Saturday, December 31, 2011

Anonymous poster fired after exposure by NW Examiner

[Editor: I republished this 2-11-11 post because of the comment that needs to see the light of today.]

The Daily Journal of Commerce has two articles on anonymous posting. One is the firing and the other is about the employer's role in "policing" employees' conduct.

Posting anonymously benefits the exercise of free speech and democracy. The fear of retribution, e.g., losing employment, stifles free speech. The fact that some abuse that right should not cause impositions of unreasonable restrictions on that expression.

Thus while websites have the right to determine content and to exclude those who violate established rules, exposing those who post anonymously acts as an unreasonable, albeit implied, restriction.

Metro's top school salaries

The Oregonian already had a good database on Oregon schools that covered state and federal ratings, but it has added a new category relating to the top school salaries for the local Metro. It is a new category but it is only the local Metro, that is, it is not statewide.

Take a quick peek at either the top paid employees, the highest paid principals, or the highest paid teachers. It doesn't take much of a peek to conclude that way too much money has been funneled to employee salaries. Take a particular look at the salaries associated with David Douglas School District which is not a well performing district.

The databases can be sorted and I would encourage taking a look at your favorite school district like Portland to see if something doesn't seem to be askew. It is a matter of perspective though.

Corbett Charter ranked third by Washington Post

The Post has been doing the ranking of Washington D.C. public high schools for 13 years - but now it has gone national. What is significant and interesting is that Corbett Charter high school ranks 3rd nationally. [Ranking America's High Schools 2011].

Yes it is Corbett Charter in Corbett Oregon. The Great Schools ranking seems inconsistent. They show a score of 6 out of 10 based on test scores. But that it a total scoring on the full school k-12. A look at the 10th grade scoring indicates far better success. See too the Oregonian school database - Corbett does quite well especially in writing and science.

The school's website has this about the Post's ranking. "Ten Oregon schools made the list this year, led by Corbett Charter (3rd) and Corbett School (15th). The primary difference between the two Corbett School District programs was that Corbett Charter had a relatively smaller senior class while Corbett School had a larger senior class. Aside from that, the two schools performed very similarly. No other Oregon school is ranked in the top 700."

Frankly I am not sure what should be made of the Post's ranking - challenge index. "Divide the number of Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate or other college-level tests a school gave in 2010 by the number of graduating seniors." It is a matter of offering college-level tests and a high percentage of graduating seniors. Oregon seems to lacks badly in either category but especially in the number of seniors that graduate.

Thus as the Post notes: "While not a measure of the overall quality of the school, the rating can reveal the level of a high school’s commitment to preparing average students for college." The fact that no other schools than Corbetts were in the top 700 says something about Oregon's commitment.

Rival Christian monks brawl

"Glory to God, and on earth peace, toward men of good will." [pause] Wham with a broom stick and the battle ensued. Can you believe it? And where did this holy event take place? At "[a]n annual Christmas cleaning ritual at the site where Jesus was said to be born [that] deteriorated into a mass brawl Wednesday when rival monks began attacking each other with broomsticks, shouts and fists."

Ah, Religion!

Friday, December 30, 2011

Economic inequality growing between lawmakers and constituents

The Washington Post has the best story on this issue, but one wonders out loud "so?" Hasn't it always been as the World Socialist Web Site puts it - Government of the rich, by rich and for the rich? Having them say it often skews the value of the content - after all who wants to be in agreement with a bunch of socialists? But it still seems that way - doesn't it?

Take a look at the Post's article - one wonders just how much of the wealth accumulation came only by their position? Of course there are those who were independently wealthy before entering politics, but many were not necessarily wealthy however one wants to define that term.

Isn't the growing wealth divide between members of congress and constituents a cause of the disaffection? 84% disapproval rating is not good at anytime. Political representatives are for the most part detached from the life of most Americans. There is nothing similar about our lives, especially aspirations. The only time they seem like us is when they spout their election rhetoric.


US arms deal with Iraq

"Deal including $11bn worth of advanced fighter jets and tanks comes with Iraqi mired in worsening political crisis." [US pushes ahead with arms deal to Iraq].

What kind of deal is this? How does this help the American economy rebound? Who gets the bulk of the $11billion? Certainly not the taxpayer nor anyone else but a few in the war supporting industry. Maybe the war wasn't about oil but war munitions and armament?  

Take a peek at the oil fields page from the Infographic. Just how many American oil companies are benefiting? How much of that oil has the US secured for itself? What part of the trillion of dollars spent in US are being paid by the Iraq government for our "rescue" from Saddam?

Infographic: US ends Iraq war chapter

"A deeper look at Iraq's ethnic composition, military bases, private contractors, casualties and oil fields." [Infographic: US ends Iraq war chapter - Interactive].

Nicely done and well worth the view.

Cigarettes at about $6.48 a pack

Well it is really about 5 Euros for a 19 cigarette pack in Germany. I don't smoke but thought that was high. But I looked for the cost of a pack of cigarettes in the US - and to my surprise some states are much higher than $6.48 or about 5 Euros. In fact there are about 20 states much higher. New York pays $11.90 for a pack - I assume 20 to a pack though.

Somehow it doesn't seem fair that smokers - an addiction - have to pay so much for their addiction. It seems clear that it is an addiction like many addictions that cost is not an issue to feeding the addiction. But worse than the addiction is the damage it apparently causes to the health and welfare of the individual and, arguably, those around the smoker.

Why are cigarettes still produced - he asks rhetorically?

Thursday, December 29, 2011

State wins right to abolish redevelopment agencies

Too bad the "state" isn't Oregon - it is California. It would be nice to see PDC be abolished. See State wins right to abolish redevelopment agencies.

Is this the appropriate use of property tax revenue - IFB #11-53 PSU Carpool Parking Lot?

PDC - IFB #11-53 PSU Carpool Parking Lot

The Chinese want to buy Yahoo! - what will be next?

The Chinese want to buy Yahoo!

What is good for the goose is not . . . .

It is a story about American political "missionaries" in other countries who seem to believe that their ideals ought to prevail in other countries. These missionaries are the "democracy" non-government entities that are for all intents and purposes propaganda machines funded by American tax dollars.

The story arises from the Egypt police raid offices of human rights groups in Cairo. As it seems with all American government involvement in other countries - the irony: "The raids on NDI and IRI, however, both of which have received US state department funding for their operations, are likely to cause friction with the US government, which underwrites military aid to Egypt to the sum of $1.3bn (£843m) annually."

One staffer had the apparent naivete to request a search warrant. This naivete extends further to the failure of these political action entities to understand that if foreign governments were directly funding similar political activities in the US our government would be equally as swift to shut them down.

It may be important to a perspective that these are US government funded operations - not private Egyptian or US operations. One should question whether the US should be involved in the governing of any other country however formed.

The Navy used to offer good advice to its members something to the effect that while in a foreign country we remember that we are their guests and act correspondingly. Still seems applicable.

Liberal/left long on rhetoric- short on results.

The New York Times has a decent piece on Oakland and its mayor in the handling of the Occupy dissenters. While each city and its local Occupy group has shown to be different in their approach to each other - Oakland and Portland share some similarities as seen in the NY Times - In Oakland, Mayor Quan Struggles to Put Protest in the Past.

Those on the left constantly demonstrate that they have no ability to lead. Rather than represent the constituency that elected them - they choose to pursue some agenda sanctioned only by a minority of citizens.

While they are some similarities between the two mayors - Adams had sufficient government, leadership "training" under the tutelage of Vera Katz, but Quan had only anti-government experience. However, in both cases - the left anti-government and anti-police ideologues ignored their obligations as elected officials.

Who benefited?

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas

Or if you prefer - Happy Holidays. But maybe that just illustrates the growing division in the US populace. The religious significance is only important to those who want it to be significant. The rest of us enjoy it as a non-religious event. It has been that way for a long time. Even in the 1950s - it was a day for children and Santa Claus.

