Monday, February 28, 2011

Union busting in the guise of the "Pension Problem"

The backlash against public employee unions should not come as any great surprise. The perception that they have overreached is nationwide. "Maybe there is a little bit of jealousy here, but public workers have what I don't have." [Washington Post].

I am a supporter of unions that represent workers to achieve better working conditions and pay. As a college student in the 70s, I wanted to be a labor lawyer - representing unions and union causes - not a corporate union buster. Life takes one in unintended directions.

Unions have been at the forefront in the battle against businesses who, if they could, would pay minimal wages and require long working hours under conditions that would appear like slavery in today's world. Workers have long been treated as a commodity and not paid for their value contributed to the end product or service.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Amusing TriMet "Service Alert"

"TriMet is on standby in advance of frigid temperatures overnight that are also expected to continue through the beginning of service on Sunday." [TriMet Service Alert: Winter Weather Advisory].
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I can't tell you just how much more secure I feel knowing that TriMet is on standby. TriMet the purveyor of propaganda and self promotion. These service alerts are for the most part a waste of time and effort and money to promulgate nonsense "feel good about TriMet" advertisements. 

Friday, February 25, 2011

U.S., NATO intervention - a good thing?

In the CNN story about potential military intervention there was an apparent causation factor stated in question form: "'What's an acceptable number of civilian deaths?"  Maybe the better consideration is whether active military intervention is ever justified.

Any intervention by the US - coalition or not - could have disastrous consequences. Gaddafi is the same person today as he has been for the past 40 years or so. Why intervene now given Gaddafi's past and his role in the 1984 Lockerbie bombing killing 270 people? [See  Report: Ex-minister says Gadhafi ordered Lockerbie.]

Why now indeed - the Libyans are now attempting to oust this ruthless and maniacal dictator. Shouldn't this revolution be allowed to runs its course without active foreign intervention inside of Libya? Isn't death sure to follow from any uprising. As peaceful and nonviolent Egypt's revolution was - people still died for the cause. Isn't it the price of ownership?

Never mind that such intervention associated with the US may well be fodder for the extremists in the region. Thus far, the US has been on the right side supporting the protesters. Consider too that such invention may be extremely hazardous to the many non Libyans seeking a passage out? Gaddafi hasn't yet shown himself to be a rationale and reasonable person that is beyond causing them harm.

One might question too the motives of the intervening countries who have supported - explicitly or implicitly - Gaddafi. What countries and companies have been selling him arms and munitions?

Libya - a composite of the regional ills fostered by western countries concerned only with "stability" and national corporate profits to the detriment of the economic well being and future of the people in the region.

Not ready for democracy? Oh please!

Jasmine revolution - a stroll in China

The New Yorker has two stories in their Letter from China blog: The Jasmine Revolution “Strolls” into China and Letter from China: Q. &; A. with Rebecca MacKinnon: Internet in China. The stories together paint an odd picture of revolution, or its beginnings, in China but at the same time there are contrasting images from Egypt, Tunisia and on and on. [See New York Times for a country by county peek.].

The Jasmine revolution in China: “We invite every participant to stroll, watch, or even just pretend to pass by. As long as you are present, the authoritarian government will be shaking with fear.” But there is another side to any potential unrest in China that is being exploited: ". . . the average Internet user in China isn’t very political and often isn’t even aware of how much censorship takes place . . .."

The Internet has become a great commercial, social and political medium. Its political value has been underestimated by most. Yes - it seems that many recognized its value in raising political campaign contributions - but revolutions?

China is one those that has recognized the value of the Internet as a political venue and has used it to control and stifle dissent. But I submit that China isn't alone - the Internet in China post discusses a potentially disturbing view of a "one Internet" as offered by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton:

"Internet should be governed through a process involving all governments as well as other stakeholders including companies, civil-society groups, and concerned Internet users from all over the world."

Internet in China is especially worth the read - maybe several reads.


Thursday, February 24, 2011

Intrusion of federal government in state only issues

Because of the legal intricacies the issue has been framed as "how much power does Congress have to regulate matters ordinarily left up to the states?" But it one wonders why the federal government even involved itself in what anyone with any common sense would recognize as a local issue.

The case involves "a Pennsylvania woman, [that] did not take it well when she learned that her husband was the father of her best friend’s child." She "spread harmful chemicals on her friend’s car, mailbox and doorknob."

It is a domestic issue - right? But, "federal prosecutors charged her with using unconventional weapons in violation of the Chemical Weapons Convention of 1993, a treaty concerned with terrorists and rogue states."

It often seems that today the federal government is buying their way into making decisions that states and municipalities ought to be making for themselves; and too often the feds are using terrorism as a means to facilitate their intrusion.

Oh Please!

Music takes calming influence to the MAX

Charter schools better?

Great Schools is a treasure. Virtually anything one needs to know about Portland schools, or any Oregon school, can be found on their website. They provide basic information and more for parents to make school selections - even charter schools.

Their latest email notice had this story about California charter schools - a report by the California Charter Schools Association (CCSA): Portrait of the Movement. Great Schools offers a decent critical analysis of the CCSA report.

Here is an excerpt from the CCSA: "This report shows that a strikingly large number of California's charter schools are among the very best public schools in the state, and that charters are serving low-income students more effectively than traditional schools," said Jed Wallace, president and CEO of the California Charter Schools Association."

It is not an independent report thus one has to be skeptical of the claims like:  "charter schools are generating significantly better results than traditional public schools serving the same populations, demonstrating that charters are weakening the link between poverty and underperformance."

While I suspect that the first part of that claims has merit - I am not sure that it is poverty that is the cause of underperformance. Whether it is public or charter schools - the alleged cause of underperformance is externally focused. It is never us its them.

But the one thing about charter schools is that they are more attuned to market like considerations. A charter school that doesn't perform doesn't last - not so in public school system. A sub-performing public school has no termination date. It continues to receive its share of state education funds with no performance strings attached.

Charter schools is a movement in a positive direction but it is also troubling because it can, not that it necessarily will, easily lead to economically disadvantage denied access to the better charter school. Right now it appears that charter schools offers an alternative to public schools and private schools. 

Because of the growth of charter schools - parents are finding an affordable alternative to better education for their children.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

A bit of good news: Libyan Interior minister urges army to join the uprising against Muammar Gaddafi

Thanks to Al Jazeera's breaking news. The switch of military support would seal Gaddafi's fate.

Libya Live Blog

This is an image from Al Jazeera Blogs that follows this lead in: "9.20pm: In case you missed it, a chilling warning from Gaddafi as he reads from his copy of the Green Book." The Libya Live Blog shows a continuous, time delimited sequence of events.

Al Jazeera, the much aligned news media because of its publishing of the videos from the elusive (or is it that the US isn't really trying) Bin Laden, has done an excellent job of reporting on the events.

Checkout this opinion and analysis The project for a new Arab century. It notes that the "[o]ne constituency the US has long ignored in the Arab world is the people." But also check out this view from Canada, via the Libya Live Blog, where The Globe and Mail appears to support the "good" Gaddafi is doing over his despicable treatment of the Libyans

I submit that while one might not appreciate its often perceived political slant - it adheres to principles of journalism.

