Saturday, April 29, 2006

Powell Butte Photo Blog

Portland, Oregon, is known by many names. The City of Roses, dedicated to the massive rose garden in Washington park among other things. The City of Bridges, for it's parade of interesting and historic bridges spanning the Willamette River. The City that Works, called so by the city government in an attempt to mirage what they are actually doing or not doing.
But it's also a city of parks. In it's attempt to control growth by increasing the density of the urban area, mostly by decreasing lot sizes, lots of attention and effort is put forth to preserve as much green space as possible, perhaps to counteract the increasing density of people. There are many neighborhood parks, with the well manicured grass and the play structures. Possibly a baseball/softball diamond or two. But there are some major parks that defy that normal urban park design. They are wild, with no manicured grass. No play structures. The object of their existence is to bring a little nature into the city, and at the same time give those of us who enjoy a little hike through the forest and a good view of the mountains and the city a place to roam.
One of these parks is Powell Butte.

Walnut Orchard at the top of Powell Butte

From the park's pamphlet:
Powell Butte's recent history begins with the purchase of the 556 acre Wilson Homestead in 1925 by the City of Portland. The City's early recognition that Powell Butte's location and elevation would be of high value as a water reservoir site was first utilized in the 1960s when two above ground tanks were constructed by Powell Valley Road Water District. This was followed by Portland Water Bureau's completion of a 50 million gallon underground reservoir in 1980, and a 66 inch water transmission line linking Powell Butte to Washington County in 1983.
The park is now about 600 acres, and includes large meadows and dark stands of Douglas Fir and Western Red Cedar, all through which wind miles of trails for hikers, bikers and horse back riders.

The Cougar trail, along with the Cedar Grove
Trail, offer lush forests with huge trees.

Meadows looking at the top of the butte.
The reservoir is barely noticeable.

There are parts of the park that are off limits to humans, for the sake of wildlife. They do get out and about though, so it's possible to see deer, several species of birds, bugs, and reptiles.
You get the full range of meadow and forest plant life too.

One of numerous wildflowers in the forest

East Portland is unique in that it is littered with small dormant volcanoes. These small mountains perk up several hundred feet above the surrounding neighborhoods. Many of them have been designated as city parks, such as Mt. Tabor, Rocky Butte and Powell Butte. Powell Butte is a lava dome in a chain of such volcanoes known as the Boring Lava Domes. It is much flatter on top than most of the other volcanoes in the area, and thus the hiking isn't quite as steep.

From the top of the butte you can see in almost all directions, and near the orchard there are some park benches and a circular set of arrows placed in the ground pointing to various features that you can see from there. On a good day (which when these shots were taken, it was pretty hazy) you can see Mt. Hood, Mt. St. Helens and Mt. Jefferson, as well as the city of Gresham and the Columbia Gorge.

If you live in Portland, or are in the area, spend a couple of hours wandering around on the Butte. It's one of the gems of the Portland Park system.

Looking up through the decayed trunk of an old tree

Cedar grove

Friday, April 28, 2006

Michael Totten recalls his visit to Israel.
Arab countries have a certain feel. They'’re masculine, relaxed, worn around the edges, and slightly shady in a Sicilian mobster sort of way. Arabs are wonderfully and disarmingly charming. Israel felt brisk, modern, shiny, and confident. It looked rich, powerful, and explicitly Jewish. I knew I had been away from home a long time when being around Arabs and Muslims felt comfortably normal and Jews seemed exotic. First impression are just that, though. They tend to be crazily out of whack and subject to almost instant revision. Israel, I would soon find out, is a lot more like the Arab and Muslim countries than it appears at first glance. It'’s not at all a little fragment of the West that is somehow weirdly displaced and on the wrong continent. It'’s Middle Eastern to the core, and it has more in common with Lebanon than anywhere else I have been. The politics and the history are different, of course. But once I got settled in Tel Aviv I didn'’t feel like I had ventured far from Beirut at all.
Read the whole thing. My mere words can't express the surprises that Michael would find when talking to an Israeli blogger about life in a country surrounded by people who want to kill them. Or do they?
Then there are those - and they'’re almost completely ignored by the media - who defy these categories completely. The Druze serve in the Israeli Defense Forces. And the Druze are as Arab as anyone else in the region. The biggest problem the Israeli government has with Druze members of the IDF is not that they are not loyal. The biggest problem is that they are consistently the most roguish and brutal toward Palestinians. They speak Arabic as their first language. Palestinians say they are traitors. Bedouin also serve in the Israeli Defense Forces. The skills they learn as desert wanderers make them the perfect trackers. Lisa told me the Bedouin in Egypt'’s Sinai Peninsula speak Hebrew.
There's so much more. You'll never figure out what people are like, or what the sentiment is on the street, from the traditional media. TV, Newspapers, etc. They just don't spend the time to get out there any more. Totten is though, and my view of the middle east is changing with every post I read.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Cinderella man vs. The Jewish Icon

Interesting piece from David Adesnik that just goes to show that sometimes there aren't any good guys and bad guys, just regular folk trying to do good.
"THAT ONE'S FOR HITLER" is what Max Baer snarled in his 1933 bout with German boxer Max Schmeling. During that match, and in every match thereafter, Baer wore a Star of David on his trunks. Although raised Catholic, Baer had a Jewish father and, not surprisingly, became a hero to Jews around the world. Baer held the world title for 364 days, from June 13, 1934 until June 12, 1935, when he lost the belt to James J. Braddock, recently made famous by the Hollywood version of his life, Cinderella Man. In the film, Baer is a bloodthirsty hedonist, who attempts to intimidate Braddock by reminding him of how two of Baer's opponents died in the ring. According to film critic David Fellenrath, this portrayal is patently unfair. Although the real life Baer did kill one of his opponents in the ring, he was wracked by guilt thereafter. After the death, Baer went on to lose four of his next six fights and have recurrent nightmares. He also donated some of his winning's to the family of his fallen opponent and later on put his children through college. Mercifully, Cindrella Man never mentions that Baer was a Jewish icon. According to Fellenrath, the careful viewer can spot the Star of David on Baer's trunks, although I didn't notice it while watching the film this evening. In contrast, the Star on Baer's actual trunks was quite noticeable (see above). Although far from bloodthirsty, Baer's was actually a hedonist who didn't take Braddock seriously and barely trained for the fight. According to Baer's son, he even had one of his mistresses pleasure him before the fight -- an apt prelude to Baer's very successful career in show business both during and after his time as a professional fighter. Although it's very hard not to enjoy Cinderella Man, there is a good case to be made that Max Baer should have his own movie. (And so should Max Schmeling, who never wanted to be a Nazi icon and even hid two Jewish boys in his hotel room during Kristallnacht, after which they emigrated to America.)

