Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Mitt's only qualifications: US born, at least 35 years old, 14 years resident.

"No person except a natural born citizen, or a citizen of the United States, at the time of the adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the office of President; neither shall any person be eligible to that office who shall not have attained to the age of thirty five years, and been fourteen Years a resident within the United States." [US Constituion, Article 2, Section 1].

Check this out from the Washington Post - That’s Mitticulous!.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Who is Mitt trying to convince?

Romney continues on his tour of countries attempting to show his foreign policy credentials. He has none to show. Nor does he seem to have a foreign policy adviser on board his campaign. One suspects he is doing his best just to convince himself that he has thoughts on foreign policy. The average American has more knowledge and awareness of foreign policy issues than Romney.

His trip to Poland seemed to have garnered the support of "Lech Walesa, the shipyard electrician who led the union movement [Solidarity] during" that struggle "which toppled Poland's Communist government in the late 1980s." Lech Walesa was Poland's president for 5 years in the the 90s. He and the union are no longer associated. In fact the union supports "Poland's biggest opposition party, which promotes conservative social values." [Polish Solidarity distances self from Romney visit].

Solidarity: "Regretfully, we were informed by our friends from the American headquarters of (trade union federation) AFL-CIO, which represents more than 12 million employees ... that Mitt Romney supported attacks on trade unions and employees' rights." "Solidarity was not involved in organizing Romney's meeting with Walesa and did not invite him to visit Poland."

And as the article notes: "However, it may prove difficult in Poland for Romney to draw a sharp contrast with his Democratic rival in the presidential election because Polish leaders enjoy fairly strong ties with the Obama White House."

So why did he go to Poland?

Romney: The clown on the world stage

Bereft of diplomatic skills and experience but experience in accumulating wealth - the would be president looks externally for $$$ support for his campaign for the presidency. His foreign policy experience is zero - so too his knowledge - of the issues in the Middle East especially those that exists between the Israelis and the Palestinians. To say that the politics and realities of the Middle East are complex is an understatement.

But, for the want of money - he has been willing to undermine the US foreign policy. Mitt Romney angers Palestinians with 'racist' speech in Israel (+video): "Mitt Romney praised the cultures of economic success in Israel, and criticized the Palestinian economy. Palestinian leaders called Romney's comments 'racist.'"
Eye On The Jewish Vote, Romney Commits To Israel : "In a further appeal for support, Romney also declared Jerusalem to be the capital of Israel in accordance with claims made for years by Israeli governments. The U.S. and other nations currently maintain their embassies in Tel Aviv, even though embassies are typically in a nation's capital city."

Since WWII - every president has taken a crack at solving the Middle East problem. It involves much more than the Israelis and Palestinians - name a country and they are involved. It is not leadership exhibited by Romney.  Look - it is one thing to say something in private meetings, but another to say it in public.

Justice Scalia - the arrogance of impropriety

"What can he [President Obama] do to me? Or to any of us?" Scalia said. "We have life tenure and we have it precisely so that we will not be influenced by politics, by threats from anybody." "He was asked "why you push people's buttons every once in a while." Scalia said, "It's fun to push the buttons." [Justice Scalia steps up criticism of healthcare ruling].

The gist of the story is the continual criticism of the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. This leads to the exchange set out above demonstrating a unique arrogance that has no place in the justice system. "It's fun to push buttons."

Justice Scalia - the poster boy for those who would have limited terms for Supreme Court judges. What is it that has caused him to step forward as donkey of the day? Respect for the legal system is denigrated when judges criticize their colleagues in public. More than it seems that he purposefully determine to give the finger to the president.

Maybe his decisions are not influenced by politics or threats - but the desire for the spotlight (fifteen minutes of fame) and to promote his book (he is on a book tour) seems to influence his foot in mouth disease. Maybe he is just too old. Check his Wikipedia entry - good Catholic he.

Worse yet is that such criticism will cast doubt on his impartiality of future decisions. There will be more Supreme Courts cases dealing with the Health Care Act - look for the challenges to his participation on the court.

Is America a gun culture?

"A reporter interviewing a dad handling a gun in front of a 3-year-old has mixed emotions – even before the Aurora shooting. But he concludes that in America's gun culture, the best gun control for a family is to teach kids to appreciate their power and how to handle them safely." [My son and guns: Living in a gun culture, he must understand them].

One wonders about the mentality that causes someone to be handling a gun in front of a three year old child. One bets that the child just can't wait for dad to forget that one time so she can do what dad does.

But the question is really - who says we are a gun culture? Yes, there are elements in society that have created a subculture where guns seem to rule. In many cases they have convinced themselves that they need to protect themselves with guns.

I have lived a long life in many cities in many states - East and West Coast. I have never carried nor have I ever known anyone that carried guns. In the late 40s or early 50s - my brother would go hunting rabbit and squirrels. My father a WWII vet would occasionally go to an isolated area for target practice with a rifle. And I knew the two boys who while playing with a rifle - one died and the other might have well.

Does this make a gun culture? Do video games make a gun culture? Does collecting guns make a gun culture? How many people or what percentage does it take to make America a gun culture. Are mass shootings like the Colorado incident reflective of a gun culture? Does the fact that one can easily purchase a gun make a culture? Certainly there are gangs, if they are a subculture, that seems to nearly idolize guns to everyone's detriment.

No doubt that America has an out of proportion gun ownership (88.8 firearms per 100 persons) - but what is the percentage of Americans that own those guns? I don't buy it that America is a gun culture. It is really more of the "squeaky wheel" associated with those that believe that their rights subordinate rights of others. Rather than minority (numbers) rights being protected in a democracy  - it is the minority that rule.

I have no doubt in my mind that the there is likely to be a future story about the tragedy of the child who watched daddy play with guns - played with guns.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Why should American presidential candidates seek support from other countries?

Shouldn't the campaigning be about American issues - like jobs and the economy? [Romney ramps up rhetoric, would respect Israeli decision to strike Iran's nuclear facilities]. There shouldn't be any doubt that it is American interests that trumps all other interests - including that of Israel.

"The officially stated goals of the foreign policy of the United States, as mentioned in the Foreign Policy Agenda of the U.S. Department of State, are "to create a more secure, democratic, and prosperous world for the benefit of the American people and the international community." [Wikipedia].

Single issue campaigning designed to attract voters of some minority (in numbers) doesn't serve this country well. Neither does bellicose rhetoric.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Let the whining begin.

"In the course of the stop one Portland Police Officer fired his weapon."  
"Once SERT made contact with the driver they had Portland Fire paramedics check the drivers condition and they learned he was deceased."
Read the full account from Press Release - Portland police investigate officer-involved shooting.

Yes there is a right to be stupid - but there are still consequences

A recent Yahoo! News story about the man who called himself the "joker" and threaten co-workers, etc. is being profiled by a friend as just a sarcastic gentle giant.That assessment is a little hard to take - but assuming that it is true - one has to question the intelligent quotient of someone who sees humor in saying "I'm a joker and I'm gonna load my guns and blow everybody up."

Friday, July 27, 2012

CT Scans - not so good after all?

In today's nearly instant news - one doesn't have to wait long for the bad news about the good news. In this case it is medical tool CT scanner. CT scan are promoted for many health issues. E.g., CT scan is useful in diagnosing a heart attack. But does the patient benefit? [Study questions CT scans to rule out heart attacks].

Not really. The article uses chest pains as an example - you can't tell from the pain alone that a heart attack is the culprit. These machines don't come cheap and the costs are passed onto the patient - that reads onto the insurance providers that passes the costs onto all of their insured.

This from the Canadian news website:
"These heart scans cut time spent in the hospital but didn’t save money, the study found. They also prompted more tests and questionable treatments and gave relatively large doses of radiation to people at such low risk of a heart attack that they probably didn’t need a major test at all."
This is somewhat similar to the prostate cancer blood test that was found not to be in fact beneficial to all patients. The lesson maybe is that tests shouldn't be applied generally but specifically. 

