Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Pioneer District naming - exemplifies Portland's committee process

Seemingly much like most nebulous Portland committees it took 6 months or "meeting to rethink ways to define more sharply that core [downtown] area" to come up with the name Pioneer District. [Oregonian]. Wow - talk about creative thinking - "Pioneer District" that centers around the Pioneer Square, Pioneer Mall and Pioneer Federal Courthouse.

Rather than spending time to define the area - how about solutions that improve the area so that consumers will be "incentivized" to go downtown to shop?

What is there to debate?

Politics - Randy Leonard style - pushing to have a 'buddy' fill a space on the public safety fund. Odd name since it has nothing to do with public safety. The slot is "a citizen vacancy on the five-member Portland Fire and Police Disability and Retirement Fund." [Oregonian].

It is not necessarily bad to try to have a friend and/or supporter as a member - but couldn't he at least picked someone with qualifications? Mr. Leonard's pick is a former one-term legislator and somewhat recent attorney - 18 months. The attorney factor seems to rate well with Mr. Leonard. I wonder if he would feel that myself or say blogger Bojack should be on his list of appointees?

Mr. Saltzman is arguably pushing a friend and/or supporter for the position, but she is qualified. "manager of Health & Benefits Actuarial Unit at Bickmore Risk Services. She previously worked as a consulting actuary at Howard Johnson & Company."

Between the two - the choice ought to be obvious.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The Poorest and Richest Counties

The Poorest and Richest Counties - NYTimes.com: "The interactive map above shows poverty rates for all adults, for children only and for school-age children (ages 5 to 17), as well as median incomes. "

The game changer in the Middle East?

Al Jazeera: Millions vote in landmark Egypt elections. While there are complaints about the process - so far it has been peaceful and a good turnout. Are we witnessing a new democracy - or will it become a straw man for the military that is uncomfortable, to say the least, in turning any of its power over to civilian rule?

I am betting on a democracy but needing a few years of a shake out where the balance of power shifts to civilian rule. Its success will offer other volatile countries a viable path to their own brand of democracy. Libya is the country to watch - Syria too.

"Secret Fed Loans Helped Banks Net $13B"

It is an interesting story on many levels. One certainly is that this comes from Bloomberg and not the New York Times. And the Bloomberg article exposes the relative ease by which the Federal Reserve operates without transparency or accountability.

Bloomberg had to sue to obtain the information. It took two years. And secrecy was the word. E.g., "Judd Gregg, a former New Hampshire senator who was a lead Republican negotiator on TARP, and Barney Frank, a Massachusetts Democrat who chaired the House Financial Services Committee, both say they were kept in the dark."

The article has a great rollover chart designating who obtained the money and how much. While the story is that the banks netted $13 billion - there was $7.7 trillion used to bailout the industry.
"Add up guarantees and lending limits, and the Fed had committed $7.77 trillion as of March 2009 to rescuing the financial system, more than half the value of everything produced in the U.S. that year."
And we are for the ride - not even in the back seat, but in that bicycle trailer being towed along without any protection.

China to invest in West's infrastructure?

China 'keen' to invest in West's infrastructure | kgw.com Portland: "China's sovereign wealth fund wants to invest in improving neglected U.S. and European roads and other infrastructure to spur global growth, the fund's chairman said in comments published Monday."

Aren't we fast becoming a second rate nation - second to China and Russia? Damn those communists.

TriMet's $370,600 solar-power project

There is no valid reason or rationale for a transit system to subsidize industry whether it is a "green" industry or not. This from the Oregonian: TriMet's $370,600 solar-power project for MAX at Portland State University will save only $3,680 a year. Worse yet - ". . . it would take about 65 years – at current rates – to pay off the 52-mile MAX system's first experiment with solar power."

Too many government agencies like PDC, TriMet and Metro have access to taxpayer dollars without any effective oversight.

Battlefield USA

Two rather scary articles from Russia Today continues to cast doubts about the path the United States is on as a nation.

Rand Paul vs Battlefield USA: "A provision to the National Defense Authorization Act going before the Senate today would turn America into a“battlefield,” says supporter Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina.), and would allow the president of the United States the power to detain citizens domestically without trial, allowing the US military to act as law enforcement over their own civilians." Rand Paul wants to strike that provision.

Drones cleared for domestic use across the US: "Foreign policy aside, politicians have shown support for bringing drones to America. Now that the FAA has given it the go ahead, it is only a matter of time before the robotic whizzing of robotic crafts being a regular occurrence."

Ever since 9-11 the nation has taken a decidedly right turn using terrorism as the justification to "militarize" law enforcement in the country. The lessons and technology coming from our involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan are being adapted by local law enforcement agencies with the aid of federal monies. The JTTF is just one example of the blurring of national and local law enforcement.

Explosion in Northwest Portland apartment - a story missed

The Oregonian continues to display its talent for lackadaisical reporting in the recent story on an explosion in an Old Town apartment building. The author failed to identify the apartment building - a Google search was too hard. The author failed to explore the reason for the explosion - it is an all electric building.

Maybe it was the fact that it happened in Old Town that the Oregonian failed to add any value content to what must have been a press release by the fire department. The blog orientation of the Oregonian depreciates its journalistic value to that of a third-rate newspaper.

Update from another Oregonian blogger: Northwest Portland explosion has fire officials stumped. It seems that Pinocchio's nose is growing. The apartment dweller was "cooking tofu and had rinsed out the pan with water when there was explosion. The blast was so powerful that it blew a 4 by 6 window out of the building and onto the street." Straight out of Ripley's Believe or Not?

Update again from a different Oregonian blogger. Tofu explosion caused by sudden dousing of grease fire with water. While still linking tofu to the cause of the explosion the post is better written and adds this bit of information - the window that was blown out wasn't install properly.

Sorry - I still don't buy it. I have lived in those apartment and they are not that airtight. Nor have they explained the 'explosion' part of the story. Oh well.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Class sizes swell across the metro area - really?

Something is wrong with the Oregonian story Students lose individual attention as class sizes swell across the metro area. While I did not do a proper statistical analysis - spot checking schools in the Oregonian's schools database and that of Great Schools (.org) - it doesn't ring true.

Granted I did not check each class because neither of those two sources provide data per class. But it seems that the ratio of students to full time teachers is at most 20:1  Something is not right in River city. It seems that the Oregonian was mislead (to be kind).

Complaints about class size is the old and worn out attempt to shift accountability. Gee - if we just had smaller class sizes our children would be well-educated.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

SWAT justice in Tucson?

See this story from Tuscon Arizona: SWAT team's shooting of Marine causes outrage. Best yet see this video. It does a good job of telling as much of the whole story as possible at the time. It does raise questions of just how much firepower does it take to execute search warrants. And would it be best that they be executed in manner least likely to harm either the police or those subject to the warrant.

In this case it a wonder how the wife and child wasn't also killed with 71 shots fired by the police through the front doorway in 7 secs. The police apparently knew that the husband and wife lived there - surely they must have known there was a child.

Citizens and residents in America are being subject to armed invasions that one might expect in Iraq or Afghanistan. I am not necessarily faulting the individual police - they are fueled and directed by department policy and training. But the shoot first ask questions later mentality is wrong and cannot be justified.

Questioning the justice of the criminal justice system

The New York Times, Magazine section, has an excellent thoughtful story, and video, on the successful New York prosecution of one excluded by DNA. It is the confession that carried the day - despite exclusion of the defendant because of the DNA - semen analysis. A girl was raped as part of a brutal murder - but the prosecution argues that the girl had sex with some else separate from and prior to the crime  This is a 11 year girl that was raped and murdered.

But it is the confession and how it was obtained that is the issue. Thus even though the defendant was not the rapist, he is still guilty of the murder because of the confession. Arguably the police did everything but waterboard the defendant. There is no scientific evidence supporting his confession or presence at the scene. But there were fingerprints and semen of someone else.

It is a chilling story that raises substantial issues as to whether justice can be served when confessions are obtained in this manner.