Stretching the facts to make a point

The Russia Today website is a bit quirky especially when it comes to the US. This article is an example of stretching to make a point.

I am an everyday reader and it is not infrequent that the site doesn't try to offer comparisons that depict hypocrisy of the US government.

The union protests in Wisconsin can't in anyway be compared or contrasted with events in places like Egypt, Libya, Bahrain, etc. Those places are seeking the very freedoms that those in Wisconsin are exercising.

But it is an interesting perspective.

Careful what you wish for

Gaddafi vows to 'die as a martyr,' refuses to relinquish power

Instant information - effects in Libya and elsewhere

The Al Jazeera story Breaking the sound barrier on Libya is about how the use of technology is keeping the world instantly informed of events in addition to be a tool for change.

E.g., "with help from satellite phones and Twitter, the news made its way out of the country as killings were underway." And, it was a satellite phone call from a woman that informed a human rights researcher about a massacre in progress. It was on Twitter that pleas for assistance were made.

Not too many years ago - dissent in that region was only known to government officials of countries like the US via their intelligence networks - never to be passed on to others. There is some irony here too in that it can be argued that the Internet and other means of world wide communication has reduced rather than improved the ability of news media to be world knowledgeable.

My point - today there are only a few news organizations - relatively speaking - that have the economic wherewithal to cover places like Libya, Egypt, etc. Once upon a time newspapers and other news organizations had bureaus in most areas of the world. The Internet for better or worse has been a root cause of the decline of newspapers; the news media has failed to respond to the competition.

It is all good though? Today - world leaders cannot hide behind a false unawareness. The world public now knows about world events almost as soon, if not sooner, than their political leaders. Leaders are now finding themselves on the wrong side of the curve.

Isn't this what happened with the US state department? Can't it be argued that the state department in the recent events was all too ready to put out the "stability" rhetoric until they realized that events had been publicized and they actually had to respond in real time? Frankly, I think they did well - but it wouldn't have happened without the Internet exposure.

Isn't the alleged value diplomacy being cast aside? Hasn't in some sense Wikileaks made the point - diplomacy should not be at the expense of truth?

One wonders too whether intelligence agencies are not facing a reality of being unable to provide instant, reliable intelligence about unrest and its likelihood of success any better than that provided by the instant communications among the populace?

Will the Internet and its components always be a force for good?

Monday, February 21, 2011

Catholic Shame - their church

New York Times has two stories: More Shame on the Church and Priest’s Involvement With Girl Leads to Dismissal. The stories about adult priests sexually abusing children never seem to stop. And they shouldn't until the church confesses and redeems itself in the eyes of the world.

Claims of Iraq WMD - Pure lies - who would have thought?

A story not likely to get much attention especially in this time of uprisings, but Al Jazeera has a video report on the person who unapologetically admits the lies - he would do it again. The video is excellent too because in a brief couple of minutes it reminds us of the misrepresentations by Colin Powell at the United Nations. And we are still there.

News we like (and some we don't) from Libya protests

From BBC News: "Several senior officials - including the justice minister - have reportedly resigned after security forces fired on protesters in Tripoli overnight."

"Justice Minister Mustapha Abdul Jalil quit the government because of the "excessive use of violence."

"Libya's deputy ambassador to the UN denounced the Gaddafi government, accusing it of carrying out genocide against the people." 

"Libya's envoy to the Arab League, Abdel Moneim al-Honi, announced he was "joining the revolution", and its ambassador to India, Ali al-Essawi, told the BBC he was also resigning."

"In another blow to Col Gaddafi's rule, two tribes - including Libya's largest tribe, the Warfla - have backed the protesters."

From SFGate (SF Chronicle): Libya air force jets in Malta, pilots seek asylum. Apparently two civilian helicopters landed carrying people from Libya but identifying themselves as French.

From Al Jazeera: Libya protests spread and intensify. A march in Tripoli was "under attack by security forces using military planes and live ammunition to fire on protesters." Another report: "security forces were "massacring" protesters in Tripoli."


Sunday, February 20, 2011

The Middle East is in turmoil - what does the Oregonian give us?

What can be done? "Libyan forces fire on mourners at funeral again"

"Libyan forces fired machine-guns at thousands of mourners marching in a funeral for anti-government protesters in the eastern city of Benghazi Sunday, a day after commandos and foreign mercenaries loyal to longtime leader Moammar Gadhafi attacked demonstrators with assault rifles and other heavy weapons."[Libyan forces fire on mourners at funeral again - Yahoo! News].

Where is the outrage?

Bahrain - interesting change in tactics

The New York Times had this story: "Protesters Take Bahrain Square as Forces Leave." See the video report by Nicholas Kristof - "Democracy Welcomed, but Risks Remains." They are somewhat contradictory.

The story puts more of an emphasis on religious issues as the basis of the Bahrain protests while the video report explains the protests as demand for a change in the form of government.

I have been seeing Bahrain as being the odd man out in the protests spreading throughout the area. Nothing seems to match. In Bahrain it seems more of a demand for reforms - not a change in form of governing - authoritarian to democratic.

We also see that the government in Bahrain has determined to forsake its violent response to the concerns of the protesters. Hopefully - this is not some mere tactic and will result in meaningful dialog. Assuming that the government is serious and reforms are instituted - will that suffice?

One has to consider that Bahrain is a small country - physically it is small about twice Portland - its population is not that much larger than Portland. It was a British protectorate until 1971. But, the CIA Factbook's introduction on Bahrain is very interesting. It starts a different perspective.

While it depicts the country's oil reserves as declining and that it has switched to petroleum processing and refining and international banking, it speaks to the extant tension with the Shia community:

"King HAMAD bin Isa al-Khalifa, after coming to power in 1999, pushed economic and political reforms to improve relations with the Shia community. Shia political societies participated in 2010 parliamentary and municipal elections. Al Wifaq, the largest Shia political society, won the largest number of seats in the elected chamber of the legislature. However, Shia discontent has resurfaced in recent years with street demonstrations and occasional low-level violence."

But while Bahrain is nearly all Muslim, it is the Shia that are in the majority with Sunnis King and family. Arguably, it is a minority oppressing the majority. Fortunately, my ignorance of the Muslim world is slowly being weaken by information like that and this:

"Many people mistakenly think that Muslims are divided into two halves: Sunnis and Shi'it. In reality Shia are between 7.5% to 11%. All the rest (93.5%) are Sunnis (ignoring the fact the Shi'ism is a totally different religion than Islam). The word Shia includes all kinds of Shi'it Sects such as (Twelvers Imami Rafidi Shia, Isma'ili Shia, Alawi (Nusairi) Shia, Druze Shia, Zaidi Shia)."

Look at the Muslim composition for Bahrain - 61.3% is Shia. And according to the CIA Factbook - Muslims make up 81.2% of the population. See this informative article on the relationship between the Sunnis and Shia that appears to best describe the religious tension and general move for democracy.

I would recommend the reading of the article which, if nothing else, demonstrates the complexity of the situation in Bahrain. I can see how Bahrain might be just another one of the countries going for democracy and in this case the spark has been the unrest in Tunisia and Egypt. Religion may be a mere factor.

