Saturday, June 30, 2012

OLCC says no alcohol impact area

The Alcohol Impact Area (AIA) is one of those items than turns me away from the liberal politicians especially Commissioner Fritz. Their solution to society's problems is either laws restricting a person's basic rights or taxes design to impede people's exercise of their basic rights.

The AIA sought to have OLCC distinguish areas where alcohol - some not all - would not be sold. The rationale is always some attempt to protect people from themselves or because others see their livability is somehow diminished.  See my post originating in 2010.

The do-gooders  take on a prohibition theme whenever alcohol consumption raise their ire. Remember the 18th Amendment to the US Constitution? Passed because organizations like the Women Christian Temperance Union believed "it would protect families, women and children from the effects of abuse of alcohol." [Prohibition].

Now, the city officials like Fritz are whining that the OLCC caused them to spend "Thousands of hours of city time." Fritz:: "We could have used our time, money and resources more effectively had they checked in the beginning of the process." [Oregonian].

No, the problem was bad policy in the first place. There was never a reasonable rationale or nexus between the AIA and the ills it sought to curb. Commissioner Fritz should have used the "[t]housands of hours of city time" for better purposes in the first place.

Save Portland from the Fritzs that seek to save us from ourselves.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

US Supreme Court decisions

Three (of many) alternative resources for US Supreme Court decisions. Lawyers generally use a service that provides fully annotated case law, but these sites are sufficient.

Opinions of the Court. Official site. Cases available in PDF. Not very readable. Pretty much plain vanilla.

LII: Supreme Court Collection. Cornell University Law School. Cases available in PDF, HTML. Far more readable than the cases on the official site. Hyperlinks to referenced subject matter, e.g., First Amendment, and to other cases are included.

FindLaw. The lessor of the three.

I clearly recommend the Cornell University Law School site. And in almost all situations - I recommend that individuals read the source publications rather than rely on local or national news media for their interpretation. In nearly all cases, they have no more ability or skill to read and relate an opinion than any other person with an interest.

While the justices and their law clerks all know how to write - there is no magic, but there is a certain consistency in opinion writing. The written decision is generally fully comprehensible. But there is no short cut to understanding an opinion other than reading it in full. In fact, often the light begins to shine only after reading the dissenting opinion.

And, in cases like the recent ones on healthcare and immigration, an excellent analysis can be found on SCOTUSblog.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Mayor's sledgehammer

TriMet eliminates free student passes and the mayor hits TriMet with fees for benches and shelters. It is clear that the fees proposed by the mayor will produce more real revenue to the city than the elimination of the student free pass. The passes and fees are different dollars. With this sledgehammer the mayor has gotten TriMet's attention.


It was quid pro quo politics where TriMet reneged. Adams: "That’s why I agreed to support the end of TriMet’s Free Rail Zone." However, this is usually back room stuff that never sees the light of day. They clearly underestimated the mayor. But, of all of the things that the city and TriMet might be at odds over - free rides would hardy be my choice. From the response - it seems clear that Portlanders hate TriMet more than Adams.

The mayor notes that "TriMet’s own analysis shows that YouthPass does not actually add to the transit agency’s costs. No new busses, MAX trips, additional routes or drivers are needed to accommodate YouthPass riders."

That is somewhat an imperfect analysis because it is easy to logically extend it further to where nearly everyone rides free.But, if children are in fact riding MAX or buses to get to and from school - then it ought to be free. It seems a small price to pay.

And just how much money is really involved? So far I haven't seen any statistical analysis, but if anyone ventures to produce one I suspect the mayor wins. The Oregonian in an idiotic editorial written by the hall monitor ventures that there are 13,000 school children, yet they didn't distinguish between school children and school children utilizing TriMet.

I am not sure whether my very low opinion of Adams has suddenly peaked or has actually sank to a new low.  But, I am pleasantly surprised at his gumption. Politically he doesn't lose, especially since TriMet is not held high in public estimation.

He got their attention - give him credit for that.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Portland crime stats 6-09

Part 1 Crime Stats ending 6-9-12. Crime statistics tend to be coincidental, that is, there is often no obvious  cause and effect relationship between the stats and events. E.g., for the most part the 2012 stats are up this year - why? Certainly not the weather. The economy? Seems unlikely - if anything we are on the upside of the economy swing.

Also the stats don't tell us how much is gang or drug related. You can pin crime to the neighborhood or specific areas from which one can guess a cause.

Looking at the FBI stats - we know that overall crime rates fell in 2010 compared to 2009. And it is true for the first six months in 2011 compared to that of 2010. Apparently experts are baffled.

Take a peek at CQ Press' City Crime Rankings 2010-2011. Portland the city and metro have comparably low crime rates.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Arizona loses big on immigration law

There is no other way of putting it. The part of the Arizona immigration law that the US Supreme Court left standing is insignificant - they can still check immigration status. The Arizona Governor who disrespectfully wagged her finger at the president was "quick to claim victory on the grounds that 'the heart' of the law – allowing police to ask for immigration papers – is still in place." A reading of the article suggests that there is a very tenuous thread holding it in place. [Supreme court strikes down key parts of Arizona immigration law].

There was in fact little doubt that the US Supreme Court would have put immigration enforcement into the hands of state authorities. It should have never been an issue for the US Supreme Court. Immigration is a clear example of where federal law preempts state law. What we had was Republicans seeking judicial activism.

This court case is more of an example that illustrates the failure of congress and the executive branch to resolve an important issue. There was a positive aspect though - it had a lot of discussion. But in the end - states like Arizona are left with the effects of the failure of the federal government's enforcement of immigration laws.

Bay Area County establishes a correct spending priority

It is an example that needs to be followed by Portland area counties. Rather than sink $30 million of tax funds into a football stadium, Santa Clara County said "they would rather spend the money on teachers than install 'little televisions in the back of stadium seats.'" "We're talking about schoolteachers, whether they get laid off, whether there are 35 kids in a classroom, whether there are seismic retrofits." [County suddenly yanks $30 million in tax funds from San Francisco 49ers stadium].

Drone and privacy concerns - an Oregonian view

The premise of the Oregonian editorial seems to be that if a job is to be created or sustained constitutional rights are to be put aside. A rather strange balancing - jobs vs constitutional rights. And isn't it rather amazing to see a newspaper whose industry's existence is constitutionally based showing little interest in protecting its readers' privacy rights. [Drone development in Northwest poses no privacy threats].

The Oregonian trolls are also rather pathetic in musings over privacy rights with the argument that if you are doing nothing wrong you have nothing to fear. As if there are some universal declaration of what is right or wrong.

More amusing is that these - if you are doing nothing wrong you have nothing to fear - constitutional scholars is that they hide behind their anonymity. Why don't they identify themselves?

It is not clear why the Oregonian took up a made up challenge to jobs. Are jobs created by the "drone" industry in the Northwest at risk because of privacy concerns? And if there are valid privacy concerns should jobs overrule those concerns? Is everything to be justified or not because of a job?

Well I feel protected now knowing that the Oregonian and their trolls have determined that I have nothing to worry about with the proliferation of drones - after all they are job creators.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

The GED - it is not equivalent.

The second part in the Oregonian's three parter Diplomas denied directs attention to the value of the GED - it has little. The series focusing on high school dropout in PPS' largest high school is well done by Betsy Hammond. Much new information.

E.g., this I didn't know: "Portland Public Schools pays for hundreds of students to pursue a General Educational Development certificate, better known as a GED, . . . . " And here is something else that I was unaware of - the effective definition of GED.

The one definition that I have always assumed to be correct is that GED =  general equivalency diploma. I assumed too the it was equivalent to a high school diploma. But Hammond uses the second definition that GED = general educational development. The latter makes the point that, in fact, a GED is not even close to being equivalent to a high school diploma.