PERS - bigger question(s) than the Bellotti pension

The Oregonian has decent article on PERS benefit payments that raises bigger questions, but the main question is one that blogger Bojack has been raising re Portland for quite some time - how are these (generous to a few) benefits to be paid? It is $12.8 billion owed to some 346,000 retirees and employees.

The article makes a good attempt of trying to explain how we got here from there, but it underplays the politics fueled by the money and other influence that a union like the public employees union can bring to bear on those whose only goal seems to be re-election. It also misses the inequities in the pay system - can coach Bellotti be worth $496,100 per year in retirement pay while not retired?

There has been a certain myth that public employees are worth their counterparts in the private sector, and apparently worth more when it comes to retirement benefits. PERS covered employees contribute 6% to their pension fund. While "the average PERS retiree receives the [...] modest sum of $32,000 a year," "a majority of career state and local government employees continue to retire earning as much as they did while they were working."

Public sector is the union's gold mine especially in those states that one can reasonably designate as liberal - Oregon and California come to mind. But it seems that politicians have historically bent over to please the public sector unions leaving the taxpayers to foot the bill. 

But now these politicians have to not only find the money to pay out these pensions, but also find ways to make the pension amounts real-world rational. They also need to find ways to make public sector jobs more merit based. They need to fund the payments without burdening future generations.

This is about more than PERS - it is about the retirement benefits of all public employees. PERS at least is partially funded whereas the Portland fire and police employees are not. Take a peek at the left hand column on the Bojack blog - $3,209, 630,752 in unfunded pension and retiree healthcare..

The fact that taxpayers are on the hook doesn't mean that the same principles found in the private sector are to be ignored. Surely present payments can't be based upon the availability of future generations - can it?

Saturday, November 26, 2011

The pope just doesn't get it - or maybe he does.

The Catholic Church has done and continues to do its best to deflect blame and criticism of child sex abuse by its priests. Apparently tagging the Penn State case as an example that other institutions are guilty too.

Yahoo! News/Associated Press: "Pope Benedict XVI insisted on Saturday that all of society's institutions and not just the Catholic churchmust be held to "exacting" standards in their response to sex abuse of children, and defended the church's efforts to confront the problem."

According to the article, the pope "seemed to be reflecting some churchmen's contentions that the church has wrongly been singled out as villains for the abuse, a view that angered victims' advocates."

An apt response: "It takes hubris for Pope Benedict to tell his bishops that the Catholic Church has led in the fight against sexual abuse of children," said Kristine Ward, chair of the National Survivor Advocates Coalition. "Issuing self-satisfied pats on the back while children remain in danger only further diminishes the church's credibility and deepens the laryngitis in its moral voice."

Catholic Church and moral leadership - contradiction in terms.

Some just don't deserve freedom from jail

At the top of my list is Kevin Roper who forfeited his life of freedom when he and another premeditated the murder of his "friend" for $40. Why? Because he was broke. And what did he do with the $40? Dined at MacDonald.

The case was before the Oregon Parole Board. There is nothing in the story from which anyone could conclude that this person will be any different today or tomorrow than he was when he committed the murder.

I am amused by the claim of being a "model prisoner," etc. In prison, one has little choice to be anything else.

There is no indication that he was drunk or otherwise impaired by drugs. He needed money that day - payday was the next day - and he determined to kill for it. He planned and carried out the murder with plenty of opportunities for a change in plans. There is no, nor was any offered, justification for his actions.

It was Roper that beat the victim: "I swung [the hatchet] with everything I thought I had," Roper said, striking Gibbs with the blunt end, dropping him to his knees." His victim - his friend: "Take my money. I won't tell anyone." Roper did - and swung the hatchet again - but the friend just wouldn't die. Telling him that they would get help - but they dragged the victim-friend "to a speaker pole and wrapped the speaker cord around his neck." For at least 4 minutes they strangled him: "We kept pulling until he stopped moving."

There was nothing in the Oregonian's article that indicated that this brutal killer is remorseful. Nor is there the slightest hint that this killer will not kill again. It is doubtful that anger management classes has modified his behavior nor changed his inherent disposition to take the lives of others to benefit himself even for the trivial sum of $40.

I am amused - no make that astonished - that, as in the comments, one can make a justification for release based upon costs of imprisonment. It is a societal cost well worth the expense given the circumstances.

He is the perfect candidate for execution. There is no doubt about his guilt - he doesn't claim otherwise. It was a premeditated murder not arising out of any passion. No maintenance of innocence. No undiscovered DNA pointing to another.

Fortunately his bid for freedom was delayed for two years - it should be forever. But unfortunately the family and friends of the victim will have to relive their terrible loss again when the case comes up before the board again.

Can't get no respect

Pope sued for not wearing seat belt

Hungary's debt downgraded by Moody's to junk status

Credit to Rodney Dangerfield. These two headlines just reminded me of his comedic phrase.

Friday, November 25, 2011

A social evolution?

The supporters of the Occupy leftist - anarchists' stretch to find justification. The liberals are tripping all over themselves to be seen in support of the occupation without actually having to support it. In the Oregonian, a guest opinion suggests that "The Occupy movement is [a] social evolution."

It is suggested that the fact there is "no clear statement or specific demands" demonstrates its complexity, and therefore, its strength. Of course, it is only the chosen ones that will understand this complexity and strength. "The Occupy movement will inevitably be incoherent to anyone trying to assess it within our traditional political paradigm."

They are eschewing the extant political structure as providing solutions. And they see success in ":the shutting down of public spaces" to hold their "complex conversations." According to the guest opinion: "We are not so much in the midst of a social or political revolution as we are in the midst of social and political evolution."

I guess that is one perspective. But, it seems that this is extreme left politics where the leaders and supporters see themselves as today's Lenin and Trotsky trying to adhere to Marxist philosophy as if it were revolutionary dogma.

Well good luck to them. I look forward to the time when they can have "complex conversations" that the rest of us can understand without shutting down public parks. Right now they seem no more than disgruntled individuals seeking a cause to justify their feigned alienation. 

Come drink the Kool aid? No thanks!

A reminder that we need rigorous federal drug regulations and enforcement

50 years after the deformity-causing drug thalidomide was banned in Germany protests there are centered on compensation and recognition of the suffering resulting from the use of  a drug “as harmless as a boiled sweet.” [Thalidomide victims protest 50 years on.]:

Fortunately, in the US the FDA did not permit the drug to be marketed, but apparently some of the drug was distributed to physicians. There is a recent lawsuit that seeks damages from 4 companies arising from this distribution and clinical trials involving the drug. [US lawsuit extends thalidomide's reach.]

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Leaked climate science emails

Climate skeptics like me start to smile when stories are written about climatologists are "exposed" for their bias. But it remains important that one searches for the balanced stories in the news. Case in point is the media reports about the release, again, of emails that without a closer look mischaracterizes, i.e., takes out of content, the authors' positions.

The Guardian's "The leaked climate science emails – and what they mean" does an excellent job of putting the issue in the proper perspective. The basic climate warming is not debunked, or whatever, but we see the fallibility of science - it is a human process with accompanying biases.

The emails reflect part of the scientific process (method if you will) of getting to the truth. While science is not a unanimous decision making process, it is a most democratic process whereby ideas are discussed and challenged to best serve the institution and the public. 

Isn't it this scientific process that is missing in politics.

At least you are working

It is a comment that I find myself making when employees start to whine about having to work especially on a holiday. I know that the complaints are usually not real, that is, many people actually appreciate the fact they have jobs even if they are low end service type of jobs.

But still it is an odd statement - "at least you are working." I have done a lot of shit jobs but they were all just temporary until I got that better job. That happened for me - the better jobs. I was never without a job, although there were times I worried.

I never felt that a job was my right by the way of citizenship, but I do believe that the opportunity for employment is a right and that it is government's duty to create the environment that produces the opportunity to be productive.