Birds of a feather

...spread the flu with ever increasing rapidity.
With all the hubbub over the Avian Flu pandemic that is just around the corner, coming to a town near you, it's easy to get caught up in the craze of blaming someone, be it the government or the pharmaceutical companies, for not being ready to deal with this pandemic. But the reasons that we are slow to react might not be what you think.
I linked yesterday to a TCS Daily article by Dr. Henry I. Miller calling for a Manhattan Project for the bird flu, saying that government regulation and lack of financial profitability are hindering scientific progress that could help stop an Avian flu pandemic. There is another piece today at TCS that looks at a similar quelling effect on advances in biotechnology, caused by disregard and disrespect for intellectual property rights.
So instead of insisting that the government get busy and spend spend spend on research for cures and vaccines, it should actually be getting out of the way.
With so much potential in biotech it's no wonder that White is frustrated by the growing trend to violate intellectual property rights. His complaint is similar to Dr. Miller's; when financial incentive is stripped from an enterprise, investment lags, and progress is slowed.
Its not that there shouldn't be limits and agencies that watch for careless research and harmful products. But the weight of the bureaucracy required to get stuff approved is prohibitive. Remember, innovation in the Soviet Union was, for the most part, driven by political forces. Otherwise it would have ground to a halt, and pretty much did anyway in everything except space and Olympic sports.

Hat tip to the Kat's Meow for the links.

Standing room only

Ever since I first took an airplane at some young age, 9 or 10, I can't remember, I've loved flying. I took many trips from my home in Albuquerque to visit my grandmother in Maryland, and my parents would let me go by myself. It was magical, being on your own (with the kindly help of the flight attendants to lead me around) and traveling to new places. Ever since I have enjoyed flying and especially like hanging out in airports. I was sad when deregulation led to airlines reorganizing flights into the hub system to make flying more efficient. No longer would I wait for hours in a strange airport, getting to wander around for a while before my next flight. You're lucky these days if you don't have to run full speed to your connecting flight.
The actual flights were fun to. I loved maps (still do) and almost always got to have a window seat so that I could see the best map there was: the real thing. I read magazines, did logic puzzles.
Flying is a bit different now. No time to peruse airport concourses. Responsibilities at either end of the flight. And I'm a bit bigger now, so the seats are not my favorite place to be. I used to relish 4 hour legs, but now the shorter the better. I just get too cramped in those tiny rows. Jack Bogdanski complains:
Ever since Ronald Reagan ordered the application of the almighty Free Market Principles to the U.S. airline industry, the experience of flying on a commercial jet aircraft has steadily declined in quality. Now you go hours without food, are lucky to get served putrid water, rise at 4 a.m. to make your flight, and endure ticket pricing that defies all logic. "Why should you have to pay for something you don't want?" was the dominant mantra.
That may be, but the relative cost of flying is nothing like it was before Reagan. If you want to pay those prices, you can sure still get that comfort in something they call first class. Most of us are willing to put up with the lower amenities for the relative inexpense of flying great distances in a couple of hours.
Comes news now that Airbus is considering creating sections that are super economy. Persons would stand against a padded board, strapped to the board.
Airbus has been quietly pitching the standing-room-only option to Asian carriers, though none have agreed to it yet. Passengers in the standing section would be propped against a padded backboard, held in place with a harness, according to experts who have seen a proposal.
Holy leg cramps, Batman! My understanding from reading the article is that they are trying to get these on the short hops that Japanese airlines make from island to island. So you'd only be standing for a half an hour or so. That's as long as I stand on the train into work every morning. What a weird feeling that would be to take off and land standing up.
Would I be willing to do it? Maybe on short commuters to Seattle and Spokane. I'm already used to reading and snacking standing up. I would just be trading the cramped and stuffy seats for the leg cramps.

God in the public square

I’ve chimed in here and there about religious issues and secularism in the public square.  Those  on the left side of the aisle continue to berate the religious right for it’s rhetoric and the Bush administration for trying to create a theocracy (as if that were possible in this country), and those on the right continue to scream that they’re under siege and the like.

Recently Newt Gingrich has been promoting some challenges that America must overcome in order to preserve our great nation, including confronting militant Islamists and staying economically competitive with China and India.

But one of them also includes defending God in the public square.   Alan Stewart Carl responds to that.

      Some people like to point to the rise of the Christian Right (better referred to as Christianists) and of false-issues like the “war on Christmas” as proof that we are living in a time of impending theocracy. But that’s just not the case. The Christian Right and their issues (real and invented) are a reaction to the realization that what we are living in is a time of impending hyper-secularism. And while I and many others (possibly Newt himself) regularly and even deeply disagree with the means and rhetoric of the Christianists, we are not particularly pleased with efforts of groups like the ACLU to wipe America clean of public displays of religion.

      And before anyone accidentally or willfully misinterprets my position, I am not calling for the Ten Commandments to be posted in courthouses and creationism to be taught in our schools. What I seek is a nation where we as a people do not get offended when confronted with the religious beliefs and passions of those whose faith seems odd to us. Nor should we get offended when our own religious beliefs and passions are scorned and mocked by others.

