Friday, February 27, 2009

Why do we even participate in the United Nations?

The United Nations is proposing a binding declaration on "religous blasphemy."

They want member nations to make it illegal to criticize or negatively portray the religous beliefs of others. Any guesses as which religion they have in mind?

Take a look at this Lou Dobbs segment.

Why we don't just tell the UN to find another host nation, I don't know.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Clackamas County Sheriff's Office

I had the pleasure yesterday to spend the afternoon in the training center of the Clackamas Country Sheriff, learning about officer-involved shooting procedures and getting a look at some of the "shoot/no-shoot" training programs they put officers through.

First, I have to say that I was incredibly impressed with the quality of the people in the office. We were given training and presentations by a number of people, and to a person they were incredibly knowledgable, professional and just generally high quality people.

Sheriff Roberts, whom I have known for a year or so, has one of the most impressive track records of any executive in the state. In a state where executive and bureaucratic incompetence has become the rule, Sheriff Roberts' operation stands out as the most efficiently organized governmental operations I have seen.

I could go into some detail about the things Roberts and his chief deputy Charlie Bowen have done to make the ClackCo Sheriff's operation a dynamic organization that constantly delivers more bang for the taxpayer dollar. But that isn't the point of this post.

The point is that anybody who has ever criticised the police after a citizen gets hurt or killed in an officer-involved-shooting ought to take a look at some of the training officers are put through.

The "shoot/no-shoot" simulations are amazing. Put the gun in your hand and make that fatal split second decision of whether to use lethal force. Do you reasonably perceive an imminent threat to self or others when an agitated person fishes through his glove box, pulls out a black object and points it at you?

It is impossible to look at this training and not emerge with a greater appreciation of the fact that the shoot/no shoot decision is incredibly complex, and must be made almost instantaneously. Officers are trained to look at and anticipate things that simply don't occur to you unless you have had the training. In the heat of the moment you would be surprised at how much you fail to observe.

In the simulation I did, I didn't even see the perp's gun tucked in the back of his jeans. By the time he pulled it out, and got a shot off, my partner was down and the gun was pointed at me. I killed him, but even then I didn't realize I was shooting with my partner and an uninvolved citizen right in the background, where a through-and-though bullet or a miss could have killed one or both of them.

Next time I hear someone scream about the "injustice" of an officer-involved shooting, I will have a little deeper perspective.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

This love affair is getting a bit sloppy

Hey - you two! Get a room, will you?

It's one thing when the love affair between the national newspaper press and President Obama glosses over his lack of experience and accomplishments enough to get the guy elected. But it's quite another when they resort to the most obvious lipstick-on-the-pig front-page propagandizing to keep his savior status up-to-date.

President Obama had a big week. He got his spending bill through - the biggest single spending bill in the history of the world. His young administration has been a flurry of activity, figuring out how to deal with all sorts of big problems: the banking mess, mortgage holder bailout, etc.

The markets want nothing to do with it. Every Obama success has been met with another big drop in the indexes. We are at a 12 year low.

Yesterday, Obama turned his focus to .... Deficit Reduction! And the markets plunged again.

So what is the headline and story on the front page of The Funny Paper today? (Story written by the NYT.)

"The markets look to DC and no news is bad news."

Excuse me? THAT's the problem? Not enough news out of DC?

The article tries to tell us that the markets are plunging because Obama doesn't yet have his plan in place to bail out the banks: "Analysts say that the draining cycle of losses, rebounds and more losses would probably continue until the government offered a detailed plan to bail out the banks or the economy showed some signs of stabilization."

In other words: the markets are waiting for the saviour to save us. Poppycock. It couldn't be that the markets are reacting negatively to what Obama has done so far. No, that wouldn't validate the saviour narrative. It has to be that the markets are waiting with baited breath for the saviour to save us.

And I love the whole "analysts say" device. Right, an analyst probably said that. And another analyst probably said:

"The markets are reacting to the growing evidence that the Obama administration is making things up as they go along, with no clear idea of how to deal with the banking crisis. The plunge yesterday was brought on by the abrupt contradiction of calling for a move toward a balanced budget just days after a trillion dollar stimulus bill. Analysts say such a confusing and contradictory shift in rhetoric suggests a lack of a clear organizing principle behind the administration's efforts."