But today - opportunities to be employed productively is slipping away to become a thing of the past. To have any job whether or not it offers productive employment is primary. We are back to basic needs - providing basic needs for oneself and family. It is one day at a time employment.

It is not about income inequality - it is opportunity inequality. More than that it is the lack of political leadership.

The WSJ extolling the virtues of President Carter - Hmm.

If Only Obama Had Been This Guy is an interesting read. Of course it is an anti-Obama piece, but it is odd, maybe even creative, to bash Obama by comparing him to Carter and in the process giving Carter credit for the Reagan economic successes: 
"He [Carter] never got credit from the political calendar, but the Reagan economy was truly built on a Carter-Reagan foundation."

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

Ron Paul sage

The Republican debates have isolated Ron Paul as the sage in Republican politics - who would have thought? While he is someone that I would ordinarily never think twice about voting for - but if I were a Republican he would be at the top of my list. He is consistent and articulate in his anti-war and protection of civil liberty views.

And the debates continue to expose the buffoons. E.g., Rick Santorum exposes his ignorance (I am being kind) by not being aware that Africa is a continent and not a country. This is a person who wants to be president and he has little knowledge of the world's geography.

And Russia Today is quick to point out that "Santorum isn’t the only candidate to err on Africa as of late. Last week Herman Cain insisted that the Taliban has a strong foothold in the new Libyan government, and at a debate earlier this year, Michele Bachmann goofed that she didn’t even know that Libya was in Africa."

Asking too much?

In a recent article about the UC Davis pepper spray incident had this quote from David Klinger, who teaches criminology at the University of Missouri-St. Louis:
"You have to look through the eyes of a reasonable officer at the scene, and not with 20/20 hindsight."
See another perspective on the spraying: John Hawkins: The UC Davis Police Were Right to Pepper Spray the Occupy Protesters.

Thanks to the occupiers - at least the police will have a great xmas

Portland police say overtime costs for Occupy Portland now top $1.29 million.

Occupy protests cost nation's cities at least $13 million.

Whose money? Our money. Surely there is a better way to spend tax revenue - basically property taxes?

Is this the solution to overtime costs in Portland?
"Reese [police chief] announced Saturday that future police presence at Occupy Portland events will be reduced. Beginning Saturday, officers will ask protesters if they want a police escort. If they don't, they'll be asked to self-police and officers will only respond if there are complaints."
Maybe this is a new police approach to lawlessness. Maybe we can get the gangs, drug dealers, pimps, and the like to self-police, but maybe that is what is happening anyway.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

TriMet hasn't a clue how to be transparent and accountable

The TriMet accident where the train hit the track bumper apparently without anyone at the controls. We are unlikely, unless the media hounds them, to find out how the train could be "not in control" of the train engineer. If not in the control of the engineer - then who was in control? And why wasn't this engineer fired rather than disciplined?

TriMet has done its best to keep the event from the public and when forced to face the incident it obscures with double talk. TriMet: We spend your money - don't dare ask for transparency and accountability.

Isn't the spending of public dollars important? Shouldn't public agencies be held to strict accountability and straight forward transparency?

$41,000 a month retirement pay

Despite the efforts of the Oregon retired pubic employees to block the release of names and amounts - we see the top 10 in the Oregonian. It is Mike Bellotti that is grabbing the top dollars. While I don't fault Mr. Bellotti - it is hard to believe that he is worth that monthly sum. But, he negotiated that with the school which gladly gave away the public's money.

Are sports off the table when talking about income inequality?

JFK's assassination - the Umbrella Man

Having been around at the time John F. Kennedy was assassinated - I have never been able to wrap my head around the fact that one person could have killed him in the manner by which he died. An interesting story/video though is found on the New York Times' Opinion page - The Umbrella Man. I will leave it to you to make what you will out of it.

From my perspective - President Kennedy offered true hope for change. Tragically he would never have the opportunity to convert that hope into change. Odd too that there is little remembrance of that tragic day in Texas.

The world situation seemed far worse then. If there is anything positive about the times we live in is that a president, a United States Senator, or prominent political leader have not been assassinated because of what they represent. Being "liberal" was hazardous. Nor are people lynched because of the color of their skin. Nor is nuclear annihilation the fear. Too bad though that I can't isolate the Vietnam War given the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars.

But sometimes the troubles of today do not seem very important. The 60s were heady times.

Feng shui? What's next - witches spells and potions?

Who would of thunk - a feng shui master hired as a consultant to redevelopment project?
Quartz crystals were placed in the building at designated areas, and Stark [the master] worked with Ankrom Moisan [developer] to orient the treatment rooms in a way that will maximize their healing potential, according to the ancient design philosophy.
It is Old Town - what many call Chinatown even though there is no basis for such a designation. It is about the redevelopment of the Globe Hotel for the tenant  Oregon College of Oriental Medicine. Thus, it is not necessarily surprising that this would occur. And, of course as long as it isn't costing the public a dime - so what? And therein lies the rub.

But really!

'Urban subdivision' anti-diversity

It is amazing and amusing how diversity in all things is preached in Portland yet conformity seems to be a virtue. A major element in conformity comes from condos and homes where the homeowner associations dictate your use of your property that you will be paying for 30 years or more. Now see this from the Oregonian where the developer sees his subdivision as being for a special homeowner.
"It got me thinking," Desbrow said. "Wouldn't it be cool to have a new house and live in a community of people who are interested and have a similar vision for parenting and living?"
Oh yes - that would be cool.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Backfilling the agenda

There was no apparent agenda when the Occupy Wall Street began. If it had started anywhere but Wall Street - it would not have lasted a day. It had no expressed agenda. What did they want? Early on it was even called leaderless - obviously that was wrong. But, the fact that it was against Wall Street gave it a handle for the media. It was a no-brainer to link a protest against Wall Street to a protest against the rich - whoever they are. Bad Wall Street bad rich people.

Basically what most of the media has done is to backfill the agenda - giving substance to an otherwise unfocused protest. At first it was a discussion place with an open forum. Now at best, it has become nothing more than a place for malcontents to gather.

Much of the backfilling has come from liberal commentators like Nicholas Kristof. He posits that the agenda is to put on the national agenda economic inequality. This is an agenda that Kristof apparently supports. He and others like him have hijacked the Occupy movement to promote their "populist" agenda.

One suspects that Mr. Kristof is in the 1% - certainly the 10%. And one shouldn't expect that any time soon he will be giving up any of that income. But, it sounds so 60's rebellious to support the 99%. It has a nice ring that seeks to invigorate the masses. It has failed - but whatever the Wall Street version of the movement stands for - in cities like Oakland and Portland it isn't about income inequality.

The leaders of these two groups are more interested in the mechanics of how to disrupt the city rather than how to equalize economic disparities. Income equality - while not as great as it is today - has been a long time attribute of the American economic system. It is inherent in our system for one to aspire to be in the 1% or at least in the 10%.

Marxist leaning (and I say that in a good way) professors have long pointed out to their students the basic inequality in the capitalist system. But students have a way of putting economic aspiration over social concepts like income equality.

There is much wrong with the economic systems that dominate in the Western world, but income inequality is only an effect, a symptom if you will, of the extant economic ills. Reality check - if the employment rate was down to 6% there would be little angst about income inequality. The media would be chastising the park campers.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Free Speech, Protesting and Your Rights

An excellent scholarly exposition is found in this Find Law article: Information: Free Speech, Protesting and Your Rights. I am excerpting three quotes that make the necessary point that free speech is not necessarily free.
Members of the public are generally free to express themselves in traditional and designated public forums, but the government can subject their speech to what are known as "time, place and manner" restrictions that regulate the when, where and how of a speaker's message. These restrictions must be applied evenly, and must ignore the content of each particular expression.
Owners of private property generally have no responsibility to allow demonstrators or pamphleteers onto their property to communicate their messages since the U.S. Constitution applies to the government, not private actors.
The government can also stop expressive behavior that violates public safety laws, such as street sidewalk blockages, sit-ins and human barricades. While these tactics might constitute an effective form of protest, the police can break them up without violating the demonstrators' right to free expression.

