Husbandry vs Hubris

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We had seen her regularly in RJSP for a month or more. This past weekend she was down in the spring, and Tuesday she was up in the meadows below the moraine. But there was as yet no sign of any calf. This morning as we walked the proposed bike trail, Bernie suddenly went on point, and I scanned the copse of trees 40 yards ahead. Sure enough, there was mama with not one calf, but two, brightly minted new moose. Any tweener on that trail on a mountain bike (and I have raised a few myself) would have plowed into Mama Moose at about 8 mph, and the Mrs. would not have been pleased.

What we are seeing in the MOA’s brash attempt to push through single track trails in Russian Jack Springs Park is a past MOA Park official now running a private grant shop abusing Municipal systems intended to protect natural resources (and the public’s interests) to promote a recreational user group, entangling ADF&G habitat biologists in what is really a web of deceit. The proposed trail ran through wetlands in an area identified as critical natural habitat and the response, put crudely, from ADF&G biologist Cunya, was that a game path is much the same as a highway so it’s of no concern to anyone at ADF&G… Did I overstate the biologist’s position? Perhaps, but that was the impact of what he had to say on the grant process, because Ms. Nordland (not Anna Shaw, who spoke to the biologists) certified that there were no resident fish in RJSP (false), no anadromous fish in RJSP (very possibly false), no migratory fowl in RJSP (false), no raptors in RJSP (false), and no concerns regarding interactions between large land mammals and humans (really?).  And virtually none of that is really defensible.

Is my disappointment primarily with ADF&G? No. Frankly, the MOA (and the buck here sits in Chris Schutte’s lap) has bobbed and weaved in an effort to duck every checkpoint that Planning has placed in the system, including, apparently, ignoring Title 21’s requirement for a UDC Trail review, ensuring that the WNRC could not review the project, and refusing to comply with the 2006 Municipal Plan or the 2009 directive from PRC requiring the development of a natural resource plan before any further development in the park. But as habitat biologists, ADF&G staff could have set flags, in no small part because they are very well aware that the MOA has no habitat staff.

Last year my neighbor and I put out garbage cans in the park (and regularly cleaned them) because P&R had decided that the danger of Black bear in RJSP was so great that all non-bear proof cans had to be removed. They took ours, as well the cans at the ball fields! We have seen one Black bear in the area (on the east side of Cheney Lake) in 20 years. We see half a dozen moose in RJSP almost year around, with 2-4 calves each spring, and the position of P&R is that if someone gets hurt by a moose “that’s up to the lawyers to work out, ha ha ha”. Perhaps we need to change the name of Parks and Rec. to the Municipal Hubris Department?







Pages 50-51 of the Anchorage Bowl Park, Natural Resource,and Recreation Facility Plan, adopted by Adopted by Ordinance AO 2005-122, April 18, 2006. Click on the images to obtain the pdf files.

Grober’s Jean Memo

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I thought this had been tossed in the trash years ago… Imagine my amazement when I found out it had been circulating around the Courthouse for ages…



Last week in Nenana you warned me not to wear “jean” slacks or shirts into a courtroom where you are presiding. At first blush your directive seemed simple enough, but upon further meditation
I have developed some real problems in ordering future vestments.

I present the following discussion to you in the spirit that it may prove profitable and hope that this sort of discussion may yield a formal order from each judge which may be posted on the courtroom door. This may prevent the confusion I felt, having appeared numerous times in your court in a jean shirt with jean slacks, tie and jacket. Perhaps because of the distance between bar and bench you never noticed it til now.

Specifically, what is nature of the beast you are discriminating against? The dictionary defines jean as durable twilled cotton. Denim is defined as twilled fabric which may or may not be cotton. Twill is a type of weave where weft is floated over two or more threads (both serge and gabardine are twills), as opposed for example to chambray, which is a plain weave. If I recall correctly I was at the time wearing a blue cotton chambray shirt.

I am sure you can see my dilemma. Surely you can’t be asking me to buy non-durable clothes? And I am just as sure that you can’t be proscribing twills, for most fine clothes are twill weaved (gabardine, serge, herringbone etc.) Or is it the cotton that offends? On top of it all, though my slacks were cotton twill my shirt was plain weaved • • • it would appear that the only common factors were their blueness (my favorite color) and the fact that they were cotton.

