Thursday, March 31, 2011

"Tiny" or "10,000 times" the iodine-131 detected

It's in how you want to paint the picture. An otherwise decent article from Yahoo! News painted it as Radioactivity 10,000 times standard at Japan plant while another from CNA English News (Taiwan) had this perspective Tiny amounts of radioactive iodine-131 detected in Taiwan. Which headlines has the fear factor and which article is more accurate?

It is hardly good journalism as in the Yahoo! News (AP) to report that something is "X" times more without giving the measurement units and the units for comparison. The better article with essential information is by CNA that is based upon a report from Taiwan Atomic Energy Council.

Keep informed. Oregon state has an excellent website that maintains up-to-date information: Air Monitoring Stations | Current Hazards. See too Washington State Iodine 131 fact sheet.

Where is there any evidence of local journalism that is providing in-depth information on radiation and its effects?

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

"Education is my full time job"

Great Schools provides parents with the information needed to find and select the best school for their children. It also provides that information pertinent to improvement of the educational process and structure. Their recent article in their "Excellent school series Harlem Village Academy Middle School is a great example. Its gist can be found in this sentence: "'Education is my full-time job.'"

Those are words spoken by everyone involved - school, teachers, students, and parents. The article suggests that the success is effected by the teachers "We believed that teachers, not programs, are the key drivers of student achievement – and by tapping into the knowledge, talent and passion of teachers, we could achieve ground-breaking results."

But like success anywhere there is more to it than an individual or group. At this school, a charter school, it is really a synergy. Everyone is committed to achieving a successful educational process. And it is important to take notice that  these students are not "high performing" children from wealthy families.

It is unrealistic - it seems - to expect similar commitments in local pubic schools - but aren't there lessons to be learned?  

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Charging for content

Yesterday the New York Times newspaper started their digital subscriptions, AKA paywall. It is not the first time. In 2007 they tried and quickly stopped a premium content charge. [CSM] I understand the need to be recompensed for the quality news production. It is difficult to select another newspaper that has the their quality.

Given the unfettered opportunity - I would choose the New York Times - it is a newspaper that is much more than New York. The Times provides world - national and international - news. Despite criticisms the Times is as well balanced in its news presentation as any other newspaper or news organization. Thus, it is obvious that they should receive appropriate revenue.

However, it isn't clear that their advertising revenue stream for the newspaper - New York Times is much more than a newspaper - isn't sufficient enough without online payment for content. They make the claim in their letter about the digital subscriptions that they need the revenue.

"It will allow us to develop new sources of revenue to strengthen our ability to continue our journalistic mission as well as undertake digital innovations that will enable us to provide you with high-quality journalism on whatever device you choose."

The argument that content shouldn't be free makes sense, but there is payment with every selection of the webpage having advertising - and what webpage doesn't? Print newspapers have never relied on subscriptions as the source of revenue. It was the advertising that provided not only the income but also its independence. There was no connection between the local market's ads and the newspaper's content. Consider too the ads today are national and international in content.

But the Times has left several loopholes which makes one wonder just who is it that they want to pay and whether the revenue will in fact increase because of the subscriptions?

It seems that there has to be a loss in online advertising revenue given that there will be a reduction in page viewers. And it seems unlikely that digital subscription revenue will offset that loss. In fact if it doesn't produce a significant increase - this second experiment will be a bust.

There seems to be some irony in that this seems to be aimed at Google which directs an enormous flow of reader traffic to their webpages that generates actual revenue for the newspaper and potential product/service revenue for the advertisers. Cutting off Google seems to be the "cutting off the nose to spite the face" situations.

How does the Times reconcile their digital subscription policy with their 2007 philosophy? "We now believe by opening up all our content and unleashing what will be millions and millions of new documents, combined with phenomenal growth, that that will create a revenue stream that will more than exceed the subscription revenue" [CSM]

Newspapers - print or online - have a unique place in American society. The constitution essentially grants them a monopoly to produce news for the American public, and it is vital to the democracy that serves that public. Newspapers owe a duty to the public to produce the news at prices the readership can afford. News should not be for the better off.

Monday, March 28, 2011

When students have more ethics than schools

"The USA Today series has shown that attempts to do that in other parts of the country have often been detected because students, as bothered by cheating as anyone else, went home and told their parents, who reported it to school headquarters." [Take back that blue ribbon, Secretary Duncan - Class Struggle - The Washington Post].

USA Today’s series “Testing the System. "They reveal that the D.C. schools have been winning awards for test results in which there are so many wrong-to-right erasures---averaging more than a dozen per student in some classes---that the odds of that happening by chance are worse than for winning the Powerball lottery grand prize." [Washington Post].

See my earlier post on the first part of their series: "The USA Today piece is well written and informative. I wonder how Oregon would fare if USA Today took a look at them? I wrote "Closing the achievement gap" pointing out the interesting test scores at one particular school. Although I was wondering about the accuracy of the testing and teaching methodology - the USA Today story raises another issue - adults cheating to raise scores."

It says quite a bit about students' integrity and little for the D.C. schools and their teachers and administrators.

PI still remains 3.14159 . . . . . . .

Simplifying Pi?: Article a Hoax, But Hits Close to Home | Math, Legislature & Education | LiveScience

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Ain't it the truth

“Where ideas are concerned, America can be counted on to do one of two things: take a good idea and run it completely into the ground, or take a bad idea and run it completely into the ground.” See "The Oil Drum | Discussions about Energy and Our Future quote from Brain Droppings by George Carlin.

Something is just plain wrong with the Catholic Church

Child sexual abuse is rampant in the Catholic Church and it goes further than just the priests. The Church continues to attempt to cover up the abuses rather than correct them. Arguably, their "review boards" are nothing more than a means of hiding the abuses.

This is not something limited to one area of the country or even the world. And notice it is the Catholic Church where these child sexual abuses cases are originating. Most disturbing is the settlement by the Jesuits, a teaching order, with "more than 500 victims of sexual abuse, many of whom are American Indians and Alaska Natives who were abused decades ago at Indian boarding schools and in remote villages."

Religious educators preying on the most vulnerable. One wonders how they missed God's lighting strikes?

Yes many, if not most, of these cases are "old." But that speaks to the endemic nature of the problem. For whatever reason - there is a large time delay in reporting many of these cases, thus, has the child sexual abuse stopped - or are the priests and Church getting better at hiding the abuse?

And it appears that the Catholic Church has done little to insure that child sexual abuse by priests is eliminated. While civil lawsuits and money settlements sound great - they are largely ineffective deterrents to child sexual abuse. And, it doubtful that these payouts result in the administration of justice.

One wonders how you can confess your sins to a man who may have sexually abused a child. It is an exaggeration - yes - but not by much. Rather than defending the indefensible, parishioners ought to be demanding the elimination of these sorry individuals from the Catholic faith. It is not just a few bad apples.

See these latest stories from the New York Times.