      When Gingrich says the future of our nation is reliant on “defending God in the public square” what I think he means is that freedom of religion, all religion, is one of the founding principles of this nation. In our zeal to keep church and state separate, we should be careful not to separate faith from our national character and public life. A man’s religion is not contained in his church or synagogue or mosque or temple—it’s part of his whole life. And America lets him live that religion. Even in the public square. Most importantly, in the public square.

As strikingly moderate and sensible as this is, I think that it’s probably how most people think on this issue, left or right.  You can criticize religious figures who rail on with catchy phrases like “War on Christmas,”  but even more so, organizations like the ACLU have become hopelessly out of touch with the values of the vast majority of Americans.   

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Free Speech?

The 9th Circuit court does it again.
Tyler Harper wore an anti-homosexuality T-shirt to school, apparently responding to a pro-gay-rights event put on at the school by the Gay-Straight Alliance at the school. On the front, the T-shirt said, "Be Ashamed, Our School Embraced What God Has Condemned," and on the back, it said "Homosexuality is Shameful." The principal insisted that Harper take off the T-shirt. Harper sued, claiming this violated his First Amendment rights. Harper's speech is constitutionally unprotected, the Ninth Circuit just ruled today, in an opinion written by Judge Reinhardt and joined by Judge Thomas; Judge Kozinski dissented. According to the majority, "derogatory and injurious remarks directed at students' minority status such as race, religion, and sexual orientation" -- which essentially means expressions of viewpoints that are hostile to certain races, religions, and sexual orientations -- are simply unprotected by the First Amendment in K-12 schools. Such speech, Judge Reinhardt said, violates "the rights of other students" by constituting a "verbal assault[] that may destroy the self-esteem of our most vulnerable teenagers and interfere with their educational development."
Oh, heavens. What are the odds that this WON'T be overturned by the Supreme Court. I realize that schools need a tool to help them stop disruptive behavior, but the dissenting opinion points out that there wasn't much evidence that there was any disruption at all.
What's it going to take for people to get that almost every opinion is going to offend someone, and you can't subvert it just because it's going to do so.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

So what do we call it?

Some people make a pretty big deal out of what exactly to call this military conflict that takes up so much front page space these days.  Those of us who believe that it’s a war tend to call it the “War on Terror” although that’s kind of a nebulous phrase, considering that “Terror” is a battle tactic, not an entity per say.   One could not, for instance, declare war on the blitzkrieg.  Although some might be so bold as to declare war on fascism, which still exists in way too many places.

So what do we call it?  We can’t call it a war on Islam, which would be wrong, as there are millions of rational and relatively peaceful Muslims in the world.  We can’t really declare war on any particular nation state, as the main antagonists don’t really belong to one country or another.  The closest thing we have to an enemy nation state would probably be Iran, but that hasn’t really heated up yet.

Is it a war on Al Qaeda, the terrorist organization?  Perhaps, but I don’t think the administration has any intent on limiting this to one group of people, this is designed to target ANY organization that has designs on using terror against us or anyone else.

Can we call it a war against Islamo-fascism?  Well, fascism does define a right wing oppressive dictatorship, and I guess that’s what Islamic terrorists would have in place had they their way.  But it doesn’t quite cover it.

How about: “Any organized group of individuals who practice a particularly violent variant of Islam that actively works to get their way by terrorizing, bombing or beheading ordinary people, and you know who you are.” 

Jonathan Rauch thinks that we should call it War on Jihadism, but I’m not sure that works either, as Jihad is a part of Islam lore and history that exists for all Muslims. 

Chinese dissidence

Via Instapundit, this Washington Post article discussing a Chinese man arrested for his ideas, and the push to get Bush to address it while Chinese President Hu Jintao visits the United States:

      He personifies a generation of urban Chinese who have flourished thanks to the Communist Party's embrace of market-style capitalism and greater cultural openness. He got his MBA from the University of Michigan and worked for EarthLink before returning to China to pursue his dream of becoming a documentary filmmaker. He and his sister, Nina Wu, who works in finance and lives a comfortable middle-class life in Shanghai, have enjoyed freedoms of expression, travel, lifestyle and career choice that their parents could never have dreamed of. They are proof of how U.S. economic engagement with China has been overwhelmingly good for many Chinese.

      Problem is, the Chinese Dream can be shattered quickly if you step over a line that is not clearly drawn -- a line that is kept deliberately vague and that shifts frequently with the political tides. Those who were told by the Chinese media that they have constitutional and legal rights are painfully disabused of such fantasies when they seek to shed light on social and religious issues the state prefers to keep in the dark. . . . But we have a serious problem that won't go away: How can Americans respect or trust a regime that kidnaps our friends?

Some might argue that the transformation of the Chinese society is slow and painful, and that we should keep on trying to just apply soft political pressure while some Chinese continue to suffer from oppression.  I think this view emphasizes the gains that society has made in that country are a work in progress.  However, the Chinese government instituted those economic changes so that it could stay in power politically, so I’m not sure that, while there is far more economic freedom than there used to be, that the government is in any danger of succumbing to any social pressure to change.

Add to that the U.S. need for China to stay involved in the diplomacy with North Korea and stay on our side in that arena.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Cracking down in Europe

For all the huffing and puffing over the NSA program and how Bush is eradicating rights left and right, here’s what Europe is doing.

      Most of Britain's new counterterrorism legislation, which outlaws the vaguely worded "glorification" of terrorism, came into force on Thursday. Italy and the Netherlands have relaxed the conditions under which intelligence services may eavesdrop. French legislation recently gave investigators broader access to telephone and Internet data. German legislation being drawn up seeks to allow intelligence services easier access to bank and car registration records.

The International Herald Tribune frets about harming civil liberties, but Europe’s leaders seem to be more concerned with their citizens’ lives.

Hat tip to Powerline.

Road Trip!

Don’t miss any of Michael Totten’s road trip to Iraq.