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Fallacy of gun control debate

Although not universal - using the Colorado movie theater shooting as the lynchpin is an example of false reasoning. Not that gun control isn't a proper subject for discussion but when there is no 'but for' the discussion ends before it is even started.

Many argue that had there been different gun laws in effect there would have been fewer dead and injured. But that assumes that this individual would have been deterred from his rampage by mere gun laws. It is more likely that he would have found some other destructive way to carry out his motivation.

His apartment by all accounts contained very sophisticated booby traps that would, if not warned beforehand, have killed and injured many - maybe even destroyed the full apartment complex. Admittedly it is likely that spur of the moment irrational need to have a gun or even attempts to keep those emotionally disturbed from acquiring guns might be stopped by reasonable gun laws.

But this Colorado shooter would have, and did, make it by those obstacles. By all accounts thus far - nothing in his background would have called any attention to him. He could not have been more all American.

This is the wrong set of circumstances to urge a change in or addition to gun control laws.

A school to watch

In California a failing school has been turned over to the parents in the community to run. A "trigger" law in California and in a few other states permits "parents in schools with the lowest student test scores band together to force change: They can fire teachers, oust administrators or turn the school over to private management." [California parents set to take over failing school].

And, "[t]he school would continue to be publicly funded and open to all students, but as a charter, it would be free to write its own curriculum and disciplinary rules and hire and fire staff without the constraints of union contracts."

It does appears that the new school administrators intend to seek private management much to the dismay of the prior administrators, teachers and unions. But where were they when the school was in the dumps? More likely than not it is because they never perceived this community as a threat to their continual denial of education to the children in the community.

Needless to say - it is a poor community. "Desert Trails, which serves a student population that is mostly low-income and minority, has posted abysmal test scores for years. When they graduate from the school at about age 12, barely one in four students can pass basic proficiency tests in reading, writing and math."

Take a look at the map found on the Great Schools map. Desert Trails is an apt name. This site states that it is "inside an urbanized area with a population less than 250,000 and greater than or equal to 100,000." The same site shows that the subject school district Adelanto has 14 schools with 8,428 students whereas the Elementary School has 677 students. 

But it is cast as a battle between public school and charter school advocates. The fact that the children were not being educated doesn't seem to be an interest to the public school advocates, especially the teachers and their unions.

Public schools and their privileged teachers are rightfully under assault from parents who demand an education for their children. Teacher accountability is a right belonging to students and an obligation of teachers.

California whatever its benefits - a good public school system is not apparent. One can see this in the Great Schools test results for this school. E.g., English Language Arts proficiency 2011 for grade 2 was 44%; the state average was 56%. The test scores for all grades and subjects are abysmal.

The success of this community lies in its selection of the private management. It is a once in lifetime opportunity to establish an accountable school system dedicated to educating their children. That is what is missing in many school systems.

Portland Public Schools is a great example.Children are not their concern. The school system is not accountable nor dedicated to educating children. PPS is like any bureaucracy - the goal is self preservation, i.e., their continued existence irrespective of stated goals and mission.

Greenland ice melt

Cooler heads are staying away from asserting global warming. "Wagner [NASA's ice scientist] and other scientists said because this Greenland-wide melting has happened before they can't yet determine if this is a natural rare event or one triggered by man-made global warming. But they do know that the edges of Greenland's ice sheets have already been thinning because of climate change." [What caused the sudden massive ice melt in Greenland? (+video)].

With the benefit of three satellites the event was captured. The images are striking in their before and after contrast.

It is an oddity. Apparently 97% of the surface of the ice sheet melted in just 4 days. While we know that this is a reoccurring event - approximately every 150 years - we don't know if it has happened so quickly in the past.

But the scientists couldn't help but make a global warming connection however slight its possible causal effect. Read some of the comments within the article about today's weather implying global warming while failing to make any factual connection between the two.

If you have lived long enough you remember those odd years when the weather was unusual. But in those days we didn't know enough to blame on global warming.

Lawsuits begin - adding to the tragedy

"Torrence Brown Jr., one of the Aurora movie shooting survivors, is planning on suing the theater, confirmed his family's publicist on Wednesday" [In wake of tragedy, lawyers step in: Colorado shooting survivor plans suit, says publicist.].

The family has hired a publicist. It is enough to turn your stomach. It seems greed subordinates morality and ethics.  

Mexico $27.5 fine against HSBC is a start

"HSBC, Europe's largest bank, has been fined $27.5m in Mexico for lax controls in its anti-money laundering systems, a week after a scathing US Senate report slammed the bank for letting clients shift funds from dangerous and secretive countries." [HSBC fined $27.5m for 'money laundering']

What was the slam? "Last week, a US Senate panel alleged that HSBC acted as a financier to clients routing funds from the world's most dangerous places, including Mexico, Iran and Syria, doing regular business in areas tied to drug cartels, terrorist funding and tax cheats."

Which country - the US or Mexico - has the right approach? In the US the company was "slammed" while in Mexico the company was fined $27.5 mil. It is a drop in the bucket but better than a slam. But there is an indication that the US might well 'fine' HSBC more than $1 billion. I wonder.

Don't you wonder though how this bank could do the money laundering without fear of getting caught? However the real question seems to be how was it permitted to go on for so long? "The problems at Europe's biggest bank have been known for nearly a decade, but the Senate probe detailed just how sweeping the problems have been." [Bold added.]

And of course there is the other England bank scandal - Libor
"LIBOR is the interest rate that banks charge each other for one-month, three-month, six-month and one-year loans. LIBOR is an acronym for London InterBank Offered Rate. This rate is that which is charged by London banks, and is then published and used as the benchmark for bank rates all over the world." [Bold added]. [What Is LIBOR - Definition of LIBOR Rates].
Interestingly - "Emails, phone transcripts and internal reports recently released showed the New York Fed under Geithner [now treasury secretary] was explicitly told that banks were misstating their input to the Libor in June 2008."

Apparently this rate fixing began in 2005 and even though their was an awareness of the problem - it wasn't until 2010 that real efforts to stop it began. See Timeline - rate-fixing scandal.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

This election is about economic divide

The unlimited and unconstrained flow of money into this presidential election campaigns is giving voice to foreign influence that cannot have any beneficial effects. Barclays Bank - the bank engaged in money laundering - has been told to stop its fundraising for Romney. [MPs tell Barclays to stop fundraising for Mitt Romney].

"Executives at Barclays have donated over $1m to Romney's presidential campaign and will hand over more money on Thursday night at an exclusive fundraising dinner in a secret Mayfair location, where tickets cost between $50,000 and $75,000."

What was it that Obama was getting at its recent Portland fundraiser? $500 - $1,000 per ticket.

Consider this too: Super rich hiding up to $32 trillion offshore. "Private wealth held offshore represents "a huge black hole in the world economy."

Healthcare law savings: $84 Billion Over 11 Years

Sounds good - doesn't it? But the headline fails to tell the story. Yes the federal government will save, but that ignores the costs of that saving. [CBO: Supreme Court Ruling On Healthcare Saves U.S. $84 Billion Over 11 Years].

The savings comes from the "predictions that fewer states will enroll in the program." That fewer states will enroll - that reads Republican controlled states - was enabled by the recent Supreme Court ruling. Here is the story though: "The ruling, the CBO predicts, will leave 3 million more Americans uninsured."

It is a shifting of costs - not an elimination. Uninsured residents in the opted-out states will cost those states probably more in the aggregate that the $84 billion the federal government may save.

Archbishop of Glasgow - foot in mouth disease

"A conservative Catholic just appointed as archbishop of Glasgow has been condemned for appearing to link the death of a Labour MP last year with his homosexuality." [Guardian UK].

Would he have said the same thing about Sally Ride? Probably so.

The good Archbishop "Tartaglia suggested at a conference on religious freedom and equality at Oxford University in April that there may have been hidden or unexplained links between Cairns's [Labour MP] premature death and his sexuality."

