Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Where do they go to get their life back?

So it turns out that it wasn't logging that was driving the spotted owl to extinction after all - it was another owl, the barred owl, that was better adapted to survive in the NW forests, and the spotted owl turned up on the short end of the evolutionary yardstick.

Gee, say all the environmental groups who succeeded in convincing the government to euthanize the timber industry in Oregon to save the spotted owl. We were wrong. So sorry.

Thousands of timber jobs - gone. Entire communities - destroyed. Oregon's #1 industry - a shadow of its former self. A way of life for tens of thousands of Oregonians - changed forever.

I guess we will have to wait for the apology. Don't hold your breath.

It was never about the spotted owl, of course. Most environmentalists could care less about the species they pretend they are trying to help. They hate natural resource industries, and want to shut them down.

The Endangered Species Act is irrational, if indeed the point is to protect species that human development is harming. If they really cared about the species, they would not have made an enemy out of the landowner and the critter, which is precisely what the ESA does.

Imagine you own some forest acreage, which you cut for a sustained yield, logging about 1/50th of it each year and replanting. Then one day you run across a nesting pair of spotted owls on your property. If the regulators find out, you know what they will do - they'll prohibit you from logging your trees.

So what does any rational person do? Clear cut the whole thing before they find the critter. Or just go kill the nesting pair. Either way, the bird goes.

If they actually cared about the species, they would use a carrot rather than a stick. Instead of forcing private landowners to bear the entire cost of preserving the critter, what if the feds offered a small stipend in leiu of cutting part of your forest? Far more efficient and way more effective.

But environmentalists don't like these kind of solutions, because for them, the whole point is to stop as much logging, as much development, as much natural resource extraction as they can, and they want environmental laws that can be used as a hammer to accomplish this.

So don't hold your breath waiting for an apology from all those liberal/greenies who supported killing Oregon's timber industry. For them, the thousands of livelihoods they destroyed are just collateral damage.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

The "Hockey Stick Hoax"

Here is a very interesting and easy to read explanation of the saga of the so-called "Hockey Stick" effect, which provided the empirical basis for the global warming alarmists computer model predictions about future warming.

The problem is, the Hockey Stick effect is a hoax. The data was basically faked.

Read the article - it is really interesting.

Monday, July 23, 2007

The "soft totalitarians"

At lunch today I was looking over Friday's issue of the Portland Tribune, reading two front page articles - one about the Mayor's "VisionPDX" project, and the other titled: "Wanted: More butts on bikes."

It struck me - Portland is not just an elitist town - it is actually in its own way totalitarian. The elites decide how they think we should live, and then use the coercive instruments available only to government to make us live that way.

What is the appropriate role of government in a free society? Is it to decide how it wants its citizens to behave, then manipulate public policy to induce those behaviors? Or should it be to gauge how people want to live, and use pubic policy to accomodate it, within the narrow scope of authority the people yeild to the government?

The first is inherently authoritarian/totalitarian. Just look at the issue of bikes. The elites have decided that more people should use bikes. So the official policy of government is to in various ways make automobile transportation less efficient and more costly, and make bike transportation more efficent and less costly.

The same thing is going on with the Mayor's "VisionPDX" project. I've written before how ridiculous this entire project is, at least from the perspective of a person who doesn't believe in the Portland form of "soft totalitarianism."

But if you are in line with the Sam Adams ideology, and believe in using government to induce "desireable behavior" then you probably seen nothing at all wrong with the Mayor's efforts.

After all, let's ask Portlanders what the want and then give it to them. What is totalitarian about that?

Well, a lot. There is no such thing as "what Portland wants." At best there is "what the majority wants." In truth, what gets revealed from these kinds of processes is "what the elites want."

And that is what gets forced down our throat. Look at the "Sample Goals" in the draft of the report:

  • "By 2030, Portland has "complete communities" in many parts of the city, allowing people to obtain goods and services within walking distance from home." What a shock that the very first goal would re-state the New Ubanist vision. What coincidence tha 15,000 people gave input and what they came up with was exactly what the government has been pushing for for decades!
  • "By 2030, Portland is carbon neutral, while achieving an average annual job growth rate of 2%. Another coincidence! Portlanders again want just what they have been served up for years!