      The first time I went there on a day trip from Erbil it seemed like such an innocent place. After seeing the rough hell of Turkish Kurdistan, though, and realizing that the Kurds in Iraq had it even worse under Saddam, it did not seem so innocent to me anymore. Iraqi Kurds struck me as deeply, profoundly, mature. It took so much work, blood, and sacrifice to build what they have. And they built it from nothing.

      Iraq is the only country in the world where Kurds wield any power. They're ground down under the majoritarian boot everywhere else. For the most part they wield their power responsibly. Government corruption is still just atrocious, and they haven’t yet fully emerged from a traditional society into a completely liberal and modern one. A Kurdish journalist was recently thrown in prison after a fifteen minute show trial for blasting the KDP in a newspaper column. He was later released, but he’s not yet out of trouble. The Kurdish quasi-state wants to be liberal, but still doesn’t quite understand how or what that means.

      Even so, they’ve made more progress in the region than anyone else except, perhaps, for the Lebanese and the Israelis. And they started a mere fifteen years ago from the bottom of Saddam’s mass graves. From the Mouth of Hell to…the Utah of the Middle East. By force of sheer will against extraordinarily long odds.

Technology with a human touch

Helping people find best routes at a multi venue event.  At the Commonwealth Games in Melbourne, Australia, volunteers wandered around with small handheld wireless PDAs to help visitors find their way around. 

Basically, what these devices were designed to do was create routes from one event to another.  For instance, if you were at the track and field events, but wanted to get to the swimming and then to a rugby match, but you had never been to Melbourne before, you would find one of these people standing around, and ask them for directions.  They would enter the events you wanted to attend and the information would be processed at a remote server and a map with directions would be returned to the volunteer’s PDA.  Each volunteer had a small black and white printer attached to their belts which would print out the directions, which would include a combination of walking, bus and rail routes to optimize their travel time.

This is a pretty nifty thing, in that instead of having a number of kiosk type stations where people would do this themselves, real live people were, in effect, the kiosk.  I think this has a number of advantages over the kiosk system. 

    1. While kiosks provide information without having to manage the people to run them, having volunteers with wireless devices allows them to override the directions when it makes sense to do so. 
    2. Since there are still a number of people in the world who don’t do well with technology, having live people to get the directions for them improves access to the technology
    3. People always have more questions than any information system can handle, and kiosks can only answer so many of them.  But volunteers who know the ins and outs of the transportation system, the events and the city itself are generally the most efficient information system.

I wonder if this sort of thing is going to be used for the Olympics.
On a side note, I really wasn’t familiar with what the Commonwealth Games are all about, since our media over here pays little attention to them.  In effect, they are like the Olympics, but only for former British colonies.  There are lots of events like that on a regional level, like the Pan Am, Asian and African games.  One fun aspect of that is that all the former members of the British Empire speak English, and so everyone at the event can communicate with each other.   Former host cities have been Manchester, Kuala Lumpur, Victoria (BC), Auckland, Kingston (Jamaica), and the next games in 2010 are in Delhi, India.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Watch dogging the News

Blogs tend to take a bad wrap from the main stream media. However they do keep the press honest. Take this example recently from the NY Times, where a journalist mis-represented the testimony of FISA judges before the Senate Judiciary Committee regarding Bush's wire tapping.
Powerline had read the transcripts of the testimony, and scrutinized the article in two posts. A publisher of a small newspaper read those posts, called the Times senior editor and pointed out what the transcript actually said.
The Times editor called back and said that he was right, and the correction appeared in a later edition. It's unfortunate that not many people will actually read the correction, and therefore will still have the wrong impression about the authority that Bush has to initiate wire tapping, but at least there is some recognition that a wrong happened. Wonder if the article's writer is going to get talked to or reprimanded in any way.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Riot in Nepal

Last year, King Gyanendra declared martial law because, as he claimed at the time, he was afraid that communist rebels were a threat to take over the country.   Now, after months of government suppression of any opposition or criticism of the king, the people of Nepal are getting restless.  And violent.

      Police fired rubber bullets and tear gas at hundreds of lawyers protesting against the king's rule as demonstrations and an opposition general strike continued in Nepal for an eighth day Thursday.

      Dozens of lawyers were wounded after police hit them with batons, and at least 70 were arrested, said Madhav Baskota, general secretary of the Nepal Bar Association. Two lawyers were hit with rubber bullets and one by a tear gas canister, he said.

      Later, a crowd of thousands calling for the king to resign marched on a road where demonstrations are prohibited. Police kept watch but did not interfere.

      "People and police come together! Hang King Gyanendra!" the protesters chanted.

Wow.  It’s nuts over there.  The king relaxed some restrictions regarding cell phone usage and night curfews, but I doubt that’s going to tame the beast.  Now, the communist rebellion is still out there, and they certainly are a threat, but there is uncertainty of what would happen if the people decided that they needed to forcefully extract the king from the seat of power.  Would sane people be a part of whatever new government fills the void?  Or would the communists be in position to take the reigns? 

The US State Department is pulling Americans out of the country now.  They should also be warning Gyanendra that if he doesn’t ease up on his people, he could be setting the stage for something far worse than what he is trying to prevent by cracking down.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

The Future of Mt. Hood Recreation

The three ski areas on Mt. Hood have been envisioning what their future might look like.  With the Mt Hood Stewardship Legacy Act being debated in Congress, Reps Blumenauer and Walden asked ALL interested parties with a stake in what happens on the mountain to submit a wish list of things that they think would improve access and the mountain’s resources. 

Most of what the ski area’s asked for didn’t make it into the bill.  Not surprising, given what they were asking for.

      Mount Hood resort operators hope skiers someday can park their cars at huge parking lots before reaching Government Camp and then ride a shuttle bus or aerial cable car connecting the three major ski areas.

      Truck drivers hauling goods from Portland to the east side of the Cascades might take a new road through Clackamas County forests connecting Oregon 224 to U.S. 26, avoiding today's skier-caused traffic jams at Government Camp.