Look it isn't too difficult to apply these principles to the various Occupy protests. The bottom line they are for the most part illegal and cities like Portland have not applied its laws and regulations evenly.

Police confront Occupy protesters

Police confront Occupy protesters: "We will continue to be vigilant and ensure that public safety remains our first priority and that our downtown businesses are protected from vandalism. We will not tolerate lodging on public property, whether in parks or open space; it is illegal."

Notice that the news story headline could, or should, have been written as "Police enforce the laws." It is all in the perspective. These protesters are not righteous individuals seeking redress from its government. These are individuals seeking to provoke violence. Take a peek at any of the videos showing the police and demonstrators - it is pure provocation for the point of provoking violent reaction from the police. Not one of us would take that abuse - why should police?

Trafficking in food stamps

People will do anything to cheat the government and others so that they can "better" themselves. It is a story that repeats every year, but the government is getting better at detecting the fraud. 

The scam. Retailers exchange the food stamps for cash and unapproved merchandise at less value and pocket the difference. What kind of merchandise? "Cigarettes, phone cards and gasoline – at a 100 percent markup." [Mlive.com{Michigan}] The KGW article notes that this can net "them huge profits and diverting as much as $330 million in taxpayer funds annually a year." .

I guess I was surprised at the size of the food stamp program - $64.7 billion. While it seems that a small percentage of stores were involved in the theft, I was surprised too of the size of the individualized "thefts." E.g., in four years a "small convenience store in Wyoming, Mich. trafficked about $400,000 in benefits for food stamps and Women, Infants and Children benefits.

Interesting is that the same store collaborated with another retailer to transfer "more than $300,000 illegally to the Middle East and Africa through an unlicensed money system." Can you say funding terrorism? The article didn't, but it isn't too difficult to make that leap.

It is a KGW published story that wasn't written by KGW and wrongfully omitted proper attribution. Nor did the story have any local value added content. In May 2011, Oregon was #2 in the top ten states with highest percentage of population using food stamps. Surely, there are local stores that have been caught up in the scams. If so - it is news. If not, it is better news.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Amen! Congress is to kill high-speed train

"[T]he future of high-speed rail in the U.S. is in the Northeast rail corridor, which connects Boston, New York, Philadelphia and Washington, rather than the national network of trains envisioned by Obama. [KGW] Sounds reasonable.

But that will not keep the administration from spending the money in the pipeline on the program rather than use that money elsewhere. "Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said Wednesday that he expects more than $1 billion in high-speed rail construction-related activity across the country next year."

Train to nowhere?

Look - whether one agrees with congressional action - isn't it irresponsible and stupid (for the lack of a better word) to continue to spend that money?

Grand jury beanbag indictment

Maxine Bernstein, who I perceive as anti-cop, has the most informative and journalistic article on the grand jury's indictment of the Portland police officer "on third-degree assault and fourth-degree assault after he mistakenly loaded a beanbag shotgun with lethal shotgun rounds and seriously wounded a man in Southwest Portland on June 30." 

It is difficult to understand this indictment based upon an obvious mistake. It is not clear either that it was due to anything other than ordinary negligence - if that. There is room for a supposition that police department procedure set the stage of this incident - it was only a matter of time before the wrong ammunition was used. It may be in the way the story is told though.

According to Bernstein: "Jurors found [officer] Reister's mistake constituted third-degree assault, a felony, ruling Reister "recklessly" caused serious physical injury by means of a dangerous weapon or with "extreme indifference" to the value of human life. Fourth-degree assault, a misdemeanor, required a finding that Reister acted with "gross deviation'' from a reasonable person's standard of care."

Sorry - I don't see "recklessy," "extreme indifference," or "gross deviation." The full facts have not yet been set forth - see my post "mistake in loading. Also see a Bernstein article on the police department's new safeguard for beanbag deployment.

I don't if this statute is the one the district attorney relied upon, even in part, but did this officer's conduct fall within this definition? Remember we are talking about criminal negligence in this case which calls for a higher standard of proof. And remember too that the grand jury is not a "jury" in the ordinary sense - they make no determination of fault or guilt.

However, there is a part of the story that is bothersome. The beanbag was deployed when the officer decided "he needed to stop Monroe to prevent him from getting away and threatening other residents." Thus I am wondering whether the firing of a beanbag weapon was according to police procedure?

The officer was responding to "a 9-1-1 call about an armed man threatening children at Lair Hill Park. A second caller said the man left the park, had a pocket knife concealed in his sleeve and was acting in a "peculiar manner.""

But the circumstances surrounding this case is still not clear. And one wonders too just how much, if any, the federal peeking into use of force incidents had on the district attorney's approach? Thus, is this a case worthy of criminal prosecution?

News really fit to print - neutrinos faster than speed of light, again

"The team which found that neutrinos may travel faster than light has carried out an improved version of their experiment - and confirmed the result." [Neutrino experiment repeat at Cern finds same result:,]

But it is one those news stories that seemed to have been lost among the stories about Penn State, Republican buffoons, and Occupy some city. This story I picked up from BBC, but more and more I find that the real news stories come from foreign sources.

It is difficult to believe that there is hardly anything more momentous than the apparent discovery that the speed of light may not be limiting. "The idea that nothing can exceed the speed of light in a vacuum forms a cornerstone in physics - first laid out by James Clerk Maxwell and later incorporated into Albert Einstein's theory of special relativity." 

 It is still an apparent discovery because the experiment hasn't been subject to peer review in the scientific community. But a repeat gives the conclusion substance. Science fiction is not.

Republican jesters

Herman Cain suggests Taliban are playing a role in Libyan government.

Newt: Fire the Janitors, Hire Kids to Clean Schools - Newt Gingrich.

I want so much to have a Republican alternative to Obama at the next election. The Democrats will not be presenting anyone other than Obama. And so far neither will the Republicans.

The Republican cast thus far has consisted of truly ignorant people who would find themselves at home on Jay Leno's Jaywalking. While Romney seems to have avoided appearing like a buffoon - he isn't consistent on nearly any point of significance. However, he has mastered the politician's ability to be for whatever you are for without taking a position.

But to be fair, Republicans Jon Huntsman and Ron Paul seem to be the odd couple. While very different in political philosophy - both are intelligent, articulate and consistent. One suspects that an very interesting and intriguing debate could be had between the two.

However, given the buffoonery of the others- they will never get any part of the spotlight due them.  

Occupy Portland a political movement? Really?

Sorry - I don't see that. It has never had any goals other than a get together to "protest" whatever moved them. In fact, it was the news media that filled in the rationale for gathering. The Willamette Week: "The Occupy movement set out to bring attention to poverty, homelessness, big banks, Wall Street and other social ills that pitted the rich against the rest of us."

Oh please! I don't recall any solidarity by Occupy Portland arguing against these issues or the presentation of ideas for resolution. And that last bit in the above quote -  "social ills that pitted the rich against the rest of us" is rather disingenuous.

I doubt there is anyone in the Occupy group or anyone of us that wouldn't trade places with the "rich." It is not hard to be against poverty, homelessness, big banks, and Wall Street - but what in the Occupy protests offers any resolution to any of these issues?

If they are seeking a revolution - good luck. Oddly enough this country that began with a revolution has no sympathy or empathy for revolutionaries. But what are they seeking? Change? Okay - that is good. But what change? Do they want to break up the big banks? I could go for that. Regulate Wall Street? I could go for that. Eliminate poverty and homelessness? Sure. How?

Although particularly germane to Occupy Portland - it seems that all of the Occupy groups suffered similarly. "[T]he Occupy Portland leadership became mired in process and debate while the camp became a haven for the homeless, drug addicts and violent street kids. The leaders never found their public voice, nor a direction in which to take their cause."

