Saturday, March 31, 2012

WTF: Orthodox Jews' cover-up sex abuse

"Like the Catholic bishops before them, the ultra-Orthodox rabbis who lead these communities are charged with the concealment of crimes stretching back decades, and of fostering a culture where witnesses are silenced through intimidation." [Brooklyn DA accused of failing to tackle Orthodox Jews' cover-up of sex abuse].

It is more of the tragic story of religion fostering a climate where children are sexually abused and the state rather than protecting the innocent protect the criminal child sexual abuser. Amazing. I guess young children are not worthy of protection.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Lake Oswego's democracy in action

Lake Oswego to consider proposal banning lake entry from city-owned property. The lake is public property yet the city wants to ban the public. Hmmmm. Maybe a recall or a local occupy like protest?

New York Police Dept a lawless agency?

We know about the "spying" by this police department even to areas outside of its jurisdiction. See my post on mini-police state and post on CIA and New York's finest covertly spying on the Muslim community. Now it seems they are illegally stopping people in private apartments.

The police officers ignore their own commissioner. New York police officers defy order to cut marijuana arrests.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Supreme Court - judicial dictatorship

"It was nice to be reminded [by Justices Stephen Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor] that we’re a democracy, not a judicial dictatorship." That from a Washington Post columnist." It is funny (peculiar) that it is the other judges that are the "activists." There seems to be a stream of reasoning emanating from the liberal side that except for the side of the argument mirrors the conservatives. [In the Supreme Court, activist justices take on health care].

One must guess that the liberals feel that the Supreme Court isn't going to go their way - so they have started the excuses and the outrageous slams against the Court. Judicial dictatorship? Has one forgotten that the case was presented to them to decide? If the political process is unable to resolve the issues - it will be left to the judiciary to decide. It is our democracy - representative democracy with independent executive, legislative and judicial branches.

Those writing from Washington DC ought to know that questions by the Justices are not necessarily indicative of the Justices' political beliefs or are precursors to his or her decisions. But clearly some judges are clearly identified in a general sense as to their "liberal" or "conservative" bent. One may not like their decisions - but the court's decisions are most often well reasoned and written.

I am in favor of the health care reform from the Obama administration - but not all elements. E.g., I oppose the mandatory premium and wanted a "public option." Thus generally, I am biased in favor of the health care act, but I enjoy the fact that some of the justices are questioning the influence of the federal government in our daily lives.

It may sound like "activism" to some to have the Court question the limits of the federal government, but it seems not only proper but necessary. Too often the liberals focus on the ends and care little about the means used to get there. That needs to stop.

Its about time: Senate Probing Army's Handling of PTSD Cases

We take care of our own - as long as it doesn't cost. It is the military retirement cost that is at issue here, but it doesn't take too much to see how a diagnosis of PTSD can cost the military in readiness and in disability payouts.

Apparently "a review of PTSD cases dating to 2007 found that 290 of 690 diagnoses - more than 40 percent - had been reversed by a medical screening team." [Senate Probing Army's Handling of PTSD Cases].

"Democrat Patty Murray, the chairwoman of the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee, said she decided to take the step to make sure that Army officials "don't just bury this under the rug" as they investigate the issue on their own."

"The Army already is conducting at least three separate probes amid disclosures that the Madigan Army Medical Center on Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Murray's home state of Washington . . . ."  This is the same center that certified Staff Sergeant Bales for his fourth tour of combat duty.

And where were the Portland Public Schools?

Two articles in the Oregonian spotlight the scholarly achievement of students - but none from the Portland Public School system. Why not?

Jesuit High senior wins Best of Fair at Intel Northwest Science Expo
Catlin Gabel student makes International Physics competition semi-finals

Burst paper bag trauma lawsuit

A teacher sues her student because he burst a bag near her. She loses - rightly so - but how did it get to court. It is in Germany, maybe that explains it - but the comments are interesting. [Teacher sues pupil for burst paper bag trauma].

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

"Thank God we live in a country where we do have freedom of speech."

So says an alleged militia member. A Federal District Court Judge acquitted Hutaree members of conspiracy. "U.S. District Judge Victoria Roberts said the members' expressed hatred of law enforcement didn't amount to a conspiracy to rebel against the government. [Huffington Post].

The contentions: "The government asserted that the Hutaree militia's primary aim was to fight law enforcement authorities who belonged to the "New World Order" with the goal of drawing federal law enforcement into a war. Lawyers for the Hutaree militia maintained that the anti-government statements made by militant members were not serious threats and were made only in frustration." [JURIST - Paper Chase: Federal judge dismisses charges against US militia group].

More from the Judge's decision in the JURIST: "The Government has consistently maintained that this case is not about freedom of speech or association, but about the specific acts of violence alleged in the Indictment. ... However, much of the Government's evidence against Defendants at trial was in the form of speeches, primarily by Stone, Sr., who frequently made statements describing law enforcement as the enemy, discussing the killing of police officers, and the need to go to war."

This case is more about the federal government excesses of power. It includes dubious uses of FBI informants  and embedded FBI agents to make their case against domestic terrorism. This quote from the Judge's decision displays the weakness of the government's case.

"The prosecution is not “free to roam at large -- to shift its theory of criminality so as to take advantage of each passing vicissitude of the trial . . . .” [Citation omitted] "If the Government now admits that the plan alleged in Count I of the Indictment did not exist, then Defendants must be acquitted.  The inescapable conclusion of such a tactic is that the Government recognizes that its proofs at trial failed to establish the plan described in the Indictment, so it is attempting to formulate an alternative theory of criminal  liability."

And this case is about judiciary independence. The government and especially the FBI made this a 'poster boy' case about 'domestic terrorism.' "U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder [...] in 2010 called Hutaree a "dangerous organization." [Time].

An independent judiciary kept the FBI and the Obama administration reminded about the US constitution and free speech. It seems that the administration and the FBI's major focus is to keep us in fear of terrorism and to garner support for their attempts at rooting out terrorism at home.

Although it is the correct decision one has to wonder about people who seem to see the world in terms of preparing for the Antichrist. This was a group who apparently saw themselves as "Christian 'soldiers' who are arming themselves and training in anticipation of the coming of the Anti-Christ, which they believe is imminent."  [CBS News].

According to CBS: "A quote from the website reads: 'Jesus wanted us to be ready to defend ourselves using the sword and stay alive using equipment.'" It is difficult to grasp how people can feed on themselves to become committed to irrational ideas that have no basis in fact. But that's religion. And isn't it Fox News?


Related reading:

Hutaree Militia Trial: 7 Michigan Militia Members Head To Court :
Louis Klarevas: Do the Hutaree Militia Members Pose a Terrorist Threat? :
Hutaree Militia May Be Released: A Dangerous Decision?
Excerpts from Judge Victoria Roberts' decision

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Maybe Sergeant Bales should not have been there

"The backlog of soldiers too injured to serve is growing so large that it could affect the Army’s ability to go to war." [Disabled Soldier Backlog Puts Army at Risk]. The Army isn't worried about disabled soldiers - it is all about the backlog and the effect it has on military readiness.

There are 20,500 soldiers tagged to leave the service because of their disabilities. This "backlog is caused by failures in a system built to transition those soldiers out. Quite simply, Army doctors classify more soldiers as too injured to serve than the system can separate each year."

"The number of soldiers in the Integrated Disability Evaluation System has grown by 42 percent just this past year. It’s grown from 11,900 soldiers to 20,500 soldiers since 2009." Isn't it likely that there is pressure to find fitness rather than disability?

Misdirection

It isn't clear, and I would opine that it didn't, that racial prejudice played a causative factor in the shooting of Trayvon Martin by the neighborhood watch volunteer. But those afraid of that label have started their campaign to discredit the "victim."

First let me explain that it isn't clear that the teenager is immune from criticism because he was black. We don't know for sure yet just what role he may have played in the altercation between the two - but it seems clear that the volunteer is responsible, morally at least, for Trayvon's death. Mr. Zimmerman had the opportunity to walk away and not pursue Mr. Martin. He held in his hands the instrument of death - a death without justification. The whole event was set in motion by Mr. Zimmerman.

