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Google & Big Tech — New accusations of antitrust, privacy and possible criminal conduct abound

Big_Tech_antitrust_privacy_behavior_under_scrutiny

Monopolize and manipulate. Those are the antitrust accusations and charges of privacy invasion, and even illegal conduct, being tossed at Google and Facebook by a group of state attorneys general, a coalition of newspaper publishers and members of Congress, all of whom want to bring the tech giants to heel in one way or another.

But a suit against Google and its subsidiary YouTube by a Seattle-based firm whose business includes managing receiverships may prove equally interesting to watch as it unfolds.

And now add the suit filed Monday by Washington Atty. Gen. Robert Ferguson and attorneys general from three other states focusing on Google’s collection of local data that can be used to target advertising as well as build internet-user profiles, even those users who had acted on Google’s agreement to let them opt-out. Ferguson said, bluntly, Google’s conduct “is not only dishonest, but it’s also unlawful.”

The suit by Revitalization Partners, likely the first of its kind by a court-appointed receiver, alleges Google and YouTube infringed on a trio of patents held by a Bellevue-based company named AudienceScience Inc., which actually went out of business five years ago. 

Al Davis Revitalization PartnersAl Davis
Revitalization Partners
Revitalization Partners’ co-founder and principal Al Davis said his firm discovered more than 30 AudienceScience patents after being appointed by the court to manage the receivership process, which involves finding the best solution for the highest possible return for creditors.

A determination of patent infringement would likely mean financial penalties for Google and YouTube, though Revitalization Partners’ suit does not include a request for a specific dollar judgment.

But Ferguson’s suit specifically asks that Google be ordered to disclose the profits it made from using the tactics alleged and give it all back as well as pay a $7,500 fee for each violation. That would mean uncovering Google’s profits from the activity.

Davis noted that AudienceScience invented and patented many of the “foundational technologies” used across the digital advertising industry today, including the industry’s first of what are called “behavioral targeting products.” That means targeting advertising based on both user history and page views.

AudienceScience was a Bellevue company known for building software and tools designed to help major marketers buy digital ads programmatically, using a combination of automation and data. It closed its doors after it lost its long-time client Procter & Gamble.

“Now that we’ve received the necessary approvals from the Washington State receivership court to pursue litigation, we are in a position to execute and potentially recover a significant amount of value for creditors using these and other patents,” Davis said.

If you’ve ever had the sense akin to something like catching someone peeking in your bedroom window when, for example, ads for various San Diego hotels suddenly appear on your desktop after you’ve been looking up the website of a hotel in that city, you’ll understand what technology of user information to empower advertisers is all about. And why the effort to control it as an example of privacy invasion is beginning to attract such attention at the highest levels.

And how much the major tech companies have made off of providing information to advertisers on where visitors to the internet seek information, should that sort of financial information ever be ferreted out, could prove interesting to the attorneys general, publishers, and Congress in determining actions to impose limits on the activities of the tech giants.

Ferguson’s suit seeking specific profit information would be a key step in determining that information on the riches gleaned by actions increasingly viewed as privacy invasion and patent infringement.
.
According to material unveiled in the past few days in the case brought in Texas by the coalition of attorneys general, Google manipulated the system of buying and selling online display ads and deceived advertisers. Google dominates the online system for buying and selling online display ads.

If courts affirm such manipulation charges, it would mean more than just other media entities seeking to have their ads reach consumers were harmed but also consumers in general since such action inevitably leads to fewer product choices.

In fact, the Revitalization Partners suit against Google and YouTube isn’t the first on behalf of a small tech firm alleging Google infringed on its patents.

Coincidentally, another former Bellevue company named VoIP-Pal.com Inc. has over the past few years filed suits against Google, Amazon, Facebook, and other major tech companies alleging violation of the patents it holds on what’s known as Voice-over-Internet Protocol.

VoIP-Pal is a publicly-traded corporation that is actually a penny stock (hovering at a few cents a share) because it has never been able to monetize the technology of its patents and likely won’t unless the courts order the big tech companies to pay for using what VoIP-Pal contends it holds the patents for. It owns a portfolio of such patents.

For example, VoIP-Pal contends Amazon’s Alexa calling and messaging service uses VoIP-Pal’s patented technologies to direct voice and video calls and messages is an infringement on one of its patents. It doesn’t take much imagination to envision how much revenue would flow to VoIP-Pal from a court decision requiring Amazon to pay VoIP-Pal for Alexa’s technology.

The U.S. Patent & Trademark Office, after several years of deliberation, approved all the patents for the various technologies in the company’s portfolio and the entity known as the Patent Trials and Appeals Board, in an unusual decision favoring the “little guy,” rejected the challenges by the big tech companies to the validity of VoIP-Pal patents.

Observers of these types of litigations relating to patent infringement actions against the major tech firms know there’s a quiet desire not to have a suit by a small firm come before one of the Silicon Valley Federal judges.

But the federal judge in West Texas has a track record of the ruling, in patent infringement cases, in favor of the patent holder. VoIP-Pal recently moved its corporate headquarters to Waco, TX.

 
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Decade-old law to halt insider trading by members of Congress drawing some renewed attention

US-Congress
At a time when Congress is poisoned by political animosity and divisiveness on most issues, there’s suddenly conversation that lawmakers should address the issue of the law-breaking they are permitting from many members’ stock-market involvement.
 
Law-breaking? Well, there’s a law in place, largely the work of former Washington Congressman Brian Baird, called the STOCK Act. The measure, appropriately titled Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge Act, was designed to make insider trading by members of Congress illegal and force more transparency in their financial dealings.
 
The issue has stirred some attention in recent weeks, including an intraparty squabble instead of the now-usual partisan shouting.
 
Brian BairdBrian BairdUnfortunately, there are some compelling issues like hearings on the January 6 insurrection, struggles over voting rights, and discussion over political views on violence that have created gaping divisions almost totally partisan that challenge interparty discussion on other important issues like member financial dealings.
 
But disclosures by the global online media company Insider of the dozens of violations of the STOCK Act, and thus the law, sparked the exchange among Democrats over stock ownership and maybe created an issue that can attract focus from lawmakers in both parties.
 
The disclosures prompted Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortex to suggest members of Congress should be barred from trading and holding stock, even individual shares. That set off House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who scoffed at the idea, saying “We’re a free market economy and they (members of Congress and spouses) should be able to participate in that.”
 
It’s worth recalling that it was Pelosi’s ineptitude in 2011 with questions on the stock-ownership issue from a reporter for 60-minutes and a public reaction it caused that helped push Congress to quickly take up and pass the STOCK Act in 2012. That quick action to pass the bill in the face of public outcry came after six years of Baird unsuccessfully pressing for consideration or even support.
 
So perhaps the 10th anniversary of the passage of the STOCK Act and recalling the manner in which intense public pressure brought about its passage might prompt a revisiting, particularly with a recent focus on its failings in terms of sufficient penalties for violators.

I reached out to Baird, the former congressman from Washington’s third district and now an Edmonds resident, for his thoughts.

“The penalty for insider trading by a member of Congress should be no less than that kind of trading by a corporate insider,” he said. “It is a flagrant abuse of power and trust that not only distorts markets but undermines the public’s faith in their government. That warrants very serious consequences in my judgment.”

 Ironically and unfortunately, since Baird, now 65, didn’t seek re-election in 2010, he had been out of office nearly a year when the telling CBS segment aired to set the stage for a rush by Congress to pass the bill.
 
Here is a section from a November 2011 column I wrote after the CBS program aired.
 
“During the last three of his six terms representing the state's 3rd District, Democrat Baird sought unsuccessfully to pass, or even just gather support for, what he called the Stock Act. It would have barred members of Congress from doing stock transactions in areas they regulate, in essence, prohibiting their investing in a manner that those in the real world call Insider Trading
 
 “For ordinary citizens, reaction to Baird's proposal would be a laughable ‘well, of course’ But in a place whose mantra is ‘the rules we make for you don't apply to us,’ seeking to force action by the lawmakers on one small, self-imposed ethical constraint could become a rallying point for a fed-up public.
 
“The thrust of the CBS segment that aired this month is that lawmakers often do make stock purchases and trades in the very fields they regulate. While ordinary citizens could be jailed for engaging in the kind of investment shenanigans that those in Congress involve themselves in, there's not even an ethical concern among lawmakers.
 
“And a sure way to take this worthwhile campaign viral is to share in every possible social-media fashion 60 Minutes reporter Steve Croft's questioning of current House Speaker John Boehner and former Speaker Nancy Pelosi at their respective news conferences.
 
Viewers of the ineptitude with which both Boehner and Pelosi tried to answer Croft's questions about whether their investment practices were at least conflicts of interest were irate.
 
Pelosi was unforgettable, stuttering ‘you…you wouldn’t suggest I’d do anything that was not in the best interest of my constituents?’ The thought that had to occur was ‘Who elects these people?’ The answer, unfortunately, is people like us elect them. Shame on us.”
 
The kind of stock-market activity that Croft pointed out included Boehner, now retired, having bought a bunch of health-care-related stock during the healthcare reform debate of 2009. And when Boehner's efforts to kill the so-called "public option" succeeded, those stocks skyrocketed.
 
Pelosi, meanwhile, had gotten in on a series of lucrative stock Initial Public Offerings. One of those involved an enormous number of Visa shares that Pelosi purchased while she was working on legislation that would have hurt credit card companies. Two days after purchasing the stock at $44 a share, and after the bill was put on long-term hold, Pelosi's stock shot up to $64 a share.”
 
After the program aired and the public reaction to it shocked members of Congress, lawmakers rushed to get their names on the bill once it was introduced in January in both house and Senate.
 
It was the 2012 bill introduced in the Senate by outgoing Sen. Joseph Liberman that added a name to Baird’s Stock act, Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge Act. It passed the House in February with only two dissenting votes and in April in the Senate with three dissenters.
 
I asked Baird this week to reflect on what’s happened since including the impact disclosures under the act’s reporting requirements had on the two Georgia Senate races in 2020 whose outcome determined control of the Senate.
Actually, the role played by the STOCK Act in the defeats of Sens. Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue, both Republicans, that this gave the Democrats Senate control was significant visibility for certain stock trades they made. That visibility came at a time when the suffering caused by the pandemic and the widespread economic hardship of the average Georgians were viewed as playing in the outcomes.
 
“Unfortunately many members are flagrantly disregarding the STOCK Act,” Baird said. “Rand Paul, for example, did not file in anything near the required time and that fact only became known after the election.”
 
“This has to change through more stringent enforcement and serious consequences for violations,” Baird added. “Enforcement should be through a combined process of the SEC as an external entity and the internal ethics mechanisms of the Congress. It may be necessary to create an independent review body.”  
 
Maybe the 10th anniversary of the STOCK Act may occasion some focused discussion on how it's doing. Or not doing.
 
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#TeletypeArt — The annual offering of holiday greetings that emerged long-ago

teletypeart_banner
Dear Friends:
 
Sharing the re-creation of the art once delivered via wire-service teletype machines to media newsrooms around the nation during the quiet hours of Christmas Eve has become my annual way of delivering holiday greetings to those who have been kind enough to allow Flynn's Harp into their email 'bag' each week. And I am particularly grateful to those who have been on the recipient list for this column all or most of the now nearly 14 years since I launched it.
 
The belief in Christmas is not shared by all of my friends. In fact those friends have, to my good fortune, become a varied array of national origins and religions. But the values that Christmas embodies for those who cherish it transcend national or religious differences and should be shared and cherished by all with this season as a reminder.
 
The x's, o's, (or frequently dollar signs and exclamation marks) of these holiday icons appeared a line at a time on the teletype paper as teletype operators’ keystrokes created images of Christmas trees, Santa Claus, holly wreaths. 
 
The uniqueness of the tree below is that the Christmas greeting is delivered in nearly 50 languages.
 
Since each year brings new names to the list of those receiving Flynn's Harp, there are some who haven't previously seen the art. For that reason, and because fond memories are served by repetition, here is the annual sharing of this Christmas art.
 
Happy Holidays!
-----------------

                                             "X"
                                            "XXX"
                                          "XXXXX"
                                        "GOD JUL"
                                     "BUON ANNO"
                                      "FELIZ NATAL"
                                    "JOYEUX  NOEL"
                                 "VESELE  VANOCE"
                                "MELE  KALIKIMAKA"
                              "NODLAG SONA DHUIT"
                           "BLWYDDYN NEWYDD DDA"
                            """""""BOAS FESTAS"""""""
                                    "FELIZ NAVIDAD"
                              "MERRY CHRISTMAS"
                             " KALA CHRISTOUGENA"
                               "VROLIJK KERSTFEEST"
                         "FROHLICHE WEIHNACHTEN"
                            "BUON NATALE-GODT NYTAR"
                            "HUAN YING SHENG TAN CHIEH"
                         "WESOLYCH SWIAT-SRETAN BOZIC"
                       "MOADIM LESIMHA-LINKSMU KALEDU"
                      "HAUSKAA JOULUA-AID SAID MOUBARK"
                    """""""'N PRETTIG KERSTMIS"""""""
                            "ONNZLLISTA UUTTA VUOTTA"
                         "Z ROZHDESTYOM KHRYSTOVYM"
                        "NADOLIG LLAWEN-GOTT NYTTSAR"
                       "FELIC NADAL-GOJAN KRISTNASKON"
                      "S NOVYM GODOM-FELIZ ANO NUEVO"
                      "GLEDILEG JOL-NOELINIZ KUTLU OLSUM"
                   "EEN GELUKKIG NIEUWJAAR-SRETAN BOSIC"
                  "KRIHSTLINDJA GEZUAR-KALA CHRISTOUGENA"
                   SELAMAT HARI NATAL - LAHNINGU NAJU METU"
                  """""""SARBATORI FERICITE-BUON ANNO"""""""
                        "ZORIONEKO GABON-HRISTOS SE RODI"
                     "BOLDOG KARACSONNY-VESELE VIANOCE "
                   "MERRY CHRISTMAS AND HAPPY NEW YEAR"
                    ROOMSAID JOULU PUHI -KUNG HO SHENG TEN"
                    FELICES PASUAS - EIN GLUCKICHES NEUJAHR"
                PRIECIGUS ZIEMAN SVETKUS SARBATORI VESLLE"
            BONNE ANNEBLWYDDYN NEWYDD DDADRFELIZ NATAL"
                      """""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""
                                                  XXXXX
                                                  XXXXX
                                                  XXXXX
                                          XXXXXXXXXXXXX
 
