Thursday, November 29, 2012

Bend on the mend

Reed Market/15th St. intersection is one of the busiest in Bend
While tattoo parlors never left Bend during the Great Recession, plenty of construction workers did.

They're starting to crawl back into town, though, as a smattering of houses go up here and there.

A sure sign that Bend is starting to rebound can be found at the corner of 15th St. and Reed Market Road.

Particularly, the southwest corner of the intersection where a proposed development on a roughly 2-acre parcel is poised to make life miserable for those living in southeast Bend.

Adding to the woes is the proposed reconstruction of Reed Market from Third St. to 27th.

That roadwork, whose funding was approved by voters last year, is supposed to begin sometime next year, but we've heard that song for the last seven years.

Reed Market is one of the busiest and least maintained roads in Bend. The city takes months to even patch potholes. Afterall, this portion of Reed Market is on the east side of town, which always trails the westside when public works projects are concerned.

Reed Market and 15th is slated to be transformed from a two-lane signaled intersection into a four-lane roundabout.

Many southeastsiders don't want the roundabout because traffic will back up into the roundabout any time a train passes by on tracks about a quarter-mile west of the intersection.

You can even sign a petition against the roundabout at the Expressway store at the northwest corner of the crossroads.

To complicate matters more are the plans to build a mixed-use "residential-over-retail" development on the 2.3-acre property on the southwest corner. This would bring 22 apartments above 19,800 square feet of retail. This plan replaces the previous one where 15 single-family homes were proposed.

Throw in a micro-parking lot and you've got a recipe for gridlock-over-driving hazard.

Not that the intersection doesn't have its share of accidents of the deadly T-bone variety.

The planned roundabout would greatly diminish such deadly crashes. But, the proposed high-density development would increase the dangers there.

It's counter-intuitive, to put it mildly.

Leave it to Bend to mismanage a tepid recovery.

This city doesn't need more housing or more retail. It can barely manage what it has now.

Commercial vacancies and housing foreclosures still dominate the landscape.

The intersection of Reed Market at 15th is the last place in the city for such a high-density development on a roundabout.

Obviously, Bend's planners need to reject such a proposal. But, they won't because they're afraid of getting sued by the deep-pocketed development community.

Bend is on the mend, but it's got a long ways to go before it figures out that growth for the mere sake of growth is a losing proposition for all the citizens of the city.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Searching for Sugar Man

There are few times in my life when I have to stop, listen and be in awe of what I've heard and seen.

But, that is the case with Rodriguez.

Here's a little primer on Sixto Diaz Rodriguez, a folk musician in the mold of Bob Dylan.

He looks like a native American, but is actually a Mexican-American from Detroit, the most ravaged city in America.

After recording two albums in 1970 and 1971 that didn't sell at all, Rodriguez was forced to give up on his dream as a singer-songwriter.

He spent the next four decades working as a day laborer.

That's when the alternate universe kicked in.

You see, in South Africa for the last 40 years, Rodriguez has been revered as Dylan is in America.

Many South Africans said Rodriguez' music was "the soundtrack to our lives," according to a report on "60 Minutes."

It inspired a fledgling Swiss filmmaker to make a documentary about Rodriquez on his iPhone.

Even though the documentary wasn't finished, Malik Bendjelloul submitted it to Robert Redford's Sundance film festival which promptly slated it as the festival's opening film.

The movie, "Searching for Sugar Man," could win the Oscar for best documentary next year. It played here briefly in Bend at Pilot Butte Six.

The whole story is astonishing. The music is actually hypnotic.

It's one of the most poignant, inspirational stories I've heard in many years.

Monday, November 19, 2012

It's Thanksgiving, not thanksbuying

We now have "Black Thursday"
One of the more distressing images of the holiday season is the annual shopping frenzy on "Black Friday," the day after Thanksgiving, when hordes of bargain-seekers trample over one another to get that new video game or HDTV at dirt-cheap prices.

