Thursday, May 31, 2012

Presidential power that is more than troublesome - it is repugnant to what America represents

"On Tuesday, The New York Times revealed who was actually making the final decision on the biggest killings and drone strikes: President Obama himself. And that is very troubling." [Too Much Power for a President].

This is not an election year issue nor is it some Obama vs Bush or  vs Romney or whoever. It is power being used by the holder of the office. "No one in that position should be able to unilaterally order the killing of American citizens or foreigners located far from a battlefield — depriving Americans of their due-process rights — without the consent of someone outside his political inner circle." [NY Times].

It appears that the President of the United States can on his own designate targets for assassination. This ought to be treated as an issue that is more than troublesome. Maybe Obama would not let political pressure or whatever to influence his decision making, but what about the next or future presidents?

"OIR Report: PPB Superior" or "Portland police fail to learn from past mistakes in officer-involved shootings"

The police department sees the auditor's report on police involved shootings as determining PPB superior while the biased reporting of Maxine Bernstein sees it as PPB failing to learn from past mistakes. She challenges you to read the report - maybe hoping you won't.

From the auditor's report "Report to the City of Portland on Portland Police Bureau Officer-Involved Shootings:"

"Each of these shootings also provides the opportunity to evaluate the PPB’s mechanisms for investigating and reviewing critical incidents, and to observe how those have changed over time.  The Bureau’s development in this regard has been remarkable.  Quite unlike many municipalities where we have seen significant reports commissioned and then subsequently buried, the PPB has been responsive to the reports from the Police Assessment Resource Center (PARC) dating from 2003.  PARC’s recommendations regarding the quality of internal investigations did not go unheeded, and the result is that today the PPB conducts thorough, professional investigations into its officer-involved shootings."

"While we note deficiencies in the timeliness and quality of the internal analysis and review process throughout this report, we nonetheless find the PPB to be superior to most comparable law enforcement agencies in the way it which it reviews critical incidents."

"The Bureau’s history of opening itself to outside review and acceptance of recommendations from independent sources likewise sets it apart from many agencies."

"Nonetheless, there is still room for improvement."

And that is where Bernstein and the Oregonian start - after all it would be inconsistent with their anti-cop attitude to find the positives. Biased blogging - not journalism.

Appeals court: DOMA unconstitutional for denying benefits

There has been three federal district courts that have ruled the Defense of Marriage Act  (DOMA) unconstitutional where the act denies federal benefits to lawfully married federal employees. Now a federal appeals court in Boston has affirmed, at least for those within the Boston federal appeals jurisdiction. However, the decision is far from final - the US Supreme Court needs to speak.

It is actually a very simple issue: does congress have a valid basis to discriminate against a minority. It is possible, but it is not, and it cannot be, because of moral disapproval.

While these decisions may seem an historic shift in same-sex marriage rights - there is still a long way to go. Contrary to GLAD's executive director the Boston Federal Appeals Court did not determine or acknowledge that "same-sex couples are legally married, just as any other couple, . . .  ." [Court: Defense of Marriage Act discriminates].

The cases thus far have been reasoned on issues of federalism and equal protection. In the matter of federalism - there is no apparent dispute that marriage is within the purview of the states. However, the Boston court while declining to use federalism as a basis for its decision determined that "Supreme Court precedent relating to federalism-based challenges to federal laws reinforce the need for closer than usual scrutiny of DOMA's justifications and diminish somewhat the deference ordinarily accorded."

It is the "scrutiny" that is important in the judicial world. Thus, ordinarily federal courts would give great deference to congressional legislation. But when discrimination against minority groups are involved the degree or level of scrutiny ramps upward.

Thus, it is the concept of equal protection that has the court's attention. Thus, the real issue is that government in law making must ordinarily have some basis for discriminating against a minority group. There is more to it than that, but it is fairly accurate.

The Boston court essentially states that "disparate impact on minority interests and federalism concerns both require somewhat more in this case than almost automatic deference to Congress' will . . . ." Thus, "[u]nder current Supreme Court authority, Congress' denial of federal benefits to same-sex couples lawfully married in Massachusetts has not been adequately supported by any permissible federal interest."

No federal interest justifies Congress's denial of federal benefits to lawfully married couples.

It is difficult to see how the US Supreme Court will come to any other determination although its rationale might differ. It is not even clear (I haven't researched it) that without a federal trial court finding DOMA constitutional that the US Supreme Court has to take the case, i.e., it could decline.

Boston appeals court finds US Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional for denying benefits
Court: Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional for denying same-sex married couples federal benefits 
Boston Federal Appellate Court decision (pdf) (text)

Calif. federal court rules against DOMA
US Northern District of California,   Golinski v. United States Office of Personnel Management
Gay marriage: Judge overturns DOMA, stepping up pressure on Supreme Court
Doma ruled unconstitutional for denying benefits to same-sex couples

Federalism in the United States - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia  
United States district court - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia  

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Not guilty - the couple that "caged" their autistic children

It is difficult to understand the decision given the information provided by the media - but it only took the jury 5 hours to decide. And that is why jury is secluded from the media and other outside influences. They saw and heard the evidence. [See Verdict: Couple not guilty in Vancouver caged kids case.]

Urban renewal blight - roads around PSU

Thanks to Beth Slovic the "blight" at Portland State University that justifies urban renewal dollars - tax increment financing - are the roads. According to the Oregonian's Portland uses bad roads to qualify Portland State University area for urban renewal, "[c]ity officials said the roads around PSU fit that definition because 24 percent need to be rebuilt or are in bad condition. 'Such inadequate rights-of-way constitute blight.'"

Thus, $50 million dollars are to be spent for roads around PSU while "about 26 percent of [Portland's] main streets need to be rebuilt or are in bad condition." We can blame the outgoing politicians for this wrongful spending, but there is no indication that the newbies will be any better stewards of the tax dollars.

Welcome to Portland where the politicians represent special interests, in this case, developers - not the citizens.

Just what US politics needs - a pampered professional Chinese dissident

Chen Guangcheng, now in U.S., poised to play role in yet another abortion debate.

Drug cartel Knights Templar

While it could be just another story about the wanton drug cartels in Mexico - it almost sounds like a grade B movie plot. The cartel attacked firebombed and incinerated warehouses as well as delivery trucks of a US owned potato chip company because they believed that the Mexican government used the trucks to spy on them. [Drug Cartel Barbecues U.S.-Owned Potato Chip Company].

The Knights Templar cartel "model themselves on the original Knights Templar, a Christian military order established in Europe 900 years ago and active in the Crusades." "During initiation ceremonies, recruits to the drug cartel wear helmets similar to those worn by medieval knights and common in Mexican Easter ceremonies. Cartel members swear blood oaths and are issued Templar rulebooks. " OMG!

Arguably, the cartel takes the religious connection seriously. "The cartel issued a very public call for a ceasefire during Pope Benedict's visit to Mexico in March." The church supported by a drug cartel fighting a religious war for . . . ?

Is there anything evil in this world that doesn't have a religious connection?

PSA screening - be cautious

The question that seems to be bothering the urologists, never mind that it is they that have the ideological and financial conflicts of interest, is whether healthy men should be routinely tested for for possible prostate cancer?

A panel of experts - United States Preventive Services Task Force - appointed by the Department of Health and Human Services.determined that "healthy men should not routinely get a blood test to detect prostate cancer." Urologists seem to disagree.

Why the concern over the screening you may ask? According to the experts, "the benefit of the test in preventing cancer deaths was minimal and was more than offset by the adverse effects of surgery or radiation to remove slow-growing tumors that would never have killed the patient." [To Screen for Prostate Cancer or Not?].

The tests have been routine for men over 50. The problem is that a rise in the PSA number can result from benign and normal conditions. The next step if cancer is suspected or is to be ruled out is a biopsy. However, the potential side effects of the biopsy is considerable: bleeding, infection, incontinence, erectile dysfunction, and oh yes - a small chance of dying. [My post: Prostate Cancer Screening Shows No Mortality Benefit].  

