Saturday, November 18, 2017

AIFF 2017: Docs In Competition - Saving Brinton, Over The River, The Last Animals, The Cage Fighter, Among Wolves, Alphago

Here are the Anchorage International Film Festival in Competition.  

Documentaries are non-fiction feature length films.  "In Competition" means, at AIFF,  these films have been selected by the programmers to be eligible for awards at the festival.  Another way of saying that is these are the films that the programmers collectively liked the best.   There are usually other films that appealed more to individual programmers, this list is there collective choices.

 I haven't seen any of these.  My goal here is simply to make it easy for people to know what's coming at the festival beginning December 1.

My experiences is that the documentary category tends to be very strong at the Anchorage International Film Festival.  They're in alphabetical order.

Docs in CompetitionDirectorCountryLength
AlphaGo Greg KohsUSA 1:30:28
Among WolvesShawn ConveyUSA 1:27:00
The Cage FighterJeff UnayUSA 1:21:00
The Last AnimalsKate BrooksUSA1:31:50
Over the RiverVanina Lappa Italy1:14:00
Saving Brinton Morgan WhiteUSA 1:27:30


Greg Kohs
Showing:  Tuesday, Dec 5, Bear Tooth, 8pm
Sat. Dec 9, Alaska Exp Small 7pm

This appears to be a man against machine movie - can a computer beat the best human go players?

Here's the Director's Statement:  (Watch for the Alaska connection)
"Early in my career I worked at NFL Films. That experience, of being able to see the drama on the field while having access to the people and stories unfolding off the field, has always been a fascinating intersection for me. In my recent film, The Great Alone, I was able to explore the epic scale of the Iditarod through the comeback story of a single competitor. In AlphaGo, the competition between man and machine provided a similar backdrop, albeit with far larger consequences. 
The complexity of the game of Go, combined with the technical depth of an emerging technology like artificial intelligence seemed like it might create an insurmountable barrier for a film like this. The fact that I was so innocently unaware of Go and AlphaGo actually proved to be beneficial. It allowed me to approach the action and interviews with pure curiosity, the kind that helps make any subject matter emotionally accessible. 
Unlike the film’s human characters – who turn their curious quest for knowledge into an epic spectacle with great existential implications, who dare to risk their reputation and pride to contest that curiosity – AI might not yet possess the ability to empathize. ​But it can teach us profound things about our humanness – the way we play board games, the way we think and feel and grow.​ It’s a deep, vast premise, but my hope is, by sharing it, we can discover something within ourselves we never saw before."


Image from Among Wolves Kickstarter page

Among Wolves
Shawn Convey
Showing:  Monday, Dec 4, Bear Tooth 8:15pm 

From the beginning of the trailer, my thought was:  This is not the movie the title suggests to most Alaskans. 

This is a movie about veterans of the wars in the former Yugoslavia, specifically in Bosnia.  Here's elaboration on that from the Among Wolves  website:

"A paramilitary leader at the young age of 20, Lija helped defend the town while neighbors fell to the invading forces. Now he heads the Wolves, a motorcycle club that resembles the stereotype in rough image only. Under his leadership, this wild crew has become a positive force for good with a self-defined humanitarian focus. As their numbers grow, so do their successes, like holding charity events for the neediest in their community and securing badly needed supplies for hospitals in Livno an Srebrenica. 
One mission, though, rich in symbolism, captures their spirit more than any other. On what was once the front line, they now tend to and defend a herd of wild horses that society has similarly deemed expendable. A harsh environment, poachers, and urbanization continually threaten the herd. Stirred by their strength, the Wolves are determined to control their own fate and finally emerge from the shadow of war."


edited from press shots at Cage Fighter website
The Cage Fighter
Jeff Unay
Showing:  Saturday Dec 9,  Alaska Exp  Large 9:00pm

Excerpted from an Indie Wire review:

" . . .The 40-year-old Seattle figure at the center of “The Cage Fighter” is a broken man defeated by every aspect of his life. Still, he does what he can to bury his troubles with macho swagger whenever he steps into the ring, engaging in the competitive mixed martial arts fighting that his family has urged him to quit. Carman’s persistence is at once inspiring and tragic, a bloodied metaphor for battling forward against impossible odds. 
The feature-length debut of director Jeff Unay, “The Cage Fighter” hails from a tradition of intimate cinema verité that encompasses so many details from the lives of its subject that it may as well be a scripted drama. Shot over the course of three years, the movie captures every facet of Carman’s tiring life: His domestic struggles with his second wife, who suffers from a bone disease; the legal problems he faces when his first wife threatens to take their children out of state; the denigration he receives from his crude, alcoholic father; Carman’s own uneven attempts to be a good parent. It’s a constant pileup of dead ends. . . "
And here's a short excerpt from an interview with the director, Jeff Unay, from

