Friday, August 31, 2012

All of the sudden (or not) China is more capitalist than communist

"Experts on China say Beijing is eager to have Europe welcome more Chinese investment in key areas, not just the debt market." [China and Germany Promise to Strengthen Ties].

"This year, China will account for 26.5 percent of all smartphone shipments, compared to 17.8 percent in the United States, according to a forecast by the International Data Corporation, a research firm." [The China-U.S. Smartphone Gap Grows Larger].

No longer an emerging power!

McDonald's can't win

In Germany they substituted books instead of toy, yet it was still criticized as "shaping the tastes and eating habits of kids."  The books are coming from the "Endowment for Reading [that] has described the McDonald's partnership as a chance to reach children in families with low levels of education." [McDonald's book scheme]

From the Economist: Weapons of mass distribution chart

"America and Russia, the world’s leading arms suppliers, accounted for around two-thirds of deliveries to the developing world." [Daily chart: Weapons of mass distribution].

Maybe this is the reason that certain parts of the world are in a turmoil.

Pakistan and Afghanistan - an alien world

The culture and religions are still stuck in the 3rd century or thereabouts.

Pakistan Blasphemy Case: Court Extends Detention Of Young Christian Girl

Two Afghan children beheaded in separate incidents

Religion and satire

"The "Vatileaks" scandal saw whistleblowers copying and leaking private documents straight from Benedict's desk, causing deep embarrassment to the Vatican." Playing on the embarrassment, a German satire magazine published an edition with front and back cover photos of the pope - he sued. But apparently thinking better of it - dropped the suit. [Vatican drops injunction against satire magazine].

What about the photos that didn't tickle the pope's funny bone? The front cover had "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!” And the back cover had "a photo of him from behind with a large brown stain and the headline, “Another leak is found!”  [Supra].

No sense of humor?

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Roman Catholic priest: child often seducer in sex abuse cases

"A Roman Catholic priest in New York expressed sympathy this week for some clergy who sexually abuse children, saying that it is often the "youngster" who is the seducer, then later apologized for his remarks." [New York priest says child often seducer in sex abuse cases].

And it gets worse: "Comments by the Rev. Benedict Groeschel, 79, co-founder of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal in Westchester County outside New York City, in which he expressed sympathy for convicted child rapist Jerry Sandusky . . . . "

And, "Suppose you have a man having a nervous breakdown, and a youngster comes after him. A lot of the cases, the youngster — 14, 16, 18 — is the seducer."

". . . children might seduce priests because they lacked a father figure, adding, "They won't be planning to get into heavy-duty sex, but almost romantic, embracing, kissing, perhaps sleeping, but not having intercourse or anything like that."

All said in an interview in the National Catholic Register. I guess the Father felt comfortable with another Catholic. Maybe like minds?

What kind of person thinks this way?

Gay Republicans - really?

I don't understand how any gay person or person of color could seriously support the Republican Party. They would be in a much better position to achieve their goals in a political party that has welcomed them and for the most part support their goals. And a move to the Democratic Party would more likely force the Republicans to change their homophobic and racist views.  [Some Gay Republicans See Platform Setback As Sign 'Victory Is Near'].

An arts tax on wage earners - stupid idea right out of the box

"Voters will decide if wage-earners in Multnomah County should pay $35 a year. A little more than half the $12 million estimated revenue will fund arts teachers and the rest will support the day-to-day operations of 42 arts organizations." [Dan Wieden on Portland's proposed arts tax: 'a fabulous idea'].

I am no longer a wage earner - so if the wage earning voters want to contribute $35 of their hard earned pay for something they receive zero, as in zip, benefit - please do. But it is interesting how the wealthy support something that will have no effect on their income. I wonder how the wage earners that work for his company feel about $35 forced donations?

Cap-and-trade program

"The state [California] will set a limit on the amount of greenhouse gases each affected entity is allowed to emit. Companies that reduce their emissions below their cap can sell or "trade" their unused allowances to companies that exceed their limits." [Dress rehearsal Thursday for California's cap-and-trade program].

It is interesting that companies that pollute have to be financially incentivize to stop their pollution. The gist of this cap and trade concept is that polluters that exceed the credits assigned to them by the state will either have to buy credits from the state, non-polluters or reduce, not stop, polluting.

Buying the extra credits from the state is expected to produce substantial revenue. And that might be all that it will be accomplished, because nothing requires a company to stop polluting - it only requires a company to pay for their pollution.

 The ultimate question is whether the cost of buying the credits is an effective incentive to reduce polluting? Too often industry finds that the cost, e.g., a fine, of continuing bad behavior is less the cost of correcting the behavior.

And like any regulatory process there will be the effort and ability to avoid scrutiny. One thing for sure - corruption and collusion will be the future headlines.

Crime Stats through 8-11-12

Nothing surprising in the latest numbers except that the murder statistic is alarming or so it would seem. Compared to last year at this time, i.e., 8-11, it is 21 to 15. Coming too close to being 3 per month. The East and Central precincts are where the homicides are occuring. No surprise there. [City of Portland Part I Crime Stats Through August 11, 2012].

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Marketing lottery sales as an investment in college education

There is a disappointment in Washington that lottery sales hasn't been marketed sufficiently to demonstrate the benefits of funding college education. [Increase in Washington lottery sales not linked to higher education support]. The theory is that there would be an increase in lottery sales if  lottery purchaser knew that their 'funding' would be used to help Washington residents to go to college. [See Washington Opportunity Pathways for info on the program.]

There is an attempt in the Oregonian article to reference the apparent success in Georgia's lottery program and Washington's failure. The Washington program was inspired by Georgia's, but even a superficial look at the two programs demonstrate little for comparison. [See Georgia' HOPE Scholarship.]

It seems clear that Georgia's lottery revenue has been successful in the amount of funds collected for the use of higher education. However, it is not clear the role that marketing has played in that success. But it seems that Georgia, and other states are considering, is making lottery tickets accessible on line. Making it easier, and anonymous, might be the key. The things that people do at home via computer.

Does anyone seriously pause, however brief or lengthy, to consider the end use of their money about to be forked over for a lottery ticket? Is there any valid connection (cause and effect) between marketing the use of the funds and the purchasing tickets? In Oregon, do those video poker players give a hoot about the end use of their money poured (almost literally) into the machines?

Will people gamble more or less depending on marketing? And is it moral or ethical for the state to feed off an individual's addictions? It is one thing to tax 'sin' activities, but another to encourage the 'sin.' But at least the money goes for a good purpose.

Robbing Peter to pay Paul

A recent audit shows that the city took "$8.1 million from an internal reserve fund meant for pension obligations to help pay for a costly computer upgrade." [Audit: Portland used internal reserves meant for pension obligation for software].

It may be legal - but that doesn't make it right. And it is interesting that a city commissioner can seek a resolution to ban coal trains from passing through Portland - but what is the likelihood that the commissioner, or any other commissioner for that matter, bringing before the council "a resolution to formally protect the internal reserves, and [that] these decisions would remain in force until another council action removes that commitment." [Supra].

Resolution to oppose coal trains through PDX

Portland liberals against coal - wow what a news flash. [Portland Commissioner Amanda Fritz to bring coal export resolution before council]. What is it that the city "leaders" accomplish relating to the city of Portland. The commissioner's resolution is meaningless if for no other reason it has no enforcement capability.But it is election time. But is this what Portlanders want from its leaders? Are there not really important Portland issues to be solved, e.g., gang violence?

How does one suppose our nation would have developed economically if individual states or cities could determine interstate commerce? Portland "leaders," and other Oregon politicos, seems to believe that electrical energy comes from some divine source - certainly not from coal. And these politicos seem to believe that they are divinely inspired to cure the ills of the planet.