Avoiding the test is not as easy as it might seem because doctors do not like having their "authority" challenged - especially by a patient. The New York Times article suggests that patients "have a frank discussion with their doctors of the potential risks and benefits before proceeding with screening or with any treatments to remove tumors found in the screening."

Not so easy. A urologist at the local VA hospital scheduled me for a biopsy without ever seeing me face to face. It was done by a phone message. And if the patient gets that face to face discussion, the chances are that he will be not have sufficient knowledge to participate.

So this requires that the patient does his homework. Thanks to the Internet there are  hours and hours of material to read on the subject - much of it biased - but nevertheless - informative. Of course this requires that your doctor is confident in his knowledge and skills that he, or she, is willing to have that frank discussion.

A significant problem remains with the efforts to become informed. Much of the information was published with the prejudice that the PSA blood test is a reliable screening tool, i.e., a blood test with higher than normal results is sufficiently predictive of cancer requiring a biopsy.

Also the material is medical jargon filled, i.e, not intended for a casual reader. A parsing and diligent read can be informative. E.g., see this report: Prostate Cancer and Prostatic Diseases - Are extended biopsies really necessary to improve prostate cancer detection?   It is a hard read, but it does suggest that biopsies are far from predicative.

And it must remain clear that prostate cancer is unlike other cancers in many respects, but especially in the fact that is a slow growth cancer. This is why the age of the patient is an important factor. Thus, while one might have prostate cancer, he is more likely to die from other causes.

Doctors seem more trained to avoid lawsuits than to properly analyze and assess the patient's problems. And even once properly diagnosed - doctors are reluctant to share medical decision making with the patient. Clearly there are situations where challenges to the doctor's opinion is irrelevant and maybe even meaningless, but when the doctor's determination involves invasion action, e.g., biopsy - it time to rethink the doctor - patient relationship.

As an aside - I can't imagine that a female urologist has the necessary prerequisites to provide competent advice. I feel the same way about male doctors who advise woman about their reproductive system.  Not that there are not competent and knowledgeable doctors - but when it comes to the possible removal of my prostate - I want a doctor that emotionally and physiologically understands the male perspective. Pure objectiveness sounds great, but not for the doctor that deals face to face with his patient. If you don't have balls then you can't possibly understand my concerns about my prostate.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Diplomatic action against Syria - valueless?

Syrian civilian massacre that included 32 children by the government has been met with the expelling of Syrian diplomats from "countries including the US, several European Union nations and Gulf Arab states in protest over a massacre blamed by witnesses on pro-government forces." [Syria faces diplomatic backlash over massacre].

But of what possible value can this action have? Despite the United Nations efforts, of dubious value itself, undertaken by Kofi Annan to persuade Syria to agree and adhere to a cease fire - Syria has virtually ignored the world. Why?

One reason is that Russia has prevented the United Nations taking anything other action than diplomatic. Russia apparently supports Annan efforts which it seems is beyond the capabilities of Mr. Annan. It doesn't appear he has any sense of how to deal with the situation except that of the "why can't we all just get along" approach.

The massacre does appear to have shifted Russia's attitude. It issued a statement condemning the Syrian government's  role in the massacre and condemning "the 'outrageous use of force against the civilian population,' saying it constituted a violation of international law and of the Syrian government's commitment to cease violence." [Is Russia Changing Its Mind About Assad Regime in Syria?]

All well and good, but how many more civilians - children are not excluded - will die before effective pressure is applied or affirmative action taken against the Syrian regime?

Two Tigard men - they did a good job but . . .

The police always add the cautionary note when in situation like this convenience store robbery citizens take action. "Police do not recommend confronting someone with a gun. Instead, they advise witnesses to call 9-1-1 and take note of what’s going on." [Two Tigard men say they instinctively disrupted armed robbery].

While seemingly very risky to take such action, in this case the gun was an Airsoft pistol, maybe looking like one of these, that shoots plastic pellets. But it doesn't appear the two knew that the gun was relatively harmless. Afterwards, they "said their loved ones were a little angry that they intervened in an armed robbery without thinking but proud that they did." But as one of the said: “I would hope more people would step up if somebody needed help.” Amen to that.

But see some of the imbecilic comments by the oregonlive trolls.

Fugitive methane

I don't know why, but I learn more about the world, especially the US, by reading the foreign press. The Economist and The Guardian UK are but two examples. But it is The Guardian's story essentially about the myth of the climate benefit from switching from coal to shale gas that is of immediate interest. [Using shale gas over coal does not help climate, says big gas investor].

Shale gas is liberated by a process called "fracking." "The problem is that "fracking" – blasting rocks apart to obtain gas, which is present in tiny pockets contained within certain dense rocks – produces leaks that pour methane into the atmosphere."

Oddly one critic is an investor - Scottish Widows Investment Partnership - that produced a report noting, among other things, that "shale gas and its fugitive emissions now contribute about 20% of the US's total greenhouse gas output, and this amount is rising. Natural gas has overtaken agriculture as the US's biggest source of methane."

The report offers a solution - "[c]ompanies could use technology known as "green completion" in order to capture the leaking natural gas, known as fugitive methane." But why don't they? "[B]ecause it costs money and they face no penalty for the leaks."

And why do we care about methane - isn't carbon dioxide the culprit? Consider this - "Methane is more than 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide in terms of global warming."

Corporate, in this case investor, social responsibility? ". . . Scottish Widows was embarking on a campaign to persuade all of the gas companies in which it holds shares to start using leak-reduction technology." Including conventional gas drilling.

Look - there are many environmental and other problems associated with fracking. But if it is to be done - it ought to be done cautiously as possible. The investor Scottish Widows has the correct attitude.

Monday, May 28, 2012

From the Economist - Daily charts

The Economist is probably the best single source of news journalism. One feature I especially like is the reoccurring "Graphic Detail" found in their on-line publication. E.g., the food production chart shows very simply who is producing the food and who is consuming it. The trouble is that it is not the same regions of the world. The accompanying brief article states: "To feed itself for the next half century, the world needs an agricultural revolution in Africa." [Daily chart: How to feed a planet | The Economist.]

Another example is China's growth chart. "China grows thanks to high levels of investment" not exports. Notice too that private consumption is on the down slope while investment is on the upslope. Investment is mostly state.

Economist: great writing and reading - not matched by any similar single US publication.

Memorial Day 2012: remembrance and reflection

The good news - casualties are substantially down. And one can see from the graphs and charts that as the Iraq War wound down the causalities in Afghanistan went up. In 2012 there was 1 casualty in Iraq and in Afghanistan there were 169, but down from 566 in 2011. 
The bad news is that 4,474 have died in Iraq War and 1,966 in the Afghanistan War. 2,899 ages 20 - 24; 1,544 ages 25 - 29; 1,215 ages 30 -39; 399 ages 18 - 19; 326 ages 40 - 49; and 48 ages 50 - 59. See Washington Post for pictures and more statistics.

And according to the Post - 99 have fallen in Oregon and 141 in Washington.

The Washington Post has done an excellent job in its coverage of those fallen during these two wars. Interactive maps, statistics, pictures of those causalities, and means to "Search Faces of the Fallen."

But we shouldn't forget the wounded. "30,490 U.S. service members have been wounded due to combat actions in Iraq and 2,309 in Afghanistan (32,799 total)." Iraq and Afghanistan Casualty Statistics.

And what about those who return home mentally and emotionally disabled to some extent? See this Wikipedia entry: "A top U.S. Army psychiatrist, Colonel Charles Hoge, told the U.S. Congress in March 2008 that nearly 30 percent of troops on their third deployment suffer from serious mental-health problems, and that one year was not enough time between combat tours."

See too this interesting Los Angeles Times 2010 article: IRAQ, AFGHANISTAN: American casualties total 500,000, counting injury and disease, writer claims.

