Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Yo, Pope Frankie

Is this the face that launched a thousand quips?
Pope Francis, consistent with his breakout name, knows how to push the right buttons in the American culture wars.

Essentially, he said that the Catholic Church is "obsessed" with abortion, gay marriage and contraception to the exclusion of other critical issues including the poor and the marginalized.

Gee, ya think?

He refuses to condemn homosexuals, claiming, who is he to judge them.

He also may not be opposed to priests being married.

Atheists, he said, could make their way to heaven.

Wow.

And, he's just getting warmed up.

The new pope chastised capitalism for its "idol called money."

Of course, this brought the wrath of Rush Limbaugh who called the pope a Marxist.

Showing his wit, the pontiff responded that while he was no Marxist nor care for its ideology, he did say, "I have known many Marxists who are good people."

So far, the Pontiff Frank, if I can be so bold, is a breath of fresh air.

No wonder Time magazine named him the Person of the Year.

 He is down to earth in a most refreshing way.

So far, he gets it.

What he gets is that the Catholic Church's membership is declining, particularly in the Catholic strongholds of Central and South America.

If the Catholic Church is fading there, it must be fading everywhere.

In the developed worlds of Europe and North America, the Catholic Church no longer holds the center of modern life.

It's hard to attract new members or retain current Catholics when the church practices a policy of exclusion rather than inclusion.

Pope Frankie understands simple math.

One of the claims of modern Catholicism is that it never changes. The times change to meet with it.

Well, that is completely bogus.

It's changed plenty over the past 2,000 years.

Which brings us to the modern conundrums that the pope referenced.

Instead of focusing on American political wedge issues, the pope is reaffirming the church's position on human rights, both male and female.

When the Catholic Church helps those who are disenfranchised within their own countries, no matter where, then the church comes closer to fulfilling its true mission.

As God (and Jesus) intended.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

This is no golden age for journalism

It seems odd for an editor of the local daily newspaper to ruminate about the golden age of "muckraking" journalism from 100 years ago and then demonstrate, in a single column, how far newspapers have fallen from those progressive days.

But, that's we got Sunday as the editor grumbled about public sector unions and their ties to the Democratic Party.

Nevermind that about 11 percent of the American workforce is unionized today. Or, that unions, at their height of "power" in the mid-1950s, represented just 36 percent of the workforce.

Obviously, by sheer percentage numbers alone, unions never had monopolistic powers attributed to them and whatever clout they had is diminishing year by year.

And yet, this editor claims that unions are solely responsible for the desolation that is Detroit today.

And that this devastation will spread across the country because of unions and Democrats.

Really?

For more enlightenment on Detroit's demise, check out this concise piece in the National Journal.

The upper midwest is called the "rust belt" for a reason. The world has passed it by.

The same could be said for today's media.

What gave rise to the muckraking journalists was the desire to expose corrupt government machine politics such as Tammany Hall, and reveal the devastating effect that corporate monopolies were having on the economy.

Ida Tarbell, through her investigative pieces in McClure's Magazine, took on the greatest capitalist of all time in this country. As one writer described it, Tarbell "brought down the world's greatest tycoon and broke up the Standard Oil monopoly."

For a defense of unions, read up on the 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire in New York. The owners of the factory were not convicted of any wrongdoing in the deaths of 146 garment workers because there were no laws protecting these workers.

Flash forward to 2013 and the horrific collapse of garment factory building in Bangladesh where more than 1,000 perished. Corporations went to Bangladesh for cheaper labor and because there is little government oversight in such things as building safety. Was it good that these workers had no union to look out for their interests?

Of course, few Americans care about anything outside our borders.

So back to our problems.

As income disparity reaches levels experienced 100 years ago, the rich are engaging in "class warfare," pitting the lower and middle classes against each other.

The greatest achievement of corporations, and their supplicants in the press, is to convince millions of Americans that their diminishing incomes can be attributed to the middle class union worker next door and not to the millionaire executives taking an ever-expanding slice of the economic pie.

Here's a crucial section of that short article: 

"In May 2012, researchers from the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) took a stab at calculating the overall CEO-to-worker compensation ratio with the information already available. Here’s what they found: In 2011, the average CEO’s compensation was equal to 209.4 times that of the average worker, at least when stock options were included in compensation. That was up substantially from the 18.3-to-1 ratio found in 1965, but barely half of the 411.3-to-1 found in 2000.

Nonetheless, the institute found that CEO pay had grown 725% between 1978 and 2011, while worker compensation had only increased by 5.7%. That stratospheric growth in CEO pay has correlated with an overall explosion in income inequality; whereas the top 10% of income earners in the United States controlled only about one-third of all income throughout the 1970s, they now lay claim to over half, according to a report from economist Emmanuel Saez."


Or, check out this link about how many months a typical employee must work to earn what the CEO of  his or her corporation makes in a single hour.

President Obama and Pope Francis have drawn attention to this financial imbalance that threatens the future of billions on this planet.

Unions are hardly the reason for this worldwide problem.

Republicans, except for Teddy Roosevelt, have long sided with corporations as they illegally crush competition, evade most taxes and send American jobs overseas. For decades, Republicans have extended the middle finger to the working class in this country. Bend's daily newspaper editor merely flipped off a good chunk of his readership with both hands.

By the way, I've never belonged to a union or worked in the public sector.

Friday, December 6, 2013

In praise of Nelson Mandela

He fought the power and won
As a white-bred American, I knew little of the world and the problems that existed outside our borders or even within our borders.

But then, after a bit or reading and watching the news, I picked up a few things.

I remember the time in the 1980s when the economic boycott against South Africa was the topic of the day.

I supported whatever boycotts the world deemed appropriate against the racist government of South Africa.

Naturally, many white Americans, including President Reagan and the editor of the local daily newspaper, railed against these sanctions as counter-productive.

But, guess what? The boycotts were so effective that they ushered in the end of apartheid in South Africa.

So much for the thinking of old white men in America.

They were totally wrong. And, I'm being kind here.

The hero of all this was Nelson Mandela.

Reagan and his acolytes dismissed Mandela as a terrorist because he fought for freedom for black South Africans.

Well, Reagan was a racist as were all those who opposed the economic boycott of the racist South African government.

Mandela, who became South Africa's first real president after serving 27 years in prison, had more credibility, heart and soul, than any of his predecessors or any pro-apartheid American, including Reagan.

Mandela was one of the great figures the world has ever known.

He was for reconciliation before anyone knew what the process meant.

Mandela, the founding father of the modern South Africa, proved to be an inspiration to not only South Africans, but also to freedom-loving people everywhere.

He was one of the greatest men who ever lived.

He is missed already.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Let developers, PacifiCorp dredge Mirror Pond


If prominent local developers Bill Smith and Todd Taylor want to own the land under Mirror Pond, then let them be responsible for the occasional dredging of Bend's iconic pond.

