Saturday, June 24, 2006

Anti-business Portland

Just a couple recent examples:

#1) Randy Leonard wants to force all gas stations in the city to use an ethanol mix in both diesel and gasoline. Of course, that means the price goes up since ethanol costs more than gas, and now more people will fill their cars up at suburban stations, screwing the gas station owners in the city.

Is ethanol REALLY more "renewable" than gas? How much petroleum-based energy is used in the production of ethanol? I would venture a guess that as long as ethanol costs more per gallon than gas, that more petroleum based energy is used in producing a gallon of ethanol than the energy contained IN a gallon of ethanol. Which of course would mean that forcing gas stations to use the ethanol mix would actually INCREASE consumption of petroleum.

Of course liberals are incapable of even asking such "unintended consequence" type questions, because for them it is all about the symbolism. It doesn't matter if their policies would actually result in their stated aim - at least they are trying to DO SOMETHING.

Like the Kyoto treaty. If fully implemented by every country, its effect on atmospheric CO2 levels couldn't even be detected by current instrumentation, and would have a miniscule effect on the global temperature according to the global climate models.

Doesn't matter. We have to do it because then we are doing something.

Example #2) Sam Adams continues his jihad against Wal-Mart. He doesn't like all sorts of things about the way Wal-Mart conducts business and the effect they have on competing businesses, so he wants to use his political power to stop them.

Pity the fool who runs a legal business that falls out of favor with the political class in Portland. Portland politicians think it is a perfectly fine exercise of government power to limit the growth of businesses they don't like. You see, they have all sorts of higher order priorities than making sure the workaday folk have access to inexpensive goods that save them, on average, more than $500 per year. (I guess that is chump change when you make $90K and are ensured tier 1 PERS when you retire in a decade or so.)

You see, Sam Adams thinks he can ignore the global economy and create his own little utopia right here. Wal-Mart doesn't fit in his vision. It requires automobiles, doesn't pay its workers a "family wage," and it "exploits" foreign labor markets to produce its goods.

What Sam Adams and Randy Leonard will probably never learn is that you can't have your own economy. Either be a part of the world's economy or suffer the consequences: a low standard of living.

And so they are doing a darn good job of taking us there.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Maybe it's not so bad after all

Come to think of it, Title IX has had one very positive unintended consequence:

It has allowed the entire state of Oregon to root for the Beavers' baseball team.

(This is because University of Oregon dropped baseball to equalize men/women participation in varsity athletics, allowing even Duck fans to cheer for the Beavers baseball team.)

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Beaver Believer

I'm a baseball fan, and my 15 year old son catches for Lake Oswego's varsity baseball team. He wants to play division 1 baseball. So, naturally, I've been following the OSU resurgant baseball program for a couple years.

Tonight the OSU Beavers beat Rice 2-0 to advance to the finals in the College World Series. They were total longshots to get to this point after losing their first game to Miami. It meant they had to win four straight games, and had to bea the nations #1 ranked team twice in a row to advance.

They didn't just beat Rice two straight -- they shut them out both games! That hadn't happened for more than a decade at the College World Series.

But the best part about the baseball program that Head Coach Pat Casey has built is that he has built it around Oregon and Washington talent. He has created a national baseball powerhouse that has two straight PAC-10 championships and two straight World Series appearances from Northwest baseball players!

Now, pretty much every talented baseball player in the state wants to go to OSU. So instead of bleeding our best players to ASU and USC, we keep them here, get to watch them play, and better still, win with them!

Pat Casey should be congratulated for building an institution in Oregon that will pay the state dividends for years to come.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Portland Teachers Contract

The Oregonian today reports on the new collective bargaining contract negotiated by Portland in the newfound spirit of "collaboration," and they hail the new era in which "stronger school board" and a "rational union leadership" resulted in the quickest and least acrimonious teacher contract negotiation in memory.

It goes to show how easy it is to strike a deal with a teachers union if the district simply capitulates on every significant issue from the start. The Oregonian might love it, but the truth is, the district basically punted on this contract negotiation and apparently didn't even try to negotiate the single concession that everyone - including the Oregonian - agrees is a must: the power to assign teaching staff to the schools without the approval of the teachers.

