Wednesday, August 31, 2011

There is a lesson here Portland: Solyndra solar company fails

Solyndra solar company fails after getting controversial federal loan guarantees. See too SoloPower's new plant -- only 112 parking spaces.

Test scores from Portland and Oregon schools - glass half full or half empty?

Oregonian's Betsy Hammond, the lone education reporter in Portland media, has more information on the latest Portland and Oregon schools testing results. She does a great job.

The headlines tell part of the story: Test scores from Portland schools show gain in writing but too many seniors who can't read wellOregon school testing: Better math scores despite harder tests. The Department of Education page has the Oregon story and is worth the read. Individual schools can found on The Oregonian's Your Schools site.

The graphs at the right are for Oregon schools. The lead statements seems like a non sequitur. "The state introduced harder math tests this year, so passing rates fell even though students showed more advanced skills."

Monday, August 29, 2011

It is graduation time and Johnny still can't read

The Oregonian headline isn't surprising: Thousands of Oregon students at risk of not graduating. How did 6,800 in the 2012 graduating (maybe not) class get to this point without acquiring the ability to read? We apparently are not talking about anything other than regular students.

Passing the reading test is a state requirement. Too bad it is only a fairly recent requirement with the 2012 graduating class. Apparently though there is a loophole. Without an explanation provided by the Oregonian, the local school can offer an alternative reading test. WTF?

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Afghanistan has a drug problem?

The New York Times has an article highlighting the drug addiction in Afghanistan. Not surprisingly the drugs of choice are opium based. There is too the issue of HIV transferred via needle sharing. And oddly enough users seem attracted to bridges as their "shooting gallery." It is estimated that "[t]here were about 900,000 drug users in Afghanistan in 2010 [. . .]" which is "about 7 percent of the adult population of 14 million . . . ."

Sounds terrible - doesn't it? But consider this "[a]ccording to the National Household Survey on Drug Abuse, in 1999 an estimated 14.8 million Americans (see the chart) were current illicit drug users, meaning they had used some illicit drug during the month prior to the survey." That represents 6.7% of the population.  [The Buyers - Who Are America's Drug Users?]

Police fire rubber bullets to restore order

"Police fire rubber bullets at gangs of drunken revellers when they ran amok through the city, kicking in shop windows and setting a police car on fire. After two nights of clashes that dragged on until 7am, there were 20 injured, nine of them police officers, and 20 arrests." [The Independent].

No - not in England but in Spain where it seems a British holiday is to get drunk and riot. And what else is popular? "Balconing" where "inebriated tourists leap from their hotel rooms into the swimming pool below."

While it is not just the Brits that are causing the problems, it is the Brits that seem to be the worse of the lot. Mostly it is the underage drinking that is a major factor. But contrast the rioting tourists on a Spanish holiday with the recent riots in England proper.

Maybe rioting hasn't anything to do with the economy or poverty - maybe it is just being British.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Officials shave $100 million from I-5 bridge project budget

The latest about the I-5 crossing is that they have found a way of cutting $100 million. The Portland Tribune: Officials shave $100 million from I-5 bridge project budget. And while that might sound grand, a $100 million is chump change for a project that is estimated to cost $3.1 to $3.5 billion. $3 billion is to 100 million as 3,000 is to 100 or 30 is to 1. But rather than truly shaving costs they are maintaining a present level of exorbitant expenditures for a project that screams why.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Denmark pipe dreams

Another idiotic story extolling the biking virtues of European countries and it comes with a rather illogical premise - riding out of a recession. But fortunately another came along with a dose of reality - .the true cost of this culture shift.

Save us from those who want to save us.

Merkley's doubts about Afghanistan's future

Arguably, "doubt" is too weak of a position. What justification can there be for the continued involvement in Afghanistan? How can one justify a war that will have cost more than $1 trillion dollars by the scheduled withdrawal in 2014. "Fighting in the country has claimed 1,678 U.S. soldiers from October 2001 when they were first sent through July 31." [Merkley expresses doubts about Afghanistan's future after 3-day visit.]

A gay mayor of Berlin Germany

The story Berlin's mayor welcomes Pope through gritted teeth is about the pope's visit to Berlin. It can't be a surprise that the catholic church condemns homosexuality. One might argue that the pope is gritting his teeth too. But for me the story is different.

As a person of sufficient age to remember Hitler and division of Berlin - who would have thought that in a relatively short time there would be the Germany of today along with a gay mayor of Berlin?

Germany did learn from its past.

"There are so many things that we've gathered that need sunshine"

It is a AP story about a 9-11 family continuing the legal battle rather than take the settlement compensation. At first glance - one wonders why they just didn't take the money and move on. "The Bavises will not settle because they are determined to drag into the public record an explanation of how airline security failed on Sept. 11."

It is not about the money. The family wants their work product to be part of the public record and they want to donate all the documents to the museum being built at ground zero.

It is this part of our legal system that promulgates transparency and accountability not forthcoming from government or private enterprise.

"There are so many things that we've gathered that need sunshine."

The "liberals" fail to listen

The liberals and conservatives - whoever they are - are constantly battling doing their best to cast aspersions on the other. The conservatives are in name calling mode that is juvenile. The liberals are in defense mode usually countering with an "oh yeah!" or an "is not." But the conservatives, maybe unconsciously, have listened to many Americans and are riding, and possibly inciting, the wave of discontent.

The Democratic Party, at least the liberal wing, fails to hear that discontent - they are not listening. The liberals are philosophically blind. There is no room in their view that they might be in error. People who don't believe are not only denigrated (e.g. tea-partiers) but are ignored like children at a Thanksgiving dinner.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

3 Westview students ace ACT - why is it always some place else?

"Of the roughly 15,000 Oregon students who took the test in 2010-11, ACT officials reported that 13 received the top score. Ten were from Washington County, and seven were students in the Beaverton School District, where the district pays for all its students to take the ACT their junior year."  

Of the seven from the Beaverton district - Westview High School had 3 of its students - all male - 2 Asians and 1 Caucasian scoring at the top on the ACT tests - the very top where there is no room for improvement. ACT tests reading, writing, math and science as a means of determining college readiness.

It is a large public school with 2,492 high school students. The student-teacher ratio is 21:1 - the state's is 19:1 The 2010 graduation class was 663. It had a 79% on time graduates, 38 enrolled for fifth year and 88 dropouts. The student ethnicity is not unusual except that Asian/Pacific Islander percentage is 22% whereas the state average is 5%. The test score results over a three year period are far from outstanding. [Data from Oregonian school database and Great Schools.]

There is though one item that is somewhat exceptional - that is the number of advance placement tests offered. Check this list of 22 courses. Oh yes - one more exceptional item: "All three Westview top-scorers attended the Summa options program in middle school for gifted students who test at the 99th percentile."

While one might want to credit the school with some sort of difference that leads to exceptional students - it is not there. The credit and whatever other accolades belong to the students who most likely scored high even in the Portland School District. I am not ruling out the influence of their families that probably provided the appropriate motivation and support.

What accounts though for the confluence of the 13 top scores in Oregon?

TriMet justice

Woman attacked in broad daylight at a TriMet station. The victim was spit upon (in the face). pushed, punched, hair pulled and held in a headlock by the attacker. The victim was transported to the hospital via ambulance and was in a neck brace for 4 hours. However, the attacker "was released from the jail on her own recognizance. Charges have not yet been filed." [Bold emphasis added.] 