      Among other things, the agreement supports widening highways, building sewage treatment systems, using stream water for snowmaking, developing land for housing and parking lots, and implementing a collective marketing strategy that includes the U.S. Forest Service.

So I read that and my eyes perk up.  A cable car?
The Legacy Act under discussion creates about 70k acres of wilderness in the Mt. Hood national forest, as well as settles a lawsuit regarding land in a watershed that the Mt. Hood Meadows ski area has rights to develop.  The agreement swaps the land with some land in Government Camp that’s OK to develop.

But the bill also calls for a study…

      The bill also calls for a study of a gondola running between Government Camp and Timberline Lodge. The idea, also part of the wish list, would run a cable car in roughly the same line as an aerial tram that existed in the 1950s but was closed after a couple of seasons when the road leading to Timberline Lodge from U.S. 26 was improved.

What they are saying in the article is that this gondola system would also connect Timberline with Mt. Hood Meadows, running over the White River canyon.  What would that mean?  One ticket for both ski areas?  It wouldn’t be out of the question, lots of ski areas around the world, and in the US, have grown together to form larger areas.  Some just share tickets, even though they aren’t actually connected.  What I want to see is a season pass or 10 time pass that’s good at all three ski areas.  Even if they aren’t linked.

Back to the White River canyon.

      Meadows, for example, would have to amend its 1997 master plan that prohibits developed recreation in the White River drainage.

      The ski areas could be setting themselves up for a huge fight. White River is considered an important wetland and wildlife corridor, and it's one of the most accessible and popular high-alpine environments for backcountry skiers, snowshoers and summer hikers.

And I’m one of those hikers.  Although I don’t think it would kill people to have a gondola line there.  Really this is about the aesthetics more than anything.  As long as there aren’t any towers in the canyon, which I think is doable, you aren’t going to mess with wildlife or hikers.  And really – a wetland?  Have these people been in that canyon in the summer?  Nothing but sand and boulders, interrupted only by the channel of the White River.

They also talk in the article about a traffic relief corridor running from Highway 224 to the east side of the Cascades.

      The highest priorities for the ski areas are the expansion of U.S. 26, creating a bypass from Oregon 224, and building mass transportation hubs that could put skiers in buses and take traffic off the highways.

I’m not sure where they would build it.  They are correct, that building another highway to Bend would definitely reduce traffic on the 26.  But it’s going to increase traffic on a portion of the forest that’s never seen more than a handful of cars on any given day.

The ski areas haven’t changed all that much since I started skiing there over 15 years ago.  The officials involved are right that the future could get a lot more dismal, traffic wise, if they don’t start planning now.

The Westlund Effect

Latest polls regarding the Oregon Governor’s race next November tell and interesting tale.  Wall Street/Zogby did a poll showing how any of the candidates would do against any of the other candidates in a general election (i.e. places all the Democrat hopefuls against each Republican and sees how they will do). 

The interesting thing is not that any of the Democrats would easily beat any of the Republicans on the docket.  The weird thing is how Ben Westlund influences the race.  Remember, he’s a former Republican turned Independent for this governor race.

But his numbers don’t bring down the Republican numbers, they bring down the Democrat numbers, bringing them into a dead heat with each Republican for all possible scenarios.

I’d sign the petition for this guy to get on the ballot, but some stingy law in Oregon prevents me from doing so unless I re-register as an independent, or else not vote in the May primary AT ALL.  How dumb is that?

Happy Birthday Beverly

Beverly Cleary turned 90 years old today.  Her books for kids about Ramona and Henry all occur in the area of Grant High School in Portland where she graduated.  My kids have played in the fountain in Grant Park that has copper statues of Henry, Ribsy (his dog) and Ramona the Pest.  The Hollywood/Alameda hill area is one of my favorite in Portland.  Thank you Ms. Cleary, for all the great stories.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Life in Hell

Or close to it. This is a closer look into Venezuela, where fear permeates every level of society, from rich to poor. Fear of the cops.
The anger is cutting across class lines, because kidnapping, robbery and murder affect rich and poor alike. This is the first event ever thatÂ’s united rich and poor in Venezuela. The shantytowns of Caracas are some of the most dangerous places on earth. The wealthy and middle class, meanwhile, are regular targets of opportunity for the same thieves and extorters and kidnappers and killers. ItÂ’s mostly cops doing it, the very officials who are supposed to protect the people. The cops, to remind the people that they donÂ’t see protecting them as in their interest, have actually shot into a protesting crowd and killed a photographer, completely validating the crowdÂ’s anger at the police.

With lots of links to other info and testimonies.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Bush leaked!