Occupy Portland is much like the relative that no one really likes, he talks a lot but never positive. He is tolerated, after all he will only stay a few days. He is not that clean and seeks to do little other than party. But the few days turns into weeks. He doesn't pitch in to help but wants the household run his way.

At first - one tries to be nice, after all he is family and seem to be financially  troubled. It wouldn't be compassionate to turn them out - would it?. Then as the days go on - compassion turns to distrust and disgust. Why aren't they moving out? The extra costs to "care" for them has become a real burden.

Well some day the welcome mat is finally worn out - tough love says they have to go. They have to get their shit together and become responsible adults. Eviction becomes the only alternative.

Nor can one be just against. Look - a protest march can make a point and get people thinking - that is good. An occupation of parks for weeks and the attempted shut down of transit system and banks is anarchy - that is not good.

Occupy Portland, in particular, has offered nothing - they are against everything and not for anything. Finally, it seems that the welcome mat has been picked up and there is no longer a key to the front door. That is good and a long time coming.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Portland sustainability - "message the upstream impacts of our consumption." Huh?

This Oregonian article came by the way of Bojack. It is a product of Beth Slovic who at times seems to be the only reporter at the Oregonian. Her work is always good even excellent. Anyway - it is unlikely that we would have come to know about this survey in an Oregonian without Slovic.

Her story Portland tests sustainability messages with new poll: Portland City Hall roundup depicts the wasteful (my characterization) spending by the city on a "sustainability" poll. Take a peek at the questions asked by the poll - interestingly enough it could be a poll designed to test the economic decline.

"[T]he telephone survey asked respondents whether they:
  1. Rented out a room in their house.
  2. Took items to the repair shop instead of buying replacements.
  3. Used cloth napkins.
  4. Borrowed or shared tools rather than buying new.
  5. Shopped at second-hand stores."
Isn't it rather odd how "sustainability" is similar to principles of living better if poor? This poll came at a cost of $40,000.

Best interest of taxpayers?

Energy secretary says he made [all] decisions on Solyndra loans "with the best interests of the taxpayer in mind." It seems he had only one "taxypayer" in mind - Solyndra. It is pure politics that one loves to hate. See this from the Washington Post: Solyndra: Energy Dept. pushed firm to keep layoffs quiet until after midterms.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Leadership or the absence thereof

Thomas Friedman often has a difficult time in his articles in getting to the point according to the tried and true method of "the shortest distance between two points is a straight line." His point that is seemingly unobjected to by anyone is that leadership is lacking in this country and as well elsewhere in the world.

In his New York Times article, he doesn't seem to appreciate though the benefits of people empowered. One can surmise that he would rather it not be so. But it is his last paragraph that could have been the entire piece.
"Yes, it’s true that in the hyperconnected world [...] the people are more empowered and a lot more innovation and ideas will come from the bottom up, not just the top down. That’s a good thing — in theory. But at the end of the day — whether you are a president, senator, mayor or on the steering committee of your local Occupy Wall Street — someone needs to meld those ideas into a vision of how to move forward, sculpt them into policies that can make a difference in peoples’ lives and then build a majority to deliver on them." 

Pipelines at risk of failure. What if there were no regulators?

"Federal safety regulators disclosed problems Tuesday with oil and other hazardous liquid pipelines at seven major river crossings and hundreds of smaller crossings in Montana and northern Wyoming." [KGW]. One thing is for sure - the companies will not do it.

99% v 1% or is it 99.99% v .01%?

An excellent animation explaining the issue and an accompanying article with appropriate data comes from The Guardian. Did you know that are 3.1 million millionaires and 400 billionaires in the US? Or that the income of the top three billionaires would cover the shortfalls of all the combined state governments?

Sometimes one just has to look around a lot to find the necessarily explanations. One thing seems clear - while everyone seems to have taken a hit on incomes - the less rich have taken the biggest hit.

Toilet Troubles at sea - where are the Porta Pottys?

Chron.com
The story is about a giant modern Naval aircraft carrier that is deployed without consistent working toilets. Now that isn't so bad when all one has to do is urinate - showers work - but otherwise . . . .

But consider this is not about just one or two toilets not working - because of a vacuum system method of flushing - whole sections of the ship is affected. Consider too that we are taking about 5,600 sailors when the air squadrons are on board.

If your toilet in the apartment or home isn't working - a neighbor or neighborhood restaurant or bar might be readily convenient - not so on board a ship. The story isn't clear but it seems that it is the sailors from the air squadrons that are suffering the loss of the toilets.

Now that is significant because typically those airdales are separated from the ship's company. Thus - it is unlikely that an airman's request to use the toilet of the ships' company will be easily granted. In fact the story relates the installation of coded locks on some of the ship company's bathrooms.

Odd though is that the Navy essentially blames the sailors: "The sailors blame the ship’s vacuum system. But the Navy is blaming sailors for flushing “inappropriate material” down the toilets." Frankly having spent quite some time aboard an aircraft carrier at sea - I can't think of what inappropriate items a sailor might flush.

Imagine - a $6.2 billion ship without working toilets. Talk about a weak link.

Portland restaurants serving Thanksgiving

There is a growing number of people who like the idea that restaurants stay open on days like Thanksgiving and Xmas. Doing the cooking usually connected to those dinners is substantial. It was mostly a family meal, but not so much anymore as less and less families are connected. Doing it for yourself or even a few is not worth the effort. And even if doing it for a few, someone becomes the designated cook. And like being the designated driver - the cook doesn't get to participate in the 'fun.'

Go out on Thanksgiving and Xmas. For an excellent list of restaurants open this Thanksgiving - check out the Oregonian. It includes a listing of those who are making the preparations to go. Well done by Michael Russell - Oregonian's restaurant reporter and critic.  

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Carbon trading - success is in the eye of the proponents

This "green" story depicts "success" in future benefits based upon indemonstrable present benefits. It is based upon a study that seem in contradiction to the apparent conclusion to many of those states involved in the East coast Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative "with New Jersey planning to drop out and other states considering doing the same."

Arguably, the study "positive" effect is similar to that of those who push urban redevelopment listing all of the benefits sure to come. But even assuming that there are or were some economic benefits - that is not what carbon trading was hyped to accomplished - lessen the carbon dioxide production. This study does not demonstrate that as an accomplishment.

Read the study - it is pure fantasy in the tracing of dollars to create jobs and increase in goods and services as well as lessening of carbon dioxide emissions. It is a faith based study, i.e, requiring the readers' faith in the premise and results. Even with a little bit of skepticism the results don't ring true. 

Carbon trading another "free market" concept has yet to produce the desired result except that of establishing another "stock" market where those with money can make more money. The concept may be too esoteric for me but one company "selling" their rights to create carbon dioxide to another company is at best a status quo policy - but in fact it may cause more emissions because the unused "rights" are now guaranteed to be used. There is no effective cap.

It is greenwashing.

Let’s All Feel Superior

My favorite New York Times columnist David Brooks seems to be a little off base in his Let’s All Feel Superior opinion. The gist is that too many critics of the role of people like Paterno and others in child sexual abuse at Penn State wouldn't have acted any different.
The vanity is the outraged reaction of a zillion commentators over the past week, whose indignation is based on the assumption that if they had been in Joe Paterno’s shoes, or assistant coach Mike McQueary’s shoes, they would have behaved better. They would have taken action and stopped any sexual assaults.
There may well be a lot of truth to it. See another story where "The president of The Citadel military college apologized on Monday for not reporting to law enforcement an allegation against a camp counselor involving sexual activity and a child." [CNN].

But without the criticism wouldn't there be an unspoken acceptance? It is this 'peer' pressure that brings societal norms - or that which should be the norms - to bear on defining acceptable conduct. It should always be an upward slope.

Thus, maybe I would not have made any different decision that of Mr. Paterno - but given another chance he and I would make the better decision.

[Editor: But see the Washington Post interview noted in my 1-15-12 post.]