But in this part of the series, it seems that that PPS has administratively equated the GED to the high school diploma. They made the GED an easy, "equal" alternative despite the fact that a GED is far from equivalent. Path of least resistance?

Here is another startling conclusion by Hammond: "In Portland's classes of 2010 and 2011, a total of nearly 700 students who sought a high school education got a GED instead. Almost 200 more dropped out while trying to earn a GED, . . . ."

But what did they get with that GED? Certainly not an equivalent high school diploma. "To earn a GED, a student must pass five tests covering reading, math, writing, science and social studies." What GED students earn are "elective credits, not credits toward high school English or math requirements, because the classes do not cover high school-level skills."

The question that begs an answer why offer an apparent valueless "diploma" that places one no better than a dropout?  Hammond notes that "on average, GED recipients fare almost the same in the job market and in life as other high school dropouts." Better than nothing?

Hammond does take note of an individual who took the GED and went on to community college "earning straight A's and aiming to earn industry-recognized certification in video production." This student, with a lot of support, was able to move on with the GED. He is the exception. And arguably too he had "grown" enough to recognize the importance of education and had the temerity to do something about it.

But what is relevant about this student's experience is that he was able just to stop going to school without even a phone call from the school. He assumed that the school system didn't care - and he was correct. Good riddance to bad rubbish?

It seems clear that even those who earn a GED and enter the community college system do so at a disadvantage.  It is reasonable to argue that they will always be one rung or so lower on the success ladder than comparable students with high school diploma.

Not every student can be saved. But an issue not addressed thus far in Hammond's series - the potential effect of vocational education, generally eschewed by today's high school educators, on the drop-out rate. Would it make a difference?

While the superintendent Smith is being schooled by the Oregonian - will she learn or will she continue to be content in her cluelessness?

PPS illusion of success

In part one of the three part Oregonian's Diplomas denied - Betsy Hammond discusses the illusion of success at big high schools. I touched on this three part epic (impressive in quality) the other day, but here is Hammond's conclusion: "Portland Public Schools turns out more than 1,100 dropouts every year, largely because leaders have hidden that rampant failure from those best positioned to prevent it, . . . ."

Now we are talking about PPS - not Oregon's schools. That is 1,100 children who, more likely than not, will see  their earnings impaired because they lack a high school diploma. That will be directly reflected in the state's revenue. One surmises too that the crime rates are linked to low income and lack of high school education.

The school system "hides" the dropout failure, not through some intentional, manipulative effort, but through sheer ignorance that borders on malicious negligence. Students are easily transferred to private alternative schools whose purpose is remedial, but those students are, in effect, dropped off the school's rolls. Out of sight - out of mind.

There is no do over for these students. Yes there is some relief found in obtaining a GED. But it is unlikely to have the same value as a high school diploma. However, for those who wake up to the value of high school education - they can attend community college and put things right. But ordinarily a low wage earner, assuming he or she was able to obtain a job without a high school education, doesn't have.either the money or time to attend even community college.

High school education is a person's first step in self-sufficiency. One can challenge the true value of a high school diploma - but the fact remains it is a prerequisite used by employers even for low wage positions. Yes - it is unlikely that an employer will check on that diploma - but without the basics provided by high school the diploma-less employee will be found out.

A read of the Oregonian's expose, if you will, puts the fault at the feet of PPS. It is not a fault that can shifted to the student, to the parents, student's home life, low income, race, gender, class size or any of the myriad of excuses offered by school administrators and teachers.

E.g., Hammond illustrates just how easy it is for a student to determine for him or herself to leave school. It is clear that accountability is not a PPS attribute. It is rather easy to discern that neither administrators nor teachers give a rat's ass about students. Sure there are those students that teachers care about - those who are doing well and frankly offer little challenge for a teacher who is one merely because of a job description.

Look - I can't add anything of substance to Betsy Hammond's piece. It is well done and demands a reading by all who cares about giving those who are the future of the city and the state a basic education that they need to effectively contribute not only to their own success but to that of Portland and Oregon.

And it is clear too that the state has a role in the failure of the system. Arguably  there is a pervasive attitude in the whole system that whatever the issue - it is somebody else's problem.

After reading part one - it seems to me that these "educators" are just doing a job in the sense of showing up and collecting the pay check. They might well be working at some menial, repetitive job given the professionalism they bring to their work.

I am on to reading parts 2 and 3 - but I suspect that in the end those like superintendent Smith will continue to collect their paychecks and continue doing a dismal job as educators. In Smith's situation, it is being kind to call her clueless.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Facebook defense - no harm no foul

It is Reuters that has the better story on this lawsuit where Facebook [is] to pay $10 million to settle suit. "The lawsuit [...] accused the site of violating users' rights to control the use of their own names, photographs and likenesses, . . . ."

What Facebook did was to facilitate sponsored stories. "A "Sponsored Story" is an advertisement that appears on a member's Facebook page and generally consists of another friend's name, profile picture and an assertion that the person "likes" the advertiser."

Facebook chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg: "the value of a "Sponsored Story" advertisement was at least twice and up to three times the value of a standard Facebook.com ad without a friend endorsement."

According to a KGW carried version "Facebook had argued that the plaintiffs did not show they were hurt by the practice." [This was not found in the originating Reuters story.] But, according to Reuters, the U.S. District Judge found that "the plaintiffs had shown economic injury could occur through Facebook's use of their names, photographs and likenesses." And, that "California has long recognized a right to protect one's name and likeness against appropriation by others for their advantage."

There is a message here - entrusting a corporation to protect your privacy when their economic gain is, or might be, increased by voiding privacy concerns - is naive and downright foolish. If there is a dollar to be earned - they will sell you and your privacy concerns down the river.

Don't expect social networking companies to protect your constitutional rights against warrantless intrusions by governments.

Diplomas denied: A three parter from the Oregonian

The Oregonian fails as a newspaper whether viewed as a local or state paper - for the most part, it doesn't serve either well. But there are exceptions - one bright star in the Oregonian sky is Betsy Hammond their education reporter. Her work is always quality ranking up there with others nationally. I am talking about New York Times and Washington Post.

The Oregonian via Betsy Hammond has done a three part series on Portland Public Schools - Diplomas denied: How Portland's school leaders hide the dropout problem. I just started reading the first part Portland's high dropout rate reveals illusion of success at big high schools (Diplomas denied, Part 1).

Here is a little gem: "Smith [Superintendent Carole Smith] said she was unaware that a quarter of students leave their regular high school for another option."

Here is another: "The single biggest factor behind the sky-high dropout rate? Oregon's largest school district shuffles struggling students by the hundreds into a network of low-profile, mostly unaccountable alternative schools." What are the "alternative schools?

Like I say - I just started reading the series, but I suspect that at the end I will be wondering why it took a newspaper reporter to expose what has to be some level of incompetence in PPS administration. E.g., the superintendent should have known "that a quarter of students leave their regular high school for another option."

The PPS administration should have known the why that "more than 1,100 students a year drop out of the district’s high schools." They should have done what Betsy Hammond did - "tracked all 7,700 students in the classes of 2010 and 2011." She merely used their data and followed through with the analysis.

It is pretty much a given that without a high school diploma - a person's earning ability is much lower. It is a lifelong lowered income for the individuals. That will be directly reflected in the local and state economy.

But one wonders what the end result will be from Betsy Hammond's analysis? This is a city and state that is more likely to establish a committee or seek some consultant firm that will tell them what they want to hear. Thus, a year from now - the story will be the same.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Le Mans - the driver's view

If one is at all interested in the racing of powerful cars - then the two videos embedded in this article are a must view: Watch a night lap at Le Mans in an Audi R18 e-tron.

Man's inhumanity

Trust is an elusive attribute. The failure of those once trusted often represents man's inhumanity to man. Take a peek at this sampling from today's news media.

