Friday, December 4, 2015

Bend fails again to clear streets of snow

Un-plowed and un-sanded intersection near my house on Dec. 3. 
Now that warmer weather has melted most of the snow, it's time to point out that Bend did a terrible job of clearing roads after last week's snow storm.

Yes, the forecast two days before Thanksgiving called for about 5 inches to 9 inches of snow.

In fact, we got between 12 inches and 18 inches of snow.

Okay, the city was shocked that there was more snow than predicted. That doesn't mean there is less snow to clear. It means they had better get their butts in gear and clear the streets.

Only the main roads were cleared, and not that well. The state did a better job than the city and they handled Highway 20 as it winds through the city.

Hardly saw many snowplows out, except in shopping center parking lots. This makes sense because the busiest shopping days of the year were last weekend.

But, I ventured forth on "Black Friday" to Costco. A relative went to Fred Meyer. There were hardly any shoppers at either place.

Of course, it was below 20 degrees out and that kept some shoppers away. Also, the national trend showed less spending on "Black Friday." Yet, it seems obvious in Bend that drivers couldn't get out of their neighborhoods due to un-plowed and un-sanded streets.  Retailers in town should sue the city.

A snowplow finally did our street today, almost a week and a half after the storm. Yesterday, it took a friend six tries just to get up the short hill to our house.

On Tuesday, a full week after the storm, the first sanding dump-truck came down our street. I went out to see what he put down on the road. It appeared there were a couple handful of cinders on the un-plowed snow, which didn't do any good. Other intersections in our neighborhood showed similar amounts of cinders. In fact, most intersections in town did not have enough sand or cinders for traction.

It's not surprising that the city can't plow the streets in a timely manner. Afterall, it can't even fix huge potholes for at least a year.

To add insult to injury, though, the city said that for the first time in years it would fine people and businesses for not clearing sidewalks that fronts their property.

Really. The city can't clear the streets of snow and expects citizens to shovel off their sidewalks or else?

How pathetic.

Clearly, Bend is a poorly-run town with a city manager way in over his head. The department of public works doesn't.

Obviously, the city didn't want to spend so much money clearing the roads so "early" in the season.

No, it wanted to save money to pay city staff to tell the public, "we did the best we could" or "we don't have that much money."

In this era of lower expectations, Bend delivers on that count.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Can this cancer be cured?

The latest carnage in Paris shows how difficult it is to contain the cancer of Islamic extremism.

We can cut out the tumor, by bombing Syria and Iraq, but the cancer then metastasizes wildly to places like north Africa and now Europe. And such a wide swath of land has been immune to the chemotherapy of reason.

Plus, for whatever success we're having bombing the terrorists, it proves to attract more converts to the cause. As if beheadings on YouTube weren't horrific enough, men and some women still flock to join ISIS/ISIL from around the world.

It's a terrible sickness that has engulfed the Middle East and beyond.

There doesn't seem to be a cure.

We had troops "on the ground" for more than a decade in Iraq and, instead of stabilizing the country, it destabilized the entire region and gave rise to ISIS.

More troops in Syria or Iraq is likely to destabilize Turkey, Jordan and others.

There are too many enemies, Kurds vs Iraqis and Syrians, Sunni (Saudi Arabia) vs Shia (Iran), to figure out who are the bad guys and who are the good guys. Throw in Russia's backing of Syria's Assad and we have the makings of a major regional war.

Should that happen, side conflicts will surely flare up elsewhere as either religious, ethnic or racial scores are settled while the world is distracted by the Middle East.

Meanwhile, Republicans want President Obama to stop ISIS now, even though they have no ideas how to do it. Strangely, these same folks were unconcerned when terrorists struck Madrid and London after our invasion of Iraq. Hey, it wasn't the U.S. that was attacked, they said then.

Plus, how does anyone think we can solve the problems in the Middle East when we can't even solve our decades-long gang violence in Chicago and other big cities. Also, we have about 12,000 killings per year from guns and about 18,000 suicides by guns. And, we have no political will to stem those annual numbers.

Republicans also want Obama to protect Christians in the region but not Muslims.

Great. That'll play well. What a bunch of idiots.

Until people of all stripes give up the hate, and there is no sign that they will, this cancer of terrorism will continue to eat away at the soul of the world.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Keeping up with the candidates

The Donald and the Kim: America's first couple
Actually, no.

There isn't much reason to be interested in the presidential race more than a year before the election.

The media, and I mean TV and to a much lesser extent radio, are hyping up the presidential race to absurd heights because they are the prime beneficiaries of the billions spent on attack ads and other advertising.

More than 90 percent of Americans, me included, couldn't be enticed to watch the debates so far.

Yet, all you hear about on the news is the drama, the back-biting, the name-calling.

Hey, if it works for the Kardashians, why not the candidates.

But, the poll leaders now will surely be last, when the electorate pays attention next year.

To the casual observer, it seems completely ridiculous that candidates like Donald Trump, Ben Carson, and Ted Cruz are the leading lights among Republicans.

Then again, it's perfectly understandable that incompetence is applauded by the Republican base because that is exactly what those who hate government prefer in their leaders.

The Republican-dominated House of Representatives can't get out of its own way to offer any legislation worthy of becoming law.

Republicans campaign on the premise that government is incompetent and then get elected to prove that premise.

And, when things start to falter, the fall-back position, the one that always works for its base of supporters, is to castigate the mainstream media.

Of course, I don't know why they would blame Fox News, the No. 1 cable news show or the arch-conservative Wall Street Journal, the largest daily newspaper in the nation.  But, they do.

Actually, when they say "mainstream," they mean what the vast majority of rational people believe.

Fox News and the WSJ editorial page present a counter-reality that their devotees deem to be reality.

Well, they represent reality the way the Kardashians represent reality TV.

It's all fluff and bluff, signifying little.

At the end of the day, or at the end of a Kardashian episode, (I did watch about 30 seconds while flipping through channels) there is nothing to remember and nothing to take seriously.

Which is perfect for the social media era.

Monday, October 26, 2015

The warmest October on record?

Could be a wild ride this winter
Evidently, it is, in Bend, Oregon.

We've had few hard freezes this October, little rain and no snow.

The highs have been in the 60s and 70s.

The forecast for the rest of the month shows slightly cooler temps in the mid-50s and some rain, but no snow.

I've only lived here 31 years, but I've never seen Mt. Bachelor so bare, so late in October.

We've already had the warmest June on record here in Bend. It's safe to say that 2015 will go down as the warmest year in the city's history.

Granted, the history only goes back about 110 years and the earth is roughly 4.5 billion years old.

But still, this is amazing for Bend. At our house, we haven't put the flannel sheets on yet and probably won't until mid-November. I haven't even worn flannel shirts that much.

Now, this is nothing compared to the 90-degree temperatures experienced in the L.A. area this month.

Or, the routine 80-degree temps in the Bay Area in October.

If much of Oregon and Washington are experiencing drought, one can imagine what's happening in California.

To the credit of many in the Golden State, they have conserved enough water that we don't hear that much anymore about their dire water situation.

But the situation is still extremely alarming down there.

