Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Oxbow Regional Park

For those of us in the Portland area, we live in a big city that's blessed with natural diversity and beauty that you would be foolish not to experience and enjoy. For those of you who can't seem to get away, or who are reluctant to go very far away from town to enjoy your outdoor activities, I give you Oxbow Regional park.

Seeing as how Metro is a fairly unique governmental body in the United States, I would say this is a fairly unique park. It's a natural area and campground that is not administered by a county, state or federal agency, but by the local regional administrative body that also is responsible for the zoo, transit and growth management.

Boy scout tent city

This park is only a few minutes from Gresham, Oregon, which is the eastern suburb of Portland, and minimarts are just minutes away. However drive a few miles past small suburban farm on Division blvd and the road turns left and dives down into the Sandy River valley and runs right into this park. The campground is similar to any full service campground you'll find on any state or federal forest campground, and it also has group areas, like the one our boy scout troop used.
Group recreation area

All you need is a tent, sleeping bag, and preferably a sleeping pad. If you've always wanted to get out camping, this is a great way to start. Or just visit for the day, hike some of their many trails through natural forests and along the river.

Oh, yeah, and you'll probably see a bit of wildlife there too.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Rooting out evil

Just a short note to all of you to keep your eye on Lebanon, where things are getting hot again.
There have been bombings and attacks, and Lebanon is getting more and more tired of harboring Palestinian refugees who harbor the same people who incited Israel to attack their country last summer.
The leader of the Shia militant group Hezbollah has urged Lebanon's government not to storm a refugee camp to root out Sunni radicals. Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah said Lebanon should not become part of the American war against al-Qaeda.
Well, now, you see if Lebanon becomes a hotbed of conflict and the Lebanese invite American aid, and if al-Qaeda is a part of it, there's only yourself to blame here. The Lebanese are certainly not to blame for foreign elements operating against the United States and Israel from their soil. Frankly if I were them I'd have gotten tired of it a long time ago and kindly invited the refugees to leave.
However, that point might not be that far off, as one Lebanese describes his feelings on the matter.
The Lebanese were collectively punished last summer for not being able to control a mad man who thought that kidnapping the cubs of a lioness was a game. As he hid safely like a pussy behind a chastity belt, over 1,000 Lebanese died. And the dreams of millions along with them. I hated the Israelis then. Even though I knew a lot of them personally who did not hate me back each time a missile hit Haifa. And as we collectively punished the Palestinians in their camp for not being able to control mad men who thought that killing the kittens of a declawed house cat would demonstrate their power, I felt no remorse. None. Hypocrite. They should have controlled the madmen, I thought. Then Boom. A bomb in Achrafieh. Again. A dead innocent woman. Again. Boom. Another bomb in another affluent neighborhood. Verdun. Boom. Another bomb in Aley. Here we go. The birthing pangs of our rebirth. While the mad men of Damascus started softly gloating, my numbness turned to rage. And while we exercised power over the powerless, I thought back to July of 2006. And I realized. Realized that I was guilty. Of hypocrisy. The terrorists need to be eliminated.
The U.S. has begun to send aid. Military aid, that is.
Thanks to Michael Totten for the links.

CEO income controversy

Gateway Pundit looks at CEO pay and notes that the big earners aren’t really making as much as they were in the 90s, contrary to popular notion. There is still a big gap between what executives earn and what the guy sitting in the cubical a few floors below is getting, but whether that’s earned or not is an argument for the stockholders to ponder.

Just so that you are all aware, we’re going to hear more and more about exorbitant salaries and bonuses that CEOs get in the current business world, but it’s more about the rules of reporting income than actual increases in pay.

      The perennial battle is about to reach a new level of contentiousness. The proxy season, just getting started, will be the first under new Securities & Exchange Commission reporting rules that force companies to disclose more about executive pay than ever before--from the hundreds of millions some executives stand to gain in severance, pensions, and deferred pay, to any perk worth more than $10,000. Golden parachutes and sybaritic benefits such as club memberships and personal use of company jets won't score many points against a backdrop of the options-backdating scandal and increasingly empowered activist investors.

