Thursday, January 31, 2013

Henny Pennys of the world unite?

There seems to be some shift towards the acceptance of global warming as a causation factor in what many see as a decline in  planet livability. But this acceptance seems to come with a "so what."

Thus the argument goes - yes there is global warming (the assumption is that is detrimental) caused by human activity but what can we do about it. The "we" is the US as if it is up to the US to solve world problems.

The alarmists? "The climate officials and environment ministers meeting in the Qatari capital of Doha will not come up with an answer to the global temperature rise that is already melting Arctic sea ice and permafrost, raising and acidifying the seas, and shifting rainfall patterns, which has an impact on floods and droughts." [U.N. Climate Talks: Will U.S. Take More Central Role After Bout Of Extreme Weather?].

I watched Stephen Colbert in a recent episode mock those that have a 'there is nothing we can do about it' attitude. While the lefty faux conservative and global warming advocates continue, and maybe rightfully so, to raise an alarm (some say false) - they offer virtually no solutions just hype.

E.g., China's pollution is on the rise and not seen to likely abate in any near future. The result is that efforts of other countries to curb global pollution (using the term inclusively) go for naught. Thus there are those that say what can we do about it?

But thus far the global warming Henny Pennys have failed even to raise the issue to any political level demanding discussion. No where in the last presidential campaign was the issue raised by anyone. The news media had plenty of opportunities but choked.

Take a look around - despite a claim of overwhelming evidence, there is no consensus on climate change claims. Sometimes it seems as though it is a fruitless effort to prove a negative. E.g., fires, storms and drought are not caused by global warming.

But it is no easier to prove that such disasters are caused by global warming even if one buys the argument that planet warming exists and is solely the result of human activity.

Take a run at this Forbes story The Overwhelming Judgment of Science Rejects Obama's Global Warming Claims. The author notes that "the overall case for global warming alarmism is exceptionally flimsy."
President Obama had, better late than never, raised the issue in his inauguration speech using the spate of fires, storms and drought as examples of global warming. Of course the concept is that if we change our ways similar incidents will cease in the future.

The Forbes author sees Obama's concerns as scientifically flawed, but he goes on to pretend. "Let’s pretend that none of the overwhelming scientific evidence presented above [in his article] actually existed. Let’s pretend that science supported rather than contradicted President Obama’s assertions. The question is, what would Obama have us do to solve the problem?"

And that is the nub. Mockery may get laughs, but it doesn't raise the level of the conversation that ought to be going on. But the Forbes article leaves one very unsatisfied in that it offers no solution except to go forward ignoring the potential effects of human caused planet warming.

He is against "Obama’s solution [...] to impose still more economy-killing carbon dioxide restrictions on the U.S. economy." He is self-assured that the “overwhelming judgment of science” shows the asserted global warming crisis exists solely in the minds of global warming alarmists."

But, can we as a global community ignore even the obvious effects of pollution that affects the greenhouse? E.g., China's Beijing is getting attention because of its visible pollution. See this NY Tines story that notes that "at the time of writing it was merely the 21st most polluted city in the country [China] today."

But doesn't one wonder what a similar air pollution index might have read during our industrialization period. Or even that of London? See too the Great Smog. Arguably industrialization brings with it smog.

And does it make sense that the already industrialized countries now stand on the sidelines and criticize the industrializing countries like China?

Look at this list of developing countries. China is one among many. And consider this A Desperate Need for Electricity in China and Other Developing Countries Is Fueling Global Coal Use.  No surprise this: "In addition to its direct role as an energy resource, coal plays a significant global role in sustainable development."  [Sustainability, development].

However, the alarmists are against any efforts to obtain clean coal. And they are equally opposed to nuclear energy. They seemingly would have us live at pre-industrialization levels. And communal hippie living in high density apartments is the great society of the future. They are luddites. 

The Henny Pennys have a long way to go to convince us that the sky is falling. But let's not pretend - let's assume that scientific evidence overwhelmingly supports the alarmists. So what is to be done? 

Isn't it a good thing?

Russia has been severing one tie after another with the US. The latest was the scrapping of a 10 year old agreement that whereby the US provided $12 million that "covered fighting terrorism, corruption and cross-border crimes such as drug smuggling and human trafficking." [Russia scraps anti-crime accord with US].

"Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev signed an order to scrap the 10-year-old agreement 'because it was no longer relevant.'" And, "Alexei Pushkov, head of Russia's parliamentary foreign affairs committee, told the Interfax news agency that the decision reflected Russia's ability to manage its internal affairs without outside help."

According to their Foreign Ministry, Russia has turned from a recipient to a donor "for such programs in Central Asian nations and Afghanistan.” The Ministry added "that Moscow was ready to continue cooperation with the U.S. in fighting crime, including drug-trafficking." [Russia scraps anti-crime deal with US as relations between the 2 nations worsen under Putin].

This latest withdrawal is seen by US press as some worsening of US-Russia relations trying to dredge up the cold war. If true, it was the American Congress that started the ball rolling when they determined to impose "sanctions against Russian officials involved in human rights abuses . . . ." Can you say hypocritical?

But isn't it just as easy to take the Russian statements on face value? Isn't their a certain amount of national pride at work here? Isn't it obvious that Russia doesn't want to depend on the US aid and wants to be treated as a nation among equals?

When money is handed out - it comes with strings attached. Russia is cutting those strings.

WTF: It is a 7 year old

It is why civil lawsuits are important. 7-year-old interrogated by NYPD for 10 hours: family sues,

Brutal truth of Darwinism

Pope's Dove Attacked By Seagull At Holocaust Remembrance Day Ceremony (PHOTO)

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Unchurched state - and that is the way it should stay

A new archbishop for Oregon - ho hum. Portland's new Catholic archbishop sees unchurched state as a challenge. It is an odd term though "unchurched." It is as if only through a church can one be spiritual. The good archbishop is nothing but the Catholic Church's new breed of corporate con men embodying the Church's overwhelming need to proselytize and to force their beliefs onto others, e.g., by influencing legislation.