". . .When I met Joe, here’s a guy who’s almost 40 who is putting himself at risk — financial risk, physical risk — all because he loves fighting and it’s something that even he has a hard time describing to other people why he does it, which I’m very fascinated by. As an artist, it’s the same for me where I try to explain why I try to do art or why I love art, and it’s hard to talk about. So when I met him, I was like, “Holy shit, this guy is in the same place I’m in right now with his life. He’s overworked, he’s emotionally exhausted. He doesn’t have a clue as to what he needs to do to right his ship, but he has fighting. That’s the one thing he knows and feels comfortable in and loves” and I feel the same way about film. How am I to judge this man? I may not agree with him going in there and getting into a fight in a cage, but I get it. Like I have no right to try and be a filmmaker. I should just shut up and work my tech job and be happy and provide for my family. Why am I even trying to do this? But I need to do this as much as this man needs to fight. . . "
I couldn't find a trailer, but I did find this interview at the Seattle International Film Festival with the star and main character of the movie, Joe Carman.  A thought - if he were interviewing her and touched her the way she touches him, could he get away with it?


From The Last Animals website
The Last Animals
Kate Brooks
Showing:  Tuesday, Dec 5  Bear Tooth  5:30 pm

This is a movie about how rhinos and elephants are being slaughtered for their horns and tusks.  Hard to watch stuff.  As I wander the internet reading about this film, it's clear it's doing a good job of marketing itself.  The website is slick and full of gorgeous photos. There's even a piece about it in Glamor, not where you normally see stories about film festival documentaries.
"Kate Brooks may be missing the fear gene: At age 20 she was infiltrating state orphanages in Russia to document child abuse, work she published in The Boston Globe and *Newsweek*. By 25 she was capturing the American invasion of Iraq for Time. Ever since, she’s lived in war zones, sending back images of bombings in Pakistan, conflict in Syria, and amputees in Afghanistan.
In 2010 she finally took a much-needed vacation and headed to a national wildlife reserve in Kenya. “I was lounging by an infinity pool,” remembers Brooks, now 39, “and out on the horizon this herd of elephants walked by. It realigned everything inside of me. I left knowing I wanted to give the animals back some of the peace they gave me.” She returned to work, but the memory of those roaming giants stayed with her, and in 2012 she began looking into why such a staggering number—30,000—are killed every year for their tusks. When she learned the reason was related to terrorism, she set out to tell the world. The result is her eye-opening documentary, The Last Animals, which takes viewers on a journey into the violent epicenter of the ivory trade."

I doubt though that it will be screening at the White House any time soon, given that the Trump administration has reversed the ban on importing elephant ivory from Africa trophy hunts.

Here's a bit from Screen Daily:
"What distinguishes The Last Animals from other films on the subject (in particular last year’s Netflix doc The Ivory Game) is the raw urgency of Brooks’ direct conflict reportage: she is a war correspondent who lets us understand that what is happening here is nothing short of an all-out battle. This investigative mission, coupled with her painterly eye, elevates this doc – for the most part – into something filmic, often elegiac, and hopefully galvanising. After all, who are we, she asks, as guardians of this planet, if we allow the slaughter of these mystical, beautiful beasts to continue."

I couldn't find a trailer, but maybe this interview at the 2016 Women in the World Summit in New York City with the director Kate Brooks about the film is a better introduction.


Over the River 
Vanina Lappa
Showing: Sunday, Dec 3, Alaska Exp Small, 4pm
Sunday, Dec. 9 Alaska Exp Small 5pm

I've learned from the director via FB, that this film has been seen in Europe and Kathmandu, the showing in Anchorage will be its North American premiere.

As I looked this film up, I forgot we are in the documentary category.  It has the look of a feature.  But it's not.  Which will make it interesting.