Californians, and to a lesser extent Oregonians, are expecting the largest El Nino on record to save the day and bring record rainfall to the West Coast. It's already brought Hurricane Patricia to Mexico and ridiculous rains to Texas.

Of course, rain without a deep snowpack won't bring much water relief to the parched Pacific Coast.

Plus, Donald Trump will claim that El Nino is just another illegal alien up to no good.

Trump will fix this problem or hire the best people to keep El Nino from stealing American jobs.

El Nino, though, isn't likely to make that big of a long-lasting difference to Western water woes.

In fact, it may be another example of how climate change is worse than we thought.

Monday, October 19, 2015

The war on war itself

For years now, we've had wars of various magnitudes, intensity and failure: Iraq, Afghanistan, Christmas, Easter, Halloween, terrorism, poverty, drugs, women and gluten.

Poor gluten, it was on top for so long.

Incredibly, though, it's harder for America to go to war at all.

Certainly, all the countries and holidays haven't been conquered yet. Nouns, like terrorism, still abound.

What is going on?

Well, things haven't gone that well in Afghanistan for the past 14 years or so. And Iraq, well, it was the worst war in American history, which is saying a lot when you consider Vietnam.

The wars on the holidays haven't succeeded that well either. Christmas and Easter still seem to prosper in spite of Fox News' relentless drumbeat to incite faux outrage.

Yet, Columbus Day is now known as Indigenous Peoples' Day or Native American Day in a handful of locales. Oregon, thankfully, doesn't even recognize Columbus Day. Evidently, there aren't that many Italians in the Beaver State.

But, it's clear that many Americans want war, either against Russia, ISIS, undocumented workers or cholesterol.

Even though we spend more on our military-industrial complex than all other major nations combined, we haven't had a decisive victory since World War II.

We also haven't invaded any other country in more than 10 years.

Heck, even Michael Moore has a new documentary coming out called "Where to Invade Next."

So, what are the choices for our next war?

We haven't bit on a host of opportunities from Libya, Syria, Ukraine, North Korea, Iraq again or the Kardashians.

It's enough to give a warmonger an ulcer.

Call it the war on war itself.

Naturally, President Obama shoulders most of the blame. In an acknowledgement that he needed to show some cojones, Obama recently extended our war in Afghanistan for the next president to end.

Not that it will ever end.

One thing is certain, war is good for defense contractors, the media and undertakers.

It's bad for everyone else.

Friday, October 9, 2015

The myth of 'affordable housing'

New apartments, right, will block view of iconic Pilot Butte
We need a more realistic definition of what it means to have "affordable housing."

 It's a phrase that builders, Realtors, government types and newspaper editors all say they want, but do little to make a reality for renters or buyers.

So, for clarity, transparency and truth, "affordable housing" means it's more affordable for the builder/developer, not the renter or buyer.

It's like "routine surgery," which is only routine for the doctor, not the patient.

The city of Bend is now promoting higher density home-building by not collecting up to $1 million in impact fees.

The theory is that higher density, particularly with new apartment complexes, will lead to "affordable housing."

The less, though, a builder or developer has to spend on impact fees, the more he can spend in the local media to market his properties. Hence, the local "support" for eliminating impact fees.

It does not mean the cost on those properties will become cheaper for the buyer or renter.

There is no evidence presented by anyone that no impact fees on new development creates "affordable housing."

It does mean, however, that infrastructure to support that growth will erode. Right now, Bend needs more than $80 million that it doesn't have just to maintain the current roads.

And, what is considered affordable? Paying $1,500 to rent a small house in Bend or $900 for a 1 bedroom/1 bath apartment is not affordable to most of the working class in this town.

In fact, teachers, firemen and police officers are having a tough time finding an affordable place to buy in Bend and have moved to Redmond or points beyond.

Inventory is not the problem. There are plenty of houses for sale and a handful of nearly vacant subdivisions ready for new homes.

The new apartment buildings planned for Bend are nowhere near the new OSU-Cascades campus. Walking, or even bicycling, to OSUC will be impossible for the majority of the students there. Relying on our token transit system is not much of an option either.

Bend attracts people to move here from all over the country. It is popular.

Anything popular is usually more expensive.

The going rate for renting or buying is whatever the market will bear and has absolutely nothing to do with building impact fees.

Right now, we have a bull market on price increases.

New apartments are going up right next to Pilot Butte, which is an icon for the entire region. The existing apartments there, called The Commons at Pilot Butte, had their rates jacked up by $300 a month this past summer.

The median price of a home in Bend is again nearly $350,000. Consequently, Bend is now considered one of the most over-valued housing markets in the country.

After the 2008 crash, the plunge here was steeper than in most of the country.

This roller-coaster effect underscores the point that counting on home/apartment construction to sustain our economy is as bad as relying on the timber industry was for much of Bend's history.

The underlying principle hasn't changed: Many people, particularly those who grew up here and work a minimum wage job, don't make enough money to own, or, in some cases, even rent a place to call home.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

American exceptionalism lives on in latest gun massacre

If we couldn't change gun laws after Sandy Hook, will we ever?
The Onion, the satirical website, has a standing headline that it trots out after the latest mass murder using firearms.

Sadly, it never gets old:

" 'No Way To Prevent This,' Says Only Nation Where This Regularly Happens."

Yes, call it American exceptionalism where we lead the world in firearm mayhem.

Who needs foreign terrorists when we have enough killers here at home.

The slaughter in Roseburg, where 10 were killed including the shooter, took about 10 minutes.

We may not be able to produce much in this country anymore, but we still produce mass murder faster than any other developed nation in the world.

Evidently, we've had 45 school shootings this year. Okay there are 52 weeks in a year and this latest mass shooting took place 40 weeks into the year. That's right, we average more than one school shooting per week.

Pathetically, there have been nearly 1,000 mass-shooting incidents in this country since 2012.

That's just the tip of the iceberg of American gun violence. The daily gang killings in Chicago or the near-daily murder-suicides, where a man shoots his wife and sometimes the kids before killing himself, are so routine that they barely merit headlines outside of the local papers.

Throw in your gun accidents and suicides and we have about 30,000 deaths per year by guns. No other developed nation comes close. Okay, Honduras has a higher murder rate. But, if we're comparing ourselves to failed states, than we have deeper problems.

In the past 45 years, we've lost more Americans to gun violence than were lost in all the wars we've fought in our history.

It's not terribly surprising that this latest tragedy occurred in Roseburg, a rural town that adores hunting.

It could happen in any city in America, including Bend.

Yet, the county sheriff in Roseburg, John Hanlin, once posted a video to Facebook that questioned whether the carnage at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012 actually took place the way it was reported. He also wrote a letter to Vice President Joe Biden in 2013 stating that he would not enforce any new gun laws passed in the wake of Sandy Hook.

Hanlin also didn't think it was unusual that the killer had 13 firearms.

Clearly, Sheriff Hanlin is part of the problem and not the solution to gun violence in this country. Because of people like him and his refusal to reign in gun violence, we continue to have mass murders.