Further - and this I found very odd - I was unable to tell from the Oregonian article how much of a raise the teachers got! The reporting clearly tried to avoid revealing it.

The article did reveal the cost of living increase for each year of the contract (2.5%,) and told about the step raises and salary bump for accumulated graduate school hours -- all standard fare in teacher salary structure. But it did not report on how much of a raise was agreed to.

It reported what the new starting teacher salary was in dollars, and what the "max" salary was, but did not say how higher these were than the last contract. Why? Wouldn't that be a significant piece of information that should be included if you were writing a news story about a new contract?

I had to go look at the current collective bargaining agreement and compare it to the salary numbers published in the Oregonian to figure out how much of a raise the teachers got.

So here are the numbers, which you won't get by reading our daily newspaper:

Old starting salary: $32,830
New starting salary:$33,651 .... a 2.5% increase

Old "max" salary: $65,564
New "max" salary: $67,204 .... a 2.5% increase

So the 2.5% raise, along with the 2.5% COLA, means that every teacher gets a 5% raise. Those not already at the top step (meaning less than 14 years experience) get an additional 3.5% raise, and for teachers who accumulate an additional 15 hours of graduate school, they get 4.5% more!

So, all teachers will get a 5% raise under this contract. About half will get 8.5%, and some will get 13%! A careful reading of the Oregonian article "covering" this news reveals none of this. In fact, it seems to go to great lengths NOT to reveal the fact that every teacher getsva 2.5% raise along with the 2.5% COLA.

So the district basically capitulated on salary negotiations. One would hardly know that there's a fiscal crisis. Things must be great when they can hand out 5% raises to every teacher.

But the district also failed to get any concession on health care expenses or on the issue of teacher assignment. These are two festering sores on the district's long term viability, and they once again failed to address them, which leaves these sores open to ooze pus for the next two years.

Board members Bobbie Regan, Sonja Henning and Dan Ryan deserve credit for voting no on the contract. They apparently did so because the contract didn't address these issues.

Vicki Phillips being heralded as a tough leader, but she totally punted on this one. She bought herself labor peace for the next two years at the cost of kicking the can down the road on every significant issue covered in the teachers contract.

Board memberDavid Wynde effused about the new spirit of "collaboration" with the union. Hey, it's easy to get along with them if you give them what they want!

But don't call it leadership.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Read this commencement speech given to Corvallis High School Seniors

A shining illustration of what is wrong with our high schools. They are infested with people who hate America, such as this clown.

2006 Commencement Speech by Rob Cornell

I set up a chair on the front of the stage and while I am being introduced sit with my laptop open and my ipod on. I take out a cell phone and pretend to text message. Jay calls my name and then has to come over to get my attention. I sheepishly close my laptop and phone and shout into the mike. Sorry, I had to take that call … then realize I am shouting and take out my headphones. Quietly I say I had to take that call Mr. Conroy – it was my mom.
To the class: “You have been called the M-generation because of your ability to multi-task. However, in your lives you will be faced with many situations that demand your full attention – be sure you are ready and able to give it. Let’s all practice, right now. If you would please put away your cell phones, blackberries, game boys, ipods, and, of course, your calculators, I have some comments I would like to share with you.

Good Evening and a Spartan welcome, bienvenidos to all. I am deeply moved and honored that you have chosen me to share this milestone in your life journey. The moments we have shared, as students, teachers, and friends have shaped and defined who we are …… And I love who you are. In you I see warmth, compassion, strength, integrity, playfulness and joy. In you I see hope. I only wish we, my generation, could have given you an easier road to travel. We owe you an apology for leaving you wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, global warming, a massive national debt, an earth that has been plundered, a toxic environment, corrupt politics, corporate greed, and an increasingly polarized country.

The French historian Alexis de Tocqueville, a champion of liberty and democracy in the early 1800’s once said: "America is great because she is good. If America ever ceases to be good, America will cease to be great."

Consider if you will the following points:
Would a good America have a policy of pre-emptive war? War is a brutal and barbaric way to solve a problem. Unprovoked, we attacked a sovereign country with the headline “shock and awe”. That headline should have read “death and destruction”. One of the latest justifications of the war is “we are fighting terrorists there so we don’t have to fight them here”. That means we Americans are using Iraqis as human shields. Conservative estimates put the Iraqi civilian death toll at about 40,000 for our war.

