Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Tanalizing press release about Grant High School

Apparently, police investigations that started out as concerning hazing among male students has expanded. The detectives assigned to the Sex Crimes Unit believe "the incidents alleged go beyond simple hazing."

Society left holding the bag when companies bankrupt

Blue Heron bankruptcy: "The workers are owed up to $3.2 million. The claim is lumped in with other administrative expenses that will be paid -- in part or in full -- after the mill is sold and after secured creditors get all their money." [Unpaid claims from Blue Heron paper mill workers total up to $3.2 million].

This Oregonian article rather than a decent journalistic coverage of  a significant event is at best disjointed failing to explain, among other things, the various bankruptcy distinctions. This should have been a story about the effects on the community when there is an abrupt shutdown of the mill and when  workers do "not receive severance pay as required by law, their accrued vacation pay or other benefits." Oh yes - don't forget that the employer raided the employee's 401 accounts.

A read of the Oregonian piece by Steve Mayes leaves one in the dark about the full extent of the mill closing. E.g., he mentions the Metro's interest in purchase of the property - but why should Metro be interested? If one looks elsewhere, an article by Mayes in October 2011, it seems that their purpose is land preservation - not productive use. Is that the best use of taxpayer dollars?

What about issues of tax incentives or other taxpayer subsidies to the mill owners? There may have been none - but that, and many other issues, is not a concern of the Oregonian blogger.

The real import of the mill closing is that society, in this case the local community, is and will be paying for the bankruptcy. The owners have moved on - but not the employees. They are left without employment and no means of subsistence even on a temporary basis, except that provided by limited unemployment benefits and community charity. There is not likely to be much "charity" when the mortgage or rent comes due.

The American Dream doesn't exist in Portland

This 'green,' car hating, high density housing propaganda from the city is gut-wrenching in that it makes me sick at my stomach: "Living in a multifamily setting can be a great way to be resourceful." See Bojack's take.

“Your Voice at the IRS.”

I picked this new blog off of Jack Bog's Blog. As someone who has had negative experiences with the IRS - it appears interesting that there might be someone within the IRS that has this concern: "That [...] the government expects and requires taxpayers to pay the correct amount of tax due under the laws, and in return commits to treating taxpayers fairly, with dignity and respect, and providing them with the necessary assistance and guidance to comply with the tax law." [Welcome to the National Taxpayer Advocate's Blog].

New claims against Iran and Syria re Bahrain plot - hmmm.

It is not the story that is of concern - given the turmoil in that region it sounds true, but it is the concern that the US is looking for the equivalent of WMDs. Thus, it is the means of acquiring the information that the claims are based on that gives a reason for pause: "Sources confirmed to ABC News that post-arrest interrogations had led to the new allegations . . . ." Post arrest interrogations - hmmm.

Portland mayoral candidates - boy are we in deep dodo.

See this Oregonian story by Beth Slovic Portland mayoral candidates square off at Catlin Gabel School. As to Smith - he seems like another Sten, And what is the difference between Brady and Hales? What constituents do these two represent?

Monday, January 30, 2012

Drug Impact Area

The Drug Impact Area is the city's re-purposing of the Drug Free Zones - the concept is essentially the same except this time some muscle has gone into its enforcement. The county district attorney's office has designated an individual DA to handle the cases.

On the Portland Police website there are documents of results at 3 months and 6 months. Interesting is that comparing the two points 3 months and 6 months (includes the 3 months) the impact of enforcement seems to have driven down the delivery of drugs but not the possession. Heroin possession has continued at just about the same rate and cocaine possession has increased slightly, but all the others have decreased significantly.

It is also pretty clear, at least from arrest records, that marijuana is not the drug of choice.

The bars represents the first three months and the yellow line is 6 months accumulative data.

100 years of natural gas?

The quantity of natural gas available in the US is somewhat akin to the number of jobs the extraction will create - farfetched and fanciful. Obama echoing fracking enthusiasts stated that there is 100 years supply of natural gas. Really? The New York Times article significantly reduces that estimate and calls into question the credibility of those claims. [Data Not So Sunny on U.S. Natural Gas Supply].

E.g., the 100 year claim "includes gas from shale wells, offshore wells and Alaska’s North Slope. But many energy experts question these types of projections because they include substantial amounts of natural gas that many scientists and engineers say may never be tapped."

It should not go unnoticed that these claims are intended to attract investments. "Drilling proponents, including investors and many politicians, tend to embrace optimistic projections, even though estimating resources is an inexact science."

It might be nice that just once profit taking isn't the motivator.

Distraction Catholics anti-Obama letter

Catholic church efforts to impose their view of how you should think is once again front and center. "During church services on Sunday, Catholics around the country were read a blistering letter assailing the Obama administration for an "assault on religious liberty . . . ."

It is about conception - birth control coverage as part of their health plans. [Catholics hear anti-Obama letter in church]. Their argument that contraception is immoral is frightfully at odds with the practices of millions and millions of 'Catholic' families world-wide.

Nobody is keeping the 'religious' and 'pious' church and its members from exercising their religious liberty. But believe what you want - just don't expect me to believe too. It is odd that in 2012 the Catholic Church is still at odds with contraception.

Mostly though, I argue, this 'letter' is more of an attempt to shift attention away from the pedophilia that is rampant throughout the church nationally and internationally.

Friday, January 27, 2012

FBI wants to 'scrape' public data from private social networks

The BBC tells of the FBI seeking to build an early-warning system to provide information on domestic and global threats. [FBI plans social network map alert mash-up application].

What about privacy concerns? It is somewhat akin to putting your garbage out on the sidewalk for pickup - the 'police' in most places are free to 'search' through it. But isn't there a thin line between public and private? And how hard will it be to cross that line when the search is surreptitious? 

The rationale: "The FBI says the information would be used to help it to predict the likely actions of "bad actors", detect instances of people deliberately misleading law enforcement officers and spot the vulnerabilities of suspect groups."

The devil is in the details. Who determines "bad actors?" What constitutes "deliberately misleading?"

The CBS TV show "Person of Interest" is more representative of reality than first thought.

59% Portland high school students graduate on time

The Oregonian's Betsy Hammond has the stats for Oregon, but it isn't difficult with the  Oregonian's database  to checkout the school district or individual high school of interest. Statistics are only a good place to start in the analysis, but in some circumstances they tell all one needs to know. [Note that some of my numbers used herein don't necessarily reconcile with the Oregonian's database, but the differences are comparatively of little significance.]

While Oregon high schools are graduating 66.6% of their students on time, Portland school district is graduating 55% 59%. Portland's percentage of dropouts is 29%  Dismal! [Editor: the Oregonian and PPS indicates that the graduation rate is 59%, but using the Oregonian database the actual average is 55% - not 59%. I don't know why there is a difference but it is matters little.]

And what does the good Doctor (governor) have to say? "Unacceptable." Really? And what about the person in charge of the schools - Superintendent Susan Castillo? She cheered because there was a 1% increase from last year. Wow! That 1% could easily be a statistical anomaly or rounding error.

The Oregonian quoting Brenda Turner, occupational economist with the Oregon Employment Department: "High school dropouts are 50 percent more likely to be unemployed than people who earn a diploma and never go to college, and their annual earnings are dramatically lower -- less than $22,000 on average in 2010 compared with $29,000 for those with a high school education."