But attempts to discredit the victim is wrong whatever his actions at the time. One story has seemingly pled Martin's alleged suspension from school for marijuana possession apparently as justification for Zimmerman's actions or as some evidence as a 'bad' character. But Zimmerman did not know of the suspension.

The story that is unfolding ever so slowly cannot be related to use of marijuana. But, if anyone believes that marijuana use is in fact criminal or somehow reflective on one's character - better look around at your friends and acquaintances.

There is argument for many that it was black while wearing a hoodie profile that caused Zimmerman to pursue Martin in the rainy night from the local store towards his destination. However, it isn't clear yet that Zimmerman in fact knew that Trayvon was a black teenager.

Was he an aggressor? If he was - when did he become the aggressor? It was Zimmerman in pursuit. Zimmerman had no knowledge of any marijuana suspension. He didn't know Trayvon - only that he was walking in 'Zimmerman's' neighborhood at night wearing a hoodie. It isn't even clear that Zimmerman knew of Trayvon's race. I don't think it would have made any difference to the final event.

It may well be that the autopsy will fill in some of the important yet missing details. But that may well take weeks or even months. Maybe the delay will produce a comprehensive report on the event. But even if so - minds are made up and an autopsy report or grand jury determination may make little difference.

It has been cast as a racial incident and will remain that way forever.

Who's the thug?

"Act like a thug die like one!" That from a New Orleans police officer posting on a TV station website about Trayvon Martin. The officer has been "under investigation for his role in the March 1 on-duty shooting death of a 20-year-old man." [SFGate].

Would the NY prosecutors like to have the second bite?

"Dominique Strauss-Kahn was handed preliminary charges Monday alleging he was involved in a hotel prostitution ring in France." [DSK gets preliminary charges in prostitution probe]. Get this from his lawyer: The "married, 62-year-old Strauss-Kahn engaged in "libertine" acts but did nothing legally wrong." Libertine - "Morally unrestrained; dissolute."

Don't forget the NY maid is still suing DSK. He claims diplomatic immunity. He was the head of the International Monetary Fund. But see this from Passport, a Blog by the Editors of Foreign Policy: "it seems fair to say that diplomatic immunity would be [...] a stretch on legal grounds . . . ."

What a guy!

Is state funding of private company pensions a good idea?

See this from the New York Times: Ideas on Company Pensions Include Turning to States. "[A] novel proposal to rebuild America’s ailing retirement system — having state pension funds run retirement plans for companies?"

This gem seems to have arisen form the fact that companies are jettison their pension plans because of the "cost" to them. And government understands that employees without pensions are destined to become dependent on government relief. Social security isn't enough.

It is an interesting article but nevertheless it is scary that the US is moving, however slowly, towards government control over citizens from cradle to grave. Companies continue to focus on their bottom line without any concern for its employees in the process of producing goods and services.

City of Portland Part I Crime Stats Through March 10

See Portland flashalert for the pdf file. From these stats one cannot isolate gang shootings, but from a city perspective it is interesting to see what criminal activity is on the rise or decline. Burglary, larceny, auto theft are up significantly. E.g., burglary - residence is up 34% year-to-date.

For your neighborhood: "Neighborhood crime statistics are regularly available by visiting www.portlandpolice.com and using the CrimeStats tool." This can be set up to provide an on-going notification in the neighborhood of choice. I receive them by email, but find it interesting and illuminating the type of crime that dominates in the various neighborhoods.

Adopted or abducted?

It is a Yahoo! News story about unwed mothers forced to give up their children. The story, coverage by Dan Rather, focuses on Australia, but "[f]rom Australia to Spain, Ireland to America, and as recent as 1987, young mothers say they were “coerced”, “manipulated”, and “duped” into handing over their babies for adoption." [Adopted or abducted?].

I had thought that this ended in the 1950s. It wasn't unusual in the 50s to hear stories of teenage pregnancies where the newborn was "adopted." And not surprisingly the Catholic church played its archaic role in determining the morality of others.

And doesn't this sound familiar? "There was a lot of testimony from people that were associated with Catholic institutions.  And Catholic Health Services here issued an apology and I understand they're gonna be putting in place some grievance procedures.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Trayvon Martin - details coming too late

It is the way it is. It seems to have taken the news media excruciatingly long to develop this story. By the time all the details are presented - the public will have made up its mind with little chance of changing it. We are often influenced by the initial headlines leading to misperception of the event.

Now we are being told that the shooter said that Martin was going for the shooter's gun. "George Zimmerman, the neighborhood watch crime captain who shot dead 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, originally told police in a written statement that Martin knocked him down with a punch to the nose, repeatedly slammed his head on the ground and tried to take his gun, a police source told ABC News." [ABC/Yahoo! News].

It is not clear what is to be inferred from this statement. Arguably had Martin got a hold of it and shot him - it would have been self defense. It is just as reasonable to cast the shooter as the aggressor, and therefore, morally and legally wrong.

Much of shooting story has been obscured by the remarks like that from Geraldo Rivera about the 'crime' of wearing a hoodie. It was a remark much like blaming women for rape because of the clothes they were wearing. A person that suffers a violent crime should never be blamed. Of course there are exceptions, but violence against another is rarely excusable.

But arguably neither should race become a factor in a violent act unless it can be shown that it is causative factor.  It is a factor of life still that where there is violence and one person is white and the other is black - the assumption is that it is race based violence. It may still be the case in Trayvon Martin's case - but it is far from clear even as more 'facts' become known.

Of course the history of racial bias in the US still leads the media and others in the direction of seeking to find it in every incident between races. The hearing of a racial slur in the audio of the Martin shooter's 911 call is just an example. Listen to the call - it doesn't exist.

And it hasn't served the public well by the alleged police procedural errors in failing to arrest the shooter. I would have found it more enlightening to know the crime situation in that neighborhood that apparently felt it had to have a watch captain. And why was he carrying a weapon.

Yes - arguably the shooter had a legal right to carry a gun - but that doesn't necessary justify its use or even its carrying. In this case it seems its availability inevitably led to its use however justifiable or not.

Self-defense implies a fear of great bodily harm. One wonders - would he have confronted the teenager had he not had the gun? Yet - the shooter by electing to confront Martin put himself in the position of letting his fear and perception dominate his decision making. It is why we have trained police officers.

Here were two people in a rainy night that didn't know each other and one was apparently following the other because "these assholes always get away?" [See my post.] It may not be race based but one must question why the shooter was following Martin that night? There appears thus far no probable cause for the shooter to suspect Martin of anything except that what wearing a hoodie and sweatpants conveyed to the shooter.

The shooter might have not been racially prejudiced, but he apparently had preconceived ideas about those walking in his neighborhood. He was apparently in tune with Geraldo Rivera notion about those who wear hoodies. Is Rivera racially biased - not likely.

The story didn't need to have a racial character to it. From what we know it is not too difficult to argue that the circumstances was as set out in a New York Times opinion without the use of the word "black:"  "A self-appointed vigilante, brandishing a deadly weapon, reportedly ignores police directions and assaults an unarmed black 17-year-old, and as a result of this self-instigated confrontation the teenager is killed; the assailant pleads self-defense and may escape prosecution."

In the blog Held to Answer the author posits that fear of criminals was the participating factor. In comparing Martin facts with another similar situation the author states: "Daniel [he was white and not a gang member] was killed by a man [who thought he was protecting his family from gangs] who was afraid.  Trayvon was killed by a man who was afraid. What were the two shooters afraid of? Criminals."

She further notes: "That is an understandable fear, especially if you’ve already been the victim of a crime. Yet race — not crime — has become the dominant issue in Trayvon Martin’s death with protests across the nation."

I am not sure I entirely agree with her arguments in the post - but it does seem that this issue could have been discussed without the race card being played. Would the president have become involved if the Martin was not black? Won't the story play out without it being a white versus black encounter? Given the facts known to date, would it have been wrong if there had been no racial factor in the media coverage, or maybe there would have been no media coverage?

