Upper Left Coast

Thoughts on politics, faith, sports and other random topics from a red state sympathizer in indigo-blue Portland, Oregon.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Another example of Democrats' desire for high gas prices

Between the opening of Dave Reinhard's column today (emphasis mine):

A few weeks back I spoke with U.S. Rep. John Peterson, and the Pennsylvania Republican told me about one House Democrat he almost persuaded to vote to expand oil and natural gas drilling in the nation's outer continental shelf.

This Democrat would vote for the bill, he told Peterson, if Peterson could assure him that lifting the decades-old ban on offshore drilling would not lower U.S. gasoline prices.

...and an interview that Barack Obama did on CNBC, in which interviewer John Harwood asked if high oil prices could "help us?" (presumably, "us" meant the country, not the Democrats):
I think that I would have preferred a gradual adjustment. The fact that this is such a shock to American pocketbooks is not a good thing. But if we take some steps right now to help people make the adjustment, first of all by putting more money in their pockets, but also by encouraging the market to adapt to these new circumstances more quickly, particularly US auto makers, then I think ultimately, we can come out of this stronger and have a more efficient energy policy than we do right now.
...I fail to see how the Democratic Party can claim to be the party of the "little guy."

Obama seems to be saying that he wants high gas prices, just a little slower, because it will make other energy sources more cost effective. But the key is that he wants high gas prices. He wants to make Americans continue to pay a huge amount of their monthly budget at the pumps in order to pursue alternative energy sources that won't make a bit of difference for many years. (Yes, new drilling won't make a difference for a while either, but as I argued, the only reason not to pursue both domestic supplies and new technologies is because you're trying to play politics with my pocketbook.)

Oh, and I'm not sure how Obama plans to put "more money" in our pockets, unless he wants another economic stimulus mailing or plans to cut taxes. Oh wait, George Bush already did that (which, despite what you hear, reduced taxes on Americans in every tax bracket), and Obama has indicated he won't renew the tax cuts.

The Democrats want high gas prices (and higher taxes) because it furthers their agenda against the oil companies, and if tens of millions of Americans are struggling to make ends meet, that's the way the cookie crumbles.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Double whammy

Prayers to State Sen. Jason Atkinson, who is in the hospital from an accidental gunshot wound to the knee, and to the family of Oregonian columnist Brian Meehan, who died Tuesday at the age of 57 due to complications from heart surgery.

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World ends, women hit hardest

The new driver's license rules implemented by the Oregon legislature require proof of citizenship, including a Social Security number and documentation of name changes. The latter item, for obvious reasons, impacts women more than men as they typically change their name when they marry.

In today's Oregonian, columnist Andy Parker bemoans the burden placed on women by these rules, using the example of a woman named Mary Tabrum. The thrice-married Tabrum just wanted to renew her driver's license, but in order to do so, she had to get a birth certificate from one state; a marriage certificate from another; and marriage, divorce and death certificates from a third.

The column emphasizes the disparity in fairness to women -- which is true -- but almost completely ignores another fundamental problem. Parker wrote (with my emphasis):

First, let's make it clear that Tabrum supports Oregon's push for proof of identity. In her opinion, illegal immigrants have placed costly burdens on legal residents.

Still, she doesn't think it's fair to place such a financial burden on women. Nor does she understand why Oregon charges so much more for certified copies of documents than other localities she dealt with.

Something should be done, she says, to make the cost to men and women more equitable.

The issue is not just the disparity in documentation requirements, but the fact that she had to pay one-hundred eighty-two dollars for that documentation. Just from the state of Oregon, she had to obtain her first husband's death certificate, and marriage and divorce certificates for her other marriages.

For those keeping track at home, that's five certificates at $32 apiece that she needed from the state of Oregon so she could then pay $39 to renew her Oregon driver's license. It's also roughly three times the amount she paid to other states ($12 for a copy of her Virginia birth certificate, and $10 for her first marriage certificate in the District of Columbia).

