Archive for June 2012
One difference between progressives and conservatives, it seems to WC, is that conservatives whine like petulant children – or worse – when something doesn’t go their way. Consider the following examples:
The collective editorial board of the The National Review, the conservative journal founded by William F. Buckley puled:
[The Court] then pretended that this requirement is constitutional anyway, because it is merely an application of the taxing authority.
“Pretended”? Excuse me? “Pretended”? When the Supreme Court decided corporations were “persons” in Citizens United did it “pretend” that was so?
Then there’s Senator Rand Paul (R., Ky), who said,
Just because a couple people on the Supreme Court declare something to be ‘constitutional’ does not make it so. The whole thing remains unconstitutional. While the court may have erroneously come to the conclusion that the law is allowable, it certainly does nothing to make this mandate or government takeover of our health care right.
Actually, Senator Paul, it does. You can disagree with the Court’s reasoning, but when you became a U.S. Senator, you took an oath to uphold the Constitution. Which says the U.S. Supreme Court gets to make the call. You uphold the whole Constitution, you know, not the bits you like.
But the prize, if there were such a thing, for grotesque response goes to right wing nut job Michael Savage, who set a new low point in political commentary. You might think that it couldn’t go any lower than it has. You’d be wrong. Here’s Savage:
Let’s talk about Roberts. I’m going to tell you something that you’re not going to hear anywhere else, that you must pay attention to. It’s well known that Roberts, unfortunately for him, has suffered from epileptic seizures. Therefore he has been on medication. Therefore neurologists will tell you that medication used for seizure disorders, such as epilepsy, can introduce mental slowing, forgetfulness and other cognitive problems. And if you look at Roberts’ writings you can see the cognitive dissociation in what he is saying.
WC is no fan of Chief Justice John Roberts. He’s intellectually dishonest. But blaming a purported, unproven claim of a disability for the Chief Justice’s decision on the health care act? Disgusting. But consider this: if the right wing will do this to their own, what will they say about those who oppose them as we move into the Silly Season leading up to the presidential election?
Nearly as offensive to WC is the implication that any liberal or progressive suffers from “cognitive dissociation,” Mr. Savage’s diagnosis of the Chief Justice. But that’s just the usual ad hominem clap trap from the Right.
The Affordable Care Act barely survived. Medicare was wounded. The Commerce Clause powers may have taken a mortal wound. But that’s not enough for our Neocon friends.
Sore losers doesn’t begin to describe it.
A footnote to the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision largely sustaining the Affordable Care Act. Governor Parnell, you may recall, dragged the State of Alaska into the court challenge to the Affordable Care Act:
The governor emphasized that the decision to sue is more about Alaskans’ liberty interests than about health care legislation. “Health insurance coverage is not in the public interest if it’s achieved through a constitutional short-cut that expands federal power at the expense of states’ rights and the liberties of citizens,” he said.
You should have listened to WC, Governor. You lost again. When you put those Teabaggery Blinkers on, you are consistently wrong.
Remember the beluga whales in Cook Inlet? You got that wrong.
Remember the ACES battle and your Chicken Little approach to oil industry taxation. You lost that, too.
The evidence in support of classification of polar bears as an endangered species continues to mount. You’re going to lose that lawsuit, too.
Now WC (ahem) has nothing bad to say about paying money to lawyers. Even in stupid lawsuits. But this string of losses should make you consider whether you are tilting at the right windmills (scroll down to Chapter VIII).
WC is an Apple fanboy. WC owned an Apple II+, a Lisa computer, the first Macintosh computer in Fairbanks and has had an all-Mac office since 1988. WC has watched the rising and falling and rising fortunes of Apple across all those years. And remembers vividly when Apple was roadkill, left for dead on the side of the information highway.
Today, it’s a different story. This is the fifth anniversary of the iPhone – the first units shipped on June 29, 2007. And the iPhone is one of the most successful products in history. In just five years, Apple has sold 250 million iPhones. While doing so, Apple has generated revenues of $150 billion – that’s billion with a “b” – in just five years. Total revenue from just from iPhone sales at Apple exceeds all revenue at Microsoft, its former rival. A single product that didn’t exist five years ago is now bigger than the 30-year old company that was once considered so all-powerful that the government intervened to try to break it up.
