Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Integra Telecom - irony

[Editor: See my apology in my 4-11-12 post where I back away from some of the critical assessment in the post below. The gist is that the residents can be faulted for much of the connection issues, but not the speed and quality ones.]

Companies spend huge amount of money on the selection their brand name. The pure goal is to convey to the public that their service or product has value. Often it seems the name is merely nothing more than an advertising gimmick - tell the public how good it is even though it isn't. While the name is meant to convey integrity it conveys the opposite, it becomes a mere fanciful name.

I live in an apartment complex in the Pearl that has Internet service from Integra. From my perspective their service is far inferior to Comcast. E.g., for the last 6 months the Internet has completely failed once a month and has had subpar performance throughout the 6 months with a few short-lived exceptions. Because I am not the direct user - the apartment management is - I don't have any means of expressing my displeasure except to the apartment manager.

While I get the messages that Integra knows about the problems and is working on it - it never seems to get fixed. I have been told that it is working when in fact it is not working. A streamed 30 sec commercial should not take 2 minutes to complete. There should be no data loss to the end user. 

It is not working if the WIFI at the local coffee shop is preforming better, or if the upload speed is more than the download speed.

Testing available on the Internet demonstrates its failures. I like to use Visualware which also has some free downloads and a fairly low cost personal, i.e., not business, download. Visualware offers online tests, e.g.,  line quality as well as speed. While speed seems to be the 'hook" to hang Internet line problems on - the real issue is line quality. Thus, a line speed test might be positive, but the line quality will be poor rendering ordinary video streaming nearly useless or certainly degraded.

Streaming video like that from Netflix can hide issues because of the streaming software. Thus, even a low speed line can function with Netflix without much video degradation. Although an overlooked effect is the inability to view the video in HD. And the home computer speed and video capabilities will either enhance or hide the problems. Depending on the quality of the computer, results can be very dramatic.

When I changed from a Dell to a computer that I built - the improvements were significant. I have a low end gaming computer with triple core CPU that can handle most data efficiently. I built my computer to be high end for video streaming. I am a big Netflix streaming user. It is doubtful that the Integra Internet service would ever permit online gaming.

Needless to say the streaming improvement moving from the Dell to the newly built computer was substantial. But other streaming video sources are not as good as Netflix video which will function on a speed and video deprived system. But, even on the better computer, ordinary network shows like Conan become significantly less viewable when there are Internet problems.

My point is this - given the computer that I use and the "promised" speeds of the supplied service by Integra - I shouldn't be having problems, at least not for 6 months. It may not be relevant but Integra is having financial problems and have determined to focus their attention on corporate clients. [See Integra Telecom cuts jobs as it retools.]

In some sense - it is possible that it can be said that I get the service for free, i.e., I don't write a check out every month like I did with Comcast whose service before I moved to Pearl was far superior to that from Integra. But I chose the apartments in part because the increased difference in the Pearl apartment price was offset by the cost of Comcast. 

Bottom line: Integra's service to my apartment fails to provide reliable and consistent Internet connection. In today's technology based Internet services - providing quality ought to be as important if not more so than speed. Integra lacks integrity in its service.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Chopping down the Amazon

That is the apt description by the Economist. It has a great chart/graph showing the countries with the largest forests. I was a little surprised that Russia had such a comparatively large forest inventory. The largest deforestation is taking place in Brazil whose forest size is second to Russia.

A Republican congressman apparently thinks that clearing the rain forest is a good idea despite the obvious detrimental effects. Clear cutting, he apparently believes, would solve problems of climate change. Sadly he probably isn't alone with those ideas, but given his leadership position he is expected to be knowledgeable enough to know that he clearly misspoke. Some things need to be mulled over before opening mouth and inserting foot.

Court rules 'kiss my ass' insulting

It is Germany: "German law criminalizes speech considered insulting or hateful. Insulting others with expletives – especially government officials – is a prosecutable offence that can result in fines or even jail time." [Court rules 'kiss my ass' insulting - The Local].

Memorial Day quiz from the Washington Post

I didn't do so well on the quiz, but I wonder if high school graduates would do any better. Even remembering those who have died in war has become something left to a few. Memorial Day observances used to be quite common and a big event at that. We now have a governor who is too busy to remember the Oregon soldiers that have died in Iraq and Afghanistan. The two wars seem to have no connection to us especially when there is an attempt to label it as another's war, e.g., United Nations.

We get patriotic (and vocal) when the Navy Seals Team 6 killed Osama bin Laden, but we are quiet as church mice when thousands of military service members risk their life each and every day in defense of this country. It should not matter the validity or moral correctness of the war -these men and women are doing what the leaders of country ask and too many of them are paying the ultimate price.

The least we can do is to remember them.

Sounds like something only credit card companies would love

New York Times: "Utah has passed a law intended to encourage residents to use gold or silver coins made by the Mint as cash . . . ." [Utah Law Encourages Gold and Silver Coin Use.]

Imagine going into your favorite bar or coffee shop or anyplace one might pay cash for a purchase and having a scale determine the value of your money. And how will you know the change you might get back is the correct weight? Just how big must your pockets be to carry "money." And what about the tip? Have to weigh it first? What happens if you go to another state? Just how will one carry around a bank deposit or withdrawal.

I rarely use my credit card, but a law like this would make the decision to use it easy.

Stupid is as stupid does.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

The justice system - not quite equal

Strauss-Kahn assembles crisis team to fight back. While the city of New York may be able to hold its ground against the legal assault of the defense team - the maid is left to fend for herself. She will, maybe already has, realize that justice is not equal when the accused is not hampered by lack of money.

The state in criminal cases represent the people, not an individual, but let us hope that the state attorneys recognize that the maid is one of the people they are representing.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Egypt opens Rafah border with Gaza

Al Jazeera as usual has the best coverage of Middle East events, in the case the opening of the Egyptian border. Al Jazeera never assume that you know all the particulars, e.g., this story provides the background and details of the blockade. What the text doesn't cover the videos do. The only ting missing was a map.

This map is from Wikipedia and demonstrates an irrational containment policy that hopefully will fall away with the changes in the Middle East. Gaza is little more than an internment camp. A passport out is being old and infirm.

Consider too the population density: Gaza 10,665 per sq. mile. Portland's density is 4,288 per sq. mile. The CIA FactBook: "High population density, limited land and sea access, continuing isolation, and strict internal and external security controls have degraded economic conditions in the Gaza Strip."

CIA notes that unemployment is 40% and 70% are below the poverty line. Just from that alone it is not too difficult to discern reasons why the area is so volatile. Isn't it time -that Israel take another tack to find peace with its neighbors? Their policies haven't worked - even though encouraged and supported by the western countries - it is time to move on from the Holocaust. There are too many generations that don't think in World War II terms and events.

An intriguing conceptual solution is found in the Parallel states: A new vision for peace published as an opinion on Al Jazeera English.  :

Russian-US helicopter deal

How things have changed: Russian-US helicopter deal advances military cooperation. How things have stayed the same: US lawmakers block China firms from Pentagon contracts.

Murder: supplying heroin overdose

The Portland Tribune has a two part article - the first published today 5.28/11. The law permits the prosecution of those who supply illegal drugs where the user dies from an overdose. It may have to do with the matter of proving a case - but it seems that this type of prosecution isn't used often enough.

While it is an East County story it is applicable anywhere, that is, there isn't anything particularly unique about heron in Troutdale and Gresham. Is there? Readers' comments suggest a Mexican connection, but that is far too easy. Of course there is always the inane comment in drug related stories that will make the pitch for legalization of drugs missing entirely the addiction point.

Part one is well written - I am looking forward to "Part 2: Police and prosecutors explain why heroin is so hot in the Portland-metro area, why it’s so dangerous and what needs to be done about it."

