Monday, April 30, 2012

Is it worth the 45 cents?

I had read the Voter Pamphlet and read numerous articles and blog posts about the candidates. See my posts May Election - what a waste and This is democracy?  Last night I reviewed the Democrat ballot - this is an election that seems a waste of time and it sure isn't democracy. There are 34 office ballot opportunities - only 9 with choices.

There are those that might see the multitude of candidates for mayor as vindication of the democratic process - not me. The excess candidates are for most part those that couldn't get elected to dog catcher. There are a handful of candidates that one might label as serious contenders - not that they are worthy candidates though.

The political process in Portland and elsewhere destroys the citizen's opportunity to vote for a worthy candidate. We see that money is what gets the media's attention. E.g., getting the attention mayor's race are Hales, Smith and Brady. Are they the best Portland has to offer as mayoral candidates?

Hales and Brady are career type politicians that haven't told the truth for so long - they don't recognize it. And Smith is so discombobulated one isn't sure where he stands.

But checkout the three candidates that seemed to have received the most attention after the top three - Bill Dant (website, KATU), Max Brumm (website, Oregonian) and Scott Fernandez (website, Neighborhood Notes). All with future political potential - but their time is not now. They are not ready.

Other than a sense of civic duty - I see that this election isn't worth the 45 cent stamp that needs to be affixed for mailing. With no choice - too often literally - the democratic process is subverted. It is a sham. Only those with money seem to get elected - and guess what? They don't, except in election rhetoric, represent the citizens of Portland.

How many of your ideals, goals, interests, experiences coalesce with any of the candidates for office? Do you really believe that they have the best interests of Portland at heart or just themselves and other class members? If you aspire to be a Hales, Brady or Smith - you might set your sights a little higher.

Maybe Bojack has it right about the mayoral race: "In fact, you'll be throwing away your primary vote if you don't vote for somebody other than the "Big 3." You can hold your nose and go for the lesser of two evils in November."

That is democracy - hold your nose and vote (where there is a choice) for the lesser of two evils.

AZ's SB 1070 driving the liberals nuts

The liberals want so much that the Supreme Court make its decision on this illegal immigration controversy based upon social consequences that liberals foresee and predict. They deftly turn the argument into an immigration issue tying all of us as descendants of immigrants to illegal immigrants.

Of course ignoring that for most of us our ancestors came here legally and strove to become part of American society and participated in forming the American culture. They want us to ignore the fact that federal law does prohibit illegal immigration. They are happy that the feds have ignored the illegal immigrants.

It really bothers the illegal immigrants champions in places like Portland that Arizona passed a law designed to further a state's interest. Somehow it is these champions' prerogative to tell Arizona what is right for them. Never mind that it is Arizona that is feeling the effects of illegal immigration because the feds have failed to enforce the law.

Frankly it doesn't take much thought to grasp that immigration must be regulated by the feds as it is an obvious federal issue not to be left to states to enact differing laws. Immigration is a national issue that ought to be left to congress to legislate and to establish enforcement.

But what if the congress has established laws on immigration yet the feds fail purposefully to enforce those laws to the detriment of one or more states? Has congress so acted as to preempt all state action? Are the states powerless?

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Why was he alone on MAX?

[Updated below]. It seems like a rather astonishing situation where an apparent autistic child unable at all to communicate with others was found alone on MAX. From 6:30 p.m. Friday until 1 p.m. Saturday - no one reported him missing. If it were not for the public appeal - he might still be missing. [Update: Investigators trying to find out why autistic boy alone on MAX wasn't reported missing].

Incomprehensibly, "a Multnomah County chapter representative with the Autism Society of Oregon, cautioned against rushing to judge the parents." Rather than offer how that applied in this situation she attempts to shift the focus, and arguably blame, to the police.

She "said the case underscores the need for police to use special "picture exchange" books that allow nonverbal autistic children to communicate through images. Her group advocates for precincts to carry the books." Just how often do the police need to interview autistic children?

Frankly it is unclear how that would determine who his parents are and where they are located. But there is nothing like seizing the moment to push a favorite project. Unfortunately too the Oregonian was an enabler in eliciting the comments that were not pertinent to the failure to report the child as missing.

See this May 1, 2012 update, in part, from the police department. 

"After the child was placed in protective custody of Oregon DHS, an associate of the child's mother came forward and helped with information to confirm the child's name and identity, but the associate did not know of the mother's whereabouts. Attempts to locate the mother that night were met with negative results.

On Saturday morning, the mother contacted detectives and was advised that the child had been placed with DHS, pending a full investigation."

It doesn't look good for this child.

Google do evil (until you get caught)

The New York Times has the story that "Google’s harvesting of e-mails, passwords and other sensitive personal information from unsuspecting households" was intentional.  Google sees itself above the law. "Google says the data collection was legal. But when regulators asked to see what had been collected, Google refused, the report says, saying it might break privacy and wiretapping laws if it shared the material."

After all they know what is best for us and surely we can trust that they will not violate our privacy. And they have proper checks on such possibilities. A FCC report "draws a portrait of a company where an engineer can easily embark on a project to gather personal e-mails and Web searches of potentially hundreds of millions of people as part of his or her unscheduled work time, and where privacy concerns are shrugged off."

Google's gathering of personal data bests that of the Stasi and Gestopo. While Google says they have the best of intentions - their actions scream otherwise. The collection of personal data cannot be seen as anything other than doing evil. There is not much difference between Google driving down the street collecting your data than the government driving that same vehicle. It is okay for one but not the other?

Before marking that ballot - consider the ethics, or lack thereof, of Hales

See the Willamette Week Hales Abandons TV Ad That Makes Bogus Claims About His Help for Public Schools and PolitiFact Oregon Did Charlie Hales help negotiate a one-time deal with Portland teachers that saved the school year?  See too his residency issue Multnomah County Elections Dismisses Hales Complaint: Updated.

Why is the truth so hard?

Group robbery avoids serious injury - but the next time?

Another mob robbery. Flash mob melee includes pepper spray, fights. This time at a convenience store. Flash robs bring a certain black focus to these events. Thus far they have been executed by young black persons for seemingly no other reason than just to do it. The items taken haven't yet amounted to much value. And no serious injuries. Arguably it seems only a matter of time that store owners will resort to violent defenses or some fool will bring a gun or a knife..

The police press release states "15-20 African American males and females chased a white female in her late 30s and a white male into the store."  It was then that the flash rob took place. "As the white female was asking the clerk to call 9-1-1, the group of 15-20 ran into the store and took alcohol, candy and food from the shelves." There was an altercation between at least one of the group and a store employee. Also pepper spray was used by an employee.

One might suspect that the chasing of the two white individuals was nothing much more than a ruse because the 'mob' and the two initially chased into the store all disappeared before the police arrived. While on one level it might be characterized as petty theft or even, if your brain refuses to engage, as kids being kids, but it is easily one step away from serious injury.

Small store owners don't have a security force that can be expected to protect their store. They are left to their own devices. At this small store the employees had access to pepper spray. Will the next store be prepared to use something a little more lethal?

Is it fair that race be used or in this case excluded as an identification factor? The Portland Tribune noted the race of the 'mob,' but the Oregonian did not. Neither media carried the full police press release, instead both weeded out black white racial implications. The Tribune dropped the race of the two being chased while the Oregonian dropped the race of all.

But the race element cannot be ignored. The media wouldn't even consider asking the 'leaders' in the black community about these flash robberies. And we can be guaranteed that the media will not investigate these events any further. It is so much easier just to print a press release edited for the sensitivity of some.

In Portland it is not the crime perpetrators that are the focus of the media. They just.are not as interesting as police incidents, especially when they have nothing to do with protecting and serving the residents of Portland.

Remember the Idaho arrest of a Portland police captain for road rage incident? It was well covered by the local media and bloggers who are want to assume guilt. But do you remember the coverage of the not guilty verdict? Probably not - although to the Oregonian's credit they did report on it. But click on the tag "Todd Wyatt" to see if the Oregonian was even handed in its coverage.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Living on the street is dangerous?