 
 

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   "Rr`!!!!h ?$$c`h `# !! $F,r4$L*** e$$$$$$$$$$$$hc
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      ^$.`!!!!h $$b`!. -   $P /'  .$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$c
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             ^"=4$P"    .,,,. -^.  ?$$$$$$$$$$"?. !! !!~ ,,ec..
                   ..z$$$$$$$$$h,   `$$$$$$P"..`!f !f ~)Lze$$$P""""?i
                 ud$$$$$$$$$$$$$$h   `?$$F <!!'<!>~)ue$$P*"..!!!!! J
               .K$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$,    P.>e'!f !~ ed$$P".!!!!!!!!`.d"
              z$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$ 4!!~\e$$$P`!!!!!!!!!!'.eP'
             -*". . "??$$$$$$$$$$$$      ~ `z$$$F".`!!!!!!!!!!',dP"
           ." )!!h i`!- ("?$$$$$$f       ,$$P"! ). `'!!!!`,d$F'
      .ueeeu.J`-^.!h <- ~`.. ??$$'      ,$$ !!`e$$$$e `,e$F'
   e$$$$$$$$$$$$$eeiC ")?-<%'^?       ?$f !!! ?$$$$",F"
  P"....```""?$$$$$$$$$euL^.!..` .        "Tu._.,``""
  $ !!!!!!!!!!.""??$$$$$$eJ~^=.           ````
  ?$.`!!!!!!!!!!!!!!."??$$$$$c'.
   "?b.`!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!>."?$$$$c
     ^?$c`'!!!!!!!!!!!',eeb, "$$$k
        "?$e.`'!!!!!!! $$$$$ ;.?$$
           "?$ee,``''!."?$P`i!! 3P
               ""??$bec,,.,ceeeP"
                      `""""""
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Heavey hopes his efforts to free the wrongfully imprisoned might draw those focused on racial justice

justice
Michael (Mike) Heavey, founder and CEO of an organization dedicated to freeing those wrongfully imprisoned, is hoping an awareness-creating holiday ask will attract companies that reacted to Black Lives Matter by devoting resources to create opportunities and correct injustices.
 
Heavey, a former Washington legislator and King County Superior Court judge who created Judges for Justice in 2013, notes that corporations pledged billions of dollars following the Black Lives Matter moment of reckoning on racial justice in America.
 
 “Maybe the greatest injustice of all is the wrongful loss of freedom,” Heavey suggested.
 
“The issue of the large number of people imprisoned for crimes they didn’t commit becomes clearly a racial justice issue with statistics that indicate black people are seven times more likely to be wrongly convicted of murder than white people,” Heavey said.
 
Heavey says that once his organization has identified a wrongful conviction, “we conduct a campaign of innocence.”
 
He describes the approach of creating a climate aimed at aiding the imprisoned person as like a political campaign with mailers, media visibility, and Facebook ads and bar magazine ads.
 
In fact, Judges for Justice is currently involved in such an effort on behalf of an Ohio prisoner and is this week filing a motion to convince the Hawaii supreme court to take action in relation to Judges for Justice’s longest ongoing effort, the 1991 murder of a 23-year-old woman.
 
He likens his group’s role to that of the ancient Greek philosopher Socrates, noting “Judges for Justice enters the fray and is a gadfly, creating a tension in society, applying pressure to get people to challenge and question the status quo.”

Mike HeaveyMike HeaveyThose familiar with Ancient Greek history will recall that Socrates was forced by Athenians weary of his pressures on their society to drink the poisoned Hemlock.
 
There are those in justice and law enforcement establishments upset by Heavey’s efforts because of their desire to resist freeing a prisoner they had roles in imprisoning who might wish to find the legal version of a dose of Hemlock to have Heavey drink.
 
Among them likely the Hawaii Innocence Project, which filed a complaint with the Washington Bar Association over Heavey’s involvement in Hawaii.
 
But in another instance, his four years of effort that resulted in the release of Chris Tapp, wrongfully convicted in Idaho for murder and rape, after serving 20 years of a life sentence, earned Heavey nomination for a bar association award.
 
The impetus for Heavey’s focus on the wrongfully imprisoned was a case that attracted global attention: the trial, conviction, and imprisonment of his daughter’s high school friend, Amanda Knox.
 
He got involved in the Knox case in 2008, the year following her arrest and that of her boyfriend, Raffaele Sollecito in Perugia, Italy, for the murder of her roommate, Meredith Kircher.
 
Heavey said he found the case unsettling because the Amanda Knox he knew as she was growing up differed so greatly from how she was portrayed in the media. He said as he examined the case more closely, he saw distinct indications of a wrongful conviction.
 
Amanda and Raffaele were convicted of murder in December of 2009 and she spent four years in prison before her conviction was overturned by the Italian appellate court, with the help of Heavey’s visibility efforts. She was allowed to go free and return to Seattle where she published a memoir recalling her ordeal.
 
In creating his Judges for Justice (JFJ) soon thereafter, Heavey zeroed in on another case that his efforts have made highly visible, the Christmas Eve 1991 abduction, rape, and murder of 23-year-old Dana Ireland on the Big Island of Hawaii.
 
Three men, including two native Hawaiians, were convicted and imprisoned. One, Frank Pauline, has since been murdered while in a New Mexico prison.
 
Heavey undertook the Dana Ireland murder case of the three convicted men because he said the DNA evidence from the crime didn’t match any of the three. And the prosecution knew that.
 
Since then JFJ has produced a 14-part documentary titled Murder in Hawaii that uses what he insists were the wrongful convictions for Dana Ireland’s murder as the main case study for their exploration. It is designed to help answer two questions: “How you can tell if a case is a wrongful conviction” and “How you can help free a wrongfully convicted person.”
 
His visibility campaign to mount public support has included one mailer, sent to 50,000 households on the Big Island, to get people to watch Episode 11 that shows how the real killer can be caught. He said the episode has now attracted more 35,000 YouTube viewers.
 
A second mailer this past July went to the 50,000 households on the Big Island plus another 50,000 in the Honolulu area urging people to watch Murder in Hawaii in general.
 
It’s the kind of documentary about which I’m frankly surprised he hasn’t found an interested television station, or potential corporate supporters, to air it somewhere that the wrongful-conviction issue has been raised.
 
In fact, JFJ is filing a motion this week with the Hawaii Supreme Court contending two Hawaii lawyers violated professional ethics “by intentionally concealing DNA evidence that might have exonerated Pauline and freed him,” asking “appropriate action” by the court.
 
Heavey, who celebrated his 75th birthday earlier this month, brings an interesting legal background to his Judges for Justice leadership, including his 14 years in the Washington State Legislature and 12 as a King County Superior Court judge.
 
But his non-legal background helps set him apart. He is about to reach 19 years of remission from the non-Hodgkin Lymphoma with which he was diagnosed in 2003. That’s the kind of cancer that claimed the lives of Paul Allen and Blake Nordstrom.
 
He has marked his cancer remission anniversaries by climbing a mountain each year, beginning in 2006 with a climb of Mt. Rainier, accomplishments that are part of what he refers to as the inner “healing force inside of us.”
 
He did five climbs of Mt. Rainier as well as various other Northwest peaks and once, with his 30-year friend, U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell (elected to the legislature in 1987, the same year Heavey was), the 19,340-foot Mt. Kilimanjaro. That 2013 climb of the “Roof of Africa” was guided by their mutual friend, and mine, Seattle investment advisor John Rudolf.
 
In addition to this week’s appeal to the Hawaii Supreme Court, the other case in which JFJ is actively involved, along with the Ohio Innocence Project, is on behalf of Wayne Brady and Karl Willis, both black men, who have been imprisoned for 22 years.
 
JFJ sent political-type 6-by-11 postcards to 30,000 “frequent voter households” in the Toledo area, a list including the judges and prosecutors who would be involved in the sought-after retrial of the two.
 
To emphasize the importance of the Judges for Justice effort, Heavey notes that a recent study of those freed after being imprisoned for crimes they didn’t commit found that 117 of those exonerated had been on death row.
 
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Alaska Airlines' Santa Fantasy Flight for needy Spokane kids to mark 25th anniversary

AA_Santa_banne_20211201-193055_1

“The world needs a good Christmas this year,” enthused Steve Paul, who becomes Chief Elf Bernie each year at this time, as he shared his excitement at the approaching 25th anniversary of the Spokane Fantasy Flight to the North Pole that carries orphans and foster children aboard an Alaska Airlines737-900 from Spokane to visit Santa.

And the world would likely enthuse with him if they could be on hand the afternoon of December 11 as the 60 children, ages 4 to 10, and their elves board what has traditionally been Alaska Flight 1225, dubbed “Santa 1,” at Spokane International Airport for their flight to Santa’s home to visit with the Jolly Old Elf and Mrs. Clause. The special flight was suspended last Christmas season because of COVID.

Elf Bernie Steve PaulI’ve come to describe the spirit that settles over all those involved as the Magic Dust of Christmas Caring. That spirit is evidenced by the Spokane residents who help prepare for months for the event, the businesses that donate all the products that make the event happen, the Alaska employees who participate as crew and elves, and the airline itself for making its years-long commitment of plane, crew and a large slice of the caring.

The kids and their elves, as many as 10 of whom have been involved for all 25 flights, missing only 2020’s canceled flight, will all be wearing the required masks that may hide their smiles but the excitement each of the children feels will likely be visible in their eyes. And Paul said the volunteers will only number 200, noting “we’re keeping number low for risk mitigation.”

Paul, who in his other life is a digital IT program manager at Engie Impact, a Spokane energy management company, has been president and CEO of Northwest North Pole Adventures, the 501c3 that oversees everything related to planning and carrying out this special event.

My first Harp on the Fantasy Flight was 2010 thanks to my friend, Blythe Thimsen, then editor of Spokane & Coeur d’ Alene Living, who was an elf that year and sent me her article and filled me in on details, including a picture of her in her costume that I’ve included again in this 12th Fantasy Flight Harp,

While the event was born 25 years ago, some of the happenings that came to occupy space in one or another of the Harps since then have endured in the holiday event.

Notable among those developments has been the role pilot Eric Hrivnek has come to play for a half dozen years or so. Once again, in addition to being the pilot at the controls for the 20-minute flight, he will be the person who advises that it’s time for the magic chant of the youngsters that allows the plane to cross the North Pole barrier.

Alaska Santa FlightAs the kids pull down their shades and do the chant each will wave a magic wand they will be given as they board, then Hrivnek will deploy the engine thrusters when Santa and Rudolph appear on the radar screen to confirm that the “Santa 1” flight has entered North Pole airspace.

Then the jetliner will taxi to a hanger on the other side of the airport and, as the passengers deplane, they will be greeted by a group of elves, though Paul said the live reindeer that have milled around in years past won’t be there this year and meet Santa and Mrs. Clause.

When it comes time for each child’s personal visit with Santa, who will have received their lists ahead of time, a gift will be selected for each from their lists so Santa can reach into his sack and say “I got your list. Look here!”

An indication of the place this event holds in the hearts of Alaska employees is that one-year Hrivnek (pictured below with a friend) didn't get his bid in to be at the controls so he didn't get to go. He made sure thereafter that he was first in line.

United Airlines actually did the fantasy trip from 1999 to 2007 but it was a commitment of the local United team rather than the company itself with United Spokane team corralling an airliner overnighting in Spokane but because there was no provision for the “flight” to carry the kids aloft, the plane taxied around and stopped at a hanger.

It was while he was traveling for Itron, the Spokane-based global energy and water management company, that Paul saw a poster at the airport promoting United’s “flight” in 2000 and with that, he was hooked and thereafter took charge of overseeing all the planning and resolving the challenges.

He was asked to step into a leadership role in 2006 and his first crisis came as they prepared for the 2007 flight only to learn that United had no planes available in Spokane. So he recalled, “we had to revert to school buses on the field surrounded by emergency escorts with flashing lights. Actually, it worked because all the windows were fogged up and the flashing lights as we headed to the North Pole made it very magical.”

“After the 2007 problem I reached out to United about more of a commitment, including a plan for a plane and a flight,” Paul said. “They had no interest. The Fantasy Flight leadership approached Southwest. They had no interest either.”

“It was then that I suggested Alaska Airlines and a contact in my neighborhood helped me reach out to Alaska’s marketing department and the rest (including his question ‘why can’t we take off,’ to which Alaska basically replied ‘of course we can’) has been a 14-year partnership.”

Alaska Air Group CEO Ben Minicucci summed up what he described as "the strong culture of kindness and caring at Alaska Airlines," noting "that's something that differentiates us and it really shines through in moments like this."

Paul noted that many of the founding members from United’s Spokane operation have continued to be involved and remain involved today, including Mrs. Clause, Leslie Lathrop.

And as always, Alaska and Horizon employees, though mainly from the Spokane and Puget Sound areas, include individuals from across the system, this year from Boise, San Diego, Henderson, NV, and Bloomington, MN.

Blythe ThimsenLocal merchants provide the kids' things like pajamas, Lands End snow boots and gloves, T-shirts, and Ben & Jerry’s ice cream.

There used to be other airlines that did Christmas flights of one extent or another for needy kids but 2020 would have halted any that were going on and a search in preparation for this column didn’t turn up any such holiday trips, no indication that Alaska isn’t now alone as providing this annual trip for children.

This will be a familiar story, with new details, for longtime subscribers to the Harp. But retelling and updating the story has been my holiday gift since that first column in 2010because it’s a story of human caring and compassion, and commitment by an array of local businesses and volunteers and a major airline, virtually without fanfare.

It’s a story that not only won’t get old but perhaps becomes more needed each year. Maybe particularly this year.

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Archival-video business would save messages for military families

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The idea of preserving the voice and video presence of every U.S. service member killed in action led Sandy Wheeler to create an archival video platform that would allow those whose military service leads to the ultimate sacrifice to have preserved, before their departure for a battle zone that may be well known or top secret, their legacies for family members left behind, and even those not yet born.
 
“We would hope to make it part of their pre-deployment requirement that they create for their loved ones and family members short video messages that will go into the archives,” said Wheeler, a Vietnam veteran who returned to civilian life in 1970, graduated from what was then Central Washington College and began what he expected would be an accounting career.
 
