Saturday, July 28, 2012

The Games begin

Like most Americans, I'm an armchair athlete.

In my defense, though, my armchair is relatively new and almost too comfortable.

And there are fewer times to give that armchair a workout than during the Olympic Games.

First off, kudos to Beaverton, Oregon's Mariel Zagunis, a two-time gold medalist in fencing, for carrying the flag to lead the U.S. contingent into the Olympic stadium.

The opening ceremony, by the way, had classic moments of British cheekiness with Mr. Bean working a single piano key during the London Symphony Orchestra's version of the theme from the film "Chariots of Fire."

The bit with the Queen and James Bond was surprising given the Queen's glum demeanor she exhibited during the opening ceremony.

And, it was audacious to see "England's green and pleasant land" give way to the smokestacks of the  Industrial Revolution's "dark, satanic mills," which are key lines from William Blake's poem known as Jerusalem, a classic British hymn. I've always loved Emerson, Lake and Palmer's rendition of this song heard here.

If this wasn't left wing enough for American audiences, director Danny Boyle included a crazy sequence of kid's jumping on hospital beds, which was meant to extol the virtues of Britain's National Health System that the Brits cannot live without.

As we fret about "Obamacare," the United Kingdom responded to the ravages of World War II by mandating universal health care in 1948, the last time London hosted the Olympic Games.

But, on to the Games.

I'll root for the Americans, but marvel at all the incredible performances by all the other athletes that NBC will allow us to see.

I'm pulling for the South African "Blade Runner" in the 400 meter race. Some claim Oscar Pistorius has an advantage because he has no legs and gets to use carbon fiber blades as legs and feet.

And, I'll cheer for the home team, the Brits, who deserve a few more medals than they normally earn, for putting on such an epic show.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Mitt goes witless in London

Meet Mitt, Anglo-Saxon
In the midst of Mitt Romney's overseas trip to prove his foreign policy bona fides, it wasn't enough for an unnamed Romney staffer to say that Mitt understands the "Anglo-Saxon" connection with England and implying that President Obama does not.

In other words, the Romney campaign was saying "Mitt's white, Barack's not."

No, the Mitt-wit had to step in it by questioning London's preparation for the Summer Olympic Games and whether the British would even show up for the Games.


For a Mormon to rescue the 2002 Winter Games from the bribery mess that other Mormons created is a bit hypocritical.

But, the Mitt-wit wasn't done.

He met with various British officials including the head of MI6, the foreign intelligence unit of the British intelligence agency.

Yet, going against protocol, the Mitt-wit told reporters he met with the top official of MI6.

On the upside for the Mitt-wit, the Olympic Games themselves should overshadow anything that comes out of his mouth.

After London, where Mitt's wife has a horse in the equestrian competition, Romney heads to Poland and Israel.

In Poland, maybe Mitt, like Bush II, will apologize to Poles for "letting" them come under Soviet rule for decades. Or maybe Mitt knows a really good Pollack joke.

And, in Israel, maybe the Mitt-wit will push for more Israeli settlements in the West Bank. That would be helpful. Or, he could ask the Israeli prime minister if there is any more Jewish Holocaust survivors that the Mormon church could baptize as its own.

After this trip, Romney may wish he had toured Switzerland and the Caribbean, where he stashes his cash from American taxation, so he could fondle his money.

This Mitt-wit is no statesman.

Let's hope he doesn't get any closer to the White House than he is now in London.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Voter-suppression efforts under attack

Garry Trudeau has a knack for hitting the hot-button issues at exactly the right time.

Earlier this year, Republican lawmakers in Pennsylvania fashioned their "voter I.D." law to "deliver" the Keystone State to Mitt Romney.

Well, opponents challenged the law and it's scheduled for court next week. Here's the link to the story.

But, Republicans had to admit this week that "there have been no investigations or prosecutions of in-person voter fraud in Pennsylvania; and the parties do not have direct personal knowledge of any such investigations or prosecutions in other states."

In other words, this idea of "voter fraud" is a completely bogus issue. 

In fact, its chief aim is to suppress the minority vote, which skews towards Democrats.

This is important in Oregon because Knute Buehler, a Bend Republican, is running for Oregon secretary of state this November and a central tenet of his campaign is to root out so-called "voter fraud."