God forbid the DMV might call the Oregon State Archives (they're less than two miles apart) to take care of that for Ms. Tabrum. But that would be too much like customer service, and we can't have that.

So the real issue is not the additional cost for many women. The real issue is the fact that the state of Oregon charges an obscene amount of money to provide something that belongs to us.

(Apologies to James Taranto for the headline.)

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Quote of the Day: McCain's porky credentials

From a speech by John McCain today, as quoted on The Corner:

I’ve never asked for a single pork barrel project for my state of Arizona, and as President, I will veto every bill that wastes your money, and make the authors famous. I will order a top to bottom review of every government program before I give them one additional dollar of funding. Those programs that are doing important work for the American people have nothing to fear from me. Those that can be modernized and made more effective will find me a willing partner. And those that have outlived their usefulness to you, and waste your money on things you neither want nor need, are going out of business whether they like it or not.

What if the current occupant of the White House (along with the Republican majorities in Congress earlier in this decade) had made even a tiny effort to reign in government spending? I can't help but think that John McCain might have a shot at independents and liberals who are fiscally conservative and are fed up with government spending, but who instead will vote for Barack Obama because they've heard these claims -- that the Republican will be a strenuous budget watchdog -- before.


Monday, July 28, 2008

A sight for sore eyes (and pocketbooks)

I never thought the sight of gas under $4 a gallon would be so welcome...

(Seen today on Walker Road in Beaverton, just west of Nike)



Wednesday, July 23, 2008

'The kind of love that any ninth grade boy understands'

That's how Tucker Carlson from MSNBC described the media's love affair with Barack Obama:
It's the kind of love that anybody who's been a ninth grade boy understands, this species of love. I think about you when I go to bed, too embarrassed to stand up, it's Sealed-With-A-Kiss love.
And Chris Matthews has a plethora of in-love-with-Barack quotes, but here's my favorite:
This is the kind speech I think first graders should see, people in the last year of college should see before they go out in the world. This should be, to me, an American track, something that you just check in with now and then, like reading Great Gatsby and Huckleberry Finn.
Check out the rest below, and then tell me with a straight face that the media's not biased in favor of liberals:


That the surge worked is irrelevant

So the Oregonian editorial page would have us believe. Even though it might be true, they say, that John McCain was right about the surge and Barack Obama was wrong:

...it is also beside the point. The adoption last year of Gen. Petraeus' counterinsurgency strategy, as well as the infusion of additional U.S. troops, seems to have improved conditions in Iraq enormously. [Seems to have? Why the qualification?] But now the extra troops have gone home, Iraqi security forces have taken the lead in operations that have made neighborhoods and cities safer, and the national government is more or less functional, despite numerous daunting challenges. And barring a dramatic setback, that's the situation that the next American president will face when he takes office in January.

What matters isn't whether John McCain was right last year when he supported the Petraeus approach. What matters now is whether he or Barack Obama will do the best thing for the overextended military and for the country of Iraq. Further, there's a linkage between the United States' approach to Iraq and its approach to Afghanistan, where more troops are urgently needed to keep the country from slipping back into chaos or extremism.

There's just one problem with this selective approach: If Barack Obama had his way, the surge never would have taken place. More of our troops would be dead. Many more Iraqis would be dead. The Iraqi government and security forces would not have made the strides they have made. And al-Qaeda in Iraq would be in a much greater position of power.

So no, it is not "beside the point." It is entirely the point. It shows that John McCain's instincts about the military -- shaped by decades in the military and dealing with defense issues in government -- are correct. It shows that Barack Obama's instincts -- shaped by three years in the Senate and his time as a Chicago "community organizer" -- will lead to disaster.

And if you don't believe me, check out today's Washington Post editorial about the Iraqi prime minister's supposed support for Obama's troop withdrawal timeline:

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who has a history of tailoring his public statements for political purposes, made headlines by saying he would support a withdrawal of American forces by 2010. But an Iraqi government statement made clear that Mr. Maliki's timetable would extend at least seven months beyond Mr. Obama's. More significant, it would be "a timetable which Iraqis set" -- not the Washington-imposed schedule that Mr. Obama has in mind. It would also be conditioned on the readiness of Iraqi forces, the same linkage that Gen. Petraeus seeks. As Mr. Obama put it, Mr. Maliki "wants some flexibility in terms of how that's carried out."