We will most likely never read one more word on this case, but I wonder why this person was released. It is easy to surmise that she has previous arrests, maybe even convictions. If she was mentally ill then she should be confined - clearly she is a danger to others. Surely being drunk is not the excuse for release. Frankly it seems more of the police as social workers attitude found in Portland.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

""A tale of two schools: Who’s to blame for the differences?"

The Washington Post has an Answer-Sheet column that subjectively promotes the cause of teachers whether they are effective or ineffective. It is basically a place holder for teachers and their supporters to defend teachers. You see it is not about educating the child - it is about saving teachers' jobs. Teachers because they are teachers believe that they have a right to the job qualified or not.

Posting of this article passed the top three prerequisites for publication in the Answer-Sheet column. One is that there has to be a substantial glorification of teachers; two is that some criticism of Michele Rhee has to be included; and finally some attack on testing must be made.

The August 22 post chose to question who is to blame for the "bad" school rather than who is to be given credit for the "good" school. The post does makes five good points - but all are intuitive. It compares what seems to the worst situation with the best distilling a conclusion that it is the experienced teachers that make the difference. 

Arguably, the good school South Side has culled the good teachers and administrators. The author is a good example. He worked at both schools, but takes no credit or blame for the differences. It is arguable that it is the confluence of the better teachers and administrators that provides effective teaching, not the income or race of the students that many wants us to believe. 

But, this is just another post in the Answer Sheet column that continues the circling of the wagons around the teachers - whether competent or not. It is not limited to Washington D.C., it is anywhere that teachers' qualifications are at issue. There is a fallacy in reasoning when experienced teachers are equated with good teachers. Experience doesn't necessarily make a good teacher - it can make a good teacher better.

Effective teachers are rather unique. It is a calling. They are made up of more than education and experience. While a child's education takes more than just an effective teacher, he or she is the primary factor in that education. But, a bad teacher, however well educated and experienced, is like the bad apple in the barrel.

When teachers can acknowledge the existence of bad apples - rational debate can follow.

Earthquake? It’s Obama’s fault - partisan politics

It is more of the rancor found in presidential politics. It ought to be laughable, but way too many people seize on anything that can denigrate the president. Connections between the president and events are made up out of whole cloth. Most are so ridiculous that rational and reasonable persons would dismiss the stories out of hand. But even a casual reading of comments to news articles highlights the absence of rational and reasonable people.

Journalism has gone the way of the National Enquirer. I am always amazed at the number of people who pick up it while standing in the Safeway checkout line. I never seen anyone buy it. I am speculating - but too many of these people appear to be educated.  I worry that the same readers don't search out for quality reading.

Two excellent sources of challenges to this rancorous idiocy are the Daily Show and Media Matters. It is rather telling that there is this niche in journalism. Yes - I know the Daily Show is comedy - but in today's world it is also journalism - better than most other sources.

Fusion power still elusive

Professors Stephen Hawking and Brian Cox: "The prize [. . .] is enormous: a near-limitless, pollution-free, cheap source of energy that would power human development for many centuries to come." [Fusion power: is it getting any closer?]

Electricity created from fusion energy is thus far one of those things that sounds too good to be true. It would solve so many problems and yet be safe unlike fission. 

The article raises this question: If fusion offers such glorious bounty, [. . .] why [isn't] the world concentrating much harder on delivering it as fast as possible? The research is underfunded leaving Ebay as a source for spare parts. 

National motivation is for the most part lacking. Maybe that will come as the Chinese continue to pour more money into their research. Maybe much like Russia's Sputnik - China's successes, and they will come, will spur the US.

CIA and NYPD engage in covert domestic surveillance

It is a story that should raise the hackles on the back of your neck. The Associated Press: With CIA help, NYPD moves covertly in Muslim areas

"From that apartment, about an hour outside the department's jurisdiction, the NYPD had been staging undercover operations and conducting surveillance throughout New Jersey. Neither the FBI nor the local police had any idea."

"A months-long investigation by The Associated Press has revealed that the NYPD operates far outside its borders and targets ethnic communities in ways that would run afoul of civil liberties rules if practiced by the federal government. And it does so with unprecedented help from the CIA in a partnership that has blurred the bright line between foreign and domestic spying."

"Neither the city council, which finances the department, nor the federal government, which contributes hundreds of millions of dollars each year, is told exactly what's going on."

Meanwhile the FBI is arguably fomenting terrorism in the same communities. 

There is nothing democratic or American in secret police activities such as these. Nothing beneficial or useful can come from domestic covert surveillance of communities.

FBI fomenting terrorism?

"Remember the Washington Metro bombing plot? The New York subway plot? The guys who planned to blow up the Sears Tower? The teenager seeking to bomb a Portland Christmas tree lighting? Each of those plots, and dozens more across the nation, was led by an FBI asset." [Terrorists for the FBI Exclusive.]

"They're creating crimes to solve crimes so they can claim a victory in the war on terror

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Rape charges dropped against DSK

The AP carried the story about the charges being dropped, but buried therein is a slight glimmer of hope for justice - an appeal. [Appeal denied] The defense most likely will not win that. I found it interesting that the AP chose to label the charges as "sex charges." This is a story about the powerful and the weak - guess who wins? Guess who didn't get their day in court? But there is still the civil suit. See rape report.

"Strauss-Kahn arrived at court in a six-car motorcade . . . ."

"He appeared resolute in the courtroom, . . . . He smiled and shook hands with his biographer as his wife, journalist Anne Sinclair, sat nearby."

"There is no dispute that something happened in the room; DNA evidence showed his semen on her work clothes and prosecutors on Monday revealed additional details that led them to believe a sexual encounter occurred. Strauss-Kahn's attorneys argued it wasn't forced."

"At the very first appearance ... I said in open court that this was not a forcible encounter," Strauss-Kahn's attorney Benjamin Brafman said outside court. "You can engage in inappropriate behavior, perhaps, but that is much different than a crime. And this case was treated as a crime — when it was not."

Monday, August 22, 2011

It is not so easy to be "green."

Al Jazeera: 
"Industrial activity has cut down 7,000 square kilometres of Brazil's Amazonian rainforest so far this year [EPA]." [Biofuel production: A threat to livelihoods.]

Sunday, August 21, 2011

N.I.H. research grants are less likely to go to black scientists.

"In the study, Dr. Ginther and her colleagues looked at 83,000 grant applications from 2000 to 2006. For every 100 applications submitted by white scientists, 29 were awarded grants. For every 100 applications from black scientists, 16 were financed." [Black Scientists Less Likely to Win N.I.H. Research Grants, Study Finds].

This study focuses on the National Institutes of Health funding of research grants. It does not conclude that there is racial discrimination, but raises the question of how - when the playing field is leveled after the fact - black scientists applicants were 13 points lower. More interesting is that black scientists were substantial lower in points than either the racial categories Asian or Hispanic 

Bicycles - anarchy in motion

I have a great seat to watch bicyclists in action. Suffice to say rules of the road and even common sense doesn't predominate the thinking - if they think at all - of the bicyclists when pitting themselves against cars and pedestrians. It is only through the watchfulness of others that bicyclists survive the day.

I grant that that compared to those in Berkeley, CA the Portland contingent are law abiding citizens. But that is only because those in Berkeley are far worse to obeying traffic regulations and lack any semblance of common sense.

In Berkeley helmets and reflective apparel, or additions thereto, are avoided at all costs. Travelling the wrong way on a one-way street is common practice. These riders are not anarchists but neanderthals. 