Like all other school shootings in this country, we'll have the predictable responses from people like me and people like Bill O'Reilly who consider gun massacres worth the price of freedom to own as many guns as you want.

Or, as Jeb!? Bush shrugs, "Stuff happens."

Meanwhile, nothing will change except that the next school shooting could be less than a week away.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Wall proposed to keep east-siders out of Bend's west side

The sound wall along the parkway naturally divides Bend
In order to form a more perfect Bend, some are proposing building a wall to divide the town in two sections: east and west.

This divergence has been brewing for more than a decade when NorthWest Crossing, a planned community with micro-lots, redefined living on the the west side.

Also, the president of OSU-Cascades (OSUC) pointed out the obvious when Oregon State University chose Bend's west side to shoe-horn the new branch campus into.

"We want students to experience the real Bend, and you can't do that anywhere but on the west side of town," said OSUC Vice-President Becky Johnson.

Some thought this tension would ease once the west side got its own zip code - 97703 - this past summer. (The east side is now divided between 97701 to the north and 97702 to the south.)

Sadly, it didn't.

One west-sider fumed: "We thought having our own zip code would solve a lot of our problems with east-enders, but, they still come over here to float the river, drink at our brewpubs and clog up our streets. They even go to concerts over here. It's an outrage."

The west side is populated by the hip and the rich.

The unwashed masses east of Third Street include, nurses, doctors, lawyers, teachers, retail clerks, tattoo artists, "bud-tenders," and undocumented workers. It's a mixed bag of the high-brow, low-brow and uni-brow.

Using the term "east-enders" to refer to east-side residents dovetails with the new appellation for Bend residents from Bendites to Benders. Since Bend is now known as a beer-producing and beer-chugging town and is soon to be a marijuana mecca, Bender is quite apt.

Of course, the main stumbling block to erecting a barrier in Bend is where this wall should be constructed: At the parkway, at the Deschutes River or at Third Street.

The parkway, which runs north-south and already makes traveling east to west difficult, seems like a perfect divide. Plus, the sound walls in place could be extended the entire length of the parkway, which would reduce the overall cost.

Yes, cost is an issue. Taking a page from Donald Trump, some west-siders believe east-siders should pay the cost of the barrier.

"Since we rarely go east of Third Street, they (the east-side residents) should be forced to pay for the wall or fence or hedgerow or whatever they can afford," one man said. "Okay, I go to Costco once a week, but that's the only time you'd ever catch me over in the east-side wasteland.

Passes will be required for students to cross from Bend's east side to west side. Checkpoints will be set up at Greenwood, Franklin and Reed Market.

In a related move, some west-side neighborhood associations are petitioning the Bend-LaPine School District to ban all transfer requests from east-side students to west-side schools.

A citywide vote on the wall is slated sometime in 2016. To avoid a threatened lawsuit from west-Benders, the city will only count west-side ballots.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Bend solves its road problems in novel way

It takes a special skill to study traffic problems for a living and then opt to make them worse. 

That is what the city of Bend did recently on the city's east side.

West-bound traffic on Wilson is now worse after 'enhancements'
to the intersection at Ninth Street
For more than two years, a two-mile stretch of Reed Market has been under construction that forced east-siders to drive miles out of their way to reach southeast Third Street, the city's main thoroughfare.

Since Reed Market's west-bound lanes have been closed for nearly a year, drivers have been diverted to Wilson, a half-mile north of Reed Market. 

Wilson was originally designed to handle minimal traffic let alone nearly all of southeast Bend's cars, trucks, and SUVs.

At Ninth Street, adjacent to the railroad tracks, there is a four-way stop. Of course, with all southeast Bend vehicles diverted to this intersection, traffic backed up at least a quarter-mile in three of the four directions. 

Obviously, this intersection needed a temporary traffic signal to handle the diverted vehicles.

But, since one of the goals of the Reed Market work was to save as much money as possible to spend on beautifying 14th Street on Bend's west side, no signal was installed. The city knows it can do anything it wants to east-side residents because they never sue the city like west-siders do.

Okay, we dealt with it.

   Recently, the city made "enhancements" to the west-bound Wilson lanes at Ninth Street. 

Before the change, the right lane was for right turns only and the left lane was for left turn and straight-ahead traffic. 

About 75 percent of the vehicles are headed straight to Third Street. About 24.9 percent turns right on Wilson. The paltry remainder take a left on Ninth. This setup worked best at this failed intersection.

Of course, those are just my observations of driving through there every day at various hours.

The city, though, used no traffic counters, which are those rubber tubes you see occasionally on various roads being studied. It just felt like making a change.

City engineers decided it was best to have the right lane on Wilson be designated for right hand-turns and straight-ahead traffic, while the left lane was for left-turn only. So. almost all the traffic is in the right lane while the left lane remains empty.

This "enhancement" caused traffic to back up a half-mile, all the way to 15th Street. In other words, twice as bad as before.

So, to solve this city-created problem, staffers decided a temporary reader board would do the trick.

The reader board on 15th Street tells drivers that the intersection at Ninth and Wilson is now congested and to take an alternate route. Well, no kidding.

But, since Reed Market is closed to west-bound traffic, Wilson was the "alternate" route.

It's a ruse worthy of a Monty Python skit.

When a road becomes choked with traffic that was diverted to that road, just put up another sign that says, "Congestion ahead, take alt route."

Of course, taking so many "alternate routes" could lead you back to where you started, but that's okay.

We're known as "roundabout" Bend anyway.


Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Simple math leads Buehler not to run for governor

Buehler should retain his House seat
Well, this flirtation didn't last long.

First-term Rep. Knute Buehler, (R-Bend) had made moves, during the legislative session and afterwards, that signaled his intent to run for governor.

The orthopedic surgeon, a pal of disgraced ex-Democratic Gov. John Kitzhaber, is far more liberal than most Republicans in this state. This fact would've attracted swing voters, provided he would've survive the GOP primary.

He championed easier access to birth control and it passed the Democratic-controlled legislature. He's demonstrated, unlike most GOP legislators, that he can work with Democrats.

However, when Buehler ran for secretary of state against Kate Brown in 2012 and lost, he took up the ridiculous and completely bogus cause of "voter fraud" to burnish his conservative bona-fides.

Despite Buehler receiving endorsements from all of the major newspapers in the state, Brown won re-election easily.

Still, Buehler won election to the House in 2014 in a district with more registered Democrats, by 5 percentage points, than Republicans.

Statewide, the registration gap is even larger, by about 8 percentage points. Oregon is a "blue" state.

Also, after Brown took over for Kitzhaber a few months after his re-election, she led one of the most effective and progressive legislative sessions in years. Her political star is rising.

Brown is likely to run for governor next year. If Hillary Clinton is the Democratic nominee for president, her coattails would surely return Brown to office in Salem.

Buehler's internal polling probably showed him the same thing.

And, since the Independent Party of Oregon now has "major" party status, there is no guarantee it would endorse Buehler as it did during the secretary of state race. I mean, why have another party if it's just going to toe the Republican Party line.

The Independent Party, whose members lean toward Tea Party positions, would likely siphon off votes from he Republican candidate in 2016.

