Following Up and Following Down: August 2019

Fun to visit, but don't drink the water. Photo credit: Carlos Osorio/AP

Fun to visit, but don’t drink the water. Photo credit: Carlos Osorio/AP

Another month shot, and therefore time for another very nearly journalistic look backwards at subsequent events involving earlier blog posts, items that didn’t quite work out as full blog posts and blog posts that didn’t quite work out. As always, the Magpie Principle applies.

U.S. Attorney General Bill “Chapstick” Barr1, busy defending the President from claims Trump is violating the emoluments clause of the U.S. Constitution, and in between spinning the facts to favor his boss, sucked up to Trump once again, this time renting Trump’s hotel for his family party. An anonymous spokesperson for the Justice Department says it’s not illegal or even unethical. Huh. Blowing $30,000 on the guy you are investigating and supposedly policing? Not unethical? They must have changed the definition of “conflict of interest” when WC wasn’t looking. Remember when the Justice Department held itself to the highest standards?

BP is leaving Alaska. As oil companies go, they weren’t the worst. WC’s sympathies to his friends who work for or contracted with BP. The company that bought BP’s assets, Hilcorp, is a lot less generous, a lot more litigious and a more difficult boss. WC wouldn’t have wanted BP to do maintenance on his car – BP has a long record of not being so good at maintenance – but much of the blame for shoddy maintenance lies with the Alyeska Pipeline Service Company, the committee that runs the pipeline and much of the Prudhoe Bay pipeline infrastructure. BP was just the operator, not the owner. WC wonders if BP will attempt to contract away its obligation to remove the pipeline when the oil is gone? One thing that’s gone: BP’s corporate income tax. Hilcorp is a limited liability company. LLCs don’t pay income tax in Alaska. That’s $30 million in lost state revenue.

The economic fallout of the opioid epidemic continues. The State of Oklahoma obtained a money judgment for $572 million against Johnson & Johnson, one of the pushers, and the company that grew or synthesized most of the ingredients and precursror drugs. That’s one state. That’s not the giant, multi-plaintiff case headed for trial still. That’s not the class action case. That’s not likely to be the biggest verdict. With any luck, Johnson & Johnson will end up in bankruptcy court, and become a business school object lesson on the consequences of greed. With a little more luck, there will be criminal indictments against senior Johnson & Johnson management. Even so that won’t bring back a single one of the 400,000 – a staggering number – who died as a consequence of that corporate greed.

The Alaska Legislature is about to enter its third special session.2 This time because Governor Dunleavy is frantically trying to avoid recall by getting his supporters those big, fat permanent dividend fund checks he rashly promised. While the state senate might be silly enough to run the state further into insolvency by giving money away, WC trusts the state house will adjourn immediately, or immediately after telling the Governor to go pound sand. The thing remember about voter recall efforts is that they can be contagious.

There are reports that the number of special education students in the Flint, Michigan school district have increased sharply, from 13% of the students to more than 20%, with more and younger children still to come. A sadly foreseeable consequence of lead poisoning in young children. It’s unclear, at this point, whether Genessee County and the Flint school district can muster the financial resources to deal with the intense staffing requirements for individual education plans and kids with heavy metal poisoning-induced disabilities.That’s on top of lawsuits, lead pipe replacement, upgrading water supplies and other urgent tasks. It is utterly inexcusable that the State of Michigan has not prosecuted the criminally negligent state employees who created the lead poisoning, delayed reporting it and then tried to cover it up. Earlier indictments have been dismissed; new charges were promised back in June but so far it’s just another empty State of Michigan promise.

Alaska is burning. In August, the traditional rainy season. In wetter southcentral. Videos of the Sterling Highway last week, taken between Cooper Landing and Sterling, look Dantesque. The Tongass National Forest, the temperate rain forest, is suffering a sustained drought. Alaskans, if you don’t think anthropogenic CO2 is changing your climate, you are even bigger fools than when you voted for Dunleavy. And if you don’t understand that the fossil fuel industry, the tens of thousands of barrels of oil flowing through the Trans-Alaska Pipeline, are a big part of the problem then WC wishes you, your children and grandchildren a whole lot of luck.

Several of you asked how the repairs to the table art loon went. Thanks for asking. Here’s the repaired piece.

Loon basket repaired

Loon basket repaired

A gift to us from Mrs. WC’s mother, it has emotional value if little functional value. It’s not a perfect repair, but the patient was saved.

And on that happy note, let’s call it done.


  1. Because his lips are badly chapped. WC will leave the reason his lips are chapped to your imagination. 
  2. Special sessions are expensive. The state has spent a reported $1.2 million or more on the first two. For a man with a ready veto pen for critical funding, Dunleavy sure is free with the state’s money. And don’t even get WC started on the non-competitive “special consultant” contracts Dunleavy hands out like party favors. Oh, wait, those are Party favors. GOP Party favors.