Prosecution Requests Granted in Philadelphia Archdiocese Case

Northwest Jesuits Reach Settlement With Sexual Abuse Victims

Priest Suspensions in Philadelphia Trouble Bishops

Now we know intervention was correct

Farrakhan defends Gadhafi, pans US role in Libya - Yahoo! News

Friday, March 25, 2011

Oh if it were only so easy here

Opposition brings down Canadian government - Yahoo! News

It is amazing what amuses

President Barack Obama locked out of White House

Religion still the root cause of conflict

Of course it has only been 2000 plus years that religions have been battling each other - that is a very small slice of time in the grand scheme. But one wonders just how valid a religion is when democracy is excluded. It often seems like religion and democracy are mutually exclusive.

And isn't it strange how some countries ruled by a religion supports and rationalizes intolerance and violence against their own people? And that the object of their affection is an opposing religion? Religion the mechanism to implement and ensure a dictatorship.

See the Al Jazeera article (March 2011) about the conflict in Bahrain. My take from the situation in Bahrain, and indirectly supported by this article, is that the battle for democracy is purposefully being cast in terms of religious conflict between Muslim Sunni and Shiites.

While the protesters have all the attributes of those seeking democratic reforms - the Bahrain government seeks to categorize them as Iranian agents. Bahrain is a country that is minority Sunni ruled but its majority are Shiites. Iran is ruled by majority Shiites.

While discussed as a religious conflict - most often it is depicted as a fear of Iran - who just happen to be Shiites. However, in Bahrain the majority ruled by a minority appear to be most interested in democratic principles. It seems that few of the Muslim, Sunni or Shiite, "religious" ruled countries support democratic principles in practice. Turkey is a prime exception - it is a democratic secular state where a majority of its citizens/residents are Muslims, mostly Sunni.. [See CIA World Factbook.]

It is interesting that the much feared, and it would seem too much misaligned, Muslim Brotherhood supports democratic principles. See the Al Jazeera "Brotherhood: How will the Muslim Brotherhood reconcile their ideology with democracy?" for decent perspective. It contains a 24 min video that is a must view.

The founders of the United States recognized the dangers in religious control of the functions of government. Successful democracies seem able to put up the wall that excludes religions in governing. There is no place in the governance of people other than with secular control.

It ought to be obvious that secular governing doesn't prevent religious beliefs of its citizens. Believe in the God you want - or not - but don't jaywalk.

SW Ankeny - a pedestrian way

The Willamette Week has had two stories on pedestrianizing SW Ankeny that was in the now expired downtown urban renewal district. Ankeny is in the "entertainment" part of the Old Town/Chinatown neighborhood - it is not the area that many consider "Old Town."

Both stories are about "new" ideas on SW Ankeny. The concept is to essentially to eliminate cars in a very small circumscribed area. It is an area that vehicular traffic is suspect - there is little room and there is no advantage to maintaining the thoroughfare for anything other than pedestrians.

The pedestrianization of Ankeny concept is not new and has been recommended in PDC consultant studies and was contained in the PDC final reports for that area that PDC had designated Ankeny-Burnside Development Framework.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Libyan hot potato - US can breathe a sign of relief

NATO strives to end split over Libya command: "NATO members still debating who should lead international intervention in Libya, with US keen to handover control."

The United Nations Security Council voted (10 yes, 5 abstentions) via UN Resolution 1973 (contains an analysis) to approve member states to take action in Libya. United Nations unlike NATO has no military structure. While the member states like the US, France and UK - formed the initial military coalition it now seeks to have NATO take the reins and continue to implement the military  action.

In NATO decisional process, unlike the United Nations Security Council, "action is agreed upon on the basis of unanimity and common accord. There is no voting or decision by majority." Thus, Turkey's agreement is necessary.

Turkey wants "assurances that the operation will be limited to protecting civilians, enforcing an arms embargo and a no-fly zone, and providing humanitarian aid." [Al Jazeera]. There is a concern that NATO's military missteps in Kosovo might be repeated. 73 civilians died. But the fact that Turkey and Libya population is nearly 100% Sunni Muslim [CIA World Factbook] probably played a part.

But today (March 24, 2011) all is clear for the US step into the background: Turkish TV: NATO to command Libya operation.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Bad people or good people gone wrong

Our Iraq and Afghanistan involvement has produced some real head shakers in the conduct of American soldiers. The recent graphic photos and story while outrageous they overshadowed the underlying murder of an Afghanistan civilian by at least one US serviceman (he plead guilty) while others will be standing trial.

This was apparently a murder plot - not just some wrongful firing of weapons. See the more recent story. As part of the guilty plea - he, Specialist Morlock, will be testifying against the others on trial. But this is troubling: "Morlock would serve no more than eight years before becoming eligible for parole."

The plot aspect convinces me that this shooting is not something arising from a combat environment. If Morlock is to believed this is a case of bad people doing bad things. But the defense attorneys of the others will pointing to the command structure and combat effects.

But, even assuming that the shooting had been justified - the others charged by the military and those that had their photo taken with the dead civilian displayed a horrible disregard for human life and disrespect for the death of another.

Troublesome is that Der Spiegel, that broke the story, indicated that they had obtained some 4,000 images. This speaks to a pervasive disregard for the life and disrespect for the dead. It would seem from the images accompanying the story and the story's content it is arguable that the soldiers see the Afghanistan people as trophies whose death is to be admired.

Head shaker - isn't it?

Justice Department - frivolous lawsuit

It is an interesting story in the Washington Post that demonstrates that there is a difference between respecting diversity, in this case religious, and the preferential accommodation of that diversity for political points.

The Justice Department has filed a lawsuit on behalf of a teacher who after teaching middle school math for nine months decided that she wanted to take a trip requiring her to be absent for three weeks "during the critical end-of-semester marking period." Of course the school said no.

Frankly, the teacher made the right choice in resigning and taking her trip. Not that it was right to leave the school district in that manner, but right in that she apparently didn't run down the street claiming discrimination. It should have ended there. How the Justice Department got involved is not detailed in the Washington Post - but one has to smell a rat.

The fact that the teacher is a Muslim and wanted to go on a pilgrimage to Mecca is irrelevant. It is not a one time event, it is not something done before, it was possibly a personal "dream." She never told the school in advance that she was planning a trip. I guess she resigned before the school got the chance to fire her.

Obama's Attorney General seems to see this as a civil rights issue - Nonsense.

Calming radiation fears stoked by the local yokels

Check the daily radiation levels for OregonWashington and Idaho. See KGW for their story. The measurement is "gross beta" in "counts per minute." From the Oregon website: ". . .“gross beta,” a term that refers to all radioactive materials that emit beta radiation. Gross beta measurements are used because they give us the fastest indication of any change in radiation levels."

What these charts do is to provide a comparison basis, thus, one can compare the measurements on a daily basis as well as a monthly basis. But, none of the websites define what might be a worrisome gross beta. But this from the Washington site gives some indication:

"The annual average measurement at our Tumwater air monitor for 2010 was 25 counts per minute. The levels would have to be at least hundreds of thousands of times higher than these readings before state health officials would recommend protective actions."