It almost seems self-evident that living on the street would be dangerous, but it is a story that wants the reader to believe that the "danger" is death coming from being homeless. Of course it is another "report" or "study" without citation of the report or study.

It is a Portland Tribune article Study points to dangers facing county homeless people that suffers from accuracy and precision. It leads off with "Multnomah County is a dangerous place to be homeless, according to data released today by Multnomah County and the state medical examiner’s office."

We are not given access to the "data," but the attempt is to connect homelessness with death because of the homelessness. But it doesn't follow. We are told that 47 people died while homeless in 2011, but that doesn't necessary mean that but for the homelessness they would not have died.

And in the story the "study" or "report" becomes a ""survey." However the survey says rather than homeless being a causative factor - one can conclude that it is white men with median age of 49 who use heroin or alcohol that are at the most risk of death. You think? And never mind that 23% died of natural causes. Statistical coincidences are not causative factors.

Tribune: "Medical records indicate that the single greatest cause of death among the 47 was either alcohol or drug overdosing, apparent in 21 cases, followed by 11 who died of natural causes, seven who died of trauma, three who died of heart disease and two who were homicide victims. Heroin was the substance most commonly identified as a cause of death, involved in 15 cases. Six died alcohol-related deaths."

Of course a Portland service provider, Doreen Binder, Transition Projects, seems fit to theorize "that many of the Multnomah County homeless deaths must be connected to the lack of adequate mental health services here." Maybe she didn't read the above paragraph taken from the Tribune.

But the last paragraph is telling (how did it get in there?): "Neil Donovan, executive director for the National Coalition for the Homeless In Washington, D.C., says that he views homeless counts and homeless death rate counts with a degree of skepticism. It is possible, Donovan says, that Portland’s high death rate is a function of local officials being more attentive to the issue of homelessness."

The story represents a poor attempt to raise homeless issues by citing a study that doesn't exist. The article contains no statistical analysis that could reasonably connect the deaths of any of the 47 to the fact that they were homeless. And even more faulty reasoning was the theorizing that the lack of adequate mental health services had any influence in the deaths.

May election - what a waste

I have leafed through the Voter's Pamphlet several times and wonder if it is worth the time to vote. For most offices there are few choices. Too many are unopposed. It seems more like a one party election - the Democrats with few Republican challengers.

The mayor's race is full of candidates - but few, if any, choices. From the media one would think that there are only three candidates. And, sorry to say they are correct. Because of the media's refusal to be inclusive of all candidates in their election coverage - we will never get any more insight into these other candidate except for the Voter Pamphlet.

But from the Voter Pamphlet it appears that none of the others appear to have the slightest knowledge about what a mayor of Portland can or cannot do. And the top three clearly represent special interests that do not have the city's best interests at heart. All three are detached from the citizens of Portland that they seek to govern.

Arguably these three only see promoting themselves. It is a step to somewhere. And ironically while the remaining 10 appear genuine in their desire to make Portland truly a better place (whatever that means) they haven't the wherewithal to make it happen. Notice too that 10 candidates didn't file any statements for the pamphlet.

The only items worth the effort of marking the box are the charter amendments referred to the voters by the charter commission. Other than that - checking any of the others items on the ballot is only worth it to insure that the worst of the bunch are eliminated.

For its value of change - this election doesn't rate an effort to mark the ballot and return. It is hardly worth the 45 cents.

Mitt Romney - unbelievable

Literally and figuratively. He can't be seen as viable national leader. [Mitt Romney to students who want to start their own business: Borrow money from your parents.]

Board of Education plans to stop using Native American mascots and imagery

This cultural insensitivity or denigration ought not to be a subject for consideration - State reviews proposed plans to ditch American Indian mascots. But the denigrating of other cultures ought to be left to local communities according to State Senator Betsy Johnson. She said that "she would prefer less of a heavy hand from the state. She feels local school boards, which reflect the opinions of their communities, might best handle the topic."

And she doesn't find it offensive: "'I don't find it as offensive as some people have made it out to be,' Johnson said about the Scappoose Indian mascot, commonly pictured as a stern Native American man with a feathered headdress."

But it isn't she that belongs to an Indian tribe that might be concerned with seeing themselves represented as  caricatures, i.e., "{a] representation, especially pictorial or literary, in which the subject's distinctive features or peculiarities are deliberately exaggerated to produce a comic or grotesque effect." 

And it isn't she that has her culture displayed as a mascot, i.e, "[a] person, animal, or object believed to bring good luck, especially one kept as the symbol of an organization such as a sports team." Do teams and organizations see their mascots symbol of good luck? Really?


Friday, April 27, 2012

Promised veto - an empty threat?

Student loan rate extension passed under threat of veto. See earlier post.

Privatizing the profits - a new way for Democrats to spend

This story came by the way of Bojack. It takes place in Chicago, but expect more cities rather than cut their spending will latch onto this method of rebuilding a city's infrastructure. It is smoke and mirrors approach that eliminates the requirement to get taxpayer approval for spending - yet at the same time it is the taxpayer that is paying for the risk allegedly shifted to private investors.

The city via a "trust" mechanism, mostly in name only, will use private investments to finance a project where that project is revenue generating. It is that revenue that goes to the investors. They control the price and therefore the profits.

An example from the Washington Post: "Chicago would get money upfront from, say, Citibank or J.P. Morgan to build a new bus system or subway extension, and then the riders would pay the investors back over time in the form of higher fees and fares."

Ironically Chicago did something similar in 2008 and it has cost them dearly. The city snookered by the investor "leased its city parking meters to a private consortium led by Morgan Stanley for $1.15 billion." But the city "erred in calculating just how much their parking meters were actually worth. Over the next 75 years, the private investors will collect an estimated $11.6 billion in higher parking fees from Chicago’s drivers — making the contract potentially worth quite a bit more than what the city sold it for." [Washington Post].

Cities like Chicago in the name of  economic growth have uncontrollably spent themselves into economic crises while at the same time ignoring their infrastructure. The result is that the city has a badly maintained infrastructure with no funds nor the means to finance its rebuilding without directly socking it to the taxpayers in a form of new or increased taxes.

The Democrats seem particularly prone to attempt on the backs of taxpayers, typically property owners, to build their legacy. They want so much to be associated with something admirable - irrespective of who the admirers are. It is something akin to names on a building or park.

It is never enough for most that they be viewed as a principled and ethical leader that acted in interests of their city. It is never enough that they acted too as a stalwart and financially prudent trustee of the city's revenue.

What we have here is more wealthy folk staying and getting wealthier while at the same time the much lower income people see their income eroded paying the freight (profits) without one vote. 

Reason 1001 why federal government is impotent

"The Obama administration has issued a veto threat of the House version of a bill to extend low interest rates on student loans because the Republican version of the legislation would repeal part of President Obama's health care overhaul." [WH threatens veto on student loan bill because of health reform repeal].

There is no legislative link between the two. One has been passed yet those in opposition still keep trying to defeat it. Read the accusations traded between the Democrats and Republicans. Neither party deserves to be in control of the country. Nary a reasoned or principled stand can be found from these politicos on virtually any subject.

Arguably until the election the standoff in governing will continue - but it seems unlikely that whoever wins the situation will change. The parties will continue their partisan bickering.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Despicable

From The Guardian: Catholic church urges pupils to sign anti-gay marriage petition.

Problematic notice by PSU

Maybe because of the insufficient information one wonders the why. "This is to advise you that law enforcement agencies are investigating threats of violence against the PSU community made by Henry Liu, a graduate student at Portland State University."

Let's hope that PSU made a considered review of federal law before it issued the email. We are not informed in the notice or in the originating KGW news story what the threats were or what federal law required the notice. Without more the public will be correct in regarding Mr. Liu as a dangerous individual. Or was he just disgruntled?

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Whatever Fritz's faults - being unethical is not one.