But, consider this. "[...] nearly 40% of Oregon's power comes from coal, half of which is produced out of state, primarily the Powder River Basin in Wyoming and Montana. " [What is the role of coal in the United States?]. What if states could play tit for tat?

Opposition to coal trains passing through Oregon for destinations like India makes little sense or cents. Moreover, it is a little more than just hypocritical to say thanks to Wyoming and Montana for their coal to fire Oregon's electrical power production - yet to say no to their coal production passing through via trains.

Is it correct (however one might define that) to deny developing nations the very means of development that fueled our economic development? One cannot seriously believe that alternative energy sources, excluding nuclear, can fuel development. And imagine the outrage should these nations start using nuclear power plants.

[Some of the above taken from prior post.]

Why coal production is still important

"Whether it succeeds in meeting that demand could be the single most important determinant of India’s economic prospects over the next two decades, one of the main factors that will decide whether the country can continue to pull hundreds of millions of people out of poverty and realize its ambitions to be a 21st-century economic powerhouse." [Satisfying India’s thirst for power could be nation’s biggest challenge].

I am not sure why there is so much opposition to coal, especially opposition that is flat out against coal production and use. It is an attitude of 'we got ours fuck you.' Coal is and has been the developing nation's means of transforming itself into a developed country. Unless one is prepared for the spread of nuclear power plants - coal is the only economic and practical means of providing electrical energy. Thus far alternative energy sources - excluding nuclear - have not developed.

People seem to have their heads stuck up their rear ends - apparently refusing to recognize or understand the breadth of coal use in this country.
"The United States holds the world's largest estimated recoverable reserves of coal and is a net exporter of coal. In 2011, our nation's coal mines produced more than a billion short tons of coal, and more than 90% of this coal was used by U.S. power plants to generate electricity." [What is the role of coal in the United States?].
"Over 90% of U.S. coal consumption is in the electric power sector. The United States has more than 1,400 coal-fired electricity generating units in operation at more than 600 plants across the country. Together, these power plants generate over 40% of the electricity produced in the United States and consume more than 900 million short tons of coal per year." [Supra].
Oregon, especially, and maybe only, Portland, seems to believe that electrical energy comes from some divine source - certainly not from coal. It is true though that coal fired plants are nearly absent from the Oregon landscape - "Oregon had one coal-fired generating station in 2005 . . . ." [Oregon and coal, an anti-coal site].

But, consider this. "Oregon ranks 42nd out of the 50 states in terms of coal energy production representing 4.7% of the state's total electric generating capacity," [...] nearly 40% of Oregon's power comes from coal, half of which is produced out of state, primarily the Powder River Basin in Wyoming and Montana. " [Supra].

Opposition to coal trains passing through Oregon for destinations like India makes little sense or cents. Moreover, it is a little more than just hypocritical to say thanks to Wyoming and Montana for their coal to fire Oregon's electrical power production - yet to say no to their coal production passing through via trains.

Is it correct (however one might define that) to deny developing nations the very means of development that fueled our economic development? One cannot seriously believe that alternative energy sources, excluding nuclear, can fuel development. And imagine the outrage should these nations start using nuclear power plants.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

It is so rosy in the "City of Roses," but in fact it isn't Portland at all

Well it seems that the Oregonian has donned its rosy glasses - and guess what - everything looks rosy. A recent example is the post about Saleforce. "Salesforce said it plans to hire "hundreds" for its Oregon site in the near future, and potentially "many hundreds" down the road."  [Portland area beat out Salt Lake City for big hub].

Hundreds - really? In Portland, as in the city of - really?

But one cannot discount the BS piled on in the Oregonian considering the state provided "incentive package potentially worth millions to the company." But that wasn't the reason they chose Portland area over Salt Lake City - no it was because "Portland was simply a more attractive place to recruit the young techies that Salesforce hopes to hire."

Let's see - you are relatively young and the home company, probably the hiring pool, is in San Francisco. Your alternative is Salt Lake City. Yeah that is a difficult choice. Comparing Portland and Salt Lake City is an apples and oranges exercise.  

But it isn't Portland at all - it may be loosely described as Portland Metro. "Salesforce said Friday it hasn't picked a location for its Oregon office, but public agency correspondence reviewed by The Oregonian suggests that Washington County is a likely destination."

It is fair to call it Portland merely because a piece of Portland is in Washington County? Aren't these cities more likely to benefit: Beaverton, Hillsboro, etc.

The Oregonian piece is one of their more ambiguous and misleading stories about Portland and jobs - that wasn't about Portland at all. Go figure.

'Bullying' lost its meaning?

The search continues for a single label cause for unexplained violence. The recent shooting in Baltimore is finding solace in assigning the fault to bullying. But the Christian Science Monitor cautions - no so fast. [Perry Hall High School: Shooting and bullying? Not so fast].

'Bullying' is a catch word explanation for victim and perpetrator alike. There seems to be this need to explain everything wrong in society - everyone is an amateur physiologist. And it really makes little difference if, in fact, there is no connection between an incident and a perceived cause. The perception is as many as the seekers. But, it satisfies.

Religious intolerance: Amish on Amish

"A breakaway Amish group accused of settling a score by carrying out hair-cutting attacks against members of their faith . . . ." They are on trial "charged with hate crimes in the hair- and beard-cutting attacks last fall in Ohio. Such hair-cuttings are considered deeply offensive in the traditional Amish culture." [Amish hair attacks: Hate crimes trial of Amish splinter group begins].

There seems to be few problems that doesn't have roots in religion.

Thank you Archbishop Desmond Tutu

"The veteran peace campaigner said Mr Blair's support for the Iraq war was "morally indefensible" and it would be "inappropriate" for him to appear alongside him." [Archbishop Tutu refuses platform with Tony Blair over Iraq].

Only in Oregon - I hope

Is this the spot for purchase of beer? Bend gas station has 30 microbrews on tap.

Thanks Hippocrates: Willow bark > Salicylic acid > aspirin

Aspirin is nearly a miracle (I don't believe in miracles) drug that has many beneficial, with few negative, results. A recent study connects aspirin to positive results in prostate cancer recovery. [Regular Aspirin Use May Aid Prostate Cancer Recovery, Study Finds]. See too my posts Aspirin a 'no brainer' against cancer and Live longer and better: Drink coffee, wine and beer; eat dark chocolate; enjoy sex; and take aspirin.

We don't think of aspirin as alternative medicine, but it is. Aspirin is basically derived from salicylic acid found in willow bark. Hippocrates apparently wrote about willow bark in the 5th century and Native Americans used the bark for aches and pains and fever reduction. [Salicylic acid]. Leave it to the Germans (Bayer) to make it commercial. [Aspirin].

I am taking some liberties, short cuts, in making the point that aspirin so valuable as a modern drug had its origins centuries ago. It is not too difficult to grasp that early man might have made use of plants as medicine. Duh!

To our detriment, we don't realize the connection between animal (us too) life and plant life. The environmentalists and climate change proponents have basically seen the enemy and recognize that it is us [thanks Pogo]. A research follow through, even one very brief, on the origins of aspirin provides a certain enlightenment on the connection..

Sources (a trip through Wikipedia):
Salicylic acid
Alternative medicine
Willow bark

Monday, August 27, 2012

Finding a niche in Pearl

There are many examples of business people, innovators, risk takers that see the Pearl as the place for them. As a resident I wonder just how many of these niche seekers grasp Pearl. Pearl is not a large area and its density established by vertical residential is not that substantial. Height limits, among other things, keep density, thus far, livable.