Gross beta on 3-22-11 at Portland 18.76, at Seattle 15, and at Spokane 52.

The Idaho website also has a "Guide to Radiation Doses and Limits." Checkout their Dose Calculator. This calculator and the guide helps put things in perspective by demonstrating the naturally occurring radiation. The measurement is in millirems. The average radiation dose is about 360 millirems per year. An interesting fact: "Smoking 1½ packs a day can result in exposure to 1,300 millirem of radiation per year."

See this EPA fact sheet for more info.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Headquarters' plaza - temporary park

The Oregonian "City Hall roundup" had another story in the continuing saga of the Headquarters Hotel and Oregon Convention Center Urban Renewal District: "Land for the Convention Center hotel being turned into $660,000 plaza."

The Headquarters concept just will not die with the likes of Metro president Hughes and Mayor Adams. PDC long ago gave up its independence continues to sway with the wind.

What seems clear is that $660,000, not including the cost overruns, will be lost because in five years the use of 'plaza' land reverts back to PDC for any project including the headquarters hotel. The Plaza appears to be nothing more than a five year right of way. [See PDC Report 11-18.]

I think it is key that the Report states: "Due to the economic downturn, the HQ Hotel project is not expected to be built in the near term." Never say die. See my posts: "Headquarters: The reports of my death [is] an exaggeration" & "Exhibition plaza - your tax dollars wasted "

Of course more dollars are being lost because this property is off the tax rolls now and for at least 5 more years, and then there is the expenditure of dollars to prepare the land prior to the $660K.

Urban renewal was intended to do what private development would not - that is - develop areas of blight. And, this public funded form of development has a very crucial element - the developed property is to generate property tax revenue.

Urban renewal cannot succeed if the expenditures, which includes the cost of borrowing, are not repaid by increased property tax revenue.

What the public is getting is a $660k temporary park without the ability to vote on the expenditure. Sounds fair to me."

Once a reporter always a reporter?

Nick Christensen who writes "Metro News" was a former reporter hired by Metro to report on itself. [See Oregonian.]  Amy Ruiz a former reporter was hired by Sam Adams "to be his sustainability and strategic planning adviser. [Seattlest.com].

Even though both of them seemed to have made career changes, most likely with significant salary increases - they are held to the standards of their previous journalist profession. [See Principles of Journalism.]  See my post criticizing Amy Ruiz.

In retrospect - it doesn't seem fair or correct - does it?



AT&T's T-Mobil takeover - a poor combination or step forward

Reuters had this comment on the takeover: 

"We finally have an answer for what kind of financial service only a too-big-to-fail bank can provide: a record-setting loan to fund a takeover that will hugely reduce competition in U.S. wireless communications."

But this from Speed Matters, a project of Communications Workers of America: 

"This deal is a tremendous opportunity to bring our country into the digital age by expanding our broadband networks and improving their connection speed."

"As part of the purchase agreement, AT&T committed to building out its high-speed broadband network to nearly every part of the United States within six years."

Depends on your perspective.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Al Jazeera - #3 on You Tube

And for good reason. The rating came from a New York Times article: "Al Jazeera English, which can’t seem to find carriage in the broadcast and cable universe, has found a home on YouTube, where it has become the No. 3 news channel." [Checkout You Tube News].

It is the broadcast and cable universe that misses out. Al Jazeera's Internet site provides the best coverage for the eastern part of the world. It is as objective in its coverage as is any western news media - including the Times.

It may not last long, I am not sure of its financing - but its site offers everything without commercials or ads. It is refreshing to click on a video and not have to wait for an ad to finish before the substance.

The content is not blog oriented. An article is more often like an academic paper than the "news" found in US media. For example, check out these three opinion pieces: West overzealous on Libya, Framing the narrative of Libya & The globalisation of revolution.

Al Jazeera - it is another perspective. And it is interesting to see other views of the world.

"America's Saudi air war"

The Al Jazeera article while reaching a bit underlines the problems of supplying military training and supplies to countries like those in the news today. But it also underlines a certain hypocrisy that exists within congress. It isn't national policy or democratic freedom or even constitutional values that matter - money triumphs. Is 9-11 only a distant memory?

Here is the story. In Idaho the Saudi air force will be trained to fly the F-15E jets. These are formidable weapons. This is a five year training adventure is part of  "$60bn arms deal between the US and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia announced that autumn."

See a Wikipedia article on the F-15E and see the Saudi Arabia paragraph depicting prior use of our planes and training: "Starting from the first week of November 2009, Royal Saudi Air Force F-15s, along with Saudi Tornados, performed air raids against Yemeni Houthis rebels in the northern Yemeni region of Sa'dah.

How about this comment: ""Facilitating the modernisation of Royal Saudi Air Force aircraft, as well as providing enhanced air crew and maintenance training, would build partner capacity and contribute to the stability of the [Middle East] region," said Heidi Grant, the deputy undersecretary of the air force for international affairs."" [Al Jazeera].

"Stability" - a Middle East and Arab concept that employs military force and arms to insure that its citizens are not ready for democracy.

Will our planes, supplies and training be used against the protesters in Yemen, Saudi Arabia or Bahrain? Hmmm. Guess whose arms supplied Libya? No - not the US - think cold war.

But the same Idaho politicians that are against the building of the mosque in New York are in favor of the economic military package. [Al Jazeera]. Are they aware that Saudi Arabia is nearly 100% Muslim? There is a small percentage that are not Muslim, and the major Muslim component is Sunni.  

Notice too that many, if not the majority, of the 9-11 hijackers were Saudi Arabian. Where was are friend Osama bin Laden from? Notice that Saudi troops have marched into Bahrain which is a country that has a Shia Muslim majority but is ruled by a Sunni minority. Hypocrisy abounds. 

Who is going to be laughing?

Autoblog Green blog post: Tesla's Musk says capacitors "will supercede" batteries. Elon Musk is the chief executive officer of Tesla. Should that happen - Autoblog Green ponders - "Who's going to be laughing when that happens?"

It will not be Oregon or Portland that has showered incentives on electric battery companies, e.g., ReVolt. Investments in private companies should not be made by public entities. It is wrongful appropriation of public money as well as eliminating the market factor in innovation..

Libya spurs a Medvedev Putin tif

"Russia's President Dmitry Medvedev has said Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's description of the UN resolution on Libya is "unacceptable." BBC News - Medvedev rejects Putin 'crusade' remark over Libya

Interesting - no?

Police Press Release - interesting tibit

Police Press Release: "This shooting is the 5th gang-related shooting since March 12, 2011."

Libya Attacks - growing isolationism in the US

The pundits, news media, yes bloggers too, sit comfortably in their homes, office, bars, coffee houses or wherever and determine what should have been. Given the circumstances, if not Libya - where?  The answer seems to be - nowhere.

It seems that the liberals hate the military, just like they hate the police in Portland. The conservatives just hate Obama. There is nothing that he could do to gain their support. The Republicans like to point to President Reagan as their ultimate conservative republican. But check this out.