The Catholic Church stepping back into the past. 

Doctors Frankenstein

"[T]wo surgeons at the University of California, Davis . . . [were] banned from conducting research on human volunteers." The good doctors were experimenting on terminally ill patients. No harm no foul? But it has to do with the who and the when. [Research ban for surgeons after probiotic experiment]

Ordinarily, apparently, surgeons "are free to try experimental procedures with little regulation, and medical researchers who typically have to present reams of evidence from animal studies before winning approval to test new drugs or biological therapies on human volunteers."

It seems the line is drawn when surgeons are engaging in research. Rigorous medical and ethical standards must be maintained with the quality of life - however short - as the primary importance.

I have personal experience with doctors experimenting with terminally ill patients. The National Institutes of Health experimented with the life of my mother who had terminal cancer. The goal of helping others and the patient's looking for a miracle to extend their life ignores the real fact that these patients - most if not all - live in an unimaginable hell.

Food for thought - if it was good enough for Jesus . . .

"And when eight days were accomplished for the circumcising of the child, his name was called JESUS." 
 [Jefferson, Thomas, 1743-1826 . The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth: Extracted Textually from the Gospels Greek, Latin, French, and English.]

The extract is from what is called the Jefferson bible. See the Smithsonian:  How Thomas Jefferson Created His Own Bible.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Still training terroists to fly?

"The question comes on the heels of a new US Government Accountability Office (GAO) investigation that concludes that not all foreign nationals who are training to fly airplanes inside the United States are being 'properly vetted.'" [Homeland Security: Are US flight schools still training terrorists?].

Bachmann - today's politico

It is a Washington Post story about Michele Bachmann who has demonstrated an immense ignorance and little respect for ethics. [How Michele Bachmann finally jumped the shark]. But I submit that there are many more just like her in Washington and they are not just Republicans.

You weren't invited?

The president and Oregon democrats, not you or I, the elite, are trolling for money and that is why you and I were not invited and why our access to politics is limited to election day. They want each of us to pull that 'Democrat lever,' but not enough to face us on any basis except through media coverage.

Is this the democracy that the founders established? Look - no doubt they were the elite, but they had a connection with the populace. And the initial establishment of the government of this country expected a connection between the elected and the electorate.

It was a small country and the elected didn't spend their elected lives in Washington. They, unlike the politicians of today, lived most of their life in their home communities. Accessibility to the elected wasn't limited - today it is non-existent.

Monday, July 23, 2012

The world of guns and more guns

The Guardian UK has an excellent interactive map that displays among other things gun homicides by country. Another excellent interactive map is The gun crime map of America. And Gun crime statistics by US state provides data on each state including statistics as to other methods of murder and other uses of firearms, e.g., robberies. It seems, although this year in Oregon seems counter, the fact is that gun crime is down.

Country Statistics - excerpts. Category headings separated with semicolons. Bold used as reference points to help in comparison. I will make a proper table later (maybe).

Country: % homicides by firearm; Number of homicides by firearm; Homicide by firearm rate per 100,000 pop; Rank by rate of ownership; Average firearms per 100 people; Average total all civilian.

United States: 60; 9,146; 2.97; 1; 88.8; 270,000,000
England and Wales: 6.6; 41; 0.07; 88; 6.2; 3,400,000
Canada:  32; 173; 0.51; 13; 30.8; 9,950,000
Switzerland: 72.2; 57; 0.77; 3; 45.7; 3,400,000
Sweden:  33.9; 37; 0.41; 10; 31.6; 2,800,000
Mexico: 54.9; 11,309; 9.97; 42; 15; 15,500,000
Honduras: 83.4; 5,201; 68.43; 88; 6.2; 500,000

Country, population (ranking), density/sq. mile for the above:
United States: (3), 83.38;
England and Wales: (22), 656.35 [Numbers are for United Kingdom].;
Canada: (35), 8.88;
Switzerland: (94), 488.20;
Sweden: (87), 53.91;
Mexico: (11), 142.33;
Honduras: (95), 175.98.

Statistics are often nothing more than just that facts that do not necessarily demonstrate any cause and effect. But the number of guns in the US is startling - 270,000,000 firearms. And there seems little statistical information to understand why the US stands out in the number of guns and number of homicides by firearms.

Seething Portland - the tale of two cities

I get the Portland police email alerts. The city seems to be divided by the Willamette River. On the East side - crime galore. On the West side all is calm. While Portland is big by Oregon standards - it is relatively small nationally. Crime has taken a sharp uptick.

Take a look at the Flashalert news. The gangs that roam the Eastside are not your usual suspects. These guys (see 7/23/12 report) are riding around in a 1997 armored Mercedes with concealed (although not too well) gun box. I liked the part where apparently they thought they could just walk away from the car.

The list of crimes seem startling to me for such a small duration of time. And does anyone believe that any amount of gun control laws would have (or will in the future) prevented these two from carrying?

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Boy Scouts - why the "outrage?"

The Oregonian's Susan Nielsen seemed to be outraged over the fact that the Boy Scouts don't want to associate with gays. [Boy Scouts and gay people]. She recognizes that it is their constitutional right to exclude gays, probably because of the Supreme Court case. But she still wants them to include gays - why?

First see this from the Supreme Court case, supra:
In Roberts v. United States Jaycees, 468 U.S. 609, 622 (1984), we observed that “implicit in the right to engage in activities protected by the First Amendment” is “a corresponding right to associate with others in pursuit of a wide variety of political, social, economic, educational, religious, and cultural ends.” This right is crucial in preventing the majority from imposing its views on groups that would rather express other, perhaps unpopular, ideas.
While Nielsen sees public anger over the Scouts continuing determination not to admit gays into their organization - I am not sure it exists and if it does that it will or should make one bit of difference. She notes at the end of her post:
If the Scouts choose to maintain this discriminatory stance, they're also choosing to sever emotional ties with many of their supporters and a growing proportion of the country. 
Then public anger turns into a dismissive shrug
Then the Scouts' trouble really begins.
I suspect that if there was any real public anger - it has already turned to a dismissive shrug. But I am not sure what trouble the Scouts will see. Maybe a continuing dwindling of membership. Nielsen notes that it dropped from  4.8 million in 1970s to 2.7 million currently.

It is arguable that the Scouts are losing by limiting their membership. But it seems a bit much to try to force them by public opinion inclusion of anyone they choose to otherwise exclude. Perhaps the Boy Scouts are antiquated, maybe even obsolete, but who cares?

Liberty - freedom to choose or not - freedom to associate or not - is for others too.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Honor killing

"The prosecution claims Shafilea was killed by her parents because they thought she had brought shame on the family through her desire to lead a westernised lifestyle." [Shafilea Ahmed murder trial: Father 'punched daughter'].

Place this man in any family situation anywhere in America and what you have is an abusive person. The reality is that abusive parents - even at this level of abuse - exists without the context of Islam or Sharia law. 

It is nearly an oxymoron - honor killing. One might reasonably conceive of circumstances where that might be appropriate, although I can't think of one. What is presented in the media - as in this story - seems to be justified in some religious context - Islam.

It is that context that drives the story the wrong way - intolerance of Muslims. Extremists self-proclaimed to be acting in the name of Islam have never received approval or support from those of  Islamic faith. Extremists or zealots are not an anomaly. Ireland and the Middle East provide ample evidence.

Accountability - slow to fruition

Police interview Libyans over claims of UK-authorised rendition.

God's plan

"In an interview with Fox News on Wednesday evening, Zimmerman said he regretted nothing that he did on the night he shot the unarmed 17-year-old because 'I feel that it was all God's plan.'" [Trayvon Martin's parents denounce Zimmerman interview as 'heartless'].

It is not as idiotic as God told me to do it - but it is interesting how 'faith' is offered as absolution for their actions. It is an odd twist to predestination.