From Film Italy:
"'We are too old, that's the problem. We look at the moon, look at too many things ...'. So it's been said to Angelo, a young waiter who lives in Caselle in Pittari, a small town that lies on a river basin Bussento in southern Cilento, at the foot of a sacred mountain, where there is the St. Michael's cave, inside which , the legend says, there's an ancient guarded secret."
Here's from an Italian review of the movie, you can get the whole review here:
"Angelo, giovane cameriere di Caselle in Pittari, nel Cilento meridionale, vive nel tempo sospeso e fuori dalla storia che sembra caratterizzare l’intero paese. La comunità, ancorata a rituali più o meno antichi, è insieme nutrice e gabbia per il giovane; e tale è anche per il suo omonimo Angelo, barista più anziano di lui, con uno sguardo sulla vita più radicale e disilluso. I due dovranno decidere tra la permanenza e la fuga: ovvero tra due, contrastanti, idee di esistenza. [sinossi]
C’è costantemente una doppia dimensione, la percorrenza di un doppio binario, a guidare lo svolgimento di un lavoro come Sopra il fiume. Il documentario di Vanina Lappa, regista e montatrice italo-francese, è infatti saldamente ancorato alla terra che racconta, ai suoi rituali, al carattere misterico e al potere aggregante delle sue simbologie, ma contemporaneamente punta a mettere in scena la tensione con l’esterno, la pressione della modernità, la voglia di fuggire di alcuni abitanti del paesino che è teatro del film (quello di Caselle in Pittari, nel Cilento meridionale). La regista approccia qui il genere del documentario etnografico mettendo sempre in primo piano questa dialettica: lo fa fin dalla sequenza iniziale, che racconta il territorio attraverso un’antica leggenda che viene narrata al protagonista quand’era bambino, a illustrare lo sguardo sul fiume e sugli incontaminati territori che sovrastano e cingono il paese; poi, l’obiettivo si sposta sulla vita quotidiana della cittadina, sulla concretezza delle sue i(n)terazioni, sempre uguali a se stesse, su un tessuto sociale che sembra demograficamente condannato, incapace di favorire il ricambio tra generazioni, e quindi la sua stessa sopravvivenza."
Here's how renders this in English:
"Angelo, a young waiter of boxes in Pitters, in southern Cilento, lives in the suspended time and out of history that seems to characterize the whole country. The community, anchored to more or less ancient rituals, is together nourishment and cage for the young; And such is also for his namesake angel, bartender older than him, with a look on the most radical and disillusioned life. The two will have to decide between permanence and escape: that is between two, contrasting, ideas of existence. Synopsis]
There is constantly a double size, the journey of a double track, to guide the conduct of a job as above the river. The documentary of Vania Lappa, Italian-French director and upright, is firmly anchored to the earth that tells, its rituals, the mystery character and the aggregating power of its symbology, but at the same time aims to stage the tension With the exterior, the pressure of modernity, the desire to flee some inhabitants of the village that is the theatre of the film (that of Caselle in Pitti, in southern Cilento). The director approaches here the genre of the ethnographic documentary always putting in the foreground this dialectic: it does so from the initial sequence, which tells the territory through an ancient legend that is narrated to the protagonist when he was a child, to To illustrate the gaze on the river and the uncontaminated territories that dominate and surround the country; Then, the goal moves on the everyday life of the town, on the concreteness of its I (n) teras, always equal to themselves, on a social fabric that seems demographically condemned, unable to favor the replacement between generations, and therefore its Same survival."

From Box Office Mojo
Saving Brinton
Tommy Haines & Andrew Sherburne
Showing:  Sunday, Dec 3  Bear Tooth, 7:30pm

This feels like a film makers' film - it's about the finding and restoring of turn of the (20th) century films in Iowa.  Last year we had an Indian film, The Cinema Travelers, about a business that traveled the festival circuit in India showing large reel-to-reel films as DVD's and online downloading were starting to challenge this old film showing tradition.  It won best documentary.

We can get a sense of things by looking at where the film comes from: Northland Films:
"Northland Films are non-fiction storytellers in the Upper Midwest devoted to producing challenging and engaging films on timely social issues. Working throughout North America, the filmmakers work boldly to uncover themes of nature, history & community and in unexpected places."

From an interview with the filmmakers at the American Film Institute (AFI) where the film premiered June 17, this year:
"AFI: What inspired you to tell the story of SAVING BRINTON?
TH & AS: The common threads through all of our feature documentaries are notions of community and place and the interplay of tradition and modernity. This story had all of those elements.
TH, JR & AS: On top of all that, we’re film nerds. So here are 130 films, many of them unseen for a century, and we get to be a part of bringing these back into the public consciousness. Of course, we were in from day one.
AFI: How did you find Michael Zahs?
TH & AS: Our last film, GOLD FEVER, was about gold mining in Guatemala, and we were looking for something closer to home. Our eyes lit up when we got a call about a man, in a small town just south of us, who had discovered a basement full of nitrate films from Thomas Edison and Georges Méliès. Our first reaction was the same as most everyone: “In Iowa? Really?” That was the beginning. But in that first visit to Mike’s house, we sensed that the man who had saved these things was the real story — you can see it in the opening scene of the film. I think we left that day and told Mike 'you’ll be seeing a lot more of us.'”
[TH is Tommy Haines, AS is Andrew Sherburne, and JR is John Richards - Director of Photography]


Friday, November 17, 2017

Republican Senate Leadership Fund Head Equates Electing A Pedophile to Electing A Democrat

Interviewed by Rachel Martin on Morning Edition today, Steve Law, the head of the Senate Leadership Fund, which supports Republican Senate candidates equated being a Democrat to being as bad as a pedophile.
"[Alabama voters] are going to be faced with a very, very unsavory alternative.  Either they vote for a guy who’s been accused of being a pedophile or else they hand the Senate seat to the Democrats."
This is where Republican politics stands today - picking between a pedophile and a Democrat is a hard choice.