And on and on it goes.

Turn back the clock

This is what passes for vision among our city leaders: "let's turn back the clock 80 years!"

I often joke about the centerpiece of transportation policy in Portland being 19th century technology. Sam Adams made a speech to the City Club of Portland last Friday, where he actually said:

"What would Portland look like if we implemented solutions to global warming and peak oil? It would look a lot like Portland circa 1920, a time when the main means of motion were your feet, streetcars and bikes."

That is, ladies and gentlemen, what passes for a "progressive" in Portland.

Meanwhile, the Oregonian had the most insipid apology for the planning disaster of Cascade Station, where the opening of IKEA has pretty much put the idiocy of the New Urbanist vision on open display for everyone to see.

Everyone, that is, except the editorial writers at the Oregonian.

No, the failure of Cascade Station to draw even a single tenant that meets the New Urban vision in five or so years doesn't mean that the vision itself has anything at all wrong with it. Nosirree, it's not that nobody really wants to work and live in a mixed use urban village next to an airport and industrial area; it's not that people actually want to use their automobiles, and enjoy the convenience of driving where they need to go - no that is not why the Cascade Station development failed.

Nope, the whole thing failed because of 9-11.

This is a prime example of the harm done by having a single newspaper in a single party town: they never are forced to question their ideology, even in the face of incontrovertible evidence of its failure.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Two examples of planners folly in one day!

I haven't been blogging a lot lately, but two articles in the Oregonian today were just too rich to let pass without comment.

Two different articles, both of which illustrate the folly of our vaunted land use planners when they cook up grand schemes for how they think people want to work, shop and live, and then act shocked when it turns out that people vote with their feet otherwise.

And when it happens, does it cause them to re-think their views? Not a chance.

The first one is the opening of IKEA in the Cascade Station "development." IKEA is a complete and total departure from what the Cascade Station area was supposed to be. Planners' vision was their typical New Urbanism fantasy: "The idea was, let's build an urban village next to the airport in an industrial core," said Craig Sweitzer, whose job it was to market the ill-considered development.

Just think about this - how detached from reality do you have to be to even utter those words? An urban village next to an airport? In an industrial core? Who would want that?

But the obviousness of how stupid an idea this was didn't prevent Neil Goldschmidt and his cronies from making millions on it. The money trail is very murky - Bechtel and Trammell Crow helped build the light rail spur to the airport in exchange for the development rights to the property. Who knows what those rights were worth, and how much they actually ended up paying for them? Anybody want to bet with me that the public got screwed again?

Anyway, the development fell apart from the get go. They platted the whole thing out, had all the roads and infrastructure built, the train going through it, and for several years there wasn't a SINGLE commercial establishment in the entire place!

It was actually pretty funny, because the choo-choo train to the airport, occupied mostly with airport employees, would chug through the development, and would stop. "Cascade Station," the loudspeaker would announce, and the doors would open to reveal a deserted sidewalk. Nobody would get in or out, of course. (Except once I hear a coyote boarded.)

The problem was the planners' vision did not include cars. They don't like cars. So they wanted all the commercial tenants to discourage car-driving customers. But commercial enterprises know better, and so they stayed away from Cascade Station in droves.

And the planners had to yeild. It was more embarrassing to have the thing vacant than to allow a car-oriented store like IKEA to come in and bail them out. So IKEA opens today.

I love the quotes in the newspaper:

"Planners and officials now agree that the Cascade Station vision was doomed from the start." Oh! Oops! Sorry, we were wrong.

Randy Leonard said: It didn't work out the way it was planned, but when government sets up a plan for an area, the lesson is, you need to remain flexible so the economics of what you are planning for makes sense." THAT is your takeaway from this, Randy? Remain flexible, so you after five years of bleeding money you can admit you were wrong and the whole thing made no sense in the first place? I think the lesson is to make sure that what you are investing public resources in makes sense in the first place!

And this, from one of the guys who planned the whole concept: "Sometimes reality has a different idea." WOW!

But the money quote from a Tri-Met planner, explains the whole disaster:

"Bottom line for Tri-Met: We got our train."