Without PacifiCorp's hydro facility at the north end of the pond, we wouldn't have this sediment problem. Of course, we also wouldn't have one of the more scenic urban settings in the Northwest.

With the small hydro facility at the end of its 100-year life span, PacifiCorp wants to dump the dam and its costly removal onto the lap of Bend's taxpayers.

Nevermind that PacifiCorp has made millions over the decades from  the electricity generated at Mirror Pond. For a corporation, it's never enough.

If PacifiCorp can dupe the city of Bend and the park district into paying millions for the removal of the dam, it'll laugh all the way to the bank.

Corporations are adept at saddling taxpayers with the cost of the problems they create. It's part of their business plans.

We won't hear this from the local press.

The media have always done the bidding of corporations (so much for left-wing bias) because they know how their bread is buttered.

It's likely that most Bend residents would like to see Mirror Pond kept as it is rather than as a free-flowing river with less curb appeal.

Unfortunately, all of Bend's property taxpayers would be saddled with the enormous bill for something that primarily benefits Bend's west side.

Bend's northside, southside and eastside residents should realize that if they agree to subsidize Bend's west side livability, it means there will be little money left to improve livability in their neck of the woods. In fact, there will be no money for any other projects in Bend.

Ironically, we wouldn't have this discussion at all if Bend's developers had succeeded in building homes on the banks of Mirror Pond as they originally intended to do.

It was Bend's women who fought to preserve the area in 1921 that became Drake Park and, today, is synonymous with the city itself.

Now, nearly 100 years later, we have developers trying to preserve the Mirror Pond/Drake Park experience.

No one is stopping developers or PacifiCorp from dredging the river, removing the dam or maintaining the status quo.

But, they want Bend's property taxpayers to pay the freight.

Well, put up the money yourselves or shut up.

Friday, November 22, 2013

It's about time

Finally, the Democrats demonstrated some guts and altered the Senate filibuster rules to get something accomplished in this government.

For decades, congressional Democrats have caved to Republican demands even when the Dems had the clear majority. 

The result is a federal judiciary that is out of step with our nation that wants the government out of the bedroom and women's wombs, and corporate millions out of politics.

Federal judges, appointed by Republican presidents, have sanctioned the GOP's war on women and workers.

The only governing principle that Republicans have today is stopping anything President Obama proposes and anyone he nominates or appoints.

Americans are tired of this and want some change.

Thanks to Oregon's Democratic Sen. Jeff Merkley, who led the charge to change the filibuster rules, we  have a chance to restore some balance to the federal judiciary.

The is much whining from Republican lawmakers, but they're actually thrilled that the Democrats ended this filibuster tactic because they assume they'll be able to ram arch-conservative judges through to the federal bench after the 2016 election.

Well, good luck with that.

Good job, Democratic senators. It's great you showed some spine, finally.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

The Walmart problem

Walmart's compassionate side
Ray's Food Place in Bend and Redmond will go out of business soon as its parent companies closes a quarter of its markets.

In total, about 500 will lose their jobs.

And, in no surprise, competition from Walmart gets the blame from Ray's owners.

Walmart has a superstore on Redmond's north end, which appeals to shoppers from the Hub city along with Madras and Prineville.

On Bend's south end, Walmart supersized its store there this year and will soon put Albertsons, directly across the street, out of business in a few months, resulting in more job losses.

Albertsons has been so desperate to attract shoppers to its southside Bend store that it's been running $10-off coupons in the local daily.

I shopped at Albertsons on a recent Sunday when the coupon was in the paper. Sadly, there were only a handful of shoppers in the store on what otherwise would be a busy shopping day.

It's no surprise that Ray's went out of business in Bend because it was right across the street from a giant Safeway store.

Still, the Walmart factor looms large over all retail in Central Oregon.

 Consumer Reports' surveys show that of all the major supermarket chains, Walmart has the worst produce and service.

Its known that Walmart treats its workers, called "associates," so poorly that it allows its own stores to put up food bins to collect food for Walmart employees for the holidays.

Since Walmart will be open on Thanksgiving day, their workers won't be able to enjoy the holiday anyway.

Walmart: a job-killing corporation with a happy face.

Progress.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

A thin mint for Chris Christie?

Does this doom Christie's chances for president?
Since there is nothing much going in the world, aside from a catastrophic typhoon in the Philippines or Obamacare's struggles or the latest with Miley Cyrus, we're pretty much stuck with talking about the presidential election that's only three years away.

Of course, why stop there. 2020 is just around the corner.

Time magazine kicked things off well with a cover story on Gov. Chris Christie, after his easy re-election victory in the deep "blue" state of New Jersey, with the provocative title: "The Elephant in the Room."

The silhouette photo of Christie is more evocative of Alfred Hitchcock than it is of a presidential contender.

In most ways, Christie represents the classic conservative: He avoids the bully pulpit on social issues even though he toes the party and loves giving away the farm (public employee pensions) to corporations. 

And, nothing screams GOP like his double-double chin. As Austin Powers once quipped about Fat Bastard: "He's got more chins than a Chinese phone book."

Christie is also brash, crass, rude and arrogant. Those qualities endear him to voters in the Garden State and others in the northeast who share those same attributes.

But, his combative style doesn't seem to play well elsewhere, according to this poll.

One big reason why Christie doesn't poll well outside the northeast is because of his "bromance" with President Obama after Hurricane Sandy devastated parts of New Jersey just before the 2012 election.

Plus, Christie lauded President Obama's swift federal response to the disaster. Some GOPers believe Christie handed the election to Obama.

In light of the onetime Christie-Obama lovefest, it would be hard for Christie to win any GOP primary in the south where racism is synonymous with the Republican brand.

His "Soprano" style of politics also wouldn't carry the day in the Midwest.

And, there is the question of Christie's health.

Despite having surgery to reduce his rotund shape, Christie still looks like he's one step away from a fatal heart attack. Or, for fans of "Monty Python's The Meaning of Life," he could be one thin mint away from exploding like Mr. Creosote.

Christie's weight problem means that his running mate would be more important than Christie himself.

Does he pick a Rand Paul or Ted Cruz and soak up support from the teabaggers?

Would either of those two bring in enough independent voters to close the deal?

It would be odd for a vice presidential candidate be the de facto top of the ticket.

But, that's where we are in 2013, which means we are nowhere near seeing a legitimate Republican contender for the White House.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Who killed JFK?

     
After 50 years, it really doesn't matter who killed JFK, or why.

Yet, the assassination did have a profoundly negative effect on this country that lingers today.

Widespread distrust of the government may not have begun on Nov. 22, 1963, but the assassination became a watershed moment when many Americans felt they could no longer trust their government.

Vietnam, assassinations of RFK and MLK, and then Watergate further diluted whatever trust most Americans had, not only in their government but also in their society in general.

Most Americans have long believed that JFK was murdered by multiple gunmen. That doesn't make it true, but that is what most Americans believe.