Oregon, which was solidly Republican for more than a century, hasn't elected a GOP governor in more than 30 years.

Having Donald Trump as the national face of the party can't help.

With Buehler's bow-out, the Independent Party's new legitimacy and Brown's demonstrated leadership, it looks like the GOP drought will continue unless a true, viable candidate emerges.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Avoid Bend's Old Mill District during concerts

Beer fest at Les Schwab Amphitheater last weekend
Tried to go out for a little stroll along the river today, but was prevented from returning to my car on the river walkway.

It seems that the city of Bend allows Bill Smith, the owner of the Old Mill District, (OMD) to block public access to public walkways and roads.

It was just past 4:30 pm today and my wife and I were walking back to our car, which was parked behind the vacant Orvis building.

A guard next to Anthony's restaurant blocked our way from proceeding north along the riverfront.

She said a concert was slated to begin at 6:30 pm and the Old Mill was banning any "loitering" along the pathway to people who could hear the music for free.

Well, it was about two hours before the concert was to begin. The opening act was doing a sound check. We were just walking back to our car and not loitering to listen to a sound check.

But, we didn't push on pass the guard and continue along the river. Instead, we walked in front of the shops along the road as she directed.

Thank god I didn't buy anything down at the Old Mill aside from an iced latte. In fact, I never buy anything at the ridiculously overpriced stores. And, I've never paid to see a concert there. Now, I'm so glad I haven't.

Occasionally, I go to a movie there or eat at one of the restaurants.

Now, I no longer see a need to visit the Old Mill on the day of a concert if access to the river is restricted.

The Old Mill has received flak before over it's closure of Shevlin Hixon Dr., a public road adjacent to the Les Schwab amphitheater, during a concert. The road is even closed to residents walking home after patronizing the Old Mill's shops, restaurants or movie multiplex.

This is what happens when private interests collide with public access to a natural wonder.

It's important to note this because well-heeled interests are angling to restrict public access to the Deschutes River in downtown Bend when Pacific Power's small hydro facility is eventually dismantled.

A redevelopment of the area will likely occur with major funding from taxpayers statewide. Yes, the wealthy always need corporate welfare to "create jobs."

As they say, socialize the costs and privatize the profits.

Oh, and by the way, they're allowed to cut off access to a scenic river.

Well, I urge everyone to avoid the Old Mill District on concert days. It obviously doesn't need your business.

Also, oppose the current redevelopment plan for downtown Bend.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Vote yes on Bend's gas tax

The American way of fixing our roads
The Bend City Council recently voted to put a gas tax measure before voters in March, but then also voted to give away $1 million to developers for the vague promise of "affordable housing."

In essence, don't expect potholes to filled until a year after they appear.

Should a gas tax pass, the city will still be short of funds because they won't be collecting building impact fees of at least at $1 million.

Roads will degrade more and we'll have little or no "affordable housing" to show for it.

The gas tax, which is the only fair way to pay for road repairs, may be set at 10 cents a gallon, but will likely be either 5 cents or 3 cents a gallon like most of Oregon's major cities and counties.

A 5-cent per gallon tax could bring in about $2.5 million per year, but with $80 million worth or road repairs needed today, it would take 32 years to fix the roads. A 10-cent tax would get us there in half the time.

This would be a great time to enact a gas tax because gas prices are expected to fall below $2 per gallon this winter. Bend's gas prices are lower than they are in Washington state and about a dollar lower per gallon than Southern California. Gas prices are expected to stay low for at least two more years.

Visitors to Bend will still marvel at the fact that we have relatively low gas prices when you consider it has to be trucked from out of state to get here.

Bend's main industry is tourism and most tourists drive to Bend. The annual beer festival last weekend drew an estimated 40,000 to Bend, which is about half our current population. With a local gas tax, tourists could directly help pay about a third of our road maintenance budget.

Of course, the predicable whiners from the oil industry and Republicans hog the news with doom-and-gloom prophecies should a local gas tax pass.

Even three of our councilors voted against putting a gas tax before voters. One councilor, Victor Chudowsky, even claimed that gas taxes don't work. Right, no gas taxes built our roads in this country. Please, Chudowsky has no business serving in government or anywhere. Someone get him a butterfly net and set him loose.

A committee will help shape the gas tax proposal. It will also look at other funding sources including a monthly fee on city water/sewer/storm bills. But, because our fuel taxes are too low for the road work required, a hefty property tax bond will be needed for major road projects. And, this increased property tax will make housing even less affordable.

Politicians in Washington refuse to consider raising the federal gax tax of 18.4 cents per gallon, so it is left to the states to raise fuel tax even as they scratch their heads and wonder how to fund road repairs. The federal gas tax hasn't been raised since 1993, so the burden falls to the states. Even a penny per gallon per year would do wonders for fixing our crumbling infrastructure and put people to work. Fuel taxes in much of the developed world are $3 dollars to $4 dollars per gallon.

It's remarkable that people can't figure out why our roads or bridges don't get repaired. If we don't want to pay for them through a modest increase in the gas tax they won't get fixed.

It's not complicated.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Anger Amplifier in Chief and his no-Trump bid for the presidency

As Donald Trump taps into the angst curdling among Republicans, he also has plenty of energy left over to trash the tenets of Dale Carnegie or what ever is left of decency.

For that, he's been rewarded with front-runner status by a large margin among the ridiculously large Republican field trying desperately to win back the presidency.

And that's after his deplorable comments about Fox News anchor, Megyn Kelly, who would otherwise only be known to the Fox crowd.

Whereas President Obama has Luther, his Anger Translator on Key and Peele, Trump is the Anger Amplifier for the Republican base, which hates Mexicans, women (the Kelly comments), losers (John McCain lost to Obama) and anyone who currently works in Washington, especially Lindsey Graham.

Graham was the only Republican candidate to criticize Trump's statements on Mexicans. The rest waited until the "McCain-is-no-hero" comment before piling on.

Trump, who has stayed at the front of the GOP polls, is not just a gift to Democrats, but to Americans everywhere. He articulates what the craziest among us believe deep down in their hearts.

He exposes American enmity towards anyone who is not a white male or Christian.

While Trump opposes gay marriage, he personally mocks traditional marriage by marrying three times.

Trump is the ultimate Republican. He claims he's much richer than he actually is. He has exploited the bankruptcy court four times. He's supremely egotistical and has a comb-over hairstyle that no one envies.

Trump is the emperor with no clothes, but doesn't know it. His supporters, which include those who back his dissing of McCain's war record, can't see that Trump is actually naked and afraid.

By claiming that McCain is not a war hero, Trump demonstrated he is not only an idiot, but also lacks any sensibility to be a doorman at his own hotel, let alone be president of the United States.

His comments on Kelly shows that the GOP war on women is alive and well.

Yet, he's ignited the Republican base like no other candidate.

That is the sad legacy of Donald Trump. There are so many Republicans, and other Americans, who are so full of hate that they can't see the writing on the wall. They are true losers.

Let freedom ring.

Friday, August 7, 2015

So long, Stewart, you did well

The news won't be the same without Stewart
Now that Jon Stewart has left the building, we no longer have a voice of sanity/hilarity to keep us really informed on the issues of the day.