'Trusted friend' embezzles at least $166,300, pushes Portland company to brink of bankruptcy

Case of Portland couple flags financial abuse of elders

Disabled vets increasingly cheated by fund managers

Disabled Castro Valley woman victimized twice

Who can you trust?

EPA ‘drones’ - a rumor

The original story had the EPA using drones in surveillance activities. I jumped on the story as wrongful invasion of privacy by the government. It turns out to be like that situation where you get a group of people together and you tell one person a secret and then it gets passed on to the next. At end, the secret is virtually unrecognizable by the original secret teller. [Reining in the rumors about EPA ‘drones’].

However, "[f]or more than a decade, EPA inspectors have flown over farmland in small private planes — the traditional kind of aircraft, with people inside them. The inspectors are looking for clean-water violations, like dirty runoff or manure dumped into a stream."

But while the story gained followers because of the use of drones - it is still the same story of concern over government intrusion whether it is drones or small airplanes. "“It is truly an invasion of privacy,” said Chuck Folken, who runs a farm and cattle feedlot in Leigh, Neb. Farmers worry about photos of private homes and back yards winding up in government files. “We don’t need our own government . . . flying over us, taking pictures of us, telling us what we’re doing wrong.”"

That is the story that is being missed - government's increasing intrusion into everything that was once considered personal or private. In this particular case, the intrusion while being rejected by some is legal. And  superficially, it appears to be a legitimate use of government power. So too is the fear of government intrusion legitimate.

Why does Saudi Arabia need 600 - 800 German tanks?

Arguably, because they have the money to spend. It would seem 10 billion Euros [12.63700 billion U.S. dollars] of oil money would be better spent. The arms sales never cease. [Germany in €10-billion tank deal with Saudis]

The map is from the CIA World FactBook. See this list of Muslim countries - being Muslim is only the start of the conversation. Iran and Iraq are Shia Muslim, and Saudia Arabia is Sunni Muslim.

From the map - Saudi Arabia would only have Iran, and possibly Iraq, to fear. Or, is there enough potential unrest within Saudi Arabia that offers a justification?

Leftist leader calls for $50,548 a month income cap

Before anyone starts with anti-Obama rhetoric - it is Germany. 100% tax is how the cap is to be applied. "If there is any additional income beyond that, then it just goes into influencing political decisions through bribery – or destructive financial speculation." [Left leader calls for 40k a month income cap].

Why? This is the best part - according to Katja Kipping. leader of Germany's socialist Left party ". . . because beyond that point, "there's no additional life enjoyment anyway."

Even for leftist - it seems like a radical concept - a strange derivation on the redistribution of wealth. It hardly seems like a Marxist idea. It makes no economical sense. Talk about a flight of capital. Thus, it is not likely to garner any support, except maybe from her own party.

The article used 40,000 Euros - I made the conversion to $50,548. An annual sum would be $606,576. Now I would agree that it does seem that there is a sum of money that beyond which there is little, if any, contribution to life enjoyment. But it isn't the same mark for everyone.

But there is another side to the coin. What is often seen as wasteful personal spending - the stories about multiple houses, cars, etc abound - that spending, although possibly better used, goes to others as their income.

Personal income is just that - personal.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Neanderthals and cave art

Maybe the Neanderthals were not so dumb. "Until recently, archaeologists usually saw Neanderthals as incapable of creating artistic works much beyond simple abstract markings and personal ornamentation." [New Dating Puts Cave Art in the Age of Neanderthals].

Vagina and vasectomy - odd censorship in Michigan

Whatever happened in Michigan that seemingly changed what I thought was a state with somewhat liberal, educated, reasonable and rational people? The state legislators are prohibited from using the word vagina - really? And they are prevented from proposing a vasectomy ban. See Vaginagate: US politician banned for saying 'vagina' in abortion bill debate.

See too My vagina monologue: what Michigan GOP lawmakers didn't want to know by Representative Lisa Brown. Clearly Michigan politicians have taken a giant leap backwards.

Pope's bull

Checkout this great political, Luckovich cartoon: Papal bull. For the non-Catholics: "papal bull - a formal proclamation issued by the pope (usually written in antiquated characters and sealed with a leaden bulla)."

The summer's canary in a coal mine?

From the Police Bureau's Press Releases: "Portland Police Investigating Two Assaults in Laurelhurst Park." And see this from the Oregonian: Portland police shorten hours at Laurelhurst Park after reports of group of teen boys attacking others.

One surmises that the police and park rangers will be busy this summer.

PPS administration is top-heavy? It is all in the definition.

PolitiFact has one jump a couple of hoops before they get to the meat of the question. In the initial lead-in article the question was "Does Portland Public Schools' central administration make up less than 4 percent of staff?  The final answer is yes - with clarification.

From the initial post one is taken to the next step with this link: "Is Portland Public Schools administration top-heavy?" Now that is the better question. From the Truth-O-Meter located nearby a same headline shows "mostly true," so it seems the answer is yes - it is top-heavy. But it isn't. PolitiFact has assumed the PPS's defense as the claim to be examined rather than whether the administration is top-heavy.

The clarification that PolitiFact offers isn't. It ought to have been an explanation why PolitiFact gave up the challenged to the top-heaviness of the PPS administrative staff. By essentially reframing the question - not only does PolitiFact accept PPS' defense, it also agrees to PPS's definition of "administration." Thus, rather than using a common sense definition of "administration," PolitiFact permits PPS to substitute "central support" instead.

Thus, it is not surprising that PolitiFact finds the claim mostly true. That is likely to happen when journalists let the responder pose both the question and response. Arguably, it appears from the article that PolitiFact believes that the administrative staff is top-heavy. But we will never know that from PolitiFact, because apparently they were not willing to do some journalistic digging nor define for themselves what constitutes "administrative staff."

'Blanketbooster' - a new invention? Doesn't seem likely.

KGW and the Oregonian both had brief posts essentially lauding the product - it holds the bed covers off of your legs. That can be important for someone that is a diabetic because the lower extremities become very sensitive.

But a reader in the Oregonian pointed out that this is not a new product and certainly not a new idea. He or she provided the link to Posey Bed Cradle being sold on CaregiversProducts.com. The fact that something similar is already being sold casts doubt on availability of a patent. See this from Posey.

Here too is a 2007 page that has several links on it to similar products. And how did I find it? Google "hold blanket off feet."  I suspect too that many have come up with similar solutions.

Necessity is the mother of invention. I seem to remember a device that was something like a model railroad train tunnel. And that was a very long time ago.

Doesn't this cast doubt on the claims of the "inventor" that it is allegedly his idea originating from his solution to his problem? Isn't it doubtful that he has in fact a patent? Maybe his claim to fame is that filed for the patent.

But take a quick peek at "What kinds of inventions can be patented" from the World Intellectual Property Organization FAQs. The information there doesn't seem to support a patent claim.
"An invention must, in general, fulfill the following conditions to be protected by a patent. It must be of practical use; it must show an element of novelty, that is, some new characteristic which is not known in the body of existing knowledge in its technical field. This body of existing knowledge is called " prior art". The invention must show an inventive step which could not be deduced by a person with average knowledge of the technical field. Finally, its subject matter must be accepted as "patentable" under law. In many countries, scientific theories, mathematical methods, plant or animal varieties, discoveries of natural substances, commercial methods, or methods for medical treatment (as opposed to medical products) are generally not patentable."

Friday, June 15, 2012

Gang charts and mapping

A Jack Bog's Blog post has a chart - Gang shootings 1987 - 2012, a Gang Activity Map 1-1-12 through 4-30-12 (4 complete months). It is unclear where either item originated, that is, who first published this, for what purpose, or what, if any, documentation might have accompanied the chart or map.