It's this campaign of hatred that we've seen from conservative talk radio, Fox News, and people like Steve Law, that has made it difficult for people to talk civilly.  That has elected Republicans who think Democrats are inherently evil people, not simply people who see the world differently from them.  And as a side-effect, many Democrats have become hardened to believe the same of Republicans.

The part I quoted comes around 5:23 of the audio.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

AIFF 2017: Features in Competition - Pale Blue Dot, Painless, Muse, The Drawer Boy, and American Folk

Features are full length fictional films.  Films in competition are those chosen by the original screeners  to be eligible for awards. 

I'd note that while these are the screeners picks, screeners don't always agree, so some might have chosen other features as the best.  I often disagree with the screeners, but this is a good start as you try to figure out what to watch.  There are always gems that don't make it to this list.  And you might find films on topics that you want to see or from a country you're interested in, even if they aren't in competition.

Features in CompetitionDirectorCountryLength
American Folk 
David Heinz
The Drawer Boy
Arturo Perez Torres
John Burr
Jordan Horowitz
Pale Blue Dot Girish Mohite

I'm not making any judgments here except that I'm posting the films in competition - those eligible for an award.  These are just descriptions, interviews, pictures and video I've found on line to give people a sense of what's coming to Anchorage Dec. 1.

American Folk
David Heinz
Showing: Sunday Dec. 3,  at 8:15pm Beartooth

"When their plane from Los Angeles to New York is grounded on the morning ofSeptember 11, 2001, strangers Elliott (Joe Purdy) and Joni (Amber Rubarth) are unexpectedly thrust together amidst the chaos of that historic day. With little in common but both needing to get to NYC urgently, they accept help from Joni's family friend Scottie (Krisha Fairchild) who lends the duo a rusty old 1972 Chevy Van. The shock and stress of 9/11 quickly threatens to derail their cross country journey until the pair discover what they do have in common: a love for old folk songs. Armed with a pile of guitars left in the van from Scottie’s touring days, Elliott and Joni raise their voices together (and with those they meet on the road), re-discovering the healing nature of music and bearing witness to a nation of people who, even while mourning, manage to lift each other up in the wake of tragedy.?


The Drawer Boy  
Arturo Perez Torres
Showing:  Monday Dec. 4  5:30pm Bear Tooth

From  Evan Dossey in the Midwest Film Journal:
"The Drawer Boy (Draw-er, as in, a boy who draws) is an adaptation of Michael Healey’s 1999 play about Miles (Jakob Ehman), a traveling actor who shows up at a farm owned by Angus (Stuart Hughes) and Morgan (Richard Clarkin) with the hopes of staying in their house, helping around the farm and learning what it’s like to be a rural Canadian.
Angus takes care of most of the work as well as Morgan, who has severe short-term memory loss. As Miles learns the ebb and flow of a farmer’s life, he also begins to uncover the tragic story that led to Morgan’s condition.
To director Arturor Perez Torres’ credit, The Drawer Boy captures the staging and performances you’d expect from a stage production without sacrificing opportunities afforded by the cinematic lens. It’s a beautifully shot movie. There’s a tendency for stage-to-film adaptations to sometimes come across as something stuck between the two mediums in a way that satisfies neither. That’s not the case here."

 This is probably a movie that you don't need to know anything about.  Just go and let it unfold with no expectations.

The Drawer Boy - Trailer from Open City Works on Vimeo.


John Burr
Showing:  Saturday Dec. 2, 3:30pm E Street Theater (315 E St)

From the Muse Twitter Site:
"A struggling painter's life is changed forever when he meets a Leannán Sí - a mythical Irish muse who takes an artist as a lover and defends him from any threat"
It was "The Projectionist's Favorite" at Frackfest in Oklahoma City.

And there's a review at Horror Freak News that ominously begins:

"I’ll first shower the film with the praise it so rightfully deserves, but then – unfortunately I’ll have to also discuss the bevy of negatives – which the film also contains.?