That is exactly the example used in the Held to Answer post. Look - as the facts are known today it appears that the shooter had no knowledge of the race of the person wearing the hoodie. For whatever reason - the shooter put himself in the position of confrontation where he determined that the use of the firearm was necessary.

But we have made up our minds - Martin was shot because he was black. That may well be the real tragedy.

Carbon footprinting an exercise in futility?

In India: "Over 173 power plants, all of them coal-fired, will be built to power the nation's high-tech industries and booming cities." [India's coal rush]. So while one is condemning the combustion engine, riding your bike and manning the slop buckets - your efforts are as futile as lighting of one candle, or better yet, like one step forward two steps back.

India is one of the top five world coal producers. Its output is only 8%, but China is responsible for 43% of the World's production. The US is only 13%. And look at the coal production graph - it is pretty much of a steady upward slope from 2000 to 2010. [China dominates global coal production - Today in Energy - U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA)]

Economic growth comes with a heavy price. Energy needs of economically developing countries demands high usage of lower priced and available coal. Maybe 'clean coal' ought to be seen in a different light - it might be useful as an interim measure. And dare I say it - isn't nuclear energy the future of energy production?

29th gang related shooting - whopping increase?

Portland police press release concerning a shooting in Northeast Portland: "This shooting is the 29th gang-related shooting of 2012. At the same time last year Portland Police were investigating 16 gang-related shootings."

Ambiguity in the press release and repeated by the media without question. E.g., see the Portland Tribune. But whether there is a large discrepancy between "investigating" and confirmed is probably immaterial. And what is the significance of that statistic? Problem for me is that there is no reference, that is, is the Portland's gang shooting statistic better or worse than similarly situated cities?

For once it would be so nice to see the news media actually do more than regurgitate police press releases.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

The Nines - no lessons learned

There are many lessons to be learned - but none will - from the debacle The Nines. It has been an economic disaster all around. To date there has been no positive benefits to the city property taxpayers fleeced by PDC. Thanks to tax increment financing (TIF) Money that should have gone to education, police and health services via the county has been squandered by PDC.

See my post today that is a republished Old Town post in April 2009. It is just about 3 years later and not much has changed. "In March 2009, the Portland Development Commission agreed to requests from The Nines' developer, Sage Hospitality Resources, to temporarily stop making loan payments. Sage hasn't paid the city a dime since, even as the economy and hotel business has strengthened." [The Nines in downtown Portland gets a break to stop making loan payments, then discounts rooms].

Worse yet The Nines aided by urban renewal taxpayer dollars was able to undercut its competition in the recession. "[W]ith $16.9 million in loans from the city [. . .] The Nines aggressively discounted, offering its opulent rooms for $99 a night. Competitors had little choice but to offer steep discounts of their own, starting a downward spiral that slashed their revenues by 20 to 40 percent."

Of course instead of learning from this debacle another attempt to resurrect the convention hotel is being brokered in the back rooms. This time the initiative is being taken by Metro. It cannot be good news for the local downtown hotel industry.

The Oregonian notes: "Two competing Portland hotels – the Governor and the Avalon – have recently been put on the market by the Royal Bank of Scotland. Property documents indicate that the bank took control of the properties last summer."

But this from Metro's Pinocchio: "Thirty of these "national" conventions turned thumbs down on Portland in the last year." "When we asked them why not, they keep coming back to the lack of the hotel."

It is amazing how much in need is the convention hotel (AKA Headquarters Hotel) yet private enterprise will not take it on.

The Nines

[Editor: This was originally published on Oregonlive April 2009 in my Old Town Blog. It is republished and is best read in conjunction with this Oregonian story of March 24, 2012. Some links have mysteriously disappeared, but I was able to update a couple. And a couple were preserved on the oregonlive site. And all links and more are available here.]

The Nines is a boutique hotel on top of Macy's occupying the former Meier & Frank Department store downtown. It has made some news recently because the city has found itself not only last place on the creditor/lien totem pole it has been forced to accept a deferred payment plan by the firm Sage Hospitality that developed the Nines.

The Nines is a part of what a PdC published, July 2008, monograph [link no longer valid but see here] called the "Saving One of America's Great Stores." A subtitle is more accurate: "The Rennovation of the Meier and Frank Department Store Building."

What was 'saved' was the outside of the building not the interior. The structure was condomized with Macy's and Nines being the significant condos, and there is a condominium owners' association.

Take a look at the site on Portlandmaps.com: Macy's and The Nines (see pull down menu near the top).

The total project went from an estimate of $118 million to $133 million in 2007 with taxpayer loans at $16.9 million. There is other financing details, but the focus here is the loans. If we skip to March 25, 2009 we start to realize the risks in public loans.

According to the Oregonian, the "City gives The Nines' [developer requested] more time to repay loan."

"Sage is still expected to repay all of its $16.9 million in city loans at the original interest rates that ran from 0 to 5 percent. But the payments will stop until The Nines' business improves."

Until the business improves. What kind of benchmark is that?

"That means a loss of about $400,000 in payments in 2009 and about $600,000 in payments each year after that."

Not only is there a specter of no loan repayment either interest or principal, but loss of the opportunity to use paid back funds for other projects.

At any time these projects are complex with a certain degree of sophistication needed to participate. The desired end result where low interest loans are provided to the developers by a public agency is that not only are the loans repaid in full, but the public interest is well served.

In the best of economic times - there is little financial risk by any participant. But, as the times get worse (like now) - the risk is formidable.

The public partner is typically at the end of the creditor line, and will continue to be there having only a legal right to collect after those in front collect, assuming that there is any money left to collect. What the public may have to show is collected interest.

This is not peculiar to Portland. It seems to be SOP for urban renewal and downtown revitalization projects, however suspect it may be.

Thus, projects can provide a substantial risk to the taxpayers with no guarantee of any payback. But you say the corporate investors lose too. No they don't, not like the public.

In the public world there is no write downs or write offs - it is money lost; either the investment, principal and interest, or the loss opportunity, i.e., alternative uses.

The use of public funds to create projects for the benefit of Portland is not an issue. And I will give PdC credit for the certain high degree of sophistication for this particular project. From PDC Executive Director November 2008 Report 08-125 [link no longer valid; Report excised but see here]:

"PDC was instrumental in bringing together Sage Hospitality Resources, a national hotel developer based in Denver, and May Department Stores, then the operator of Meier & Frank Department Stores, to agree to a complete renovation including a full seismic structural upgrade."

"PDC assisted Sage in securing $72.5 million in New Markets Tax Credits. . . ." "PDC also provided $16.9 million in loans to cover the costs of seismic and life-safety upgrades to the historic terra cotta building."

At issue though is the project itself - The Nines and Macy's.

Briefly, this was a PdC project like many that takes too long (ten years) to develop leaving PdC & taxpayers with one leg in quicksand - they just could not pull out.

It was billed as being part of the downtown revitalization which ten years ago probably elicited few objections. But, even then, or at least as the project started to come together, it should have been recognized that a Macy's like department store was unlikely to be economically viable downtown.

Certainly, Meier & Frank was not viable even with the ownership of the much larger and experienced May Company. And, The Nines a luxury boutique hotel without a demand or need clearly was an inappropriate part of the project.

And while The Nines came late in the project development [Marriott Renaissance Hotel was one a better and earlier thought] a luxury hotel starting at $249/night (emphasis on starting) attempting to create a niche is problematic for urban renewal or downtown revitalization. [The Oregonian 12-11-07].

The Nines General Manager October 08: "Opening rates begin at $249 per night and will be ramped up over time . . . ." "The key in providing luxury services to a discerning clientele is to constantly raise the bar."

The cost overruns of $15 mil or were in part "by design. As a luxury hotel, it was determined the design and amenities weren't upscale enough." [KGW 12-11-07 {link no longer valid but see here}].

There is nothing about this project that benefits the vast majority of Portlanders especially those that live downtown. Another department store downtown is excessive, especially since Lloyd Center is a mere 2.2 miles from the project location, and Lloyd has a Macy's.