The iPhone generates massive profits for Apple. The iPhone business generates something like $30 billion of profit per year. That’s more profit than just about any other business on the planet. It’s more profit than General Electric makes. It’s more profit than Microsoft makes. It’s more profit than Google makes. It’s more profit than Walmart makes. It’s almost as much profit as Exxon-Mobil generates. It’s made Apple the most valuable and the most profitable company on the planet.
On the positive side, along the way, Apple has created a whole new industry: Apps. There are some 635,000 apps for the iPhone and iPad available through iTunes. A mind-boggling number. There is, indeed, an App for that, and just about everything else. Thousands of programmers live very well writing apps for the iPhone.
Congratulations to Apple. Happy Birthday to the iPhone. Get ready for Apple’s next amazing product, which will — excuse me, WC has to take a call…
For those who aren’t keeping up: Amazon Link. Be sure to read some of the reviews.
Fairbanks North Star Borough Assemblyman Matt Want wants to submit chunks of the Borough budget to the voters in an advisory vote.
Assemblyman Want shouldn’t have skipped American Government classes. We’re a republic, not a democracy. We elect assembly members to do the research, get themselves informed, and then vote intelligently. Not to foist their jobs on the voters. The Alaska Constitution doesn’t allow voters to make decisions about money. The advisory vote is legally meaningless.
But Assemblyman Want thinks that the advisory vote might have political impact. He thinks that if the voters were given such a context-free question, and disapproved of, say, the Parks and Recreation Department budget, it might give him and his cronies leverage in their misguided quest to reduce the budget and size of Borough government. And thereby reduce property taxes. A kind of backdoor teabaggery, as it were.
That’s not how it works. If you and your buddies, Mr Want, are unhappy with, say, Assemblyman Karl Kassel’s view that Borough government is about the right size, then find a candidate who the voters will select in his place. Don’t try to punt your responsibilities to the voters.
In a radio interview today, Mr. Want said this was a great time to have such a voter question, because it is a presidential election year. Dude, the municipal election is in October. The general election is in November. A month later.
His comment suggests that Mr. Want isn’t doing his research, isn’t keeping himself informed, and isn’t doing his job.
Which is WC’s point.
And a special WC Badge of Shame to Assemblywoman Nadine Winters who moved to reconsider the earlier decision to kill this stupid idea. Some ideas, like cat turds, are unworthy of further inspection.
WC was saddened but unsurprised to read recently that 63% of Republicans still believe President Obama was born in another country. And 63% of Republicans believe Saddam Hussein has weapons of mass destruction. A recent poll by YouGov provides these dismaying tidbits.
The same poll shows Republicans to be much more hawkish, ready to involve the U.S. in yet more land wars in Asia. And strongly committed to a stronger national defense. But utterly unwilling to agree to higher taxes to pay for it.
How can you debate, how can you have an intelligent conversation with citizens whose beliefs are false in fact? How can you argue that facts with someone for whom facts don’t matter? How can the truth make you free if you are incapable of recognizing the truth?
It’s a low point for our country. Thomas Paine believed that,
[M]an can infuse and draw out the good of fellow men in society in theatres of political participation by using his conscience and his reason. Society arose because men needed one another, and is a workshop for its citizens to experiment and self-correct. As nature created him for social life, she fitted him for the station she intended. In all cases she made his natural wants greater than his individual powers; thus the need for a natural reciprocity recognizing our moral and societal interdependence. It is through our sociability that we can expand our perspectives to greater mutual understanding and more inclusive, universal thought. In the process of reasoning with each other, we can view our own limitations, those of others, and correct our errors in thinking.
Thomas Paine, Rights of Man, p. 187
But if our fellow citizens are incapable of reason, if their prejudices and their ignorance blind them to facts, Paine’s system breaks down. If nearly two-thids of Republicans believe Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction when the Bush administration, with every motivation to find them, purely could not, how can Paine’s theory of a republic work?