Mom: you got the right person

That was the reported response from the mother of the Colorado shooter. And it appears that there is no doubt that the shooter is in custody. What is left to play out in the media is the why?

But the "why" will not be constrained to motive - all the single issue fanatics, especially the gun control ones, will be claiming that had people listened to them this tragedy would not have happen. I am sure we will hear from those concerned with violence in the video games, movies, comic books, etc.

In the days to come we will come to learn where he obtained his weapons and why he is no longer a medical student, if in fact he was a standard medical student seeking to become a doctor. In retrospect - everyone will have a 'but for.'

And of course there will be those who will portray him as a victim of something. Surely he was bullied or mistreated by his father. There will be something. However, the tragedy is that it might be a case of someone needing mental health confinement. The mother's response seems telling in that regard.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Huma Abedin - what is in a name?

The New York Times sees a rebirth of McCarthism - McCarthyism Redux, but it might be better characterized as Crusades Redux. The issue - disloyalty to the country - has been framed by McCarthy-like Republicans, e.g., Michele Bachmann, accusing the Secretary of State's trusted adviser of being a part "of a Muslim Brotherhood conspiracy to infiltrate the government." [New York Times].

The tactics are McCarthy's - but it sounds more like Christians vs Muslim of the Crusades era. The Crusades had the goal to fulfill "a solemn vow, to deliver the Holy Places from Mohammedan tyranny." [Catholic Encyclopedia: Crusades]. Catholics know how to spin it. "Solemn vow" - another "God told me to do it" rationales. These were the good old days for the Catholics who were the Christians.

Given another name - this person would have never been attacked. Fortunately there is one Republican that had the courage to publically - on the Senate floor - chastise the budding McCarthyites: Senator McCain: it is “unfounded attack on an honorable woman, a dedicated American and a loyal public servant.” [New York Times].

The Senator made more than a perfunctory remark. From the Washington Post:
"In a floor speech Wednesday, McCain defended Abedin, calling her “an intelligent, upstanding, hard-working and loyal servant of our country and our government, who has devoted countless days of her life to advancing the ideals of the nation she loves and looking after its most precious interests. That she has done so while maintaining her characteristic decency, warmth and good humor is a testament to her ability to bear even the most arduous duties with poise and confidence.
“Put simply, Huma represents what is best about America: the daughter of immigrants, who has risen to the highest levels of our government on the basis of her substantial personal merit and her abiding commitment to the American ideals that she embodies so fully,” McCain said. “I am proud to know Huma and to call her my friend.”

Oregon "wins" NCLB waiver

Instead of stepping up to the plate to ensure that students have the very basics of education - Oregon, and other states, have requested and obtained relief from the No Child Left Behind Act. They are seeking relief from the requirement that ":all students be proficient in math and reading by 2014." [D.C. gets No Child Left Behind waiver].

The bipartisan legislation was signed into law in 2001. Throughout the intervening 11 years the states, like Oregon, have instead of digging in and complying with the law spent their time whining and moaning about how they can't do it.

Oddly, but demonstrating the Oregon mindset, the Oregonian characterizes this relief as a "win." There ought to be a chorus of shame, shame, shame.

The spin. The education adviser to Oregon's governor "said the development will give Oregonians more control of their schools and lead to better results. 'We'll be using a tailored approach to schools in Oregon based on the actual challenges they are facing in this state.'"

But there is good news - the relief "adds certainty that the state will require all teachers and principals to be evaluated in part by their students' test score gains beginning in 2013-14."

Parents - you are screwed. Unless your child, or soon to be child, is able to attend one of the better public schools - yes, there are a few even in PPS - he or she will receive a below par education. It is probably more likely that those 12 years will account for naught in the child's economic future.

Those of us who don't have children in the public school system will suffer too as the state has little chance of ever achieving economic success without an educated workforce.

But those who lead this state and city will not suffer the consequences. Their children will go to one of the choice public schools or private school. And with their economic mobility - they can go elsewhere.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

The other side of the river

Take a peek at the police news alerts in the recent days. Crime appears to have taken a sharp uptick on the East side of the Willamette.

Inactivity 'killing as many as smoking'

Really! Will it lead to forced exercise? Or perhaps a tax on inactivity? Will there be labels affixed to chairs and the like warning of the effects of sitting down? See BBC News - Inactivity 'killing as many as smoking.'

Stories like this casts doubts on medical warnings about how we live our lives. In the name of saving us from ourselves - the health industry has grown excessively in their attempts to regulate our lives with their profit motive.

For the nuclear worrywarts

"Radiation from Japan's Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant will lead to deaths from cancer – but so few that proving a link with the nuclear accident could be impossible." [Fukushima increases risk of cancer – but not by much].

Sure fire way to end the war in Afghanistan

Or any war. "[Gen.] Stanley McChrystal, (Ret.) has urged that the draft be reinstated to spread the burden of fighting and to instill a sense of shared civic duty among young Americans….Apart from the strain on troops and their families after repeated deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan, only a small fraction of the population was affected by the conflicts, the general said." [Gen. McChrystal’s Remarks on Reinstating the Draft].

I can agree with the General's rationale but it seems highly unlikely that a draft could or would be effective in today's world. One of the more important problems with the draft is that so many found it easy to be deferred. But you might read History of the Draft.  

You might take note of this from the General - he not talking just military service: "I think we need national service and I think you need it either at the conclusion of high school or university." I am afraid that the General hasn't taken a good look around outside the base.

Maybe the Neanderthals were not so neanderthalish

It is a story about evidence of self-medication, but it is also a part of an on-going series of discoveries that give a different perspective on the lives of the Neanderthals. And many of these discoveries are coming from dental tartar. [Neanderthal dental tartar reveals evidence of medicine - life]. See this story too - Plaque found on two million-year-old teeth.

50 years too late - Thalidomide victim wins millions from drugs firms

Where is the justice when it takes more than 50 years to obtain the financial relief that  is clearly due. See my brief November 2011 post.  Do a Google or Bing search on Thalidomide for other images and stories.

For 50 years Lynette Rowe "has been cared for by her, now elderly, parents around the clock since she was born." She was born without limbs because of a drug that her mother took while pregnant. The drug company's lawyer: "Diageo [not the original company] agreed to pay a "multi-million dollar amount," which would be “sufficient to provide a very good level of care for Lyn for the rest of her life."

What about the the first 50 years of her life and that of her caretakers?

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Canadian ports an option for U.S. Coal?

The Willamette Week has a brief coverage of a  New Report [that] Says Canadian Ports Not an Option for U.S. Coal. See the Oregonian's Special Report (noted in my earlier post) for pretty decent coverage on the controversy.

The argument: "[I]f we don't build the controversial facilities here [Portland], that same coal will simply be shipped through Canadian terminals.

The reality A new report from Seattle's Sightline Institute notes: "[E]xisting terminals are already shipping about as much as they can and Canadian coal, which Sightline says has higher value than U.S. coal, is likely to have priority if ports expand their capacity."

What is wrong with Republican Lawmakers

Republican Lawmakers Seek To Block Funding On Black Lung Regulation.

Nuns as radical feminists - oh my!

"In its assessment of the group, the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith said the leadership conference is undermining Roman Catholic teachings on homosexuality and birth control and promoting "radical feminist themes incompatible with the Catholic faith." It also reprimanded the nuns for hosting speakers who "often contradict or ignore" church teachings and for making public statements that "disagree with or challenge the bishops, who are the church's authentic teachers of faith and morals." [The Leadership Conference of Women Religious Responds to Vatican Critique : NPR].

It is the 21st Century Inquisition.

The NPR article is a well written coverage of this latest attempt by the Catholic Church to silence women. The Catholic Church is a man's church that leaves no room for women or their opinions. Sister Pat Farrell: "The question is, 'Can you be Catholic and have a questioning mind?"

One thing for sure - not if you are a nun. And frankly, the very concept of faith denies a questioning mind. Oh yes - you have a free will - just don't exercise that to question the male dominated Church.