Now, is a polyester denim appropriate? I do so deplore synthetic. fabrics. I do have a Blue wool twill suit, but it is terribly stifling for spring and summer wear.

With respect to shirts, sir, I do have a cotton polyester blue denim shirt manufactured by Lee but because of the use of polyester as reinforcement I am not really sure if this is jean or not. This, however , is a shirt I have worn in your Courtroom before • • •

And while on the subject, I have worn my moose skin boots (my usual footwear) to court in the winter. Are there any guidelines as to summer footwear? I prefer my waders as that is usually what I wear, but I understand that another attorney was found in contempt for coming into Court that way.

I was recently reproached wearing a sweater instead of a sports jacket. One can only get suit coats with suits and I always thought that sports clothes were taboo in court. Are pullovers of fabric allowable? What about wrap-around sweaters and warm-up jackets? Please, what are appropriate criteria?

Some people wear hats, of course, for religious and personal reasons. For example, many chassids (a Jewish sect I have admired) wear large black broad brimmed felt hats everywhere. Indeed many feel it is virtually sacrilegious to bare your head to anybody or anything. My grandfather’s generation felt much the same about their Bogart-style hats. I know that there are many cases in this area, for
example can an attorney who is a priest wear his religious costume to court. Certainly there are First Amendment questions that need to be considered here.

Lastly, After reading the Friedman case I hope we don’t have to tangle with “conservative business-dress”. Nenana is as conservative as they come but business men here almost never wear jacket and tie and one successful business man wears well used work pants, suspenders, and T-shirt. Not to mention that I saw Governor Hammond on the TV the other night giving us the business and he didn’t even have a tie on • • •

Personally I’d get a kick out of wearing a black robe like yours (they do it that way in England you know)! That way you wouldn’t have to worry about what my clothes were made of and I might even get a tax deduction out of it • • •

The Epiphany Peddler

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That’s me, the epiphany peddler. I haven’t no barrow filled high with turnips or taters. I offer only the finest of intangibles I do, like the Emperors new clothes.

Its like magic or fairy dust. I sprinkle a little here and dab a little there and Bob’s your uncle, there you are –  suddenly you have a bright shiny new epiphany. And then there be a hootin and a hollerin and the whole world suddenly makes a good bit o sense

Epiphanies are scare on the ground, of course. You can’t mine them or chop them down, though some argue hen they had a pint too many that procuring an epiphany is mostly like fly fishing, or piping for rats. Have to tease them epiphanies out, you do, and there’s just no telling if, or when, or never. And of course most having never had one, they don’t believe in them. Can’t blame them much. Epiphanies will never be like turnips or taters, don’t you know.

Like with doctors, sniffing them out for others says nothing about making do for yourself, and at present I am sitting in an old Syracusan tub, and the water has gone very cold….

At Least the Cat Loves Me

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Maggie is a fourteen pound Maine-Coon of uncertain pedigree. She is a killing machine finely honed to a specific  and most deadly purpose over millennia of tedious trial and error. But I often think of Maggie much as I think of Shelley’s Prometheus, having a sensitivity and sensibility that is a far cry from her breeding. You see, Maggie likes nothing so much as climbing up on my shoulder and purring until I can no longer keep my eyes open and Maggie is a prodigious hunter but only loves her prey to death.

I am reminded of Krishna and Arjuna. I am a problem solver, but I will never solve all the problems. I will fail, and I will only succeed in failing. It is a tautology that may well be as close to a cosmic understanding as I may ever get, but it is nevertheless unrewarding. I am Sisyphus.

I will let everyone down. And I feel like Shylock, left to twist in the wind; pricked and bleeding.

But at least the cat loves me.


Detail of Colossal Krater from Altamura, about 350 B.C., Greek, made in Apulia, South Italy. Terracotta, 63 in. high x 35 7/16 in. diam. National Archaeological Museum of Naples, 81666. By permission of the Italian Ministry of Heritage and Culture and Tourism. National Archaeological Museum of Naples – Conservation and Restoration Laboratory

The Biggest Problem With Being Depressed Is Not Being Dead…

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Economic Bloviation

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Look, do us all a favor and quit using words that no longer really mean anything. If it has not occurred to you yet, let me clue you in:  Capitalism is one of those words. I am not the first person to opine about this. Fred Foldvary has a nice little piece about about abuse of the term and its cognates.