But THAT analyst obviously doesn't buy into the "Obama-as-savior" narrative, so he went unquoted.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

This is going to be very interesting

With the revenue forecast yesterday, the game has changed even more than expected. This will be an interesting study in special interest politics to see which group protects itself the most from the shrinking budget.

You see, Oregon's government doesn't know how to shrink. Over the last 25 or so years, despite all the times we read about the budget "crisis," the problem was always that the money didn't grow fast enough to cover the planned growth of the budget.

But the current situation is quite different. They have to make actual cuts - not slow the growth, but actually cut. And it has to start right away.

Here are some numbers. At the end of the 2007 legislative session, the forecast was that the 2007-09 budget general fund resources would be $14.1 billion. The budgets were based on that amount, even though a lot of legislators warned that the economy was headed toward recession and therefore it was likely that actual revenues wouldn't be that high.

Senator Larry George was chief among those warning that the budget adopted in 2007 was going to create a crisis when revenues fell short. He's looking pretty prophetic now, as the estimate for the current biennium which (ends in June) has dropped from $14.1 billion to $13.1 billion.

Which means, in order to balance the current biennium's budget, they have to somehow find a billion dollars in cuts from the current spending trajectory, and do it in the last four months of the biennium.

(I'm getting these numbers from page 101 of the actual economic forecast report released yesterday. They are a bit different than what I remember the general fund forecast numbers that were bandied about at the time, but the point remains the same.)

Cutting a billion out of the last 1/6th of the biennium is not going to be pretty. It would be one thing if they had to spread the billion out over the full two years. But look at it this way: Of the 14 billion they planned to spend, the state would spend about $2.3 billion in the last four months. So they have to figure out how to cut that by a billion - by almost half.

There are reserves they can tap into, but it is still a big problem.

And then there's the problem of the NEXT biennium. When the government plans its budgets, it takes the current budget and "rolls it up," - it assumes this baseline, adds inflation and other factors for things such as increased caseloads for social programs, population increases, etc, and that's what it assumes it needs for the next biennium.

Rolling up a baseline budget of $14.1 resulted in a "current service level" budget for 2009-11 if about $16 billion. That is what the government says it needs to keep things the same. But the forecast says now that 2009-11 revenues are going to actually drop a bit from the new revised 2007-09 level of $13.1 billion. So instead of the $16 billion they say they need, they anticipate having $13.05 in 2009-11.

Yeah, that is a problem. They don't know how to cut. The whole system is built on an assumption of increased budgets. The cost structure of government locks in a need for more money every biennium.

So what happens when the money isn't there? Well, we will see. But you can sure make a few predictions:

1) Screams for tax hikes. Democrats ALWAYS want tax increases. It actually doesn't matter whether baseline revenues are growing or not, one thing has remained the same. Every single biennium since I have paid attention, the Democrat party has wanted some kind of tax hike. Even in the fat times of the 1990's, when biennial budgets grew at a 20% pace, there wasn't enough to go around and they looked for ways to squeeze more out of the economy. So they will surely do it again this time around, and they have the supermajorities to make it happen.

2) Different government constituent groups will turn on each other. Teachers unions, environmental groups, social service advocates, health care advocates - they will get increasingly shrill as they all vie for a bigger share of a shrinking pie, in order to keep their constituents relatively whole. This is the part that will be somewhat fun to watch, in a macabre sort of way.

None of this is good for Oregon. I have read several times recently criticism of conservative opposition to tax hikes. It goes something like this: "Conservatives say that a recession is a bad time to increase taxes. But they also say we don't need a tax increase when times are good. So just WHEN do they think it IS a good time to increase taxes???"

Well, to put it in a word: Almost NEVER!

Why should the government EVER get a larger share of the economy? When the economy is growing, the government revenues will automatically grow along with it (although never as much as the liberals spending wishes.) When the economy is shrinking, the one thing you can do to make sure it shrinks faster is to raise taxes.