But, it is not about Jesus Christ though - is it?

Air alerts from China to U.S. - must see web site

Picked up from the New York Times (where else) - On Our Radar: Air Alerts, From China to U.S. - the story and this link to comparative air quality among major cities - China Air Daily.

It is essentially a slide show that offers some surprising visible air quality comparisons that might be unexpected.

The confessional approach to bank wrongdoing

"Executives with Europe's biggest bank, HSBC, were subjected to a humiliating onslaught from US senators on Tuesday over revelations that staff at its global subsidiaries laundered billions of dollars for drug cartels, terrorists and pariah states." [HSBC executive resigns before Senate as bank apologises for 'horrific' actions].

Oh yes - the bank executive "David Bagley, HSBC's head of compliance since 2002, and who had worked with the bank for more than 20 years, resigned before the committee." But with what compensation package? And just how long will it be before he is working at another bank?

Much like Catholics who merely 'confess' their sins - banks and their executives avoid real punishment for their misdeeds by apologizing. Gee I am sorry - just doesn't cut it for most people. But don't expect anything more. And they say capitalism is a good thing. One might ask - for whom?

Is minority contracting the big issue facing Portland Public Schools?

"The board on Monday unanimously approved an equity in public purchasing and contracting policy, which officials believe is the first of its kind for a K-12 school district."  [Portland Public Schools to push for more contracts with minority- and women-owned businesses].

It seems that educating children is the lost goal and priority.

Sewing needles in airplane food

"Half a dozen sewing needles have now been found in sandwiches on four separate Delta flights, . . . " [Man Who Bit Into Needle Found in Sandwiches on Delta Flight Put on Anti-HIV Medication].

Airline flight safety is extremely good, but flying has become less than pleasurable. Fly only if you have too. Comfort is a thing of the past and the airlines attempt to charge passengers for every "convenience" even though they are in fact necessities.

Terrorism fears have made bringing your own food on the plane difficult, if not impossible, but now eating on the plane has risks that cannot be permitted. Although - the story has some strange coincidents casting some doubt on the veracity of the incidents. .

"Tonges [subject of the news story] and another passenger sustained minor injuries after biting into the sandwiches and CBP officials found a third needle after confiscating the sandwiches, according to an official report. Dr. Jack A. Drogt, a passenger Tonges had coincidentally met aboard his flight over to Europe, also found a needle in his sandwich."

Also, Tonges' "teenage son, who was travelling from Amsterdam's Schipol Airport on a different flight, was also a victim, and authorities are investigating." "The teen would not surrender the needle to authorities, who noted he told them that he planned to use it as evidence in a lawsuit."

And oddly, "[a]lthough federal air marshals were aboard the [Tonges] Minneapolis-St. Paul-bound flight, they were not notified of the incident by the crew, authorities said, until deplaning."

Portland Part 1 Crime Stats 6-24-12 thru 6-30-12

Crime stats are not looking good. And from the recent press releases - it is getting worse. Take a peek at the latest statistics - the totals are up 10% over the same time last year.

Dog owners - women vs men

I have way too much time on my hands - so I am able to spend it often just watching the world go by while I am drinking my coffee. This is a singular observation - a generality if you will - unlike that with a child, a woman doesn't generate that bond between herself and her dog that she would with a child. A man develops  a bond with his dog much like that women develop with their child.

I am talking about regular size dogs that can't be carried. Take for example dog owners at the local coffee shop. Women will either sit inside or outside - but with the dog at a distance typically tied to a bike rack. Men will sit outside with the dog at their side.

Go figure.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Disenfranchised Felons - why not?

New York Times: "The only reason not to let them vote is to stigmatize them or to continue punishing them." [Disenfranchised Felons.] And I wonder - so? Is this a Democrat's ploy to increase voting registrants?

From legal dictionary:
felony n. 1) a crime sufficiently serious to be punishable by death or a term in state or federal prison, as distinguished from a misdemeanor which is only punishable by confinement to county or local jail and/or a fine. 2) a crime carrying a minimum term of one year or more in state prison, since a year or less can be served in county jail. However, a sentence upon conviction for a felony may sometimes be less than one year at the discretion of the judge and within limits set by statute. Felonies are sometimes referred to as "high crimes" as described in the U. S. Constitution.
I submit they - the convicted felons - gave up their rights when they embarked on their commission of the felony. One might argue - I don't - that upon completion of their sentence - including any parole - voting rights might be restored, but terminated upon conviction of a subsequent crime, even a misdemeanor. 

Democrats find their backbone?

Democrats threaten to go over ‘fiscal cliff’ if GOP fails to raise taxes - The Washington Post.

"Aspirin a 'no brainer' against cancer"

For about one and one-half cents per tablet [generic aspirin at drugstore.com], amounting to a little over $5 per year for one aspirin a day regime, I buy the least expensive way of cutting the risk of a heart attack and stroke and fighting certain cancers. From BBC News - Aspirin a 'no brainer' against cancer after screening:

"Taking low-dose aspirin for five years halves the risk of developing colon cancer."

"Last year, research indicated daily low-dose aspirin cut the risk of dying by 66% for oesophageal cancer and 25% for lung cancer. When researchers looked at all solid cancers together, the risk also fell, by 25%."

"This year, the team looked at aspirin's effect on the spread of cancer, and found it reduced the risk of secondary spread to the lungs, liver and the brain by "about half"."

"Low-dose aspirin is already recommended to cut the risk of heart attack and stroke . . ."

A 21st century mafia front - wind farms

"The wind farm, with 48 generators is one of the biggest in Europe, the investigators said in a statement. They also suggested much of the financing to build it had been moved through shell companies in Germany as well as San Marino and Switzerland." [Germans arrested, wind farm seized in mafia raid.]

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Iraq war will haunt west for decades

There are few, if any, publications superior to The Guardian UK. In my view it bests the New York Times in quality of content. It is journalism - absent locally and nationally except for a couple of national publications. It is this Guardian's article that struck me as especially worth the read - Iraq war will haunt west, says Briton who advised US military. But more important is this first part of a series - Inside Iraq: the British peacenik who became key to the US military.

It is unlikely that future generations of Americans will be able to move on like those after WWII and the Vietnam War. It seems that George W Bush and his advisers have left us with a legacy that may never be overcome.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Why privacy and other similar rights are constitutionally protected

This is for those who claim that you have nothing to fear if you are obeying the law. Those of us who still have their memories intact remember Joe McCarthy and McCarthyism. The East Germans know about Stasi.  While different in ideologies they both had the same goals - stifling dissent from those perceived as opposed to the government and therefore subject to the wrath of the government.

Senator McCarthy used false and unsubstantiated claims, much like Fox News, to label and stigmatized those with opposing views. Stasi went further and collected data, mostly from citizens reporting on one another, to eliminate (figuratively and literally) opposition to the government.

Prime example of today's repression (maybe too strong?). Police 'made up' evidence against Muslim student.
"Sabir was researching terrorist tactics for a master's at the University of Nottingham in 2008 when he was detained under the Terrorism Act and accused by police of downloading an al-Qaida training manual for terrorist purposes.
The 27-year-old, however, had downloaded a manual from a US government website for his research which could be bought at WH Smith, Waterstones and Amazon as well as the university's own library. After seven days and six nights in police custody, Sabir was released without charge or apology."

Arbitrator reverses discipline charges

The city loses again on its attempts to placate minority (as in small) interests by wrongfully disciplining its police officers. This time the situation is that poster child of anti-cop segment in Portland. The decision by the arbitrator is here - via Oregonian. As usual - I recommend its reading - and not that of the media's (or my) take. [Arbitrator reverses discipline against Chris Humphreys, Sgt. Kyle Nice in the Chasse case].