The term is often applied to a system of economics that incorporates private ownership of goods and reliance on markets. But, of course, private ownership of personalty and use of markets for the trading of same have existed since the advent of of the first surplusage Homo sapiens stumbled into. Capitalism in this sense isn’t new, it isn’t recent, it isn’t the reason the “West is best”, and it certainly is no reason for Harvard dons to get excited (unless they are celebrating over the size of their checks thanks to the Scaifs).

The combination of these two elements, instability and inequity, with mankind’s natural proclivity for violence as population increases, result in a a variety of systems that have been invariably disastrous. And these two problems have only been modestly ameliorated through the advent of the “state” or other less comprehensive paradigms for making distribution equitable.

Some argue that the globe is richer for “capitalism”.  But the essence of what people mean when they talk about “capitalism” boils down to thievery. It is almost laughable that libertarians talk about taxes as thievery when the very essence of the concept of property is the idea that one has the “right” by virtue of some supreme dictate, to seize that which is not yours. Imagine the Libertarian at the Bar: “Your Honor, I only took that bike because it was not being used and I therefore had to right to make the bike mine in order to make use of it….”  Indeed.

The financial madness we are being swallowed by today is the result of the attenuation of relations among the parties to transactions, and to the abstraction of what is actually being traded. “Moral Sentiment” has been left to twist in the wind, and one is regularly confronted with a litmus test that still seeks to shame those who refuse to be identified as “capitalists”, whatever that might mean.

And, of course, there are those, having amassed billions by drawing the life force from others (the real vampyres of our age), who use the latest advances of Social Psychology to convince the droolers and knuckledraggers that if we dispose of any attempt to shackle this juggernaut that everyone will be rich.

It is high time to either take back ownership of the term from the Geckos, or to abandon it completely as just more of the wreckage left by our march to oblivion.

Photograph by blickwinkel/Alamy Stock Photo

Eternal Externalities

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I recently was reading a comment that went something like, “If you have a *choice* between being a boss or being the member of a co-op, it makes sense to go with being a boss.” This (“boss” vs co-op) is an artificial choice that so many “libertarians” promote (by way of example, a union is simply an aggregate of workers taking advantage of their economic power, so libertarian opposition to unions is based largely on the interest in undermining that economic power, not on any ideals of “liberty”).

The argument goes on along these lines, “Political arguments that rely on people’s altruism are always a losing strategy.” But enterprises like co-operatives are not “altruistic”; in point of fact a very convincing argument can be made that co-operatives and the like are simply more adept at comprehensively addressing the complexity of positive and negative externalities that confront them. Let’s face it, the “real” downside of the laissez-faire capitalism that is the subject of so much concern today is the proclivity such corporation have for eschewing responsibility for externalities. And this practice is the crux of our willingness to privatize gain, and socialize loss.

While it may seem that an increasing number of people are espousing “Lotto Liberalism” (the peddled concept of striking it rich through hard work)it must become just as obvious that these people are frankly delusional. There is no point in trying to confront them with their delusion as it is well known that such praxis merely deepens the psychosis.

In Anchorage we have two electric utilities, one owned by the municipality which serves the urban core, and another, a co-operative serving everything else. The current Mayor proposed a sale of the municipal utility to the cooperative. This is a GREAT idea, but the outpouring of vitriolic rage based on the wholesale ignorance of the nature of these enterprises was dumbfounding. And of course none of the whingers knew anything about the Green Bay Packers or how the Golden Gate Bridge Construction was financed.

We have been conditioned to assume that all corporate bodies are evil, even when we are the corporate body, and that the only sentiment that we can trust is our own greed. And believe it or not, poor Adam Smith gets the blame for that crap, lol.

The manner in which too many of us talk about capitalism falls apart when labor owns the means and production, and there is nothing specifically anti-capitalist about such a practice. The problems lie in both the methods employed to keep labor from such ownership, and in the real underlying aspects of today’s capitalism, the abstraction and attenuation of financial products.

