Friday, July 31, 2009

"Trees have rights too"

Remember when Commissioner Dan Saltzman uttered these now-famous words when advocating for a Portland tree ordinance?

Yes, the notion of inanimate objects having legal standing is absurd. Yes, to actually believe it requires a rejection of the American concept of "rights" upon which this nation was founded, and which to a large degree is responsible for the success of the American experiment.

But sadly, advocating for such an idiotic idea in Democrat circles won't marginalize a person in the slightest. In fact, not only will it not prevent you from being appointed to the highest tier of national environmental policymakers, but the mainstream media doesn't think a belief in such things is anywhere near as scary for a government official as a belief in ....... Christianity.

President Obama's "Science Csar," John Holdren (the guy who is on record in his 1970's book advocating forced abortion or adoption of illegitimate children, sterilizing women after two kids, and even putting sterilizing chemicals in the drinking water of undesirable populations) also supported the notion of giving trees and other natural objects legal standing:

From a post on NRO Corner:

“One change in (legal) notions that would have a most salubrious effect on the quality of the environment has been proposed by law professor Christopher D. Stone in his celebrated monograph, ‘Should Trees Have Standing?’” Holdren said in a 1977 book that he co-wrote with Paul R. Ehrlich and Anne H. Ehrlich.

“In that tightly reasoned essay, Stone points out the obvious advantages of giving natural objects standing, just as such inanimate objects as corporations, trusts, and ships are now held to have legal rights and duties,” Holdren added.

So Obama's "Science Csar" is a fringe kook. Anyone want to argue otherwise?

But for the New York Times, which has not printed a single news article discussing Holdren's scary and extreme views, this stuff isn't anywhere near as damaging for a public official as the views held by the guy Obama has nominated to head up the National Institute of Health.

This guy, Dr. Francis S. Collins, led the effort to map the human genome. One of the major scientific accomplisments in history. The Times has already printed a news story and an op-ed piece decrying the Collins appointment on the grounds that he is ...... A Christian!

Sacre Bleu!

Apparently, a high level public official in charge of environmental policy being a thoroughgoing eugenicist and wanting to give trees rights doesn't raise any eyebrows at the New York Times. But an official with an avowed belief in God?

That just can't be allowed.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

The Beer Summit

So today is the breaking of the bread between Henry Louis Gates and Sgt. Crowley.

This could actually be interesting. Remember, this meeting was suggested by Crowley when Obama called him - so it wasn't just a damage control idea of the Obama handlers. Obama agreed to it, certainly, because it would help wipe his own gigantic misstep off the front pages, but it wasn't his idea.

My friend and partner Jim Pasero points out that Obama is at some significant risk here. Crowley has been empowered by Obama to essentially represent and speak for the entire nation's law enforcement professionals. Obama insulted them all in his statement last week.

Crowley now goes to a White House meeting with both Obama and Gates. Obama probably figures Crowley will be so intimidated by the surroundings that he will go along with whatever reconciliation narrative his handlers want to portray from the meeting.

But what if Crowley doesn't go along with the narrative?

There will be that moment when Crowley emerges from the White House to a crush of gathered media waiting for his report. What if he uses that "teachable moment" to make a point? Isn't Obama playing a high risk game here, assuming that Crowley will go along with Obama's purpose for the meeting?

What if he doesn't?

What if he emerges, and says: "I really hoped I could get an apology from the President for smearing the good work of a nation's law enforcement officers and from Professor Gates for his ridiculous behavior that resulted in his arrest, but they were more interested in a charade...."

Oh my, that would blow this whole thing into the stratosphere. And Obama has set himself up for it, giving the power to a single man whom he has already insulted.

Chances are, Crowley does play along with Obama's narrative and emerges with all the happy talk about breaking of bread and reconciliation. But there is at least some chance Crowley will use the moment to make a point.

Wouldn't that be fun?

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

"Birther" mystery solved!

The Obama birth certificate controversy has been interesting to watch.