My own limited experience with arbitration is that the opportunity is present for the parties to provide more information and argument than appearing before a judge. Thus, arguably an arbitration hearing is more fair. Part of the reason for this is that as an attorney the opportunity to present your client's case is not hampered by time. If before a judge - you are more likely than not to be on a crowded calendar - judges are busy and more limited than arbitrators in the time they can devote to perusing the material and listening to oral arguments.

Friday, July 13, 2012

"Photo of Portland Cop and Alberta Street Kids Going Viral"

Journalism at Willamette Week. Cop disparaging Portland news media - even when they try to publish a nice story about Portland police they can't resist throwing in something bad. The good and bad content are not related.

And interesting too is the author's biased take: "The irony of course, is that this morning the city released a ruling by an arbitrator who found that the city's discipline of two officers who were involved in the 2006 arrest of James Chasse was unfair to the cops."

This assumes that the arbitrator was wrong - it is the only way "irony" can work. This author since he started to take on the arbitration story could have or should have included something that the Oregonian included: "The arbitrator said the city failed to prove its charges, particularly because "competent medical personnel approved or directed the transportation of Mr. Chasse by police car.''

But of course - the goal was to frame the continual picture of bad cops.

And how about this as an example of poor writing: "Chasse died in police custody and the city eventually gave Chasse's estate $1.6 million." It is the "the city eventually gave Chasse's estate $1.6 million" that is troublesome writing. The city didn't give anything. It was in fact a settlement and contrary to this author and many others a settlement doesn't concede or confirm responsibility.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

The Health Care Law

It doesn't take much reading to realize that the Affordable Healthcare Act (AHA) is long overdue and the controversial mandate provision is not only fair but necessary - is it far from being draconian. The AHA offers considerable consumer- patient protection. It guarantees health care coverage at guaranteed fair cost.

The AHA is more like an umbrella insurance policy because it covers all Americans and like insurance it spreads the costs out over all Americans. You will have health care coverage and cannot be cancelled or denied. You will pay something - and that is fair.

Those who have health insurance continue with their insurance plans with all the protection guaranteed by the AHA. It does not change choice of doctors, hospitals or insurance plans - feel free to use the present plans probably offered by your employer.

You will not be without health insurance - period. I can think of two situations were this is important. One is the case where a worker has lost his or her job. The second is in a divorce situation, or any situation, where one's coverage is provided by another is lost. You will be covered even if you have no income.

Ouch! Rapist disemboweled in UK prison

And they were going to eat his liver - but that was too much for them. My, my. [BBC News - Pair disembowelled inmate at Durham's Frankland Prison].

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Climate change and salmon evolution

"Salmon DNA records stretching back over 30 years show that nature has increasingly selected for fish that migrate from the ocean earlier in the year. It is among the first pieces of genetic evidence that climate change is driving the evolution of a species." [ Climate change drives salmon evolution].

Interesting - no?

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Teacher effectiveness (or ineffectiveness)

A recent student survey - Do Schools Challenge Our Students?: calls into question teacher's effectiveness. The move for teacher evaluations may have more merit than the teachers and their associations would admit.

- Many schools are not challenging students and large percentages of students report that their school work is “too easy.”
- Many students are not engaged in rigorous learning activities.
- Students don’t have access to key science and technology learning opportunities.
- Too many students don’t understand their teacher’s questions and report that they are not learning during class.
- Students from disadvantaged background are less likely to have access to more rigorous learning opportunities.

"Bleak" is an understatement

"In both Washington and Oregon, only 58 percent of eighth-graders said they "always or almost always" learn in math class. In the other 48 states, at least 60 percent and as many as 72 percent reported they always or almost always do." [Oregon eighth-graders say their math class doesn't always add up]

See Do Schools Challenge Our Students? for a not too surprising analysis.

US Episcopalians set to bless gay marriage

One has to wonder what has been the hold up. But take note that this is the first large church in the US to take this action. [Episcopalians set to be first big U.S. church to bless gay marriage | Reuters].

But another front: The Church of England delays a vote on women bishops. "The Church's General Synod voted to send back to their current bishops for further consideration an amendment allowing dissenting parishes to choose their male bishop as their leader if a woman is named to head their diocese.

Why is it that the churches are a century or two behind in society's evolution?

Food for thought - Human CO2 emissions prevented ice age?

 "The finding does not change our understanding of the warming power of carbon dioxide. In fact, it shows that human CO2 emissions have interrupted a long cooling period that would ultimately have delivered the next ice age." [Tree rings suggest Roman world was warmer than thought].

Food for thought - Oregon state taxes

"Whether looking at income levels, unemployment rates, or economic output per person, states with “high rate” income taxes have economies that equal or surpass those in states lacking an income tax.  The most commonly cited analysis purporting to show the opposite." [“High Rate” Income Tax States Are Outperforming No-Tax States].

That from the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP) which was cited in the New York Times article: As State Revenues Begin to Comeback, Maryland and Kansas Choose Different Paths. Oregon is a "high rate" state and Washington is not.

Better yet look at the interactive map and take note of  an Oregon chart that evidences who pays states and local taxes - you might be surprised.

Food for thought - Being uncircumcised - key risk for urinary infection

"Data has shown that uncircumcised boys have a 10-fold higher risk of getting a urinary tract infection (UTI), compared to those who have had their foreskins removed." [Being uncircumcised - not foreskin tightness - key risk for urinary infection].

Vatican censorship in Germany

"The front cover [of German satire magazine Titanic] bears a photograph of the pope with a large yellow stain on the front of his cassock and the headline, “Hallelujah in the Vatican - the leak has been found!”

Best yet: "The back cover has a photo of him from behind with a large brown stain and the headline, “Another leak is found!”" Pope blocks magazine over 'leaks' stain picture].

From the Titanic editors: ""Benedict must have misunderstood us." The titles show a pope who, after informing the spying affair celebrates ("Vatileaks") and in the exuberance of a glass of lemonade spilled over his cassock, "It is well known that the Pope is a great friend of the soft drink 'Fanta' is." We hope now for a personal interview with the Holy Father to address the misunderstanding.News Ticker | TITANIC - The ultimate satire magazine].   

Monday, July 9, 2012

Agonies of war never cease

"The charred remains of the six airmen — identified not through DNA matches but through dental records, personal items and other circumstantial evidence — were buried in a single casket with full military honors, as is common in situations where remains can't be conclusively linked to a specific individual." [US military buries airmen killed in 1965 crash].

It was the Vietnam War and the crash occurred in Laos.

"The Pentagon's Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office lists more than 83,000 service members as missing in action, the vast majority from World War II."

Children protecting children

Uncomfortable questions abound in sexual assault of 7-year-old girl. It may be that questions are answered elsewhere - but the Los Angeles Times article on the sentencing of a 65 year man sexually assaulting a developmentally disabled 7 year old child leaves open questions that relate to why the 7 year old was left unsupervised. If it wasn't for an 8 year child - her fate may have been much worst.

Protecting children - when will it be done?

The New York Times editorial seemingly points out the obvious: "Existing laws need to be recalibrated to make them more protective of children and less protective of adults who prey on them." [Cover-Ups, Justice and Reform in Child Sex Abuse].

They list efforts - most not final - of legislature to enable prosecution of child abusers by changing the laws relating to the statute of limitations and reporting. But it seems that more needs to be done. Reporting, prosecution are the first steps - but sentencing and parole conditions needs to be recalibrated too.

The case of Adam Brown is the standout example of the failure in sentencing and parole.

It has been demonstrated - even in the Brown case - that child molesters do not necessarily standout in the community, in fact, they are often community leaders. Of course Jerry Sandusky and the many Catholic priests seem to defy obvious detection. Thus the worst of humanity is often, too often, those who occupy a place of trust.

There seems to be a momentum - but sadly I suspect I could write this post again in 2013.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Republicans - white is the best color for the party?

The issues is voter's ID. In Texas a prospective voter is not required to show a photo ID to vote. "Existing Texas law says voters have to show a voter registration card - which does not have a photo - or an acceptable alternative, such as a driver's license or a utility bill." Texas want the photo ID to cut down of voter fraud. [Texas to test 1965 voting rights law in court].