The upshot is we really should almost never raise taxes. It is short sighted and self defeating. This is the path Oregon has gone down for two decades, and look at our economy. It is in a shambles. And it is not going to get better.

To some extent the Obama spending bill will alleviate some of the problem for the current crisis. But that only delays the day of reckoning. It just artificially props up government spending in one cycle through a windfall of outside dollars, making the problem worse next time.

And the liberals always accuse business of planning short term!

I don't have any "solution" to Oregon's budget woes. Nobody does, in reality. But I think it behooves everyone to have a grasp of the underlying numbers, which is why I wrote all this down.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Jack Bogdanski at his best

Check out this highly entertaining and scathingly funny satire of how the new "Major League" soccer PGE Park remodel is going to unfold, over at

This is Jack at his best. He is very talented. He and I have tangled over a few things, not the least of which is his inexplicable obsession with the Sarah Palin conspiracy theory. But this is worth the read.

One of the best things I have read in months! I would post a congratulations on his site but I am banned!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Another couple of sad ironies

Did you see that Geert Wilders, the Dutch guy who made the short film "Fitna," which showed the violence of the words of the Koran and the deeds of the Islamic fundamentalists - was barred from entering the UK to give a speech at the House of Lords.

Why was he stopped at Heathrow and turned back? Because his presence threatened "public security in the U.K," according to the Home Office.

Meaning, of course, that Muslims would become violent if Wilders was allowed to speak.

So, the fear is that Muslims would demonstrate their outrage about being characterized as a violent religion by becoming violent.

I think I understand.

Elsewhere, as reported on NWRepublican :

NEW YORK (Feb. 16) -- The founder of an Islamic television station in upstate New York aimed at countering Muslim stereotypes has confessed to beheading his wife, authorities said. Muzzammil Hassan has been charged with murder in the death of his wife, Aasiya Hassan.

These people are REALLY off message.

Can you lose what you don't have?

The Funny Paper reports today that Metro's auditor, Suzanne Flynn, took a look at Metro's efforts to reduce its carbon footprint, and found it lacking.

It seems they are spending the vast majority of their "sustainability efforts" (read: money) on projects that have little impact on CO2 reduction, while leaving all sorts of low hanging fruit on the vine.

The Auditor said that their poor performance, Metro "risks losing credibility in the region." Was that a laugh line?

I've already heard some commentary that Metro is being hypocritical - scolding us all for our carbon footprint while not reducing its own. But I don't think this is quite right. Metro is trying to reduce its carbon emissions, but they are just going about it wrong. Spending the bulk of their resources on efforts that yield little, and ignoring efforts that could yield much.

So they aren't hypocrites. They are INCOMPETENT.

But give them a break. This is the way they have operated for years on end. Consider: for years on end Metro has spent up to half its transportation funds on systems that 3% of travellers use. So why should we be surprised that they also misallocate funds for greenhouse gas reduction?

In other news...
Funny Paper ironic juxtaposition of the day: In the story about Randy Leonard's building code hit squad Commissioner Dan Saltzman gives the effort high praise. The article reads:

"This is the model of bureaus working together," Saltzman said. "There are other areas of the city that would benefit from that approach."

Then, in the very next sentence of the story:

"Nevertheless, Saltzman said he has no idea how the team works."

Huh? You really can't make this stuff up.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

An interesting conspiracy theory

If the basis for this theory wasn't a US Congressman's interview on C-Span, I wouldn't make too much of it. I'm not big on conspiracy theories.

As it stands, there are a lot more questions than answers. But it is interesting. Exactly how unusual is it to get $550 billion withdrawn from money market accounts in a couple hours? Was it thousands of accounts or was it fewer big accounts?

As the Congressman describes it, it was pretty cataclysmic. Would anyone actually be ablet to coordinate something like this? Or was it just widespread panic that happened all at once in turbulent times?

Interesting. Sure seems that nobody is trying to give us any answers though.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Democrat job killers

I couldn't believe it. I was down at the Capitol yesterday and ducked into the House Land Use Committee hearing where they were voting on HB2375.