Here's the bottom line: Even if the birthers are correct, and Obama is not constitutionally qualified to be president, what then? The constitution has only a single mechanism for removing a sitting president - impeachment - and that is for "high crimes and misdemeanors."

Is running for President as a non-citizen an impeachable offense? If not, then what exactly would we then do if indeed it were proven that Obama was not a U.S. citizen? There just isn't any constitutional method of removing him. Once the electoral college has voted and the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court has sworn him in, he is president. Even if he isn't a citizen.

That said, I put almost no stock in the conspiracy theories of the 'birthers." What the controversy HAS done, however, is give the left a good way to ridicule the right. Just look at liberal blogs like BlueOregon. The birther issue gives them a way to pretend that conservatives and Republicans are all harping about this conspiracy (which we aren't) and dismissing us as wing-nuts, even racists.

When I was subbing for Lars Larson a couple weeks ago, we were discussing some other topic and a caller slipped through who brought up the birth certificate issue. My producer said "Uh-oh, I let one through now here they come."

He was right. Immediately the phones lit up, with every single line on hold wanting to add something to the conspiracy. It wasn't even the topic of the day. I actually had to announce I was killing every single call, and would not take any more calls on the topic.

Which is why I say the "mystery" has been solved. The mystery I refer to is the one decent question the birthers are asking: "If Obama does indeed have a long-form birth certificate, why not just release it and make this issue go away?"

For the last couple of weeks I pondered this question. Now I think I know why.

What better way to marginalize the opposition than to draw as many as willingly go down this bunny trail, and then produce the proof.

Right now it is still just a vocal fringe, but as the Obama folks stonewall, it could grow bigger and louder, drawing a lot more mainstream folks into the mix. And the BLAM! Release the long-form birth certificate, and marginalize large swaths of the opposition.

Could that be what he is doing? Is he that clever?

Could be. Which means we have to be clever enough not to chase down this bunny trail in the first place, and concentrate on killing the ObamAgenda.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Oregon: ObamaCare laboratory

Want a good preview for what health care would look like under ObamaCare? Well, Oregon is a pretty good petri dish. The Oregon Health Plan (OHP) is basically the equivalent of the "public option" envisioned by Obama.

To be sure, the OHP doesn't go near as far as ObamaCare portends to go. There isn't any mechanism in Oregon to force everyone onto either an "exchange participating" plan or the OHP. And there is no employer tax for companies that don't offer health coverage (despite Gov. Kitzhaber's wishes at the time for exactly such a tax.)

But if we look at how the OHP operates, we can envision the world of ObamaCare. The main difference would be that ObamaCare would eventually cover a far greater percentage of the population than does the OHP in Oregon.

The OHP, remember, has been in financial straits literally since it was started. The original idea was an overt rationing mechanism: the state bureaucrats would prioritize medical procedures in a ranking system, and then they would draw a line based on available resources. Depending on how much money the system has, procedures above the line (this year drawn at procedure #503) would be covered, and below the line, tough luck.

Even if your medical need is above that magic 503rd procedure, it will be paid for only if there is money left after everyone with a higher ranking priority has been served.

This is all decided by the Oregon Health Services Commission. They set the ranking - the most current version of which is this wonderful 143 page document. See any similarities between this commission and the ObamaCare idea of a "panel of experts" who will decide on the relative effectiveness of various health care treatments?

At the very least, one thing the OHP has been honest about from the start was in acknowledging that the publicly funded health services had to be explicity rationed. Obama has tried to deny this reality, even while openly discussing his"panel of expets."

The problem becomes, of course, when any commission, panel of experts, or bureaucrats are given the power to prioritize medical procedures. There are LOTS of perverse examples just in Oregon's list. For instance, as pointed out in a recent article:

"... a person in need of an emergency appendectomy (prioritized 84th by the the state of Oregon) would be denied that treatment before an individual in need of treatment for “tobacco dependence” (ranked 6th)."