James Madison, 4th President and the principle author of the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights, wrote, “Knowledge will forever govern ignorance; and a people who mean to be their own governors must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives.” The Republican party, it would appear, is unarmed.
He reminds me of the man who murdered both his parents, and then, when sentence was about to be pronounced, pleaded for mercy on the grounds that he was an orphan.
Boehner and the Republicans who control the U.S. House blocked every effort by President Obama to address the Bush-created recession. To the point of taking the country to the brink of financial apocalypse. Repeatedly. And now the heart of the Republican’s presidential campaign is that President Obama failed to fix the economy.
WC suggests that the Speaker Boehner in particular and Republicans in general need to be told to go play “Chicken” with some other country’s economy. And stop pleading that they are orphans.
WC was born in Stockton, California. WC’s family moved to Alaska when he was only four years old, so WC doesn’t have many memories of the place. WC still has family there.
Now Stockton is on most people’s short list of the most miserable cities in the U.S. – Forbes Magazine ranked it #1 in 2011. WC’s home town is the most miserable city in the U.S. Huh. The closure of the navy base on Rough and Ready Island in 1996 and the collapse of the housing bubble in 2007 have led to a high unemployment rate, massive numbers of foreclosures, a spike in property crime and violent crimes and now, apparently, possible bankruptcy.
Stockton is squeezed between serious declines in property tax revenues as residential property values crash, and massive unfunded liabilities, like $400 million in health insurance payments. More immediately, Stockton must balance its budget by July 1, and there’s a revenue shortfall of $26 million on a $162 million budget. The city has $700 million in bond debt,
These problems aren’t new. In the past three years, Stockton managed $90 million in deficits through a series of drastic cuts. The city eliminated one quarter of its police officers, one-third of the fire department and 40 percent of all other employees. It also cut wages and medical benefits.
The municipal bond market seems to have already accepted that Stockton will go bankrupt; Moody’s recently graded its debt as junk bonds. That will add to the cost of any cure; junk bonds demand a much higher interest rate.
So WC’s home town seems destined to head to Chapter 9 under the U.S. Bankruptcy Code. It won’t be the first city in the U.S. to do so, and not even the first in California. Vallejo, California enjoys that distinction. But it will be one of the biggest, messiest bankruptcies on the west coast. A lot of retirees are staring at a massive change in their retirement and health insurance plans.
WC has a sign in his office that reads, “Capitalism without bankruptcy would be like Christianity without Hell.” Stockton seems headed to purgatory, at least. WC wishes his home town well.
WC knows most of his readers aren’t birders and aren’t really interested in birds. But WC asks you to stay with WC on this one. This is about the Northern Wheatear’s courtship flight.
Birds of North America (paywall) says rather blandly,
Displaying bird gives maximum exposure of underwing and tail patterns. Display lasts about 10 s.
That’s like saying, “The peacock raises its tail.” What actually happens is that the male flies to about 40 feet above the ground, and then goes through a very impressive three-step sequence.
First, the bird hovers is place, with its tail feathers fully flared. Small songbirds are not designed to hover in one place, but the male holds the position for 3-5 seconds. The males gives a chipping call while holding this hover position.
In the second stage, the male arches his back, extending his tail downwards, presenting the white and black tail more clearly for viewing females (and birders) below. While the male uses his wings, the bird falls vertically for the 3 seconds or so he holds this position.
Finally, the male straightens his back, pulls his wings back along his sides and, with the tail still flared, plunges back to the ground.
The whole sequence takes 10-12 seconds, and must involve substantial amounts of energy. Yet WC watched the same male do the same sequence three times in five minutes.
The whole courtship flight is even more remarkable when you remember that Northern Wheatears have just arrived from sub-Saharan Africa.
They’ve flown up the eastern side of Africa, across the Arabian Peninsula, across most of Russia to far eastern Siberia, across the Bering Strait and then across Alaska to the eastern White Mountains. 21,000 kilometers; call it 13,000 miles. Each way. And arrives to begin this complex, energy-intensive courtship flight.
And this bird weighs about 24 grams, a little less than one ounce.
Astonishing. WC feels privileged to have witnessed it.