Maybe Nolan was just seeing what she might have done if she was in Fritz's situation. Thus, I would be more likely to believe that Nolan would have done what she is accusing Fritz of doing - personally intervening to make the city look more favorable in the final version of the report on the 9-1-1 dispatch system. [Fritz, Nolan spar over 9-1-1 report].

Nolan is realizing that she is the hare in the tortoise and hare race?

Please - not the excuses and finger pointing

Are these the guys we want protecting the president and family? Whiners and moaners looking to blame others - no personal accountability for these guys. After all - they want you to believe that they are victims. [See Confidants: Secret Service agents contend misbehavior on trips not unprecedented.]

These people are touted to be among the best the US offers. They were on assignment in a foreign country standing out among the residents of that country as representatives of the US government. Yes they may have been off-duty, but they were still on assignment and rightly held to a higher standard than if they were on some personal vacation.

It matters not that maybe others may have dodged the bullet in the past. They were wrong and should be excised from the Secret Service. The responsibility is too great to be left to those (knuckleheads) that are seemingly too immature to keep it in their pants.

And all of this apparently because one agent wouldn't pay the price. Frankly, it is good that this scandal occurred. The mission of the Secret Service is too important not to be highly scrutinized.

Headquarters hotel: It just will not die

The Headquarters hotel (Convention hotel) has been much like the death of the villain in the horror movies. The villain never dies in these horror movies not if  he can be revived to make some money. So too the Headquarters. But in the case of the movies, the paying public gets something for their money - entertainment. Suffice to say the Headquarters is not entertainment.

Although ostensibly resurrected by Metro - it is still a developers boondoggle to use taxpayer dollars to profit on the development. It is a project touted as business sound - but business is never willing to risk its own money to build. And needless, and useless too, to say there is no urban renewal blight here.

The PDC is about to pour more taxpayer dollars into this project. They say they are not - but there is a clear indication that $4 mil is available and that sale price for the land granted by PDC is negotiable. In the past this has often meant at no cost.

The never ending proposal and its history can be seen here. It will be rubber stamped at the commissioners meeting April 30. Over the years of attending and closely following PDC - it has been a rare, rare event that any project was not approved or subject to any real scrutiny.

A good read is the Risk Assessment section in the PDC Report that quite deftly steps around the political landmines; it has been raised to an art form. First paragraph:

"Although this action does not commit any PDC financial resources to a CCH, it does create a potential financial risk in that the CCH Partners and/or responders to the Metro RFP may assume that PDC’s budgeted resources of $4.0 million and the value of land may be granted by PDC to the project.  PDC staff has mitigated this risk by clarifying that PDC financing is subject to terms and conditions to be negotiated and that the sale of land and financing terms will be subject to future Board approvals.  PDC staff’s preference is to negotiate terms that provide a return on PDC’s investment."

And, it is interesting to read the February article in the Portland Business Journal together with the PDC Report. This from the Biz Journal: "The heavily subsidized model of years past is off the table." And "[p]ublic involvement may still play a role. The city, county or Metro could provide the site for the project, or there could be small subsidies to encourage development."

We shall see. It may not be the heavily subsidized model but it is still a subsidized model that in fact has no limitations on the financial risk of public dollars. We are along for the ride - bumps and all.

Look the public employees who work for PDC and the politically appointed commissioners have no accountability to the public for expenditures of tax revenue. It is a situation rife with the potential for corruption. Certainly, the ethics of this organization is in my opinion suspect. Public participation is a farce. And as an urban renewal organization, it usefulness to that end is gone.

It is an organization that has served the politically well connected. Development contracts with PDC are basically cost plus, that is, the developer takes little or no risk and is guaranteed a profit. And political leadership is more than willing to look the other way on the projects. Many seem to see PDC projects as a way to develop a legacy.

One wonders where the tipping point will come for the public - when they say enough is enough?

Oregon AG moves on quickly

This is one of those stories that sparks some interest and suspicion. Mr. Kroger was elected for a fixed term as the Oregon Attorney General (AG). However, before completing his first term, he resigned from the position mysteriously alleging some health issue that would not permit his continuance in office. But he isn't suffering enough to keep him from accepting the president position at Reed College, and he isn't going to fill out his elected term. The governor will have to name someone to fill the position until the new AG is elected.

If one looks at his impressive biography (see Wikipedia too) one has to wonder why the sudden move to retirement at the age of 45 as president of Reed College? One can easily surmise that he is a Type A personality that seems inconsistent with the change in jobs. But, maybe therein lies the "health" issue.

But, the Oregon AG job doesn't pay well, according to the Statesman Journal it is set by law at $77,200. That is an insignificant sum for heading up a department: "With more than 1,200 full-time employees and a two-year budget of almost $425 million, the Department of Justice is among the 10 largest state agencies."

Maybe the health issues are real enough and the job at Reed College fortuitously came along at the right moment - it certainly seems plausible even if a little bit contrived. But the new job and salary seems more than an incentive for the change even without any health issues. At Reed College he will receive $375,000 annually plus a housing stipend.

It sounds like a good career move.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

It is about time somebody does: UN to investigate plight of US Native Americans

UN to investigate plight of US Native Americans for first time.

How Social Security and Medicare work

A brief post from SFGate: How Social Security and Medicare work. It is hardly a welfare program.

Salem student dies after second collapse

This KGW story cries out for detail. Why would this kid be allowed to return to sports. Without more info - it seems easy to suspect negligence on someone - school, doctors and maybe even the parents.

Chilling: Buses another venue for TSA fear campaign

Russia Today had the story for me. I check out the site daily to see how the US is viewed from another perspective. RT is often slanted to conspiracy theories and too often doesn't source its stories. Sometimes RT reads more like a supermarket tabloid. But this time TSA installs undercover agents on Texas busses is pretty much on point. Although the picture in the post is apparently irrelevant.

To verify I looked for other stories. Check out these valid sources: Metro Police Chief: Joint Metro-TSA exercise not connected to specific threat and TX: Anti-terror Metro Program Monitors Bus Passengers. But I didn't see any big time news media reports - maybe too early?

The fact that TSA is involved is not surprising and one can be assured that the TSA provided a heavy bit of dollars for these suspect searches. It is another encroachment - federalization - into local autonomy. But it is more problematic that cities are using "terrorist" fears and excuses to implement suspect and unwarranted searches. 

Has the constitution lost all relevancy? 

Looking to technology to solve society's problems - misdirected

The Oregonian reports that the Portland police want to add surveillance cameras in Old Town but ACLU questions the plan. One has to wonder the quantity and quality of the thought that has gone into this venture. The Oregonian obliquely ties the Cisco Systems Corp - the cameras - and tenancy in the Sustainability Center. Some sort of quid pro quid.

As usual the public is not informed as to the costs of this venture or that of possible alternatives. The costs has to included operation - someone has to monitor the cameras possibility 24/7 - and the maintenance. Of course - the training.

What we may be seeing is that rather than the city taking on the responsibilities, it will be out sourced on no-bid contracts where the contractor will provide everything - for a price. A price this city is probably willing to pay to have occupancy in the Sustainability Center or something similar. One suspects that the price will come at contract renewal, that is, lo ball to get the foot in the door - hi ball it at contract renewal.

ACLU is correct in its questioning of the resulting privacy invasion. But it seems that as a country and society we are too willing to give up our privacy because of fears too often manufactured by the federal government that state and city governments feed off mostly because it means dollars. The feds are all too willing to give money away as long as the state and city governments are willing to give up their autonomy.

But Old Town is also a unique crime problem for Portland especially for drugs. But rather than police foot patrols - not those Business Alliance security cops - the police have chosen to ignore Old Town apparently content that what went on in Old Town stayed in Old Town. Edgy.

But over the last several years we see that where crime was mostly drug dealing, for the most part low level, it has expanded into high level drug dealing - Old Town as a base - more prostitution and in a long list of other problems, Old Town became a place for gang shootings. Edgy.