Exactly. That is all it was about. They lied and bribed their way to get another piece of their choo choo system built. That really is all that matters to them. Everything else is just for show.

Now, the other article is just as funny, but for the opposite reason. With Cascade Station, they invested in the New Urban vision and the market rejected it. The planners don't seem to be bothered at all.

But 10 miles south, another retail center was built that rejected every single principle of the New Urban vision, and it is wildly successful. Bridgeport Village is everything planners hate. Auto oriented, retail only (not mixed use) and proudly upscale.

It is so successful, in fact, that the planners want to now get involved. They are talking about designating Bridgeport Village a "Regional Center," which in their fantasy are the clusters of high density mixed use areas surround the Portland urban core.

The problem is Bridgeport rejects the Regional Center model, which is to combine housing, office and retail so that people don't have to use their cars. And that makes the New Urbanists mad.

Lake Oswego mayor Judie Hammerstad is one of them. She hates Bridgeport, because she spearheaded one of the mixed use developments in downtown Lake Oswego, about three miles from Bridgeport. And a lot of the office space in the Lake Oswego development is still vacant, and the retail establishments other than the restaurants are struggling.

"My original objection to Bridgeport Village was that it contained no housing and almost no office space," she said. I still feel that way."

In other words: "They didn't make the same stupid mistake we did and burden their project with a bunch of square footage that doesn't fit the development. That means I am stupid, and I hate it when my stupidity is so clearly on display."

So the planners - get this - want to designate Bridgeport Village a Regional Center, because then it would have access to all sorts of governement transportation funds so it could turn itself into something as successful as Cascade Station!

These people sure are good at keeping Portland wierd.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Strong words from Bill Cosby, the day he turns 70

Can't Blame White People

by Bill Cosby

They are standing on the corner and they can't speak English.
I can't even talk the way these people talk:
Why you ain't,
Where you is,
What he drive,
Where he stay,
Where he work,

Who you be...
And I blamed the kid until I heard the mother talk.
And then I heard the father talk.
Everybody knows it's important to speak English...
except these knuckleheads.
Mush mouth is what they speak!
You can't be a doctor with that kind of crap coming out of your mouth.
In fact you will never get any kind of job making a decent living.
People marched and were hit in the face with rocks to get an education,
and now we've got these knuckleheads throwing that all away.
The lower economic people are not holding up their end in this deal.
These people are not parenting.
They are buying thing s for kids. $500 sneakers for what?
And they won't spend $200 for Hooked on Phonics.
I am talking about these people who cry
when their son is standing there in an orange suit.

Where were you when he was 2?
Where were you when he was 12?
Where were you when he was 18?
And, how come you didn't know that he had a pistol?
And where is the father?
Or who is his father?
People putting their clothes on backward:
Isn't that a sign of something gone wrong?
People with their hats on backward,
pants down around the crack,
isn't that a sign of something?
They're walking around with their nasty underwear showing, and
holding onto their pants to keep them from falling to the ground!
Or are you waiting for Jesus to pull his pants up?
Isn't it a sign of something?
when she has her dress all the way up to her panty line,
and got all types of needle piercings
going through her body?
What part of Africa did this come from?
We are not Africans.
Those people are not Africans;
they don't know a thing about Africa.
With names like Shaniqua, Taliqua and Mohammed and all of that crap, and all of them are in jail.
Brown or black versus the Board of Education
is no longer the white person's problem.

We have got to take the neighborhood back.

People used to be ashamed.
Today a woman has eight children
with eight different 'husbands' --
or men or whatever you call them now.
We have millionaire football players
who cannot read.
We have million-dollar basketball players
who can't write two paragraphs.
We as black folks have to do a better job.
Someone working at Wal-Mart
with seven kids saying...
you are hurting us.
We have to start holding each other
to a higher standard.

We cannot blame the white people any longer.

It is not for media or anyone of this time
anymore to say whether I'm right or wrong.
It is time, ladies and gentlemen,
to look at the numbers.
Fifty percent of our children are dropping out
of high school.
Sixty percent of the incarcerated males
happen to be illiterate. There's a correlation.
Tell the media to stop asking me what I think about people who don't believe what I'm saying or feel that I'm too harsh or feel that I'm just running my mouth because I'm old.
Seventy percent of the teenagers pregnant happen to be African American girls.
Don't ask me to soften my message.

