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?


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.


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

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.


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.


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.


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.


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."


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.