But a decade later Wheeler, now 74 and a Wenatchee resident, turned to be an entrepreneur, founding and presiding over the founding and growth of one of the best-known exercise-equipment companies, Bowflex, and its acquisition of Nautilus as well as Schwinn Fitness and Stairmaster.
 
Wheeler says the idea for memory-carrying time capsules was planted when he arrived home from his 18-month tour in Vietnam expecting to connect with one of his best friends, Dennis, who was to be discharged two weeks after him and also head home. But he learned that Dennis had been killed in action two days before his discharge.

“Simply unbelievable. Dennis’ baby boy would never see his father and his wife would never see him alive again,” Wheeler said.

Sandy WheelerSandy Wheeler“That was truly the point in time that this vision took root,” Wheeler said. “I was sick with grief that this baby boy would never get to hear his daddy's voice, play ball, wrestle or do any of the things little boys desire and need.”

Fast forward to this past August as the U.S, involvement in Afghanistan wound down and two events served to cement in Wheeler’s mind the power behind the vision, and the need for the time capsules.
 
First was an incident related to him by a friend in the Seals who had a close friend, Lou, who was among the 22 Seals killed, along with eight other U.S, troops when their helicopter was shot down on August 21 in Afghanistan.
 
“Lou left a wife and two little boys, 7 and 9, behind,” related Wheeler. “But something else he left behind cemented in my mind the power behind this vision. Lou had a fellow Team member film a video of him on August 6 that was to be sent to his wife and boys IF he was killed in action. At Lou’s funeral, his wife played the video messages for all to see and there was not a dry eye in the place.”
 
“Finally, on August 26, 2021, our whole nation watched in horror as 12 Marines and one Navy Corpsman were killed in Afghanistan and their loved ones would be left in shock with no chance to say goodbye,” said Wheeler. “I then knew this vision had to move forward and launched it with two other co-founders.”

The first group Wheeler hopes to target with his TimeCapsules Corp., for which as CEO he is now in fundraising mode, is the 75,000 or so members of the various Special Operations (Special Ops) units spread across the armed forces, troops ranging from reconnaissance and counter-terrorism typically conducted by small groups of highly trained personnel like Army green berets and rangers and Navy Seals. Those are all grouped under what is commonly referred to as special forces.

“The deaths of the 12 marines and the navy corpsman killed in the suicide bombing attack on the airport in Kabul made me realize how important it might have been for their families to have videos of their dead service member, to hear them say "I love you" and they could listen a million times,” Wheeler said.

Wheeler's first step with his business is a crowd-funding effort to raise $350,000 to complete the technical aspects of the capsule and provide first-year operating costs. Then, having filed a Reg-D, he will go after qualified investors seeking to gain equity shares and looking to an exit strategy.

“We are now working on the app and finishing the buildout of the encryption stuff,” Wheeler said.

Wheeler's knowledge of how to grow a business is indicated by his exercise-equipment venture. He launched Bowflex in 1985, taking the role of marketing vice president and fundraiser, then guiding the purchase of Nautilus as well as Schwinn fitness and Stairmaster in the '90s, using the name Nautilus for the collective businesses. Then he took the companies to the NYSE under the symbol NLS, completing the growth from zero sales to more than a half-billion dollars.

Wheeler emphasizes the importance of family to him. He and his wife, Dianna, celebrated their 50th anniversary in July, and the day we talked, he was heading off with his grandson to drive to Nebraska to go deer hunting.
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“Joint Base Lewis McChord (JBLM), which has three or four special ops groups, would be our first target, then Fairchild near Spokane, then once we have all special ops, move on to regular military, to all reserve and eventually national guard members, whose lives are on the line if they are called up.”

It’s intriguing that Wheeler’s project starts with a part of the military that frequently operates in secret so most Americans are not even aware there are members of the military who are on assignments that, at any given moment, can be in life or death situations.

“The time capsule will allow any member of the military to leave something for any future calendar date they wish and for any reason, even 20 to 30 years into the future, and the system knows the disbursement date,” Wheeler explained. “Those for whom a message is left will have a disbursement date that could be like to a granddaughter on her wedding day saying in a video capsule ‘grandpa would love to be with you on this special day.’”

Wheeler’s time in Vietnam included an incident that brought home to him personally the importance of communication with loved ones, an incident he shared with a chuckle.
 
He recalled that he sent a letter each week to his mother, “sometimes even just a quick note, like ‘send cookies,’ but it was every week.”
 
“Then I got sent on a secret mission to Laos or Cambodia, a mission where you didn’t even take your dog tags let alone communicate,” he said.
 
“So when my mom didn’t get her letters, she called the Red Cross and her concern eventually came to the attention of an admiral who called me in when I returned and he said ‘we can’t have your mom calling the Red Cross. Next time you leave me a series of letters to send to her and I’ll take care of it.’”

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Tale of two cities and debate over a region's name

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The congenial disagreements that I've had over the past couple of years with my friend John Powers, longtime economic development leader in this area, about our respective views of Seattle's future role in the region took on a bit of a new spin as a result of last week's Seattle elections.

In some respects, our discussions reflect primarily on who Seattle was, and its likely comeback, vs. a changing workplace dynamic and its maybe not comeback might be the tale of two cities.

Powers, whom I met 20 years ago when he was mayor of my hometown of Spokane and who then came to Seattle to head the King County economic development organization that he renamed Enterprise Seattle, has contended that despite the growth of the surrounding communities and counties, this region needs to remain "the Greater Seattle" area.

I have contended that it's time to focus on the fact this is the "Puget Sound Area," with the image of Seattle declining, and marketing material should acknowledge a Puget Sound designation.

John PowersJohn PowersBut the Seattle election results that suggest moderates may again be in the ascendancy in Seattle may have changed the tone of my conversations with Powers, who actually became a client of mine for a time after I retired as publisher of Puget Sound Business Journal and he was lured away from Enterprise Seattle to run Colliers International's Northwest operation. We've stayed close since then.

My view had seemed to gather greater credibility when Amazon CEO Andy Jassey, obviously throwing down the gauntlet to Seattle, told the Geekwire summit in early October: "We don't view Seattle as our HQ1 any longer. We view it as Puget Sound."

Jassy wasn't taking part in that "what should we call our region" discussion. But he might have been when he commented: "Bellevue, just east of Seattle, is where most of our growth will end up being." He added that he wouldn't be surprised if Amazon opened other offices in additional cities in the region.

But soon after Jassey's comments came last week's mayoral and a city council race and, of all things, a city attorney contest involving a former Republican who won. That allowed us to agree that, in Powers' words, it was "absolutely heartening" to see Bruce Harrell's overwhelming victory in the race to be Seattle's next mayor and the sense of the city's moderates emerging to actually make their voices heard.

For business and civic leaders in communities across Puget Sound who may have become convinced that the Seattle they watched warily over the past several years was on the verge of becoming a city living on the memories of yesterday's accomplishments, those Seattle election results had to bring a collective sigh of relief.

There was a particular satisfaction in seeing the photo of Harrell, son of a black father and Japanese mother, standing next to a hugely smiling Norm Rice, the black leader whose two successful terms as mayor saw him build back downtown, improve schools and reinvigorate neighborhoods.

Powers summed it up for me thus: "Bruce Harrell's Election bodes well for the entire region as 'Seattle Together' begins to tackle big challenges and moves forward to regain its footing and credibility. It will take time - resources - and a strong political consensus as well as the will to turn the situation around - but I do believe Mayor Harrell's election will be seen as the event that was the beginning of the turnaround."

But careful about giving way to optimism too soon, I told Powers in a post-election conversation. We have to see how Harrell as mayor handles the pushback that is sure to come from the group of city council members furthest on the political left, considerably to the left of Harrell.

It's pretty clear that the greatest opposition to Harrell is likely to come from council member Kshama Sawant. But then Powers offered: "Sawant's voice is going to grow feinter not louder." And she may be recalled in a vote on December 7.

And I suggested to Powers, who retired a year ago after nine years guiding the Kitsap Economic Development organization and moved home to Spokane, that Jassey may have inadvertently opened the door to that "Greater Seattle" vs. Puget Sound Area" discussion.

The elections were one of the things that have loomed on the horizon to determine what the future holds for Seattle's long dominance in the region's identity. The other, which hasn't gotten a lot of attention yet with the elections dominating the discussion, is the yet-to-be-released census data.

If the census data, to be distributed in depth before year-end, shows dramatic comparative growth of the Eastside vs, Seattle, it may require rethinking from both political and resource-allocation standpoints of the relative impact of the city vs. its Eastside suburbs.

The region is flush with communities whose ties with each other are at least as important to them as ties with Seattle, much as with the array of individual cities surrounding the Bay Area, which of course is a designation that has come to be globally recognized, as would The Puget Sound Area become.

In fact, I'd submit that the idea has been made much more logical by the post-COVID phenomenon of remote work, which is allowing a large percentage of workers once office-bound five days a week to now choose what appealing place they want to live. And it's likely to be true that communities around Puget Sound, along with more distant and more rural locations, will be in the running to create strategies to lure those remote workers.

And it's already clear that far fewer employees are likely to be working downtown, leaving a central Seattle that may well be far less a "where it's at" business community than it was accustomed to being in the pre-COVID time.

And it was amusing to see the PSBJ struggle over the "what's the name" issue over the weekend when under a headline that read "Seattle region office market's rent growth is tops in North America," the reporter wrote, "The Puget Sound region ranked No. 1 among North America's 30 leading tech markets for office rent growth."

Among those I visited with on the regional-name topic, I thought the best summing up for my side of the discussion came from a retired newspaperman, Peter Horvitz, who owned and was publisher for several decades of the Eastside Journal and the South County Journal, before succumbing to the inability to create a successful daily competitor of the Seattle Times. He thus understood the east-west competition in a more personal way than most business people on either side.

His summation of "the center of gravity has shifted away from Seattle" would draw a knowing acknowledgment from Eastside business leaders and a likely closed-lipped, reluctant lifting of eyebrows from many Seattle business leaders

"Despite what Seattle thinks, the growth has moved and won't be stopped," offered Horvitz, who himself moved with his wife recently to Florida. "It's important for people in positions of influence in the area to recognize the role the Eastside has come to play, a role that requires a rethinking of allocation of resources and where the political power rests."

And as with most Seattle vs. Eastside ideas, I had to ask Bellevue developer Kemper Freeman, despite the fact that in repeated attempts over the years, I've never been able to get him to wax critical of Seattle, inevitably telling me "the leaders of Seattle were all friends of mine. I had dinner at their homes."

Of course, that reluctance to criticize has never extended to Seattle-born ideas that would impact the rest of the region, as with ST3, the light rail program for the region, the most expensive transportation program ever undertaken in the nation. Freeman paid for piles of research trying to defeat ST3 with the message it would never attract enough riders to cover the costs.

And merely because it will actually be completed doesn't mean Freeman might not be right in the end, particularly if remote work significantly decreases the number of people heading to downtown offices.

But Freeman did tell me for this column, "I can't explain how they've lost all the things that made Seattle great."

Then comes a vote for Powers' view from John Oppenheimer, founder, and CEO of Columbia Hospitality, the Seattle management and consulting company with a portfolio of more than 40 properties, hotels, restaurants, conference centers, and golf courses, in two dozen different communities, many of which could likely become remote-work success stories.

Thus he could be the region's key beneficiary of the growth of the remote-work phenomenon and the rise of Zoom Towns far from urban centers, although since his firm operates the World Trade Center as well as Port of Seattle conference facilities and owns part of the Four Seasons Hotel,

Oppenheimer would prefer to have economic health occur for both downtown and distant towns. And as he told me, "I'm very optimistic about downtown. Yes, we've had a period of shakeup, but the number of people moving downtown is increasing, the number of new apartment units is increasing and the inventory is on the rise. And the new convention center will add to the need for downtown."

I thought the best close for this column was to relate what's come to be a growing recognition of those from around the region, outside of Seattle, who, when in meetings in other parts of the country now note that when they say they are from Seattle, they catch themselves and correct if they are actually from Bellevue or Redmond, for example.

And one business person chuckled as he related an incident at the Canadian border as the border agent asked where he was from while looking at his driver's license. "Seattle," came the reply. "Then why does your license say Bellevue?"
 
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Prominent Athira investors remain strong supporters of ex-CEO Kawas

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The group of prominent men and women who are among Athira Pharma’s most respected investors are also among founding CEO Leen Kawas’ staunchest supporters. Thus they are still trying to understand how what she did in altering an image in her doctoral dissertation was a serious enough offense to merit being forced to leave the biotech company she helped found.
 
Each of the investors, who are friends of mine, were concerned when she was put on leave in June when they felt less severe steps could have been taken and would have been by most other firms, steps like having her take early family leave since she was about eight weeks away from the arrival of her second child, while the board attempted to sort out relevant facts.
 
Kawas, a Jordanian whom I described from the time I first met her eight years ago as the model of an immigrant entrepreneur, agreed with the board last week that she would resign from the leadership of the company, originally named M3, that she had helped birth in the lab a decade ago and had guided as CEO since 2013 through research, fundraising and eventual IPO a year ago.
 
Because my wife has Parkinsons and Kawas told me when we first met that Parkinson’s was the target of their drug aimed at reversing neurodegeneration, or the death of brain cells, I told her she was my company and I would help her.
 
That was the fall of 2012 and over the next year, I introduced her to prospective investors in this state and California, calling anyone I knew who could afford the $50,000 initial investment and pressed them to listen to her compelling slide presentation. We raised about $1.5 million. Before that process began, she permitted me to be her initial investor, important so that if prospective investors asked “are you in?” I could say “of course.”
 
Along the way, I was with her when she got her green card and she called me in January 2020 to tell me she was about to become a U.S. citizen, prompting my column that month that began:

“Despite Leen Kawas' string of successes in her role as CEO of Athira Pharma and her quest to change the world with the company's drug aimed at reversing neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer's and Parkinson's, this may be her most exciting day, the day she became an American citizen.”

Leen KawasLeen KawasAfter my year of introductions, I told her “you now know real scientists and people with real money rather than just a retired newspaper publisher, so I’m going to go do some other things because you are in good hands.”

In addition, by then she told me that the company's first target would need to be Alzheimers because it was easier to raise money for Alzheimer's than Parkinson's. Though she explained to me that "when we have done Alzheimer's, we'll turn to Parkinson's and we'll be 60 percent along the way."
 