Thanks to Walmart, Target and others, we won't have to wait until Friday to see footage of rabid shoppers wedging through double doors in search of some electronic gizmo.

In fact, Walmart will open at 8 p.m. on Thanksgiving because it's never too early to get that package of tube socks for a pittance.

The occasional worker or shopper may get crushed to death, but that's a small price to pay for record corporate profits. Gotta keep that stock price up.

Walmart, of course, is the poster-child of retail corporate cruelty. Read this story on how Walmart is a dead-end place for almost all of its workers, many of whom live in poverty.

So, who better to make work on Thanksgiving night than the poorest people in our country. It's the spirit of giving, isn't it?

For a company that claims to promote "family values," Walmart does its best to break up the family on a day when we should be celebrating all that we have, not what we can get on aisle 27.

What's particularly sad about all this is that we are conditioned by our modern society to behave this way.

We are told to spend, spend, spend, because that is what drives our economy. Who cares if the credit card is maxed out.

Then we're told to pay down our debts. Save, save, save.

It's enough to make us all schizoid.

Sadly, shoppers will likely have less to spend this holiday season since so many are struggling to handle their monthly cell phone bills. Check out this story on the monthly $300 bill for smartphones and data plans.

What makes Black Friday enticing for so many consumers is that it helps stretch that dwindling dollar.

We're making less than we did 20 years ago, when adjusted for inflation, and we need cheaper goods no matter who makes them or how little they are paid.

Here's hoping that most people stay home on Thanksgiving even if it means arguing with the in-laws or falling asleep early from eating all that turkey.

The best things in life aren't things.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Junk food tragedy

Twinkie the Kid, a Hostess mascot, as interpreted by Fortune
Bring out the hankies for the end of Twinkies.

Actually, it's amazing that Hostess Brands lasted this long with such unhealthful products as Ding Dongs, Sno Balls, Ho Ho's, Twinkies and Wonder bread.

The company's honchos said they had no choice but to close the troubled company because the greedy union would not agree to deep cuts to pay and benefits for the 18,500 employees.

Yes, blame the unions again.

It's an argument that resonates throughout the country. Consequently, less than 12 percent of American workers belong to a union. If union membership dwindled to less than 1 percent of the workforce, America corporations would still have a reliable scapegoat.

Yet, the real story has not emerged in the mainstream media.

Check out this story about how Hostess executives enriched themselves as the ship was sinking:

"As the company was preparing to file for bankruptcy earlier this year, the then CEO of Hostess was awarded a 300 percent raise (from approximately $750,000 to $2,550,000) and at least nine other top executives of the company received massive pay raises. One such executive received a pay increase from $500,000 to $900,000 and another received one taking his salary from $375,000 to $656,256."

Obviously, Hostess was a poorly managed company, with or without unions.

And, in classic American fashion, we cheer the executives who looted the store before they closed the business while blaming the rank-and-file worker.


Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Secessionaires' disease strikes U.S.

It's official.

Citizens in all 50 states, from the deepest blue to the brightest red, have filed petitions for their individual state to secede from the United States of America.

So, what are we gonna call ourselves?

The Cranky Communes of America?

We not only have losers spouting their racist rhetoric, but we also have hundreds of thousands willing to disband the union because their Bain brain lost to our community organizer.


The utter despair displayed by the teabagging right-wing is reaching new lows.

A letter writer to the local daily had this to say after the decisive Nov. 6 victory by President Obama: "After 236 years of existence, a new country emerged, run by secular progressives who openly reject our constitution."

Okay ... The lug-nuts are loose on that wheel.

There is now an attempt to impeach President Obama.

And, if that doesn't work, well, you know what's left. Yes, you can be sure that tens of millions of Americans would rather see President Obama assassinated than serve out his term. Actually, they would rejoice.

That's how far we have fallen as a nation.

For those filled with hate for this nation, no one is keeping you here against your will.

Please leave, and I hope the door hits your ass hard on the way out.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Might as well Jump!