And, with good reason.

From Mark Lane's "Rush to Judgment" through Josiah Thompson's "Six Seconds in Dallas," both published in the 1960s, through the House Select Committee on Assassinations of the 1970s, the American public concluded that the JFK assassination was a conspiracy of some sort.

They didn't need Oliver Stone's "JFK" film to convince them.

It was always a long-held belief by most Americans that more than one person shot Kennedy, because the assassination sounded fishy from the beginning.

The armchair analysts like to say that those who believe there was some sort of conspiracy just can't fathom the idea of a lone nut taking out the most powerful man in the world.

On the contrary, it is quite believable that one man, acting alone, can commit such a terrible crime. It's happened before and will happen again.

I do think Lee Harvey Oswald was involved in some fashion from his perch on the sixth floor of the Texas School Book Depository, but it's hard to believe he was the sole shooter in Dealey Plaza.

Here are a few facts that many Americans knew in the mid-1960s that led them to conclude something was wrong with the official Warren Commission account that Oswald acted alone:

1) Oswald was a U.S. Marine in the late 1950s. He was a low-end marksman, not a sharpshooter. He had top secret clearance in Japan and California as a radar specialist with knowledge of the U2 spy plane. A month after he gets an early discharge in 1959, during the height of the Cold War, he defects to the Soviet Union. Within a few months of his defection, Gary Powers' U2 spy plane is shot down. Oswald marries a Russian woman in the Soviet Union, but is disgruntled with his life there. He returns to the U.S. in 1962 with his wife, Marina, and their new daughter. He settles in Dallas, but then goes to New Orleans to become a one-man, pro-Castro protester. He also visited the Cuban and Soviet embassies in Mexico City.

You would think, given the era of the Cold War that gave us the Bay of Pigs fiasco and the Cuban Missile crisis, that a former Marine, who defects to the USSR then comes back to the U.S., would be under constant surveillance. We learned years later that the FBI destroyed its paperwork about tailing Oswald.

2) The Abraham Zapruder film clearly shows Kennedy's head being partially blown off by a shot from the right front of the vehicle, from the infamous "grassy knoll" and not from Oswald's perch in the book building behind the motorcade. Many witnesses, including bystanders, Dallas police officers, Gov. John Connally, who was seated in front of Kennedy and was wounded by the "magic bullet," and Secret Service Agent Clint Hill believed the fatal shot came from the grassy knoll.

Parts of JFK's skull and blood were blown to the left rear of the vehicle indicating a shot from the right front.

The Zapruder super-8mm film, above, is painful to watch, but seeing is believing. Kennedy's fatal shot came from the right front in frame 313.

3) On Nov. 24, Oswald is gunned down on live TV at the police station by Jack Ruby, a strip-joint operator with known connections to the Mob, as well as the Dallas police.

How convenient that the only suspect in the JFK assassination is silenced before anyone can get any information out of him. Naturally, the Dallas police never recorded, nor took notes, of Oswald's interrogations at the police headquarters. It's worth noting that Dallas, at that time, was ground zero for hatred of JFK. Here's another story providing more context for that hate.

Those facts alone would make even the casual observer question what the heck happened in Dallas in 1963. Those same questions persist in 2013.

And, there are plenty of other issues, from the magic bullet theory, where one bullet passed through Kennedy and Connally and is left in good condition, yet the bullet that blows half of Kennedy's skull off is scattered into bits. This suggest different types of bullets struck Kennedy meaning different guns were fired, by different men.

Or, the fact that Oswald, who clearly was a misfit and craved the limelight, would say to reporters that he was a "patsy." Why wouldn't he claim credit if he did it?

Or, the botched autopsy.

For more information than you could possibly imagine, check out this website, which contains multiple links to other websites.

And, here is a listing of TV programs slated to air in November.

All of the conspiracy theories out there, and there are almost too many to count, are no more crazy than the one dished up by the Warren Commission.

 But, that is the official version of events. Oswald acted alone.

I believe the Mob had Kennedy killed, but we'll never know the truth. Of all the murders in this country, the ones by the Mafia are the ones seldom, if ever, solved. I mean, who killed Jimmy Hoffa and where is he buried? Mobsters rarely talk about their killings.

The JFK assassination is now just a curiosity for history buffs. It's easier to believe Oswald did it alone than to imagine something far more sinister was at play.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Vote yes on room tax, but ...

Room taxes should be low at this joint
And, it's a big but.

By state law, no doubt written by the lodging lobby, 70 percent of the room tax collected in the state goes back to lodging industry so that it can promote itself.

Wouldn't it be great for all businesses if most of the taxes they pay are refunded back to them in some way?

Yes, but it would be lousy for the livability of this state.

Also, in this election, the other 30 percent would go to police and fire departments, no doubt to shore up their PERS accounts, and to the arts.

That's right, no money for road repair, which is the primary impact that tourists have on the region.

The two room tax measures on the ballot, one for Bend and one for Deschutes County would incrementally increase the daily room tax at motels and hotels.

In Bend, it would rise from 9 percent to 10 percent and then to 10.4 percent. In the county it would rise from 7 percent to 8 percent.

Naturally, the local motel and hotel operators are up in arms. They, and no one else, believe that tourists plan their vacations or trips around the amount of room tax they'll have to pay.

Talk about ignorance. The money collected benefits them.

Also, it shows what a shady industry the lodging business is when it needs the government to collect dues for its own promotional campaigns.

Of course, people are opposed to this modest increase in taxes the same way they are to incremental tax hikes to beer, alcohol, wine, cigarettes, etc.

In fact, by having lower taxes on vices in Oregon, it means that taxes on property and income continue to climb.

We have no sales tax so government funding will always be a problem in this state.

Anyway, it would be surprising to see these measure pass.

If they do, perhaps the tourism promotion entities will showcase our fine potholes. They're some of the best in the west.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

OSU-Pumice Pit ripoff deepens

A couple of news items this week point out the fact that OSU-Cascades (aka Pumice Pit), and Oregon taxpayers, are getting fleeced by the powers that be on Bend's west side.

Not only are taxpayers paying big bucks for junk land to build a four-year university in Bend, but we are overpaying for that privilege.

The daily newspaper reported that the pumice pit's real market value is $1.6 million, but OSU is willing take it for about just under $8 million. What a deal!

The other piece of land for the campus has a real market value of $2.9 million, but why pay so little if you can get it for just under $5 million. 

Wow, with deals like that, even Gomez Addams would be proud.

First off, no one else would buy the pumice pit, even for $1.6 million. That land is not suited for a storage shed, much less a college campus.

The folks who are pulling off this scam have another one in the works for the expansion of NorthWest Crossing, not too far from OSU-Pumice Pit.

West Bend Property is putting in a 32-acre park at the new addition of NorthWest Crossing. This land is also a former pumice mine. Obviously, this land is not suited for even one house.