And so she was in good hands since both the scientists and “big money people” helped ensure successful fundraising efforts, including money from the Alzheimer’s Drug Discovery Fund, over the next half dozen years leading up to the company’s Initial Public Offering a year ago that raised $204 million.
 
Along the way Kawas, now 37, attracted a lot of personal attention, including Geekwire’s CEO of the year award in 2019 and the fact that in guiding Athira to its IPO she became the first woman CEO in 20 years in this state to take a company public.

If becoming a citizen was her most exciting day, last week, when she told the board she was agreeing to leave, must have been the saddest day.
 
“Creating this company and watching it grow toward a success I know it will achieve will be like watching my two babies grow,” said Kawas when she told me she was expecting her second child, who was born in early August.
 
Early on, Kawas was the beneficiary of believers who came to her aid as investors, mentors, and supporters because they were convinced she had the ability to bring to market a drug that would alter the course of diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s and thus change the future for millions of people.
 
As I have reached out to those investor friends, all early investors, some of whom I will quote below, I found to a person they remain believers in her, whatever her next step.
 
But her supporters, those who are friends of mine, have decided together not to raise a fuss with the company lest any negative expressions from such prominent people toward the Athira board have an adverse effect on the company or its progress.
 
Robert W. “Spike” Anderson, whose Anderson Damon Worldwide was a Costco global partner from the birth of the membership warehouse retailer and an investor in the biotech startup’s earliest days, expressed disappointment that Kawas is no longer running the company.
 
“I am not concerned about a mistake Leen may have made as a doctoral student. which did not have any impact on Athira today,” said Anderson, who has continued to be a startup entrepreneur. “She has successfully run the company almost since its founding and her tireless work and intellect are largely responsible for developing Athira’s lead therapeutic candidate, which has tremendous promise. I was a fan of Leen at the beginning and remain a fan.”
 
Michael Nassirian, an Iranian immigrant whose father sent him away from his troubled country to get his degree at the University of Texas and who went on to become a top executive at Microsoft before retiring in 2016, made this point to me: “as a middle easterner, I’m the only one who can share her pain because I know the cultural impact, and effect on families, of being accused of doing what she was accused of with her doctoral program.”
 
Nassirian, whose father headed the Iranian oil company and died with Alzheimer’s, heard Kawa's presentation before the Bellevue Chamber of Commerce in 2014 and told her he was in as an investor.
 
Carol Criner, one of the first people I introduced Kawas to and who quickly became her first female investor and has remained a business advisor, said she was “impressed and inspired by Leen’s vision for what is now Athira Pharma. Her story is incredible and I obviously hoped she would remain as CEO.”
 
Criner, a technology executive who currently serves as Vice President of Strategic Accounts for HCL Technologies, a $10 billion global technology company, added: “There’s a reason the windshield is larger than the rearview mirror. Leen will accomplish her future goals.”

Jim Warjone, chairman emeritus of Port Blakely, the major timber and real estate company that he guided as chairman and CEO, described Kawas as "a truly inspirational and extremely competent leader and the technology she created will dramatically impact a dreadful disease."
 
I thought it was important to include a quote relating to the importance of the future of Athira’s key drug nearing the completion of clinical trials.
 
“The Athira drug is a miracle drug,” said Dr. Patricia Galloway, who chairs Cle Elum-based Pegasus-Global Holdings, an international management consulting firm whose husband, Jim, has been a beneficiary of the clinical trials for ATH-1017.
 
“Not only is it promising but my husband is rebounding,” she said. “He can now do things he couldn’t do six months ago and the cognitive and memory issues are dramatically improving, each and every day.”
 
"I am so grateful for this breakthrough discovery and for what it has to offer to not only my husband but for all who suffer from the potential deadliest disease that has been virtually untreatable until now,” Galloway added. “Thank you, Leen, for your vision and the gift that you have given to the world and bringing back my husband.”

 
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Dan Evans' memoirs may include little-known facts of his major contribution

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As Dan Evans finalizes the long-awaited publication of the memoirs of his six-plus decades of public service, I’m not alone in hoping that what could be his most important contribution, heretofore virtually unknown, may finally get the visibility it merits. The timing couldn’t be more appropriate.

I’m not referring to his political contributions, which would themselves fill his book. Rather I am referring to his effort more than a half-century ago, along with two other prominent state Republican elected officials, to hatch a plan they hoped would lead to the election of Arthur Fletcher as the first black governor since reconstruction.

Dan EvansDan EvansEvans, a three-term governor and one-term U.S, Senator was my guest this week for an unusual interview, originally intended to be a live interview before Seattle 4 Rotary Club. After the Rotary Club decided not to do live interviews this month, Evans and I did a recorded interview before an audience at the Columbia Tower Club for replay to Rotary the following day.

During the interview, I asked Evans both about the progress of his long-awaited memoirs and the coverage in the book of the strategy he guided to accelerate the political career of an unknown black politician on a path designed to lead to the governorship.

“Hope to have it out before the Christmas rush,” Evans said with a chuckle of the memoirs, title yet to come. He said he’s at the final editing stage, “putting my initials on each page as final approval.”

“And yes, there’s a substantial section about Art Fletcher,’ he added. "And about his eventual role as the Father of Affirmative Action."

Fletcher, a football star at little Washburn University in Kansas who joined the original Baltimore Colts in 1950 as the franchise's first black player, had already built a reputation in other parts of the country for his activities as a political anomaly, a Republican civil-rights advocate.

I’ve often felt, since I first learned years ago of this one-of-a-kind plot by a group of Republican state elected officials guided by their governor to set the stage for the election of a black man as governor that it merited national visibility, particularly at this time.

Regular readers of The Harp may recall a column I did two years ago on the Evans-Fletcher story, As I wrote it, I realized that 1,700 readers were a dramatically small number to know about the story. So I reached out to Mark Higgins, assistant editorial page editor of the Seattle Times, to offer him the column and he first explained that The Times doesn’t run a piece that has already appeared as a column elsewhere.

But he soon decided, on reflection, that the Evans-Fletcher story deserved being brought to The Times readership. So the Harp appeared as an op-ed piece under the headline: ‘Remembering Arthur Fletcher, the father of Affirmative Action.”

Now my hope is that reviewers of Evans’ memoirs will focus on, or be directed to, the Fletcher portion of the book and that a broad, maybe national, audience will learn the story and begin to think of ways to credit Evans for posterity. And also Fletcher for his role fulfilling the hope held out for him.

I have asked Evans on several occasions why he hatched the plan and he has explained how he first met and became impressed with Fletcher, who had founded a self-help cooperative in the largely black community of East Pasco.

Art FletcherArt FletcherEvans recalled his first meeting with Fletcher: "a big man, and former pro football player who carried a commanding presence and spoke with conviction in his resonating baritone voice."

Remember the timing of Evans’ strategy for Fletcher. Not unlike the 2020 Summer of Discontent, the riots in cities across America over the ‘60s grew out of black poverty and joblessness, and police brutality.

But the rioters’ rally cry of “Burn Baby, Burn” was far more ominous than the marches and demonstrations, mostly peaceful (except where thugs came along in some demonstrations burning and looting), under the banner and to the cries of Black Lives Matter.

As keynoter at the 1968 Republican convention in Miami, Evans’ message was that the time was right “to touch the troubled spirit of America,” alluding to the demonstrations opposing the Vietnam War as well as the racial unrest. But of the latter, Evans told the delegates it was time to resolve "the crisis in the main streets of America--a crisis of violence and stolen hope.”

The plan for Fletcher was already underway at that point to have him run for lieutenant governor.

As Evans once said to me on another occasion of Fletcher's possible election: "It could have had a huge impact on race relations and who knows how history could have changed. He was a remarkable man and one I admired immensely."

And the campaign poster picturing four young members of the Republican team seeking statewide office, all in their early 40’s, three of them white and one black, was way ahead of its time, as were the convictions for equality of the two young leaders, Evans and Gorton.

Had he been elected lieutenant governor, he would have been in a position to seek the governor’s office to subsequently replace Evans.

In the end, Fletcher lost the election to popular incumbent John Cherberg, though Evans told the audience at our interview that he lost by only a few points and the difference was the King County vote.

Fletcher had gained exposure at the GOP convention speaking to promote his self-help philosophy to an audience eager to attract black voters.

Among those attracted to Fletcher’s message was Nixon himself and after the election, Nixon appointed Fletcher Assistant Secretary of Labor for Employment Standards. His responsibilities included wage and hour regulations for the nation’s workforce and supervision of the Office of Federal Contracts Compliance.

So on June 27, 1969, Fletcher implemented the nation’s first federal affirmative action program that required federal contractors to meet specific goals in minority hiring for skilled jobs in the nation’s notoriously segregated construction industry.

But after two years, Fletcher’s affirmative action programs had earned him so much opposition among the leaders of the skilled construction unions that he was forced to resign.

However, Fletcher went on to serve in the administrations of presidents Ford, Reagan, and George H.W, Bush and became known as “the father of affirmative action.”

My hope is that as the Evans-Fletcher story might reach a broad, national audience, that there would be a move to honor both for this unique political story. Maybe somehow together.

The challenge could be that such an effort on behalf of two Republicans would likely need to commence in their home state, home to a democratic legislature, Democratic governor, and two Democratic U.S. senators.

On the other hand, it might be an appropriate opportunity to see if doing what’s right ever transcends what’s merely right and correct politically.
 
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No 10th-anniversary party for Tacoma Rainiers, but a season to remember

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While there was no formal 10th-anniversary celebration for the Tacoma Rainiers in this COVID- impacted season, winning the Triple-A West Division title, the club’s first league title, has made it a season to remember.

And in many respects, the 2021 season for the franchise and the ownership group put together a decade ago by Mikal Thomsen to buy the team he had followed since boyhood was a season of accomplishment worthy of marking an anniversary year. And providing an occasion for reflection.

Less likely to be memorable is major league baseball’s decision to have a 10-game post-season “Triple-A Stretch” in which all 30 teams in four AAA divisions, including the West Division, that Tacoma won, will play into October.

Mikal ThomsenMikal ThomsenAs Major League Baseball’s website explained, “among all 30 clubs, a single 2021 Triple-A Final Stretch Winner will be crowned across both leagues based on highest overall winning percentage during a 10-game schedule immediately following the originally scheduled championship season.”

When I suggested it seemed a rather strange AAA finale, Thomsen offered, “I’ll take the regular-season crown, happily.”

The Rainiers are at Round Rock (an Austin, TX, suburb) for five games starting this week and then home for five games against Salt Lake, starting the 29th

As Thomsen explained, “we have two weeks of games that do not count towards any title but will both pay the players more money and provide a place for all MLB teams to have their top prospects play another two weeks as we missed out on April games this year due to COVID.”

Thus the season didn’t actually begin until May and social distancing mandates were in place for May and June. But in July and August attendance and revenue were, as Thomsen explained, “within spitting distance of the same months in 2019.”

Reviewing how this 2021 season unfolded, Thomsen offered a particular focus on rookie manager Kris Negron, “a thirty-something guy who played for the Rainiers in 2019 and this team playing with verve and gusto.” And, much to the team’s family focus, Negron, Thomsen said, took paternity leave mid-season (something not likely to be said about many baseball managers, even in this era).

Thomsen said of the fans, who returned in respectable numbers by season end, “They are buying R hats and munching on the Best Hot Dog in Baseball as they cheered on the first place Tacoma Rainiers.”

But as indicated earlier, this Harp is not so much about the success of a minor league baseball team, albeit the key minor league relationship for the Seattle Mariners, as it is a reminder of what may be the most appealing story in all of baseball.

It’s a story that began in 1960 when a three-year-old went along with his father to the first professional baseball game in 55 years in Tacoma to watch the then-Giants, the new Triple-A farm team of the San Francisco Giants.

As I wrote in a column six years ago, that first game ignited a life-long affection of a kid, then a man, for his hometown baseball team. And though he grew up to make his name and fortune over two decades in the cellular-wireless industry, Thomsen's "dream come true" is played out each year.

That’s how he first described to me what it was like to become CEO and, with his wife, Lynn, the major investor in the Tacoma Rainiers of the Pacific Coast League baseball.

The Thomsens put together a team of investors prior to the 2011 season to join them in owning the Rainiers. The ownership team that may be unique in Major League Baseball includes his sports “boss” in a sense, John Stanton, the CEO and majority owner of the Mariners, and his wife, Terry. But, of course, Stanton is also his business partner in Bellevue-based Trilogy Partnerships.

”I spent a good portion of six months during the fall and winter of 2010-2011 deciding to make a bid and then raising the equity and debt to close the sale,” Thomsen recalled when I asked him about seizing the opportunity to buy the franchise.

“That was finalized at the end of March of 2011, just in time to open the baseball season and open in a revamped Cheney Stadium which had undergone a nearly $30 million public-private makeover. The stadium was beautiful, a significant upgrade from the one where I had spent significant parts of my summertime youth running around during the ’60s.”

Thomsen’s father died a couple of years before the purchase of the team but he said “Most of our last conversations were about baseball. I wish every day that he had been,” he said, relating to the possibility that his father would have still been alive then.

“We did hold my Mom’s 90th birthday party (they were married for 57 years) at Cheney Stadium earlier this month, though,” he added.

I asked Thomsen for this column if it still feels like a dream come true.

“It’s the gift that keeps on giving,” he replied. “I continue to have fun with it, and I genuinely look at it as a public trust. We own it for a while, as did others before us and as will others after us. But keeping it going for the community is the key aspect.”

 
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Purging ancient emails: Stirs memories and brings back the past to revisit

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Using my emails as vehicles to visit the past has, for a couple of reasons, become part of my mental activity as COVID eases. First, because when I run across someone who opens my Flynn’s Harp column whom I haven’t been in contact with for some months, I find myself now feeling the need to reach out to them to see that they are ok. I’m sure that’s an urge that many living with the shuttering brought by the virus share with me.

The second source of email memories is via a manner that’s admittedly pretty unusual, but I recommend it to any who, like me, haven’t cleaned out the email backlog for years. Make that more than a decade. One day when the backlog passed 110,000, stretching back over 11 years, Google basically said “clean them out or you won’t get any more.”

