Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Schools' prowess can't be copied - why not?

Why does it seem that some schools just do a better job of educating their students? Is it that some of the schools are doing a better job? Or is it the participants? Maybe it is that our view is colored in some way by the measurements? And, of course how does one measure success?

If a school isn't doing well as compared to other similarly situated schools - is the education of the students from the poorly performing schools less than desired? E.g., if a school has a low graduation rate - are the students that do graduate poorly educated or in some way less educated than a school with a high graduation rate?

What is the state's obligation to educate?

Here is what I am getting at. In this year's Science Bowl, it was schools from Washington state that were the first place winners in both the high school and middle school competitions. But Portland's Metro schools did well too. But it is nearly impossible to compare Vancouver schools with those in the metro - if for no other reason the two states don't share the same testing mechanisms. But I will try anyway.

Below, I provided individual links from Oregonian's schools database and Great Schools links. Great Schools gives an insight on the school's ethnicity, student's family income, class sizes and more. Between the two data sources there should be sufficient enough information to make at least some educated guesses about a school success or failure. But . . . .


Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Adams should have thought a little more before opening his mouth

Beth Slovic in her Sunday article "Why can't Portland repave its rutted roads?" apparently hit a raw nerve. Adams saw fit to respond by claiming he put safety over driver comfort in his non-street paving decisions. "In 2005, as a new transportation commissioner, I decided it was more important to keep drivers alive than totally comfortable on side streets." [Portland's potholes: City chooses to put safety ahead of smoothness].

What a crock! If you have the stomach for it - read Adam's response. Listen to the interview that Adams references in his response. It is embedded in the Willamette Week's story: "The interview is more than an hour long and gets quite contentious." [Mayor Adams Posts Oregonian Interview ]

WTF: Job ads that require current employment

Awaiting the Oregon governor is a bill to ban ads that post a requirement of current employment. In Chicago the city is considering a ban on ads that discriminate on credit history. The two go together - don't they? Talk about kicking you when you are down.

Aren't job ads for the unemployed? Having been in the position of hiring -I have placed newspaper ads as well as using employment agencies. The fact that a potential employee was unemployed was merely a factor to weigh, e.g., why was the person unemployed. Never heard of anyone considering credit history - except where it is directly related to the job. 

Now apparently in Oregon some, probably only a few, employers - the media never identifies - want only to hire employees currently with a job. From a Google search it appears that Oregon employers may be the only state where businesses place these current employment required ads.

Of course the ban will have little effect because it only applies to the ad not the action. The bill doesn't provide for legal recourse if not hired because of employment status. Thus a business can still refuse to hire those currently unemployed. And that has always been the practice - hasn't it? Unemployment, current or periods of unemployment, has always been a red flag, except that in these economic times unemployment it might be expected.

And that raises another issue for the job seeker. If unemployed - he or she can lie. And why not? Job seekers seem to lie about many other important job related items knowing that the employer may not check. If the employer checks - no hiring. But if employed - most don't want their current employer contacted for fear of losing that job. And that has always been a fear.

Hopefully this new discriminatory hiring practice is very limited. Even if the unemployment rate decreases there is a large workforce pool containing skilled workers who are unemployed through no fault of their own. Might the message that this bill sends to employers be - hire these workers first?

Menu of incentives: Property tax revenue offered to keep Portland "green"

Beth Slovic has more on the story about keeping Iberdrola in Portland. It demonstrates that the use of public revenue is not in the good hands of fiscally prudent politicians (Oxymoron). Iberdrola is one of those energy renewables companies - that reads wind mills.

As an earlier Oregonian article noted Iberdrola is a Spanish-owned company that is struggling. "The company laid off 25 Portland workers last week, leaving about 350 employees here out of a U.S. work force of about 850."

Going beyond the menu of incentives - PDC graciously offered Iberdrola $1,155,000 grant (not loan) to stay in the Pearl as opposed to moving out of Portland and the state. The PDC Report notes that the company was looking elsewhere, but it isn't clear that it was ever a real possibility - but I don't believe that makes much of a difference to PDC and city hall policy makers. 

Rather than negotiate - it appears that PDC was willing to let the company essentially determine for itself - via a menu of incentives - the best incentive for them to stay, but not necessarily for the taxpayers in the River District Urban Renewal Area. 

Of course - there is no way these tax increment funds can be linked to eradication of blight - but that statute prerequisite (see section 457.010) has long gone by the wayside. PDC spends that money as it sees fit knowing that the Pearlites will go along. 

PDC appears to find solace in the fact that they have a liquidated damages clause in their agreement with Iberdrola. It is in a side agreement - but liquidated damage clauses are difficult to enforce often seen as a penalty rather than an attempt to fix reasonable damages. See this case for some insight on Oregon's liquidated damages clause.

It will be more difficult because of the fact that the money is a grant to the owner of the premises that Iberdrola leases and not Iberdrola itself. Note that the owner gets the money irrespective of whether or not Iberdrola breaches an agreement to stay. That leaves the city with the only option of going after the foreign owned Iberdrola - not likely.


Sunday, February 26, 2012

Foreign suits against multinational companies?

KGW has this story on how two prominent lawsuits are testing the limits of Alien Tort Statute and the Torture Victims Protection Act of 1991. [Justices weigh foreigners' suits vs. companies]. But, a quick grasp of the the issue is found in the Los Angeles Times.
"At issue is whether corporations and political groups can be held liable in U.S. courts for their roles in torture and other abuses abroad." 
And there is another issue that may even be more important. This has to do with the Citizen's United decision essentially - many argue - giving personhood to corporations. See the Guardian UK for more on corporate liability.
The issue is "whether US-based and global corporations can be held liable for genocide and other violations of international law."
There are two cases to be decided by the US Supreme Court. "[T]he case of a dozen Nigerians who sued the Royal Dutch Shell oil company in the torture and execution of dissidents in Nigeria in the 1990s." And "a lawsuit against the Palestinian Authority and the Palestinian Liberation Organization" where a Palestinian American "was allegedly tortured and killed by Palestinian intelligence officials in the 1990s." [Los Angeles Times].

But go back to the KGW story for more details about what is at stake with these and similar cases. "Other cases pending in U.S. courts seek to hold accountable Chiquita Brands International for its relationship with paramilitary groups in Colombia; Exxon and Chevron for abuses in Indonesia and Nigeria, respectively; Britain-based mining concern Rio Tinto for allegedly aiding the Papua New Guinea government in a civil war; and several companies for their role in the old racial apartheid system in South Africa." [Justices weigh foreigners' suits vs. companies]

Resources:

See Harvard's International Human Rights Clinic on how this law has been used "to hold perpetrators to account for violations such as extrajudicial killing, torture, war crimes, and crimes against humanity."  See Wikipedia for a brief description of the Torture Victims Protection Act and its use. And, see this law review article from Boalt Law School, Berkeley Journal of International Law, Vol, 28:2, that explains the connection between the two statutes plus providing their legislative histories and court interpretations.

Beth Slovic

Beth Slovic, an Oregonian reporter has done a nice job with this story on Portland's transportation bureau: Why can't Portland repave its rutted roads? And see this one too: Portland officials offered Iberdrola a 'menu' of incentives. I call her a reporter in the journalistic sense  - not a blogger like most of the others at the Oregonian.

The Oregonian has slipped far from the 'newspaper' status. Today it is merely a collection of blogs seemingly designed to promote web hits by trolls.  Beth Slovic is an exception.

There are only 1 or 2 others at the Oregonian that I might put in the reporter category. I like the work she does. She did well at Willamette Week, see some of her posts. And she does well at the Oregonian, see a listing of her posts.