And, the developers want the local park district taxpayers to subsidize this park by buying 12 acres of the land, at, most likely, well over real market value.

Look, even the good folks who own this land would never build anything on it, but want the park district to be liable for any small buildings it erects there.

Afterall, taxpayers are stuck with nearby Summit High School, whose ball fields were built on the same pumice mine and we had to shell out an additional $7 million to fix.

So, if we can connect the dots, here they are:

1) Developers are unable to build on land that was a pumice mine.

2) Developers sell pumice land, at grossly inflated prices, to the local school district, park district and OSU so that they'll build on this unbuildable land.

3) Taxpayers can look forward to years of spending millions correcting problems to structures built on a pumice mine.

4) Developers will gladly fix these problems, at prevailing rates, of course.

Ironically, these same folks who constantly complain about government spending on the poor, are doing their best to make sure that government millions are wasted on them.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

The times they are a-teabagging

As we enter this stupid space between default and "kicking the (debt) can down the road,"
the U.S. has demonstrated to the world that we let a few, crazy elected people hold our country, and the world, hostage.

No one knows, outside the Tea Party cranks, why they are willing to blow up the world economy.

They say they want to defund Obamacare. Of course, they lost that fight long ago.

But, if they want to get rid of the tax on medical devices, the individual mandate, and the "belly button" tax on most insurance plans, then go ahead.

That's classic Republicanism: don't ask Americans to pay for anything because all taxes are evil.

At the same time, these hypocrites claim that our mega-trillion national debt is the greatest threat in the history of the world when what they're proposing would radically accelerate that debt.

And, they can't pin all of this debt on President Obama.

According to Forbes, the smallest government spender since President Eisenhower is, in fact, President Obama. 

Of course, teabaggers live in a fact-free world.

They believe that most Americans are solidly behind them in their fight to defund Obamacare. Well, the real polls show the exact opposite. 

Again, no need for Teapublicans to face reality.

There is always Fox News to tell them how great they are.

Since all of this is going so well for teabaggers, they're renewing their push to impeach President Obama.

And, if that fails, there is always, secession.

Without The Daily Show or The Colbert Report on this week, we're left with the "comedy" of Teapublicans.

Don't about a buzz-kill.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Republicans: Political terrorists

On one hand, Republican lawmakers have history on their side in pushing the nation to the brink.

Two years ago, President Obama caved to GOP extortion over the debt ceiling and Republicans just assume he'll do so again.

On the other hand, President Obama warned Republicans that this was no way to govern this country and he wouldn't buckle again despite having a gun aimed at his head by Republicans.

Well, let's hope he doesn't cave.

Republicans failed to block the Affordable Care Act when it was passed and have failed dozens of times to repeal it since.

So, they would rather see the government stop functioning while letting the country default on its massive debt than see "Obamacare" succeed.

This is political terrorism, pure and simple.

Since Republicans do not hold the most power in Washington, they must compromise to govern at all.

But, with the Tea Party tail wagging the GOP dog, compromise, to them, is the dirtiest word in the English language.

So, when the weak don't have the power and do not want to work with the other side to forge common ground, they resort to hostage-taking.

The only policy that Republicans advance to do anything, from waging war to educating our students, is to cut taxes.

Well, thanks to this policy, which the Democrats have joined at times, we have a ridiculous national debt.

Of course, waging war while simultaneously cutting taxes, was not only counter-intuitive but also as destructive to our economic well-being as any war in this country could be.

If the Republicans want to rattle the world economy more than they did with the financial collapse of 2008, well, let them.

It worked so well for them.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

University of Oregon almost a private school

Iconic logo will soon signify zero state support for UO
Word out of Eugene is that the state will only pay about 5 percent of the total cost to run the oldest "public" university in the state.

That 5 percent state funding is down from around 70 percent from 30 years ago.

So, in order to make up the difference, UO, like most colleges around the country, raises tuition and fees on an annual basis.

Oh, and Oregon accepts almost as many out-of-state students as in-state students because their tuition is about four times as much.

Like most states, Oregon has been in the grip of the "trickle-down" economics of the last 30-plus years, which says low taxes mean more opportunities for all.

Well, we know for sure that there are less opportunities for in-state students to attend one of its "public" universities after all that trickling down.

That is one of the goals of modern American economics: Reduce opportunities for the less fortunate while increasing them for the uber-rich.

It's essentially the opposite of what occurred in the 1950s, when high tax rates funded a society with far greater access to a college education than today. Okay, at least for poorer white folks.

Today, we have a national obsession with never-ending "education reform" so that our students can compete better in the new global economy.

So, naturally, cut funding annually for education and demand better results.

Hmmm. How come that rationale doesn't pertain to the military-industrial complex?

Speaking of spending, the state legislature today voted to slash the retirement accounts of public employees while also passing a tax "hike" that includes more tax cuts than increases.

At this rate, state funding for higher education should hit 0 percent in a couple of years.

Freedom.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Anti-government GOP gets its wish

The look of a loser
Apparently, 26 percent of Americans love that Republicans are shutting down the government over Obamacare.

The Teapublican wing of the GOP believes 26 percent is a mandate. Even House Speaker John Boehner claims this is what most Americans want.

Okay, another simple math lesson is warranted here. About one-quarter of Americans are tossing their teabags over this.

That leaves 74 percent of Americans who don't think its a great idea that Banana Republicans can shut the government down.

And over what?

 Making health care available to all Americans, with no insurance ban for pre-existing conditions or a cap on care?

Really?

This is the best ya got, Teapublicans?

You would think that Republicans would love to see the Affordable Care Act fail, but they don't want to even give it a chance to falter.

Obviously, they must fear that Obamacare will succeed and don't want it to.

Anyway, I predict that tomorrow, when the health exchanges go live around the country and as the government fails to govern, the sun will still rise, even if it's cloudy outside.

McDonalds will open for business, as will Walmart.

School will be in session at all levels and in every state.

Of course, as the federal government shuts down, the GOP will claim victory by throwing the baby out with the bath water.

Winning?!

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

A few tears for Sears employees

Another brand bites the dust
The Bend Sears store will close later this fall, just in time for Christmas for its 48 employees.

It's no surprise that this Sears outlet is going the way of others across the country.

It's a "brilliant" corporate strategy to downsize in a bad economy. Since 2010, Sears has closed more than half of its stores.

Hedge fund manager Eddie Lampert gets much of the blame for Sears' downfall when he merged it with Kmart in 2005.

Of course, Bend previously lost its Kmart store before the merger.

In many ways, these closures are symptoms of the changing retail business, particularly for department stores.

There is much more competition for appliances, tools and clothing that Sears sells.

The Bend-Redmond area has Kohls, Macys, Target, two Fred Meyers, two Home Depots, two Lowes and two super Walmarts. It also has a JC Penney, Standard appliances, a few Bi-Marts, and Harbor Freight Tools.