While it might be helpful to rage about capitalism, I don’t know that such rage can ever be converted to adequate regulation so long at those invested in escaping regulation have the power. On the other hand, I think the ouroboros offers a significant alternative; use the system to consume itself. Explain how to move people from complaining about Bank of America and WellsFargo, to using credit unions, and you are well on your way to changing the face of the USA. When we learn how to fund, protect, and employ pension funds as a tool in and of themselves to promotes the future pensioners, we will be on to something.


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High School student Matthew Park started a petition to ASD in July 2017 to push high school start times to 8:30.

In August of 2017 the Superintendent (Dr. Deena Bishop) and the Board President (Tam Agosti-Gisler) indicated that they wanted to look at changing school start times.

By November the Superintendent had used her discretionary budget to hire Western Demographics to look at the issue in what some have called an “efficiency study”.

Since then the Superintendent has published a web page on school start times on the ASD website. The Page never identified who actually authored the content.  The web page originally contained names and dates of authors whose work purportedly supported the claims made in the document, but no bibliography was ever included. When complaints were made about ASD needing to provide a full bibliography, the material identifying dates and authors was deleted.  A  bibliography that included all but one of the sources apparently mentioned by ASD (one did not appear to exist) as well as quite a bit of additional literature addressing questions raised by AEA members was prepared and shared with ASD (see ASD has never shared that bibliography.

Shannon Bingham, President of Western Demographics, presented to AEA building representations on March 28th. Mr. Bingham apologized for not having published his presentation online, and for not having a bibliography available. AEA Representatives presented quite a few unanswered questions, including the impact on Elementary students, and interventions that ameliorate the sleep disorders relied upon by much of the research to suggest changes in start times (see Alaska Educators Facebook Group ). ASD still has not published any additional material from Mr. Bingham.

The material presented by Mr. Bingham was somewhat inconsistent with the material presented on the ASD web page, apparently as a result of ongoing examination of the question by Western Demographics, but as noted, the most current material has not been published to the ASD website.

A short bulleted version of this is available at

Bill Roth ADN

Anchorage skyline and pan ice at Point Woronzof on Wednesday, March 22, 2017. (Bill Roth / Alaska Dispatch News)


Orbital Questions

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A funny thing about being in a stationary orbit is that on the hand you are moving a zillion miles per hour, while on the other the countervailing forces are keeping you almost stationary while you ever so slowing approach your doom. What an analogy for the arguments about “gun control”…

Mental health? I could just argue it is an oxymoron, but frankly the entire concept of mental health is largely a fiction. After all, what is “health” when you get down to it other than a compromise between a statistic and an aspiration. Forget for a moment the biological aspects of the matter, and consider that virtually all of the DSM requires some element of subjective judgment.

Keeping guns out of the “wrong hands”? 1) There are no wrong hands; all humans of capable of doing something stupid enough to get another killed. It happens on a daily basis. 2) How would you begin to identify the wrong hands because a) yeah, that is the same gambit as the mental health scam, and b) sane today, nuts tomorrow…

Safe schools? Schools are never going to be “safe” because humans are not “safe”. Mandating greater distance (figuratively speaking) between dangerous instrumentalities and humans  is the only way we have made life any safer. But there are two possible measures that could be pursued: building secure classrooms and adopting legislation (see, e.g. Santaella-Tenorio, Julian, Magdalena Cerdá, Andrés Villaveces, and Sandro Galea. “What Do We Know About the Association Between Firearm Legislation and Firearm-Related Injuries?” Epidemiologic Reviews 38, no. 1 (January 1, 2016): 140–57.

Putting more guns in school? Why not arm the kids ( Good guys with guns? I think you will find that a recent stat being flashed about suggests that police hit their targets 20% of the time in dynamic situations (some reports argue as “high” as 35%, rofl! for people trained to shoot under stress – are you going to exceed the training police officers receive? Likely not, which means that at least 2/3 of the rounds discharged will likely hit someone other than the perpetrator (and in a school, who might that be?) Sounds like a party!!!!!! And securing the gun lockers in a school? Now that sounds like a real gas…