Friday, May 27, 2011

Portland public market - great concept - but . . . .

The public market {James Beard Public Market] people have been trying to site this project for many years. Interestingly, the site was at one time a potential Saturday Marker relocation site. But Saturday Market was merely displacing a parking lot and not returning it to the tax rolls. There was no other development either.

I am willing to buy into the probable success. But - it has to be on the backs of the investors and developers and not property owners or city revenues however acquired. Don't bother though to read the proposal - it is bloated with marketing hype, and any meaningful data has been replaced with "Confidential."

But KGW's online story leads one to believe that in fact public money will be used to fund the market, at least in part. "Both parts of the development would feed off each other's potential success with some of the potential property tax revenue from the tower, for example, feeding into the market's funding." [KGW] That statement seems contrary to this one from the County Chair Cogen: "This is an opportunity for us to take this prime property and put it back on the tax rolls and put it to work in revitalizing downtown Portland."

Mr. Cogen one has to remember is probably going to run for mayor. For years that land has been mostly used as a parking lot. It may be interesting if Mr. Cogen runs for mayor just how much support will be forthcoming from Melvin Mark?

While neither it nor the combination with the tower will provide the incentive for Portlanders or tourists to patronize the market - it could be a catalyst for other development in the immediate area that will attract them. Pike Place Market it will never be and hopefully that will not be the development model.

Rather than becoming too excited about this project I go along with KGW's cautious approach: "Assuming developers can raise enough money to launch this project, it could lead to hundreds of jobs and give a huge boost [to] local tourism and downtown retail."

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Electrics: speed and mileage but the car allure is gone

Electrics in some form are here to stay whether car guys like myself like it or not. But no matter how fast, the cost, or equivalent the miles per gallon - the sound and feel of cars can't be duplicated by electrics. Despite some Internet videos to the contrary - burnouts by electrics is neigh impossible. Watching a drag race or a NASCAR event with electrics would not be enjoyable.

The Tesla Roadster 2.5 is an electric that not only gets a great EPA rating it accelerates from 0 to 60 in 3.7 seconds - that is more than respectable. For the greens, the EPA MPGe rating is 119. Compare that to the Nissan Leaf's rating of 99. These are two different cars - it is unlikely that either would attract the same interested parties irrespective of price or power train. But the price differential is large: The Tesla is $109,000, the Nissan is $32,780 before any federal credit.

But, the MPG rating system may not be the best way to demonstrate gas savings by the electrics or any vehicle for that matter. These two articles (here and here) from Autoblog Green tell the story - it should be GPM not MPG. It makes sense, but the Europeans do it (LPK) - so that always seems to be an insurmountable hurdle.

Electric vehicles like the Tesla might well have the torque giving the acceleration that I used to dream about (0 to 60 in less than 10 secs) when I was much younger, and it might well have a low carbon footprint as well as substantial reduction in the gasoline usage - but without the allure of the noise of the combustion engine it is evident that cars are becoming one more toaster.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

And we give them billions

Anti-Americanism rife in Pakistan army institution: Wikileaks. Not only does money not buy love or even friendship - it doesn't buy loyalty or appreciation. It appears that all that looking the other way is costing Pakistan. The Taliban purportedly avenging the killing of Osama has unleashed what one article calls a "terror fury."  Maybe Pakistan should have remembered "keep your friends [Talibans] close and your enemies [USA] closer." [Chinese General Sun-Tzu].

Arizona: Illegal immigration is more than illegal immigrants

The story Arizona sheriff nabs own employees on smuggling charges is only part of the Arizona problem of illegal immigration, drug trafficking and money laundering. It also details the reach of Mexico drug cartels. One person arrested had worked at the jail since 2001 and was pregnant by a member of a drug cartel - and guess what - she had $16,000 in her purse when arrested.

Reverse scholarship - promoting entrepreneurship?

The Economist has the unusual twist on dropping out of college or, apparently, even high school. A foundation set up by a co-founder of PayPal encourages eschewing formal education for immediate innovation. 20 have been selected and "each will receive $100,000 over two years, along with mentorship from a network of entrepreneurs and innovators . . . ."   The only condition: "is that they drop out of college (or high school) to focus full-time on building a business."

Irresponsible? Not likely. It is a recognition that some people and the economy might be better off by putting their innovation and entrepreneurial skills immediately to work. It is the innovators and entrepreneurs that create jobs.

A somewhat related New York Times story: Once Again: Is College Worth It? A point made is that college graduates make more money than non-college graduates. But one wonders how the comparison would turn out if it were college graduates vs those who dropped out to be an innovator and entrepreneur?

Drug smuggling - from Canada?

The drug trade in North America: Ecstatic traffickers | The Economist

Cries of distressed housing market - distress for who?

The big mortgage lenders and banks have a housing inventory of 872,000 homes with future increases in that inventory of more than a million, maybe several million. That from a New York Times article, but it as well as most news stories continue to attract our sympathy for the real estate industry - but they created their situation.

The housing market is seeking a balance point where the value of the home is related to purchases income and value of cost of production - the speculation value is being squeezed out. But the real estate industry so accustomed to greedy profits is having a hard time coping.

While the industry sorts itself out facing lower profits - ordinary purchasers of homes, not speculators, will find themselves in a market where they actually have a say about the price and what that price purchases. The economy's slide might turn out to be very beneficial for those on the demand side.

Infra-red technology outlines buried pyramids and Tanis

It is a BBC story: Egyptian pyramids found by infra-red satellite images. While promoting a BBC documentary, Egypt's Lost Cities,  the "find" is extraordinary because of the use satellite imaging to discover 17 pyramids and "[m]ore than 1,000 tombs and 3,000 ancient settlements." Take a look at the video clip, near the bottom of the page, revealing the ancient city of Tanis. It has a Google look. Here is an image.

3 Seattle officers suspended for foul language

Another head shaker (side to side): 3 Seattle officers suspended "for using vulgar words in March of last year while dealing with suspected gang members."

Reason 101 to post anonymously

Daimler chides workers who insulted CEO on Facebook - The Local

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Don't you just love it?

Amity police issue $4,000 in tickets to cyclists | kgw.com Portland

Unsafe buildings in Old Town

Not too long ago I mentioned that Old Town was development waiting for an earthquake because there are many brick (masonry) buildings waiting for one (even a small tremor might do) to give development a nudge. The Daily Journal (via Jack Bog's Blog) has an article about the city putting a fair size, red sign on the designated unsafe buildings in the city. The article lists the buildings presently getting the big "U." I counted eight in Old Town, I suspect there are more yet to be designated unsafe..

Now there is always address problems in the downtown. Often the address is a mailing address not a property address, e.g., a property at say NW Everett and NW 5th might be listed in one city record as on NW Everett while the another has the address on NW 5th. And Google is no better. It has addresses on the wrong side of the street and in the wrong part of the block. They are close, but no cigar. The point is that it is not easy to locate buildings from addresses listed in news articles.

The properties are examples too of another problem of development in Old Town - historic buildings and preservationists. A "historic" designation causes preservationists to froth at the mouth when demolition is even a thought. The often result is that the buildings will sit waiting for the inevitable disaster mostly because seismic rehabilitation is so costly.

The buildings are for the most part (maybe all) unreinforced masonry. The city has a database that contains an alarming number of buildings that are earthquake sensitive. It doesn't appear to have been updated since 2001.

Oregon Casket Building
Interesting the NW 5th building, Oregon Casket Building, is owned by an advocate for preservation of many buildings in Old Town. While this building is a surprise listing - from the outside it looks safe - the other buildings are not.