The Pinnell Mountain Trail is a 27-mile trail through the alpine ridges of the White Mountains, looping from Twelve Mile Summit to Eagle Summit on the Steese Highway. It’s one of the few road-accessible stretches of high alpine tundra, and a pretty amazing bird habitat.
The best birding is at the Eagle Summit end, where the trail climbs through wet and dry alpine tundra, and rocky scree slopes. So WC headed up there this weekend and in very hot, breezy conditions, found some birds to photograph.
The Steese Highway is in excellent condition. It’s paved now past 81 Mile, and the gravel stretch to Eagle Summit at 107 Mile is in great shape.
The Northern Wheatear is the world champion passerine migrant. This small songbird winters in sub-Saharan Africa, but breeds on the dry alpine tundra and scree of the White Mountains. Eagle Summit is the most reliable place on the road system to find this pretty species. The birds had just arrived. The males were doing courtship flights and singing to establish territories.
In addition to Wheatears, the wetter areas support American Golden Plovers. The Plovers arrive earlier – they have a shorter flight, after all – and were already on eggs. The males were doing their best to entice me away from the nests.
And there were Lapland Longspurs everywhere. The males were singing and courting.
The females were interested, and responding to the males songs with chip notes and nearly undivided attention.
All in all, a successful day and a very nice trip. Amazingly, WC didn’t even have to use mosquito repellent.
By 1:30 PM, the temperatures had climbed into the mid-80s. The birds were quiet. WC was badly overheated. This is not a common occurrence on Eagle Summit. But any morning with good birds, decent photographs and spectacular tundra flowers is completely acceptable to WC.
It’s no news to Fairbanksans, but last Thursday night – well, really Friday morning – the Alaska Goldpanners, Fairbanks’s summer league baseball team, won the 107th Midnight Sun Baseball Game. WC was there. At least through eight innings.
This game has been going on for a long time. Longer than it has been since the Chicago Cubs won a World Series. Which is essentially forever. And, so far as anyone knows, it has always started about 10:30 PM, and always been played without artificial lights. That’s right, a baseball game centered on midnight and played in natural light.
Clunky, homely old Growden Field was packed for the game. The opposing team was the Everette, Washington Merchants. And from the beginning, the game was bizarre, even for a Panners game. In the top of the first inning, Everette sent its batters to the plate in wrong order. After #26 got a single and drove in a run, Panner Manager Jim Deitz ambled – Deitz always ambles, and it’s worth pointing out this belly crosses the foul line two full steps before the rest of him – Deitz ambled out to inform the umpire of Everette’s sin. The result was an automatic out for #26, and the run taken off the boards. In about 50 years of watching baseball, that’s a first for WC.
In the bottom of the fourth, a Panner batter hit a line drive that struck first base on the fly, bounded 20 feet in the air over the head of the surprised Everette first baseman, to score a hit and a run. WC has seen bad hops, but that one probably wins a prize.
In the sixth inning, very shortly after WC’s neighbor commented that batted balls never struck the lights, a foul ball off the bat of an Everette player did just exactly that, striking the lights along the left field light. The lights were off, of course, but it was another first for WC.
There were lots of walks, lots of errors and lots of managers jawing umpires about their calls. And the home plate umpire’s strike zone expanded throughout the game. WC was sitting right behind home plate. The umpire was not a small man. At least two full home plates wide, by WC’s estimate. If WC could see the ball strike the catcher’s mitt, you can be pretty sure it was out of the strike zone. By the seventh inning, the strike zone had also crept down to the batter’s ankles and up to the batter’s ears. If the ball didn’t actually hit the dirt or the batter, it was generally a strike, Perhaps it was the low light.
But the game was still fun. There were some fine plays, as well as some brutal errors. The low sun angle in the hour before sunset always makes throws from third or shortstop very tough to see and to field. Routine throws to first base were very exciting. The Everett third baseman made a brilliant catch of a Panner line drive, moving to his right, robbing the Panners of an extra-base hit.
So you had everything you could hope for in a Midnight Sun Game. Good plays, excitement, a lead that changed hands several times and a win. Here’s to 107 years <clink> and hopes for another 107 to follow.