Yeah, I am a teacher, a parent, an owner of class 3 weapons, a registered Republican, and an old lawyer, and the amount of bandwidth on inane rationalizations about our current firearm policies is simply obscene. We require more attention to the ownership of automobiles than we do to firearms (at least we require, half heartedly, a license and insurance, kind of, rofl…..) How about a mandatory strict liability no fault policy in the amount of $2M per firearm that pays off in full without question if anyone is injured in any way as a result of the discharge of a weapon, funds payable to a victims’ trust? Yup, that policy might run you more than your health insurance policy

“Separate But Equal” Has No Place

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The highest court of this land, in the words of Chief Justice Warren, stated in no uncertain terms:

“We conclude that, in the field of public education, the doctrine of “separate but equal” has no place. Separate educational facilities are inherently unequal. Therefore, we hold that the plaintiffs and others similarly situated for whom the actions have been brought are, by reason of the segregation complained of, deprived of the equal protection of the laws guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment. This disposition makes unnecessary any discussion whether such segregation also violates the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.” Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, 347 U.S. 483 (1954)

Yes, “in the field of public education, the doctrine of “separate but equal” has no place”. But today, especially in public education, we are seeing a rise in segregated education, and along with it, a clear attack on the values so clearly espoused by the Brown Court.

While race was the basis for the Brown decision, race is, as arguably IQ is, just a matter of a few genes. But it is, in a very real sense, a fiction. It is a fiction that was broadly employed in our country (and some argue its use is now rising again, see The Resegregation of Jefferson County and Better Use of Information Could Help Agencies Identify Disparities and Address Racial Discrimination) to maintain what were argued variously as “cultural” or “ability” differences. It was fairly common to allege that as some races were less amenable to education (slower?) they did better in their own schools, with their own kind.

It was this kind of thinking that was found unacceptable as to race, and then, in a striking partial reversal of Rowley, it was applied in Endrew F. v. Douglas County School Dist. RE–1, 580 U.S. ____ (2017).  You cannot have equality of education where you are segregating populations, and that applies to the entire gamut of actual (or perceived) differences.

In that light, of course, tracking should raise a number of concerns. While tracking may be a very effective tool for pedagogy, it can easily become a very effective tool to promote social segregation (and has done just that). Charter schools are being created specifically to keep the “wrong child” elsewhere, and how “Native” charter schools could survive a Brown challenge would rest solely on the dubious claim that separate but equal is acceptable if the separated agree? Really?

When I was young I was tracked (with excellent results) but I was also required to take a half a dozen different shop classes (where many of my academic peers were far from performance leaders). This had a counterbalancing effect to the academic tracking, and promoted the mixing of all students in the school. As a teacher I was able to help coach a US FIRST Robotics Team that likewise included a broad range of students, and it was this breadth that was the aspect of the team most celebrated by the team members.

Slowly but surely though, financial pressure has been brought to bear to move “non-academic” “career-oriented” students to programs focused on “getting them a job”. I think one of the worst aspects of such programs is that it gives up on these students when these students have yet to demonstrate that they are literate.  That is on its face unacceptable.  What we see in test after test is that we are graduating students who have NOT mastered the adopted curriculum. To essentially accept that has an acceptable “truth” and thereupon to decide that we can then spend a couple of years not teaching them to read, but teaching them to do medical filing, is obscene.

But more importantly, and why I write today, such “vocational” schools promote class segregation at a time when such polarization is perhaps the biggest crisis facing this nation. Nor do the inclusion of a few well chosen “academic courses” remove the separate identity (whether one wants to call it stigmatization or not) as the students are still segregated.  And see Cain Polidano and Domenico Tabasso, “Fully Integrating Upper-Secondary Vocational and Academic Courses: A Flexible New Way?,” Economics of Education Review 55 (December 1, 2016): 117–131, accessed January 10, 2018,; John H Bishop and Ferran Mane, “The Impacts of Career-Technical Education on High School Labor Market Success,” Economics of Education Review 23, no. 4, Special Issue In Honor of Lewis C. Solman (August 1, 2004): 381–402, accessed January 10, 2018, And we have yet to address the gender segregation that is typical of Voc-Ed, VET, and/or CTE programs

In creating “vocational schools” we are promoting the “deplorable”, if you will, as a viable segment of our population, and frankly, I don’t think pride in ignorance is anything to ever be proud of.