As a Catholic child educated in a Catholic school - the religious concept was present but frankly accepted because it was constantly repeated - drummed into one's head. The Santa Claus fantasy was much more real and omnipresent than the Christmas myth of a virgin birth.

Just enjoy the day and hopefully your time with family and friends. But don't expect world peace.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

2012 Volkswagen Up! Not so much

A read of this article 2012 Volkswagen Up! will not surprise you that it comes from Autobloggreen (emphasis on green). While this auto may well be built for the European roads and sensibilities - it is one ugly car.

The purchase of this car has to be dominated by cost. The article talks of 50 miles per gallon - but one wonders what it will be in the US. If a car is nothing more than something to get one to the nearest grocery store - and don't buy too many groceries - then this car might be for you.

But why not something like Fiat 500 Abarth? It least is has a look of performance and enthusiasm. 

Americans are scared to fly thanks to TSA?

Russia Today notes that the "intrusions at the hands of the Transportation Security Administration are causing more and more Americans to forego flights as travelers this season are saying they’d rather ride busses [sic] and cars then deal with airplanes this year."

But isn't it the economy? Consumer Affairs (.com) writes that Airlines for America (A4A), the industry trade organization for the leading U.S. airlines,  "estimates the holiday travel period will see fewer fliers than a year ago due to lingering economic concerns."

Consumer Affairs (.com) adds: "While the economy may indeed be depressing air travel, it could well be that an increasing number of travelers have considered the intrusive security measures, baggage fees, lost luggage, cancelled flights and iffy weather" as reasons not to fly.

And see this from Yahoo! Finance: Holiday Air Travel Survey Shows Frustrations High. "A new survey by the U.S. Travel Association shows frustrations remain high this travel season, so high that two out of every five air passengers would rather not fly." "Their "research shows that reducing hassle without compromising security will encourage more Americans to fly -- as many as two to three additional trips a year . . . ."

But it is the hassle and 'alerts' that keeps us in fear.

North Korea's propaganda

The death of North Korea's dictator has exposed just how easy it is to maintain a closed society even in this day of the Internet and social networking. Control of the means of communication and distribution of propaganda is key to maintaining that society.

From the outside little is known about North Korea and it would seem that from the inside they know little about themselves or the outside. What is known comes from the North Korean state propaganda. This Associated Press post demonstrates a faith like propaganda (myths) that those that govern are akin to supernatural beings.  
"Just before North Korean leader Kim Jong Il died, the skies glowed red above sacred Mount Paektu and the impenetrable sheet of ice at the heart of the mystical volcano cracked with a deafening roar." [AP quoting North Korea's Central News Agency.]
"Kim Jong Il's official biography says he was "heaven sent," born in a log cabin in Mount Paektu while his father was fighting the Japanese." 
Thus, the way Kim Jong Il is portrayed is more than a 'cult of personality,' he is cast as a deity. One could argue that their government is like an extreme religion where propaganda (myths) is used to establish control and faith in the government.

But a Guardian UK article quoting Brian Myers, associate professor at Dongseo University in South Korea, suggests that we should look at the propaganda figuratively.
"A lot of it is figurative language. It's very unfair to North Koreans to take it absolutely literally; it's as if they were to say Americans believed George Washington was literally the father of the entire American people." 
"There is no element of the supernatural at all in the North Korean personality cult; no sense that 'he is up there looking down on us' which you got [from some people] with Michael Jackson or Lady Diana. In that sense it is much more grounded in reality that our own culture."
One wonders if it really is a situation of who is kidding who? That is, the mere fact of publication of propaganda whatever its content doesn't mean that the masses buys into it. It is difficult to believe that ordinarily North Koreans accept the propaganda as truth.

Isn't it the difference of wanting to and being able to do anything about their situation? If one looks to China as an example - we should expect to see North Korea evolve. Isn't there a limit on how much control can be exerted over a population?

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

1% whiners and less than 1% enviers

According to Russia Today: The One Percent whines: 'no one loves us'. But why should the 1% care when it is the Occupy people that has been so vocal. This is a numerical limited group that has shown that its primary characteristic is envy - "A feeling of discontent and resentment aroused by and in conjunction with desire for the possessions or qualities of another."

But, this envy seems to be rampant. There is a rise in the assertion that income inequality is wrong, not in the way that inequality has come about, but just because. Thus, not unexpectedly more and more people who are without what others have are turning to attacking those that have rather than either examining themselves or the political and economic system that gave rise to the inequality.

I want to see change in both the political and economic system (it requires a change in both) but not where it dampens an individual's desire and opportunity to succeed, and not where it takes from another merely because he or she has more. I believe there is something amiss if one doesn't desire to live a better life. But, the way a better life comes to be is through an individual's work ethic and opportunity, or at least that is the way it ought to be.

The laws in this country does a pretty decent job of assuring that opportunity is based upon the individual's efforts irrespective of race, creed, etc. Could it be better - yes. But is it better than anywhere else - yes. Is there something wrong in our economy that needs fixing, and real soon - yes,.But that 'fixing' doesn't come from occupying parks, closing the ports, etc. 

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Unemployment rate a false metric

The official Oregon November 2011 unemployment rate is 8.7% falling from 9.1% in October. But: "The decline in November’s rate was likely due in part to a declining labor force, which shrank by 3,100 people.” [Portland unemployment continues slow decline.] Isn't 8.7% a false metric because it doesn't measure those who have given up on finding work?

What is often regurgitated by the media is the Bureau of Labor Statistics' official measurement: "U-3, total unemployed, as a percent of the civilian labor force." But the better statistic is "U6, total unemployed, plus all marginally attached workers, plus total employed part time for economic reasons, as a percent of the civilian labor force plus all marginally attached workers."

A better measurement of the economy is one that includes those that are working part time but want to be working full time and those that want to work but can't find a job. Carried to its logical conclusion a low unemployment rate could be achieved not by adding more jobs but by more people becoming discouraged.

Monday, December 19, 2011

North Korea - what do we know about it?

The death of its dictator raises again just how much we - the public - know or don't know about North Korea. It seems to act impulsively and irrationally. It is constantly referred to in the west as a communist county - but clearly it isn't anything more than a dictatorship, maybe civilian but clearly supported by the military.

One would't think that they have cell phones - but they do. From a November Reuters story: "All the waitresses in coffee shops have them, as one example, and use them. Let's not even talk about businessmen. The are never off them, and conversations are frequently interrupted by mobile calls." But one cannot dial in or out of North Korea and there is no Internet. So it remains a closed society.

The media constantly depicts the country as impoverish - but is it? How impoverish when the coffee shop waitresses have and use cell phones? Aren't the North Koreans starving and improperly clothed? Take a look at the images of the North Koreans mourning - do they look starving or not well clothed?  Look I understand that the mourning was probably state managed for the propaganda reasons -but some people are not starving or impoverished.

From the CIA World Factbook:
"An independent Korean state or collection of states has existed almost continuously for several millennia. Between its initial unification in the 7th century - from three predecessor Korean states - until the 20th century, Korea existed as a single independent country. In 1905, following the Russo-Japanese War, Korea became a protectorate of imperial Japan, and in 1910 it was annexed as a colony. Korea regained its independence following Japan's surrender to the United States in 1945. After World War II, a Republic of Korea (ROK) was set up in the southern half of the Korean Peninsula while a Communist-style government was installed in the north (the DPRK).
It is clearly odd that the two nations once unified tentatively co-exist on the same real estate yet remain ideologically separate. But one wonders just how deep is that ideological divide.

Iraq: Shi'ites and Sunnis are at it again

As I noted, the religious conflict has already started. The last US troops are barely out of the country and we have this today: Iraq issues arrest warrant for Sunni vice president. The US troops had essentially kept the warring factions at bay. But now "[t]he completion of the U.S. withdrawal on Sunday left many Iraqis fearful that a shaky peace between majority Shi'ites and Sunnis might collapse and reignite sectarian violence."

