Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Where's the bump?

After two weeks in Nicaragua, I return to find the presidential race about where it was when I left.

In the meantime, Mitt Romney picked Paul Ryan as his running mate. Such a bold, polarizing move would surely give Mitt a bump in the polls.

But, it really hasn't.

The national polls still show the race as dead even.

Of course, such polls don't matter much.

Nate Silver's site still shows President Obama's chances of winning re-election at about 70 percent.

Since, much of the country is split between less-populated red states and more-populous blue states, only a handful of states matter in this election -- Florida, Virginia and Ohio or about a dozen counties actually -- and they have a boatload of electoral votes (EVs) to put Obama over the top.

Most polling websites show Obama with close to 300 EVs.

Only 270 EVs are needed for victory.

It seems that Mitt's pick of Ryan is not enticing the handful of undecided voters out there.

Ryan's budget plan to re-arrange Medicare so that seniors have far less than before while the very richest have much more than they do now is not playing well in heavy retirement states like Florida and Virginia.

And, it doesn't help when Republicans open their mouths and stick both their feet and hands in them.

Rep. Todd Akin's comment about "legitimate rape" turned his slim lead in the Missouri senate race into a 9-point deficit.

While the GOP insiders wanted Akin to drop from the race because of the negative effect it could have on Romney, not only in Missouri but nationally, other Republicans have doubled down on Akin's comments making them look absolutely nuts.

This puts the abortion issue on the front burner, while Mitt's preferred topic of the economy simmers on a back burner.

The Republican platform adopted this week in Tampa, Fla., seeks to end abortion in all cases.

This is another reason why right-wingers would love Nicaragua, which outlawed all abortions, even for 11-year-old victims of incest.

Naturally, it is Republican men making all the idiotic statements about abortion and contraception, which only shines a klieg light on the GOP's "war on women."

Afterall, Republicans love war. They just don't want to talk about Iraq or Afghanistan at their love-fest in Tampa.

Meanwhile, the Mitt-wit can't get out of his own way. Apparently, the Romney campaign in Tampa toasted its biggest donors on a yacht flying the flag of the Cayman Islands, where Mitt and his rich buddies have stashed untold millions.

This represents their true allegiance, and it's not to the Stars and Stripes.

These people aren't real Americans. They're frauds.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Free-range living

Free-range hen outside our room on Ometepe
For all the anti-government types out there -- be they libertarians, teabaggers or Republicans -- I've found a place you would love: Nicaragua.

I just spent about two weeks there, taking in the great scenery, the tropical heat, the cold showers and the gallo pinto.

Most Americans probably can't place Nicaragua on a map, but that only makes the largest country in Central America more interesting.

Some may have heard of the Iran-Contra affair, but can't recall what it was about or when it happened. And, what does Iran have to do with Nicaragua anyway?

Not much, especially now.

Nicaragua is the poorest, but safest country in Central America. It now has the fastest-growing economy in the region. New Kias, Hyundais, Toyotas and motorcycles crowd the roadway with bicycles and horse-drawn carts. Satellite dishes for television and internet dot the landscape, even in the poorest, most remote places, like Ometepe.

Nicaragua is also run by the Sandinistas, who were once communists, but now embrace capitalism and democracy, albeit with an unhealthy dose of autocracy.

So, it's like America,  especially the Southwest, where Hispanics dominate the landscape and Spanish is the lingua franca.

And while most countries south of the border may be known for their lawlessness, Nicas just shrug at the law.

You want to text and drive? No problem. Although, it is a tad unnerving when your taxi driver is texting or talking while speeding down the highway. On the other hand, it is impressive when the driver of your horse-drawn carriage texts while giving you a tour of Granada, the oldest city in North America.

As for seatbelts, they seem like a voluntary thing and nothing for which a police officer would stop you.

Not that I saw many police officers. There were the occasional stops on the Pan-American Highway, but they were looking for Colombians, Ecuadorians and Peruvians trying to make their way north.

Oh, and there are armed guards at every bank and at some tony hotels.

But, by and large, you can do what you want in Nicaragua.

If you want to throw your litter in the street, you can do so. In spite of that, most roadways aren't that cluttered with trash.

If you want to hang your laundry all around your property, unlike on Awbrey Butte, you can hang all day.

Of course, most Nicaraguans don't own a clothes dryer or even a washing machine.

While you can't own a rooster in the city limits of Bend, you can have as many roosters as you want in Nicaragua. After a few weeks, you won't even notice the cock-a-doodle-doos at 3 in the morning.

You can also own pigs, horses, goats, cows and oxen seemingly anywhere.

