Archive for the 'Commentary' Category

George Soros on Bill Moyers Journal

October 10, 2008
George Soros

George Soros

This is, I think, the third week in a row that I have posted up video and text of an interview from Bill Moyers Journal, which airs Friday evenings on PBS. Click to watch tonight’s guest, George Soros, who spent 20 minutes dropping major bombshells about the state of the economy. As I write this, the program is still running, but here are some lowlights that have gotten my attention: “hopefully capitalism will survive”, “we are in a downward spiral”, “it’s the end of an era” and so on.

Soros clearly explains the reasons for the problem: Excessive credit expansion at two to three times the rate of the economy for the last 25 years and the sale of millions of mortgages as Wall Street securities, resulting in the warrantless skyrocketing of home values, and the credit that was given out based on those values, beyond all reason. Those securities generated a lot of wealth and fees along the way, but they were practically worthless as soon as they were sold. Unfortunately, they were sold and resold on markets around the world, gaining paper value at each stage, but they were still worthless. Bundling these mortgages, which was supposed to lower risk for all by spreading it around, actually resulted in much greater risk for everyone.

The whole system is in the midst of a massive correction. While Soros says that the recent reactions by Congress and the Treasury have so far been both too late and wrong, he believes there is still time (but not much) to take the right actions to stanch the bleeding. He suggests that banks will have to readjust mortgages to reflect real values and avoid massive foreclosures; that the government inject large amounts of capital into the markets to get things going again (before market dynamism is irretrievably lost); and that we revive the economy in the long term by refocusing the nation on rebuilding our infrastructure and developing new sources of renewable energy. (Remember global warming?)

This is going to one wild ride.

Wildwood Trail from the Oregon Zoo to Pittock Mansion

October 5, 2008
Wildwood Trail

Wildwood Trail

I posted an earlier piece that alluded to my Saturday hike on Wildwood Trail from the Oregon Zoo to Pittock Mansion here in Portland. This is one of my neighborhood trails, as I live only 3 miles from the trailhead, and I have fallen in love with it this summer. Earlier this afternoon, I spent some time wandering around the Internet while the cable TV guy rooted around the place trying to figure out why my cable was out. I came across “Dotti and Al’s” great featurette on the route from the Zoo to Pittock Mansion during summer. The same folks have another page featuring another of my favorites, the MacLeay Trail.

The Anger Management-Challenged

October 5, 2008

I was taking a hike on the Wildwood Trail from the Oregon Zoo to Pittock Mansion between Saturday afternoon rain showers when I came up behind a man and woman in their 50s. As I prepared to pass them on a long uphill section of the trail, a woman came down the hill behind her smiling, spastic, unleashed Border Collie.

When the dog trotted by the man and woman in front of me, the woman in the pair suddenly stabbed at the dog with her open umbrella and screamed, “GET AWAY!!” The dog yelped and whimpered and flailed off the trail into some bushes before regaining its balance and looking back with a “what-the-hell- just-happened?” kind of look.

There was a brief exchange between the dog’s owner (“She wasn’t going to hurt you! You shouldn’t hit a dog with a sharp object!”) and the other woman (“Dogs are supposed to be on leashes!”).

So, trying to keep up my pace and get out of the vicinity of these people and back to my meditation, I prepared to go around the three of them when the man with the umbrella woman screamed, at top volume, in all caps, “YOUR DOG IS SUPPOSED TO BE ON A LEASH!!! CAN’T YOU READ THE SIGNS OR ARE YOU BLIND, YOU STUPID BITCH!!??”

What is wrong with people?

President Bush’s Grandfather Involved in Fascist Plot to Overthrow FDR in 1933

October 5, 2008
Prescott Bush and his son, former President George W. Bush

Prescott Bush and his son, former President George H. W. Bush

This is a story that did not get much any press here in the United States when it first ran in 2007: George W. Bush’s grandfather, Prescott Bush, among other prominent American businessmen, was involved in a 1933 plot to overthrow President Franklin D. Roosevelt and install a fascist dictatorship in America allied with Hitler and Mussolini. Here is the story from the BBC. (Story begins at 20 seconds.)

There Are But Three Things Men Respect

October 3, 2008

“There are but three things men respect: The lash that descends, the yoke that breaks, and the sword that slays. By the power and terror of these you may conquer the world.” — Grand Vizier Jaffar to King Ahmad in The Thief of Baghdad (1940)

At My Age You Don’t Buy Green Bananas

September 22, 2008

“At my age, you don’t buy green bananas.” — T. Boone Pickens, 80, explaining the importance of rapidly implementing a plan to use natural gas and wind as a bridge to wean America off oil, at the National Press Club, September 22, 2008

Head Scratcher

September 22, 2008

Only in Portland do construction workers call the police when they see a naked woman in public.

Note to Self: Stock Up on Quarters

September 22, 2008

Venturing out in downtown Portland requires one to run a gauntlet of panhandlers. I cannot make it to lunch and back without at least one person hitting me up for change (and it’s commonly three or four in a two-block trip). It’s reassuring that a simple “no” does not elicit this response in Oregon yet.

Troubled Oregon Police Officer Arrested for DUI

February 12, 2008

Officer William J. Bergin

Sandy, Oregon police officer William J. Bergin, known for his role in the notorius shooting of 27-year old Fouad Kaady, was arrested for DUI in March 2007. This front page article from the Sandy Post newspaper tells the story. Bergin remains on patrol.

[Update: This article revealed that Bergin resigned from his position with the Sandy Police on October 24, 2008. The first comment to this article pretty much sums up my feelings about the whole thing.]

[Update: Bergin was arrested on November 13, 2008 on charges of felony identity theft, first-degree official misconduct and use of an invalid license. Read the story here.]

My Favorite Inner North Portland Novelty Band

February 2, 2008

Visit Salmon Suede. I’m not supposed to talk about them.

They’re all here and here