Finally, we need to remember and reflect on the dollar cost of the two wars. See the Cost of War to the United States clock.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Massacre of 32 children in Syria evokes outrage but no action - WTF?

"The UN mission said 92 bodies, 32 of them children aged less than 10, had been found in Houla after the artillery offensive on Friday." [UN confirms 'massacre' of children in Houla].

So - tell me why was intervention in Libya okay but not Syria?

Creating a 'A World Fit for Children' is apparently mere rhetoric.

Father invokes reality show as excuse for "caging" his autistic children

It is a sad story about two autistic children being locked in a room with what is described as having cage doors. The father, divorced (assumed) and living with his girlfriend, testified, among other things, that "he heard on either the reality TV show "Supernanny" or "Nanny 911" that if a parent is worried a child might hurt himself, it's OK to lock the child in a room, the Columbian newspaper reported. [KATU: Father defends locking up autistic sons].

The trial question is essentially whether the children were unlawfully imprisoned or protected for their own safety?

It is a much sadder case because the father only "went through only the eighth grade and was in a special education course."  But stories have left out a lot of detail.  I haven't seen anything yet on the type of autism or how severe the effects on the boys. Apparently it is severe enough that one child has to live in a foster home while the other child is living with his mother. An autistic child can be difficult to care for.

But what about the mother? Why wasn't she more responsible?

When I first starting reading about this situation - I was feeling outraged that a father or anyone would rely on what a TV show might have said as being okay conduct. But the more I read the more it became a truly sad story for the children. They have parents apparently incapable, not necessarily malicious, of caring for them.

Society doesn't do enough to protect children - yet at times it seems that government, in the name of society, wrongfully intervenes in parenting. But this father should have been able to seek help without money being an obstacle. Although, it could be argued that he was incapable of recognizing the need for help.

In the Pearl: Sisters Coffee

It has to rank near the bottom on the list of the good coffee shops. It is nearly impossible to have a cappuccino made correctly or as ordered. It is probably the easiest "specialty" coffee drink to make. It sure isn't difficult. Not only that - they are consistently running out of the proper size 'for here' cups. There is no excuse. Now the staff is always friendly, but WTF.

I don't know - but it seems that if I am willing to pay the price for coffee - then it ought to be made correctly. And it ought to come in the correct size cup. Complain, as many are want to do, about Starbucks, but they make it correctly as ordered consistently.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

False allegation of rape - justice denied

A 17 year old, apparently a bit more than your average 17 year old, had his opportunity at success cut by the false accusation by his then girl friend. "Many believed the 6-foot-4, 225 pound athlete was bound for the NFL. The University of Southern California, a Division 1 school, had offered him a full-ride scholarship and a slew of other schools—including Michigan State University and University of Kansas—were pursuing the middle linebacker." [Former Rising Football Star Exonerated in Rape Case].

Arguably his attorneys failed him with their recommendation that he plead no contest. He "was sentenced to six years, which he served and [was] on parole and registered as a sex offender." Oddly enough the accuser recanted her story via a Facebook attempt to "friend" him.

What kept her from telling the truth? She "did not want to tell prosecutors the truth because she feared she would lose the $1.5 million she and her family won in a civil suit against Long Beach schools after the incident."

The man has a great and forgiving attitude  - but the fact remains that his life has been wrongfully impacted. He cannot regain those years in jail. He is now 26 - but he should have been well on his way through a football career, and even if that had failed, his college education would have likely spawned a successful career.

He did six years in jail and she had $1.5 million to spend. It seems a little late to be telling the truth, but maybe late is better than never? His exoneration doesn't repair the damage done.

For some there is no justice.

Oswego Lake public access - another example of government contrary to public benefit

The Willamette Week seems to be the media following this issue in Lake Oswego. From the article and the lawsuit it seems clear that the public cannot be excluded from the lake despite the contrary assertions by a few of the privileged who happen to live next to the lake. The city has taken the position of denying public access by among other things passing an ordinance restricting public access.

A government by and for the people - well a few. Lincoln meant well.

Occupiers in Oakland: use of intimidation and violence as their message

The proposed ordinance and the conduct of the occupiers at a recent city Public Safety Committee meeting in Oakland, CA fully establishes the anarchist quality of these protesters. "The ordinance, co-sponsored by Kernighan and City Attorney Barbara Parker, would ban shields, fire accelerants, clubs and hammers, which have been used repeatedly in protests to commit vandalism or attack police." [Unruly Oakland meeting over Occupy, 'violence'].

Are they any different in Portland?

Is this God's church?

The pope's butler (yeah, the butler did it) has apparently been arrested for being a source that provided documents to an Italian journalist who wrote an expose book "Your Holiness" about corruption and nepotism at the Vatican. From the Guardian UK article it seems that the journalist has the goods on the Vatican, although the Vatican calls the book criminal. It does appear to have spared the Pope any direct connection. [Pope's butler charged over leaked Vatican letters].

The Vatican is like a very small corporation serving religion to about 1 billion worldwide. It is essentially an artificial nation state that has 836 people living within its borders that is approximately .44 sq km (about 1/3 mile). See the CIA World Factbook, Holy See (Vatican City), especially the "Economy" section.

It seems that the "buck stops here" is a US thing. This holy church is more interested in finding out who leaked information than the facing the reality of the book's allegations. See other items of interest with a Google search "Vatican corruption and scandal." The following are examples.

May 2012 Vatican Bank Chief Ousted After Money-Laundering Scandal: The bank chief "who also teaches ethics in finance at Milan’s Catholic University, was taken by surprise when Italian prosecutors in 2010 seized 23 million euros ($29 million) from a Rome bank account registered to the IOR amid suspicions of money-laundering violations."  The IOR is the Vatican bank the Institute for the Works of Religion "set up in 1942 by Pope Pius XII to manage the Vatican’s finances."

January 2012: "An Italian television investigation has revealed that a deputy governor of the Vatican was transferred last year against his will after complaining about irregularities." He had informed the Pope "that he had discovered a web of corruption, nepotism and cronyism linked to inflated contract payments."  [Vatican is shaken by corruption scandal]. 

June 2010 Cardinal denies corruption allegations: "Prosecutors are trying to untangle an alleged web of kickbacks involving billions of dollars worth of contracts for such megaprojects as preparing 2000 Holy Year events in Rome, the 2009 Group of Eight summit, and rebuilding the earthquake-shattered town of L’Aquila."

March 2010 New Sex Scandal Rocks Vatican: "The recordings [wiretaps], according to Italian press, reveal Angelo Balducci, an Italian executive who's been a Gentleman of his Holiness -- the elite group of black-suited men who serve the pope in unpaid roles as ushers -- negotiating with the 29-year-olf Nigerian Vatican choir member for the services of male prostitutes, as part of the larger prostitution ring."

Friday, May 25, 2012

Scopes Is Indicted in Tennessee for Teaching Evolution

And he is still figuratively being indicted. See May 25, 1925 | A Tennessee Teacher, John T. Scopes, Is Indicted for Evolution Lessons, an article about the original indictment. And see too the New York Times front page and story for May 25, 1925: Scopes Is Indicted in Tennessee for Teaching Evolution.

After 87 years, it is difficult to comprehend that there are still those that take the bible literally - when it suits them.

Government assistance powers car alternative fuels

Not surprising - a survey indicates that without government subsidies the market for alternative vehicle powertrains will likely cease, but certainly would not meet the estimate of 10% share by 2020. [See Alt-fuel cars unsustainable without government assistance.]

Of course there only needs to be a technology breakthrough to prove this estimate false. But the real issue is one of policy, i.e., the role of government in a "free-market" economy. Subsidies that affect competition as is the case here are fraught with difficulties - mostly political in nature. E.g., who gets the subsidy is mostly an administration decision - not congressional - thus dependent who is in power at the moment.