Jordan Horowitz
Showing:  Saturday Dec 2, 1:45  AK Experience Small 
                  Friday Dec 9, 7:45pm AK Experience Large

Here's the Painless website synopsis:

"Henry Long was born with a rare condition that leaves him unable to feel physical pain. Life for him is a daily struggle, never knowing when he might become seriously injured without realizing it, or worse, die from an internal injury he never knew existed. He lives in a constant state of fear and is completely alienated from those around him who cannot relate to his daily struggles.
Barricading himself in a world of science, Henry has dedicated his life to finding a cure so that he can one day know what it’s like to feel ‘normal.’ When he discovers a promising drug that he is unable to obtain on his own, he gets involved with a dangerous scientist with a dark past and his own secret agenda. Henry must decide if his need for normalcy is worth paying the ultimate price before it’s too late.
Based on actual medical science, Painless looks at the dark side of life with a rare condition and the challenges both symptomatic and social that people with these conditions face."

You can listen to David Majzlin's sound track for Painless here.


Pale Blue Dot 
Girish Mohite
Showing:  Sunday, Dec. 3  11:45am AK Experience Small 
                      Saturday, Dec. 9, 2:30pm AK Experience Small 

I couldn't find much on this film.  

From Filter Copy - An Indian website reporting on this year's Mumbai Film Festival last month which highlighted 13 of the festival films including Pale Blue Dot.
"Synopsis: Sarvanaam, or the Pale Blue Dot, was birthed when a photograph taken by a NASA Voyager showed the earth to be smaller than a pixel from a distance of 6 billion km in space. The very fact that the Earth is as miniscule as a grain of sand in the eternal expanse of the universe brings forth questions about the weight of our existence and death."

From The Hindu, a page of very short questions and answers at the Mumbai Film Festival dated October 2017.  Directer Girish Mohite was asked

What is your film about?
"It is about the existence of hum life and our fear of death - the eternal question that haunts us all our life"
I can imagine his head rolling back and forth as he gives this answer.
The next question was:  What should the MAMI crowd expect to see?
"I have filmed the entire feature film in natural light without resorting to artificial sets.  I have treated the subject as seen through the eyes of the central character - a man who is struggling with these thoughts about life and death when a person close to him in on the verge of dying."
I couldn't find a trailer for this film.  

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

My Slow Bumpy Road From Yosemite To High Sierra - Update

Let me be clear, I'm talking about computer upgrades, not a physical trek in California.  I wrote about this earlier.  How I had to make half a dozen calls to Apple to get this done.  And then when I tried to install it it took forever.  So I decided to wait til we went to Seattle where I'd have a faster internet connection.

I'm in Seattle (well a short ferry ride away) and so last night I decided to do the installation of High Sierra on my MacBook pro.

I'm here to report that it went fairly quickly - less than an hour in total - and everything seems to be intact, though time will tell.  I haven't noticed any problems or any significant improvements either yet.  When I looked online it said most of the changes were under the hood.

The key advantages should be with Safari.  I'd been getting notices from different companies - like my credit card company - that my browser was not secure and I couldn't take some actions on their sites.  I had to go to Firefox to make that happen.  I also had trouble sending messages in Twitter, and messages in FB weren't working right either.  I haven't checked them.

Just want to report that the upgrade, so far - after the initial problems I reported on - went fine.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Are Your Snow Tires Locked Up At Johnson Tires? You Can Pick Them Up Now

I posted last week about the sudden closure of Johnson Tires, just as people are changing from their
summer to winter tires. (I know for people without snow and ice, this probably doesn't make much sense. I was like that long ago.)

While writing about that, I contacted Cynthia Franklin, Assistant Attorney General at the Consumer Protection Unit.

She got back to me this morning again:
"The bank is trying to return the tires and is holding return hours this week Mon-Fri from 12-2 pm and 4-6 pm. They are trying to get the word out as they have 150 sets of tires and only 20 people have come by so far."
So, if you've got your tires there and haven't been able to retrieve them, you can now.  Let others know.  

I think you can get them at Johnson Tires old building (yes, at 3330 Denali).  The bank is Northrim, who had the mortgage for the building.    The bank employees helping return tires are Tina and Katie.

Blogger Note:  Took the tire track picture Saturday.  I liked the pattern, but it didn't really fit into any of my posts.  Until now.  Coincidentally, this is where the old Northrim Bank used to be at 36th between Old and New Seward Highways.  

Monday, November 13, 2017

Anchorage to Seattle: A Couple of Shots

Starting out a little early for a family Thanksgiving gathering.  Already got a couple of serious hugs from one grandchild and a couple of more coming soon.   I'll slide by with some pictures of our transition from sunny and cold to cloudy and wet.

The mudflats of the inlet on the right and the land of Matsu on the left.

Blowing snow on the peaks as we fly over the Chugach toward Prince William Sound on our way south.

A little bubble of cloud in a mass of clouds over Seattle.

Cloudscape over Seattle.