This conflict between Shi'ites and Sunnis is the root cause of the tensions in that area. It is Muslim against Muslim. In Saudi Arabia it is Persecution of Shia Muslims where the Shia Muslims are about 10-15% of total Muslim population. From About.com Middle East Issues - in Bahrain the Shiites are the majority but under Sunni Rule; Iran is ruled by a Shiite theocracy; and remember that Saddam Hussein was a Sunni.

Ah religion - still leads as a primary source of conflict between and within nations.

Muslim invests $300 million in Twitter

It depends on how one frames the issue - doesn't it? Saudi prince takes $300 million stake in Twitter is a story that might have had a different play if it were close to 2001. Remember this October 2011 incident? "Mayor Rudy Giuliani said Thursday the city would not accept a $10 million donation for disaster relief from Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal after the prince suggested U.S. policies in the Middle East contributed to the September 11 attacks."

Saudi Arabia is 100% Muslim - no problem there, but will we be hearing from the anti-Muslim crowd? Remember this is the country that gave birth to the likes of Bin Laden and was the country of origin for the majority of the 9-11 hijackers.

And won't this instill fear in the Christian conservatives? According to the Oregonian: "Arabic is now the fastest growing language on Twitter, according to a study released last month by French social media research firm Semiocast."

Is it important that there is this: Prince Alwaleed bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding at Georgetown University?

And will this produce fears of Muslim control over the media? The Prince's Kingdom Holding Company is a very large investor (7%) in News Corp (Fox News is a subsidiary). In turn News Corp. has a large holding in Kingdom Holding Company. [Deadline London]. And according to Forbes not only is Kingdom a large stakeholder in News Corp.but also in other media companies like Disney and Time Warner.

But how about this. Fox News in 2010 had branded their investor “Radical Madrassa Funder” And will we see more of this type of story about Fox News - The Fox News connection to Ground Zero mosque?

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Does anyone believe that Iraq will remain stable?

As the United States military leaves.

"Nuri al-Maliki, the Iraqi prime minister, has called for MPs to withdraw confidence from one of his deputies in the deepening political crisis that came as US forces completed their withdrawal." The deputy is Saleh al-Mutlak who said "in a media interview that Washington was leaving Iraq 'with a dictator'." And in another interview said that "Maliki is worse than Saddam Hussein, because the latter was a builder, but Maliki has done absolutely nothing." [Al Jazeera].

Also the same Al Jazeera story "Tareq al-Hashemi, one of Iraq's two vice presidents, was escorted off a plane at Baghdad airport and two of his bodyguards were arrested on 'terrorism charges'."

This seems to indicate instability at the national government level and that supporters of Saddam Hussein long for the good old days. Ten years of US military intervention - is this what was achieved?

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Coal

The kneejerks consistently react to coal production without an offering of an alternative. They ignore for their own purposes the value of coal for energy production and assume without thinking that solar power, wind power or some other undeveloped and unrealistic alternative will replace coal. It ain't going to happen anywhere in the near future.

The US produces 13% of the world's coal; China is at 49%. In the US it is the western states of Washington, Oregon and California that has the highest consumption of coal for energy production more than any other census region - 17.2%. Coal's share of electric power generation in 2010 was 46.1 % that is more than twice of its nearest competitor gas at 22.6%. And US production is expected to grow to the year 2035.

But it is clear that at the present coal as fuel or as electric power generation is high in carbon dioxide and other harmful emissions. One might easily argue intolerably high. While China and the US are the leaders in the harmful emissions from coal burning, it is China that is the leader in producing cleaner coal-fired plants.

The value of working towards cleaner coal production seems unpopular in the US - a Google look shows a decided split. Those against clean coal are against any coal production. Typically too they seem to be against nuclear power or even gas powered plants. Just as there is no likelihood that coal can be 'clean,' it is just as unlikely that solar and wind power will in any near future be an alternative to coal.

While it is doubtful that coal can ever be a 'clean' product, it can be cleaner. And while we search for viable alternatives to coal in electricity production - cleaner - not necessarily clean - ought to be the interim route.

Why would anyone ingest this?

I have seen way too many times the ad for HUMIRA. I wonder would would take this drug given the potential 'side effects.' An excerpt from the HUMIRA (adalimumab) website:
"Cancer. For children and adults taking TNF blockers, including HUMIRA, the chance of getting lymphoma or other cancers may increase. There have been cases of unusual cancers in children, teenagers, and young adults using TNF blockers. Some people have developed a rare type of cancer called hepatosplenic T-cell lymphoma. This type of cancer often results in death. If using TNF blockers including HUMIRA, your chance of getting two types of skin cancer (basal cell and squamous cell) may increase. These types are generally not life-threatening if treated; tell your doctor if you have a bump or open sore that doesn’t heal.
The TV ad doesn't depict someone particularly in need of taking a drug that would be worth the 'side effects.' Since this drug is by prescription only, the sole purpose of the ad seem to influence the doctor through the patient. It would seem though that if the drug is effective - the doctor would know of it.

But read about the drug on WebMD and read the reviews. There is good reason that we have an Federal Drug Administration (FDA). Having this drug as an over the counter drug wouldn't be appropriate. See the FDA drug index which includes a warning: "This drug has an active FDA Safety Alert." This page lists the reasons.

Finally, do a Google search "Humira lawsuits class action" to get a glimpse of the attorneys' view. E.g., this from one law firm:
"In 2006, researchers from the Mayo Clinic found that patients taking Remicade or Humira are three times more likely to develop cancer, compared to patients with rheumatoid arthritis not taking these drugs. This risk of cancer also appears to be dose-dependant: patients taking higher doses were 4.3 times more likely to develop cancer."
Can't rely on ads or the doctor. The decision is ours - but the information is available to help in the decision making process.

A teachers union that leads in the right direction

"The American Federation of Teachers, vilified by critics as an obstacle to school reform, is leading an unusual effort to turn around a floundering school system in a place where deprivation is layered on heartache." [The Washington Post].

This is being played out in West Virginia that is one of the most economically deprived areas. There is some irony in that while coal still represents 50% of our electricity generation - coal mining itself has not been beneficial for the miners as opposed to the mining companies.

But the story is really about the attempt to overcome the dichotomy between teachers and social economics. For some reason most of the articles I read depict the fault of the educational system as being an either or - never some combination. But it is more than teachers, class size, money, race, and even more than poverty.

West Virginia's McDowell County,  more than any county elsewhere, could easily point to its economic condition as why Johnny can't read, but there are those that will argue that it is the teachers, that is, they are not dedicated enough, not educated enough, not . . .

But not even in McDowell County is there one solution that fits. And the partnership between the union and others in the community demonstrates an acknowledgement of the problems and role of governments, businesses and community in finding a solution for the county.
"The union has gathered about 40 partners, including Blue Cross Blue Shield, Cisco Systems, IBM, Save the Children, foundations, utility companies, housing specialists, community colleges, and state and federal governments, which have committed to a five-year plan to try to lift McDowell out of its depths."
But there is one partner that appears to be missing - parents. Normally the inclusion of the parents would be mandatory, it is certainly appropriate where the economies are not similar to McDowell. When the lack of education for children is that of McDowell - it is doubtful that parents can be counted on to be a participant.

And one must remember that the failure of education is decades old. When dad and mom are uneducated and unemployed or underemployed - it is difficult to have them understand that their may be benefits for their children to be educated. Query - are their jobs in McDowell County demanding even high school education?

I was raised in West Virginia but I am unfamiliar with McDowell County. However, I am familiar with coal mining communities. They were never 'rich' communities. It is familiar story where the coal mining companies do well at the expense of the coal miners. In the early 60's I had a brief job of attempting to collect on (usurious) loans made to coal miners. It is hard to describe or even imagine the poverty.