The truth is, in-person "voter fraud" is non-existent. And, there has been no credible claim that voter fraud has occurred in Oregon's vote-by-mail system.

The real vote fraud occurs in the "irregularities" reported over the years in places like Chicago (1960), Florida (2000) and Ohio (2004) where vote tallies by the authorities were considered dubious at best.

In this day of instant computer tabulation, the chances for a rigged election have escalated. But, it's not voters who are the problem, but political operatives out to subvert the system.

Also, these voter I.D. laws, all enacted by Republicans, are meant to suppress the Democratic vote in battleground states like Pennsylvania and Florida. 

That being said, a national poll today from NBC and the Wall Street Journal show President Obama ahead of the Mitt-wit by 6 percentage points. In battleground states, Obama is up by 8 percent. Plus, Intrade shows Obama at 57 and Mitt-wit at 40.

Obama is going to need a wide lead in the opinion polls to offset the GOP's voter-suppression efforts.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Links of note on dark night day

With yet another mass murder under our collective expanding belts, it's worth noting that this is just another example of domestic terrorism made possible by easy access to guns, particularly assault weapons.

Apparently, this nutcase in Colorado had at least four guns, including an AR-15, the civilian semi-automatic version of the M-16 which can kill people at a rate of up to 800 per minute. "Luckily," the Colorado shooter may have had just a 100-clip magazine.

Still, killing 100 people per minute doesn't seem very civil in a country that claims to be exceptional.

Nor does it seem Christian-like.

Yet, this is who we are. Mass murders are deemed an acceptable tradeoff, by the NRA and its acolytes, to our freedom to "bear arms."

With that in mind, here's a link to an interactive timeline of the worst mass shootings in U.S. history.

Until we once again ban semi-automatic weaponry, our mass murders will not go away. In fact, the frequency of these incidents will only increase, and the death tolls will only climb higher.

Speaking of the health of the nation, here's a link to an essay by a conservative, anti-abortion Christian woman who was always opposed to national health care.

Until she moved to Canada, where she experienced universal health care and now considers it the most humane, or Christian, way to care for one another.

Speaking of values, here's a story whose headline says it all: "Corporation That Paid Nothing in Taxes for Four Years, Tells Congress it Pays Too Much in Taxes."

One corporation, though, is doing fine: "Walmart Is America's First Welfare Queen Superstore."

At least the weather forecast for Bend is decent: Highs in the low 80s, lows in the high 40s and no thunderstorms.

Which means that fire season is just around the corner.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Liquor lovers make run for the border

One of the unintended consequences of privatizing hard liquor sales in Washington state is that it boosted sales in Oregon, where rum, vodka and tequila are sold at state-run liquor stores.

Who knew?

Costco's $20 million campaign in Washington state paid off at the ballot box last November in the sense that the Washington-based company can now sell the "hard stuff" at its warehouses.

But, along with that right comes the costs.

Like Oregon, Washington made a tidy profit selling liquor to the masses. In lieu of that right, voters approved the state's right to tax buyers of hooch in Washington a hefty tax to make up for the loss of revenues at state-run stores.

Those taxes are a 10 percent distributor fee and a 17 percent retail fee.

So, those living along the border with Oregon, crawled over the Columbia River crossings like craven alcoholics to get their fix for less.

Oregon liquor sales in major cities along the Washington border surged 35 percent in June, when the new Washington liquor taxes took effect.

One Oregon store in Rainier, across the Columbia River from Longview, Wash., according to the Associated Press, saw sales increase 60 percent since Washington privatized hard liquor sales.

A shout out to drinkers in the Evergreen State for subsidizing public services in the Beaver State.

Keep shopping here. We have no sales tax and our liquor is cheaper.

Now, if Oregon legalizes marijuana this November, we can expect many more Washingtonians to cross the river for another way to escape their rainy realities.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

You're so Bain

And, Mitt knows this song is about him.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Obama boxes Romney into corner

Now, that's what I'm talking about!

When Mitt-wit Romney demanded an apology from President Obama over attacks on Mitt's Bain Capital years, he got this TV ad in response:

It's been a long time coming for a Democrat to come out swinging so hard at his opponent.