"... the state rationing board ranked abortion 41st overall in state-funding priority, meaning the bureaucrats who designed the priority structure in this “public option” program determined that the use of taxpayer funds for abortion is more important (and more medically necessary) than covering injuries to major blood vessels (ranked 86th), surgery to repair injured internal organs (88th), a “deep wound to the neck” or open fracture of the larynx or trachea (91st), or a ruptured aortic aneurysm (306th)."

It gets even worse when bureaucrats have to struggle with the ever-problematic end of life care issue. This is where health care dollars really get used up fast, and there really are no good answers to the problem, at least what I have seen.

But I am pretty sure the "Oregon way" is not the right thing to do. Which is, basically, refuse treatment for some terminal maladies but provide funding for services under the "Death with Dignity Act."

For patients with maladies the Commission has decided have a less than 5% 5-year survival rate, here is what IS covered:

1) Medication for symptom control and/or pain relief;
2) In-home, day care services, and hospice services as defined by DMAP;
3) Medical equipment (such as wheelchairs or walkers) determined to be medically appropriate for completion of basic activities of daily living;
4) Medical supplies (such as bandages and catheters) determined to be medically appropriate for management of symptomatic complications or as required for symptom control; and
5) Services under ORS 127.800-127.897 (Oregon Death with Dignity Act), to include but not be limited to the attending physician visits, consulting physician confirmation, mental health evaluation and counseling, and prescription medications.

And here is what is NOT covered:

1) Chemotherapy or surgical interventions with the primary intent to prolong life or alter disease progression; and
2) Medical equipment or supplies which will not benefit the patient for a reasonable length of time.

Again - these decisions are being made by a Commission, not by doctors or families. You might say "Well, that's what you get when you are on publicly funded health care." Fair enough.

But then why would we want to make that kind of health care universal? Because make no mistake, what Obama is moving toward is precisely this kind of program. It is obvious with every single additional revelation of its details.

The uncomfortable fact of the matter is that one way or another, whether we are talking private insurance or some public program, health care has to be rationed. In a private market it is more or less rationed by price. In a public program, it will be rationed by bureaucrats.

Obama has tried to sell his plan by denying there will be the need for any rationing. He says he will find "cost efficiencies" in the current Medicare and Medicaid programs (which he can only do through rationing!) to pay for expanded coverage in the public option.

The veil is being pretty quickly lifted on ObamaCare, however. Pretty much everyone can see that his plan will necessitate Oregon style rationing. That is why support for it is falling apart.

As imperfect as our system now is, and as uncomfortable as we all are with price-rationing of health care and the skyrocketing costs of private plans, the people of the United States do NOT WANT federal bureaucrats deciding who does and who doesn't get health care.

That is why ObamaCare is going to go down in flames.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Wasting your money on solar panels

You want to know why I am so reluctant to support any hike in the gas tax? Because I don't trust that ODOT will spend the money wisely. The gas tax increase that passed this summer at least had a list of road projects that the funds would pay for, but I still don't trust them.

And in today's Oregonian, there is a story giving a perfect example of why they don't deserve our trust.

They want to spend $20 million installing up to 17,000 solar panels near the I-205 10th Street exit, in order to produce 3.2 million kilowatt hours of electricity.

Do the math. Assume a 6% annual cost of capital. Even with zero maintenance costs, the cost per KWH is above 37 cents. We buy residential electricty from PGE at about 9 cents a KWH.

Oh, but the state government doesn't think in terms of cost of capital. For them, the money is free. It's you and me who have to go earn it. And they already own the land - another real cost not figured into the equation.

If you read the Oregonian story, which is mostly about the objections raised to the project by residents of Oregon City and West Linn, you will notice something missing: any discussion of the monumental stupidity of wasting taxpayer dollars like this. The reporter obviously didn't even think to ask if this project made economic sense.

I guess in Oregon, things like that don't matter. As long as the energy is "renewable" then it doesn't matter what it costs.

And that is why I don't trust ODOT with more money.