Arguably Solyndra is an example of an administration's politics and ineptness leading to a waste of federal money. The question is whether government should be investing directly or indirectly in a company or even part of an overall industry as opposed to investing in research that all can take advantage? Some argue that even the latter is inappropriate.

Politicians don't generally have the skills or experience to run a business nor are they by any means innovators. They are simply not capable of determining risk, i.e., the  likely financial success of doing business. Nor should the economy depend on the whims of what political party is in power. It is difficult to rationalize government financial intervention.

However, it is not too difficult to argue for government intervention in certain situations where the economy of the nation is at stake, e.g., the recent bailout of automotive industry, where failure to act amounts to gross negligence, to say the least.

But, the more government finds ways of becoming involved in the production of goods and services the less the marketplace has a say or influence on what goods and services are produced. And the more government intervenes the easier it is for them to rationalize intervention in various forms.

Using taxpayer dollars to push political agendas is not in accordance with the best interests of a marketplace economy because it takes choice and decision making from the hands of the consumers and places it in the hands of a very few politicos. That is not democracy.

Interactive: World nuclear map

Here is an excellent, presumably accurate, interactive Venn diagram of countries with nuclear energy, nuclear weapons or both: Interactive: World nuclear club - Interactive - Al Jazeera English:

Roll or hover over a country to see the number of reactors, % of electricity generated from nuclear energy,  and number of weapons. Also - look carefully for shaded American flags - these are five countries that also host US nuclear weapons. Germany is one. And you may be surprised at some countries that have nuclear weapons - how about Belgium?

The column to the right on the diagram explains the organization; and there is additional information at the bottom.

Thursday, May 24, 2012


The CIA World Factbook notes under United States, Religions: "Protestant 51.3%, Roman Catholic 23.9%, Mormon 1.7%, other Christian 1.6%, Jewish 1.7%, Buddhist 0.7%, Muslim 0.6%, other or unspecified 2.5%, unaffiliated 12.1%, none 4% (2007 est.)" While that may seem to define the US as Christian - it doesn't.

It certainly indicates a religious self-identification. That is, if asked something to the effect are you a Christian or Jew (or insert religious faith of choice) a majority of responders would say Christian. That covers a lot of "religions" ground, there are after all many different religions that deem themselves as Christians.

But it may seem that religion in the modern world is not as important in one's daily life as once thought. It has shifted from religious beliefs sanctioned and promulgated by an organized religion like the Catholic Church to beliefs that are self-defined to be more individualized and personalized.

Putting aside theological implications, e.g., virgin birth, it seems clear that as the population ages - the value of organized religions in society has fallen.  A measure - maybe not the most accurate, but effective nevertheless- is the number of church goers.

Estimating the number of church goers is not an easy task. Gallup notes in a 2006 article that "since 2003, the percentage of Americans who said they had attended church or synagogue within the last seven days was 38%, 43%, 43%, 45%, 44%, and 42%."

What has made estimates difficult is that people tend to overstate their attendance. According to the Hartford Institute for Religion Research this occurs because "[o]verreporting may be a way of affirming an activity people find desirable."

There may be another issue in reporting "attendance." Can standing on the outside of the church doors on Sunday legitimately count as attendance? I remember in my youth my father and many other men standing outside church during the services. I am sure if they were asked - they would have said they attended church on Sunday.

And my attendance like other Catholic children was not a voluntary matter. I was there because my father and mother were adhering to church dictates, and at the time that failure to attend was a mortal sin. In those days, virtually everything was a sin of some sort. Not surprisingly after I was an adult on my own - church attendance lost its value.

How serious is the lack of church attendance? See this from a website called Truth that appears to offer statistical evidence as a rationale for Christian churches to get back to basics. Mass Exodus: Staggering Numbers Of America’s Young People Are Rejecting The Christian Faith. It sees society as eroding Christian values. "For example, a shocking new survey by LifeWay Christian Resources shows that the vast majority of young adults in America today do not go to church, do not pray and do not read the Bible."

That survey was reported in an April 2010 USA Today article: "72% of Millennials 'more spiritual than religious'. Thom Rainer, president of LifeWay Christian Resources states that "[a]mong the 65% who call themselves Christian, "many are either mushy Christians or Christians in name only." He continues: "Most are just indifferent. The more precisely you try to measure their Christianity, the fewer you find committed to the faith."

And this religious shift is not peculiar to the US. See this 2007 article "Trends in UK Church attendance: A report on "Churchgoing in the UK" published by Tearfund in April 2007 shows that 15% go to Church at least once a month." In the same article see too an interesting interactive chart "Churchgoing in the EU"  For example in 2007, Ireland had 67.2% church attendance, not bad, but checkout Spain at 28.9.% And to beat this dead horse further - checkout this story from Norway Only one in six will attend church during Easter.  

The upshot - is that organized religions like the Catholic Church, not so much the Protestant churches, are losing their base, that is, their economic support that pays for an extensive corporate-like organization that pervades a significant part of  the world. It is the structure.

Whether religions like it or not, individuals are exercising that free will to choose their spirituality and not that dictated by some hierarchical dictatorship like the Catholic Church. While individual's religious values have evolved as society has evolved socially - archaic religious organizations have remained static and unresponsive to, and apparently unaware of, the needs of its members.

But, it seems clear that the failure of organized religions doesn't mean that people are necessarily less religious but maybe more spiritual. After all isn't a belief, or not, in a god a personal matter? Wasn't this county founded on that principle - free exercise of religion?

Mom doesn't have rhythm

The rhythm method (RM) may work for some, but I don't know of any Catholics that have been successful in its implementation. Guessing what days it is safe to have sexual intercourse is much like Russian Roulette. This is the method of birth control that the Catholic Church is attempting to impose on not only their parishioners but anyone that might be financially dependent on or connected with the Catholic Church.

What is extremely dishonest is that Catholics themselves don't practice birth control via the RM. If you know any Catholic family that has only one or two kids, or maybe none, either they are not having sex at all or they are using some form of artificial birth control.

Catholic Church puts it all on the woman. Men are not not permitted to use a condom and if you believe, or want to believe, that withdrawal is effective birth control maybe you missed something in biology class. See "Understanding Ovulation" by the American Pregnancy Association.

Even some Catholics are naive or uniformed about the effectiveness of RM. In her column Father Doesn’t Know Best Maureen Dowd had thought that RM had worked well for her parents only to find out that her father "used something."

My own situation was somewhat similar. I was raised a Catholic yet my father had no brothers or sisters. I had only a brother who was 7 years older than I. I never thought about it at the time - what son or daughter ever thinks about their parent's sex lives - but some form of birth control must have been used.

It would seem that sex could not have been very satisfying. Either trying to guess the days of possible conception or just taking the risk must have been a damper on enjoyable sex. And I am talking about the days when sex wasn't discussed anyway and there were no birth control pills or 'tools' to estimate the 'safe' days. And how many women have anything other than irregular periods?

Look - it is fine that if your religious beliefs modifies your sexual attitudes and practices, but it is not okay that others are forced or even are encouraged to modify their beliefs to be in accordance with yours.

Maureen Dowd was not surprised, and neither was I, that "the Gallup poll Tuesday showing that 82 percent of U.S. Catholics say birth control is morally acceptable. (Eighty-nine percent of all Americans and 90 percent of non-Catholics agreed.)"

She also notes in her column that what is being labeled by the Catholic Bishops as "an attack on religion by the president is really an attack on women by the bishops." It seems rather ironic that Catholic bishops who are not married and presumedly and enjoy no sexual activity nor have they fathered children nor been responsible for the economic support of a family can speak with any authority - except centuries old dogma - that women cannot use artificial birth control.

The Catholic Church ought to stick to imposing their dictates on their parishioners through church dogma and sermons. After all if they can't convince them - they need to reassess their dogma.

It seems that it cannot be denied that in today's world, especially in some countries, effective means of birth control and family planning are not to be left to religions like the Catholic Church.