It does not seem that either the chart or map was for public publication, but that doesn't necessary mean that someone is trying to hide something. E.g., the gang shooting chart might have accompanied a lecture or was part of a publication that explained the full implication. Thus, as seen in the blog post, one is not privy to the definition of a gang related shooting used in constructing the chart, nor whether that definition has remained constant over time.

Thus, if the definition has not remained constant - the rise and fall of gang shootings loses relevance. And of course, we will have to wait until next year to see the potential grim total for 2012.

And the gang activity map has the same problems as the chart, e.g., why was it constructed? The map explicitly states that it is not for public consumption. And as presented, its usefulness is at best only for generalizations. It contains no ability for the viewer to zoom in or out for analysis. E.g., is that the Pearl District with the high gang activity? I suspect that if I could zoom in I would see that it is really Old Town or some other area.

But what it really interesting about the map is the number of "events" occurring over 4 months of activity - a period of relatively cold and record-breaking wetness where crime is thought to be low. Arguably no matter how this map is viewed  - there is a frightening excess of gang activity.

A third item is in the post comments (by Bojack himself) that contained a link to his earlier post that linked MAX's Green Line and gang activity. One particular commentor seemed to doubt the MAX - crime linkage. But throughout my 8 years or so in Portland - it seems clear that MAX and crime are linked.

Having lived in Old Town for about 6 of those years and being active in public safety efforts - MAX and crime was linked in Old Town, especially drug trafficking  But it doesn't necessarily follow that MAX causes crime. However, the linkage ought to be acknowledged and factored in the design of the system, especially when the MAX system is expanded.

Another possible oddity about the map is that it appears that gang activity is not restricted in area, and the "events" appear to happen in other than low income parts of the city. My point - is that one cannot from this map come to the conclusion that gang activity occurs only in low income areas and where it does occur is along the MAX lines.

The question might be - would 24/7 police presence or the elimination of the line or particular stops stop the gang activity?

Club 2012: Black parents who made sure their sons succeeded in school

Club 2012 - it is a Washington Post story - not a post. There is a journalist difference. It describes what happens when parents become involved in their children's education. "100 percent graduation rate, 92 percent enrollment in Advanced Placement classes, a cumulative 3.7 GPA and a combined $1.3 million in college scholarships."

The basic message to their children:

"Never be embarrassed by your good grades or how hard you work. Don’t make excuses. And know that your parents are behind you.

We want you to succeed more than we want to breathe,” he said, gazing down at his son and all the other young adults he helped succeed. “That’s just the definition of being a parent.

It is summer - Brewtruc in SF and growler deliveries to the home in PDX

Beer drinking seems to bring out innovation, in beer consumption. In San Francisco they have a brew truck - a converted school bus that operates, for the most part, as a traveling bar.

In Portland - at least if you are within the area of home delivery for either of the two stores of Old Town Pizza - you can have your pizza delivered with beer. The flyer I received touts their tradition of delivery by bikes - so now they deliver beer by bike.

If you live in the Pearl District, there is an Old Town Pizza conveniently located in Old Town. You could walk there if you chose, but a delivery is relatively quick. Old Town makes the best pizza.

Old Town has their own brewery. The delivery is their beer in just the growlers - 2 is the limit if the order is between 4 p.m. and 7 p.m.. Nothing after 7, but if before 4 - the limit is 10 growlers. I am not sure why the licensing limits. Of course it is their beer - maybe that makes a difference in licensing. Nothing on prices.

If you are interested - this list shows that Oregon consumes 30.6 gallons per year per person. Oregon is not number one, far from it, but it leads California and Washington.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Bonobo's genetic code

Apparently there is little genetic difference (about 1.3%) among humans, chimpanzees and bonobos. What does this study of the genetics of bonobos mean? The last common ancestor between chimpanzees and bonobos is about million years ago. Add humans and the last common ancestor of all three is about 4 to 5 million years ago. [BBC News - Bonobo's genetic code laid bare].

See this from the Bonobo Conservation Initiative: "Bonobos and people share more than 98% of the same genetic make-up (DNA). Bonobos and their cousins the chimpanzees, are more closely related genetically to us than they are to gorillas! But, like gorillas, they dwell only in the equatorial forests of central Africa, the cradle of humanity itself."

How can one deny evolution?

Women medical doctors are paid less

The story fairly well establishes it as a fact - but why are women paid less? And by less we are talking $12,000. The why is not addressed except to suggest that it might be that women are not as aggressive as men in their salary demands. Isn't that a stereotype?

Of course keeping women's salaries lower provides more for the men's salaries. And I wonder if the fact that there are more men in leadership position makes a difference in who gets the most pay? Isn't that discrimination without cause?

The other side of the coin might be whether men are over paid. Maybe this is because men have historically seen as supporting a family. Long ago I worked at IBM and as a married man I received more money than my single co-workers. Those were the days too of keeping one's salary a secret. But, it seemed then as it does now that a person's pay ought to be based on his or her contribution.

I wonder what would happen if the women doctors associated themselves with other women doctors and demanded equal pay? Of course that would be labeled as socialism or communism.

Homophobia? Oh yes!.

Gay Republican presidential candidate Fred Karger gets a rough welcome in southern Utah | The Ticket

Parents kill daughter's pimp?

Police say yes - they say no. It is one of those stories that almost, not quite, but nearly so, that one sees the justice in the killing.

Catholic church continues to avoid responsibility for child sex abuse by their priests

The Church is fighting in the state legislatures any easing of the statute of limitations for reporting sexual molestation. Arguably they understand that the statute of limitation laws, essentially prevention of lawsuits after a specified period of time, prevents exposure of the gravity of the Church's sin against humanity. [Sex Abuse Statutes of Limitation Stir Battle].

If those laws were loosen - the Church knows that what we have seen in the press is but the tip of the iceberg. Of course - for them it is really a monetary issue - not a moral one. They have spent about $2.5 billion "on legal fees, settlements and prevention programs relating to child sexual abuse . . . ."

Have I missed a point by those who tout the Bible as establishing god's opposition to homosexuals that it is okay for god's representatives on earth to sexually molest children? Surely the sins of the Church is as great if not greater than those that god punished in the Bible.

I wonder what theological ethicians have to say about the Church's cover-up and efforts to protect the Church's economic bottom-line? Is child sexual molestation divinely inspired or approved? Isn't it immoral to molest children? Isn't it immoral as well to avoid responsibility for that conduct?

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Horror story - sexual predation

"“Basically, like, I was his girlfriend,” the witness said, adding: “It freaked me out extremely bad.”" This from a victim of Sandusky's predation - he was 13 when Sandusky started his grooming of this victim. [American Horror Story].

The story is much more than the terrible experiences of his victims. It is a story about predation - sexual or otherwise - and it is about those who chose to look the other way. Cognitive dissonance: “Jerry would never do anything inappropriate.” Adding, “I had the utmost respect for Jerry.” [Wrestling coach]. But at the same time "[i]t was an open joke in Penn State football circles that you shouldn’t drop your soap in the shower when Jerry was around.]"

It a Maureen Dowd column that generally has a humorous take on issues - but there is no humor here. If one is unaware of the story - she gives a good sampling of what makes it so horrendous. A person using a position of power and influence preying on the vulnerable for his own satisfaction, in this case, sexual satisfaction. But worst - those around him "knew" and didn't say a word until finally someone spoke up.

Sandusky's defense attorneys have a new take on the Twinkies defense (a myth) - personality disorder. It is another means of blaming some one or thing for one's actions. The perpetrator becomes the victim. But there is something worth noting about the defense attorneys' approach to the trial - they didn't seek another trial venue.

While one would suspect that the prejudice against Sandusky would be high in the local community thus making a jury composition with people ordinarily more likely than not highly prejudicial. But arguably, somewhat like the jury in O.J. Simpson case, the jury might well be looking to absolve the local well known and once respected Sandusky. People will not want to believe that this is their Jerry Sandusky, and if it is, some external factor must have caused his mental capacity to be diminished.