When Stephen Colbert bailed on his show last year, I was more bummed than I am today after Stewart's last show, but it's still a down day.

Together they formed the yin and yang of satire and mockery.

They cut through the bullshit better than any other news sources out there.

Stewart made reference last night to how they approached the show by being ever vigilant of the "three layers of bullshit" that cover, and sometimes, smother us.

The Daily Show with Jon Stewart mocked the way "real" news channels, particularly Fox and CNN, covered the news with layers of bullshit.

He did so in an often hilarious way. Also, the field segments were often brilliant take-downs of the way "60 Minutes" does their ambush interviews.

What the "real" news channels got wrong about Stewart is that he didn't just appeal to "millenials," but to us "baby boomers," too.

And, we don't just get our news from The Daily Show. In fact, Daily Show viewers are often more informed than most Fox News addicts.

Studies have shown that those who rely on Fox News for their information know less about what's going on in the world than those who watch no TV/cable news at all.

What Fox News and CNN don't admit is that they are in the entertainment business, just like Stewart.

They pretend to inform and enlighten, but they do the opposite. Fox News, in particular, traffics in hate and paranoia.

Jon Stewart didn't pretend he was anything other than a comedian, and provided better insight into the daily news than anyone else out there.

Stewart was also impressive by the diversity of his staff. He not only had many nationalities represented, along with many women, but he also gave breaks to the oddballs, misfits and class clowns out there who wouldn't have enjoyed such success otherwise.

His legacy is showing how us, and future comics, how to understand the news of the day through biting humor.

"Bullshit is everywhere," he said. "If you smell something, say something."

The torch has been passed to a new generation.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Oregon legislative session: Long overdue progress

Gov. Kate Brown took over for the disgraced Kitzhaber
With Democrats holding solid majorities in both chambers along with the governorship, we finally got a bit of progress in Oregon.

From expanded oversight of private gun sales to paid sick leave, Oregon joined the ranks of the more progressive states in the nation and is now more in line with the civilized world.

The U.S. has the highest death rate by firearm, by 25-fold, among the most advanced nations in the world. It is also the only nation among those same countries without a national paid sick leave policy.

And, birth control for women and teenage girls was made easier to access, thanks, in part, to Bend's Knute Buehler, a Republican and a surgeon. It was an issue that his predecessor, Jason Conger, a religious extremist, would never have championed. While Buehler's bill should hurt him among the more extreme Republicans, it will help him with independents should he now run for governor.

The Legislature dealt with voter-approved legal marijuana, and set an Oct. 1 date for legal sales of weed. Unfortunately, it allowed some anti-marijuana counties the ability to opt-out of marijuana sales. Such places are backward-looking and become more regressive with this "compromise" that overturns the statewide will of the people.

To align itself with California and Washington, Oregon finally passed a low-carbon fuel bill that Gov. Kate Brown, who assumed the governorship after John Kitzhaber's resignation in disgrace, eagerly signed.

It's vital that Oregon set high standards for the environment. It's the most important aspect to this state. It will outlive every single living thing here today. It is the job of each generation to not degrade the environment.

We also got the first-in-the-nation motor-voter bill that registers those eligible to vote when they get their driver's license.

Domestic workers got labor protections. The poor got protection from aggressive state tax collectors. You would think that the state would go after those with money rather than those without. The statute of limitations for rape victims was doubled to 12 years.

It wasn't a perfect session. A much-needed transportation bill got hijacked by Republicans over the low-carbon fuel bill. A higher minimum wage bill failed to pass out of committee.

Gov. Brown, though, did well enough to keep her job.

A poll, late in the session, showed broad support for her.

Here's hoping she and the Democrats can hold the edge in the next election.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

'All men are created equal?'

A real 'Founding Father'
As another Independence Day explodes across the country, it's worth noting that the very foundation of this country, the Declaration of Independence, was a contradiction of the principles it sets forth.

Thomas Jefferson, the author of the Declaration, wrote these words: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness."

Of course, Jefferson didn't really believe that "all men are created equal."  Afterall, he not only owned slaves, he fathered children from those slaves. And, Jefferson's document surely did not extend to women.

There is another section of the Declaration that was removed from the final draft.

It's even more damning of Jefferson, the smartest of the Founding Fathers.

Here is Jefferson's critique of King George III of England: 

"He has waged cruel war against human nature itself, violating its most sacred rights of life and liberty in the persons of a distant people who never offended him, captivating and carrying them into slavery in another hemisphere, or to incur miserable death in their transportation hither … And he is now exciting those very people to rise in arms among us, and to purchase that liberty of which he had deprived them, by murdering the people upon whom he also obtruded them: thus paying off former crimes committed against the liberties of one people, with crimes which he urges them to commit against the lives of another."

Jefferson denounced the king for allowing the slave trade to flourish, but then also chastised the king for being anti-slavery after the colonies had become addicted to free labor.

Of course another section remained in the Declaration, which helps explain the eventual genocide of Native Americans:

"He (King George) has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions."

Yes, without the Declaration of Independence of July 4, 1776, we wouldn't be the nation we are today. 

We also wouldn't have massive fireworks displays. 

Or a paid holiday.

Or, in Bend, the Pet Parade.

Essential as those traditions are, this country has yet to overcome its racist past, not to mention its racist present. Some still proudly wave the Confederate battle flag and use it to defend mass murder in a black church.

Yes, the "Founding Fathers" were critical to our formation of a country, but their importance pales in comparison with the American Union leadership during the Civil War, brought about, in part, by the writings and practices of our Founding Fathers.

The apologists of the slave-owning Founding Fathers, including George Washington, always claim that these men merely reflected their times. We can't hold them to the standards of today.

Oh really.

Even though our Founding Fathers were influenced by the Enlightenment, they didn't let the Age of Reason interfere with their acceptance of slavery. Yes, Jefferson did sign the Act Prohibiting Importation of Slaves, but it was poorly enforced and the slave trade endured for decades.

In contrast to Jefferson, Simon Bolivar, the liberator of five countries in South America, "was staunchly anti-slavery, despite coming from an area of Spanish America that relied heavily on slave labor."

Of course, Bolivar's first success was in 1810, a whole year after Jefferson left the presidency of the United States. Bolivar banned slavery in the countries he helped liberate from Spain. Unfortunately, he was the first of many leaders in Central and South America who believed in despotism.

In terms of slavery, though, Bolivar was far more enlightened than Jefferson or any Founding Father in America.

Obviously, the legacy of slavery plagues the U.S. today, even as we are led by our first African-American president.

Along with the Declaration of Independence, this day should also be remembered for the words of Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln.

Here is a link to the Douglass speech titled: "The Meaning of July Fourth For the Negro."

Here is link to Lincoln's Gettysburg address and also the Emancipation Proclamation, without which we would not be commemorating July 4.

The Declaration of Independence, at best, is a call to freedom for white men. At worst, it is a hypocritical document. Sadly, some of that hypocrisy still persists today, 239 years after that bold declaration.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Hell in a handbasket

Now that the Supreme Court ruled in favor of marriage equality, there are many Americans who firmly believe that we've finally gone to hell in a handbasket.