Some of you have been kind enough to say flattering things about WC’s bird photos. But WC is a tyro compared with the photographers that WC admires. Here’s a brief guide to a few artists whose work WC greatly admires. WC can only wish he could create work likes these photographers.
Gregory Colbert’s work explores the relationship between humans and animals. Working in sepia tone, he has created extraordinary images of quiet communication.
This might not even be the strongest image in Colbert’s astonishing work. If you have or can make the time to visit his remarkable gallery, you’ll see why WC so greatly admires Colbert’s photographs.
Among bird photographers, WC has two favorites, whose work teaches WC a bit about photography every time WC studies it.
The light in Gaubert’s photography is consistently amazing. It’s not something you can fake in Photoshop. And the level of detail is something WC can only envy. And you can see Gaubert got detail in this Common Moorhen’s black head without blowing the whites. Consistent and superb work.
Finally, WC wants to point to the work of Ron Dudley. Dudley’s blog documents bird behavior in a series of terrific photos. For example, his series on Western Grebes and their technique for exchanging kid-carrying duties.
Grebes are famously difficult to approach, but you can see Dudley has captured detail in the down on the chicks. And the whites and blacks in the head and neck are infamously difficult to expose, yet Dudley has detail in both.
From undergraduate school, when WC first saw photos by Ansel Adams, WC has loved, studied and struggled with photography. WC realized a long time ago he wasn’t going to be a great photographer. But WC at least has the skill to recognize great photography when he sees it. These three artists offer great stuff.
What to Presidents George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Andrew Jackson, Harry Truman, Dwight Eisenhower, Jack Kennedy, Richard Nixon, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush all have in common? The answer, of course, is that they all invoked executive privilege during their presidencies.
So President Barack Obama’s invocation of executive privilege with regard to Eric Holder’s refusal to comply with U.S. House demands is pretty much a normal event. You wouldn’t think so, to listen to the House Republicans froth with feigned outrage. But it’s just politics as usual.
Rep. Darrell Issa (R., Calif), chair of the House Oversight Committee, is on a political high horse in an election year. He wants the voters to forget that his guy, President George W. Bush, invoked executive privilege in the face of congressional demands at least five times. Courtesy of Wikipedia:
- Bush invoked executive privilege “in substance” in refusing to disclose the details of Vice President Dick Cheney‘s meetings with energy executives.
- Bush invoked executive privilege in response to congressional subpoenas requesting documents from former presidential counsel Harriet Miers and former political director Sara Taylor.
- Bush invoked executive privilege on July 9, 2007, to block a congressional subpoena requiring the testimonies of Taylor and Miers. Furthermore, White House Counsel Fred F. Fielding refused to comply with a deadline set by the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee to explain its privilege claim, prove that the president personally invoked it, and provide logs of which documents were being withheld. On July 25, 2007, the House Judiciary Committee voted to cite Miers and White House Chief of Staff Joshua Bolten for contempt of Congress.
- On July 13, less than a week after claiming executive privilege for Miers and Taylor, Counsel Fielding effectively claimed the privilege once again, this time in relation to documents related to the 2004 death of Army Ranger Pat Tillman. In a letter to the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, Fielding claimed certain papers relating to discussion of the friendly-fire shooting “implicate Executive Branch confidentiality interests” and would therefore not be turned over to the committee.
- On August 1, 2007, Bush invoked the privilege for the fourth time in little over a month, this time rejecting a subpoena for Karl Rove. The subpoena would have required the President’s Senior Advisor to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee in a probe over fired federal prosecutors. In a letter to Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy, Fielding claimed that “Mr. Rove, as an immediate presidential advisor, is immune from compelled congressional testimony about matters that arose during his tenure and that relate to his official duties in that capacity….”
Of course, that was then and this is now. The shoe is on the other foot. In an election year with real issues and real crises, Rep. Issa can’t find anything more compelling than this? Sheesh.
NB. This post is dedicated to Robert Fox.