Parking is an issue, not so much for those residents that can afford it, but it is for the other residents and for the visitor to the area. Not only is the space some what limited, it is expensive and designed to limit the visitor's time in Pearl shopping, eating, drinking, etc.

The residents of Pearl are very economically diverse - contrary to popular folklore. Those living in the Pearl represent a fair cross-section of economic Portland. It is well populated with low income individuals and families and those considered seniors. Pearl is not a place where the rich lives.

And Pearl is not only a residential place, it is also a destination. For many of the Pearl businesses, they serve one or the other but not necessarily both. That is, the market is different for the residents than it would be for the transient visitor.

A crude example, and I am guessing, is Trader Vic's. It is not located in the Pearl to serve Pearl residents; whereas, Safeway is there because of the residents. But the reality, as I see it, is that businesses in Pearl are there mostly for the destination crowd - they come for the drinking, eating, etc., and drive home.

I say drive because buses are not integral to reaching Pearl nor is the Streetcar. Beginning September, there will be only one bus line that passes through Pearl - east/west. The Streetcar is the only north/south public transportation. And contrary to the propaganda - the Streetcar, as a fixed rail mode, is not useful public transportation except for the few.

My point if it is not clear is that if one wants to enjoy the good food and drink in Pearl - you get there by car.

But to the point of this post. There are two businesses starting up in Pearl that drew my attention - one is a bar/restaurant and the other is, for the lack of a better term, a local grocery store. But, neither one seem geared to serve Pearl residents or those who might visit Pearl.

The bar is Streetcar Bistro - not yet open - but will be located at 11th and Northrup. Parking is nearly absent, and if the Streetcar was a convenient mode of travel - it might be a good location because it is at a point where the two Streetcar lines intersect. In late September the Streetcar line from Lloyd Center area will come across the Broadway Bridge and on to downtown Portland

Interesting is that Streetcar Bistro will be occupying a space that was a true local grocery store that served that niche because of the absence of a larger store. But Safeway moved in and dispatched the local store.

The Streetcar Bistro gives all the indications of not being appropriately capitalized. They appear to be DIY advocates. And part of their capitalization is this strange offering where the investor receives nothing in return. It is located at the north end of Pearl that is mostly residential. They are billing themselves as a neighborhood bar - but what is the neighborhood?

It is located in an apartment building that is more low income and senior than anything else. The surrounding buildings are high end condos (some converted from condos to apartments).  It is not a drinking neighborhood - nor is it well established. Pearl is still relatively new having been constructed from the ground up.

There are some office spaces not too far away, but these are arguably well served by the extant bars and restaurants. BridgePort Brewery more than adequately serves the neighborhood drinkers. And it is doubtful that Streetcar Bistro can price itself better than BridgePort.

I submit that the Streetcar Bistro hasn't a niche in that location in Pearl and neither has the other business - Local Choice grocery store that appears to see itself not in competition with either Safeway or Whole Foods - but it is. Their niche is fresh vegetables.

The Oregonian food critic: "The Pearl District is known for elegant wine bars, high-end restaurants and swank condos, but when it comes to fresh veggies, locals have just two main options: Whole Foods [..], and Safeway . . . ."  Ignoring that he is perpetuating the myth of high end Pearl, how many choices is necessary? Both grocery stores serve the Pearl district, small in population and economically diverse, quite well. And that includes fruits and vegetables - organically grown too.

Local Choice' location on eastern side of Pearl does make it convenient for some of the income conscious and cautious living in Pearl and in Old Town. But it seems unlikely that this store can price itself better than Whole Foods or especially Safeway.

Safeway may well be a large corporate food chain - but it sells fresh fruit and vegetables at affordable prices. And - it when it comes down to it - it is price that drives the purchase. There is a reason for the loss of the small neighborhood style grocery stores and it isn't service or product availability.

And it will be prices that will triumph over concepts like buying local or supporting local growers and distributors. And by the way both Safeway and Whole Foods have ample parking, but the Local Choice store will have little available parking. The store is located on the bus line and near the Streetcar line, but have you ever shopped via either?

Neither of these stores have found a niche to fill in Pearl. They may have perceived one exists - but it doesn't seem likely. Both seem to be acting on social constructs such as buying local and serving neighborhoods.

I would like to see these innovators and risk takers do well but I believe they have misread the Pearl. Neither business is likely to make it through the first year.

Best feel good story

I believe it is old news but this use of lottery winnings is the best yet. A Scottish couple who scooped the UK's biggest lottery win have offered to pay for a life-changing operation for a four-year-old girl with cerebral palsy.

This is Afghanistan

"The victims were killed for throwing a late night dancing and music party when the Taliban attacked,' Nimatullah, governor for neighboring Musa Qala district, told Reuters.'" [Seventeen villagers beheaded in southern Afghanistan]. 

"A rogue Afghan soldier shot dead two U.S. troops in east Afghanistan on Monday, the NATO-led coalition said . . . ." There have been 33 insider attacks so far this year that have led to 42 coalition deaths.[Two U.S. troops killed by rogue Afghan soldier].

And why are still there?

Will the US become a corporatocracy? Isn't it already?

It is somewhat difficult to pronounce. Wikipedia gives this pronunciation: kɔrpərəˈtɒkrəsi; and this definition: "a term used to suggest an economic and political system is controlled by corporations or corporate interests." As Wikipedia notes - "its use is generally pejorative." But that doesn't make it any less accurate.

The urban dictionary focuses the definition: "Rule by an oligarchy of corporate elites through the manipulation of a formal democracy." The dictionary lists three similar definitions, but all necessarily exclude corporations merely because of the corporate form.

Corporatocacy is about political control of the administration of democracy in the US through corporate form. Arguably the recent Supreme Court Citizens United decision swung the door open for those seeking one more of the means to not only influence but control the democratic process.

I am not so sure that the Court's decision will give that result. I am reluctant to agree that unlimited and unfettered campaign funding will defeat the American will, although I do fear that it will. It is difficult to grasp that Americans are incapable of seeing through the campaigning tactics funded by big dollars. I guess we will see - the elections are near and dear.

A Huffington Post blog post gives a 'Wall Street occupier' definition - The Corporatocracy Is the 1 Percent. But that isn't necessarily accurate. Merely because some of the 1% might be rightly described as part of the corporatocracy doesn't mean that all can be included. But it seems fair to say that the corporatocracy represents their economic interests.

The author states that "[t]he federal government is certainly complicit in the oppression of the 99%. And the people are rightly upset." The complicity is found in the failure of the regulatory agencies - just to start. But, I do wonder just how upset the 'people' are - will the presidential election reflect that unhappiness? 

This author like many points out the polls that show that "Congressional approval is now in the single digits, which is the lowest in recorded history for CBS/New York Times pollsters." But, I don't sense that the electorate is hell bent on kicking the rascals out.

How about this from The Corporatocracy: A New Economic System for the Connected Banking Sector and Political Elites. Providing the new Serfdom Massive Debt Servitude (the title says it all): "The true evil of the corporatocracy is that it has preached a religion that believed for many decades that producing goods was second to paper pushing and believed in praying at the altar of debt."

That from a defender of capitalism. But what I see is a struggle to define in one word the failure of our political and economic system. The founding fathers set up the structure to provide all the necessary checks and balances - yet here we are with income and wealth divisions that has created a society with a clear division of haves and have nots.

American democracy (maybe democracy in general, e.g., India) has failed its constituents. Choices at elections are absent. With the two party system - the electorate has the choice between the wealthy dumb and dumber. There is no nexus between our federal representatives and us. And the same can be said about state and local representatives.