But, how did that handbasket get there so fast?

Well, there are a number of touchstone moments over the past few centuries that led to this expected, but still stunning, ruling. 

For extreme right-wingers, Thursday's Supreme Court ruling affirming "Obamacare," for the sceond time in three years, meant that hell was right around the corner.

In reality, though, the most immediate precedent came exactly two years ago when the high court ruled that California's voter-approved, same-sex marriage ban discriminated against homosexuals and was unconstitutional. There was an expectation then among some Americans that the end times were near at hand. 

But, there have been a number of rulings that conservatives cite as proof that America was "going to hell in a handbasket."

The big one, of course, was Roe v. Wade from 1973 that legalized abortion. In spite of that ruling, hell was not reached. The sky did not fall. Pestilence did not ravage the land.

In the 1960s, the high court ruled that people of different races could marry and that contraceptives were entirely legal. Hell could be seen at this point.

But, the real biggie from that decade, and the one that led to all the troubles of this country, according to the far right, was the decision that banned prayer in public schools. Since kids haven't prayed in public schools since 1962, the "logic" goes, no wonder we have gay marriage today.

And, the ban on prayer in school would not have happened if segregation was left intact.

In 1954, though, the Supreme Court held that public schools couldn't discriminate against African-Americans. Much to the relief of conservatives, that didn't lead to integration overnight. In 1963, Gov. George Wallace personally barred blacks from entering the University of Alabama.

Of course, there wasn't much outcry from conservatives in 1944 when the high court effectively ruled that herding Asian-Americans into internment camps along the west coast was constitutional. Well, many Americans were, in fact, in the grip of World War II and we all know that "war is hell."

That wasn't the first time this country went to hell and back, though. There was a little ruling in 1857 that said African-Americans had no standing to sue for their freedom and that the federal government could not regulate slavery in territories acquired after the creation of the U.S. 

The Dred Scott ruling, which provoked little conservative outrage at the time, led directly to the Civil War, which was definitely hell for this country.

By contract, the Supreme Court's historic ruling on gay marriage will not lead to another Civil War. In fact, the decision will be forgotten by most Americans next week when they realize gay marriage doesn't make a mockery of "traditional" marriage. 

Here's a notable line from the decision: "Changed understandings of marriage are characteristic of a Nation where new dimensions of freedom become apparent to new generations."

Leave it to President Obama, though, the first sitting president to support gay marriage, to really nail it: "This ruling is a victory for America. This decision affirms what millions of Americans already believe in their hearts. When all Americans are treated as equal, we are all more free."

That's far from hell in a handbasket.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Look away from Dixie flag

Take down the Confederate battle flag
It's been 150 years since the end of the Civil War and we're finally getting rid of the last symbol of that conflict.

What took so long?

Well, racism.

It would take 100 years after 1865 to finally give African-Americans the real right to vote or even to be served in a white establishment in the South.

In fact, for decades after the Civil War, the former slaves merely had second-class status, at best, in American society.

When the federal government finally intervened in the 1950s-60s, southern states suddenly found their "heritage" in the Confederate battle flag and proudly flew it at their capitols. Mississippi still incorporates the battle flag in its official state flag. It's aggravating that this Mississippi flag flies, with all the other state flags, at Oregon's capitol in Salem.

The southern "heritage," through the display of the Confederate flag, deifies the rebels, who should be regarded as traitors and terrorists.

The Confederate battle flag is nothing more than a symbol of our original sin as a nation. It represents  slavery, evil, hatred, racism, lynchings and now, sadly, mass murder at a South Carolina church.

Yes, it is the equivalent of the swastika flag in Germany.

Amazingly, Mitt Romney came out against the Confederate flag. Even more shocking, the South Carolina governor, evidently ignorant of the death threats she would receive, called for the flag to be taken down from the capitol grounds. Even Walmart, no stranger to racism, along with Amazon, now refuse to sell the flag in any form.

Yes, the times they are a-changing.

It was also stunning last week that the Supreme Court, with Clarence Thomas providing the fifth vote, defended the state of Texas in denying the placement of the Confederate battle flag on a state-issued license plate.

This doesn't mean that any pathetic yokel can't plaster a Confederate flag on his pickup truck.

No, any American can still display their ignorance and racism by adorning almost anything with the Confederate flag.

Comedian John Oliver, a Brit, had one of the best slams against such folks:

"The Confederate flag is one of those symbols that should really only be seen on T-shirts, belt buckles and bumper stickers to help the rest of us identify the worst people in the world."

Unfortunately, we still have way too many of these people in America.

Racism still plagues this country as evidenced by the reaction to Barack Obama's presidency.

We do not need to fan the flames of racism by allowing any government entity in this country to fly the Confederate flag.

Take it down and put it in a museum, where it belongs.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

OSU-Cascades wins okay to build 10-acre campus
A four-university is supposed to fit on just 10 acres
Predictably, OSU-Cascades survived another round when the state Land Use Board of Appeals affirmed its right to shoe-horn a four-university on 10 acres on Bend's cramped west side.

Since OSU-Cascades owned just 10 acres, it was not required by the city to provide a master plan for the project.

The state agreed.

Afterall, we get four-year universities all the time in Bend, like strip malls. No need to have a master plan for something so routine.

Oh wait, this is the only four-year university this city will ever have.

But, there is no need to have a master plan or any plan for that matter.

This is Bend, where "planning" is a four-letter word. Yes, we can't count either.

With this land-use success, OSU-Cascades will try to add more space in increments of less than 20 acres so that it won't ever have to submit a master plan that could be scrutinized and rejected by the public land-use process.

As I've posted before, this was a simple case of a land scam by a few landowners getting rich at taxpayers's expense. Having the state's taxpayers fund the rehabilitation of contaminated land was an opportunity that city oligarchs couldn't pass up.

Even though OSU-Cascades is primarily for students in Central Oregon, today's ruling ensures that those from anywhere outside of Bend's west side are not welcomed at the university because of its inaccessible location.

But, there will be unintended consequences from Tuesday's ruling.

First, and foremost, is the fact that Bend's west side, with its upscale subdivisions, including NorthWest Crossing, will become less valuable as gridlock and noise grip the area.

This could make Bend's eastside more valuable since it'll be less congested, quieter and more livable.

Since there are no plans to build much housing near the school and its hoped-for 5,000 students, commuting from Bend's northeast side, the most affordable area in the city, to the west-side campus will negatively impact all areas in between.

And, of course, we can't further subsidize public transit because, well, that's like communism or socialism or Islamism or whatever is convenient to scapegoat.

The battle between the formal opposition, Truth In Site, and OSU-Cascades' brain trust obscured the fact that most citizens in the region reject the west-side location.

Even OSU-Cascades' own internal (re: biased) polling from April, and only partially released in an editorial this past week in the daily newspaper, shows that support for OSU-Cascades has dwindled from more than 80 percent to 59 percent. And that's without knowing where the actual campus would be located.

The arrogance and condescension displayed by the handful of supporters of the west-side campus toward anyone who opposed the contaminated site, helped fuel the general dissatisfaction toward the school.