Thus if tried in some other venue - it would be unlikely that trial would occur. There would be no cognitive dissonance in another community.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Take a peek at the Daily chart: Fun with pensions

It is from The Economist. Compare and contrast countries like Greece, Japan, Italy and Hungry with the US, Sweden, Switzerland, and Denmark.

It is a start: IRS Denial of Tax Exempt Status

Bloomberg carries the story. While it applies to only a small non-profit - it ought to extend to the larger entities and ought to serve as a warning to the religions like the Catholic church that has entered the political fray with both feet and pocketbook.

The IRS decision on the non-profit contains the rationale appropriate to all non-profit organizations tax exempt. “You are not operated primarily to promote social welfare because your activities are conducted primarily for the benefit of a political party and a private group of individuals, rather than the community as a whole.”

The key is whether the activity is primary political. See this from the IRS. See too Wikipedia. And this 2006 Washington Post story: Ohio Churches' Political Activities Challenged  For fun see this argument that IRS restrictions are unconstitutional limits on free speech by the Heal Our Land Ministries. If one took their argument to its logical conclusion no one would pay taxes.

Tax exemption doesn't apply merely because formal organizing documents state a non-political purpose - it is the conduct that is a measure of exemption.

Arts study released coincides with $35 per person tax requests

"The study found that the regional nonprofit arts and culture industry generates $253 million in annual economic activity. It also revealed that is supports 8,529 regional jobs and returns $21 million in revenue to state, regional and local governments." [Arts study released as City Council ponders tax].

It is not an objective study. "It is a national economic impact study conducted in 182 communities nationwide by Americans for the Arts, with local support from the Regional Arts & Culture Council (RACC) and Business for Culture & the Arts (BCA)"

If it is such an economic activity and jobs generator - why do they need to tax (subsidizing themselves with public dollars) individuals who are unlikely, or even care to, ever to take advantage of the "arts." See my earlier rant.

Throughout the ages "arts" have traditionally been sponsored by the wealthier segment of society for their own enjoyment. They already receive tax-free benefits of non-profits plus city, state and federal dollars. I don't expect you to pay for my "art" enjoyment, e.g., the car shows I go to - why should I pay for your "art" enjoyment, e.g, the Portland Opera?

Let the people who enjoy the "arts" pay for it. Keep the schools focused on preparing its students for being self sustaining, i.e., work.

Like I said before: WTF - $35 per person tax.

It is an odd relationship - Germany and Israel - isn't it time to move pass the guilt?

Arguably - pushed by Holocaust guilt - the Germans are, and have been, selling nuclear weapons capable submarines to Israel. Yes they are on the Mediterranean Sea, but Israel, according to the CIA World Factbook, is slightly larger in area than the state of New Jersey; population is a little more than 7.5 million.

According to this article Germany Sells Israel Nuclear-Armed Submarines "Israel now has three, with a fouth (sic) and fifth on the way and sixth in the pipeline by 2017.  Sale of up to nine submarines is contemplated by both sides."

Isn't this just one example of excessive arming - nuclear weapon proliferation? Can we always trust Israel not to be the aggressor? But see BBC News - Analysis: How Israel might strike at Iran.

An interesting article is found on this blog: "Tikun Olam, one of the earliest liberal Jewish blogs, since February, 2003.  It focuses on Israeli-Palestinian peace and includes commentary on U.S. politics and human rights."

In its post about the submarines being sold to Israel by Germany - the need for Israel to have this nuclear weapons capability is questioned. The question posed and answered: "[W]ho in the Middle East has the power to mount such an attack against Israel?  No one."

The blog makes this point: "Namely, that a nuclear-weapons-enabled Israel has no reason to compromise either with its neighbors or with its allies on any major issues like ending Occupation, returning to 1967 borders, etc.  Just as North Korea’s nukes have enabled it to maintain a surprisingly belligerent posture towards its enemies and even its Chinese friends, Israel too can thumb its nose at anyone asking it to make concessions it isn’t prepared to make."

And this too from the blog post: "There is another macabre irony in Germany’s sale of these weapons to Israel.  The state which inflicted the Holocaust on the Jewish people and incinerated 6 million of them in the ovens of Poland, has now dealt Israel the ability to incinerate any Arab country so bold as to stand in the way of Israeli hegemony over its little slice of the Middle East."

Finally, I submit that Israel is becoming more like the WWII Germany than it would like to admit. See this article: "West Bank theatre pays price for freedom" as but one example of Israel "police state" tactics against non-Jews on the West Bank.

Nuclear weapons - divinely inspired?

Sunday, June 10, 2012

A great commercial for Brammo electric bike, but the making of the commercial is even better.

The Brammo Empulse R is motorbike (electric motor that is) that is a further indication that electric vehicles can be everything that a gasoline powered vehicle can be - except make that great sound. Going zero to sixty in 5 seconds or so without making a sound is disconcerting. There is something about the sound and vibration that a gasoline motor makes - it makes the ride complete. See the videos embedded in this article: Brammo Empulse R commercial calms our cravings, get two thumbs up.

It is an Ashland, Oregon company.

WTF - a $35 income tax for arts?

It isn't clear to me that arts ought to be the public's funding responsibility. You will have great difficulty in connecting "art" to any benefit that I, or society for that matter, might receive by subsidizing the arts. It ought to be a private cause supported by donations. It is not a matter for public schools.

"The network's measure, estimated to raise about $12 million a year, would fund art and music teachers in Portland elementary schools. It would also fund grants to organizations such as the Oregon Symphony, Portland Center Stage and the Portland Opera." [Proposed Portland arts tax could compete with schools and libraries].

If the Oregon Symphony, Portland Center Stage and the Portland Opera cannot be self-supporting - tough. It they stopped in their tracks today - the mass of people would be unaffected.

When public schools raise themselves out of the low depths in education - then maybe they can look to the public for art and music funding in the classroom. Their efforts might be better directed to re-establishing vocational education rather than assuming that everyone can, needs or wants to go to college.

There is no rationale to explain this tax.

It never dawns on government to stop spending

It is rather ironic that cities like Portland and states like Oregon that by pushing alternatives to gasoline powered vehicles, the gasoline tax revenues would fall. But now that the gasoline tax revenues are decreasing - the only concern is find other ways to tax.

Now ODOT is looking to more government intrusion as a means of taxing by the mile driven rather than gas consumed. [Instead of gas taxes, ODOT explores fees based on miles driven]. Maybe stop spending?

Read the article. If you are not concerned with the ability of government to further track your movements . . . . 

The Columbia River Crossing: If it were not so sad and costly - it might be laughable

Seven years and it is still a farce. The architectural design itself has been farcical. The whole process has been based upon a process that money, poor architectural design, and opposition by the FAA, Coast Guard, and river users will not deter the building of this $3 billion plus bridge.

The latest installment in the coverage by the Oregonian (Jeff Manning) - really an updated earlier article - sets the stage for this farce: "In a 2004 survey of Columbia River users and again in a 2006 Coast Guard public hearing, the river users said a new I-5 span needed to be 100 to125 feet tall for them to sail underneath." But the CRC people stayed with 95 feet.

Here it is in 2012 and that is still a major issue. It is like they just discovered this issue.

Resources:

Privatizing Oregon's medicaid - it is going to cost you

The good doctor Kitzhaber (with legislative approval) is turning over "the state's Medicaid-funded Oregon Health Plan to beefed-up managed care groups called coordinated care organizations." (CCO). I admit that I am unclear how this privatization benefits Oregon citizens needing medicaid. But, privatization does not necessarily (or ever) result in lower costs, maybe though increased efficiency.

But it doesn't look good from the gitgo. The two sides don't even seem to understand how to get there from here. See this from Nick Budnick's article: "New health care groups say Oregon's reforms could sputter without more cash." Apparently the coordinated care organizations  feel they have been sucker-punched when they heard the word from the good doctor - no new funds.