Friday, July 24, 2009

The wrong solution to the achievement gap

There's a front page Metro Section article in today's Oregonian about how the Tualatin-Tigard School District is focusing anew on the achievement gap.

OK, fine. The achievement gap is without question the biggest problem in public schools today. Why is it the most pressing issue? Because if a large gap in achievement persists between kids in low income families (who are disproportionately minority) and middle and higher-income families, it calls into question the very premise of public schooling in the America.

The great promise (indeed, the central premise) of public schools is that it says to the people: "No matter the circumstance of your birth, whether you were born into a family of great wealth or of humble immigrants, the public schools will afford you the opportunity to become part of the great story of America."

But for the last 40 years, the public schools have increasingly failed to live up to this promise. And if it indeed cannot deliver on its very reason for existing, doesn't that beg the question of why we have public schools in the first place?

The fact is, we don't need a system of government-operated schools in order to educate the well off in society. The whole purpose of public schools is their role leveling outcomes. If they fail at that, why indeed have public schools?

Any time you hear an excuse from an educator explaining poor school performance on the socioeconomic status of the students, what you are hearing is an educator implicitly admitting that the very premise that justifies public schools is wrong!

Now, back to Tigard-Tualatin School District's recent effort at tackling their achievement gap. I can confidently predict that what they are doing will have absolutely ZERO effect on the problem. With 100% certainty. I will take any bet.

Read the story - the school district is asking the wrong questions because they are operating from the wrong premise about what is causing the problem. Their assumption is that the problem stems from insufficient racial and ethnic awareness on the part of the teaching staff. Indeed, they are basically saying the teachers are racist because they treat behaviors of different ethnic groups differently. So the solution, they think, involves sensitivity training for the teachers, so they adjust their treatment of minority students to rid themselves of their cultural bias.

In other words, they are basically saying the district's 90% white staff is racist. They point to different disciplinary rates between white and minority kids as evidence of racial bias. So they are having a "conversation about race," which they are pretending will raise the consciousness of the district's staff in a way that the achievement gap will disappear. And now they are all patting themselves on the back for having these "tough" conversations.

Wrong culprit. Wrong solution. Politically correct? Yes. Assuages their white guilt? You bet. Gives them accolades in their professional communities? Absolutely. Going to reduce the achievement gap? Not a chance.

If you want to reduce the achievement gap, you have to attack the cause of the problem. It's not caused by racism of the teaching staff.

One thing you might want to do, if you were really interested in reducing the gap more than you were interested in making some politically correct point on racism, is to find schools that have actually succeeded in eliminating the gap, and see what they do differently.

Nowhere in anything Tigard Tualatin is doing have they asked the question: "Hey, who has actually eliminated the gap? What did they do?"

The good news is that this question HAS been asked and answered. But the answer is one that our school leaders don't much like, because it completely flies in the face of the approach being taken by Tigard-Tualatin and the rest of the education establishment.

Back in 2002, the nation's pre-eminent scholar on racial progress in America wrote a book called "No Excuses - Closing the Racial Gap in Learning." The author is Abigail Thernstrom, who is currently the Vice-Chair of the United States Commission on Civil Rights.

In the book, Thernstrom looked at the academic achievement history of different racial and ethnic groups and drilled down to tease out the reasons for the disparity. Then she actually analyzed schools that have eliminated the achievement gap to see what they did differently from the rest of the public schools. Her findings were an indictment of the Tigard-Tualatin approach to the problem.

Thernstrom's findings were basically rejected by the education establishment because they contradicted their most fervently held attitudes and assumptions on culture and race - assumptions that are reflected in the Tigard-Tualatin effort.

Basically, this line of thinking says that our school kids come from many different races and cultures, and it is up to the educators to adjust their curriculum and teaching methods in order to accomodate the differences among these cultures.

Thernstrom's research showed that this approach will do nothing to raise the achievement of minority children. Why?