The good archbishop "promised to speak out on moral issues addressed by Catholic Church teaching." You can be guaranteed that this 'celebrate' male is talking about birth control, abortion, and gay rights - all of which the Catholic Church opposes. Don't expect any discussion on pedophilia. Nor any talk about gun control. The Church chooses carefully the moral issues it wishes to address.

Maybe it is best if they just keep quiet.




Monday, January 28, 2013

Keep the faith

"No member of the Roman Catholic hierarchy fought longer and more energetically than Cardinal Roger Mahony of Los Angeles to conceal the decades-long scandal involving the rape and intimidation of children by rogue priests." [Cardinal Mahony and the Truth].

That is pretty much all you need to know. It is a short New York Times editorial arguably reflecting the exasperation that must be felt in the media that actually seems to care that the Catholic Church abused children for decades and the hierarchy did nothing to protect them. "Instead, he [Cardinal Mahony] invoked a nonexistent church privilege to hide miscreant clergy and shield the church and his own reputation."

If you have been in the traditional Catholic Church you have seen the many images and themes that promote the Church and Jesus Christ as protectors of children. Such irony.

And the Catholic priests, direct representatives of Jesus Christ, are not always just ordinary pedophiles - they specialize. The good Cardinal "hid" one priest "specializing in the rape of Latino immigrant children and [had] threatened at least one boy with deportation if he complained."

I am painting with a broad brush, but it is the Church that provided it. I grew up in a relatively small city and was educated by nuns with priests often giving the religious instruction. I was an altar boy and full participant in the church. I know of no sexual impropriety by the priests. But my experience is not the basis for denial.

These incidents of sexual abuse of Catholic children by Catholic priests are factual and are not isolated to any one parish or country. It seems that the more Catholic the country, and even the area of the country, is the more likely the abuse.

But, thanks to the efforts by those in the Church hierarchy, like the good Cardinal Mahony, we will never know just how many children were abused and how many had their lives destroyed. And the good Cardinal was not acting alone. He was aided and abetted by his aide Monsignor Curry who the NY Times notes was able "to advance up the hierarchical ladder [but] would seem to merit instant removal from his current post as auxiliary bishop for Santa Barbara."

The number of criminal prosecutions is not an adequate measure because children are unlikely to know that they have been a victim, and if they do, coming forward as a child is not a choice for them to make. And neither are the number of civil lawsuits an indicator. The now adult that has gone on to establish a life is not likely to come forward and admit being abused - not an easy decision especially it has been hidden in the dark recesses of the mind.

Guardian UK 2010 article notes: "This [pedophilia] is vile, but whether it is more vile than the record of any other profession is not obvious. The concentration on boys makes the Catholic pattern of abuse stand out; what makes it so shocking is that parents trusted their children with priests."

Odd that there is an attempt to compare priesthood as if it is some profession that its membership can be compared to other professions. Thus, arguably, the sting is taken away by pedophilia that is no worse in the priesthood than in other professions, e.g., attorneys. It is a fallacious argument ignoring that the priesthood differs in that children are entrusted to the priests who hold themselves out as a surrogate Christ.

The Guardian UK author comes to an indefensible conclusion: "I think that objectively your child is less likely to be abused by a Catholic or Anglican priest in the west today than by the members of almost any other profession."  Maybe that should be a disclaimer posted at the entrance to the church.

Children were mere consumables for the pedophile priests who had carte blanche access to them while the hierarchy looked elsewhere seeking to avoid discovery and criminal prosecution. How was a parent to know which priest was the pedophile? The teacher priest? The priest baptizing the children? The priest admonishing you for your sins from the pulpit? The priest exercising moral authority to dictate how you should live your life? The priest who hears your confession and forgives for your sin of masturbation?

Odd isn't it? A belief that a priest that can forgive you your sins as if he was Jesus Christ - yet suffer no retribution from that same God for sexually abusing God's children.

In most of the reported cases, the hierarchy (someone in the chain of command) knew. It is a morally corrupt organization that doesn't protect the children that parents entrusted to their care. And since these are children entrusted to them by God - they are God's children - it is especially egregious.

The Catholic Church offered their children as a sacrifice to evil.



Sunday, January 27, 2013

Res Ipsa Loquitur

Pamela Fitzsimmons has an excellent perspective on the Oregon home grown terrorist Mohamed O. Mohamud. He was not born here, but he came here at about age 4. She sees him for what he was and is - a terrorist, in the sense of "the calculated use of violence (or the threat of violence) against civilians." [Truncated, see Free Dictionary].

But I, and maybe Pamela too, don't believe that he was being motivated by some political or religious ideology, at least not like that of Muslim terrorists. He has lived his life in Oregon. He was educated here. His family is Christian. It isn't likely that he, like those living in the Middle East, was indoctrinated to hate. E.g., see Why Middle East Muslims are taught to hate Jews.

Pamela doesn't let the truth get in the way of a good story, and in this case, it is the truth that will not set Mohamed free. Given what he attempted to accomplish, it is nearly incomprehensible that the defense and his sympathizers, or better yet, the anti-FBI (or any police) advocates, see Mohamed as the unwilling victim that but for the FBI's efforts would not have 'pushed the button.'

The facts speak otherwise. I am one those that would ordinarily suspect a little too much encouragement was applied by the FBI. But the more I learn about this case, the more I am convinced that this wasn't a egregious circumstance of FBI instituted terrorism.
"Six 55-gallon barrels, supposedly filled with diesel fuel and nails (to act as shrapnel) were secured in the back of a van to be parked near Pioneer Courthouse Square. " Mohamed O. Mohamud: “It’s beautiful.”
Look - too many people are easily duped. And, entrapment is not some bright line easily discerned. But, should predisposition yield a defense? "The predisposition inquiry focuses upon whether the defendant "was an unwary innocent or, instead, an unwary criminal who readily availed himself of the opportunity to perpetrate the crime." [Criminal Resource Manual 645 Entrapment -- Elements].