Thus, I have a pessimistic outlook for the children in places like McDowell County. Without a local economy of any substance it is unlikely the children will ever be educated to the point that they can become a successful participant in the growth of  the local economy and are unlikely to move elsewhere for success.

Education means nothing if there are no jobs. Chicken or the egg argument?

Friday, December 16, 2011

False claim of sexual assault - why?

From the Portland Police Press Release:

"Last night, Portland Police Sexual Assault Detectives interviewed the woman found yesterday on the hillside below the archery range and Washington Park Zoo Railroad, toward Highway 26.

29-year-old Stephanie Brown of Newberg, Oregon, initially claimed that she was in Portland to meet someone to turn over $1,500 that was raised in a September fundraiser by a medieval re-enactment group AMTGARD. Brown told detectives that she is the former treasurer of the group, which does live action role play.

Brown told detectives that she was kidnapped by a stranger and taken to the remote location where she was sexually assaulted and left alone. When officers found her, they noted a plastic zip tie on her wrist and a condom wrapper on the ground.

Detectives noted that Brown had very little detail about the attacker or how the assault occurred and she finally told detectives that she made the whole story up to hide the fact that she'd spent the $1,500. Brown told detectives that she brought the zip tie and condom wrapper with her and made the 9-1-1 call herself
."

Surely there must be some punishment fitting for this false claim other than public exposure.

Catholic Church: 'Heartfelt apology'

It has become rote for the Catholic Church to apologize and it is for the same despicable and immoral reason - abuse of children. This time it is abuse by Dutch Catholic institutions. [Dutch inquiry highlights Catholic child abuse.]

I lost my faith in the Catholic Church long ago for other reasons, but I can't fathom the parishioners or the 'faithful' continuing to seemingly accept child abuse by those who hold themselves out as being chosen by God.

Can there be anyone further from God than those that abuse children? Child abuse is endemic in the Catholic Church and one can reasonably argue it is endemic in the Catholic faith.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Obama continues to give his electoral base the finger

The New York Times's The Loyal Opposition published "The Sound of One President Caving." Basically it is one more incident of Obama's turning his back on his supporters. The latest 'mooning' of his supporters is his caving on the National Defense Authorization Act.

As the columnist notes: "He [Obama] threatened to veto the whole bill in order to block new rules that would mandate the military custody of most terrorist suspects, and officially sanction their indefinite detention, without due process." But, "[y]esterday, the president backed down, completely."

Sadly for Obama supporters who clung to the 'hope' offered by him during his campaign are left with no alternative except to switch parties. However, the Republicans are doing their best to make Obama the front runner. But, it seems clear that even the Republicans don't believe in their extant choices. Thus far it seems to be between two candidates and neither are wanted by their Party.

The media, and Republicans, have constantly played Romney as a somewhat place filler candidate while the Party desperately searches for a viable candidate to defeat Obama. Romney gets no respect. Even Gingrich is leading Romney in the polls.

This from David Brooks on Gingrich: ". . . the entire political world seems to have come to bipartisan agreement: Newt Gingrich would be a terrible president. I believe this. George Will believes this. Michael Savage, the ├╝ber-populist shock jock, is offering him $1 million to quit the race. Every commentator on the left believes this."

Ron Paul is looking better everyday.

Washington Post: Why is Bill Gates selling nuclear tech to China?

Bill Gates appears to be the chairman and a primary investor in Terrapower - a company that "has found a way to combine supercomputing technology with nuclear power technology to create a future vision of cheap, sustainable energy." [Washington Post].

The technology is called traveling wave reactor (TWTR). It is not yet a proven technology, but theoretically it would be possible "to power a nuclear plant for decades without the need for re-fueling or waste removal."   [Washington Post]. 

China News Watch has the why: "TerraPower has been trying to find a country willing to host the first TWR. It remains unknown whether the co-operation with CNNC means China will become the first country to experiment with such a reactor."

But the Washington Post puts it into perspective: "The U.S. government [isn't] as aggressive as the Chinese in creating incentives for entrepreneurs and technology start-ups to grow and mature." It goes on to detail how China is out performing the US.


More federalizing using 'fear' money

Almost unnoticed in the local media is the TSA's $1.5 mil grant for additional transit police; it received a sentence in the fare enforcement coverage in the Oregonian and KGW. I wonder how many transit police officers can be hired for $1.5 mil? And is the $1.5 mil a one-time grant?

Granted transit police patrolling the MAX lines - at least in certain areas - will make the lines safer. Or will it? It will give a perception of safety - and that counts too.

But local governments continuing to use these 'terrorists' inspired funds doesn't curb their enthusiasm to spend public dollars. It makes it more easier to shift funding to other projects. And it continues to give the feds more influence in local governments.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

TriMet fare collection

TriMet self-proclaims a success in the citing fare cheats estimating that they will be the beneficiary of an additional $460,000 in fares this year. But - they admit that the cost of the additional enforcement will be $580,000 - a shortfall of $120,000. And, the estimate is based upon? And, is $580k salary or compensation?

The Oregonian appears to be patting itself on the back for the increased enforcement. "Before the crackdown on fare cheats, The Oregonian showed how TriMet, despite a budget crisis and a spike in crime on the system, was getting increasingly lax with fare cheats on MAX." I guess they forgot about the costs.


Adult failed standardized tests

Standardized tests are an anathema for some. The Washington Post has a blog - The Answer Sheet - by Valerie Strauss that contains very opinionated posts without even a hint of objectively. In this post she, through a strawman guest writer, typical of her posts, a story is related - When an adult took standardized tests forced on kids.

Now the bias is obvious and to her credit - I guess - the bias is never in doubt. It shouldn't be a surprise that the adult failed, but we are asked: how could an adult school board member who "[b]y any reasonable measure, [..] is a success" fail? Why? Because "[h]is now-grown kids are well-educated. He has a big house in a good part of town. Paid-for condo in the Caribbean. Influential friends. Lots of frequent flyer miles."

Other than education I am not sure what the other factors like "a big house in a good part of town" have on the ability to be successful at passing a standardized 10th grade test. Wealth and business success is not necessarily connected to the educated. The Republican debates ought to dispel that myth. But it seemed to make a difference to the writer because it demonstrated that the tests are not meaningful.

The test taker:  "A test that can determine a student’s future life chances should surely relate in some practical way to the requirements of life. I can’t see how that could possibly be true of the test I took.” It isn't clear how testing and requirement of life are connected. Nor is it clear what are the requirements of life.

Look testing in schools - standardized or otherwise - are geared to determine progress in the student and level of teaching. Like or not schools have to have some way of gauging their performance at the school, district, state and national levels.

Arguably, the test taker in the post ought to be thanking his lucky stars that he isn't starting from ground zero again. He wouldn't have made the cut. A college degree isn't a prerequisite to or guarantee of economic or social success. But because one can be successful without doing well on standardized tests doesn't mean that those tests should not be administered.

I took the sample test questions offered in the post. Apparently they were representative of the questions the adult test taker failed. Because I received 100% on the test - it is easy for me to criticize the adult for doing so poorly. He shouldn't have done better - the questions were not that difficult.

But arguably - don't we want to hold the youth of today to a higher standard? Don't we want them to have the opportunity to perform at a higher level than those of the prior generations? Shouldn't we expect that from the public educational system?

I submit that standardized tests are an anathema to the Washington Post's blogger and the guest writers because the testing results have focused attention on the teachers. Their supporters have circled the wagons and attempt to fend off any criticism or reform aimed at teachers.

Rather than be part of the solution they have opted to be part of the problem.

Map: Iraq casualties and deaths by US state

The map comes from The Guardian UK. There is a dropdown menu to see deaths per capita and numbers of wounded. And the map can be changed from Iraq to Afghanistan. One might take note that per capita basis Oregon made a greater sacrifice than Washington or California. But there are some states that had even greater and disproportionate losses.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Iraq - a hope that it was worth it

"When McCrae finally answers, his voice is quiet. "Was it worth Erik's life to me? Of course not. Was it worth it as a matter of American interests, our security, a less radical Middle East? I think so. I hope so."