How will the world look in another couple of years? Interesting - no?

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Thousands of protesters surround the capital

No - not Egypt or Libya or Bahrain - Wisconsin. Some left wing plot to undermine the state government? No it is arguably a right wing plot to defeat unions. I say arguably because I am not sure that their arguments against state employee unions don't have merit.

The Governor "has proposed requiring government workers to contribute more to their health care and pension costs and largely eliminating their collective bargaining rights." Chickens coming home to roost?

State employee unions in most states have "negotiated" with liberal, mostly democratic, political leaders to receive an unusually unfair retirement benefits. Unfair in comparison to that received by other workers that one way or another pay for those benefits while seeing their benefits continually reduced.

I suspect there are many people - even liberals - that silently agree that public employee unions have gained disproportionate power.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Catlin Gabel middle school students seek to patent their idea for quickly, cheaply fitting prosthetic limbs in Third World countries

It is an Oregonian storyby Emily E. Smith, whose headline I used in my title aptly tells the story about these middle school students. But you know it is more than just an isolated story - Catlin Gabel constantly excels. Why them and not other schools? Public versus private? See my post Catlin Gabel - success story.

Bahrain: Troops 'fire on demonstrators'

Bahrain's part of the unrest is just different - isn't it? While it is ruled by a King and his family - how archaic is that - the unrest seems more akin to religious persecution that we have seen in Iraq where Muslims (Sunnis and Shia) go at each other.

But Bahrain is another example how "stability" in the Middle East is and has been maintained - by brute force and intimidation. And the US's has participated in that by its action and inaction justified by a "national security interests" rationale.

The Obama administration seems genuinely concerned about this use of force and intimidation against protesters, but frankly they are at a loss in determining what can be done. [See the New York Times "Obama Ordered Secret Report on Unrest in Arab World" that was ordered last August.]

It may depend on ones' view on whether the US should be involved in any country's governing - but it is clear that the US doesn't carry that "stick" anymore. Where once nothing stood in our way of supporting "stable" countries - certainly not human rights considerations - today's world opinion has taken a toll on our aggressive doctrine of national interests.

Bahrain may well prove a test. It is a country with oil so the US is not contributing in any significant way, other than as a consumer, to their economy; thus, pressuring Bahrain may lead to their demand that we vacate our Naval base. We need them - they don't need us.

I suspect we will see only the expected public expressions of concern while in fact remaining, hopefully, neutral. We don't need to see American involvement that leads to our old friend "death to America."

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Bahrain - where's Waldo?

Bahrain - it is on the map - click (two steps) and look for a relatively small island in the Persian Gulf between Saudi Arabia and Iran. There are better maps, but this one puts its size and geographic location into perspective. See Al Jazeera's county profile. It is important to note that it is the home for the US Navy's fifth fleet. Of course there is oil.

Excluding foreign expats - Bahrian's population is about the size of Portland. It is characterized as socially liberal and somewhat wealthy with the per capita income at $25,420. And from the profile and CIA FactBook it is difficult to understand the protests. But, the demographics are very similar to Egypt.

While I haven't followed the events in Bahrain - there doesn't seem to have been a spark like in Tunisia and Egypt. It appears to be an unrest by the Shia minority. Al Jazeera stated that "[p]overty, high unemployment and alleged attempts by the state to grant citizenship to Sunni foreigners to change the demographic balance have intensified discontent among the Shias."

By all appearances it is another revolution for democracy spurred by government injustices. The twist is that even though the government is a minority Sunni the majority population is Shia. But it appears that the Shias are not in it alone being joined by all walks of life not limited to religious orientation. [Editor: I rewrote this paragraph Sept 2011 in attempt to make it clearer.] 

This from "Nabeel Rajab of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights (BCHR), [who] said: "We are only asking for political reforms, right of political participation, respect for human rights, stopping of systematic discrimination against Shias."

Apparently the ruling family thought that money would make it right: "The Bahraini ruling family had offered cash payouts in the run-up to the protest to prevent discontent from bubbling over as popular revolts spread in the Arab world."

Of course the actions of the government like the attack on protesters while sleeping are providing the sparks needed to keep the protests aflame.

An "Anonymous Press Release" (Release) posted on Al Jazeera's live blog reminds me of the heady days of the late 60s and 70s and the communications from the Weathermen and later the SLA. The big difference is that both of them supported the violent overthrow of the government whereas these uprisings have begun with the principle of peaceful protesting. Here is just an excerpt from the Release that originated on Hackernews:

"The Bahrainian government has shown by its actions that it intends to brutally enforce its reign of injustice by limiting free speech and access to truthful information to its citizens and the rest of the world. It is time to call for an end to this oppressive regime. The most basic human right is the transparency of one's government, and Bahrain's is no exception."

"By interfering with the freedom to hold peaceful protests, the Bahrainian government has made itself a clear enemy of its own citizens and of Anonymous. The actions of this regime will not be forgotten, nor will they be forgiven."

Peaceful protests and popular uprisings spurred by the appeal of democracy - who would have thought?

"Objective reporting" - a journalist's perspective

Journalism - as media like the Oregonian keeps reminding us on a daily basis - is a loss art. Fortunately, for those of us who care about it - the Oregonian does include syndicated columns like that of Leonard Pitts, Jr. who writes for the Miami Herald.

Mr. Pitts is writing in defense - so to speak -of Anderson Cooper of CNN. Apparently he was criticized for calling the Egyptian government liars. One can read that part of Mr. Pitts story for themselves - what I found interesting is his characterization or definition of the role of reporting.

"So on any given story, a reporter is encouraged to get the [verifiable] facts, make sure the liberal and conservative talking points are represented and, once those boxes are checked, to feel as if she has done her job, has been objective. No thinking required."

"Me [Mr. Pitts], I have no idea what objectivity means, at least insofar as news reportage goes. What I do understand is fairness, the requirement to give voice to both sides, all sides, of a given issue: abortion, immigration, gun control, the budget, whatever."

Isn't that what is meant by "objective" reporting?


Bootstrapping: Start-ups w/o venture capital

Venture capital comes with limitations that can limit innovation especially in software start-ups. The New York Times has started at least a two part piece on a company called Irrational Designs that is following a bootstrapping plan, i.e., start-up without investors.

Software companies are uniquely situated to take this approach because of the low overhead costs. And, it should not come as any surprise that the company's innovative focus can be shifted by the ROI investment focus of the investors.

As correctly noted by one of the innovators: ". . . he came to believe that founders and investors were rarely motivated by common goals." 



Egypt and US - historical perspectives

Great reads from the Economist - Europe and the Middle East Egypt: 1989 and all that - and from the New York Times - From 9/11 to 2/11.

Old Town excerpts from public safety meeting

Excerpts (with some editing of paragraph numbering) from recent minutes of the Old Town/Chinatown Public Safety Committee meeting. In one place the chair of the committee provides the comment that it is as bad in Old Town as it has ever been. This is telling because he has been in Old Town from the beginning. He has been fighting the good fight often alone. You see Old Town is a place where they let someone else do it. Old Town is the place where they will spend thousands of dollars on the public loo - but next to nothing for police enforcement. See this article $140,000 to design and make and $25,000 for each installation.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

It's not dominos but the game's afoot

Palestinian Leaders Call for September Elections - NYTimes.com

Palestinian 'cabinet to resign' - Middle East - Al Jazeera English :

Egypt echoes across region: Iran, Bahrain, Yemen - Yahoo! News :

King of Bahrain Allows Rally by Protesters

A headline bursting with content. The king allows . . . .