OK, brace yourself. Cover your child's ears, because what I am about to relate to you is politically incorrect heresy. I'm warning you. You are about to have your cultural relativism sensibilities trampled upon:

Thernstrom showed, through painstaking research on the academic achievement history of different ethic and racial groups going back through U.S. history, that "When it comes to academic achievement, all cultures are not created equal."

Imagine uttering this sentence in the Tigard-Tualatin "conversations on race." Heresy indeed. Thernstrom goes further. In her study of schools that have actually eliminated the gap, guess how they did it?

They changed the child's culture as it relates to academic achievement.

Imagine suggesting, in these Tigard-Tualatin workshops, that it is the child's cultural attitude that must adjust to the school, not the school's culture that must adjust to the child. I'm guessing a person suggesting such a thing would be reprimanded.

Yet that is exactly what the research shows. It is 180 degrees different than what the prevailing thinking is among educrats in the achievement gap issue. Which is why is not just rejected - it is summarily ignored. The go out of their way to avoid confronting this issue. I would guarantee you that you would be hard pressed to find a single person in the Tigard-Tualatin School District who has ever even heard of Abigail Thernstrom, much less read her book.

And this is not some fringe person - she and her husband Stephen are the nation's pre-eminent scholars on the U.S. racial experience. They co-authored the seminal book on racial progress in America, called America in Black & White, back in the mid 1990's. They are both Harvard based.
The education establishment actively excludes the conclusions and recommendations from their research from being heard, much less considered. I have a personal story to relate on this front.

In 2003, Abigail Thernstrom was coming to Portland to give a speech about her achievement gap book. I had met her some months previous at a conference, having already read both her books, and I struck up a conversation with her. That evolved into a friendship.

It just so happened that her visit was coinciding with a state-wide conference on the achievement gap in Oregon, sponsored by the Oregon Department of Education. What a great opportunity! The conference had no keynote speaker. What a happy coincidence that the very same weekend that Sup't of Public Instruction Susan Castillo was holding a statewide conference on the achievement gap, the nation's most learned person on that issue, who sat on the US Commission on Civil Rights, was not only in town, but was willing to talk to the conference free of charge.

Castillo had no interest whatever. She passed the offer down to an underling, who "offered" Thernstrom a table in the lobby of the conference to hawk her book. What an insult.

But it reflected the typical education establishment's reflexive insularity. They actively exclude any viewpoint that challenges their own dearly held political viewpoint, no matter how rigorous, no matter the stature of the person.

So when I read yet another article about the achievement gap in Oregon, describing yet another attempt at adjusting the schools' cultures to accomodate the various cultures of the student as it pertains to academic achievement, I just want to scream.

Abigail Thernstrom's message is still being excluded. And that is why I can predict with 100% certainty that this effort, just like the dozens before it, will fail completely. And that failure will be ignored, piled on the ash heap of good intentions and flawed premises.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Subbing for Lars this week

Tune in, noon til three, the rest of the week. AM 750 or

Monday, July 13, 2009

Triple-A All Star Game Home Run Derby

The Triple-A All Star game is at PGE Park this week, and my son has been asked to do some catching duties during the festivities. During the game Wednesday he will be warming up the pitchers in the bullpen. Tonight he caught during the Home Run Derby.

It was really a fun event. There were two high schoolers in the competition, who qualified by winning a local home run competition. One of them, Kevin Taylor from Sunset, is a great kid and a great hitter - my son has played on teams with and against him for years.

Kevin Taylor went first. Mind you, he is a just graduated high school senior, trying to hit home runs in front of about 10,000 fans, and competing against the best home run hitters in Triple-A ball.

The picture at the right is Kevin batting with my son catching.

All Kevin did was hit eight balls over the fence in the first round. The six professionals went next - the best one of them hit seven! He qualified for the next round, which was the top four. He ended up narrowly missing out on making it to the final two.

My son caught for six batters in the first and second rounds, and then the whole final. There were some great moments. In the final, the big Yankee slugger Shelly Duncan hit a high arching bomb that would have been his second homer, but the ump called it foul.