Superficially - it seems like a fair hurdle - if in fact there is significant voter fraud. There has been little evidence offered anywhere where photo ID is being pushed. But it seems that it only creates more opportunities for fraud.

One can easily see how a photo ID can be easily manipulated. Ask those who are underage and still gain access to bars and clubs. And what about those of us who grown their hair long or shaved their beard or dyed their hair, etc.

Thus, it seems too that it would be real easy to deny a voter his or her opportunity by claiming the photo doesn't match. Black voters or anyone whose appearance doesn't meet the approval of the ID checker can be denied a vote.

How about this? "The new [Texas] law allows handgun licenses to serve as voter identification but not student IDs." 

The Texas law and similar attempts by other states reek of legislative fraud whose only goal is to disenfranchised a significant portion of the voting population that just happen to vote more for the Democratic Party.

How fitting.

Libyan plan to build parliament on ruins of Gaddafi's compound.

Oregonian editorials - new perspective

Oregonian: "In brief, we should engage readers by focusing primarily on local matters, by which I mean noteworthy developments within the tricounty area and the state -- in that order." [Oregonian editorials will emphasize community issues, engagement].

Is this the correct approach? Opinions on national and world events are well posited by many other publications that have traditionally taken on the responsibility. The Washington Post and New York Times are just two of many.

Contrary to one of the commenters - Portlanders and Oregonians need (hopefully want) opinions of relevant local events. And frankly, staying local fits within the knowledge stream of the editorial writers.

The Oregonian has made an effective change in editorial policy.

Public employees pay cut to minimum wage

Scranton, PA. The mayor says the city has run out of money. But this is not a pubic employee pension issue - it is the seemingly slow death of a city. "[T]he town has been losing population since the end of World War II." [Pay For Public Workers In Scranton, Pa., Cut To Minimum Wage]

Climate of fear

"A dark-colored Samsonite suitcase was left on a bench in a shopping center . . . . about 12:40 p.m. Police evacuated neighboring businesses, including an outdoor farmers market, and closed off [the area] while the bomb squad investigated." [San Jose bomb squad investigation turns up a typewriter].

Friday, July 6, 2012

Portland Tribune and Community Newspapers - nice look

Portland Tribune and Community Newspapers

Wonderfully amazing

Cosmic scaffolding uncovered? Scientists find thread of dark matter.

It is not the technology

"The nuclear accident at Fukushima was a preventable disaster rooted in government-industry collusion and the worst conformist conventions of Japanese culture, a parliamentary inquiry concluded Thursday." [Japan Fukushima Nuclear Crisis Called ‘Man-Made].

Myth? Mankind's contribution to climate change

A read of the news media would have one believe that humans are the cause of climate change, or global warming. It seems common sense though that human activities play a role, but it seems common sense too that humans are not the only cause nor even the primary cause.

Global warming advocates seem to ignore other factors that also may be playing a role. E.g., "[n]ew research suggests that assessments of climate variability should take volcanic activity into account." [Can small volcanic eruptions affect global climate?].

Climate change seems incontrovertible, but its causes are at issue. Rightfully or wrongfully - climate change advocates have failed to buttress their arguments with evidence, thus, failing to garner the political support they need.

When scientists can't predict earthquakes, volcano eruptions, or even the weather - it is difficult to drink the Kool-Aid. [Oddly another myth - it wasn't Kool-Aid but Flavor Aid.]

Justice delayed: Jorge Rafael Videla convicted of baby thefts

"A total of 500 babies are believed to have been handed over to military families after their mothers were murdered by the dictatorship. So far, 105 of them, now all in their 30s, have been identified through DNA tests and united with their blood families through the efforts of the Grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo, an association formed over three decades ago by the mothers of the missing women whose babies were stolen." [Jorge Rafael Videla convicted of baby thefts].

One cannot disabuse the US of its role in this and other human rights violations occurring in Argentina. See Pentagon and CIA Sent Mixed Message to Argentine Military.

China: Child trafficking gangs

It really matters not where on the globe - greed, inhumanity and criminality exists. But, China is a place one might believe would be controlled enough that child trafficking gangs would not exist. [See Chinese police 'smash' trafficking gangs, frees 181].

The article offers the suggestion that the fault is China's "one-child policy and lax adoption laws." But that ignores that it isn't government policy that created those trafficking in children. Humans everyone have this capacity to be immoral and inhumane.

However, it is just as easy to suggest that "[g]reater freedom of movement as a result of China's economic reforms is thought to have also made it easier for trafficking gangs to operate."

Food for thought from Chief Justice Roberts

"Members of this Court are vested with the authority to interpret the law; we possess neither the expertise nor the prerogative to make policy judgments. Those decisions are entrusted to our Nation’s elected leaders, who can be thrown out of office if the people disagree with them. It is not our job to protect the people from the consequences of their political choices." [NATIONAL FEDERATION OF INDEPENDENT BUSINESS et al. v. SEBELIUS, SECRETARY OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES, et al.].

Healthcare law and the Court's guiding principles


The Chief Justice did an admirable job of producing a decision in the healthcare act. One is better served by reading the court's decisions themselves rather than look to news pundits' interpretation. This case reflects an excellent example of decision writing.

Court decisions, certainly those above the first level courts, contain rationales for their decisions. Precedents are followed. Opinions are justified based upon other relevant authorities. Thus, decisions are not one off. And I submit that, for the most part, this process of decision making tends to eliminate personal political expressions.

Here are some excerpts from the first portion of  the opinion by the Chief Justice. Citations are omitted. What the Chief Justice does is to set out the role of the Court in relation to Congress and Executive Branch. It establishes a framework.

"We do not consider whether the Act embodies sound policies. That judgment is entrusted to the Nation’s elected leaders. We ask only whether Congress has the power under the Constitution to enact the challenged provisions."

"The Federal Government “is acknowledged by all to be one of enumerated powers.”  That is, rather than granting general authority to perform all the conceivable functions of government, the Constitution lists, or enumerates, the Federal Government’s powers."

"Because the police power is controlled by 50 different States instead of one national sovereign, the facets of governing that touch on citizens’ daily lives are normally administered by smaller governments closer to the governed. The Framers thus ensured that powers which “in the ordinary course of affairs, concern the lives, liberties, and properties of the people” were held by governments more local and more accountable than a distant federal bureaucracy."

"This case concerns two powers that the Constitution does grant the Federal Government, but which must be read carefully to avoid creating a general federal authority akin to the police power. The Constitution authorizes Congress to “regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes.”"

"Congress may also “lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States.”"

"Put simply, Congress may tax and spend. This grant gives the Federal Government considerable influence even in areas where it cannot directly regulate. The Federal Government may enact a tax on an activity that it cannot authorize, forbid, or otherwise control."

"And in exercising its spending power, Congress may offer funds to the States, and may condition those offers on compliance with specified conditions."

"Our permissive reading of these powers is explained in part by a general reticence to invalidate the acts of the Nation’s elected leaders. “Proper respect for a co-ordinate branch of the government” requires that we strike down an Act of Congress only if “the lack of constitutional authority to pass [the] act in question is clearly demonstrated.”"

My favorite, especially the last sentence:

"Members of this Court are vested with the authority to interpret the law; we possess neither the expertise nor the prerogative to make policy judgments. Those decisions are entrusted to our Nation’s elected leaders, who can be thrown out of office if the people disagree with them. It is not our job to protect the people from the consequences of their political choices."

"Our deference in matters of policy cannot, however, become abdication in matters of law. “The powers of the legislature are defined and limited; and that those limits may not be mistaken, or forgotten, the constitution is written.

Circumcision - the one thing Jews and Muslims agree on

And in Germany no less. From the German Local: "Germany is coming under increasing pressure over the court decision that ruled circumcision was bodily harm and thus a crime – with the Wiesenthal Centre quoting Hitler, and a Muslim group saying it was a blow against integration." [Jews, Muslims increase calls for circumcision law].