Failed U.S. Senate candidate Joe Miller dismissed his lame lawsuit against the Fairbanks North Star Borough. He took $5,000 of the Borough’s money – a pittance by any measure – to avoid being forced to disclose who was paying his attorneys’ fees for his silly lawsuit.
So the obvious question is, what’s Joe hiding this time?
There’s not much question that he is hiding an inconvenient fact of some kind. It’s what he does. Joe wants to control what the public knows about him. Whether it’s committing crimes while employed at the the Borough, quitting without notice and getting blacklisted for three years, farm subsidies or a host of other entitlements, Joe’s record is a string of unsuccessful attempts to conceal the truth.
And we know Joe will do almost anything to hide the truth. He’ll have his goons handcuff a reporter who asks hard questions. He will lie like a rug. He’ll refuse to answer questions. And he will pout.
You think WC is overstating the facts? Compare Miller’s claims in his press release with the reality of a $5,000 settlement. When a litigant says “It was never about the money” you can be certain it was always about the money. Miller claimed in January 2011 that he had John Tiemessen’s law firm hired on a flat fee of $10,000 per month. Call it 18 months, or $180,000. And he settled for $5,000. Two weeks worth of fees. On the eve of being forced to say where all that money was coming form.
WC won’t presume to speak for other Alaskans, but that’s not the kind of candor, honesty and forthrightness that WC looks for in a candidate. It’s bad enough his politics are bizarre. What’s really scary is that you can’t trust him.
It’s very possible Miller will decide to run for office again. If so, it’s very likely he’ll try to hide the truth again. WC hopes that, this time, he’s called out early and often. Including explaining where the attorneys’ fees came from, and the timing of his “settlement.”
The first rule is that when you find yourself in a hole, you should stop digging.
Readers will recall Charles Carreon attempted to extort $20,000 from Matthew Inman, the author of The Oatmeal, over extremely dubious claims of violations of the law. Inman responded with a a charitable fundraiser, trying to raise that $20,000 to be split between the National Wildlife Federation and the American Cancer Society. And Inman said unkind, if perhaps accurate, things about Mr. Carreon and his client, FunnyJunk, LLC.
So far, Inman has raised $191,275. That’s right. Approaching ten times the goal.
As WC predicted, it’s dangerous waving all that green around a contingency fee lawyer. Mr. Carreon has now filed a lawsuit against Inman. Not content with that, Mr. Carreon has also sued IndieGoGo, the host of the fund raising campaign. And the National Wildlife Federation. And the American Cancer Society. To borrow Mr. Inman’s phrase, this is some serious douchebaggery.
Mr. Carreon found himself in a hole after Inman’s inspired response. But instead of climbing out of the hole, Mr. Carreon has insisted on continuing to dig. Based upon WC’s review of the complaint, Mr. Carreon has moved into serious civil sanction territory. It won’t be a first offense, either. Mr. Carreon’s escutcheon is seriously blemished. This is from the Oregon Bar Association web site:
CHARLES H. CARREON
Effective Oct. 24, 2005, the disciplinary board approved a stipulation for discipline suspending Ashland lawyer, Charles H. Carreon, from the practice of law for 60 days. Carreon admitted violations of DR 3-101(B) (unlawful practice of law) and DR 9-101(A) (failing to deposit or maintain client funds in trust).
From Fall 2001 to Spring 2002, Carreon was employed by SEG as house counsel for its U.S. legal matters and business operations in British Columbia, when Carreon was not admitted or licensed to practice law in any province in Canada. Carreon did not apply for or obtain a permit to act as house counsel for SEG, in violation of British Columbia rules.
As counsel for SEG, Carreon held in his trust account settlement proceeds for the benefit of SEG, received in connection with a litigation matter. Without consulting with SEG or obtaining its express consent, Carreon utilized $1,400 of the settlement proceeds to pay a portion of a money judgment that had been entered against Carreon and his wife for a residential lease they signed in connection with his employment in Canada, believing that SEG would ultimately be responsible for his lease obligation.
In the stipulation, Carreon admitted that acting as house counsel in Canada was in violation of regulations of the profession in that jurisdiction, and that by utilizing the client settlement funds, he failed to properly maintain client funds in his lawyer trust account.