The above is from an Oregonian editorial Hopes and prayers for Iraq in which a father speaks about the loss of his son, an Oregon Guardsman, in the Iraq war. But even if one ascribes the most of altruist motives to the war there is little but hope and that is fruitless.
"More than 4,500 Americans died in the Iraq War and tens of thousands more suffered serious injuries. The death toll among Iraqis was much worse. The war dragged on nearly 10 years and cost the U.S. Treasury nearly $1 trillion."
There is nothing that can compensate for the human costs. And we are still in Afghanistan - why?

Duh! Man accused of flashing BB gun at off-duty FBI agent

"Officers then reportedly confronted Lemarroy about the gun. Lemarroy, Yazzolino said, told police the incident was "a misunderstanding" and said he wouldn't have shown the agent the gun had he known he was a law enforcement officer." [Oregonian].

We don't need any stinkin' regulations

Jon Corzine Testifies Again, $1.2 Billion Still Missing - Yahoo! News: "

"I simply do not know where the money is, or why the accounts have not been reconciled to date," Corzine testified."

Occupy port shutdown rationale is a product of sophism - a mere specious argument

From this Oregonian article the rationale behind the port shutdown that belies any sincere or even creative thought.

The organizer: "The Hillsboro Airport, home base to such corporate titans as Intel, Nike, SolarWorld and Genentech, is not a target of the Occupy movement." Surely those companies are part of the corporate world. But apparently the workers are the target because the port shutdown denied workers a day's pay. Now that makes sense.

And just how nonsensical is this? 
"The West Coast Port Shut Down specifically aims to disrupt business-as-usual for Wall Street on the Waterfront," Koch said in a statement. "By shutting down work at the ports this is one more day that Goldman Sachs and Wall Street firms are unable to create profit."
Wall Street on the waterfront? What is the connection? How are the profits of Goldman Sachs and Wall Street firms affected by shutting down the Port of Portland?

And a proposal to block the airport  would in the Occupy reasoning, that reads mythology, reallocate the "corporate profits [that come] at the expense of workers, schools, and social services . . ." It just rolls off the tip of the tongue of the immature, pseudo leftist.

The Occupy Portland is engaging in an occupywashing.much like greenwashing.  It is a leftist form of spin in which occupying parks or shutting down local banks and businesses is marketed deceptively to promote the perception that their ideas and actions are or will be economically beneficial to the 99%.

Hogwash is what it is.

Recovery Act and jobs - the mystery continues

What useless sites - Recovery and Oregon's version of expenditure of monies awarded under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (Recovery Act) that was signed into law by President Obama on February 17, 2009. Dollars don't match anywhere nor is it possible to get a true picture of the jobs "created" by these expenditures.

It appears too that significant amounts are not yet spent nor is it clear that there is a connection between dollars awarded and dollars received with the state and federal government differing on amounts. Take a peek at the Oregon's site - and narrow it down to some zip code or county. You will still wonder where the money has gone - you know it hasn't been the creation of new net jobs. Therein lies the rub.

It isn't about transparency or accountability - the "jobs" are those created or saved with no distinction between the two offered. The focus of the 'maps' are Recovery dollars, but there is no way to take the dollars by categories and determined how many jobs were created or saved. Worse yet one never knows whether any of the jobs created or saved are still active jobs.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Protest in Russia a contradiction

The Economist has a decent article - Protest in Russia: A Russian awakening that in a sense carries the same theme of most other publications in the west. If one ignores the anti-Putin rhetoric - Russia comes across as a pretty successful democracy.

The Economist sees this result: "the political awakening of Russia’s urban middle class. Over the past decade these people have devoted their energy to making money, consuming and travelling, allowing Mr Putin to consolidate unprecedented power, eliminate alternative sources of influence and turn television into a tool of propaganda."

Don't we wish we had a middle class making money, consuming and travelling? The Economist notes too that "[t]hey were educated and affluent—many of them carried iPads—" And while the Economist talks of television as a propaganda tool - it notes that "[e]ven the state-controlled media, which had completely ignored all previous demonstrations and suggestions of electoral fraud, reported the rally in a balanced and accurate way."

And what about the authorities? "The authorities allowed the demonstration to go ahead and showed restraint in policing it." "Astonishingly, there was not a single arrest. Indeed, some of the thousands of policemen and interior-ministry troops showed sympathy for the protestors."

The political west still wants to see communists from cold war era under the bed. Give it a rest. It is better to take note like Kennedy did when the Russians succeeded in space and note the successes of our old enemies like Russia and China and make it a competition.

Calif. senator: Lowe's action is "un-American" and "naked religious bigotry."

He "was considering calling for a boycott of Lowe's stores after the home improvement chain pulled its advertising from a reality show about Muslim-Americans." [Calif. senator threatens boycott over Lowe's ads.]

"The show is about what it's like to be a Muslim in America, and it touches on the discrimination they sometimes face. And that kind of discrimination is exactly what's happening here with Lowe's," California State Senator Ted Lieu said.

An apology from Lowe's? "Individuals and groups have strong political and societal views on this topic, and this program became a lightning rod for many of those views," the statement said. "As a result we did pull our advertising on this program. We believe it is best to respectfully defer to communities, individuals and groups to discuss and consider such issues of importance." [Backlash for Lowe's as ads pulled from Muslim show.]

A read of or listen to American news - mostly centered on the forthcoming presidential elections - one might think that America is state religion society only for Christians and Jews. The theme is anti-Muslim. While the United States is predominately (statistically) Christian - Protestant in majority - it is a secular country by design.

But interestingly Worldwide the religious populations is quite different with Christians and Muslims comprising a little over 55% (Christians 33.5% and Muslims 22.43%). Jews 0.21% and atheists at 2.04%. [See Wikipedia for numerical allocation.]

It is clear, and cannot be gainsaid otherwise, that the United States is a secular government country by design.

Commons Sense by Thomas Paine: "(Always remembering, that our strength is continental, not provincial:) Securing freedom and property to all men, and above all things, the free exercise of religion, according to the dictates of conscience; with such other matter as is necessary for a charter to contain."

The Declaration of Independence: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."

Constitution Preamble: "We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America."

First Amendment: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances."

No where in the founding documents is there any sense that the United States was to be a religious state or populated or govern only by Christians. Not that religion - in general - was ignored. "That religion was not otherwise addressed in the Constitution did not make it an "irreligious" document . . . ." [Library of Congress].

And a quick peek at Comparison Chart: Islam, Judaism and Christianity it is clear that there are, in fact, few differences and more similarities among these religions. So why the anti-Muslim rants? Because a few extremists coming out of Saudi Arabia - not Iraq and not Afghanistan - easily evaded the almost non-existent security hijacked and crashed three airplanes?

One thing for certain we as a people seem incapable of sound reasoning and logic - but top notch when it comes to attacking others different from ourselves.

Occupy Portland yahoos

They claim to be concerned about the economy - of course blaming the "corporations." Yet, they considered it appropriate to shut down ports like Portland's. Never mind that the port's activities cannot be in any way inimical to the economy. And they have the gull to seek support from the longshoremen where their action will be "preventing about 200 longshore workers from going to work today." [Oregonian]. They will not be paid.

Delusions:  "We got overwhelming support from the workers going into this action," she [organizer] said. Said one protester: "We are in solidarity with them even if they don't know it." [Oregonian].

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Why it makes death penalty case difficult to support

The case at hand is not a death penalty case but it highlights the need for the appeals process. There are arguments - generally cost - that seek to cut off that process. But costs shouldn't be the determining factor, especially when someone's life is about to be taken by the state.