Staggering: $ 1 mil to keep 1 US service member in Afghanistan for 1 yr

From a book review in the Guardian UK: "As Chandrasekaran [author] observes, it costs $1m to keep one American service member in Afghanistan for a year. The annual bill for the war last year was more than $100bn" Little America: The War Within the War for Afghanistan by Rajiv Chandrasekaran].

Thursday, July 5, 2012

There is nothing rational about US policy towards Cuba.

Raul Castro: "We are very pleased that in recent years, the relationship between China and Cuba has continued to deepen and develop." [Cuban President Raul Castro signs deals in China].

Cuba at 90 or so miles from the mainland is closer that Hawaii which is about 2,000 miles from the mainland. So what kind a foreign policy is it that continues to punish Cuba for its revolution, that if it happened today would probably be viewed as some Latin America Spring.

It this odd policy that drove Cuba into the Russian hands in the 60s and now is driving Cuba into the hands of China. Maybe the US should consider this from Sun-tzu, Chinese general & military strategist: "Keep your friends close, and your enemies closer."

Any failure of Cuba is the direct result of the US's intimidation and interference based upon irrational fears of Cuba. Is the US that insecure that will not permit success to come to a country that is populated with innovative and industrious people?

There is more to gain than lose by establishing close relationship with Cuba.

Oregon Sustainability Center a failure in accountability and transparency

Despite claims of transparency and accountability - Portland is neither. An example is found in the Oregon Sustainability Center where the politicos will whatever it takes (legally so far) to avoid being either transparent or accountable.

Via public records request the Oregonian received redacted emails - redacted because the portions were advisory - so the city claimed. However, the Oregonian's Beth Slovic with the emails and other documents was able to tease out some significant concerns.

E.g., there is a concern "about the city's using debt secured by the general fund to benefit private parties -- something that's prohibited by the Oregon Constitution." [Link in original text; see Section 9 in Constitution.]

UK scandals - now it is the banking industry

One would have thought that the Rupert Murdock newspapers' hacking scandal would be a one off scandal - but no there is apparently a banking scandal involving Barclays and others in the UK banking industry including the Bank of England. Greed is universal.

Here are two stories worth the read:

Rigged bank rates: Is there more to come? - Inside Story - Al Jazeera English:

Daily chart: Don't bank on it | The Economist  

Talk about poor working conditions

"The probe [of the former head of France Telecom Didier Lombard] relates to the suicides of over 30 employees in 2008 and 2009 when Mr Lombard was in charge." [Ex-France Telecom chief Lombard probed over suicides].

What if they had been better shots

This from the Portland police Press Release: [some editing for brevity.]

"Officers arrived and learned that a group of people, including 5-6 children under the age of 10 years old were on the corner lighting off fireworks. While lighting/watching the fireworks, a vehicle occupied by at least 3 African American males, drove by and fired multiple shots at the group.

An adult woman was shot and she was transported to an area hospital with what are believed to be life threatening injuries. There is no update on here condition at this time.

The shooters drove off westbound on Fessenden. Officers also learned that a subject from the group watching fireworks, returned fire as the vehicle drove off. That subject then ran off northbound on Fiske and has not been identified at this time."

The difference between a too often routine report about gang shooting and a terrible tragedy is luck - luck that the shooter(s) failed to hit the children. The headline could have been "5 children shot and killed in a drive by." Fortunately the adult that was hit was not seriously harmed. Luck again.

What kind of people fire at children? Total disregard for life is only the beginning of the story.

Don't wait until Monday to find out your computer will not access the Net

It is an old story beginning about a year ago when the actual infection occurred. Without running a check you will not know if a computer is infected until Monday when Internet access is attempted.  The Washington Post has the whole story.

Apparently there are only about 64,000 USA computers likely infected, but while the odds are in your favor - it only takes a click on a link to run the check. Better safe than sorry comes to mind.

The FBI's sort of white knight role is intriguing.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Nice Volkswagen

Carmaker Volkswagen finalizes Porsche takeover

George W. Bush in Zambia not taking any crap

Zambian Watchdog media
Three cheers for George W. First, I never thought I would read that "[f]ormer U.S. President George W. Bush was this week in Zambia to promote cervical cancer detection and treatment programs for women . . . ."  [Zambia Watchdog].

Nor would I ever expect to see a picture, a la President Carter, of George W actually painting a clinic.

Best yet - he didn't take any crap from Zambia's president Sata who called George W and the US colonists.

Bush deserves credit for his behavior out of office. He has maintained a rather low profile. Arguably he is more presidential out of office than in.

Fetal genome from mother's blood

"Stanford University School of Medicine researchers have for the first time determined an unborn child's genome with nothing but a blood sample from the mother." [SFGate]. Apparently it is not all that revolutionary. In June the University of Washington scientists "sequenced a fetus's DNA using both a blood sample from the pregnant woman and a saliva sample from the father."

The upside to these new genetic tests is the screening "for potential disorders in fetuses . . . ."

But it is the downside that is important. Is society ready to take on the question of "[w]ho deserves to be born?"

It seems easy to say that no one would want a child born with physical or mental deficiencies. The article notes that "[m]any families would dread having a child with Down syndrome."  But "many" is not all.

Maybe a better question is who is to make the call? And what would be the risk threshold?

Would the testing be required by healthcare providers?

If a parent(s) ignores the potential medical issues - should the risks be borne by society?

Questions abound.

It is a great country - citizenship is important

Illegal immigration ought to be discouraged at all costs. Turning the head aside at illegal immigration irrespective of where they come from is wrong. It is sad situation where so many, maybe most, come to this country legally and find different paths to citizenship - yet too many merely cross the border.

An example of a path is service in the armed forces. "Since shortly after the terrorist attacks of 2001, the U.S. government has put foreign military service personnel on a fast track to citizenship "to recognize their contribution and sacrifice," according to a Pentagon spokeswoman. About 8,000 immigrants enlist each year in the U.S. armed forces." [July 4 WH Ceremony Grants Citizenship to 25 Service Members].

Odd - isn't it? Immigrants enlisting in the armed forces while the same zeal is absent from citizens.

Why should those who merely cross the border be given any of the same benefits that so many others work hard to achieve legally?

Portland crime stats through 6-16

Portland Part 1 Crime Stats for 6-10 - 6-16. As compared to the previous week, Robbery, Aggravated Assault, and Burglary Residential increased substantially for the city. The one murder was in the East Precinct.

Oregonian: Forest Grove looks beyond TriMet in drive for better public transit

Public transit ought to be a cost shared by the community. Thus, it is a fact that transit users do not pay the freight. What area is served and how it is to be served should be determined on need. How that service is provided - bus or light rail - must be cost determined. Flexibility ought to be the driving force.

Light rail doesn't provide cost effective service nor does it provide service to areas based upon need. If reducing the use of cars is a priority, then buses - not constrained to fixed rails - must be the transit priority.

See the issue as it is being played out in Forest Grove: Forest Grove looks beyond TriMet in drive for better public transit.

Coal clash: Oregonian special report

The Oregonian deserves credit for this three part story about potential economic benefits and environmental detriments from the exporting of coal via routes through Washington and Oregon. Take a peek at this interactive map from Part 2 showing the possible coal routes from Montana and Wyoming. It includes the marking of the July 2 derailment in Washington of a train bound for British Columbia.

It may be interesting to note that place of the derailment makes it appear that the train was not going to British Columbia but to Port Morrow  in Boardman Or.

Take note too that the derailment took place in the town of Mesa Washington. A place where "a]pproximately 30-plus trains operate on this line daily." [See MESA: Update: Cleanup effort under way after Mesa train derailment.]

Will trains routed through Portland be subject to derailment? Will the coal cars be covered? There are many issues.

And see the graphic for global coal consumption and emissions.