"On 15 April 1986, U.S. President Ronald Reagan ordered major bombing raids, dubbed Operation El Dorado Canyon, against Tripoli and Benghazi, killing 45 Libyan military and government personnel as well as 15 civilians. This strike followed US interception of telex messages from Libya's East Berlin embassy suggesting the involvement of Libyan leader Muammar al-Gaddafi in a bomb explosion on 5 April in West Berlin's La Belle discotheque, a nightclub frequented by US servicemen." [Wikipedia].

Read the Operation El Dorado Canyon for the details. And remember Grenada? President Reagan had no qualms about invading Grenada.

In general - military intervention is not appropriate. Countries and its citizens have to work it out their governing for themselves. But, Libya is more than a dictators' abuse of citizens and appropriation for himself  the wealth of the country. It doesn't appear that the United Nations, world community, can remain indifferent to events where the government uses military power to curtail citizen protests.

Although there is some backpedaling by the Arab States that supported the UN resolution - there is considerable support by the world community. Notice that while China and Russia abstained, rather than exercise their veto - the effect was a vote with the majority - in this case a yes vote. It seems clear that the US is on solid ground - unlike Iraq.

Libya could have stopped its military - but while saying it had - the military continued seeking a better advantage.

Yes there are many other situations in the world where one wonders why the international community hasn't taken action - but that failure(s) doesn't justify a failure to act in the Libyan case.

District 1 Newsletter - recycling fodder

This is Newsletter is from Multnomah County Commissioner Deborah Kafoury. I subscribed because I thought I might gain some insight on county issues, e.g., urban renewal that diverts county tax revenue to development in Portland. What topic did the Newsletter contain? Bedbugs.

Drivel. While I have only received a couple issues - they have been useless. Well at least I now know that there is a bedbug committee.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Oregonian editorial blog pomposity

The Oregonian doesn't do editorial opinions anymore - it is driven by some unknown factor to produce a daily work product. But these "opinions" are nothing more than blog posts that are pompous drivel. They are often written as if what they say is to be studiously read by the subjects of the blog posts.

The recent editorial post "Handling a hot, melting site" makes the case. While their post is ostensibly a complaint about the quantity and quality of the information coming from the Japanese government about the events surrounding the nuclear reactor - it is a not too subtle attempt to say that they would do it better.

The editorial post states the reports "signal inadequacy and disrespect." At this stage it is hard to see how the editorial board has such an insight or inside information that enables them to determine the inadequacy. And disrespect? How does that follow? Disrespect to who?

The editorial post just isn't satisfied with the Japanese efforts. What is really tragic is that the Japanese government just doesn't understand how important the Oregonian is to world opinion. After all they have the answers - although they seem not to be able to provide any.

In recent editorials the board has stressed its friendship, therefore the presumption for the criticism, with Japan. I would say Japan needs to hold the Oregonian editorial board close.

I am looking forward to the postmortem from Japan. From my perch - nowhere as high as that of the editorial board - given that Japan has suffered three major events in succession, each catastrophic - the Japanese government are doing a pretty fair job.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

32 feet - not enough preparedness

I watched a 1997 documentary on Tsunamis last night and not surprising Japan was a focus. Japan is no stranger to earthquakes and tsunamis. There was a portion where one area had built a 10 meter high seawall to keep out a tsunami. This was in TarĊ, Miyako, Iwate Prefecture, Japan. It is on the Northeastern Coast of of Japan.

10 meters is about 32 feet. But the recent 15 meter tsunami exceeded that. Ironically the seawall essentially trapped the water and a whirlpool effect was formed dragging people, homes and property into it. Take a look at this video by Bill Schiller of Toronto's thestar.com.

This video and many of the other videos and images demonstrates the futility of the "preparedness" propaganda that the news media and "experts" are wailing about. No "emergency kit" prepares one for these acts of nature. Now having emergency plans, e.g., where to go, makes sense.

These events don't normally result in the number of deaths that are mounting in Japan. But deaths are not prevented by "emergency kits." And, I don't remember survivors of these catastrophic events attesting that their survival was the result of some "emergency kit."

And what makes the best sense is that governments have "preparedness" plans and that these are widely disseminated. Despite some grumbling, and excluding the reactor issues, the Japanese government appears to have had plans and the wherewithal to implement them.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Japan's more pressing story - nuclear radiation

First the earthquake (now classified as a 9), then tsunami, and now the potentially lethal, certainly injurious, ionizing radiation being absorbed by Japan's population from at least one reactor. 

See this World Nuclear Association map for the location of nuclear reactors in Japan. While there has been many sources for information posted on line by the news media and others, there has been a few that have excelled on the issue of radiation effects.

The Economist has the best historical and summary piece: Japan's catastrophes: Nature strikes back. But Al Jazeera has the best on-going coverage. Japan races to cool stricken reactors and Japan in frantic bid to cool reactors are just two recent articles. Their Disaster in Japan Live Blog isn't matched anywhere.

But, terminology has become daunting. The terms measuring radiation are often different in the various reports, and places like Three Mile Island and Chernobyl are used as reference points in discussing radiation effects. But because of the difference in measurement terms it is not easy to compare them to the Japanese incident.

Depending on the age of the reference radiation may be defined in terms of "rems" or "sieverts." The latter is now preferred. However, these terms are not only used without definition they are not related to a health effect. Just how negative is an exposure?

Measurement equivalents can be found in this calculator Radiation Exposure Conversion, Convert Roentgen, Sievert, Rem (need to know powers of ten), and found in the Wikipedia table Roentgen equivalent man. The latter is the best for quick reference.

There are two excellent articles that define the terms and their relation to health effects: Radiation | Nuclear Radiation | Ionizing Radiation | Health Effects (World Nuclear Association) and Ionizing radiation (Wikipedia). 
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Helpful?

Republicans to Democrats: Fork you

Apparently the Democrats (Pelosi) had caused the substitution of plastic forks and foam cups with "compostable cups and utensils." The Republicans, in a cost savings move, brought back the plastic and foam. [New York Times] Frankly, I don't understand how the Democrats thought that it was a good idea in the first place.

In the grand scheme - did the Democrats really make a difference in the reduction of carbon dioxide? A spokeswoman for Representative Dan Lungren of California, noted that "the total savings were equal to taking one car off the road per year." [New York Times] My truthiness indicator says that is too generous.

But, I wouldn't even go for the Republican's move - I want the real stuff. When I go to a Starbucks or any coffee place I ensure that if I am consuming the purchase there ("for here") that I receive a real cup and a real plate and a real utensil. Eating off or out of a paper bag or drinking out of a paper cup is picnic style - I am not having any part of it especially if I just paid $3.25 for a cappuccino.

It is this type of liberal nannyism that drives most people a little nuts. Oregon's Representative Blumenauer is one of the nannys. He complained about the Republican move citing "health concerns associated with plastic foam." Oh please! Don't use the cup then.

But this fight tells you much more about our representatives in congress.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Test scores too good to be true?