This from a story in the Contra Costs Times (an interesting story on Occupy Oakland) mentioning a reporter's role:  Reporting (or journalism) on government actions is "a daily fight, one in which we need to be ever diligent against getting snowed by officials and falling into the role of stenographers rather than independent reporters."

That fits her.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Shoe riots in US while those in the Middle East riot for freedom

The story is about the riots occurring in Florida while awaiting the release of a new Nike shoe. It is suggested that the some blame can be laid on Nike for its marketing techniques - but doesn't it speak more to the culture or morality of the rioters? It there a rioting need in one's life to be an one of the first purchasers of a sport's shoe costing $220? What does one suppose is the income demographics of the rioters?

Secret services ramp up online surveillance

It is a German story - but it isn't too difficult to understand that it is applicable to the US. Apparently in defiance of their constitution, German secret services - of course in the name of terrorism - access email accounts in search of 'terrorists.' The German Constitutional Court has demanded a change in the law.

"The court ruled that existing law on the storage and access to user names, passwords and PIN codes by intelligence agencies was a breach of the basic right to privacy of personal information guaranteed in the German constitution."

Think that it doesn't happen in the US? In the 60s the National Security Agency listened in on all domestic phone conversations using keywords, much like in the German story, as a selection technique to ferret out enemies of the state. I can't imagine that they wouldn't be 'listening in' on our emails.

The 'terrorist' label is an all too convenient means to root out political terrorists. It is the terrorist fear that numbs the electorate's opposition to continued invasion of privacy. Sadly, it is not difficult to foresee that a 'terrorist' is merely anyone the government wants to so designate.

The US has already passed the National Defense Authorization Act that permits the indefinite detention of American citizens on American soil. The Act permits: "indefinite detention of terrorism suspects without charge, and the jailing of American citizens without trial. It also takes terrorism-related cases out of the hands of the FBI and the civilian court system and hands them over to the military."

And our congress is seeking to add the  Enemy Expatriation Act to its arsenal of anti-terrorism laws which will cause the loss of citizenship for naturalized citizens for engaging in hostilities against the US. What are "hostilities?"  "[A]ny conflict subject to the laws of war." See Senator Lieberman's take.

And Occupy [insert your favorite city] wants us to worry about corporations. Maybe they and us need to worry about too much power in the hands of government.

"We have met the enemy, and he is us." Pogo.

Clackamas County residents have seen the future . . .

. . . and they don't like it. The Portland Tribune story is about the challenge to the Portland to Milwaukie fixed rail project. But a read shows that the Portland story has demonstrated to Clackamas County, as well as those in Lake Oswego, that the path to the future via fixed rail is far from the yellow brick road of promises.

TriMet, using Metro government as a straw man, continues in its efforts to build a bureaucratic agency that has as its goal its own self importance. It matters not what might be good for the region - like better and flexible transit options - the push is on fixed rail.

Optimistically, it seems that voters in Clackamas are realizing that they can control the expenditures of their local government by limiting taxing authority. Clackamas like many governments don't know the basics of prudent fiscal management nor the realization that an elective office doesn't give carte blanche authority to spend. The voters still count even after an election.

The challenges are not coming from extremists but from those with this observation: “I used to think government always knew what it was doing." “But after attending a few commission hearings, I realized they were not listening to what the people were saying.”

Of course - rather than acting as a proper steward of public dollars - TriMet, a public agency, attempts to bully the voters with threats of law suit forcing the county to spend tax dollars on their fixed rail project. "TriMet General Manager Neil McFarlane already has said the commission is legally obligated to provide the $25 million, meaning TriMet could sue for the money if the county withholds it." Yeah - right!

Hopefully, this challenge will serve as a lesson for the residents and businesses of Multnomah County and Portland. A democracy is a democracy only if its citizens and residents stand up to be counted.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Privacy - and it's not the government who is collecting the data

I am watching the Colbert Report and he does a segment on marketing by stores like Target. It was based upon a New York Times article How Companies Learn Your Secrets. What operates for marketing these days is data collection on individuals. This data collection if done by the government is a clear violation of the US Constitution - but should it matter whether it is government or business that is the big brother?

What is there to keep the government from obtaining that data? What is to keep a business from providing that data to the government? And as the article makes clear - the data that is collected isn't redacted, i.e., in many cases the data is individual focused.

And we are not talking about the Internet. E.g., a company can take public records about births and turn that into an ad campaign for birth related items. The NYTimes article relates how "Target assigns each shopper a unique code — known internally as the Guest ID number — that keeps tabs on everything they buy."


Do they have the right people in the prisoner jumpsuit?

"A frightened 9-year-old boy accused of accidentally shooting a classmate sat before a judge in juvenile court, crying and wearing an orange jail jumpsuit, as his father gently rubbed his back." The child's uncle is the legal guardian. The gun was brought from his mother's house.

Clearly an accident - the gun discharged from within the boy's backpack. He is alleged to stated that he was going to run away.

Both mother and father have a criminal record. Mother - drugs; father violating protection (apparently domestic) orders regarding his son.

The Washington state authorities do not have the right person or persons in detention's jumpsuit.



Father: 'My Kid Made a Mistake' in School Shooting - ABC News:

NYTimes asks: How Much Do Foxconn Workers Make?

The New York Times in its article seems too focused on the wage amount and not its value. Thus it is clear by US standards that the wage is low - or US companies would not be in China. But what we are never given is an analysis on how that wage fits into the living standards of the Chinese worker or how at one time when the US was a developing country the workers' wages were low.

I am not saying that an analysis of their wages in the greater scheme of cost of living will make them on par with the US workers - but I suspect that the perspective is not as negative as the media would like to have one believe.

It is unfair and unreasonable to attempt to compare China's wages with the US because each country is in a different stage of development. The US is considered a developed country and China is a developing country.  It might be more interesting and intellectually honest to compare the US and China at the same stage of development.

The US went through its developing stages with many of the similar problems that China is experiencing. If one puts aside the political issues - China and the US are very similar in their economic development stages.

Super PACS - a sign that democracy works?

I read today's post from Letter from China "Campaign 2012 With Chinese Characteristics. It is about briberey in the local Chinese communities - buying the vote. A conclusion that can be drawn is that because the Chinese candidate is willing to fork over money - as opposed to ballot stuffing and the like - elections are recognized as important, and therefore, democracy is alive and well in China. Maybe the latter is a stretch. And it must be said that such vote buying is not widespread, but rather isolated.

But couldn't one reasonably conclude that those with the bucks in the US are in a sense 'vote buying?' Clearly it is - the difference between the China example and the US trend is that in China individuals receive cash in hand, and in the US the cash go to advertising to 'buy' the vote. And aren't those expenditures - millions and millions of US dollars - a de facto recognition of the importance of our elections?

While its has seemed to be only the wealthy - somewhat to the right and all the way to the right - donors are putting 'their money where their mouth is.' But now we see liberals - leftists if you will - like Bill Maher recognizing the importance of elections, especially this election, by contributing $1 mil to an Obama super PAC.

I wonder though what is the influence of campaign expenditures by the far too wealthy? Do the ads they sponsored change the views of the electorate or do they merely convince the electorate that their views are correct? Does their funding of the candidate's ability to traipse around the country help or hurt their cause? The better question - will this election be determined by the wealthy?

Well for me it has hurt their cause. I would like to have another choice than Obama. I believe he hasn't fulfilled his promise. But given the Republican slate - especially after hearing their right wing propaganda and campaign of personal insults on Obama - Obama is looking real good.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Passive location tracking

A Portland startup company has created an 'invisible' app (runs in the background) to communicate "directly with iPhone and Android devices instead of relying on third-party carriers or cell-tower triangulation.". [Portland's Geoloqi launches its 'next-generation' location tracking platform].