I heard the tail end of discussion, and watched the vote. The intent of the bill was basically to kill an existing fireworks business that had existed for almost two decades, employing ten people year round and hundreds during fireworks season. It had to be killed because the company was using land designated as "exclusive farm use."

The company was granted a formal exemption back in 2003. This bill removed the exemption. Bye bye jobs.

Unbelievable. In this economy, the Democrats swerve off the road to run over a small business because it didn't use its land as they thought it should be used. Never mind that the business had a legislatively granted exemption - they just changed the rules, revoked the exemption. Sorry!

Even better: Rep. Mitch Greenlick, one of the biggest socialists in the legislature, was a "yes" vote in the committee to kill the business. But in 2003, he actually voted to grant the exemption!

What a prick. I'm sorry - in this economy, you'd think the Democrats might want to avoid going out of their way to kill jobs. You'd think they would be looking to loosen the abstract land-use regulations that have mis-zoned so much land in Oregon.

And you'd think they might realize what their action says to other businesses that are already in Oregon or that might try to grow here. The Democrats might just change the rules in the middle of the game, and put you out of business.

Rep. Mary Nolan is the chair of the committee. An West Portland urban legislator in charge of the land use committee. God help us.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Replicating insanity

So the Governor announced yesterday to great fanfare that Oregon was going to get a whole bunch of the federal stimulus money that has been earmarked for "sustainability" projects.

He said we would wow the country, and "showcase to the world our expertise in green planning and green development."  Among the big ideas he has planned, according to The Funny Paper, is to "take the solar lighting project at the intersection of Interstate 5 and 205, and replicate it all around the state. 

Great idea! The electricity generated by that project costs about 60 cents per kilowatt hour. We pay PGE about 8 cents. By all means, lets show the world how smart we are by replicating this idiocy all over the place. 

Other laugh-out-loud lines in TFP today: the lead editorial supports the idea of putting a minor league baseball stadium in the Rose Quarter. It's needed to revitalize the embarrassing dead zone in the Quarter. The planners dreamed about a robust and vital retail and night-scene around the Rose Garden, but it never materialized.  Quote:

"That was nine years ago. Today, the place remains a dead zone - the most conspicuous failure of planning in a city that normally does the job well." 

Huh? What about Cascade Station? South Waterfront? The shameful state of the transportation system? If anything, the Rose Garden is a success when compared to these other hugely expensive planning failures. At least it is busy 42 nights a year - more than you can say for South Waterfront. And at least it was mostly done with private dollars.

The Funny Paper can't admit it, though, because it has been the biggest cheerleader for these disasters all along. You won't see much criticism of Portland planning, especially South Waterfront. Do I really have to point out again that Bob Caldwell's wife is the Commissar of Propaganda at OHSU? 

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Obama's first press conference

President Obama held his first press conference yesterday to talk about the stimulus package. I listened to almost the whole thing, mostly because every radio station ran it.

Here's what I didn't know about Barack Obama: he is incredibly long-winded. He only took 13 questions in the hour, mostly because he went on and on and on in his answers, sounding like he was giving a campaign speech. His answer to the very first question lasted over ten minutes!

He claimed that the package was without a single "earmark." Laughable! The whole thing is one giant earmark.

Many of his answers were standard-issue demagoguery, which was disappointing. Talking about the stimulus, he'd say things like: "They question why we have money to build schools. I was in a school in South Carolina that was built in 1860 and was so run down that...."

That's not a policy statement, it is just campaign style demagoguery, and it was disappointing.

The saddest part of this whole thing is that President Obama blew a wonderful opportunity to live up to the rhetoric of his campaign. Leaving aside the question of whether this kind of stimulus is good or bad for the economy - that is debatable, and will be debated for a long long time.

But Obama campaigned saying he was going to change how Washington operated, that he was different, that the politics of fear was over. So the first thing he does is hand off the architecture of a trillion dollar stimulus bill to Nancy Pelosi! What did the think she was going to do with it?