This is from a story about the NC novelist [that] seeks new trial in wife's 2001 death. He is requesting a new trial because of possible state fabrication of evidence. He cites another case wherein exposed fabrication by the same state investigator caused the release of an innocent man.
"At a hearing Friday on [novelist] Peterson's request, two SBI agents testified they retested evidence from a 1993 murder trial and got results that raise serious questions about whether Deaver fabricated results that helped put an innocent man in prison for 17 years. That defendant won his release in 2010."
17 years is a long time - but he has an opportunity to go on with his life - an executed person doesn't get that opportunity.

And see this Texas case.
"The US supreme court last year prevented his execution just 35 minutes before it was due to go ahead, and later ruled that he had the right to press for DNA testing. But the Texas prosecutor has consistently refused to hand over the evidence, and a new execution date was set for 9 November."
And this Tennessee case causes one to pause and think a bit:
"The 58-year-old Memphis woman came within two months of being executed last year before her sentence was commuted — not because she was innocent, but because then-Gov. Phil Bredesen thought her punishment was excessive.
Owens admitted to hiring a hit-man in 1985 to kill her husband and the father of her two children. Supporters who tirelessly made the case to release her say she was an abused wife who has rehabilitated herself in prison."
See this Georgia case:
 The Georgia pardon and parole board’s refusal to grant him clemency is appalling in light of developments after his conviction: reports about police misconduct, the recantation of testimony by a string of eyewitnesses and reports from other witnesses that another person had confessed to the crime.
And now the Oregon governor's position:
"Kitzhaber said he has no sympathy or compassion for murderers, but Oregon's death penalty scheme is "an expensive and unworkable system that fails to meet basic standards of justice.""
The problem is that is basically bunk. The governor is permitted his conscience, but I agree with the Clatsop County district attorney: "It is arrogant and presumptuous for an elected official, up to and including the governor, to say, `I don't care with the voters say, I don't care what the courts say,"' and impose his own opinion "

The good doctor doesn't elaborate on "basic standards of justice." But, apparently there would be some standards by which the governor would approve of the death penalty. And the fact that it may be expensive doesn't alter the need for the death penalty. It is hardly less expensive to house someone for life. Although, life without any chance of parole - no parole board - no clemency - might be an alternative.

Pamela Fitzsimmons, in her blog Held to Answer, has this to say:
"What would you want for your killer, presuming he was caught and convicted (not all of them are)?
Would you want him to continue living – visiting with loved ones, watching TV, reading, eating a candy bar, negotiating with fellow inmates? 
Would those mundane events available to your killer seem like a huge joy compared to death?"
My answer to Pamela would be yes - I would want my murderer sentenced to death. But I would want the right one executed.

I am not against the death penalty, e.g., see this German case for something that seems appropriate. But, I am against the way it is too often determined resulting in the wrong person being sentenced, and am against the cost arguments to eliminate it. The fact that one person is wrongfully sentenced to death is sufficient to put the death penalty on hold until that process can be legitimized.

Journalist or blogger - is there a difference?

Crystal Cox a blogger was sued for defamation in Portland Federal Court. That court ruled that the statements were defamatory. The question is one of defense. This is the court's conclusion:
"Based on the evidence presented at the time of trial, I conclude that plaintiffs are not public figures, defendant is not "media," and the statements at issue were not made on an issue of  public concern. Thus, there are no First Amendment implications. Defendant's other defenses of absolute privilege, Oregon's Shield Law, Oregon's Anti-SLAPP statute, and Oregon's retraction statutes, are not applicable."
Thus even from the conclusion one can see that this is a complex case. The blogger represented herself and that was probably her most serious mistake. One of the most complex case law is that involving defamation and "free speech" - thus acting as her own attorney was sheer folly.


Saturday, December 10, 2011

Russian protests

The Russians seem to care more in their struggle to have a democratic government than those citizens in the US. Can one imagine 30,000, maybe 40,000 and more, protesters in Washington, D.C., or anywhere in the US, as there were in Moscow, calling for reform. The most we got is a few hundred people scattered across the county moaning and whining that something wasn't right. And most of them seem to be malcontents whose sole purpose was to taunt the police and get arrested. Possibly framing their citation was more important to them.

Al Jazeera has an excellent article containing a video. A peek at the video shows not some youthful malcontents, but, as the video narrative states, an educated middle class. One can guess that the drug users and battery throwers were nowhere in sight. Guess who the "drummers" were - pro-Kremlin demonstrators.

See the coverage provided by the Christian Science Monitor that includes a photo gallery.

Leonard's Loo in SF?

An interesting story from San Francisco where there the automated street toilets are not going well - It's time to raise a stink over public toilets. Portland's loo was mentioned as an alternative. I wonder how well Portland's loos are faring? I remember that the one in Old Town was called Randy's crack house.  

Portland's future?

The shootings and homicides in Portland often seem incomprehensible - but in Oakland California they had their 105th homicide - 10 more than last years' total. [San Jose Mercury News].

Political Jaywalkers - Gingrich, Perry

The Republican slate of candidates are mostly yahoos. Romney is Barbie's boyfriend Ken. Herman Cain is gone but while in the running he proved himself  lacking the knowledge and awareness a national politician ought to have. Bachman is left to carrying on Cain's ignorance. Santorum - hasn't been a viable candidate from the start. And do you know about Gary Johnson or Buddy Roemer?

The biggest yahoos are Gingrich and Perry. Like those who appear on Jay Leno's Jaywalking sketch they are truly ignorant apparently without self-recognition. Gingrich says that the Palestinians are invented people. Perry doesn't even realize that there are 9, not 8, US Supreme Court Justices nor could he remember the name of one Justice that he sought to criticize.

However, there are two Republican candidates that appear knowledgeable and worth listening to - Ron Paul and Jon Huntsman. While Huntsman seems like he would be comfortable as a Democrat - Paul is more of a Libertarian than either a Republican or Democrat. Huntsman has a more "presidential," almost JFK, look than Paul. But Paul reminds me somewhat of  Harry Truman who was a pretty decent president in retrospect, but he didn't have a "presidential" aura about him either.

In a true debate with Obama, it is Huntsman or Paul that could stand as a contender. But the media doesn't cover contenders - they cover the yahoos.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Before - terrorists detailed in Romania's secret CIA prison; now - detention in US prisons?

There is just something wrong (certainly sad and tragic) that an agency of the United States government had secret prisons in other countries. The associated Press and a German public television, ARD Panorama, did the investigation to put the truth to the denials of the existence of Romania's CIA prison. See the AP story: Inside Romania's secret CIA prison.

Yes the prisons are closed but see this: Senate Votes To Let Military Detain Americans Indefinitely, White House Threatens Veto. We can have the "terrorists" prisons right here at home if Obama fails to veto the new legislation called National Defense Authorization Act.

And the "terrorists" include American citizens that can be detained indefinitely. A read of the story shows that there was little concern about constitutional rights. And this bill  seemed to be opposed only by civil libertarians. Of all things to have bipartisan support.

Buses vs light rail

It is an interesting post from Institute for Transportation and Development Policy: Reinventing Buses as Modern, Efficient, and Effective. [Link from Bojack]. It cites an independent study on the Bus Rapid Transit system that "combines the flexibility of buses with the speed and priority of light rail, but at a fraction of the cost of rail."

This from Rep. Earl Blumenauer “BRT projects can be put in place quickly, and integrate well with other transportation modes, from subways to cycling and walking, while fitting today’s often constrained budgets.” Isn't he the big light rail advocate?

This about BRT in Eugene: "The Emerald Express (EmX) has off-board fare collection and near-level boarding making it quicker and easier to hop on. Dedicated right-of-way through Eugene’s most congested areas, signal priority, improved station design, and wide stop spacing make buses 30% faster than before."

Those that keep on putting the inflexible and costly light rail systems ahead of the an improved bus system have their heads up their asses. (Too strong?)