It was windy and wet as we got off the plane.  Had a nice, if short chat, waiting for baggage with a former student who lives here now.  Then train and ferry to my daughter.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Alabama Voters Could Elect Roy Moore Again - UPDATED 11/16/17

[UPDATE Nov. 16, 2017:  Here's a Washington Post article that lists the scenarios in this race they see ranked from least likely to most likely:
6.  Moore drops out before Dec. 12 election.
5.  A new election is held
4.  The state party forces Moore out
3.  Moore stays in but another Republican launches a write-in campaign
2.  Moore stays in the race and he wins or loses
1.  Moore stays in the race, wins, and the Senate expels him (Yes, this is their most likely scenario)

Reporter Amber Phillips points out Scenario 1 would take time, all during an election year.]

I admit, I have biases about states like Alabama and Mississippi.  My impressions are not just whimsy.   Their records on racism are abominable.  They are poor on other factors that suggest a parochial self-awarenss and low  levels of general knowledge and critical thinking abilities.

Alabama ranked last in quality of school at Nationsreportcard, Mississippi ranked 6 from the bottom.  (I would note Mississippi was ahead of California.)  I'd also note that Alabama ranked 39th among states and Mississippi 45th in the US News and World Reports ranking of states on K-12 education.

I'd note a Gallup poll that says nationwide, 38% of the population believes in creationism and that the world is 10,000 years old or less.  It's not broken down by state, but Alabama matches the the characteristics of believers (less education, Protestantism, regular church attendance) better than most states.

Alabama and Louisiana ranks highest with 90%of people who say religion is very important in their lives. says Alabama is the 6th poorest state in the nation.  Alabama and Mississippi have regularly ranked #1 or #2 for number of adherents to the Southern Baptist convention and percentage of population that is Southern Baptist.  This is a denomination, from what I can tell, that encourages independent thinking and rationality in its members, only to the extent that it conforms to a literal interpretation of the Bible.  The Southern Baptist interpretation.

Is there a chance Alabama won't elect Roy Moore to the US Senate?

The Berlin Wall fell and gay marriage is legal in the United States, so anything is possible.

There are, after all, Democrats still in Alabama.  Finding out how many Democrats isn't that easy.  I've gone through the state of Alabama election website.  The voter registration page only tells you how to vote.  It doesn't give any numbers of registration by party.

Wikipedia's Alabama Democrats page just tells us how many Democrats are in the state government:

  • 8 out of 35 seats in the state senate  
  • 33 out of 105 seats in the state house,
  • 1 out of 6  seats in the US House, and 
  • 0 of Alabama's 2 US Senate seats  

So, Democrats are there.

I did find a page where I could download voter registration statistics. Here's what got downloaded for 2017. (Well, I'm just giving you the totals, not the county by county numbers.) It was by race, not party.

Total Active & Inactive
American Indian
Federally-Registered (may be of any race)
Not Identified
Total Active
TOTAL   3,253,717    19,157    11,644    843,794    2,364    27,360    46    2,260,945    30,885    9,547    3,205,742 

And I found an article on by Kyle Whitmire whose article is similar to one I wrote in 2014 about Anchorage voter registration statistics.  Whittier points out that if Alabama really had 3,330,802 registered voters (his numbers are from 2016), then 99% of eligible voters would be registered.  Way beyond the highest stats for any state.

[I did find another page on the Alabama election site (the Secretary of State site) that has some election results from 1984 to 2014.]

The New York Times says that 729,547 Alabamans voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016.  That was 34% of the vote.  Trump got 62%.

The Alabama Secretary of State page does show the results of the recent Republican primary.
Roy Moore got 262,207 votes for 56%.
Luther Strange got 218,066 votes for 44%.
That was a total 480,270 votes in the Republican primary.  Presumably these were Republicans because it was the Republican primary.

So, if all the registered African-Americans voted for the Democratic candidate Doug Jones and all the people who voted in the primary voted for Moore, Jones would win.

But it seems Moore's political incantations drip with the kinds of magic words that sway enough Alabamans, words like Jesus, Bible, Fake News, Ten Commandments, New York times, Lies, Hillary Clinton, and Donald Trump.  If his spells still work he'll be sitting in the US Senate next January.

But, if Democrats can get all their folks to the polls (not an easy thing to do in Alabama with its history of voter intimidation) and enough Republicans sit the election out, the Republican majority in the Senate could drop to 51-49.

But remember, this is the guy who defied the federal courts with his marble ten commandments in the Alabama Supreme Court and who was reelected to that court after he was kicked off.

But will enough Alabamans vote against him because of his dalliances with a 14 year old?  I don't think it will be that big a deal for most of them.

Both Alabama and Mississippi are among the highest states for teen pregnancies.  Someone's having sex with Alabama's teens.  And they're not going to be repulsed by his record.