The 30-second ad not only ravages Mitt's years at Bain, but it also mocks his "patriotism."


You see these kinds of ads all the time from Republicans, from the Willie Horton ad during Bush I's 1988 campaign to Bush II's ad trashing John Kerry's decorated service in Vietnam to the ad comparing Max Cleland, who became a double amputee during his service in Vietnam, to Osama bin Laden.

Those ads were crude, rude and groundless.

The Obama ad above is so compelling because it's true.

Plus, Obama is not hiding behind some nameless, faceless Super Pac in this ad. No, he's taking the fight directly to Romney's supposed strengths.

Here's what one commenter on the Wall Street Journal website had to say about the ad:

Speaking as a Republican, I must say this ad is devastating for Romney. I don’t like the ad, but I have to begrudgingly respect Team Obama’s political instincts on this one. Romney needs to step up his game before his opponent defines and disqualifies him in front of a small but crucial part of the electorate.
Remember, unemployment has fallen more in some swing states than the national average. For example it’s 5.6% in Virginia. Team Obama know how to win an election, they’ve been building turnout and grassroots operations for 5 years and have a fully vetted ticket. Romney cannot afford another few weeks of saying, “I did not have fiduciary relations with that entity.”

We normally wouldn't see this Obama ad in Oregon because we are not a swing state. 

Thank god for YouTube. Now, we can all share this ad around the country and the world to show who the Mitt-wit really is.

Good job Team Obama. Keep up the good fight.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Romney will pick Portman as V.P.

Rob Portman of Ohio
Amid all the chatter that Condoleeza Rice is being considered as Mitt Romney's running mate, is the logical argument that she presents no upsides for the Mitt-wit.

Aside from being aligned with the one of the worst presidents in U.S. history that embroiled this country in the Iraq fiasco, Rice brings no constituency, other than Stanford grads, to the campaign.

Rice is from California, which has no chance of turning "red" this November.

As demonstrated at the NAACP convention this week, almost all African-Americans will be voting for President Obama this fall. Romney baited the NAACP crowd to boo him this week so that it would rally the racist base of the GOP.

Rice is also pro-choice which is unacceptable to the other large faction of the Republican Party.

The other possible V.P. candidate is Marco Rubio, the junior senator from Florida, another crucial swing state.

But, the Republican base, which is inherently racist, will not stand for an Hispanic within a heartbeat of the presidency.

Plus, Rubio is not likely to tip the balance among the Hispanic bloc of voters, which is solidly in Obama's camp.

Also, Rubio has a bit of Mormonism in his past, which will freak out the evangelical base of the GOP.

Romney and his staffers possess calculators and the calculation for V.P. points to the junior senator from Ohio, Rob Portman. 

Portman appeals to Republicans because he is white, male and bland, but not overweight. Plus, he's not Mormon but a Methodist, like George W. Bush.

But, the only reason Portman will be on the ticket is that he is from the No. 1 swing state in the nation, Ohio. 

By picking Portman, the Romney henchmen calculate that he would bring Ohio, and its crucial 18 electoral votes, into the fold.

There is no chance that Romney will pick a southerner to the ticket because he is already ensured almost all the southern states, outside of Florida, Virginia and, to a lesser extent, North Carolina.

If Romney doesn't pick Portman, he has no chance of winning in November. With Portman at his side, he has a slim chance of winning.

Joined the 200-mile club

Some run up and down Pilot Butte
Last fall, I finally finished my 50th, 2-mile trip up and down Pilot Butte to join the Century Club.

I learned then that a 93-year-old man, after hiking up Pilot Butte less than three years, was about to join the 500-mile club.

I'm more of a fair-weather hiker of the butte. Still, it was so cold and windy one day this year that I had to wear a face mask and gloves to finish the climb.

On a bulletin board at the base of the butte there is a Century Club list of hikers who have reached various milestones: 200, 500, 1,000 etc.

Naturally, as the mileage increases, the number of people on the list decreases dramatically.

Still, it was a shock that my 200 miles are a far cry from what serious hikers have accomplished.

No. 1 on the Century Club list is Peggy Stenkamp. She's only logged 7,000 more miles than I have.