Access to representatives of government is available only to the lobbyists. The representative's door is always open to the lobbyist that represents special interests - not the majority. He or she is paid to represent an interest that often is contrary to the interests of the electorate. What is good for the corporatocracy is good for the corporatocracy.

Government elected representatives and administrators live in a different world that you and I. And in fact live in a different physical world - you are not likely to see your state representative anywhere in the state. They live in an essentially closed society that seeks to procreate and protect their own. The value of the numerical majority is dismissed and diminished. But one might not recognize that at election time.

Take a look back and one sees that the problem with the capitalism and democracy package is not a new one. E.g., see this site - Who Rules America? Power, Politics, & Social Change. The book Who Rules America was required reading when I attended UC Berkeley. I submit the only change in the passage of time has been the sharpness in the economic and political divide in American society.

Without buying his book - one can get some answers to who rules America in his FAQ. E.g., in answer to the basic question - who rules America? It is "[t]he owners and managers of large income-producing properties; i.e., corporations, banks, and agri-businesses. But they have plenty of help from the managers and experts they hire."

And how do they rule? "That's a complicated story, but the short answer is through open and direct involvement in policy planning, through participation in political campaigns and elections, and through appointments to key decision-making positions in government."

Somewhere along the way we have to stop reading about who or what is at fault and start addressing the failures of the political and economical system that is nearly global benefiting only a few who are not constrained by national boundaries. Attempting to put labels on the causes of the ills is self-defeating and detracts from finding solutions.

It will be interesting to see how the dishearten electorate will vote - Obama or Romney. Romney and the Republican Party clearly supports the economic and political divide in the country. Problem though - Obama and the Democrats are little different. Some choice.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

So much for the secrecy aimed to protect the Navy Seals

Ironic in a sense that all the criticism aimed at the Obama administration allegedly leaking secret information concerning the raid that killed our old friend bid Laden is countered by one of the participating Navy SEALS. [Ex-Navy SEAL behind bin Laden book faces threats, investigation]. 

Even 'heroes" are greedy - so it seems.

Texas man's rape conviction overturned - 23 years too late

"David Lee Wiggins, 48, of Fort Worth was imprisoned in 1989 for rape, largely because the 14-year-old victim picked him out of photo and live lineups. His fingerprints did not match any at the crime scene. Still, he was sentenced to life in prison." [Texas man's conviction overturned after 24 years].

"After the hearing [ordering his release], Wiggins went out to lunch with about 10 former Texas prisoners who had been exonerated." It is difficult to believe that DNA testing wasn't available in 1989.

Fair exchange for 24 years? "After his conviction is formally reversed, Wiggins will be eligible for $80,000 a year in compensation and added benefits that the state provides to those wrongfully convicted."

Credit has to be given to Texas for their 2001 law that allows "inmates to request post-conviction DNA testing." And credit also belongs to the New York based Innocence Project that worked to free Wiggins.

But even with this positive result, it is stories like this that still tear at the fabric of the criminal justice system. Yes it is Texas, and as the argument might go - what would you have expected from Texas? But similar cases come to light elsewhere all the time mostly due to subsequent DNA analysis.

It is important to get it right on the first go around. What if he would have been sentenced to death?

Collateral damage at the Empire State building

It was police bullets that hit all nine wounded in the Empire State shootout. No deaths. I am not quite sure what to make of it.
"The veteran patrolmen who opened fire on the suit-wearing gunman, Jeffrey Johnson, had only an instant to react when he whirled and pointed a .45-caliber pistol as they approached him from behind on a busy sidewalk."
They fired 16 rounds total - 10 hit the gunman. It appeared "that all nine of the victims were struck either by fragments or by bullets fired by police."

Thus far it seems that the police had no choice in firing, and they certainly did not choose the location. If something similar happened in Portland the police would have been roundly criticized.

"Why was a Navy adviser stripped of her career?"

It is a question posed by the Washington Post Magazine. It is a rather fascinating story about the risks one takes by being ethical and speaking up. War with Iran based upon a pretense was decidedly avoided by this Navy adviser. Shades of Iraq WMD and Gulf of Tonkin.

It is not about Xenophobia or immigrants

It is about illegal immigration - Cities on Border With Mexico Burdened by Calls for Medical Help.

How about a campaign against pedophile priests?

Catholic church in Scotland steps up campaign against gay marriage.

"The trouble with freedom"

It is a BBC article, A Point Of View: The trouble with freedom, that expresses so well that I believe many believe yet find it difficult to articulate.
"An older generation of thinkers recognised that freedom and democracy don't always go hand in hand. The 19th Century liberal John Stuart Mill was a life-long campaigner for greater democracy, but he also worried that personal liberty would shrink once governments could claim to express the will of the majority."
"We need freedom because our goals and values are highly diverse and often quite different from those of the people around us. Having a voice in collective decisions - the basis of democracy - is a fine thing, but it won't protect your freedom if the majority is hostile to the way you choose to live." [Supra].
Take the time to read the BBC article - see if you agree in total.

Value of coal in India

In India there is a great demand for coal, but much of the coal producing areas are the lands of the very poor - democracy, capitalism, greed, corruption work together to exploit those lands for the massive economic benefit of a few.

Coal is not only important to India but so too for China and South Korea who are large importers of India's coal. This great demand has led to massive corruption. An Indian auditor's report of the government's sale of coal fields without open bidding cost India "$33n (£20bn)." [India coal scandal: Hundreds protest against PM Singh].

As might be expected jobs and prosperity are promised for the exploitation of the coal fields. But the corruption and exploitation is not limited to coal. "Some of the most mineral-rich parts of the country are situated in regions that are home to some of the poorest tribal communities." [Why mining in India is a source of corruption].

It isn't surprising that as "a consequence of sharp inequalities in income and wealth" these areas are " hotbeds of Maoist insurgency." "No wonder that for many in India, mining has come to epitomise the ugly underbelly of economic liberalisation - crony capitalism and rampant loot of natural resources." [Supra].

The rise of Maoism, or some form of communism, seems almost organic when there are "sharp inequalities in income and wealth" and "marginalised tribal communities who have gained nothing from their country's recent economic growth." And it isn't surprising either that their "leaders are largely educated and have urban backgrounds." [Maoists in India: Long struggle for the landless poor].

Crony capitalism and rampant looting of natural resources seem too often to go hand in hand with democracy giving rise to the radicalized left.

Dissent in Russia - don't

Three of the women's collective were sentenced to jail for two years for their "punk prayer" in a Russian church. "Their brief, obscenity-laced performance, which implored the Virgin Mary to "throw Putin out", enraged the Orthodox Church." [Two Pussy Riot activists 'flee Russia'].

It isn't about offending the church though - it is about the Russian government's, i.e., Putin, apparent need to stop dissent.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Rodney King - what a guy

The coroner's report listed King's death as an accident but added that he was in a “state of drug- and alcohol-induced delirium at the time of the terminal event and either fell or jumped into the swimming pool." [Rodney King 'incapacitated' by drugs, alcohol before drowning].

A sin tax - sex meters

Portland is always keen on using what the cities and towns in Europe are doing as support for Portland's often misguided ideas. But this is one European idea that will not get traction, but maybe it should: "Prostitutes working the streets of Germany’s former capital have to buy themselves a ticket from the converted parking meters each night, or face a fine."About $45,000 in the first year. [Street prostitutes 'accept sex meters' ].

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Going hungry in America - can this be correct?

"Eighteen percent of Americans say there have been times this year that they couldn't afford the food they needed, according to a Gallup poll released Tuesday. In particularly hard-hit regions of the United States, like the South, at least one in five didn't have enough money for food." [One in Four Mississippi Residents Struggle to Afford Food]. 