Findlaw tells us that the minimum age for marriage in Alabama is 16 (for boys and girls) WITH parental permission.  18 without.  However, there's a comment:
"Marriage under 16 is voidable, not void. Marriage between 16 and 18 without parental consent is not grounds for annulment."
This is a story that isn't going to end until the elections (if then) so stand by.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

How Many Veterans From How Many Wars?

On Memorial Day we honor those who died in war.  On Veterans Day we honor those who survived war.  More on the difference between the two holidays here.  Let's take a moment to reflect on how many died and how many survived the wars the United States fought in.

The list below is from the Veterans Administration.  (you can adjust the size in the file below)

Americas Wars by Steve on Scribd

When you get to the bottom of page one, there's a link to The Global War On Terrorism. That link gets you to a page that gives you urls that get here.

It turns out The Global War on Terrorism is made up of a series of operations.

From Defense Casualty Analysis System - Click to enlarge and focus

From Wikipedia:
"Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) is the official name used by the U.S. government for the Global War on Terrorism between 2001 and 2014. On October 7, 2001, in response to the September 11 attacks, President George W. Bush announced that airstrikes targeting Al Qaeda and the Taliban had begun in Afghanistan.[8] Operation Enduring Freedom primarily refers to the War in Afghanistan,[9][10] but it is also affiliated with counterterrorism operations in other countries, such as OEF-Philippines and OEF-Trans Sahara.[11][12]
After 13 years, on December 28, 2014, President Barack Obama announced the end of Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan.[13] Continued operations in Afghanistan by the United States' military forces, both non-combat and combat, now occur under the name Operation Freedom's Sentinel.[14]"
Hagel said, "In Operation Freedom's Sentinel, the United States will pursue two missions with the support of the Afghan government and the Afghan people."
"We will work with our allies and partners as part of NATO's Resolute Support Mission to continue training, advising, and assisting Afghan security forces," he added. "And we will continue our counterterrorism mission against the remnants of Al Qaeda to ensure that Afghanistan is never again used to stage attacks against our homeland."
On the chart, we also have Operation Iraqi Freedom which happened while Enduring Freedom was still going on.  From the Congressional Research Service:
"Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF), the U.S.-led coalition military operation in Iraq, was launched on March 20, 2003, with the immediate stated goal of removing Saddam Hussein’s regime and destroying its ability to use weapons of mass destruction or to make them available to terrorists. Over time, the focus of OIF shifted from regime removal to the more open-ended mission of helping the Government of Iraq (GoI) improve security, establish a system of governance, and foster economic development."
Also in there is Operation New Dawn.  From an Army site:
"During Operation New Dawn, the remaining 50,000 U.S. servicemembers serving in Iraq will conduct stability operations, focusing on advising, assisting and training Iraqi Security Forces (ISF). Operation New Dawn also represents a shift from a predominantly military U.S. presence to one that is predominantly civilian, as the Departments of Defense and State work together with governmental and non-governmental agencies to help build Iraq's civil capacity."

And Finally there is Operation Inherent Resolve.  From a military page:
On 17 October 2014, the Department of Defense formally established Combined Joint Task Force - Operation Inherent Resolve (CJTF-OIR) in order to formalize ongoing military actions against the rising threat posed by ISIS in Iraq and Syria. Fueled by sectarian conflicts and division, ISIS ascended from relative obscurity in 2013 to propagate an extremist socio-political ideology, and claimed to have created an Islamic caliphate. Its successful acquisition of conventional weapons, establishment of armed formations, rapid territorial growth and unconscionable atrocities shocked the world and destabilized the region. By June 2014, the security situation in Iraq had deteriorated with the Iraqi cities of Mosul and Tikrit falling in rapid succession to ISIS aggressors.

The numbers of military who took part, were killed or wounded, is documented differently.  You can poke around that page and get numbers for each of the Operations.  Be careful to note that in most of the tables, deaths are 'per 100,000" serving.  So actual deaths have to be multiplied. If there are 1 million serving, you need to multiply by ten.  And they use somewhat  different categories.

The following document had some particularly shocking statistics.  The percentage of African-American deaths is much higher than African-American's percentage in the US population (13%).
According to the chart, in the Persian Gulf war 17% of the men who were killed were African American and 20% of the women killed were African American.
In all the wars since 1980, 17% of the men killed were African American and 26% of the women killed were African American.  And these numbers only go to July 25, 2009.  We don't know about the next six years.

It seems to me the Pentagon should have been studying those numbers to determine why.  Are black women significantly more likely to be in the military?  If so, why does that seem to be a better option for them than living with their families in the US?
If not, why are they being killed more than others?  Are white women more likely to be officers (who the other statistics say are killed much less than enlisted military), are they sacrificed, do the commit suicide more?  Whatever the answers, we should have documented explanations.