While PDC seems to believe "edgy" is a good thing - it is not. Old Town is still a place that cries out for urban renewal - not that $5 mil or so that PDC (using tax revenue) threw into specialty infrastructure in some idiotic attempt to please the virtually non-existent Chinese community. Yet, the city continues to increase the edginess by increasing the density of social services (in the broad sense) in Old Town.

Thus, there is some rationale for the need of surveillance cameras. But not enough. At best it will offer a hurdle to drug dealers - but not a hurdle difficult to overcome. Cameras are on some private buildings and TriMet MAX stops are alleged to have cameras. But  drug dealing is more sophisticated and unlikely to be caught on camera as a bona fide drug deal.

The Portland police not yet offered sufficient justification for the use of cameras and the erosion of privacy rights. Frankly there is unlikely to be such justification even given the problems in Old Town. All the cameras in the world will not make Old Town something other than what it is - edgy.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Kony 2012 Cover the Night fails

It is one thing to get people to view a video and pass it on to their "friends," but it is quite another to get those same people disconnected from their Internet devices and show up where it might actually make a difference. [Kony 2012 Cover the Night fails to move from the internet to the streets].

A large gathering of people will pass as news irrespective of the cause. While the apprehension of Kony is a good thing, I was opposed to the affixing of posters and other items to building, cars, etc. Arguably those in the west are not as enthused with social networking for political purposes as they are in places like Egypt.

Apparently, democracy leaves one to talk about it - not take action.

Is Raw Milk Worth It?

That was the question asked by the New Yorker. It seems for many that it is, but the debate rages on with little definitive information. If one Googles or Bings for information - the camps seem fairly well split with the government, with aid of the medical community, leading the opposition saying that it is harmful and on the other side are those who have convinced themselves that it is not harmful.

It seems that it isn't so much an argument between pasteurizing or not - it is more about the care and feeding of the animal producing the milk. Thus one can safely consume raw milk if you know the trusted source. So say the advocates.

Pasteurinzation doesn't "clean" the milk of all bacteria - just enough. It is just enough to keep the nutrition and minimizing the effect on taste. [See TLC Cooking "What are homogenization and pasteurization?"] But the advocates say that the process "destroys enzymes [...] and other components [that] are beneficial in a wide range of ways, including building a stronger stomach lining. Those who swear by raw milk say allergies, asthma, lactose intolerance, ear infections, gastro-intestinal problems and diabetes are just some of the afflictions it can help ease." [Consumer Corner: Raw vs. pasteurized milk a hot debate].

It isn't clear that raw milk is so harmful. The sale of raw milk is prohibited in about 12 US states While there are claims of serious illnesses and deaths from the consumption of raw milk - they are relatively few and not proven in any 'but for' sense. It seems that there will always be those who can't consume a certain food product.

I seem to remember drinking unpasteurized milk when I was a kid way way back when, even before the days of homogenization. And while homogenization is not any way related to pasteurization - it is another process that detracts from the taste.

And that is part of the argument - the right to consume a product because of its taste and other perceived benefits. Sally Fallon Morell, president of the Weston A. Price Foundation in Washington and founder of "A Campaign for Real Milk," sees government opposition as a matter of too much government: "We do not have the right to food of our choice and they have the right to control everything,"  [Consumer Corner: Raw vs. pasteurized milk a hot debate].

It just seems that the government encroachment on individual decision making is alarming to even those who might be considered liberal, or certainly those that normally support government regulations. Government never seems to know where the line is between consumer education and prohibitive consumer products regulations. Admittedly it is often a fine line.

Bottom line: Government doesn't always know best.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Ah! The Catholic Church

While the Catholic Church is attacking its nuns for challenging "church teaching on homosexuality and the male-only priesthood . . ." [Vatican Reprimands U.S. Nuns Group], it is on trial in Pennslyvania where priests not only fondled teenage women but were involved in oral sex and sodomy with teenage boys [Pa. priest-abuse trial painful, poignant for Catholics]. Not a new story in the US and more will come.

Columbia scandal shines a different light

The American press has not served itself or the American public well in its coverage of the Secret Service scandal. Ironically it is not because of lax coverage, but the voracious coverage. Read the Associate Press' Cabbie unlikely celebrity in Colombia sex scandal. If the esteemed press corp pursued other news worthy items as they did here - the American public would be better served. But alas - without prurient content - it is not news.

The scandal isn't about sex - or at least it shouldn't be.

Men paying for prostitutes is hardly a scandal. One wonders how many newsmen in Columbia covering the Obama visit sought out prostitutes? It is legal. No - the scandal is the embarrassment caused by the actions of these secret service men that suggested that they don't take their roles in secret service seriously. Secret Service agents are expected not to be getting drunk and soliciting prostitutes.

The people in Columbia clearly recognized the embarrassment caused to the US government and the American people. "There was also a sense of indignation. 'It's pretty clear that they want to treat Latin America as a brothel,' the Colombian newsmagazine Semana quoted one tweet as saying about the U.S. agents." [Cabbie unlikely celebrity in Colombia sex scandal].

It is not too difficult to argue that their actions could have damaged their ability to protect the president. The Facebook page maintained by one them is prime example of at least how one agent perceived his job. [See Guardian UK]. Checking out Sarah Palin rather than checking out the surroundings suggests something inherently wrong in the Secret Service.

But see a Washington Post story Secret Service scandal: Rising supervisor set uncovering of misconduct in motion  that suggests that the scandal is not evidence of something systemic. It is a story about a by the book supervisor that "alerted her superiors that she found early evidence of “egregious” misconduct involving prostitutes and set in motion the public uncovering of the most wide-reaching scandal at the agency in decades, according to government officials involved in the case."

The actions by this supervisor and the head of the Secret Service suggests that this scandal is an aberration and that the Secret Service is in good hands.

Who is following you?

Yahoo! News had an interesting piece How to delete yourself from the Internet. It isn't all that easy, but the story references software towards that end. One of the products that I found of immediate interest and use is Do Not Track Plus.  It is a free download and enables automatic blocking of those who are tracking your every Internet move. It is amazing the number of companies and social networks that are tracking you.

The anachronistic Catholic Church

The Vatican has started a new inquisition to rein in American nuns who have thought for themselves too long. The New York Times has the latest story about the Vatican's hit man - a Seattle Archbishop whose task is to put the Catholic nuns the only women in the Catholic Church back in the subordinate role. [Vatican Reprimands U.S. Nuns Group].

The primary focus by the Vatican is the Leadership Conference of Women Religious. And what is wrong with the good sisters? It appears that they "had challenged church teaching on homosexuality and the male-only priesthood, and promoted 'radical feminist themes incompatible with the Catholic faith.'"

And we shouldn't forget that they "were also reprimanded for making public statements that “disagree with or challenge the bishops, who are the church’s authentic teachers of faith and morals.” That reads when "American bishops came out in opposition to the [Obama] health plan," many sisters signing a statement in support belonged the Leadership Conference.

What is the Leadership Conference of Women Religious? It represents 80% of America's 57,000 nuns - that is a goodly number.[Leader of 'radical' US nuns rejects Vatican criticism]. But it is down from 160,000 in 1965. [U.S. Nuns Facing Vatican Scrutiny].

But the Vatican has also conducted "a separate, widespread investigation of all women’s religious orders and communities in the United States. That inquiry, known as a “visitation,” was concluded last December, but the results of that process have not been made public." A "visitation." Really?

If it were not so sad - it would be laughable. This is a church that priests sexually abuse children and their actions covered up by bishops and the church. This church offers nothing for modern society. In some respects Roman Catholic Christianity is little different than the Muslim religion. This Catholic male dominated institution hasn't moved past the days of The Inquisition.

Thus it isn't surprising that this attack comes from the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith that in the 16th century tribunals against witchcraft and heresy was known as the Roman Inquisition or Holy Inquisition. [See Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.] And it is not surprising that the present pope was once the Cardinal-Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith  [Joseph Ratzinger as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith].