For what it is worth - Oregon is neither on the 'most likely to struggle' nor the 'least likely to struggle' list of states. The interactive map puts Oregon in the midrange along with Washington and California. See page 2, the full list of states, indicating the ranking of states and the percentage of those within the state that stated they did not have enough money for food. Oregon is shown to rank 21 with 18.3%, Washington at 34 with 15.3%, and California at 18 with 19.4%.

See Pew research that lends support to the Gallup poll.

Solyndra's glass tubes - making lemonade

From million of glass tubes, from cylindrical solar panels, abandoned in a warehouse - a sculpture. The glass tubes came from the bankrupt Solyndra. That was the company that defaulted on $535 million loan - guaranteed by U.S. Department of Energy. [Solyndra's glass tubes find second life as modern art].

Sandusky Freeh's report starting to come apart

"Lawyer Timothy Lewis called Louis Freeh, the former FBI director and federal judge behind the report, a "biased investigator" who piled speculation on top of innuendo to accuse Spanier in a cover-up of early abuse complaints." [Ousted Penn State president ridicules Sandusky report].

The Freeh report needs to be reconsidered as to its evidentiary value. It has gone way too far in 'convicting' people without scrutiny. Case in point. The Penn State president that lost his job was in fact as a child subject to substantial physical and emotion abuse, not sexual, but surely he would have been cautious to take action had he known the facts about Sandusky's horesplay.

The Penn State president said "that he was told only that Sandusky had been seen engaging in "horseplay" in a campus shower with a boy and he took that to mean "throwing water around, snapping towels."

There is suggestion too in about to be release biography on Paterno that there was no love lost between Sandusky and Paterno contrary to Freeh report that Paterno intervened on behalf of Sandusky. [More Paterno bio excerpts reveal rift between coach, Sandusky].

From all accounts - it seems that the desire to 'punish' others for Sandusky's actions has gone awry. Connections made to others are tenuous at best - but the damage has been done. It is not likely that those who read the earlier media reports will have read the recent articles.

More and more 'presumed innocence' is a crock.

Hmmm. Antarctica warmth 'unusual, but not unique'

So what is the reader to take away from articles like this? It notes: "Analysis of a 364m-long ice core containing several millennia of climate history shows the region previously basked in temperatures slightly higher than today."

But then couldn't resist throwing this in: "However, the peninsula is now warming rapidly, threatening previously stable areas of ice, the study warns."

Survey says! Congress to blame for middle class difficulties

The Pew Research Center asked who is at fault for middle class difficulties? Well for once it wasn't Obamacare or anything else as trite that too often comes from the media pundits and trolls.

The Pew article notes that "[f]or the middle-income group, the “lost decade” of the 2000s has been even worse for wealth loss than for income loss. The median income of the middle-income tier fell 5%, but median wealth (assets minus debt) declined by 28%, to $93,150 from $129,582."

This is interesting possibly because of the wealth of Romney: "About half (52%) of adults who self-identify as middle class say they believe Obama’s policies in a second term would help the middle class, while 39% say they would not help."

The Pew research is interesting too in who it is that describes themselves as middle class. their attitude towards hard work, hope for the future, and what age group is most hopeful.

This chart is a stunner.

It would be interesting to see how the middle class sees the environment and the future of the planet. It isn't just about income, assets and taxes.

A sensible view on Assange extradition

"It seems even clearer now, that the allegations against him are a smokescreen behind which a number of governments are trying to clamp down on WikiLeaks for having audaciously revealed to the public their secret planning of wars and occupations with their attendant rape, murder and destruction." [We are Women Against Rape but we do not want Julian Assange extradited].

That from two women writing for Guardian UK. They state "[f]or decades we have campaigned to get rapists caught, charged and convicted. But the pursuit of Assange is political." The article makes many good points - made by others too - but they point that in 1998 the British arrested and released Chilean Dictator Pinochet; Spain had requested his extradition.

There was hardly any more of a despicable human than this dictator. The article notes: "His responsibility for the murder and disappearance of at least 3,000 people, and the torture of 30,000 people, including the rape and sexual abuse of more than 3,000 women often with the use of dogs, was never in doubt."

[Read more about Pinochet's arrest and release and take notice of the CIA's involvement in disposing a democratically elected Chilean president Salvador Allende and the installation of the dictator Pinochet.]

"After having been placed under house arrest in Britain and initiating a judicial and public relations battle, [...], he was eventually released in March 2000 on medical grounds by the Home Secretary Jack Straw without facing trial; Straw had overruled a House of Lords decision to extradite Pinochet." [Wikipedia].

The hypocrisy of governments is made clear. "The authorities care so little about violence against women that they manipulate rape allegations at will, usually to increase their powers, this time to facilitate Assange's extradition or even rendition to the US."

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

No surprise here: "Oregon high schools show no improvement in preparing students for college."

Betsy Hammond does the Oregonian proud with another excellent piece on Oregon education - the lack thereof. [Oregon high schools show no improvement in preparing students for college, ACT results say ]. Take a peek at the graph on the left side of her article for quick summary.

One wonders though whether her consistent writing on Oregon education makes any inroads. One surmises that education leaders not only do not read the reports like the ACT report examined in Hammond's column, but don't care. Its education as usual.

Betsy Hammond notes, maybe too prematurely, that "Saxton [the newly appointed state-wide school chief] and university system leaders say they are confident Oregon schools will improve their rigor, and soon. Both cited the same basis for their optimism: Oregon has adopted what are known as the Common Core Standards, new grade-by-grade expectations for the reading, writing and math skills that schools should ensure students master." [Link in the original].

Read her article but also take time to read at least Oregon's Executive Summary.  The ACT full report takes on all the high schools across the nation so it is possible to do some comparisons.

And why shouldn't he?

U.N. chief defies U.S., Israel; plans trip to Tehran. The trip to Tehran is because it is the site for "a summit meeting of leaders of non-aligned developing nations."

"A Security Council diplomat said it was important for the secretary-general to go. He said Ban should not turn his back on the entire non-aligned movement because one member, Iran, happens to have a president who doubts the Holocaust and questions Israel's right to exist."

Doesn't this tarnish the heroism?

Navy Seal’s Book Will Describe Raid That Killed Bin Laden.

Does every positive achievement have to end with a profit?

Sometimes the death penalty seems correct

Texas to execute man who killed three boys as they slept.

Editor update from Reuters -  "A man convicted of fatally shooting three sleeping teenagers in 1998 won a reprieve from the U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday, less than an hour before he was due to be put to death in Texas. It was the third time that John Balentine, 43, has been granted a stay of execution. Justice Antonin Scalia reviewed Balentine's emergency appeal and referred the case to the full court for consideration."

A Scalia referral is interesting in itself. The argument is ineffective counsel that led to a death sentence rather than life in prison. Guilt is not the issue.

The rationale: "Balentine argued he deserved a reprieve because an ineffective trial lawyer failed to present mitigating evidence, such as emotional problems and a difficult upbringing, that could have led to a life sentence."
"The "legitimate rape" buffoon from Missouri is a member of the Science Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives. Along with Suzanne Bonamici." That from Salon via Jack Bog's Blog.

Salon had more to say: "Akin doesn’t have direct oversight on any medical areas, but he does sit on the Space and Aeronautics, and Energy and Environment subcommittees." Now that is scary.

Akin is apparently a skeptic on global warming - and that is okay - he is from the 'Show-me' state Missouri. But according to Salon, Akin explained that a 2009 climate bill was a threat to the four seasons. “In Missouri when we go from winter to spring, that’s a good climate change. I don’t want to stop that climate change you know." And he adds: "Who in the world wants to put politicians in charge of the weather anyways?”

