Saturday, March 30, 2013

Cheating in Georgia schools, but not by the students

It is an old story about the Georgia administrators and teachers providing answers to and modifying test scores on the standard tests. However, the new story is the indictment of those administrators and teachers in the Atlanta school district. [Ex-Atlanta Schools Chief Charged in Cheating Scandal].

Much credit goes to the governor of that state - Sonny Perdue. Despite the efforts of many, he would not be dissuaded in the pursuit of the cheating administrators and teachers. And, if it were not for the diligence of the special prosecutors appointed by the Georgia governor - the corruption would have gone unpunished.

Just look the other way. Some were more concerned about the good name of Atlanta and the state. And arguably the race issue loomed large. But, it didn't seem to make a difference to many the damage that was done to school children. Nor did it seem to make a difference to the unlawful enrichment in the form of bonuses that were paid to these administrators and teachers as a result of the increased test scores. It didn't seem to make a difference that a school system was corrupt.

Except to the governor and his special prosecutors.

Stealth bombers - diplomacy at work

Diplomacy - really. The media seems to be falling all over themselves defending the US decision to send the bombers over South Korea from a base in the US, thereby, demonstrating our prowess. Like that capability has been a secret.

But in the process of defending rather than questioning the Obama administration, it minimizes the irrationality of the North Korean dictator and military commanders. And, arguably it minimizes the actual military capability of the North Koreans. It is so easy to ridicule the dictator, and the late night talk shows have had a comedic field day.

But the assessment of the North Korean military capability is coming from the same intelligence community that gave us WMDs in Iraq. Oddly too is that while depicting the dictator as irrational, blustering and militarily impotent there is too an assumption that he is reasonable and rational enough to know better than to take on the US. One would have thought that bin Laden would have thought that.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Is this what we want from our legislators?

Legislators consider fluoride rinses for Oregon students. Don't schools need money for better and more important reasons? The co-sponsor of the bill seems to be that fluoride rinses would somehow automatically cut the absentee rate of children who lack proper dental care. Really? Would it be mandated? If not - it isn't going to make a dent in a suspect problem. And of course, it can't be mandated.

More stupidity.

Oh yes they can and do.

The Christian Science Monitor had an opinion piece taking the US to task for playing favorites in the human rights game. "While the US has been quick to condemn human rights violations in China and rally behind persecuted activists there, President Obama has seemed hesitant to do the same with Saudi Arabia and its persecution of human rights activist Mohammad Fahad Al-Qahtani." [Saudi Arabia vs. China: America can't play favorites with human rights].

The same 'can't play favorites' argument might be made in relation to the tit for tat penalties exchanged by the US and Russia over alleged human rights violations by the Russians. [See an earlier post.]

Arguably there is not one sincere bone in the body of US pretensions to make the world a better place. It is merely a political game having no connection to morality or ethics. It is mere propaganda one would assume for home use, because it is difficult to believe that other countries are fooled by the thin veil of hypocrisy.  

What was he thinking?

"A U.S. Army veteran, who boasted on Facebook of his military adventures with Syrian rebels, was charged Thursday with firing rocket-propelled grenades as part of an attack led by an al-Qaida group against the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad." [US Army Vet Charged With Fighting With Al-Qaida].

He was charged with conspiring to use a weapon of mass destruction - rocket propelled grenade launcher. Somehow that is not what I visualize as a WMD. That definition would have certainly validated the invasion of Iraq.

It is interesting too that the 'al-Qaida' group didn't understand why they were listed as such.

He would have been clearly within Obama's justification for killing US citizens, yet here he is on Facebook bragging about his exploits. Don't people realize that their postings are subject to surveillance?

It is unknown whether his boasts are valid are not, but nevertheless the case might be interesting to follow.

'Wetbacks' comments blasted

The Republicans are falling all over themselves to condemn the use of the term 'wetbacks' by Republican Young of Alaska. And rightly so. [Boehner Blasts Veteran GOP Lawmaker Don Young For 'Wetbacks' Comment].

But what if he had made the remark a year ago or two years ago? I am suggesting that the Republican outrage is more about their new recognition of the value of minority votes.

Energy subsidies benefits the rich in developing countries

International Monetary Fund analysis: "Subsidies, in fact, help the rich six times more than they do the poor because the rich consume more energy. And the $480 billion spent on direct government supports in developing countries would benefit the poor far more if that money were spent in areas like education and roads, the IMF concludes." [When helping the poor doesn't help].

Why do things in retrospect seem so obvious?

Bigotry comes in brown

"Carson added that he has "no problem whatsoever with allowing gay people to live as they please, as long as they don't try to impose their lifestyle on everyone else" and would support "gays or non-gays" having a legally binding relationship "that helps with the adjudication of property rights and other legal matters." Carson then compared this legal relationship to allowing Muslims to privately practice religion: "Likewise, I have no problem with Muslims or other religious groups who want to practice their religion in their homes, which may be vastly different from traditional Judeo-Christian religion, as long as they don't try to impose that on others or violate our laws." [Ben Carson: Marriage Equality Could Destroy America Like The "Fall Of The Roman Empire"].

More stupidity

"In a controversy underscoring continued stresses in U.S.-Russia relations, Obama administration officials are debating how many Russian officials to ban from the United States under a new law meant to penalize Moscow for alleged human rights abuses." [U.S. debates how severely to penalize Russia in human rights spat]. If one reads the Reuters story, and I hope you do, you might also get the Russian perspective.

And there is irony too. The US law was part of a bill to expand trade with Russia. And just who benefits from this stupid attempt to penalize Russia? One loss has been the ability of US citizens to adopt Russian children. And as the occasion arises. more tit for tat is sure to follow.

The continued attempt to bully others to conform to the self-perception that US has of itself can't lead to peaceful world.

US stealth flight - stupid bravado

An unnecessary act that given what we seem to know about North Korea leadership could have led to the resumption of the Korean War. According to the BBC, South Korean people seem to have mixed reactions. But rather than keep a lid on the boiling and roiling tensions, the US chose to exacerbate those tensions with the flight. It is an act of a bully. Moreover it may have been an affront as well as an unnecessary challenge to China. [US stealth bomber as messenger: what it says to China, North Korea].

World War I was started with a stupid act. "Although Archduke Franz Ferdinand, the nephew of Austria's emperor and heir-apparent to the throne, was not very well liked by most, his assassination by a Serb nationalist was viewed as a great excuse to attack Austria-Hungary's troublesome neighbor, Serbia." [World War I - The History of World War I].

And one wonders why the rest of the world views the US suspiciously.


Thursday, March 28, 2013

Sting ray surveillance - one more invasion of privacy

Maybe it is because lawsuits haven't made their way through the federal courts, but if the use of a marijuana sniffing dog at your door needs a warrant - it is hard to see how the many surveillance techniques in use by the FBI and others can pass constitutional muster.

But arguably the FBI has found (or had) a way around conduct that might not be granted as part of any warrant search. Their new technique is described in the Washington Post. It is called the Sting ray "which simulates a cellphone tower and enables agents to collect the serial numbers of individual cellphones and then locate them." [Little-known surveillance tool raises concerns by judges, privacy activists].

Thus to avoid a likely denial of the warrant using this technique, it appears that the agents are failing to provide all the pertinent information when seeking the judicial warrants; thus, allowing them to do what they might otherwise be prohibited.

It is an interesting read.