Great Schools blog' s post "When adults cheat" was commenting on the USA Today article "When test scores seem too good to believe." While the focus was on a particular teacher who essentially gave his students a preview of the state skills tests, it also pointed out other areas of concern at the teacher's school.

"In several grades, standardized test scores [. . .] fluctuated year to year, sometimes rising sharply, then falling."  The "gains and losses are typical of a pattern uncovered by a USA TODAY investigation of the standardized tests of millions of students in six states and the District of Columbia."

The USA Today piece is well written and informative. I wonder how Oregon would fare if USA Today took a look at them? I wrote "Closing the achievement gap" pointing out the interesting test scores at one particular school. Although I was wondering about the accuracy of the testing and teaching methodology - the USA Today story raises another issue - adults cheating to raise scores.

126 saves

The Portland Tribune has the story "Saved after 126 arrests" about redemption of two habitual criminals - basically drug users and one clearly a dealer too. Essentially it touts a police program to "save" drug using miscreants. The article seems to be trying to rationalize this belated rehabilitation in economic costs, that is, it costs the taxpayers less.

But that is utter nonsense. Using the same reasoning one could argue that it is less expensive to taxpayers just to eliminate the police and the entire criminal justice system - don't arrest anyone and surely don't hold them accountable. 

Intel Science Talent Search Winner - Home Schooled

The student, Evan O'Dorney, is a recent top winner in the Intel program. As my title suggests - what is unusual is that he was home schooled. [San Jose Mercury News]. He is from Danville, California (Bay Area). The town is an upper crust type of place with a median household income in 2007 of $126,797. [Wikipedia]. Danville screams success and it is not inexpensive.

Evan's dad has a job as a BART operator. That is somewhat similar to a TriMet operator - but not necessarily better paid. The dad's salary: $62, 613 base, $47,707 overtime, $7,224 additional = $177,544  [Contra Costa Times BART database.] But take a look at the salaries of a TriMet operator.
.
How come this kid did so well? Being home schooled eliminates the private schooling vs public vs charter education arguments. But, it is easy to argue that his mother - responsible for the home schooling - is exceptional, and that the family income might have made it easier to acquire all the bells and whistles that only the very best private schools can afford. [See Harker and Catlin Gablin.]

One can easily argue too that this kid - now 17 - is exceptional too as are all of these Intel winners. Take a look at the video in the article. All of the students discussed their interests and if it were their self-determination. Children just don't have some epiphany - they have been influenced and encouraged by parents, guardians, teachers, or mentors.

Not all children can be science or math scholars, but everyone can have some scholarship or excellence. It is not necessarily about money, class size (although for Evan one to one was the best class size), lunch programs, ethnicity, or whatever. It is about the high expectations and the encouragement that goes along with those expectations.

It is also about society and the value placed on education. President Obama said in his State of the Union speech: "We need to teach our kids that it's not just the winner of the Super Bowl who deserves to be celebrated, but the winner of the science fair." [San Jose Mercury News].

Being well educated ought to be the brass ring.

Monday, March 14, 2011

The best education money can buy

If you have $35,000 to throw at tuition for your child - then he or she might well be the next Einstein. At least that is one take from the San Jose Mercury News article on the private Harker School in San Jose, CA smack dab in the middle of San Francisco Bay Area's Silicon Valley.

This school is might what one expects from its location and from its founders. Arguably much of the money goes into specialized equipment for the school - that what public schools cannot expect to obtain via public funding - and it seems that the tuition is being paid by those who are educationally and economically well -positioned.

The San Jose Mercury News points out what might be considered the obvious: "Harker has identified a magic formula: dedicated parents, smart students, a rigorous curriculum, creative faculty and the strong support of local universities. And considerable sums of money."

I submit that it is much more than money - it is shared high expectations with payback. The tuition paying parents have high expectation of positive results commiserate with their payment; the teachers and parents have high expectations of the students, i.e., they are there to be educated for their future; and students have high expectations that their efforts will be reimbursed with an education that provides best for their future.

The Harker school appears to have been putting into practice that what the article notes that President Obama said in his State of the Union speech: "We need to teach our kids that it's not just the winner of the Super Bowl who deserves to be celebrated, but the winner of the science fair."

Inequality among public schools

Great Schools always has excellent articles for parents of students, but they are just as much for non-parents. If one owns property there ought to be an interest in how well spent are those property tax dollars. Thus, factors like teacher pay and effectiveness are important factors not only for parents, but for all taxpayers footing the bill.

Great Schools asks: "How far must parents go to get their children a decent education?" There is no one solution - but the bottom line is that the parents have to want to place their children in a good school. Thus, if a parent's concern is public school education - there are factors that any parent can use to use to their child's best advantage.

While the Great School article is designed to assist the parent that is focused on having his or her child attend the better public school - indirectly, i.e., not intentionally, the article points out the extant inequality among schools in a district or city.

But it is the taxpayer as well as the parent that ought to be concerned about the inequality among schools and teachers. While this is a national issue, concern has to be first local. It is the place where a difference can be made.

Great Schools offers the data for comparison and analysis among schools. I submit that it doesn't take too long to determine that school performance is not necessarily related to factors such as class size or lunch programs.

It should go without saying that a well educated child is beneficial to society as well as to the student. Taxpayer dollars (tuition for public schools) ought to guarantee the same educational opportunities irrespective of the particular school the student attends.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

It is more than stupid

One might have thought that maybe a lesson from the Wikileaks release of documents is that being forthright in public as well in private is a virtue - not the case. In a somewhat ironic situation P. J. Crowley a US state department - Clinton spokesman - resigned (forced?) [AP:Yahoo! News] after he called the army's treatment of the army private accused of feeding documents to Wikileaks - "ridiculous and counterproductive and stupid" [BBC News].

Never mind that the treatment of the army private is certainly immoral and (ought to be) criminal. It is only one more example of a government out of hand - matters not whether you call it liberal or conservative.

Is this remark by Mr. Crowley a reason for him to resign? He as Mrs. Clinton stated: "ha[d] served our nation with distinction for more than three decades, in uniform and as a civilian." So out the door you go Mr. Crowley. [AP:Yahoo! News]

But it is important to the ingrained politics of this administration - same in the others too - "he never got along with the secretary's inner circle. He was well-liked by the press corps, but his often unusually blunt remarks from the State Department podium got him into trouble and he had not traveled with Clinton on overseas trips in more than a year."

Ah the excuse to force him out - I guess it is patience (by Clinton) that is the virtue.

Politics as practiced - is the art of hypocrisy. Never say what you mean and never mean what you say. 


Saturday, March 12, 2011

Lithium

Once upon a time it was a drug - now it is an energy resource. Lithium batteries are now touted as the earth saver in that all-electric cars are going to stop global warming, reduce dependence on foreign oil, etc. But there is the 800 lb gorilla in the room.

Lithium is another non-renewable energy source, and the US has little. See Mining Information site. Not surprisingly there is an oil connection. Interesting too is that Bolivia and Chile appear to be the major lithium sources. How come poor countries seem to have much needed resources yet their population mass share little in resulting wealth? Another story.