This project is much like "The Nines" - dressed to the nines but no where to go.


For your reading pleasure:

Two excerpts from the July 2008 monographThe Deal and Survival & Revival

PDC Report Number 09-37 -The Nines - Approval of Payment Restructuring

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Crime profile: Black and wearing a hoodie

Fox News seems to go out of its way to hire news people who are deficit in their reasoning abilities. Geraldo Rivera is clearly one of these esteemed news people. It seems unarguable that his position is that Trayvon Martin is as much at fault for his death as the person who shot him merely because Trayvon was wearing a hoodie. [Geraldo Rivera finds real culprit in Trayvon Martin slaying: The hoodie].

This from the horse's ass mouth: "There are some things that are almost inevitable. I'm not suggesting that Trayvon Martin had any kind of weapon or anything. He wore an outfit that allowed someone to respond in this irrational, overzealous way. And if he had been dressed more appropriately—I think unless it is raining out or you are at a track meet, leave the hoodie home."

And as the story relates - it was raining out.

A New York Times opinion sets out the circumstances that ought to give everyone more than a second thought: "A self-appointed vigilante, brandishing a deadly weapon, reportedly ignores police directions and assaults an unarmed black 17-year-old, and as a result of this self-instigated confrontation the teenager is killed; the assailant pleads self-defense and may escape prosecution."

It is interesting too to listen to the 911 calls from the neighbors. It seems clear that it was Trayvon calling out before the shot. You can hear the screams and then the shot. There may have been a second shot, but it was unclear.

But contrary to some reports it does not appear that the shooting had said anything near like "fuc*ing coons." You can listen to the audio tape - it just doesn't seem possible that he uttered those words - at least not from the tape I heard. The media making the report claims to hear it  - but I don't.

But the better and still ignored part of the story is the neighborhood "watch captain" that was permitted to carry a gun, shoot someone and then claim self defense when thus far the evidence is that his 'fears' were delusional and race based.

From Trayvon Martin Case: 911 Audio Released Of Teen Shot By Neighborhood Watch Captain (AUDIO):

"Zimmerman described Martin as wearing a hoodie and sweatpants or jeans. He continues: "He's coming to check me out. He's got something in his hands. I don't know what his deal is. Can we get an officer over here?"

"These assholes always get away," he says to the operator. Zimmerman is then heard giving directions to the dispatcher. "Shit, he's running," Zimmerman says.

"Are you following him?" the dispatcher asks.

"Yes," Zimmerman responds.

"We don't need you to do that," the dispatcher says.
"

Despite the claim that the Florida law protects people like this "watch captain," this was not self-defense and is not protected in any state under any similar circumstances.

From these circumstances Trayvon Martin had more of a self-defense argument - he was being pursued, stalked, in the rainy night by someone unknown to him. I wonder how the story would have played had it been Martin shooting Zimmerman?

Thursday, March 22, 2012

AP calculus class success is exceptionally rare

It ought to be a non-story or at least with a different story focus. Betsy Hammond's Oregonian article is excellent: Predominantly African American AP calculus class is exceptionally rare, marked by camaraderie and success.

It is rather tragic that attention is drawn not because the school offers advance courses, but that the advanced calculus course is populated by non-whites. People of color - who would have thought?

The mere fact that the article was written illustrates a stereotype that continues to undermine teaching in public schools. African Americans (that reads black) cannot learn those 'difficult' subjects, and more than that, they don't have the innate initiative to be successful.

This AP class at the private De La Salle North Catholic High School represents what education has to be about - a collaborative exercise. A read demonstrate that the students - all of them irrespective of color of skin - want an education and this teacher and school is determined to give it to them.

According to the Oregonian, this school offers low-cost tuition for low income families, but it isn't clear from the story that these students subject of the story are in fact from low income families; however, the probabilities support that. 

A missing element - although implied or certainly can be inferred - is the role of the parents. One has to assume that the parents of these students have high expectations that their children will participate and will receive an education worthy of their abilities.

Much to the chagrin of too many, children do in fact reflect their parents' attitude and goals. But it takes more than just parental high expectations - it takes the school and teachers to match and fulfill those expectations. It isn't about race, income, student teacher ratio, cost of lunch, school location, or even cultural diversity.

The teacher - Scott Reis - seems to be that teacher that everyone (parents, students, schools) wants. Although we don't know his salary or income situation, it is a good guess that his teacher's income at the Catholic private school is not that of a similarly situated public school teacher.

One assumes too that he is not a member of a union. Not that belonging to a union is necessarily bad, but it eliminates another factor often presented negatively in quality of education discussions.

And I don't believe that an argument should be made that in general private schools are better than public  schools. There is nothing in 'success' picture at this school that can't be replicated in other schools - private or public - religious or not.

But rather than this story act as an incentive or a success goal - it will be merely a 'isn't that nice' story. Or as I expect it will become a success story that will be set aside as one off not to be replicated.

At least these students are being given an opportunity.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Attitude of police service - exercise in futility?

It is a rare - very rare - feel good article about a Portland police officer who not only likes but appreciates his job. KGW has one: Portland officer shot twice keeps attitude of police service.

To be a police officer anywhere - it is more than being about carrying a gun or even putting the bad guys away - it is about pubic service. Public service seems to have gone by the wayside  But Portland's police officers are well represented by this police officer - Chris Burley.

This is an officer who puts his life on the line each and every shift. It is a risk they take never knowing whether the person they encounter will attempt to injure them. This particular officer was shot twice by a mentality ill person - yet the officer becomes an advocate for the mentality ill.

His job focus right now is gang enforcement and like many (I think sometimes too many) Portlanders he is optimistic about 'converting' some of them to the non-criminal side of life.

We need, and too often fail to appreciate, officers who do their job and more day in and day out only to be subject to irrational criticism and even ridicule. I don't see how police officers like Mr. Burley continues in what one might characterize as an exercise in futility - it is a finger in the dyke.

Catholic church still not facing realities

The BBC News writes about a new report from the Vatican on child abuse in Ireland, but Ireland was just one of many places that child abuse by priests occurred. Ireland, a Catholic county where the church has had its sway for centuries, may well have been the worst in the pervasiveness of the physical and sexual abuse of children.

See this from Michael Kelly, the Irish Catholic a newspaper: "There was a feeling that the spirit of the sixties had infected the seminaries too much," he said, adding that there was a sense of the current Pope looking forward to a Church where there might be "fewer but truer" Catholics."

It is a two-parter. Shifting the blame to the 60s, but at the same time putting that certain 'gloss' on the problem, i.e., the church has weeded out the non-believers. Mr. Kelly and the Vatican do their best to ignore that said by those abused like "'Colm O'Gorman, a high profile campaigner who sued the Catholic Church over the abuse he suffered as a child, [who] called the report "farcical"' and reminds us that 'the Church had to "be dragged kicking and screaming through the courts of opinion and the courts of law.'"

And while the focus has been on the priests, Catholic Ireland hasn't let the child abuse by the Catholic church slip by. The Guardian UK notes in its story Catholic clergy 'abused children for decades in County Donegal' that "County Donegal in Ireland is about to have its bucolic image shattered by a report into how paedophiles, both clergy and laity, abused children for decades."

The Catholic Church cares only about its control over its parishioners and their contributions ($$$) to the church. Your path to heaven or hell, assuming belief is such designations, is not determined by going to church on Sunday. But surely those who have 'faith' must assume that the line at the door to hell is considerable and very Catholic.

And surely a Catholic's faith must be challenged by the fact that those who are held out as God's representatives on earth abused their children without any real punishment; all the while being protected by others in the Catholic Church hierarchy including the Vatican.

Shameful report and shameful church.

Monday, March 19, 2012

The military - they don't take care of their own

While the military often utters "we take of our own" they don't. In fact they seem much more likely to eat their own more than any other social unit. Staff Sergeant Bales has been thrown under the bus with a military driver now in the process of backing up over him.