George Will - making sense

Who would have thought. This from Mr. Will's column, Congress is making itself irrelevant, found in the Washington Post:
President Obama has arguably established the authority of the president to intervene militarily virtually anywhere without the consent or the approval of Congress, at his own discretion and for as long as he wishes.”
Although Mr. Will quoting Jim Webb, a Democrat choosing to forego another term in the Senate, but it is clear that George Will is in agreement.

A pertinent question is found in this quote from Mr. Webb:
"The question, Webb says, is whether in “a world filled with cruelty,” presidents should be allowed to “pick and choose when and where to use military force” by merely citing the “undefinable rubric of ‘humanitarian intervention.’ ”
Mr. Webb was using Libya as the example, but it applies in many, too many, situations. It seems that this Democratic president has done nothing to make the world safer from any of the perceived evils, but has made the US the country to fear. It is not hard to argue that the US seeks world domination.

Bullying is the technique.

Oklahoma earthquake: unnatural cause

We worry incessantly that global warming, climate change, is caused by humans and that if certain human activity isn't stopped the sky will fall. Well maybe it is not the carbon dioxide issue that is the only concern - fracking is quickly becoming the issue. There is a study that strongly suggests that the process of fracking caused the 5.7 magnitude earthquake in Oklahoma in 2011. [Oklahoma earthquake: How oil extraction shifts the ground beneath us].

In the global warming cause, the blame is put more onto individuals, but in fracking the fault lies with energy companies. It seems that the desperate search for more of the same energy sources are constantly threatening life  on the planet from below - not in the atmosphere.

Fracking has been linked to the pollution of the underground water table. And so too projects like the Keystone pipeline. Failure to objectively consider nuclear power, clean (cleaner) coal, and alternative energy sources, e.g., solar, might wreak far worse consequences than a rise in the earth's surface temperature.

Constitutional right to privacy - mere words on paper to some

I am amazed at the number of people in major political leadership positions, especially the number of Democrats, that share this attitude as expressed by New York City Mayor Bloomberg:
We’re going to have more visibility and less privacy – I don’t see how you stop that,” Bloomberg said. “It’s just we’re going into a different world, uncharted, and, like it or not, what people can do, what governments can do, is different. And you can, to some extent control, but you can’t keep the tides from coming in.”  [Drones above New York 'scary' but inevitable, Mayor Bloomberg says ( video)].
Passivity and appeasement are becoming the Democrats' hallmarks.

Grove hotel - developers want no risk

The Grove Hotel (see image below) has been an urban renewal project in Old Town for many years, nine years and more. It isn't going to happen because Old Town is Old Town. E.g., right across the street from Grove Hotel is the homeless encampment on land whose owner has been at odds with the city, really prior commissioner Randy Leonard, for several years. Old Town is antithetical to economic development.

But if it isn't that encampment it will be something else detrimental to economic development in Old Town. Old Town is undevelopable. For all good intentions - Old Town has determined for itself its role in the city - a place for the poor and homeless during the day and a place for the inebriated (drugs and alcohol) to play at night. And that is not necessarily a criticism.

It really doesn't matter what the project is - there has been several proposals over the years. Always a new way for private developers to leverage, not their money, but public money for a project beneficial to them. Rather than to provide their own capital, or at least minimize the risk of their investment - it is much better to use public money that comes in the forms of grants, low or zero interest loans, and tax incentives. Sometimes they get all three.

But in this case, PDC has finally thrown a wrench into the development machinery that ordinarily gobbles public tax revenue. PDC has requested additional collateral for the loan of public money. They say the additional collateral is needed because "an appraiser had reduced the project's assessed value." Now - PDC is worried?

There is probably more to it than that. It is already a guaranteed loss to taxpayers. It seems more likely that a financial line has been crossed where even PDC cannot continue to throw money and hope it has development stickem. A new appraisal seems more likely a public way of justifying a change of mind when behind the doors the project borders on malfeasance. Appraisals to fit the need are easy to obtain.

This is a view of the developer Gold in the withdrawal:
"None of my partners are willing to pledge additional collateral to the project," he wrote. "If this team, with PDC's support, cannot bring this transformational project to fruition, I question whether other entrepreneurs will even propose private ventures."
'Transformational' - an urban renewal buzz word superseding 'catalytic'. And the project: "to turn the Grove from a crumbling halfway house into a trendy, Asian-themed youth hostel." And that transforms Old Town how?

And Gold forgets to mention that he and his 'partners' have been the only private venture, or maybe adventurers, to seriously make any proposal for the Grove. It is a building best torn down and left as a park. But there can't be any park area in Old Town that wouldn't be wrongfully occupied.

E.g., it is that encampment that has been an excuse for threatening to pull out of the project because, the developers whine, they can't get a restaurant tenant. And what was one of the restaurants they hoped to attract? "New York's acclaimed Taiwanese restaurant Baohaus." Really?

It should be noted that whatever the ruse used to get the project approved by PDC - isn't necessarily the end project. Once the money is out the door, PDC will do whatever it takes to guarantee some project if for no other reason but to save face. And that still might happen in this case.

One can easily argue that the youth hostel is a dodge that most likely appealed to the likes of the prior mayor Adams. It is the restaurant and bar that is their focus. Take a walk around Old Town where restaurants and bars are often in buildings where the upper floors are unoccupied or under-occupied.

But it is important to note too that the Grove Hotel is adjacent to Gold's property. Gold owns the rest of the block. Development of the Grove will increase the property value of the rest of the block. Look the mere elimination of the building would do much for Old Town. It sits as an eye-sore on Burnside.

But what is so good about private developers using tax revenue and low or zero interest loans is that PDC's track record on payback of loans as dictated by the loan contact is poor. But payback aside take a peek at the deal as recounted in the Willamette Week: "The PDC agreed to sell it [Grove Hotel] to Gold and his partners for $555,000, a loss of $3.15 million, while giving them a $2.64 million loan." It is a giveaway, not even a breakeven.

The taxpayers are already in the hole. The Oregonian: "In 2010, the city spent $3.71 million to buy and cover improvements for the notoriously derelict 1907 building at 421 W. Burnside St." "The deal will lock in more than $3 million in taxpayer losses and require nearly that much more in loans."

And now that PDC is seeking, finally, to be more financially prudent and require more collateral the developers are balking. Maybe that tells one about the probable success of the project.

I may be second-guessing, but it seems that PDC's request for extra collateral for loan of public funds is appropriate, but too late. It has been another project where PDC just hands out the money without any concern that it is public money or that PDC has a position of trust in the management of those public dollars.

Developers in Portland feed at the trough of PDC. Land and structures too are signed over to the developers. Public money is additionally handed out in the form of tax incentives, outright grants, or low interest, lower than industry standard, loans, and sometimes ZERO interest loans requiring only the principal to be paid back.

Putting aside the concept of using public tax dollars to pay developers for alleged public benefit projects, they almost never are for the public benefit, e.g., the Nines. PDC has a duty - one that it shirks - to insure that the loan of public dollars will be paid back. Collateral securing the loan helps guarantee the pay back. It is financially prudent.

However despite the above, I am sure PDC will bend over and cough up the money without the requested collateral. PDC has placed itself in a position of no return on public investment. Urban renewal is built on the premise that increased property tax revenue will pay back the investment. There is no likelihood of that ever being possible with the Grove property.

Developers Pull Out of Grove Hotel Deal
PDC Report Number 11-60
Renovation of Portland's Grove Hotel involves significant risk by the Portland Development Commission | (July 26, 2011).
Losses inevitable, Portland Development Commission tries to make hostel deal work for Grove Hotel | (November 14, 2012).
Portlandmaps - Grove Hotel.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Bosch turns off the lights of its solar subsidiary.

