Bloody Hell

Unfortunately, much of what could be discussed with respect to events such as just took place in Orlando is obscured by the use of unstated definitions and confused labels. This event, despite the thousands and thousands of times the media have repeated the line,  is NOT the largest mass killing of humans in the history of the country – not even close.

What is true, and frightening (let’s avoid the “t” word altogether, as this was not about terrorism), is the fact that one person can easily obtain the armament necessary to kill so many people so quickly. Let’s go on to note (as some have already over the past decade) that agnostics don’t seem to be interested in mass homicide.

Let’s face it. Murdering people who we don’t like is an American “sport”.  It receives tremendous press coverage, results in a huge transfer of value, not only is a focus of daily conversation, but also of secondary and tertiary entertainment progScreen Shot 2016-06-12 at 9.54.28 AMramming. Homicide is what Americans do, and arguably perhaps what we do best; what makes us “exceptional”.

Doubt me? Look no further than the political pinnacle presented via the accepted wisdom: two hawks, competing to be the war lords of the deadliest gang in the ‘hood.  Where ever we have gone over the last two centuries we have sown corpses (and reaped tremendous profits, don’t forget).  Death R Us, don’t you know.  We are not talking here of Oppenheimer’s confusion over Krishna’s lesson to Arjuna, unless we are celebrating a recognition that we are corruption incarnate. This is just juicing.

Is “Multipurpose” Just Another Word for Poorly Done?

I was a bit distressed, considering the state our trails are in, to read about the proposed ordinance to make electric bikes legal on our trails.  Let us reflect for just a moment…

  • Is there a general speed limit on our trails?
  • Are there specific speed limits that address trail circumstances and conditions (turn radius and the number of turns, width of trail, slope, lateral visibility, other traffic, etc.)?
  • Is there any enforcement on our trails?

I think by and large the answer to these questions is a resounding, “NO!”, and yet suddenly, without regard to the multitude of issues we do face on our multpurpose trails (yes, horses are allowed on our trails…) here we have an ordinance about an electric bike.

Are we first going to do something about the presumably illegal Segues and powered wheelchairs on our trails? How about the loose dogs fouling our greenbelts? Or should we think about the thousands of kids illegal biking on the trails without helmets?

The simple fact of the matter is that we have a number of criteria for the funding of “trails”, yet we seem incapable of effectively managing use of those trails once they are built.

A two hundred pound individual moving at 25 mph down an MOA bike path on a bicycle colliding with an unmanaged two year old suddenly dashing across the trail is a recipe for disaster – yet we seem unconcerned. Missoula and other locations try to address some of these issues by creating BERMED bike lanes that allow high speed bicycles to use city streets without fear of automobiles, while other cities provide what amount to bicycle only highways (keeping the three parents with the 3 double wide strollers stopping to chat from shutting down the trail). We put some paint on the road and look the other way…

Cologne Bike Highways

And wait!  There’s more!  Despite Danny Sullivan’s protestations (and the Mayor’s decision to keep Mr. Rodda in place), we have a huge burden of deferred maintenance, an ongoing crisis in grossly inadequate construction practice in laying trail, and unmet continuity issues. Do we continue to argue that maintenance of trails only be managed through State Cap Budget items? Why use local bonding to deploy apparently inappropriate or inadequate infrastructure (wooden bridges, anyone)? Is it time to put a stop to “partners” running our parks?  How do we balance ENFORCEMENT of trail usage mandates as against planning, design, construction, and maintenance of those resources?

I think it only fair to say that Mr. Traini has the cart before the horse.

Woe Unto Thee, Atheist!

OK all you armchair political scientists.  Tell me who wrote this and the approximate time and place.

In reflecting on what has happened * * * I became keenly aware of our national humiliation and decline. In material respects our country has become insignificant. The level of our commerce and industry is at an all time low and the number of paupers steadily increasing. Politically we are in disarray, following a long series of constitutional experiments that have all failed. The soul of our body politic, the Nation, is hampered and frustrated. The lack of order extends to the whole of society: the distinction between estates has been abolished, there is unlimited competition, ancient bonds of love and subordination have been removed, workingmen are helpless over against the factory owners, the state of poor relief is increasingly ominous. Deterioration so widespread suggests the presence of a general cause.

But perhaps we have learned from experience and reflection and worked out more firmly established theories? The opposite is true. Never before has every problem been so uncertain. Our men of theory are skeptical and our men of practice are hesitant, content to deal only with matters imposed by the events from day to day. Never before have theories been so unpopular.

The same skepticism is apparent with respect to the foundations of religion, morality, and justice. On these questions our generation is hopelessly divided. Every view is subjective and individual, each one has his own belief, his own opinion, exchanged, as times and circumstances alter, for another one, equally fleeting. There are now persuasions and confessions without number, all supposedly Christian.  Controversy has diminished, not because of increasing consensus but because of growing indifference. Disputes over doctrine upset people’s sense of tranquility. Before long, our only hope, the truth itself, may be banned

Whence this regression, this confusion, this general decline? Do you blame the forms of government for it? We have had all kinds: democracy, aristocracy, monarchy,despotism, constitutional government — the whole storehouse of revolutionary governments has served us. Do you blame the circumstances? They have not always been unfavorable. Do you blame the degeneration of our people? They never fell so deep that they could not be lifted up again. Have we lacked men of ability and energy? There have been statesmen whom I for one would not deny talent and character, nor, for that matter, good intentions; so that we are all the more pressed to search for the reason why even their wisdom was deceived and their energy paralyzed.