GOP lawmakers charging ahead to see America fail
Yes, the so-called "fiscal cliff": the combination of tax increases and budget cuts are said to push America over the edge into another recession beginning Jan. 1.

That is what congressional Republicans want.

House Speaker John Boehner says no to a tax increase on the rich.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said: "I am not willing to raise taxes ... period."

President Obama and the vast majority of Americans believe Democrats have a mandate for a balanced approach to fiscal responsibility which includes tax increases on the rich as well as cuts to spending. In fact, a report, that Republicans tried to suppress, shows that raising taxes on the rich won't hurt the economy.

Of that mandate, turtle-face Mitch says: "Yes, well, we Republicans in the House and Senate think we have a voter mandate not to raise taxes."

The reason for that false belief is that Republican legislators have pledged their allegiance to Grover Norquist rather than to the United States of America.

Grover's group, Americans for Tax Reform, oppose any tax increase. Actually, he believes there should be no taxes at all. That's right, Grover hates our government.

Evidently, so do Republicans who were elected to serve in our government and pledge allegiance to our country. Obviously, they'd rather serve Grover.

So, the GOP wants this country to fall off the "fiscal cliff."

Republicans should jump first so that they cushion the fall for the rest of us.

Friday, November 9, 2012

GOP to Latinos: We like tacos

Remember that cell phone ad about an office group that gets together at lunch to nosh tacos with one guy who didn't get the text message?

Well, that guy who said, "I like tacos," represents the current Republican Party: Out of touch and tactless, too.

Now, after looking at the detritus of their electoral debacle on Tuesday, when the Hispanic/Latino bloc proved an enormous benefit to Democrats, Republicans are now saying they must win over the Hispanic vote.

Let's be clear, Republicans still don't like Mexicans, they just want to figure out how to get their vote.

From Sean Hannity to John Boehner to Rupert Murdoch, Republicans have raised the white flag on fighting immigration reform. No mas.

Getting bull-whipped at the polls will do that to you.

But, the GOP's Hispanic problem goes deeper than immigration.

The Republican Party converted former "Dixiecrats" to the GOP beginning with civil rights legislation in the mid-1960s to Richard Nixon's "Southern Strategy" to Ronald Reagan's restoration of white supremacy in the 1980s.

Now, the entire South bleeds GOP "red."

The Republican Part doesn't do "brown" or "black" or "yellow."

The GOP doubled down on embracing racists and rednecks because, afterall, whites make up the vast majority of voters.

But, such politics of racial-class warfare no longer work in America.  Many whites side with their fellow Americans no matter their color or creed.

The Republican Party, though, is the proud party of whites.

And, the GOP asks: "You gotta problem with that?"

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Clear mandate for Obama

In 2004, when George W. Bush won re-election with a paltry 286 electoral votes to John Kerry's 251, which was the narrowest re-election victory since 1916, he felt he had a crushing mandate compared to his Supreme Court-ordered gift in 2000.

Here are his modest comments from 2004: "I earned capital in the campaign, political capital, and now I intend to spend it. It is my style."

Compared to the 2004 election, President Obama has far more political capital to spend than W ever had. Obama will end up with 332 electoral votes after the Romney campaign graciously conceded Florida before all the votes were counted there.

Obama's victory was so decisive that Florida, and its 29 electoral votes, didn't even matter.

In other words, with the Senate still controlled by Democrats, President Obama has a clear mandate to govern the way voters elected him to govern. Tax the 1 percent and help the 99 percent.

And that bit about Oregon being a state in play. Well, Obama won 54 percent to 43 percent.

After listening to Rush Limbaugh, reading the Wall Street Journal and watching Fox News, Republicans were certain that this was going to be a Romney landslide.

With the unemployment rate at 8 percent, Republicans assumed that the race was over before it even started. They believed they would run away with the election.

Well, they can run, but they can't hide now.

They are now shell-shocked.