Hazing it is not - it is cruel and inhuman treatment

The band hazing incident where the drum major was beaten to death as part of a ritual was not hazing no matter how one wants to best define it. These band members killed him with force and implements reasonably likely to cause severe bodily injuries and death.

And it is to be justified by "It's a respect thing, you know." And the best of all reasons: "One of them [killers] told investigators that Champion wanted to be hazed."

And with apparent unmitigated gall: "Members of the Florida A&M band [led] a horse-drawn carriage carrying the casket of fellow band member Robert Champion . . . ."

What a fine group of guys. And the school is liable and hopefully will be sued for wrongful death. "The band director, who had reportedly warned university officials about hazing, retired on May 10."

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Generation(s) gap

Nixon | Men's Watches and Premium Accessories  and Nixon as in Richard M. Nixon.

I saw someone today wearing the Nixon shirt and I wondered even if he even knew anything about Richard M. Nixon.

Facebook IPO - capitalism at work

"Facebook left nothing for the common investor," Forbes Publisher Rich Karlgaard wrote. "The insider pig pile of (private equity) firms and celebrity Silicon Valley angels took it all." [Facebook IPO underscores shutting out the masses:] And see this: Goldman Sachs gains $235 million from Facebook IPO  

And all of this because you can't socialize except on the Internet. But maybe you are part of the class-action law suit that "claims that Facebook users had their personal information tracked, collected and stored by the website, including portions of their Internet browsing history even when they were not logged in to Facebook. The lawsuits claim violations of the federal Wiretap Act and other laws, as well as of Facebook’s own privacy policy."

Maybe the keys to your most prized possessions are under the mat too.

Sometimes spell check is not enough

University Of Texas Commencement Pamphlet Makes Unfortunate Typo: "School of Pubic Affairs."

PSA debate - it is not the test but what follows

The basic recommendation that has come from the media reports is that men should no longer get the test, but it isn't the test that is at issue. It's the medical professionals who by rote recommend biopsy and possible removal surgery. [See earlier post Prostate Cancer Screening Shows No Mortality Benefit.]

Outwardly the medical profession seems in tune with the times of recognizing that the individual patient has a say in the treatment options. See this propaganda from the Veterans Administration that reflects at least the attitude and views of the general medical administrators - not just the VA.

"You, and any persons you choose, will be involved in all decisions about your care. You will be given information you can understand about the benefits and risks of treatment. You will be given other options. You can agree to or refuse treatment. You will be told what is likely to happen to you if you refuse treatment. Refusing treatment will not affect your rights to future care but you take responsibility for the possible results to your health."

It is that position on medical care that is being touted in the warnings about the PSA testing. There is still a goodly number of doctors, including those with the VA, that have the god complex and are sure that the patient is not anywhere intelligent enough to participate in medical care decisions.

The chief medical officer of the American Cancer Society: "We need to tell men the potential risk. We need to tell me the potential benefits and let them make their own decision," "We need to not dupe men into thinking that there's always benefit with this and everyone's going to get help. Some people are going to get killed because they get the test." [PSA debate: "Some people are going to get killed"].

I guess it will take a couple of lawsuits to get the doctor's attention.

But it is certainly recommended (by me) that those men in their 50s obtain a PSA result if or no other reason than to have a marker for comparison. And do a Google or Bing search to find out more about the prostate and prostate issues. Like they say 'knowledge is power.'

Same search recommendation for any medical issue and prescription issues. There are sites too that provide possible interactions among the prescription drugs. E.g., And how about this: Coffee drinking may cut prostate cancer risk.

New basketball arena

We are talking San Francisco not Portland but the message ought to be obvious. "The new arena would not require any money from the city's general fund or new taxes, . . . ." "At the end of the day, [the] investment group is financially responsible for building this." "And it will be done."

Monday, May 21, 2012

Medical marijuana a front for illegal trafficking

"Pounds and pounds and pounds of marijuana are being shipped out of Oregon, not to sick people needing cards but to drug dealers who are selling it, who are laundering money, who are evading taxes," she said, "and it's dangerous business." [Oregon's US Attorney: Traffickers infiltrate medical pot].

It is never easy. However, it is easy to argue in favor of the use of marijuana for medical purposes, even though, by all accounts the "prescription" is merely a sham. There are those with genuine health issues where it helps to relieve the pain and discomfort. [5 Common Uses of Medical Cannabis].

So the state licensing was instituted, but "was passed without any enforcement power or extra money for local agencies to crack down on the worst actors." However, the feds are not responsible for enforcing state laws, but theoretically they can ignore state laws that are in conflict with federal law.

It seems clear that users and the dispensers of medical marijuana will not be prosecuted under federal law. The US Attorney is quoted as saying "People say, 'You're the U.S. attorney, are you going to go after medical marijuana?' No I'm not."  And that "she’s unwilling to devote much time or money to prosecuting a criminal activity that’s low on her list of priorities."

But what about the illegal trafficking, money laundering, and tax evasion that derive from the essential failure of state oversight? Are they a low priority, i.e., will not be enforced? Or is that still fair game for enforcement?

Sunday, May 20, 2012

NY Times: The Neighborhood Drinking Problem

While drinking problems in certain neighborhoods might well deserve special attention, I submit they haven't a clue to solve it if this is their approach. Subway advertising campaign containing suggested limits for alcohol consumption: no more than one drink a day for women, no more than two for men.

Apparently the ads "depict the ugly consequences of a kind of night life that draws many 22-year-olds to the city in the first place." E.g., "a young man, face bruised, his neck in a brace, is being hauled away in an ambulance."

First, the suggested limits are laughable. It bears an all too canny resemblance to prohibition. And why should women be limited to one drink? If I am in New York, and I have been, I am not driving and to suggest that I should drink only two drinks is not the product of rational thinking. One can only imagine the chuckles.

It seems doubtful that ads depicting consequences are unlikely to deter drinking. It is somewhat akin to the anti-smoking ads that are becoming prevalent - do smokers see them and determine to stop? Not likely - much like the smoker the drinker will not see that those ads are directed at him. It is not going to happen to me.

I am only commenting on this story because of the similarities with Portland's entertainment district and the somewhat liberal regulations concerning licenses and police enforcement. Alcohol licensing is fairly unrestricted. It is not difficult to obtain a license to dispense some sort of alcohol even at places that cater to minors. Not that it is the wrong approach, but it seems too easy.

But often the enforcement of laws that are broken because of excessive alcohol consumption is lax in Portland as well as in New York. And similarly, neighborhoods have little say in the licensing. Using Portland as an example, I love my beer and neighborhood bars, but certain bars just shouldn't be licensed when the patrons are in fact not those from the neighborhood, but from the outlying areas.

Neighborhoods need a say in the licensing so as to limit the population of bars. Too often the character of a neighborhood is destroyed by their excessive numbers given the neighborhood population.

2012 Challenge Index rankings

The Washington Post's High School Challenge ranking for 2012 is out with little change for Oregon. Corbett Charter and Corbett, oddly enough at the same location, are 2 and 4 respectfully. Last year they were 3 and 16. No other Oregon or Washington school were in the top 20. And only Washington had schools in the top 100 with 4 entries all from Bellevue.

A look at only the 2012 Oregon rankings - Portland's Lincoln High came in third, but way down, compared to the two Corbetts, in the national rankings at 583. Read my post on the 2011 rankings. See too my post on how US News ranked public high schools in 2012.

I really not too sure what one can fully take away from the various rankings. It would take far more analysis than I have the time to do - but these rankings give a sense of comparative analysis, i.e., one can see how a school fared in comparison to another Oregon or say Washington school. And so too with any other school in the nation, but one is not going to come away with an explanation for the differences.

Part of the explanation is the methodology. The US News ranking includes standard test scores where the Post does not. And the Post divides "the number of AP, IB and AICE exams at each school by the number of graduating seniors." Because of a smaller graduating class - a school like Corbett Charter may be ranked higher than a larger school.