Carreon’s sanction was aggravated by a selfish motive, multiple offenses and his substantial experience in the practice of law. Carreon was admitted in Oregon in 1993 and in California in 1987. However, in mitigation, the stipulation recited that Carreon had no prior discipline and that he displayed a cooperative attitude toward the disciplinary proceedings.
Carreon was let off very, very lightly. WC knows of other lawyers who have suffered felony convictions for raiding the client trust account. California sanctioned Mr. Carreon for the same conduct, although it imposed some additional probation. This is the piece of work that is suing Inman. And IndieGoGo. And, unbelievably, the NWF and ACS.
It’s too much to hope that Mr. Carreon will stop digging the hole deeper. But, since he represents himself, perhaps he can reflect on the adage that a person representing themselves has a fool for a client. Or, as PopeHat puts it, “pro se” means ”I am attorney but am representing only myself” and “I will continue to wreak havoc until forcibly medicated.”
Perhaps Mr. Carreon should take his medication. Or, better still, consult with a competent, objective attorney.
Among phalaropes, small oceanic shorebirds, polandry rules.
Polyandry is sexual role reversal: the female, shown here, is much more colorful, slightly larger, and after laying her eggs abandons the nest. The smaller, drabber male is left to incubate the eggs and brood the young unassisted. The female will drive other females away from her mate, but only until the eggs are laid.
This female is a Red-necked Phalarope. Alaska also has Red Phalaropes, and rarely, Wilson’s Phalarope. The Red-necked is the smallest of the North American phalaropes, at just 18-20 centimeters.
Red-necked Phalarope females are also polygynous. They will breed with several males if they have the chance.
These are oceanic birds, and famous among birders for their behavior. They swim very quickly in tight circles, to draw their small prey up from a few inches down. They look like windup toys. Hyperactive, highly energetic, they can be identified at a distance by behavior alone.
Like Alaska’s sea ducks, there are primarily ocean birds, coming ashore in the far north to breed. Their sexual role reversal has made them better-studied than a lot of their cousins, but their winter habits and habitat are still poorly understood.
But for WC, they are a pretty, elegant grace note on on alpine ponds.
Dr. Steve Amstrup (University of Alaska, PhD, 1995) won the Indianapolis Prize for 2012.
Dr. Amstrup joins a short list of WC’s personal conservation heroes that includes Sir Ian Douglas-Hamilton for his work to save the elephants, and Dr. George Archibald, for his work to save the world’s cranes, previous winners of the Prize.
The Indianapolis Prize:
The Indianapolis Prize was initiated by the Indianapolis Zoo as a significant component of its mission to empower people and communities, both locally and globally, to advance animal conservation. This biennial award brings the world’s attention to the cause of animal conservation and the brave, talented and dedicated men and women who spend their lives saving the Earth’s endangered animal species. The recipient also receives the Lilly Medal, an original work of art that signifies the winner’s contributions to conserving some of the world’s most threatened animals.
Steve Amstrup’s work from 2000-2008 for the U.S. Geological Survey documented the plight to the polar bear in Arctic waters. And led directly to the classification of the polar bear as an endangered species.
But Steve Amstrup and his careful research are anathema to the Parnell Administration, which is suing the United States to reverse the classification of the polar bear as endangered. Captain Zero’s motivation is worry that the ESA classification of the polar bear will hamper oil and gas development on the coastal shelf. For Captain Zero, the iconic polar species must take second place to Alaska’s insatiable need for petro dollars. Irony is lost on Captain Zero, but the burning of those fossil fuels will aggravate the plight of the polar bears, in addition to the harm caused by exploration. A double whammy.
Steve Amstrup has retired from the USGS and lived in eastern Washington, now. He’s active in Polar Bears International. He’s an effective public speaker who can capture the climate dilemma in a single, simple phrase:
If we don’t mitigate greenhouse gas rise, all the polar bears will ultimately disappear, we will no longer be polar bear researchers. We’ll be polar bear historians.
