Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Despite tax hike, Bend ranks high for business, careers

No less than Forbes magazine, no lover of taxes or government in general, ranks Bend, Oregon, No. 7 in the nation for Best Small Places for Business and Careers.

Bend is the highest-rated city on the West Coast, in this survey, and that's in spite of the voter-approved tax hike on the rich last January.

The pundits, who hate voters when they don't vote how they want them to vote, all whined that Oregon would now fall into the ocean because of this cataclysmic vote.

You remember that song, and I change the lyrics slightly here:

"Where can we go
When there's no Shaniko?
Sshh. Better get ready
To tie up the boats in Idaho."

Yeah, right.

There has been no stories of companies leaving Oregon because of the tax increase.

In fact, there have been plenty of stories of companies moving to, or expanding in, Oregon.

Now, Forbes deems Bend a hot spot for business and career growth.

Of course, all is not so rosy here. Unemployment is nearly 15 percent and foreclosures still reach record levels month after month.

What Forbes might be saying is that Bend is close to rock bottom and things should be looking up from here on out.

That remains to be seen. Expect more defaults, more foreclosures and no decrease in the jobless rate until the middle of next year.

The bottom line is this, though: The tax hike on the rich that voters approved has no detrimental effect on Oregon's economy. In fact, the opposite can be argued.

Our neighbors to the north should take notice since Washington voters will decide in November if the rich in the Evergreen State should pay any state income tax at all in a state that has no income tax.

Go for it, Washington.

You'll be better off if you do.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Colbert schools Congress on C-Span3

If you don't like to laugh, ignore this link.

The more we can 'communicate' ....

... the more we don't.

I guess it's the sign, or the cartoon, of the times.

This one, though, is from the New Yorker magazine. (Kudos to our neighbors for giving us their old issues).

With all of our communication abilities, from "smart" phones to Skype to Facebook, it seems easier now to ignore more people.

That's easy for me to say since my Facebook page is blank.

I don't tweet (or is it Twitter?) but I do blog.

Try explaining that to someone 20 years ago or 20 years from now. Twitter and Blogger will be replaced by other humorous-sounding applications.

Google may become Giggle. Or has it already?

Bing could lose its Ping, or vice-versa.

The "iGeneration" could give way to the "uGeneration."

The point is, we live in a silly age filled with gadgets that don't really enrich out lives. They just make our lives more expensive.

I guess that's the point of it all. Why buy a netbook for $300 when you can get a perfectly serviceable iPad for $600? The money ends up in the same place: China.

Get a "dumb" phone for $40 like I have or a real "smart" one for $400. Either way, China wins.

But, does any of that matter if we're all ignoring each other no matter what the cost?

Or is it just me?

Am I the only one who doesn't reply to e-mails from Staples or texts from T-Mobile or phone messages from credit bureaus?

Perhaps I am. Maybe I'm just out of touch with the reality of others.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Oregon's 'First Dud'

Minnesota elected a pro wrestler as governor. Californians gave the nod to a weightlifter/movie star.

Why can't Oregon, then, give its top job to a former, mediocre basketball player?

Well, it can and it just might, if recent polls are correct in showing Chris "Air Ball" Dudley with at least a 6-point lead over Democrat John Kitzhaber, the former governor.

Aside from attacks ads, Oregonians will learn next to nothing about Dudley between now and election day.

Newspapers have joined the ranks of television in reporting sound bites, full of fury, but signifying nothing.

We do know that Dudley played for the Portland Trail Blazers and a few other NBA teams in his unremarkable basketball "career."

During his time as a Trail Blazer, Dudley cared so much about Oregon that he lived across the Columbia River in Washington to avoid paying Oregon income taxes. Washington has no state income tax.

And Dudley did this long before Measures 66 & 67 passed last January that increased taxes on the rich.

Now that's the spirit of the Northwest. Evade paying taxes and then ask taxpayers to pay you to run their state even though you're a multi-millionaire.

At least he'll speak the language of the substantial anti-tax crowd in Oregon. Afterall, we have voted nine times to reject a sales tax.