This region is a tad oversubscribed in retail, which has been the area's problem for more than 30 years or when Sears opened at the Bend River Mall in 1980. In fact, the Wall Street Journal once described Bend as the most over-retailed city in America.

It still is.

But, the reclusive Lampert, who became a billionaire by age 41 and was once considered the "Steve Jobs of the investment world," gets exposed in this piece on Salon.com.

It seems that Lampert is a devotee of Ayn Rand and her long-discredited philosophy of "objectivism," which can be called the "me-first-and-the-hell-with-you" doctrine. Rand's economic views have ruled America since the Reagan years and it's one of the main reasons we're a debtor nation with high unemployment.

Lampert is a poster child for this brand of economics. He gambled big on Wall Street and won. Therefore, he viewed his "accomplishments" as proof  that his contributions to this world are greater than almost everyone else's. Easy money does that to some folks.

He would hand out copies of Rand's "Atlas Shrugged" at board meetings. (Note to workers: If your boss does this, it's time to look for another job.)

Lampert would consider himself a job creator, but his track record says the exact opposite.

At the rate he's going, Lampert should be able to kill off Sears, and all those jobs, in a couple more years.

For a different take on the claim that the rich are the only real "job creators" out there, check out what this billionaire has to say on a TED talk that got banned from TED, because, presumably, it counters the myth that tax cuts create wealth which creates jobs.

Freedom.

Monday, September 23, 2013

OSU Pumice Pit moving downward

Pumice, like Swiss cheese, is full of holes
Well, the state gave its approval Friday for the Oregon State University branch campus in Bend to build its new campus on a pumice pit.

For roughly $13 million, taxpayers get a huge hole in the ground on Bend's west side that they have to spend another $8 million to fill with dirt, plus cleanup, to make it even buildable.

Again, only a fool, or a government entity, would ever buy such land.

Oh, as the daily newspaper duly noted, the state education panel that approved the purchase is chaired by a man with a 50 percent stake in one of the property companies involved in the sale.

To keep it all above board, Kirk Schueler recused himself from the vote, but amazingly, the rest of the board members voted unanimously to line the pockets of their chairman with taxpayer dollars.

It's obvious that the fix was in to build OSU Pumice Pit on Bend's west side because those who gave about $2 million in private fund-raising for the effort likely stipulated that the campus had to be on Bend's west side, even though there is more than enough near-free land set aside on Bend's north side at Juniper Ridge for just such a campus.

But, OSU Cascades Vice President Becky Johnson said that it was important for students to get the real feel of Bend by being so close to downtown Bend.

What she's really saying is that those in Bend who do not live on the west side, don't fully experience the real Bend.

Now, Johnson may be real smart, but she does know how to insult friends and alienate others.

Of course, there are a number of brewpubs near the future OSU Pumice Pit and since college students, especially under-drinking age college teens, love to drink beer, it's essential they have access to some mighty fine brews. Just wait until marijuana is legalized.

But, future OSU Pumice Pit students will get to experience almost all of Bend since there are no apartments or any affordable housing on Bend's west side where students could live. And, the 56-acre site is too small to include much student housing.

This means students will have to live on the east side of Bend, where there are numerous apartment complexes and other affordable housing, and commute across town to OSU Pumice Pit.

This is just fine for the westsiders, because they don't really want drunken students and their loud parties on their side of town.

When Central Oregon Community College, also on Bend's west side, decided to build some housing for students, there was an uproar from the neighbors.

In this sense, west-side Bendites represent the Oregon ethos: You can commute all you want, just don't move to the west side of town.

Of course, the city, which had wanted to attract a "world-class research university" to Juniper Ridge, may get its say on the proposed OSU Pumice Pit.

What mitigation will be demanded of OSU Pumice Pit for its impact on roads, which are already overcrowded in the area, or on the sewer system, which is already failing? Or on water? Or on storm drains?

Will the city adopt a public facility strategy for the first time ever?

Let's hope the city can school the collegians about land use.

But, considering how westsiders have won so far, it's apparent that city planners will gladly Bend over and grab their ankles.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Enriching the rich

News out of The Dalles, Ore., is that Google, the internet search behemoth and eyeglass entrepreneur of driverless cars, wants to expand its data centers in this near-treeless Columbia River town.

Naturally, a company scraping by, with its stock price selling for a mere $900 per share, needs a tax break to expand.

Of course, the city, the county and the state said, in unison, hallelujah.

For $7 million a year in tax breaks, Google will promise 10 new jobs.

Hopefully, Google will pay them enough so that they won't need food stamps to put food on the table.

The Republican-controlled House of Representatives just voted to gut the food-stamp program by $40 billion over a decade.

Meanwhile, the richest Americans are the main ones benefiting from the recovery.

Freedom.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Form LID for Galveston St. improvements

With all the infrastructure problems in Bend, from overflowing sewers to crumbling streets, the last thing the city needs to do is beautify one little stretch of Galveston Avenue on Bend's west side.

Yes, the west side of Bend is special. It deserves more than the east, south or north sides of Bend.

Why?

Well, that's what the city believes, so it must be.

The first section of rebuilt Reed Market opened recently and you won't find any of that gentrification you see in the plans for Galveston.

In the years of planning for Reed Market, citizens gave their input and wanted what the city built on Mt. Washington on Bend's west side.

Oh yes, city engineers said, we'll do that.

Well, there is no landscaping, no promised roundabouts, particularly at Fargo Lane, and no answers as to why not.

It appears the city wants to go as cheap as possible on Reed Market so that it can free up some of that $30 million bond money to use on the west side for beautification.

Make no mistake, there is no urgency to doing anything to Galveston by the city.

There are far more urgent public safety issues like putting in roundabouts at deadly intersection like Wilson and 15th or Bear Creek and Pettigrew.

Or, the city could fix the potholes throughout the city before bad weather delays fixing these same potholes for another year.

If the Galveston businesses want to fix their stretch of the street that will profit them and real estate agents, then form a "local improvement district" and pay for it yourselves.

Do not expect the rest of the city's taxpayers to pay for your makeover.

Of course, the west side businesses will win again, but then they'll want their cake and eat it too.

When the city closed a key intersection on Galveston to make road improvements to benefit the west side, these Galveston businesses whined and whined until the city caved and reopened the road.

What will happen when the beautification project on Galveston begins?

How can the city remake the street without affecting any businesses for any period of time?

I can hear the whining now.

Friday, September 13, 2013

OSU-Cascades to rebrand as OSU-Pumice Pit

What a location for a 4-year university
Just when we thought it couldn't get worse with the siting of the future campus of OSU-Cascades, it does.

The "brain trust" at OSU-Cascades chose a former pumice mine, that is now an open pit, as the future bucolic location for a branch campus of Oregon State University.

For those who like to look down on higher education, you'll get your chance with OSU-Pumice Pit.