OK, I've been reading in the papers about this, and seeing that some bloggers are freaking out about the fact that Bush declassified some stuff in order to leak it to the press, in order to manage the WMD issue back when the Wilson/Plame thing was going on.
Andrew Sullivan makes the case that this is the perfect excuse not to trust our President on anything.
The bottom line is that the president clearly used his prerogative to classify and declassify intelligence data to leak selectively to the press to give a misleading notion of what his own government believed about Saddam's WMDs before the war. He was personally involved; and he tasked his veep to coordinate it. The most plausible explanation is that the president believes grave national security prerogatives can be used for political purposes and/or that he had something embarrassing to hide. Bottom bottom line: we can't trust him to be fully honest with us on one of the bases on which he led us to war. That matters, doesn't it?
And Joe Gandelman...
In other words: a "whistle blower" with unflattering information that's leaked is a traitor, a criminal, and belongs in jail, but a President with information he wants to get across can leak it and it's OK because it's flattering and it's in the national interest for the public to get classified information that's flattering to the President.
OK, yes the President admitted it. I don't think that anywhere along the line Bush actually lied about what he was doing. If you look back at the stuff they are linking to it gets fuzzy whether the President was talking specifically about the Plame/Wilson stuff, which he leaked, or if he was talking about other leaks that had happened, or he could have been speaking in general. It does seem fishy. If you did the leaking, you would think that once it was apparent to the public that the information was leaked out of the White House you would say, OK sure we did it.
But no matter how Bush played that hand, the press would make him look bad.
OK everyone (and this includes most journalists and Sullivan and Gandelman) lets get some perspective. You and I might view leaked information as slimy politics, and the "sensitive" classified information as something important, as if all classified information is truly important. However 1. All presidents in recent memory have used leaks to get stuff to the public, and 2. Plame's status at the CIA was pretty well expired anyway. She hadn't been a covert agent in the field for years. The release of this information wasn't going to hurt anyone, and as it happened many people already knew that she worked at the CIA.
Bush's idea here was to try to get some useful information into the public arena without having it look like he's the one who put it there. If he had just come out with it, once again the media would have been all over him with accusations of playing politics with the issue by outing the wife of the guy opposing him.
Which was a shame, as the identity of Wilson's wife did in fact have implications, i.e. she is the one who got Wilson, who made no secret of being opposed to everything the administration seems to have stood for, the job of investigating something pretty serious for the administration. Don't you think that's important information to know?
The thing that really gets me, here, is what kind of a world we live in where in order to get some information out to the public, politicians feel the need to secretly leak it to the press instead of just tell us themselves. This betrays the utter lack of trust that Americans have for their representatives in Washington, that if they just told us themselves, we wouldn't believe them or would question their motives. But the American public didn't just get that way because we're mean spirited and untrusting. It's the result of congressmen and women letting us down time and time again with their institutionalized selfishness.

Meanwhile, Powerline notes that the press is going out on a limb with the "Bush Leaked" meme.
Bazinet's lead:
President Bush vowed to fire anyone caught blabbing classified information to the media, but he himself was the leaker-in-chief, a former top White House aide testified.
It seems to me that it would be difficult to pack a more misleading formulation of Fitzgerald's brief into fourteen words than Bazinet does in that lead. The great cloud of unknowing that descends in Bazinet's lead permeates the remainder of Bazinet's story.
Scott Johnson notes that the author of that article didn't have any quotes of Bush saying that leaks were bad in reference to that specific case (Plame/Wilson).
And anyway, here's a justification for Presidential authority to declassify information from the Reagan administration.

Friday, April 07, 2006

The History of Me

No, it's not a personal entry. It's political philosophy.
After the cold war ended and the wall fell, we entered into a period of relative serenity. History was behind us.

History was behind us. It was something our parents entered for a while during the war but they emerged into what was, essentially, the long peace. They'd had enough history, didn't want any more, and did what they could to keep history from happening. In general, the history of the Cold War is the history of what didn't happen punctuated by a few things every now and then such as Korea and Vietnam. But all in all, for over 50 years, history didn't happen.

With the end of the Soviet Union in a whimper and not a bang brighter than the sun on earth, history was officially over. The moment even got its own book, "The End of History," which stimulated an argument that even more than the book emphasized that history was over.

Most sensible people liked it that way. In fact, a lot of people really liked it that way. Because if history for the world was over, these people could get on making the history that really mattered to them: The History of Me.

More and more throughout the 90s "History" was "out," and "Me" was in. "Me," "Having My Space," "How to Be Your Own Best Friend," "Me, Myself, I," were hallmarks of that self-besotted age. The History of Me was huge in the 90s and rolled right through the millennium. It even had a Customized President to preside over those years; the Most Me President ever. A perfect man for the time and one who, in the end, did not disappoint in choosing "Me" over "Country." How could he do otherwise? It was the option his constituency of Many-Million-Mes elected him to select. I know because I was into Me then and I voted for him because, well, because he seemed to be "just like me." It was a sad day when "Me" couldn't run for a third term, but The Party of Me offered up "Mini-Me" and a lot of Mes turned out for him too.

That's right, the Me generation took over. The 90s were a period of excess, technology, booming stock markets and most of all peace in America. The minor skirmishes, like Bosnia and Somalia couldn't break the fun. No longer did we have to worry about anything but having fun.
And then 9/11 happened.
It was better when we lived in The History of Me. We knew how Me would end -- birth, fun, school, fun, job, fun, family, fun, age, fun, death and then ... probably fun, who knew, who cared? The meaning of this history was not deep but was to be found in the world "fun." Mini-Mes love fun. You could almost say it is their religion, a religion of fun. A funny concept, fun. Fills the space between birth and death. "He was a fun guy" could be a generic epitaph for the era. Now we find ourselves back in history as it has always been and it is not fun. Not fun at all. The history of history has little to do with fun, almost nothing at all. Most of the Mini-Mes don't know what to do in a history that isn't fun. All their lives have been about shaping history towards fun and they've been having a good run at it. They like it so much, they are now willing to do anything to bring it back -- the Kennedy Era, such elegant fun; the Clinton Years, "Hey, we partied like it was 1999." In the run-up to the last election and now for the next, there's been and there will be a lot of code swapped about getting the fun back in the game. "Remember the fun of the 90s? You can have it all back. Peace. Love. Understanding. Stock-market Boom. Money. Any number of genders can play." Indeed, these Merry Pranksters of our politics are setting up to run "The Bride of Fun" for President in 2008, even though it is clear she is the least fun of any of them.
We need to return to a national identity and ideal that thinks about Us, not Me. Because in history "little will be required of Me, but much from Us."
At this point I must entreat you to read the entire article. If you don't your missing good stuff.

And, finishing that, I would like to add that this push toward the Me isn't really all that surprising. Nor is the resistance with which the Mes out there are putting up in order to convince themselves that they are still outside history and that there is no war. Or no reason to fight any more. They want to go back to that happy time where they didn't have to show resolve and sacrifice.
But this is human nature. We wish to avoid the horrible things we must face in this life. And our nature, Christianity would call it our sinful nature, prompts us to think about the Me. The government should leave Me alone, except in the areas that are important to Me. Government should make it easier for me to make money and have nice things, regardless of how hard I'm willing to work. Why should I have to suffer for something that's not MY fault.
But we cannot escape history. History did not end in 1989. Nor will it end when the war on terror is over. Things like hurricanes and tsunamis constantly remind us of that. People dying in places like Darfur and Zimbabwe remind us of that. Or they should.