Here's a typical comment from the WSJ after a post-mortem column by Mitt cheerleader Peggy Noonan:

"A 2016 election is not even worth preparing for. The Free Republic that was the United States is now a thing of the past. The Land of the Free and Home of the Brave committed suicide on November 6th."

Yes, 48 percent of voters backed the Mitt-wit on Tuesday. Of the last six presidential elections, though, the GOP candidate has now lost the popular vote in five of them.

And, demographics are not favoring Republicans going forward.

The GOP's "big tent" will have a hard time filling up when the party hates blacks, Mexicans, gays, Muslims and women (who can forget those priceless comments about rape).

The Republican base, comprised of white, mostly male voters, shrunk to just 72 percent of the electorate this year. And Mitt is as white-bred as they come.

Romney won all the states with the most racists, rednecks and least-educated citizens. And, despite the noise those people generate, their numbers are dwindling, too, thank God.

Mitt also represented the uber-rich, who feel they can buy anything, be it love, sex or the presidency and are miffed when they're rebuffed.

This election is a rebuke to the 1 percenters and their ideology that tax cuts solve all ills.

They wasted billions on Mitt and other Republican candidates.

Spend your billions on creating real jobs in this country.

If not, then get out of the way, because President Obama is here for another four years.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Bend's GOP winners neutered in Salem

Thanks to their brutally effective negative ads, local GOP extremists Jason Conger and Tim Knopp easily won their races for the state House and Senate, respectively.

But, they were Pyrrhic victories in the sense that Democrats won control of the state House and Senate.

We also have a Democratic governor, treasurer and secretary of state.

Still, Democrats work with Republicans, but it's considered a sign of weakness for Republicans to even acknowledge the mere presence of Democrats in the room.

Conger and Knopp will be "creating jobs" by hiring family members to work in their offices.

Oh, and they'll introduce, yet again, anti-abortion and anti-marriage equality bills so they can show their wing-nut constituents that they're fighting their fight.

Nevermind, that they'll do nothing to create jobs in this state, let alone progressive policies.

We just elected two Republicans who will have no clout, whatsoever, in Salem.

Speaking of no clout, Republican Knute Buehler of Bend was crushed in his bid to unseat our Democratic Secretary of State, Kate Brown.

In a rare moment of unanimity, all of Oregon's major newspapers endorsed Buehler. Well, it appears that newspaper endorsements aren't worth the paper they're printed on. Actually, we've known that for years.

And, on the Bend City Council, it was great to see Kathie Eckman finally shown the door. She was a weak councilor. She needed to be ousted by Sally Russell.

Kudos, though, to Jim Clinton for winning re-election yet again. He's the only one on the council with integrity and intelligence.

Finally, it was great to see Democrat Alan Unger returned to office on the Deschutes County Commission. Unger, from Redmond, is one of our best public officials in the area.

Turnout was far lower than 2008. We managed just 80 percent this time, but had 87 percent in 2008.

Obviously, their was less enthusiasm for the president this time around and also for Mitt Romney in Deschutes County.

Park district bond passes

Bond included safe river passage plus whitewater play area
Surprisingly, the $29 million bond, put on the ballot by the Bend parks district, passed by 52 percent to 48 percent.

In these tough economic times, with huge, far more important bond measures -- schools, sewer, water -- facing property taxpayers next year, it was amazing this thing passed.

It doesn't really do much for park district patrons, although the river chute under the Colorado Bridge should save some lives. It also was a way for OSU-Cascades to get voter support for its Shevlin Center "campus" while not asking directly for it

Essentially, the bond is another way for the local construction/development industry to make a living off of the government.

And then, these same people turn around and complain about government spending. Classic hypocrites.

The park district bond spells trouble for the school district's bond and also the bond for an expanded sewer system. Most Bend homes are not served by the current sewer system. Also, the local beer industry is overwhelming the sewer system.

Anyway, it is what it is. The park district bond may enhance Bend's livability, but it comes at a steep price now, and down the road.

Oregon says no to pot, yes to estate taxes

There was mostly good news and some bad with the nine ballot measures facing Oregonians on Tuesday.