Providing business and government a better way of tracking your location. Is this the best use of technology? Not surprising - the company "has already signed a handful of corporate and government clients."

Privacy - a thing of the past?

Another shooting

It wasn't Old Town, but the Oregonian was close in that it was in the Old Town/Chinatown neighborhood. [Man, shot in Old Town, took self to hospital]. Old Town is north of Burnside. Basically the shooting took place in the 'entertainment' district.

Of course, because it is not expected from the Oregonian, the time of day of the shooting nor any other information was disclosed. Apparently it occurred prior to midnight. All that had to be done was to at least copy the information from the press release. And what would it take for them to provide the press release link?

Scan down the releases - shouldn't we be worried about the number of shootings? Take a peek too at the latest statistics for Part 1 Crimes. See my post about the week prior - ending 1-28-12. This years total compared to last years total at the same time is alarming.

The mayoral candidate's list grows a cyst.

The Oregonian notes that Tre Arrow, radical environmentalist, files initial paperwork to run for Portland mayor. Frankly they were being too kind with "radical environmentalist" since in 2008 he was sentenced to two years in prison for arson.

According to the Oregonian, his original name is Michael J. Scarpitti. "He spent time on the FBI's most wanted list until Canadian authorities picked him up for shoplifting in 2004." He had denied guilt then finally admitted to "setting fires to concrete-mixing trucks and logging trucks in 2001."

The mere fact that the 'cause' might well have been 'good' doesn't justify criminal acts. But the 'cause' wasn't so good that he was willing to be a stand-up guy and admit the truth. Admission only came "after years of calling his co-defendants liars."

It seems that he remains unrepentant for his criminal conduct as he was in 2008. "I feel that I'm not a threat or a danger to the public or ever have been," Arrow told U.S. District Judge James Redden. "I don't feel I need to be rehabilitated." He is fortunate that his fires didn't kill someone. e.g., a fireman.

His rationale for fire bombing the trucks: "he was disheartened because corporations polluted the air, water and land with impunity." He saw himself too in 2008 as only answerable to a "higher power." Not surprisingly he participated in the Occupy Portland protests.

Given the slate of candidates - Mayor Adams is starting to look good.

Fears of terrorism

The story is still unfolding - it takes a while for the media to get the full story first - instead they rush to be the first with the headlines. But the story is not found in the telling of this person's behavior, but in the comments where the conspiracy theorists have determined that the terrorists are 'testing' the net. [Witnesses shot video as police arrested unruly passenger on grounded flight at Portland International Airport].

The conspiratorialists are sure that 'they' are using people like this person to probe our ability to spot terrorists. E.g., this partial comment: "This sounds more like a "dry" run to uncover which flights have federal cops in civilian clothing. From the sounds of the story, it appears these "Allah is Great" culprits did just that, they found another weak link in the chain."

Keep them scared seems to work.

Media like the Oregonian - amalgamation of bloggers - never (seldom) update the individual posting. The responsibility for updates is put on the reader to search for other blog posts. So for a fuller story - not quite full yet - see this Oregonian post. But the better coverage is found in the referenced originator - Medford's Mail Tribune.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The disconnect between jobs and workers

"A recent report by Deloitte for the Manufacturing Institute, based on a survey of manufacturers, found that as many as 600,000 jobs are going unfilled. By comparison, the unemployed in the United States number 12.8 million, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics." [U.S. manufacturing sees shortage of skilled factory workers].

One of the problems: “High unemployment is not making it easier to fill positions, particularly in the areas of skilled production and production support,” the Deloitte report found."

A quick summary of the Washington Post article might be that there are plenty of people to employ but not people with the needed skills. How come might be a legitimate question. And a simple answer might be that there is no connection between work force needs and work force education and readiness.

In an economic system that relies on the methodology of supply and demand - the disconnect will always exist. If there has to be a demand for workers before the supply can be readied - there will be a shortage of needed workers. Implication for states and local communities is that these jobs will filled by importation of workers or will be filled by 'overtime.'

Rational planning ought to be able to narrow the disconnect. Leadership is necessary to planning. E.g., it should come to no surprise to leaders in government, business and education that there is a demographic wave where in many places - the older workers who are soon to retire are in the majority.

Of course the fact that government and education professionals put great emphasis - that reads all - on college education as a prerequisite to employment does more harm than good. There is a plethora of reasons why college is not for everyone - but that doesn't stop the college hype. 

And it goes without saying that technology advances in all fields has changed the ability to match workers and jobs. But whose fault is that? These advances do not materialize out of thin air. Job training and retraining might make the difference. Retraining - given the size of the unemployed workforce - ought to be a priority unfettered by worries of costs.

Finally, there is the stigma of vocational training that has existed for decades. An auto mechanic, plumber, electrician, etc, were never accorded the respect due, much like the lack of respect for those who work in the fast food industry. Oddly, too often people who actually have a work ethic are disparaged.

Interesting too is that it was essentially vocational training that helped make the computer industry. Not that long ago computer industry hired, by necessity, mostly non-computer trained or educated employees. The company did the training or it had been received by military service. Computer science degrees were rare. Now one would think that it takes 16 years of schooling to be qualified to be a computer professional.

The disconnect is the 800 pound gorilla  - but don't expect change.

PDC Community Livability Grant

This Livablity Grant is an example of what one could reasonably argue is an appropriate expenditure - but isn't. The grant of $2.2 million is for "more than 51 projects that improve livability for residents and enhance the unique nature of the Interstate Corridor and Lents Town Center neighborhoods."

It isn't appropriate because of the use - it is inappropriate because it is PDC that is determining where property tax revenue is to be spent. These are expenditures that one would normally expect to be either suffered by the entire Portland tax base and/or be put to the vote.

Not only are persons not responsible or accountable to the voters making that determination, the once valid "blight" justification has been replaced by whatever PDC sees as a fit definition.

Now this could be an interesting Supreme Court case in an election year

It is another reverse discrimination case in a public university. It isn't as simple as 'but for my race I would have been admitted.' It was - apparently - the deciding factor which makes it suspect. [Supreme Court Takes Up Affirmative Action Case]. If you are interested - it takes four Justices to determine whether a case will be heard in the first place. Often it is for differing reasons.

Canines seem to be doing the job

I don't have any real objective data to back it up, but I read each of the Portland Police releases, especially those relating to shootings and the like. This Press Release offers but an example that the canines play a role in the apprehension of fleeing suspects.

The Mayoral Candidates on Poverty in Portland: What Can City Hall Do?

The Willamette Week does a credible job of campaign coverage, in this instance, the mayoral election. See their election webpage and this article concerning a particular question posed to three candidates at a local forum.
What new focus and coordination will your administration bring to serve low-income residents, particularly the children and seniors living at or below or near the poverty line?” 
Candidate Hale is clueless living some where in the past surrounded by streetcars. He didn't address the question but only rambled on about the merits of a streetcar as if streetcar service was door-to-door.

Candidate Brady wasn't much better except she had a handle on the value of bus transit. But she too rather than address the issue of poverty - spoke to the value of buses. It assumes a bit too much to connect bus service to causes and effects of poverty.

Candidate Smith. He wasn't anywhere in the local hemisphere. Of course he gets a pass because as young person he was allegedly diagnosed with ADHD. [Earlier post on Jefferson Smith].

Portland is in deep sh*t with these three. They are starting to make Sam Adams look good.