Isn't more research needed before we switch from one nonrenewable resource to another? How about this from Volvo - using the car body as a battery? Isn't it best to explore the potential benefits of alternative fuels as well as the use of hybrid advances?

Friday, March 11, 2011

Layoffs at All-Time Low - good news?

New York Times, Economix
But there are 5 Unemployed for Every Job Opening

Please - not FEMA

Bad things come in threes? "President Barack Obama said the Federal Emergency Management Agency is ready to come to the aid of any U.S. states or territories who need help." [Tsunami swamps Hawaii shores, damages Calif. bays].

Fickle mother earth?

The image is from the USGS website. Checkout the other maps - it seems that Japan is perilously perched in the Ring of Fire.

For the best coverage of the earthquake and resulting tsunami see Al Jazeera' Live blog: Japan earthquake and Massive tsunami devastates Japan. What is refreshing is that the videos are not preceded by commercials.

Having lived most of my adult life in the San Francisco Bay Area - I am familiar with earthquakes. But one is never prepared for a major quake. 

Typically one is never in a place where any of the "preparedness" has any value. Building codes and well prepared emergency services is the key.

Ousting a dictator: Tortoise and the hare?

The Bush administration rushed into Iraq to oust the dictator Saddam Hussein. But the Obama administration is nearly moving backwards to oust the dictator Gaddafi.. If it were not for Hillary Clinton there would be no forward movement at all. Will the decidedly more intelligent but plodding approach end with better results than the other alternative?

Will we be too late? See U.S. Escalates Pressure on Libya Amid Mixed Signals and Libya rebels face Gaddafi onslaught.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Closing the achievement gap?

The story in the Oregonian was about the state's recognition of 13 Oregon schools for improvement in test scores. There are two categories for recognition that also includes money: "Continuing success" and "Champion" schools. Portland's Jason Lee was one of the Champion schools.

Great Schools offers an interesting look at Lee (Jason Lee) Elementary School. One can see some startling improvements in test scores, but some changes were odd - head scratchers.

E.g., grade 7 reading in 2008 was 67%, increased to 74% in 2009 - but fell back to 67% in 2010. Notice too that the 7th grade that scored 74% in 2009 and, I assume, moved on to 8th grade in 2010 only scored 58% in reading.

One wonders if the testing produces accurate results or that they have any value in demonstrating effective teaching methodology?

Mercury poisoning

The Oregonian had the story: "Senator Mike Enzi and other Republicans push to repeal U.S. requirements for energy-efficient light bulbs." It is offered as "Environmental News." But the only environmental concern was carbon dioxide.

The focus of the Republicans' push is to curtail "nanny" legislation, i.e., government reaching too far into citizens's daily life. We ought to think more than once about any government regulation. And, while I am in agreement with the anti-nanny legislation concept - in this case it is more important to be concerned about legislation or regulations that adds to the specter of mercury poisoning.

Saving the environment is everybody's concern, but it ought to be clear that the environment is a complex interrelationship of factors. The use of compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) as a means to combat global warming needs more thought. The "green" benefits in the use of CFLs doesn't seem to be justified by the potential increase in toxic poisoning. See Wikipedia and Science Daily.

Mercury accumulates in the environment and the body; thus, there is no baseline or normal amount of exposure. And, the proper "clean-up" after an ordinary breakage of CFL light bulb approaches that requiring a hazardous clean-up specialist.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

New 9-11 footage

Russia Today has the full video and is available for download. See the RT site: New 9/11 video taken from NYPD helicopter leaked. Nothing real dramatic and no narration, but watching the towers essentially disappear as if by magic is once again disturbing.

Portland Saturday Market opened

It seems that KGW was the only news media that had the announcement. I am not sure whether I just didn't see it in the Tribune or Oregonian or it is a lack of marketing by Portland Saturday Market.

Its existence for 38 years speaks volumes. It attracts “over a million visitors annually, both local and international to downtown Portland.” [KGW quoting PSM executive director.] But PDC and its urban renewal fraud nearly put them out of business.

This from my Old Town Blog, nearly 4 years ago, speaking to the "relocation" of the Market to make way for "development:" "A conspiratorial theory suggests that PDC plans for the Ankeny Burnside area never envisioned the Market in the area. Arguably, the implicit goal has always been to move the Market out of the area - where - was immaterial."

Fortunately - PDC saw the light, grudgingly. PSM is a slightly scaled down version of its former self - but it is still one of the best events, if not the best, in Portland. And it is in Old Town.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Thank you!

Neil Goldschmidt's Portrait Will Be Removed From Capitol

Now they have gone too far

Bahrain protests reach US embassy challenging us on our often touted principles.

Walmart in NW Portland?

103,000 square feet with reduced parking. Groceries, drug store, furniture, kitchen and other home products.

Nope - it is a Fred Meyer expansion. [NW Examiner March 11, 2011].

Contrast in adjoining neighborhoods: Old Town & Pearl

These two neighborhoods share a common border and both have a border on the Willamette River. Both are essentially in the River District Urban Renewal Area. The livability committees in the two neighborhood associations could not have different agendas.

In Old Town Chinatown Neighborhood Association they are worried mostly about drug dealing, drug use and prostitution. In Pearl - it is dog poop. Interesting no?

Portlanders aren't ready for democracy - City Hall cover-up - Hayden Island

Kudos to Jack Bog's Blog for picking up on the Portland city hall cover-up in the Tribune's story on Hayden Island. I read the Tribune everyday but passed over their story. Because I am not a native Portlander - Hayden Island stories don't seem to get my attention when it should. Hayden Island is a great example of what is wrong in Portland - it is the "leadership" and those that aspire to that leadership.

Both stories are worthy of the read - but I want to focus on the content of Bojack's post - the all too apparent willingness by public officials and political appointees to circumvent the public's right to know and the public records law a vehicle designed to facilitate the public's right to be informed.

Portland leadership at city hall is for the most part about hypocrisy and the lack of ethics and good old fashion -so it seems - honesty. What is it about politics or even working for the city that converts so easily people who are ordinarily decent people into the 'us against them' cadre of political hacks and wannabes?

I find it even more surprising that Amy Ruiz - a former reporter for the Mercury - who instead of remaining true to her reporter training and instincts - has chosen to forgo that. A change from protecting the public's right to know to manipulating the public's ability to find out. Why - because it is her job to protect the insiders from the outsiders? 

But isn't it the job of Ruiz and the others to represent in good faith the public's interest? Aren't they being paid by tax payer's dollars? Credibility and ethics appears to mean nothing to these city hall  people.

Accountability and transparency - instead of being attributes of public service - they are viewed by these  public servants as tenets of an anti-government manifesto to be avoided at all costs.

The public be damned. They aren't ready for democracy.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Portland officer shot while trying to check on a reportedly suicidal man

Idiotic and police hatred comments are found nowhere better than on Oregonlive. See this story: Portland officer shot while trying to check on a reportedly suicidal man. Arguably these commenters are looking to score high on the Most Active User's list.

