Wednesday, January 28, 2015

The Commentator Problem: Byron York and Sarah Palin

Sarah Palin at 2015 Iowa Freedom Summit
The Oregonian has a story on how some conservatives are down on Sarah Palin's possible presidential candidacy because of a recent speech.

Palin is the only Republican who has hit speech home runs since Reagan. Her 2008 acceptance speech set conservatives on fire--as did her stump speeches. She's the only Republican who has drawn the sort of crowds Barack Obama drew. McCain-Palin (59,946,378) got more votes than Romney-Ryan (59,134,475) got in a supposedly much easier election.

Byron York
Usually, one takes Oregonian stories with a grain of salt, but Douglas Perry quotes National Review. Certainly conservative, but after Bill Buckley left it lost its sense of perspective. He also quotes Byron York. That's a much more serious issue for me. Even when I disagree with York, I usually respect his opinion.

So, I clicked on the link to York's column. It seems to be a mishmash of quotes from people who didn't like Palin's speech in Iowa. The column is headed, "As 2016 race begins, GOP faces its Palin problem". I looked in vain for a significant problem. Apparently, the only problem is whether people should invite Palin to candidate forums.
But if there is indeed nothing behind her "seriously interested" talk — and it appears there is not — should she be included in events leading up to the 2016 caucuses? A lot of GOP activists may come to agree with one of those well-connected Iowa Republicans quoted above, who remarked, "The sooner these forums in Iowa focus on those actually running, the better."
Huh? That's a problem? Have these people lived through any pre-primary period before? If there were to be a forum now with only declared candidates, who would be there?

Has Byron York gone stupid?  No, this is a recurring one-off that is part of professional hazards for commentators. Because they write (or talk) a lot they say stupid things now and again.

Now, to the main part of York's column. Some conservatives didn't think Palin's speech was good. Yawn. Some didn't like her salty speech. Probably the same people who think newly elected Senator Joni Ernst was too gross to be a serious candidate.

So what if this isn't Palin's best speech. Who cares? She's had so many great ones. When Mariano Rivera had a bad night pitching, only idiots said it was the beginning of the end for him.

I remember when Reagan lost Iowa in 1980, he was considered over the hill and not sharp enough to run a good primary campaign--let alone a presidential campaign. George Will was for Howard Baker and then George H. W. Bush over Reagan. So much for his ability to see Reagan's greatness. National Review didn't support Reagan even unofficially over the other Republican candidates in the 1980 primary supposedly because even Bill Buckley (!) was concerned about Reagan's age and physical and mental energy.

And President Reagan had real flubs. But, he also hit a lot of home runs both in speeches and in policy. Palin has hit more home run speeches than any one else who spoke at the Iowa event or even all of them combined. Maybe she should be given a little leeway.

One hopes the future comments of Byron York will better reflect the realities of politics in the context of historical perspective.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Royal Garden Chinese Restaurant Is Closing

Royal Garden, NE 138th and Sandy Blvd., Portland, Oregon
One of our favorite restaurants is closing. The Royal Garden, just east of NE 138th and Sandy Blvd., will be closing on Sunday.

We first got to know it through trips to the Costco on NE 138th.

The restaurant opened in 1994. Through the years we have enjoyed the great cooking and getting to know a daughter and granddaughter of the owners who have worked there as waitresses. The daughter, who got married a few years ago and now has a young son, was a special favorite. So friendly and fun. And the food was always excellent at a very reasonable price.

The owners have decided to retire while they are still able to enjoy their retirement.

We wish the Lee family the best and say "THANK YOU!" for many years of great dining. May God bless you in your retirement.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

White House That Has a Pen and a Phone Concerned about Congressional Breach of Protocol

After asserting the right to go around Congress by using the President's pen and phone to take unilateral executive action, the White House is now concerned about a Congressional invite for a foreign leader to speak to a joint session of Congress.

From Fox News:
Asked about the invite, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest described it as a breach of typical protocol since the White House wasn't involved. But he said the administration would reserve judgment until they speak with the Israelis.
The Obama administration has refused to enforce laws passed by Congress and has acted unilaterally without Congress to give legal status to millions of illegal immigrants. President Obama has used executive action extensively to go around Congress in 2014. But Congress better follow not only every law but every protocol. It appears they don't get to have pens and phones.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Old Seagrave Fire Truck Photos

I've been looking for photos online of two old Seagrave fire trucks that we have pictures of. My grandfather was a volunteer fireman, and he is the driver in the photos.