Unlike Colorado and neighboring Washington, the Beaver State said "no" to a flawed measure to legalize marijuana. National groups thought the Oregon measure was too broad and would not pass, so they withheld support. A more restrictive measure has a great chance of passing in the future. That said, federal law still says pot is illegal.

Oregonians affirmed their belief that estate taxes are necessary to help level the playing field in our society by rejecting Measure 85, which would have phased out the state inheritance tax. If it had passed, further cuts to public education, public safety and health care were inevitable.

It was great to see Oregonians back public education by passing Measure 85, which re-directs the corporate "kicker" tax refund to K-12 education.

We also rejected, as expected, the creation of non-Native American casinos in the state. That's the last thing this state needed.

Unfortunately, Oregonians passed Measure 79, which prohibits any real estate transfer tax in the future.
We don't have such a tax now, so there is no effect on government budgets. But, it also means that without the ability to broaden our tax base, the burden falls even harder on property taxpayers to make up the difference.

Oregonians have long been trailblazers by being the first in the nation to pass a bottle bill, sweeping land-use reform, assisted-suicide and vote-by-mail; all of which Washington state followed.

Our neighbors to the north, though, have taken the title of political leaders.

Washington affirmed same-sex marriage on Tuesday along with legalizing marijuana. Those are two measures Oregonians will face in the future.

We have some catching up to do, but I'm confident we will do it.


Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Hope wins again; hate loses

President Obama swamps Mitt in electoral votes
As expected, President Obama easily won re-election with the race called about 20 minutes after 8 pm PST.

Yes, the overall vote is close, but that is irrelevant. The electoral vote is all that matters and right now, Obama is up to 290, when all you need is 270. If he holds onto Florida and Virginia, he'll reach 332 EVs. We're talking a beat-down here, relative to anything Bush II achieved.

While watching the various networks tonight, you could tell all the announcers knew the outcome, through exit polling, but withheld the news to maintain viewership throughout the night.

The editors at the Wall Street Journal knew the outcome well before the polls closed. The Rupert Murdoch paper's early editions ran an editorial titled, "The Republic Will Survive."

There was nothing but venom spewed at Obama from the Journal, Fox News, and hate-radio 24-7 for four long years. As noted before, hate is not a winning strategy.

This election is great on many levels, but the one I'll mention now is this: For four years, Republicans have been comparing President Obama to Jimmy Carter and calling him a one-term president.

Remember that video of the Mitt-wit deriding 47 percent of Americans as moochers? The one that help put the nail in Mitt's political coffin? Well, Jimmy Carter's grandson arranged the release of that video on the Mother Jones website.

Karma is sweet.


Monday, November 5, 2012

Obama should win, pollsters say

Nate Silver's blog, fivethirtyeight, is the most bullish on President Obama's chances of winning re-election. Nate now rates the president's chances at over 91 percent. He also projects his electoral total to be 314.4.

He rates Ohio as the key state to watch. He predicts an Obama victory there, which means he wins re-election.

Over at Intrade, President Obama has better than a 67 percent chance of winning. Read this piece about a 29-year-old who has six figures riding on the outcome Tuesday.

Even the right-leaning website Real Clear Politics shows Obama taking 303 electoral votes.

Things we know before Tuesday is that the Romney/Ryan will lose their "home" states.

In Romney's case, that means Massachusetts (where he governed), Michigan (where he grew up) and California (where he has an ocean-front home with a car elevator).

For Ryan, his home state of Wisconsin will back the president.

Mitt will win Utah decisively and its whopping 6 electoral votes. This, in spite of Utah's largest daily newspaper backing Barack.

Still, pre-election day voting is showing a number of problems in the battleground states. In Ohio, untested and uncertified vote-counting software was installed at the last minute. 

It will likely be worse on election day.

But, the GOP is ready with their excuses if the Mitt-wit loses.

Forward with Obama, not backwards with Myth Robme.