NYTimes: The Tiny Camera and the Cloud

These are cameras for the police department. They are not on a Taser but are essentially worn on the body. The footage is kept in a "cloud" and massaged by special software capable of protecting identities. [Taser’s Latest Police Weapon - The Tiny Camera and the Cloud].

The purpose is to resolve controversies surrounding discharge of an officer's firearm. A big deal in Portland. As it stands now it is always the police officer's fault. The local cop-haters and media will go to great lengths to prosecute the officer in the press or in blogs. What is especially heinous about this is that the police officer is typically not in the position to publically tell his or her story or even worse to have any 'proof' that a shooting was righteous.

A comment in the article suggests that people - citizens and law enforcement - behave better when they know they are on camera. But I am not so sure that is true. Citizens would probably not know that they are on camera. And while police officers know about the camera - my experience is that the camera is forgotten. E.g., I practiced law in court where cameras were always on - I never gave it a second thought.

See Oakland, CA' experience. It seems clear that it would benefit the police officer, the city and the community. But costs were not discussed in the NYTimes, but were in the Oakland post. It might sound prohibitive, but it may be one of those 'pound foolish, penny wise' issues.
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Monday, February 20, 2012

Healthcare Reform Makes No Difference If Patient Care is Poor

It is an astounding criticism of Portland healthcare offered by OHSU: Healthcare Reform Makes No Difference If Patient Care is Poor. The headline makes the point. It is an excellent read and is well written.

At the end he makes 4 points, e.g., see this one: "Healthcare systems are designed to take care of the system, not the patients. Without exception, every practitioner who entered my wife’s room went to the computer first, before checking with my wife."

That 'computer checking" has been my experience with the VA Hospital. Health care is below par at least as measured by my California experience. I ended up at the VA Hospital - its the money - and because of a rather inept  private nurse practitioner. But frankly the VA care hasn't been an improvement - no fully licensed medical doctors are apparent - just residents.

February 19, 1942 a Dark day: Executive Order 9066

It is an event that needs to be constantly remembered - so we learn from our past. 70 years ago President Roosevelt ordered the exclusion of those with "Foreign Enemy Ancestry" from newly named military exclusion zones.

The Japanese were most affected but so too Koreans, Italians and Germans, and ironically, some Jewish refugees from Germany. However, the Japanese were the most affected. "The Japanese-American internment was the relocation and internment by the United States government in 1942 of approximately 110,000 Japanese Americans and Japanese who lived along the Pacific coast of the United States to camps called "War Relocation Camps," in the wake of Imperial Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor." [Japanese American internment].

I suspect that little solace was found in President Reagan's signing of the Civil Liberties Act in 1988 that provided some compensation for their property losses. A partial peek at their losses can be seen in Old Town that once was a thriving Japantown at the time of internment.


Some resources:

Oregon Nikkei Legacy Center :: Japanese American History Musuem
Japanese American internment
Executive Order 9066
Executive Order 9066: The President Authorizes Japanese Relocation

REIT - a local charade

The Oregonian editorial board apparently sees a REIT as a savior for low income renters in Lents. It is something that two non-profits Mercy Corp Northwest and Rose Community Development Corp are attempting to foster on Lents. It is another liberal-left idea that probably comes from the idealistic concept of worker owned businesses, somewhat like cooperatives.  [See Steelworkers Aim at Job Creation with Worker-Owned Factories.]

I am not saying that a REIT and a workers cooperative are similar except in the liberal-left attempt to find alternatives to capitalism playing with the capitalists' rules. The concept of using a REIT to give renters control of their destiny is pure foolishness.


Sunday, February 19, 2012

Are we failing to learn from the past?

The ESPN's Chink in the Armour" headline seems to make a mountain out of a molehill. It is unknown the intent of the ESPN headline writer - whoever was responsible has been fired - but unless he or she intended to make a disparaging remark - an apology would have sufficed. The ESPN News anchor was suspended. [Media Matters].

This is a phrase that has been used for centuries. According to the Urban Dictionary: "This term relies on "chink" in the sense of "a crack or gap," a meaning dating from about 1400 and used figuratively since the mid-1600s."

But see this Forbes article that makes the distinction between the headline itself and the process that results in the headline. "Unlike an on-air comment, most writers and editors obsess over the headline even after they click the publish button.  So my sense of things is that whoever posted the headline thought about it, giggled, and clicked publish."


Over the line?

"An illegal immigrant from Northern Virginia was arrested blocks from the Capitol while carrying an inoperable MAC-10 automatic weapon and a fake suicide vest provided to him by undercover FBI agents posing as al-Qaeda associates, U.S. officials said." That was the Washington Post headline that I copied, but a subsequent story adds more details while leaving questions.

It is another sting by the FBI that raises questions of entrapment. An inoperative gun and 'suicide' vest along with an improbable story by the FBI. "Khalifi “allegedly believed he was working with al-Qaeda,” said Neil H. MacBride, U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia. Khalifi “devised the plot, the targets and the methods on his own.

Apparently he, now 29, came to the US when he was 16 apparently on a visitor's visa and was allowed to stay on after the visa expired. He apparently had no criminal record but was evicted from his apartment in 2010.

One might wonder how he was able to rent his residence and live in Northern Virginia for approximately 13 years without being caught because of his expired visa. He was in the US before 911.

The FBI's tactics are subject. It seems these sting cases betray credibility.

Kitzhaber - hasn't a clue

Take a brief moment to read this Portland Tribune article about a five minute radio interview with the good doctor. He apparently recommends a sales tax for counties in 'dire straits.' No thought to reducing expenditures. His goal and frankly the goal of most politicians is to spend - not based on priorities, but more on personal aspirations.

His view of the budget is illogical. He sees a balanced budget coming not because of prudent fiscal management but because the economy is inching north - rather than south - again. Thus there will be more revenues coming from the ordinary taxing events like property taxes. More spending on the way. One can, with a little imagination, see the politicians rubbing their hands anxiously.

And so much for the 'education' governor. This governor is waiting until the economy to rebound before he reinvest in education. It is difficult to see this state ever at a point where investment in education is inappropriate. If there is any item that should be sacrosanct in budget discussions - it is education.

Furthermore, education as an expenditure should never be put on the list of items to cut to balance the budget. Nor should education be included in that too often government demand of the same percentage reduction for all departments. There is nothing rational about determining that all departments ought to share equally  in budget cuts.

Not that educational expenditures shouldn't be financially prudent. An efficacious management of education funds is a must irrespective of the economy. It should not take a poor economy to find fault with spending proprieties.

Another Oregon governor without a clue.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Part 1 crime statistics don't bode well for the rest of the year.

Portland Police Press Release notified the public of the data. Part 1 Crimes is an FBI reporting construct. See what crimes are included in Part 1. The Portland data is graphed and shows the week ending 1-28-12. Data for the previous week is compared as well as the year-to-date data for the same time in 2011. Four reports are provided: Citywide, Central, East and North precincts.

A quick peek demonstrates that there has been a substantial increase in Part 1 Crimes throughout the city as compared to last year at the same time. Of course, this could level out over the coming months, but it is more likely to stay high or even higher as the year progresses.

To find out about neighborhood crime, as the Press Release states - these can be found here. These statistics, more than Part 1 crimes, can be tailored to your interests, and reports can be provided on a reoccurring basis. Any location, e.g., your address, can be used as a focus point for the reports.

2 stabbings - 2 shootings

And it is the beginning of the weekend. Police press release, and the other release.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Shoe is on the other foot

A 'Touché!' From Climate Scientists - NYTimes.com:

My, my, my!

