluks are marvelously light on your feet. And they provide great traction. The mukluks provide enough foot protection that you can lash on snowshoes and not have chafe or friction points. With gaiters or snow pants, you can post-hole in snow all day without your feet getting wet or cold.
WC finds a pair of Steger mukluks will last two full winters of hard use. You can sometimes stretch it to three by timely sole repairs with ShoeGoo and replacement felt liners.
Steger mukluks aren’t for everyone. There’s no toe protection; you wouldn’t want to wear them in industrial work, and maybe not even splitting wood. And while you can waterproof them, it will cost you the critical breathability. WC doesn’t recommend them for wet conditions. But otherwise, these are darn near a perfect product. WC has worn them on Christmas Bird Counts at -50F, on snowshoe trips into wilderness and on trips to the grocery store. Steger Mukluks have performed brilliantly in each case. A fine product. WC gives them his very highest recommendation.
Long-time readers of WC will recall that WC commented back in May of this year on the Alaska Judicial Conduct Commission’s complaint against Judge Richard Postma. That brief blog entry attracted an uncommon amount of interest, comments and emails. Not all of the emails were as polite as they might have been; some of Judge Postma’s supporters have anger management issues, too.
The whole business became largely moot when the voters followed the commendations of the Alaska Judicial Council and voted in November not to retain Judge Postma. It was, as WC noted at the time, a modest victory for the Alaska Judicial Council and the judicial retention system.
The denouement came yesterday when Judge Postma agreed to dismissal of all of his complaints (including Tom van Flein’s lame racism charge), and that he would not apply to be judge in Alaska again. The Anchorage Daily News reports, “before [the hearing] got well under way a recess was called and Postma accepted the facts as legal proof to support the charges against him. Postma agreed that his behavior amounted to ‘willful misconduct in office,’ a court document said.” Tom van Flein is reported to have said Postma changed his position because Postma “felt his reputation had already been damaged.” That’s a sharp reversal from Judge Postma’s early avowed intent to “clear his name.”
We’ll probably never know what this was all about. There are strict confidentiality rules in place, and since there won’t be a public hearing now, we will only have what the Commission can tell us and what Richard Postma chooses to tell us. We have Postma’s formal admission that he engaged in willful misconduct in office. We’re not likely to ever have anything more.
Postma has his supporters and defenders; you don’t have to look further than the comments to the Daily News article. Those supporters and defenders see a system gone awry, a conspiracy by entrenched court system bureaucrats against a good man. The sequence of events – the Commission Complaint, the Judicial Council’s recommendation against retention, the voters’ nonretention and then Postma’s change of position at the Commission hearing – it does have strange feel. Postma’s statements to the Alaska Dispatch seem focused on protecting his license to practice law, although neither the Commission nor the Council have any authority over his law license.
And there are still loose ends. Postma’s supporters have a lawsuit against the Commission and the Council. While Postma will withdraw from that lawsuit, the underlying claim will still remain.
But a conspiracy involving all of the Alaska Commission on Judicial Conduct, all of the Alaska Judicial Council, top brass in the Alaska Court System and the Alaska Supreme Court? And Tom van Flein? And they all kept silent? Nope. WC’s not buying it. Occam’s Razor has to be brought in. Postma screwed up, offended too many people and then decided against airing the gruesome details. No conspiracy. Rather, a system that mostly worked as it was supposed to, protecting Alaskans from persons who, for whatever reason, shouldn’t be entrusted with the power of a district court judge.
Messier than we’d like? Yes. The wrong outcome? Not on the evidence.
The Financial Crisis Commission was created by Congress as a bipartisan commission, to report on the causes of the current financial crisis and make recommendations to avoid similar problems in the future. It stated mission is to ”examine the causes, domestic and global, of the current financial and economic crisis in the United States.” Now the Commission is itself in crisis, its bipartisan character completely lost and its Republican members posturing.
There was great hope for the Commission. After the Great Depression, a similar bipartisan commission made the recommendations that led to the 1930′s reform of the banking and securities laws. Notably, the reforms worked pretty well until they were dismantled over the last 15 years.
But Shahien Nasiripour reports in a recent Huffington Post article that the Republicans recently attempted to get the Commission to excise the words ”Wall Street” and “shadow banking” and the words “interconnection” and “deregulation” from the panel’s final report. The Republican members apparently blame the crisis solely on Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and Community Reinvestment Act. You have to admire the Commissioners’ collective efforts to toe the Republican Party line: it wasn’t Wall Street at all, but the evil government that caused the problem.
But the Republican Commissioners have a fundamental problem: essentially all of the evidence the Commission heard over the course of 19 hearings and hundreds of witnesses pointed to the exotic, untraceable financial gimmicks like credit derivatives and mortgage-related derivatives as the culprit. While Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac contributed, they weren’t the ones that issued the junk that took down Lehman Brothers, among others. And the Community Reinvestment Act was enacted in 1977; it’s hard to find any evidence at all that it contributed to the crisis.
Moreover, the financial crisis is international. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac guaranteed mortgage loans only in the United States, not over seas. The crisis also involves a great deal of commercial lending as well, and Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac can’t and didn’t do that; only commercial lenders and the shadow banking system.
Paul Krugman has weighed in, and closes his article with the following point:
In the end, those of us who expected the crisis to provide a teachable moment were right, but not in the way we expected. Never mind relearning the case for bank regulation; what we learned, instead, is what happens when an ideology backed by vast wealth and immense power confronts inconvenient facts. And the answer is, the facts lose.
A teachable moment, indeed. And extremely bad news for those of us who think one of these economic disaster should be enough.
WC didn’t get to see a lot of Macaroni Penguins; they prefer rocky headlands that don’t offer a lot of opportunity to land. As a result, all of WC’s photos are from zodiacs; mostly bouncing around in swells. These photos aren’t as sharp as WC would like, but it’s what he has.
The Macaronis are famously crested with yellow-orange feathers. Both sexes have the crest. Even among penguins, Macaronis are impressive rock climbers. They seem to specialize in very rocky landings.
And from there they make climbs that WC wouldn’t even think of attempting to their headland colonies. For example, this headland,
But on more magnification, the “rocky headland” turns out to be a Macaroni Penguin colony, perched on a near-cliff surface.
The best explanation WC could get from the trip guides for this mountaineering was that the rock outcrops blow free of snow earliest, giving the birds more time to build a nest, lay and incubate, and then rear a chick. The energy cost of climbing the 200 meters or more and the risk of falling (or having a chick fall) are all quite high. Since both airborne predators have full access to the colony, it can’t be to avoid Skuas and Giant Petrels.
For a bird that can only waddle, it’s a very impressive feat.
At the risk of anthropomorphizing, Gentoo Penguins are the trailer trash among penguins. Messy, quarrelsome, noisy, dirty and ubiquitous. A clean Gentoo is a handsome fellow; clean Gentoos are just very hard to find. But like trailer trash, they are not without their charms.
Muddy, messy, with haphazard nests, you can see Gentoos aren’t your classic image of a penguin. However, they have very cute chicks.
And Gentoo Penguins are fierce when defending their eggs and chicks from marauding Brown Skuas and Giant Petrels.
Of course, as Edmund Wilson observed, the penguin has to win every time; the Skua only has to win once. The Skua’s hooked bill gives it a significant advantage, as well.
Still, it’s hard to argue with success. Gentoos, at least around the Antarctic Peninsula, seem to have adapted to the widest variety of habitats. They have successfully claimed former Adelie Penguin habitat where the pack ice no longer provides the Adelies with habitat. It’s hard to argue with success, even if it isn’t always pretty.