Solar workers - little sunshine for them

A not unexpected story: Portland factory will lose 100 of its 140 workers as global solar prices, profits plunge. It is not detailed in the article what, if any, public money was given to MEMC Electronic Materials Inc.

The solar industry has been a bust. The investments and subsidies by federal, state and local government continues to display the folly of governmental decisions to go where private enterprise would not go alone. Green type endeavors are not job producing. Relative to the jobs needed - the jobs they create are minuscule

The need for city's proposed cutbacks is a city failure

Since the recession began and its effects continuing despite the claim of recession end the handwriting has been on the wall. Now the handwriting is turning into one of those flashing neon signs "WARNING." Prudent cutting of costs and backpedaling on bike projects, for example, could have left the city in a better economic condition.

Of course the city's decisions on Occupy Portland left the group in control of  couple of parks causing damage to the parks and city incurred substantial and abnormal police overtime costs. Now the city is proposing to close park restrooms among other things. Yet the city is spending $2 mil on a bike-sharing plan.

The recent auditor's community survey demonstrates that bicycling is still recreational and child's play. From the survey, the use of a car for work was 69% (solo 63% and car pool 6%). Public transit was at 12%. Those who walked or biked were about the same 6% and 7% respectively. [See earlier post.]

While one might argue that spending the bucks might increase the number of riders - very specious argument - such spending in the these economic times is wrong.

Even the simplest traffic stop can be perilous to a police officer

Virginia Tech shooting: two victims, campus on lockdown: "A police officer has been shot and killed on Virginia Tech's campus during a routine traffic stop, according to the university."

More on the shooting: Virginia Tech Shooting 2011: Gunman Changed Clothes After Killing Cop. "The gunman who walked up to a police car and shot a Virginia Tech officer to death fled to nearby university greenhouses, where he changed clothes. Despite his attempt to throw off a police manhunt, a patrolling sheriff’s deputy spotted him and the gunman killed himself."

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Farewell Free Rail Zone?

The news media like the Tribune still call it Fareless Square long after the buses were exempted. But once again TriMet has to seek more revenue mostly because of its ever increasing appetite for more light rail. And once again we will be subject to unsubstantiated claims of revenue increases by eliminating the Free Rail Zone.

TriMet has looming a $16 million deficit. Just how many more riders will be paying for the ride by the elimination of the Zone? Those that may be most affected are the tourists and conventioneers. But I wonder about that too. My experience on the rail - TriMet and Streetcar - has been that they pay even when within the Zone. I suspect that is because most cities don't have a Zone.

Look - the net increase in the number of paying riders doesn't warrant the discussion. Ridership revenue is a very small percentage of operating revenue. 24%, about $97 mil, of the operating revenues come from paying passengers.

So to make even a dent in the $16 mil deficit - how many more paying passengers will be needed? It is important to note that paying passengers is not the same as ridership. And of course it makes little difference if the Zone is eliminated but no fare enforcement is present to insure that the once free riders now pay. The additional enforcement costs have to be part of calculation of the net increase in revenue.

Portlanders less satisfied with city hall?

KGW had their take on the results of the community survey by the city auditor. See my first view. Just how valuable and accurate are these surveys? Do they do anything more than suggest a trend? E.g., "City hall's efforts to make downtown feel like a safe place to live, shop and play dropped from 69 percent in 2008 to 58 percent this year." That is a negative 11% swing.

But that swing is about split between the uptick in 'neutral'  response as well as the increase in the negative combination of 'bad' and 'very bad.' Thus between 2008 and 2011 the neutral category increased from 20 to 26 and the negative combination increased from 11 to 16. The positive combination of 'very good' and 'good' dropped from 68 to 58. [Auditor Survey].

So how significant are these results? What is it that the city has to do to address the drop in the positive responses? One might question the effect of having the 'fence siting' neutral category. Thus, if eliminated would the 'votes' go positive or negative?

KGW was remiss though when it noted not the comparison between years but only stated the positive percentage for overall city livability. If they had - you would have seen that it has been virtually unchanged since 2007. Here too one might question what "livability" means? I suspect it means something quite different to different demographics. But whatever it means Portlanders seem positive and unchanged in view of livability.

KGW's was remiss too when it stated that "86 percent felt that way [positive] about their individual neighborhood." The results seem to show less "fence sitters" and more in the positive categories. In 2007 the positive category went from 81 to 86 in 2011. The neutrals dropped from 13 in 2007 to 9 in 2011. The negatives remained the same between the two years. What does this mean? At best it seems to show a trend toward positive attitudes toward the neighborhoods.

But what might be the important results are those concerning the individual neighborhoods. In the Auditor's Report doesn't show a year to year comparison for the individual neighborhoods. However, it is quite easy to see the neighborhoods in the SW, Inner NE, and Downtown are more pleased with livability they experience. The three neighborhood categories are at 95%, 90% and 92% respectively. But look at Eastern neighborhoods at 66%.

City Auditor: This report provides the public and policy makers with valuable information regarding resident satisfaction with City services." "We encourage Council and bureau managers to study differences in community perceptions and to consider ways to improve services based on these results." [KGW].

Does it? I submit that many surveys their meaning and effectiveness is all in the interpretation. Other than maybe trend spotting it is doubtful that these type of surveys have any value. One doesn't need a survey to determine the public's outrage or not. And it is the outrage that should make a difference.

Frankly few, if any, of the questions would measure public outrage. E.g., nothing on gangs or shootings. Nothing either on the use of taxpayer dollars on subsidizing affordable housing. Nothing to measure the public's perception of homelessness.

The report does little in providing information to the city leadership, or Portlanders in general, that might lead to a change. There are no recommendations. The report is not a vehicle for change. It will be ignored like most of the reports coming from or about the city.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

A day that will live in infamy

Tragically it seems to be more of a day that continues to fade from recognition. See last year's post; but see New York Times' On This Day: December 7; and the Washington Post's gallery Pearl Harbor on the nation’s front pages.

For more Pearl Harbor Images and "a historical overview and special image selection on the Pearl Harbor raid, chosen from the more comprehensive coverage featured in the following pages, and those linked from them."

A warning to global warming advocates from Senator Inhofe

It is not surprising that Senator Inhofe is a Republican. but his message to the United Nations climate change conference was stark and undiplomatic and it ought to be a warning of the opposition to climate change and global warming views.
According to the New York Times' Inhofe Rejoices in Climate Impasse: "He said a new batch of hacked e-mails from climate scientists had undermined their work and bolstered his case that climate change is a hoax perpetrated by an insular group of experts. He called the e-mails “the final nail in the coffin” for those advocating urgent action on climate."
“The message from Washington to the U.N. delegates in South Africa this week could not be any clearer: you are being ignored,” Mr. Inhofe said. “And you are being ignored by your biggest allies in the United States: President Obama and the Democratic leadership in the Senate.” 
Climate scientists need to learn how to reach out to ordinary citizens. It often seems that these scientists are preaching their views expecting the rest of us to take it on faith that what they say must be true because, after all, they are scientists.




Inhofe Rejoices in Climate Impasse - NYTimes.com:

What is wrong with these Republicans?

As a family-owned and operated company, our philosophy is simple: Do the right thing. If we stay focused on doing the right thing [see New York Times] for our customers, our employees and our communities, then our business will be just fine. It’s been a tough few years, but by pulling together, we’ve survived — and we believe we’re poised to thrive.” [See New York Times.]

Apartment construction and public funds

By public funds I am talking about tax revenue that PDC collects and distributes to the lucky few developers. The ostensible reason that PDC 'invests' property tax revenue is that the projects are needed for the public good - affordable housing - but private business will not take the risk because the expected returns (without public funding) are not sufficient. It seems like there is an equation where risk taking variable is set to zero and profit taking is a constant.

A decent story by Brad Schmidt in the Oregonian has highlighted a problem with the city's housing department. The city built and owned Headwaters apartments were to be 'affordable' for the middle working class  As it turns out the project instead of being for those in need of affordable housing, it has been for those that are far better off.