Former OHSU pediatric nurse arrested on child porn charges | kgw.com Portland.

US to withdraw more than 11,000 troops from Germany and Italy - but are they coming home?

The article doesn't explicitly state, but the inference is that it is a shifting of troops to Asia. However, 70,000 troops will remain in Europe. [US to withdraw more than 11,000 troops]. One has to wonder whether the US needs that number of troops in Europe. I know it is complicated.

"Rites of Passage" are over at Grant High

"Rites of passage" the euphemism for anal assault has been declared over - how nice. But finally an administrator made a principled decision. These assaults were not like that "[s]ome teams and clubs—notably the girls’ varsity soccer team—say they do have a hazing ritual. But it often involves harmless requirements, such as dressing up in funny outfits for a day." [Grant High Principal Tells Students "Rites of Passage" Are Over Following Assaults].

You have to wonder what kind of person derives pleasure from sticking their finger in another's rectum? What list will they be on?

Too bad we don't have more stories like this one from KGW: Special needs teen sinks varsity 3-pointer .

Billboard: 'No More Weapons'

Photograph: Reuters
And where is this billboard? At the US-Mexico border. It is made of confiscated US guns.

Mexico's President Felipe Calderón: "Dear friends of the United States, Mexico needs your help to stop this terrible violence that we're suffering." "The best way to do this is to stop the flow of automatic weapons into Mexico."

See the story in the Guardian UK: 'No More Weapons' billboard placed on US-Mexican border. See too a related story in an earlier post where a US agent was killed in Mexico by one of the many smuggled US firearms.

Occupy (insert favorite city) anti-corporation nonsense

An election year ought to set these people straight on the root cause of problems in the United States. One cannot read or watch the media without seeing the influence peddling by the lobbyists and campaign donors.

The corporation is a mere business structure whose basic goal was at one time simple - tax and legal liability avoidance, But it is those behind the structure that sets forth the destruction wreaked by the lobbyists and campaign donors.

E.g., how about the Koch brothers, Sheldon Adelson, Foster Friess? The fact they might be 'hidden' behind a  corporate veil is immaterial. But the fact that they can contribute unlimited amount of dollars to obtain the attention of the politicians and leadership in this country is material.

Want to know more about the money spenders in your or any electoral district check out this site National Institute on Money in State Politics | Follow The Money. Special interests groups are plentiful. Where are you on the list?

When that phone call or email comes from a campaign donor like the Koch brothers, a lobbyist or John Q Public comes - which ones gets attention?

But while fingers might be pointed at lobbyists and big donors, one cannot forget that our congress is filled with those accumulating wealth by insider trading. See that evolving story from CNBC: Congressional Insider Trading Bill May Still be Flawed.

The Metropolitan Export Initiative

While being characterized as a Portland, as in city of, initiative - it isn't. It is a Greater Portland-Vancouver metro activity induced by the feds. One suspects that the feds are pouring a bunch of money into this project to increase export activity as part of 'bring the jobs home' program, i.e., insourcing.

If one takes a peek at the website for this local initiative - it appears doomed because of the major businesses that seem to be the only business collaborators. E.g., Oregonian Publishing. How many of these listed companies are export oriented in product or service producing sense? And the Nautilus Group? It is an insurance company.

But a closer look provides no surprises - locally this is a "green" initiative. It is the solar companies that might export "green" consulting that comprises the business collaborators. Except for Vestas, none of the companies are in Portland the city.

And worst yet the MEI is being led by PDC, an organization that eschews regular business practices, and has poured millions of tax payer dollars into the bankrupting Vestas. Can one expect PDC to lead the area to the doubling of exports?


Thursday, February 16, 2012

Keystone Cops: Iran's targeting Israeli diplomats

While one never wants to ascribe to assassins proficiency - the possible Iranian plot to turn the table on the Israelis by assassinating their diplomats in Bangkok was certainly incompetently planned and executed. [BBC News - Bangkok blast suspects 'targeting Israeli diplomats':].

First, they (there were four) blew the roof off the house where they were staying and apparently making bombs. One escapee couldn't get a taxi to stop - so he threw a bomb at it. Later he tried to throw a bomb at the police, but ended up losing his legs. Apparently only one has managed to elude police.

The official Iranian take: "Tehran officials have accused Israel of staging the attacks as part of a "psychological war" aimed at deflecting attention from what they say are Israeli killings of nuclear scientists in Iran."

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Man's neck broken in attack on Portland MAX platform

"You know these are unfortunate. We reflect the community and as such, things will happen in the community. They will also happen on TriMet at some point," said TriMet spokeswoman Mary Fetsch.

Crime statistics show that the attack was not unusual for the area [Old Town at MAX, Greyhound Bus, and train stations]. Over the past year, there have been more than 165 assaults within a half mile of Tuesday's attack." [ Man's neck broken in attack on Portland MAX platform].

"Unfortunate" - now that is an understatement.


What, Me Worry?

"Twitter has admitted copying entire address books from smartphones and storing the data on its servers, often without customers' knowledge." [BBC News - Social apps 'harvest smartphone contacts'].

Whatever it takes

That is an attitude that seems to be lacking in educational k-12 school system. While there are many suggestions to improve our national and state school systems - there are few, if any, that don't suggest a change is needed. But is anything being done?

The Oregonian has this post by Betsy Hammond that would suggest that Portland School District and teachers see improved teacher performance as the key to a better system: Portland Public Schools leaders: We are better monitoring principal and teacher performance.

Another Oregonian feature PolitiFact Oregon questions the connection between 3rd grade reading and crime. Basically it finds that the connection exists. For me the connection is tenuous, but it seems common sense that such an indirect connection exists. It just seems too easy to say that improve 3rd grade reading scores and crime will decline. However, read the story - it makes a good point that there is a direct connection between 3rd grade reading scores and high school graduation.

It is interesting though to look at the Portland School District 2011 state performance scores for 3rd grade reading. It is a measure of the number of students that meet or exceed the state minimum. Not necessarily the best metric - but gives an insight into school performance as compared to other schools. The average district score is 86, but scan down the list and one sees that there are some schools that are dragging down the scoring. E.g., Cesar Chavez (AKA Clarendon-Portsmouth-School) is at 49. [Note that Great Schools sets out the scoring as being much different.]

It doesn't take much to see that eliminating or drastically improving certain schools would dramatically change the performance outlook. Eliminating 3 schools, out of 63, with scores 58 or lower raises the performance by 1%. Eliminating 16 schools with scores 79 or lower raises the performance score to 91%. Is it a question of improving overall performance or focused improvements?

It seems that Portland or state system is not willing to do whatever it takes to increase the performance at these schools even if it means closing them. Generally, the approach is to find excuses - the students come from poor families, the students are minorities, or the students are [insert your own favorite excuse].

Maybe I am too much in a hurry - but I see little effort on the part of the educational system to provide education to every child. It is clear that some children are being provided an education - but it is just as clear that there are too many that are not in the receiving line.

In the comment section to PolitiFact post the success of the Finnish school system is pointed to as a modelling example. The Finnish school system is highly regarded as successful. It constantly ranks up there with South Korea and Singapore. See The Atlantic and Smithsonian Magazine for two excellent analyses.