From my Pearl watching place, bicyclists cross the street as if they are pedestrians without being in a crosswalk. It matters not that they have the stop sign and the cross traffic does not. They will pass to the left of the cars at the intersection (both going in the same direction) to turn left onto the cross street ignoring the possibility that the car might also turn left. And stopping for pedestrians - don't be silly.

And one my favorites is their maximum use of space using the sidewalk or the street at their whim. Pedestrians are in harm's way - after all it is the bicyclist that has the right of way wherever they choose to ride. Bike lanes - please that must be for sissies and the like.

Bicycles are clearly anarchy in motion.

DeFazio says Obama lacks will to fight - I agree but . . .

I wonder what is behind this assault by Mr. DeFazio? What is to be gained by this criticism? It would be another story if he had been merely quoting what others have told him, but to make it personal seems a bit much. I do agree with his comments, but a fractured party will have no chance in the next election..

The Democratic Party needs constructive and unifying leadership I have flip flopped on voting for Obama, but without him and a strong unified Democratic Party - the alternative spells disaster for the working middle class. Thus far none of the Republican candidates would receive even a fractional vote from me.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

EVs are way too dirty in China?

Because the electricity source in China comes from mostly coal powered plants, the electricity necessary to power an electric vehicle cost more in emissions than gasoline powered cars. This from a UN study.

But what is the alternative? China is not situated to use alternatives that advocates in the US push, like wind and solar power. Nuclear energy seems to be the best alternative if coal usage is as disastrous as portrayed.

Of course it is not that simple. Objectionable emissions is a broad category wherein not all emissions can be rated equally as bad. One things seems clear - a purchase of an EV in US is likely to make even a minuscule of difference globally.

In season - woman files excessive force suit against police

Suing the police for excessive force is always in season in Portland. It is a city that has the perception of always, or nearly so, settling when it comes to those claims. But these circumstances stretch credibility into disbelief. The attorney taking this case must be hoping that Portland will roll over as usual and pay his client, and of course himself, something more than that necessary to cover costs.

The story is in the Oregonian and it is worth the read for the amusement if nothing else. Here is a sample: "The bizarre incident was triggered when his client's ex-boyfriend sprayed her in the face and body with bear mace, he said. Johnson tore off her clothes and ran toward the kiddie pool to wash off the burning irritant. But on the way, Johnson stumbled into a tent and inadvertently cut two homeless men, he said."

Frivolous seems to be an understatement.

Cannon fodder

"Nearly one-third of U.S. troops killed in Iraq were age 18 to 21. Well over half were in the lowest enlisted ranks." The AP story: In Iraq, youngest US troops bore the heaviest toll has another perspective. America and its future bears a heavy loss too.

It is not just those who were killed, but those who have otherwise been damaged beyond recovery. It is an ironic fate to be saved on the battlefield by medical technology, yet to be so wounded mentally, emotionally and physically that life as a productive citizen is lost.

We will never know what these lost individuals might have contributed to society. Yet they did contribute the ultimate - their lives. It is true in every war - the young and enlisted suffer the worst. But it is doubtful that thoughtful and reasonable people can justify these losses in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Young people as cannon fodder has to cease.

Why Sargent Schultz might be the employee of the month

Sargent Schultz was not a whistleblower: "I hear nothing, I see nothing, I know nothing!" Employees in private companies have long known not to rock the boat, but those in the public sector know that to be true too. A Nick Budnick story in the Oregonian makes that all too clear: Portland whistle-blowers came forward -- on Ellis McCoy and other issues -- and paid for it.

And why that it true - best to hear nothing, see nothing or know anything - is because of the duplicity of political officials like Sam Adams. In 2005, 7 department of transportation employees went then Commissioner Adams to "warn him that time cards were being falsified, bridges were going without maintenance and parking meter money was being stolen." He promised them confidentiality.

Names were released with the expected retaliation including 2 being forced from their jobs. 6 years too late - the feds are investigating the parking meter departments. Maybe that investigation might go further.

The more that is learned about Sam Adams the more the disgust.

Fox news called out on use of "illegals"

I am for anything that criticizes Fox news and their friends. Fox represents right wing tabloid "journalism" at its worst. Media Matters does a Daily Show like critique of the garbage produced in the name of journalism. I would agree with their criticism that the use of the term "illegals" is a slur because too often it is used as a term racial prejudice. 

But the gist of Media Matters post is that illegally entering this country is not a crime - thus only a civil violation. Thus, we are criminalizing conduct that is not criminal. A too superficial read of the transcript from the State of the Union might find support in the statement by the Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano- ". . . because crossing the border is not a crime per se. It is civil. " But, read the US Code section on Improper entry by alien. Clearly a crime.

The secretary is technically correct - the mere act of crossing the border is not in itself a crime. She arguably used "per se" deceptively. It is the "improper entry" that is a crime. This play with words doesn't help the debate on illegal immigration. Nor does it help that "illegal immigration" is often shorten to "immigration."

2 American hikers sentence to 8 years in Iranian jail - but . . . .

. . . there is more to this story. It has been depicted as the "kidnapping" by Iranian authorities of three innocent American hikers who in their pursuit of mountain scenery in Iraq came a little too close to the Iranian border. As is true in today's world of journalism - make that media blogging - one has to spend a little too much time using Google to piece the story together.

In my search these two older articles {one, two) helped piece together a synopsis, but it still was unclear exactly where the hikers were when caught or the hikers' motivation. For whatever reason - they do appear to have crossed the Iranian border - maybe enticed.  

But it was Al Jazeera's  coverage (found independently) that led me to this New York Times article and a Wikileaks document. When it is all pieced together - one start to wonder whether the Iranian view of the events isn't the correct view.

From the leaked classified military document is this excerpt: ASSESSMENT: "The lack of coordination on the part of these hikers, particularly after being forewarned, indicates an intent to agitate and create publicity regarding international policies on Iran."

If true - from the rest of the document it can be seen that they did more harm than good. E. g., "The leadership in Iran benefits as it focuses the Iranian population on a perceived external threat rather than internal dissension."

Friday, August 19, 2011

School forces raped girl to apologize to attacker

"A seventh grade special-education student in Missouri is suing the school district for their actions involving repeated rapes she was subjected to on school grounds." [School forces raped girl to apologize to attacker.] 

It is a tragic story no matter what part one focuses on. I Googled for major media coverage and found none, but that doesn't make the Russia Today story in error. It appears that other coverage found on Google cites Russia Today as the source, thus it appears to be an original story..

Tom Miller looking to scratch or be scratched?

The Oregonian's Beth Slovic has done more digging in relation to Tom Miller the head of the city's transportation department. See earlier post about Mr. Miller's special friends' beach rental price. From his work computer, although that is immaterial, he sends an email to a developer and copies it to the intended beneficiary. 

In summary - he sends a development lead to developer Mark Edlen and International School headmaster suggesting that Edlen "explore potential [development] opportunities" with  the International School.

Drug trade's corruptive effect on US border towns

"The corruption of Columbus [New Mexico] is a telling example of the power that Mexican drug gangs exert from across the border. That illicit influence spreads far beyond Columbus." [Al Jazeera Blogs].

Portland General Electric CEO smoking a bit too much of the good stuff

"Jim Piro, chief executive officer of Portland General Electric, projected that by 2012, one out of ten new vehicles registered in the city Portland will be of the plug-in type." That is 170,000 EVs by 2012. [Autoblog Green].