Would he have been a terrorist but for FBI's efforts? Would have another year of maturing resulted in the development of a worthwhile citizen? Could we have afforded a wait and see attitude?  But didn't Mohamed know the consequences of igniting his "beautiful" bomb? Isn't that the factual, and controlling,  issue - the level of violence he thought "beautiful?"

Borrowing from the law of negligence, res ipsa loquitur, doesn't the act speaks for itself?  Thus, irrespective of how Mohamed got to the point of pushing the button, even assuming that the FBI radicalized him, he did push it - knowing full well the consequences.

Some people are hard wired wrong. Mohamed appears to be one. He gave up his freedom, maybe not at the moment he might have been 'convinced' in the righteousness of his terrorism, but certainly when he pushed the button on his "beautiful" bomb.

What makes him any different from this guy: New York Fed bombing plot proves the terror threat is real. Or how about McVeigh who blew up the federal building in Oklahoma. It was not some symbolic gesture.  Then there are these guys the Newburgh Four: poor, black, and jailed under FBI 'entrapment' tactics:
Judge Colleen McMahon: "Only the government could have made a terrorist out of Mr Cromitie, a man whose buffoonery is positively Shakespearean in its scope," she said in court. She added: "I believe beyond a shadow of a doubt that there would have been no crime here except the government instigated it, planned it and brought it to fruition."
Not an easy task to determine predisposition. But this act of violence speaks for itself. He cannot shift the blame to anyone else. And we shouldn't let him or his sympathizers convince us otherwise.

However, still, there is something nefarious about government agencies seemingly grooming the worse in people.

What brand are you wearing?

Do you care about the working conditions of the foreign workers who make your clothes? Global retailers shamed after another garment fire in Bangladesh.

Brands from Bangladesh: NIKE, REEBOK, LAFUMA, H & M (SWEDEN),GAP, BROUKS, J.C. PENNY, WALMART, KMART, OSPIG (GERMANY), MOTHER CARE (UK), LEE, WRANGLER, DOCKERS, NBA, TOMMY HILFIGER, ADIDAS, FALCON(USA), EDIE BAUYER, EAGLE, RELEIGH (UK), EMMILEE, FREE SPIRIL (UK),MILES (GERMANY), AMERICAN EAGLE, HI-TECH (UK), PHILLIP-MAURICE (UK), WINS MORE, DECATHLON.

Well said

"The world respects us not only for our scholarship and our science, but because we are an institution whose actions are and always have been guided by the highest ideals and the most thoughtful judgment. Our commitment to those ideals is now coming into question." [MIT Pledges Probe Of Involvement In Aaron Swartz Case, Establishes Website To Field Questions].

That from Hal Abelson, Ph.D, a professor of computer science and founding director of Creative Commons. He  "has been tasked by MIT president L. Rafael Reif to lead the investigation" into MIT's "review of its involvement in the case of Aaron Swartz, the internet pioneer who committed suicide earlier this month."

As part of the investigation a website Swartz Review has been established for the submission of questions pertinent to their investigation. It is publicly viewable, but comments can only come from MIT community. A review of the questions submitted illustrates that the MIT community hasn't a clue as to the issues involved. The forthcoming report ought to be enlightening.

A must read Rolling Stone piece

Why Did the Justice System Target Aaron Swartz?

Troublesome

It is a double edged sword - Hackers Anonymous. It is somewhat akin to Occupy Wall Street (not the other occupy ripoffs) - voices for justice.  They have many of the attributes of comic book superheroes - they use their powers (skill set) to protect the vulnerable and fight against the evil in the world. But they act too as judge and jury. Vengeance is theirs. Anarchy looms in the shadows.

There seems to be more reasons for the growth and appearances of these voices for justice. Of immediate interest is Hackers Anonymous's interest in righting the wrong that seems most certainly to have had played a part in the suicide of Aaron Swartz.

A good primer on the Aaron Swartz case is the Rolling Stones article Why Did the Justice System Target Aaron Swartz? Hackers Anonymous has helped focus attention on the injustice by what has been modestly described as "over zealous" federal prosecutors. To keep the matter before the public Hackers take over gov't website to avenge Swartz:
"Citizens of the world, 
Anonymous has observed for some time now the trajectory of justice in the United States with growing concern. We have marked the departure of this system from the noble ideals in which it was born and enshrined. We have seen the erosion of due process, the dilution of constitutional rights, the usurpation of the rightful authority of courts by the "discretion" or prosecutors. We have seen how the law is wielded less and less to uphold justice, and more and more to exercise control, authority and power in the interests of oppression or personal gain."
Frankly this expression of cause finds a certain resonance in many, especially among the young. It has almost a Declaration of Independence ring about it. But do we want them to determine what constitutes "the erosion of due process, the dilution of constitutional rights, the usurpation of the rightful authority of courts by the "discretion" or prosecutors?"

But it is troublesome that this group felt the need to take action, apparently assuming (and rightfully so) that the injustice by federal prosecutors (apparently aided by MIT) would not be recognized.

And it is troublesome that a group has the skill set to wreak havoc at will in cyberspace. And what if they lose their way? But it may be even more troublesome should the government gain the ability to shut them down.

Democracy seems to be slipping away much like the erosion of a beach. It is a slow process whose effect can't be seen except in a retrospective analysis. Too late.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Heresy: "Streets are for vehicles, not joggers."

"Ray Thomas used to be a street runner. When a passing car honked, "I'd shoot them the suffering Jesus look," said the Portland lawyer, who specializes in bicycle and pedestrian laws. "Because I had the moral righteousness of a jogger. Then I looked at the law."" [Joseph Rose: Streets are for vehicles, not joggers (so don't be a Gump)].

Moral righteousness of a jogger? Isn't that another name for anarchy? Looked at the law - what a novel concept. The reality is that the joggers, and bicyclists for that matter, will continue to violate the law confident in their moral righteousness. In Portland, laws, and even common courtesy, are for others.

Friday, January 25, 2013

City of Portland Part I Crime Stats Through January 5, 2013

City of Portland Part I Crime Stats Through January 5


There is more than enough loonies to go around.