The military bowing to political pressure will find it necessary to single this person out as acting alone and in a criminal manner with no responsibility to be taken by the military or its waging of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. They will do what it takes to deny any causal effect from the four tours in 10 years, three in Iraq and one just started in Afghanistan. There must be at all costs no dissent about the righteousness of the wars in Iraq or Afghanistan from the military and the political administrations of Bush and Obama.

Two excellent reads on the staff sergeant are from the New York Times and Military.com. Both publications are straining to present a picture from which maybe we can determine what went wrong? Was it one thing or just one more thing that caused him to snap. There are no easy answers.

He snapped though. It is plain and simple. There is nothing disclosed thus far that would indicate that this individual would be ordinarily capable of committing such actions. Isn't it somewhat ironic that firefighters, and police for that matter, often retire on disability because of stress? Yet the military keeps recycling its personnel much like a water bottle. How many cycles can its personnel stand before they break down and become unusable?

From the NYTimes. "Dr. Stephen Xenakis, a psychiatrist and retired brigadier general who was an adviser to the Joint Chiefs of Staff, [one suspects that this person never saw a minute of actual combat] said that after a decade of combat, where hundreds of thousands of troops have sustained traumatic brain injury and P.T.S.D., those syndromes by themselves seem inadequate to explain how a seemingly normal and widely admired sergeant might have single-handedly committed one of the worst war crimes of the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts."

This from a person defending his turf. A Google or Bing search on PTSD demonstrates the causal connection (although seemingly ignored by the military) of combat experiences on mental instability. However, even an Army study - their first as reported by the AP - "of the mental health of troops who fought in Iraq found that about one in eight reported symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder."

Yet this staff sergeant will seemingly not be permitted (by those responsible for the wars) to have this "excuse" His worse failing might well be patriotism. He joined the Army at the age of 27 shortly after 911. From all accounts he saw a need to be one of the good guys. He had repeated tours all from the Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington State which the Washington Post, March 13, 12, notes that "the strain of multiple deployments may be pushing some there to commit violent acts."

According to the Post, the police SWAT members and other officers are being "trained to recognize combat veterans that might have post-traumatic stress disorder." The rationale: “We are having more and more issues with the military — suicides, domestic violence, DUIs, malicious mischief,” Bulman [Pierce County Sheriff’s Department's chaplain] said. “They are trying to deal with issues unsuccessfully, and so they end up getting into trouble. But the situation can escalate if they are not treated properly.”

The military eats people like the staff sergeant for snacks. They know they can count on "patriotism" to cause him and those like him to look the other way on the shortcomings of military life. Military life is never great for those in combat - you know the ones carrying the brunt of the wars that result from poor American policies.

You can call the military force in Afghanistan NATO, but it is in fact the US military that ponies up the men and women as cannon fodder and wastes the American taxpayers dollars to keep us in fear and dependent on the federal government. It matters not that they could care less for its citizens except to offer the masses at election time pabulum that is intellectually and morally bereft.

This is the situation of an ordinarily decent person continually placed in a situation where even common sense dictates unwise finally breaks. But rather than breaking at home and maybe killing his family like the Iraq veteran that killed his 11 year old sister then killed himself - he killed in Afghanistan. [See my earlier post.]

Here is the issue as seen from the perspective of a retired Navy captain Amerson in an email to the Associated Pressas as quoted in the Military.com article: "Too often, he argued, Americans absolve the leaders who start the wars and "invest the full responsibility in the combatants themselves and the families that support them." "These actions in Iraq and Afghanistan have been more than a clash of combatants; they have been a clash of cultures, ideologies, and religions that has blurred the lines of right and wrong."

Sunday, March 18, 2012

What is it that destroys the mental balance?

The killing of Afghanistan civilians by the staff Sergeant is still the headline for the news media. It is being suggested that money and career woes might have contributed to his rampage. If that was all there was to it - chaos would reign. But consider another story in Gilroy, California where it is wondered: Why would a vet kill those who love him?

A former Iraq war veteran, 27, killed his 11 year sister then himself. Police suspect too that he may have killed his mother. "As bad as the 16 killings by a U.S. sergeant in Afghanistan were -- and they were terrible -- the Gilroy crimes defied our understanding even more savagely. How could a returning soldier destroy the people who loved him most?"

As the San Jose Mercury News reporter notes: "We're dealing with the national balloon payment for the follies of our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan." And this seems right on the mark: "World War II drew clear divisions between good guys and bad guys. But Iraq and Afghanistan defy easy definition. They invite the kind of killing that haunts a soldier."

How could any decent human not be haunted by his or her killing in Iraq and Afghanistan? Calling it a war doesn't make it right. The enemy is virtually indiscernible - a villager, farmer or Taliban?  There is no Bin Laden or Al-Qaeda there. Remember it was Saudi Arabia that was home to the 911 hijackers.

One wonders how many soldiers are haunted, and how many have come home and not been able to live with that that haunts them? What about those yet to return? We ask too much from them.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Protecting his home?

So far this case has been difficult to rationalize. It is a KGW story. See the police press release. It hardly seems likely that someone would exit his home with a weapon in order to defend it. Just how many "intruders" were outside? It is likely too that the police presence was large. Why didn't he call the police rather than exit where presumably he was safe? Carry a gun and confront police is dangerous. But as these cases go - we have to wait until the grand jury hearing to find out the details.

Now he has gone too far

Rick Santorum wants to ban hard-core pornography. Prohibition - yeah that works. This is truly a scary candidate  This is a person that wants government to intervene in your life based upon his personal beliefs as a Catholic.

This is one who is more under the control and influence of the Catholic Church than any other presidential candidate in our history. Remember candidate John F. Kennedy who it was feared that he would be influenced by the Pope. [See Transcript: JFK's Speech on His Religion : NPR.] Well the Catholic Church has its candidate.

There is a good reason that the founders of this country determined to have a separation between church and state.

More information about the staff sergeant is coming to the fore

Now the the staff sergeant has an attorney - a different picture is forming. Contrary to other reports - the staff sergeant's marriage was good and there was no alcohol involved. We find too that he didn't want to deploy to Afghanistan apparently because of "the serious injury of a comrade a day before the shooting rampage."

The staff sergeant "had been injured twice during his three previous deployments to Iraq, and he was loath to go to Afghanistan to begin with." "During tours in Iraq, the soldier suffered a concussive head injury in a car accident caused by a roadside bomb." And further "he suffered a battle-related injury that resulted in surgery to remove part of his foot."

Why was he still in the battle field? The new American army shouldering the burdens of war and when tipped over the breaking point is burden with all the blame. Continuation of this war is immoral. Where are the moralists? Oh that's right - they are fighting the great war against women's health care.

Oregonian fires editor

It is an example of the difficulty or remaining objective when one is too close to the situation. The editor lied about the circumstances surrounding Mr. Caldwell's death. [Willamette Week]. The rationale was obvious, reasonable and understandable - except when a news story is partly fabricated by the editor.

But it isn't clear that the editor under these circumstances should have lost her job. Nor  is clear why the Oregonian felt the need to go on about the incident.

Just let it go - move on.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Wasn't a disconnect obvious 10 years ago?

The killing of Afghanistan civilians is bringing more scrutiny on the US involvement there. Rather than punishing the Taliban for harboring Bin Laden - it has punished the villagers of this very poor agricultural country. It has been said that we are trying to win the hearts and minds of the people of Afghanistan. Why?

A country grows organically without, or despite, interference from foreigners. Before the turn of the 20th century, foreign governments have invaded Afghanistan without success. After Vietnam one would think that the US would grasp the futility of invasion of foreign countries seeking to remake them in our image.

There is nothing in common between the two countries. The US has no understanding at any level of the Afghani people nor do they have an understanding of the US. It is apples and oranges. Thus, the US was not able to understand why the Afghani people did not react the same to the killings as they did to the burning of the Koran.

As the New York Times states: "After more than 10 years, many deaths and billions of dollars invested, Americans still fail to grasp the Afghans’ basic values. Faith is paramount and a death can be compensated with blood money."

A sign of stability? Libya reopens its stock exchange

I never realized that Libya ever had a stock exchange. Its general manager had this to say: "We still don't have a government but we have the capacity and infrastructure necessary to become the financial hub of North Africa." [Libya reopens its stock exchange].