Unmitigated gall

Occupy wants Adams to apologize for police violence. If there is an apology in the making it ought to come from this group of campers that have offered nothing positive to the discussion of rebuilding the economy. American protests have been geared bringing issues into focus. Not this band of malcontents - they have only one goal - anarchy.

They should apologize for preventing the regular use of the parks, for the damage to the parks, for the injuries to the police officers, for the insults that the police officers patiently withstood, for the diversion of city funds that have better uses than to take care of and coddle the malcontents, and for all of their damages to private and other public property.

A look at the police and media reports generates the profiles of the occupier. Not the neighbor I would want in my neighborhood. Granted there was a very small core that had the correct attitudes, but the bulk were those from the other part of the spectrum. They are the .01% of the 99%.

These are people that are merely against - whatever you are for. Creating mini-villages that drew the unwanted and their unwanted activities to do what? Take over a couple of parks that are meant to be enjoyed by all? Closing down the parks for their self-righteous ideals? How can the prevention of public use of parks and causing of damages thereto be the right of anyone? Can there be any doubt that the city made a mistake in their permissive attitude towards them?

It is easy to "support" a protest that calls attention to the ills of society - but that is not Occupy Portland. Their banner is one that could be held up at nearly anytime in our country's existence - the economy sucks. Yes, and it always will for some. Occupy Portland has long passed any protest stage - it was an occupation for the sake of occupation.  It is more akin to a prank than it is to a protest.

I couldn't care two hoots for the Tea Party - but they not only protested peacefully and without damage to public and private property. They created a political party, not well-defined I grant you, but they had something to show for their efforts - elected candidates.

What has Occupy Portland to show for its occupation? Damages to the public property and costs of  extraordinary city operations probably to exceed $500,000. Thank you Occupy Portland - you have shown us the errors of our ways. The world is now a better place to live.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Corporate greed - surcharge for order of less than a lb of coffee

It is a KGW story that may have ramifications in Portland. If one ordered half-pound bag - they were charged an extra $1.50. But it appears that KGW chose not to add value content to the AP article out of Boston. The article specifically notes that the surcharge was being applied nationally. How difficult would it have been for KGW to test a local Starbucks?

Starbucks' rationale: "the company charged extra for half-pound bags to cover "the additional labor and packaging needed to accommodate those customers' unique request." 

How about this for corporate spin: "We are pleased to be able to now offer our customers alternative sizes of whole bean coffee in all of our U.S. stores, free of any service charge."

Pleased after being caught, fined and exposed.

"Free drugs can help prevent repeat heart attacks," maybe not.

Free drugs can help prevent repeat heart attacks is the KGW headline but its article doesn't support that premise. In a major study, drugs to prevent heart attacks were offered for free - yet less than half of the studied population took them.

In an odd conclusion the study's author said: ""People don't get as sick, and it's people getting sick that costs the most money." Gee - you think? Another physician not connected to the study: "A drug only works if it's taken." Thought provoking?

One result from the study: "Roughly one year later, compliance with taking medicines, measured by how many filled prescriptions, ranged from 36 percent to 49 percent, depending on the drug, and improved only 4 percent to 6 percent in the group that had no copays."

Did free drugs prevent repeated heart attacks? It hardly seems so. "Costs for the insurer averaged $69,997 over the next year for those with usual coverage and $64,726 for those offered free medicines." Approximately $5,000 is far from a statistical proof.

But the study concludes: "It meant that an additional 2 of every 100 people were spared such problems [heart attacks, strokes, cases of chest pain or heart failure and other such problems] because of being offered free medicines."

It is not clear from the KGW article how that follows nor how that is a significant statistic. While it seems intuitive that taking prescribed drugs will prevent reoccurrence of heart attacks, the study seems to show only that if anything - cost is not a primary factor in whether people take their drugs or not.

The Euro crisis - why worry?

"“A European sovereign debt default may well sink the United States back into recession,” and “prudence suggests that the fragile state of the U.S. economy would not easily withstand turbulence coming across the Atlantic.”" Wall Street Journal, Real Time Economics quoting a Future Recession Risks paper by the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco.

And this from the Philadelphia Federal reserve isn't anymore optimistic: "The toxic combination of slow growth and high unemployment in the world’s largest economy is expected to persist until 2013 at the earliest, according to a survey of professional forecasters released by the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia on Monday, with analysts noticeably more pessimistic than they were just a few months ago."

"Preparing for Evolution"

It is an excellent commentary on Occupy Portland provided by Pamela Fitzsimmons at Held to Answer. Her reporter's skills shine through.

At the end - Oregonian photo essay

The Oregonian has a really decent photo essay on the Occupy camp at the end. This is one that says it all.
Faith Cathcart/The Oregonian 

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Occupy Portland swept out

So it seems. See the Oregonian's timeline coverage.

Frankly when I woke up this morning I was disgusted when I discovered that the police had not followed through on their after midnight demand for dispersal. If it turns out that it was all part of an overall city strategy - then I will be impressed. But in any event I have been impressed with the patience of the individual police officers who have been subject to verbal and physical abuse by these occupiers.

It has never been about the economy for this contingent that stole the "Occupy" concept without any underlying cause. It had been only about anarchy and occupation. It is the Portland way fueled by the mayor and inept council members.

Made in the USA

That is not a tag line seen much anymore. The Oregonian has a superficial story about an impressive innovator and entrepreneur who has targeted colleges and universities stores for her School House line of clothing. It is a niche nicely exploited. I say superficial because a quick Google search returns stories with more substance. Admittedly though - one has to read more than one to get anywhere close to the full story.

To make it a shorter story - she brought to North Carolina clothing manufacturing that was being done in Sri Lanka. The clothing is entirely made in the USA - 100%. Read "Made in the USA" on the School House web site. But, from the Oregonian story one might come to a conclusion that shipping costs was the primary factor.

However, shipping costs are what help make oversea manufacturing inexpensive. A 20 foot container, 1360 cubic feet, shipped between Sri Lanka and the US may cost somewhere around $2,600 or so. Just how much clothing can be packed into this container? A guessestimate is that it adds pennies to the cost of manufacture. [Shipping Rates to Sri Lanka - Colombo]. Yes there are other costs of shipping - but it still very minor. It in no way offsets the cheap labor costs in the manufacture and assembly.

What I buy is that it was an ethical decision determined to make quality clothing in the US while paying a living wage. I suggest though that since it appears that she has not taken the company public - the size of the profit margin is not the primary motivation factor. It helps too that North Carolina has a history in apparel design and manufacture. See the slide show on the website.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Green subsidies - "gold rush""

"The government support — which includes loan guarantees, cash grants and contracts that require electric customers to pay higher rates — largely eliminated the risk to the private investors and almost guaranteed them large profits for years to come." [A Gold Rush of Subsidies in the Search for Clean Energy.]

This type of government support is so wrong on so many levels. Look at who are some of the beneficiaries: "financial firms like Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley, conglomerates like General Electric, utilities like Exelon and NRG — even Google." [NY Times].

Penn State students - deserved praise

It is a Christian Science Monitor story that brings the focus in the Penn State child sexual abuse back to the victims. I will leave the riots by the football fanatics as an anomaly, but is it?. It seems clear that the students - at least some, hopefully most, have their priorities in order. [Penn State scandal: Students raise funds for child abuse victims.]

See this praise for the students from the Pennsylvania governor: "Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett is hailing thousands of Penn State students who held a candlelight vigil Friday night to show support for victims of child abuse." "Corbett said the students were "taking control" of the situation, which he said was "something that has to be done."

Frankly little has been seen in the media reports that puts the "scandal" in the proper perspective - that children were sexually abuse. Penn State athletic department created - not purposefully by action but just as purposefully by inaction - an environment where children were sexually abused. The blame can't be just on the perpetrator.

But, it is a "scandal" only because a state university and their football program might financially suffer. It is not about the sexually abused children. Rather than seeing these children as victims there is an atmosphere where Penn State football and fans see themselves as the victims.