Everything therefore points to a general cause, to which the political forms, the circumstances, the national character, and the acting personages have been subordinate. And this cause must be sought in the ideas which have predominated. I  agree * * * that “everything proceeds from doctrines:manners, literature, constitutions, laws, the happiness of nations and their misfortunes, culture, barbarism, and those terrible crises that sweep the nations away or else renew them, depending on their level of vitality.”

Historical events, in their main content and chief import, are nothing other than the shapes and contours that reveal the sustained action of the spirit of an age. This is what I propose to demonstrate to you in the succession of the revolutionary phases, in our country and elsewhere. Whatever may have been the subordinate action of secondary causes* * * the principal cause of history * * * for more than half a century has been the inevitable result of the errors that have made themselves master of the predominant mode of thinking.

In order to bring out the nature of this subject it is necessary to explain what I mean by Revolution and by Revolution ideas.

By Revolution I do not mean one of the many events whereby government is overthrown. Nor do I just mean by it the storm of upheaval that has raged * * *. Rather, by Revolution I mean the whole inversion of the general spirit and mode of thinking that is now manifest in all Christendom. {footnote in original: The Revolution is the unfolding of a wholesale skepticism in which God’s Word and Law have been thrust aside}.

By Revolution ideas I mean the basic maxims of liberty and equality, popular sovereignty, social contract, the artificial reconstruction of society by common consent — notions which today are venerated as the cornerstone of constitutional law and political order.

The conviction that many calamities suffered by our fathers and by our own generation have sprung from this wisdom and from its origin, the rejection of the Gospel, was reinforced in me by a fresh examination of the train of events. Once again I saw clearly that whenever these theories gain a foothold people are led about in a circle of misery and grief.

Let me give my main conclusions now. A strict, consistent application of the Revolution doctrine will bring men to the most excessive absurdities and the worst atrocities. However, whenever men become terrified by the revolutionary development (which they regard as exaggeration) and in reaction begin to insist on moderation, though without abandoning the principle, then to avoid anarchy, the only course of action open to them, since they shink back from the consequences of their own convictions, is a shilly-shally, capricious behavior which has no guide save in the succession and pressure of circumstances. Even today this very course of action is made out to be the height of political wisdom: I mean the method of consultation of the doctrinaires; the policy which under the name of juste-milieu or the middle-of-the-road is dominant at present: the theory of the conservatives; and the practice, or if I must speak the truth, the routine, the languor and lethargy, the rut which prevails in our own country.

The consequences of the Revolution ideas cannot be combated with any success unless oneScreen Shot 2016-05-11 at 3.38.07 PM places himself outside their influence, on the ground of the anti-revolutionary principles. This ground is beyond reach, however, so long as one refuses to acknowledge that the foundation of justice lies in the law the ordinance of God. * * *

The Revolution doctrine is unbelief applied to politics. A life and death struggle is raging between the Gospel and this practical atheism. To contemplate a rapprochement between the two would be nonsense. It is a battle which embraces everything we cherish and hold sacred and everything that is beneficial and indispensable to church and state.

Well, I had one correct guess, but more intriguingly, he guessed correctly because he had seen this pieces of this rhetoric replicated in the same places I had – the epistles of the Family Research Council and their affiliates – and had looked the curious artifacts of Van Dyke’s translation (e. g. “Revolution ideas”) up on the internet.

While there are some aspects of Van Dykes translation that might be adjusted to make van Printerer’s meaning clearer to today’s reader, the amount of consistency with the propaganda of the intolerant religious right is too much to be serendipitous.  I think it only fair to suggest that the 21st century Family Action groups are simply channeling the intolerance of 19th Century Dutch Reform Calvinism.

More to the point, I think it rather clear that these groups then are not looking for broader religious liberty; they are looking for nothing less than the abrogation of the social contract. In short, the religious right is correct: they are in a religious war, they started it, and we will all be much better off when their teeth have been pulled.


Dyke, Harry Van. Groen van Prinsterer’s Lectures on Unbelief and Revolution. Jordan Station, Canada: Wedge Publishing Foundation, 1989.

Time for State Employees to Walk in Others’ Shoes

I sent the e-mail below to the Medicaid Expansion Coordinator and the DPA Director, Sean O’Brien as a follow up to my prior investigation. It has only been a couple of days, but I suppose I really am not expecting much of anything with respect to a substantive response.  Like so much else, we have here a potentially great idea, with simply horrendous implementation.

The communication below and any files transmitted with it
may contain privileged or confidential information. It is
solely for use by the individual for whom it is intended,
even if addressed incorrectly. If you received this e-mail
in error, please notify the sender; do not disclose, copy,
distribute, or take any action in reliance on the contents
of this information; and delete it from your system.

Thank you for your cooperation.
Dear Ms. Martin,

While I have been more than willing to accept what the Chris
Ashenbrenner had to say about the problems with the roll-out of the
Medicaid Expansion, any experience dealing with the claimant side of the
system is immediately explanatory of why there are so many people angry
and frustrated  with that system.