It's a start. Now on to Syria.

New Seasons - now it is a Brady "family business."

While it may seem a silly issue to some, Eileen Brady has made her association with New Seasons a major part of her qualifications as a candidate for mayor of Portland. Thus it is more than fair game to explore, and it is more than resume exaggeration.

In an Willamette Week coverage of mayoral debates the "founder" claim came up again. Brady had this to say in response to a comment by candidate Hales: "I have spent thousands of hours in our family business, New Seasons Market." She then list many "hats" she has worn founding New Season - now called a family business.

From her list one would think that there were no others involved except Brady and her husband. But the problem is that none on her list has been confirmed or verified.

Hales had it right. In discussing his spouse's work as founding director at First Stop Portland he said: ". . . I have helped her a lot with that around our kitchen table. You know, spouses have these conversations around kitchen tables and help each other with their projects. I have helped her as a volunteer on a bunch of tours but I’d never describe myself as the co-founder of First Stop Portland."

The more Brady talks about her association with New Season the longer her Pinocchio nose grows.

U.S. Custom House buyer is Portland newcomer | OregonLive.com

The Custom House deserves redevelopment, but one wonders whether the new owner has bitten off more than it can chew. Portland development is often hindered by the city's zoning and development regulations. Add to that the fact that this building is on the national historic register - "penciling out" any potential project may prove insurmountable. [U.S. Custom House buyer is Portland newcomer].

The canary: Siltronic to cut 350 jobs

This is apparently week old news. It is interesting that it seemed to go nearly unnoticed. The loss of 350 jobs is important especially since this is a company actually located in Portland the city, not metro. As set out in the press release and in the Portland Business Journal - the cut back is due to decreased demand for one of the product lines. A German plant is also cutting 150 jobs for the same product.

Thus arguably - had it occurred at any other time, i. e., not at this time of economic recovery, it might be treated as an ordinary and expected business decision. But the article Siltronic to cut 350 jobs at Portland plant included a comment from the company that :seems out of place. "the city’s rising water rates have put the Portland plant at a growing competitive disadvantage with other Siltronic plants."

Is this a warning that there is danger in the "coal mine?" Jack Bog's Blog had a post that the cost of water from the city had a hand in the company's decision: "The crazy increases to the rates charged for water must have made the decision easier for the company, which is the city's largest water user . . . ."

That isn't my perspective, but the Siltronic statement does operate as a warning to the city that the company sees the water needed for production as too costly, and that continued increases, and maybe absence of a decrease, might be the tipping point for the company's exit from Portland.

"Despite those costs, Fahey [human resources director] said Siltronic is “concentrating on trying to make this 200 millimeter plant remaining here as competitive as possible.” “We think we have a good future with that plant,” he said. “That’s one reason we think the water rates are so important.” [Portland Business Journal].

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Pure greed that overcomes what ought to be common sense

And blaming the banks is rather foolish. And an age of 71 is no excuse either. This person failed to grasp that exchanging $122,000 for "three metal trunks filled with jewels and valuables totaling in the millions of dollars, the spoils of war" was a risk that reasonable people would not undertake. [Portland woman loses savings in upgraded Nigerian scam].

Bill Clinton skips red meat, therefore, so should you

The logic is infallible - Bill Clinton doesn't eat processed red meat, therefore you shouldn't. What is good for Clinton is good for me? Really? [Bill Clinton skips red meat, study says you should too]. Mr. Clinton is only 65, thus using him as an example may be a bit premature. The study's conclusion is, at best, eating less red meat, processed or not, is beneficial to longer life.

I don't find that conclusion credible. But, rather than reading the story - it is better to read the Harvard press release and the study posted on line. It seems clear that in this study there is a clear association between consumption of red meat and longevity - it is inverse.

But we cannot take from the study why red meat may not be beneficial. And one is left to believe that the harmful effects depend on the amount of red meat consumed, and whether it is processed red meat or not. Finally, the use of the term "associated" is not the same as "caused." Thus, the study doesn't demonstrate that eating red meat deceases longevity, but that it is associated with decreased longevity.

Nit picking - I guess. But I am always skeptical of all these studies that are designed to dictate what is or what isn't good for you.

Women's basic rights usurped

"Hillary Clinton has fought for women’s rights around the world. But who would have dreamed that she would have to fight for them at home?" [Don’t Tread on Us].

Maureen Dowd has this quote too from Hillary Clinton - about extremists and women: "It doesn’t matter what country they’re in or what religion they claim. They want to control women. They want to control how we dress. They want to control how we act. They even want to control the decisions we make about our own health and bodies."

Why is it that women, or minorities, need to keep fighting over and over again for rights that ought to be basic to the individual?

When making money becomes evil

An excellent read in the New York Times. It is an opinion piece by a resigning executive director of Goldman Sachs and head of the firm’s United States equity derivatives business in Europe, the Middle East and Africa. This is no junior level executive that never fitted in with the company. Arguably he and his like should be the core of Goldman Sachs.

He depicts a company culture that gave way to making money no matter what. Instead of a company being concerned with the financial welfare of its clients - it has become concerned only with its welfare - clients be damned.

Like I say - it is a great read.

Bob Caldwell - someone who did well

At least that how I see Mr. Caldwell. But, sanctimonious rant has started to appear about the deceased Bob Caldwell. It is never quite clear to me why media, and media wannabes, attack the deceased. Easy target? They can never respond. And it is so easy to decry that conduct that some seem to see sordid or tawdry. In the US - sex is always seen that way.

But Mr. Caldwell had a great career in journalism and contributed to the editorial success at the Oregonian. However, the good - irrespective of how good - is never enough to offset the bad - however minimal the bad is.

Looking at his career and what the public knows about him personally - I believe I would have enjoyed spending time with Mr. Caldwell over a few beers. It seems he did better with his life than most of us do with ours.

Are only the puritan pure deserving of respect?

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Mayor seeking local products for testing - what?

I don't understand this. Is this to be a positive guarantee for local products? Employees are the focus group? If a local product doesn't do well - will that be published? [Mayor Sam Adams seeks local products for testing].

It seems that the mayor needs to stop thinking out loud.

More on the Afghanistan shooting

It is inconceivable that apparently the soldier is still in Afghanistan. Leaving him there decreases the likelihood that he will properly evaluated. Having proper representation is less likely too. There is a risk also that more local uprisings will occur amid the screams for a local trial.

The media is doing what it can to place the blame on this soldier. From their point of view - there is apparently no mitigating circumstances. I find it rather odd that no support has been forthcoming for this soldier pushed to the brink. How can any military command consider having any soldier to serve three tours in Iraq and then start him on his fourth tour in Afghanistan?

Odd that we pushed a human to the braking point and when he breaks - it is his fault.

Odd too that the president is stressing the difference between My Lai incident in Vietnam and this one in Afghanistan. He sees it as a magnitude difference, but it isn't the number of people killed that makes My Lai a reference point - it was the incident itself. That incident was just one more in a series of incidents that changed American opinion - leading to our exodus.

See Soldier Suspected in Afghan Killings Knew War’s Tensions From Four Tours for a glimpse of the crowd mentality that has the noose hanging.

Another Bush - Blair duo?

Obama tries slam-dunk diplomacy in NCAA tournament trip with Britain’s Cameron.

And we see this from the Washington Post 3/12/12: Barack Obama and David Cameron: The U.S. and Britain still enjoy special relationship.

The love affair continues: Obama, Cameron reaffirm Afghan withdrawal plan.

Will we see them working together to 'find" WMDs in [insert country of choice]? "Special relationships" are not for leaders of countries. I want a president who has a special relationship with the people of the US.

Monday, March 12, 2012

WTF: Man arrested after tossing his sandwich at Jack in the Box employee

Banks man arrested after Jack in the Box employee struck with sandwich. Not much good can be said for either the employee or the employer. What a waste of time.

Just how dumb are Mississippi GOP voters?