""We're stunned," said Janet Meyer,  interim CEO of a consortium of Portland-area hospitals and other providers called the Tri-County Medicaid Collaborative.  "That wasn't the impression we had been given throughout the process."

"Impression?" Really!

"But the new groups simply have to be more creative, says Oregon Health Authority Director Bruce Goldberg, who is overseeing the reforms. "There are no additional dollars," he said. "

It is essentially a demo project by the feds and state, and it can't go unnoticed that the federal and state administrations are Democratic. If it goes well the Democrats will point with pride, but if it doesn't . . . . And if god forbid the Republicans gain complete control - president and congress - what then?

Arguably, one might guess that Republicans would favor privatization - but they are more against anything they can label welfare or socialism.

Here is the pitch to the Oregon Health Plan members. While it seems rational and reasonable - eliminate inefficiencies and lower costs - why does it take privatization to eliminate or at least reduce inefficiencies? And does it necessarily follow that reduction of inefficiencies lowers costs?

One suspects that to save this project - the good doctor will find new funds to save his baby.

Resources:

Oregon Health Plan - Wikipedia.
Gov. John Kitzhaber wants to give Oregon Health Plan a boost with better, less costly care (April 2011).
Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber announces how federal dollars will help Coordinated Care Organization
One Out-of-State Organization Questions Becoming a Coordinated Care Organization
The Lund Report  

Ah religion - Myanmar riots

Aren't religions professors of non-violence? See this from Myanmar (was Burma). "Official accounts blamed the rioting in Maungdaw and Buthidaung townships on 1,000 "terrorists", but residents' accounts made clear they were Muslims, apparently retaliating for the June 3 lynching of 10 Muslims by a crowd of 300 Buddhists.

The mob had been inflamed by the rape and murder last month of a Buddhist girl, allegedly by three Muslim men."

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Thanks Oregonian for highlighting the 2012 Academic Achievers

Academic achievers - sometimes it seems like achievement is something not for Portland or Oregon. Although not so obvious on-line - it was front page stuff on the print copy I saw Saturday. While the newspaper presents a few of the achievers the rest can be seen by accessing their database. The Oregonian too has developed and maintained a pretty decent database on Oregon schools. .

The two major stories were Academic Achievers 2012: Meet the Portland area's best and brightest and Academic Achievers 2012: David Nguyen, Clark County's only Gates Millennium Scholar, is a standout in his second language.

But you know - it isn't such that the school system or the individual school, can take the credit. I give you two examples.

Century High's Stephanie Chen excels in arts, math, cross-country: "Her parents -- father, Bao Chen, is an engineer and her mother, Wei Zhu, is a former nurse -- value education, and she always had to finish her homework before heading outside to play."

David Nguyen, Clark County's only Gates Millennium Scholar, is a standout in his second language: "Nguyen's family encouraged him to apply for the scholarship, and Nguyen gives the most credit to his parents for his academic success. He grew up in a strict household, with both parents urging him to excel at academics."

Success in school is not class size, or English as the native language, or whatever one's pet factor is for success - it is about motivation - mostly from the home. I was fortunate to be able to send my son to private schools - k-12 - all parents, teachers and students had high expectations of themselves and the schools. It paid off.

One only passes through the primary and secondary educational system once - there are no do-overs. You can go to college any time. Graduation from high school ought to mean that one is best prepared for success. Sadly it seems that it is only for a few.

Gardens of the 50s

The green and sustainable folks somehow see gardening as planet saving - not a hobby or some weekend thing to do. We are talking food not flowers. These folks apparently believe that small gardens or even commune type gardens will feed significant numbers. Remember communes and the hippies?

I knew people who lived on communes in the hippie era - suffice to say that didn't last long. Communes in California were too often formed and led by some charismatic cult-like figure who of course made all the rules and benefited the most. Free sex went hand in hand with the movement. But it seems that people quickly grew tired of planting and harvesting the food for others.

I come from the WWII generation where during the war growing your own food was more like a necessity. Canning food was common place - think Mason jars. During the war food was rationed - it made sense economically and from a consumption need to grow a certain amount of your own food. But then, like today - land wasn't that available to the masses. Unless you lived in a house with a yard - unlikely were you to plant vegetables or whatever.

But the immediate post-war - before the day of the supermarkets - era ended the need for growing for own consumption. There were many small grocery markets and bakeries that supplied consumption needs. And they were complete - no specialization. The local store would have fresh beef, pork and poultry - and they delivered at no or small extra cost. They fulfilled all grocery needs without leaving your home. Dairies (real ones) delivered milk, cream, etc. to your front door.

In addition there were the small trucks that came by selling items like baked goods (the cinnamon rolls were so great) and fresh vegetables. There was little reason to go the store - but there were more than just one grocery store. Neighborhoods were complete - containing all the stores except clothing but including bars. The downtown center of the cities were located most of the restaurants, department stores (think Sears), clothing, churches, etc.

Checks or cash - no credit cards. No air travel to speak of. Gas 25 cents a gallon. Candy bars and soda 5 cents. Chain stores were virtually non-existent. Local people operating local stores. The good ole days? Yeah - but they were short lived.

Then came the supermarkets. Their ability to buy in large quantities and price, even at a loss, products much lower than the neighborhood stores left the latter unable to compete and less attractive to the booming number of families. Cheap gas made the trips to the bigger stores cost effective.

Growing your own food became a burden and not cost effective - it became a hobby rather than a necessity. And it remains that way today. Supermarket chains have continued their pricing advantage and produce all of ones daily food needs at a very low profit margin per item - it is the volume where the profits are derived.

But today the cost of getting to and back from the supermarket is not cost insignificant. And even if were - the ease of getting to the store is very burdensome on lower income people who may not even have a car. The trick may be to get the stores that have volume competitive advantages to locate a smaller store in those areas that they ordinarily would not site.

While it doesn't seem that locating a small store would maintain the same prices as the larger stores - it does seem that they would be more than price competitive with the so called convenience stores. And it doesn't seem that same variety of products could be maintained at the smaller stores as available at the larger store - but so what?

If the city government is concerned with the welfare of its citizens and residents - then financial incentives for locating a smaller version of the larger store might be better applied than those for a boutique hotel downtown Portland.

But I see no future in attempting to site stores like that in New Columbia. They have no experience or know how to establish anything other than a convenience store. Granted it may not possible to get a Safeway or Fred Meyer to take on such a task - but it would be interesting to know whether any studies or efforts have been made in this regard.

Friday, June 8, 2012

'America's Got Talent' singer war hero fraud and general a-hole

'America's Got Talent' singer admits to claiming military medals he didn't earn - U.S. - Stripes:

Campaign funding - an electability factor?

Almost is a 'my dad can whip your dad' sense - who is raising the most money seems to be touted as a factor of electability. It is however a sign of denigration of out electoral system as well as blatant acknowledgment of corruption in the system. [See Romney Campaign Raised More Than Obama’s in May].

Surveillance cameras in Old Town and . . . .

Having lived there for a few years, it is hard to deny the potential usefulness of police surveillance in Old Town. But cameras as the surveillance tool is too far. While I would possibly admit that the costs of establishing a police beat, i.e., walking policemen out of their cars, might be more than that of cameras - cameras are too intrusive without control over the data collection. [Council approves surveillance cameras].

But Commissioner Fritz had the right idea and she deserves credit for not trading her vote. She had asked for annual reports to the council. What could be anymore correct? Why would any council member object to such a simple request? Not one other member supported her request.

I can't wait for the first instance of an arrest made on the basis of surveillance cameras.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Is Pleasure a Sin?