And it gets worse. "His subcommittee has oversight over the EPA and parts of the Department of Energy, both of which he believes should be eliminated."

The Salon article is a great read. See too Just Think No.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Moore support for Assange

In many ways I would agree with Michael Moore and Oliver Stone for that matter - but often Moore is hard to take. But their Op-Ed Contributor piece in the New York Times is on point. It is difficult to pen support for free speech when the Wikileaks founder is 'accused' of the rape of two Swedish women.

Of course what is forgotten here is that Wikileaks is more than just Julian Assange. And the free speech argument is more than just Assange - unfortunately it includes Private Manning who it is alleged furnished some of the Wikileaks documents that the US would have preferred kept secret.
"Pfc. Bradley Manning, who has been imprisoned for nine months on charges of handing government files to WikiLeaks, has not even been tried let alone convicted." [The Abuse of Private Manning].
 Despicable treatment of an individual irrespective of the charge.
"Private Manning is in solitary confinement at the Marine Corps brig in Quantico, Va. For one hour a day, he is allowed to walk around a room in shackles. He is forced to remove all his clothes every night. And every morning he is required to stand outside his cell, naked, until he passes inspection and is given his clothes back." [Link in the original]
Moore and Stone puts forth arguments that demonstrates the likelihood that Assange is being sought by Sweden not for violation of criminal laws, but more likely to enable the effective rendition of Assange to the US.

They note that in fact Mr. Assange has not been charged with any crime. Moreover
"Swedish authorities have traveled to other countries to conduct interrogations when needed, and the WikiLeaks founder has made clear his willingness to be questioned in London. Moreover, the Ecuadorean government made a direct offer to Sweden to allow Mr. Assange to be interviewed within Ecuador’s embassy. In both instances, Sweden refused."
And why not a promise not to extradite to US if Assange voluntarily goes to Sweden for questioning?
"Mr. Assange has also committed to traveling to Sweden immediately if the Swedish government pledges that it will not extradite him to the United States. Swedish officials have shown no interest in exploring this proposal, and Foreign Minister Carl Bildt recently told a legal adviser to Mr. Assange and WikiLeaks unequivocally that Sweden would not make such a pledge. The British government would also have the right under the relevant treaty to prevent Mr. Assange’s extradition to the United States from Sweden, and has also refused to pledge that it would use this power. Ecuador’s attempts to facilitate that arrangement with both governments were rejected."
The US - the bully censor.

Further reading:

Yahoo! News: Michael Moore and Oliver Stone pen Times op-ed supporting Assange.
Wikipedia: Bradley Manning
New York Times editorial: The Abuse of Private Manning
New York Times: Soldier in Leaks Case Will Be Made to Sleep Naked Nightly

Surprise - six years of spying on Muslims led to no leads, terror cases

"In more than six years of spying on Muslim neighborhoods, eavesdropping on conversations and cataloguing mosques, the New York Police Department's secret Demographics Unit never generated a lead or triggered a terrorism investigation, the department acknowledged in court testimony unsealed late Monday." [NYPD: Muslim spying led to no leads, terror cases].

What has come to be one more 'I would have not expected' from the Obama administration - ". . . John Brennan, President Barack Obama's top counterterrorism adviser, has said he is confident the NYPD's activities are lawful and have kept the city safe."

One more Obama disappointment.

Survey says! Public wants federal services.

It is hard to see how a poll could result in any other result. "Two-thirds of the respondents in the survey by the polling firm Ipsos Public Affairs said they agreed with the statement, 'Congress should raise taxes on the wealthiest Americans before cutting funding for public services such as food and drug safety and border security.'” [Survey shows public wants federal services]. 

But the question as presented was apparently criticized because a "more generic phrase such as "cutting federal government" wasn't used. But doesn't the naming - or defining the federal programs - provide accuracy.

That survey [supra] is just one of many that demonstrates that the Republicans are full of it when they suggest that budget cuts in areas like social security and medicare have popular support.

See these polls:

Cutting Government Spending May Be Popular But Majorities Of The Public Oppose Cuts In Many Big Ticket Items In The Budget. See Table 1 for items that responders would cut, e.g., foreign economic aid (79%) and foreign military aid (74%).

New Poll: Majority of White Evangelicals Oppose Cutting Federal Programs that help the Poor

Federal Budget Deficit

Monday, August 20, 2012

Another fine example of leadership in congress

"Kansas Republican Rep. Kevin Yoder has confirmed a Politico report that he was the "nude member of Congress" who took a dip in the Sea of Galilee last year during a late-night escapade "that involved drinking [and] numerous GOP freshmen lawmakers." [Links from original article; Congressman Who Took Nude Dip In Sea Of Galilee Apologizes].

Fortunately for this Republican his Missouri counterpart 'misspoke' and grabbed all the headlines. [Earlier post].

Tea drinkers are honest?

If one could give a psychological assessment to a city - I wonder what it say about a city that needs to be praised irrespective of how bogus the praise? An advertising gimmick by a tea company - Honest Tea - rated Portland as number 16. And the Oregonian couldn't help but gush, making the tea company's advertising efforts payoff. [Portland ranks as 16th most honest city in the nation].

Gu Kailai: She could be a free woman in less than a decade

From the New Yorker's Letter from China: "Gu Kailai, the former first lady of Chongqing, and the daughter of a People’s Liberation Army general, was convicted of murder today, for plotting and carrying out the poisoning of Neil Heywood, a British businessman." [Gu Kailai 1, Rule of Law 0].

If one is interested at all in China, the New Yorker blog Letter from China provides insight into Chinese governing and the Chinese people. The latter are not that different from us.

Misspoke: an attempt to take back what he really meant

". . . victims of "legitimate rape" cannot biologically become pregnant and thus do not need access to legal abortions." [GOP Senate candidate says he ‘misspoke’ with ‘legitimate rape’ comment].

He had a lot more to say, but after the backlash started, the backpedaling started. Not surprising - he is a Republican senate candidate from Missouri - so who cares? We should because as a US Senator - even a junior senator - he could have significant influence in congress.

We may never know how he might define a "legitimate rape" Nor will we know what ways "the female body has [,...] to try to shut that whole thing down." And it is not surprising that given his views he has a Master of Divinity degree. [Wikipedia].

He is representative of the quality of leadership that America too often receives. We can only hope that Missouri votes for the Democrat Sen. Claire McCaskill.

[Editor: I didn't expect this - Todd Akin under pressure to quit as rape comments threaten GOP races.]

Sunday, August 19, 2012

A fallen angel - the Catholic Church is full of them

Father Angel Perez is accused of child sex abuse of a 12 year old entrusted to the parish priest for a trip to the mountains. Then this happen.
"It was close to midnight Sunday when Woodburn resident James Curths saw the 12-year-old boy running down the street toward him. Curths said the child, panting and out of breath, begged for help, telling him a man was chasing him.

Moments later, a man rounded the corner wearing only underwear. He stood a short distance away, trying to wave the boy over as Curths and his sister-in-law prepared to drive the boy to relatives
That was from a decent post by Oregonian's Bernstein.There is much more to the story - it is worth the read.

Given the number of stories about predatory priests, one would think that parents should link 'priest' with 'child sexual predator.' But no one, especially Catholics, want to believe that a 'man of God' could be a child sexual predator.

Catholics believe - or I was taught this - that priests are God's representatives on earth. If so, apparently God isn't doing a good screening job.

But more amazing is the congregation's response - they just won't have it that their priest might be a pedophile. But the parents have to be worried that this incident might not be the only one.