It is a breaking story which was well written, but I am sure that by tomorrow Bernstein and her cadre of "friends" will have determined that the responding policemen, including the one shot through the door, were at fault. If the shooter had been shot we would be hearing from the "mental health" advocates and the family and friends of the shooter who will attest to his peaceful nature.

I hope I will be wrong - but the odds are in my favor.

Why do they serve?

The largely forgotten (in the press) wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that continues to kill,  harm and maim our military personnel is beyond justification. See Amputations and genital injuries increase sharply among soldiers in Afghanistan for another story that will likely fall though the Internet cracks never to be a concern for the millions of those who are more concerned with obtaining their favorite Starbucks coffee. 

CNN: Saudi security forces to crack down on protesters

Well apparently bribes failed - so what else can a king do? Time to bust heads. It is more than just a monarchy in Saudi Arabia - it has all the earmarks of a dictatorship and worse than that it a government that persecutes on the basis of religion - ironically Muslims persecuting Muslims.

Take a peek at the government press agency - it lives in another dimension with its head in the sand.

Egypt’s new Prime Minister knows which side of the bread is buttered

"Carried on the shoulders of protesters who claimed him as their own, Egypt’s new prime minister waded into a crowd of tens of thousands in Tahrir Square on Friday, delivering a speech bereft of regal bombast . . . ."  [Egypt’s Prime Minister Affirms Power of Protests]. “I am here to draw my legitimacy from you,” said Prime Minister Essam Sharaf.

The New York Times's article is a good read as it focuses on the potential power (positive) of protests in bringing about change. Without the continuing protests overseeing the changes that goes deep into the prior government - they would have been superficial and cosmetic.

Meet the new Joe

Joe McCarthy that is. Well the communists must be breathing a sigh of relief that they aren't the enemy anymore (of course that permanently went away with communist China buying our debt). Although there are those like Christine O'Donnell. The nation now can focus on the Muslims. It seems that we always need a great Satan

The 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.

US Representative King (R-NY) will be the new Joe chairing a investigative (witch hunt) congressional committee - House Homeland Security Committee. New Joe's rationale: "Eric Holder is not saying he's staying awake at night because of what's coming from anti-abortion demonstrators or coming from environmental extremists or from Neo-Nazis. It's the radicalization right now in the Muslim community."

Representative King's committee and the fear raising right wingers extant in all political parties sounds in religious persecution. How ironic that there are in fact few differences between religions like Christianity, Judaism and Islam. Take a look at these charts Religion FactsChristianity in View, and Religious Tolerance.

The Muslims are as part of the American society as are Christians and Jews. Their number varies from 1.7 million to 7 million depending on who is counting. [See Wikipedia.] Take a peek at the countries that have a Muslim majority. [Wikipedia.] Note too that doesn't mean that Islam is the state religion. Nor does it mean that Muslims are any more religious than Christians or Jews.

Is the new Joe going to investigate whether they are Sunni or Shi'a? How about the country of ancestral origin? Will he look the other way when the new bad guys are from Turkey?

Fortunately there is "[a] coalition of over 100 interfaith, nonprofit and governmental organizations that plan[s] to rally in New York City against a planned congressional hearing on Muslims' role in homegrown terrorism." [AP-Yahoo News].

"We have met the enemy and he is us."

Thanks Pogo. What are we becoming as a nation? See the story: In brig, WikiLeaks suspect Bradley Manning ordered to sleep without clothing. When does the water boarding start?


Saturday, March 5, 2011

Mutually exclusive: Muslim American?

Scary video: US anti-Muslim rally raises fears. At one point the speaker mentioned something to the effect that she knew a couple of marines that would help these terrorists to an early meeting in paradise.

In categorizing these American Muslims, or any Muslims, as terrorists - one wonders just how mentality challenged are they? Moreover, it is doubtful that the military in Iraq or Afghanistan view all the people in those countries as terrorists.

How different are these protesters from the funeral protesters? How ironic that the US Constitution guarantees these anti-Muslim americans (sic) to protest against those with different religious views? [See post.]

Friday, March 4, 2011

FDR and public union collective bargaining

The right now has found peace with FDR - they are pointing to a letter written in 1937 by Franklin Delano Roosevelt to Luther C. Steward, President, National Federation of Federal Employees expressing his opposition to strikes by federal employees. This letter they say to the "left" shows that FDR was against collective bargaining by public employees. Hogwash!

But, the union busting ideologues lift from that letter only what they wanted - never mind that it is out of context. It is clear from the whole of the letter that the president in 1937 was concerned only with an ability of federal employees to strike as a tool of collective bargaining. [See Glenn Beck Needs To Look Up FDR's Record Of Supporting Collective Bargaining for a sample of the dialogue.]

From FDR's letter: "It is, therefore, with a feeling of gratification that I have noted in the constitution of the National Federation of Federal Employees the provision that "under no circumstances shall this Federation engage in or support strikes against the United States Government."

Look - 1930s were heady economic times. The depression was between 1929 to 1941. The focus was to get out of the depression. WW I was over but WWII was in the making. Take a peek at this timeline - it is not hard to imagine why strikes by federal employees would have been disastrous. [See too Great Depression.]

But in any event, one cannot, in effect, transport contents, partial or in full, of FDR's 1937 letter concerning the right of federal employees to strike into the 2011 context of  labor collective bargaining rights of state employees.

The right to strike is a valid issue for discussion - should public employees be allowed to strike? To get to this point - one must assume that they have collective bargaining rights or any discussion is moot.

Today federal labor-management relations are regulated by federal statute and it is an unfair labor practice for labor "to call, or participate in, a strike, work stoppage, or slowdown, or picketing of an agency in a labor-management dispute if such picketing interferes with an agency’s operations, . . . ."

But as apart of the discussion - some delineation has to made as to categories of union employees. Are federal employees to be treated differently than state employees? There is no doubt that as part of collecting bargaining - a strike is a useful tool. However, would strikes by state employed teachers be inimical to state interest such that a ban is necessary?

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Union busting by Republicans in Ohio

The recent story is about Ohio, but Ohio and Wisconsin are not alone. To some extent - there is Tennessee, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Colorado, Nebraska, Nevada, Oklahoma, New Mexico and Washington. [Reuters].

It seems that the Oregon news media and public sector unions are too quite.

1st Amendment protects military funeral protesters

This is a hard decision to take, but it doesn't come from a liberal or activist court so we won't hear from the likes of Fox News. The US Supreme Court decision authored by Chief Justice Roberts "said free speech rights in the First Amendment shield the funeral protesters, noting that they obeyed police directions and were 1,000 feet from the church."

The Appellate court had ruled that the statements "were entitled to First Amendment protection because those statements were on matters of public concern, were not provably false, and were expressed solely through hyperbolic rhetoric." The Supreme Court (8 to 1) held that "[t]he "First Amendment shields Westboro's statements from tort liability for its picketing in this case." [Opinion text supplied by New York Times.]