Is Oregon, especially Portland, going to continue ignoring the education quality and keep pooping out on the streets those that have less chance of obtaining a job or even a job with a decent working wage?

Isn't there something wrong in the Portland district where there are only 5 schools graduating 75% or more students on time? And when there are 7 out of 16 high schools graduating 50% or less? A school with 22% on time graduation (Alliance) - ought to be closed - shouldn't it?

Interesting that David Douglas district is considered a bright spot because with a 68% on time graduation rate it and some others have "posted noticeably higher graduation rates than districts with similar demographics." .

But the governor has a plan. "He said his plan to require every Oregon school board to spell out how fast it aims to raise its graduation rate would help." OMG!

Mother of invention

When the Berlin Wall came down in Germany - the East German police shredded and tore by hand documents intended for their eyes only. But - it is the digital age and there is an app to piece the docs back together. [New tool unravels Stasi secret files]. Didn't I see something like this on one of the CSI shows? And doesn't one suspect the NSA or CIA already have the capability?

Thursday, January 26, 2012

World food security

http://www.isaaa.org/
Biopriacy: "Biopiracy refers to the appropriation of the knowledge and genetic resources of farming and indigenous communities by individuals or institutions who seek exclusive monopoly control (patents or intellectual property) over these resources and knowledge." [ETC Group].

See Wikipedia for a good start. See too this Al Jazeera article and videos primarily about the issue in India - Does 'biopiracy' endanger world food supplies?

How to close your Google Account - if you want

Google's expected changes in privacy policies have led many to say they will exit Google. The Washington Post: "Of the 13,541 readers who took our non-scientific poll, by midday Wednesday, 66 percent said that they will cancel their Google accounts because of the changes."

The Post provides the detail for closing your account, but you might want to backup your content. And the Post points you to Google's Data Liberation site that provides the means. But before you take any action make sure you check your account section to see if you can merely eliminate some of the ills of Google searches.

Rick Santorum - a very dangerous man

"It's no wonder President Obama wants every kid to go to college," said the former Pennsylvania senator. "The indoctrination that occurs in American universities is one of the keys to the left holding and maintaining power in America. And it is indoctrination. If it was the other way around, the ACLU would be out there making sure that there wasn't one penny of government dollars going to colleges and universities, right?" [Rick Santorum: Left uses college for "indoctrination"].

For more on this person see Sen. John Ensign sex scandal spreads to other Republicans,  Santorum Surge Brings Ethics Questions, and  Santorum’s Communist Clan.

Six-year sentence for paedophile priest

It is Germany - but WTF? Six-year sentence for paedophile priest who molested over 250 boys. Apparently the sentence is the result of a plea bargain, i.e., plead guilty for three molestations and admit to 250 of 280 suspect cases.

"Of the reported incidents, 214 were classified by the court as serious sexual abuse, while the remaining 36 were classified simply as sexual abuse." And a 'do you think?' The Judge: “He has systematically violated the trust that is bestowed upon Catholic priests.”

And get this: "An internal investigation is currently under way in the priest's Hildesheim diocese, the results of which will be sent to the Vatican, along with the Braunschweig court report. The Vatican will then decide the man's future position in the church."

The Catholic Church just doesn't get it or just doesn't care.

If you care - Portland is 11th in literacy

A study by Central Connecticut State University ranks certain American cities (population of 250k and above) in literacy.  It uses "six key indicators of literacy: newspaper circulation, number of bookstores, library resources, periodical publishing resources, educational attainment, and Internet resources."

From the overall rankings - Washington D.C. is # 1 which might say more about the survey than literacy. Seattle is #2 and Portland comes in at 11. And, Washington and Seattle have been the top 2 for the past three years, and Portland had its best year in 2009 when it was 6th.

Are the D.C. schools an anomaly?

The Washington Post through its coverage provides an image of public schools that represents those schools nationally - but this story somehow seems out of kilter. Is the national education system this bad or is Washington D.C. just this bad. Here are a couple of statistical excerpts from the story Key points of the new D.C. school study.

2045 : The year 75 percent of D.C. students will test at grade level in math if trends hold.

2075 :The year 75 percent of D.C. students will reach grade level in reading if trends hold.

But in some sense that is misleading, because with a peek  at the study (around page 22) it is found that there are preforming schools and non-performing schools. Thus a look at the performing schools we find that "most of these schools will have 90 percent or more of their students at grade level by 2016."

The study splits the schools into performance tiers - there are four. And it emphasizes the difference between traditional public schools and charter public schools. Interesting is that the charter schools have about the same population as the traditional, but out perform them. [See Table 4 on page 22 of the study.]

While Portland is not D.C., it might benefit from a comprehensive study like that commissioned by D.C.'s mayor. But one gets a feeling that D.C. might find it difficult to take the study to heart.

So too Portland that seems to commission studies until there is one that meets the political needs of the then politicians. Then it will be followed by years of debate seeking consensus by which time a new set of politicos are involved with a new round of studies and debates, and on and on. Meantime students are pooped out onto the streets without a quality education.

But Portland is (it will come hell or high water) building a sustainability center and can provide extra-ordinary financial assistance to private real estate development firms.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Leaving bread crumbs unintentionally

Wouldn't it be ironic, but maybe not unsurprising to many, if Google was really a NSA or CIA op? Google is big-brother accumulating data on each and every Google user that surfs via Google. Its ostensible reason is ad revenue. "By creating comprehensive profiles of users by combining crumbs of data they leave across its services, the firm is betting it can target more online ads at them more accurately." [The Economist].

And Google privacy policies enhance its ability to track. One that is getting a lot of attention is its refusal "to allow its users to opt out of the upcoming changes." [The Economist]. The upcoming data privacy day with Master Google creating master data rules is hypocritical. Google's master plan will arguably be designed to protect your data for Google.

Benevolent - Google may well be, but I rather that "privacy" be determined by the individual.

Fracking jobs - Obama's re-electioneering

Obama will need more than another SEAL raid to get my consideration on whether I should vote for him. His re-electioneering campaign that started in earnest with his state of the union speech didn't help. Now I get that such speeches are mere political hype - promises without the burden of keeping them. But the continual use of 'jobs' by all politicians - local to national is just too much.

One prime example of this hyperbole is his backing of fracking to add 600,000 jobs while at the same time vowing safe drilling. 600,000 jobs - really? A job is not just a job. While it may be to some - it isn't when those jobs carry substantial risks to the environment.

These special interest jobs carry with them serious environmental concerns of damage to the aquifers, air, rivers, etc. If the drinking water is harmed and the irrigation water becomes unusable - jobs means nothing. And Obama talks of more regulations - but what is the likelihood of effective regulations that will protect all parts of the environment?

It seemed that his decision to deny the Keystone - expansion (part 1 already in operation) - permit was the step in the right direction - a balance among the significant concerns of job creation and environmental harm. The question has to be more than just creating jobs. There is an ever growing need to consider the effects of oil and gas producing industries on mother earth.

Photograph: Jonathon Gruenke/AP
The same considerations have to be made when the "reduction of energy dependence" is the accompanying battle cry.

[Caption to the image in an article by Senator Bernie SandersTar sands oil and Keystone XL's dirty secret: "A Canada goose covered in oil attempts to fly out of the Kalamazoo river in Marshall, Michigan. The tar sands spill will cost at least $700m to clean up."]