New Zealand Environmentalist Wants To Eliminate Cats To Save Birds.

When it is "Special to the Oregonian" it is nothing more than promotional hype.

It ought to make real journalists sick to their stomachs. [North Plains couple's 'passive house,' built by Hammer & Hand, saves energy]. "News" articles that are nothing more than free advertising have no place in journalism. It is fake news. The Oregonian seems quite adept at outsourcing space.

Who would have thought?

It reminds me of the Law and Order: Criminal Intent show where "Bobby" uses this technique to flush out the villain. See Canadian study of EEG test for awareness in vegetative patients called flawed. Flawed - no kidding.

Really? Comment in a bar about cleavage is an issue for debate.

"A female journalist's allegations that a senior member of Chancellor Angela Merkel's coalition made sexist comments about her cleavage in a bar one year ago have stirred a debate about the relationship between reporters and politicians in Germany." [Cleavage comment puts German politics in a fluster | Reuters: ].

A year old personal complaint from a journalist arising out of a bar incident. WTF.

Isn't the issue the conduct?

This is one more news story that is bringing me to the conclusion that the FBI didn't cause this person to commit an act that but for the FBI he would not have committed. [FBI: Portland bomb plot suspect wrote for jihadist magazine].

The 'igniting' of an inoperable bomb by this suspect is sufficient in itself to warrant a guilty verdict. It is not like the FBI used their wiles to convince someone to sell drugs to an undercover agent. Irrespective of how this person came to the point of pushing the button, and push it he did, he knew the likely results. This should eliminate any "predisposition" defense.

Look had he in fact ignited an actual bomb in downtown Portland - would we be considering some predisposition defense? See this all too similar story without the FBI role except to stop the bombing: New York Fed bombing plot proves the terror threat is real. Although the details of the FBI and New York cops are scant - it seems clear that predisposition is not a defense.

Sometimes the act itself is sufficient to convict.

Everybody loses

This is about the 11 year old that attempted a car-jacking and robbery with a loaded pistol obtained from his father's truck. The state has removed the children from the parents at least for a year. The next hearing is one year away.  [Father of 11-year-old accused in attempted carjacking with a gun accepts responsibility in court].

There are three children: 11, 7, and 4. Mother is pregnant. Apparently there are no relatives like grandparents willing and capable of taking these children.

Mother "admitted that she maintained unsanitary and unsafe conditions in their home that put the children at risk and failed to maintain a safe environment that allowed their access to a deadly weapon."

One wonders, because the journalists are not going to tell us, what were the "unsanitary and unsafe conditions?" The children were removed from their parents once before for same or similar reasons. And it would appear, again the journalists are not going to tell us, that the state didn't do any follow-ups since the children were returned to the parents.

In an earlier post on this subject I stated: "Don't be surprised that he will be returned to his parents and the parents will receive little more than an admonishment." Well removal of the children is no slap on the wrists. Two times was enough for the  state, although if were not for the 11 year old's criminal behavior the state would not have known or even cared. One can only suspect funding is an issue.

It is not too difficult to see that parents losing custody of their children is a terrible wake-up call. Nobody wins, everyone loses. Arguably these children were not abused in any physical or mental manner, neglected yes.

I was surprised that both parents took the responsibility for their conduct. There was no finger pointing. It seems the 11 year old using the gun was the wake up moment. As the father noted "I don't think anybody would disagree that this could have resulted in a lot worse. I don't disagree with how serious what he did was...that was horrible."

There will be those that can reasonably argue that being in the care of the state for an extended time is not a solution, even a temporary one, beneficial to parents or children.  Neither of the children will understand why they have been taken from their parents.

But, the 11 year old has expressed guilt.  The mother in requesting immediate visitation between him and the father noted that "the 11-year-old boy feels tremendous guilt." It is unlikely that he will be able to grasp the fact that it is his parent's neglect that is responsible for that guilt. At 11 - he is still innocent.

Hopefully, visitation will not be prohibited, but I suspect it will be either non-existent or so circumscribed that it will be of little benefit to the child or parent. A parent in a visitation role rather than a custodial role might well as have no role at all. Even in a typical child custody case, "visitation" essentially eliminates the interaction necessary to the existence of a parent-child relationship.

Too bad that the reader of the news stories didn't have the benefit of more facts and analysis. In addition of not knowing the details of  unsanitary and unsafe conditions, we are not told why the father was a convicted felon. We are not told whether the gun was legal or not. We are not told his drug of choice. It just seems that this case deserves more attention.

The children's loss of their parents' love and care, however we may judge it to be deficient,  is the tragedy. What is truly precious is not realized until it is taken away. But these parents had a warning. It is the children paying the price.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

More lunacy

Hales Cuts $395,000 From Teen Summer Job Programs

Portland approves more streetcar money

City Council authorizes fire bureau boathouse; Commissioners have reservations about cost and deadline

Lunacy

School district in California gets high-powered semiautomatic rifles.

Grant High School winner at state 'We the People' Constitution competition

It is the kind of story that typically gets attention only from the Oregonian. I am not sure why, but that is another story. But maybe it is because the Oregonian does a  decent (not always great)  job in its coverage. [Grant High School team wins state 'We the People' Constitution tournament].

A competition on knowledge of the US Constitution sounds a bit esoteric. [High School Congressional Hearings]. But it is clearly some indication of education prowess. It not necessarily 'egghead' competition, that is, one doesn't have to be a genius to participate, nor is it some 'bonehead' competition.

It is easy to surmise though that these constitutional students are more likely than not to succeed in life, and the school deserves credit for offering them opportunities to succeed.

Grant High and Lincoln High do well in these competitions. Historically Lincoln has done better, but Grant is the serious challenger. Lincoln has won the national competition, now it is Grant's opportunity.

It is not surprising to look at test scores, and other academic indicia, and determine that both schools are  good schools - the ones where anyone would feel comfortable to send their children. Both schools provide the opportunity for students to excel.