An understatement by the current president rector of the seminary that trained Father Perez: "Child abuse is horrific." One wonders how the church, that sees God intimately involved in day-to-day lives of its followers, explains the presence of child predators as priests? And it is not only priests: Thousands raped in Ireland's Christian Brothers schools

Father Angel Perez, and any priest, is a man whose hands deliver the sacrament of Holy Communion and baptizes children. And we worry about the cleanliness of the hands of restaurant workers. It is interesting - peculiar - that the Holy Communion is to be received by only those free of mortal sin - but apparently the priests that administers the sacraments don't need to be free from mortal sin. [See The Sacrament of Holy Communion; The Blessed Eucharist as a Sacrament]

With friends like Iraq who needs enemies

"[A]according to current and former American and Iraqi government officials and experts on the Iraqi banking sector, [it] has provided Iran with a crucial flow of dollars at a time when sanctions are squeezing its economy." [U.S. Says Iraqis Are Helping Iran Skirt Sanctions].

It reads that greed and corruption are an indispensable accompaniments to profit. No matter the religious character - profit is the true god. And, “Maliki’s government is right in the middle of this,” said one former senior American intelligence official who now does business in Iraq." [Supra].

There is not one bit of security to the US gained by these wars. Trillions of dollars and thousands of lives lost. And maybe worse yet is the number injuries, physical and mental. For what?

Just what did the US gain from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan? Maybe it is how one measures it. Policy makers seem to find that human life is so dispensable and not part of any equation.

And we sit idly by.

Why should politics shape policy on 'green on blue' attacks?

"Nineteen U.S. troops and one aid worker have been killed in Taliban attacks in the past two weeks, nine of them shot to death in cold blood by rogue Afghan soldiers or policemen." [U.S. Troops Ordered to Be Armed at All Times Following Afghan Attacks].

"They [attacks] also come at a politically delicate time, just months before the presidential election in the United States and amid increasingly vocal complaints from outraged parents of dead Marines and soldiers that could diminish support for what is already an unpopular war back home." [Afghan Attacks on Allied Troops Prompt NATO to Shift Policy]. 

If this isn't a bipartisan issue - what is?

Saturday, August 18, 2012

George Will and apocalypse fatigue

"MIT’s models foresaw the collapse of civilization because of “nonrenewable resource depletion” and population growth." "This began two generations ago, in 1972, when we were warned (by computer models developed at MIT) that we were doomed. We were supposed to be pretty much extinct by now, or at least miserable. We are neither. So, what went wrong?" [George Will: Why doom has not materialized].

George Will seems to have been around publishing his conservative views for my entire life - and he has. For the most part his articles - mostly those in the Washington Post - have been thoughtful, albeit conservative, views without the rancor we see in the day of so called social media.

His article in the Washington Post (supra) isn't necessarily a political view - but one expressed by those like myself that have lived long enough to remember the dire predictions of the over-population doom. I was in junior college (raising my grades acceptable to a 4 year college) being tutored in the then coming over-population apocalypse.

All the statistics seemed to be there - but as we know those predictions failed. But the over-population doom was replaced by the global warming doom. But as Mr. Will adeptly points out:
"The United Nations’ Rio+20 conference — 50,000 participants from 188 nations — occurred in June without consequences. A generation has passed since the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio, which begat other conferences and protocols (e.g., Kyoto)."
It is fair to say that Mr. Will is a global warming skeptic. "its just Summer . . . get over it." But it seems that to completely ignore the doom predictors is sheer folly. Even though we - population of planet earth - have through ingenuity and whatnot avoided the apocalypse, can we continue to find new ways to avoid the annihilation of our species?

Maybe it is reasonable to conclude that the dire predictors give, and have given, force and incentive to innovations that leaves us still extant on the planet. Thus without the warnings - the predictions would not have been avoided.

Doesn't it seem reasonable too to accept the finiteness of our natural resources, and accept that higher density living is not a solution to population growth?

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Outed - not for being gay - for being Jewish

"A leading figure in Hungary's far right Jobbik Party has been forced to resign after being exposed as Jewish" It is an odd story from Hungary. Was he an Israeli plant? Or just someone who got turned around in core beliefs?

Church of England and the Belgian Catholic Church too

"A retired Church of England priest from Eastbourne has been charged with 29 sexual offences against three boys." [BBC].

"Vangheluwe, who was bishop of Bruges from 1984 to 2010, is the highest-ranking member of the Belgian Catholic Church to be involved in a child abuse scandal which resulted in 475 complaints of molestation by priests." [Reuters].

We can't possibly be alone in this universe

"3 trillion: The number of stars that reside in the Phoenix cluster's central galaxy, compared to 200 billion or so in our own Milky Way."

"740: The approximate number of stars generated per year by the galaxy in Phoenix's center, a new high for the middle of a cluster." "Our own Milky Way galaxy produces just one to two new stars every year on average."

"5.7 billion: The approximate distance of Phoenix from Earth, in light-years."

Source: The unprecedented Phoenix Galaxy Cluster: How many stars does it form?

If they are not hiding anything - then why not disclose the tax returns?

"If people want to really look and see, any question they have ... Mitt is honest. His integrity is just golden," Romney said. "We pay our taxes. ... Beyond paying our taxes, we also give 10 percent of our income to charity. ... The only reason we don't disclose any more is because we will become a bigger target." [Ann Romney on tax returns: ‘There’s nothing we’re hiding’]

 Oh please!

Censorship and the bully censor

"Ecuadorean Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino said that Assange's legal and procedural rights had been violated, and that Ecuador accepted his argument that he faced possible political persecution by the United States, which is angry over his release of secret government files." [Ecuador grants asylum to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange].

The story is being played out as if extradition is an issue. The real story is not the extradition to Sweden, but the reality that he would then be extradited to the US. ". . . Ecuador accepted his argument that he faced possible political persecution by the United States, which is angry over his release of secret government files." See too the abusive treatment of Private Manning who supplied documents to Wikileaks.

 Who, What, Why: Is it legal to hide in an embassy? This BBC article offers the answers and more.
"The 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations [BBC provided link] codified a custom that has been in place for centuries when it established the "rule of inviolability". This means that "local police and security forces are not permitted to enter, unless they have the express permission of the ambassador . . . .".
An article in the Mail Online (UK publication), while spewing an invective filled diatribe against Assange without one scintilla of evidence, offers this example of diplomatic asylum: "In 1956, the anti-Communist Hungarian Catholic Cardinal Joseph Mindszenty sought refuge in the U.S. embassy in Budapest. But the Soviet-backed government would not give him free passage to the airport, and the unfortunate cardinal was obliged to stay in the embassy for 15 years."

A more rational approach to the issue is found in another UK publication before the Assange asylum: The diplomatic drama over Chen Guangcheng. "The Americans have experience with this sort of thing, and indeed hold the world record for hospitality towards someone arriving on an embassy doorstep and seeking a better life."

That author also notes the Cardinal Mindszenty refuge in the US embassy and adds this example: "Back in 1989, the distinguished Chinese activist and scientist Fang Lizhi spent a year in the US embassy in Beijing, before he too left the country as part of a complex deal."
Thus, it matters not why Ecuador has granted Assange  asylum - it only matters that they did. Whatever one might think about Assange - it is not too difficult to grasp that his fear is not irrational. The news media has been full of stories of rendition and state kidnapping of those deemed opposed to the interests o the US. Might checkout this article - Poland Shedding Light on Secret CIA Prison.

A quick Google or Bing search demonstrates the reason that Ecuador might be anti-American and disposed to grant Assange asylum. E.g., Ecuador Coup Attempt Engineered by the CIA.