Since the cleaning began with the oldest emails forward, I have been enjoying visiting a “living” past that first put me back to 2009. The visiting of more than a decade via emails that seem current when you open them anew has been an amusing, intriguing, and fun (or sad) experience, And so too sharing them with those who were either senders or recipients back then. So I decided to share some I saved in this week’s Harp. With apologies for the length.

My first stop on the ancient emails purge was 2009, wiping out a few hundred. Then I encountered an email exchange among some who had seen a column I did that year on the fact it was the 50th anniversary of the Chad Mitchell Trio’s heading off from Spokane and Gonzaga University to seek their fortune in New York.

The column was recalling an interview I had done in 2005 with Chad and wound up with the suggestion the trio deserved to have an event in Spokane to honor their 50th.

Several readers of the column happened to be, at that time, members of the Gonzaga Board of Regents and so I was able to look in as they shared copy-all emails, including me, discussing the idea of a Chad Mitchell anniversary event.

Since Don Nelles, a current neighbor of mine who was board chair of the regents at the time was leading the email discussion and included me, I sent him the collection several months ago as ancient history revisited, to his amusement. A 50th was never held. Chad and Mike Kobluk live in Spokane Joe Frazier, who had become an Episcopal priest, died in his sleep on March 28, 2014, at the age of 77.

Another e-mail train related to several 2010 emails exchanges with Liz Marchi, the Montana angel investor who was just becoming a friend that year and about whom I’ve done maybe half a dozen columns since.

My first column on her about that time focused on the fact that, as the overseer at that point of a Montana Angel Network, she hoped to create awareness on the part of promising entrepreneurs seeking capital that “angels are gathering in increasing numbers under the Big Sky.” Indeed that has since become the case.

Soon after arriving in Montana’s Flathead Valley in 2003 with three daughters and her then-husband, she decided to create the state's first angel fund, Frontier Angel Fund I. The fund closed in 2006 at $1.7 million, $300,000 more than she had hoped.  
 
She eventually guided the Kalispell-based fund, which had attracted investors from around the country who were either fans of or summer residents in the Big Sky Country, to lead three deals and gather a total of 12 active investments and was soon also overseeing angel groups that had sprung up in Missoula and Bozeman.

Today she is business development vice president for an intriguing venture fund in White Fish, MT, called Two Bear Capital.

Then a train etched with sadness popped up, relating to what was a soon-to-be gathering of Vietnam reporters in 2011 for a lunch at a Thai restaurant in Little Saigon in Orange County, where they planned to gather to recall and reflect. It was sad because two friends who were frontline reporters for United Press International and were at the luncheon, Tracy Wood and Ray Herndon, had quotes in the column. Both have died of cancer in the past two years.

Bob Page, who was my old boss at UPI and is now a friend as a publisher in San Diego, was UPI’s boss in Asia during Vietnam and knew all the reporters and was at the 2011 luncheon. He recalled for me in advance of the gathering: “I'll be there. I'll sit with Maggie Kilgore and Tracy Wood. That's the main reason to go, to see those two tougher-than-nails gals. They were fearless as were Kate Webb and Sylvana Foa. Four of the best. You could match them up with any four guys anywhere (referring to four of the women whom UPI sent to the war zone without hesitation because of their talent while many news organizations hesitated to send women).”

Then I ran across and saved from the delete key, a column, and numerous replies, reflecting 50 years later on the hanging I covered at the state penitentiary in June of 1963, the execution of Joseph Chester Self for the murder of a cab driver in a $12 robbery. I was 23 so it had an impact when Self, wearing a straight jacket and noose, was brought into the chamber by the warden and positioned to stand on the steel trap door, which was sprung open and he fell to his death before our eyes,

At the time of Self's execution, the state didn't have a gallows in the Old West style, but rather a large room at the Washington State Penitentiary in Walla Walla, a "death chamber" as it was referred to, a short walk from Death Row where those sentenced to die awaited the outcome of their appeals process. Some 30 years after Self’s hanging, a legislature made fatal injection an option for the condemned prisoners.
Only men were executed in Washington and, interesting in light of the State Supreme Court’s statement in a 2018 decision outlawing the death penalty that the death penalty’s imposition in this states was "racially disproportionate," of the 14 who went to their deaths on the gallows between 1947 and 1993, 13 were Caucasian, including Self, and one was Hispanic.

Washington's governors long routinely passed on the opportunities to interfere with the death penalty being carried out until current governor Jay Inslee imposed a moratorium on the death penalty and has now announced he would veto any effort to restore it.

I decided that column deserved to be preserved, partly because a high school student who was one of a group working on a paper on hanging reached out to learn more about my experience. But also because of an email, it was prompted by my boss of the Spokane UPI bureau at the time, Roberta Ulrich.
 
“I still owe you thanks for volunteering to take on that task and letting me hide my cowardice,” she wrote. “I always said I could do any assignment any man could do but I admit I really didn't want to cover a hanging. As bureau manager it was my job and, at any rate, I couldn't have assigned you so your volunteering saved face for me - to say nothing of my qualms. You did a fine job.”

With the avalanche of crises cascading down on those involved in legislating, arguing, and lobbying in the Nation's Capital, a column I ran across on what was then an annual event for Montanans laboring in D.C. was a must save. And must share. Only those with roots in Montana could come up with a party like the annual "Testy Fest."
 
The gathering came into existence in 2004 as the more tastefully titled "DC Rocky Mountain Oyster Festival," but by the time I did the column in 2011, it was known and promoted simply as "the Testicle Festival."
 
Between 400 and 500 "cowboys and cowgirls," including Capitol Hill staff members who hailed from Montana, transplants from the Big Sky State, and people who just wanted to be seen with Montanans regularly attended the event.
 
The attraction that lured attendees wasn’t just the Montana camaraderie but also the featured fare, a western delicacy that is also known as "Prairie Oysters" or "Calf Fries."

Can you imagine the bridging of the current political divide that might occur if lawmakers from both parties got an invitation jointly signed by Chuck Shumer and Mitch McConnell to "come join us for a beer and a ball."

Two columns and emails I decided were to be saved because they tied the columns of the past to current relevance, as with Liz Marchi.

Thus the column on Mikal Thomsen's "dream come true" when in 2011 the prominent cellular executive and his wife, Lynn, purchased the Tacoma Rainiers.

The other is a 2010 piece marking the 25th anniversary of the ownership of the Spokane Indians baseball team by the Brett Brothers.

Northwest minor-league sports continues to be synonymous with Brett Sports, which has owned and operated the Spokane Indians baseball club for 36 years since Bobby Brett and his three brothers bought the Indians in 1985. They added the Spokane Chiefs hockey team in 1990.

There was a touching aspect to Thomsen's story. It's that when Triple-A baseball returned to Tacoma in 1960 after a 55-year absence, one of the fans in attendance that opening day to watch the team then nicknamed the Giants was 3-year-old Mikal Thomsen, there with his father, seeing his first professional baseball game.

That ignited a life-long affection of a kid, then a man, for his hometown baseball team.
Although he grew up to make his name and fortune over two decades as he became a leading figure in the cellular industry, Thomsen's "dream come true" is played out each year as CEO of the Rainiers.

Then there was the 2010 column that when I ran across it and the email exchange that followed had to be saved as one of my first love affairs…a man and his car.

So the column read: “As summer gives way to autumn, longings for the long-ago can creep into the days for the sentimental among us and so it is that I sometimes find myself revisiting the days of youth when, somewhere between girlfriends, I fell in love with a '55 Thunderbird. She was white with a turquoise interior and had both a soft and a hardtop."

As I wrote then: "I thought about her recently because it's a special anniversary of sorts: 55 years since the Ford Motor Co. debuted in 1955 what its marketing folks described as a 'Boulevard Sportscar.'"

The original T-bird was already a classic by the mid-'60s when I saw one on a car lot in north Spokane, swung in to try it, and drove out 30 minutes later, sitting proudly behind the wheel -- one flashy car richer and $1,200 poorer.

Of course that $1,200 has grown by as much as 30 times for those T-Birds who've kept their shape and sharp looks and are still nurtured and occasionally driven by those whose love affair with the car remains, making it one of the best investments ever for anyone who held onto one.

The T-Bird was more sophisticated and urbane in its concept than Chevrolet's muscular Corvette, which debuted at the same time and shared the stage with the T-bird as the first two-seat American rivals of the European sports cars.

There was something about the jump and roar of the White Lady, half of whose length was hood and the high-horsepower engine that churned beneath it, that stirred the blood.
 
The car lured Betsy, a co-ed I'd met in math class, and I taught her how to drive a stick shift as she sat behind the wheel of the T-Bird. To this day I'm not certain, 55 years of marriage later, if she didn't fall in love with the car and thus, of necessity, fell for the owner.
 
But then in 2002, the automaker undertook the tallest of orders, seeking to reinterpret an icon, reintroducing the two-seated Thunderbird. It couldn't be too much of a copy of what had gone before, but it couldn't depart too much from the inspiration.

But for me, growing older had brought the slow realization that the longing that stirred occasionally wasn't just about a car, it was also about a time.

I could own a re-creation of a car, but I couldn't drive it back in time. My wife and family understood that long before I did.

And among emails from friends for whom their memories included a T-Bird was a priceless one from Joe Galloway, the famous Vietnam correspondent who has been the topic of numerous Harps.
 
“Ah, Mike. I somehow knew we were blood brothers. My second car in this life was, yep, a 1955 white Thunderbird with soft and hardtops. I was just 19, working my first newspaper job at the Victoria, TX, Advocate. my first car, a 52 Chevy convertible, red, had about crapped out. My dad co-signed and the Humble Oil Credit Union choked up the money.
 
“Not long after that, I was hired by UPI for the Kansas City bureau and I loaded the T-Bird up with all my earthly possessions in the trunk and passenger seat and headed north. it was Jan. 1961 and the No. 1 song blaring on the radio was Wilburt Harrison's “Goin' To Kansas City!” I howled right along with him.”
 
“Those were the days, my friend, we thought they'd never end......”
 
And on that memorable note ends the recollection of a string of memories embedded in all the thousands of deleted emails.
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Reflecting on AT&T breakup, the innovative success that followed

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As Congress begins to finally consider action against the nation’s tech giants to control tactics being increasingly viewed as monopolistic and anti-competitive, those deliberations will prompt suggestions of breakup and that may prompt some to recall the mother of all breakups. That was the antitrust lawsuit against AT&T and the Jan. 1, 1984, divestiture of the telecom giant that was then the world’s largest corporation.

unnamed 11It may be instructive to remember what followed after AT&T was forced under a court order to give up its 22 local Bell companies, establishing seven Regional Bell Operating Companies (RBOCs) that became the key contacts with telephone customers.

The real sources of innovation that followed that end of monopoly communications came from new technologies, new firms, new platforms, and new business models from outside and inside the telecom world.

It’s likely a good bet that breaking the tech giants into pieces, particularly Google and Facebook, would allow innovators to emerge from among the pieces to create new products and new technologies, precisely what followed AT&T’s breakup.

 
Meanwhile, back then, cable TV was a flourishing young industry, full of small-town entrepreneurs and a few visionaries who were just beginning to think about scaling the business. Among those were the four McCaw brothers, sons of J. Elroy McCaw, a major figure in the broadcast industry who owned radio stations nationally and Ch. 13 television locally.
 
In 1966 Elroy McCaw sold his cable system in Centralia to his sons, including 16-year-old Craig. When the senior McCaw died of a stroke three years later, dozens of claims and lawsuits from creditors consumed the fortune he had amassed and the McCaw estate filed bankruptcy. That left his sons with only the small cable system but over the next few years, they turned it from a company with 2,000 subscribers to one with $5 million in annual income.
 
The McCaw brothers founded McCaw Communications and, with Craig taking the lead, began to explore cellular service.
 
unnamed 2There are multiple ironies in the tale of the McCaw brothers and AT&T links to their company, whose success helped make the Puget Sound region the global mecca for a new cellular communications industry, to AT&T.

The first came when Craig ran across an AT&T memo in which the company predicted the number of U.S. cellular users would be 900,000 by 1995. Thus, in what one writer called “the worst guess about future values since the Red Sox traded pitcher Babe Ruth to the New York Yankees,” AT&T buried the cellular program.
 
That set Craig on a quest for licenses for the cellular spectrum and within two years McCaw Cellular had purchased licenses in six of the nation’s 30 largest markets.
 
Using those as collateral and taking out loans to buy more licenses, he eventually wound up with billions of dollars of spectrum, outpacing the growth of the “Baby Bells” in the emerging markets.  After purchasing MCI Communications’ mobile businesses in 1986 and LIN Broadcasting three years later, McCaw Communications partnered with AT&T as a technology provider and introduced their Cellular One service in 1990 to create the first truly national cellular system and a brand that attracted numerous other cellular companies.

That led to the final irony when, in 1994, the McCaw brothers sold McCaw Cellular to AT&T for $11.6 billion, making Craig McCaw one of AT&T’s largest shareholders. The company was soon renamed AT&T Wireless.
 
In its earliest days, McCaw Cellular attracted some of the brightest young minds in the region and they put their own stamps on the industry, further cementing the Puget Sound region as a wireless mecca.
 
Mikal ThomsenMikal ThomsenFirst was John Stanton who, at 28, was the company’s first employee and quickly became COO and vice-chairman. He was soon followed by 27-year-old Mikal Thomsen and by the late ‘80s, with Craig McCaw’s blessing, the two, along with Stanton’s wife, Terry Gillespie, McCaw Cellular’s senior vice president and controller, began acquiring rural wireless properties.
 
As the three thus began a business and personal friendship that has extended across the decades, including ownership of minor league baseball teams, to their current investment firm Trilogy Partners and its global arm, Trilogy International, their several rural-focused startups soon merged to form Western Wireless Corp., which went public in 1996.

Western Wireless spun off its VoiceStream Wireless in 1999 into a separate publicly-traded company and it was purchased by Deutsche Telekom in 2001. Deutsche Telekom renamed VoiceStream Wireless T-Mobile USA in 2002. Western Wireless merged with Alltel Corporation in August 2005.

The T-Mobile Park, home of the Seattle Mariners of which Stanton is the majority owner and chairman, is a continuing testimony to the success of a group of young innovators who found an opportunity in the breakup of the world’s largest company.

So to those who would mouth dire predictions should Congress begin considering what should become of the nation’s tech giants, the counter should be “remember AT&T.”
 