Whatever it takes to provide quality education equally to all children is the Finnish government. But while praise is well deserved by the Finns - it is unlikely their approach can be adopted elsewhere. Here is an excerpt from the Smithsonian Magazine that speaks for itself.
"It’s almost unheard of for a child to show up hungry or homeless. Finland provides three years of maternity leave and subsidized day care to parents, and preschool for all 5-year-olds, where the emphasis is on play and socializing. In addition, the state subsidizes parents, paying them around 150 euros per month for every child until he or she turns 17. Ninety-seven percent of 6-year-olds attend public preschool, where children begin some academics. Schools provide food, medical care, counseling and taxi service if needed. Stu­dent health care is free."
There are more contrasts in the Smithsonian, but it seems clear that education reform requires a systematic approach. It is unlikely that one can 'copy' another's 'successful' systems. But, this is interesting in the Finnish system:
"The people in the government agencies running them, from national officials to local authorities, are educators, not business people, military leaders or career politicians. Every school has the same national goals and draws from the same pool of university-trained educators. The result is that a Finnish child has a good shot at getting the same quality education no matter whether he or she lives in a rural village or a university town."
Maybe the best that can be done is to use the successful systems like that in Finland, South Korea and Singapore as competitive challenges. But the Finns have the correct attitude - do whatever it takes.

WTF: $160k Armored SUV could not protect U.S. agents

"The door locks popped open." When the US Agents in Mexico "needed it most, the Suburban’s elaborate armoring was rendered worthless by a consumer-friendly automatic setting useful for family vacations and hurried commuters but not for U.S. agents driving through a red zone in Mexico."

It is a tragic story from February 2011 that has been slowly pieced together of what might be reasonably characterized as incompetence all around. ". . .  it appears the officers were sent on a dangerous mission in a vehicle whose basic protections were disastrously flawed."

The flaw - the $160k armored Chevy Suburban door locks pop open when the vehicle is put into park. In this case, an agent was killed by the Los Zetas who were able to force the agents' Suburban off the road resulting in the vehicle being placed in park with door locks open.

And perhaps more tragically - these are still widely used vehicles whose flaw has not been fixed.

And the story gets worse.  The gun that killed the US agent was traced to Texas. It was a "Romanian-made AK-47 knockoff purchased at J&J’s Pawn Shop in Beaumont, smuggled south to the Zetas by a methamphetamine trafficker named Manuel Gomez Barba, a U.S. citizen."

Unbelievable. Read the full Washington Post story.

WTF: Canada -yes Canada - wants military base in Germany

The rational: "The new "operational support hub" – along with others to be set up around the world – will allow Canada to deploy troops and supplies to distant hotspots on short notice, said a joint statement by the German and Canadian governments as German Defence Minister Thomas de Maiziere paid a visit to Ottawa." [Canada wants military base in Germany].

Canada the new global policeman?

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Squatters and Occupy Portland

It seems fairly easy to connect the two, but at the same time it isn't clear that the two are or should be connected. However, it does focus attention on those that seem to gravitate to leftist like propaganda to justify their actions. It always sounds good to say, maybe scream and shout, "we the people," 'lets take back our cities,' and the like.

Frankly Occupy Portland does little to dissociate themselves from the anarchists and those like these squatters. Yet Occupy Portland finds time to post their rhetoric in the Oregonian about "How we reclaim our country." I am amazed at the audacity that they exhibit by posing as democratic revolutionaries as it were. They see themselves as a movement - not even close.

The police found a handwritten note in one of the two homes taken over by the 'Occupy' squatters that contained in part: "For the better part of 2011 the squatter community in Portland has been focused upon houses owned by an elderly bankrupt lady named [name withheld by Portland Police]. The idea was that we might have a better chance at survival if the landowner was, as our research could tell, a batty old lady and her bed ridden husband." ['Occupy' squatters arrested in 2 Portland homes | kgw.com Portland].

Portland's finest residents these.

And this home invasion in the guise of 'squatting' is not new. See this Oregonian article: Members of Occupy Portland move into foreclosed house but police soon roust them. One can see the odd rationalization to stealing something of value that they have never contributed one cent or an ounce of effort in its acquisition. "Most of the neighbors we talked to are cool with us being there," she said. "But those rich people in the condos, they're the ones who called the cops. They are not friendly with what we're doing at all."

Monday, February 13, 2012

$457 mil surplus - has Michigan learned anything

It has taken Michigan a while to get to a point of having thoughts about what to do with a surplus - but is new spending the answer? Refunding the agencies and programs previously cut - a good move? A rainy day surplus fund? Of course what happens in Michigan is of little consequence to Oregon - but the article demonstrates that state officials often don't learn from the past. [Michigan Must Decide What to Do With an Unexpected Surplus].

Sunday, February 12, 2012

The Occupy Movement? Really?

The Oregonian contains a fairly well written diatribe by someone who claims to be with Occupy Portland. I am not sure what it means to be 'with Occupy Portland" but it is clear that Occupy Portland hasn't contributed to solving America's problems - it hasn't even identified them.

For the Occupiers it us vs them. Well the 'us' is 'them.' Pogo says "we have met the enemy and he is us." Occupy Portland doesn't represent me nor does it represent anyone other than a small marginalized group that see themselves as revolutionaries. Occupy stands ready to use the rather old and outdated leftist technique of casting the economic system as the enemy of democracy..

But rather than use anti-capitalism rhetoric, it is a handier to use terms that needs no definition, e.g., corporations. Thus, however ambiguous it is in fact, it fits what one wants to hear. But your corporate enemy is not necessarily my corporate enemy - is it? And, how many of these Occupiers are running amok with the various iPhones and the like made by corporations?

They are either naive or very deceptive in their means to their ends. "We the People" is more like a platitude than words of cohesion. They are used to encourage attention to their self-righteous goals. Their "authentic patriotism" that elevates "general welfare over selfish individualism" is in context more about socialism than democracy.

Basically it seems that the Occupy whatever represent a far left approach cloaked in a very thin guise of democratic respectability. They want to be anti-capitalist and anti-democratic, but not so much that you might recognize it.

A movement? Not likely.

Saudi faces beheading for irreverent tweets

Ah religion! What kind of world is it where religion is absent any sense of rationality? A Saudi journalist made what most rational thinking people would believe irreverent - if that - remarks about the Prophet Mohammad now faces beheading. At worst he appears to have expressed doubts about his religious commitment. How insane.

One has to wonder about the value of  religion. Catholic priests molest children, and the Catholic Church seeks to impose their religious value upon others. The Israeli Jews and most of the Muslim world seem ready to 'nuke' each other into submitting to their religious beliefs. The Christian conservatives in the US are hardly any different from the more extreme Muslims. They already do they best to isolate the religious competitors, and if given a chance, would deport all Muslims from the US.

At the moment the Muslim acts as a unifying bonding between Jews and Christians - without that the Jews and Christians would be at each other's throats. And more odd is that there is in fact little differences between the religions, yet they spew hate and discord about and among the other religions. Even within the Christians and Muslims hate and discord is found.

One might want to take a look at the charts on this page highlighting the similarities between Jews, Muslims and Christians. More similarities than differences. Look at an even a bigger chart covering most religions.

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

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Anti police march? Aren't you sick and tired of the Occupy groups?

See the Police Press Release. See this from Willamette Week: Another View On Occupy Vs. The Police (Updated).

Is the South LA elementary school an anomaly?

Sadly I suspect that while the focus is on the Los Angeles situation - there are many schools across the nation - yes in Portland too - where children are being abused by teachers and even by classmates.

The initial reports on the South LA school was horrific in the type of abuse, but as the story relates there is another teacher charged at the same school. Worst yet the child was abused at another school then transferred to the South LA school to be abused by this second teacher.

Additionally in 2003 a teacher's aide at the South LA school was convicted of fondling three children. An attorney suing the district: "I could not believe it. So you’ve had three perpetrators at the same school overlapping in time. Something seriously wrong there.