To start with, much of the information received by applicants from DPA
offices, or provided on the ARIES website, is inaccurate or misleading.
When I have tried to bring that to the attention of agency personnel, I
have been blown off, with the result that to my way of thinking,
nothing is ever going to be done to fix it. By way of example, if you
are dumped into ARIES by, your application does not show
up in ARIES, even AFTER someone has looked at the file and sent you a
demand for verification letter.  If you have an application on file, you
must be able to confirm the status of that application through ARIES.

Anyone who thinks this

That was not the greatest explanation, so let me try again.  
The number you reported prefixed with a T is a temporary 
application number while the application is in processing.   
No access is available at the self-service portal (where 
application was made) while in this temporary status.  
The application has been transferred (electronically) to 
an office for processing.  After the case is processed and 
approved it will be assigned a permanent number starting with 
a 3.  This permanent number can then be used to access features 
provided on the portal. 
is in any way explanatory (or satisfactory) needs to see a mental health
professional. Let's see... it suggests that the application number does
not become an application number until the application is not longer an
application, and suggests, contrary to what the ARIES site says, that
you can see the status of your application based on your application
number...  but of course since the only number you get while your
application is an application is the application number and that
application number is not an application number, it is fairly obviously
that most of what one might have tried to do for an hour trying to use
web tools to determine the status of an application has been totally
wasted.  Moreover, any attempt to speak to someone at the DPA office
results in you being put in a queue to leave a message which is never

As far as the back log is concerned, since it is fairly evident that no
one is doing triage on the applications, and a call to the published
telephone number about emergent issues results only in an e-mail to an
office manager who already is failing to triage applications, it is
pretty clear why applicants are getting steamed. For example, waiting 6
or 7 weeks to THEN tell an applicant he has 1 week to send in dozens of
documents while making it impossible for the applicant to discuss with
anyone the document request is, in a word, bizarre. And YES, that
is exactly what DPA is doing.  Calls to claim workers are not returned.
When they are, no message is left. And no call backs are ever attempted.

Indeed, as relates to FFM referrals, since data will in fact be sparse
because it is all electronic and no documents are accepted, you know
that no application will be accepted without receipt of additional
documentation where there is any evidence of self-employment, and yet
you sit on those applications.  Where gross FFM income is below $19000
you STILL sit on those applications, and eventually ask the applicant to
prove expenses, when it makes no difference what the expanses were if
the gross income was below the target income level (if I have $12000 in
W2 income and and $6000 in gross self employment income, it doesn't make
any difference what my business expenses are, I am still eligible).

And what IS one supposed to do in response to a request that simply
says, "Provide documentation of expenses." What expenses? What kind of
documentation? Questions? Sorry, you may NOT speak to anyone who can
answer them 

As far as published data, it is frankly unbelievable, and while there
may be an explanation for why it seems incredible, the Department does
itself no service by not providing same.  By way of example, consider
this data:

                             "Jan-16"   "Feb-16"  "Mar-16"
"Incoming Work"              "4,352"    "3,672"    "4,501"
"Work Completed              "5,136"    "5,075"    "5,042"
"True Application Backlog"   "2,692"    "1,573"    "2,053"

How can you have an Application Backlog of 1573 in February, complete
541 more applications in March than came in, and then have a resulting
backlog of 480 more than you had in February?

And providers. I have spoken to quite a few over the last several
weeks.  Many are just fed up and are ready to quit accepting Medicaid.
Yes, they have been told to go ahead and treat as Medicaid will
eventually pay (really?), but all the provider has is a voice on a
telephone, and that does not pay the bills if payment is in fact NOT
forthcoming. Thankfully, many will simply hold the bill for 30 days.
And if a provider won't hold the bill, and won;t serve you because
Medicaid can't provide even a claimant number?  Well, you are in a sense
worse off than you were before Expansion, aren't you?

The system simply is not working well for those who need it to work for
them, in no small part because communication is non-existent, and
urgency is treated with casual disregard by the system.  We can do better.


Marc Grober, Esq.
5610 Radcliff Dr.
Anchorage Alaska 99504
cell:  (907)2272417

Only a Reasonable Experiment

Screen Shot 2016-04-14 at 8.56.59 AMI have been stewing over Thomas Frank’s indictment of President Obama in Listen Liberal. He very effectively argues that the President shrank from his authority to pursue his view of a Presidency willing to compromise. And then, in reading a piece by Luigi Zingales it suddenly struck me, “Why not?” Let me explain…

Let’s try a little experiment. The IRS already makes it abundantly clear that

To be deductible, your employees’ pay must be an ordinary and necessary business expense and you must pay or incur it. These and other requirements that apply to all business expenses are explained in chapter 1.

In addition, the pay must meet both of the following tests.

  • Test 1. It must be reasonable.
  • Test 2. It must be for services performed.