Other Iraqi leaders were more directly critical. As Mr. Obama acknowledged, Sunni leaders in Anbar province told him that American troops are essential to maintaining the peace among Iraq's rival sects and said they were worried about a rapid drawdown.

And how does Obama respond to this concern about a rapid troop drawdown negatively impacting peace in the region? He implies that he couldn't care less:

Mr. Obama's response is that, as president, he would have to weigh Iraq's needs against those of Afghanistan and the U.S. economy. He says that because Iraq is "a distraction" from more important problems, U.S. resources devoted to it must be curtailed. Yet he also says his aim is to "succeed in leaving Iraq to a sovereign government that can take responsibility for its own future." What if Gen. Petraeus and Iraqi leaders are right that this goal is not consistent with a 16-month timetable? Will Iraq be written off because Mr. Obama does not consider it important enough -- or will the strategy be altered?

The editorial continues with the answer to that last question, which also answers the Oregonian's editorial -- Obama has shown no proclivity to alter his strategy, but rather is hell-bent on troop withdrawal regardless of what actually happens on the ground:

Yesterday he denied being "so rigid and stubborn that I ignore anything that happens during the course of the 16 months," though this would be more reassuring if Mr. Obama were not rigidly and stubbornly maintaining his opposition to the successful "surge" of the past 16 months.

Oh, and as a final point about Afghanistan, the Post notes:

...there are no known al-Qaeda bases in Afghanistan, and any additional U.S. forces sent there would not be able to operate in the Pakistani territories where Osama bin Laden is headquartered. While the United States has an interest in preventing the resurgence of the Afghan Taliban, the country's strategic importance pales beside that of Iraq, which lies at the geopolitical center of the Middle East and contains some of the world's largest oil reserves. If Mr. Obama's antiwar stance has blinded him to those realities, that could prove far more debilitating to him as president than any particular timetable.

So Barack Obama is a presidential candidate who refuses to acknowledge he was wrong about the surge (other than wiping his previous statements of opposition from the campaign website); who talks repeatedly about a U.S. timeline rather than one dictated by Iraqis; who speaks of Iraq as an irritant that can be swatted aside; and who has shown a rather George Bush-like interest in maintaining his position regardless of the facts on the ground.

Gee, I feel so hopeful.

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Tuesday, July 22, 2008

What to do today? Let's spend $2 million!

The University of Oregon athletic department just put up a purty new scoreboard in Autzen Stadium.

It's big -- bigger than the OSU scoreboard that went in last year, which was (at the time) the biggest in the conference. Rob Moseley of the Eugene Register-Guard says the UO version is about five times the size of Oregon's previous scoreboard, which was installed in 1998 at a cost of $4 million.

It's shiny.

It's cool.

And, according to the Oregonian's Ryan White, most people went unaware of the new toy until Moseley got a tip and snapped the photo above. White called the athletic department to get the skinny on Phil Knight's latest pocket change distribution, and found out how much advance planning went into the idea of replacing the old one:

It's a bit of a sport these days to have fun with Oregon's extravagances, like when they put a waterfall in the training room. Unnecessary? Yes, but good fun in a look-at-me-I'm-so-rich-I-can-afford-a-waterfall kind of way.

If you could count on the Ducks for anything, it was that they would spend money, and do it proudly.

The Ducks advertised the training facility on YouTube with an MTV-style video.

They once had weekly television time to replay games -- in New York, where they'd plastered promotional billboard after promotional billboard.

But they didn't even have a news release ready for a new, biggest-in-the-conference video screen.

Jim Bartko, UO's senior associate athletic director in charge of cool new stuff, called back and then had to get the specs on the board and call back again.