But does Dudley know anything about Oregon or governing or anything but basketball and diabetes, which he has?

We'll never know until we elect him. Dudley has purposely avoided debating Kitzhaber because he doesn't want his shallowness to emerge before election day.

Dudley is labeled Republican, but he's far different from the recent failed gubernatorial candidates from the GOP. He downplays his stances on the bread-and-butter social issues for Republicans - strident opposition to gay marriage and abortion - because he knows that Oregonians reject those positions and won't elect someone who holds them. Dudley is really a RINO - Republican in Name Only.

He survived the primary by avoiding pandering to the ultra-right wing of his party, which shows that Republicans now care more about electability than their core principles.

If elected, Dudley will be a puppet governor because corporations will have control of the government once again.

Republicans dominated Oregon politics for more than a century, but have been in the wilderness for nearly three decades because of their extremist views on the social issues as well as the environment, education, health care, taxes and government, in general.

Dudley doesn't appear extreme. In fact, he seems downright boring.

If Alaskans had their "First Dude" when Sarah Palin was governor, can Oregonians have their "First Dud," should Dudley prevail?

It's one of the imponderables during this improbable election season.

Dudley has millions to throw away on this race, although not as much as Meg Whitman and Carly Fiorina have to waste in California.

The super rich come to believe that their wealth entitles them to more than just fancy clothes, houses, cars, boats, jewelry or what have you. Some are convinced that this entitlement extends to political office. It has worked before, but there have been spectacular failures by multi-millionaires, including Michael Huffington and Steve Forbes.

Imagine what these filthy rich candidates could have done with their millions instead of just feeding their bloated egos.

Let's hope all these mega-millionaires lose in November. Talk about sending a message.

To paraphrase The Beatles: Can't buy me vote.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Running for, and against, government

Across the country, candidates who don't like government, and believe that we don't need it, are running for office.

It's the paradox established by Ronald Reagan, who said that government was the problem and then got elected twice to prove that basic tenet right.

Of course, G.W. Bush pushed Reaganism to its sad end when his government of incompetent cronies opened the doors of government, particularly the federal treasury, to corporations and said, "Here it is boys, come and get it."

In the wasteland left behind, President Obama is trying to fix the problems he inherited and is hated for it.

Now, the corporations are getting back by sponsoring the Tea Party movement that brings the libertarian wing to the forefront of the Republican Party.

It's a tricky maneuver since the GOP has branded itself, in recent decades, as the party of social issues (not to be confused with socialism) with its opposition to gay marriage, abortion and brown-colored people who don't speak English.

The libertarian wing doesn't really care about these social issues, except immigration, because the basic belief of libertarianism is about getting government out of our lives, not in it.

The GOP has always claimed a big tent of followers from social conservatives to libertarians to evangelical Christians to white supremacists to gays. Yes, those Log Cabin Republicans are not wanted in the party and yet, they can't help themselves. There's just something special about being a Republican.

In Oregon, we have a libertarian running as a Republican for the U.S. Senate seat now held by Ron Wyden.

Jim Huffman, who teaches law at Lewis and Clark College, calls into question the quality of higher education at that institution in Portland.

Huffman is against any government intrusion in our lives, except (and with libertarians there is always a long list of exceptions) immigration. He wants all of our borders patrolled and illegal immigration stopped unless we need the workers to pick our fruits and veggies. In that case, he wants more government regulations, not less.

Huffman also believes we can reduce taxes further and simultaneously pay off the national debt with a balanced budget amendment. Again, we have these paradoxes within paradoxes.

Less income somehow means a greater ability to pay off debt.

I sense a bit of Milo Minderbinder from "Catch-22" here.

Milo, the "prophet of profit" would supply fresh eggs to his mess hall by buying them in Sicily for one cent, selling them to Malta for four and a half cents, buying them back for seven cents before selling them to his mess hall for five cents.

Of course, his M&M Enterprises is so successful that it begins contracting missions for the Germans, fighting on both sides in the battle of Orvieto and bombing his own squadron. Profits soar.

It was "voodoo economics" before Bush the First correctly identified Reaganomics.