The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review had this story on its online sport's page about a former Penn State receiver who organized a sideline show of support for the current players. Why? Of course he "felt 'horrible' for the alleged victims. "I'm horrified that the kids had to go through this." 

But, he was sad for the way Paterno was dismissed. And "he emphasized he supports the players, . . . ": "The kids are going, 'What the heck is going on?' " "They have responsibilities to play. I want everyone who ever put on a uniform to greet those kids and let them know they're not alone and we're here to support them."

Tragic - his is not a minority view.

DSK - say it isn't true

""The net is tightening around DSK," said the daily Le Parisien on Friday." [Dominique Strauss-Kahn linked to French prostitution scandal.]

Friday, November 11, 2011

Maybe only for Naval aircraft carrier enthusiasts - USS Enterprise photo tribute

Having served on a carrier - way too many years ago - these photos of 50 years of the USS Enterprise bring back memories of rather good times on USS Forrestal cruises in the Mediterranean. Take a peek at the photo of the sailor standing next to a Phantom aircraft then compare to planes and people in the hanger bays. These bays were huge on these super carriers. The dangers of night flying are unfathomable. But it is the young shipboard sailors that are responsible for aircraft landings and takeoffs that put themselves at risk. Fortunately people like myself were safe in the hanger bays and nearby work shops.

Sponsors: Is Penn State toxic yet?

"Sponsors at root like to avoid controversy. The real question is whether Penn State is toxic yet," said Stephen Greyser, Harvard Business School professor emeritus specializing in the business of sports." [Yahoo! News].

Thus it is not about the sexual abuse of children - it is a matter of whether or not their bottom line might be affected. The immoral corporations and their amoral executives couldn't give a rats ass whether their money and support has helped to enable a child sexual predator. Surely the prestige of the Penn State football program - a $4 billion budget - had some role in the decisions not to call the cops.

As one executive said: "the company is "aware of the very serious allegations at State College, and we are watching closely as events unfold." Thus the finger is in the wind - which way is it blowing?

Can this be a surprise?

Portland Police Press Release excerpt. "Since that announcement Portland Police have become aware of information that is concerning. We understand a call has gone out to Oakland, Seattle and San Francisco and perhaps other cities encouraging people to come to Portland and engage in resistance. People in the camp are expecting 100-300 re-enforcements from various locations. There may even be as many as 150 anarchists who will arrive soon. There is information that people may be in the in trees during a police action and that there are people who are attempting to obtain a large number of gas masks."  Read more.

From the very day that the city determined to not to enforce the laws this resistance should have been expected. I don't know but it hardly seems that the police would not have been aware of the consequences. And it is not only the mayor who bears the responsibility - it is each and every one of the council members who determined lawlessness is okay if it meets their political objectives.

And this includes those corporate entities like Starbucks who wanted to share, that is make a profit, in the occupation. Same true for the various politicos who saw this as a means to profit politically.

"Mother of Alleged Victim Says Son Was Afraid to Tell Sandusky 'No'"

The Penn State child sex abuse is coming to focus on sexual predators. There is nothing more pernicious than the harm caused by these sub-humans. Nearly as bad are those who find it uncomfortable to, and therefore don't, report this child abuse.

But I must admit that maybe these individuals who seem to find it easy to gain control over their victim can also gain control over their friends and family. But frankly, isn't it a matter of cowardice to fail to put the child's fate over the fate of their friend or family member?

Yahoo! News has this story from the mother of one the victims - Penn State Scandal: Mother of Alleged Victim Says Son Was Afraid to Tell Sandusky 'No.' The conduct of this coach is repulsive and there is no punishment that could possibly alleviate the harm done to the victims and their families. Yet - many - too many - look the other way knowing that someone they know and even respect is abusing children.

It is not enough, as Mr. Paterno did, to report an incident to a superior. Child abuse - sexual or otherwise - does not permit the mere satisfaction that a report was made. The police should have been called. Apparently Mr. Paterno and others' conscience was appeased by the mere passing on of the information, There - I have done my job. No you haven't.

Mr. Sandusky as depicted in the article offers the profile of a child sexual predator. He is not some guy lurking in the darkness - no he is out there among the well known and apparently prominent enough that many have difficulty accepting that someone, maybe in some sense like us, is a child sexual predator.

Yes I understand that child sexual abuse is often unfounded and that could lead to a reluctance to report. But that is not an individual's right to fail to report. It is only an excuse to justify one's failure to protect children. Protecting children is a mandatory obligation whether or not the individual has children themselves. There is no secular or non-secular rationale to justify the failure to report even a suspicion.

A society where its members don't protect the vulnerable, especially children, is at the best an amoral society.

Leadership

"The U.S. Army is built on trust, and that trust must be re-earned every day through living our values. Without that trust, and without those values, we lose our privilege to lead." This comes from an article about the Army relieving a commander in Germany. And this ideal is seen thoughout the military. E.g., see this about the Navy.

The military prides itself on leadership - yet this principle of trust is absent from the civilian leadership whether political, corporate or academic. Penn State comes to mind. Sadly the absence of leadership is much easier to observe than leadership.

Leadership isn't just a military ideal - is it?

11-11-11

Washington Post
Veterans Day (without the apostrophe). It often seems that it is a day only remembered or appreciated by those, and their families, that have served in the military. More pictures. See this from the New York Times - Lives During Wartime, Vol. 3.

It seems today that is more truer than ever. For example see this Washington Post article - U.S. soldiers at war: The forgotten 1 percent. Men and women putting their lives at risk are ignored except when something unusual occurs.

Worse yet is that the unusual is this: Air Force Admits Body Parts Dumped in Landfill.

CAVALIA

Pearl residents at the north end have seen the white tents. It is all for CAVALIA. This from a recent review in Minneapolis: "Cavalia is a lavish production involving 37 riders, aerialists, acrobats, dancers, and musicians, and featuring 49 magnificent horses from all over the world." See too Wikipedia's Cavalia entry. And the tickets - they are understandably not cheap, but suffice to say these are not family prices. It starts November 16.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

These Penn State students have it right

"While some Penn State students rioted in downtown State College last night, others began to plan a candlelight vigil for Friday night and to help alumni raise money to help survivors of sexual abuse."

"“I’ve heard many, many people express that not enough is being done for the sexual assault victims,” said Kyle Harris, 21, a senior public relations major from Massachusetts who is helping to plan the vigil. “We want to support these victims. We’re just horrified.”
" [Penn State students plan candlelight vigil, raise money for victims.]


Penn State -riots sad and pathetic

Rather than rioting over the firing of Paterno - the students should have rioted over a Penn State enabled environment that permitted child abuse to occur almost effortlessly. The similarity between the child abuse circumstances within two institutions - the Catholic Church and Penn State University should have been the driving force behind the rioters.

Pathetic too. After rioting "[a] small group of students gathered at the Paterno statue at Beaver Stadium to sing the school's alma mater after the mob disbanded."

But a football quarterback with his head on straight: "This is a tough time But the outrage we are feeling now is nothing compared to what the victims are going through.keep them in our prayers." [Punctuation errors in the original.]

It should have been a time of reflection and sadness. It also should have been a time to express great concern for the victims of the child abuse. Yet it was a time of riots and not the recognition that its university failed to protect vulnerable children from a child sexual predator.

By all accounts it was egregious child abuse by then assistant coach who apparently used a charity he established as a farm for his victims. The charity was "The Second Mile, a group home and outreach program for troubled boys." The former coach is charged with molesting 8 of those boys. 8 is only the starting point for investigation - given the circumstances it is easy to surmise that more victims will come forward.

It must be clear though that although I have seen an anti-homosexual tinge to some media coverage - this is about a child sexual predator that are in a category by themselves. It is not about homosexuality. It is about a despicable and criminal individual that preyed on vulnerable children for his perverted sexual pleasure. There is no lower rung on society's ladder.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Beaverton - anti-schools?

That is an argument given that they apparently approved an urban renewal plan which will divert tax revenue from public schools and they voted down a school levy.