This does not bode well for the long-term prospects of OSU-Cascades.

After it blows through the initial state funds just to rehabilitate the pumice pit, let alone the former county demolition landfill, OSU-Cascades will ask Bend residents to pass a bond to build the actual classrooms for the campus.

Since the leaders of OSU-Cascades, through their underhanded way of siting the school, obviously do not care what most Central Oregonians think, they'll find out that widespread financial support is gone with the broken wind.

In fact, this is the most damaging aspect to all of this. By dismissing all concerns about the west-side location as the product of NIMBY whiners, OSU-Cascades has enraged the very people it needs to ask for continuing support. Most Central Oregonians were offended by OSU-Cascades' condescending approach to the opposition.

In essence, OSU-Cascades' leaders have demonstrated that they do not care about the Central Oregon community at large. They'll find out that most residents won't care about the school when it starts begging for money.

This is all so sad. We could've had a well-regarded four-year university in Bend. Instead, we'll have a tiny school built on a terrible site to enrich a handful of landowners at the expense of a promising future for the public at large.

Welcome to the 21st Century. Today, the goal of civic "leaders" is to rip off the taxpayers. It's a far cry from the days when donating land to create a college, like OSU in Corvallis or COCC in Bend, was meant to foster a wider sense of community.

Those days are long gone.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Making Bend less affordable and less livable

Current minimum wage in Oregon is $9.25 per hour
Now that the insane upswing of housing prices is again making Bend unaffordable for working-class families, we get the usual hypocrisy about making housing more "affordable" by giving tax/fee breaks to the richest among us.

That old "trickle-down" philosophy worked so well for national debt. Right.

So, it appears the park district will cave on collecting up to $500,000 in development fees under the vague guise that this will make housing more affordable.

Uh, no it won't.

The city tried this during the downturn and, while housing prices cratered, so did any jobs that enabled anyone to afford those reduced prices.

The city set aside some fees for "affordable housing" money that was available only to non-profits.

Well, the Central Oregon Builders Association created a non-profit entity to capture those dollars which, in turn, enriched its members. It also built up a war chest to fight regulations, fees and, yes, affordable housing mandates. It also had a lot more money to advertise in the local daily for the annual tour of homes. Naturally, the daily paper constantly rails against any building impact fee.

Even the park district said it will give a "preference" to "affordable housing" projects, which means the money will go to the pockets of the usual developers.

Also, the park district says it will forego developing parks it promised residents because it won't be collecting the fees from developers to build those parks.

As dissenting park board member Nathan Hovekamp said, "Do we really want a sprawling city with less parks and trails?"

No, we don't, but that is exactly what we are going to get, along with terrible roads.

The building fees, which amount to less than 5 percent of the median home price here, are not making housing unaffordable. Subtract the $17,000 in city/park district fees from the median price of $310,000 and the homes are still not affordable to workers in the tourist industry of Bend.

As I've mentioned before in previous posts, no new home will be reduced by $17,000 by any builder. No, he'll just make and additional $17,000. Also, no one has ever prevented any builder from building affordable housing.

It takes $16.61 per hour to afford a two-bedroom apartment in Oregon, where the minimum wage is a respectable $9.25 per hour.

What is really making housing unaffordable, particularly for renters in Bend, is the escalating hikes to water, sewer and stormwater fees.

For years, the city has hiked its water and sewer rates at triple the rate of inflation. A two-bath home with one occupant in Bend averages about $100 per month water and sewer bill. Tack on another $48 (soon to be $60) per year for stormwater runoff and the monthly rent gets out of control.

The city can assess a building impact fee for stormwater, but caves in to the building industry and refuses to even consider it.

Now, instead of adding a 5-cent tax per gallon of gas for road maintenance as most major cities in the state do, the city is considering a new "utility" fee for roads that will add another $120 per year to the rent bill. And, if you don't even drive a car, you still get to pay for the roads you don't use. Evidently, the city doesn't think the principle that you pay for what you use, as in water or sewer, is applicable to road usage. Yes, that is hypocritical.

The oil industry is fighting hard to thwart any increase in the gas tax and they will likely succeed.

Meanwhile, the city says it has $80 million worth of deferred road maintenance and refuses to spend much money it does have to repair our crumbling roads. No, it would rather put the burden on property taxpayers in the form of a road bond.

Obviously, such bonds make housing less and less affordable.

So, in order to give the builders and developers outrageous breaks on building-impact fees, the taxes and fees for the average household escalate.

The tax burden shifts from the rich to the less affluent.

All this talk about making housing more "affordable" is sheer hypocrisy. In fact, it does just the opposite.

Sadly, Bend's livability suffers as a result.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Raise gas tax to fix roads

Like many states, Oregon, the first state to impose a gas tax in 1919, can't keep up with repairs to its roadways.

Of course, raising the gas tax is too simple, fair and unpopular with the oil industry, not to mention most motorists. We want well-maintained roadways, we just don't want to pay for them.

Plus, the oil lobby can buy off any legislator to thwart any increase in the statewide gas tax.

So, the Oregon Dept. of Transportation is tasked with fixing the roads with diminishing funds.

Increased mileage rates in vehicles, from hybrids to diesels to electrics, has meant a further decline in revenue to maintain the roads.

So, the "brains" at ODOT believe all those high-mileage vehicles are the culprits and want to impose a mileage tax where a Prius C owner could pay more taxes than a Cadillac Escalade driver.

To ODOT, drivers of the Toyota Prius, Honda Civic, Nissan Leaf or Volkswagen diesel are the reason why our roads are in such a mess. They must pay for all the damage they do to Oregon's roads.

Well, call it the Fox News approach to reality.

All the high-mileage cars in the state don't cause near the damage to our roads that a few dozen heavy trucks do on a daily basis. In fact, one loaded cement truck will do more damage than 100 hybrids.

Hybrids, along with high-mileage gas and diesel vehicles run on fuel and pay the appropriate taxes at the pump. The local daily referred to such vehicle drivers as "alternative free-loaders."

ODOT, though, only focuses on hybrids and electric vehicles.

Of the 3.3 million vehicles in this state, there are about 3,500 light-weight electric cars "tearing" up the roadways. Yes, they pay no taxes at the pump, but they more than make up for that shortcoming by not contributing to pollution or greenhouse gases. Calibrating a small tax for electric vehicles makes some sense, but it should be minuscule.

Apparently, it's news to ODOT that some diesel cars get better mileage that some hybrids. Why should hybrid car owners be penalized and not diesel car owners or other high-mileage gas vehicles?

It makes no sense.

The main problem with ODOT's short-sighted approach to highway funding, is that it rewards gas guzzlers who cause more pollution while further enriching those countries that support terrorism.

Why would ODOT want to create more support for ISIS or al Qaeda?

It is incumbent upon the state to reward good behavior while penalizing bad behavior. The heavy trucks cause almost all the damage to our roads and should pay for that damage.

The main goal is to decrease pollution, reduce wear and tear of our roadways and diminish funding for terrorists.

We need more hybrids and electric vehicles on our roads, not less.