The form or method of figuring the pay doesn’t affect its deductibility. For example, bonuses and commissions based on sales or earnings, and paid under an agreement made before the services were performed, are both deductible.

and then goes on to discuss implication where corporations are excessive

If a corporation pays an employee who is also a shareholder a salary that is unreasonably high considering the services actually performed, the excessive part of the salary may be treated as a constructive dividend to the employee-shareholder. The excessive part of the salary wouldn’t be allowed as a salary deduction by the corporation. For more information on corporate distributions to shareholders, see Pub. 542. ”

In essence, though any executive action would be eventually tempered by judicial review, reasonable AND necessary is quite the hurdle if one thinks about it, especially where the burden would appear to be on the tax payer.

So why not imagine, for at least enough moments to savor the possibilities, the circumstances where the Administration places a cap on business employee deductions. Now such a move would NOT stop corporations from paying whatever they chose, but it would prohibit those corporations from dropping those inflated compensation packages from their profits, and more profit means a greater chance of collecting some revenue from corporate tax dodgers. Clink, clink, clink…

So will all these John Galts stalk away from their corporate welfare rolls? Will their corporate masters flee the country?  Not likely, as we have recently seen at least one company, Pfizer, decide that such a response was maybe NOT in their best interests.
So let’s have some fun and argue, for the hell of it, that the Presidency is the most important and toughest job on the planet. That job pays $400K plus perqs worth another $170K.  The CRS suggests that the cost to a federal employer of a pension is about 23% of salary.  So lets posit that we add an additional 25% of $600K to a total cap, bring that to $750K. Period.

If you are not snarfling in your beer, you are soon going to be seeing a much smaller pay packet 😉


Entrepreneurship, Luigi Zingales Luigi Zingales is the Robert C. Mc Cormack Distinguished Service Professor of. “Why We Should Tax and Shame Excessive Corporate Lobbying.” Evonomics, April 13, 2016. Accessed April 14, 2016.
Frank, Thomas. Listen, Liberal: Or, What Ever Happened to the Party of the People? Macmillan, 2016.

SB174 | An Open Letter to the Alaska House Judiciary Committee

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I apparently (and unfortunately) missed the discussion in the House (and Senate) education committees on the intersection of SB174 and the Gun Free School Zones Act of 1990 as amended by theScreen Shot 2016-04-12 at 7.47.50 AM Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968 (and interpreted by the 9th Circuit).

As I read the Act, it would prohibit firearms, for example, in most of UAA’s West Campus (in as much as UAA property is not “private” property and lies within 1000 feet of a series of public schools (Lake Otis Elementary and KCC).

It seems pretty clear that there needs to be an extended fiscal note to address the full and true cost of this legislation, from the hundreds of thousands the Legislative Council would have to spend to attempt to challenge the federal Act, to the hundreds of thousands that the University system has indicated it will take to implement the Bill (should it be adopted over the objections of the UA system.)

Of course, there are other questions besides those of a pecuniary nature. For example, how will UA students know when they are in a Gun Free School Zone, and what might happen when Law Enforcement attempts to apprehend a person on UA campus in possession of a firearm within such a School Zone. Is the Legislature going to try and bar APD, AST, and the FBI from enforcing federal law on UA property? And how would the legislature actually manage that. Of course, it gets messier by the minute, because with a right to stand one’s ground and make a citizen’s arrest, it is only a matter of time before we have a shoot-out on West Campus, with stray bullets whizzing through elementary classroom windows. Yes, I am sure that all those Lake Otis students will feel much safe with the adoption of SB174 (though I am concerned that some unpatriotic bozos might well try to set up a defensive perimeter at the extent of the Gun Free School Zone and man that perimeter with armed guards – some people!)

While I do understand that the House majority is willing to invest time and energy in any proposition that avoids addressing the critical need to adopt at least a 15% nominal top rate graduated income tax, I am sure that in your eagerness to promote your legislative agenda you will, as always, act diligently, rationally and deliberately to address ALL the ramifications of such legislation, and, in the event that you don’t manage that, at least make it clear how you are going to fund both sides of the extended litigation and havoc you will otherwise be creating.

Marc Grober

Tomlinson’s Redemption

Couplets twain you offer here, of mettle base and blacker,
Telling of the fallen men and the interest of their knacker,
But the test for us if test there be is not besotted wrath —
We pity those that make so bold and tread another path.

That was how I responded to the victim’s intonation of a few choice lines from Kipling’s Tomlinson, indicting humanity as a result of an unfortunate episode in which hoodlums vandalized some property.

Of course, as always, there was talk of bad apples [my rejoinder was a mention of The Lucifer Effect (Zimbardo 2007)], moral bearings [Aristotle’s Nichomachean Ethics, anyone], and “Discipline and Punishment” [what is a criminal, we might well ask (Foucault, 1995)].