I don't have, or couldn't find, a historical academic snapshot of either school except that found in Wikipedia. But looking at the Oregonian schools database and that of Great Schools, one might guess that Grant will academically match or exceed Lincoln in the near future.

There is little difference between the two schools as far as teaching experience and education, class size, money spent per student, etc.  One thing is quite clear though - class size doesn't make a difference.
Depending on the database - student to teacher ration is either 25:1 or 22:1. 19:1 is the state average. Class size advocates would say 19 is way to large, but class size often proves to be a red herring.

It is interesting too that as compared to Lincoln,  Grant appears to have a higher proportion of low income parents given the number of students eligible for free or reduced-price lunches. And Grant has a higher proportion of white to non-white students. And, depending again on the data source, at Grant the percentage of whites is either 64 or 66, and at Lincoln it is either 81% or 75%.

Looking at this limited data - it might be easy to conclude that race and parental income make a difference. But, I suspect that without more it would be an error to draw any definitive conclusion based upon race or income stats.

The two schools are in fact not that much different. Thus, without more the statistical differences are just that. There would be no reason for any parent to not choose one or the other school. In fact it might be difficult to choose between them.

Look at the advance placement exams at Grant and Lincoln. Grant leads in number and quality. It is unclear whether Grant's advance placement exam program is recent or not. But it is surely an indication of a not on;y a good school but one that is expected to match, or better, Lincoln's performance date.

Education is about opportunities. The city and state cannot do better than provide the opportunity to learn - the rest falls on the students and parents. One can lead a horse to water, but . . . .

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Cardinal Mahony - what a load of crap!

Court documents, thank goodness for the legal system, demonstrate that the retired Archbishop of Los Angeles  "worked quietly to keep evidence of child molesting away from law enforcement officials and shield abusive priests from criminal prosecution more than a decade before the scandal became public . . ." [Files Show Cardinal Roger Mahony Covered Up Sex Abuse].

Here is the load of crap. Of course he apologizes. That after all makes it all good - doesn't it? Gee he meant well - really? See this paragraph from his "apology" as carried in the NY Times:
Various steps toward safeguarding all children in the church began here in 1987 and progressed year by year as we learned more about those who abused and the ineffectiveness of so-called ‘treatments’ at the time,” the statement said. “Nonetheless, even as we began to confront the problem, I remained na├»ve myself about the full and lasting impact these horrible acts would have on the lives of those who were abused by men who were supposed to be their spiritual guides.
Safeguarding the children - oh please! And he "remained naive."

Why does "religion" operate as a shield for the likes of this Archbishop? He is no better - maybe worse - than the child sexual abusers that he protected. Birds of a feather . . . .

It is another disgusting story about the Catholic hierarchy that failed to protect children first.  What could be more important to a religion and society than the protection of children? This is the quality of leadership in the Catholic church - hasn't changed much in the centuries past.

There is an often told story about Jesus Christ overturning the tables of  money-changers in the Temple in  what one might describe as a fit of anger - just what would Jesus do to these self-proclaimed disciples?

Should be an easy NO! Twice.

Before the council two items. See What do a problematic streetcar and a $1.7 million boathouse have in common? United Streetcar wants $145k for its failure to perform. The original contract for $190,000 has worked its way up to $1.6 mil.

According to the United Streetcar website it has a contract with Tucson. I wonder how they are performing with them? Well their city council seems as hapless as Portland's. See this November 2012 story Streetcar builder shifts workers to Ore. project; Tucson line may face delay. And this January 2013 story Arizona Daily Wildcat :: Streetcar operation sees delays, new management team arrives in Tucson

And $1.7 mil for a boathouse to be named after Leonard? It started out at $800,000. And it is a contract from the United Streetcar parent company - Oregon Iron Works. Why should the city building a boathouse? And why, why should it be named after Leonard? Portland's small fry see themselves as big fish - don't they.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Gunman apologizes for bouncer's death

It is really a year old shooting story happening on New Years Day in 2011. Once it was determined that there was no errant police involvement the story died. I had a recent post on the plea bargain thinking that it was wrong. When one person takes another's life it doesn't necessarily have to result in an eye for an eye result, but only 11 years given the known circumstances?

The best extant write up comes from KOIN: Kevin Moffett, 33, pleads no contest to deadly New Year's Day shooting. What is missing though is the reaction by the family of the bouncer. Nor are we informed as the circumstances surrounding the plea. Thus, it is difficult to justify the acceptance of the plea, i.e., how is justice served?

The news media totally failed to accurately and thoroughly report the facts of this case. Maybe it was because it happened at a bar? Maybe because it involved a black victim and shooter? Maybe because it was seen as gang-related? Maybe because shootings have become common place? Maybe, maybe, maybe . . . .

It is interesting to take notice that the comments found in the Oregonian stories reflected Portland's anti-police and racist attitudes. E.g., see comments to Police continue investigation into fatal shooting at Club 915. Not that they represent Portland - they don't. They represent the type of reader that the Oregonian panders to by rewarding them for their multiple submissions by posting that achievement.  Of course they speak out from behind their mask of anonymity.

You see in Portland murder is only an interest if all or part of the blame can be put on the police. The media thought they had something when it appeared that a police officer might have fired his weapon without justification.  It didn't matter that a person lost his life, what mattered was the possibly of a juicy story about the Portland police.

The media likes to report suppositions however unfounded. Granted part of the problem is that it takes the police a while to gather all of the facts - of course the media just can't wait for the facts.

The 'police' story melts away once it was determined that the police officer had been on the scene at the time of the shooting, witnessed it going down and shot at the perpetrator after he shot the bouncer. As it turns out the police did an excellent job in quickly apprehending the shooter. No police fault, no story.

The news media also reported that the shooter had gang ties, Crips no less.  At one point the shooter was a gang member, but then he became an associate. I am not sure if that is a distinction without a difference or not. But in the aftermath, the sentencing, we are merely told that he had no gang ties. This information apparently came from the prosecutors.

But the shooter had a concealed weapons permit and this essentially went by without a further look by the news media. It seemed to matter not that someone with a concealed weapons permit was in fact carrying and shot someone without justification.