But it is clear that the two Corbett high schools are doing something right. And why is Portland Public Schools not doing something right? And why are the two Corbetts so much better, at least in the Washington Post rankings, than other Oregon or even Washington schools?

Don't expect to see any analysis offered by Oregon's education leaders or politicians (redundant?). For whatever reason no discussion, public or otherwise, will be promoted except maybe to push for more bond measures to better house students who are getting shafted on their education.

By the way there is absolutely no evidence supporting a connection between buildings and student excellence. And urban renewal may get a nice hotel in downtown Portland, but it diverts money from public schools. You think maybe the priorities are screwed up?

For your convenience:
AP - Advanced Placement.
IB - International Baccalaureate®
AICE - Cambridge Advanced International Certificate of Education

High School Rankings:
2012 National List.
2012 Oregon List.
2012 Washington List.

2011 National List.
2011 Oregon List.
2011 Washington List.

Chen Guangcheng

The media and China watchers (those looking for China to fail) are falling over themselves promoting the self-described dissident. It matters not whether he should be in the country or not. It seems to matter only that we can brag that we helped him flee his homeland. Frankly, I wonder if China, like Cuba who in 1980 "freed" some of their dissidents, isn't relieved that he has left.

It seems odd to me that he seemed fairly free to use his (or some phone) to call a congressional hearing and he is free to leave the country. He doesn't look shabby or underfed. He was free to be an activist. Free enough to have "self-taught" himself to be a lawyer. He wasn't homeless or in fact jailed. And frankly too I wonder about the veracity of the house arrest, the beatings or even the threats. Although, admittedly after the Bo Xilai corruption scandal, anything seems possible at the local level of governing.

And of course some donor(s), maybe US taxpayers, is, and will be far into the future, contributing to his care and feeding in the US. This will include education for his children which of course will include college and graduate school. Really - what is the likelihood that he or his spouse can support their family in the US? If he wasn't a dissident in China - he would not have been granted a visa.

I haven't seen anything written about how he earned his living in China or whether his wife worked supporting or helping to support the family. Odd too is that the media while fawning over the dissident tell us little about his family. One wonders too just how much of a say his wife had? And what about her? And the children? We know he has more than one child because of the use of the plural "children. What ages or gender?

And let's assume the worst about China that he has been asserting - what about the families - his and his wife's - left in China? How will they fare? Will they be subjected to ill treatment by other Chinese or the government? Will it be the left behind families that pay the price for his freedom? I suspect he cares less.

The media and the US government in fact care next to nothing about this person, and far less about his family. It is a matter of scoring political points against China. It is nothing more than the old capitalism versus socialism (or communism) battle. The Republican conservatives win because they want to argue that the US has snatched him from the throes of those dastardly commies. And the Democratic liberals win because they want to claim the points for the snatch.

The dissident claims to be fighting against "injustice." I wonder how long it will take before the US is tired of hearing about his travails and injustice. It seems to have gone unnoticed that China didn't fight very hard to keep him. Little to none of the usual rhetoric about outside interference in domestic affairs. Maybe with good reason.

He is the ultimate con man.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Good Cholesterol’ doesn't cut heart risk

Just another way the medical community has gone off track in "saving lives." [New York Times]. I been taking cholesterol medicines for decades and it was never enough that my blood test results showed an improvement in bad cholesterol (LDL) levels - the doctors insisted that I had to obtain an appropriate good cholesterol (HDL) level  Of course drugs is the solution.  Now we find that HDL is false measurement.

We need to encourage basic laboratory scientists to figure out where HDL fits in the puzzle — just what exactly is it a marker for.” [Dr. Michael Lauer, director of the division of cardiovascular sciences at the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute].

Maybe that is what should have been done in the first place.

Study on Gay ‘Cure’

It is difficult to imagine that respected psychiatrists could honestly and ethically believe that homosexuality can be cured. That it is a mental disease. But one well known psychiatrist responsible for such a study has apologized. [Dr. Robert L. Spitzer, Noted Psychiatrist, Apologizes for Study on Gay ‘Cure’].

Apparently, according to the NY Times, he was influenced in part by a World Health Organization report that "calls the therapy “a serious threat to the health and well-being — even the lives — of affected people.

Arguably the apology comes a little late - but like they say "better late than never."

Drug generation: baby boomers

That is what CDC is saying in their recommendation for testing for hepatitis C. I find it quite odd that a whole generation is labeled as a drug generation, and we are not talking about marijuana but the injected drugs. That is the CDC's concern - hepatitis C is spread by sharing of needles. But why the alarm? "About 3 percent of baby boomers test positive for the virus, the CDC estimates."

Consider that there is a link between Harris Interactive survey of 1,000 baby boomers and Vertex Pharmaceuticals, which makes one of the hepatitis C medications. The company and the American Gastroenterological Association commissioned the survey. It is this survey that sounds the alarm.

Saving lives is too often a way to promulgate the self-importance of an association and their pharmaceutical sponsors that stand to reap enormous financial gains. It is a means of creating a market for a product.

Erosion of the Constitution

Inch by inch politicians and those in control of government are eroding constitutional rights. All in the name of fighting terrorism. Oddly enough New York has become a leader in this erosion. See my post Bloomberg defends secret surveillanceAnd the president - a liberal Democrat - has done his part to enable the loss of rights.

The president while promising to veto a bill that provided for indefinite detention of American citizens if suspected of terrorism did not in fact veto the bill but only used the veto threat to negotiate. But a federal judge "blocked the government from enforcing the detention provision because it violated the First and Fifth Amendments. Noting that the law also allows detention for those who support terrorists, she said the language was so vague that it could allow journalists writing about terrorists to be locked up. That has a “chilling impact on First Amendment rights.” [A New Attack on the Constitution].

And note this from Chicago 3 charged with terror conspiracy ahead of NATO. Of course Chicago has always been at the forefront of prosecuting protesters. But now "terrorism" gives a new tool to prevent protests.

I am presuming innocence in this story where the arrested were "accused of trying to make Molotov cocktails ahead of the NATO summit." It is argued that some of what was seized as part of the arrest was beer-making equipment. The police had arrested 6 others but released them. Apparently - according to defense attorneys - it was undercover agents that brought Molotov cocktails.

But see another perspective ‘NATO 3’ had targeted Obama campaign HQ, Rahm’s house, police stations, prosecutors say. "'They are domestic terrorists,' said Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez, who added the plans were not idle threats. 'These men were here to hurt people.'” I will be interested in seeing how this plays out.

See this from CNN: Bail set at $1.5 million bail each for 3 accused of planning terror at NATO summit

Comfort stations - strange euphemism

It is a strange story - made even stranger by the fact that it takes place in Palisades Park. Apparently the Japanese government was alerted to a plaque in a park that "is dedicated to women, many Korean, who were sexually enslaved by Japanese soldiers during World War II." Frankly - it is doubtful that more than a few people know about the plaque or understands the significance to the Korean people.

Do a Google search for "comfort stations" and not unexpectedly the results are about toilets. Add "Japan" or "WWII" to the search - then you get to the meat of the story. It is about Japanese slavery of women for sex. And Korea wasn't the only country where the Japanese enslaved women for purposes of sex - not prostitution that implies payment of money for sex..

"An estimated one hundred thousand to four hundred thousand female sex slaves were forced to deliver sexual services to Japanese soldiers, both before and during World War II. They have been variously called "comfort women," "military sex slaves," "MSS," "military comfort women," and -- in Japanese -- "jugun ianfu." This program was approved by the Imperial Conference, which was composed of the emperor, representatives from the armed forces and the main Cabinet ministers. The conference was formed after Japan invaded Manchuria in 1937." [Comfort Women used as sex slaves during World War II  

"The first "comfort houses" were established approximately 1932-MAR during the battle of Shanghai. Following the second Sino-Japanese war of 1937, these houses were installed generally in occupied lands. Approximately 80 to 90% of the "comfort women" came from Korea which was occupied by the Japanese military at the time. Many of the rest were Chinese."