We often opine about others failure to exhibit any personal responsibility, but rarely see ourselves as complicit. How similar to the disturbing interests of laissez faire industrialists who wish to privatize return, but socialize loss…

Perhaps there is something more important than not doing that which we would not want done to ourselves.  Garrison Keillor, who signs off with ““Be well, do good work, and keep in touch” daily has an idea:  Do Good…  Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to figure out just what that might be…


TOMLINSON by Rudyard Kipling

Now Tomlinson gave up the ghost in his house in Berkeley Square,
And a Spirit came to his bedside and gripped him by the hair –
A Spirit gripped him by the hair and carried him far away,
Till he heard as the roar of a rain-fed ford the roar of the Milky Way:
Till he heard the roar of the Milky Way die down and drone and cease,
And they came to the Gate within the Wall where Peter holds the keys.
“Stand up, stand up now, Tomlinson, and answer loud and high
The good that ye did for the sake of men or ever ye came to die –
The good that ye did for the sake of men in little earth so lone!”
And the naked soul of Tomlinson grew white as a rain-washed bone.
“O I have a friend on earth,” he said, “that was my priest and guide,
And well would he answer all for me if he were by my side.”
“For that ye strove in neighbour-love it shall be written fair,
But now ye wait at Heaven’s Gate and not in Berkeley Square:
Though we called your friend from his bed this night, he could not speak for you,
For the race is run by one and one and never by two and two.”
Then Tomlinson looked up and down, and little gain was there,
For the naked stars grinned overhead, and he saw that his soul was bare:
The Wind that blows between the worlds, it cut him like a knife,
And Tomlinson took up his tale and spoke of his good in life.
“This I have read in a book,” he said, “and that was told to me,
And this I have thought that another man thought of a Prince in Muscovy.”
The good souls flocked like homing doves and bade him clear the path,
And Peter twirled the jangling keys in weariness and wrath.
“Ye have read, ye have heard, ye have thought,” he said, “and the tale is yet to run:
By the worth of the body that once ye had, give answer – what ha’ ye done?”
Then Tomlinson looked back and forth, and little good it bore,
For the Darkness stayed at his shoulder-blade and Heaven’s Gate before:
“O this I have felt, and this I have guessed, and this I have heard men say,
And this they wrote that another man wrote of a carl in Norroway.”
– “Ye have read, ye have felt, ye have guessed, good lack! Ye have hampered Heaven’s Gate;
There’s little room between the stars in idleness to prate!
O none may reach by hired speech of neighbour, priest, and kin
Through borrowed deed to God’s good meed that lies so fair within;
Get hence, get hence to the Lord of Wrong, for doom has yet to run,
And…the faith that ye share with Berkeley Square uphold you, Tomlinson!”

. . . . . . . . . . . . .

The Spirit gripped him by the hair, and sun by sun they fell
Till they came to the belt of Naughty Stars that rim the mouth of Hell:
The first are red with pride and wrath, the next are white with pain,
But the third are black with clinkered sin that cannot burn again:
They may hold their path, they may leave their path, with never a soul to mark,
They may burn or freeze, but they must not cease in the Scorn of the Outer Dark.
The Wind that blows between the worlds, it nipped him to the bone,
And he yearned to the flare of Hell-Gate there as the light of his own hearth-stone.
The Devil he sat behind the bars, where the desperate legions drew,
But he caught the hasting Tomlinson and would not let him through.
“Wot ye the price of good pit-coal that I must pay?” said he,
“That ye rank yoursel’ so fit for Hell and ask no leave of me?
I am all o’er-sib to Adam’s breed that ye should give me scorn,
For I strove with God for your First Father the day that he was born.
Sit down, sit down upon the slag, and answer loud and high
The harm that ye did to the Sons of Men or ever you came to die.”
And Tomlinson looked up and up, and saw against the night
The belly of a tortured star blood-red in Hell-Mouth light;
And Tomlinson looked down and down, and saw beneath his feet
The frontlet of a tortured star milk-white in Hell-Mouth heat.
“O I had a love on earth,” said he, “that kissed me to my fall,
And if ye would call my love to me I know she would answer all.”
– “All that ye did in love forbid it shall be written fair,
But now ye wait at Hell-Mouth Gate and not in Berkeley Square:
Though we whistled your love from her bed to-night, I trow she would not run,
For the sin ye do by two and two ye must pay for one by one!”
The Wind that blows between the worlds, it cut him like a knife,
And Tomlinson took up the tale and spoke of his sin in life:
“Once I ha’ laughed at the power of Love and twice at the grip of the Grave,
And thrice I ha’ patted my God on the head that men might call me brave.”
The Devil he blew on a brandered soul and set it aside to cool:
“Do ye think I would waste my good pit-coal on the hide of a brain-sick fool?
I see no worth in the hobnailed mirth or the jolthead jest ye did
That I should waken my gentlemen that are sleeping three on a grid.”
Then Tomlinson looked back and forth, and there was little grace,
For Hell-Gate filled the houseless Soul with the Fear of Naked Space.
“Nay, this I ha’ heard,” quo’ Tomlinson, “and this was noised abroad,
And this I ha’ got from a Belgian book on the word of a dead French lord.”
– “Ye ha’ heard, ye ha’ read, ye ha’ got, good lack! and the tale begins afresh –
Have ye sinned one sin for the pride o’ the eye or the sinful lust of the flesh?”
Then Tomlinson he gripped the bars and yammered, “Let me in –
For I mind that I borrowed my neighbour’s wife to sin the deadly sin.”
The Devil he grinned behind the bars, and banked the fires high:
“Did ye read of that sin in a book?” said he; and Tomlinson said, “Ay!”
The Devil he blew upon his nails, and the little devils ran,
And he said: “Go husk this whimpering thief that comes in the guise of a man:
Winnow him out ‘twixt star and star, and sieve his proper worth:
There’s sore decline in Adam’s line if this be spawn of earth.”
Empusa’s crew, so naked-new they may not face the fire,
But weep that they bin too small to sin to the height of their desire,
Over the coal they chased the Soul, and racked it all abroad,
As children rifle a caddis-case or the raven’s foolish hoard.
And back they came with the tattered Thing, as children after play,
And they said: “The soul that he got from God he has bartered clean away.
We have threshed a stook of print and book, and winnowed a chattering wind
And many a soul wherefrom he stole, but his we cannot find:
We have handled him, we have dandled him, we have seared him to the bone,
And sure if tooth and nail show truth he has no soul of his own.”
The Devil he bowed his head on his breast and rumbled deep and low:
“I’m all o’er-sib to Adam’s breed that I should bid him go.
Yet close we lie, and deep we lie, and if I gave him place,
My gentlemen that are so proud would flout me to my face;
They’d call my house a common stews and me a careless host,
And – I would not anger my gentlemen for the sake of a shiftless ghost.”
The Devil he looked at the mangled Soul that prayed to feel the flame,
And he thought of Holy Charity, but he thought of his own good name:
“Now ye could haste my coal to waste, and sit ye down to fry:
Did ye think of that theft for yourself?” said he; and Tomlinson said, “Ay!”
The Devil he blew an outward breath, for his heart was free from care: –
“Ye have scarce the soul of a louse,” he said, “but the roots of sin are there,
And for that sin should ye come in were I the lord alone.
But sinful pride has rule inside – and mightier than my own.
Honour and Wit, fore-damned they sit, to each his priest and whore:
Nay, scarce I dare myself go there, and you they’d torture sore.
Ye are neither spirit nor spirk,” he said; “ye are neither book nor brute –
Go, get ye back to the flesh again for the sake of Man’s repute.
I’m all o’er-sib to Adam’s breed that I should mock your pain,
But look that ye win to worthier sin ere ye come back again.
Get hence, the hearse is at your door – the grim black stallions wait –
They bear your clay to place to-day. Speed, lest ye come too late!
Go back to Earth with a lip unsealed – go back with an open eye,
And carry my word to the Sons of Men or ever ye come to die:
That the sin they do by two and two they must pay for one by one –
And. . .the God that you took from a printed book be with you, Tomlinson!”