Then he tries to scare us into accepting this toxic waste dump of ridiculous spending programs, a good bit of which will just go directly to the federal government baseline, which will have to be rolled up year after year, costing taxpayers hundreds of billions in future commitments.

Had Obama told Pelosi "if you send me a package with a bunch of crap in it, I will veto it," he would have gained so much credibility with the American people. He blew it. Now he has this pig he has to try and put lipstick on (which what his press conference was for) and everybody knows that the Democrats just used the crisis to pass off all their spending wet dreams, and Obama went along.

So the New Politics lasted about two weeks.

The voters aren't stupid as The Funny Paper thinks

Very interesting. As pointed out on OregonCatalyst, new polls show that the public is increasingly skeptical of the global warming agenda. Not only does concern over global warming rank dead last on the list of issues in a poll done by Rassmussen, but a majority of people in another poll question whether warming is man made to begin with.

This is great news, but you can bet that it will be ignored by Ted Kulongoski and President Obama, who will shove an economically ruinous Cap & Trade scheme down our throats anyway. In political terms, however, this is good for Republicans, as long as we stay solid in opposing this stupid idea. We can hang the disaster of Cap & Trade right around the necks of all the Democrats who support this idiocy, knowing that the people are on our side.

The fact is, voters just aren't that stupid. They recognize a hidden agenda when they see one.

Ironically, The Funny Paper today once again revealed its arrogance and disdain for the public, in its editorial bashing Measure 57. They wrote something that I thought, when I readit, that they could have easily been talking about Cap & Trade:

"It's tough for voters to think much about costs and economic implications when they are bombarded with campaign rhetoric designed to scare the living daylights out of them..."

They were actually talking about Measure 57, trying to explain why voters bought it. (Because they are stupid.)

And The Funny Paper is convinced that the stupid voters will also buy their crap about global warming, since they have been trying to scare the living daylights out of them for the last decade.

Well, it ain't working. Voters bought Measure 57 because they want the government to do what it is supposed to do - keep us safe. They are rejecting global warming because they know it is just another power/money grab by the ruling class.

But if your point of departure is contempt for voters, you misinterpret both acceptance of M57 and rejection of global warming hysteria. That is where The Funny Paper finds itself now.

Time and again telling us we are stupid. Great way to build readership!

Sunday, February 08, 2009

A midwinter irony

My wife, son and I stole away to Los Angeles this weekend to visit my college daughter, and watch her perform in an opera, The Marraige of Figaro.

We left a sunny Portland late Thursday morning. When we landed in L.A., the rain had just started. It rained the entire four days we were there. Hard. Flooding type of rain. So we left a sunny Portland for four rainy days in L.A.

Luckily, we weren't there for Disneyland or other outdoor stuff (although we stayed near Anaheim and saw many families with young children whose trips were pretty much ruined.) So we still had a nice time.

And I'm not an opera type - this was my second one ever. But it was great. My daughter was the understudy for one of the lead parts, and as understudy got to perform one of the nights. It was great - she was great.

Back in Portland now, reading the Sunday Funny Paper. I see they are still up to their old tricks: front page story on how will the state ever pay for Measure 57 in these budget crunching times??!!

Still waiting for the story on how the state will pay the roll-up costs that have ensued from last biennium's 16% increase that included hefty public employee union raises.

Oh well.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

"That Genre"

Newsweek has a long story about how The Funny Paper once again got totally scooped by Willamette Week and Nigel Jaquiss.

The story covers the details of the SAMBLA scandal, but the real point of the story was to explore why it is that The Funny Paper can't seem to bring itself to pursue big stories about leading figures in the Oregon power structure.

A bit too cozy, the article basically says. The funniest part of the story was a quote from Sandra Rowe. She was getting pretty defensive about getting scooped time and again by a little weekly alternative rag. She said:

"Nigel has built quite a reputation with sex scandal stories, and deservedly so. He is dogged and very good at that genre."

That genre? Oh yeah, that's all Nigel does - true crime sex scandal novellas. Excuse me, Publisher Rowe - THAT GENRE is called REPORTING!

And yes, Sandra Rowe, Nigel does do it better than anyone at your newspaper.