In America, we have become so cautious that you can't even mop a cubicle floor without putting out a "Caution: Wet Floor" sign.

In Nicaragua, they mop relentlessly and you never have to worry about tripping over a "caution" sign. They simply don't exist. By the way, you'd have to be blind not to see all the women mopping.

In Bend, we've spent millions re-doing handicap access at street corners.

In Nicaragua, you never see any handicap people on the streets. Of course, the sidewalks are completely uneven and full of holes. It's almost unsafe even for the most vigilant pedestrians.

Street signs and addresses aren't needed. Someone will always help you get where you're going.

Bend may have draconian leash laws for dogs, but in Nicaragua, scores of dogs roam the streets. In fact, I don't think they even sell leashes there. Plus, they don't bother with that whole politically-correct spay-and-neuter thing.

Speaking of freedom, it's amazing how many horses, pigs, chickens, goats, cows and oxen wander at will. None of these animals pay much attention to the vehicles bearing down on them on the roadways.

Call it a freedom menagerie.

It all works, without the need for rules, regulations and red tape. Many parts of Nicaragua resemble America, circa 1860, before our dang government started inhibiting the freedoms of sovereign, white citizens.

It may unnerve the anti-U.S. government types that almost no one speaks English in Nicaragua and that no one, but the handful of foreigners, are white.

To add insult to injury, the Sandinistas are the only people in the world who still love Jimmy Carter because he refused to let the U.S. intervene during their 1979 revolution.

But, and this is the clincher, you can use American dollars in the larger cities there.

And, if you smile, the friendly Nicas will smile with you, in spite of what the U.S. has done to Nicaragua over the years, from William Walker to outright occupation to assassination and to Iran-Contra.

So, if you can't stand living in Obama's America, and as you hallucinate that there are no freedoms left to lose, I suggest you check out Nicaragua.


Monday, August 6, 2012

Drip, drip, drip for Mitt

No, Mitt's too un-American to be president
After his less than stellar trip overseas, the Mitt-wit Romney returns to America with a devastating Newsweek cover and declining poll numbers even as he raises more money than President Obama.

Rasmussen Reports, which leans heavily to the right, now has Obama with a 2-point national lead.

And Intrade keeps showing Obama with a lead among bettors that keeps widening.

Of course, none of that really matters. Ohio, Florida and Virginia will decide the next president, and right now they favor Obama.

Even Nate Silver, who had Mitt's chances of winning Florida at just over 50 percent, now has Obama's odds of winning Florida at 56.2 percent.

The issue of taxes continues to dog Mitt like a family mutt strapped to the top of the family station wagon.

He's unable to respond to the charge that he paid no taxes for much of the past 10 years or that he would rather keep his cash anywhere but in the United States.

Now, the L.A. Times reports that a man worth $250 million hassled San Diego County to lower his tax bill by about $109,000 over four years.

I'm sure Mitt tithed those savings to the Mormon church. (By the way, check out a recent issue of Time magazine for an article on how Utah, and the Mormon church, condones polygamy.)

Mitt would do anything to keep his precious money out of the hands of the country he believes he's entitled to lead.

Let's hope that all the money Mitt has hidden, plus all the dough's he's raised, entitles him to an epic defeat in November.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Of shuttlecocks, swimming and dressage

The relatively harmless shuttlecock
The first week of the London Olympics provided incredible highs and lows for all the nations of the world.

The gymnastics competition was riveting, but any sport that needs to be "judged" to declare a winner is always suspect. Still, it was great to see Gabby Douglas win the individual gold medal, the first African-American to do so.

And, just as the pundits were writing off Michael Phelps after he lost the 200-meter butterfly by .05 seconds, an event he had won in the previous two Olympics, he went on his usual tear through the field.

After Phelps became the only man in history to win not one, but two, events in three consecutive Olympics, these same pundits claimed that, finally, Phelps solidified his place in history.

Are you kidding me?

Look, Phelps won 8 gold medals in Beijing and 6 gold medals in Athens. The world should be grateful he just showed up in London. And yet, he could end up with "only" 4 gold medals at the 30th Olympiad and a record 22 overall medals that should stand for decades, if not longer.

There will never be anyone like Phelps.

The Olympics always provide surprises, but did anyone predict the ridiculous brouhaha over badmintion?

First off, why is badminton even an Olympic sport? Sure, like ping-pong, it requires skill, but it's not that athletic.

Teams from China, South Korea and Indonesia were disqualified for throwing matches, by intentionally hitting the shuttlecock into the net or to the ground, to get favorable seedings.

Well, they deserved to be booted from the games. They disrespected their opponents.

Which leaves us with dressage, a French term for defining "the highest expression of horse training."