My kind of Democrat

"For six years it [Montana] has been one of the only states in America with a budget surplus: this year it is a record $433 million, proportionally equivalent to a federal surplus of $858 billion." [Cutting Costs the Montana Way.]

This article by Montana's democratic governor contains good advice for local governments too. "Finally, we don’t spend money until we’ve found the lowest price. Around here, government contracts aren’t a way to take care of friends. Quite the opposite: we use our purchasing power to get the lowest possible rate."

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Report on NY maid's exam - "Cause of injuries: Assault. Rape"

That is the allegation found in the AP's Report on NY maid's exam riles Strauss-Kahn team. If this was the civil case - it would be settled about right now, but it is a criminal case too. DSK might well have to pay both in jail time and dollars - maybe they should make that Euros.

Dram shop law: Why bar owners and bartenders need to be cautious in the next pour

"Neither the bar owner nor the bartender serving the drinks are immune from liability suits. "Generally, dram shop laws establish the liability of establishments arising out of the sale of alcohol to visibly intoxicated persons or minors who subsequently cause death or injury to third-parties (those not having a relationship to the bar) as a result of alcohol-related car crashes and other accidents."" [Wikipedia].

See this from the Oregonian: Husband files $7.1 million civil suit against drunken driver, two bars in NE Portland crash that killed wife.

The extra profit, good will, bigger tip, or friendship can cost a bundle - it is not worth it.

Civil disorder and looting in Britain - the more things change the more they stay the same

Check out these quotes from the Economist's compilation commenting on the civil disorder and looting in Britain.

I wonder where these Ducks stars will be in a few years?

Maybe prison overcrowding will save them from a lifetime of prison. See VIDEO: Ducks Stars Cliff Harris and Darron Thomas Pulled Over Doing 118 mph.

Amanda voted correctly and for the right reason

Commissioner Fritz was the sole vote against a transportation package that included $2 million for funding bike sharing. It was sort of an earmarking/pork-barrel packaging where a potentially controversial funding is included with non-controversial funding. She voted no because of the bike sharing portion. [See Portland Tribune.]

Her rationale: ""If it's a good idea, I don't know why the private sector hasn't done it already," Fritz said. "I believe the $2 million should be spent on basic needs in our neighborhood, like sidewalks and lighting.""

This may also turn out to be a winning campaign theme - basic needs of our neighborhoods. The same argument can be used against urban renewal development. But, it appears that Commissioner Fritz is in favor of the development of Hayden Island.

Should teachers visit student homes?

It is a question seriously asked by The Washington Post. One offered rationale: "Chicago schools chief Brizard said of parents’ homes: “Our students go there every day. Why can’t we?”" This from an educator. 

We are talking about unannounced visits by teachers. Have you ever tried to visit your child's school unannounced? Does your boss make unannounced visits? Unannounced visits by government employees in whatever capacity is an unwarranted intrusion and trespass. 

Is there no limit to government intrusion into private lives? No wonder that tea-partiers and right wing media gather interest when they rail against the liberals. There is a little bit more than just smoke.

Protect us from those who want to protect us.

Ban plastic bans but decimate Hayden Island?

I am not big on most conservation or environmental issues, but the preservation of Hayden Island as is seems like a no brainer. If there was ever an environmental issue that should galvanized advocates and the general public it should be the development of Hayden Island. How can one be for banning plastic bags but be leading the development charge.

Many people have never visited West Hayden Island, but this 826-acre natural area at the confluence of the Willamette and Columbia Rivers provides critical wildlife habitat for more than 100 species of fish and wildlife including bald eagles, federally listed steelhead Coho, Chinook, and chum salmon, western painted turtles, and dozens of songbird species. The island's size, location and complex mosaic of habitat types make it an irreplaceable resource. [West Hayden Island — Audubon Society of Portland.]

Is this the socialism and communism that we so obstinately fought against?

Checkout this photo gallery and story China’s newly rich are flaunting wealth — and giving Communist rulers a headache. And don't forget the money (1 trillion) that China has loaned the USA.

Phone hacking: Murdoch and friends buying their way out of trouble

"The level of damages paid by News International was undisclosed, although Ash is understood to have received a "healthy six-figure sum", thought to be more than the £100,000 News of the World owner paid to actor Sienna Miller earlier this year in another out-of-court settlement of a civil action over phone hacking." [Phone hacking: Leslie Ash settles with NoW but may sue other papers.]

Court allows students to offset university costs from future income taxes

That is correct - university costs as a tax offset against future employment income - too bad it is Germany - but it sounds like a good idea since university costs are a (maybe the) limiting factor for admission - grades are not enough. The Germany tax office argues like that IRS that those costs have to be expended while working and relevant to the present job, but their courts have seen it otherwise. [Court allows students to offset uni costs from future income taxes.]

Our good will ambassadors to China

Shame on the Georgetown basketball team. The story from the Letter from China was about Vice-President  Joe Biden and our new ambassador to China Gary Locke visiting China, but it also included this shameful conduct by the basketball team during that visit.

The "Georgetown men’s basketball team, [...] ended up in a bench-clearer with the Bayi Rockets." Chairs and punches were thrown. "As players brawled, fans in the stands reportedly tossed plastic water bottles on American players, while a contingent of Georgetown alumni were hustled out."

The basketball score was tied, but arguably the Georgetown team's unsportsmanlike conduct zeroed out any goodwill that was meant to be exhibited by the team's presence. For more game details see the Washington Post.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Turn over a Murdoch rock - Piers Morgan

"Piers Morgan, a former editor of the News of the World and the Daily Mirror, faced fresh claims that hacking took place under his watch. James Hipwell, a financial journalist under Mr Morgan's editorship of the Mirror, told The Independent the practice was "seen as a bit of a wheeze"". [George Osborne's relationship with Murdoch under scrutiny.]

Not surprisingly, Piers Morgan Defends Former Boss Rupert Murdoch on His CNN Talk Show. See just how phone hacking may be involved, or not, in Mr. Morgan's success. Revealed: How Piers's Mirror got Ulrika scoop, pissing off NoW and the Mail. Check out this 2006 article about phone hacking celebrities under Morgan's watch.

[See this July 27 Washington Post story CNN’s Piers Morgan ‘told interviewer [2009] stories were published based on phone tapping’.This added August 5, 2011: MPs call for Piers Morgan to answer hacking questions in UK]

[See this August 16, 2011 story from the Independent: Andy Coulson faces new hacking questions"Former News of the World editor Andy Coulson today faced fresh questions over his role in the phone-hacking scandal after MPs released documents claiming the practice was "widely discussed" at the newspaper."]

Fleet Street once a bastion of journalism has been eroding for years. It has been a self-inflicted process most likely sped up by Murdoch and his subversive brand of journalism. His papers and media networks were more akin to those papers one sees in the supermarket checkout lines - titillating headlines with not one grain of truth.

"Boomer towns" - not Portland

Bojack brought attention to the Biggest Boomer Towns' article orginally in Forbes:Biggest Boomer Towns. It points out what often seems to be obvious - there is not a retirement population shift to urban areas. Boomers, born post World War II, are of retirement age, but not necessarily retiring. Moreover those retiring are not moving to the cities spoiling planners' expectations.

"The idea that they [Boomers] are moving to the city really comes from the wishful thinking school of planning." Good advice: "Developers and planners anxious to service aging boomers should, instead of building downtown towers, address the needs of this generation precisely where they now live and are likely to stay."