Gee, that's only 3,500 more trips up and down the butte.

Still, that means 3,500 more chances to take in the incomparable 360-degree view atop the butte, from the Cascades Range in the west to the Ochocos in the east. Plus, the vista gives the hiker an update on the growth of Bend from vantage a point of about 500 feet above the city.

One fact remains, though. It never gets easier to make that 1-mile trek up the butte.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

The new 'compassionate' conservative

There are so many stories across the country that reveal the soul of the Grand Old Party.

First, health care reform that the Supreme Court ruled is Constitutional.

Yes, Republicans hate it and most Americans are confused by "Obamneycare," which is what President Obama signed into law patterned after what Mitt Romney signed into law in Massachusetts.

The goal of "Obamneycare" is to provide health care to all people in America.

This disturbs at least six GOP governors, who vow to reject "Obamnycare," leaving 4 million in their states without access to health care.

Or, how about a Republican senate candidate saying that he "prays" that the media stop covering "sob stories" about poor people.

Or, how about a one-person GOP "death panel." A Republican member of the House of Representatives, which will vote Thursday for the 31st time to repeal "Obamneycare," doesn't believe someone with a "massive tumor" should get treatment for it.

The GOP governor of Arizona is asking the Supreme Court to overturn a ruling  in that state allowing health benefits to same-sex couples.

The female GOP governor of South Carolina vetoed a bill that funded prevention programs for rape and sex abuse because they are a "distraction" from the role of the state health department.

By the way, South Carolina ranks seventh in the country for number of women killed by men, and has had a rate of sexual violence higher than the national average since 1982.

Meanwhile, Romney is so rich he doesn't even know where all his money is stashed. 

"I don't manage them," he said of his offshore investments. "I don't even know where they are."

Must be nice.

Just another wacky week of stories of the new "compassionate conservative."

Wrong time for Bend park district tax hike

 Park district's $7.4 million headquarters
With Bend still in the grips of the Great Recession, the park district is asking voters to pass a $29 million bond measure in November to fund a handful of things like an open-air ice rink and a rafting passage under the Colorado Avenue bridge.

All, but one, of the projects are on the west side. Yet again, no plans to build a park in southeast Bend, which definitely needs one.

One project would add a roundabout at Simpson and Columbia avenues so that OSU-Cascades can develop a four-year university at the old Mt. Bachelor parking lot. The idea of converting the Shevlin Center, a lagging business park, into a scattered college campus is ill-advised, to say the least. Central Oregon Community College, where OSU-Cascades currently resides, should be the permanent site of a four-year university.

An open-air ice rink has never worked in Bend at Juniper Park or at Shevlin Park, which is way west of downtown. The only "successful" open-air rink is at the Inn of the 7th Mountain and that's five miles out of town towards the Cascades.

In 2009, in the depths of the Great Recession, the park district squandered $7.4 million on a "state-of-the-art" administration building that the public didn't vote on and didn't want.

The big problem with the bond measure, though, is that foreclosures, bankruptcies and default notices still fill the classified section on a daily basis. Bend residents are suffering financially. It's too soon to ask residents to pay such a huge amount on a handful of park projects.

This town has too many more important issues to address -- like roads, sewer, water, sidewalks, storm drains, schools, etc. -- before the park district grabs an even bigger slice of that shrinking financial pie.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Bad, good initiatives on Oregon ballot

Once again, Oregon will make national news when a measure to legalize marijuana will be on the ballot, pending signature verification, in November.

More Americans are coming around to the belief that we're probably better off legalizing marijuana.

Of course, legalization opens another can of worms, but keeping "weed" illegal has proven hypocritical and unenforceable.

If the state can make money off of marijuana, like it does alcohol and tobacco, then it's worth doing.

We also have six other measures on the ballot and some are terrible:

1) Abolishing the state estate tax. While this affects only a tiny number of Oregonians, less than 1 percent, it would raise taxes on the 99+ percent. It would also shorten the school year further and diminish public safety. A strong "NO" vote on this one.

2) Banning any future real estate transfer tax or RETT. Oregon doesn't have a RETT and there are no plans to enact one. Still, Realtors would rather see property taxes climb at a faster rate rather than cut into their ridiculous profits. Another big "NO" on this one.