Why in 2012 the Japanese officials determined to seek the removal of the plaque rather than just ignoring it is strange too. From the story it seems that they approached the Palisades Park officials with much of the same arrogance that led the Japanese to become a military aggressor resulting in WWII.

We think, it seems, that there is little difference among Asians - but certainly between the Japanese and Koreans there is a deep animosity that has become only enhanced by debacles like Palisades Park. The story only exposes a terrible WWII event that the world needs to get past. But, it has rekindled efforts to obtain Japanese government acknowledgment of the atrocity.

But as noted in Comfort Women used as sex slaves during World War II, there was another and somewhat similar atrocity beyond the holocaust: "This atrocity by the Japanese government probably represents the largest organized mass rape in recorded history. Rapes probably numbered in excess of ten million. However, in terms of the numbers of women raped, there was at least one other wartime event which involved more women: the rape of German, Polish and even Russian women by Russian soldiers during the final months of World War II in Europe. "

One would have thought that WWII would have been the last war. Humans haven't been good stewards of Earth.

Friday, May 18, 2012

A bill to punish Facebook co-founder - sounds right

"Under their legislation, any American who renounces his or her citizenship for the purpose of avoiding taxes will be punished in two ways: They will be barred from re-entering the U.S., and their future investments in the U.S. will be taxed at a 30 percent rate." [Dem senators introduce bill to punish Facebook co-founder Eduardo Saverin].

This was brought about by the co-founder surrendering his US citizenship to avoid paying "anywhere from $67 million to $100 million in U.S. taxes." Those are capital gain taxes expected to come from Facebook's IPO.

What is his new country? Singapore where there are no capital gains taxes. May he enjoy Singapore without ever setting foot in the US.

"'His name is Larry ... and he's a hero,' sang the kids."

"'I had to tackle the guy off the girl and secure him with my body weight to stop him from hitting on this lady,' said Porter." [TriMet driver saves woman under attack].

He could have driven his bus on by the incident, and probably TriMet would have preferred that. His view: "I'm just a normal guy who did what would've been done." I don't think it would have been done by anyone else.

And for what? Apparently a man was beating a woman over a cellphone. Afterwards she disappears without a "thanks," and leaving the police without cause to arrest the man who was beating her.

Live longer and better: Drink coffee, wine and beer; eat dark chocolate; enjoy sex; and take aspirin

Regular Coffee Drinkers Less Likely To Die Early

Coffee drinking may cut prostate cancer risk 

Raise a glass! Wine's health benefits

Dark Chocolate Is Healthy Chocolate

10 Surprising Health Benefits of Beer

10 Surprising Health Benefits of Sex

Dr Nina Byrnes: The Health Benefits of Aspirin

Thursday, May 17, 2012

It's about time - Class action suit against NY's stop and frisk

"Over the weekend, the police disclosed that they had made more than 200,000 such stops in the first three months of 2012."  [Judge Grants Class-Action Status to Stop-and-Frisk Suit]. That is more than 2,200 people per day are stopped on New York streets. At this rate the police stops will far exceed that of last year's 685,724 stops. [New York Police Release Data Showing Rise in Number of Stops on Streets].

Why care - its New York. It rests on whether such action is a violation of the US Constitution Aren't we protected from the police stopping us as we walk on the streets? If it New York police can do it why not Portland's? Of course, the legality is couched in terms of "a reasonable suspicion of criminal activity" and is justified by crime statistics.

So what is it that determines "a reasonable suspicion?" "The stops must be based on “reasonable suspicion” that the person has a weapon or intends to commit a crime." [Stop and Frisk Policy]. Just how does a police officer form a reasonable suspicion?

Apparently from the data submitted by the ACLU - a dominant factor is being a black or hispanic male. "According to the police, the numbers so far this year show that 54 percent of the people stopped were black, 33 percent were Hispanic, 9 percent were white and 3 percent were Asian. Males made up 93 percent of those stopped, the same as through last March." [NY Times].

There seems to be a correlation between the stops and reduced crime. E.g., there is a substantial reduction in the number of murders. In 2009 there was a low of 491 murders, but in the first 132 days (about 1/3 of the year) of 2012 there has been 129 murders, thus suggesting a possible yearly total of 387. [NY Times]. Rather a dubious claim. Not only is the year not over, it isn't difficult to argue that it is a coincidental statistic without any direct relation to the stop and frisk activity.

The federal judge has it right: the stop and frisk policy is “deeply troubling apathy towards New Yorkers’ most fundamental constitutional rights.” And permitting the class action lawsuit will permit more of those who otherwise could not afford to sue the city to sue by joining the class.

Americans have no greater fear than that of the government and for good reason. This and other activities by the New York police demonstrate just how easy it is to become a police state.

The Columbian view of Portland - perplexed

Me too. At the end of the article, The Columbian has this to say about the Portland commission form of city government: "First, managing a city is too crucial to be put in the hands of amateurs. Professional experts should prevail. Second, by definition a politician is not an expert."


Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Idiotic: Less Meat, Less Global Warming

"Less Meat, Less Global Warming, We Could Be Heroes" - that from the New York Times. How about less procreation, greatly reduced global warming? Of course that assumes that one believes that control of climate is solely within that of humans.

Global warming, natural resources exhaustion and starvation are major problems facing the world that probably can only be solved by population control. But population control is a taboo subject. There is this unjustified sense - and unsaid - that some god will continue to work out these problems for us. One suspects that Earth is working out our problems for us by restarting from scratch.

And of course we have those that cognitive reasoning has failed them. They will solve the world's problems by eating less meat or by eliminating the car or by whatever special interest seems to drive them. Sure eat less meat and the world will be a better place to live. Such crap!!

Food for thought. "The environmental conservation charity World Wildlife Fund (WWF) in a report released on Tuesday said the demand on natural resources has become unsustainable and is putting "tremendous" pressure on the planet's biodiversity."

And more: "The WWF is urging governments to implement more efficient production systems that would reduce human demand for land, water and energy and a change in governmental policy that would measure a country's success beyond its GDP figure."

And even more: "The current U.S.A. population is over 311 million people (311,800,000 in mid-2011) so the United States has the world's third largest population (following China and India)."

"As the world's population is approximately 6.8 billion, the current United States population represents a mere 4.5% of the world's population so about one in every twenty people on the planet is a resident of the United States of America."

Consider that the US growth rate is about .96 and the current population of 311 million is expected to double in about 73 years - 622 million in the US. The world population growth rate is 1.7 - thus the world population will be about 13 billion in 50 years. [See this Wikipedia entry for facts and information.]

But see this from Brookings that sees a slowing in population growth in the US as a negative, that is, economic growth and population growth goes hand in hand. There is a bit of the pyramid economics here.
"While some might welcome slowed population growth, it is nonetheless a worrisome trend for a few reasons. First, the ability of the United States to maintain high and rising standards of living will depend in part on keeping a large share of its population in the workforce. That in turn requires growth to replenish our younger, working-age ranks. Second, those younger workers are crucial for the nation’s ability to provide needed support for a growing older population. And third, population growth itself is a reflection of our society’s optimism about current and future opportunities."
My point, if I haven't lost it somewhere, is that climate change may or may not be the result of human activity, but it is clear that natural resources are limited, and by definition non-renewable, and the ability of the world to feed and care for its population is more than a need to eat less meat. Economic growth is the false prophet.

And when these pie in the sky advocates suggest that you decrease your activity, e.g., eat less meat to stop climate change, you can be assured that they will not. And there will not be enough decrease in one's activity to make a difference when the population continues to grow.

The world's major issue is not just the possibility of climate change, but the fact that we (well future generations) are facing the real possibility of being unable to feed and care for the world's population that is continuing to grow. Arguably, climate change might be Earth's solution.