Not only are this group staying in or seeking low density suburbs - there is evidence that neither are the 25 - 34 year olds. [Why America's Young And Restless Will Abandon Cities For Suburbs]. "[T]he largest growth among this peer group took place in metropolitan areas largely suburban in form, with a strong domination by automobiles and single-family houses." Oops!

Good advice: "Rather than place all their bets on attracting 20-somethings cities must focus on why early middle-age couples are leaving. Some good candidates include weak job creation, poor schools, high taxes and suffocating regulatory environments." Sounds Portlandia.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Republicans - creating a nationalistic government and society

I am worried. The right wing media - they are not conservative - have been cyberbullies as well as print bullies. They attack Obama seemingly because he breathes. It is not too difficult to argue that race is playing a large role in their attacks.

It seems that Obama has in some way enabled not Republican leadership but demagoguery. Republican are easily perceived as representative of  right wing theology. They espouse anti-gay, ant-immigrant, anti-Muslim, and pro-Christian white biases.

"Obama Shifts Gears" - what gear was he in?

The New York Times headline: Obama Shifts Gears From Coaxing G.O.P. to Swaying the Public is far too kind. Arguably he has been in overdrive - just coasting along. It doesn't seem like coaxing the GOP is the proper gear. And one wonders if he has any torque to sway the public. The perceived Obama's ineffectiveness lies at his doorstep.

Fortunately for him, the Republican candidates, thus far, are unlikely to change voters ultimate support of him at the ballot box. That is my hope, but am becoming more concerned as the Republican candidates emerge. In an earlier post I mentioned that I would not be voting for Obama - probably not voting at all. But I am having to rethink that given the possibility of any one of the present Republican candidates might get elected. Their anti-gay, ant-immigrant, anti-Muslim, pro-Christian white bias is right wing theology.

I am worried.

Appeal hearing 9-21 on immigration jail in South Waterfront

In a post about the original hearing decision I noted:
Jim Davis - South Portland Neighborhood Association - feels that they have won the battle. "Davis said he's not worried politicians will approve an appeal from the developer and federal authorities." But Mr. Davis needs to be a little more wary of how too often the city and its cozy developers win the war.
The original date of the appeal was set for 8-24, then moved to 9-21. Apparently the original appeal date was set in advance expecting the appeal would be from the neighborhood association rather than the developer. [Oregonian].

It is unclear why who appeals makes a difference in when the hearing is set. And it seems interesting that it was expected that the neighborhood association would be the loser. Despite Mr. Davis' optimism noted above - he needs to be especially worried because it is the politicians that are deciding the appeal. 

"Safety concerns" the basis for the original decision is an easy mark for the developer and friends. The city has known about the safety concerns from the gitgo - there is no reason now that they will stop the flow of dollars to the developer.

This is a severe case of conflict of interests having the city council sitting as the decision maker. This is especially true considering that it is the city that wants this project. It is politics that will guide the decision making. Mr. Davis will hopefully be better prepared than his optimism suggests.

More from our ally and friend Pakistan

"American spy agencies have concluded that it is likely that Chinese engineers — at the invitation of Pakistani intelligence operatives — took detailed photographs of the severed tail of the Black Hawk helicopter . . . ." [U.S. Aides Believe China Examined Stealth Copter.]

Sunday, August 14, 2011

New form of stonewalling by the intrepid mayor and his ilk

KGW has an excellent article DA's 2008 memo raised red flags over city parking deals that points out several red flags. It may be just incompetence by the mayor in his role as mayor and transportation head - but one starts to wonder whether there is something more sinister going on.

But the mayor hides behind the FBI: "The Federal government has requested I not comment on issues related to their investigation." It seems a stretch to refuse to comment on the DA's investigation in 2008. And the mayor has stretched that to include the request for public documents by the Oregonian.

Debt and budget crisis - positives.

Two questionable projects Columbia River Crossing and the Milwaukie MAX might be reduced in scope or even eliminated. [See the Oregonian.] I am hoping for the latter. We should not need a financial crisis to decide the fate of these two projects which have not withstood financial scrutiny.

See posts CRC Financial Analysis - well worth the readJob creation numbers - gone far beyond hyperboleDrop the train to MAX to Milwaukie - use buses.

Cyberbullying - media pushing the limits of free speech

Cyber-bullying is "the use of information and communication technologies to support deliberate, repeated, and hostile behavior by an individual or group, that is intended to harm others." See too the definition found at USLegal[.com] that includes: "Cyber-bullying could be limited to posting rumors or gossips about a person in the internet bringing about hatred in other’s minds; . . . ."

I submit that the "conservative" media especially Washington Times, Fox (News Corporation), and others conduct themselves as cyber bullies while cloaking themselves in the 1st Amendment. Check these articles:

If corporations are people . . . .

Where are the flower power children and their progeny?

This recent story is replicated everyday with little concern expressed by those who were so vehemently opposed to the Vietnam war: Afghan War claims first Forest Grove High grad. Why are the Iraq and Afghanistan wars seemingly accepted as some routine government program? These wars are not secret although the news media's reporting would say otherwise. Of course that can be said for nearly all the wars the US is engaged in.

While they no longer assail the military men and women, there is a certain 'looking the way' attitude that permeates these adherents of flower power. It is the three monkeys philosophy: see no evil, speak no evil, hear no evil. Faceless casualties - except for rare occasions - are for the most part our fallen service people.

See this video and story of one of the exceptions where Braydon Nichols wanted "that his dad not just be another faceless casualty in the nearly decade-long war."

Bankruptcy: Pensioners vs bondholders

The Bloomberg story is about a bankrupt small city in Rhode Island that was "pushed" into bankruptcy because pensioners would not accept cuts in payments. We are talking about police officers and firefighters. While the story seems to be cast as a horns of dilemma situation - pay bondholders or pay pensions - there is much more to it.

It is sorry state of affairs about a city that failed to curb spending and underfunded pension plans. It is too a story about the faltering national and state economies. And, for these government workers - the city does not pay into social security. This ought to make clear the importance of social security, but . . . .

Climate science is not exact

After 2 Studies, Methane Puzzle Persists -

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Drunk "elite skier"" peed on floor - not girl. That makes it all better.

The Oregonian has the update with a some additional clarification. Frankly, I believe that the family of the girl is seeking to cut off the publicity. As soon as the girl is not involved - the media will go away. Not much of a story peeing on floor.

It seems too that the drinks were consumed before the airport. One wonders if they were actually consumed at a bar or private home? And how did he get through the TSA checkpoints? How did he board the plane?

He is off the USSA team now - but don't be surprised if he appears on the roster soon.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Hide on the net? Not likely. Are they watching? Oh yes.

London riots: Britain weighs personal freedoms against need to keep order::: "Cameron [UK's Prime Minister] said: “Free flow of information can be used for good. But it can also be used for ill. And when people are using social media for violence, we need to stop them.”"

A difficult balance today. But indirectly this indicates that it is not only the repressive governments that control the Internet. Nor can one effectively hide their identity on the net. Government's ability to monitor Internet or any other communication device far exceeds the individual's capacity to grasp. See my earlier post on our government's monitoring.

Family pit bull - an absolute angel

Pregnant Pacifica woman killed by family pit bull: "'They are not barking dogs. They seemed friendly,' Carlson said of the two pit bulls owned by the Naporas. 'I have a pit also, and he's an absolute angel. It's just really sad.'"

Jury awards $2.2 million in Pierce County dog mauling suit.