And, the cost for buying a pumice pit plus some other parcels?  About $13 million.

Gee, talk about throwing your public money down the drain, or a pit.

The pumice pit is essentially worthless land. No other entity, other than government, would ever pay a dime for such a pit.

And, the only place where the meager 56-acre campus could grow is north where a former dump still smolders and sinks. In other words, more worthless land.

It just goes to show how much has changed since Central Oregon Community College came into being on the west side of Awbrey Butte in the early 1960s.

Then, COCC President Don Pence worked with developer R.L. Coats to donate about a 100 acres of prime real estate for the good of the community then and for future generations. It's where OSU-Cascades currently resides on nearly 150 acres.

Today, the former pumice pit owners are only concerned about how much money they can extract from the public coffers. It's not about what's good for the greatest number, it's all about what's good for the private entities' bottom line.

This is indicative of what's wrong with this country. Let's rip off taxpayers!

How pathetic.

Meanwhile, the city of Bend spent millions developing Juniper Ridge on Bend's north end with the hopes of attracting a "world class" research university.

Well, OSU-Cascades would rather spend millions on a pumice pit than millions on infrastructure at Juniper Ridge where the land would've almost been given to the future branch campus.

Obviously, with a decision as bad as this, it doesn't seem that a degree from OSU-Cascades is worth the paper it's written on.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Why Russia cares about Syria

Vlad 'the Mad' Putin
Other than having someone to buy their military hardware so they can act as a regional counterweight to America's support for Israel, Russia actually fears further chaos in the Middle East.

And, for good reason.

Next February, the Winter Olympics begin in a place called Sochi, a Russian "resort" town, about 1,120 miles from Damascus.

Not to mention that the Boston bombers hail from the troubled North Caucasus region, which is just a hop, skip and a jump from Sochi.

That whole area is ready to explode in ethnic violence.

Think of Sochi as the next possible Sarajevo, where an assassination in 1914 led to World War I, the rise of communism and, ultimately, World War II and the Cold War, which included the Korean and Vietnam wars.

Or, Sochi could become the Sarajevo where the 1984 Winter Olympics were held. What followed was the Balkan civil war complete with genocide that later led to NATO's involvement in Bosnia and Kosovo.

Okay, option two is a tad better than option one.

Should the U.S. stir up the hornet's nest in Syria, there is no telling who will end up with the chemical weapons if Syria does not give them all over to the U.N.

If, in all the confusion from a U.S. attack, Islamic jihadists get some of Syria's chemical weapons, you can be sure they'll try to use them in Sochi.

Islamic extremists hate Russia as much as they do the U.S.

With a large U.S. Winter Olympic team competing in Sochi, the jihadists can kill two birds with one stone. Or, more likely, kill or injure thousands of athletes and spectators from the U.S., Russia and a hundred other nations.

It should be noted that few athletes from Islamic countries compete in the Summer Olympics. Even fewer qualify for the Winter Olympics.

So, the Islamic terrorists wouldn't be killing that many fellow Muslims.

The other problem, for all who descend upon Sochi, is the Russian response to any attempt to disrupt the games.

As we've seen recently in Moscow and Beslan, the Russians don't care if they kill a thousand innocent people as long as they kill a handful of terrorists.

So, it is a bit ironic that Russian President Putin, a thug of a man, comes across as a peacemaker when he would rather shoot first and ask questions later.

In any event, it's not going to end well, if it ends at all.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

9/11 means nothing to GOP politicians

Twelve years is a complete cycle in the Chinese zodiac calendar.

In 2001, it was the year of the snake, as it is now.

And snakes have emerged on the Republican side by using this 12th solemn anniversary of one of the worst days in American history to hammer President Obama.

To Republicans, what happened last year in Benghazi, Libya, is far worse than what happened on Sept. 11, 2001, in the homeland.

This is how divorced from reality the GOP has become.

It's another reminder of the sleaze that permeates the GOP brand.

But, there's more.

The Oregonian reports that state Rep. Jason Conger, R-Bend, got a most of his money from a hedge-fund manager who recently got arrested in a prostitution sting.

Conger, naturally, doesn't think it will have an impact on his potential U.S. Senate run.

Well, something similar had no impact on state Sen. Tim Knopp, R-Bend, when he won his most recent race in 2012. Knopp's big campaign donor was Loren Parks, a Nevada millionaire who promotes his sex tips on the internet.

Of course, the irony is that both Knopp and Conger consider themselves holier than thou, but have no problem accepting big bucks from sleazy millionaires. Yes, typical Republican hypocrisy.

That's to be expected in the year of snake or the rat or the goat or dragon or pig ...

Friday, September 6, 2013

Hummel for DA; Conger for conga line

It was welcome news this week when John Hummel announced his candidacy for Deschutes County District Attorney.

Hummel, a lawyer with international experience in conflict resolution, was one of the best city councilors of the last 25 years. He would make a great D.A.

Of course, anyone would be a definite improvement over our current D.A., Patrick Flaherty.

Some D.A.s like to be in the public eye. Flaherty took that to a whole new level, when he defeated longtime D.A. Mike Dugan and became the news.

Instead of fighting crime, Flaherty fought with his staff, which led to lawsuits.

The state recently settled those lawsuits, but it did cost more than $700,000.

Obviously, Flaherty does not have the temperament to be district attorney.

Hummel definitely does.

Meanwhile, local state Rep. Jason Conger wants to jump to the big leagues and become one of Oregon's senators in Washington.

The chances of that happening are slim.

First off, no Republican in Oregon has won a statewide race since Gordon Smith won re-election to the Senate in 2002. That was the best showing by an Oregon Republican in the last 30 years.

Second, Conger is opposed to women's reproductive rights. His kids are home-schooled, yet he claims he's pro-public education. He is merely another anti-government Republican who wants to live off the government dime.

He has no interest in working with Democrats to reach consensus.

He'd rather serve anti-tax guru Grover Norquist than the people of Oregon.

Current Democratic Sen. Jeff Merkley should coast to re-election given the likes of Conger as a possible opponent.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

End times near?

Armageddon coming or just another war?
I forgot to mention in my previous post on Syria that all these troubles in the Middle East play right into the hands of the loony Armageddon army of biblical "scholars."

Here's a link to a story on how excited some of the "end times" prophets are about the Syrian civil war and the possibilities of a wider conflict.

Some Republican congressmen will be basing their decisions on whether or not the U.S. should bomb Syria by referencing the New Testament's Book of Revelation.

Seriously.

Here's a graph from the story:

"In Isaiah 17, the prophet explains that, in the run-up to Armageddon, 'Damascus is about to be removed from being a city, and will become a fallen ruin.' The implication is that it will be leveled by God on behalf of Israel as part of the last great struggle for mankind."

Really?

If that is so, it's "shocking" that World Net Daily, the venerable website of Christian kookiness and anti-President Obama hysteria, is absolutely giddy that most Americans do not want to get involved in Syria. However, Armageddon is supposed to bring about the second coming of Christ, which WND fully supports.