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New Alaska Air CEO Ben Minicucci eyes the future with optimism

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As Alaska Air Group’s new CEO Ben Minicucci looks back on the emergence of the airline he now guides from the year of the pandemic that left uncertainty about the future of air travel, he says “we’re optimistic and well-positioned for the recovery and to seize opportunity.”

Minicucci, 54, assumed the CEO role less than two months ago with the retirement of Brad Tilden, who in his nine years as chairman and CEO built respect across the region and across his industry. Minicucci filled the key CEO in waiting role as Alaska president since 2016, the year Alaska acquired Virgin America at a cost of approximately $4 billion.

Ben MinicucciBen MinicucciOverseeing Virgin America’s operation under its own name and brand until it was fully incorporated into Alaska Airlines two years later fell to Minicucci, who served as Virgin CEO as well as Alaska Airlines president, overseeing the integration of Alaska and Virgin America’s operations, processes and workgroups.

Much of the opportunity he intends for Alaska to seize was put in place during the COVID year by Tilden, who remains as chairman, and Minicucci, foremost of those being Alaska joining 13 other airlines in a global alignment called One World, plus adding 42 new routes and extending Alaska service to a fourth country. But perhaps most importantly, Minicucci predicts Alaska will return to profitability by October.

Minicucci shared his thoughts on what Alaska has been through and how it is prepared for what lies ahead during a Microsoft Teams interview from his office at Alaska headquarters south of Sea-Tac International Airport.

He noted that leisure travel is returning before business travel, which normally is about 30 percent of Alaska business, with leisure having returned to pre-pandemic levels but business at only about 20 percent of the pre-COVID level. But he said “we expect business travel to ramp up to 50 percent of pre-pandemic levels by year-end.”

I suggested to Minicucci that while Alaska seems to have done a good job of coming back to prior levels as it relates to customer and financial performance, two key issues that could impact financial performance in the future have emerged for major companies to deal with.

First is the social issue of racial diversity driven by the Black Lives Matter unrest of the 2020 summer and the other is the political issue of demands from sectors of a divided nation for business allegiance, as in the flap over the Georgia election law.

In other words, I suggested that the racial divide and the political divide have added new and unanticipated challenges to the future direction of all major companies, and wondered how Alaska was preparing for them.

But it turns out that a focus on diversity is not new to Alaska, the company having been specifically focused on it for 15 years. Minicucci didn’t blow the companies horn about the partnership with the United Negro College Fund (UNCF). I had to find it out after our interview. The story is that the partnership started 15 years ago, with Alaska’s initial support being for UNCF’s fundraising in the form of tickets and event sponsorships.

In 2017, UNCF became one of Alaska’s LIFT Miles partners, meaning guests could contribute airline miles alongside the company, “ensuring that travel does not hold young people back from pursuing their dreams” is the way Alaska’s explanation for the program puts it. “We are proud to partner with and support an organization whose mission is to build a robust and nationally-recognized pipeline of under-represented students who, because of UNCF support, become highly-qualified college graduates.”

“Throughout the pandemic we didn’t lose track of what’s important, leading with our values,” he said during our interview. “As we return to growth, it’s an opportunity to rebuild responsibility and embed those values even deeper in our culture, especially around our social and environmental commitments.”

“As a company, we know we are not yet where we need to be when it comes to racial diversity, but we are inspired and guided by our s to do the right thing,” Minicucci said.
Alaska has put in place a challenging set of goals relating to diversity, equity, and inclusion, starting with a commitment to ”increasing racial diversity of our leadership to reflect the racial diversity of our frontline workforce. Today, a third of our frontline and manager levels are racially diverse compared to 16 percent racial diversity within leadership.” Getting those into alignment is a five-year goal that Minicucci said will include determining compensation packages.

The company’s stated commitment is: “We believe that education is the great equalizer and a critical component on the path to equity. Now through 2025, we’ve set our sights on supporting community-based education and career development opportunities to reach at least 175,000 young people, with a focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion.”

Minicucci’s modest upbringing as the son of Italian immigrants who moved from their home country to Canada, where he was born, could have given him a personal understanding of education as the great equalizer. His mom had a fifth-grade education and his father had less so they pushed him toward education as the path to better things.

His “better things” leading up to his arrival at Alaska 17 years ago included getting his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in mechanical engineering from the Royal Military College of Canada, after which he served in the Canadian armed forces for 14 years, then various roles with Air Canada.

With respect to the political divide, emerging now as the battle over voting laws that commenced first in Georgia and in which Alaska rival Delta Airlines found itself caught up, along with Coke and several other major companies in Atlanta, I asked Minicucci about how Alaska would respond if it finds itself squeezed in the divide. Delta and Coke called Georgia’s voting law unacceptable, which riled business groups.

“It’s a delicate proposition,” Minicucci said. “The way we have to think about these things is through the filter of our values, meaning through the eyes of stakeholders, including employees. It can’t be Ben’s personal opinion guiding those decisions.”

Finally, several recent additions to Alaska’s route structure are clearly focused on the growing importance of leisure travel, including the recently announced addition, beginning in the fall, of the tiny Caribbean nation of Belize, immediately south of Mexico.

Alaska will be disclosing tomorrow which cities will be serving Belize, the fourth country that Alaska will be serving from its West Coast hubs, and when tickets will go on sale.

With respect to new domestic routes, Alaska started non-stop service to Cincinnati last week as the 95th nonstop destination with non-stops to both Idaho Falls and Redding, Ca., starting June 17, bringing Alaska close to 100 nonstop destinations.

I was particularly intrigued by what the airline promotes as "the newest 'sun and fun' additions" to its route structure, non-stops connecting Los Angeles and San Diego with Kalispell, MT, and San Diego and San Francis with Bozeman. The new routes, which will operate through the summer, are the strongest connections yet for Alaska between Montana and California. Direct connections between Missoula, home of the state's major university, and Los Angeles and San Diego are already in place.

It’s clear the new connections are leisure-focused to Big Sky Country and the Flathead country of Glacier Park. But Bozeman and Kalispell have come to evolve as centers for entrepreneurs and angel investors, including a number from the California tech-investor centers.

And as another post-pandemic trend, remote work, continues to emerge, Alaska may find that enough remote workers are embracing Montana that what is clearly a leisure connection may develop a business role that the airline didn’t anticipate.
 
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Election laws rewriting draws ire of state's GOP secretaries of state

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The political melodrama being played out in Republican-held legislatures around the country of rewriting election laws, a process worrisome to election officials of both parties, is getting a hard pushback from two nationally respected retired Washington Republican secretaries of state as well as the current holder of that office, also a Republican.

And a Republican side-stage scene of a bizarre vote recount in Arizona is described by Kim Wyman, the three-term current Washington secretary of state, as “a process that should concern every American.”

As in their outspoken support for Georgia’s secretary of state as he was being personally pressured by President Donald Trump to twist that state’s election outcome to his favor, five-term secretary of state Ralph Munro and his three-term successor Sam Reed have nothing but criticism for the voting rewrite efforts.Kim WymanKim Wyman

“It’s ridiculous for elected officials in these states to be using this Democracy-threatening device to perpetuate the big lie,” said Munro, to which Reed said, “that’s exactly how I would say it.”

“These election-change efforts are starting down a pretty scary road for Democracy,” added Wyman, who was elected to her third four-year term last November.

The three, plus Bruce Chapman, Republican who was appointed secretary of state in 1975 by Gov. Dan Evans and was elected to a single term in 1976 then made an unsuccessful run for the GOP nomination for governor in 1980, are being honored in a virtual event on May 20 by the Mainstream Republicans of Washington. The four will share the virtual stage to discuss their collective roles in this state’s 57-year GOP hold on the office of secretary of state, Washington’s chief election officer.

That remarkable political success story in what has usually been, and increasingly so in recent years, a deep blue state began in 1964 with the election of young Seattle City Councilman A. Ludlow Kramer who joined Dan Evans, who was elected governor, in a remarkable year in which their success defeating Democratic incumbents went dramatically against the Democratic sweep across the nation, led by Lyndon Johnson’s overwhelming defeat of Barry Goldwater.

Jon Nehring, the 10-year mayor of Marysville and chair of the organization that names itself mainstream isn’t sure an organization of that name exists in other states, though he agreed with a chuckle that it’s quite likely Republicans in Alabama or Texas would describe themselves as mainstream. Pretty certain that would include all the GOP House members who ousted Liz Cheney from her leadership role Wednesday for her criticisms of Trump.

Reed said that while The Mainstream Republicans of Washington is a unique organization, most states have a loosely connected group of moderates/mainstreamers.

Incidentally, I advised the three that Republicans like them are going to have to come up with a different mantra than “big lie” about Trump and Republicans who contend without factual support that the election was stolen by President Joe Biden and the Democrats. That’s because Trump this week co-opted that “big lie” phrase to now refer to his view, and the view of his followers, that he actually won in November.

The Washington Post did an analysis of the GOP’s national push in states around the country to enact hundreds of new election restrictions. The Post said the effort “could strain every available method of voting for tens of millions of Americans, potentially amounting to the most sweeping contraction of ballot access in the United States since the end of Reconstruction, when Southern states curtailed the voting rights of formerly enslaved Black men”.

In data compiled as of Feb, 19, the nonpartisan Brennan Center for Justice found that in 43 states across the country, Republican lawmakers have proposed at least 250 laws that would limit mail, early in-person, and Election Day voting with such constraints as stricter ID requirements, limited hours or narrower eligibility to vote absentee.Ralph MunroRalph Munro

One of the numerous voter constraints being enacted or considered in many states where Republican legislatures hold sway is voters being required to carry some sort of approved personal i.d. to be permitted to vote.

Addressing that, Wyman said, “if states are going to crack down with a requirement for a voter i.d. then every eligible voter should have access to official i.d. for free.”

Wyman was particularly critical of the unusual election recount in Arizona, where the Republican-led State Senate ordered a recount of All 2.1 million votes cast in Maricopa County, a review being conducted not by elections officials but by independent contractors…a Florida firm that has no background with elections.

“If the 10,000 people who oversee local elections are to be replaced in oversight of the elections by state legislators, outcomes in the future will depend on which party is in power in a particular state,” said Wyman,

Wyman used the phrase “epitome of the opaque” to describe the Arizona recount, which she said is “a process that should concern every American.”

Munro, who I’ve known for 54 years and have never known him to go easy with something that deserves his criticism, said “rightwingers see voter fraud under every rock. In my 35 years of election involvement, I’ve seen voting mistakes occur but never of significant consequence.”

“To allow legislatures to directly oversee local election officials would be totally politicizing what is basically a very good process everywhere with people from both parties involved in watching the process and the counting,” he added.

When I wrote of Munro’s and Reed’s praise Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger for the manner in which he resisted personal pressure from Trump to alter the presidential election outcome in his state, I noted their suggestion that he deserved some sort of national honor for his courage.

Now Raffensperger’s state is among the leaders of the move to basically rewrite voter eligibility provisions with what critics see as a way to reduce the minority vote in the future.

One of the reasons Munro and Reed give for the phenomenal string of terms the Republicans have held the state’s chief elections overseer is that all have guided the office almost as if it were a non-partisan office.

And each had roles that went well beyond election oversight in their service to the state, including the international trade role, in Munro’s case.

Meanwhile, as the Republican state senate order of a recount of 2.1 million ballots in Maricopa County continues, one of the Republican senators who voted to approve the recount, under the control of a Florida firm hired to oversee it, is expressing regret at voting in favor of it.Sam ReedSam Reed

“I didn’t think it would be this ridiculous. It’s embarrassing to be a state senator at this point,” Paul Boyer said of a partisan recount.

More than 100 Republican former governors, members of Congress, cabinet officials, and others plan to release a “call for American renewal” statement of principles and vision for the party on Thursday, a day after House Republicans removed Liz Cheney from their leadership ranks for her opposition to Trump’s false claims about a stolen 2020 election that sparked an insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.

The group says it is prepared to raise “tens of millions” of dollars to support candidates in competitive 2022 midterm elections that will decide control of Congress and are laying the groundwork for an alternative party if the GOP doesn’t change course.

But Reed had a firm response to the idea of an alternative party.

“Third parties are a pipe dream. A waste of time,” Reed said.

That means he sees changes that need to be made having to come from within the GOP.

(Virtual event May 29 at 7:00 pm. Register at www.mrwalliance.org/honoring-our-secretaries-of-state-virtual-event. Individual tickets are $25 each or purchase a ticket to the event and the VIP reception with Secretary Kim Wyman for $250.  NOTE: Information on how to log onto the Zoom event will be sent after registration. )

 
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'Do today' mantra (and cancer that spurred it) recalled a decade on

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(Editors note: It was a decade ago this month that successful colon-cancer surgery and the recovery process gave me a different outlook on life and the thoughts I had led to the following column, written in May of 2012, which I was reminded of as my mind replayed the details that are included herein 10 years on. I was particularly reminded of my successful bout with colon cancer as I saw WSU president Elson Floyd courageously fight his losing battle in 2015 while successfully waging a second battle to get the legislature to approve a medical school for WSU, the one that now bears his name. Remember the time references in the column all relate to a decade ago. )
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 It was my new mantra of "do today what yesterday you might have put off until tomorrow" that guided my decision to compete in the 2011 Huntsman World Senior Games, just over four months after colon-cancer surgery.
 
The goal wasn't merely to prove that a 71-year-old guy can come back from major surgery and resume normal activity, even if the activity seems like a stretch to the sedentary of any age. It was also to acknowledge successful recovery from cancer while various friends are battling the Big-C, or have lost their battles.
 
There's a prescribed two-month "no strenuous exercise" recovery period following that kind of major surgery and it was while enduring that inaction that running in the Games 10 weeks after I could get back to heavy exercise the last week of July had become the most important thing I could imagine.
 
Just before the exercise-restraint period ended, I visited with my primary care physician at the Polyclinic, Patrizia Showell, whose insistence that I find out why I had iron deficiency anemia and her finger in my chest saying in a raised voice, in the face of my seeming lack of concern, “You are going to find out why!” guided me to the colonoscopy that set the stage for the pronouncement: “You have cancer.”
 
Interestingly, Showell was on hand as the three surgeons explained the finding and the process to follow. I later asked her “why were you there.” I wanted to see how you would react,” she replied. “Some people get really angry and others get very emotional and I wanted to know in case you needed some support later.” I was neither, merely listening with interest about the finding and the process ahead.
 