Inquisition. By the 12th and 13th century "the most terrifying threat [for the Pope] came from upstart Christian sects who challenged church doctrine and the absolute power of the Roman Pope. To preserve the purity of the faith and the unquestioned authority of the Pope, the Church began to crack down on all dissenting with a new weapon: the Inquisition. For over half a millennium a system of mass terror reigned. Thousands were subject to secret courts, torture and punishment." [PBS: Secret Files of The Inquisition].

Upstart women in the Catholic Church are not to have leading roles - that is for the men. And clearly they are not be be recognized as theologians. The Vatican has attempted to silence Sister Elizabeth A. Johnson, a theologian at Fordham University in New York. She has written "a popular book about God" that has been determined not to "uphold church doctrine," and, therefore, "should not be used in Catholic schools and universities . . ." [Bishops Criticize Nun’s Book]

If there was ever any doubt - the Catholic Church is not a democratic - it is repressive. While a read of the articles by the New York Times and BBC - suggests that the prime object, or maybe the last straw, is the sisters' support for Obama health plan it seems more of an attack on women's role in the church.

The church continues in its progress back to its past - one step forward - three steps backs. I am coming to believe that the Catholic Church believes that Eve was the downfall of Adam. And, it is easy too to see how they came to perceive Mary Magdalene as a whore. Odd though that it was she at the "resurrection." [Mary Magdalene].

The Catholic Church needs a bit of radical feminism that challenges church teaching on homosexuality and the male-only priesthood.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Racial slur and touching - school administration faux pas

"Teacher Jeff Miller was placed on paid administrative leave after reports he repeatedly used a racial slur during his history lessons. He was also seen in a videotape touching a student, back-to-back as they play air guitar during a presentation." [Lincoln students support teacher put on leave].

To get close to a full story one has to read too the companion post: Lincoln High teacher on leave after racial slur. Both of the posts come from KGW and there is nothing but PC BS in the accusations contained in the stories.

Fortunately the students had the courage to speak up. It is a wonder why anyone would want to teach in this environment of political correctness at all costs; and where the school administrators will overreact at the tiniest squeak from the never pleased parents.

Bahrain escapes world condemnation

The demand for democracy has a very faint voice when certain countries are concerned. And so too the efforts to implement it. It isn't clear why Bahrain has failed to attract the attention like that of  Egypt, Libya, etc. Is it because it seems to be a Muslim issue, that is, there are no Christians or Jews involved so we don't care?

If it wasn't for the Bahrain Grand Prix, the death of a protester would not have rated a headline. Bahrain is a repressive regime where a majority (70%) is ruled (in the kingly sense) by a minority. It is probably just one more thing we don't understand about Muslims - they are not a singular people.

In Bahrain we are fed the Sunni Shi'ite dichotomy. The Sunnis clearly in the majority are doing their best to marginalize the Shi'ites. It sounds in anti-Iranian rhetoric, but in reality the protests are about secular freedoms.

4/20 - Oh great! A holiday for pot heads

If a bunch of dopers want to sit around getting high, that’s fine,” Mr. Evans said. “It only makes our case that that is what it’s all about.” Mr. Evans is a special adviser to the Drug Free America Foundation, which opposes legalization of marijuana. [4/20 - A Holiday for Fans of Liberalized Marijuana Laws].

I come from the drinking culture before pot - thus I really don't understand or appreciate the fuss about smoking pot. Except I do support its decriminalization. And while it seems mostly PR effort - it does appear that there are medical benefits for some, maybe even many.

It would seem easy to make the argument that it is safer, and for some, more effective than the prescription drugs that are found in way too many medicine cabinets. It seems odd that I can obtain a prescription for mood altering drugs costing a small fortune for me and my medical insurance - yet if I use pot I may have committed a crime.

I have always worked in an environment where pot smoking - if known - offered no benefits. Doubtful that I would have ever had a security clearance if I had been a pot user. But in retrospect - there never seemed to be an issue that I might drink too much.

Matthew Staver for The New York Times
But I have to tell you that if anyone of the "students" in the picture was my son or daughter - I wouldn't be too happy. But not necessarily that they smoke pot but that they are wasting their time supporting a rather unimportant - in the grand scheme - goal. And at my expense (assuming they are students.)

The world today is full of causes worth even dying for - yet here they are seeking to promote another means of escaping reality. No war protesting. No protest against the political assault on women's rights. No protest against racial bias. No protest supporting lifestyle choices. No protest supporting democracy. The list is nearly endless.

And probably because I do come from a different generation the sight of young people smoking pot is not appealing nor is the smell. It has a distinctive aroma that seems to attach itself to most any object. I am told that marijuana can be devoid of the tell-tale smell - but it seems that smell is a badge.

But I am with Mr. Evans at least as far as this statement takes it: “If a bunch of dopers want to sit around getting high, that’s fine.” But contrary to Mr. Evans - I would support decriminalization and with the right laws the legalization of marijuana use.

But you will not find me signing any petition in support or in opposition. In the final analysis it is a topic or goal that falls at the bottom of my list of things I should be concerned about.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Holocaust Day - a reminder that they don't take care of their own

Arguably generations intervening since the Holocaust have lost the meaning of Holocaust. It is not about a parade or places where events happened. It should be about recounting real life experiences and caring for those who experienced it. It seems that while Israel likes to remind the rest of the world about the Holocaust - it fails to take care of those who experienced it. See Holocaust survivors struggling to make ends meet in Israel and a video Holocaust survivor on memorial day: 'I'm sad for what we've lost.'

The Holocaust survivor in the video who doesn't have enough money to buy food and clothes had this to say: "I love this country, but I don't feel Jewish here. I came here to feel Jewish. Every Holocaust day I'm sad for what we lost, and I'm sad I didn't end up in a country that loves me," she says."

Guardian UK: "According to studies, around a quarter of Holocaust survivors in Israel live below the poverty line, struggling to pay for food, heating, housing, medication and care."

Of course Israel is not alone among nations that fail to take care of vulnerable people, especially the old. But one expects more from Israel.

The Holocaust Victims.
See Nazi Concentration Camp Pictures.

This is democracy?

Take a look at the primary election Voter's Pamphlet. There is no Democratic alternative to Obama. Why should the fact he is the incumbent prevent alternative candidates? It is a two party system in fact.

It is a primary election - time for opposition, but there is little which means more of the same. Given there is little choice one can reasonably argue that voters have little incentive to vote and issues that ought to discussed and  determined by vote will be not.

Within the Democratic Party:

Representatives to congress - 3 positions unopposed.
Secretary of State - incumbent and 1 alternative.
State Treasurer - incumbent unopposed.
Attorney General - 2.
State Senator - 7 positions none opposed.
State Representative - 18 positions, 4 positions with opposition.

Within the Republican Party:

Representatives to congress - 3 positions all with opposition.
Secretary of State - No candidate.
State Treasurer - No candidate.
Attorney General - No Candidate.
State Senator - 7 positions 3 with No Candidates, the remainder unopposed.
State Representative - 18 positions 3 with No Candidates, the remainder unopposed.

There is no other political party. How well can a democracy function when there is no option for the voter. A quick look says that the Democrats will rule.

Finally take a peek at the so called nonpartisan positions - Judges.

Supreme Court - 3 positions unopposed.
Court of Appeals - 5 positions 1 with alternatives.
Circuit Courts - 13 with no alternatives.

Multnomah County District Attorney - 1 candidate no opposition.

This is Democracy?

Metro land management strategy - none

15 years, 15,000 acres, $$363 million and still "Metro does not have a single overarching strategy. Metro needs a land management system that includes rigorous planning, clear standards, documentation and performance measures." [Metro audit faults land management].

One way to "encourage" sustainability

Can't one imagine just how the sustainability enthusiasts would like to dictate to the populace their beliefs. Here is a first step - start with a segment that has no alternative and cannot make a choice. [See County jail breaks bad habits to go green.] There is some levity on my part, but not much.