The reason why most Americans don't want to bomb Syria is because we remember Iraq and Afghanistan, two failed open-ended wars. We also have Middle East fatigue and wish it would all just go away. And, there are the racists out there who are against anything President Obama is for.

What's more informative about the conflict in Syria is the depletion of the Tigris-Euphrates basin aquifer coupled with drought brought about by climate change.

This story makes the connection between the civil war in Syria and drought in the region.

Of course, such rational discussions involve science which don't play well with the "end times" crowd.

But, it's a sign of things to come, there and here.

And, to think that the Book of Revelation didn't even mention it. Actually, it probably does, depending on how you read it.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Stuck on Syria

As deaths pile up, do Americans care?
The problem with Syria, as with everything else in the Middle East, is that America will be damned if we  do intervene in the Syrian civil war and damned if we don't.

It's a classic no-win situation.

Similarly, right-wingnuts and neo-cons routinely rip President Obama for being a "dictator."

These same fools are now apoplectic that the president has asked Congress for approval to at least bomb Syria from distant ships.

If our bombing leads to the overthrow of Syria's Assad, the rebels will rejoice and then either attack the U.S. or Israel.

If Assad survives and crushes the rebellion, he will rejoice and then attack either Israel or the U.S.

And, if Congress votes against any action, despite what the U.N. report says on the use of chemical weapons in Syria, Iran will feel free to develop a nuclear bomb and threaten Israel and the U.S.

Should President Obama go ahead and authorize the long-distance bombing of Syria, the Republicans will then trot out their impeachment gambit. (Hardline GOPers would rather see children die in gas attacks then see Obama succeed.)

Again, the worst kind of a lose-lose-lose-lose proposition.

Of course, it would be easy to blame all this on George W. Bush for invading Iraq for a totally bogus reason. No wonder no one in the world would believe any U.S. president when he makes another claim of weapons of mass destruction against a Middle East dictator.

But, the truth is, the problems in the Middle East will never be solved by this country or Russia or France or Britain.

Or anyone.

Arabs are united in one thing: their hatred for the state of Israel.

Israelis are mostly united in fearing all Arab nations, be they dictatorships or monarchies; or Sunni or Shia.

Nothing we do in this country will ever change these dynamics.

The only thing we can try to do is prevent Middle East Islamic countries from developing and using weapons of mass destruction.

But, if history is any guide, that effort will fail.

The only thing we can do is wait.

Wait for a clear attack against either the U.S. or Israel before engaging in any conflict there.

Cable/TV news stations won't like this, because they like war. It's good for ratings. (Only when Iraq and Afghanistan coverage failed to sustain any kind of ratings, did cable/TV news outlets question the wisdom of continuing those conflicts)

The right-wingnuts and neo-cons will both love and hate waiting. They love to project American power, particularly in defense of Israel, through war. Waiting also give these folks much more time to attack President Obama.

These nutcases will hate the fact that most Americans will be glad that President Obama waits.

He is a leader. His critics are not.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Some late summer light reading

As summer recess comes to an end across the land, it's time to take a look at what passes for news when the first string is on vacation.

Since I don't want much television news, and certainly not cable news, I was unaware that in some Republican circles, the impeachment of President Obama is near at hand.

Really?

Well, apparently, there is even an "impeachment store" where you can get all your bumper stickers and other stuff to show everyone that you're a complete idiot.

On a more serious note, it appears that when Congress reconvenes in September, Republicans would rather see the country default on its debt than fund the Affordable Care Act, also known as "Obamacare."

Meanwhile, there is an Astroturf movement afoot to fight next year's implementation of "Obamacare" by staging protests where young teabaggers burn their fake "Obamacare cards."

As the article notes, Stephen Colbert cautions these folks not to burn themselves because they don't have health insurance.

What's really bad about these last few weeks of summer is that Colbert is on vacation. How dare him!

A Washington Post columnist tries to understand why the hatred of President Obama is so strong that more people in Louisiana blame Obama for the poor response to Hurricane Katrina in 2005 than the man who was president, George W. Bush.

Leave it to The Onion, though, to put it all into perspective.

The headlines alone say it all:

"Study: Americans Enjoy Watching TV, Eating."

And my favorite headline of the summer:

"Washington's Hobby Lobby Lobbies to Strengthen Hobbies."

Read on, it's a crazy feeling.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

'The Butler' serves up civil rights struggle

Saw "Lee Daniels' The Butler" on Saturday, the same day that the 1963 March on Washington was commemorated in D.C.

That coincidence is fitting since the film is less about "The Butler," who served eight white presidents and is played well by Forest Whitaker, and more about the civil rights struggle in this country.

Surprisingly, for the second week in a row, "The Butler" was No. 1 at the box office.

Of course, the title of the movie is enough to keep many people away, but the filmmakers' claim they did this at the last minute because of legal issues surrounding another film called "The Butler," which was a silent film from 1916. 

But, that's a side issue to what "The Butler" means in America today.

Are we living in a post-racial era with a bi-racial president?

Not really.

Many comments about the film on the IMDB and Rotten Tomatoes websites reveal that, sadly, we still live in a racist time. Obviously, the film was a tad uncomfortable for these folks.

The Trayvon Martin case is still an open wound for many, including me, who believe that justice was not served.

Yes, there have been a couple of recent high-profile attacks of blacks on whites, but the big difference is this: The black perpetrators will serve prison time.

For anyone who lived through the civil rights' strife of the 1960s, "The Butler" covers familiar ground in showing attacks on Freedom Riders, lunch-counter sitters and others doing nothing more than marching peacefully for racial justice.

What's not so familiar is seeing these struggles through the eyes of those who suffered unspeakable crimes against their dignity.

Whitaker's butler had one of the more difficult jobs in America.

He had to be the "house nigger," as noted in the film, by subverting all his anger, and dignity, so that he could provide for his family.

That anger comes out in his oldest son who embraces the civil rights' struggle, complete with repeated jailings, to the consternation of his parents.

One of the great segments in the movie is when President Reagan is the first president to equalize pay between the black and white help at the White House, and when Nancy Reagan invites the butler and his wife to a state dinner for the first time.

Of course, as the film notes, Reagan was no friend of African-Americans. He opposed sanctions against South Africa and is shown admitting to the butler that he might be on the wrong side of history.

Uh, yeah.

In a moment that should touch many whites, as well as most African-Americans, the butler embraces his wayward son near the end of the film for teaching him what really matters in life.

The fault of the movie is trying to compress all the horrors African-Americans have endured, from slavery (in this case, a southern cotton plantation in the 1920s) to the present day, in a two-hour, 10-minute movie.

It's a bit of a reach.

But, African-American filmmakers don't have that many opportunities to get their history told properly.

When they get that chance, they have to milk it for all it's worth because they don't know when the chance to do so will ever come again.