School's superintendent: "the new cases are despicable but are not a reflection of the school or the community." If not that - what do these cases reflect?

[Editor added 2/7/12Schools chief announces entire Miramonte staff to be replaced.]

Saturday, February 4, 2012

How Oregon legislators make budget decisions

This is a story about political favoritism - pure and simple. A fellow legislator's (now mayoral candidate Jefferson) pet 'jobs' project that has produced no results survived budget cuts, yet a successful 'jobs' project without the inside favoritism route was a target for cuts. Rep. Peter Buckley, the Democratic co-chairman of the Joint Ways and Means Committee, "acknowledged that he fought to keep money for the program in the budget "because it was very important to Jefferson." But he said he did not do it as a political favor."

Jefferson's project is still at the idea stage while the other economic development program by a state agency About Oregon InC has proven results" "In its first three years, it helped create or save more than 600 jobs and raised more than $70 million in private capital. . . "

Let's see who gets fully funded - a pet project by my friend Jefferson that has produced no results or a program that has proven results? Not difficult if you are a politician - go for your friends - someday your back may need scratching.

By the way the Jefferson project is based upon a 1987 Littleton Colorado city project. Its success spawned the term "economic gardening." Jefferson's approach is very similar to the PDC's Economic Development Strategy but neither has captured the essence of the Colorado approach nor have they realized that Portland is not Littleton.

One might read Kauffman Foundation Study - "Number of New Companies Created Annually Remains Remarkably Constant Across Time." See too my post on what influences new business formation..

2.15 percent CD offer for real?

Oregonian's Brent Hunsberger seems to question, as some readers did, that a 2.15% interest rate on a 6 month Certificate of Deposit could be real. How quickly we forget the good times

It wasn't that long ago that rates were much higher. There has been a decided downward slope since the days of 15%. [6-Mo Historical CD Rates | Graph of 6-Month CD Rates].

And why bother? The outlook for 2013 doesn't look improved. And even if some improvement what kind of net gain can one really expect off of 2.15% rate? According to this site the average inflation rate for 2011 was 3.16% This inflation graph might be of some interest.

Hazing or sexual abuse - its a thin line

January 17 the police had started an investigation into 'hazing' incidents at Grant High School. By the 31st the investigation was turned over to the sex crimes unit. Finally, February 3rd from the Oregonian , we start to gain some insight.

One incident that straddles the thin line: "The student who told investigators about the attack during his gym class said other students had pinned him down, sat on top of him and tried to penetrate his anus with a finger through his clothes."

When your fellow students try to penetrate your anus - it is hazing or just good fun - but if a stranger or a teacher or whoever does this it is sexual abuse - isn't it?

It is rather amazing but not surprising that the school is taking a rather blase, as in uninterested and attaching little importance, approach. And also give credit to the Sergeant Schultz - football coach Diallo Lewis: who said "that he is not aware of any such hazing ritual."

And the incidents have a familiar Penn State ring to it. Nobody knows anything. And look - a police detective - clearly off duty, but are they ever, was told of one of the incidents yet failed to take any action or inform his superiors in the police department.

Grant High School principal Vivian Orlen: "In my year and a half as principal, I've never had a parent share with me those concerns, and that's incredibly troubling to me." "I'm stunned." Oh please! Another Sergeant Schultz.

Her action: "The school orchestrated a meeting Thursday between the two victims and the three returning students. The school's restorative justice coordinator and a representative from Resolutions Northwest acted as mediators." Yeah - a handshake cures all.

"Restorative justice coordinator" OMG!

Grant High School from looking at the Oregonian database or Great Schools website exhibits nothing that might suggest that a poorly functioning, academically. high school could be part of the problem. It is not that it is exemplary, but that relative to other comparable schools it doesn't stand out.

But Grant High has been characterized as a school struggling to serve the haves and have nots and failing. Grant High School principal Orlen: "Sadly, this [failure] tends to break down by socioeconomic and racial lines." "It's a national embarrassment."

Well now she has another. But don't expect to see much more on this because the city, PPS, and Grant High parents are more than willing to forgive and forget. After all, kids will just be kids.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Urban renewal not created but selected

Apparently not only has urban renewal justification - removal of blight - been removed as the factor in the creation of urban renewal districts - the property taxpayers consent has been removed too. In the PDC Neighborhood Prosperity Initiative "[s]elected districts in this community-driven process will become urban renewal areas . . . ." [See PDC Media Advisory: mayor to announce Neighborhood Prosperity Initiative micro-districts.]

Urban renewal statutes have no apparent value.

Public transport fare dodging an 'epidemic'

It is Germany where the fare evasion rate is 3.5%. Fines are capped at 40 Euros - that is about $53. In Portland the fare evasion is at 5.9% in 2010 and the fine is $175. It appears that the Portland area transit is much like the German system in fare assessment and collection.

Like Portland area - "Germany is especially fertile ground for those who want to use public transportation without paying because, unlike many other countries, there are often no barriers to go through before boarding trains."

The German fares are zoned based too with the cost from 1 to 4 Euros ($1.31 to $5.25). But from looking at the maps and the types of service, it appears that one receives a better dollar's worth with the German system.

Saul Alinsky. Who?

Gingrich tosses out the name for the same purpose that any demagogue would - smear an opponent. "I believe in the Constitution; I believe in the Federalist Papers. Obama believes in Saul Alinsky and secular European socialist bureaucracy."  [Gingrich's Other Opponent: Who Is Saul Alinsky?]

But the problem is that most listeners didn't know Saul Alinsky. It is more of an inside reference that might well have pleased some donors. I didn't know the name or anything about the person - but having read a little on Mr.Alinsky - I realized I had missed an opportunity.

If interested read this brief biography of the man - Saul Alinsky: A Profile of Newt Gingrich's Bete Noire.

Greenies - what did they think was going to happen?

Autobloggreen calls it a disturbing trend that condo owners, private garages, apartment property management and the like are not particularly willing to front the costs for EV owners to charge their vehicles. With some audacity they see an electrical outlet as being a 'free' source of power. Somebody has to pay for that charge - why do they assume that any electrical outlet is there for them to use?

Those who push the EVs forget that many of us don't own a home where it is so easy to hook up a 220 volt outlet with the cost be added to the electric bill. Of course that assume that one can afford a home and an EV.

Ironic isn't it that the Portland no car attitude conflicts with electric vehicles? Condos and apartments built in the recent years with subsidies make car ownership difficult with the purposeful limit on parking spaces.

Komen puts it in reverse three days late

"We want to apologize to the American public for recent decisions that cast doubt upon our commitment to our mission of saving women's lives," a Komen statement said" [Komen drops plan to cut Planned Parenthood grants]

Absolute stunning mistake and push back.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Alcohol and homelesness

A Seattle 1811 Eastlake project is getting attention because of their documented approach to homelessness. It has a little twist - the Seattle project (nothing similar in Portland) permits those they house to continue to drink alcohol. It has a superficial sense of success based upon common sense rationale.

If one views this video report - it is noted that people drink for a lot of reasons not just alcoholism. Thus some alcoholics may become homeless but not all homeless are alcoholics. It is not too difficult to imagine that being homeless might lead one to drink more than otherwise. Given a place to hang your hat would normally seem to lead to less of a need to 'forget' your circumstances.

From reading the media reports, one gets the feeling that a conclusion that can be drawn is that this approach reduces alcoholism. A goal of abstinence, much like that of the faith based programs, seems to be a goal of the Seattle project. That might be a proper goal for an alcoholic, but a reduction in use of alcohol is not the same as reduction in alcoholism, unless one believes that alcohol use is alcoholism.