Would a good America have policies that ignore longstanding international laws such as the Geneva Convention - Policies that condone torture and extraordinary rendition and allow lengthy imprisonment without rights?

Would a good America, the land of freedom and equality, deny that freedom based on race, gender, or sexual preference?

Would a good America allow wealth to accumulate in the hands of a few while many go hungry? And then pass tax cuts and laws that strengthen this disturbing trend?

Politicians and corporate spokespersons argue that the average American is doing very well. As a mathematician I cringe when I hear the word average used in this way. If you were standing with one leg immersed in a bucket of liquid oxygen and the other in a roaring fire, a statistician would tell you that on average the temperature is just fine. Look – Sean Hunter just pulled out his calculator. I can see him thinking, “Let’s see, if we consider the specific gravity and density of oxygen at 1 atmospheric pressure… Mr. Cornell that average would …” ….. Sean, put away your calculator ….. The point is: There is rising inequality in American’s economic well being. The top 10 % of Americans own about 70% of the nation’s wealth while the bottom 50%, one half of America, owns only 3%. Sarah McLachlan in her song World on Fire sings “The more we take the less we become. The fortune of one man means less for some”.

Would a good America support maximizing profits from our planet’s resources regardless of environmental degradation? Corporations export factories and jobs to third world countries, exploiting workers and causing great harm to local environments, at times receiving tax breaks for doing so. Corporate farming practices may keep food prices low, but cheap food has a price. That price is being paid by the horrible suffering of animals and the catastrophic damage done to your planet’s land and seas.

Would a good America have a government that seems to be more interested in serving the needs of big business than the needs of the individual? The number of registered lobbyists in Washington, D.C. increased from 16,342 in 2000 to 34,785 last year. That is 65 lobbyists for each member of congress. No wonder oil companies are given huge new tax breaks at a time of record profits and credit card companies are helping to write new bankruptcy laws. Enron could not have perpetrated its energy scams without the help of new legislation enacted by our elected officials. Many agencies, created to protect public interests, are now headed by former industry lobbyists.

Has America ceased to be great? It’s a question worth asking and a discussion that needs to take place. Alexis de Tocqueville also observed that it is easier for people to accept a simple lie than a complex truth.

In this day of the 30-second sound bite you are fed many simple statements. You must decide their degrees of truth. Quite often these statements take the form of “talking points” repeated over and over and over and over ….. Most minds like these short, often repeated phrases. They require little effort and often reinforce our belief that America is good.

What are the complex truths? I am not telling. Finding them is your last homework assignment and it is not an easy one. The media, by all accounts, is controlled by 4 or 5 major corporations. The next battle, one that is currently being fought, is over the freedom and flow of information on the Internet. I hope you will seek an in-depth source of news that pursues truth and presents all sides of any issue. Only then can you decide for yourself - and this will take much longer than 30 seconds - what parts of America are good and what parts need to be fixed.

I’ve always told my students that the most important thing they can take from my class is confidence in their ability to solve problems. The solution to any problem, regardless of how insurmountable it may seem, begins with the smallest step, the smallest of beginnings. Take that step and see where it leads.

I have painted for you a world in crisis, but it is not a world without hope. Crisis is opportunity. Even the smallest moment of your lives is an opportunity for you to shape the world around you. In the words of Margaret Mead, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has”.

The way in which you live your lives impacts the world every day. You must make conscious, informed, and healthy choices with an awareness of how those choices affect the people and environment that surrounds you.

Be an educated consumer. Eating local organic foods and walking or riding your bike more will not only contribute to the solution of several crises we are facing, but will lead to better health.

Take an active part in your government. Be an engaged voter and citizen. Know the issues. Give voice to your concerns. Participate in civil disobedience when necessary. It’s your country. Don’t accept the argument “that’s just the way things are done”.

There may be great sorrow in the world today, but there is also great joy. Each of us has the ability to find peace within ourselves. Meditate, pray, or find another way to have quiet reflective moments. Express yourself creatively. Find work that feeds your heart and soul as well as your pocketbook. (Play with the students a little here) Math is not the most important part of your life. Breathing is. Learn to breathe.