More than half of Mississippi GOP voters say Obama is a Muslim, new poll suggests.

"Recent Job Gains Are Real and They’re Spectacular"

That is a Wall Street Journal headline - not the New York Times. [Recent Job Gains Are Real and They’re Spectacular - Real Time Economics].

Kandahar massacre

The unexplained - maybe unexplainable - actions by a staff sergeant resulting in the middle of the night shooting deaths of at least 15 non-military Afganistans - 9 were children. It has been portrayed as a mass murder. And it would seem from the media's take that this action was deliberate on the soldier's part, that is, he intentionally set out to murder them.

In an earlier post I suggested that there is more to this story. The soldier is merely an actor on this stage set in Afghanistan.  The soldiers and local villagers have been battering each other, each side being manipulated much like puppets. The results have to have been predictable.

Just how far can a soldier be pushed before he or she breaks?

This staff sergeant had apparently "served three tours in Iraq and was on his first deployment in Afghanistan."  And "he was from Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington state, 38 years old and married with two children." [Afghans 'out of patience' after Kandahar massacre]. The Joint Base Lewis-McChord is a most troubled base and may become significant as the investigation continues.

[Editor: See this latest story Soldier Held in Afghan Massacre Had Brain Injury, Marital Problems. It contains more details about the incident too.]

And we blame the soldier.

Just how far can the Afghanistan villager be harassed and humiliated in his own country and village? And how long can it go on?

A village elder:  "On the one hand, we no longer know who to complain to. The Taliban kill us, the international forces kills, and the government is helpless. There is no door left for us to knock on anymore. "  Local resident: "We have learned that our houses will be searched at night, and we just cooperate." Another resident: "Americans are always threatening us with dogs and helicopters during night raids." [Mass murder in Kandahar].

Can reprisals not be expected?

Is it really unpredictable that such an event would happen given the multiple tours of our soldiers and their invasion into the Afghanistan villages? There is no connection between the soldier and the villager. The villagers don't want us there and see our troops as mere foreign invaders that need to be removed.

We haven't learned from our Vietnam experiences. The Afghanistan war has become morally untenable, if it ever was. Maybe the good that might come from this is that we are forced to exit Afghanistan - after 10 years it is about time.

PPS graduation rate increase - hocus pocus

The Oregonian's reporting on 'education' by Betsy Hammond is quite good. Recently she noted that the PPS claimed a 5% increase in the high school graduation rate. In one year it appeared to have gone from 54% to 59% and they were quick to brag abut it.

Of course PPS wanted the public to believe it was through some effort on their part. Well it was - documentation. It seems that doing a better job of essentially 'counting heads' made the difference. [Better paperwork was the main factor behind Portland's big gain in high school graduation rate].

It can't go without notice that the mayor took credit for the increase in graduation rates in his final (thankfully) state of the city address. "Adams took credit for following through on previous pledges. He noted Portland Public Schools' rising graduation rate, but said it would take eight years not five to cut the drop-out rate in half as he promised in 2008."

In an earlier post I had stated that the graduation rate was 55% because that is the result when the rates are actually averaged. However, discrepancy aside, it remains true as stated by Betsy Hammond in her earlier article: PPS' "on-time graduation rate, 59 percent, remains one of the worst in the state and far behind those of districts with similar poverty levels."

Hammond explains the discrepancy and the district apparently has even higher numbers they want to publish. But one has to wonder in amazement that the school district's administration didn't have a better handle on it.

Of course they blame it on the 'dog,' in this case an outdated record system. But as Hammond notes the Tigard-Tualatin district uses the same system without the flawed counting.

One suspects that the PPS administration is in need of some critical thinkers.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Moscow protest against Vladimir Putin not so big after all

Apparently some in Russia miss the point about democratic elections - when they are over they are over. Putin, like him or not, won the election by a substantial margin. Please spare us the claims of election violations. His margin of victory can not be explained by those assertions.

Post election protests calling for the resignation of the person just elected is not likely to be successful. In Moscow, protest organizers expected (hoped for with fingers crossed) to have 50,000 in attendance, but it appears 10,000 was more like it. Respectful turnout, but a far cry from the 100,000 in December before the election. And even that is an estimate - not the result of some objective calculation.

Once the election is over - casting another ballot by protesting is an exercise of futility. Democracy succeeds because after the the vote - there is acceptance. Too many seem to blur the distinction between anarchy and democracy.

Oregon taxpayers the biggest loser in PERS

My, my, my! The Oregonian's story of PERS' Money Match program is revealing. There isn't corruption, fraud or some sleazy manipulation of the system by PERS recipients. It is a system designed (even reformed) to essentially give the money away.

The Oregonian contains several examples of the give away. But this doesn't come as a surprise: "Pension liabilities associated with Money Match retirements are one of the principal components of the fund's $16 billion actuarial shortfall."

U.S. soldier apparently suffers breakdown and kills 15 Afghans

CIA World Factbook
It is a story that will get a lot of play in the media with those on the campaign circuit attempting to assess blame on the Obama administration.  It is emerging as a horrific event.

These were civilians in the their home at night nearby the American base. So far 9 children were killed. "In one house in Najeeban, the gunman reportedly killed 11 people, setting fire to their bodies before he left." [BBC].

Will it be a My Lai event?


Friday, March 9, 2012

Google: Absolute power corrupts absolutely.

Google continues to grow in power much like the movie monsters of old that instead of being destroyed by electricity only absorb that power to become even more powerful. As it becomes more powerful - it becomes more self-centered and more self-absorbed. [Google pressuring app developers to use Google Wallet instead of PayPal].

[Update: See too this San Jose Mercury News, March 11, 2012, article: Google's moves raise questions about 'don't be evil' motto].

Google - if it does no evil today - what about tomorrow?

Confrontational politics - a little tiresome

The media plays up these incidents - but don't you get tired of confrontation just for the sake of confrontation? The article lets us know, without any relevance, that the other person involved was a Navy Seal. Membership has its privileges? [Governor Chris Christie to ‘Idiot’ student: ‘damn man, I’m governor, could you shut up for a second?’].

Read the story - who is the one that is confrontational?

Clackamas County Light Rail Battle

It seems that Clackamas County has its head on straight where citizens have mounted a decent opposition to light rail. But I found this Willamette Week article interesting in that it plays up, maybe unintentionally, the role of money in the 'value' of the cause. [Loren Parks Enters Clackamas County Light Rail Battle].

"Parks, who has previously contributed millions to various conservative causes, offers a possible counterbalance to the deep-pocketed forces who favor light rail. Construction companies, trade unions, engineering firms and many others stand to benefit from the project, but there is no concentrated financial interest opposed to construction."

Is it really a liberal versus conservative issue? Is it really an issue where dollars will make the difference? Yes!

Or at least that is what seems to be the situation. The disturbing fact though is that the run of the mill resident has no one to represent them. Clearly the elected do not represent the best interest of the city or county for that matter.

I find myself secretly (maybe not so secretly) hoping that the Republicans and conservatives with the bucks will step up to combat the financial mismanagement led by fiscally immature liberals who want to fund their causes despite the electorate. Look - some projects just don't make economic sense - liberals, it seems, don't get that.

Two examples: Mayor Adams Sustainability Center and Biogas funding is only two of many liberal 'causes' that are financially inappropriate.

If you are an airline employee - "terrorism" doesn't apply

Read the article - it is probably the right call. But if the same conduct by a passenger - would the result be different? Oh yeah! [Rant on American Airlines Flight Ends With Flight Attendant in Hospital].

It was alleged to be only a non-violent rant by a bipolar flight attendant - but the story also mentions that two females were taken to the hospital.

Not only is flying inconvenient and uncomfortable for the less than first class - the crew has to be feared.

More on Eileen Brady's 'co-founder' self-designation

In a prior post I suggested that at the very least mayoral candidate Eileen Brady is stretching the truth in her attempt to trade on New Seasons. In a comment to that post a reader (thank you) suggests that a statement by an undisputed founder Stan Amy makes Brady a founder.  