Sinnott House
The Sinnott Building at NW Couch and NW 3rd is unsafe and looks it. I remember (2005 or thereabouts) going on a tour (partial) of the building provided by the security guard for the property - one dares not to go above the first floor. Other than the first floor - the retail level - the building is uninhabited. Pala is one of the retail occupants. Query - if the building is unsafe why it is occupied at all? Disaster waiting to happen?

NW Davis and NW 4th
The unsafe building at 205 NW 4th, NW 4th and NW Davis, is on the back side of the block that houses the PDC headquarters. At the retail level there is a Chinese Benevolent Association sandwiched between a bar and another bar/strip club. The side faces NW Davis has all of the windows above the retail level boarded up although some boards have fallen off.

A great resource page for buildings in the Old Town area is Emporis. In fact it is a great resource for any building in the world (so they say). See their homepage.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Portland walk raises mental health awareness - does it?

"Walks" seem very important for those Portlanders who want to parade with their hearts on their sleeves. And I guess it is a nice thing to do on a Sunday even though it costs the city in extra police services. This at a time when the police seemed to be stretched a little too far. But even assuming money is no object - do these walks for whatever good purpose really raise awareness? [See Portland walk raises mental health awareness.]

Could you come up with $2k in 30 days?

According to the Wall Street Journal Nearly Half of Americans Are ‘Financially Fragile’ and could not do it. That includes the use of credit cards too. It is interesting article and somewhat surprising. How many credit card holders couldn't charge $2k? Maybe credit cards are not as ubiquitous as I thought.

Police call for a gang summit - clear sign of weakness

KGW has the story:Portland Police Chief pushes for gang summit, cease fire. It is unclear whether this police chief is just plain weak or is hampered and restrained by an ineffectual police commissioner and mayor. But he sounds much like other Portland politicos who see the solution to everything is the dinner table.

A despicable trait found in the city leadership, not just in the police department, is that of attempting to downplay the severity of a situation by comparing it to some other situation in the past. In this case, the chief tells us that the gang problem is not as bad as it was ten years ago.

Gangs are composed of criminals often using drug dealing and other criminal activities as a means of financing themselves. These are not the after school hours hoop players. These are people who solve their problems by shooting others. And the chief wants to sit at the table with gang members as if this was some development project in the neighborhood.

The summit is an admission that the city can't deal with the gang problem, however, there are certain things that cannot be solved by sitting around a table. But, I will say this - it might be a different story if the gangs had asked for the summit because police pressure was becoming too great. Not likely.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

25,000 Big Macs - the food police must be incensed

This story ought to be about why anyone would keep track of the number of Big Macs or anything for that matter? And the other story that is nearly overlooked in the article, and was in other media stories, is that eating Big Macs did him no harm. But if the food police had their way he would have been denied his choice of food.

25000 Big Macs in 39 years translates to about 12 per week. Each one is about 576 calories. Each one contains abut 34% of what one should intake per day. Each one has about 21% of daily salt intake. There is a picture of the individual that leads one to believe he is not suffering from any ill effects of eating what he believes is tasty food.

Good for him. Of course, maybe not everyone should eat this many Big Macs or equivalent, but it is a choice. If you believe it is not good for you don't eat it. Just leave it to me to determine what is or is not good for me.

Portland schools bond results depended on 118,544 voters

There is approximately 352,000 eligible voters in Portland. At least as to the school construction bond measure there were 118,544 voters. Thus about 1/3 of those that should have voted - did. I don't know if that is unusual or typical of  Portland voter turn out, but it is too small to determine election outcomes, much less a school bond measure.

It seems too that the media's portrayal that the results reflect a division in the voters, i. e., a slim margin, is  misleading. When only 1/3 of the potential votes determines an outcome - the margin will likely be slim. But,  counting votes is not akin to a statistical analysis, that is, 1/3 doesn't represent a valid sample of  Portlanders' belief in the validity of the bod measure - it only represents voter apathy.

One would be hard press to find any support for the bond outside those responsible for setting it on the ballot.  Pundits and news media alike were opposed, not so much on the need, but on the aggregate dollars that would be added to the property tax. Most called for scaling down of the dollar request. Thus, smaller bond measure will be seen on the next ballot.

While bond supporters clearly in denial blame the economy for their defeat - they miss the point - it isn't the state of the economy - it is what has been learned. Wasteful government spending has caused.people to step back and examine those expenditures. It is a lesson that will stay learned even as the economy recovers.

Kitzhaber and military funerals demonstrates the worth of the man

From the title of a recent Oregonian editorial one would believe that attending the military funerals of the Oregonians sent to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan is difficult. Inherent in that concept is that somehow Governor Kulongoski was somehow better situated to attend the funerals than Governor Kitzhaber. [Kitzhaber and military funerals: Ted Kulongoski is a tough act to follow as commander of the Oregon Guard].

The editorial lightly chides the good doctor while building excuses for his failure to follow Kulongoski's precedent. Interesting, in doing so it demonstrates that the former governor is frankly a better person than Kitzhaber.

The editorial has this right though: "However, Kulongoski's point was that when someone Oregon has sent to fight on behalf of this state and country is killed, all of us, including the governor, are obliged to pause in whatever we're doing and honor their service, console their families and grieve for their loss. Oregon has a new governor, but that has not changed."

Tragic that the good doctor is bereft of the sense of duty and honor.

Cool down - really?

Tuesday May 17th after a 18 year old was shot dead in the New Columbia neighborhood the police brought out their "cool down" media hype. They seem to do this after - after - a shooting if it appears gang related. But meanwhile - May 20 shots fired, no injury known; May 21 shots fired, no injury known; May 21 shots fired and injury; May 22 shots fired and two injured.

Three of the shootings in the past week have the gang label, but those are the ones where there were known victims.  The last gang shooting took place inside the Interstate Bar and Grill less than a block from the N Prescott MAX Yellow Line stop - how convenient.

It is starting to appear that if one stays on the west side of the river, stays away from Old Town and downtown - you might be safe.

Information on the shootings can be found in the press releases from the police department.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Push back against the food police

That is the take away from this Wall Street Journal post. In this case it is the food police from the USDA who want to eliminate potatoes from the school lunch menus. And the author pans the effort by some to eliminate Ronald McDonald because he fosters unhealthy eating - oh please. Fortunately McDonald's is having none of that.

Using McDonald's as an example - if an individual doesn't like their food - do go there. But if you go - you might be moderate in the the quantity and regularity. I never have cared for their "hamburgers" but I enjoy the fries and even the "milkshakes."

I have to tell you though I am sitting next to an employee (taking a break) in Starbucks eating a "breakfast" sandwich which I find not only unappetizing, but would dispute its nutritional value. Interesting is that the employee couldn't even finish it - it was no larger than a McDonald's burger. I will take McDonald's burgers instead - thank you very much.

It ought to be about individual choices. All I want the government or other "concerned citizens" to do is to make sure that what I consume is safe. It is my prerogative to find it tasty or not.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Strauss-Kahn granted bail - he will be gone in a flash

In addition to the bail - if you are wealthy little time is spent in jail - the judge ordered "the surrendering of all travel documents and home detention including an electronic monitoring device and at least one guard present at all times." It is not difficult for a man of his means to escape to France where his extradition to the US would not happen. Can you say Polanski?

Circumcision ban on SF - abuse of initiative process

It is bad enough that government intrudes into ones life - citizen idiots who want to intrude into your life is much worse. It is in San Francisco, but given Oregon's similar ballot process and Portland's tendency follow San Francisco nonsense circumcision ban could be on the next ballot here.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Why does it always have to go this way?

The cast of two with an audience of loyalists and skeptics. A hotel maid, an immigrant from New Guinea who, except for her child, is alone in this country. An International Monetary Fund executive known in his country France as the "great seducer." The charge is rape. And it is not the first time, but France has a different view of politicians' sexual misbehaviors, although rape is crossing the line even for them.