See this excerpt from Senator Sanders' Guardian UK piece: "After reviewing the [Keystone XL] project, it becomes clear that instead of reducing America's reliance on oil from overseas, this pipeline would carry oil across America, risking spills on our land and waters, just to export the oil to other countries. In addition, the pipeline would increase gasoline prices in America, add to our air pollution, and most importantly, be a major setback in the fight to reverse global warming."

Aren't the days of free wheeling capitalism done for? Shouldn't a representative government sit as an arbitrator to balance the economic needs and environmental harm? And shouldn't we question who will really benefit economically from these jobs?


See my other posts:
Oil and water don't mix
Ogallala Aquifer (and Keystone pipeline)
Keystone pipeline

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Now we are talking - air battery with 500-mile range

IBM developing air battery with 500-mile range.

Publisher suggests a hit on Obama

It is a story that didn't get much play in the press - but one wonders why not? The assassination was just one of a three prong suggestion on how Israel could deal with a nuclear armed Iran. We know the Secret Service investigated - but why wasn't this person taken into custody. What if he wasn't Jewish newspaper publisher but a Muslim publisher suggesting the same hit to benefit Iran?

Needless to say the publisher was roundly criticized. "Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, called Adler's words irresponsible, extremist and "beyond the pale. An apology cannot possibly repair the damage."

The publisher has resigned and has sold the paper but that doesn't repair the damage either. Pandora's box is opened. And see this frightening realization offered by Chemi Shalev, a U.S.-based foreign correspondent for the Israeli newspaper Haaretz:

"I know, and most of you know, that Adler's crazy and criminal suggestions are not the ranting of some loony-tune individual and were not taken out of thin air -- but are the inevitable result of the inordinate volume of repugnant venom that some of Obama's political rivals, Jews and non-Jews included, have been spewing for the last three years."

Don't fret about corporation personhood

It may be more important to be aware that your consumer rights are being whittled away by the banks and other big businesses requiring consumers to arbitrate disputes, barring class actions. Did you know that Starbucks "requires its prepaid rewards card holders to forgo class actions and travel to Seattle to arbitrate their claims, unless the company agrees to another location?"

Conservatism that makes sense

"The idiocy of our current political debate is that neither side seems capable of talking about the interplay of economic and social forces. Most of the Republican candidates talk as if all that is needed is more capitalism." [...] "Democrats, meanwhile, have shifted their emphasis from lifting up the poor to pounding down the rich."

This and more excellent analysis from the conservative David Brooks in his New York Times piece Free-Market Socialism.

And we are worried about CO2?

It is back to the car bombs as a means of resolving differences in Iraq. And meanwhile in Egypt they are lifting the state of emergency and in Libya pro-Gaddafi forces retake Bani Walid. In Syria the US may close its embassy and hightail it. Also in Syria the Arab League observers quit. In Israel a Palestinian parliament speaker is jailed without a trial. Finally, on the home front the publisher of a Atlanta Jewish newspaper suggested that "Israel could order President Obama assassinated so that it was free to act against Iran."

Merely teething problems of a fledgling Iraqi democracy?

That is the western approach to the Iraq problems that appear in fact "to be tearing the country apart." Iraq seems to be in a full scale retreat to the days of Saddam. Ten years for naught. [With US Barely Gone, Iraq's Gov’t Breaking Apart].

The US media hasn't given it much press with an exception being the January 23 article on Military.com but originating with McClatchy Newspapers. The article lays out the ongoing violence that started the day of the US final troop withdrawal, and gives an inkling of what is to come. E.g., the BBC reports the bombings today January 24 that killed 13 and wounded 62 in Baghdad Shia districts - one of which is Sadr City.

Monday, January 23, 2012

It is Google's world, but

I am not sure that I want to live there. Google is exhibiting all the negative characteristics found with the narcissistic megalomaniac. While it may rate as a cool workplace - I don't work there, but it seems more and more that I am expected to conform to Google's wishes. The business - customer model has been turned on its head.

It is no longer about providing a service or product that the consumer desires, but it is about the consumer taking what Google offers. My way or the door. It didn't start out like that. The Google browser and features like homepage, reader, docs, etc. have evolved over the years - slowly but surely towards a presentation that is uniform but not necessarily a desired uniformity.

Google seemingly on a whim will change its service without notice or apparent benefit to the user. E.g., now that  'social media' has become so important, Google has continued its brute force approach to its services. See the story on Google sign up for its Plus addition - you may find that you are in deeper than intended.

Having a Google account I found that a 'Chat' feature has been added to the homepage with no means of eliminating it, opt out, if you will - I can hide it from my view - well almost - it still remains visible as a reminder that it is there.

Google's view: “We're working to develop a consistent sign-up flow across our different products as part of our efforts to create an intuitive, beautifully simple, Google-wide user experience. Making it quick and easy to create a Google Account and a Google profile enables new users to take advantage of everything Google can offer."

Whether you want it or not.

Not surprising, Google is attracting the wrong attention from privacy advocates and US and international anti-trust regulators. I see Google as an ever growing privacy violator with anti-competitive behavior that justifies its conduct as only providing a "Google-wide user experience."

"Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men [companies?] are almost always bad men [companies?]." [Lord Acton 1887].

It is a matter of staying within bounds.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Frack it

wired.com
Water. It is a natural resource that continues to be, in effect, taken for granted. Oil and gas industries treat water like that of New Yorkers in the summer where they turn on the fire hydrants to 'cool off' the neighborhood kids. Waste.

Although treated as a resource like the sun - it is there day after day and not likely to vanish for billions of years - water for drinking and irrigation may not be there tomorrow - it is in danger of over consumption and contamination.

Energy needs in the form of oil and gas are threatening the water supply in the US and elsewhere. In the US it appears that if we ignore the detriments and risks there is an abundance of gas and oil that might in fact give the US energy independence. [Shale oil and gas will help make western hemisphere self-sufficient].

Fracking is the oil and gas industry's methods of extraction that maximizes their profits to the detriment of the environment under the guise of job production and economic growth. Fracking "uses high-pressure injection of water, sand, and chemicals to release the trapped gas [and oil]" Ignoring for the moment the other items and looking at the water consumption it is arguably excessive; e.g.,  its use in oil, shale and tar sands, is several more barrels of water than barrels of oil. [See Oil Shale/Tar Sands Guide.]

But even assuming that the water usage isn't excessive, and that it is much like the water used for most any purpose - except it isn't reclaimable. The water used becomes unusable waste water contaminated prohibiting its use for drinking and irrigation. Interesting enough water becomes another toxic waste product much like nuclear waste raising issues of disposal.

According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, "waste water associated with shale gas extraction can contain high levels of total dissolved solids (TDS), fracturing fluid additives (which include a number of toxic constituents, including Benzene—which is known to cause cancer— Ethylbenzene, Toulene, Xylene, and diesel fuel), metals, and naturally occurring radioactive materials (including uranium, thorium, radium, and lead-210)."

So it is more than just the use of the water it is the chemicals and the like that is used in conjunction with the water that contaminates not only the waste water but the - as the argument goes - the water sources: rivers, wells and aquifers.

Earth Justice has this interesting interactive map Fracking and Fraccidents worth the peek. And added to the risk contamination risk to the water supply is now the prospect of fracking causing earthquakes. See the Ohio story in Ohio quakes raise fracking questions and in What is Fracking? Also see Bulgaria's booting of Chevron - Bulgaria Bans Gas Fracking, Thwarting Chevron Drilling Plan.