Is this a surprise?

"Egypt Leaders Found 'Off' Switch for Internet." The author of this New York Times article seemed to be surprised that it was so easy to cut off the Internet. Many countries have exercised their ability to censor the  Web with seemingly little effort.

personalpages.manchester.ac.uk
Can it be surprised that any authoritarian country that permitted the construction of the facilities to distribute the Internet connections would not have planned for its stoppage when desired?

A kill switch for the US has been proposed. Not that it couldn't be done without legislation, but the goal is to make it easier.

See this website for several Internet distribution systems. The image to the left is one of theirs. 

The makings of a great start in Egypt

Two publications provides excellent coverage: New York Times' "Egypt Convenes a Panel to Revise Its Constitution" and the Economist's."Egypt after Mubarak." Aren't they the best?

Judy's tip jar (Jack Bog's Blog)

Bojack has this post on Judy Shiprack - Multnomah County commissioner. He refers the reader to the Willamette Week's article "Extra Credit: While the county struggled, commissioners spent money on professional fees, travel and their favorite charities." Here one sees that Judy Shiprack is not alone in questionable spending of tax payer dollars for their expenditures.

While the Week's concern seems to be expenditures when the county is struggling economically - the expenditures are those that ought to be challenged - period. E.g., from the Week: "Commissioner Diane McKeel and her staff spent more than $5,000 traveling to three conferences on human trafficking and more than $1,000 attending City Club of Portland events."

Admittedly, those expenditures might be justified but superficially they are certainly suspect. Don't you wonder how Commissioner McKeel can spend more than $1,000 attending the City Club of Portland events?

One thing is for sure - the news media needs to focus more attention on elected officials expenditures.

Thanks to the Willamette Week.

Monday, February 14, 2011

See no evil - Neil Goldschmidt’s supporters

Fred Leonhardt writes an excellent Guest Opinion piece in the Register-Guard about Neil Goldschmidt. Mr. Leonhardt has previously written about Goldschmidt and sadly has failed to eliminate the indifference that seems to surround Goldschmidt and 14 year old (she says it started when she was 13) he statutory raped.

Arguably, can't a case be made that he raped her? The use of "statutory" has a tendency to make it sound less serious. The facts of the case does make it clear that he took advantage of a 14 year - to satisfy his sexual perversion.

Many seem to weigh the "good" Goldschmidt had accomplished against the evil crime he committed. For them the good outweighs the evil. That is hard to reconcile. It betrays all sense of morality. Look - the only thing that prevented prison time or at least an ankle bracelet and a sexual predator appellation was the statute of limitations.

When the Oregonian and the Willamette Week published their articles after her premature death I thought that they had not gone far enough and named some names and that it was time to do a lot more digging to expose those who had a hand in protecting someone evil and vile. Even the Catholic Church realizes that it is wrong to protect those who are doing good works.

Mr. Leonhardt's article makes it clear that others had to know and chose to look the other way. One of those had to be Governor Kulongoski. See the 2007 post on Blue Oregon. Mr. Leonhardt also names some others. Her parents don't escape either. Take a peek at Bojack's post where he isolated the names into a list.

Mr. Leonhardt has done his best to keep this in the news over time while looking for his pound of flesh. One might read his 2006 article "Democrats, Sex Crimes and the Press(scroll down a little). You might also read Steve Duin's 2007 Oregonian post: Kulongoski is a Liar and the Oregon State Bar Couldn't Care Less.

The piece in the Register-Guard is well worth reading.

Spreading Revolution in Tunisia and Egypt - military's role

This New York Times slideshow/audio supplemented interactive points out two major similarities between Tunisia and Egypt - the sparks in each case was the brutality of the police or security forces, and that the military refused to fire on the protesters. The two coincided to foster the revolution.

Of course no revolution is the same - maybe similar circumstances. One wonders too about the potential effect of the Tianamen Square protester.

I remember somewhere in the Al Jazeera coverage there was an Egyptian protester who had that message crafted on his sign. It was a 1989 event - but it has longevity.

Read the story on that event and you see a very similar set of circumstances. The big difference was that the People's Liberation Army fired on the protesters. "People's Liberation Army" turned into an oxymoron by its actions. Would it happen today? Doubtful.

Regulating how you smell to others

The Tribune carries the story about the city council proposes regulations "to discourage employees from using personal scented products in the workplace where the “sole purpose is to emit a fragrance such as perfume, aftershave and cologne and to avoid the use of strongly scented powder, deodorant and other personal hygiene products.

This is what occupies the city council's time? What a pussy city. Some where along the way it will be recognized that everyday life is not and will not be perfect. That much like the diversity that the nanny liberals tout as the solution to society's problems - differences between and among humans is natural and most often good.

Trying to regulate life of others so that it reflects some common denominator is absurd. Merely because one has a peculiar dislike for a smell or whatever doesn't mean that world around that person ought to adjust to his or her peculiarities.

Will the city regulate the foods that you bring for lunch or snacks because it doesn't "smell" right? What about those flowers on the desks? Will it be okay or not if an employee doesn't use any deodorant?

Should the city make a list of "acceptable" fragrances?

The only concern of an employer should be whether that employee is doing the job that he or she was hired to accomplish.

If a person is fired or disciplined for using the "wrong" or "politically incorrect" flagrance - is that right?Is it discrimination?

Life is a bitch - get over yourselves.

Headquarters: "The reports of my death [is] an exaggeration."

[Editor: here it is a mere 4 months, and a bit, since my post and we now have this "Portland's plan for Convention Center hotel may be back on again." Never doubt the deviousness of politicians and their sycophants.]

[Editor: Below is my post originally published nearly a year ago on my Oregonlive Old Town Blog. Today Jack Bog's Blog had a notice of the "prequel" to the resurrection - Asleep - not dead: "Stephanie Soden, a spokeswoman for the Metropolitan Exposition and Recreation Commission, which oversees the convention center, said the site could still one day serve as the home to a convention hotel. For now, the spot will become an "exhibition plaza" that serves as an extension to the center’s main plaza." Note that plaza is another word for infill.]

9/20/09:

Thanks to a Mark Twain quote my point is made.

The Oregonian: “Portland convention center hotel is dead.” The mayor's quote doesn't sound so resolute: "I'm absolutely supportive of the decision to stop. It would have been unwise to move forward at this time."

The Week:Convention Center Hotel Finally Gets Buried.” But the story stops a little short with this statement: “appears to be the hotel’s final death knell.”

The Mercury: "Convention Center Hotel Is Dead." A critical review of the 'deal' with a little bit of 'I told you so.'

The Tribune:Local leaders declare headquarters hotel plan dead.” This story sets the conditions for death – the use of the land for another purpose, e. g., “. . . contributing the land to a private developer for a smaller project.”

None of the stories ruled out a revival or finding a cure for what killed it – money.