But the loyalists and skeptics - really one and the same - are on the seducer's side with the maid standing alone in the court of public opinion. She faces an uphill battle in the legal court because the "consenting adults" card is being played. We haven't seen the evidence but it may come down to he said - she said.

The maid has an attorney, from the press I gather he is being paid by someone else or it could be pro bono. Fortunately - it isn't Gloria Allred. While the American justice system likes to posture about equality in the eyes of the law - we aren't. The maid - accuser- needs an attorney to balance the scales somewhat against this high profile accused.

The loyalists-skeptics are casting conspiracy theories and doubts about event, i.e., why would this upstanding world leader in monetary affairs force sex with an African immigrant? She is - so the story goes - trying to make a buck. And, there is even stories about efforts of political opponents - the "great seducer" was expected to run for French presidency - to discredit him. [The Guardian, see also the Economist.]

This case does scream settlement. Not because of the lack of guilt, but the gross economic inequality between the two. Because of the media - she isn't working. Even if the hotel was gracious enough to continue her wages - the trial will not be occurring in the near future. She may even find it difficult to obtain another job  even if he is found guilty, although one could normally expect a civil suite in any event. But highly unlikely from someone who hasn't been in this country very long.

It comes down to - he is important and she is not. It is the American two-tier justice system, especially when the accused is wealthy.

Oddly though - the American press hasn't made much of the fact that he is a socialist. Yes he is a French socialist not a Chinese socialist - but isn't he still a dreaded socialist?

Duh! Most Common Jobs Among Lowest Paid

According to the Wall Street Journal some economists note that "the economy is creating more low-paying jobs and more high-paying jobs (that require higher education) and leaving fewer opportunities for the traditional American middle class." [Wall Street Journal -Real Time Economics].

It is doubtful that this comes as any surprise - does it?

"Blame Woodstock" or stress?

The Catholic Church, and not only in America, has psychologically disfigured an untold number of children who have carried that disfigurement into their adult lives. It is beyond belief that "men of God" have sexually abuse children with the abusing individuals pretty much getting away with it.

The Catholic Church recent report on itself exhibits that it still has its head way deep (the toes are still visible) in the sand. An idiotic report by the church investigating priest pedophilia has this conclusion:  It is not celibacy nor homosexuality, "[i]nstead the report says, the abuse occurred because priests who were poorly prepared and monitored, and were under stress, landed amid the social and sexual turmoil of the 1960s and ’70s." [See New York Times.]

Just how fallacious is that? I don't remember that the rest of those who came through that period of "social and sexual turmoil" becoming pedophiles. "Sexual turmoil" of the 60s and 70s wasn't in any way connected to child sexual abuse. "Free love" wasn't some societal permission to sexually abuse children.

While it may be that the priest pedophiles were blossomed then, but that is nothing more than a statistical coincidence. It is much more likely that the church's recruiting techniques swept in the degenerates with the subsequent failure of the church to sweep them out at first cause.

"“Priest-abusers were not ‘pedophile priests’,” the researchers state flatly." [Washington Post]. They assert that they were not men who prey on children. There is apparently a semantic issue. Maybe that is only a legal definition - but people - men or women - that sexually abuse children - are pedophiles. Their preference is for vulnerable children that in some perverse way are targeted (serially) for sexual gratification. 

It can't come as any surprise that the "report" was commissioned and paid by the church.. And by the way - where was god in all of this? And how come the other religions don't have this problem?  

Daily Show & FCC Commissioner Baker

I know The Daily Show with Jon Stewart is a comedy and not a true news program - but what "news" program provides the news? I watch it every day - a day late because I catch it off the Net, however, it is where I get my daily news intake. The recent bit on the FCC Commissioner Baker was the first time I had heard about her Comcast employment so soon after ruling as a commissioner in favor of Comcast. The appearance of impropriety isn't a concern for her.

Interesting too is that the Los Angeles Times seemed (after a Google search) to be the only major online newspaper to express an opinion, but their opinion was in steadfast defense of her move through the Washington revolving door. As maybe expected, they characterized opposition news media as left-winged. That is a stretch by any measure.

Baker was an Obama appointee - so what about his no revolving door policy? "No political appointees in an Obama-Biden administration will be permitted to work on regulations or contracts directly and substantially related to their prior employer for two years. And no political appointee will be able to lobby the executive branch after leaving government service during the remainder of the administration." [Obama's Ethics Plan via PolitiFact].

Monday, May 16, 2011

Value of college

The Oregonian  points to an interesting report by PEW Research Center that exposes some interesting public thoughts on the value of college. Keeping in mind that the report is basically an opinion poll - one particular opinion was to some degree startling: 43% of the public thought that the government, federal, state and local ought to pay the largest share of college expenses. [See the a graphic representation of answers to questions posed.]

Given the above public sentiment, it is not surprising that 48% believe that having to pay back student loans affect their financial ability to pay other bills. Nor is it surprising that only 19% of college presidents think that the US education system is number 1

It is a good read.

Cell phone - portal to oblivion

See this story from KGW about the cell phone user taken off the train: Cell-yapping Tigard woman yanked off Amtrak. One wonders why it took AMTRAK so long - or why then? It seems as though she was just about home.

I have noticed people like this in local coffee shops where they involve you in their phone conversation whether you want to be or not. And it is not that they are necessarily sitting next to you. Some people ( I was one) talk louder while on the phone - it is annoying.

SoloPower - A+ for the city

This is the probable building that will house the new plant. As more information becomes available the better the deal sounds. The city via PDC had been beaten by Wilsonville. For reasons yet unknown, and may never be known, PDC geniuses couldn't package a deal to beat the smaller city with arguably little, or certainly less than Portland, development experience. [See Oregonian.]

But the need for, and opposition to, a new taxing district in Wilsonville made a public vote likely. This translated to delay that SoloPower wasn't willing to accept - thus they went with number 2  - Portland. Fate was kind to Portland.

It is common for the politicos to overestimate that number of jobs and underestimate the cost to the taxpayers. But, in this case the jobs have little influence in determining a "good" deal or not. No matter the actual number, their wages, or how long it takes to reach anything close to the 481 jobs that has been bandied about - it is all a plus.

The cost to the city taxpayers seems minimal. The city will not be using urban renewal dollars, i.e., tax increment financing. Thus, there will be no property taxes diverted from their ordinary use. There will be borrowing - that seems true- but it is the parking meter receipts that will be the collateral and basis for repayment.

SoloPower will be given property tax incentives - how much? It really matters little because the property is owned by the Port of Portland and hasn't paid property taxes as far back as 1997. [Assessor]. The state's incentives is funded by the state not Portland.

This is a great deal for the city. There is no loser, except Wilsonville. It is a financial package that makes economic sense. Because of the financing mechanisms, a public vote isn't necessary or prudent.

It is going to be difficult to find fault or detract from the city's efforts, even though they failed in the first attempt. Kudos to the city and PDC.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Toss democracy

Ted Koppel: Let's get rid of 'democracy.' He is not talking about the form but the its misuse in characterizing the events in today's news about the Middle East and Africa. "The instant transfer of political power is intoxicating, but it should not be confused with democracy itself. Neither can a functioning democracy exist without fair elections, and a social compact that accepts representational government and the discipline of abiding by its decisions."

He posits that in five years countries like Egypt and Yemen will still be far from democracy.

He died from "planking"

It is not a disease but it is a social malady where rather stupid people will do anything to attract the attention of others. I wonder what goes on the death certificate as the cause of death - insurmountable stupidity? [BBC News - Australian dies after 'planking' on balcony, police say]

Religion - opium of the people

Six more days to go to May 21 - the day the world ends, well at least according to Harold Camping of Family Radio. Not surprisingly his earlier prediction for 1994 was just as ridiculous. [May 21 prophecy dismissed by some Christians]. While the Oregonian article implies that only a few dismiss the prophecy - it is clearly a majority. 