But there are those that dispute the risk as in this Reuters article Fracking no more risky than other oil, gas wells. The major point is that "[f]racking poses no more risk to the environment than production from conventional wells, which the industry and regulators have learned to manage successfully in recent decades to minimise the impact on local communities."

It seems to some like the author of the Reuters' story that it is merely an issue of risk management. For the author "drilling is not impossible even in highly urbanised areas." And he points to the fact that "[t]he Beverly Hills High School has 19 oil wells on campus pumping several hundred barrels of oil per day."

But isn't what is being missed by the 'risks outweigh the detriments' proponents of 'drill baby drill' is that while there may have been no 'damage' in the past - we live in much more crowded world drawing down on natural resources than ever before. And it isn't just fracking anymore it is super fracking. It seems as though our consumption has already outgrown the availability of those resources. Even water - a resource once seen as renewable - appears to becoming a non-renewable resource.

There has to be a recognition of the detriments as well as the benefits of oil and gas exploration so to find a  balance that leaves something for future generations. Economic growth is fast becoming an oxymoron. "Leadership" is irony.

Resources:

Natural Gas Extraction - Hydraulic Fracturing
Ohio quakes raise fracking questions
Peak Water: Aquifers and Rivers Are Running Dry. How Three Regions Are Coping :
peakwater.org
Fracking no more risky than other oil, gas wells
Fracking: Pollution finding could hurt gas drilling
Super fracking push for more oil, gas production
Fracking Gone Wrong: Finding a Better Way
Bulgaria Bans Gas Fracking, Thwarting Chevron Drilling Plan
What is Fracking?
American Rivers : Natural Gas Hydraulic Fracturing and Our Rivers

Why not Occupy Apple?

Doesn't Apple represent the antithesis of Occupy, of the working class, and of 'made in the USA?' Isn't Apple, like many others, just another company that has put profits about country. They are no better and no worse than Bank of American or any Wall Street firm. A singular goal - maximize profits.

We are not talking about making a profit - we are talking about squeezing out  every last penny of profit. It is about greed. Apple represents the worst of capitalism. Marx has to be smiling from his London Highgate perch. 

There are no 'borders' to companies like Apple. There is no national pride when it comes to making a buck. It matters not to them the working conditions of those in the other countries where their products are made on the cheap. Nor does it matter that their actions support a country like China where in fact they could not operate as a company. There is no patriotism in corporate personhood.

An example of what appeals to companies like Apple is found in the New York Times. In China, there is this  little twist on the company town that couldn't be achieved in modern day US.

At midnight, an assembly line overhaul caused this: "A foreman immediately roused 8,000 workers inside the company’s dormitories, according to the [former Apple] executive. Each employee was given a biscuit and a cup of tea, guided to a workstation and within half an hour started a 12-hour shift fitting glass screens into beveled frames. Within 96 hours, the plant was producing over 10,000 iPhones a day."

“The speed and flexibility is breathtaking,” the executive said. “There’s no American plant that can match that.”

An appropriate take by Betsey Stevenson, the chief economist at the Labor Department until last September: “Companies once felt an obligation to support American workers, even when it wasn’t the best financial choice.”“That’s disappeared. Profits and efficiency have trumped generosity.”

However, I would question the "generosity" portion of her remark. It is just another capital vs labor view where capitalist see providing work as "generosity."

Checkout the New York Times' Apple, America and a Squeezed Middle Class for an excellent read.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Oil and water don't mix

wired.com
Water is thought as being a renewable natural resource, after all, doesn't the rain refill our usage? In the best of times that seems to be true, but in the worst of times - modern society seeking energy - water is quickly becoming non-renewable. Even assuming that the quantity is sufficient - its quality or usability is at risk.

Some of the fear about the Keystone oil pipelines in Nebraska and other states in the high plains is based upon contamination of a major, if not the major, aquifer in the US. Also that pipeline exposed the ever growing threat that the water supply is being used faster than it can be replenished.

And there is an ever increasing threat to the quantity and quality of the water supply that comes from the desire to increase domestic oil supply. Oil companies like BP have used the 'oil independence' to their advantage, i.e., increased domestic oil production serves BP more than it serves the US.


Friday, January 20, 2012

Ogallala Aquifer (and Keystone pipeline)

There is much more to the pipeline deal than just the false claim of jobs. The first phase of the pipeline had already been constructed and is in use. That part of the pipeline transports tar sands oil from Alberta Canada to refineries in Illinois.

See the maps in Keystone pipeline post that shows the pipeline expansion crossing Nebraska at arguably the aquifer's most vulnerable points. See too the image to the left that highlights the value of that aquifer.

But what about the Ogallala Aquifer? Scientific American notes in a 2009 article the aquifer's importance: It is  a vast source for irrigation and that if the reservoir goes dry "more than $20 billion worth of food and fiber will vanish from the world’s markets. And scientists say it [would] take natural processes 6,000 years to refill the reservoir."


Thursday, January 19, 2012

Keystone pipeline

The recent decision by the president rejecting the Keystone phase 2 pipeline applied only to the expansion phase of a pipeline already completed in 2010 from Canada to oil refineries at Wood River and Pakota, Illinois. The expansion would transport tar sands oil to refineries in Texas at the Gulf Coast. That would seem to be the better location for sale on the international market.























But the issue in the expansion is the environmental danger in the second route. The pipeline passes right over - through if you will - Nebraska's Ogallala aquifer a source for drinking and irrigation water.

National Congress of American Indians: "A recent study by a University of Nebraska hydrologist outlines a worst case spill scenario, estimating that Keystone XL [phase 2 expansion] could spill as much as 7.9 million gallons in Nebraska's Sandhills, polluting 5 billion gallons of groundwater with benzene, contaminating water used for agriculture and drinking drawn from the Ogallala Aquifer, and more than 6.9 million gallons of tar sands crude at the Yellowstone River crossing."

See this too from Business Week: The Oil Change International and Natural Resources Defense Council "released a report that says the Keystone XL Pipeline will not protect America's energy interests, rather it will maximize the profits of 'Big Oils'." See the report Summary.

The president's decision seems correct especially since the Republicans had forced him to an early decision - politics (on both sides) as usual. Despite the cries from the Republicans, it appears that the pipeline company Transcanada Corp would seek an alternative route bypassing the aquifer and not redirect the pipeline to Canada's west coast.

Romney - not much for the trickle down theory

It is becoming all too clear why Romney doesn't want his tax returns made public. ABC News: "Mitt Romney has millions of dollars of his personal wealth in investment funds set up in the Cayman Islands, a notorious Caribbean tax haven." Romney's explanation ought to be at least humorous.

Trickle down is the argument that the wealthy put forth for tax cuts and other similar advantages that is based upon "the idea that tax breaks or other economic benefits provided by government to businesses and the wealthy will benefit poorer members of society by improving the economy as a whole." [Wikipedia].

Innovation: 'Green' Ferrari FF with 875 hp

Its about the beautiful and pricey, yet green, Ferrari. The only point to be made here, we are not talking the pros and cons of biofuel, is that it is absolutely irrational to seek the elimination of the automobile that so many of the 'greens' seek. It is pretty clear that innovation will make the adjustments to provide the autos that produce less CO2 emissions and reduced usage of carbon based fuels. It is a matter of expectations.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

It's not so easy: €2 trillion could be Germany's cost to phase out nuclear energy

CIA World Factbook
Germany panicked after the recent Japanese Fukushima earthquake and tsunami disaster and determined to phase out all of its nuclear power plants. With today's exchange rate we talking $2.56 trillion.