"It was kind of a last-second decision," Bartko said.

A last-second decision. Can't you imagine the discussion in the confines of Oregon's athletic department?

Gee, Jim, we got a bunch of dough from that marketing deal we just signed. What should we do with it?

Silence. Stares.

Wait! I know! Let's spend two million bucks on a new scoreboard! We've gotta get one that's bigger than Moo U. just put in!

And it was so.



Sunday, July 20, 2008

Expand MAX use? How?

With all the talk about gas prices and higher mass transit use, I got to thinking about a recent opportunity to observe the MAX system as an outsider, and what it showed about the reality of increasing light rail ridership.

On the Fourth of July, my family took advantage of the weekend evening to head downtown for the Blues Festival fireworks show. It was the first-ever glimpse of big fireworks for my 6-year-old, and -- if you ignore the drunks dropping f-bombs a few yards from my kids -- we had a grand time.

When it was finished, we climbed into our car for the ride home, knowing full well it would take longer than the usual 15-minute commute to Beaverton. As we passed the MAX stop at Third and Morrison, a lone Tri-Met official was desperately trying to push the throng of people away from the platform edge, lest they lose their toes and other lower extremities when the impending train pulled up. There was not much room for them to move away from the edge, as the platform was packed wall-to-wall with people making their way from Waterfront Park.

We continued to drive up Morrison, and saw similar crowds at Fifth and at Pioneer Square. It wasn't until the Galleria that the crowds thinned, but those people were likely stuck at the Galleria stop for a while -- all the riders from previous stops were filling a succession of MAX trains, leaving no space for riders farther up the tracks. And that was with trains coming much more frequently than during your average rush hour. When we got home 40 minutes later, I'm willing to bet there was still a sizable contingent of riders waiting for space on a train.

Now, granted, the fireworks were a special occasion that brought out a lot of additional riders. But every time I hear some politician proclaim mass transit as the salvation of our oil-price woes, or read about another scheme to spend billions on light rail extensions, I think about that night on the Fourth of July. A night in which the number of riders far exceeded the mass transit capacity.

You can add light rail to Vancouver, Milwaukie or Lake Oswego if you want, but none of the people trying to find space on MAX that night were trying to get to any of those locations. So expanding the routes will not give you the ability to service more commuters per location, only more locations.

Remember that MAX is eternally limited to two cars per train, so there is no additional capacity. If that's the case, who's going to put up with that sort of cattle-herding to take mass transit? You can spend all you want on MAX, but there's a lid on the number of riders that can use a MAX train (and if you've seen a MAX train at rush hour, you know that lid is almost closed).

If gas prices are going up without ceasing in the near future, surely more people will consider mass transit as a more cost-effective means of commuting. But unless Tri-Met plans to put a train on the tracks every 30 seconds or so (which seems to me an invitation for train accidents) the detriments appear to far outweigh the benefits.



Saturday, July 19, 2008

Local environmentalist: develop domestic natural gas

Brent Foster, executive director of Columbia Riverkeeper ("to restore and protect the water quality of the Columbia River and all life connected to it") wrote an op-ed in yesterday's Oregonian calling for the country to develop domestic sources of natural gas.

OK, he didn't say that in so many words. He called for the shut-down of the proposed liquid natural gas terminal in Astoria. But when you read his words, what other assumption can you make:
At a time when Americans are held captive to Middle East oil producers, why would we intentionally become dependent on these same producers for our natural gas? As the Oregon Department of Energy's recent report made clear, most of the LNG imported into Oregon would come from the Middle East and would be twice as expensive as available gas supplies from the Rockies and Canada.
He goes on to argue that LNG pumps 30 percent more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere than domestic gas, and that (although we don't need more gas) we should be able to get all the "less expensive domestic gas" we need from other planned pipelines from the Rocky Mountains.

So the obvious solution: drill domestically for natural gas and oil, so we're not "held captive" to the Middle East, and develop the pipelines from those domestic sources so our supplies meet our demands.