It is difficult to make sense of those like Mr. Camping. Are they hucksters, charlatans, or some form of  well intentioned "true believers?"  Arguably, at best, their belief is based upon ignorance, or what some may call faith.

Of course it is the Christians that will be saved - not the Muslims, Jews, etc. And what happens to god's creatures or other life forms in the universe? It is interesting that Christianity, and other "western" religions, is man concentric - ignoring the environment and the universe. The Indian peoples had it correct to honor and respect the earth and its environment.

"Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people." [Marx, A Contribution to the Critique of Hegel's Philosophy of Right 1844].

How come these guys did so well?

"The Stockton native said if he could make it from the dusty vegetable fields of the San Joaquin Valley, where he worked alongside his parents, to the endless majesty of outer space, the students can make their own dreams come true -- if they're willing to work hard enough for it." [Former astronaut tells university grads to get a license to dream].

"Born in Los Angeles in 1980, the fifth child of an electrician and a house cleaner, Benavidez had a difficult childhood. Alcoholism and poverty permeated the home, and his parents separated for two years when he was 5. Yet his father, a Teamsters organizer, taught his son tenacity and the meaning of social justice." [Aaron Benavidez excels at UC Berkeley against odds].

Ah - politics

"Aside from the likelihood that Ensign will face criminal charges, recent revelations don’t paint a very good picture of Sen. Tom Coburn, former senator and presidential candidate Rick Santorum, nor the Justice Department." [Sen. John Ensign sex scandal spreads to other Republicans - CSMonitor.com].

It all revolves around a "family values" republican - like Newt Gingrich - that had an extra marital affair with his best friend's wife. Ensign via his family attempts to pay off the cuckolded friend with Senator Coburn participating in the negotiations. Mr. Santorum plays the tipster in this sordid tale. 

Based upon "substantial and credible evidence," the Senate ethics committee recently "accused the former senator of making false or misleading statements to election regulators, conspiring to help an aide violate the law, accepting illegal campaign contributions and engaging in potential obstruction of justice." [Sen. John Ensign: Senate Ethics Committee accuses former Sen. John Ensign of breaking the law - latimes.com]

The Justice Department will now get a chance for a do-over, their first attempt resulting in no prosecution has been criticized as doing little to investigate and prosecute. 

The Los Angeles Times story is a good read. Sordid details worthy of a soap opera. 

Wilsonville loss of SoloPower a mistake?

SoloPower ended up in Portland through little effort on the part of the city. SoloPower had blamed the apparent opposition seeking to put the new "taxing district" to a public vote. The opposition said it wasn't opposed to SoloPower, but believed that the city should have put it to a public vote as it had with two prior districts.

It isn't too difficult to argue that Wilsonville lost an exceptional economic opportunity. Their "taxing district" was one building. SoloPower was expecting to take over an abandoned Nike distribution building. Arguably SoloPower's property taxes would have paid for the borrowing.

While it is trite to say that Wilsonville's loss is Portland's gain - it fits. But one suspects that having beat Portland before in the competition for businesses - it will again. It had been reported that there was a second company seeking the use of the same building.

Scott Phillis, President, Wilsonville Chamber of Commerce, had a great letter to the editor in the Oregonian. No sour grapes - but still making clear the challenge they offer: Wilsonville is open for business. He notes: "We were competing with cities that have enterprise zones and other tools, and we are at a severe handicap." He didn't mention though that Wilsonville had actually beat Portland in the original competition for SoloPower.

Philips: "We would continue to urge businesses to consider Wilsonville because we have a lot to offer. We have excellent transportation access, infrastructure in place and even educational facilities coming to our city that will ensure a trained work force."

Wilsonville is significantly smaller than Portland, thus, the impact of new jobs there would be much larger than that in Portland. But maybe SoloPower lost too. It seems that the company and its employees would have "fit" better in Wilsonville than in Portland. Take a look at their demographics and location vis a vis places like Beaverton.

Mr. Philips didn't mention that their public schools are in far better shape than Portland's. Compare the school districts on Great Schools (.org). Wilsonville vs Portland.

Was it a mistake to seek a public vote? While it may turn out to be a significant loss - the "taxing district" proposal should have gone to a public vote as did the two prior proposals. As Mr. Philips noted - democracy is messy. 

Have & have-nots - one more reason it stays that way

"The credit rating bureaus, whose reports influence everything from credit cards to mortgages to job offers, have a two-tiered system for resolving errors — one for the rich, the well-connected, the well-known and the powerful, and the other for everyone else." [With Credit Bureaus, It Pays to Be on the V.I.P. List - NYTimes.com].

Saturday, May 14, 2011

SoloPower, Wilsonville and on to Portland

[Update 5-16-11: See my post SoloPower - A+ for the city.] 

The Oregonian has the SoloPower - Wilsonville timeline that end in SoloPower abandoning Wilsonville for Portland. Whether this will later display some chicanery on the part of Portland is yet to be seen. [See SoloPower and Wilsonville: the plant, the plans and the petition (a timeline).]

But, I still haven't see anyone publish the details of the deal that has captured Portland. As usual there are claims about "x" number of jobs, but that is a fallacious claim in that those jobs are unlikely to be from any local talent pool. This is especially true considering Intel's expansion. Also it was an Intel's executive that noted Oregon doesn't have sufficient talent to fill their jobs.

The initial number of positions hasn't been disclosed nor the time line to ramp up to 481 jobs. However, 170 was the number when Wilsonville was the home. But in any event, these jobs will most likely be filled by out of state applicants, will not make a dent in the unemployment rate, nor will it contribute to creating the exaggerated number of indirect jobs.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Another gang shooting - this time at a MAX station.

Portland Police Press Release has the story - but it is another reminder that gang violence is not confined to "gang" areas. Apparently there is a TriMet video - not released - it may be interesting to see just how valuable those cameras turn out to be - or not.

Oregon is # 2 in food stamps - will SoloPower make a difference?

It is more than shameful that Oregon is #2 in the states that most use food stamps - it is clear sign of failure of the state's leadership. I was born and raised in one of the ten states that is #8 - West Virginia. It is a state that was a failing economic state in the 50s and has never recovered. You can blame it on coal - but other states that had lost major job producing sectors recovered, e.g., Pennsylvania. Oregon, I guess, can blame timber - but the state hasn't found significant long term alternatives.

There is some connection too among many of the states on the list. Oregon like Tennessee, Kentucky, West Virginia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, and Maine - are most beautiful in their environment leading to tourism as a major industry. Arguably, tourism is necessary to their survival - but tourism isn't a major producer of family wage incomes.

Bias against rigor?

The Washington Post article Bias against [educational] rigor in urban schools is about racial bias too. In the education system - wherever one looks, e.g., Portland - there seems to be the concept that blacks and low income people haven't the wherewithal to achieve. Thus, many would have it that it is the students, no - these particular students, that are dragging test scores down. It has become the universal excuse and prime criticism of a new charter school in DC. [See D.C. demographics could challenge new charter school.]

Bush: Good call.

Reuters: Bush tells Obama on bin Laden: Good call. It is doubtful in my book that I would ever characterize George W. Bush as a good president, but I applaud his post presidency, low profile [see earlier post], especially on the killing of bun Laden, and his "good call" comment to President Obama.

Endangering our heroes and families - some sport.

It apparently is not enough that the media reported on the bin Laden killing, but they are doing their best to identify the United States Navy SEALs that killed bin Laden and disclose their location. [Bin Laden death: Security fears for US Navy Seal team]. This is irresponsible on every level. Not only does it put the very reason that SEALs exist at risk - but it puts the individuals and their families in harm's way. Worse yet, these media efforts have spawned the selfish ambitions of gawkers who want some claim to fame by engaging in some sort of "Where's Waldo" game. Sport is how the Washington Post characterizes it. [SEAL-spotting becomes local sport in Virginia Beach after bin Laden raid].