That cost estimate is dependent on the expansion of alternative energy resources; but it may be less if gas becomes a significant alternative. [Cost of nuke phase-out 'could near €2 trillion'].

Germany was using nuclear energy, 17 plants, for about 1/4 of its electrical energy. "Coal provides two thirds of the country's electricity.  Gas supplied 13%, wind 6% in 2009.  Electricity exports exceedrd (sic) imports by about 20 billion kWh in 2008, but Germany is one of the biggest importers of gas, coal and oil worldwide, and has few domestic resources apart from lignite [brown coal] and renewables . . ."

It seems odd the choice of coal over nuclear. Arguably German nuclear plants were among the safest in the world. But, "[i]n June 2011 German Chancellor Angela Merkel stated that for Germany to phase out nuclear power that it would need more coal plants." [Sourcewatch]. And, it is planning 20 coal more fired plants. Will Germany meet its EU promised reduction in CO2 emissions?

It is just domestic economics? Coal for power plants is domestically available. "Germany is the seventh largest coal producer in the world [. . .] of which the large majority was lignite [brown coal]." "Almost all of Germany’s brown coal consumption fires power plants, while the steel industry uses most of the hard coal," coming mostly from Poland. [Encyclopedia of Earth].

It is difficult to take the alleged detriments of coal seriously when coal is the choice between the two polar opposites on the CO2 emission scale. Will 'clean coal' come to the rescue? 

It only remains to be seen - many years in future - whether Germany took the right track. It seems doubtful mainly because the impetus came from an abnormal set of circumstances never to occur in Germany. But it makes sense from Germany's economic perspective: more power needs = more coal mining = more jobs.

Resources of interest:
Germany - Energy mix fact sheet
World Coal Statistics
America's Power (clean coal)
The problem with brown coal (an Australian perspective)

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Perry - Republican yahoo

""Turkey is "a country that is being ruled by what many would perceive to be Islamic terrorists," 'Perry said, in response to a question about whether Turkey, a top American ally, should remain a member of the NATO alliance.'" [Turkish columnist calls Perry an ‘idiot’ for Monday debate comments].

If Turkey's role in the world is unfamiliar, hopefully most are better informed than Perry, read the story for why Turkey is not being ruled by Islamic terrorists and their support for our anti-terrorists actions in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Perry: "Stupid is as stupid does."

A left perspective: "What the Right Gets Right"

I came to Portland pretty much a liberal - I would have labeled myself left - but now after about 8 years I am a conservative as set out in the New York Times piece: What the Right Gets Right. But I am not in the portion that describes the conservatives' shortcomings.

Here is a taste of what the conservatives get right. But shouldn't this apply equally as well to what liberals get right? Conservatism:
It recognizes “the importance of material incentives in shaping behavior, and the difficulty in keeping bureaucracies under control and responsive to citizens.” 
It is skeptical of “the application of social science theories to real world problems” and cognizant of “human fallibility/corruptibility.” 
It places a high value on “liberty/autonomy.” 
It places a similarly high value on “good parenting.”
It acknowledges “the superiority of market systems for encouraging efficient use of resources.”
And I too, like many social conservatives, "resent liberal programs that use government to infringe on their liberties in order to protect the groups that liberals care most about.”

You might read Portland burnout.

Thank you! Obama sued over indefinite detention and torture of Americans act

It must please the Russians to no end that the America who railed, and still do to some extent, against the undemocratic Russian government, is becoming more and more like the Soviet Union. [Obama sued over indefinite detention and torture of Americans act].

Not only has their been a passage of federal legislation to detain indefinitely Americans on American soil, there is a new piece of legislation that would take away American citizenship - Enemy Expatriation Act. See Senator Lieberman's take.

One might take notice too that loss of citizenship is an administrative - not judicial - action. "The burden of proof, by a preponderance of evidence, would be on the party asserting that loss of citizenship has occurred."

"Portland burnout"

A post, Portland burnout, on Jack Bog's Blog is a must read. It contains a republished comment to another post. It worth the read not merely because it is well written but because its points are well stated. This is not some knee jerk reaction by some troll - it is a well thought out comment about Portland from a Portlander.

This gives a hint to its content: "Over the years, my political and philosophical values have been re-shaped by living in this city. I'm thankful."

TriMet trash cans

Oregonian
Living in the Pearl - I haven't taken MAX lately so it wasn't until I was out drinking and dining with my son that I noticed an extra trashcan along the MAX lines in Downtown.

Next to the stainless steel containers established when the Green Line was constructed - they cost $2,000 per - is another trashcan - a clone except it isn't stainless steel - it cost $1,600 per.

The sole purpose of the new can is recycling. So what is wrong with that picture? Originally in 2009 they purchased 188 cans at a total cost of $376,000. In 2011, TriMet purchased 106 cans for a total of $169,600.

That is $545,600 for trashcans in two years. One would expect that the cost savings would have been more than $400 between the stainless and not stainless in 2009. But, it would have saved $75,200 had they eschewed stainless.

Never mind that the stainless cans were too extravagant to begin with - the new cans look nearly the same as the older ones. By the way one of the reasons the two cans look so much alike, besides being made by the same company, is that stainless needs care to keep the shine.

Of course the true cost is never made available - mostly because Oregonian bloggers never ask questions - they merely reprint press releases. Take a look at the the Oregonian's take on the new cans. The blogger is practically gushing over the cans. This is her last line: "We're playing in Peoria, downtownies."

Barf!

Sunday, January 15, 2012

New England Patriots 45 Denver Broncos 10

Now can we just get on with football? [guardian.co.uk].

Duh! Research: unearned praise does not help students

"A growing body of research over three decades shows that easy, unearned praise does not help students but instead interferes with significant learning opportunities. As schools ratchet up academic standards for all students, new buzzwords are persistence, risk-taking, and resilience — each implying more sweat and strain than fuzzy, warm feelings." [In schools, self-esteem boosting is losing favor to rigor, finer-tuned praise - The Washington Post].

Shiite and Sunni Muslim sects - the differences?

The Christian Science Monitor briefly states the only real difference between the two Muslim sects: "Their schism lies in disputes over who would succeed Muhammad as leader of the faithful after his death in 632." But the Shiites make up only about 15% of the Muslims even though they are the majority in Iraq and Iran.

"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." [See my post Iraq: Shi'ites and Sunnis are at it again.]

Washington Post's interview with Joe Paterno

Apparently it is his first interview since the scandal. This interview rehabilitates the Paternos of the world - seemingly in charge and seemingly in the position not only to recognize child sexual abuse but also to do something about it.

This is about an alleged child sexual abuse by a former assistant coach at University of Pennsylvania. The incident took place at a University's gym that the abuser had access to as a former coach. Mr. Queary an assistant coach at the time witnessed the event and told Mr. Paterno who set up a meeting for him with Curley the athletic director and Schultz who oversaw the university police. Mr. Paterno took no further action - but why should he have?

David Brooks in his New York Times November 14, 2011 opinion "Let's All Feel Superior" was correct. None of us can safely assume that had we been in Mr. Paterno's shoes we would have taken action to stop the sexual assaults. I need to pay more attention to Mr. Brooks.