Elite skier, 18 years old, intoxicated peed on an 11 year old girl during flight on JetBlue

These are the allegations that have been admitted, but no apology has been offered. It is the Oregonian that had the link to the New York Post's coverage which is the best and answered many, not all, questions. One very pertinent question is where did he consume that much alcohol? He boarded in Portland. My son is 30 and still gets carded at Stanfords' at the airport.. [See Drunken teen urinated on the floor, not on girl during plane ride, Beaverton family says which was a later Oregonian update.]

The skier Sandy Vietze admitted the crime, admitted that he was drunk, and admitted that he had consumed 8 alcoholic drinks before boarding. And for the inquiring minds - "The girl's father, a Stage 4 cancer patient, caught Vietze midstream and tried to wipe him out." 

The Oregonian to their credit added this followup on the status of possible prosecution: "Reports by Port Authority that charges against Vietze have been dropped are untrue, said Robert Nardoza, spokesman for the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York."

But we shall see - he is an "elite skier" and sport celebrities live by different rules. The best comment though is found in the Post and comes from a neighbor: "He's a very nice boy, one of the nicest, most respectable young people I've ever met." I guess the neighbor has never flown with him.

Federal parking investigation - scandal in the making?

Nothing has been proven yet, but Mr. McCoy who is the Portland's focus in the investigation has been the subject of complaints and allegations for many years. But the real scandal may be how the city did a 180 in their "investigation" of him.

But, the city's seemingly continual avoidance of the contract bidding process plays a role in saga however it turns out for Mr. McCoy. Every no bid contract raises the specter of corruption. It is the antithesis of accountability and transparency.

The Oregonian has a rather good article: Federal parking investigation: Portland officials repeatedly expanded role of vendor Cale. The hiring of Beth Slovic has added some credibility to Oregonian. And Bojack has done a great job in his coverage. The Tribune and the Willamette Week seem unconcerned.

Drop the train to MAX to Milwaukie - use buses.

Thanks to Bojack here is the Cascade Policy Institute's "How to save $1,3 Billion While Improving Transit to Milwaukie." It is a short two page read - well worth it. The proposal is almost rational - I am a little bit stunned. It is rather simple - build the proposed MAX bridge but run the streetcar over it completing its loop. Use buses to connect Milwaukie and Portland.

The Portland Streetcar is not something that has ever made sense on any level. But it is too far gone to deny its existence. Dropping the MAX to nowhere is an excellent first step in stopping the mindless expansion of light rail whether it is called MAX or Portland Streetcar. As a transit mover - buses, those of today, are arguably the better choice to connect Milwaukie and Portland.

Enough light rail - there are too many things that need fixing. Money ought to be better spent.

But for the other perspective see City celebrates 10 years of streetcar service: "“And there will be even more in the next 10 years,” Adams said, referring to the current eastside streetcar extension, the proposed lines to Lake Oswego and possible new lines throughout the city."

Let's see a substantial gang and drug problem, high unemployment, no economy, possible corruption at the transportation department that may extend into other areas of city government, etc. But we are the streetcar capital - oh my!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Oregon's testing comparatively on a national scale

Oregonian has the story that ought to raise more issues about the quality of the education and the state's role in failing to do more. Without the federal push - Oregon would be an unknown quantity - but with testing we know that the system needs major fixing.

The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) study shows that the reading and math test scores for the 4th and 8th grades are dismal. But the state superintendent can't help but spin it: "State Schools Superintendent Susan Castillo said in a statement the report accurately captured where Oregon ranked but failed to reflect the rigor of Oregon's updated exams."

Meanwhile the teachers, unions and their supporters circle the wagons throwing excuses against the wall hoping that some will stick. It is for the children - you know.

Probe of bin Laden movie project?

If this had occurred at any other time than this period of partisan politics - the circumstances might raise a few eyebrows. But it would be more than unseemly for this president or any politician to trade on the efforts and success of the Navy Seal Team 6. However, it does appear to be innocent and routine. [See Congressman Wants Probe of Bin Laden Movie Project.]

George Lopez late night show axed - wonder how Conan views this?

George Lopez late night show axed -

London Riots: mindless thugs burning their own communities

David Cameron, Prime Minister, has it right: "It is criminality pure and simple. And there is absolutely no excuse for it." [Independent]. It is not about being young, poor or disillusioned. [It is okay to riot]. 

"It took 140 years to build up the House of Reeves furniture store, but only a few hours to destroy it. On Aug. 9, the morning after arsonists left the Croydon landmark in ruins, its owner put on a brave face for reporters. "It's been there since 1867, survived two wars, a depression. Yet the community seems to have burned it down." [].

"[P]olice couldn't ensure that the mob wouldn't attack the fire crews, so the firefighters were delayed and arrived too late to save the store. Rumors spread from neighbor to neighbor that the rioters had torched the building to distract authorities from the looting taking place in the town's shopping district." [].

It is okay to riot

The ongoing rioting in England - not the UK - is being rationalized and, therefore in a very real sense, sanctioned. [Britain's rioters: young, poor and disillusioned]. I might well be willing to agree that the police shooting may have sparked  some of the criminal mischief - not that it was right but it can be logically tied to the shooting. There was a time concurrence too.

It should be noted too that 1/2 of the 240 arrested thus far have been under the age of 18 - that according to the Independent. Also from the Independent: three people guarding shops were killed - run down by looters; a 68 year old man was attacked as he tried to put out a fire started by the looting.

Some interesting insight comes from the Guardian: 'Being liberal is fine, but we need to be given the right to parent.': "There's been an erosion of authority for a long time. Parents move very gingerly not to upset their own kids – that's the reality."

Why was it that the feds had to step in?

The feds are peeking under the Portland rocks for corruption apparently related only to parking meter contracts. See Oregonian: Federal raids follow years of allegations and complaints about Portland's parking manager and a time line beginning in 2002.

It seems unchallenged that something was not quite right in river city's parking meter department. Complaints, allegations, and two internal city investigations came up with a public zip. Although one of the investigations may have well laid the groundwork for the feds' involvement. The local media also peeked into the matter.

But instead of reprimand or discipline - Mr. McCoy received high marks from his city superiors. This from Lavinia Gordon:  "Thanks for your intelligent leadership, Ellis."

If the feds had a valid and substantial reason to take this action - why didn't the city take action? Its failure now seems more like a cover-up or incompetence.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The Global Temperature Record

The chart comes from the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration that was used in an article decrying Fox News version of global warming.

But this is what is interesting - global warming as shown on this chart seems to have started in the late 1980s or early 1990s. Why? Was that a sort of the tipping point?

Sidewalks in Portland? A concern because . . . .

The Oregonian has the story about Commissioner Fritz raising her 2008 campaign issue again just in time for  her new contest.  It is unclear sometimes whether she is naive or just inept. There are many areas in Portland that don't have sidewalks - a little bit of country in the city.

Fortunately I have never lived in a city that didn't have sidewalks. And I have lived in many cities that were much smaller than Portland. And sidewalks and streets were financed by property taxes. I have lived in a small beach town where sidewalks would have been foolish.

Isn't there an unwritten rule - city living means sidewalks? But not in Portland where bicycles get the funds for paved bike lanes and pedestrians are often left in the mud. Not only that, pedestrians have to share the sidewalks with the bicycles that roll onto and off at a whim.