It's just a suggestion, really

Big Brother is looking after you. Well, he’s not directly telling you what to do, he’s only giving you incentive to move in one direction or the other. This is an interesting article in the Economist about a concept called Soft Paternalism.

      What they propose is “soft paternalism” . Thanks to years of patient observation of people's behaviour, they have come to understand your weaknesses and blindspots better than you might know them yourself. Now they hope to turn them to your advantage. They are paternalists, because they want to help you make the choices you would make for yourself—if only you had the strength of will and the sharpness of mind. But unlike “hard” paternalists, who ban some things and mandate others, the softer kind aim only to skew your decisions, without infringing greatly on your freedom of choice. Technocrats, itching to perfect society, find it irresistible. What should the supposed beneficiaries think?

I think that we already do this to a certain extent. It does attract me better than the government absolutely telling me what to do. The ways in which we do this involve things like tax breaks for charitable giving and home ownership. These are things that better our society, but are encouraged by the government (although imagine Uncle Sam telling us we HAVE to own a house by age 30 or something).

The article also brings up things like cooling off periods for marriage, divorce, buying guns and smoking (we already do have them for divorce and guns in many cases). Automatic enrollment in things, like pension plans (think Social Security) that you can opt out of if you want. Hmmmm.

      Soft paternalism has much in its favour. First, it is certainly better than hard paternalism. Second, a government has to provide information to citizens in order for them to make rational decisions on everything from smoking to breastfeeding to organ donation. Even a government reluctant to second-guess its citizens ends up advising them in one way or another. What people decide they want is often a product of the way a choice is framed for them—they take the first thing on the menu, or a bit of everything. Even a truly liberal government would find itself shaping the wishes and choices to which it earnestly wants to defer. It's surely better to lure people into pension schemes than out of them.

      Yet from the point of view of liberty, there is a serious danger of overreach, and therefore grounds for caution. Politicians, after all, are hardly strangers to the art of framing the public's choices and rigging its decisions for partisan ends. And what is to stop lobbyists, axe-grinders and busybodies of all kinds hijacking the whole effort? There is, admittedly, a safety valve. People remain free to reject the choices soft paternalism tries to guide them into—that is what is distinctive about it. But though people will still have this freedom, most won't bother to use it—that is what makes soft paternalism work. For all its potential, and its advantage over paternalism of the hard sort, this is a tool that transfers power from the individual to the state, which only sometimes knows best.

OK, so there’s chance of corruption in any system. You wouldn’t want this getting out of hand, but I find the train of thought coming from policy wonks in Washington a step in a fresher direction. It’s certainly better than Hard Paternalism.

GPS-less location

OK, this is really neat technologically.  Or really freaky if you get the willies about people knowing where you are.  Won’t matter that you don’t have GPS installed.

      Some positioning systems make use of natural objects or phenomena; for example, celestial navigation uses the stars, compasses use Earth's magnetic field, and ancient mariners relied on trade winds. Other positioning systems rely on facilities or networks built for the purpose; for example, lighthouses, buoys, or Global Positioning System (GPS) satellites. Yet a third way is to exploit devices that were built and deployed for other purposes. That is what Skyhook Wireless is demonstrating, by implementing what it calls a WiFi positioning system (WPS). This new technique relies on the growing popularity, in U.S. urban areas, of wireless Internet access points and uses them as signals of opportunity to determine the position of mobile WiFi-enabled devices, such as laptop computers, PDAs, and cell phones.

In one sense it’s neat, in that you are locationally enabled, even though you don’t have a GPS, or if your GPS doesn’t get proper signals in certain areas in urban zones.  On the other hand, if you are freaked out about people knowing where you are at all times, you have one more item of technology to avoid.

Mali and Islamists

News from Mali.  Hat tip from Instapundit.
Mali is one of the most stable democracies in Africa.  They have orderly elections and relatively little disturbance, and up until this point little in the way of Islamic extremism problems.  That seems to be changing.

      The desert regions of the far north of the country, up against the Algerian frontier, are not only the most thinly populated region, but also the least well-controlled by the central government. Banditry and feuds among the largely Tuareg Berber tribes are common in the north. In addition, the region seems to have attracted Islamist fundamentalists fleeing defeat in Algeria, who have reportedly set up base camps in order to regroup. This is causing concern not only in Mali, but also in Algeria and nearby Mauritania. All three countries have recently reached a number of agreements to promote greater security in the region, and these include rights of "hot pursuit" during operations against extremists.

There’s long term animosity between the Tuareg tribes of the northern Sahara and the darker skinned, southern cultures of sub Saharan Africa that stretches back thousands of years.  Islamic terrorists are trying to take advantage of that, not just in Mali, but in all countries surrounding the Sahara.  It’ll be interesting to see how the Tuareg take to Al Qaeda’s form of Islam (which is different than theirs, in that they incorporate lots of ancient Tuareg practices) and how the nations in that area are able to deal with it.

Battle in the Classroom Redux

Rehash on Wednesday’s post.   I got a comment from someone who got the impression that I would throw out Darwinism in schools for the sake of Intelligent Design (ID) and that the “Ouch” is for teachers who don’t adjust to a methodology of teaching that allows any and all quirky theories on how life originated and develops.

Not so, and I think that I probably didn’t spend enough, or any, time discussing this at greater length in order not to be misunderstood.  You might be confused as to where my “ouch” came from.

I am conservative, but I definitely don’t want something taught in schools that doesn’t have some solid foundations in logical thought and scientific fact.  However, I think that too much faith is often put in some areas of science, and taught in school as so much dogma.  Yes, I’m talking about Darwinism here.  However, I’ve often made the point, once or twice on this blog, that I wouldn’t mind not including ID in public education (as ID is more of a theory on origins of life than changes over time) as long as it was made clear in science classes that Darwinism is only theory and not fact, which is too often how it’s presented.  Darwinism has its place in science, but it also has definite drawbacks and pitfalls.