I was visiting with Showell to let the doc I frequently thereafter told “you saved my life,” that I was headed for the World Senior Games, thanks to her.
 
Putting on my workout shoes for the first time in two months brought an adrenalin rush but I knew I was going to have to be uncharacteristically cautious with my leg muscles, particularly the hamstrings that had always caused me trouble. The worst thing I could imagine at that point was that I would press too hard and pull or strain a hamstring and that would be the end of the goal.
 
The 2011 Huntsman World Senior Games had an added special appeal to me because it was the 25th anniversary of the two-week event created by Jon Huntsman Sr., in 1986. What could make the competitive comeback more special than it being for a special milestone for the games themselves? And an added special part of the memories is that I placed third in the 100 in my age group in those 25th-anniversary games.
 
Huntsman’s vision was that an event called the World Senior Games, even if held in a remote corner of Southwest Utah, would eventually draw thousands of what others might dismiss as "the elderly" for the chance to play and compete with their peers in an event with “world” in the name.
 
So it is that 25 years after their founding, the 2011 games attracted about 6,000 seniors who, over the two-week period, competed in everything from track and field to badminton, pickleball, lawn bowling, volleyball, square dancing, and even bridge. Some of the competitors were in their 90s.
 
I've been drawn to the games because of the "world" name since I first heard of them in 2003 and made up my mind to compete in the 100 and 200 meters in my age group once I learned that you didn't have to be a "world-class" athlete. That means some competitors really were world-class while others like me, who weren't, could still compete, and that's always been the magic draw.
 
Huntsman, 73, founded and was longtime CEO of what became the publicly traded (as of 2005) $9 billion world's largest chemicals company with 12,000 employees. He and his wife, Karen, still open each year's Senior Games, where the participants now number in the thousands each October.
 
Huntsman, the father of the former Utah governor, China ambassador, and briefly a Republican presidential hopeful, Jon Huntsman Jr., evidenced his ultimate commitment to the community following prostate cancer surgery 15 years ago.
 
He set out to establish a world-class cancer research and treatment center, a dream he's pleased to say is now realized with the Huntsman Cancer Institute and Hospital in Salt Lake City.
 
The Huntsman family continues to serve as principal benefactors and fundraisers for the Huntsman Cancer Institute with what he describes as "the ultimate goal" of eradicating the most challenging forms of cancer.
 
And it's on that final note about the Huntsmans' commitment to community and overcoming as great a challenge as cancer that I sense a common thread in their commitments and the commitments of those who travel to St. George each year to participate and compete.
 
The producer of a recent movie on the senior games said: "What drew us to the senior games was the positivity. These people have an unparalleled zeal for life. When you're 90 and 100 years old and have endured life's challenges and still have such a positive attitude, it's beyond impressive. We felt it was worth a film."
 
In a sense, the producer summed up in his way what's become my view: Life is a race to be appreciated for the joy of participation and whether world-class -- or a bit slower --making it to the finish line ahead of cancer, or any other physical or mental obstacle, is really the sweetest race to win.
 
So in recent days, a year-later clean bill of health on last year's cancer sets the stage for my few-days-hence prostate cancer surgery, as Jon Huntsman Sr. underwent those years ago. Then I can begin to tick off the "no strenuous exercise" weeks, which my surgeon tells me will be a shorter wait this time, before I can begin getting back into condition for the 2012 games.
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(Post Note: Huntsman died in 2018 at the age of 80. I appreciated getting to meet him a couple of times at the Games, which I have competed in most years since 2011, taking second once but never winning, although being there is winning. Huntsman's philanthropy deserves to be remembered, particularly his telling comment about certain attitudes of the wealthy: “The people I particularly dislike are those who say I’m going to leave it in my will. What they are really saying is if I could live forever I’d never give any of it away.” Jon Huntsman Sr.)
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Two experienced women head Bellevue first-responder groups

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Two Eastside women with significant business backgrounds have recently assumed roles heading the non-profits that fund technology needs and community outreach programs of Bellevue’s first responders, both police and fire. This amid the challenge posed by the national movement to defund the police, a move that both view as not supported by the majority of citizens.

Villette Nolon, president and executive director of the Bellevue Police Foundation for only a few weeks, has made an intriguing transition into her new role having most recently served as the president and CEO of Imagine Housing, the Eastside’s leading affordable housing non-profit where she frequently worked with low-income families.

Villette NolonVillette NolonThat involvement helped her realize “the relationship between the community and the police is complicated but important.”

Nolon was long one of this area’s most prominent female angel investors, including chair and president of Seraph Capital Forum, the nation’s first all-women angel group, and a key executive with Angel Capital Association, the national association of angel investors.

Laura McCloud Mathers, President & CEO of the Bellevue Fire Department Foundation, was urged by Bellevue Fire Chief Jay Hagen to take the leadership of the foundation after she had been tapped as a consultant in December of 2019 to advise on how to create a foundation for the department.

Mathers, who had served as head of the Seattle Police Foundation for two and a half years while Kathleen O’Toole was chief, describes Hagen, who had spent 30 years with the Seattle Fire Department before being tapped to head the Bellevue fire department three years ago, as “an incredible leader, passionate in his commitment.”

Mathers’ background includes being the first membership director of the Columbia Tower Club, a key executive at the World Trade Center, and executive director of the Seattle Rotary Club.

“It is so sad that defunding the police foundations is a new racial justice target, putting pressure on companies to cut vital ties with nonprofit police foundations,” said McCloud. “Clearly they don’t understand the role of the foundation is primarily to ensure the police are well equipped with those things that will save lives and make the community safer for ALL!”

Nolon used as an example of the importance of the foundation’s work last month’s grant of $104,000 to police for what she described as “sorely needed new training and command system and a mobile wellness hub for officers, their families and retired officers to access health and wellness benefits the department offers.”

Mathers pointed to several examples of tools available to the Seattle police department as a result of community donations to the foundation, starting with AEDs for every patrol car, which she explained are “easy to use, low-maintenance defibrillators for people experiencing cardiac arrest while waiting for a medic unit to arrive.”
 
Another Mathers example:
Laura McCloud MathersLaura McCloud Mathers“Naloxone, a nasal spray that could be administered by officers to opioid overdose victims to bring back to life,” she explained. “SPD having Naloxone was initially a concern with the Seattle Fire Union - it was believed to be intruding on their scope of work. Fortunately, a meeting between Police Chief O’Toole and Fire Chief Scoggins put that to rest. “The union recognized the greater good for the community was for police to have it as they typically are at the scene before medics arrive – and seconds do matter between life and death.”

It might be suggested that those seeking to “defund the police” be made aware more forcefully of that point that police are usually at the scene of accidents or crises before the medics arrive and thus their services in such situations are vital, possibly even to the survival of victims.

The pushback against defunding the police may be getting underway, at least if the comment by New York mayoral candidate Eric Adams, a black former NYC police officer who see himself as the pro-public safety candidate who seems police as part of the solution. is any indication.

In an interview with New York Magazine published Tuesday, Adams said the "defund the police" movement is led not by people of color in the Big Apple, but rather by young white professionals.

Reflecting on her time guiding the Seattle Police Foundation, Mathers said:  “It was truly an honor to work with the many amazing men and women of SPD. I saw only big hearts and dedication to serving a community and improving lives. After seeing the evil of mankind perpetrated daily, they got up every day to face it again and pray they returned home safely to see their families again.”

Both are undertaking their roles confident that they’ll get more yes than no responses as they go about their fundraising duties in the Bellevue community.

 
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Cody Peterson's disruptive inventions aren't unnoticed

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Serial inventor Cody Peterson is surprisingly little known beyond the two industries his technologies have disrupted, though he's hardly gone unnoticed, being named “Most Creative Person” by Inc Magazine in 2012.

That was the year his first company, Pacinian, the Coeur d’Alene, ID, manufacturer of his lightest-weight-ever keyboard, as thick as a credit card, as well as touch-screen innovations, was acquired by Silicon Valley-based Symantic, a market leader in touch screen technology.

Now Peterson, 46, and his team at Rohinni, also a Coeur d’Alene company, are poised to change the entire lighting and display industry worldwide with the revolutionary development of mini and micro LEDs.

The LED industry is well aware of Rohinni, even if not likely aware of the extent of his intent for his invention’s “potential to be like GE or Phillips, changing every industry that uses light.”

Cody Peterson R and sons Brandon L and Reece CCody Peterson (R) and sons Brandon (L) and Reece (C)My bet is that most readers of this column and many tech-industry people, as well as potential investors, haven’t heard of Peterson whereas, were Rohinni located in Silicon Valley or East Puget Sound, media entities and wanna-be participants in the company’s growth would be beating a path to his door.

Instead, Rohini’s growth, as with Pacinian before it, has been in lab space in developer John Stone's Riverstone Development of condos, office buildings, hotels, and restaurants on the river. Over the seven years since it was founded, Rohinni has been under the supporting eye of patient and friendly capital, with Stone as a primary investor since start-up day, in a business environment where a guy who lets others wear the CEO title can focus on family as well as business.

With an emphasis on business acumen, Stone refers to Peterson as “the miracle from Idaho.”

Other investors, in addition to Stone, include Future Shape Principal Tony Fadell, the inventor of the iPod, head of iPhone development, and founder and former CEO of Nest.

Peterson, a mechanical engineering graduate of Washington State University, says that over the past three years, Rohinni has devised a mini-LED as a light source “that’s about one-tenth as thick as a regular LED and about six times brighter while costing roughly the same.”

“I don’t usually drink the kool-aid, but I know the benefits of what we created that the entire lighting industry will change direction and do what we’re doing,” said Peterson, a Native American who grew up on the Blackfeet Reservation in Browning, MT.

Without disclosing individual clients, Peterson said: “Rohinni is dealing with some of the world’s largest consumer electronic companies to launch screens much, much brighter than anything in the market today, while also enabling them to use mini and micro LEDs to design lighting in ways never before possible throughout their product lines.”

And he predicts television screens with Rohini miniLEDs “will be 10 times brighter with one-tenth the energy.”
 
A major coup for Rohinni came two years ago when it announced a joint venture with Beijing Electronics (BOE, formerly Beijing Oriental Electronics Group), among the world’s largest suppliers of technology products.

A news release announcing the joint venture said: “With distinctive, high-performance displays in high demand and a requirement for competitive consumer electronics or industrial products, BOE and Rohinni will be forming a joint venture to produce ultra-thin micro LED lighting solutions for display backlights. Together, BOE and Rohinni will usher in a new era of displays with unprecedented speed, accuracy, and yields compared with existing manufacturing processes.”

Oh, and waiting in the wings for the unveiling is Peterson’s newest Coeur d’Alene-based company, Qurrent, and his invention, a 100 percent electric boat. basically an autonomous craft.

As the website for Qurrent explains: “For the last three years we have been using our development platform ‘Frank’ and have created the building blocks to provide a 100 percent electric boat. Qurrent provides a safer, newer, and zen-inspired experience through the use of all new technology and an AI-controlled system. we are enabling entirely new boating experiences never before thought possible.”

Never short of seemingly impossible goals, Peterson said during our interview: “You know what Google did with Google Earth (a 3D representation of Earth based on satellite imagery)? We can do that for the sea and the oceans.”

John StoneJohn StoneI actually went to Coeur d’Alene a couple of weeks ago both to meet Peterson with Stone’s introduction and to evaluate Coeur d’Alene’s potential as a prospect for the zoom-town-focused business, ZoomTown Communities, that a media partner and I are launching.

I learned Stone and Peterson have basically already helped make Coeur d’Alene a zoom town, boosting innovation, while coupled with a growing appeal to vacation and permanent residents from Seattle and beyond and condominium towers to house them.

Peterson’s contributions include not just Pacinian and Rohinni, and soon Qurrent, but also what he calls the Innovation Den in downtown Coeur d’Alene, a large old multi-story brick building that has 50 small offices to house start-ups and entrepreneurs.

He and a friend bought the century-old building that had sat empty for more than 25 years and four years ago Cody and his wife Danelle, his high school sweetheart from Cut Bank High School. opened Coeur d’Alene Coffee Company as an espresso shop in the Den that he and Danelle and sons Reece, 20, and Braden, 23, turned building it into a family project.

Peterson said Braden made a commitment to source and roast coffee for the Den and explained: “he started looking at ways coffee is made and devised a new, more automated way to create really good pour-overs without having the barista stand there the whole time. It was neat to see him apply those little nuggets I’ve hoped he would learn from me.”

The comment is a hint of the importance being a father plays in Peterson’s life. And the kinds of lessons he teaches include “if you have lofty goals you attract smart people,” and “don’t let anyone slow you down,” both lessons that have carried Peterson far, before he’s as widely known, as he is certain to be.

 

 

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Four reporters who challenged WMD justification for Iraq War to be honored

Shock Wave Movie Shock Wave Movie: A 'fake news' tale to justify a war

Editor's note: Although “fake news” has, for some, become a way to disparage the accuracy of news reports, support for two of the nation’s most disastrous conflicts was built on “fake news” fashioned by no less than the men who were presidents.

I was reminded of that with word of an event this week to honor four reporters whose continuous challenge to the President George Bush administration’s claim of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) to justify the preparations for the March 2003, invasion of Iraq to topple Saddam Hussein brought them to ridicule from journalistic peers and public criticism.\\

Perhaps second only to Lyndon Johnson’s creation of what became known as the Gulf of Tonkin incident to get the backing of Congress to wage the Vietnam war as he saw fit was George W. Bush’s masterful creation of the need to deal with Hussein’s alleged stockpile of WMD.

But this column is not to focus on the public manipulation by presidents but on the importance of journalistic courage to counter such efforts as a pillar of Democracy.

Rather the occasion is that the four reporters, including my friend Joe Galloway, who were covering the preparation for war from the Washington bureau of Knight-Ridder Newspapers, will receive the Defenders of Liberty Awards from an organization called the Committee for the Republic. Also honored will be the 2017 movie about the four called Shock and Awe, a drama conceived and directed by Rob Reiner, who also co-starred as John Walcott, the newspaper chain’s Washington bureau chief.

I am using the occasion of the honor to reprise a column I did when the movie came out three years ago, again because journalistic integrity and courage need to be shared to be appreciated. Encouraged. And sustained.