The clear solution is to raise the gas tax on annual basis by 1 cent per gallon for all vehicles that use fuels.

The federal government has waning interest in repairing our crumbling highway infrastructure. It hasn't raised the 18.4-cent-per-gallon tax since 1993.

If we want safe roads and bridges we have to pay for them. The gas tax is the fairest way to do this.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

If you want to save Iraq, go save Iraq

Uh ... not really
As Jeb Bush can't figure out if the Iraq War was a good thing or a bad thing, that Mideast country continues to fall deeper into the abyss.

And, some Americans pretend to care.

Thanks to our unprovoked invasion of Iraq, along with our incompetent occupation of that oil-rich country, what was once a manageable civil war between Sunnis and Shiites has morphed into a region-wide quagmire, complete with beheadings broadcast on the internet.

Thank you, W.

Yes, the Iraq War was a complete disaster. And yes, there were many, including me, who predicted such a mess at the time.

Of course, that doesn't matter now.

Instead of al Qaeda, we now have ISIS or ISIL or the Levant or Daesh. It's an alphabet soup of terror that is clearly suicidal and is begging us to fight them ... or nuke them.

According to at least one poll, Republicans are more fearful of ISIS than President Obama. Shocking, but true.

In fact, Republicans believe the terrorist threat emanating from the Mideast is more important than our economy.

Clearly, that shows the power Fox News has over the GOP faithful. Those who pay attention to reality know that, while a terrorist attack in this country is likely in the future, we can't live in fear.

Actually, we should be more concerned about the collapse of the middle class in his country than any terrorist threat. It has real, long-term consequences.

If Iraq, or Syria, falls in the desert, will anyone notice or care?

Not really. We don't even care that we can't control the gangs in our inner cities or in rural Texas. Why would we care about a religious feud that is more than 1,000 years old?

So, for those who believe that the stability of Iraq or Syria is the most important thing in the world, go ahead and fight for them. No one is stopping you. Just don't expect the U.S. military or taxpayer to save the day.

If you want to save Iraq, go save Iraq. It won't matter to anyone else, in the long run.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Messed-up Texas

Another Republican who distrusts the men and women
 who serve this country to protect people like him
If some Texans believe that a military exercise is just a means to enforce martial law on the Lone Star State, well it would be apropos to go ahead and do it.

They deserve no less for disrespecting the men and women who put their lives on the line for them.

Jade Helm 15, which sounds like the name of some far-flung orb in the galaxy, is just a multi-state military maneuver slated sometime this summer.

Less than two weeks ago, a story surfaced on Talking Points Memo, a left-leaning political blog, that the right-wing blogosphere was apoplectic about Jade Helm 15. The feds are coming for them and gonna take their guns away.

It all seemed like a tale cooked up by The Onion.

Except that the Texas governor was so alarmed by the possibility of a federal takeover of Texas that he ordered the State Guard to monitor the military exercise.

Not to be left behind, Sens. Ted Cruz and Rand Paul also voiced concerns about what the military was up to in Texas and urged vigilance.

It appears some Texans are ready to stand their ground against this federal intrusion on their sovereignty.

Well, good luck with that. The federal government already owns Texas. There are 15 military bases in Texas, plus the Johnson Space Center.

In 2001, the largest military exercise up to that point, called Roving Sands, was conducted in Texas. There was no concern then because the commander in chief was a white dude named George W. Bush.

Today, we have an African-American commander in chief and that is the reason for the fear: Racism.

It would be fitting if some Texans actually fought against our military this summer and got blown away. That's the only way to cure stupid racists.

Friday, May 8, 2015

COCC turning 66, not 50

COCC is situated on some of the most scenic land in Oregon
The local papers, daily and weekly, have stories touting the 50th anniversary of Central Oregon Community College.

Actually, that milestone was reached in 1999.

In 1949, COCC started as a night school in the basement of the current Bend-LaPine School District's administration building, which also housed Bend High and the junior high school during the daytime.

In September 1964, the COCC campus opened for daytime classes on the west slope of Awbrey Butte.

The 1965 Oregon Legislature decreed that the word "community" would be used for all the "junior" colleges in the state.

On Veterans Day 1965, Gov. Mark Hatfield officially dedicated the campus at COCC.

The reason COCC is using this year to tout its 50th anniversary is because it will rename the Campus Center as the Coats Campus Center after the family that donated most of the land  in the early 1960s that would eventually become COCC.

That's important in light of the fact that no land was donated for the new OSU-Cascades campus. (Oregon State University was first established in Corvallis on donated land from the federal government.)

A group of doctors in Bend sold the initial 10 acres to OSU-Cascades at 22 percent over the assessed value.

The adjacent 46-acre pumice pit, that nobody but OSU-Cascades wants, will cost much more than the $8 million budgeted just to make it capable to accommodate a parking lot, let alone a multi-story building.

COCC, a two-year college, has more than 200 acres, which is 20 times the initial size of OSU-Cascades, a four-year university on Bend's west side. Now, if anyone can do simple math, a four-year university will have more full-time students than a two-year school.

Anyway, the siting of COCC in the early 1960s was also a contentious affair.

Don Pence, the president of COCC and a pioneer in the community college movement in Oregon, pushed for the Coats property on Awbrey Butte with a breathtaking view of the Cascades.

Bob Chandler, former editor/publisher/owner of The Bulletin and a member of the COCC board, wanted the school built on the northeast side of Pilot Butte, near where Pilot Butte Middle School now sits. Chandler lived on a multi-acre parcel adjacent to the Pilot Butte site but said he would sell the property to avoid a conflict of interest. Chandler noted later that the money he made selling that land paid for his kids' college educations.

Redmond, the geographic center of the region and why it was called The Hub, made a strong pitch to have COCC sited there.

But, board member Owen Panner made the crafty move to include Lakeview in the COCC district which made Bend the geographic center of the proposed college district.

At a key COCC board meeting in 1962, board member Bill Miller (of Miller Lumber)  left the meeting early because his wife was giving birth to their child, Charley, who, coincidentally, is running for re-election to the COCC board this month.

After the board voted for the Coats property, Chandler abruptly left the meeting in a huff.

Panner then remarked, "It looks like we had two babies tonight."

In the mid-1960s, Chandler got his revenge against Pence when he sided with assistant professor Ashleigh Brilliant as he defied Pence's orders not to play a recording of Allen Ginsberg's poem "Howl." When Brilliant's contract was not renewed, the issue festered in public.

The adverse publicity in The Bulletin proved to be the eventual downfall of Pence, who was hit by a vote of "no confidence" from the faculty. Pence, though, became the founding president of Central Arizona College in Coolidge before returning to Bend and becoming a pivotal player of the United Senior Citizens of Bend.

When Fred Boyle became COCC president in 1967, he considered moving the community college to more accessible land on Bend's north end. Ironically, decades later, the Bend City Council created Juniper Ridge, in the same area that Boyle coveted, to include a "world-class" four-year university.

COCC continues to have a big impact on the region. Its foundation is now 60 years old. Let's hope that COCC can still fill a need even with a four-year university just a couple of miles away.