If there was ever was a case against the carrying of firearms - this was it. Carrying a firearm into a club on New Years eve. A shooting was more likely than not. Especially given the location and hour of the shooting, it is likely the shooter was intoxicated. He was probably pissed too because he was 'wrongfully' evicted from the club.  What could go wrong?

Shootings are not uncommon in Portland. But rather than the media taking an opportunity to look into the possible germ of a story about concealed weapons - it mentioned only that the shooter had a concealed weapons permit without ever relating that to the facts of the case.

Why was he carrying a gun to a club? No mention.

Just how intoxicated might he had been? No mention.

Was he there with members of the Crips gang? No mention.

Two families are suffering merely because one somehow thought it appropriate to take his gun to a bar on New Years eve. What was he thinking? Why was he there? He had a girlfriend and daughter. Both men had children. Senseless.

The shooter's apology doesn't bring back to life the man he killed apparently for doing his job. The apology certainly doesn't justify the acceptance of the plea. A judge isn't required to accept the plea. And the news media does nothing to help us to make sense of this tragedy.

Boeing 787 lithium-ion battery issues

"All 50 of the 787 Dreamliners that Boeing has delivered to airlines were grounded after an overheated battery forced the emergency landing of an All Nippon Airways 787 flight last week in western Japan." [Boeing 787 probe centers on lithium-ion battery maker].

Maybe it is clear to some, but what is the purpose of the battery in question. It is quaint how the report in the Christian Science Monitor assumes knowledge the reader is not likely to have. Without more - aircraft safety dependent on a battery is frightful to say the least. But read on.

Read the Boeing statement. Not much information there. But depending on the version - the Dreamliner might be carrying 290 passengers. Not much of a dream if it falls from the sky. So just how much of a safety threat is the battery issue? See this story Boeing 787 battery fires underscore complexity of energy storage technology.

Thankfully though commercial aircraft safety is paramount in the US? But see this from the Guardian UK: "Aviation debacle is a result of battery and outsourcing problems exacerbated by a relaxation of government oversight."

"Mann [Consultant and former airline executive Robert Mann] said the FAA's mandate changed under administrator Marion Blakey, appointed by president George W Bush in 2008 as Boeing was working on the Dreamliner. "Blakey saw the FAA as a 'customer services organisation. The FAA was working with the airlines to cut regulation, not to impose it.""

When it comes to profit - human life becomes a secondary concern.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Not ready for kindergarten? Really?

In the vein of if it is worth doing, it is worth doing well - the AP authors should have chucked the story in nearest waste basket. The lead paragraph is the clue that the story was off on the wrong foot.
"Washington education officials who are struggling to help high school students pass a statewide math exam may want to take a close look at the first results from a new kindergarten readiness test."
The basis of the story Tests find many Washington state kids not ready for kindergarten is not about testing - it is about assessment. There are distinct differences.

The apparent press release that the brief AP story was based upon never once used the word test, nor did any of the supporting material.

But the most grievous error was to make a connection between high school students' struggle to pass statewide math exams and the skill assessment of kindergartners. It doesn't exist. It was spun out of whole cloth found in the possible bias of the author(s).

There is not one point in the AP story that is accurate. If you are interested in the Washington program WAKids, start with the press release.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Institutionalized pedophilia

The sexual abuse of children by Catholic priests is not limited to one country. Oddly, it seems that the more Catholic the country or area of the country the more likelihood that priests were abusing children. I say "were" with little confidence that it is in fact in the past.

The New York Times provides the details about sexual abuse in Germany in their articles Report Details Sexual Abuse of Children by German Priests (Report) and  German Bishops Cancel Study Into Sexual Abuse by Priests (Study).

The Report is proffered as proof that "Germany’s bishops have vowed a thorough and impartial investigation into the abuse." It is based upon collected information from a Church instituted hot line. "The church said the report contained information from 1,824 people, of whom 1,165 described themselves as victims."

The hot line seems to have been instituted in response to some 600 cases filed against the Church in 2010. Those claims were also the genesis for the independent Study by an investigator who is a researcher and  criminologist.

Child sexual abuse in the name of God. "Bishop Stephan Ackermann of Trier: “I found particularly devastating the perpetrators’ lies to their under-aged victims that their actions were an expression of a loving bond with God.” [Report].

At this point, it would seem appropriate that some credit be given to the German Bishops who appeared to have seriously undertaken the quest to eradicate these priests from the ranks. But appearances can be deceiving. There are allegations that the Church is manipulating, censoring if you will, the information. That claim came from the independent investigator who was fired by the Church.

Apparently the independent investigator was to partner with the Church to produce the Study.  He was dismissed because the Church "hierarchy had lost confidence in" him.  The investigator : the bishops wanted to change previously agreed-upon guidelines for the project to include a final veto over publishing its results, which he could not accept." [Study].

I guess the concept of an "independent" study was a little too difficult for the bishops to comprehend given that they are in the business of dictating how others should live their lives. How does one maintain their faith when that faith comes from a church that harbored, and arguably still harbors, child sexual abusers and a church that has done little to atone for its sins. This is not a sin easily forgiven by confession.

The Church holds no position of moral leadership.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Good riddance

High-risk sex offender says TV attention forced him to leave Portland. He claims he wasn't treated fairly. I wonder how his victims felt? Not in my backyard seems appropriate.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Obama's "tyranny" - raises a nagging issue

Have you taken a look at the 23 Gun Violence Reduction Executive Actions? The Washington Post news story notes these superlatives (exaggerated) spewing forth from the mouths of the Republicans addressing President Obama's "abuse of presidential power:"  “executive power grab,” “dictator,” “tyrant,” “executive fiat.” And even calls for impeachment from the likes of these fine gentlemen.

The Post's story makes a point that Reagan’s solicitor general dismisses right’s fantasy about Obama “tyranny”. I am unclear why that is so significant, but I imagine it is because the Republicans have often touted Reagan as Mr. Republican. But "fantasy" is a easy assessment - read the executive orders.