It's like the cartoon from the New Yorker at the top of this page. We may need firefighters to put out the fire in our home, but is it really necessary? Can't we just do without the fire department and our home? A win-win situation?

With America burning, both its credit and temper, teabagging libertarians are poised for big gains this November in local, state and federal offices.

Safe to say that Huffman has no chance of beating Wyden, who appears even more reasonable when running against the best the GOP has to offer.

Still, other libertarians will win some offices somewhere.

And when they do, and when things do get worse, don't call the fireman, he'll have been fired.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Woody's wisdom

Okay, Woody Allen is 74 and cranks out movies quicker than I can write mindless blog posts.

If you haven't seen it, check out this Q&A with Woody in the New York Times.

As you would expect, it's vintage Allen and, of course, classic.

Obviously, he has a new movie coming out. Who doesn't?

This one is called "You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger."

In order to carbon date myself, during my orientation week in my freshman year in college, they showed Allen's "Take the Money and Run" on a building wall. I laughed myself to sleep.

As you can tell, I'm a fan of his early, funny films.

But, I'm also a fan of much of his later work as well.

Though his best work may be behind him, it's still great to see that Woody can crank out the films, even if few are watching.

Teabaggers: The party is over

The problem with the "Tea Party" astroturf movement is that teabaggers don't realize the party is over.

Time to get back to work and stop partying.

Check out this link for bizarre signs seen at the 9/12 rally in D.C.

(The Bend Tea Party had the good sense to urge their followers to not bring signs to their sparsely attended event in Redmond.)

They've turned patriotism into a fetish.

As you can see from the photos, this "movement" unites racists.

Not that they needed to be united. Afterall, they belong to the Republican Party.

What the teabaggers want, apparently, is for government to NOT run corporations like GM, but rather have companies like GM run the country.

Talk about being scared.

We've let corporations run this country for years and it drove us to near economic collapse, again.

Another thing teabaggers claim they want is a strict adherence to the Constitution. Not that many of them know what the Constitution says. It doesn't matter. They do know that the framers of the Constitution were all white men and that's all they need to know.

Teabaggers love their Republican Kool-aid that has them babbling incoherently about having it all and no taxes, too.

Well, freedom isn't free.

Taxes are the price we pay for civilization.

America: Love it or leave it.

And while you're leaving, don't tread on me.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Battle Hymn of Christian kooks

Are we at that moment in history when the threat to burn 200 Korans in Florida becomes the 21st century equivalent of John Brown's raid on Harper's Ferry, which was a catalyst to starting our Civil War?

Likely not, but violence will be the result nonetheless.

While the so-called "Christian" pastor in Florida is seriously unhinged from reality, he does represent the unspoken beliefs of millions of Americans who hate Muslims and Islam.

Also, there are millions of Americans who believe that 9/11 was the start of the long war between Islam and Christianity.

Of course, the war is between the civilized world (regardless of religion) and Islamist terrorists.

Yes, Islam has dubious tenets, but, then again, so does Christianity and Judaism.

No religion controls the moral high ground. They've all got skeletons in their closets.

Let them stay there.

The last thing we need is to fight terrorism with any religious underpinning.

Terrorists need to be wiped out. We don't need to pray to Jesus for this to happen.

We need to rely on the minds and militaries of the civilized world to accomplish this.

We don't need creepy pastors needlessly taunting Muslims.

And we don't need so-called "Americans" nodding in agreement as this Florida fool endangers real Americans in foreign lands.

9/11 was a dreadful day. The ninth anniversary should be a time of reflection and commemoration for those who died then and who have died since while fighting terrorists.

For those who want to burn Korans, at least agree on how to spell the name of the Muslim holy book. Is it Koran or Quran?

And, when you've done that, go volunteer for duty in Afghanistan or Iraq. You'll find plenty of Korans or Qurans to burn.

Of course, you won't do that, because, deep down, you're just a coward.

Your truth isn't marching on, but rather falling down.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Robbing the 'Hood

Democrats rob from the rich to give to the poor.

Republicans rob from the poor to give to the rich.

Which side are you on?

Personally, I side with the Democrats.