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As I wrote in that March 2017, column, it's perhaps appropriate that a degree of attention has focused on a movie about four professional journalists who were certain, in the face of all the forces arrayed against them, that President George Bush and his administration had concocted a "fake news" tale to justify a war in Iraq.

The movie is Shock and Awe, the title drawn from the campaign of that name created by the leaders of the Bush Administration in preparation for the invasion of Iraq in 2003, a plan built on the premise that Saddam Hussein had stockpiled weapons of mass destruction. Of course, the term "fake news" wasn't part of our culture then, especially being applied to a president.

The movie, conceived and directed by Rob Reiner, has been described as "the politically charged story" about the four reporters from the Washington, D.C., bureau of the Knight-Ridder newspaper chain who first looked into the Bush Administration's attempts to tie Saddam to the 9-11 terror attack. Thereafter their some 80 stories followed a theme that the allegations of WMDs were intentionally inaccurate.
 
The understandable support for Bush and his build-up for the war from the general public and others was the nation’s need for some cathartic revenge against someone for 9/11, thus the focus on Hussein in the year following that disaster toward the attack on Iraq in March of 2003.

One of the four reporters was iconic Vietnam correspondent Joseph L. Galloway, then more than 35 years into his career covering wars and those who fight them and thus the voice of experience that the two younger reporters, Jonathan Landay and Warren Strobel, turned to for help in finding their way through the fabrications formed to keep the nation focused on the need for war with Iraq.

It is because of my friendship with Galloway, both of us alums of the news service UPI, and because many in the Seattle area came to know him during his two visits to do Vietnam veterans interviews and several interviews he and I did, including the Seattle Rotary, that I decided to do a Harp about the movie.
 
JoeGalloway aJoe GallowayRegular readers of the Harp will recall that Joe Galloway has been the subject of a half-dozen Harps in recent years (Google Flynn's Harp: Joe Galloway).
 
Eventually, the four including Knight-Ridder bureau chief John Walcott, played by Reiner himself, came to be described as "the only ones who got it right," but before that, they had to weather immense pressure and scorn, not only from the White House but also from peer publications and some editors of their own newspapers. 
 
For example, there is the story of the editor of the Philadelphia Inquirer saying bluntly that the tone of their stories doesn't "fit in." And Galloway recalled "There is a scene in the movie where Walcott confronts the Philadelphia editor for choosing to run ‘New York Times b.s. over our story.’ He taunts the editor with 'will you be running the Times correction and apology when that comes out?'"
 
It was after watching a Bill Moyers’ interview with the reporters that Reiner decided to produce a movie dramatizing Knight Ridder’s lonely work. Released in 2017, Reiner ends “Shock and Awe” with a news clip of New York Times reporter Judith Miller, a constant journalistic supporter of the Bush WMD campaign, admitting the media got WMD wrong – “except for Knight-Ridder.”

The movie includes Miller’s comments, as well as Sen. Robert Byrd’s moving speech drawing parallels between the lies that drew America into its Vietnam debacle and the falsehoods that would destroy many American and Iraqi lives in Iraq.

There is a perhaps ironic juxtaposition of the timing of the release of the critically acclaimed The Post, whose storyline about the Washington Post's publisher, Kathrine Graham deciding to confront the Nixon White House by publishing the Pentagon Papers, and Shock and Awe detailing a confrontation with a different president and more recent time. And a reluctance of the newspaper to be part of the confrontation.
 
In fact, Reiner suggests that the struggle he had to secure U.S. distribution for the movie might relate to his belief that "American audiences might not be ready to confront the subject."
 
I didn't think anybody in America could stomach it," Reiner said. "I don't think they can stomach it now, to be honest with you."

The start of the Iraq War and how its continuation has unfolded in the years since then may be viewed as too near to current political realities for close scrutiny of the legitimacy of the Bush Administration's campaign to go to war. In fact, the allegation that the WMD case built by key members of the Bush team was fabricated still draws outrage from some conservatives.
 
It's obviously much easier to take a critical look at Richard Nixon, or with Reiner's LBJ, released last year bringing a critical look at another former president, Lyndon Baines Johnson.
 
In fact, Reiner's LBJ screenwriter, Joey Hartstone, also wrote Shock and Awe, and actor Woody Harrelson, who played LBJ. Plays one of the reporters in Shock and Awe.
 
The fact Reiner was greeted with two separate standing ovations last September (2017) at the Zurich International Film Festival for the world premiere of Shock and Awe may have contributed to the firming up of presentation in this country.
 
The movie was the second time that Galloway will have the opportunity to watch an actor on the screen playing him. Tommy Lee Jones in this case.
 
The other was the movie We Were Soldiers, which was released ironically in the year prior to the Iraq invasion, as the film version of Galloway's book, We Were Soldiers Once...and Young, co-authored by Hal Moore, the commanding officer of U.S. troops in the battle of Ia Drang. Later events, including Galloway’s subsequent reporting, made clear that in November 1965, la Drang battle, the first between U.S. forces and North Vietnam regular army troops were the losses on both sides convinced Ho Chi Minh that the U.S. could not win, was the defining battle of a war that would drag on for another decade and claim 55,000 American lives.
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National Women's History Month: recalling women reporters in Viet Nam

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It seems appropriate for National Women’s History Month to reflect on a group of women who have never gotten their due, even though they eagerly went where all but the bravest men feared to tread?

I’m referring, of course, to the Vietnam War and the group of brave women reporters who decided this was their war too, in fact, their first war, and that they were going to a place where shared peril would be the equalizing factor.

In fact, Dickey Chapelle, a writer for the National Observer, became the first female war correspondent to be killed in Vietnam, as well as the first American female reporter to be killed in action.

That was on November 4, 1965, mere months after the first wave of U.S. forces had arrived in Vietnam when she was struck in the neck by shrapnel from an exploding land mine while on patrol with a marine platoon.Tracy WoodTracy Wood

A handful of those women journalists of that era were fortunate to work for a news organization, United Press International, whose top management recognized that talent and competitiveness were all that mattered. If women reporters could fight to be the best in UPI’s on-going battle with the AP for journalistic preeminence, why should they be denied the opportunity?

But sometimes the women needed to evidence a bit more ingenuity to get the Vietnam assignment.

So it was with my late friend Tracy Wood, who was a reporter in UPI’s Sacramento bureau in the late ‘60s, early ‘70s while I was running UPI’s Olympia bureau. So we knew each other’s names though we didn’t meet and become friends until a decade ago.

As Tracy once explained to me, "Of the more than 2,200 journalists who were accredited by the U.S. military to cover Vietnam between 1965 and 1975, only 70 of them were women and most of those went in only for a short time to cover specific stories, such as someone from their town."

"It was hard for women to cover the Vietnam War," said Wood, who was an investigative reporter for Voice of Orange County at the time of her death from cancer in late 2019, after years in the investigative reporter role with the LA Times.

"The military would give you credentials, but the leaders of the top news organizations were opposed to sending women reporters to cover combat. Magazines would use women reporters, but not the wires or big news organizations like The NY Times or WA Post."

Wood didn't get to Vietnam until 1972 when she was 24 and it took careful planning for a young woman who was a political writer for UPI in Sacramento to get to the New York bureau where her lobbying would be closer to the decision-makers.

Her immediate boss on the UPI cables desk didn't think a woman should cover wars. But Wood had the good fortune to work for UPI, whose top editors Roger Tatarian and H. L. Stevenson believed in the ability of women to report just as well as men, and dispatched several high-visibility female correspondents to the war zone. So it was soon Wood's turn.

One of the best-known correspondents of that war, male or female, was Kate Webb, a New Zealand-born Australian who began as a freelancer in Vietnam at 24 and so, as Wood explained to me of Webb, “her credentials were so strong UPI couldn't fail to hire her."
 
Kate WebbKate WebbThat was in 1967 when she was 25. Webb quickly proved her mettle, becoming the first wire service reporter at the U.S. Embassy on the morning the Tet offensive was launched in January 1968.

That spring she survived an American rocket attack on a Saigon military building that killed everyone around her, including the South Vietnamese police chief. She brushed herself off, ran back into the rubble to aid the wounded, then wrote a stirring account of the incident.

And Kate made news herself when in 1971 she was captured by North Vietnamese troops operating in Cambodia. Premature official reports that a body discovered was Webb's prompted a New York Times obituary, but she emerged from captivity 23 days after she was captured, having endured forced marches, interrogations, and malaria.  Of Wood’s getting to Vietnam, she explained to me: "I had to go over my boss' head to get sent to Vietnam and, once there, covered combat only after colleagues quietly showed me what I needed to do.”
 
Wood played a significant role involving coverage of the first public release of prisoners of war.  "I was able to cover the end of combat and was the only U.S. reporter to cover the first public release of the POWs from Hanoi," Wood recalled for me for one of my columns on her.

Perhaps it took a woman to figure out the quickest way to get approval to go to Hanoi at a time when every news agency and reporter was trying to figure out a way to get there. She merely sent a request to the North Vietnam government asking permission.
 
"Later, I was able to negotiate with the North Vietnamese for UPI to lease a plane and bring in about 30 reporters, photographers, and TV crews to cover the final POW release." Those POWs included John McCain.
 
Both Webb, who died of cancer in 2007, and Wood have chapters in "War Torn, Stories of War From the Women Reporters Who Covered Vietnam." It's a book whose contents are touted as "nine women who made journalism history talk candidly about their profession in deeply personal experiences as young reporters who lived, worked and loved surrounded by war."

A year after her death, Australia issued a postage stamp to commemorate Webb.  In reflecting on the conversations with Wood, and recalling the book in which both she and Webb had chapters of their recollections, it occurred to me they would have provided an interesting segment of Ken Burns’ Viet Nam documentary. Too bad.

When I asked my friend and one-time UPI colleague, Joe Galloway, one of the most respected Vietnam correspondents over his several tours there for UPI, about the women reporters, he summed it up thusly:

“Met and worked with Tracy Wood on my subsequent tours in Vietnam. Worked closely with Kate Webb and Betsy Halstead. Also knew Francis FitzGerald and Cathy Leroy,” Joe said.

“I had the greatest respect for the women who came to cover the war. They had different eyes and covered different stories...and that broadened everyone’s coverage of the war,” Galloway added.

“The ones I knew were fearless in combat and determined to get the story. I raise my Stetson in salute "
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Maybe Seahawks could start a new 'Wilson era,' with Zach — not Russell

Zach-Wilson_BYU-Quarterback

As sports media types toss around ideas about possible outcomes for the apparent growing gulf in the relations between the Seattle Seahawks and star quarterback Russell Wilson, none has offered, or likely considered, the idea of just starting a new “Wilson Era.” Not with Russell but with Zach.

Zach Wilson is the BYU quarterback who has risen dramatically since he entered BYU as the top Utah high school quarterback. He capped his freshman year earning MVP honors in the Potato Bowl in which his passing (including an 18 for 18 perfect day in the air) and running guided BYU to victory over Western Michigan.

So in the 2020 season, his junior year after which he decided to turn pro, Zach Wilson was number one in the nation in pass attempts (336), completions (247), total yards (3,692), and touchdowns (33). Incidentally, 10 of those TD’s were on runs. Zach ran 70 times for 254 yards, evidencing a penchant and talent to put it in the air or run for it with equal confidence, similar to Russell Wilson.

Zach WilsonZach WilsonNow a top NFL draft expert has declared that Zach Wilson, assumed to be one of the top quarterback picks in the forthcoming draft, is not only better than Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence but more polished for the NFL than any quarterback in the 2021 draft.

Some of those media types are theorizing on what backup quarterbacks are out there whom the Seahawks could look to trade for if Russell Wilson presses to be and is traded.

Interestingly, Zach, at 6-3 and 210-pounds, has four inches on the 5-11 Russell to get a better look past oncoming pass rushers.

And he would be most likely of any prospective successor to Russell Wilson to emulate the good-guy image that Russell evidenced prior to the finger-pointing between him and the Seahawks now being played out.

In fact, the final sales pitch to Zach three years ago by BYU coach Kilani Sitaki may be without precedent in the annals of college recruiting.

Wilson was already committed to Boise State from among nearly 20 offers from schools around the country but decided, at the end of a four-hour conversation he and his mom, Lisa, and dad, Mike, had with head coach Sitaki to change his mind.  As the four-hour meeting ended, coach Sitake, a one-time starting fullback at BYU, made one final pitch.

“Zach, you can drive home every Sunday night and have dinner with your family.” Offered Sitaki, knowing Wilson’s home was in Draper, about 18 miles from BYU in Provo.
Zach is just a home kid,” explained Lisa. “He wanted to be home for Sunday dinners. He wanted to be home for Tuesday night dinners when his beloved grandparents have a standing invitation. He wanted his family to be able to see him play.”

I have written about Zach before he was known to any but local Utah writers because his “beloved” grandpa, Gary Neeleman, is my closest longtime friend from our days as colleagues as western executives with United Press International.

Gary began sending me emails about Zach from the point at which he was judged the best high school quarterback in Utah.

Zach hasn’t made any comments about where he’d like to play and when I asked Gary if I could maybe talk with Zach about that he said: “he’d have to get his agent’s ok and he’s a shy kid who wouldn’t press his agent about doing an interview, or indicating whether he might like to come to Seattle.”

My hope was that a week after getting an unlikely interview with Gonzaga basketball coach Mark Few I might have a chance to talk with the 21-year old who (were he to be Russell’s successor) might soon make Seattle fans happy with the outcome.
Gary relayed the word from Zach yesterday. “I talked to my agency and they said no to the article, unfortunately. Tell your friend I am sorry.”

Much would have to occur in terms of a deal for a Russell Wilson trade and successful dealing by Zach’s agent for there to be a new Wilson leading the Seahawks into the future.

But should that come about, Seattle could be like a second hometown to the young Wilson. Gary told me Zach’s teenage cousin, one of three daughters of his prominent Seattle attorney uncle, John Neeleman, “was glued to the TV for every play of every game.”

“She keeps pleading with him, ‘please come to the Seahawks,” Gary chuckled.

And another uncle, David Neeleman, founder of Jet Blue and Brazil’s Azul, will have a fleet of jetliners for his new Salt Lake-based airline and could presumably borrow one to fill with the dozens of relatives to fly to Seattle home games. As when 50 family members were in the stands in Boise for that 2019 Potato Bowl.

 
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