After I wrote that I googled and found this 2013 NYTimes article on a PEW study of African-American women in the military.  Yes, African American women make up a much higher percentage of women in the military than in the US population as a whole - about one-third.  But they haven't studied why, though the military says they match their recruiting target well:
"[Beth J. Asch, a senior economist and defense manpower specialist at the Rand Corporation] suggested that the military tries to attract high school graduates who are looking for job training, good benefits and help with college tuition — and that a high percentage of black women fit that bill."
Lots to think about on Veterans Day.

And here's another list that seems to be for Enduring Bullshit:

Friday, November 10, 2017

Trump's China Deals And Alaska's Liquid Natural Gas Pipeline

NPR had a report on Trump's visit to China the other day and the story essentially said China was eating our lunch.  I'm going to offer you a fair amount here, because it's all relevant, but the key points are:

1.  Trump has sidelined the professionals who know China and replaced them with political hacks.  
2.  Even with seasoned professionals at the table for the US, China is one of the most restrictive countries for foreign businesses and the US is one of the most open, giving China great advantages.
3.  China has regularly supported its private companies so they could compete with an unfair advantage overseas.
4.  China, when it does work with foreign companies, requires partnerships with Chinese companies and access to all their technology advances.  

OK, here's from the NPR piece, just before this point there's a discussion about American beef having a much higher tariff than Australian beef.
"James McGregor, president of the greater China region for the consulting firm APCO, says China's lifting of the U.S. beef ban in May is the latest case of too little, too late. And he's not optimistic the Trump administration is focused enough to improve business for U.S. companies in China.
"There is no strategy and professionals are not involved," he says. "The people from [the U.S. Trade Representative's office] and Commerce and State are sidelined."
McGregor says instead of representatives from the U.S. Trade Representative and other government staff who typically deal with China, President Trump has political appointees with little to no trade experience engaging with the Chinese.
"It's really been a farce," says McGregor. "And if it continues like this, it's really going to hurt American business. The Chinese are pros. They know what they're doing.
Anybody sitting on the other side of the table as Chinese negotiator has been doing that subject for 20 years."
McGregor says Chinese negotiators have called friends of his in Beijing to see what the Chinese side could give to Trump during his Beijing visit to please his base. He calls these "Twitterable deliverables," and he puts the lifting of the Chinese ban on U.S. beef in this category: an easily promotable gift that, because it has come so late, may not have a meaningful impact on the U.S. economy."

What would have an impact, says William Zarit, chairman of the board at the American Chamber of Commerce in China, is forcing China to open its markets to U.S. business and to stop giving preferential treatment to Beijing's own so-called "global champion" companies. Tech giants Baidu, Alibaba and Tencent, as well as telecommunications company Huawei, have all received generous support from Beijing. 
"These global champions are being nurtured in the domestic market with protection and with strong state support, so that in some ways, when these companies go international, it's tantamount to a Western company competing with the country," says Zarit. 
And when U.S. companies come to China, they're often forced to hand over their technology and enter into joint ventures with Chinese partners. U.S. companies in at least 10 sectors — including automotive, healthcare, tech and entertainment — have investment caps preventing them from competing with Chinese companies on a fair playing field. Chinese companies in these sectors have no such caps in the U.S. market.

I thought about this as I read  the Alaska Dispatch New account of the an Alaska deal signed with China's Sinopec, two large Chinese financial institutions, and the Chinese government to move along  the governor's pet project, the one he ran for governor to accomplish, a liquid natural gas pipeline.  

Are we once again the colony having our resources exploited by wealthy Outsiders?  Is the governor making too many concessions because this project is so important to him?  Are the Chinese giving Trump some empty fluff he can use to show his base how successful his trip was?  The ADN article said that nothing was really final and that "senior Sinopec executives weren't aware of the gas pipeline deal with Alaska."

Our governor is smarter and more pragmatic than most of our politicians.  He spent time as a lawyer in court over oil and gas issues.  That's a good way to learn to understand a business and the players in it.  

Maybe the best thing for the state is to just be able to use the gas we have to raise revenue while we can.  There don't seem to be any details available and we probably don't have that much leverage anyway.   Though I have wondered, with global warming, whether we might spare the $43 billion price tag for the pipeline (which experience suggests will be considerably higher in the end) and just wait a few years until tankers can pick up the gas directly from the North Slope.

But for now, we're part of Trump's evidence of what a great negotiator he is.  And maybe it's a show of Governor Walker's smarts, that he's willing to let Trump get the credit.  Stay tuned, this is going to be a long process.