This project has been near death before, but the politicians have found ways to keep it on life support. Death will come only when the land is taken out of the hands of the politicians.

Thus, while the Tribune states that “the property reverts back to the city's urban renewal area for future redevelopment,” that land can just as easily go back the other way.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

“We Are All Khaled Said”

The spark that burst into flames of revolution. Fitting that a video of corrupt cops led to the revolution. Because that video was posted on the Internet, the poster Khaled Said "was assaulted at an Internet cafĂ© by local police. They dragged him outside and beat him to death in broad daylight. Photos of his battered corpse went viral." [Newsweek].

Khaled Desouki / AFP-Getty Images
The face of a revolutionary? It was Wael Ghonim who started the Facebook page “We Are All Khaled Said" that "quickly became a forceful campaign against police brutality in Egypt, . . ."

Who is Wael Ghonim? For a while - 2 weeks - he hid behind a pseudonym El Shaheed. During those 2 weeks he was held by Egypt's dreaded security forces. Don't you just love that name "security force?"

But his day job was with Google whose efforts undoubtedly helped get him freed. [See more about him: Google Executive calls Egypt Revolution 2.0 - Google 24/7 - Fortune Tech.]

The Newsweek article is an excellent story. It is the first account I have read that gives full accounting of the "spark" and how it led to the revolution.

How fitting that the Internet was the facilitator of this democratic revolution. Arguably - and I think without much opposition - Google has transformed the world in about a decade. One cannot give Google direct credit for this revolution, but clearly its business products and services played a positive role. However, one cannot forget that in another environment the Internet can also be a tool for evil.

New Era

New York Times

Mubarak's retirement home?

Emirates' exiles in spotlight after Mubarak fall - Yahoo! News

A point all too often missed in western democracies

“It is their [Muslim Brotherhood] right to participate as much as it is mine, as much as it is anyone else’s in this country,” added Ms. Borham, who considers herself secular. “They are part of this society, and they have been made to stay in the shadows for a very long time.” [Egypt’s Path After Uprising Does Not Have to Follow Iran’s - NYTimes.com].

Thomas Friedman makes this point: "Iran, the other day, issued a declaration urging the Tahrir youth to make an “Islamic revolution,” and none other than Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood told Tehran to get lost because the democracy movement here is pan-Egyptian and includes Christians and Muslims." [They Did It - NYTimes.com].

Mubarak accounting - Karma?

Mubarak Family Riches Attract New Focus - NYTimes.com

Final hours Mubarak & Obama

Two articles give a great perspective where bad advice and adherence to status quo can lead political leaders astray. For Mubarak acting on it sealed his downfall. For Obama overcoming it put him on the right path. See the New York Times and Associated Press.

In Egypt, Mubarak was like the emperor (Pharaoh in this case) with no clothes. No one wanted or did tell him that he was in fact naked before the public. [See Associated Press.]

Saturday, February 12, 2011

And in the land of the free - Muslim Students Face Criminal Charges

". . . the University of California, Irvine, decided to suspend the Muslim Student Union for a quarter over the disruption of a speech last year by the Israeli ambassador to the United States  . . ." And the district attorney "filed misdemeanor criminal charges last week against the 11 student protesters, accusing them of disturbing a public meeting and engaging in a conspiracy to do so." [Muslim Students Face Criminal Charges at Irvine - NYTimes.com].

Now if they were not Muslims this story would not be. Too often free speech in America is only for a few. Citizens of the US have developed an irrational fear of all things Muslim. Even in the recent Egyptian revolution, there were attempts to cast a shadow over it by attempting to link the revolution to the Muslim Brotherhood.

This irrational fear of Muslims reminds me of the use of the irrational fear of  "communists" by Senator Joseph McCarthy. His tactics became known as McCarthyism: a "demagogic, reckless, and unsubstantiated accusations, as well as public attacks on the character or patriotism of political opponents." [Wikipedia].

The Muslims seem to be the new communists. McCarthyism lives on especially at Fox News. 

Can Iran be next?

Iranian Says March Will Test Government and Opposition - NYTimes.com

Maybe not but the game's afoot.

Counting Race in America - meaningless

The value to the government for essentially race based programs are making less sense than in the past when people were rigidly categorized by race. Sorry - people just don't identify themselves as the government likes to see us. [See Counting Mixed-Race America Grows Ever More Complex - NYTimes.com].

Portland airport

As I was drinking my coffee this morning at the Urban Grind I thought of the coffee at the airport and the airport in general.

The Urban Grind is the only place I know that makes the classic cappuccino as represented in the image. Starbucks comes close but its presentation suffers - no spoon and the coffee ring is often lacking form..

But for content it is hard to beat the "small" cappuccino at the airport's Coffee People. It has 2 shots for the price at which most coffee places only use one shot.

And the restaurant - Standford's - has its drinks and food at very decent prices. Its happy hour drink and food menu would be difficult to beat anywhere.

Nothing at the airport is airport priced. I find that quite amazing and unusual and welcomed. The airport is one of the better attributes of Portland - don't you think?

Bin Laden Cook's - that is best we can do?

Bin Laden Cook's Gitmo Prison Time Cut

Washington Post: "a negotiated exit and a soft coup d'etat"

Now that Mubarak is gone there seems to be a growing tendency to shift or take away the credit of revolution from the masses and give to somebody else, in this case, the military. [See Washington Post]. But see the New York Times: "The resignation of President Hosni Mubarak is a stunning accomplishment for the country’s courageous youth-led opposition."

Every revolution is different, but in this case it was as pure as one can ever expect. It was a genuine uprising of the people against its government. It was thirty years (some say 60) of waiting for the spark - a spark [see the video in the link] possibly provided by a Google executive.

While I give credit to the mass of people who took to the streets and occupied "Liberation Square" for the democratic revolution - much has to be said too about Egypt and all of its people. While the government under Mubarak was authoritative - it was not as draconian as other governments that exists today. Thirty years was just too much.

And it can never be said too often - the military has a unique role in Egypt. A respected military that has been trained by the US. Not that that fact is determinative, but it is interesting. But I might be more willing to give more credit to the homogeneity of its people. The military because of conscription reflects that homogeneity.

It is not hard to imagine how different this revolt might have turned out - far less than peaceful. A professional military and a fairly young and relatively well educated populace made a difference. [See CIA FactBook for statistics.]

This comment by a former high ranking Egyptian officer is significant: "Right thing army with people, not with president. Army have to protect the country not protect the president." [KGW interview with Sobi Awad.]

And his further comment puts the military's role in the correct context. "This first time really in Egyptian history -- people change something. People said no to president or king or, because Nassar when he made revolution, army did it. And people support army ... and this is first one in Egyptian history where people do it. And army support people. And if you look for all Egyptian history never something like this happened."

Friday, February 11, 2011

Randy's crack house - the loo

From the Willamette Week: "This is Crack Alley, and that's Randy Leonard's crack house right there," Turner told the Trib." Turner is Daryl Turner head of the police union. He is rightfully talking about the loo on the corner of NW 5th and NW Glisan across from the Transition Project, Inc.