Bill Cosby

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

A "progressive" educator

While I was in California the Oregonian had a news story about a former Portland schoolteacher who won some award for teaching about social justice. His name is Bill Bigelow, and I could be more specific about the award he won if the Oregonian search utility was not so horrendous. (It was a feature story just a few days ago, and entering "bigelow" in the search engine doesn't cough it up.)

Anyway, I've known about this guy for a long time. In the proud tradition of "progressive education," he used his position as a "global studies" teacher in Portland School District to indoctrinate the little schoolchildren in his anti-capitalist viewpoint.

The interesting thing is that these people think they are doing nothing wrong, and so they openly discuss what and how they teach kids to be budding socialist/activists.

I first heard of this guy when I bought a book from Powells titled "Teaching for Social Justice." which was a collection of essays from public school teachers about how they go about promoting social justice in their classrooms.

The title of this book is offensive in and of itself - and it also reveals how little its authors understand the appropriate role of our public schools. They actually believe it is their privilege to use the schools to re-shape society according to their values. And so they find nothing particulary remarkable about openly proclaiming that they "teach for social justice."

How about teaching math and science?

Anyway, Bill Bigelow has a chapter in this book in which he describes one of his favorite lesson plans in his Global Studies classes.

He plops a Nike soccer ball on the table and tells the class to write a paragraph or two describing the ball. Of course, the students write physical descriptions of the ball, and he reads a couple of them outloud.

Then, he tells the class about a "deeper social reality associated with the ball." He explains all about sweatshops and 6 year old children stitching soccer balls in Pakistan and the evils of global capitalism that exploits third world laborers....

and then asks the students to "resee the ball," and again write a "description" of it. He tells them they can write a poem, or write from the ball's perspective, or anything else they want.

Magically, the students, thus "enlightened" by Bigelow, give him what he is looking for. Such as:

"Number one in moneymaking.
Number one in sweatshop, overworked, and underpaid labor.

Increasing prices of products.
Increasing the number of factories.

Killing new styles promoted on TV.
Killing Pakistani kids' lives producing those products.

Eager to be paid milions of dollars.
Eager to be paid to survive winters and summers."

Bigelow, thankfully, no longer works at Portland Public Schools. He took early retirement, enjoys his PERS pension, and works for an outfit called "Rethinking Schools," which tries to teach educators all over the United States how to do what he has been doing.


Monday, July 09, 2007

Great headline on the front page of the Oregonian

"Payday lenders lose interest in Oregon"

The heck you say? They "lose interest" when the do-gooders pass laws that make doing business unprofitable? Duh!

Talk about softpedalling the fact that the legislature basically euthanized a legal business, which by the Oregonian's own count has resulted, days after the laws took effect, in the closing of sixty stores. How many jobs did they kill?

Sure, there is something unseemly about the whole payday loan business. But the fact is, they are a source of liquidity for some people who have no other option, who might otherwise lose their lease or face some other significant difficulty if the source of quick credit is closed off to them.

But the purpose of this post isn't so much to debate the pros and cons of the payday lending business - it is to point out how the Oregonian constantly tries to obfuscate the reality of the effects of the policies they cheerlead.

To say payday lenders have "lost interest" is just laughable. Maybe they were trying to make some kind of cute double entendre, meaning they literally lost "interest" in the sense of the interest rate they could otherwise have charged.

In any event, why not be honest.

"Sixty stores close as new payday loan regulations take effect."

Haitus is over

I took a break from blogging during these mid-summer days, as I focused a heck of a lot more on summer baseball than on matters of politics. My son and I went to California for a week so he could play in a couple of baseball/college recruiting events.

He's entering his junior year in high school, and wants to play baseball at the highest level in college that his talent and skills will allow. That means there is only two more years for us to enjoy watching him play high school ball, and so we don't want to miss any of it.

That's why summer, for me, is far more about baseball than blogging. That said, I will be commenting again on the political goings on around here. But the break was nice .... it is not health to stay annoyed for such a sustained period of time.