From Discipline and Punish,  pgs. 19-20

And, by that very fact, they have begun to do something other than pass judgement. Or, to be more precise, within the very judicial modality of judgement, other types of assessment have slipped in, profoundly altering its rules of elaboration. Ever since the Middle Ages slowly and painfully built up the great procedure of investigation, to judge was to establish the truth of a crime, it was to determine its author and to apply a legal punishment. Knowledge of the offence, knowledge of the offender, knowledge of the law: these three conditions made it possible to ground a judgement in truth. But now a quite different question of truth is inscribed in the course of the penal judgement. The question is no longer simply: ‘Has the act been established and is it punishable?’ But also: ‘What is this act, what is this act of violence or this murder? To what level or to what field of reality does it belong? Is it a phantasy, a psychotic reaction, a delusional episode, a perverse action?’ It is no longer simply: ‘Who committed it?’ But ‘How can we assign the causal process that produced it? Where did it originate in the author himself? Instinct, unconscious, environment, heredity?’ It is no longer simply: ‘What law punishes this offence?’ But: ‘What would be the most appropriate measures to take? How do we see the future development of the offender? What would be the best way of rehabilitating him?’ A whole set of assessing, diagnostic, prognostic, normative judgements concerning the criminal have become lodged in the framework of penal judgement. Another truth has penetrated the truth that was required by the legal machinery; a truth which, entangled with the first, has turned the assertion of guilt into a strange scientifico-juridical complex. A significant fact is the way in which the question of madness has evolved in penal practice. According to the 1810 code, madness was dealt with only in terms of article 64. Now this article states that there is neither crime nor offence if the offender was of unsound mind at the time of the act. The possibility of ascertaining madness was, therefore, a quite separate matter from the definition of an act as a crime; the gravity of the act was not altered by the fact that its author was insane, nor the punishment reduced as a consequence; the crime itself disappeared. It was impossible, therefore, to declare that someone was both guilty and mad; once the diagnosis of madness had been accepted, it could not be included in the judgement; it interrupted the procedure and loosened the hold of the law on the author of the act. Not only the examination of the criminal suspected of insanity, but the very effects of this examination had to be external and anterior to the sentence. But, very soon, the courts of the nineteenth century began to misunderstand the meaning of article 64. Despite several decisions of the supreme court of appeal confirming that insanity could not result either in a light penalty, or even in an acquittal, but required that the case be dismissed, the ordinary courts continued to bring the question of insanity to bear on their verdicts. They accepted that one could be both guilty and mad; less guilty the madder one was; guilty certainly, but someone to be put away and treated rather than punished; not only a guilty man, but also dangerous, since quite obviously sick, etc. From the point of view of the penal code, the result was a mass of juridical absurdities. But this was the starting point of an evolution that jurisprudence and legislation itself was to precipitate in the course of the next 150 years: already the reform of 1832, introducing attenuating circumstances, made it possible to modify the sentence according to the supposed degrees of an illness or the forms of a semi-insanity. And the practice of calling on psychiatric expertise, which is widespread in the assize courts and sometimes extended to courts of summary jurisdiction, means that the sentence, even if it is always formulated in terms of legal punishment, implies, more or less obscurely, judgements of normality, attributions of causality, assessments of possible charges, anticipations as to the offender’s future. It would be wrong to say that all these operations give substance to a judgement from the outside; they are directly integrated in the process of forming the sentence. Instead of insanity eliminating the crime according to the original meaning of article 64, every crime and even every offence now carries within it, as a legitimate suspicion, but also as a right that may be claimed, the hypothesis of insanity, in any case of anomaly. And the sentence that condemns or acquits is not simply a judgement of guilt, a legal decision that lays down punishment; it bears within it an assessment of normality and a technical prescription for a possible normalization. Today the judge – magistrate or juror – certainly does more than ‘judge’.