Oh, he didn't say that? It sounds like it to me.



Friday, July 18, 2008

My name is Ken, and I approved this message

OK, I had nothing to do with the message, but Coyote is spot-on with his analysis of Rick Dancer in the Secretary of State's race.



Unfortunate headline typo of the day

From the Breaking News blog at the Oregonian's website:
Multnomah County seeks spike in heroin OD deaths
I suspect they meant "sees" instead of "seeks," as I doubt the county has an interest in promoting heroin overdose deaths. But inevitably the O will realize its mistake, so here's a screen capture:


Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Key Dem: domestic drilling would reduce oil prices

OK, that's not exactly what U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) said today on the floor of the Senate. According to a Capitol Hill staffer, Schumer said about Saudi Arabia:
If they produced half a million barrels more oil a day the price would come down a very significant amount and, at the same time, it would stop the speculation that keeps driving up the price of oil.
So if half a million barrels of Saudi oil would reduce prices a "significant" amount and would "stop" speculation that is blamed for higher prices, what would be the impact of two or three times that amount from the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge? Estimates peg the amount of oil in ANWR at somewhere between half a million and 1.5 million barrels every day. (And what about oil off the continental shelf?)

Never mind the fact that we have absolutely zero control over how much the Saudis pump from beneath their own sand, whereas we could start the process of drilling into our own soil tomorrow.

But, of course, that would take a decade before the oil started flowing, and we need action now! Unless the issue is global warming, in which case we'll happily bankrupt today's economy for a temperature reduction of half a percent over the next 20 years.

(Worth noting, however, is that this isn't the first time that Schumer has taken a two-faced approach to this issue.)

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Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Quote of the Day: Obama vs. the New Yorker

Today's quote comes from Tony Woodlief, who writes a tongue-in-cheek summation of today's news:
Barack Obama...is furious that the uber-conservative New Yorker magazine's latest cover depicts him as a radical Muslim. Through a spokesman he denounced the image and issued a fatwa against the New Yorker's publisher and cartoonist.

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Monday, July 14, 2008

Ticket the panhandlers, or the drivers?

I find myself lacking sympathy for panhandlers who are complaining about the Beaverton Police Department's diligence against them, but I also wonder if the police attention is too narrowly focused.

If a panhandler creates a "hazardous and dangerous condition" by stepping toward a car to accept money, is he (or she) the only one at fault? Wouldn't the driver be equally at fault for stopping unnecessarily and creating a hazard for the cars behind him? If so, I vote we ticket the driver and the panhandler.

A free-speech violation? Not as see it. The driver can still hand out his cash as he sees fit, but not to the detriment of others. I can yell "Fire," but not in a crowded theater where it might impact the safety of others.

As an aside, I find the fact that Beaverton firefighters essentially took on the role of panhandler to be contemptible (and the the fact that the legislature felt the need to exempt them from panhandling laws makes it clear that they had no business standing on street corners to begin with). It makes me less, not more, willing to donate to their cause.

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Friday, July 11, 2008

Forgive me, Lord, for my covetous desires

I'm lusting for this:



Open up your wallet and dig deep

As an Alaska Airlines mileage plan member, I'm on their mailing list for plan updates. Today, I got an email about their new My Wallet feature, which essentially sounds like a central hub to use one's air miles.

Here's a screenshot of the email (click on it to see a bigger version):

The name is lame enough -- thought up by a guy, no doubt, as I don't know many women with wallets (but perhaps most of their members are men?) -- but I had to laugh when I got to the end of the e-mail explanation:

I misread it as "Open up your Wallet," which seems to be what everyone is having to do lately when they fly.

But that probably isn't the message that Alaska Airlines intended to send.