The Tribune has published an excellent article on Old Town's crack problem. It has raised a number of issues too many for a single comment. See my posts Old Town Overwhelmed by crack and Overwhelmed by crack.

Commissioner Sten was responsible for the Resource Access Center (RAC), but it was Leonard that carried it through and it is Leonard's loo that sits merely a block away from the RAC. 

While I am not sure I would put all the blame on the loo - but it is certainly a contributor to the problem. Trimet stops, not effectively policed by TriMet, has to bear its share of responsibility. 

Overwhelmed by crack

A recent post spoke to this Tribune article. But I want to add to my post.

Someone pointed out this quote from the Tribune: "Old Town is home to most of the social services supporting the homeless and addicts." This points out the irony extant in Old Town.

It is a true statement but it is also true that drug dealers and users abound in Old Town - yet - the city does little to eliminate drug dealers in and around these social services. One might argue that city doesn't want rehabilitation.

Peaceful transition is still fragile

The New York Times reminds us that it has only begun in Egypt. In one opinion piece there is a print debate on the role of the military - it is key - no doubt. In a companion piece there is an outline for the next steps. This article is by "Mohamed ElBaradei, as the director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2005." He was and is a catalyst for the revolution. A person certainly slated to be part of the transition.

Hosni Mubarak resigns as president

Al Jazeera

This is a celebration for freedom - not a super bowl game. These people are the "world champions." Nor is this some government sponsored "celebration." Not once have I heard the now expected "death to America" chants. No flag burnings.

For whatever reasons, none can be good, the news coverage, especially local, of the revolution in Egypt has received far less than it deserved and demanded. The image to the left is telling - telling of its importance and support by the Egyptian people.

This has the potential for becoming the most significant historic event in recent times. The potential  for good not only in the Middle East but elsewhere in the world is immense. But, it is needs to be nurtured and shaped for the good by other democracies.

The potential for evil still exists. The CIA's man in Cairo is still remains. The presidential power has been peacefully turned over to the army, but armies are not democratic by nature. 

While by all accounts this was a bloodless and genuine revolution fomented by the Egyptian people, one has to suspect that the change in power came at the behest of the military. Fortunately, the US is on the right side this time.

This has had all the attributes of a true revolution generated by the mass of people - not by disaffected military or ruling class or leftist elites. All walks of life have participated. It has taken 30 years, many say 60, but so far, it is has been far more genuine than our own revolution.

Get caught in the emotion of the victory follow the live feed on Al Jazeera.

Al Jazeera English: Live Stream

Al Jazeera English: Live Stream - Watch Now - Al Jazeera English

If you are not watching the Egyptian revolution live - you are missing a historic and dramatic event.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Man had to wait 6 mins for ambulance to take him 100 yds to hospital

Man pronounced dead after waiting for ambulance at hospital | kgw.com:

"The crash was approximately 100 yards from the hospital, but the victim could not be processed without following standard ambulance protocol."

"The officer performed CPR for six minutes while waiting for the ambulance to arrive. The announcement came several hours later that Marin-Fuentes had died."

Can you believe it?

Egypt's Mubarak transfers power to vice president - but did he?

According to the AP via Yahoo! News at about 21:19 GMT February 10th power was transferred. But according to Al Jazeera at 21:11 GMT February 10th Mubarak refuses to step down.

Confusing.

An excerpt from the recent AP post: "Protesters in Cairo's central Tahrir Square, hoping he would announce his resignation outright, watched in stunned silence to his speech, slapping their hands to their foreheads in anger, some crying or waving their shoes in the air in a sign of contempt. After he finished, they resumed their chants of "Leave! Leave! Leave!"

It is not clear that transfer of power - even assuming that it is accomplished - will make any significant difference. Al Jazeera probably has the better perspective.

Old Town: Overwhelmed by crack

According to the Tribune - Old Town is asking for help. I don't know whether I want to laugh or cry. I moved from Old Town in 2010 having moved there in 2004. Putting aside the drug issues for a moment - I enjoyed living there. But I enjoy living in Pearl much more - absence of visible drug trafficking and crime in general.

What an interesting contrast - Pearl and Old Town. They are separated by an invisible boundary line that might as well be a containment wall. It is not a natural selection process at work - it is purposeful isolation of Old Town from the rest of Portland.

Urban Development - Neighborhood

[Editor: This was originally published July 13, 2007, updated March 16, 2009, on my Old Town Blog hosted on Oregonlive: "Urban Development - Neighborhood." It is February 10, 2011 - I am not changing a word.]

In an earlier post I defined for myself a community. It is more than just living in a geographical area. There must be a sense of place - of belonging; a common interest that binds the members together; an awareness of the commonality; and communication. There is more, but that is enough for this discussion.
In my world, a 'neighborhood' is a geographical area containing a community. And while there could many types of communities - I am only concerned about the residential community. Thus, neighborhood and community are nearly synonymous (or at least should be), in fact, for purposes of discussion they are exchangeable terms.
I don't think one can utter either "community" or "neighborhood" without it being about residents.

Feb 10: The game's affoot?

Al Jazeera
While we watch Glee or some other nonsense - it is likely that the most significant event in the world is being ignored. Ignorance is such comfort.

Mubarak meets with VP, protesters flood square - Yahoo! News: "State TV says President Hosni Mubarak is meeting with his vice president at his palace. Thousands more protesters are lining up to enter a packed Tahrir Square in expectation Mubarak will announce he's stepping down."

Wired and Shrewd, Young Egyptians Guide Revolt - NYTimes.com: "They were born roughly around the time that President Hosni Mubarak first came to power, most earned degrees from their country’s top universities and all have spent their adult lives bridling at the restrictions of the Egyptian police state — some undergoing repeated arrests and torture for the cause."

Labor Actions in Egypt Boost Protests - NYTimes.com: "The protests at the [government] newspaper, Al Ahram, by freelance reporters demanding better wages and more independence from the government, snarled one of the state’s most powerful propaganda tools and . . . ."

Hosni Mubarak 'may step down' - Middle East - Al Jazeera English: "Based on the responsibility of the armed forces and its commitment to protect the people and its keenness to protect the nation... and in support of the legitimate demands of the people [the army] will continue meeting on a continuous basis to examine measures to be taken to protect the nation and its gains and the ambitions of the great Egyptian people"

But very troublingEgyptian army 'torturing' prisoners - Middle East - Al Jazeera English: "The Egyptian military has been secretly detaining and torturing those it suspects of being involved in pro-democracy protests, according to testimony gathered by the British newspaper the Guardian."

Feb 9: Will this peaceful cohabitation survive?

AP/Emilio Morenatti
The military in Egypt is (perhaps ironically) the linchpin to democracy in Egypt. It has been reported often in the recent news that the military is highly respected by Egyptians. The test is coming.

Strikes erupt as Egypt protesters defy VP warnings: "Some 8,000 protesters, mainly farmers, set barricades of flaming palm trees in the southern province of Assiut, blocking the main highway and railway to Cairo to complain of bread shortages."

Strikes in Egypt add to pressure from protests: "Thousands of workers went on strike Wednesday across Egypt, . . . ."

 Egypt protests: Hosni Mubarak's concessions rejected: ". . . there is huge support from all walks of Egyptian life for the protests, and the government's concessions are not enough."