In closing, I’d like to share a brief story about Gandhi. In one of his many travels, he was asked by a reporter at a train station if he had any message he would like to share with his people. He did not hesitate as he replied, “My life is my message.”

May your life be a message of love, joy and peace.

Thank you.
I love you.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Al Gore wants to save the world

I haven't seen Al Gore's "docuganda," and I doubt I will. I do, however, know a good deal about the global warming debate, having researched the issue several years ago for a cover story I did for BrainstormNW Magazine.

I did read Al Gore's book, "Earth in the Balance." I'm pretty sure, from the reviews of his movie that I have read, that it is a movie version of his book. His book was scary. Al Gore is a true believer.

At one point in his book he actually said that he believes that every one of our cultural institutions, from schools and churches to industry and commerce, should make eliminating man’s effect on the earth its single overriding goal.

This means, he wrote: "embarking on an all-out effort to use every policy and program, every law and institution, every treaty and alliance, every tactic and strategy, every plan and course of action to preserve and nurture our ecological system."

If we don't, he warned, there will be "terrible moral consequences". In the ultimate non-sequitir he compared the western ethic of production and consumption (that is, capitalism) to the totalitarian Nazi Germany war machine.

Does that sound like an extremist to you?

HL Mencken, the curmudgeonly journalist from the early part of the last century, has a couple of quotes that I think apply to Al Gore and all the environmental groups that are trying to whip up hysteria over the global warming issue:

"The urge to save humanity is almost always a false front for the urge to rule."


"The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary."

Both of these, right on the mark.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006


It's been two weeks since I have posted. I've been otherwise focused, and for some reason every time I thought to myself "I oughtta post something on that issue," I never ended up doing it.

So, there's a good bit of pent up things I'll comment on here, in short.

Governor's race:
Saxton jumped on the kicker gaffe by Kulongoski and took the unusual move of running radio ads to highlight the issue six months before the election. In my view this is a good move. Most campaign consultants will tell candidates to sit tight, raise money, and spend it all on media during the election cycle.

Saxton spending $$ now on these ads shows a couple things. 1) He is confident he will raise whatever money he needs in the general, so he can spend a few hundred thousand now and still have plenty in November. 2) He understands that he couldn't let the Governor's gaffe get covered up by months of other political noise and lose the chance to brand him as a tax hiker. This means Ron will be running the general election on fiscal conservatism, a winner for Republicans.

OSU Beavers:
I'm a baseball fan and spend a good deal of time watching my son play catcher for Lake Oswego. A good friend's son is one of the Beavers' starting pitchers, and so I've been really paying attention to the Beavs all season long.

Pat Casey has built a program that will benefit this state for years to come. He has developed a national baseball powerhouse using primarily northwest players. Almost all the talented high schoolers in Oregon now want to go to OSU. A few weeks ago my son, a rabid Duck fan, said "Dad, for the first time ever I would consider going to OSU."

Casey has shown that the northwest is no backwater when it comes to baseball talent, and that the kids don't have to go to USC or ASU to play at the highest level. They had NINE players drafted last week!

My kid is a freshman; he has some talent, and I can't tell you how much having a top tier baseball university in the state adds to the high school programs.

A lot of my time lately has been consumed with the Blazer deal. For new visitors: I am helping ex-Blazer Terry Porter raise the capital to buy the Blazers from Paul Allen. The effort is going extremely well. Portland is begging to fall back in love with this team. The city has rallied around Terry Porter. The process will take several weeks to play out, but we are very optimistic that our effort has some very attractive elements to the seller.

This was a long shot when we started, but we have made far more progress than anybody really expected. We fully expect to be shoulder to shoulder with all the other bidders for the team.

It's going in, as I write. Macadam Avenue has been closed for two days as they install the big tower. This thing will be a forever monument to the Portland "vision" and its way of doing things. It is becoming increasingly clear that Portland simply does not want to compete.

Read Thomas Friedman's "The World is Flat." That is not a world that the Portland political culture wants to be a part of.

No, my friends in charge of Portland prefer sustainability and prevailing/living wages and planning and light rail and streetcars and bubble curbs and smart growth and transit oriented developments and eco-rooves and public private partnerships and tax abated $300 a square foot condos and urban renewal districts.

Can't be part of the flat world when we want to control all the outcomes, now can we?