It is Germany - but the message seems clear: alternative energy, in this case solar, is not commercially viable. The Bosch "solar subsidiary lost 1 billion euros (about $1.28 billion US) last year." "Other German solar companies are feeling the pinch – major solar companies SolarWorld and Conergy are in debt restructuring talks and Q-Cells filed for insolvency last year." [Bosch turns off light on money-losing solar power unit].

Solar power as an alternative energy is not new to the 21st century, but it has yet to prove that the sun's energy can be harnessed in any cost effective manner. And while recognizing the value of that source, the fear of nuclear energy is keeping countries from making effective use of it. Oddly though, Germany has had an efficacious nuclear energy industry, yet has decided to turn away from it. Fear!

It would seem that as long as the extant energy sources, e.g., fossil fuels, are reasonably consumer priced - solar, and other alternative sources, will not generate potential profits needed to attract businesses. But governments rather than see the handwriting on the wall continue to directly fund companies with little more than a hope and a prayer that they will be successful.

But government has a role to play in the funding of research. This type of funding benefits the whole industry and not the particular hand-picked, and often politically influential, company. It encourages risk taking by more companies; and it suggests the likelihood of success because the innovating company will be using its own investment.

Governments, even with intelligent politicians, don't have the business and financial savvy to risk take. There is little similarity between the business of government and the business of innovation. The major financial system - capitalism -  is dependent on innovation. Public subsidies inhibits innovation.

Drone war in Pakistan - a visual

From the Guardian UK: "Using data from the Bureau for Investigative Journalism (which we used to create this map), California-based designers Pitch Interactive have visualised every known attack by the US and Coalition military since 2004." [Drone war: every attack in Pakistan visualised].

In many ways it is a bit of a shocker to see the strikes as visualized. Take notice of the increase in the drone war after Obama took office in his first term.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Idiotic: "Three Cheers for the Nanny State"

A New York Times contributor is, not surprisingly, a supporter of the nanny state where it is the government that knows best - forget about father - when it comes to personal behavior. Look at the title of her book that the Times is helping her promote: “Against Autonomy: Justifying Coercive Paternalism.” [Three Cheers for the Nanny State]. The story's subject matter is the banning of  large sodas in New York City. It is a 2 page (online pages) article that has this last paragraph:
"That’s what the government is supposed to do, help us get where we want to go. It’s not always worth it to intervene, but sometimes, where the costs are small and the benefit is large, it is. That’s why we have prescriptions for medicine. And that’s why, as irritating as it may initially feel, the soda regulation is a good idea. It’s hard to give up the idea of ourselves as completely rational. We feel as if we lose some dignity. But that’s the way it is, and there’s no dignity in clinging to an illusion."
One must question whether it is government's role to "help us get where we want to go?" Maybe if we are talking about transportation or a crime free society or safe working environment or safe drugs and proper health care. But to tell us what size soda we can or cannot drink - that the role of government?

Is it okay to intervene when "the costs are small and the benefit is large?" Costs are small to who? Benefit is large to who? This author and others like her - often academics that seem to believe they have the answers because they are "educated" - don't really mind government doing something that might affect you rather than them. I think it is a fair assessment that they are not likely to be purchasing a large soda in New York City. So it is easy for them to give permission to the government to rule your behavior.

Is the rationale for having prescriptions for medicine equal or logically connected to banning large sodas, not all sodas, just a size of soda at particular stores? Never mind that you can buy a number of small sodas that equal the banned size or that you can go to the supermarket and buy nearly the same type of soda in even larger sizes and cheaper.

Illogical reasoning goes with those that believe it is okay for the government to regulate your behavior, as long as it doesn't affect them. If I want to drink large sodas and eat fast foods - that is my prerogative. Educate if you feel you must - but don't legislate. And please don't try to make some logical or rational connection between regulation of driver licenses and soda drinking.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Portland's creative class isn't a growth factor

The City of Portland Oregon and its urban renewal agency Portland Development Commission (PDC) bought into a “creative class” concept where economic prosperity follows from the development of a socioeconomic class driving economic development.

[This post originated in 2009.]

The development of this class would flow naturally from city investments in establishing a high quality of life. It is a 'build and they will follow' approach that is the cornerstone of Portland's development strategies, e. g., catalyst projects.

The city claims that the influx of 'creative' people has been unprecedented because of its quality of life. If one were to hazard a guess, the claimed influx came at a time when housing was still reasonably priced and city planning and urban renewal provided attractive jobs.

However, the city admits that expected economic growth did not follow: “Even during periods of strong regional employment growth, the city consistently lags in job creation. The job growth that did occur in the region happened well outside downtown.” [Portland Economic Development Strategy].

The concept seems to have originated (or gained notoriety) from Dr. Richard Florida's 2002 book The Rise of the Creative Class. He identifies the creative class as a key driving force for economic development in post-industrial cities in the USA.”[Wikipedia; see his website].

Arguably, Florida took what has been taught and practiced for years - a management style and practice that recognizes creative or innovative talent in the workforce – and created a catchy term associating it with a city's environment.

E.g., the Wall Street Journal in its article “Cultivate the Creative Class Within Your Companies . . . or Else” noted that “[C]ompanies that use a top-down management style that treat employees like automatons will, eventually, be punished.”

The Journal was writing about offerings from management gurus at a World Business Forum. One guru Gary Hamel argued that higher profit margins per employee comes from a workplace environment that permits “natural demonstrations of initiative, creativity and passion, which are harder to teach.

But, it seems that Dr. Florida took it beyond the workplace to place. The thought - if a city creates an environment that attracts 'creative' people, companies will soon follow. The creativity here is a very broad definition extending past employees and entrepreneurs. [See creative occupations.]

For Dr. Florida, tolerance and diversity were integral if not necessary to the nurturing of a 'creative class,' but the necessity of those qualities are not unique to a 'creative class,' they are necessary to society in general.

Dr. Florida takes that which businesses ordinarily see as an intangible factor in location and gives preeminence to quality of life. Rather than the workplace defining its initiative and innovation, it is the city's quality of life that defines it.

But there has been no tangible evidence that businesses use quality of life as the factor, or even a significant one, in determining location. Nor is there any evidence demonstrating that significant entrepreneurial growth occurs because of a city's quality of life. In fact , the Portland experience demonstrates quality of life is not a significant factor is economic growth. 

[2013 addition]. E.g., according to the Oregonian, a recent study "finds that metro Portlanders tend to choose majors, careers and work hours that lead to low pay. It portrays greater Portland as populated by humanities majors, designers, artists and teachers who work and earn less than in the vast majority of metropolitan areas.

Ironically Portland was one of the cities that Dr. Florida (2002) deemed to have “all the ingredients to be a “leading city in a new economy.”” [Wikipedia; but see Washington Monthly 2002]. It seems that there is more to attracting businesses than a high quality of life index.

Another city that works Toronto Canada initially opened its arms wide for Dr. Florida. He relocated there after they had created an University of Toronto think-tank for him. “The Globe and Mail had signed him as a columnist and noted that "[h]e has inspired cities to realize their potential. . . ." [The Star].

However, it was a short 2 year honeymoon. According to The Star, early this year [2009] there was a public forum organized to start a campaign “"to reclaim our institutions, our city, and our elected governments" from Florida's ideas.

Toronto residents faulted the “creative class” as social division, gentrification, and socially tolerant capitalism. “To them, Florida is a pitchman, an opportunist, an elitist, a sham.” [The Star].

However, like many cities the government and residents may be out of sync. See Toronto's Culture Plan: Developing the Creative City. It is clear that Dr. Florida's is influential.

And what is a clear indicator of the class leading us into economic prosperity: “cities and neighbourhoods with high concentrations of artists and gays and lesbians. . . .” [The Star].

Portland seems destined to continue on paying homage to the creative class: claiming “[a] universally lauded quality of life that will continue to attract creative class and entrepreneurial talent to maintain a dynamic local economy in the face of recessionary pressures.” [Portland Economic Development Strategy].

But, isn't this what Portlanders want ". . . a more holistic city, a city that includes all classes, races and sexual orientations? Not a creative city. Just a city that works. For everyone?” [The Star on Toronto residents].

[Editor: This was my original post on the Old Town Blog, October 22, 2009 and updated January 25, 2010. It has been updated only to correct some editing mistakes and to include a recent reference.]

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Wweek: Is This the End of Bojack?

Jack Bogdanski (bojack) of Jack Bog's Blog gave his readers a two-week notice that for an indefinite time he will be devoting his blogging time to a writing project: "We've been offered a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to work on a major writing project connected to our day job as a tax law expert . . . ."

Details of the project are next to none. And the finished product may be of little value to his ordinarily readers - just how many people care about taxes. It is a peculiar subject. But, being a tax law expert is quite an achievement. In law school my worse grade came from a federal tax 101 course, and I thought I had it nailed.

Although there was a reference to finances in his post, it is doubtful that was the primary motivator for taking on the project. I would imagine that the prospect of writing, especially being paid, on a subject that is key to one's career would be impossible to pass up.

Jack seems to take his profession seriously, and I expect will enjoy the many hours of professional work on the project. Making use of a healthy work ethic is easier when it is work you enjoy and comes with a financial reward - hopefully healthy reward.

The Willamette Week in its post Is This the End of Bojack? noted the potential relief of the many politicians, developers, and all around rascals in Portland at the news. But the Willamette Week wasn't excepted from Jack's criticism - I suspect they may be breathing a sign of relief too. The Oregonian must be ecstatic.

The absence of Jack's blog even if temporary will be felt. Except for a few, very few, pieces of journalism coming infrequently from the local media - Jack's blog was more journalistic than the local media. Calling what he did a blog is demeaning.

Many thanks to Jack for keeping tabs on the local politicos and their developer companions, too close to be anything other than companions. Nobody did it as well and I don't expect anyone to fill his shoes. Selfishly, I hope that his project will only postpone his return to the Net no more than a year.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Pope Francis: Is there meaningful change ahead?

In the extremely short time since Pope Francis was elected he has positively re-branded the Catholic Church with his conduct and public statements. It is not difficult to be hopeful that the Catholic Church - the Vatican - will back up its talk with concrete action in areas of homosexuality, birth control, abortion, women in the Church. So far, and too soon to expect otherwise, it has been just encouraging words from the new pope.

But, is this pope another step backward as I speculated? His record in Argentina suggests that, but then he was not the pope. Outwardly, the pope has set a new tone in how the Church should act internally and externally. His chosen name Francis was the first sign. "Earlier he explained that he had chosen the name Francis after St. Francis of Assisi, who is associated with austerity and helping the poor in the 13th century."

The pope recast the Church's mission to serve the poor. As I was growing up as a Catholic that was the mission that somehow in the intervening years became lost in the politics of attempting to force the world into accepting its religious views. The Church has lost its moral compass with its treatment of homosexuals and women, and while involving itself in political issues it chose to hide its involvement in the cover-up of child abuses worldwide. The poor had been cast aside.

All show? "On the night he was elected he shunned the papal limousine and travelled on a bus with other cardinals. He went to the Church-run hotel where he had been staying before the conclave and insisted on paying the bill." [Pope Francis wants Church to be poor, and for the poor].

Austere church? Given the past, it hardly seems likely. There has always something odd about the 'royalty' of the Church. There is something about the pope riding around in a limousine that is off-putting. Priests are not supposed to live as power politicians and celebrities along with their entourage being transported in luxury.

It often seemed the higher in the Church a priest rose the more he saw himself as a royal figure even a god. The Catholic Church that I remember (or like to remember) was identified with the poor first and foremost. But, even though they were expected to live in an environment of austerity - the priest, bishops, etc., lived, and still do, fairly well given their calling. Most don't live in poverty and they experience for the most part a certain respectability not accorded to most, not even the wealthy.

The parish priests in my hometown didn't suffer in their living environment with many necessities, e.g., a car, furnished by the more financially secure parishioners. Housekeeper and cook, women of course, were there to 'free up' their time to attend to church duties.

But meanwhile the nuns, unlike the priests, lived in near isolation and near poverty. The sisters, unlike the priests, lived more in accordance with the 'poor' philosophy of the Catholic Church. It was they that talked the talk and walked the walk. The sisters were a grossly and unfairly ignored essential part of the Church. Catholic schools of today are far from that of the 50s with the sisters all but gone. Not surprisingly Church believers are few.

From 1st to 12th grade, it was the nuns wearing the once conventional habits practicing and teaching principles of the Catholic religion. It was the sisters that focused on the poor of the world. There was always some starvation somewhere that needed our support of course by prayer but also by financial contributions. The sisters were realists - prayer alone wouldn't do it.

And the 'poor' philosophy had a corollary that has been lost by the church along its way to the 3rd century - equality. The belief that we are all equal in the eyes of God has been nothing more than Sunday sermon rubbish. The nuns taught it and lived it - the priest gave lip service.

The Catholic Church, much like any church professing to be Christian, i.e., following the principles and teaching of Christ, has done little to foster equality, internally or externally. The Church is based upon inequality - the Church is a royal hierarchical structure where absence of equality is the rule. E.g., within and without the Church - women are subjugated to men. Men are not only different but the better; and that is the way God wants it.

However, as I stated above there is some hope in expecting some significant changes by a pope who seems to understand that leadership is best accomplished by example. But the cynical side of me has me biting my tongue. Can this new pope be serious? Are his statements mere talking points for the press to clip and publish?

Recently the pope said that "members of all religions and even non-believers had to recognize their joint responsibility "to our world, to all of creation, which we have to love and protect."

And sounding much like a Marxist he told "religious leaders to fight "a one-dimensional vision of a human person, according to which man is reduced to what he produces and what he consumes," which he said was "one of the most dangerous snares of our times".

At his first mass as pope, "[h]e called on Christians “to protect the whole of creation, to protect each person, especially the poorest, to protect ourselves: This is a service that the Bishop of Rome is called to carry out, yet one to which all of us are called."

And Pope Francis sees the role of the Church to not only to defend the weak, but also to protect the environment.

Thus, while outwardly the pope has signaled change and offers hope of a different Church - his true challenges will be from within. A New York Times piece tells part of the story that this pope or any pope faces - entrenched bureaucracy. The Times is a good read, e.g., this excerpt:
"Yet, changing the style of the papacy is far easier than changing the Vatican — an ancient monarchy in which the pope is treated like a king, branches of the hierarchy are run like medieval fiefs and supplicants vie for access and influence."
But one can argue that not even an obedient Vatican bureaucracy will turn the Church around. The Catholic Church, arguably everywhere, but certainly in the US, has been decimated by 'believers' either not attending church services any longer or by those who still believe in God, but not the Catholic Church vision or version.

Without going into detail, it seems obvious without argument that the Catholic Church's role in the global child sexual abuse has led to many turning away from the Church. It is an institutional failing that hasn't yet been appropriately addressed. But it seems the far bigger issue is social justice.
"Social justice generally refers to the idea of creating an egalitarian society or institution that is based on the principles of equality and solidarity, that understands and values human rights, and that recognizes the dignity of every human being." [Social justice - encyclopedia article about Social justice.].
Social justice, based on the teachings of St. Thomas Aquinas, is literally absent from the the Church's mission. It is easy to argue that it defines human values different from the majority of humanity. The Church has come to separate itself from what it calls the 'sinners.' In my early life experience with the Church - social justice was key, but that was before the claiming of rights by women, people of color, gays and transgenders.

The Church hasn't moved from the white male dominated institution that seems to believe that since Christ, and, as the old theory promulgated, the apostles were male, then only males could be leaders in the church. Human values have been defined within that church structure. That structure culls out the 'sinners' without compassion. Difference is not tolerated.

The Church preaches forgiveness and Christ's willingness to accept all of humanity, but that is hype. Of course, it seems that Christ didn't have today's issues either. But my 12 years of Catholic Church indoctrination tells me that today's Catholic Church is not that of Jesus Christ.

However, the new pope is straining to return the Church to its core values. He is inclusive in his speech. E.g., the use of 'brethern' has peppered his speech.  Words like 'compassion' are sprinkled about liberally. He expresses concern about all of God's creation and the environment they live within.

But will the Church become accepting, or at least tolerant, of those who want to believe in Catholicism of the 21st century? A religion that lives and breathes social justice, especially a religion that recognizes the dignity of every human being.

Will those that differ with the Church's philosophies and principles still be the focus of forced Catholicism via the Church's efforts to meld the Catholic Church and secular world by government legislation?

Will the Church return to its focus on the poor, whether the poor are 'sinners' or not?

Will it continue to oppose contraceptives for the poor in poverty ravaged third world countries?

The list of posited questions is nearly endless. One hopes, but remains cynical, that March 2014 will see a much different Catholic Church and Vatican. I have gone beyond needing or wanting a religion to tell me how to live my life, but the Catholic Church can play a substantial role in bringing about global social justice. But it first has to walk it like it talks it.

Pope Francis resisted revenge over 18th century Clement XIV | Reuters
Sisters of St. Francis jubilant over first Pope Francis - Lifestyles
Pope urges religions, those with no church to ally for justice | Reuters
Pope's first mass: 'protect each person, especially the poorest' -
Pope Francis Faces an Entrenched Curia -

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Criminal justice oxymoronic

In 1990 a Rabbi was shot and killed. A man was convicted, and sentenced to 37.5 years in maximum security prison. After 20 years in prison, the man is to be released. He isn't and never was even close to being guilty. Two decades sitting in jail knowing that you are innocent - yet the system continued to leave him there despite knowledge of the wrongful conviction by those responsible. Had this happened in some other state than New York he might have been executed for the death of the Rabbi.

Every step along the way the criminal justice system failed. That arguably included the judges and prosecutors. Although it isn't clear, it seems that the jury failed too. In this particular case, this judge without a jury might have ruled the other way. But one cannot leave out the political pressure in New York City to solve the killing of a Rabbi.

However, it wasn't a rush to judgment, but more like a frame-up. One particular police detective seems to have been responsible for most of the damage, but others could have stopped him. As one reader suggested - all cases that detective, now retired, had worked on ought to be reviewed.

There is an odd twist though. The district attorney at the time of the conviction appears to be responsible for the setting up of the unit to look into questionable convictions that is bringing freedom to the man wrongfully convicted. His fortuitous question to public defenders about questionable cases brought this case to light because one of the public defenders had represented the convicted man. He called attention to his case.

As is typical in the New York Times - the comments are worth the read.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Self-fullfilling - as quality sinks readership and viewership declines

Is this any surprise - Consumers abandon newspapers, local TV as quality of coverage sinks? The Oregonian is a prime example. When I came to Portland in 2004, I was a regular reader of the Oregonian - even had a subscription. Now I would not pick up a copy, although I do read its online version, but wouldn't pay for it. Its quality of content has been on a sharp slope downward for several years. While they still have a few decent journalists, even their quality seems stunted at times.

See the Pew Research Center's Overview | State of the Media for in depth review. Quite interesting. It isn't the Internet to blame.

Of course as readership declines, the quality declines leading to more decline in quality, and on and on. It seems too that local news is becoming nothing more than a regurgitator of police press releases, or business press releases, or those stories often incomplete written for seemingly space filling.

The local rags like Willamette Week and the Mercury do better at the journalism task than the Oregonian or any of the local TV stations. And their paper is free. But these media like the Willamette Week and the Mercury don't have the bucks to staff but a few, maybe only a couple, of news journalists.

Something is astray in news publishing. It is not that publishers like the owners of the Oregonian, Advance Publication, controlled by Newhouse brothers, aren't making money. See Week's The Billionaires Who Own The Oregonian Are Getting Richer. And Warren Buffett is spending big bucks buying up newspapers.

What's going on?

More charges coming from the Ohio rape case?

From the Christian Science Monitor: "Ohio officials are considering charges against anyone who failed to speak up after the Steubenville rape, including other teens, parents, school officials and coaches. Two Steubenville girls have already been charged with threatening the rape victim over social media."

Other teens, parents, etc.?

We will see.

Malfeasance in CRC bridge planning and designing

How could the process of designing a bridge get this far without a determination of its height? It is not like there isn't a bridge already standing and in use. It is not the first design either, yet despite the warnings that the Columbia River Crossing was too low - here we are with the likelihood that considerable more millions of dollars will have to be spent either to redesign the bridge again or to mitigate the damages. [Limbo Dance: CRC officials have spent millions on a still-wrong bridge design].

The Willamette Week carries the details, but suffice to say that none of extant problems are new, i.e., they existed at the time of the decision to build. See what the Coast Guard cites as major flaws. E.g.,, not only did the designers and planners ignore the number of jobs to be lost, they also ignore the clearance needed for extant companies on the banks of the Columbia.

It is a sad and shameful misuse of public dollars that will never be recovered. One wonders if there isn't something criminal in the malfeasance?

Thank you Jack Bogdanski

The arts tax should have never been presented to the public for a vote. There is no other way of describing the tax except as a head tax, i.e., "levied on people rather than on property."

So Jack determined to sue the city: Jack Bogdanski Sues City of Portland Over Arts Tax.

Thank you!

Privacy in emails? Not much.

Apparently, the "people who live within the jurisdiction of the [Federal] Sixth Circuit -- residents of Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee -- can be pretty confident that police are getting warrants to read their emails." [Broad coalition of business and civil liberties groups demand a warrant requirement for email].

The Sixth Circuit according to Privacy SOS has stated that "[g]iven the fundamental similarities between e-mail and traditional forms of communication, it would defy common sense to afford e-mails lesser Fourth Amendment protection."

Why should it be any different in one part of the country than in another part? It is a rhetorical question, because technically the law determined in a particular federal court district must be followed in that district but not in the other districts. Oddly it seems that no other district has had a similar case whose contrary decision might make the case ripe for the US Supreme Court.

The email warrant standard as Privacy SOS notes "is far from clear cut: it depends on how old the email is, and where you live. Sometimes police need a warrant, and sometimes they don’t." Of course, it is impossible for an individual to know that the FBI has violated your constitutional privacy rights, except maybe when, and maybe not even then, a charge is filed.

I don't know - but it seems there is no reason that an email should not be as private as that sent through the US Postal Service.

Limbaugh's "Hardened Illegal Alien Criminals" released

Media Matters is a website similar in purpose to that of the Daily Show and Colbert Report - respond to Fox News falsehoods and misinformation. It is left vs right except that the right too often speaks viscerally. But they, in this case Media Matters, are so intent on trouncing Fox News that they miss the news or fail to realize that there isn't such a break between the 'left' and the 'right.'

The story is the release by the Obama administration of some "2,228 immigrants were released from detention during a three-week period in early February, ahead of the automatic budget cuts known as sequestration." The number released was substantially more than first admitted.

Limbaugh determined the released were "hardened illegal alien criminals." Hyperbole is the only figure of speech that Limbaugh knows. And Media Matters steps in to put the record straight, but too often they are the Obama administration's defender rather than a journalist.

In their defense of the release of the detainees they missed the significance of an independent story, one that deserved special attention especially since it cast doubt on the detention practices and procedures of the Obama administration.

As it turns out, according to Media Matters, there were few if any harden criminals. "Morton's [ICE Enforcement Director] testimony [before Congress March 14, 2013] also made clear that of the released detainees who had criminal records, none were convicted of violent crimes, and those immigrants were released only "after careful scrutiny by ICE officials." 

So far - it is all good, but Media Matters added: "In addition, data show that the majority of immigrants ICE detains -- the number hovers around 30,000 individuals every year -- have committed no crime."  The detention of that many individuals every years seems like a story to me. But read on.
"The data [from a 2009 Associated Press review of ICE data of 32,000 detainees on January 25] show that 18,690 immigrants had no criminal conviction, not even for illegal entry or low-level crimes like trespassing. More than 400 of those with no criminal record had been incarcerated for at least a year. A dozen had been held for three years or more; one man from China had been locked up for more than five years."
My point - is that Media Matters could have easily criticized the Obama administration for apparent wrongful detention of immigrants rather than trying to use the data to prove Limbaugh wrong. And at the end of its post - Media Matters notes:
"While Morton did not specify the immigration status of those who were released, TRAC [Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, a data research organization at Syracuse University]  found during its review [four-years of ICE data from FY 2008 to the start of FY 2012] that ICE has detained permanent residents, as well as American citizens -- which is illegal since Americans cannot be deported. According to TRAC, ICE issued detainers for more than 800 U.S. citizens and nearly 30,000 permanent residents."
Isn't there something decidedly wrong with the ICE detention (prison) system?

Monday, March 18, 2013

Guilty Of Rape: two Ohio high school football players

The story is tragic for the two teens convicted in juvenile court for their apparently alcohol fueled conduct, i.e., but for the alcohol they would not have committed the crime. They were otherwise seemingly good kids that played football. It is all the more tragic for the girl, 16 years old, that was violated by them, and so too that she had apparently consumed so much alcohol she doesn't remember anything. But, there is no doubt that it happened. It appeared on video and circulated via social media.

The original story from Rape Case Unfolds Online and Divides Steubenville:

"Twitter posts, videos and photographs circulated by some who attended the nightlong set of parties suggested that an unconscious girl had been sexually assaulted over several hours while others watched. She even might have been urinated on." 
"In one photograph [...] the girl [..] is shown looking unresponsive as two boys carry her by her wrists and ankles." The photo was posted by a Steubenville football player.
"Some residents and others on social media blamed the girl, saying she put the football team in a bad light and put herself in a position to be violated."
Steubenville Police Chief: “The thing I found most disturbing about this is that there were other people around when this was going on. Nobody had the morals to say, ‘Hey, stop it, that isn’t right.’"

During the trial the defense tried to shift the blame to the girl without success. They wanted the jury to believe that her apparent drunkenness and assertions that she had the reputation of drinking and lying should somehow ameliorate the conduct of the two boys. Their conduct was wrong irrespective of the girls's conduct.

What has been missed so far is that the two boys were alcohol fueled by adults and adults connected with the school. But so far the adults who either knew of the drinking or actually provided or facilitated the acquisition of the alcohol have gotten off Scott free. Not likely we will hear much more on this story.

But, high school football played only a role in splitting the town's public opinion. In many areas of the country, not just Ohio, high school football is important, and too many want to excuse players like these two with the familiar refrain "boys will be boys."

One has to wonder how could alcohol so modify an otherwise appropriate moral compass. The boys were not that drunk - they knew what they were doing. Drunken peer pressure contributes, but it is the individual that acts that is ultimately responsible even where, as in this case, there were adults that should have stopped the alcohol abuse that undoubtedly contributed to the commission of the crime.

It is an Ohio story, but it happens elsewhere too frequently. A right of passage? Adults are not doing children any favors by providing them alcohol or looking the other way when they consume it. But it has been this way for a long time. How I lived (literally) through high school is a wonder. Drinking contributed nothing to my well being.

But in the end, the tragedy is that the Ohio story is likely to be repeated with the ever fresh expression of outrage.

Questions and answers about use of drones

Well worth the read: More Questions Than Answers on US Drone Program.

Give Oregon's children the right to vote

A professor emeritus of political science at Portland State University Ralph Bunch (without an 'e') in a letter to the editor seemingly, maybe in an attempt at satire, proposes to give parents surrogate votes for each of their children.

His letter is brief - 3 paragraphs, but he should have started and stopped with his second paragraph. It fairly well defines a problem. However, he starts with an illogical conclusion that children should have the right to vote.

How illogical is it to assume that children should have the right to vote and then compare the absence of that newly defined right to the struggle of African-Americans and women to obtain their right to vote?

But we see in the third paragraph that Mr. Bunch  doesn't really want children to have the right to vote, he wants families to have more voting power casting aside the notion of one man, one vote principle of democracy.

Never mind that parents already have the right to vote in their children's interest. And just how will giving a family the right to cast more votes than maybe the family next door or the childless couple or single people will make the world a better place for children?

The best that can be said for Mr. Bunch's proposal is that he apparently hasn't thought it through.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

The irony drips from the mouth of TriMet

Bus Driver Appreciation Day is March 18th! That in my e-mail inbox from TriMet.

Not that bus drivers shouldn't be appreciated - they should. Despite the routine bashing of bus drivers by TriMet and community bloggers - they do an extra-ordinary job of transporting Portlanders while having to absorbing hostility and sometimes physical abuse often merely because they are working for TriMet.

And I also liked all the ways it was pointed out on TriMet presented Bus Driver Appreciation Day is March 18th! webpage that the bus drivers serve the community:
"For hours on end, transit bus drivers manage to keep a schedule, check fares, give directions, announce stops, remember stop requests and more, all while safely maneuvering an extra-large vehicle through unpredictable traffic, adverse weather conditions and some really tight spaces!"
All true.

But then they try to include rail operators too. When is the last or first time that a rail operator has provided any contact with those they serve? And the rail operators are better paid with better working conditions.

TriMet seems bent on cutting bus service and planting more fixed rail tracks than providing reliable and convenient flexible service that comes from a bus transportation service. Bus service is a truly public service transportation system.

A test for the new pope and the Church

Remember this - Vatican Reprimands U.S. Nuns Group? In April 2012, I wrote:
"The Vatican has started a new inquisition to rein in American nuns who have thought for themselves too long. The New York Times has the latest story about the Vatican's hit man - a Seattle Archbishop whose task is to put the Catholic nuns the only women in the Catholic Church back in the subordinate role."
"The primary focus by the Vatican is the Leadership Conference of Women Religious. And what is wrong with the good sisters? It appears that they "had challenged church teaching on homosexuality and the male-only priesthood, and promoted 'radical feminist themes incompatible with the Catholic faith.'"
But there is a new regime, but will the Vatican remain the same? The new pope is touting austerity within and by the Church. But the poor are no different that the rest of humanity - they are made up of women and homosexuals too. Are we all God's children or not?

Will the Catholic Church - the Vatican - in its austerity marketing change its tune and seek to be inclusive of all mankind? Will it recognize, or admit, that within the Church and the society and culture it serves any discrimination based upon gender and sexual orientation is not only unfair, but especially for the Catholic Church it is also anti-Christian?

A 3rd century religion hasn't a chance to survive in the 21st century and beyond. A society or culture and the religions therein that maintains anachronistic concepts that deny value to someone because of their gender or sexual orientation serves only to stunt the advancement of that society or culture.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Water fluoridation is worthy of the vote

It is a community issue that needs discussion and vote by the electorate. It isn't, or shouldn't be, a political issue. [Scappoose votes to keep water fluoridated; Ballot measure passes with 60 percent of the vote].

"Outside American soil, the Constitution does not rule"

The title is a partial quote from Charles Krauthammer of the Washington Post. Glenn Greenwald of the Guardian UK states that this "is a very common assertion and thus widely believed. But it is factually false. And there can be no reasonable dispute about this." And he proceeds to insure that there is no reasonable dispute. [Charles Krauthammer's false statement about the US Constitution].

The Guardian UK's Glenn Greenwald is always worth the read, especially in this particular case.

Court Says CIA Can't Have It Both Ways on Drones : The Two-Way : NPR

Court Says CIA Can't Have It Both Ways on Drones : The Two-Way : NPR

Transparency - why is it so hard?

Court Says CIA Can't Have It Both Ways on Drones : The Two-Way : NPR

India gang rape show India isn't so 'backward'

"Indian reaction to the New Delhi gang rape is in many ways more promising than American reactions to US rapes. Take the Steubenville, Ohio, case, which hasn't generated the same public outrage as the case in India. Indian protesters' calls for justice are a heartening sign of progress." [Steubenville, Ohio, rape and India gang rape show India isn't so 'backward'].

But it really isn't about backwardness - is it? What we are talking about is violence against women.
"We have an abundance of rape and violence against women in this country and on this earth, though it's almost never treated as a civil rights or human rights issue, or a crisis, or even a pattern. Violence doesn't have a race, a class, a religion, or a nationality, but it does have a gender." [A rape a minute, a thousand corpses a year].
I submit too that the attitudes by two major religions - Islam and Catholic Christianity - toward women do little to promote the civil rights of women. See my post Archaic principles of Muslims and the Catholic Church are not that different.

Drones violate international law

It cannot be gainsaid that a country's sovereignty is inviolable. The interjection of drones into the airspace of Pakistan without their consent, or as in the case of consent revoked, is a violation of international law. It is really a simple premise.

From a article it seems clear that consent was once given, but no longer. "But U.S. officials insist privately that cooperation has not ended altogether, and key Pakistani military officers and civilian politicians continue to consent to the strikes." [UN Says US Drones Violate Pakistan's Sovereignty].

Is that all one needs to justify the violation of Pakistan's territory? Consent of some military officers and some civilians?

The use of drones without unequivocal consent of the government of the foreign country is a violation of international law.

Back to reality in fight against violent crime

"It's been a long time coming, but Oakland city officials have finally clued into the reality that olive branches and empty threats are no way to combat violent crime." [Oakland gang raids may be 1st of many"].

"State and local authorities say more than a dozen suspects affiliated with a notorious street gang have been arrested during a series of early morning raids in Oakland." [Cops Make Series Of Arrests During Raids On Violent Oakland Gang].

Along with the raids came a written warning to the gangs which according to SFGate the last line read: "You may have friends, associates, and family members who need to know that engaging in gun violence will bring this kind of special attention. If you care about them, you will share this message."

Oakland, CA a decidedly liberal city has finally stopped, at least for the time being, begging the gangs not to engage in violence. E.g., "[a] call-in program last fall that is part of the city's Operation Ceasefire, which sought to get gang members to agree to stop shooting one another, had no effect."

Anyone who has lived a day into self-sufficiency, what used to be called adulthood, realizes that hard ball is the game that must be played against violence. It is not an issue of race or poverty.

Why does simple and universal attributes come so hard to conservatives?

Empathy and compassion come from Republicans, and conservatives in general, only when it becomes personal. Now that it is their son or daughter that is homosexual they want equality for them. Why couldn't they have shown that empathy and compassion otherwise?  [Son's Coming Out Leads Sen. Portman To Reverse On Same-Sex Marriage].

Why is equality and tolerance overridden by self-interest?

Pope Francis: another step backward

The new pope "urged [maybe warned] the Catholic Church on Thursday to stick to its Gospel roots and shun modern temptations . . . ." [New pope urges Church to return to its Gospel roots].

The new pope is from Argentina that legalized gay marriage over his and the church hierarchy's objections because of their belief that homosexuality is a sin. "But it wasn’t enough for Bergoglio [Pope Francis] to criticize the law; he felt compelled to demonize homosexuals in the process—calling gay unions “a scheme to destroy God’s plan” and “a dire anthropological throwback.”  [Why the First Latin American Pope Inspires Less Hope Than We Hoped].

Women can expect further subjugation. Abortion and birth control will continue to be medieval policies. And it is 'women' not just Catholic women because the Catholic Church is bent on all women adhering to Catholic beliefs by the force of legislation. The Church was quite active in the last US election and in supporting legislation on abortion and birth control. Expect more of the same.

A lot has been made about the pope's concern for the poor, but that is easy when one doesn't have to live in poverty. And the Church fails to see the idiocy in the fight against birth control and the ever increasing overpopulation in the poor countries. Countries that have relatively balanced population growth do it not by prayer but by birth control. Catholics that don't use birth control are few and those lie.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Was the Iraq war worth it - however measured?

Somewhere between 2 trillion and 6 trillion dollars. 134,000 Iraqi civilians dead, and depending how the count is done - maybe the number is 4 times more. [Iraq war costs U.S. more than $2 trillion: study]  The study: "Costs of War Project by the Watson Institute for International Studies at Brown University."

"When security forces, insurgents, journalists and humanitarian workers were included, the war's death toll rose to an estimated 176,000 to 189,000, the study said."

Archaic principles of Muslims and the Catholic Church are not that different

From the Egyptian Brotherhood: "The [UN] document includes articles that contradict established principles of Islam, undermine Islamic ethics and destroy the family, the basic building block of society, according to the Egyptian Constitution," the movement wrote. "This declaration, if ratified, would lead to complete disintegration of society, and would certainly be the final step in the intellectual and cultural invasion of Muslim countries, eliminating the moral specificity that helps preserve cohesion of Islamic societies [bold emphasis added]." [Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood says UN proposal on women will destroy the world].

This from the Muslim Brotherhood Official English Website about the "document:"

"A closer look at these articles reveals what decadence awaits our world, if we sign this document:

1. Granting girls full sexual freedom, as well as the freedom to decide their own gender and the gender of their partners (ie, choose to have normal or homo- sexual relationships), while raising the age of marriage.

2. Providing contraceptives for adolescent girls and training them to use those, while legalizing abortion to get rid of unwanted pregnancies, in the name of sexual and reproductive rights.

3. Granting equal rights to adulterous wives and illegitimate sons resulting from adulterous relationships.

4. Granting equal rights to homosexuals, and providing protection and respect for prostitutes.

5. Giving wives full rights to file legal complaints against husbands accusing them of rape or sexual harassment, obliging competent authorities to deal husbands punishments similar to those prescribed for raping or sexually harassing a stranger.

6. Equal inheritance (between men and women).

7. Replacing guardianship with partnership, and full sharing of roles within the family between men and women such as: spending, child care and home chores.

8. Full equality in marriage legislation such as: allowing Muslim women to marry non-Muslim men, and abolition of polygamy, dowry, men taking charge of family spending, etc.

9. Removing the authority of divorce from husbands and placing it in the hands of judges, and sharing all property after divorce.
10. Cancelling the need for a husband’s consent in matters like: travel, work, or use of contraception."

Archaic is hardly the word for these philosophies.

Where else but Fox?

Fox station apologizes after celebrating Women’s Day with footage of boobs.

Freedom Center - really!

The Freedom Center apartments in the remote area of Pearl, 430 NW Pettygrove, have 150 studio apartments, ranging from 295 to 385 square feet at $785 to $1050 a month. [Micro apartments open in Portland's Pearl].

Where is the freedom? What? Freedom to pay nearly $785 for a 300 sq. ft. apartment? That is $2.66 per sq ft.

Consider that the Sitka's smallest studio of 342 feet priced at the $410 equals $1.20 per sq ft. Nationwide the average size of a studio apartment is 500 to 600 square feet. A 500 sq. ft. "Freedom" priced apartment would cost $1,330. I don't know - is $1,330 a fair price for 500 sq. ft in Portland? Sitka's pricing for non-income limited apartment, approx. $1.60/sq. ft., suggests otherwise.

However, the Sitka was developed in part with subsidies and tax incentives which makes the apartments affordable, and the fact that Freedom Center can charge $2.66 per sq.ft. may point out the need for more 'Sitka' apartments. But admittedly in today's market - a new Sitka may not be so affordable.

It is arguable that the developers despite the obvious expected demand let the demand build until maximum profits could be achieved. Renters are always at a disadvantage. In a tight rental market, renters have little choice in an effort to maximum their housing dollar. And without the ability to purchase, an event ever increasingly more difficult, the renter is almost always tossing the rent money down the drain without any residual asset.

It would be nice if the local news media could do something other than reprint adverting hype.

Duplicity - TriMet and its nominal board of directors

"A list of the top 50 non-union pay increases (PDF) obtained by The Oregonian shows that McFarlane started green-lighting raises for managers making $110,700 or more in February 2012, even as he publicly talked about how he had frozen their pay." [TriMet execs received big pay increases, even as transit agency increased fares, cut routes].

The raises were hidden from public discussion, especially in the public budget meetings, and contingency funds were used to help pay for the increases. And after getting caught - they apologize and spin.

Proselytizing by public officials is unconstitutional - period.

"For example, in March 2012, [in North Carolina] a commissioner ended his invocation: “And, as we pick up the Cross, we will proclaim His name above all names, as the only way to eternal life. I ask this in the name of the King of Kings, the Lord of Lords, Jesus Christ.” [ACLU sues North Carolina county over Christian invocations at meetings].

This is not some atheist cause. Like or not there are those that are very religious that don't hold with the precepts of Christianity. For example the Jews and Muslims might find the above invocation problematic. There is a good reason, many actually, that there is a separation between church and state.

Live to 150? Sure.

The National Review has it correct: "Talk to me about human immortality when children in Africa aren’t dying of measles and malaria." [Live to 150? It Ain’t Necessarily So]. And starting at home, there is a nearly endless list of things to do before contemplating living to 150 or even 80 for that matter. Tackling poverty might be the first on that list.

Arrogance of power often shows up in the small incidents

Biden’s office apologizes to student reporter for ‘unfortunate mistake’ But it is more than one mistake.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Assassination of Americans - a presidential decision?

"For what was apparently the first time since the Civil War, the United States government had carried out the deliberate killing of an American citizen as a wartime enemy and without a trial." [Anwar al-Awlaki, a U.S. Citizen, in America’s Cross Hairs].

The New York Times had this fairly long piece that had the above statement, but rather than some  journalistic exercise in determining the source of the president's claim of the right to execute American citizens, it merely sought to justify the administration's policy in this particular case.

There seems little doubt as the NY Times tells it, that this US citizen is a supporter of Al Qaeda, but he is "operational?"  It appears to make a difference to the Obama thugs (sorry but that is how they are starting to appear) whether "he was only a "dangerous propagandist" or "an actual terrorist operative." [See The NYT and Obama officials collaborate to prosecute Awlaki after he's executed.]

If the line drawn is legal and constitutional (I don't believe it is) - do we want a president and his lawyers alone making the determination? Who is to know? There is no reason imaginable that would lead me to believe that the executive branch is infallible, irrespective of who occupies the White House.

The Guardian UK article takes the New York Times to task for what it determined is a very collaborative piece between the Times and the Obama administration. It is really a matter of spoon feeding by the administration possibly recognizing a kindred soul.

However, thanks to the Guardian UK for attempting to keep the NY Times honest, so to speak. Too often the newspapers, even the big ones, have become the official spokesperson for the government whether it be at the national level or at the local level.

But questions are lining up in what seems to be an unending queue. Given that this president has assumed for himself the power to determine not only who is a bad guy but also to summarily execute that person, consider:

Is there any scenario that should permit the president to determine whether an individual, or even groups, American citizens or not, should be assassinated?

Does an American citizen lose his or her constitutional rights based upon the country in which they reside?

Should it matter which country? That is, should it matter whether the residence is United Kingdom, Canada, Mexico or Yemen?

How about the US? Can anyone argue persuasively that a citizen or resident in the US can be summarily executed, somewhat mafia style, by the president?

What about the Portland case where a city worker is "accused of conspiring to provide support for a 2009 suicide attack in Pakistan that killed about 30 people and injured hundreds."

If he were living in Yemen, he might well be dead. And theoretically, he could have been assassinated right here in the good ole USAGood ole USA.

If one moves quickly by the ethical and moral considerations, where does an American president, the executive branch, derive the power of assassination?

Arguably the only source is through the commander in chief designation.  But that is not an inherent power of the executive branch; it comes to the president from congress.

"Article I, Section 8, Clause 11 of the U.S. Constitution grants Congress the power to declare war. The President, meanwhile, derives the power to direct the military after a Congressional declaration of war from Article II, Section 2, which names the President Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces." [War Powers | LII / Legal Information Institute].

But it is argued that Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Terrorists in conjunction with the War Powers Resolution provides the authorization for the president of the United States not only to wage war indiscriminately but for reasons as self-determined by the executive branch.

E.g.,  "[a] new generation of al-Qaeda offshoots is forcing the Obama administration to examine whether the legal basis for its targeted killing program can be extended to militant groups with little or no connection to the organization responsible for the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, U.S. officials said."  [Administration debates stretching 9/11 law to go after new al-Qaeda offshoots ].

Even assuming a declaration of war or some legal substitute - how then does the justification extend to the CIA? America's rogue agency.

Some questions have answers, but they lead to other questions that don't have answers. Without discussion and answers, the possible ramifications of unabated assumption of power by the White House is a path of tyranny.