Mr. Suleiman’s Empty Promises: "Mr. Suleiman may talk sweetly to Washington and Brussels. But he appears far more interested in maintaining as much of the old repressive order as he can get away with."

 Suleiman: America’s new man in Egypt: "Egypt's Vice-President Omar Suleiman is the nation’s former spy chief, a friend of the US, a reported torturer, and has long been touted as the next presidential successor."

 Cairo Struggles Toward Normalcy as Mubarak Tries to Wait Out Protest: "As Egypt’s revolt entered its third week the government of President Hosni Mubarak sought to seize the initiative from protesters still crowding Tahrir Square on Monday, offering a pay raise for government employees, . . . ."

Prideful and Prizing Status Quo, Mubarak Resists Pressure: "That deep-seated aversion to change, along with Mr. Mubarak’s fierce pride and absolute certainty that he is the only person who can provide his country with the stability . . . ."

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

US - the leader looked to for regime change

That seems to be a conclusion one can take away from this blog Clausewitz. You can depend on the Economist for great articles with real journalistic content. Of course there is more to this post and the post didn't intend for that to be the takeaway. Its focus is the concern over Egypt's future vis a vis Israel. Lots of wringing of the hands.


The free market doesn't necessarily benefit society

Why Aren’t Employers Hiring? - Real Time Economics - WSJ

Ah - religion

"Murder in God's name" is how the Economist headlined it. This wasn't Muslims versus Christians - it was Muslim on Muslim. Apparently the violence included lynching. Video is available on the net if one chooses to look for it.

And, so much for speaking too soon: "President Barack Obama visited Indonesia in November and praised its "spirit of religious tolerance" as an "example to the world."" [AFP: US 'deplores' religious killings in Indonesia].

What were they thinking?

"Lawyers for the Air Force Material Command at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, warned Airmen on Feb. 3 not to view documents on the site from either work or home computers or risk prosecution under the Espionage Act. The lawyers further said that Air Force family members who viewed the documents on a home computer could also be arrested and charged under the law, and that Airmen are obliged to 'safeguard the information under the general guidance to safeguard classified information.'" [AF Pulls Command’s WikiLeaks Guidance].

Sisters Coffee - in the Pearl

Just up the street (east on NW Marshall) from my favorite brewpub - Bridgeport - there appears to be a new location for Sisters Coffee Company. It isn't finished yet, but there is a lot of retail construction activity with "Sisters" signs. No indication yet as what exactly is coming. A coffee house or some combination of coffee house and roaster? From their website it would appear that this would be a first location outside of Sisters.

One might think that Pearl doesn't need another coffee shop, but my experience says it will be welcomed. Pearl, at least in the northern end, appears to have much more foot traffic and coffee shop needs. For Pearl the recession seems to be over.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Health labels on cell phones

More nanny state legislation inspired by those who just can't let it go. There has been many studies but none have demonstrated any health ill effects. [New Bill Would Require Health Warning Labels on Cell Phones].

One might take a peek at the FactSheet from the National Cancer Institute.

More than that - just how effective are labels? Does anyone really believe that someone will actually read the label before purchase, or that it influences consumer purchases or use?

One thing for sure it will be another cost added to either the purchase or use of the phone.

Save us from those who want to save us.

Oregonian: Welcome trollers

Wikipedia's Trollface
Take a peek at the right hand side of this page "Most Active Users" to see what seems to be the Oregonian's encouragement of trolling.

Anything to get readers? Does it affect the advertising revenue?

See the New York Times article: Anonymity and the Dark Side of the Internet.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Super Bowl Ad on Religion Rejected

 "Fox Broadcasting Company does not accept advertising from religious organizations for the purpose of advancing particular beliefs or practices.”" [Super Bowl Ad on Religion Rejected - NYTimes.com].

The ad they refused is somewhat innocuous and merely points to a verse from the bible John 3:16: "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." But of course that is a Christian ideology.

It is not surprising that in today's world there is the pitting of Christian versus Muslim religions. As if one god is better than the other or that god even exists.

Nor is it surprising that in a sport event context there is this belief that god intervenes in football games - thus the winning team wins because god was on their side. But when they lose they never lament why god didn't pick them to win.

And, it would seem obvious that one cannot believe that god will determine the outcome of the Super Bowl without believing that god is responsible for the creation of all mankind, i.e., we are all god's creatures. But while religiously expressing belief in their god - they don't adhere to basic tenets of their religion.

Hypocrisy abounds.

Elizabeth Lynn Dunham

Has the media has moved on from this story? Maybe I am expecting too much. After Elizabeth Lynn Dunham's death January 16, 2011, the Oregonian and Willamette Week (Week) apparently felt unshackled. The Oregonian published its story on the 31st of January with the Week publishing their full story shortly thereafter.

One of the Week's goals in publishing the story was that ""the story of this powerful man’s abuse can be more fully told now that his victim can no longer suffer from it." [Elizabeth Lynn Dunham: May 12, 1961-Jan. 16, 2011].

While the Week has told the story well - it wasn't all that much more informative that the stories already told without ever identifying the victim. Frankly, it was not all that much better than the one in Oregonian. It doesn't seem that the Week has fully told the story.

There is too an odd subtext. "Goldschmidt, a handsome and charismatic married father of two young children, was putting Portland on the map and becoming a national political player." "He transformed a downtown expressway into Tom McCall Waterfront Park and a surface parking lot into Pioneer Courthouse Square, and engineered the beginnings of Portland’s light-rail system." [Week].

One might wonder how this highly public individual who with his proclivity for having a sexual relationship with a truly underage person arguably made Portland Portland? And given his public visibility - how did he manage to abuse her without anyone becoming the wiser?

Nobody said, saw or heard anything.

Was Goldschmidt so necessary to the success of Portland that his "supporters" sacrificed the life of a child?

Apparently so.

Entrepreneurship

This story in the Oregonian took a hit from a preeminent blogger and from the Oregonian trollers. It is isn't clear why. Maybe because it is a story in the Oregonian. I am certainly critical of them especially since I see them abandoning their constitutional role in maintaining democracy. [Pressed for success: Self-employed by necessity, a divorced mother of two says failure isn't an option].

The story is about someone who is exhibiting the entrepreneurial spirit that made this country great. But no - the criticism of the readers had nothing to do with the story's substance, but essentially criticized her for taking a risk to establish a business.

It didn't dawn on anybody that the risk taker wasn't taking money from the city as the non-risk taking developers. She isn't looking for a handout - she wants to do it on her own. A work ethic. How novel.

 She ought to be receiving praise and recognition not criticism.

Michelle Obama a nanny as in nanny state

The liberal elites. They always seem to know what is best for the masses. If they could they would be entering your home to assure that you are taking care of yourself and your children - according to what they think best.

In this case they want our "restaurants to adopt her goals of smaller portions and children’s meals that include healthy offerings like carrots, apple slices and milk instead of French fries and soda . . . ." [Michelle Obama Focusing on Restaurant Nutrition - NYTimes.com].