Putting women in their place

This election year seems to be one intent on an assault of all fronts against women in general and some women in particular. Women's choice seems particularly in danger. It seems too that women are to be treated as different - different in the sense that they are inferior enough that their right to make choices and voice opinions is not respected.

In my health care decisions I am free to make decisions that maybe others wouldn't, but freedom of choices is paramount in a free society. The thought that my opinion or choice is not as viable as another's is unfathomable. But it seems that women's right to have that same freedom of choice is being attacked.

Employment pay is another area where pay was thought to be structured based upon work performed not gender. Even though there are laws that promote equal pay irrespective of gender - those laws have often been circumvented to some extent and now there is a move afoot to eliminate those laws. Wisconsin just repealed an equal pay enforcement statute.

Equal pay for equal work seems so obvious - so common sense. Why should anyone's pay be based upon their gender, race, age or any discriminatory factor? Can taking away women's right to vote and their right to drive be far behind? Maybe wearing of the burqa ought to be imposed. Arranged marriages might help to keep women in their place, after all why should women be able to make that choice?

There is even Republican effort to prevent the renewing of the Violence Against Women Act. How can anyone consider lessening the protection against violence? Has somehow violence against women by men disappeared? I don't think so.

And of course the Catholic Church is doing its best to take itself back to its dark ages. The Catholic Church never known for protection of children and decidedly in opposition to women's participation in its ranks has stepped up to ensure that the nuns know that they are women and will remain second class in the eyes of the church. See Vatican Reprimands U.S. Nuns Group.

Women just don't get it. They just are not as good as men - period. They need to be put into their place - barefoot and pregnant. Why should they worry - men will protect them from themselves even if it means lessening their pay and administering a  few good beatings.

WTF is wrong with society that fails to insure equality? It surely isn't democratic.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

It is for the children - "Big salaries escape school cuts"

The Tribune has the story that demonstrates that the Portland Public Schools administration has its head up where the sun doesn't shine. The goal of the Superintendent Carole Smith seems to be top load the administration and exclude them from any job or salary cuts. If there are to be pay and job cuts - why should teachers be first cut? Shouldn't they be last?

The failure to protect this top loaded school system is particularly inexcusable and unexplainable given that high school students are pleading for their teachers to take furloughs so as to avoid teacher job cuts and that Franklin High, an excelling school, is facing teacher cuts. [See my post - A Perspective from Portland, Oregon: Portland high school students' plea.] 

Empire building seems to be the goal. Shouldn't the focus be bottom up not top down? Arguably the school system is operating much like a corporation where it is management focused, but are school systems best management driven?

The superintendent could have taken the position of saving the teachers not by union blaming techniques but by demonstrating that educational services are best provided by teachers not management. If push comes to shove - the top dogs ought to be shown the door.

And where is the governor and legislature or even the city of Portland? Portland, as well as Oregon, schools need a new approach not only to funding but in administration.

It is worth the viewing - three mayoral candidates on their political independence

See the Willamette Week video. video The Week "asked the candidates to demonstrate their independence from the city's most influential interest groups, downtown property owners and developers and public employee unions."

Brady: 3 1/2 minutes of avoiding the question.

Hales and Jefferson do a decent job.

Brady gets another chance but blows approximately 2 1/2 minutes by arguing with Jefferson and Hales. She never came close to answering the question. If it wasn't so sad - it is rather amusing to see someone who ought to be able to respond without obvious deviation.

Either she was too ignorant to understand what was being asked or she was too smart to provide a honest answer. I go with the latter.

Plagiarism and failure to source

It was this article from the German The Local online newspaper that made me wonder - why plagiarize? Those who plagiarize have in front of them not only the text they are copying but the source - just one more step to copy the source identification and avoid plagiarism.

The answer lies in the definition: "the verbatim copying or imitation of the language, ideas, or thoughts of another author and representing them as one’s own original work." They want you to think that they are capable of independent work and thought.

But newspapers do something similar. It isn't plagiarism but it the failure to fully acknowledge the source. Often in an attempt to avoid a verbatim copying the author will tweak the words or sentence formation. One sees this in press releases. A crude example is the Portland police press releases that are copied so closely that the difference between the release and that published is nearly indistinguishable.

Now arguably the police, and others who issue press releases, intend the release to be copied - but most often in the case of police releases, the news "reporter" makes it out as his or her own work. Just how hard is it to reference the source? And if one is including quotes - why not include the hyperlink for the material.

While the police release is a rather simple, maybe even silly, example, but take most any story and the source for the work is missing. Yes, the story is clear that it is discussing the work of another - e.g., a study or report. It will include the name of the study or report and will include properly quoted material - but not where the original source or quoted material can be found.

What I am referring to is the inability for the reader to verify or further research the topic. Thus while authors are not passing off the work of others as their own, but neither are they providing a means for independent verification. But oddly enough much effort goes into providing hyperlinks to the most innocuous material that is determined to keep you on their website, e.g., see the Portland Business Journal.

More to the point - take this example from the Portland Tribune where the story Big salaries escape school cuts references Superintendent Carole Smith April 2 budget without a link. But if the author has read the budget - why not include the link in the article? It didn't take much effort to find the link, but why should I have to do a search? Why shouldn't it had been included in the article?

There were other pertinent references that were never sourced. For example the reporter notes that "[t]he Oregon nonprofit Chalkboard Project pegs PPS' central administration costs . . . ." But why wasn't the source hyperlink for this statement included?

The days of trusting news media - local or not - is gone. At the very least a news reporter who fails to source the material is lazy. With today's browsers and extensions it is easy to not only capture the text one wants as a quote but also the hyperlink.

It is not copying in the plagiarism sense - but there is little distinction when the text may be correctly set out as the work of another yet the source hyperlink that would permit verification and further research is absent.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Buy Afghanistan's Opium - it makes sense

It is a New York Times story - Buy Afghanistan's Opium to Undermine the Taliban and Curb the Heroin Trade - and it makes sense - doesn't it?
"Spending even, say, a couple of billion dollars a year to remove this cash crop from the market would be a bargain, even if all the raw opium — an estimated 5,800 metric tons in 2011 (pdf) — were simply dumped into the Indian Ocean."

Portland high school students' plea

The state of Portland public schools is a sorry mess with no one seemingly willing to step in and make right the educational system. A case in point - apparently many students have officially urged "their teachers to agree to accept a temporary pay cut next year in order to keep dozens and dozens of their fellow teachers on the job." [Portland high school students: Dear teachers, please accept furlough days to keep fellow teachers on the job].

It isn't clear how these students came to write the letter - most likely from someone's urging. But it is clear that  students should not be involved in the politics of school funding policies.

And as another example of the sorry mess, Steve Duin reports that at Franklin High might lose six teachers due to budget cuts. What makes this important is because it demonstrates the ineptness, maybe incompetence, of the educational system. Why? "Franklin High School was the best in the state last year at helping low-income, minority, special education and limited English students catch up and excel." [Portland's Franklin High named tops in state at helping diverse students excel].

This is a school that "gives freshmen extra support, encouragement and tutoring through its "freshmen academies," and showed large gains in student writing skills in 2011, according to the state. It also sets high expectations for low-income and minority students, including enrolling many of them in Advanced Placement classes."

The education of children is far too important to let budget cuts cause students to become ensnared in political and policy battles nor should budget cuts possibly decimate excelling schools.

Why doesn't Portland Public Schools just admit that they care little for the children that they are challenged to educate. And frankly, the teachers and their union are not to be excluded from reprobation.

Going nude - an expression of free speech

The Portland dude going nude in protest over TSA scanning has made the news in Portland and at his designation in Silicon Valley. I give a lot of credit to the guy. As much as I detest the TSA security challenges that meets the everyday traveler - I don't think that there is even a slim possibility that I would go nude to protest the TSA conduct. But thankfully someone else has the balls and is not afraid to show them.

Of course he was arrested, but it is unlikely that he will be prosecuted. Going nude as a form of protest is not likely to be a criminal offense. See the KGW post for the statute and their notice that going nude in Portland is sanctioned activity, e.g., annual Portland bike ride.