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Sisters Coffee - in the Pearl update

Sisters Coffee has been open several weeks now. I have visited it twice and come away with mixed feelings. Overall I like it even though, or maybe because, it is not Starbucks nor is it like the Urban Grind. Both are close by and each has its own and very different environment.

While it is located in the northern part of Pearl - where the overpriced condos reign supreme - the coffee price is lower. I haven't priced the coffee beans yet. The same coffee drink at Starbucks for $3.25 is $3.50 at Urban Grind, but at Sisters it is $3.00. 

Sisters lacks in pastry selection. To be fair - I have gone to Sisters around 1:30 - so there could have been a better selection in the morning. But I haven't even seen bagels. Oddly enough in the pastry department, Starbucks is better than either Sisters or Urban Grind. Starbucks though has the worse bagels. Urban Grind has real bagels.

Seating at Sisters is odd, i.e., some of the tables and seats are (unintentionally) designed for single occupancy, but are a little crowded for two and are uncomfortable at best. The table - a tree trunk slice - is irregular in shape with no one receiving adequate space to put down their computer along with the coffee. Add in a pastry - it becomes overly crowded even for one. The seats for the tree tables are more akin to saw horses and just as uncomfortable to sit on. 

The other tables are wood too and appear decent. I haven't yet sat at one of them. And, of course they have some overstuffed chairs found at nearly every coffee shop. These look comfortable, but are impracticable for using your computer or eating. Drinking coffee isn't much better in that a central table requires one to sit on the edge of the chair to drink.

Like so many places, the ordering is not designed to pass by the pastries - so one is left with leaving the line to  pick out something to eat. And the pastries are a good 6 feet from the cashier. A pick up of your order is 12 - 15 feet away next to the restroom doors. 

They do have a mezzanine where from down below the chairs and tables look better especially if want to spend time on the computer. It appears inaccessible except by stairs which seems in violation of federal access laws. And, because it is inaccessible - more trouble than it is worth for me - I can't tell if there are electrical outlets or not.

And electrical outlets are few downstairs. I hope there are more, but I only saw one. It is no big deal for me because my computer gets, with a little husbandry, 6 hours or so on the battery.

Music seems to be provided by an actual piano apparently accessible for playing by anyone who can. But it is just a tad loud causing people to a certain extent to speak louder than they might otherwise.

I will say that while the preparation of my typical coffee - "double cappuccino for here" - is a little slow it is well done. Thus, slow is a plus. It is the best of all the coffee places in presentation. The cup and saucer is the correct size - unlike Starbucks and Urban Grind. 

It clearly seems that I have more cons than pros, but many of the cons could be leveled at Starbucks or Urban Grind. E. g., the tables and chairs are not meant for an extended stay. All in all Sisters is decent place to go for coffee - not necessarily better or worse than Starbucks or Urban Grind - just different.

Will I go to Sisters again - yes. And the next time I will go in the morning to check out the pastry situation.

India criticized as it rejects arms deal

There are two things about the Al Jazeera story on India's rejection, and subsequent criticism, of a military airplane deal proposed by the US: Boeing's F/A-18 Super Hornet and Lockheed's F-16 Super Viper. By the way India rejected Russia's proposal too.

Think electric vehicle - an impaired investment

While the story is about the battery manufacturer Ener1 (really Enerdel)  severing its partnership with Think - it is Think that ought to be the story. This company in 2009 was reorganizing in bankruptcy at a time that Oregon was willing to give the company the traditional giveaways - economic incentives AKA taxpayer dollars. Oregon Senator Wyden with the governor and other politicos in tow did his best to persuade Think to locate in Portland. [Oregonian]. Fortunately for Portland they chose Indiana.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

"Critics jump on city's new 9-1-1 system"

The Portland Tribune carries the story. The 911 system used by the Bureau of Emergency Communications was 17 years old - they replaced it. Despite some argument that computers don't get old they just need updating - that is pure BS. 17 year computer systems lag both in hardware and software technology.

The critics are just that. To think that one can replace a system that had been in use for 17 years without a hitch is just plan stupid - far more than being ignorant. The complaints thus raised in the Tribune don't seem to be out of the ordinary. [I spent 15 years in the computer industry.]

Criticism is appropriate though - it keeps the pressure on our politicians to do right by Portlanders. The problem though is that Portlanders - unless something subsequently goes awry - will never learn from the media whether the critics's concerns were addressed or not. Thus, it may well becomes a story that should not have been reported in the first place.

New tavern in the Pearl - Brix Tavern - 1st impression

There is a new tavern Brix on Hoyt in the Pearl - a couple blocks from Rogue (NW Flanders) and not far from Starbucks (NW Glisan). It is quite large in total space, huge high ceilings. It is a mixture to some extent - bordering on being pricey but not.

The mixture is in the seating. There is a fair size bar and lots of seating elsewhere. One might feel among their "class" depending on where they sit. But it is not a "tavern" in the traditional sense. It does have a lot of TVs - but like most places no volume. Frankly the TVs may destroy the ambiance. Yelp has the first reviews.

The food menu seems quite good - quality and price. And so too the happy hour food - large selection at decent prices. Tap beer selection - seven - is slender but it has porter, I prefer stout but porter is an acceptable substitute. The canned (not bottle) beer list is extensive - far above a couple. It has a full bar and it is not a brewery.

The tap beer is $5.50 - is $.50 too much. Frankly it seems out of line with the food prices which like I say only borders on being pricey. It has a canned beer for $2, but the selection is made by the bartender. But whatever the bartender's selects - $2 can't be beat. They call it brown bag beer, but I am not sure how it is actually served. I guess it is some takeoff of Trader Joe's 2 buck chuck.

[Editor: The brown bag beer is served in a brown bag. Today's choice was Hamm's.]

The list of canned beers contain quality beers - just in a can. E.g., Guinness and Fat Tire are among the selection, but so too Portland's omnipresent 16 oz PBR 

It does have free WIFI - but I suspect not many will come because of the WIFI. 

All in all I have a good first impression. It is a little bit on the uppity side - but it is located in the Pearl.

I don't particularly do reviews - but I am inclined to do so when it comes to new places to drink and eat. And, like I say - this is a first impression - I will be back.

Ah - religion

"Egypt's government has announced a series of security measures to curb religious violence after 12 people died in clashes in the Cairo suburb of Imbaba, sparked by rumours that Christians had abducted a woman who converted to Islam." [Egypt vows to tackle religious violence - Middle East - Al Jazeera English].

"Terror gap"

The "terror gap" was coined by the New York Times to point out the loophole and the oddity in the workings of the federal government when it comes to preventing terrorism. People on the "watch list" cannot board a plane, but this "watch list" is inapplicable to the purchase of firearms. [See Boarding? Denied. Lock and Loading? Sure.]

What kind of thinking leads to this?

(Credit: Failedmessiah.com/Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
Hasidic newspaper regrets editing Hillary Clinton out of photo. "The Jewish Week subsequently suggested the photograph had been altered because including women in photographs "could be considered sexually suggestive."" [CBS News.]

Tough sh*t

Bin Laden Sons Say U.S. Violated International Law - NYTimes.com

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Dumbing down the academics

Portland Schools seem on the path of serving the lowest common denominator. Rather than provide - no demand - a rigorous course work it seeks to make it "equal" for all. The trouble is that "equal" does not mean setting your sights high but low. Bright students are denied the best education that they can aspire to apparently because PPS believes that bright students, or those with potential, are other than black or are poor.