I say "our" restaurants because one can be assured that they don't eat where we eat. But you say - it is about the "children." No - it is about someone else making decisions for you. While they realize that they cannot force an individual to feed their children or themselves according to their nutrition theories - they can force, cajole if you prefer, restaurants to limit your options.

Save us from those who want to save us. 

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Oregonian thoughtful editiorial

Sgt. Tony McDowell, 1960-2011 | OregonLive.com

Sgt. McDowell was a  homeless veteran who died after a confrontation with Gresham police. This is my comment that I posted.

A welcome step back for the Oregonian. A thoughtful editorial pointing out the significant lack of help for veterans of all wars. It ofter seems that the military merely uses its military combat service personnel then pushes them to the outside to wander on their own seeking the care they need.

But most significant is the fact that the Oregonian didn't feel it was necessary to rant about the police. In fact they took notice of the circumstances often faced by the police - one "[t]hat didn't give officers much latitude for nuance."

The Oregonian even appeared to recognize a very real issue that police too often face - suicide by cop. They quote an expert on military suicide: "And even though "suicide by cop" may not officially count as suicide, it should, because, Kaplan stresses: "It is suicide.""

But I am still left to ponder - would the editorial have taken a different tone had it been the Portland police rather than Gresham police? I hope not.

The Kindling of Change - defining the "spark"

The graph: "It is impossible to know exactly which embers spark a revolution, but it’s not so hard to measure the conditions that make a country prime for one." [The Kindling of Change - NYTimes.com]

Crisis in Egypt Tests U.S. democratic principles

 "If Egyptians are allowed free and fair elections, a goal of the Obama administration, then, administration officials say, they will have to deal with the real possibility that an Egyptian government might include members of the Muslim Brotherhood." [Crisis in Egypt Tests U.S. Ties With Israel - NYTimes.com]

The Muslim card is being raised as if this should determine the path of democracy in Egypt. It is becoming ever so obvious that it is time to reassess the commitment to democratic principles. One wouldn't think that would have to be necessary given the CIA overthrow of democratically elected Allende in Chile. Fortunately the Obama administration seems on the right path in Egypt.

We support democratic governments but . . . is not a principle.

Caution - statistics ahead

 "The unemployment rate is gleaned from a survey of households, rather than companies, and can be volatile." [January Jobs Data Offers Mixed Bag, but Little Comfort - NYTimes.com]

The New York Times reporting on the BLS report showing a drop of the unemployed from 9.4% to 9%. The article demonstrates the nuance in presenting statistics. It notes that "[a] broader measure of unemployment — which includes those whose hours have been cut, those who are working part time because they could not find full-time jobs, and those so discouraged that they have given up on the search — was 16.1 percent, down from 16.7 percent in December."

While a .6% decrease sounds better - a use of that statistic would present the fact that even with the drop there are "13.9 million people still out of work."

The use of the official unemployment rate by the BLS is misleading and often unrelated to the issue at hand - lack of jobs The question ought to be is how many people are ready and able to work and would be if there were jobs.

Ground Kontrol arcade worth the trip to Old Town

Ground Kontrol arcade renovated « Daily Journal of Commerce

Friday, February 4, 2011

A societal tell

Portland Police Press Release: "The Portland Police Bureau Traffic Division will have extra patrol officers out starting at 5:00 p.m. Sunday, February 6th, 2011, to identify and arrest impaired drivers."

Why? The Super Bowl in Texas.

Now Ireland

In the headlines of today (Feb 4, 2011) one might surmise that another government has fallen. While it has - it is not because of popular uprising toppling authoritarian regime - or was it? I found it interesting that in Ireland the government had been "the party that has ruled Ireland for most of its independent history." [New York Times].

While in the Middle East the methods of topping governments has been sans the ballot box - in other countries, like Ireland, it has been the toppling of governments via the vote. While one might argue there are similarities in the circumstances - there is a big difference. And that is the ability to vote to bring about change without resort to the streets.

The ability to bring about change by voting is not always effective but it is certainly less violent. Governments,  the democratic ones, too often forget who they work for and their purpose in governing. But the ability to vote is not a guarantee against the need to take to the streets.And, non-democratic governments have to be told their purpose and limits - even if it takes a revolution.

For Tucson Survivors, Cost of Medical Care Is a Concern

For Tucson Survivors, Cost of Medical Care Is a Concern - NYTimes.com

It is difficult to discern why anyone - rich or poor - should, especially in situations involving catastrophic medical problems, be concerned about medical costs that may well leave a victim financially bankrupt.

“We watched the congresswoman’s care [federal coverage] and we thought, How marvelous, but there are real people out there like Monique who don’t get the same possibilities,” said Lisa Kantor, a lawyer who specializes in challenging insurance companies and was hired by Ms. Pomerleau’s father, Tom."

I don't buy the apparent proposition that federal elected officials should be in the position to receive better medical care than most of the rest of us. Even I receiving veterans benefits find medical costs far less expensive than most others. 

Medical care ought to be a basic need secured by our government. Obtainment of quality services should not depend on personal wealth or luck.

Korematsu Day

It is a California day of honor, but it ought to be a national day of remembrance. He is the Korematsu in Korematsu v. the United States where during WWII the US Supreme Court "held that the American government could convict Mr. Korematsu.[. . .] for refusing to be interned along with 120,000 others of Japanese ancestry considered threats to national security."

"In 2004, he submitted a brief to the Supreme Court in support of the right of enemy combatants to challenge their detention in court." "Mr. Korematsu hoped no one would be locked away again for looking like an enemy. But after Sept. 11, 2001, he was not certain that would never happen. He stayed vigilant. All of us should."

Korematsu Day - a day to remember to stay vigilant so "that in the name of national security the government [will not limit] civil liberties “much more than necessary” and [will not fend] off “any judicial scrutiny.”"

Another reason not to like unions

Cellphones in prisons: California guards union called main obstacle to keeping cellphones away from inmates - latimes.com

US intelligence on Arab unrest draws criticism

 "U.S. intelligence agencies are drawing criticism from the Oval Office and Capitol Hill that they failed to warn of revolts in Egypt and the downfall of an American ally in Tunisia." [US intelligence on Arab unrest draws criticism - Yahoo! News]

I am not sure that the criticism is warranted. Certainly in Egypt and Tunisia these "revolts" had all the signs of a spark - not some organized underground movement. I would surmise that if the Muslim Brotherhood had been planning the uprising in Egypt - intelligence would have been ample.

In an earlier post I had this New York Times quote:

". . . governments of an American-backed order in most of the region have lost their legitimacy, built on the idea that people would surrender their rights for the prospect of security and stability." [New York Times - In Cairo Streets, a Fight for the Arab Future].

The inference that I wanted to convey is that there is a point for every government where its citizens push back and push back hard. That tipping point is different for every country and every government, local or national, and the factual situations may not be the same but they are relatively similar. 

Revolutions are not always based upon political ideology nor on the tension between secular and non-secular ideologies. People have basic needs and they want their government to secure those needs and provide opportunities for economic growth.

Humans tend to be patient - but governments tend to test that patience. The more they test the more they come to believe that they can push it further.  However, while there is a certain elasticity, there is also an elastic limit. Egypt reached its point.

The handwriting has been on the wall - so obvious that one doesn't need an intelligence agency to read it.