It is clear that Mr. Paterno has been wrongly vilified by many because of some alleged inaction based upon an assumed knowledge. The alleged sexual predator in this case had retired 3 years prior to the incident in 2002.  He and Mr. Paterno had no contact since then. Yes, before that he was Paterno's assistant coach - but Mr, Paterno says it was a professional not social relationship. Many manage to keep the two separate.

Mr. Paterno's knowledge of the 2002 incident was not as complete as the media had suggested - or at least not that we came to believe. Mr. McQueary - who witnessed the sexual assault - only told Mr. Paterno something to the effect:  "He said it, well, looked like inappropriate, or fondling, I’m not quite sure exactly how he put it." "McQueary said he had been reluctant to go into similar [as when he told Curley and Schultz] “great detail about sexual acts” with Paterno, out of respect for the coach, who was 75 at the time."

I am especially biased against child sexual predators or any sexual predator for that matter. But it is difficult in some circumstances to know what you probably know. It is somewhat akin to domestic violence where you have that inkling but not sure enough to poke your nose into it. But because of the potential ramifications, like those suffered by Paterno, maybe it is wiser to be cautious in cases of child sexual abuse.

The Washington Post's article is a great read and I recommend reading David Brooks' opinion piece.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

MAX as a crime enabler

Recent events have caused TriMet to announce more patrols on MAX - but they have done that before when things get dicey. Of course it is a public relations gimmick - it always occurs after the fact and is always temporary.

When I lived in Old Town TriMet's transit police attending public safety committee meetings made it clear that it was too easy for drug deals and other crime could be carried out via MAX. The context of the discussion was the Fare Less Square free transportation. If we could just charge - then problem solved. But it isn't a matter of free transit.

MAX - or light rail - offers the ability to commit most any crime and get away with it. Stations are near enough to each other that a 'crime' can be committed and the perpetrators can exit at the next station without fear of being caught.

There is something too about the MAX 'container' that we ride. While the amount of passengers it holds it not much different from the bus - there is a feeling of openness and an absence of any visible authority. And even though it is alleged that there are cameras on board and the presence of 'call boxes,' they might as well be non-existent in the prevention of crime or the apprehension of criminals.

Frankly it is reasonable to assume that TriMet would not have taken any action to beef up patrols had not there been a viral video of the attack. I haven't read anywhere that their cameras caught any of the action or that there was there any indication that the on board 'call box' was utilized.

And it is too a matter of the people who ride MAX. When it comes to assaults, it seems like it is teenagers not adults who are causing the problems. It seems too that it doesn't take much for them to group together to bully single individuals, even adults.

The attack on the 14 year old has racial overtones. From the Tribune it is easy to conclude that there was some resentment that the white girl was attacked because she was sitting next to a black male, possibly a boyfriend. But a slightly different and contrary story is found in the Oregonian. But it seems that we can't talk about the racial issue - can we?

Apparently passengers on the Green Line MAX who witnessed the attack on the 14 year old did nothing to help her. The Tribune notes that someone called 911 but in fact no matter how fast the police respond unless they are at the next station it is too late. Did anyone push the call button? Are the cameras record only? Can't the train operator see live video?

But I believe I understand the failure any passenger taking action. Being a good Samaritan doesn't pay off. Sometimes too events happen so fast or are so obscured that it takes a while before there is a recognition. And adults don't take on kids because the kids are likely to turn on you. And as we see too, often the children's adult parents are part of the trouble.

"The Oregonian story mentioned above sees it only as an event of bullying. The story concludes: "Public transit should reflect its community. It's a moving sidewalk. If we keep our kids off, then only the bullies will ride. And what will that say about us?"

It says that we want our kids to be safe. The attack was hitting and spitting - but one can assume that a gun was not far away. If I had children that rode the Green Line - they wouldn't anymore. TriMet would need to convince me that, in fact, it is safe for me and my children to ride the train. My children are not to be offered up as martyrs.

MAX is not a safe mode of transit and is a mode of transportation that enables crime. Not that it cannot be made safe - it is that TriMet has done little to make it safe. But see their efforts in the Tribune piece.

Police officer - clearly a dangerous job

The Christian Science Monitor had the story that nationally police officer deaths in the line of duty rose 37% in 2010. The Portland Tribune utilizing the same statistical resource had a slightly different Oregon perspective. It is a dangerous job.
"Police and detective work can be very dangerous and stressful. Police officers and detectives have one of the highest rates of on-the-job injury and illness. In addition to the obvious dangers of confrontations with criminals, police officers and detectives need to be constantly alert and ready to deal appropriately with a number of other threatening situations." [Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupations: Police and Detectives].
It is difficult to understand how anyone could deny the basic fact that the police officer has a dangerous job - yet, not surprising though, many of the Tribune commenters fell all over themselves attempting to denigrate the police. It is a Portland thing.

Their attempt was to show that the job is not dangerous as other jobs. The reliance on others utilizing Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), ignoring the Tribune and CSM's source the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund: Deaths, was misplaced because the references were not related to police officer safety. The BLS doesn't have a top ten dangerous jobs - but it does have relevant statistics on occupations and homicides.

A peek at those statistics (BLS News Release, a concise presentation, and BLS Table A-6, more detail) demonstrates that law enforcement has the second highest number of homicides. It is clear too that their occupations are far more dangerous than fire fighters. But the best resource is that of the FBI's Uniform Crime Reports.

These FBI pie charts breakdown the circumstances. It is not surprising that Arrests, Disturbances and Traffic Pursuits are the top situations where homicides and assaults are found.

See too this FBI link, and this one too. It looks like a dangerous job to me.

But one should not ignore the stats from the  National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund: Deaths. It needs to be updated for 2010 and 2011, but it shows  the deaths, assaults and injuries over a time span beginning with 2001.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Google's anti-privacy and anti-trust marketing called out

"An influential privacy watchdog has asked the US government to investigate Google+, the search giant's social network, claiming it may violate people's privacy and raises anti-trust concerns." [Epic to FTC: Google Search+ is violating users' privacy; see too earlier post].

Not Central Bank’s Role to Intervene in Housing Market

That story is from the Wall Street Journal's Real Time Economics. Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond President Jeffrey Lacker: “I don't think we should be targeting specific markets, even a market as dear to the heart of Americans as the housing market,' Lacker told reporters. 'If we do that we are just withdrawing credit from some other market and we are not the ones to decide that.

Is't it a no brainer?

Southeast Portland - is it that bad?

The police press releases recently on shootings and the like seem to be centered in the Southeast and not the Northeast. It is rather odd that - and I believe it is true for most cities - there is a dividing safe line. In Portland it appears that the Willamette River is that line. In general it seems safer (from being shot) on the west side of the river.

But look at the police graphics posted on the Willamette Week that depicts gang killings (1995-2010) and shots fired (2000-2010). The west side isn't left out. But notice the shift (purpose of the graphics) in the gang killings and shots fired. Appears to be moving - spreading is the better word - from the Northeast to the Southeast.

It is easy to sit in my armchair and hurl rocks - but if the gang violence and shootings are known and relatively contained in certain areas - why can't the police contain and reduce that violence? One suspects that it is a combination of things - budget, personnel, priorities and police bureau ineptness.

It is often baffling though. It seems that the police are only interested in containment - not elimination. But the graphics show that the gang violence and shootings are not being contained. And although there are no data to go along with the graphics - it does look like that there is more than a shift but an increase.