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Thursday, July 10, 2008

Market timing the movie guys must love

I've been seeing internet ads about an upcoming seminar with His Holiness Sri Sri Ravi Shankar this Saturday. All the ads have his photo (this one taken from his website):

But every time I see one, all I can think of this guy:



Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Dialogue = shut up and do it our way

Today's quote of the day comes from Bob Stacey, director of 1000 Friends of Oregon. Mr. Stacey wants the Portland City Council to reject a new bridge over the Columbia River, and was quoted in this morning's Oregonian as saying:
It's time for the City Council to say, 'We're not going in that direction, we don't have agreement about this project.' It's time to start a dialogue by placing on the table what Portland wants and refusing to approve any of the alternatives.
Hmmm...He wants to start a dialogue by saying that everyone has to do it the way Portland wants it. That's not a dialogue -- that's a dictatorship. Mr. Stacey apparently thinks the city just elected King Adams.

When the environmental movement thinks it can get away with such a move, is there any clearer indication that it has a strangle-hold on Northwest decision makers? Is it any wonder why the right doesn't trust them?

Thursday, July 03, 2008

The best baseball play of the year

Courtesy of the Minnesota Twins' Nick Punto and Alexi Casilla:


Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Quote of the Day: Tri-Met and the public teat

This comes from Jack Bog's blog, in the comments following Jack's expression of incredulity over Tri-Met's poor maintenance and customer service habits:
But this fare problem is ridiculous, especially at a time when more people are using they system due to high gas prices. There aren't as many fare inspectors for the system you would expect for the number of passengers it carries. That and the devil-may-care attitude about broken vending machines shows you the low priority Tri-Met puts on collecting fares. If Tri-Met actually had to survive on fares rather than taxes, you can bet we'd have a division of inspectors and every machine would be fixed lickety-split.
As an aside, I, too, had a recent run-in with a malfunctioning ticket machine. There are only two machines at the Sunset Transit Center, and neither one would sell me anything other than a seven-day pass. I chose to chance it for the ride downtown and got away with it. How many others have done the same?



Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Our way or the highway, er, bike path

Yesterday, Max revealed yet another example of the arrogance of those in local government.

Speaking to the City Club of Portland, Metro Councilor Rex Burkholder made it clear he is willing to hold the entire region's economy hostage in the hopes of killing anything resembling a project intended to help those of us who need automobiles to make a living.

Even though a new bridge over the Columbia River will likely include light rail and unprecedented bicycle access, environmentalists are coming up with any excuse they can dredge up from their playbooks to stop the bridge. It will increase sprawl, they whine, and greenhouse gas emissions.

One of the spiritual leaders of the local environmental religion is Rex Burkholder. Even though Burkholder is said to be in favor of this bridge, read what Max noticed. According to Burkholder:

If the concerned partners [e.g. the City of Portland and Metro] do not like what they see [regarding environmental issues], they have the power to stop the project.

Speaking at the Portland City Club about the project on Friday, Burkholder noted the city has to approve several land-use plan changes for a new bridge to be built. And Metro will have to amend its Regional Transportation Plan for the project to be funded, he added.

“If you don’t agree [with our concerns], we won’t help you get it,” Burkholder said of the project’s principle partners, the Oregon and Washington departments of transportation.

If you don't do it our way, we're taking our toys and going home. Tough cookies for those of you stuck in traffic every day, even though we get tax revenue from your jobs in Oregon. Quit whining if you're trying to bring needed goods and services up and down I-5 every day and can't get through the city in a decent amount of time. And don't you dare suggest we have to pay more because our congestion increases your delivery costs.

There was another example of this government arrogance last Friday, but it was a little more subtle. Portland Mayor Tom Potter and City Commissioner Randy Leonard asked:
Who has final say over the project, and how do we make sure that the project doesn't get built without Portland's concerns addressed?
In other words, since Portland thinks it's the biggest player in this project, our concerns should be paramount. How do we make sure that everyone acknowledges that undisputed fact, and how much of a tantrum do we need to throw in order to get our way?

Never mind the city of Vancouver and its factual concerns about crime coming across the river on MAX. Never mind the thousands who commute to jobs in Oregon every day (and who pay Oregon income taxes). Never mind the region's role as a partner with the states of Washington and California in making sure the I-5 corridor is open for business.

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