Apartment construction in Pearl

The Oregonian has carried three posts by the same 'reporter' that leaves one shaking their head. The first detailed how one company was ready to build a 15 story building - then the very next day, without mentioning the prior story, a second post had the story about how the construction would never start. The main reason seemed to be that the returns would not be sufficient given average rents at $1.34 per sq. ft.

Today, about 15 days later, the Oregonian has a post about a 6 story building going ahead presumably because of the  expected returns will be sufficient given rents at $2.25 to $2.35 per sq ft. Both properties are in the Pearl and well within a quarter mile of each other.

It is as if the writer doesn't remember what he wrote. Nothing about expected rents nor about the composition of the apartments - studios, 1 bedrooms, 2 bedrooms, etc. The post does indicate a "luxury" building, but what does that mean and what was the 15 story apartment building?


Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Portland 2011 Community Survey Results

The 2011 City Auditor's Community Survey Results is published. The Oregonian gives a way too brief of a review, The survey results are worth the read and it is not that time consuming. I am not sure of its real statistical value, but maybe it does reflects some general consensus. But, there is a large percentage that respond to many of the questions as 'neutral.'

I found these results interesting. The responses to public safety at night, safe and very safe combined, in your neighborhood - 76%; in park nearest you - 43%; in downtown - 30%. But public safety at night, unsafe and very unsafe combined, in your neighborhood - 10%; in park nearest you - 31%; in downtown - 39%. The difference is the 'neutral' vote.


Monday, December 5, 2011

It is difficult not to see Israel in anything other than a bad light

In addition to their nationalist nearly purist approach to the Palestinians their acceptance and even tolerance for anything other than an Israeli is evident in two recent stories. After American Outcry, Israel Ends Ad Campaign Aimed at Expatriates is a New York Times piece about an attempt to purify (my word) their society. But they are not alone is this attempt.

What makes Israel different is that it is a religion dominated state - Israel is for Jews. There are those in this country who want to see the United States as a Christian dominated society. The Middle East is full of countries where religion dominates.

And Israel quest to attract US Jews to Israel is reminiscent of the 50s when Catholics shun non-Catholics, Jews shun non-Jews, etc. The Catholic Church would not marry non-Catholics - the non-Catholic party had to convert.

And secondly, in this story by the Guardian - Israel to forcibly remove bedouin communities in settlements push - we see almost a Trail of Tears event.

It is all too tempting to see the irony in the treatment of the Jews by the Germans in the early part of the 20th century and the Israeli's treatment of the Palestinians and, in the context of the Guardian story, the Bedouins.

But it seems too that what we have is the intolerance that one finds in the major religions - they are inherently anti-diversity. If the Catholics had the ability - the Crusades would be on again. The Muslims would be conquering non-Muslim countries, and the Israelis would be either expelling non-Israelis or enslaving them.

Those with religious fervor just can't accept others who are different. It is a scourge more likely to lead to WWIII than anything else.

It seems like a no brainer - increasing income gap is due to poor education

It is the consistent and constant reoccurring news story locally, nationally and globally - yet nothing is done except to cut back on education funding. In the US the reaction seems to be the publication of stories about income divide and blame the corporations.

Clearly there are corporations to blame, but society cannot continue to poorly educate the mass of its people leaving 'good' education available only to those who can pay "the price tag [that] is hindering accessibility and graduation rates." [Washington Post].

Organization of Economic Development recognizing a range of factors for growing income disparity notes: “Our report clearly indicates that up-skilling the workforce is by far the most powerful instrument to counter rising income inequality. The investment in people must begin in early childhood and be followed through into formal education and work.” [The Local].

But often - too often - it is all in the eyes of the beholder. See this spin from the Economist: Incomes: Inequality street.

They will claim anything to eliminate privacy

"Such risks, Napolitano [Homeland Security Director] said in an interview in Paris, heighten the need to keep dangerous travelers from reaching the United States, and she urged European partners to finalize a deal on sharing passenger data that has met resistance over privacy concerns." [Napolitano Says Lone Wolf Terror Threat Growing.]

See too this story: Senate Votes To Let Military Detain Americans Indefinitely, White House Threatens Veto. And from the article - American Civil Liberties Union: "That's part of what due process is -- deciding, are you a terrorist? I think it's important that we not allow U.S. citizens to be taken."

Terrorists much like the communists of old are seen everywhere by government. The government wants you to trust them while they continue to eliminate privacy and due process from the Constitution. Instead of working to protect the American democracy - it has taken a right turn towards creating a controlled society.

Protesters upset by city reaction to their reoccupation

And why were they upset? "Protesters said they were disappointed that the city didn't give them a break like last time." [Protesters upset by city reaction to 'Re-occufest.] It is an attitude that the city sowed from the very start - permission to have the run of the parks without limitations.

There has been nothing positive that has come from Occupy Portland. The city and the police department have virtually looked the other way despite complaints by residents and damages to parks.

At best it has been a group of malcontents that did their best to entrap the police into charges of mistreatment. Every media interview seems to be a blitz of lies without one shred of evidence. Pepper spray is the first word out of their mouths - too bad for them that the police have been video recording all the arrests.

Go away Occupy Portland.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

85-year-old strip search - did it happen?

Does a 'pat down' take 11 minutes? It is an interesting story about a woman 85 years old in a wheelchair who asked for a 'pat down' because of her concern of the possible effect of the body scanner on her defibrillator. It is a 'she says they say' situation because there was no monitoring - apparently only she and the TSA agent know the truth. But 11 minutes for a 'pat down?'

Herman Cain out of it

Herman Cain: "I’m at peace with my God,” he said. “I’m at peace with my wife, and she is at peace with me.” Now it may be - but it is doubtful - that he and his wife are at peace with each other - I will be looking for the filing for divorce - I am wondering who his God is that is so at peace with Mr. Cain.

13 years of a relationship, sexual or not, without his wife's knowledge would not seem to be something that his wife much less God would be so willing to forgive. Mr. Cain the classic serializer - blames his withdrawal in part on others: "the continued hurt caused on me and my family . . . ." Poor Mr. Cain - he is the victim.

Now that he is out of the race - he can go back to his sexual adventures.

Governing by appeasement

The Portland Police Press Release details a number of arrests and some despicable behavior by some who used their children as a shield against police action; yet, the police apparently chose not to remove all of the protesters that violated park rules.

After all the bluster by the mayor about not permitting any more park occupations, doesn't this appeasement undermine the necessary respect for rules and regulations?

A smug liberal's litany

There is something about Thomas Friedman - to me he comes across as a smug liberal that is off putting. In his recent opinion piece in the New York Times he announces his approval of the Obama administration's deal with automakers on mileage improvements. Now I am in agreement with the concept and the deal but not liberal's litany that is found for just about everything green: "national security, innovation, jobs, climate and health benefits."

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Classic denial - Sandusky's self assessment

Sandusky's apparently sees himself as nothing more than the friendly uncle. And one can almost see how there might be some truth in his assertions that he never sexually abused children. Will his story be one of innocent relationships that had they occurred 50 years ago no one would have saw any impropriety? Not likely.

The New York Times like Bob Costas was able to obtain comments from Sandusky that people like myself are wondering whether his attorney isn't pursuing a strange and dangerous course by letting his client speak. You know there was a time when swimming and showering naked with other males didn't raise one single eyebrow. At the YMCA - this was the way it was. The military wasn't much different.

But it was with other males of the same age - no adults swimming or showering with young men. And there were no one on one isolation. But a read of his story has a ring of grooming in his conduct with young boys. And he has not addressed satisfactory the incident that led to his arrest - the apparent anal intercourse with a young boy in the shower.

Sandusky's take of that event: "We were showering and horsing around and he [the boy] actually turned all the showers on and was actually sliding across the floor and we were, as I recall, possibly like snapping a towel." [MSNBC Rock Center].