It is if you are a rabid Catholic. Of course it is nonsense perpetrated by old and out of touch men that claim some divinely inspired right to dictate how we as Catholics, and others too, are to live. In an inquisitional manner the Church has started attacking nuns. However, one particularly positive item coming from the attack is a renewed interest in the book "Just Love: a Framework for Christian Sexual Ethics" by Sister Farley.

A great read is the New York Times article by Maureen Dowd: Is Pleasure a Sin? It is about the Sister's somewhat old book (2006) "Just Love: a Framework for Christian Sexual Ethics" that presents more of a reasonable, rational and ethical view of sex. The main argument, according to the NY Times, is that justice needs to govern relationships. "In the interest of justice to oneself, she [Sister Farley] contends that 'self-pleasuring' needs “to be moved out of the realm of taboo morality.”

Who is this nun? She isn't the like the nuns that with a wooden ruler smacked the hands of myself and others in grade school in the 50s, not that we didn't deserve it. See this from the NY Times: "Sister Margaret Farley — a 77-year-old professor emeritus at Yale’s Divinity School, a past president of the Catholic Theological Society of America and an award-winning scholar."

Keep in mind that religions like the Catholic Church, make that the Vatican, want to "criminalize' sexual acts like masturbation. Of course the Church makes it easy to do it yet receive absolution for your sin by entering a TARDIS like box - the confessional. And here is a church that apparently sees nothing wrong with priests sexually abusing children. It is only a confessional matter - or so it seems.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

D-Day slips by ever so quietly.

Last year I noted that D-Day had slipped by and so it appears that it will again this year. A rather decent presentation of tribute videos of D-Day can be found on Military.com at this link.

Rather than being the war that ends all wars - WWII became the progenitor.

And rather than use technology for the advancement of all mankind - it is used to establish a military dominance for the sole purpose of establishing and protecting America's economic and, oddly enough, political systems. I say oddly because democracy isn't about war - is it?

Love and sex - they are not co-dependent

I have to admit that I am uncomfortable with some of the sexual practices attributed to gay men. But I was raised in a Catholic family and my 12 early years of education was by the way of the good Sisters of St. Francis of Assisi. However, when one thinks about it - heterosexual couples have the same sexual practices. E.g., anal sex is not limited to gay men.

Interestingly enough we as good Catholic children often suspected that the nuns were lesbians (of course we were not quite sure what that meant) and that the priests, or some of them, were homosexuals. Homosexuals" and the derogatory terms associated with homosexuality were used only in connection with men. For whatever reason - "lesbians" didn't seem to attract the same approbation.

We "knew" which nun or priest was a homosexual without even the slightest bit of evidence. But, in some way it was obvious, yet hidden away in our psyche, that sex was a natural factor in life. It was difficult for teenage children to grasp e.g., that these nuns could live in such a confined community without being sexually attracted.

But my point is that having sex - whatever form it takes - isn't love. Sex is natural to the animal species. I am not sure what "love" really is - maybe it is undefinable or maybe it is one of those 'I know it when I see it' items. For many it is a fatal attraction.

However, for many, many people, their perception is that love exists only between those of opposite sex or between or among family members. I love my son and I loved my parents, grandparents, etc. Oddly enough - love between a boyfriend and girlfriend meant only, or mostly, a sexual attraction. But I know others who have a relationship that many would define as friendship that can be defined as a loving relationship. No sexuality is involved.

Thus it seem that sex or its absence doesn't define a loving and caring relationship. The two terms "loving" and "caring" go together. If we disconnect love and sex - and take an objective look around - there are many people that seemingly love each other. Same sex and opposite, married and not, living together and not, roommates and not, but friendship seems to be a prerequisite.

Most obvious of a loving relationship is that seen to exist between women. It is not casual - but it is a relationship that is often much more than a mere friendship. Most would categorize it as loving and caring without the sex. And much as I hate the term 'bromance,' it demonstrates than men too can have a loving and caring relationship with another man without sex.

Frankly, "bromance" is a relationship that until recently many would have described it as being homosexual, but it isn't. It is only now that men have essentially admitted to the same loving and caring, non-sexual friendship that was thought to exist only between women.

But take any relationship between same sex and add sex - society gets its panties all in a bunch.

The same sex attraction with or without sex is not some recent phenomenon. It seems to be an integral part of human existence maybe even something that sets us aside from other animals. Certainly there is no argument that all animals use sex as a means of procreation. But there is no connection between love and procreation sex. Granted it may make the sex more enjoyable - but it is not necessary. And granted too that sex may make the relationship more loving - but not necessarily.

Does the fact that someone is defined as a heterosexual make that person a better, say e.g., lawyer? A better citizen? Clearly sexuality does not (and should not) define a person in what he or she can contribute to society. Forget the religious based prejudices. Continuing to attempt to ostracize people because of their sexuality is not only wrong, but detrimental to society's well-being and evolution.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Just what century does the Vatican live in?

The Vatican is denouncing Sister Margaret Farley for her book that attempts "to present a theological rationale for same-sex relationships, masturbation and remarriage after divorce." A triple.

Her book Just Love: A Framework for Christian Sexual Ethics can be purchased (paperback) on Amazon which provides a free look at some of the material. Taking my look at the first pages one can just imagine the Vatican fuming over the fact that a Catholic, a nun no less, might be suggesting that anyone of the three might have theological justification. How about this excerpt?

"However disputed some of the studies have been, they successfully repudiated previous pseudoscientific beliefs in, for example, the dangers of insanity from masturbation, the "unnaturalness" of homosexual activity in animals (and therefore in humans), the unlimited fecundity of women throughout their menstrual cycles, and so forth."

Oh! Sister Margaret. Can a book burning be on the horizon?

EPA drones?

It is government spying on private property - it seems like it is an unjustified violation of the Fourth Amendment. At issue is the use of drones to surveil the private property of farmers and ranchers in Nebraska and Iowa in the guise of enforcing the Clean Water Act. The EPA "defends its encroaching behavior as 'cost-efficient.'" [EPA Using Drones to Spy on Cattle Ranchers in Nebraska and Iowa].

[But see this update from June 15, 2012 Reining in the rumors about EPA ‘drones’ - The Washington Post.]

And not questioned nor answered - what happens to all the other "extraneous" information that is gathered by the surveillance? The Fourth Amendment requires a warrant that specifies the probable cause for the surveillance and exactly what information is to be seized.

The era of social networking has caused us to subordinate our natural antagonism towards government's intrusion into private affairs. What is to keep the government, federal, state or local government from launching drones in the guise of "enforcement" and to use that information not in the enforcement, but in the tracking of selected individual or group targets that oppose government policies?

You can't use wiretaps without a warrant - why can drones be used instead?

Monday, June 4, 2012

The "C" word, cancer that is, strikes fear

The New York Times article Cancer on the Brain demonstrates how this fear can cause people to seek treatment merely because of the psychological fear of cancer. Not that it is not deserved. My grandmother and mother both died from cancer - a terrible death.

I know when I first learned that I had an enlarged prostate I immediately prepared for my death. Fortunately I was able to step back and do considerable amount of research available on line. It is not the killer I had imagined. And treatment often makes life a lot less livable.

Unfortunately medical care providers too often play on this fear - or so it seems. There seems to be no willingness to inform the patients facing cancer of the risks not only from the disease but also from the treatment.

The music and politics of the 70s

In an earlier post I lamented how I missed out on the incredible music of the 60s, but I didn't miss out on the music of the 70s. Vietnam War had already influenced the 60s' music and that influence was much more apparent in the 70s.

There is no easy line of demarcation, i.e., the 60s and the 70s represented a period of evolution in politics and music - the two went hand in hand. But it does seem in retrospect that the 70s was the time of substantial changes in politics and music.

I was a late college goer, but I remember the noon concerts with local bands playing. Country Joe and the Fish and Jefferson Airplane are two of the well known bands that that come to mind. And of course there were numerous anti-war rallies with the campus police taking pictures, mostly for intimidation purposes.