I was encouraged to hear that students were challenging their teachers on this point.  The point of the piece I linked to was that teachers should be able to defend what they are teaching, and if they can’t either they shouldn’t be there or what they are teaching should be re-evaluated.

I was also displaying my not too hidden angst at popular evolutionary theory proponents who insist that life evolves and that nature is in a constant battle where only the stronger species survives, but in their actual practice do everything they can to stop the process.  What I mean by this is that liberal practice today means that you have to act to keep the environment in some static state (whether in a form that existed before “white men” came, or in some form that never really existed), or society must act to promote equality amongst people, regardless of their ability or desire to compete in the economic and social environment they find themselves in.  Welfare, affirmative action, minimum wage, and complaining about corporate executive salaries all work to drive equality of lifestyle, when this country was founded on equality of opportunity, which is all you can really hope to successfully implement.  Marxism hopes to achieve equality of lifestyle, but they’ll never achieve it.

For those of you who’ll freak at the examples I used above, I think that affirmative action and welfare have their place and have had their uses.  Affirmative action was necessary to bring about equality of opportunity for a segment of the population in the 60s and possibly 70s.  Limited welfare might be achievable if you place strict limits on it to help those who are temporarily out of luck and just need a short boost to get going again.  Neither should be permanent parts of society.

Anyway, my ouch is the irony of a teacher getting replaced by a better “species” of teacher that is more able to thrive in an environment of free ideas and inquiry.  Even if some of that inquiry involves challenging dogmatic memes by students.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Who's afraid of the big bad wolf?

Michael Totten is not afraid of the Big Bad Hezbollah anyway.  I’ve never quite read such a ripping on the “friendly face” of a radical militant Muslim organization before as I did with this Dear Hussein letter.

      What do you people expect? It’s one thing when you trot out your impotent Death to America slogans. It’s another thing altogether when you threaten and bully us personally. I’m not a wire agency reporter. When you talk to me you’re on the record. When you say “We know who you are, we read everything you write, and we know where you live,” you’re on the record. Of course I’m going to quote you. If you don’t want to look like an a******* in print, don’t act like an a****** in life.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Battle of the Classroom

LA Times:

      "Two decades of political and legal maneuvering on evolution has spilled over into public schools, and biology teachers are struggling to respond. Loyal to the accounts they've learned in church, students are taking it upon themselves to wedge creationism into the classroom, sometimes with snide comments but also with sophisticated questions - and a fervent faith."

Joe Katzman:

      I'll add that a teacher who doesn't know and understand science in enough depth to handle this, and can't learn the lessons of persuasion well enough to put it forward in a strong but respectful way... probably needs to find another line of work. When they're replaced by someone who can cope, the subject will become stronger. As it needs to be, these days.

      Think of it as evolution in action.


Monday, April 03, 2006

Mexican election looming

Mexico is going to have Presidential elections this summer.  They are poised between voting for Vicente Fox’s successor in the National Action party, who would continue the support for trade with the U.S. under NAFTA and more often support the U.S. in cross border issues, and Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador of the Party of the Democratic Revolution. 

Obrador has received campaign funds from Hugo Chavez, and would represent a leftist front opposing the U.S. on many fronts.  Cuba, Venezuela, Bolivia, Mexico and most likely Peru.

Dick Morris discusses that a bit, as well as how legislation on immigration policy here in the U.S. might influence that election for the better or worse.

Al Qaeda fires Zarqawi?

Fired.  Shown the front door.  Given walking papers.  Canned.  Let go.  Downsized.
Seems that the leadership, if it can be called that, wasn’t really pleased with the way things were going in Iraq.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Wow! African nations are pondering the possibilities for all the former (and future) dictators who committed atrocities yet get away scott free by exiling themselves in some other country.
Hopes have been raised by the case of Charles Taylor, the former Liberian president accused of greed and savagery extraordinary even for a continent that has known some of the worst tyrants of modern times. He was extradited Wednesday to face crimes against humanity charges at a U.N.-supported Special Court for his role in fomenting civil wars in Sierra Leone.
Seriously, the UN court is finally getting serious about this after watching passively while dictators left and right fled from revolutions and then lived high on the hog in some other third world country that couldn't have cared less about harboring them.
But I'm wondering what tone this will set for fascist leaders of nations around the world, not just in Africa. Sure, the dark continent has more of them, and banana dictatorships have been more of a problem there, but there are other bad boys around the world who have to be reading the writing on the wall. Chavez of Venezuela, Kim Jong Il in North Korea, Burma, Thailand, Iran. You can't just expect to run your country into the ground and then slip away with the spoils to a happy retirement on some sandy third world beach any more.

Darfur update

Instapundit relates that Sudanese fighters have entered Chad, where the refugee camps are, and are attacking them, while the Darfur rebels are trying to recruit from those camps.
He also links to this site for Darfur happenings.
Just so you know, things are not getting any better. They're getting worse.
I watched a movie that didn't get much fanfare the other night: Tears of the Sun. Bruce Willis stars as this Navy Seal commander who leads sorties into Nigeria during the ethnic uprisings to rescue Foreign nationals. When he finds that the army is killing entire villages of people just because they are not of the ethnic group the general is in, they start killing the soldiers and get directly involved. Most of Willis' troop get killed trying to get 20 or so villagers out into neighboring Cameroon. After the film, in the commentary, Bruce and the film makers express shock that stuff like this goes on and the world doesn't do anything about it.
Welcome to the age of the UN. It doesn't shock me at all. It infuriates me. Millions of people in this world care about this sort of stuff, but politicians, who care more about their status and the balance of power (and in most cases about economics and status quo) always seem to be able to turn the blind eye. It happens more often than you might think.