I know, I was brainwashed by my Catholic upbringing and Jesuit education. Still, that's how I feel.

Republicans want to enrich the richest people in our country by denying the poorest people in our country the table scraps of unemployment compensation.

Well, the GOPers lost that battle, but they'll be back to win the war on the poor. In fact, they won it years ago.

One of the reasons why they won is because many denizens of America's middle class believe that they rub elbows with the ultra-rich when they purchase iPhones, iPads and wide-screen HD TVs on credit cards.

In reality, the middle class is becoming the lower-middle class, or worse, because it purchases those items on credit cards.

What we have then, is a conflict between the lesser-haves and the have-nots.

Meanwhile, the ultra-rich avoid serving in the military or even paying for the ones who die in our overseas wars.

The rich get rich and the poor get children, ain't we got fun.

I know, these are age-old gripes of those who envy the rich.

Still, the gap between the rich and the poor is the widest since the Great Depression. Check this piece for some background. The series at is called The Great Divergence and it attempts to chronicle our our slide into the great divide.

Coincidentally, we are groping our way through the darkness of this Great Recession.

In Oregon, we passed ballot measures in January to tax the people who have benefited the greatest over the past 30 years. Predictably, in the rural, and backward, parts of the state, editorialists and GOP candidates still whine about this decisive vote for equity. Get over it. You lost.

In Washington state, where there is no state income tax, voters will decide in November whether to impose an income tax on the rich in their state. Here's hoping that the good people of the Evergreen State pass that income tax and try to restore some balance to the inequities that exist there.

These ballot measures are the only feeble ways to show our anger at the rich for evading their responsibilities to our less fortunate citizens, our soldiers and our country. It's also to get back at them for destroying our economy by shipping our jobs overseas and then betting against Americans via the stock market, hedge funds, credit-default swaps and mortgage-backed securities.

Recently, I saw the White House tribute to Paul McCartney on PBS. There were some great performances on that show. Stevie Wonder showed up and sang "Ebony and Ivory," his No. 1 duet with McCartney from 1982.

Yes, it was widely reviled at the time for being one of the most trite, annoying songs in history, but still, some of the lyrics still hold up after all these years:

"We all know that people are the same where ever you go
there is good and bad
in everyone
we learn to live
we learn to give each other
what we need to survive
together alive."

That pretty much sums it up: What we need to survive.

Is a Rolex watch necessary? Is running water?

You decide.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Kicked to the curb

This past spring and summer, construction crews were hard at work putting in or replacing handicap ramps at intersections throughout the city. This work has been going on for more than five years.

The city found out Wednesday that almost all of the redone handicap ramps are not compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

This is how we work in America. We don't want to fund government with taxes (yikes!) so there is little government oversight. Then, we hire private contractors to follow ADA rules and put in the new ramps.

Naturally, these contractors have no idea how to follow basic ADA instructions and the city did no checking on its own because it had no money to do so and, well, private enterprise knows how to do this work better than any city crew could ever do.

Well, this is how private contractors roll: They get paid to do the work incorrectly and then get paid again to fix their own mistakes.

And, we wonder why our country is in this economic hole.

As Barney Lerten at reports, it's going to be an expensive correction:

"The city will have spent about $7.5 million on ADA fixes since 2004, by the end of the current fiscal year, including $3.2 million in long-term debt and about $2.5 million from the general fund.

"Depending on how far from the exact specs they are, city Accessibility Manager Susan Duncan told councilors it could cost anywhere from $2,500 to $5,500 per curb ramp to get them compliant. Do the math, and the total cost ranges from $15 million to $34 million - the latter figure, by comparison, twice the city’s overall $17 million deficit estimate for the next six years."

The goal of private contractors is to rip off the government (actually, taxpayers) and then turn around and blame the government for letting them rip off the government/taxpayers. These contractors put welfare abusers to shame.

It's no wonder Americans have a low opinion of their government. It's also beyond belief that Americans have anything but a low opinion of private contractors or corporations.

The lesson, in this "teachable moment," is to get yours while you can and to hell with everyone else, particularly your own government.

Now that's the American spirit.