Professors, most, if not all. nontenured, teaching economics and political science were certainly leftist. Marx, Lenin and Mao were well known. Student book stores on the campus edges had virtually every writing of the trio at truly affordable prices. At one time I had quite a decent collection of their writings. College campuses in the San Francisco Bay Area were definitely left of center.

Free speech was tested often, but I submit that the founding fathers would have approved. Revolution seemed close at hand.

Those were heady times - Vietnam War protestsPeople's ParkTimothy LearyHaight AshburyCastro StreetHarvey Milk assassination Mitchell Brothers, & campus unrest.

Symbionese Liberation Army and their killing of Oakland school superintendent Marcus Foster and the kidnapping of Patty Hearst with food distribution as ransom.

The Weathermen (Weather Underground) and their manifesto Prairie Fire. Thinking back on it distribution of radical left material was effective without computers and the Internet. Social networking was face to face passing literature onto the next person.

Can't fail to mention Kent State - see the Kent State protest video.

See too this video illustrating the Music of Vietnam era.

The protests of the "occupiers" today seem so puny intellectually and in size compared to the anti-war and free speech protests of the 60s - 70s.

And one cannot fail to mention the assassination of John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert Kennedy. For me the killing of President Kennedy undermined the faith and trust I had in government. Although I wouldn't consider myself a conspiratorist - the assassination was never fully explained.

The Warren Commission was just too quickly done. See this from the Wikipedia entry on the assassination: "Contrary to the Warren Commission, the United States House Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA) in 1979 concluded that President John F. Kennedy was probably assassinated as a result of a conspiracy."

Howard Weiner 2012 Community Awards honoree

The NW Examiner carried the story on the awards. Howard received the Steve Lowenstein Leadership award. There are not enough awards to be given for his tireless efforts to transform the Old Town/Chinatown neighborhood to a place of positive prominence and livability.

I haven't come across another person who has put so much of his personal time and effort to make Old Town a safe and livable place. And he still persists even though he is largely unsupported by the neighborhood. Oh they attend the meetings nodding their heads in approval, but once outside . . . .

When I lived in Old Town - it was Howard trying to resolve issues. Others more than content to let Howard do it and then criticize his efforts if it didn't satisfy them.

Howard's work in Old Town has been immeasurably positive, yet his work has gone unnoticed and unappreciated. This award while a positive tribute is far from sufficient recognition for his work.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

An adult and a 10 year old robs a North Portland store

See the police report.for the particulars. What a strange world.

Wrong way driver, head on crash, BAC nearly 4 times the legal limit - how much jail time is likely?

The police report indicates that apparently she wasn't arrested. "Brown remained in the hospital for treatment and was given citations for DUII and Reckless Driving." WTF!! Will she fare as well with the courts?

Bad omen for Pearl

Before coming to the Pearl, I lived in Old Town for about 6 years. The main reason to relocate to the Pearl was the rampant drug dealing (I am not talking marijuana) that the police, residents of Old Town and the employees working there chose to ignore. 

In my two years here - I haven't seen a drug deal but I don't get out like I used too in Old Town. But in the recent Northwest Examiner, Pearl Diver by Michaela Bancud, tells of the drug dealing in Pearl. She was focused on the pay phone at NW 10th and NW Hoyt which apparently has the reputation as the phone connection. 

Now I am not all that surprised especially given that the corner is really not far from the train station in Old Town an area that is overrun with drug dealers. You see the MAX trains makes for an excellent delivery system for drugs. 

And it is just not this corner. It was noted too that there has been complaints from about three months ago Pearl drug use: Lovejoy and Ninth and "at 15th and 16th and Johnson and Kearney." The author states "[w]hat we choose to notice or ignore is another matter." But clearly Pearl residents and visitors cannot choose to ignore drug use. 

This is ever more important because of the new Streetcar connection is nearly operational which has the potential for a major route into Pearl for easy drug trafficking. Much of Old Town's drug problems and other crime has been because of the MAX. 

Pearl will most likely rue the day that the connection between Lloyd Center and Pearl was made. But it isn't too late for Pearl residents to take notice and start voicing objections. Will the parks in the North Pearl become like those at Lloyd Center?

If it does - you will have no one to blames but yourselves. 

Audacity of the US

The US was rightfully defeated in the Vietnam War - yet here we are in Vietnam seeking to intimidate them and separate them from their ally China that has virtually whipped our butts in the economic war. The defense secretary - carrying a big stick (a la Theodore Roosevelt)  - wants access to Vietnam harbor at Cam Ranh Bay. [Panetta wants more US access to Vietnam harbor].

It cannot be gainsaid that Panetta is not some ordinary diplomat seeking to establish better relations between the countries on a mutually beneficial basis. He is not only the defense secretary but his previous position  was as the head of the CIA.

"Panetta used a visit to Vietnam to restate the United States' intent to help allies in the region develop and enforce maritime rights in the sea, a waterway largely claimed by China." What? Now Vietnam is our cozy ally? And the US wants Vietnam to see China as their enemy. Oh please.

China was instrumental in North Vietnam's victory. "Ties between China and Vietnam have existed for centuries; in fact, throughout history Vietnam has depended upon and looked towards China repeatedly for not only cultural but political assistance as circumstances warranted. Vietnam was considered by China to be part of her tributary system, or sphere of influence if you will, where by the lesser state, Vietnam, would acknowledge the leadership of Imperial China in return for trade and defense as required."

That is from Military History Online - Chinese Support for North Vietnam during the Vietnam War: The Decisive Edge. It is a good read because it explores the China - Vietnam historical connection that is unlikely to be broken by the presence of US warships in South China sea.

Gunboat diplomacy is this country's method of influencing other countries to see it our way. Rather than to establish a working relationship among equals - the US uses the big stick approach. No wonder nations want nuclear weapons.

Protestations to the contrary - the US seems ever the military conqueror. Unfortunately for the US - China is not likely to be intimidated by the US, in fact, the US is pursuing a strategy that is more likely to embolden China's military.

Nuclear war, and surely more weapons too, seems ever more likely. Some idiot is going to push that button. And be prepared too for a rejuvenated China - Russia relationship opposing the US interests wherever they attempt to assert them.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Lawsuit that does little more than add to the sadness of the Kyron Holman story

The Portland Tribune's story on the lawsuit by Kyron Holman's mother against the stepmother Terri Holman missed the real point of this otherwise frivolous lawsuit - the two years statute of limitations on such a lawsuit is now tolled. [See the Oregonian.].

The Tribune framed the purpose: "Compel Terri Horman to help solve the mystery of her son’s disappearance two years ago." The Oregonian took this approach: "Kyron Horman's mother, seeking to 'peel away layers of mystery."

The Oregonian frames the intent: the lawsuit "contends Kyron's stepmother kidnapped the boy and asks a judge to compel her to bring him back, or divulge where his body was taken." This does nothing more than seek an admission of criminal guilt. Does the attorney filing this pleading deserve credit for creativity?

Kidnapping is a criminal matter and the rest seems to read more like a motion to compel that assumes facts not in evidence, nor likely to be found, given that there is a criminal action in play. This action is merely a place marker. And, not filing this action might well have led to a malpractice action against the lawyer.

Sadly, it seems clear that this boy Kyron is deceased with little likelihood that his remains will be ever found. If he were still alive - the lawsuit would have never been filed, of if had, would have been subjected to the famiy court jurisdiction.

And there is no reason why anyone in a civil suit would answer questions that might be used in the criminal action still active. It is likely that this suit would, in any case, trail the criminal case. Moreover, the prosecutor in the criminal case has far more power to discovery facts than anyone might in a civil action.

But as the Tribune reminds us: " no one has been arrested or even named a person of interest in the case. Terri Horman has not been charged with any crime in connection with Kryon’s disappearance."