I found a reasonable number of images of Seagrave fire trucks from the 1920's, but only one (fairly poor) of the 1907-09 version that Matchbox has a model of. So, I thought I would post our photos.

1907-09 Seagrave fire truck
early 1920's Seagrave fire truck
another view of early 1920's Seagrave fire truck

Thursday, January 15, 2015

The Pope Loses His Way on Freedom of Speech

Pope Francis. (Reuters photo)
Pope Francis said he would punch someone who cursed his mother. This was his argument against freedom of speech that offends.
"If my good friend Dr. Gasbarri says a curse word against my mother, he can expect a punch," Francis said half-jokingly, throwing a mock punch his way. "It's normal. You cannot provoke. You cannot insult the faith of others. You cannot make fun of the faith of others."
. . .
"There are so many people who speak badly about religions or other religions, who make fun of them, who make a game out of the religions of others," he said. "They are provocateurs. And what happens to them is what would happen to Dr. Gasbarri if he says a curse word against my mother. There is a limit."
Interesting that a similar thing happened to Jesus. The Pharisees accused Him of being illegitimate and by implication His mother and father of being fornicators. (John 8:41)

Jesus didn't punch them or call down fire from Heaven. He didn't even refute what they said.

He did, however, react strongly. He fought them the same way they fought Him: with words. He called them children of the devil, who was a murderer and liar.

They responded that Jesus was demon possessed. There was more back and forth, but the end result was the Pharisees picked up rocks to stone Jesus. He not only didn't threaten attack, He avoided their attack by hiding and then leaving the area.

You would think Pope Francis might know this story.

In another account, the Pope seemed to have in mind Catholic armed attacks on Muslims in the past.

Referring to past religious wars, such as the Crusades sanctioned by the Catholic Church against Islam, the Pope said: 
"Let's consider our own history. How many wars of religion have we had? Even we were sinners but you can't kill in the name of God. That is an aberration."
So, maybe he was not wanting to throw a stone because the Catholic church and its leaders have not been without sin.

Still, one would hope that he might have learned from the centuries of Catholic inquisition and persecution against people like the Anabaptists, Quakers and Baptists, that freedom of religion and freedom of speech require a thick skin. You let people say what they believe, and they need to let you say what you believe. Because each man has a right and a duty to relate (or not relate) to God as he sees fit. The judgment for the relationship between a man and God lies with God. Which, by the way, is what Jesus said in the passage from John's gospel noted above:
Jesus answered, “I do not have a demon; but I honor My Father, and you dishonor Me. But I do not seek My glory; there is One who seeks and judges."
The limitations on free speech should be few: what causes physical harm to others (falsely shouting "fire" in a crowded theater), social or economic harm (slander and libel), or physically disrupts others lives with more than minor inconvenience (the need for permits for public speeches or demonstrations).

To make causing offense the measure of where free speech stops is to allow those in authority to pick and choose whose offense is out of bounds and whose is not. There is not someone somewhere who cannot be offended by every strong opinion--whether it be on serious religious and political matters or inconsequential matters like who is the best quarterback in the NFL. Giving offense as a limitation on free speech is a slippery slope that leads to social horrors and tyranny.

Only in the last three centuries or so has the Western world acknowledged that freedom of speech and religion is much more important to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness than a society based on forced cohesion of belief and expression. It was a lesson that many suffered imprisonment, beatings, torture and horrible deaths to make clear.

From Balthasar H├╝bmaier who was arrested twice and tortured on the rack during the second imprisonment:
"Faith is a work of God, and not of the heretic's tower, in which one sees neither sun nor moon, and lives on nothing but water and bread. But God be praised who delivered me from this den of lions, where dead and living men lay side by side and perished."
What is true of faith is also true of political and social integrity.

H/T MaxRedline 

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Oregonian Does Good Reporting on Portland Street Repair Fees; Editors Don't Follow Suit