I wonder where the commissioner has been during her time at city hall? It may be just a lack of self promotion on her part - but I can't think of anything she has done. What has she started and finished? Maybe her campaign, if she decides to spend her own money, will detail or at least highlight her achievements.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Saudi beheading - justice and the dollar

"The beheading of Ruyati binti Satubi —executed in June for the killing of an allegedly abusive Saudi employer " [Saudi beheading fuels backlash in Indonesia]. It is important to read the associated stories: Saudi Arabia beheading prompts Indonesia to ban workers in Saudi and Indonesia protests over Saudi execution. But see Indonesian maid escapes execution in Saudi Arabia "after the Indonesian government paid more than $500,000 in "blood money."

Pope's visit to Spain opposed by group of Spanish priests

The Catholic church is trying to regain its influence in Spain by good old marketing techniques. ". . . the church uses all the tools that exist to present the message of Jesus Christ." Apparently that message doesn't include helping the poor and unemployed in Spain. Spain's unemployed rate is 20%.

The pope's visit is said to cost 60 million euros. That is roughly $84 million. Apparently the cost is being covered by corporate sponsors, but the rub is that the money could be better spent. "They propose to spend €60m when the regional government has just cut €40m from the education budget."

The fact is the Catholic church is losing a significant portion of its Spanish future believers. The 18 - 24 "believers" in Spain has fallen by 56% over last 10 years. And, the pope's last visit to Madrid had a dismal turnout. However, it would seem that deeds rather than marketing would gain new members and put a more favorable light on the church.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Way too many volcanoes erupting or expected to

HawaiiItalyRussia (See satellite view), IndonesiaAlaska.

Impact of Volcanic GasesVolcanoes and Climate Change (DAAC Study); Feature ArticlesHow do volcanoes affect world climate?: Scientific AmericanPlanes or Volcano?

Russia Today:Jackie O blames former president for JFK’s assassination

For us of the older generation this would be much more than interesting if true.  See Russia Today.  RT is not always accurate.  Johnson was a suspect among the conspiracy theorists. Johnson and Kennedy were not best of buds. Nobody, except those that benefited from the story, believed that Oswald acted alone. Many were not convinced that he did in fact shoot the president. JFK's assassination was an event that truly changed the direction of this country. Its fabric has never been the same.

Israelis call for social justice

Israelis are marching for social justice. Sounds great. Too bad though - the "social justice" appears to be purely self-interest in their own nationalist economic well being: "government's failure to respond to the needs and complaints of middle-income Israelis." They complain that they spend 50% of their income on rents or mortgages.

There is a glimmer of  recognition that the government's spending on social injustice is coming from their pocketbooks: "They [protesters] have avoided publicly making connections between the amount spent on settlements and the military for fear of being branded anti-occupation activists."

Ah more free speech found in Democracy. Democracy ought to be about saying what others don't want to hear.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Old Town gang shooting - again

Smack in the middle of Old Town another apparent gang shooting. [Police Press Release]. The question becomes - why is Old Town an attraction of gangs or gang members? The six years I lived in Old Town violence, gun or otherwise, was pretty much nonexistent. Now I am ignoring the bar fights common to the Old Town entertainment district.

Residents in Old Town, unless there has been a serious demographic shift, are not gang oriented nor likely to be gang members. Other than a few exceptions at Old Town Lofts - the income level of most, if not all, Old Town residents hovers around the poverty line. Old Town is highly populated with recovering whatevers with zero disposable income. And, the drug dealers and users are not Old Town residents, but participants in the open drug market - a place for outsiders to sell and purchase drugs.

So why the gang shootings? Is it because of the entertainment sector?

Why Afghanistan?

The news about the helicopter being shot down made me wonder once again - why is the US there? To suggest as does the CIA World Factbook - we invaded Afghanistan because that country sheltered bin Laden is hogwash. Did we invade Pakistan?

Afghanistan was not (and arguably still isn't) a country governed by a central government, except in name only. Take a peek at the Afghanistan wars. They go back to Alexander the Great, but the recent wars started with the British in 1839 with Russians taking over 1979. The years before our invasion saw anarchy and the Taliban.

The Taliban gained control in 1996. Now the Taliban is not Al Qaeda. And no matter how you slice it, the Taliban rule is a religious dictatorship. But look who gave diplomatic recognition to the Taliban government: Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates.

Oil reserves by reserves and consumption

"DEFINITION: According to Web definitions the term refers to the total amount of petroleum (oil) discovered in any given oil field or nation. Thus it can be said that Kuwait has xxxx millions of barrels (mb) of oil in the ground. However, the exact amount can never be known, simply because of the difficulty in sensing or "seeing" beneath the surface of the Earth. The term Proven Reserve or PR refers to an amount of oil that is generally accepted by geologists to be the actual amount of petroleum in the ground." {NationMaster].

Oil reserves (most recent) by country.

Oil consumption (most recent) by country.

Oil reserve fallacy. "Proven oil reserves are not a measure of future supply of world petroleum. It is a well known fallacy in the petroleum industry to treat them in this way, and it has had serious political consequences."

"World oil reserves at 'tipping point'." Science Daily. "The common belief that alternative fuels such as biofuels could mitigate oil supply shortages and eventually replace fossil fuels is pie in the sky. "

Helicopter downing 'a lucky shot' - Depends on your perspective

The Telegraph calls it a 'lucky shot,' but clearly it wasn't to those who died. This 'lucky shot' view was expected. But, it seems more than a coincidence that Navy Seals from Team 6 were on board. I have not seen that the Taliban has taken credit - but that would be expected too.

The probable RPG that brought down the helicopter is said to be inaccurate and ineffective, but many wars have been fought with inaccurate and ineffectual weapons. It is akin to shooting free throws - some shooters are good at it other not so much. There seems to be more of the latter.

But 'lucky shot' or not - the consequences are the same - more dead Americans. I can think of a lot of reasons for the US to stay in Afghanistan - none worth the continued loss of life. At the day's end - there will be no justification.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

WTF: Outsourced jobs hiring US engineers

The IT services (help desks) that was once America's was transferred to countries like India. Their companies and workers do the work our companies and workers used to do, but at far less cost to the US employer. Now it seems that there is another twist. The jobs still belong to the foreign companies, but now US workers are being hired. Why? Apparently because the US workers have the expertise now needed. [Indian outsourcers now 'insourcing' jobs to Silicon Valley].

Frankly, it doesn't make sense. Why should American companies continue to use foreign owned companies to do that work. Is it still that much cheaper? Shouldn't hiring American workers be a cost that employers should be willing - maybe persuaded - to do?  Only capital matters?

What America has become - Police shut down kids' lemonade stand

"Police in Midway, Georgia shut down a lemonade stand run by three girls trying to make money for a trip to a water park in Savannah because the youngsters didn't have the license and permits required for their fledgling enterprise." [Midway, Ga., Police Shut Down Kids' Lemonade Stand].

"The day Hiroshima turned into hell"

This Al Jazeera story reminds us of the horrors of WWII.  It was 66 years ago that the bomb was dropped. While nuclear weapons are to be feared and somehow eliminated - one should not equate a nuclear power plant supplying electricity with the weapons.

Images like the one to the left ought to be incentive to eliminate weapons that can produce mass destruction. But the image should not be construed to cause retreat from producing safe nuclear powered energy. This is especially true if reducing petroleum dependence and carbon dioxide presence in the atmosphere are more than goals but necessities.

Wait a minute - does this mean fat people have bigger brains?

Brain cells start to eat themselves when we go hungry

Friday, August 5, 2011

Just in time for the weekend - PDC writes off $9.6 million

Portland's redevelopment agency writes off $9.6 million in loans since 2000. See records of who's who. Not surprising - Judy Shiprack skated. Nor is the Lu San Chinese Garden a surprise defaulter. It has been heavily subsidized since its inception. In both Shiprack - Old Town Lofts - and the Garden the loans were only part of the city's investment. It is hard to argue that Shiprack should get a pass here. See an Oregonian article on another skater Caplan Landlord.