While the US claims - and others repeat those claims as if true - security breaches - it has yet proven that any of the 'secrets' exposed by Wikileaks were in fact secrets. The US acts with unrestrained power that has made it hated in many areas of the world - bullying others who may have different opinions.

The bully for the sake of bullying - see this from the New York Times: "Pfc. Bradley Manning, who has been imprisoned for nine months on charges of handing government files to WikiLeaks, has not even been tried let alone convicted. Yet the military has been treating him abusively, in a way that conjures creepy memories of how the Bush administration used to treat terror suspects. Inexplicably, it appears to have President Obama’s support to do so."

In the end, it is odd that the UK is willing to put itself in opposition to what is clearly international law. If Sweden would promise that Assange would not be extradited to another country - then Assange would likely not be granted further Ecuadorean asylum. That apparently isn't going to happen - I wonder why?

New York Times asks: Should Candidates Discuss Global Warming?

Their poll suggests that a debate would affect citizens' vote - therefore it is not likely either candidate is willing to risk that. While I am not sure one can make an accurate determination of global warming (our time on earth is microscopic) and its potential effects - it seems that it is debate material.

Is the leadership that this country needs one that ignores what seems to be nearly an unanimous conclusion? If the scientists are more than chicken little - we need to listen.

What is it that Catholics fear?

"The prayer echoed the defense of traditional marriage by Pope Benedict and Catholic leaders worldwide as gay nuptials gain acceptance, especially in Europe and North America." [French Catholic Church pro-marriage prayer provokes gay rights row]. 

Maybe Catholics should fear the wrath of God for their child abusing priests and those that cover up the atrocities.

What would Mohamed say?

"[T]it-for-tat abductions this week of Shiite Lebanese and Sunni Syrians." [One kidnapping in Syria prompts kidnapping of 20-plus in Lebanon].

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Let principals rate teachers - stupid idea

At least that was my first reaction to the Washington Post post - Let principals, not tests, rate teachers. It seemed that would give the principal too much control over the teachers.But a read of the story leaves a different impression - the headline was a misrepresentation. It seems that at least in part teacher evaluation in the District is accomplished by 'Master Educators.' Student test score also figure in, but the evaluation results are arguably unfair.

The author in fact was making a decent proposal - much like that found in the private sector. "The best schools almost all share one advantage — a smart and energetic principal who has the power to hire teachers, assess them and pay or fire them accordingly." It is management.

Sounds appropriate. However, isn't it too one sided? But see this from his colleague at the Washington Post - A new way to evaluate teachers — by teachers. That article was not authored by the Post blogger but by a guest blogger ostensibly reflecting the views of the Post blogger.

Here is the gist of the post. "The best hope for significantly improving education at all levels of the system is for educators [teachers] to take charge of accountability and make it useful for learning and improvement."

But this is what is driving this recommendation. ". . . education reformers have made teachers and teacher education a punching bag, painting those in the entire field as having low standards and being unwilling to accept responsibility for the quality of their work."

Neither position is correct - is it? Doesn't it have to be a blending - a composite of measures developed by the system - not just one part?

The feds are involved because the states and local communities were not stepping up to the task of reform. Their focus on test scores was to highlight the problem. They are not in a position to dictate solutions, but they can provide the incentives for solutions.
Thus, Washington D.C. is one of the major battlegrounds in education reform. The location at the nation's capital provides an access to the federal government nearly unattainable by other educators in the states. Thus, the fight there is worth watching. 

However, what one sees in the District's fight (and that in other parts of the nation) is, for the most part, a circling of wagons by the teachers. They fail to include themselves as part of education reform. To this watcher - the teachers seem unwilling to be accountable in any sense for the admittedly poor education received by students.

It is class size, language, money (of course), parents, the system, etc. It is seldom, if ever, about the students. Sadly it seems that until teachers come out from behind their wagons will any meaningful reform take place. They are part of the problem and must be part of the solution.

What they say just depends on where they are.

Today's news: "President Obama was in Iowa Tuesday, touting the electric potential of wind power. Republican rival Mitt Romney was in Ohio, talking up coal. Each candidate accused the other of standing in the way of the rival energy source."[Obama Backs Wind Energy, Romney Favors Coal : NPR].

Tomorrow's news: Mitt Romney was in Iowa Wednesday, touting the electric potential of wind power. Democratic rival President Obama was in Ohio, talking up coal. Each candidate accused the other of standing in the way of the rival energy source.[USA media].

Would that really surprise anyone?

Not a surprise that Iowa might be more interested in talking about wind and Ohioans interested in coal. "Iowa is a leading U.S. state in wind power generation with 18.8% of the state's electricity generation coming from wind in 2011." [Wikipedia]. Ohio is # 7 in the top ten coal producing states. [27 Coal-Mining States].

The coal versus ind power is a relatively dumb argument. It can't be one or the other - they are not mutually exclusive. But the American people that haven't bought into the global warming threat, most likely see coal as a job creator and and it is, in fact, a local economic engine.

No matter how one looks at it - wind power in any foreseeable future will not be a job creator nor an economic engine. It is, however, one of the several possible alternatives to supplement our energy needs. But without some measurable reduction in the need for fossil fuels like coal - at best, the detriments from their production will only flatline - not decrease from present levels.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Hales and Smith a sideshow depicting the worse to come

The Willamette Week have apparently determined that Hales and Smith are techno geeks. Their blog post focused on the two trying to impress the local software industry - ignoring the fact that they ought to be focusing on attracting Portland (as in the city of) voters with their points on how either of them will handle the pension problems; the continual spending by the PDC in the name of urban renewal while diverting the tax dollars from their ordinary purposes; maybe, just maybe, getting a handle on what to do about the gangs and gang violence; maybe too presenting their solutions to the drug trafficking.

The local, city not metro, software industry is small by anyone's measurement and contributes relatively little to the economic welfare of the city. And just how many of them, the company executives and their relatively few employees, are Portland voters?

The todo list - tragically long for this city - of things that need fixing is being ignored by the candidates especially since the media doesn't seem interested in asking the right questions.The right questions are those that are of importance for Portlanders as a whole - not the special interest groups whose interests are not Portland's but their own. And politicos that seek favor (that reads money) of the special interests don't deserve a vote.

I support Bojack: Write in LaVonne Griffin-Valade for mayor of Portland.

Stressed Aquifers - overexploitation

Global warming, peak oil, etc. may be not be our (planet's population) worse fears. A "study underlines a problem that scientists have already pinpointed: that the demand for groundwater in several major agricultural regions of the world is unsustainable." [Stressed Aquifers Around the Globe].

It is what you can't see. "Most assessments of global water resources have focused on surface water, but unsustainable depletion of groundwater has recently been documented on both regional and global scales" [Footnotes omitted, Water balance of global aquifers revealed by groundwater footprint]

One of those aquifers is the Ogallala aquifer. I make note of this because that Ogallala aquifer was the reason for much of the opposition to the Keystone pipeline  We need water more than we need oil, especially since that oil being transported via the pipeline was just passing through the US for the benefit of oil companies' markets. [Ogallala Aquifer (and Keystone pipeline) ].

"We have met the enemy and he is us." [Pogo].

Purveyors of death don't give up

"Australia's laws will force tobacco companies to remove all branding from cigarette packets from this December, and allow tobacco to be sold only in plain olive-colored packages which carry graphic health warnings." [Australian court to rule on landmark tobacco case].

It is not health or addiction at issue - arguably the tobacco companies have given up that fight - this time it is an intellectual property rights issue - the packaging.