But I guess if you feel like a hero by eating less meat - by all means go ahead, after all you are only fooling yourself.

Was it worth the postage?

Apparently according to KGW, 68% of the voting eligible didn't think so. It is doubtful that it could be any easier to vote than it is in Oregon. Yet a substantial majority felt it wasn't worth the 45 cents.

One would think that the mayoral election would bring people to their feet - but not likely. The weird in keep Portland weird is that voting is not a thing to do. That is left to others, but the bitching and moaning will still come from the non-voters.

But I understand. There is little incentive to vote and much in the way of despair. We often as a city and as a nation seem lacking any expectation that a vote will have any effect. And rightly so. Real choice is absent from the ballot. Does it really matter whether you vote for Curly, Moe or Larry?

Since we vote by mail, the 'exit' polls are non-existent. There is at least one value from such polls - a glimpse into the profile of the vote. Just who is it that finds themselves in the 32% of those voting? I suspect their demographics would be telling. Would we find that they are only those that have the habit of voting - civic responsibility? Maybe they would be those that vote because of a special interest - not because they necessarily want a great city?

However, contrary to at least one blogger, I didn't see any influence, other than candidates' monetary backing, from old time politicos, unions, etc. The money made campaigning possible, but I didn't see much in the way of the once prevalent mailers. But, I saw Charlie Hales popping up on a site or two while browsing.

I have some doubt about the purported influence of ads. They are mostly negative ads, and I believe the populace is smart enough to grasp that the ads don't reflect the here and now. Do the ads ever accurately state a politician's stance on any issue? And the debates only illustrated the skill in not answering a question or stating a view.

And I can't imagine voting for a particular person or ballot item merely because of an Oregonian endorsement, or that of any of the news media. And, are people really influenced by the likes of former mayor Katz? I had a certain admiration for her style, but my vote isn't so easily influenced.

Choices? Except for mayor, there were few choices, as in boxes to be checked. The list of mayoral candidates that was laughingly long. There were only three that had any chance, and it had nothing to do with money or endorsements. Candidates 4 through ? were not viable, not even to be listed on the nice try list. A look at their statements - those that made the effort - tell the story.

There wasn't any choice, as in reason to check the box. The top three were similar enough that there was zero expectation that any change will occur whoever is elected. It appears that the top two for runoff will be Hales and Jefferson. The big difference in the final analysis? Hales is organized and Jefferson isn't.

There is something to be said though that Nolan didn't wipe out Fritz. It was Nolan that had the money and the backing of the "establishment," whatever that is. Here is one runoff where the money might make the difference.

That runoff will present an interesting snapshot of the role of money in politics. Nolan has it and Fritz doesn't. But Fritz is genuine and Nolan isn't. Fritz represent the candidate that should be running. Nolan represents all that is wrong with politics. One has to question, one of many questions, just why Nolan is running in any event?

But this time next year nothing likely will have changed. Yes - there will be a new cast of characters paid by the city's populace to continue to wear the emperor's clothes and to tell you just how nice they look. Urban renewal will still be in full swing, and that means the developers will still be raping and pillaging Portlandia. Streets will still be in disrepair - only more so. Gang warfare and drug trade will have continued unabated. The city will have continued to turn the keys to the city over to the occupy anarchists. But we have streetcars.

In the final analysis "Keep Portland Weird"" is a cute bumper sticker, but it represents the city that is inching towards being unlivable, except for the drug addled non-working class. "Weird! isn't Working."

Drop by and checkout Portland's Long Term Debt - write it down and come back in 2013 for another view, i.e., if your heart will withstand the sticker shock.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Ah religion: An Iranian rapper's 'blasphemous' song

Religion whether it is Christian or Muslim is an impairment to the acceptance that human rights must be accorded all people. [See Iranian rapper faces death threats and fatwa for 'blasphemous' song.]

WTF: Military personnel selling guns and combat gear to gangs

It appears that morals, ethics, religion have no relevance when people see the opportunity to make a buck. See article Nearly $2M in Guns, Combat Gear Sold to Gangs in the U.S. and foreign countries including China.

Why is sexual orientation a threat?

It seems that it is when spoken about, but not if it is kept quite. Sexual orientation is in fact a unique form of discrimination mostly practiced against males. E.g., if lesbianism was the only sexual orientation at issue - it wouldn't be much of an issue - or so it seems.

Discrimination is a human rights issue: "the right to life and liberty, freedom of thought and expression, and equality before the law." In everyday life, opposition to a different lifestyle manifests itself in employment issues, including political appointments.

Those who suffer discrimination merely because of their race have a difficult problem - they can't hide. But for the most part homosexuals can hide - not that they should but in fact they can. A homosexual can mix and mingle - as long as no one speaks about it. It is part of that don't ask don't tell philosophy.

Sexual orientation - homosexuality - always has been don't ask don't tell. We know, and have always known, that it exists - yet we don't want to know about it - just keep quite. Why? Does it make any qualitative or quantitative difference to know, for example, that the recently deceased Maurice Sendak was gay? Was his writings somehow "gay" and therefore not to be read?

Mr. Sendak came out at the age of 80. He hid, although I suspect not overtly, his sexual orientation from the reading public. His books are characterized as children books - but one can just imagine the row had he been labeled as a homosexual. Why?

Can't it be reasonably argued (from the other side of the coin) that but for his sexual orientation his writings would not have been so well received? Isn't it reasonable to assume that what a person has to offer society has nothing to do with sexual orientation, gender, race, disability, etc?

Federal Judge Vaughn Walker is another example. He came out only after retirement. He was first nominated by President Reagan, but his selection was opposed by some because he was perceived as insensitive to gays and the poor. Subsequently he was re-nominated by President George H.W. Bush and confirmed by the Senate. [Wikipedia]. A conservative Republican? Doesn't sound gay - does it?

Take a look at his biography in the Wikipedia entry. Is there anything that suggests that his individual abilities and intellect were somehow limited or impaired because of his sexual orientation? But if he or Mr. Sendak had been Romney's high school classmate they would have had their Romney "haircut."

Are there really people who will not watch Neil Patrick Harris because of his sexuality? Take a peek at his Wikipedia entry and one sees another very talented actor and intelligent person. Is he any less deserving of the recognition he receives from his performances because he is gay?

And for us older folks how about Rock Hudson who was the preeminent heart throb for most females, but alas, he too was gay. Who would have thought? Well those in the industry knew. The public that didn't know heaped accolades and widely admired him as a movie star. Did his sexuality somehow diminish his abilities?

Why is it an issue only when it is spoken? And doesn't that suggest - no demonstrate - that it is in fact irrelevant?

It is my free speech - not yours

In Virginia a man was rejected for a judgeship position not "because he is gay, but because of his outspokenness on the subject of gay rights." [House of Delegates rejects gay judge Tracy Thorne-Begland]. The Virginia governor has it right though: "discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is not acceptable in state government.”

Imagine this odd concept as noted by the governor: "[C]andidates for judicial vacancies must be considered based solely on their merit, record, aptitude and skill.” Isn't that the basis on which everyone should be judged? Apparently, an idea a bit too futuristic for Virginia's General Assembly.

Human rights: "The basic rights and freedoms to which all humans are entitled, often held to include the right to life and liberty, freedom of thought and expression, and equality before the law."

Monday, May 14, 2012

PPS "found" 100 more grads

Portland Public Schools had a deplorable graduation rate of 59%. So expecting to better that percentage by a recount, they found 100 more graduates raising the rate to a not as nearly deplorable 62%. This puts into perspective:
"Even with the improvement, however, Portland posted the lowest graduation rate among Oregon's 10 largest school districts and a lower rate than some districts with far higher poverty levels including David Douglas, where 68 percent of students graduated in four years. "
Keep pretending that public school system works, better yet keep blaming the students, their family income or lack of funding.