Excesses from Old Town entertainment

The story: Intoxicated man was kicked out of Portland strip club for not buying two drinks, then stabbed a man outside. Arguably, had he purchased the two drinks he would have been allowed to continue drinking adding to his already visible intoxication. I wonder what kind of havoc he could have reaped had he became more intoxicated?

This is the kind of individual that is attracted to Old Town entertainment. Once upon a time the bars adequately policed the clientele. In the past - I suspect that this individual would have never gotten past the door. I suspect too that the strip club cares little about the neighborhood - after all there is a buck to be made.

It seems like the Oregonian could have easily checked and informed its readers about the police and OLCC "visits" to the "gentleman's" bar. Of course that would have been too much trouble.

You might read this article as to how the owners make business decisions and how this type of place draws the trouble it has seen in Old Town. You might [careful it is on a x rated page] review a former employee's  comments. Or how about this Oregonian story about stabbings in May 2011. It took me a few minutes.

Sanity in South Waterfront jail location - no thanks to city council

A land use hearing officer has denied the immigration jail site in South Waterfront. This is a project being pushed by developers and the city council. It is hard to imagine how any responsible elected official - maybe "responsible" is the key word - could have have let this jail concept reach this stage. Was this a case of development at all costs to Portland and its residents?

Jim Davis - South Portland Neighborhood Association - feels that they have won the battle. "Davis said he's not worried politicians will approve an appeal from the developer and federal authorities." But Mr. Davis needs to be a little more wary of how too often the city and its cozy developers win the war.

A word to PDC would end this right now.

Extension of the FAA shutdown - dysfunctional government solutions

I noted in an earlier post that the FAA shutdown was another example of government dysfunction. I noted that Congress was going into recess - they did - but look how the Senate handled the situation.

"Employing the so-called “unanimous consent” procedure which took less than 30 seconds, two senators were present to approve a House-passed bill extending FAA’s operating authority through mid-September." [The Washington Post].

Note that all we the people got was an extension - no resolution. And by procedure only two senators got stuck with the duty call - being present to vote. Extension - put off until tomorrow what you don't want (should) to do today.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

A tinker's dam - renting of developer's beach cottage?

The Oregonian is demonstrating some value in the hiring of Beth Slovic. Even though this may not turn into any scandal - I like the fact that someone is digging. The transportation director rents a developer's beach cottage at $100 per day is a decent story. And $100 seems to be an extra special value. Is there a friendship here?

Superficially it is hard to argue that the rental was in some way a conflict of interest. But it starts to smell that way when it is this transportation director and he can't remember the price he paid. It was the developer that stated the price.

I said this "transportation director" because of his previous relationship with the mayor. It is difficult to believe that because he is now at the transportation bureau he has no influence in the mayor's office. Remember too that this mayor has a great affinity for the transportation bureau.

I will point out too that in those projects that involve the developer Maslin - the transportation department is often at the table. That is especially true with the East Burnside project. There may be no rat - but there is a slight smell that shouldn't be ignored.

Charter schools showing promise

The issues with the K - 12 education are not a local problem - it seems to exist in cities and states throughout the country. The District of Columbia is a good focal point for watching progress, or the lack thereof, in resolving the educational crisis. It would appears that charter schools in DC are starting to show promise in education. See Washington Post's Test scores show momentum for charters.

Charter schools has been one of the most controversial "solutions." I am not sure it is the solution, but for some circumstances it appears to be a solution. But, public school advocates everywhere fight against charter schools with every breath and dollar they can manage. One thing is for sure - the quality of education that children receive is not their concern.

The institution of education in American society is as dysfunctional as the federal government with the pros and cons attempting to best the other on ideals.

Ideologues rule.

Dysfunctional government continues

The wrangling about the debt ceiling was the most noticeable, but story about the FAA shutdown is a prime example of the core dysfunction in the federal government.

"4,000 FAA employees have been furloughed, more than 200 construction projects have been halted and an estimated 70,000 other private-sector workers affected. Air traffic controllers and safety inspectors remain on the job because the agency still has money from another pool of funds to pay them." [AP].

The government is losing "about $30 million a day in uncollected airline ticket taxes." And of course Congress is going on their recess. And, not surprising, Democrats blame the Republicans and vice versa.

This is not about rational arguments or reasonable differences. This is pure party politics with the only goal to best the other party. The fact that they are not serving the public interest is apparently lost on them. Will the public remember them at the voting booth?

Pessimism drives the Dow down

Disappoint Mints - transparent censorship

Knoxville News Sentinel
Mints removed from University of Tennessee campus store. This story is great on several levels. The satire is excellent. Censorship is not only blatant but obvious.

The Tennessee state representative had no compunction in exercising state political power to cause the censorship. Not surprising - the representative is an all too sensitive Democrat.

Also compare this story with the Daily Show's satirical praise of British parliament.

The British - how civilized - or not: UK's secret policy on torture

"The interrogation policy – details of which are believed to be too sensitive to be publicly released at the government inquiry into the UK's role in torture and rendition – instructed senior intelligence officers to weigh the importance of the information being sought against the amount of pain they expected a prisoner to suffer. It was operated by the British government for almost a decade." [UK's secret policy on torture revealed].

Fare dodging in Germany

Using Facebook and Twitter transit riders help others avoid fare inspectors. [Fare dodgers turn to Facebook and Twitter to avoid ticket checks.]

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Red Robe tea shop Old Town - a Non Sequitur

The Oregonian article was mostly about the tea shop, but there was more to it even though unintentional. A tea shop one block from the one in Lu San Chinese Garden? Louis Lee: "We're trying to find the formula for success in Chinatown." He might well want to rethink that a few more times.

A another tea shop in a true Chinatown like that in San Francisco might well make sense. This shop is in Old Town that is located in neighborhood misnamed as Old Town/Chinatown. A Chinatown Gate doesn't a Chinatown make. There is next to zero Chinese living in Old Town or even working in Old Town. Chinese businesses have long vacated Old Town.

It is interesting that the tea shop owners had a restaurant on the edge of Old Town that they sold and went to work for someone else to make money for their children's college education. Is the tea shop a retirement endeavor?

The absence of Chinese or Asians in Old Town casts doubt on the value of the tea shop as a community center for Cantonese speaking Chinese or others, and it casts doubt on Mr. Lee's grasp of development issues in Old Town and efforts to make Old Town livable and safe.

If Mr. Lee's efforts is directed to making Old Town a Chinese community then he hasn't thought it through. Neighborhood vision and development planning documents looks to an inclusive community. Moreover, that Chinese neighborhood concept has been tried before without success. E.g., Pacific Tower was originally to be for Chinese occupants but attracted no takers.

Nor is it clear that PDC should be using pubic dollars for this endeavor.

Facebook facial recognition - Germany calls it illegal

Facebook uses facial recognition technology to pick out your "friends" from an uploaded picture. Germany makes this point: "Although users can opt out of the service, this only prevents Facebook from identifying them in photos automatically - it does not stop the service from gathering data from photos."

I am amazed at how easy it is to get people to give up their privacy and put their trust in corporations to protect and not misuse - intentionally or not - their data. Citizens and residents continue to make it easy to collect data - they do it themselves. Big brother is only a key stroke away.