In reading it is crystal clear that there are no new laws created, no new powers are created or assumed, and there are no new requirements that a single weapon of any character be confiscated or prohibited.  The executive orders speak administratively to only existing laws.

Frankly there is no reason for anyone of any political persuasion to challenge these executive orders. There are a couple that arguably support the NRA's armed guard in the schools proposal. See numbers 12 & 18. At best these are administrative actions well within the president's authority.

The gun control issue is one that the Republicans had the opportunity to lead the discussion, but they have chosen to be back-benchers chucking barbs. The Republicans literally sit in opposition - they oppose everything the president does or proposes.

Arguably the opposition is about money. Take a peek at which party receives the NRA's donations (bribes). But it matters not the issue - the Republicans seem to be against Obama, not just the Democrats.  Obama can be fairly characterized as being a moderate to right Democrat. Often he seems to stand to George W. Bush's right.

I suspect that the fly on the wall in the Republican offices would hear words such as the "n" word, and other racial epithets. If Obama were white - he would be seen in many ways as  more Republican than many Republicans. He is a family man. He is well-educated. He presents well. He is articulate. He has conducted himself in office extremely well. Yet if he were only white, seems to be the Republican lament.

If Obama has a fault, other than being born black, he is a seeker of consensus and foremost a compromiser. If he were white, he would be extolled for his exemplary manner by which he conducts himself.  If we were color blind - he would be extolled for his courage.  As a person he all American - yet he is continually treated with disdain by the Republicans.

Thus, the nagging issue is racism.  It appears to be the only way to characterize the Republican opposition. The American public has supported Obama as shown by his election and reelection. Yet, the  Republican politicos and their supporters, e.g., Fox News, are counting on Americans to listen to their sound bites. To what end? Exactly!

Sounds like a good idea

SF restaurant health data to be on Yelp.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Pollution - the insignificance of places like Portland

Like it or not the anti-pollution efforts, mostly a facade, of the liberal cities like Portland make not even a noticeable indentation in the overall pollution index. The high school do-gooder attitude extant in places like Portland is not cost effective, however one might measure cost.

Take a peek at the most polluted cities in the world's biggest economies provide by the Daily chart: Choked. The only US city listed is Bakersfield, California. Bakersfield - not a city I would have expected to see so prominently listed. But it is experiencing an economic boom. Oil, and fracking, is big in Bakersfield area.

My point, if there is one to make, is that the excessive and self indulgent attitude of those who make various claims relating to livability ought to be more concerned with items that have a more immediate effect on actual livability, like good streets, not just bioswales.

It makes no sense to subsidize development in a particular area of the city while the remainder wallows in the status quo or suffers decline.

Give a man a fish . . . .

Israel is too used to the handout. In an apparent response to claimed criticism by President Obama, Israel's Netanyahu had this to say: "I think everyone understands that only Israeli citizens will be the ones who determine who faithfully represents Israel's vital interests." [Obama's alleged criticism of Netanyahu enlivens Israeli election].

According to the news story "Obama and Netanyahu have been at odds over Israel's settlement building in the occupied West Bank and heavy Israeli hints of possible military action against Iran's nuclear facilities."

Given the amount of money provided to Israel, the US has more than just some interest in the affairs of Israel. We are talking billions and billions of dollars. These dollars better have some influence and certainly gives the US a right, in fact an obligation to US taxpayers, to criticize.

The U.S. Foreign Aid to Israel: 2012 Congressional Report report, “U.S. Foreign Aid to Israel,” provides the historical financial relationship between the US and Israel. One example: "To date, the United States has provided Israel $115 billion in bilateral assistance. It is currently the second largest recipient of aid worldwide, with Afghanistan now first."

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Rapes in Portland Part I Crime Stats ending 12-29.

Portland Police Bureau. Take a peek at the rape statistic. Last year it was 221 and this year it is down to 207.

In India "Delhi is often called the "rape capital of India" - police recorded more than 550 cases in the city last year." [BBC News - India 'gang-rape': Student, friend attacked on Delhi bus].

The current population of Deli, India is 20,438,946. The current (estimate) population of Portland, Or is 593,820. Delhi's population is about 34 times that of Portland.

At 207 rapes per 593,820, Delhi would have had 34 x 207 = 7,038 rapes to keep up with the rate of rapes in Portland. But Delhi's 550 cases are just over 2 x Portland's.

But can one say that if Portland's population doubled that the number of rapes would double? Thus, the statistics are likely misleading because it is incorrect to use raw population figures for comparison, but it does give another perspective.

Also it should be noted that in 1901 Delhi's population was about 400,000 and thus has increased 51 times. It appears that Delhi has an excessive rate of population growth. The growth rate peaked at 53% in 1981. A table indicates that the growth percentage was about 22% in 2011,  but it is ticking upward. "The population of Delhi is expected to rise 40% by the year 2020." This density cannot be ignored as a factor in generating a crime environment. See Population of Delhi- Delhi Population in 2012.

Nothing say sleaze more than apologies after getting caught

Lance Armstrong And The Cheapening Of Indignation.

Egypt’s Morsi - the hatred within

But it isn't just hatred it is hate with religious zealousness: "The hatred [for Zionists, Jews] must go on for God and as a form of worshiping him.” [Egypt’s Leader, Morsi, Made Anti-Jewish Slurs].

This remark and similar others made in 2010 have apparently surfaced only now in videos on the Internet.  The NY Times article notes that "[w]hile his past comments may be a liability abroad, he faces a political culture at home in which such defamation of Jews is almost standard stump discourse. "

"Standard stump discourse." Really? I don't think so. Remarks like these from national leaders is not atypical. This goes beyond politics. And Mr. Morsi doesn't stand alone at that altar. Israeli leaders spew the similar hate, although maybe not so verbally specific.  George W. Bush as president is said to have claimed that "he was on a mission from God when he launched the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq." [George Bush: 'God told me to end the tyranny in Iraq'].