Aristotle. Nicomachean ethics. Translated by Robert C Bartlett and Susan D Collins. Chicago; London: University of Chicago Press, 2011.
Foucault, Michel. Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison. Translated by Allen Shephard. New York: Vintage Books, 1995.
Zimbardo, Philip G. The Lucifer Effect : Understanding How Good People Turn Evil. New York, NY: Random House, 2007.


Taxing Alaskans: An Open Letter To Commissioner Hoffbeck

Dear Commissioner,

I sent the material below to a number of Anchorage legislators earlier this week, and Andy Josephson asked me if I would share it with you. My point in sending this to the legislators was that while it seems that one and all in Juneau talk about wanting to hear from the public, the public statements of those asking for input seem to reflect little of what passes for what is discussed on the street. In the meantime, we are bombarded by schemes that most see as dubious at best, and all lacking much in the way of documentation, modeling, etc. If you want to make an impression on concrete learners, you have to come up with some manipulables…

Folk on the street elected our Governor because they had had enough of Parnell. I think they would have elected a gorilla if they had to, meaning no disrespect to Governor Walker. And now, the Governor has another chance to repudiate the policies that Parnell championed, and the people of this State are ready to rally around the Governor, as they rallied round him with respect to Medicaid Expansion.

The fact is that most Alaskan make no net payment for any State or Local service. Period. Moreover, those who do pay a little something are 1%ers, and frankly can afford paying their way. Alaskans can afford MORE than a 15% nominal tax and we insist, across the board, on our willingness to raise taxes on ourselves to maintain the quality of life we enjoy as long as the taxes are not wasted. Let’s get to taxing!

Thanks for reading,

Marc Grober


Dear Legislator,

Please review this Google Doc spreadsheet  . It provides a brief examination of the revenue that a 15% nominal graduated income tax might generate on its own. [the spreadsheet has been embedded below to make it easier for the reader]

As State Income Taxes and Local Realty Taxes are deductible from Federal Tax, the total tax burden on “middle class” Alaskans would rise only a few points. As noted this basic analysis uses SOI brackets for ease of gross computation; actual brackets could be significantly skewed placing a greater burden on those itemizing.

Additionally, however, if we use a State Income Tax as a tool by which we can leverage other taxes we can also look at half a billion gallons of fuel used on the highway annually (about half gasoline and half diesel), and if we impose a $6/gallon tax, and then exempt first 100 gallons per household for 261,000 households we get another half a billion in revenue (yes, prices of shipped goods will rise across the board, which makes it more economical to buy local….) AND then we need to add the tax to private non-commercial airplane fuel

Lastly, removing the booze excise tax and replacing it with a retail tax starting at a dime per mL of actual ethanol, as in a 750 ml bottle of liquor at 100 proof might produce .48 (ABV)* 750 (mL) *$1 (tax) * .1 (multiplier) = $36 for a fifth of booze. Likewise a 750 ml bottle of wine would produce .13*750*$1*.1=$9.75 on a bottle of wine, and even after a modest exemption for a gallon a month, we have added another chunk of change and a real complement to a marijuana tax.

Now, repeal SB21 and dump all industry subsidies, and we are pretty close to being self-sufficient

Let’s put an end to the whine of the middle class welfare queens. Let’s put an end to the silly chatter about economic deportation of seniors, and let’s recognize that the median income in Alaska is over $70K (over $80K in urban Alaska), and Alaskans not only can pay their way, they have repeatedly told the focus group held by far right ideologues that they are WILLING to pay the taxes necessary to maintain their quality of life.

Stop talking about playing with the PFD: that is simply a shell game as any economist will tell you. The PFD – except in the Unorganized Borough, which is another matter altogether – is simply an in lieu transfer; PFD’s, while they provide an interim multiplier effect, also underwrite most of Municipal taxation on resident populations.

Stop talk about tapping reserves, as we all know legislators can’t be trusted in the hen house.

Promote a comprehensive tax regime that will meet Alaska’s real budget requirements.


Catch the Wave

Recently I came across a bit of a celebration with regard to the passage in the Alaska House (which at this moment is presiding over Alaska’s historic budgetary meltdown) of HB275, a bill that provides for an Inidigenous People’s Day in Alaska. Super… I am excited any time something that is not overwhelmingly toxic passes either chamber of the Alaska Legislature. But upon review of the bill (which I found a bit confusing – here you check for yourself – I was left in the lurch: what is the definition of indigenous people, and if it is defined with respect to a window of immigration as to a specific geography, what are the specifics as to that window and that geography? – Are we in fact rejecting the late arriving Inuit, who came to Alaska thousands of years after most of Beringia popped on in? Inquiring minds and all…

A friend argued that Harriet (Harriet Drummond, the Democratic Representative who introduced the bill, and the gracious lady who allows my friend to co-habit with her on occasion),

walks through and names the Tribes affected. She discusses science and engineering and traditional knowledge that need to be part of a paradigm of rational discourse framing solutions for the future. The epistemology analysis of Dr. Oscar Kwagley suggests a trans-personal logic that is not consensual but imperative. Dr. Kleinfeld’s monograph suggesting spatial intelligence, a useful skill when applied to the White Alice Sites in the 1950s, might have relevance to the multi-layered challenges of Arctic and Northern development. Harriet’s point: engaging the indigenous knowledge network is not mere tokenism but a potentially critical part of our socioeconomic future.

Uh-oh! Despite what some of you may think, I take what my friends say (well, at least what some of my friends say) seriously (perhaps that is one reason I don’t have …. well that IS another story…) so I understood that an substantive response must be tendered, and thus I find myself here, writing to myself about stuff that few, if any, would consider, were it not for its very provocative implications (which have a tendency, as provocative shit does, to run off with us). But that is perhaps why Raven loves old farts; we hang around for the punch line. So off we go!

Unfortunately Judith’s work in this area (Kleinfeld, 1973) is predicated on a dubious framework (multiple intelligences, etc) that produces lots of theoretical conjecture and, frankly, no evidentiary support. Nevertheless, it DOES seem to coddle the views of Jensen et al. (a fact that appears to tickle her funny bone, though I think many would be indignant at her playfulness). Even without such aggravation, the horrific looks on the faces of those attending sessions of the local (Anchorage) RTI conferences in past years when experts actually explained the impact of non-verbal culture on children was a sight to behold, lol. In sum, while there are some intellectual curiosities for some of us to ponder there, Judith presents a Pandora’s box, a box perhaps best left unopened?

That is not to say that any data or perspective should be ignored, and narrow-minded disregard for data is problematic, even when it mandates racially segregated health centers wink emoticon But orally collected and transmitted data is demonstrably dubious at best and while some of it could be very accurate, it would be difficult to distinguish the noise from the signal. Compare our consternation over the literature of the Abrahamic religions and you can see how utterly impossible it becomes in just hundreds of years, let alone thousands.

waveAs far as Oscar is concerned, I have chatted about “Native ways of knowing” before. Unfortunately, much of the discussion revolving around such argument may be important as an aspect of Native cultural identity, but pales beyond that. In fact, it is the SAME argument that Christian apologists use to dispute the efficacy of science, lol. Unfortunately for them, their arguments are devastated because their premise is unfounded, the same premise Oscar argues, that science presumes a specific worldview and set of religious beliefs. But science is agnostic.

I am certainly NOT suggesting that scientific inquiry can be ignored simply because of the tradition in which it was pursued (though the context and constraints of such tradition must be taken into account.) By way of example, cultural empiricism such as described by Kim Tingley (2016) can happily be reconciled with modern geophysics.


Kawagley, Angayuqaq Oscar, Delena Norris-Tull, and Roger A. Norris-Tull. “The Indigenous Worldview of Yupiaq Culture: Its Scientific Nature and Relevance to the Practice and Teaching of Science.” Journal of Research in Science Teaching 35, no. 2 (February 1, 1998): 133–144. Accessed April 1, 2016.<133::AID-TEA4>3.0.CO;2-T/abstract.

Kleinfeld, J. S. “Intellectual Strengths in Culturally Different Groups: An Eskimo Illustration.” Review of Educational Research 43, no. 3 (1973): 341–359. Accessed April 1, 2016.

Raghavan, Maanasa, Matthias Steinrücken, Kelley Harris, Stephan Schiffels, Simon Rasmussen, Michael DeGiorgio, Anders Albrechtsen, et al. “Genomic Evidence for the Pleistocene and Recent Population History of Native Americans.” Science 349, no. 6250 (August 21, 2015): aab3884. Accessed September 8, 2015.

Tingley, Kim. “The Secrets of the Wave Pilots.” The New York Times, March 17, 2016. Accessed April 2, 2016.


Berko Panders to DIPs

A few days ago the Anchorage Dispatch News stated that, “the Berkowitz administration recommends using the surplus for a combination of property tax relief and bolstering the city’s savings.” There was no mention of the SAP debacle. There was no mention of the fact that few in Anchorage make any net payment for any State or Local service (as it turns out, the money paid to Alaskan households by the State in the form of the Permanent Fund Dividend typically exceeds the total tax paid by Anchorage households, which was modest to begin with.)

The bottom line is that the people who do make a net payment are those who do not need tax relief.  They are households of 2 or fewer persons residing in homes valued in excess of $350,000 (and to secure a mortgage of that size we are talking a household income of over $150,000/yr.) Yes, there could be some single parents in that crowd, but we are REALLY talking about DINKs (dual income- no kids) — I prefer dual income professionals…

Give us a break, Ethan….