Later: I was thinking about this a bit more and recalled that in addition to things like this, we hear that the economy is doing well, that the stock market is back on it's feet and hitting records, and that the federal government is topping tax revenue in numbers that are eclipsing figures from 2000 and 2001, when we had a surplus running.
I'll be surprised to see any of the candidates for President this year bring out the economy as a talking or debating point. The Republican's might, but they've been pretty bad in the spending game, so while they can lay claim to a healthy economy, it's only because they've cut taxes and generally given the economy some slack. Despite the record revenue numbers, we're still running a deficit, albeit a smaller one than last year.
If any Democrats try and pick up this issue they risk getting politically buried.
For the rest of us, it's pretty good news. Sit back for a moment. Ignore the puffing windbags and enjoy the recovery.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

If you live in Portland

... then you'll get this blog post.
Not much going on (he says as the world dissolves) so I was reading the Oregonian, which I don't often do, and found some interesting stories.

The legislature never seems to stop making laws and handing out money, so here's some interesting new bills that caught my eye.
A law passed the Senate, and has the governor's OK, that would ban smoking in bars and bowling alleys. The legal space to smoke these days is getting smaller and smaller. Soon it'll be legal only in your home. I'm not crazy about the government telling private businesses what they can do, but I can't say that I'm all that disappointed in the end result. Bowling with my family won't be quite as bad.

Senate bill 384 is moving through the process and is expected to pass. That bill creates limits on golden parachutes for school administrators. The article notes several examples of administrators who were paid lots of money, sometimes 6 figures, when asked to resign. It was written into their contracts. So the Senate is telling the state education districts and departments that they can't include them in the contracts when trying to lure new adminstrators.
I think this is a great idea, but it shouldn't just apply to Oregon school boards. Target any level of government. I'm sure this isn't only a problem in school districts. Perhaps the schools will save some money now, as it seems their buildings are going to need some earthquake upgrades.

PGE, our power company, has been dealing with more and more environmental regulations. In addition to that, they are having to deal with aging infrastructure, including some very old dams on the Sandy River. We those dams are about to come down, freeing the entire reach to it's source free for Salmon and other fish (not that you'll find fish all the way to the glacier on Mt. Hood).
But it isn't because they're being told to do it or they've found some green thumb in the board room.
"It's a business decision that makes sense for the environment," said John Esler, the power company's acting director of hydro licensing and water rights.
"Our estimate back then was if we removed the dam, it would cost $20.4 million. If we kept the dam, it would cost $27.2 million," Fryburg said.
Never the less, this is good news.

The Portland Trailblazers, our noble (well sometimes) basketball team just secured the number one pick in the NBA draft. Meaning for the first time since the 70s they get the best player (or at least the first player) coming out of college (or from overseas). The Blazers have some fine young players, so perhaps in a year or two they'll start making the playoffs again.
Who knows, we might see a new wave of Blazer-mania in our town again. Heaven help us.

There was a great article in the paper edition about scientists led by the University of Washington are laying fiber optic cables all over the Juan de Fuca plate off the Oregon and Washington coast to detect and observe movement. As the Juan de Fuca plate tends to cause most of the earth movement around here and is thought to be the reason for the beautiful volcanoes that threaten our city with sudden bursts of energy, ala Mt. Saint Helens, this is probably a really good thing. It would be the worlds largest underwater observatory, and according to the scientists, "It will represent a fundamental shift in environmental sciences and in oceanography that will be roughly equivalent to the arrival of satellites on the scene." Well I don't know about that, but I'm curious to see what this new observatory tells us about the deep crevices of the earth.

It's the spring, and about this time of year the wineries here in Oregon kick it into gear. Many of them, especially in the Yamhill region close to Portland, have open houses and parties during the Memorial weekend (that's this weekend). Here's your all encompassing wine guide from the Oregonian.

The first of 10 eco-arsonists is facing final sentencing this week in Eugene. He received 13 years, almost as much as the feds were asking for. It's the second largest sentence for a crime of this nature in recent history.

Finally, for now, here's a story about how our Republican Senator, Gordon Smith, still doesn't get it on the Iraq thing.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Phoning it in

The Insta poses an interesting question.  In this age of information, is the fine journalistic art of editing an interview to the point where it’s unrecognizable to the person who was interviewed over?

I’ll reprint the same quote he did here.