The white screenwriter, Danny Strong, credits last summer's success of "The Help" for paving the way for "The Butler" to be made and released. Having Oprah Winfrey in the cast helped a bit, too.

With the early success of "The Butler," it's fair to say we should see other thoughtful, even humorous, depictions of the civil rights era in the future. (By the way, there is some levity, even hilarity, in "The Butler.")

We can only hope so.

The racial divide in this country can only be crossed by facing the truth about our current racism, whether we like it or not.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Moda Center a ripoff of taxpayers, health-care policyholders

$40 million in Moda Health insurance premiums now pay
for renaming the Rose Garden, not health care
 
During all the recent chatter about Phil Knight's $68 million football operations palace at the University of Oregon, something far more sinister occurred.

Moda Health, formerly ODS, agreed to pay for naming rights to the Rose Garden arena in Portland for 10 years. It'll have that new "iconic" name of Moda Center.

Here's a link to The Oregonian story that includes some choice comments from readers.

Moda Health's main policyholders are public employees.

The Rose Garden is owned by Paul Allen, a billionaire who helped create Microsoft.

Public employees' health benefits are largely paid for by taxpayers.

Well, taxpayers are now giving the billionaire Allen $40 million over 10 years.

Yes, we always hear from the media how "entitlements" like Social Security and Medicare are bankrupting our country.

What's really bankrupting our country is giving millions to billionaires each and every year.

The ultra-rich know how to shoot up with government money better than any junkie does heroin.

Getting it from a largely taxpayer-funded health insurance company is what really rankles.

Many public employees get about $1,000 a month in health insurance from their agency, fire department or school district. That doesn't even cover dental or vision, which the public employee, at least a teacher, has to pay out of pocket.

For that $1,000 per month, a public employee gets about the same coverage as an individual paying $500 a month.

As in the private sector, the price that a public employee has to pay for health insurance escalates each year while the coverage plummets.

Since most Oregon school districts can no longer bargain for cheaper health insurance policies, the rich see a steady source of money to tap into each year.

Moda Health obviously has too much money on its hands from gouging public workers, while, at the same time, denying coverage.

It's classic health insurance in this country.

With millions going to executives of health insurance companies and to billionaires like Paul Allen, there is far less money to lower premiums, pay for coverage or pay doctors.

This is what's really wrong with health care in this country.

We pay about five times more than other developed countries. For that largesse, we get worse outcomes.

Until this country adopts Medicare for all, and not the private Medicare Advantage, we will be a poorer nation and a more unhealthy one.

The new Moda Center is a now a monument to what's wrong with health care coverage in this country.

Oregon cheapest state to own a car

Hey, Buster, fill 'er up
To once again debunk the claim by Big Oil that forcing self-serve gas stations in Oregon would make it less expensive to fill up your car, here's another Bankrate.com study that shows the Beaver State is already the cheapest state in the land to own a car.

Our neighbors to the south and north, our second and 18th respectively.

Also, to further debunk the claim that Oregonians are taxed to death, Oregon's annual average cost for taxes and fees per vehicle is just $157, about 85 percent lower than the national average of $1,058, according to Bankrate.

So, to reiterate once again, we don't need self-serve gas stations in Oregon.

We're doing just fine, thank you.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Developer still on hook for roundabout funds

The Bridges' subdivision has done little to mitigate its impact on Bend
When the city of Bend passed its $30 million road bond last year, it was assumed that developer Dennis Pahlisch wouldn't have to pay anything toward the construction of the roundabout at 15th and Reed Market Road.

But, shockingly, the city said yes, Pahlisch still has to pay something.

Pahlisch is building a subdivision called The Bridges, which is located about a mile south of 15th/Reed Market, one of the busiest intersections in Bend.

In 2006, he agreed to pay $675,000 toward the construction of the roundabout that his subdivision would impact in a big way. Of course, he wouldn't have to pay anything until the 101st home was built.

Right now, he's built 79 homes, but wants to plat 47 more homes, which puts him over the 101-home threshold.

Pahlisch assumed that when he helped finance the campaign to pass the bond, he was off the hook for that $675,000.

The city, though, in a rare instance of asking a developer to pay something for the impact his development has on the city's infrastructure, wants Pahlisch to pay about $318,000.

City staff and the developer will bring this proposal to the city council next month.

Pahlisch claims he would rather pay for improvements to the city infrastructure rather than pay lawyers to fight the city. In other words, he likely would have lost in court.

That $318,000 would be paid over the next five to seven years, depending on how many homes get built.

In the agreement, the city must set aside this money for improvements to the 15th Street corridor between Reed Market and Knott Road, which is about a mile south of the Pahlisch subdivision.

Sounds reasonable, except that the city has no plans, and of course no money, to make any improvements to that segment of the road for at least 20 years.

In fact, the city recently chip-sealed the section of 15th from Reed Market to Pahlisch's subdivision even though this section of the road didn't really need it.

This work was completed just before the annual Tour of Homes, which featured homes in The Bridges.

Unfortunately, 15th St., from The Bridges to Knott Road, is crumbling to pieces, but the city can't say when, if ever, they'll repave that section.

A wag suggested that one way to control the speed in this 50 mph zone, which is faster than the Parkway in the center of town, is to let the roadway degrade to the point that it becomes a mile-long speed bump.

The point is that Pahlisch will pay nothing to improve the infrastructure of Bend that is outside his subdivision.

Pahlisch is planning on city residents to pass another road bond in five years that will completely free him of any financial obligation to the city in which he's amassed a fortune.

The Bridges' subdivision is in the southeast area of town where about 2,000 more homes are planned.

The developers, though, have learned their lesson from what happened on Bend's west side when developers there planned the 4,500-home NorthWest Crossing.

A hearings officer rejected the initial plan in west Bend because the roads there couldn't handle all the new traffic. (Naturally, the hearings officer lived on the west side when making that decision.)

The westside developers, though, formed a consortium to pay the upfront costs for a series of roundabouts and the southern-river crossing so that they could build their massive, mixed-use subdivision. Of course, the westside developers were reimbursed their investment with each new house built.

On the southeast side, though, no consortium was formed because developers there did not propose such a single, huge development.

No, they decided to build smaller subdivisions in phases so that a hearings officer couldn't reject their proposals because they were too small to trigger any dire infrastructure warnings.

Meanwhile, the roads in southeast Bend are crumbling to pieces, the sewer system is overflowing in other parts of the city and there is no storm-drainage system to handle the new high-density developments.

City staffers could enact a "public facilities strategy" for southeast Bend, but they are too fearful of developers to ever do such a thing.

So, what will happen is that Bend, which sells itself on its "livability," will become so unlivable that property taxpayers will be forced to pay for huge new sewer and road bonds.

The developers won't have to pay anything.

Afterall, developers don't really care about Bend, but rather how much they can profit from this city.