It's normally an event most Americans not only don't follow, but don't even know what it is.

More know what it is now, thanks to the wife of the Republican nominee for president who has a horse in the hunt.

Rafalca, Ann Romney's part-owned, 15-year-old German-bred mare, placed 13th with her German-raised rider in the preliminary round.

Ann Romney, the story goes, took to dressage to cope with her multiple sclerosis.

Still, it was a bit rude when the Mitt-wit said he wouldn't watch "Ann's sport" and claimed he didn't know which day the dressage event took place.

Of course, Mitt wanted to distance himself from one of his tax write-offs as reported by Bloomberg.

The Mitt-wit wants to avoid any discussion of his taxes, or lack thereof, since he refuses to release his tax returns for the past 10 years.

Sen. Harry Reid said Mitt doesn't want to release his returns since he paid no taxes.

So, here we are, trying to enjoy the Olympics, but talk of Mitt's "taxes" crowd the podium.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

OSU Cascades' expansion a sham?

Shevlin Center: Does this look like four-year university?
Bend and Central Oregon have needed a four-year university for decades.

That is not in dispute.

The branch campus of Oregon State University, located at Central Oregon Community College and called OSU Cascades, is evolving toward that goal.

But, the current push to create a new OSU Cascades "campus" at the Shevlin Center on Bend's west side doesn't make much sense.

First off, the COCC campus, on the west side of Bend's Awbrey Butte, boasts one of the greatest settings for a college or university in the country. Shevlin Center is a "business park."

The whole idea of a separate campus becomes even more absurd when you take into account the move by Stanford, Harvard and other elite schools to offer classes online. The virtual campus is the campus of the future. Buildings not required.

R.L. Coats, a construction magnate/developer with apparently few friends, donated most of the land for the COCC campus in 1962.

Back then, many Bendites distrusted Coats and believed he only donated the land for his own selfish purposes: tax breaks and to promote his West Hills subdivision.

Fifty years later, all anyone knows about Coats is that he is responsible for COCC being where it is.

COCC is opening two new buildings this year and has a great library on campus, which now sits at 201 acres. The University of Oregon, the the way, is just 295 acres.

There is plenty of room for COCC to grow, which means there is plenty of space there for an expanded OSU Cascades.

Taxpayers bought a building in Shevlin Center last year that will house graduate classes for OSU Cascades.

And, local property taxpayers, through the Bend park district, bought a vacant lot in the business park. The park district then said it will "partner" with OSU Cascades for a future building.

The beneficiaries, so far, of these land transactions are banks or individuals that received bailouts from the public coffers during these distressed real estate times.

Yes, it is incredibly impressive, particularly during this recession, that a private fundraising drive has generated $1.5 million in donations for OSU Cascades to move to the Shevlin Center. Of course, it also reveals how well the 1 percent have done during these tough economic times at the expense of the 99 percent.

Ultimately, this donated $1.5 million will go into the pockets of other private individuals or banks.

When we need one most, there is no R.L. Coats to step forward to donate land or buildings for OSU Cascades.

So toxic is political discourse in this country, especially in Bend, that even the mere hint of donating land for the public good draws outrageous accusations of anti-Americanism or promoting "socialism."

The local daily newspaper, whose "leaders" have donned tutus, tights and pom-poms in support of moving OSU Cascades to Shevlin Center, now want local property taxes to skyrocket.

Yes, the local daily believes that the 1 percent need not suffer the indignity of Oregon estate taxes and want them abolished.

Well, this means that we will have even less money for higher education, including OSU Cascades, and that property taxes will have to escalate to make up the difference.

Oregon's only other tax it relies on is the income tax. Naturally, the local daily's "brain trust" and other 1 percenters believe there should be no state income tax. In fact, most of those who donated money to achieve the $1.5 million threshold hold similar views regarding the income and estate taxes.

So, here's the rub. These fools believe that we can have a four-year university in Bend while not paying for it. That's right, no estate tax and no income tax. Oh, and we can't borrow money because Oregon has to balance its budget every year.

Well, the backers of OSU Cascades in Shevlin Center want to get around this idea of debt by having the state issue bonds to pay for the expansion of OSU Cascades.

It's still a debt.

While it is laudatory that private donors raised $1.5 million for OSU Cascades at Shevlin Center, it is a far cry from what is needed.

If Central Oregon's 1 percenters don't believe in the estate tax, the income tax, the beer tax, the gas tax, the room tax or any tax other than the property tax, then they're going to have to contribute at least 10 times more than they have to create a legitimate four-year university in Bend.

Otherwise, let COCC evolve into OSU Cascades.