One wonders whether the inept mayor plays a part in all of this? Going by the news media (a risk) the mayor seems to interfere in ordinary police management and is clueless about underlying causes to gang formation and violence.

The prospect of change seems not in Portland's future given the candidates for mayor and city council.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Police fitness test

The Oregonian editorial board and others, e.g., Dan Saltzman, have leapt all over the police officers and their union because of a bonus negotiated between the union and the city. Arguably the bonus is rather incongruous, i.e., paying extra money to officers to stay fit. But - it may well depend on what "fit" means. A police officer who is older and coming near the retirement age is not likely to be in as good as physical condition as a rookie.

Anyway, the fitness test turned out to be nothing more than a blood test requiring a small sample from the finger..Why not a real fitness test? Because the union argued that its officers should not have to take it on their own time, i.e., after work, unless there was compensation.

This argument bothered the Oregonian editorial board, but not necessarily Maxine Bernstein whose post was referenced by the editorial. Now I have worked at many companies in my rather long life and anything that was job related and required by the company was either on company time or there was additional compensation.

Frankly in the case of maintaining a "fit" police department - that compensation would be well spent. But the naysayers and cop haters have only one objective on their agenda . . .

But not only the payment of additional payment  bothered them - they were disturbed by union "bullying" - so they would have it. This was missed by the editorial board: "The city was unwilling to pay officers overtime to take a physical fitness test that could result in higher pay. Instead, the city chose [emphasis added] to offer a biometric screening to measure officers' cholesterol and glucose, and obtain their blood pressure reading and body mass ratio."

However what brought the issue to the forefront was the cost. "The bureau had estimated that about 65 percent of the police force would pass a physical fitness test, and budgeted for the premium pay around that estimate. Now, with 91 percent of union members granted the bonus pay, the bureau has overspent its premium pay budget by about $1 million, bureau fiscal supervisors said."

It sounds like the city made a cost decision and lost. They just didn't think the cost aspect through. We were not told by the media what it would have cost the city had a fitness test such as that being promoted by many was adopted. Expect the city to spend considerable more money if a new fitness test is to be required.

This was a contract by and between the police bureau and the police union. It is irrational to blame one side of the negotiations when the contract is not "approved" by the likes of the Oregonian editorial board. This is a contract of July 2011 that had a requirement that additional pay would come upon passing the "Bureau's Health & Fitness test." Of course - that test was left undefined. Blame the police union?

It seems that it might be a tad more important to have a fully staffed and well equipped police force that might be able to take on the gang, drug problems. The bonus issue is a distraction but it does illustrate the priorities of the cop bashers.

Erratic driving among returning veterans

The problems associated with military personnel returning from Iraq and Afghanistan acclimating to what we call ordinary day-to-day life extends to even driving. [Erratic Driving an Increasing Problem Among Returning Vets | Military.com].

"Susan Max, a 63-year-old grandmother of four, deployed to Iraq in 2007 as an Army reservist. One of her jobs was to drive an unarmored vehicle through Baghdad, transporting large sums of cash destined for reconstruction projects. The hypervigilance that carried her through, she told the [New York] Times, manifested itself as extreme anxiety in the driver's seat back in the States."

Notice that this excerpt has two other oddities: 63 year old grandmother serving in Baghdad and the use of cash to pay for projects. It seems that the grandmother's story ought to be a separate - it has to be more than just interesting. And the transportation of large amounts of cash in unarmored vehicles should be further explored. One wonders just how much cash was transported at any one time?

Israel democracy: Palestinian spouses can't live Israel

It is another head shaker. But it demonstrates the unlikeliness that the Israelis and Palestinians will ever co-exist. It seems that Israel more and more mirrors an apartheid.

'Firing' comment by Romney

I am not a Romney supporter although he seems more a Democrat (my party) than a Republican - but the news media grabbed on to a small portion of his statement publishing only the "I like being able to fire people" part.

While CNN is guilty too - see the headline - 'Firing' comment shows Romney doesn't get it, but it also published the full content to give full context.
"I want individuals to have their own insurance. That means the insurance company will have an incentive to keep people healthy. It also means if you don't like what they do, you can fire them. I like being able to fire people who provide services to me. If someone doesn't give me the good service I need, I'm going to go get somebody else to provide that service to me."
There is nothing wrong with that comment.

Education Week gives Oregon public schools a C-

A "C" minus. See Oregon's analysis at Education Week: Quality Counts 2012 - State Report Cards. Overall, Oregon is ninth from the bottom among the states. Even West Virginia which is one of the poorest states achieved a B-.

There is a pull down menu. Take notice that Oregon's grades for the various categories listed. Look at the K-12 Achievement - a "D" for Oregon. It can be seen that Oregon is about 13th from the bottom.

However, the states' rating is more than just grades e.g., it evaluates  the teaching profession - a "D" for Oregon; the state is 7th from the bottom. College readiness is a "F." Spending is an "F."

Dismal. The fact that it seems that most states are in the same leaky boat should not give solace.  If some states can achieve better results - why not Oregon?

See this page for information about the various indicators. And as might be expected - to get into the good details requires a purchase, but not too much - $4.95.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Greenhouse emitters - interactive tool

The New York Times offers an excellent means of viewing who's who of greenhouse emitters. At first brush - I haven't looked at it in much detail - Oregon - certainly Portland - isn't too bad in its greenhouse emissions. The available pie chart indicates that 69.7% of the greenhouse pollution comes from Oregon power plants. Interesting though is that landfills at 11.2% is second.

The greenhouse emissions are Carbon Dioxide, Nitrous Oxide and Methane. If only Carbon Dioxide is selected - Power Plants are at 79%. Select Nitrous Oxide and Pulp and Paper becomes the leader at 44.9%. Finally select Methane - and not surprisingly Landfills is the leader at 97.7%

Of the three gases - methane is the most potent or harmful: " Methane (CH4) is a greenhouse gas that remains in the atmosphere for approximately 9-15 years. Methane is over 20 times more effective in trapping heat in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide (CO2) over a 100-year period and is emitted from a variety of natural and human-influenced sources." [Methane | Climate Change | U.S. EPA].

What does this say about landfills? Interesting is a Google search on composting vs landfills - refine it as you wish - that produces this quote from Sustainablog: "To me, I think it's good to have more organics in the garbage," operations manager Neil Wise [Altamont Landfill] told me. Organic matter in landfills generates methane, a potent and flamable greenhouse gas; Altamont currently captures enough methane to power 8,500 homes."

Take from that what you will. But take a peek at the map - rather illuminating. It might be noticed too that Boardman Oregon comes up a lot. I haven't determined yet whether that is significant or not.

East Portland 'Shooting Gallery'

The recent arrest of a 15 year old for spraying a house with gunfire has another perspective in the Willamette Week - the house is in the area known to residents as the 'shooting gallery." Don't you wonder why if an area is so well known the police haven't taken action?

Maybe it would be appropriate that real 'community policing' would dictate a walking beat. Costly? Maybe - but how does one calculate costs? What are lives worth? It is only 'luck' that the 14 shots fired into the house didn't kill or injure someone.

The Week has this rationale: "The municipal border with Gresham complicates police response. And the nearby MAX station on East Burnside provides a convenient getaway, as well as a physical obstacle, with treacherous tracks in the center of the road that more closely resemble a freight railway than urban-friendly light rail."