There is no evidence in the Kings County report that suggests a reduction in alcoholism. The definition of alcoholism needs to be kept in mind:
"A disorder characterized by the excessive consumption of and dependence on alcoholic beverages, leading to physical and psychological harm and impaired social and vocational functioning. Also called alcohol abuse, alcohol dependence."
There is little to suggest that any one of these homeless males in the Seattle project were in fact alcoholics; and even they were, nothing suggests that living in a place where alcohol consumption is permitted, arguably encouraged (housing staff will buy alcohol for residents), is the cause and effect of reducing alcohol dependence to any significant degree.

This from the Kings County report::
"While the numbers are too small to fully examine the relationship between substance use and outcomes, however, as half of the participants reduced substance use and half increased use, it would appear that the positive outcomes found for BAH are not strongly related to reductions in substance use.   Moreover, these findings give tentative support for the effectiveness of a harm reduction approach - rather than abstinence approach." 
While it may appear that Old Town's Bud Clark Commons is similar to the Eastlake 1811 - it is superficial at best. Although I am taking some of my information from the media (therefore suspect), there are significant differences. E.g., the Old Town housing - it is not a study project - allows both alcohol and drugs on the premises.

It seems highly suspect to assume that the treatment for alcohol and drug dependency is the same. Thus, permitting the use of drugs in public housing where society prohibits the use of drugs is counterproductive. It needs mentioning too that Old Town is a drug center for sales and use. See post on Drug Impact Area.

At best the Seattle study is as a Portland housing consultant stated, in part, in the Portland Tribune: “It’s further evidence that the model works for a segment of the population that is not ready for sobriety but wants to get off the streets."

Moreover, the actual housing and monitoring that accompanies the Seattle project is far different than that of the Old Town housing. "The 1811 Eastlake project provides 24 hour -7 day a week staff support for its residents including chemical dependency counseling, nursing support, meals, and general supervision."

Much like the claim of 'job creation' so common today - the alleged positive result of homeless housing like that in the Seattle project or at the Old Town housing is that it reduces costs to the public. Thus the public is expected to believe that its money is well invested irrespective of actual results. But it isn't clear, irrespective of desired results, that it isn't a mere shifting of costs.

Ignoring actual costs for the moment - I would rather see the expenditures because of the given alternatives. It is better for people to be off the streets in an environment that might give them an opportunity to become self-reliant. Nobody wins when people are forced to live on the streets and rely only on good Samaritans.

But are not the costs (e.g., 24/7 staff including nursing at the Seattle project) really shifted, and if so, shouldn't there be an honest appraisal? It one looks at the cost reduction to the police and fire services by the costs of this housing for the homeless - aren't those costs incurred by the building and construction of this housing along with the cost of running it on a day-to-day basis the same and possibly even more?

I haven't seen any complete cost analysis, but in the consideration of these costs - one cannot ignore the federal, state and local money contributed especially if it is urban renewal dollars. Urban renewal dollars take money from police, fire and education needs. E.g., Bud Clark Commons had a heavy price tag: "Nearly $30 million for the project comes from urban renewal money in Portland's River District." [Multnomah County].

But this study resulting from the Seattle project also has to be subject to critical analysis. One has to be aware that this comes from a small group - 20 males - without a control group. This from the Kings County report:
"While the BAH [Begin at Home] program results were quite strong, the findings should be viewed with caution due to the small sample size and lack of a truly comparable comparison group. Future projects should employ a more rigorous evaluation design to strengthen the ability to draw conclusions."
The Seattle study - a taste of optimism? Yes, but barely detectable.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

The Spanish pirates looted the good ship lollipop

Iberdrola Renewables agrees to keep North American headquarters in Portland at least seven years for $1,155,000

It is a grant - not a loan. It is a Spanish company. They just laid off 25 Portland workers. Yes there is a penalty if they jump ship - but what is the likelihood they will pay up?

What a yahoo! "We are investing in being the clean-energy hub of North America," Adams said. "Portland is not a big global city but a small, smart, scrappy city that competes and wins."

And they call pro football violent

In Egypt: "Soccer fans rushed the field after the home team won an unexpected victory over Egypt's top squad Wednesday, setting off clashes and a stampede that left at least 73 people dead and 1,000 injured in a Mediterranean port city, officials said"

It never is about jobs

Media Matters for America - a website that offers the counter positions to Fox News and acts often as an apologist for Obama administration - notes the discrepancy in the media reports on the job creation in support of the Keystone XL pipeline.

"In reality, the only independent study of the Keystone XL pipeline found that it could create as few as 50 permanent jobs, along with a maximum of 4,500 temporary jobs. The State Department estimates that the project would employ 5,000 to 6,000 temporary construction workers, but 'would not have a significant impact on long-term employment.'"

Special interest election

It is interesting that the mayor's race is so more important than the other commissioner races. Portland's form of government is not intended to rely on a strong mayor. It is city council governed, thus potentially limiting the effectiveness of a mayor's policies and action. Yet special interest money is pouring into the coffers of the three candidates. [See City Hall Bucks: Crunching the numbers on the mayoral candidates' campaign finance reports.]

Who's the candidate - New Seasons or Brady?

The Willamette Week seems to be especially interesting this day. First a story about federal lawsuit by a former police detective, special interest campaign funding the mayor's race, and this story ostensibly about anti-union bias of mayoral candidate Brady.

It isn't clear from the story that Brady is anti-union, but it is not unreasonable to suspect that she is not favorably tuned to unions. The allegations comes from her 'work' on behalf of New Seasons, although one wonders if her labors were not more for her husband. She claims that she co-founded New Seasons, but that role appears not to have any paper documentation while her husband's role is clear.

Her work that is at issue deals with the employer-employee handbook. The Week's story shows some deft shifting of responsibility. Brady has done much to associate herself with New Seasons - all positive. But she also has done her best to eschew responsibility for anything negative, in this case, an anti-union perspective.

Brady has to stand on her own. It is she that is running not New Seasons. If she seeks to use New Seasons to support her candidacy then she has to stand up and take responsibility for the negatives and positives of her alleged relationship with New Seasons.

Take a peek at her online resume - creative writing. She has in fact little to no real experience in business or government. Frankly, she seems far from an ideal candidate for mayor, but look at the alternatives Smith and Hales. Portland is in deep dodo.

Disgruntled employee or whistleblower?

The Willamette Week has the story on a former police vice-squad detective filing a federal lawsuit for wrongful termination. There is often a thin line between the characterization whistleblower or disgruntled.

But the story shines some light on the pettiness and vindictiveness that can come from internal city hall politics. “you will be transferred to the central graveyard shift as a street sergeant where you will spend the rest of your career.”

Will this be a story played out in the court and media or will it be settled with confidentiality agreements?

An Oakland perspective on Occupy Oakland

"Oakland demonstrations aren't really at all about Occupy, a legitimate movement over wealth disparity that got its start in New York. Here, it's about anarchy. It's always been about anarchy." [Occupy Oakland's assaults endanger public safety].

There is something about liberal government that attract the worse of the worse demonstrations. I lived in the Bay Area up til 2004 and demonstrators have a difficult time demonstrating peacefully. And the violence is often suffered by those that have no dog in the fight.

It is irrational to strike out at alleged ills of the US by inviting confrontation with the police. This is especially true since the occupied cities have bent over trying to assure rights to demonstrate are protected. But, the demonstrators are not interested in exercising that right - only abusing it.

Burning the American flag is nearly understandable when the flag is burned in Tehran - but in Oakland? What is the message?

There is little difference in the intent of Occupy Portland - anarchy and confrontation with the police.