Oregon unemployment stuck at 8.6-percent

That is the headline from KGW, but it has also shown up in most of the media. What is the value of repeating a statistic? But isn't there a question of what is the governor, state of Oregon or the city of Portland doing about it?

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Disgraceful - and likely to become more so

While one might see the secret service escapades as unique or otherwise limited to few of the good ole boys - it seems traditional for these individuals called upon to protect the president. I mean how could a job be more important? They are carefully (maybe not enough) chosen for the job. They are well trained and physically fit - yet the men seem driven by base sexual desires. Worst yet they can't seem to indulge without bravado.

Keep in mind that it isn't so much that they slept with prostitutes (it is legal in Columbia) it is the surrounding conduct. Bragging about their role in Columbia to protect the president, bringing prostitutes or anyone back to a secure area, haggling over the price, confronting the local police, the list goes on.

Other nations expect more of us than does our own country. See this in Yahoo! News Exclusive: Secret Service Bragged About Protecting Obama While Partying At Colombian Brothel: ". . . local residents are questioning why the city put so many resources into the international event only to be left with a tarnished reputation. "Cartagena didn't benefit one cent from President Obama's visit. All people remember are that the Secret Service agents slept with our prostitutes," said a man who works in the neighborhood."

And from another Yahoo! News story: "On the steamy streets of Cartagena, a resort city with a teeming prostitution trade, there was condemnation for the Secret Service agents for what residents saw as abusing their station and dishonoring their country."

"Edwin Yepes, a souvenir vendor, said "they are supposed to come here and set an example. We are an inferior culture, and so it's better if they don't come than if they damage our image of them."

Arrogance is neither attractive nor endearing.

I love dogs - but not their owners

[Editor: I published this first in March but felt compelled to republish.]

Pearl district is just full of dogs. Many are well behaved, better than the children, but because of their owners walking in the Pearl is hazardous. Way too many dog poop piles exist on the sidewalks. Even though they are often to the side of the walkway - they are not only unsightly but within the range of your footsteps.

Bags for the purpose of picking up after one's dog are available everywhere. My apartment complex has a dispenser at the door on the way out. Parks also have dispensers. There is just no excuse.

But even more of a problem is the dog on a leash. The sidewalks in many parts of Pearl are quite wide - yet the dog is extended on the leash into the path of pedestrians going the other way. As a pedestrian, one is forced to come to a stop or move the far edge of the sidewalk to avoid the dog.

A simple tug on the leash would clear the path - but the owners seem to think that it is cute that their dog is in the way.

Owners too think nothing about tying their dog to a post or even an outside table (not one that they are occupying), e.g., at a local coffeehouse or restaurant, blocking the passageway. Of course they are nowhere near the dog.

Finally, dog owners misuse the parks permitting their dogs to leave unwanted piles of dog sh*t in the landscaped areas. And despite signs to the contrary - once in the parks the owners feel free to let their dogs run unleashed.

Population in areas like Pearl are becoming more dense and require more consideration by dog owners. It ought to be clear to them that it is their obligation to pick up after their dog and that others do not necessarily share their love for their dog. Oddly enough a dog is not the friend of every man (person).

Well, I feel better.

Why you lose faith in the justice system

The Washington Post has an excellent 5 page (online) article about the "Justice Department officials have known for years that flawed forensic work might have led to the convictions of potentially innocent people, but prosecutors failed to notify defendants or their attorneys even in many cases they knew were troubled."

"As a result, hundreds of defendants nationwide remain in prison or on parole for crimes that might merit exoneration, a retrial or a retesting of evidence using DNA because FBI hair and fiber experts may have misidentified them as suspects."

"In one Texas case, Benjamin Herbert Boyle was executed in 1997, more than a year after the Justice Department began its review. Boyle would not have been eligible for the death penalty without the FBI’s flawed work, according to a prosecutor’s memo." [Convicted defendants left uninformed of forensic flaws found by Justice Dept].

The Post also has a companion CSI piece How accurate is forensic analysis. How about this? "Marks or "striations" on bullets are not necessarily unique to a specific firearm, and visually matching them can be subjective."

There is another companion piece Convictions Linked to FBI Crime Lab's Suspect Forensics. There were 250 cases identified by the FBI for suspect forensic analysis. In 137 cases, the Washington Post identified defendants. There is too results obtained via Freedom of Information Act.

This is quality journalism from a quality newspaper.

Monday, April 16, 2012

The buck stops here was not an empty platitude for the former GSA chief

The GSA chief resigned because of the Las Vegas debacle. But there was no spin even though there is little if anything to suggest that she was in any way responsible, but stuck with the ethical "the buck stops here."
"I personally apologize to the American people," Johnson said in her opening remarks at a House Oversight Committee hearing addressing GSA's alleged "culture of wasteful spending."
"As the head of the agency I am responsible. I deeply regret this. I will mourn for the rest of my life the loss of my appointment," she added. [Former GSA chief apologizes for "extravagant" Las Vegas conference at House hearing]. 
Given the state of the GSA and her beginning efforts to whip it into shape - the American public too will regret her loss of the appointment.

More on Google's world of absolute power

I have mentioned before that Google fits well into the "absolute power corrupts absolutely" adage. Lord Acton is credited with the famous quotation: "Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely." But what is never included is the very next sentence: "Great men are almost always bad men." 

Google has pledged not to do evil - but wants to determine "evil." They are becoming like the benevolent dictator who knows what is best for his subjects.

This article is just another example of what comes from power - FCC: Google Deliberately Held Up Our Investigation. And, Google says snooping on Wi-Fi networks isn't illegal. And of course it isn't Google's fault - Web freedom faces greatest threat ever, warns Google's Sergey Brin.

Google has become the poster child for anti-competitive conduct. Fortunately there are those who are trying to reign in web bully.

Kony 2012

I received a forwarded email today that originally went to a business association from one Portland's ONI crime fighters. But it wasn't clear whether the intent of the email was to warn of the Kony 2012 attempt use slap tagging as a means of popularizing their cause or to promote the slap tagging.

Kony has became somewhat well known - infamous if you will - because of his use of children to fight his battles. He is "the notorious Ugandan warlord whose Lord's Resistance Army is responsible for terrorising and kidnapping children, and forcing them to become soldiers." [The Guardian UK].

It has become YouTube famous but it demonstrates on one hand the benefit of social media and on the other the possible detriment. Much like Occupy groups the message seems heartfelt, but the implementation often turns out to be not well thought out - it is impulsive.

Many things are bothersome about the group and its ideals. One is that they have sought military action as the solution. The perils of military action in effort to rid the world of problems hasn't proven to work. And in their attempt to wage their campaign "there was a furious backlash against the depiction of the conflict and their tactics. Invisible Children, the charity behind the campaign, was accused of simplifying the story of Kony – Ugandan people were furious that their country was depicted as being war torn, when, in fact, Kony and the LRA no longer operate there." [The Guardian UK].

It appears that the Kony 2012 campaign will essentially bring attention to this world criminal in a somewhat similar way that the Occupy did, i.e., public spectacle. The campaign may use a form of graffiti to promote their cause - sticker art, sticker bombing, or slap tagging. And that is the rub - such stickers have the potential to be like most graffiti - difficult to remove.

And that may be their intention - leaving a somewhat permanent campaign poster. But I can't think anything more corrosive to a political, and it is political, campaign. The public nor businesses will be receptive of the campaign propaganda if the stickers turn up on public and private property - irrespective of whether the stickers can be easily removed or not.

The campaign is aiming for Friday, April 20, as the day for their event. And one wonders about the seriousness of the participants. Is it merely a lark or is it real attempt to further condemnation on this person? There is the suggestion that their efforts haven't produced any results. [The Guardian UK].

There is excellent coverage to be found in The Guardian UK Reality Bites. It explains the situation and the Kony 2012 campaign. It is starting with a timeline and will continue its coverage through April 20th.