Do you buy it?

Google - a liberating tool?

Google in its profit driven enterprising seeks - maybe unwittingly or unintentionally - to acquire data on each and every user of its services that makes the government's feared role in that regard seem inconsequential. Not only does Google dig into our personal and otherwise private lives it impresses upon us a regime of conformity not yet achieved by most governments.

While it has been slow and subtle - it has nevertheless been effective at installing a regime of the Google way. They continue to expose the individual forcing them to 'opt out' rather than being 'in' in the first place.

Where once the user had some semblance of control over the Chrome browser and Google tools - slowly but surely that control or even influence has been lost. They will 'give' and they will 'take' various innovations at will.

Google apparently has decided in its godlike wisdom to structure their tools and services to suit them - not the user. See this from KGW's article about Google Plus: "The Internet search leader eventually hopes to know enough about each of its users so it can tailor its results to fit the unique interests of each person looking for something."

Nice marketing hype to convince that they are doing things in your interest - when in fact it is about creating more advertising revenue. More hype from Google: "Ushering in the new era of social and private data search will take close cooperation, and we hope other sites [Twitter and Facebook] participate so we can provide the best possible experience for our users."

Sounds anti-competition? How about this: "The Federal Trade Commission, attorneys general in six states, and the European Commission are looking into complaints alleging Google has been unfairly exploiting its dominance in Internet search to promote its other services while ignoring or downplaying pertinent information about its rivals."

See the excellent information and analysis in the KGW post: Google search gets more personal, raises hackles.

Impending economic recession in China?

According to BBC News, Barclays Capital links - if you want - the building of skyscrapers with economic downswings, i.e., they are precursors. "There is an "unhealthy correlation" between the building of skyscrapers and subsequent financial crashes, according to Barclays Capital."

Of course China is not alone in building skyscrapers, but the BBC article notes this from Barclays Capital: "Investors should be most concerned about China, which is currently building 53% of all the tall buildings in the world."

Capitalist plot? In ordinary capitalism, such a prediction would probably have some immediate and negative effects in the market. But in China?

Child abuse (and death) via Skype

The mother had said the child - 20 month old - fell into a bucket of water. But it appears that "the girl died after Briton Ammaz Qureshi told her [via Skype] to hold her under water to discipline her." [Norway police interview UK man over Skype child death].

Indiscriminate 'spray and pray'

A 15 year old gang member has been arrested for an apparent 'uncontrolled' shooting at an Southeast house - 14 22 caliber bullets hit the house. The Oregonian has the story with a booking photo - a rather nice looking kid. How did he get so mixed up?

Seven shootings since Sunday - six gang connected. Of course the city apparently has no way to deal with the gang problem. If they do - it sure isn't obvious. And what do we hear from the mayor? It is "absolutely unacceptable."

Now don't you feel better? 

Lake Oswego in reverse on streetcar

It is not that Lake Oswego council member Tierney is against the streetcar, he rightly concludes now is not the time. "I have concluded that because of the economy, the Portland to Lake Oswego Streetcar project will not move forward in the near future." [Lake Oswego council switch derails streetcar project].

Information did the trick. It is interesting to see a flip-flop when it is based upon apparently new information. Much credit to the council member to change his mind rather than being locked in to a incomprehensible vision in today's economic climate.

Oh boy! Santorum a closet communist?

"On the campaign trail, Santorum often touts his grandfather’s flight from Italy “to escape fascism,” but he has neglected to publicly mention their close ties with the Italian Communist Party." Santorum’s Communist Clan


Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Ex-GI tried to join a Somalian terrorist group

This story has many facets not recognized in the headlines or text. The obvious one is how did a seemingly normal American trained by the US Army in intelligence and cryptology and who had served in Iraq and South Korea would secretly convert to Islam even before his discharge and later attempt to reach Somalia to join the terrorist group?

Why?

First it needs to be said that he is charged "with attempting to provide material support and resources to al-Shabaab," a Somalian terrorist group. That is different from "engaging in terrorist activity" as is implied by the articles.

He was apparently motivated by an online religious article to seek to live out his life in a land governed by Sharia Law. Apparently this left him with three options: "the Taliban-controlled areas of Afghanistan, a few islands in the Philippines or southern Somalia." Apparently Somalia made more sense.

I am not sure that a desire to live under Sharia Law answers the question of why, or how, that this person could be so enamored by an online religious site that he was prepared to forego family contact and all religious and other personal freedoms to join a terrorist group as a means to fulfill his desire.

It will be interesting to see if as an American citizen he will be subject to indefinite detention without a hearing as permitted by the passage of the National Defense Authorization Act or be permitted a civilian trial.
 
But maybe more interesting is this: "Soon after his arrival [in Kenya], he was pulled off a bus near Mombasa after a seat-mate had inquired about his plans. Kenyan police turned over [him] to the FBI office in Nairobi, and he "was arrested upon his return to Maryland last week.'" [Yahoo News].

Who was the seat-mate that apparently turned him in to Kenya's authorities? And why is there an FBI office in Nairobi?

One wonders too when reading the articles how did the government seemingly acquire so much information on him? The FBI's affidavits contained a lot of information that one would assume would not have been given up by ex-GI. Had he always been a subject of surveillance?

Oddly he apparently used government computers in South Korea to surf the Internet coming across an Islamic religious site that led to his conversion, but before leaving for Kenya he destroyed his home computer "because he is aware of the capabilities of the United States government."

Capabilities of the US government - now that is more scary than an ex-GI joining a terrorist group.

Georgia's slavery math problems

 "Each tree had 56 oranges. If eight slaves pick them equally, then how much would each slave pick?" and "If Frederick [who apparently was a slave] got two beatings per day, how many beatings did he get in one week?"

These questions were assigned to 8 year olds in Gwinnett County, Georgia.

Math is not a social science. A reasonable implication embedded in the questions is that slavery is okay and so too beating slaves.  It is unreasonable in any educational context to frame a question containing issues of slavery and beatings where those issues will not be subject to critical analysis. It is unlikely that 8 year old students are ready for critical analysis.

Moreover, ath is a subject that doesn't permit critical analysis. But there is more to these problems than the mathematical solution. While the students might well learn how to solve math problems, there is no effort or opportunity to address the social issues. Nor is it likely that the minds of 8 year olds (third grade) are ready to do anything other than accept what their teachers tell them.

It is reasonable to assume that these questions were purposefully formulated to legitimize slavery and the harsh treatment of slaves that had occurred in the South.

The Washington Post's Answer Sheet blog carried a response by a guest author that offered appropriate, in part, criticism as the lack of cultural sensitivity. But that is a weak response. It is not about sensitivity - cultural or otherwise. It is about basic human rights. And maybe more importantly, it is a Georgia county school system that appears racially biased.

Whoever formulated these questions had to know that they went beyond teaching math. It was an attempt to frame a morally unacceptable position. Those responsible ought to have been dismissed. And, even if  they were so clueless that they didn't recognize the obvious import of the questions - they surely do not qualify to be in the position of formulating math questions.

It seems the South just can't get away from the Civil War.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Ford is on the right track - a hybrid: 47 mpg city, 44 mpg highway.

2013 Ford Fusion Hybrid packs 47 mpg, dashing good looks. It is always difficult to look at images and come to that conclusion, but from the picture to the left and those in the gallery - it does appear to be a competitive contender to satisfy the greens and the rest of us.