Arithmetic 101


In a Wall Street Journal opinion piece, Stanford Professor John Taylor asked, “If government agencies and programs functioned with 19% to 20% of G.D.P. in 2007 why is it so hard for them to function with that percentage in 2021?” It’s disheartening to see a prominent college professor making simple arithmetic mistakes. First, as a…

Osprey in Interior Alaska


Osprey are uncommon in Interior Alaska. Although they breed a little further north and much further west, our area is near the limit of their range. WC was pleased to find an active nest yesterday, and a very impressive nest it is, too. Consider the the sticks are brought up one at a time. Osprey…

Why Is Boehner Lying?


Would Speaker John Boehner stop pretending? Boehner claims his goal is to reduce the budget deficit. Yet he also claims he is opposed to raising taxes, even to repealing the Bush-era tax cuts. He’s not that stupid. So he is intentionally deceiving the voters as to his real motives. WC has displayed this chart before,…

Herring Gull with a Problem


Herring Gulls breed in Interior Alaska (which is one reason why birders dislike hearing them called “seagulls”). Herring Gulls are opportunistic feeders, and their diet includes carrion. Along the Denali Highway, where this photo was taken, carrion often includes road kill. And it was probably dining on road killed porcupine that caused this guy a…

Case Study: Chicken Poop and the Tax Code


Back in the late Dark Ages, when WC was a law student, his tax law professor, the late Vance Kirby, told WC’s class, “The only way to make sense of the Internal Revenue Code is to read it as a balance among competing special interests; otherwise, it doesn’t make sense.” It was true in the…

Update: Our Very Own War Criminals


Sen. John McCain (Rep., AZ), a man WC formerly admired, has earned back a few lost points by coming out unequivocally on the question of the U.S. torture and its role in taking down bin Laden. In fact, not only did the use of ‘enhanced interrogation techniques’ on Khalid Sheikh Mohammed not provide us with…

BLU


Sometimes WC stumbles across a website that is so amazing he is compelled to share it. The street artist BLU has one such site. Here’s one of his wall paintings from Lisbon, Portugal: The straw could just as easily be drawn in Alaska. More of his wall paintings are here. As a sometime amateur web…

Joshua Green and the Tragedy of Sarah Palin


If you have the time and can live with a few omitted facts, read The Tragedy of Sarah Palin in the current issue of Atlantic Magazine. Joshua Green’s thesis is that the two major successes of Palin’s abbreviated term as Governor of Alaska involved tactics that are anathema to her today: raising taxes and cooperating with Democrats.…

Legal or Expedient: Taking Down bin Laden


WC is a fan of Andrew Sullivan, whose Daily Dish is arguably the most popular single blog in the U.S. So WC approaches criticism of one of Sullivan’s blog entries deferentially. After all, Sullivan has 4-5 orders of magnitude more readers than WC. Although WC’s readers are more intelligent, perceptive and charming, of course. Sullivan…

Gitmo Reporting: Congratulations to Scott Horton


Scott Horton’s excellent report in Harper’s on the alleged suicide by three Guantànamo Bay prisoners won the National Magazine Award for Reporting. Congratulations to Scott Horton on a fine example of diligent investigation and writing. Now can we do something about closing that concentration camp? WC thinks that America and American values have no place being…

Allies and Enemies


The Taliban, the former governing Muslim extremist group in Afghanistan, is infamously terrible in its treatment of women, giving misogyny a new definition. It was a crime, in Taliban-dominated Afghanistan, for women to receive formal education, for example. But our allies, or elements of our allies, seem to be as misogynistic as our enemies, it…

Slow Day at Denali Nat’l Park


WC headed down to Denali National Park Sunday, forsaking better birds for a chance at some charismatic megafauna while at least part of the road is open to private vehicles. It was pretty slow. There were far for private vehicles than critters on Sunday afternoon. And, oddly enough, birds captured most of the excitement. Mammals?…

Photo Geekery


Several readers have asked WC about his photo gear and how WC prepares photos for the web. At the risk of losing still more readers, this post will describe WC’s field equipment and post-processing. Non-photographers should probably just read some other post. Caution: Serious Geekery Ahead! WC shoots primarily with an Olympus E-5 body. His…

Spring Migration: Waterfowl


WC spent some time yesterday wandering around Fairbanks’ birding hotspots to see what had arrived. It was mostly waterfowl, but that’s all right because they are decked out in breeding plumage and look particularly spiffy. Here are some samples: While they don’t commonly breed around Fairbanks, Speckle-bellies are reliable early arrivals at Creamer’s Refuge. This…

Young’s Legal Defense Fund: Why?


The Honorable Dirty Don Young, U.S. Representative for all Alaskans who voted for him and maybe a few others, has been an annoying boil on the butt of Alaska politics for a third of a century. He has famously paid lawyers more than $1 million bucks to defend him against charges that have never been…

WC Apologizes for Calling Rep. Matt Dean “A Weasel”


WC apologizes for calling Minnesota Representative Matt Dean (R, District 52B)  “A Weasel” for bad mouthing Neil Gaiman. This whole affair started when Representative Dean, was reported by the Minnesota Star Tribune, to have said: Dean also singled out a $45,000 payment of Legacy money that was made last year to science fiction writer Neil…

A Few Words About Ronnie Gaubert


You’ve likely never heard of Ronnie Gaubert, but even among the many nature photographers WC has been privileged to know, Ronnie’s work stood out. Among avian photographers, he was one of the very best. WC wants to emphasize this: Ronnie was a superb, gifted photographer, whose work really is extraordinary. Apart from everything else. Because…

The Perils of Punditry


Pundit credibility – the accuracy of prognosticators – is the subject of a well-written paper from Hamilton College. The statistical analysis is particularly impressive. WC recognizes that the study has its critics. Here’s the abstract: We evaluated the predictions of politicians, journalists, and pundits (collectively, “prognosticators”) over a 16-month period surrounding the 2008 United States federal…

Electile Dysfunction


The title is not original to WC; it comes from Sheila Toomey at the Alaska Ear. But it’s the best two word summary WC has found for the unbelievable, awful mess that is the Alaska Legislature. Although “persistent legislative state” is pretty good, too. Since the current special session began on April 18, for the purpose…