Three original board members were Brady's husband, Brian Rohter, Stan Amy, and Chuck Eggert. Chuck Eggert has understandably tried to stay out of the fray, but Brian Rohter - not unexpectedly, supports the concept that Brady was a founder. And arguably so does Stan Amy.

But Eggert put his two cents in. Read his comments in the Oregonian - Eileen Brady defends 'co-founder' label after another co-founder disputes claim. In part: ""There were three original board members and owners," the statement read. "Myself, Stan Amy and Brian Rohter. I would consider all of the original employees founders."

Also very interesting from Eggert: "he reiterated his view that he started New Seasons with Amy and only later brought in Rohter."

The Oregonian also has the full statement by Stan Amy - part published in the Week. The gist - Brady is a co-founder. But in the full statement that is followed by "New Seasons Market was founded by three local families and 50 of our friends and she and her husband Brian Rohter were one of the three families."

Further in the full statement: "Eileen has never been an employee of the company or a member of our board. She has played an important role as one of our co-founders contributing greatly to the success of the company. She and her husband Brian, who was our founding CEO, sold most of their interest in the company in 2009 and are no longer involved."

Look it is understandable that Stan Amy crafted a comment is support of Eileen Brady's co-founder claim, but frankly is just that - a crafted comment that ambiguously spreads the cloak of 'co-founder' over 3 families and 50 friends.

Eileen Brady's name - note that she doesn't use her husband name -  is not found anywhere in corporation type documents. I am relying on media reports here. And I find it odd that she would not have been in the original Articles of Incorporation and accompanying documents. Surely somewhere her individual efforts - if they were as she presents them - would have been acknowledged.

Since Brady doesn't use her husband's name - it seems reasonable that she and her husband would have been individually designated as founders. I don't believe that anywhere her involvement with the company can be said to derive from a Mr. and Mrs. designation. The husband as a founder is not denied by any of the original founders. Her role at best was tangential.

The bottom line is that only in a broad thanking of friends and family can Eileen Brady be considered a co-founder. In a business sense or legal sense she cannot claim co-founder status. Founders are typically issued shares in the company and there are legal issues too dependent on who is or is not a founder.  See this article on founder's rights.

Searching for a good definition of "co-founder" or "founder" resulted in a very broad definition. But a common sense approach to the definition would classify Brady at best as one the hanger-ons at the kitchen table throwing her two cents in.

Eileen Brady is stretching the truth - and that is troublesome. And if it wasn't a major part of her qualifications it might be different - thus it could be dismissed as an exaggeration.

Biogas subsidy - anti-competitive?

The Oregonian (that reads Beth Slovic) has another insight into the biogas funding proposed by Mayor Adams. The mayor seeks to subsidize the startup costs of a company that apparently can't obtain funding elsewhere. Now the city isn't giving the money to the company outright, but using sewer and water rate payments as guarantee for the company's loans. Thus the city is left holding the bag if the company fails.

But from the Oregonian story the "if" is more like "when." A competitor Tillamook's Farm Power CEO notes that "[t]he more likely reason that Columbia Biogas cannot get a loan is the extremely high cost of the facility, the lack of a profitable operations model, and the fact the company cannot build its first facility without multiple government subsidies."

There is just something inherently wrong with government investing directly in individual companies. And it is more than the fact that the 'investment' fits the leadership's personal vision. Loans and grants to businesses takes 'business' out of the entrepreneurship.

Government leadership - political by nature - is not qualified to make business decisions especially in a startup situation. Our economy works as well as it does, granted it has flaws, because businesses take the risks. A new company makes it because of their efforts and the viability of the product or service.

Except in extreme circumstances, government should not intervene in the competitive nature of economy. A business's failure to acquire private financing ought to be red flag rather than seen by governments as an opportunity to push their vision of the 'best' economy structure.

Moreover, loans and grants not only risks the loss of the residents' money, but such a loss will require additional funds to replace the money lost. This means higher rates, diversion of other funds, or new taxes to replace the funds lost.

This is not to say that government should never use taxpayer dollars in relation to business enterprise. Research type grants to colleges and universities to aid an entire industry is arguably appropriate. But that would not excuse the city's attempt to guarantee business loans using its water and sewer funds for loans or grants.

Newsworthy? Ndamukong Suh cited for speeding, other traffic violations

One wonders just how many similar stops are made every day. He was speeding on the Interstate and didn't have a copy of his insurance. Wow!

It didn't appear on the Police Press Releases - so where did this gem of a news item originate? Many of the local news media took a turn at the copy. Do a Google or Bing search on something like "Ndamukong Suh cited for speeding." The news copy is virtually the same on every media report - I wonder who was the originator (that didn't get credit)?

And why does this rise to being newsworthy?

Thursday, March 8, 2012

The Willamette Week and Eileen Brady

It often seems as though that the city's upcoming election coverage can only be found in the Willamette Week. And, sometimes it seems they are too focused on Eileen Brady - but one has to admit she is the front runner and ostensibly the better qualified. But their piece The Evolution of Eileen Brady is an important contribution in the election coverage.

Eileen Brady 'qualifications' are like those too often found on employment resumes - a stretch of the truth is to put it mildly. One has to wonder why candidates like an Brady sees the position of mayor as so attractive that they will nearly say or do anything to get the job.

It is difficult to enrich oneself in a public position - at least during the time it is being held - but it is not difficult to enrich your 'friends.' But let's us assume that the motive is pure - is she qualified?

I submit that one would be hard pressed by looking at public statements that she has a clue what the office of the mayor is all about. She like other candidates give broad general responses to questions that anyone might give - running for office or not. See the 'debate' in the Northwest as covered by the NW Examiner.

But it is the Week that provides the crucial information. Their article takes her qualifications claims one by one and disputes each one handily. The Brady claim I find especially disingenuous is the constant trading on the success of New Seasons.

"Brady has called herself a New Seasons “founding co-owner.” “Entrepreneur,” she said. “Founded a company that grew to 2,000 jobs in 10 stores.” But neither of those things is true, and a great deal else about her New Seasons story is exaggerated . . . ." [Week].

The Week's analysis is backup by a denial of Brady's role in founding and management of New Seasons by an actual founder. "Brady had nothing to do with coming up with the idea for the company." [...]. "Brady never held a management position at New Seasons, never worked for the company, nor played any substantive role in its operations." [Week].

I guess I see this from another perspective. A Bojack post sees the Week's coverage of little importance: "Ten weak attacks on Eileen Brady don't equal one solid one, but the chaps at Willamette Week keep the trifles coming."

Shouldn't we expect a candidate that is well qualified - or is that too much to ask in Portland?

Funding of Columbia biogas plant

"Columbia Biogas Chief Executive Officer John McKinney says private financing has been lined up for the plant’s construction, which can begin in May. But he wants the city to guarantee the financing with a pledge of garbage fees and sewer funds." [Lawsuit snarls biogas plant].

Just you don't love it? Columbia doesn't want your money - just that you be the one left holding the bag when they bail. Sort of loaning someone your credit card.

And,  ". . . Commissioner Dan Saltzman and City Auditor LaVonne Griffin-Valade have raised concerns about the plan, citing financial risk to the city and the role of Ken Rust, Columbia Biogas' chief lobbyist on the project. Until his retirement in July, Rust was an 18-year city employee and Portland's top financial manager, making $183,000 a year." [Portland Mayor Sam Adams considers using ratepayer funds to help build a $55 million energy plant].

"Records show Rust met with or called city officials on 15 occasions from October to December. When the auditor's office wrote to Columbia Biogas to remind the company of the rules, company officials responded that the code did not apply to Rust." [Oregonian].

Never mind, as Oregonian's Beth Slovic points out, Mr. Rust's functioning as a lobbyist is potentially in violation of the city rules against former employees turning lobbyist within one year of exiting city employment. But don't expect our mayor to enforce the rules that he championed before he was mayor - this is his project.

Look - politics are what they are in Portland because no one has the balls to stand up and be counted. It matter not to those who aspire to benefit from unethical or possibly wrongful conduct by the politicos that ruin this city.

And there is no change expected on the horizon.