See the New York Times for a more in depth view and recitation of the case particulars. The decision reflects the correct path for free speech: "As a nation we have chosen a different course — to protect even hurtful speech on public issues to ensure that we do not stifle public debate." [Chief Justice Roberts].

A lesson from the Chief Justice: “Debate on public issues should be robust, uninhibited and wide-open,” he wrote, because “speech on public issues occupies the highest rung of the hierarchy of First Amendment values.” [New York Times].

Take note Portland - the waiving of hands is not free speech nor robust debate.

This Is Just The Start

Thomas Friedman - New York Times - had this opinion piece about the causes - his "back-of-the-envelope-list" - of the unrest in the Middle East, Libya, etc. The headline suggests that much more unrest can be expected, but this article from Al Jazeera raises questions: 'Reform not revolt' in Algeria .

However, it is Friedman's list that is interesting. He points to obscure factors that has a tinge of credibility. E.g., the election of a black president with a middle name of Hussein. But Friedman's piece is worth the read to see how he links these factors: Obama, Google Earth, Israel, Beijing Olympics, and Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad.

Opposition to release of grand jury transcripts

Family of slain Gresham veteran opposes release of grand jury transcripts seems rather odd especially since they had made claims against the police shooting. But it isn't too difficult to understand why they may not want to put the life of the slain man on public display.

Will it prevent the expected Gresham lawsuit (Portland always settles)? That is can these documents in full be kept from release now, but find selected portions used at trial , e.g., the information relating only to the shooting? It is interesting that the release of these transcripts are not automatic - it takes a court order.

I think it is a nice try by the attorney. But it is difficult to believe that the court will not order the release, but that depends if much opposition is mustered.

The hearing on this is tomorrow March 3. I hope the Tribune does a follow-up.

Walmart Neighborhood Market @ NW Cornell Road

It is Beaverton and it involves Don Mazziotti who is their community development director. He received a lot of heat when he was Portland Development Commission's executive director - but I have always thought that was misdirected. Given his successors - my case is made.

Anyway it is another Walmart story that in Portland would bring the rage of the anti-Walmart lot to a boil. These are the people who are against Walmart. That is it. Read the comments to the Tribune article. Probably because it is a Beaverton story - there were only 2 negative comments out of 7 total. This is an excerpt from one of the negative comments: "This company is destroying retail America. Go read the facts for yourself." There was no link to the "facts."

Never mind that it is a successful business - of course that might just be it. Never mind either that not all of their stores are "Supercenters." They have stores that can fit the market need. While the Beaverton store will be a Neighborhood Market - they also have a smaller Marketside version.

Beaverton made a rational decision.




Walmart expected to open NW Cornell Road store

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Gone are the days of cherry bombs

Fireworks not mufflers. Portland Police Press Release: "Portland Police Investigate Small Bottle Bomb Incident at Middle School." Another day in Portland Schools.

Who controls the Internet?

ICANN seems to be. International Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers are a non-profit organization that operates under a federal contract to administer the domain database.

In these days of the Interent acquiring much credit for the extant "unrest," it is not surprising that many countries are waking up to the actual administration of the Internet. [See Washington Post for an informative and excellent article.]

The US physical location of ICANN headquarters and its apparent US government control, i.e., federal contract, of ICANN is disturbing to many nations. So much that they are even willing to have the UN be in control.

"Calamitous" and "disaster" - the effects of governments running the Web. That from chairman of an ICANN internal group. A basis for concern - "China, Syria, Iran and Saudi Arabia and number of others have said in meetings they believe ICANN shouldn't be in existence, or be replaced by some U.N. body."

But this may be also the cause of the concern: ICANN has plans for "the biggest expansion ever of Web suffixes - including .gay, .muslim and .nazi."



Portland Public Schools product value

The Willamette Week has the story on incentives to attend school for Marshall students. In the 2009 class of 100 - 34% dropped out. It had only 37% of on-time graduates.

The rationale: "Operating with the belief that rewarding good attendance is as important if not more important than punishing poor attendance, Marshall and District staff have developed a process to reward good or improved attendance."

When the educational product requires an incentive for "purchase," what does that say about the quality?

10.701 trillion dollars - foreign holdings

Wall Street Journal had this slant on the news: China Owns a Lot More U.S. Debt Than Previously Thought. While China holds $1.160 trillion and Japan, number two, holds $882 billion - there is still massive amount of debt held by other foreign nations.

Shouldn't the story be that the US has had to rely on foreign countries to "purchase" our debt? Imagine the interest payments.

Republicans - creating a labor movement

In an earlier post I noted that the Wisconsin's union busting tactics were likely to create a labor movement where none really existed. See this from a New York Times/CBS News poll: [Majority in Poll Back Employees in Public Sector Unions - NYTimes.com].

The Wisconsin governor may have been hoisted by his own petards in his attempt to become the republican anti-union darling. He is attempting to leverage a perception, possibly self generated, that public sector employees are not only paid too much but are receiving too generous of retirement and health benefits at the expense of taxpayers.

But having "won" with little effort concessions from the public employees - he sees it as the right time to rid  the public employees of their collective bargaining rights. He may have won a budget battle but hasn't won the war he started.

This editorial Budget battle: Media vs. taxpayers from a neighboring Michigan newspaper implicitly makes my point. See too the headlines from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and one of their blogs.

The value of higher education - in Germany

Germany's defense minister - "Baron Cut-and-Paste" - was outed as having lifted, without attribution, more than half of his doctorate thesis. Arguably, at least to him, even the pretext of having received an actual doctorate was worth his apparent downfall - he has resigned, although only after much pressure. [BBC News - German Defence Minister Guttenberg resigns over thesis].

But German politics like that anywhere in the world care little for ethics - standing by their man no matter how unethical or, often the case, how immoral . As well stated by a Social Democrats opposition leader: "Chancellor Merkel had been wrong to assume that what her defence minister had done as a private individual had no bearing on his position as minister."

Any bells ringing in Portland?

“Airstrikes in Libya did not take place”

That is the claim, reported by Russia Today (RT), of the Russian military who apparently have the ability to monitor Libyan activity from space on a 24 hour basis. But see this from The Hindu, Dubai March 1, 2011:

"Two Soviet-era MIG-23 jets, one of them an escort, attacked two locations south of Benghazi, and an ammunition storehouse outside the eastern city of Ajdabiya. However, a fourth attack on an air base in Benghazi was aborted, after opposition forces opened up with heavy anti-aircraft fire
."

It would seem that RT has it wrong, but why make this comment? Why now? I wonder if the fact that Libya is using Russian MIG jets had any influence. Maybe too the Russians are feeling left out and need someone to pay them some attention. 

I read the US focused part of RT's Internet content most everyday and find that they haven't put much effort in covering any of the uprisings that are being well covered by other media sites like BBC, Washington Post, New York Times and, of course, Al Jazeera

Curious article tinged with cold war rhetoric given that Russia has come a long way since the cold war days.