      It is a transaction that clearly favors the person asking the questions. A print reporter writes down someone's answers, then picks and chooses how much, if any, to use, how to frame the quotes and where to put any contrary information. Television correspondents slice and dice taped interviews in similar fashion.

      But in the digital age, some executives and commentators are saying they will respond only by e-mail, which allows them to post the entire exchange if they feel they have been misrepresented, truncated or otherwise disrespected. And some go further, saying, You want to know what I think? Read my blog.

 It would certainly be the method I’d use if someone actually thought my life were interesting enough to warrant an interview.

I like to think about this in the greater context, though.  Where is the information age taking us in the form of all social interaction.  There is still a great deal of physical and personal interaction out there in the world, but technology is making it more and more possible to interact with others from a distance.  For instance, I can work from home quite as easily as I could from the office, and though that’s because my work involves computers, with the advances in shipping and mailing, more and more businesses are finding that distributing directly and operating from their distributor’s or employees homes reduces overhead and other costs associated with the old economy.

If I want to communicate with friends and family, there is the telephone and Email, and now chat rooms and instant messaging reveal a world of social interaction akin to hanging out at the local club without actually having to see (or smell) the people you’re talking to.

We’re still a long way from the world that Isaac Asimov created in The Naked Sun (people basically lived hermit like lives because technology eliminated all need for interaction).  But this stuff reminds me of the people living on that planet.  By the way, if you are into science fiction or mystery, the robot series that Asimov wrote is some of his finest work.  Check it out.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Catholic-politician abortion policy

Morality in politics has a special place in the hearts of the conservative.  The number one issue among religious conservatives is abortion, and will continue to be for some time.  It’s not a pretty subject, but anger and emotions run hot when discussing it, and politicians tend to try and not rock the boat if they can get away with it.

All that to say that the Pope is definitely not a politician by this definition.

      Reporters aboard the pope's flight to Mexico City on Wednesday asked if he supported the decision by bishops there to excommunicate politicians who had voted to legalize abortion in the first trimester.

      The pope responded that excommunication for those promoting abortion is "nothing new, it's normal, it wasn't arbitrary. It is what is foreseen by the Church's doctrine."

Foreseen by church doctrine?  What does that mean?
Anyway, the writer of the article above ponders the plight of the Catholic candidates for President.  There are 5, did you know?  Four of them are Democrats, could you guess?  Giuliani is the only Republican Catholic candidate, and he’s having his own difficulties trying to come up with a stance that will play with the Republican base.

Giuliani comes from a pretty liberal environment (as large urban areas tend to be) and has supported freedom of Abortion politically for years, while claiming to be personally against them.  I.E. he wouldn’t sponsor a bill to make them illegal, but would personally council a woman not to have one (if he were ever in that position).

That’s a typical stance for a pro-abortion Catholic, and the question for the day is:  is it the wrong stance for a Christian in general.

First of all, let me say that I find the Pope’s need to comment on this interesting.  The Pope didn’t say “excommunicate,” he said “denied the right of communion.”  There’s not really a difference.  Excommunication just sounds more hellfire, and that’s the technical term that the Catholics have used in the past.  Basically, it’s removing someone from fellowship because they refuse to be disciplined in the area of some sin they are continuing to engage in without guilt.  The original church considered that harmful to the body, and Christ even set the standard in Matthew 18: “If he refuses to listen to them tell it to the church, and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a lawyer.”

Ha ha, sorry.  I added that last one.  It’s really tax collector, not lawyer.

Anyway, the question is, is supporting freedom to kill little innocent fetuses a religious moral issue, or is it another example of separating how we conduct our lives as individuals and the choices that we make.  You see, it’s hard to break through the liberal idea that we’re not just doing this because “God told us to.” Or perhaps you can say that we shouldn’t be legislating or litigating primarily on a moral issue.

So we go along with out lives honoring God in our individual decisions, but how far should we go to tell other people what they can and can’t do.  It’s a classical libertarian argument.

Personally, I have a beef in this from a secular policy argument, not a religious one.  I believe that it’s wrong, but it’s from the position that all fetuses are not actually part of a woman’s body and therefore the woman’s “choice” to do with her body whatever she wants doesn’t apply to the baby forming inside her.  Also, I believe that Roe v. Wade, if you actually read it, allows for regulation, like limiting procedures or when the act can be done.  But those are secular arguments.