It is more than doubtful that a student's race or his or her parent's income determines academic performance. It is more likely that this preconception inappropriately influences teacher selection and appointments for a school. Take a look at the Great Schools where one can compare profiles of all public schools including test results over the last several years. I submit you will find schools that are doing well despite race and income disparities.

Inspirations for this post:  On a collision course at Portland's Grant High; A letter to the editor: Portland should cut back advanced placement classes and accelerate graduation for gifted students.


Great Schools has this story about Parent-power-school-turnaround - Parental Power. The turnaround is aesthetic not academic. The school is in Chicago, but it reminded me of the Portland Schools construction bond measure - making schools more attractive in a non-academic sense does not make the school more attractive academically.

While the parent in the story as well as other parents and school principal certainly deserve kudos for the  improvements in the school plant - something that should have never been their responsibility in the first place. It is may be more aesthetically pleasing as viewed by parents, but the school hasn't improved academically.

The story's parent risked her child's future by failing to place her child in a better academic environment. She apparently chose a known failing school a couple blocks from home. An odd choice given that while her child could have had a better academic opportunity elsewhere, the parent could have worked to repair and improve the local school.

Is phone parking the next road rage?

This is a San Francisco story about how an app helps find that open space in a congested (parking wise) city like SF. Finding an Open Parking Spot With a Smartphone. But will it lead to more accidents because people are looking at the phone and will it lead to arguments and fights competing for the space?

What is worst while driving - talking or texting or using the phone to find a parking spot? Is this type of app a realistic and practical solution to parking congestion?

Systemic analysis of political leadership

The New York Times Magazine section has an excellent article: Jerry Brown’s Last Stand in California. But it is as much about the general state of political leadership as it is about Governor Jerry Brown. The governor, without that being the intention, offers an analysis of what is wrong with politics, national and local.

He is 73 and is acutely aware that his "days are numbered" so to speak. He is runs to serve not to be re-elected or to seek a higher office. This is not his first time as governor, and he has held other state elective  positions. Oddly he seemed to have started at the top in California and worked his way down to Oakland's mayor. Now back at the top.

The governor, unlike most politicians, is unpretentious refusing for the most part the trappings of office. He notes that experts have taken over while the politician spends his or her time running for a higher political office. Legislation is no longer drafted by legislative officials. His attitude on term limits: ‘There’s no substitute for experience.’ We like change, but we like continuity.”

The New York Times article is 6 Internet pages long - so it is neigh impossible to select all of the nuggets on political leadership - but it is worth the read. Jerry Brown is a professional politician, but he comes across as a non-politician. He is honest, ethical, well educated and financially independent. He may not be perfect but he is an example of the proper politician.

Mother's day

I am constantly amazed at the apparent hypocrisy that this day brings about. I typically do the same thing everyday and at the same places. Thus, today when I saw people I never have seen before - like a tourist bus had unloaded its passengers - I shook my head in amusement, of course - it is Mother's day.

Families are rewarding their mother with a trip to Starbucks - gee how nice. Once a year their mothers, or strangely enough wives who may or not have been mothers, are "treated special."  They clog up the coffee shop emptying it of its often tasteless pastries and things they call "bagels."

Thankfully - it is only one day. I know tomorrow it will be back to normal and I will not see these "passengers" until next year when guilt or commercial hype drives their families to load up the buses for the annual trip to Starbucks, or some place similar.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Jefferson's academic rigor spawns 'peace prize' award?

"Anyone who doubts the rigor at Jefferson High School can look to the “On Democracy” Senior Inquiry class, a partnership between the high school and Portland State University." See the Portland Tribune's Jefferson students award ‘peace prize’ this month.

This is Anderson's second article attempting to award a "star" even to the failing Jefferson. See What about the Arts at Jefferson? As I said before - something is academically amiss at Jefferson. Arts and a "peace prize" award doesn't prove otherwise. Arguably, its partnership with PSU isn't academically related.

In the latest story, the Tribune inexplicably credits Jefferson High School as a rigorous school while its state and federal ratings say otherwise. 50% of its students graduate on time. The feds have marked the school: "Repeatedly missed targets, must offer transfer or free tutoring." 

Great Schools rates Jefferson 3 on a scale of 10 - 10 being the best. Test results show that each of the grades 8 - 12 fall well below the state's average. Worst yet in 2010 each grade dropped below its scores in 2009.

Academic rigor? Not likely found at Jefferson. 

Provocation and enticement by FBI?

It is going to take a while for all of the evidence to be presented for or against the 19 year old accused of the failed "bombing" at Pioneer Square. But, new defense filing notes that the government had previously attempted to provoke him to commit violent acts - without success. This case has all the earmarks of failure in court.

China's spying - job recruitment for CIA

Spying is somewhat akin to terrorism - just another form where the goal is the same - undercut the security of the United States. The AP IMPACT: China's spying seeks secret US info tells of the broad range of espionage efforts by China, but the most interesting is their attempt to insert their own mole via the front door.

The Chinese were able - quite easily - to find someone, an American citizen, to make the attempt to obtain a job with the foreign service or the CIA. They paid him $30,000 just to take the foreign service exams - even though he failed twice. And he received $40,000 to apply to the CIA. And what did they expect in return - secrets - apparently any kind who do.

He was undone when he applied to the CIA and lied on questions about foreign intelligence agents. Once the lie - finding an unexplainable $70,000 probably wasn't too difficult. AP doesn't explicitly say - but I suspect that a "lie detector" was used. Lie detectors have no evidentiary value in law, but they are so skilled in its use a failure to detect a "lie" is rare. Certainly for their purposes  - the test results are conclusive evidence.

Standing in stark contrast to those of the Navy Seals Six - this recruited spy was willing to sell out his country to be a Chinese mole. While he had failed in his attempt to positioned himself to have access to "secrets" - he had accepted money to be so positioned. He sees himself as a victim of his greed - but it was more than that. He has no moral, ethical or even patriotic compass.

He fails, perhaps refuses, to recognize that he is a failed, pathetic individual using greed to excuse his abhorrent conduct: "What, exactly, did I do that was so illegal?"

Friday, May 6, 2011

Pakistan does little to dissuade the US of its efforts to hide Osama

Pakistan paints dismal image of bin Laden's end. Pakistan - continues to exhibit those anti-American cultural biases that led to the US's ignoring them when it came time to get bin Laden.

First 2012 debate, this is the GOP cream?

I know it is early - but the GOP contenders seem far way short of being the best. If you didn't see the "debate" take the time for a good read. [In first 2012 debate, GOP contenders hail bin Laden’s death, but criticize Obama].

Centennial Mills - dead again?

The NW  Examiner, May 11th, tells the story that it may once again be dead in the water because of a newly imposed regional trade jobs requirement. It is not local jobs that has the emphasis for PDC - it has to be that "half of the project be leased to "traded sector" companies, e. g., firms that sell or distribute products outside the region."

Not too many years ago when I was regularly attending PDC meetings I remember how this project was essentially declared dead, but given one more chance, much like the Burnside Bridgehead. But the "not to be denied" supporters revitalize the interests before the death certificate was issued.

Over the intervening years PDC based consultant fees and much time and effort attempting to conform to the then PDC dictates led to a project mostly dedicated in design and action to "Portland's culinary eateries ad entrepreneurs as part of celebrating the local environment."

Now I was never convinced that the project would fly - but it was in the Pearl (River Urban Renewal District)  - and they seem not to care that projects might fail. They seem to focus on those projects that only a developer would love. Sounds good on paper - why not?