Who is in charge - the city or occupiers?

Of course it is a rhetorical question. For the lack of leadership - the city'c crime rate has significantly increased; so too the cost of police overtime and park repair and maintenance. The city has stood aside allowing protesters - they are not sure about what - to take for their personal use two city parks and one federal park.

It is interesting to note that in April 2011 the police budget was a big concern: "If the city cannot fill the several million dollar gap, the bureau faces tough choices, such as laying off as many as 37 officers or keeping up to 40 of the bureau's 981 positions vacant, according to the financial analysts." 

Yet the budget means nothing at the moment. Was it all just the mayor's subterfuge or will we see extraordinary cuts in the police department after the occupiers get a life? And what effect will the costs to police these occupiers have on gang issues and Old Town crime?

It is unknown what the cost the downtown businesses are experiencing, but it can't be good. The city had and has had several opportunities to nip this occupation in the bud. It is illegal and has no constitutional, state or federal, protection.

Now the occupiers are making and storing Molotov bombs on site. Apparently one was used at the World Trade Center building downtown. Can you say terrorism?

Crime inside and outside the occupation.

One cannot read the police press releases and media reports without shaking your head in amazement and some amusement. The city all by itself for political reasons has created the circumstances that has allowed a group of occupiers to dictate to the city which laws it will and will not respect.

See the press release that states  "Based on a comparison of last year to this year, crime is up 18% in the area." 18% is significant - maybe even substantial.  What type of crimes? See this from the Oregonian quoting Central Precinct Cmdr. Bob Day: "the bureau has noticed an increase in car break-ins, disorderly conduct, assaults, street robberies and commercial burglaries."

Read too any of the police flash alerts, i.e., press releases,  especially those entitled "Occupy Portland Arrests and Public Safety Updates." Don't forget that "the downtown Outdoor Store was broken into and about $4,000 worth of knives were stolen" with the Occupy Portland members as suspects. [Oregonian]. See too my post on Occupiers turn terrorists.

Not enforcing the city's laws and regulations is an open invitation to lawlessness.



Occupiers turned terrorists

I have noticed that no one in the media has uttered the word "terrorists." Terrorists are not Muslims or from one particular political or religious persuasion, And it certainly seems within the realm of terrorism to create, store and use Molotov bombs. See Portland Police Press Release and Willamette Week.

How about this definition of terrorism: "The unlawful use or threatened use of force or violence by a person or an organized group against people or property with the intention of intimidating or coercing societies or governments, often for ideological or political reasons."

It may be a little broad, but one can be sure that if the person who threw the bomb had a "Muslim" name - the story would be different.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

When it is not enough to fulfill a legal duty

[Editor: But see the Washington Post interview noted in my 1-15-12 post.]
And so Joe Paterno the legendary Penn State football coach has had his reputation and place in football history tarnished. It may turn out to be only a footnote - but it will always be tied to him. But it comes as a result not of any involvement but failing to do more than that legally required. He reported was he was told to his superior - that's it. Nothing more.

The underlying criminal conduct is an unsettling story - too common place - about people in positions of power sexually abusing children while those in the know looked the other way. It is a former (retired) assistant coach that is charged with the conduct, but it is others that are being drawn into the fray because of their refusal to either do more or do anything.

Of course, Penn State will be forever tarnished in its role of "looking the other way" akin to the Catholic Church. Some of the news media made that likely comparison while most others it seems ignored the obvious comparison. See Yahoo! News: "Some details of the case are similar to the sweeping scandals involving sexual abuse by priests the Catholic Church tried to keep hidden for decades." 


Portland police sued for false arrest

It is an Oregonian story so it comes replete with errors that challenges the account. Small things matter - it didn't occur in Old Town and there is no alley. There is an accompanying photo but why? Was it to depict Mr. Gasque? The narrative would lead one to that conclusion. But in any event, there is significant importance to the gist of the story

A Vancouver man - Mr. Gasque and his college buddy were apparently out on the town. Apparently too - we are not told though - it was late at night, or maybe very early morning, when the police questioned his presence. He was sitting on the curb while his buddy was lighting up his cigarette. Here is where the police went wrong.


Monday, November 7, 2011

One has to question the value of "communism" vs "capitalism"

Take a look at global news - the European Union is seeking help from China to bail out Greece. China holds most of our debt. China has billionaires and they seem to take great pleasure in exhibiting their "wealth." One has to wonder just how a communist country could have positively positioned itself relative to the US and Europe. Is communism better than capitalism?

Europe is anxious that China help in the Greece bailout and in helping the European countries combat their economic "disease." Take a look at this from China'a Jun Liqun's response to a question about whether China is willing to invest more money in Europe:
"If you look at the troubles which happened in European countries, this is purely because of the accumulated  troubles of the worn out welfare society. I think the labour laws are outdated. The labour laws induce sloth, indolence, rather than hardworking. The incentive system, is totally out of whack.
"Why should, for instance, within [the] eurozone some member's people have to work to 65, even longer, whereas in some other countries they are happily retiring at 55, languishing on the beach? This is unfair. The welfare system is good for any society to reduce the gap, to help those who happen to have disadvantages, to enjoy a good life, but a welfare society should not induce people not to work hard."
From the mouth of babes.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Income and wealth inequality

This New York Times interactive graphic gives perspective to the 1% vs 99%. Also see Kiplinger's Where Do You Rank as a Taxpayer. See too their calculator where you can enter an AGI and find out the ranking. E.g., if you have an adjusted gross income (AGI) of $386,000 you are in the top 1%; an AGI of $108,000 puts you in the top 10%.

From the New York Times interactive graphic.


% Min Inc Avg. Families Inc share (%)
0.01 $11,000,000 $31,000,000 14,000 5
0.1 $2,000,000 $3,900,000 135,000 6
1 $386,000 $717,000 1,350,000 11
Top 10 $108,000 $167,000 13,200,000 25
Bottom 90 $0 $36,000 132,000,000 53


Check out this Inflation Calculator to get a grasp of reality. "$1.00 in 1960 had the same buying power as $7.46 in 2011." Or "$1.00 in 2011 had the same buying power as $0.13 in 1960."  Thus, "$386,000.00 in 2011 had the same buying power as $51,776.86 in 1960," and "$108,000.00 in 2011 had the same buying power as $14,486.79 in 1960."


But maybe more important than income distribution is this New York Times, Economix article "Inequality Is Most Extreme in Wealth, Not Income." It is important to note that top income earners are not necessarily the same people as the top wealth holders.

"The top 1 percent of earners receive about a fifth of all American income; on the other hand, the top 1 percent of Americans by net worth hold about a third of American wealth."


For a good read on wealth distribution see Wealth, Income and Power by Professor G. William Domhoff, Sociology Department, University of California, Santa Cruz. Included is a discussion of CEO compensation. He has been writing on the inequality in wealth and income and its relation to power for years and stresses the wealth distribution. [See too NY Times The Pay at the Top.]

As to tax rates, see this from the New York Times: "Over the last 30 years, rates have fallen more for the wealthy, and especially the very wealthy, than for any other group. At the same time, their incomes have soared, and the incomes of most workers have grown only moderately faster than inflation."

In an answer to statistics that show the wealthy paying a much larger share of taxes than in the past, the article states that it is "[s]imply the fact that they’re earning a much larger share of income. The amount of tax they pay on each dollar of income has dropped — but they’re earning vastly more dollars, so they’re paying more taxes."

The bottom line is that the focus should not be about chastising those with higher incomes just because they have high incomes. The 1, 99 percent debate ought to be focused on wealth distribution and on those other persons - the large corporations that are in the position of creating jobs. The 1% vs 99% only detracts from the failure of the market system to provide full employment and to fill social needs.

But isn't it those we continue to elect and re-elect that should be receiving the public's wrath. Whether one looks at the economic issues locally or nationally - eliminating or reallocating the incomes of the top 1% will not fix economy. Don't we need new leadership willing to work together to solve problems?