The form of the message may well be more important than the content. Let's hope that they reassess the potential damage to their cause by using sticker art.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

President's trip to 6th Summit of the Americas obscured

Instead of some juicy press about Connecting the Americas: Partners in Prosperity his trip barely rated a mention in the press anywhere given the secret service embarrassment. And when the press wasn't focusing on the secret (apparently not so secret) service conduct - it was focusing on the fact that Cuba continues to be excluded.

It is difficult to see how one can connect the Americas when Cuba is excluded and where the host country Columbia had this perspective: "The isolation, the embargo, the indifference, looking the other way, have been ineffective," summit host and Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos said of the Cuba issue." [Reuters].

Nor can the Americas be connected with Ecuador and Nicaragua boycotting the meeting over Cuba exclusion; and consider too that they and Venezuela, Bolivia, and some Caribbean nations apparently intend to boycott the next summit if Cuba is not included. [See Reuters.]

It is not that the exclusion of Cuba had no historical rational basis - but that was cold war nonsense that for the most part the US has moved on. It is pure hypocrisy to continue to exclude Cuba and criticize that government for economic failure when that failure is US imposed.

One might take a look at some of the businesses listed in a Bloomberg article.  Wal-Mart Stores Inc., PepsiCo Inc., and Exxon Mobil Corp. It strikes one as a sort of economic gunboat diplomacy that is being carried out by the US.

But unfortunately for that policy - many of countries that are our "allies" are becoming economic powerhouses. These "conservative U.S-allied nations like Colombia are throwing their weight behind the traditional demand of leftist governments that Cuba be in the next meeting of the Organization of American States."

Who knows the US just might have to start playing nice. No longer can they pick up the marbles and go home.

Well it couldn't happen to Portland - could it?

With lax oversight, mismanaged Oregon towns veer toward insolvency

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Why the federal government can't be trusted? Ask the Indian tribes.

In settling more than a dozen lawsuits with 41 American Indian tribes - the feds agreed to pay over $1 billion. The lawsuits and settlement came "because the Interior and Treasury Departments had failed to adequately oversee concessions on Indian lands from companies that exploit a wide variety of resources, including minerals, timber, oil and gas, dating back more than 100 years in some cases." [U.S. to Pay $1 Billion Settlement to Indian Tribes].

The NYTimes article contains credit given to the Obama administration, but even if appropriate it still doesn't negate the fact that the federal government has continued to screw over the American Indians for the economic benefits of others.

There are many lame excuses for why the Indians have been denied a fair accounting of the government's management. But there is little reason to expect that this malfeasance will not continue.

Dave Lister's Mary Nolan column deleted

Contrary to the Oregonian's assertion there was no correction posted. Without the original post it is difficult to see this as anything but a Nolan influenced decision by the Oregonian. It is Fritz that the Oregonian supports. The Lister post as I remember it was more of a Lister supports Fritz than anything to do with Nolan's campaign contributions. But without the original post it is difficult to determine just how far askew was Lister?

For example, I don't recall Lister referring to Walmart, but the Oregonian asserts that he "may have implied Walmart had difficulty siting new Portland stores." To deny this seems rather odd.

It was wrong to delete the post without more of a rationale than appeared in the "correction." The better choice would have been either for Lister to amend the post or for the Oregonian to insert its view of the discrepancies.

It is odd too that the link for the original post doesn't refer to the "correction." It takes one to an index.

One suspects that there is much more to this "correction" than meets the eye.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Honor the collective bargaining agreement?

The Portland Tribune notes that the mayor has determined not to abide by the arbitrator's decision something he agreed to do in seeking arbitration. The mayor cites the statute that authorizes the arbitration process, but a quick look indicates that the mayor is wrong.

See this annotation from Oregon Laws ORS.243.706: "Proper inquiry in determining whether employer may dec­line to enforce arbitra­tion award on public policy grounds is whether award itself contravenes public policy, not whether underlying con­duct of employee violates public policy. Salem-Keizer Associa­tion of Classified Employees v. Salem-Keizer School District 24J, 186 Or App 19, 61 P3d 970 (2003)"

And, it matters not whether one agrees or disagrees with reason given that officer Frashour was fired - it is a matter of integrity and ethics.

The mayor and the city agreed to a binding process to resolve the issue. The parties selected the arbitrator and are bound to the arbitrator's decision. The decision is final. To refuse to honor the decision is dishonest and unethical showing the absence of integrity. There is no room to play politics here.

The police chief has shown the correct attitude and has displayed the necessity integrity and ethics in eschewing the 'political' play evidenced by the mayor. Correctly, the police chief has voiced disagreement with the mayor and said: "Though I was disappointed and disagreed with the arbitrator’s ruling, I respect the binding arbitration process."

Without that respect, collective bargaining and its grievance resolution is valueless.

The grievance procedure that reinstated officer Frashour is part of the collective bargaining agreement. The basis of this instrument - collective bargaining agreement - is like any agreement that parties negotiate in good faith - it is expected that each party will adhere to its terms.

Part - an integral part - of the agreement is that grievance process. Management and employees use this method to insure that the city doesn't arbitrarily act against its employees. It is the binding arbitration a process that eschews the ordinary judicial process. Like the judicial process each party is required to accept arbitration decisions.

The value of collective bargaining agreements start to disintegrate when the parties to the arbitration determine for themselves not to abide by the decision. It is not that the parties have to agree with the decision - it is that they have to abide by it. It is part of the reason that grievance procedures exist - not only does it save money and time it leaves to the management and employees an established procedure for resolving problems.

It has to be clear too that the parties selected the arbitrator - this is not a union or a city choice. The rules are well set out. It is clear to both parties that the decision of the arbitrator is final and must be followed. Failure to abide by the decision has certain ramifications - maybe the most important is the effect on future collective bargaining.

Look - without collective bargaining and grievance resolution - strikes becomes the only alternative. If one thinks that arbitration is expensive try estimating the costly effect of strikes. It will make one especially aware of the value of the services of the city's employees, especially the services of our fire and police personnel.

Resources:

ORS 243.706 - Agreement may provide for grievance and other disputes to be resolved by binding arbitration or other resolution process - 2011 Oregon Revised Statutes

Binding arbitration legal definition of Binding arbitration.

Amanda Fritz dilemma

She represents what most of us want in our politicians. She is not beholden - financially or politically - to anyone.  From all accounts she acts on principle - yet she comes across as a "goody two shoes." We criticize her as politically naive while at the same time criticizing those who act "politically."

I have flip-flopped on her candidacy. My approach has been sort of like Republicans seeking something better but reluctantly willing to accept Romney while hoping for someone else to step up. But see Dave Lister's Fritz supporting article.

While extolling her virtues - he also lays out her political vices. "Her unqualified support of Mayor Sam Adams during the Beau Breedlove scandal irritated many, and using a bullhorn to tell the Occupy Portland protesters that their free-speech rights trumped city ordinances was clumsy."

I had noted that a Bojack supported candidate looks worth considering. But why look elsewhere? Lister notes that: "she is absolutely sincere and incorruptible. She works tirelessly, attending every possible neighborhood and community event and personally answering every email. [....] She speaks her mind and sticks to her convictions."

Isn't this what we want from our city leaders? And, I have no doubt that isn't true, but maybe it is this from Lister that keeps the doubt alive: "She has a ways to go in developing the political acumen to turn her frequent single dissenting vote into three, but that will come in time." But will we wait for her to gain her political sea legs?

Amanda Fritz may be an incumbent, but she is not an insider. Continuing to seek 'saviors' is destructive to the election, or in this case the re-election, of a city councilor that will act in the best interest of the city. A problem of three or more candidates on the ballot is that it often dilutes the voting giving sway to the one with most money.

I am not interested in a Mary Nolan on the city council. She has all the attributes of a professional politician - and that is not a good thing. I know enough about Amanda and Nolan but not enough about other potential candidates. But at this late date - the election is about a month away - the field has to be considered narrowed to two - Fritz and Nolan.

Between the two it is easy to pick Fritz. I hope others do too.