Here is how the PDC website see the project:

A Historic Redevelopment Opportunity

Centennial Mills represents one of Portland’s greatest chances to create a community-defining riverfront while preserving a unique piece of the city’s history.  Following a two-phase Request for Qualifications and Request for Proposals process, PDC selected LAB Holding, LLC of Costa Mesa, California to partner with PDC in redeveloping this 4.75-acre site in the heart of downtown Portland.  The selected SEED proposal preserves much of the site's historic fabric and proposes redevelopment with a focus on culinary restaurants and businesses as part of celebrating Portland's environment and the site's agricultural heritage.

But this change in plans is apparently part of the "new ideas" being promulgated by the new chairman of PDC. Instituting this requirement seems destined to kill the project. Avoiding the "end justifies the means" approach - PDC is once again plain wrong. That is I would not have "voted" for this project, but it should have been grandfathered in, that is, only new projects should face this test.

Projects ought to stand or not based upon their ability to pay for themselves via increased property taxes, often called gentrification. It shouldn't matter the type of project - the property taxes engendered by the project ought to be sufficient to pay down the principal and interest of the borrowed capital.

And once a project is begun - changing of the rules at any stage should be reserved only for the most egregious situation. Project development managers and supporters were led to believe that they were on the right track - but in fact - PDC is nothing more than a Lucy pulling away the football. [Peanuts].

Of course, it is not too difficult to recognize the mayor behind this scene. PDC was designed and intended as an independent agency - but it has lost its way mostly because of the political manipulations of this mayor, city commissioner Randy Leonard and former city commissioner Sten.

PDC is an agency that operates outside of political accountability to the tax payers. It is akin to a "secret government" agency that diverts taxpayer dollars from traditional services to non-traditional projects to fulfill the fantasies of politicians aspiring to greatness. Oh yeah! [See my earlier post on the False promises of "urban renewal."]

It is time for PDC to go.

Maybe if they won't believe the president -

This ought to put any challenge to the veracity of Osama bin Laden's death at rest - all without pictures or other crude images of his death. [Al-Qaida vows revenge for Osama bin Laden's death.] It also demonstrates that the "fat lady" hasn't sung yet.

The false promises of "urban renewal" (Jack Bog's Blog)

I rarely find significant differences between myself and Jack Bog's Blog. And, it is doubtful that we could be more in agreement on "urban renewal" as practiced by PDC in Portland. His link to "California's Secret Government" in his post is an excellent reference. The similarities between California's RDA (Renewal Development Agency) is nearly identical to Portland's PDC (Portland Development Commission.)

It is important to know who is responsible for the California's Secret Government." Their "About CJ" page reeks with "urban renewal" credentials. Checkout their contributing editors - see the right hand column. Thus, this is not a "hit piece" on urban renewal in California - it is more about how it has gone astray - so too in Portland.

"In theory, RDAs spearhead blight removal. In fact, they divert billions of dollars from traditional services, such as schools, parks, and firefighting; use eminent domain to seize property for favored developers; and run up California’s [Portland's] debt to pay those developers to construct projects of dubious public value, such as stadiums and big-box stores. Most Californians [Portlanders] have long been unaware that these agencies exist."

Take a peek at the Oregonian's "marquee development projects that haven't gotten off the ground." It is a list, all but one, that involves PDC via tax increment financing - use of property taxes for non-traditional services to pay for projects designed and allocated by the "secret government" PDC. Its the tip of the iceberg of the irrational diversion of tax dollars without even the pretense of accountability to the citizens of Portland. Commissioners appointed by the Mayor of Portland that rubber stamps the college school boy fantasies.

Look - I am in sitting in the choir that they are preaching to. I highly recommend the read - it is worth the while you spend.


David Brooks of the New York Times has this piece The Politics of Solipsism that is an excellent read. Mr. Brooks is for the lack of a better term a conservative, however, he isn't what I perceive politically or economically as a Republican or a Democrat. I guess I would call him a moderate intellectual in that he doesn't seem to have any extreme views nor is he one of those intellectuals that just can't keep from letting you know he or she is one.

Admittedly his use of "solipsism" is a bit on the intellectual bragging side, but it is so perfect in its use that he can be forgiven. The online Free Dictionary has this definition: "Philosophy the extreme form of scepticism which denies the possibility of any knowledge other than of one's own existence."

 He reminds us that we are not a direct democracy and that our founders purposefully in a distrust of the direct democracy form of governing created a republic. As Mr. Brooks states the founders "erected institutions to protect themselves from their own shortcomings. . . "

Brooks points out that "public spirited" as originally meant was "a system of habits and attitudes that would check egotism and self-indulgence," but it has become "somebody with passionate opinions about public matters, one who signs petitions and becomes an activist for a cause."

Without realizing a similarity - I have been criticizing what I see as singe issue politics. That is the proposals of  single solution to problems as if it were the only possible solution without consideration or even a concern of the effect on others. It is their way so it has to be correct.

Mr. Brooks makes the valid point too that government/politics is operating with the same philosophy. "We no longer have a leadership class [...] that believes that governing means finding an equilibrium between different economic interests and a balance between political factions." Instead, we have a "political culture [that] encourages politicians and activists to imagine that the country’s problems would be solved if other people’s interests and values magically disappeared."

Unlike many others' opinion pieces - Mr. Brooks offers a way back to the public spirited republic not expected from even a conservative, moderate republican. Given, as Brooks notes, that we are a nation that has created a large debt and are seemingly incapable of  "finding a balance between competing interests," Mr. Brooks offers this:

"We have to make the welfare state fiscally sustainable;" "in a way that preserves the economic dynamism;" and "in a way that preserves social cohesion."  The latter is defined as "that reduc[ing] the growing economic and lifestyle gaps between the educated and less educated."

I am struggling to do justice to Mr. Brooks's piece so I encourage a read. But there is interesting unmentioned dichotomy - the basis of the free enterprise economic model is self interest in the marketplace. Maybe what is good for the individual is not necessarily good for the whole.

Thoughtful, reasonable and rational characterizes Mr. Brooks' opinions.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Irony for bin Laden, incompetence in Pakistan's military

CIA via AP
CIA via AP

These photos demonstrate that while Osama may have been effectively isolated on the ground - his compound was an ideal landing place for the helicopters.

The map insert marks Abbottabad's location approximately 100 miles from the Afghanistan border. The US was able to fly two Black Hawks and two Chinook helicopters 100 miles through Pakistan airspace without detection - and oh yes - all the way back after pausing for 40 minutes to kill bin Laden and taking his body with them. And the Pakistan military warns the US not to stage another raid.

Pakistan after the fact claims (hard to believe) that they became aware of the intrusion and "then scrambled two F-16 fighter jets but the American choppers had apparently already made it back to Afghanistan before they could be intercepted." Two F16s - what kind of headlines would that had made should they actually shot down the helicopters?

There had been some press that it was only the two Black Hawk helicopters and that they were "secret" in design. See A Secret Helo Used In Bin Laden Raid. But in fact according to an AP article there was 4 helicopters - 2 Black Hawks and 2 Chinooks. The latter are unlikely to have been stealthy.

Pakistan's military despite the US dollars and training still are not competent.

Pakistan's army warns the US

When I first read of the American incursion into Pakistan to get Osama I thought that the absence of the Pakistan military was just one of those diplomatic covers that allows plausible denials. It is  country whose citizens seemed rather enamored with anything anti-American. They like the bucks we have been feeding them but they constantly bit the hand that fed them.

But as it turned out the US finally took the imitative to strike without the Pakistan political or military knowledge. Pakistan has failed in their partnership with the US, They have knowingly harbored bin Laden - it is not a matter of incompetence, except for the military's failure to even detect the helicopters..

But now the Pakistan military trying to retain some semblance of trustworthiness and competence in the world community warns the US not to stage more raids. Like they would know if it happened again. They only knew this time because the US called them after the fact.

I know that there are diplomatic reasons that we maintain some continuing relations with Pakistan - but we must keep both eyes open and not turn our backs on them.