Brad Schmidt nails Portland's street repair problems in a reporting masterpiece. Schmidt points out that Portland's road problems are due to poor City Council decisions that resulted in "redirecting" $200 million that should have gone for street repairs.
Portland leaders blame the poor condition of city roads on many things: stagnant gas taxes, powerful business opponents and the cost of police, firefighters and parks.
They could also blame themselves.
The City Council has ignored its own spending guidelines for the past 27 years, redirecting nearly $200 million targeted for transportation projects to unrelated efforts, according to an analysis of city financial documents by The Oregonian/OregonLive.
Because of the misdirection of funds, Portland now faces a nearly $1 billion repair bill instead of the $38 million that would have been needed.
As a result, Portland streets have plummeted into disrepair, with more than half now rated in poor or very poor condition. And because roads cost exponentially more to rebuild than maintain, officials missed a crucial window: Repair costs have spiraled from a relatively manageable $38 million in 1988 toward a staggering $1 billion.
Instead the City Council voted to use the funds for popular and pet projects.
Instead of tending to Portland's crumbling roads, the City Council approved nearly dollar-for-dollar spending on arts programs, downtown beautification and school bailouts, among other so-called "special appropriations," the review found.
But now, Mayor Charlie Hayes and Council member Steve Novick want a new funding source even though the Council has abused the old funding source. They also want the same "flexibility" to divert funds as with the old funding source.
Portland Mayor Charlie Hales and Commissioner Steve Novick want to charge residents and businesses upward of $40 million a year to pay for transportation projects. Under the latest but in-flux proposal, residents faced annual bills of $36 to $144, depending on income.
Hales and Novick are also seeking leeway in spending decisions, the same flexibility that allowed the City Council to divert money from fixing streets in the first place.
Schmidt deserves plaudits for his tour de force reporting in digging up the facts and seeing the underlying City Council problem.

This has been going on for 27 years, but the Oregonian editorial board still doesn't get the problem. They want a new source for road repair funds. Their quibble is with the structure of that new source. Not a word about misuse of the old funding source. Here's their thinking from a recent editorial.
Rather than allowing the street-funding effort to slide hopelessly into progressive paralysis, Hales should exhibit some timely leadership. Colleagues Nick Fish and Dan Saltzman have insisted upon putting any street-funding mechanism before voters, a condition to which Hales ought to agree. After all, both Novick and Fritz are now eyeing the ballot. Instead of offering voters an unfair and administratively costly income tax, though, Hales should seek a residential funding option that is simple, modest and temporary. Asking for a property tax bond to fund significant repairs, as Eugene does periodically, is one option.
Playing a big role in City Council irresponsible action is the lack of effective criticism by the free press, including Portland's 100 pound gorilla, the Oregonian.  There should have been constant beating of the drum in reporting and editorializing on City Council misuse of funds and failure to care for legal responsibilities the last three decades. But, there wasn't. (Unfortunately, the same thing holds for Oregon state issues.)

Oregonian reporter Brad Schmidt has put the real problem front and center. In Portland politics it's okay not to fulfill your responsibility if you are supporting popular causes. Until that is fixed new funding sources will do nothing to alleviate the problem. Too bad the Oregonian editors aren't taking Schmidt's reporting seriously.

Tuesday, January 06, 2015

PETA Again Proves Itself Bizarre and Callous; Sarah Palin Level-Headed

Palin photo
PETA jumped at the chance to needlessly berate Sarah Palin for pictures she posted of her son standing on his service dog especially trained to help him.
“It’s odd that anyone—let alone a mother—would find it appropriate to post such a thing, with no apparent sympathy for the dog in the photo,” PETA said in a statement on its website Friday.

“Then again, PETA, along with everyone else, is used to the hard-hearted, seeming obliviousness of this bizarrely callous woman, who actually thought it appropriate to be filmed while turkeys were being slaughtered right behind her in full view of the camera,” the activist group added referring to a 2008 interview at Triple D Farm in Palmer, Alaska.
The top brass at PETA seem unable to think or act clearly either about its goal or targets. It turns out that PETA didn't even blink when a similar photo was posted just last summer as cute by PETA's 2009 woman of the year, Ellen DeGeneres. No calling DeGeneres either "hard-hearted" or a "bizarrely, callous woman".

Apparently, if you are one of PETA's favorites, you can do whatever you want to animals. In fact, PETA is known for its record of killing upwards of 80% of the animals in its care.  How's that for "ethical treatment"?

So, no wonder PETA named New York Mayor Bill de Blasio their person of the year for 2014 even though de Blasio dropped a groundhog at a public relations event last February. The groundhog died a week later of the internal injuries it sustained. Of course, nothing from PETA about de Blasio using a groundhog as a political prop without having the skills to appropriately hold it. But, then PETA uses animals as fund raising props before killing them. So, "ethical treatment" apparently means whether PETA can fund raise from it and has nothing to do with actually hurting or killing animals gratuitously.

puppies killed by PETA
Palin, by contrast, responded with grace merely pointing out PETA's hypocrisy and double standard. Governor Palin even intimated that perhaps they could have something in common in so far as PETA truly respects God's creation. Palin refrained from mentioning the number of animals PETA kills each year.

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