The picture to the right is my son calling the ball fair, as Shelley Duncan looks back to question the call.

No question about it, says son. Fair ball. The other finalist was Portland Beaver Chad Huffman. My son figured Shelley Duncan just got homered on the call.

No matter, it's just an exhibition anyway. Huffman was a great guy too. It was good to have a local winner.

Every time Shelley Duncan came to the plate, the crowd would boo - Lots of Yankee haters in Portland, I guess!

Here's the winner, Chad Huffman, just about to swing at the winning shot. He had some impressive bombs out to left field, onto 18th street. One even hit the Max train!


The players were terrific. They treated my son very well, and went out of they way to make him a part of things.

Here's a shot of Jeff commiserating with Duncan afterwards, discussing the bad call as some of the other all-stars who weren't in the home run derby hang out.

Pretty cool night for a soon-to-be college catcher, getting to rub it around with the soon-to-be major leaguers.

And on Wednesday he'll be catching the pitchers in the bullpen. Fun stuff.

Obama doesn't really believe in America

I've been taking a hiatus from my blog since the session ended. Not that there wasn't plenty to write about over the last two weeks - there most certainly was. But sometimes the muse just doesn't sing to me.

I've been observing President Obama over the last few weeks, especially on his trips and speeches abroad. One thing I suspected during the campaign, which seemed evident by his troubling history of nurturing long time friendships and associations with the most virulent anti-American types, is that Barack Obama really doesn't believe in the America that I do.

He doesn't believe in the IDEA and IDEALS of America. He doesn't believe in America's exceptionalism, in its role in the world as a force of good, nor that it has a moral argument to make against regimes it has opposed like Soviet Russia, Iran, and North Korea.

It is evident in the speeches he makes abroad, where he constantly fails to stand up for our principals.

Lynne Cheney wrote an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal today that really encapsulates my discomfort about Obama's apparent disdain for America. Talking about Obama's recent trip to Russia, she wrote:

Speaking to a group of students, our president explained it this way: "The American and Soviet armies were still massed in Europe, trained and ready to fight. The ideological trenches of the last century were roughly in place. Competition in everything from astrophysics to athletics was treated as a zero-sum game. If one person won, then the other person had to lose. And then within a few short years, the world as it was ceased to be. Make no mistake: This change did not come from any one nation. The Cold War reached a conclusion because of the actions of many nations over many years, and because the people of Russia and Eastern Europe stood up and decided that its end would be peaceful."

The truth, of course, is that the Soviets ran a brutal, authoritarian regime. The KGB killed their opponents or dragged them off to the Gulag. There was no free press, no freedom of speech, no freedom of worship, no freedom of any kind. The basis of the Cold War was not "competition in astrophysics and athletics." It was a global battle between tyranny and freedom. The Soviet "sphere of influence" was delineated by walls and barbed wire and tanks and secret police to prevent people from escaping. America was an unmatched force for good in the world during the Cold War. The Soviets were not. The Cold War ended not because the Soviets decided it should but because they were no match for the forces of freedom and the commitment of free nations to defend liberty and defeat Communism.

It is irresponsible for an American president to go to Moscow and tell a room full of young Russians less than the truth about how the Cold War ended. One wonders whether this was just an attempt to push "reset" -- or maybe to curry favor. Perhaps, most concerning of all, Mr. Obama believes what he said.
This isn't just a one-time thing; it's a pattern. As Cheney points out, in Cairo, Obama said there was an equivalence between America's support of the Iran coup in 1953 and the Mullah takeover (and three decades of tyranny) since 1979. He also sat idly by and listened as Daniel Ortega ranted an anti-American screed in Mexico City, refusing to defend America against his attacks, and saying only he was glad Ortega didn't blame him since he was only three years old at the time.

Is anybody
else troubled by a commander in chief who doesn't really seem to believe that America is worth defending? If he can't even defend our country rhetorically, why would it be any different when it comes to the far more difficult decision to use arms?