3) Using corporate tax "kicker" for public education. If state revenues, projected two years out, exceed 2 percent, that amount is returned to individuals and corporations. This would end another needless giveaway to corporations and put the money where corporations won't: education. A big "YES" on this one.

4) Banning gill-net fishing on the Columbia River. This would help endangered salmon in the Columbia. Another "YES" vote.

5 and 6) Allowing a non-Native American casino in Portland. I view Indian casinos as a small payback for all the grief non-natives have caused them. If non-natives want to throw away their money at Indian casinos, go ahead. But, we don't need any more casinos in Oregon. A definite "NO" vote.

The good news is that 33 initiatives failed to get enough signatures to qualify for the ballot. Less is more.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Who is a patriot?

Obviously, everyone who serves in the military and their extended families are patriots.

Those who devote their lives to public service are patriots.

Flag-wavers and red/white/blue wearers certainly love their country. So do the fireworks crowd.

But, true patriotism is more than T-shirt deep and more resonant than a piccolo Pete.

No, real patriotism includes those who pay their taxes in full and on time.

This last category excludes the GOP candidate for president, Mitt Romney.

The Mitt-wit cares so little about this country that he stashes his cash around the world in order to avoid paying his fair share in taxes.

Even Newt Gingrich, a man who is far more patriot-show-than-tell, had this to say about Mitt in the GOP primary, “I don’t know of any American president who has had a Swiss bank account.” 

The Mitt-wit would say that this shows how he is innovative and an entrepreneur.

But, if Mitt believes that Switzerland and the Cayman Islands are better places for his American money, why doesn't he just move to either of those places.

No, Mitt instead wants to be president of the U.S.A. so that the "gilded age" of income inequality he helped usher in at Bain Capital can extend to his great-great-great-grandchildren.

But, not to you or me.

Nor, to the 99 percent of Americans.

But Mitt, who evaded service in Vietnam, wears the American colors well. 

Therefore, he must be a patriot.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Obama's bad month?

The pundits told us what a disastrous month President Obama endured in June.

His political obit was being written by those who have plenty of practice at it.

Funny thing is, though, Obama's numbers are getting better not worse.

The national polls and battleground polls show that Obama's slight lead didn't contract, but expanded a tad.

More importantly, though, Intrade shows bettors favoring Obama by a wider margin over Mitt Romney. Obama's Intrade numbers rose from a low of around 52 in early June to about 56 today.

It's hard to say what the Supreme Court ruling on Obamacare or immigration had on these numbers.

The Mitt-wit can't seem to fully capitalize, other than raising more money, on these hot-button issues because he has no plans himself.

Still, economic numbers, like manufacturing, are not encouraging for the president.

Economists say that the slowdown in China and Europe is now affecting the U.S.

Like most things, the economy is a mixed bag of data. The question for Obama is whether a weak recovery is enough to hold off the Mitt-wit in November.

As of now, Nate Silver shows Obama's chances of winning re-election up to 68.6 percent, which is a jump of 7.3 percent since June 25.

As they say, stay tuned.

The power of utilities

With the massive power outage in the D.C. area comes some enlightening reporting, the kind that doesn't hit the newsstands or airwaves.

This story on the Huffington Post shows how utilities have bought influence in Washington to protect the interests of investors and executives, but not the consumer of the electricity.

Here's a choice paragraph from the article:

"Major electric utilities have spent hundreds of millions of dollars in the last two decades on campaign contributions and lobbying as part of a hugely successful push to free their industry from federal and state regulations and ostensibly embrace competition. Rather than a reduction in prices, the result has been that utilities' community obligations have been superseded by the need to drive up short-term profits, while enriching top executives and big shareholders has been prioritized over reinvesting profits in improved facilities."

This reveals, as in the Enron case more than a decade ago, how electrical power should not be in the hands of the investor class. Investors could care less that people could die from their influence. If investors make money, then all is good, at least for them.

When you deregulate a vital industry like electricity, lax oversight will lead to problems in recovering from a natural disaster because upgrades to the grid are secondary to profits.

Public utility commissions no longer protect the consumer of electricity, but rather the investors who don't even use the power.

It's time for the consumer to wrest some power back.