It is not about gender, skin color, anthropological features, political ideals or concepts, policy differences, and it isn't even about national pride. It is hate justified by their love of god. Isn't that ironic? Isn't that illogical and irrational thinking?  Is it any wonder that more and more people are disclaiming attachment to organized religion? [Losing Our Religion: The Growth Of The 'Nones'].

This hatred in the name of their particular god is nearly synonymous with "the argument that superior people have a right to dominate over other people and purge society of supposed inferior elements."  That is a far right extremist view as espoused in Nazism.

But admittedly it seems that the hate justified by this love of a god has been more the focus of extremist leaders like Morsi in Egypt and Ahmadinejad in Iran than any other global leader. I have no doubt that if Egypt or Iran had the economic and military wherewithal - these leaders and the populace that nourishes their extremism would annihilate Israel.

Not so with Israel. While one can find their actions against the Palestinians disreputable, their speech and conduct belie the same hatred expressed by Muslim extremists. No one can deny that Israel has the wherewithal, militarily and economically (Western support) to take the actions that those like Morsi and Ahmadinejad can only see as aspirations.

It is odd that religion can be seen as the glue that holds society together yet it exists in the real sense causing the disintegration of society. Religion has become a polarizing, not a cohesive, force. It exists to justify the most immoral, inhuman and anti-social conduct because "God told me" or "hatred is a form of worshiping him."

Is that what God is all about - hatred spawned violence? Notice how quiet religious leaders are in the face of the most violent and virulent speech and conduct. Have we really advanced since the days of the Neanderthals?

Religion has taken humanity down the wrong path.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Aaron Swartz - he was only 26

Certainly a person that I was unaware of, but that was to my detriment. He committed suicide for reasons unclear, although he did suffer from depression. However, it does appear that a prosecution by the federal government played a role.

He was only 26. He is given credit at age 14 for co-development of RSS feeds, a publishing tool that all Internet users know, and he co-founded Reddit.  He was at Stanford and he was a Harvard Fellow.  He co-founded Demand Progress and Progressive Change Campaign Committee. See this excellent article Aaron Swartz Hacks the Attention Economy, MIT Technology Review, that details more about Aaron Swartz's efforts, influence and ideals.

Aaron Swartz's family statement on the prosecution:
"Aaron's death is not simply a personal tragedy. It is the product of a criminal justice system rife with intimidation and prosecutorial overreach. Decisions made by officials in the Massachusetts U.S. Attorney's office and at MIT contributed to his death. The US Attorney's office pursued an exceptionally harsh array of charges, carrying potentially over 30 years in prison, to punish an alleged crime that had no victims. Meanwhile, unlike JSTOR, MIT refused to stand up for Aaron and its own community's most cherished principles."
It may or may not be fair to assign blame to the federal prosecution for his death, but it seems there is a common sense connection. A person as bright as he evidently was should not fear the federal government. The prosecution in our name seemed to be merely because the government can. Here, arguably, the feds were looking to make a point on downloading and he was only collateral damage.

Why was the feds putting him on trial?
"Swartz had accessed MIT's computer network to download a large number of files from JSTOR, a non-profit that hosts academic journal articles. US prosecutors claimed he "stole" several thousand files, but considering MIT offered this access for free on campus (and the files being digital), it's pretty tough to square his massive downloading with any idea of "theft."" [Techdirt].
But JSTOR was not pressing the charges. "It had stopped the downloading and secured the "stolen" content, along with receiving assurances from Swartz that the files would not be distributed." [Techdirt].  And so far MIT's role, if any, in the prosecution is unknown, but family faults the feds and MIT, but not JSTOR.

Was it payback as suggested by Techdirt? Apparently Swartz had 'gamed' the PACER system. "PACER (acronym for Public Access to Court Electronic Records) is an electronic public access service of United States federal court documents." [PACER (law)]. The feds had investigated him, without filing charges, for downloading public documents without paying the fee.

Swartz is seen as a folk-hero because of his view that on-line content ought to be free to the public.  A snapshot of Aaron Swartz can be found in "a statement [in part] released by his family and his girlfriend:"
"Aaron's commitment to social justice was profound, and defined his life. He used his prodigious skills as a programmer and technologist not to enrich himself but to make the Internet and the world a fairer, better place."
Interestingly, that attitude is what made the Internet. An unknown number of individuals expending an untold number of hours worked without remuneration to make the Internet a free flow of information for all. The programming and technical work manifested itself in shareware.

Two examples. In the late 70s modem protocols were developed by user Christensen - not some commercial enterprise. [XMODEM]. What made Palm Pilot successful and popular was the shareware apps created by users.

Much of the success of the companies like Microsoft came from the efforts of ordinary people using their time and skills to produce technological advances for the sake of producing them. Freely distributed spreadsheets, word processing and a host of other software was the genesis of the success of many companies.

Now I am not too sure that on-line content merely because it is on-line should make it within the public domain. But I know that I have found it particularly galling to find a paywall blocking my access to federal public court documents. A little less galling is being charged a fee by JSTOR; a non-government organization that levies a fee because their information is not "public" information.

Most likely we will never know why the feds sought to make an example of Aaron Swartz. My bet would be the control of the Internet. Control not only of information flow but also for revenue. Countries with variety of political persuasions all seek to control the Internet using as many different means. The result is the same whether it is China or the US.

Ordinary Internet users like myself owe a debt of gratitude for the work of the early Internet pioneers and those like Aaron Swartz that seek to keep it free of government influence and control.

Aaron Swartz appears to have been one of those super-bright individuals that was more of a super hero than a super villain as the federal government was attempting to characterize him.

This paragraph from his family:
"Aaron's insatiable curiosity, creativity, and brilliance; his reflexive empathy and capacity for selfless, boundless love; his refusal to accept injustice as inevitable-these gifts made the world, and our lives, far brighter. We're grateful for our time with him, to those who loved him and stood with him, and to all of those who continue his work for a better world." [Aaron Swartz's family statement].
Best said by the family: "Today, we grieve for the extraordinary and irreplaceable man that we have lost."

Sources: