Sunday, July 25, 2010


It's what we stand for.

It's what we live for.

It's what we watch others die for.

With the recent release of the "Afghan Papers" on WikiLeaks, the worldwide web's wonderful source for insider whistle-blower information, we get a glimpse at how badly the war in Afghanistan is going.

For us and for them.

No wonder there, really. When our military leader and his staff spill their guts to Rolling Stone, you know that the war is a lost cause.

And, this is unfortunate because the Taliban and Al Qaeda are as evil as any entity known to man. The way they attack women and girls is beyond the beyond.

It's also unfortunate that we won't be able to expunge those groups the way we did the Nazi Germans or the Imperial Japanese during World War II. They deserve to be wiped off the face of the earth.

Of course, it's all so very complicated.

When we routed the Taliban and Al Qaeda after 9/11, they ran off to neighboring Pakistan. At the time, President Bush said we would go after nations that harbor terrorists. Clearly, that was a lie, one among many for the worst president in American history.

The "Afghan Papers" reveal how the Pakistani intelligence organization is aiding and abetting the Taliban and Al Qaeda. In other words, one of our so-called "allies" is working to defeat us.

Not much of an ally.

We had our chance to destroy our enemies when they fled to Pakistan, but we failed to do so.

Why? Because Pakistan has nukes.

Why did we invade Iraq? Because they didn't have nukes.

The lesson the world learned, at least the "rogue" nations of Iran and North Korea?

Get nukes.

So, we can't wipe out a ragtag group of terrorists while we accelerate the pace of nuclear proliferation.

Call it a lose-lose situation.

If we're going to get tough on terrorists hiding in Pakistan, we are going to have to go in there and get them. If we don't do it now, we'll just have to do it later after a nuclear winter has descended upon our country.

It's not a popular position to take, invading such a "peaceful" place like Pakistan. That's because Americans do not really care about the evil that exists elsewhere in the world.

As we learned on 9/11, we have no choice but to care.

The fanatics will always try to attack us. We can't stop them completely. But, we can try.

The invasion of Iraq, while considered the worst foreign policy blunder in American history, also diverted military attention away from where it belonged: in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

It's obviously too late now to defeat the enemy in the "stans." We'll be stuck with a negotiated settlement where the brutalization of females, cutting off noses of 13-year-old wives or throwing acid in the faces of female primary students, will continue in that part of the world.

When will we ever learn?

Monday, July 12, 2010

Bend sinks further as Wal-Mart expands

A sure indicator of a terrible economy is when Walmart decides to add a grocery section to its Bend store and it's hailed in the local media as the answer to our economic woes.

The local daily paper went nuts when a hearing on Walmart's expansion on Bend's south end drew few participants. Well, most locals like to travel during July or they're camping or hanging out in their backyards enjoying the best weather we've had in months. Walmart knows that July hearings draw a sparse crowd. That is why they had it in July.

But, that is besides the point. Who cares if Walmart is adding a 38,000 square-foot grocery section to a 126,000 square-foot store? The damage has already been done.

It's not like they're adding a new supercenter on Bend's north side at the most congested intersection in the state highway system east of the Cascades. A hearings officer spared this section of Bend by rejecting this Walmart, a potential dreadful traffic-and-accident generator. The state highway department finally chimed in and Walmart's plans were toast. Thank god. One Walmart in a town of 80,000 is one too many. Two is considered economic blight.

The local daily editorialized about those failed Walmart plans that, "in retrospect, the fact that people could get so worked up about something so trivial -- at least compared to the region's current problems -- seems almost unimaginable."

Evidently, people dying in car crashes due to mismanaged growth is trivial to the local daily's brain trust. But, not to the rest of Bend. (A few years ago, Walmart had terrible press because it didn't advertise much in newspapers. It started advertising more and the bad press ended.)

But what about all those jobs? The Walmart expansion would provide 85, mostly part-time minimum-wage jobs with no benefits. This does not sustain a community. It's the opposite of family-wage employment unless the entire family worked at Walmart.

Whatever jobs gained at Walmart will be lost across the street when the long-time Albertsons' grocery store closes its doors soon after Walmart opens. Plus, there will be job losses at Fred Meyer, about a mile up the road.

Part of Walmart's strategy is not merely to beat the competition, but to put them out of business. It's like the blob that keeps on spreading, eating up everything in its way.

In the 1990s, business magazines considered Rubbermaid one of the best companies in America.

Walmart didn't like hearing that and promptly forced it out of business here by going to China for a cheaper alternative. Now, Rubbermaid products are made in China.

Hello? Can anyone connect the economic dots?

When we ship manufacturing jobs to China, there are less manufacturing jobs in America. Less family-wage jobs here mean more unemployment across our country.

If there is recovery in the next few years, it will be another "jobless recovery" like the two recoveries before it. At this rate, if we have many more "jobless recoveries" we won't have many jobs left to lose in the next recession.

And, we can thank Walmart for believing more in communist China than in capitalist USA.

Walmart: Waste money, Live worse.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Higher ed board backs OSU-COCC growth

On Friday, the state Board of Higher Education, accepted the most benign of the requests from HEAT, the Higher Education Assessment Team representing Central Oregon.

The board will drop the University of Oregon's affiliation with OSU Cascades, and will strengthen ties between OSU Cascades and COCC.

This is the common sense approach to higher education in Bend. Push to see the evolution of the COCC campus on Bend's west side, where real estate is at a premium in our town, to a full-scale four-year institution. The setting, while not conducive to an ADA convention because it sits on the west side of Awbrey Butte, is one of the most picturesque in the entire state or even the Northwest.

The board said it will look at HEAT's request that the state establish a stand-alone four-year university in Central Oregon within the nest 20-30 years at an unknown location.

It will do well to reject any such notion if the state is on the hook for what could $500 million or more.

What could help develop COCC into a four-year college is what the state board backed on Friday. It voted to support greater independence of the Oregon University System from the oversight and ever-tightening purse strings from the state. Now, the Legislature must back those plans which will allow various schools to pursue greater economic autonomy and, perhaps, more outside funding.

For example, if COCC can convince a corporate entity, such as the now-Bend-based Les Schwab Tires, which is a huge backer of developments in Central Oregon, to underwrite its change to a four-year college, we could have LSU-OSU Cascades. Wouldn't that turn heads.

Anyway, like most states that are dis-investing in higher education, Oregon needs to change its financial structure so that schools can follow the money.

Of course, this will lead to haves and have nots, but that's the way of the world. Until some deep-pocketed entity decides that Bend should have a four-year university, we won't have one.

It's as simple as that.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Oregon sitting on $500 million

That's what some Central Oregonians believe.

And they're bringing the HEAT, which stands for Higher Education Assessment Team.

HEAT presented a plan to the state Board of Higher Education on Thursday that calls for a stand-alone four-year university in the region in the next 20 to 30 years.

And, HEAT wanted the state board to accept this plan immediately without any discussion.

Please, the state faces a couple billion in deficits over the next couple of years, at least. Why should the state board even consider such a ridiculous, unfunded plan?

Yes, we all want a four-year university in the Bend area. We're the largest populated area in the lower 48 states without a four-year institution of higher education within 100 miles.

But, does that fact mean we're entitled to it?

No, we have a fine school called Central Oregon Community College, Oregon's oldest community college, and there is a building on COCC's campus that houses Oregon State University-Cascades "campus" offering upper division classes and degrees.

Of course, it is not enough. Of course, we need more higher ed opportunities. But, merely wanting something does not mean we're going to get it.

This is a region in Oregon known for its hostile attitudes toward taxes, Portland, Salem and even supporting higher education.

I'm sure there are members of HEAT who believe that state government just needs to cut the fat, lower taxes and we would all live in Shangri-la. And, I'm sure these same people opposed the income taxes on the rich that Oregonians passed last January.

Well, here is some news for HEAT: the state of Oregon is flat broke. Despite furloughing state workers for 10 days and despite cutting school days throughout the state and despite cutting almost all agencies another 9 percent in June, the state is bleeding green.

Now, HEAT wants the state to set aside at least $500 million to fund a four-year university in what was once described "the middle of nowhere."

Are these people nuts?

No, just shamelessly hypocritical. They rail against government spending on one hand, and beg for government spending with the other. They want it both ways. It's what Ronald Reagan told them was possible in the 1980s. You can have it all and not worry about the debt.

Well, those beliefs have brought our economy to the edge of total collapse.

We can't have it all.

But, we can have some things, like expansion of COCC/OSU Cascades into a four-year college in the next 20 to 30 years.

If we work toward seeing COCC/OSU Cascades evolve into all this area needs, we could possibly get there.

Otherwise, we'll just have groups like HEAT whining and wailing like babies.

It's time for the state to give these babies a good spanking.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Central Oregon foreclosures lead state

While Oregon is mired in third place in rate of foreclosures, the state is dragged downward by Central Oregon.

Check out this story in The Oregonian.

Foreclosures jumped 20 percent in Oregon during the first quarter of 2010. Leading the way are Crook County (Prineville) with 9.9 percent of homes in foreclosure, followed by Deschutes County (Bend, Redmond, Sisters, La Pine) with 9.5 percent of home in foreclosure and Jefferson County (Madras, Culver) with 8.5 percent.

Local governments in Central Oregon approved any and all developments during the mid-aughties. It was easy to see that a collapse in the local housing market was imminent because the main demand for all this housing was from speculators, many of whom were real estate agents.

In the wake of this catastrophe, the problems are numerous. Aside from all the vacant homes and subdivisions, which further depress the housing market, all the cities in Central Oregon are left with inadequate infrastructure from roads to water to sewer to storm drains to parks.

In Central Oregon's largest city, for example, Bend never adopted a single public facilities strategy during the boom years. The consequence is that we have public facilities in disrepair.

For the sixth year in a row, Bend jacked up its water and sewer rates (in the 6 percent range for each) that is triple the rate of inflation. Because the city requires so little from developers, the rest of the community must subsidize some of the richest people in town and, in the case of D.R. Horton, the country.

Bend, which like most governments is broke, needs about $200 million just to improve the city's roads to match all the development.

The city can't even provide sewer service to 50 percent of its residents.

Amid all these problems, Bend wants to expand its urban growth boundary by 40 percent.

Common sense has always been in short supply when cities are run by developers. In Bend, there isn't much sense at all, common or uncommon.

The daily newspaper, the chief cheerleader for unmanageable growth, has benefited from the foreclosure fiasco. Since only fools advertise in the daily's classified section because Craig's List provides a superior product for free, the daily's classifieds are new filled with foreclosure notices.

As they say, when someone loses, someone wins.

Right now, Central Oregon is losing, bigtime. The jobless rate is nearly 15 percent. Developers want more breaks from cities. The only winners are those who cashed out before the collapse.