WC’s warm congratulations to Steve Amstrup. And WC’s helpful suggestion to Captain Zero: Can you admit the possibility that you are wrong? Can you admit that climate change is real, and that polar bears, however iconic, are merely a symptom? Can you admit that Steve Amstrup is right and that you and your lawsuit are utterly, dangerously wrong?
There are three ways Alaska regulates the influence of campaign donations under its current system:
- by limiting how much any donor may give,
- by limiting the uses to which the monies can be put, and
- by requiring accurate reporting as to both where the dough came from and where it was spent.
The Alaska Public Offices Commission gutted the first of those three kinds of regulation last week: following the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United, there are no longer any limits on how much money any one person can give to an Independent Expenditure Group.
Appropriately enough, the request to remove the contribution limits came from Alaska’s richest man, Robert “Bob” Gillam, whose latest innocent-sounding astroturf organization is called Alaska Deserves Better. Apparently, Mr. Gillam lacks any sense of irony. In addition to his demonstrated scofflaw tendencies. No surprise there.
Here’s how it came down. Gillam, through attorney Tim McKeever, asked the APOC staff for an advisory ruling through a series of questions, framed as hypotheticals. In answer to the question whether Gillam’s puppet could make unlimited contributions, APOC staff opined that Alaska’s statutory limits were unconstitutional under Citizens United. The APOC staff recommendation was approved by the APOC on a 4-0 vote. And just that simply and quickly, contribution limits were a thing of the past.
Some glosses to the opinion. It applies only to what Alaska law calls “independent expenditures,” which are expenditures not directly coordinated with a candidate. Don’t misunderstand: an independent expenditure group can do exactly what a candidate wants; it just can’t be coordinated with the candidate. And not more than one third of an independent expenditure group’s expenses can be spent for or against one specific candidate, unless it incorporates the name of the candidate in its name.
Now Mr. McKeever lied to APOC is at least one detail: as of June 14, 2012, there is no nonprofit corporation organized or registered in Alaska called “Alaska Deserves Better.” WC has no doubt that Mr. Gillam and his lawyers will redress that error soon. Or perhaps not. Mr. Gillam doesn’t care very much about campaign finance laws.WC suspects APOC staff will be watching Mr. Gillam carefully. WC also suspects Mr. Gillam really doesn’t care.
But WC can offer a useful guide to dealing with the risk of huge expenditures in Alaska’s elections. Track down who it is making those expenditures. If it come from Gillam or Alaska Deserves Better or any of the rest of his other astroturf entities, remember that Alaska really does deserve better, and do just the opposite of what Mr. Gillam’s and his megabucks want.
It was bad enough when Scientific American broke the news to WC that there are ten bacteria cells in or on the human body for each human cell. That we are out-numbered 10 to 1 in our own bodies. That there hundreds of times more bacteria genes as human genes living in and on us. That we are made, mostly, of bacteria.
It was bad enough to learn that there are dozens – hundreds – thousands of species of bacteria in WC’s Sacred Temple that are still unknown to science, and that WC’s collection of bacteria are apparently different from every other human’s collection.
But what really pushed WC over the line was learning that, to an alarming extent, WC depends on those bacteria for food. The enzymes and juices in the human intestinal tract, by themselves, for example, cannot digest many polysaccharides, the complex, very long carbohydrate chains made mainly by plants. That healthy fiber you eat? Those are polysaccharides.
But take Bacteroides thetaiotaomicron. It’s a bacterium that lives in the human gut. It’s “an obligate anaerobe,” meaning it can only survive in an anaerobic environment. And it’s a major “endosymbiont” of the human gut – a critter that lives inside us and does us good. The bacterium uses various polysaccharides as its food. B. thetaiotaomicron is able to use amylose, amylopectin, and pullulan (all three forms of starch) in addition to maltooligosaccharides. Thus, the organism digests complex plant materials that human enzymes cannot, and it makes an important contribution to human diet. We can digest B. thetaiotaomicron excrescence. We digest its poop. We cannot obtain nutrition from B. thetaiotaomicron‘s food. But we can and do obtain nutrition from it’s pee.
Without the help of our bacterial friends, stuff like fiber would go through us like beer. Which, of course, is yeast pee. But that will have to be a separate blog post.