Sunday, January 30, 2011

$port$ mania !

Oh man! I live in a community obsessed with sports. The University of Oregon has gone over the top with sports mania. It began picking up speed when they did a $90 million dollar expansion of the stadium. Back then. one could watch the games on local TV.
Since then they signed a contract & got into franchising heavily, so ESPN has sole rights to broadcast.... I think one game of the season was broadcast on regular/free airwaves.
"Uncle" Phil Knight, the co-founder & chairman of Nike. Inc. - has a whole lot of coin & he is a U of O grad. He has endowed the University with some serious cash gifts-- including a new library, (named for his mother), a new law school (named for his father), and the most expensive basketball arena in the nation, (named for his deceased son).
Last year they built the Jacqua center, a fancy building that is an elite "Academic center for Student Athletes". The cost of this facility remained under a tight shroud.... because it was a gift, it did not have to be disclosed, initially.

The University released a set of requested documents to The Oregonian revealing that the new John E. Jaqua Academic Center cost approximately $41.7 million dollars to build.

Funded by perennial University supporter Phil Knight, the 37,000 square foot structure cost about $1,100 per square foot to build in total, an amount well exceeding even some of the most expensive real estate in Oregon. Some call it the "jock box".

"Forty million dollars buys a lot of new faculty, reduced class sizes, better facilities for the rest of campus," UO senate president Nathan Tublitz told The Oregonian. "It is a travesty to spend so much money for the benefit of such a small subset of students who already receive enormous perks." 

Although the state-of-the-art structure with its all-glass fa├žade sits at the front entrance to campus, two of its three floors are only open to athletes competing for the University — roughly 500 students out of the University's 22,000 enrollees. 

"Its a really nice building," University sports marketing senior Taber Webb said, "but I don't understand why the best building on campus is reserved for less than one percent of the student population. My tuition is spiking every year because supposedly Oregon doesn't have enough money, but then you see things like Jaqua and its quartz stone fireplace on the first floor, and you begin to wonder what the deal is."

University spokesperson Phil Weiler emphasized that the Jaqua Center was a gift from Knight and the University had no control over how the donated money was spent.


Furthermore there was a scandal w the outgoing football coach, who took a job w ESPN:
 "The controversy over the $2.3 million buyout he negotiated with departing athletic director and former football coach Mike Bellotti. The Oregon Attorney General's Office and State Board of Higher Education are investigating the deal because Bellotti had no written contract. The buyout enraged some faculty members, who see themselves as underpaid and who go through rigorous reviews for their research contracts."


If that weren't enough...


The new head coach of the football team signed a six year $20.5 million dollar contract. Approximately $3.5 million a year. A full time college prof earns $30 to $73 thousand. 



The UO ranks last in average salary and in average total compensation — pay plus benefits — on a list of nine large public universities the state uses for comparing budgets. The average faculty salary is 80 percent of the average for the other eight universities, and total compensation is 84 percent of the average.
Also, the UO ranks last in pay among the 60 members of the Association of American Universities, an invitation-only group made up of many of the top public and private universities around the nation. In that comparison, the UO’s average faculty salary of $73,300 is 11.5 percent below that of the second-to-last school, the University of Missouri, which has an average faculty salary of $82,600.
But wait! There's more!



The new basketball arena, the most expensive on campus basketball arena in the United States , cost $227 million. Just opened Jan 11, 2011. 
It has  a seating capacity of 12,541, and has an underground parking garage that holds 377 vehicles. 


That factor alone is a good argument for a stronger focus on academics.  Whomever approved this monster structure, without requiring 
adequate parking to match it, could have used better basic math skills. 




How they ever got the city to approve that aspect, that leaves 12,164 people to go fish for parking, in the dense University & residential zones that are already plagued with parking problems is a mystery. 


When they were building this vast sports emporium, it was in the midst of high unemployment & foreclosure rates. I wondered if their was going to be one of the nicest homeless shelters in the nation?


They must al be dazzled by the dangling Duck?





But that's not all !!!....


Now there are plans for yet more sports enhancements @ the U of O. 


In June, the University went before the State Board of Higher Education to request a bypass of the public bid process to allow Knight to construct an 80,000 square foot addition to the Len Casanova Athletic Center for the football program. The project would include a UO Football Hall of Fame, covered parking and 20,000 square foot weightroom. 



 The new six-story, 100,000-square-foot building on the UO’s growing sports campus, but the gift won’t exactly be free to the university.
The new football operations building, a present from Nike chairman Phil Knight, will cost the UO athletic department roughly $1 million to $2 million, for rerouting underground utilities at the site near the Casanova Center west of Autzen Stadium. That work must be done at the department’s expense before construction can begin, under Knight’s agreement with the UO.
And it could cost the athletic department as much as $1 million a year to run the building when costs for new personnel, utilities and other expenses are figured in. However, department officials cautioned that that figure is just an estimate and that it will be some time before operation costs are known.
The gift comes with other strings. The building’s operation costs include five full-time positions, including a curator for a football hall of fame and museum that the athletic department is required to hire under the agreement with Knight.
And the project will result in the loss of more than 400 parking spaces next to the stadium. That’s because the existing soccer/lacrosse field west of the Moshofsky Center will have to be moved to the east side of the stadium to make room for three football practice fields that Knight will create as part of the deal. Knight is paying for the new soccer/lacrosse field.
Meanwhile tuition soared from $6,200 a year to $8190 & rising. That's tuition alone- it does not include books, living expenses, etc. 

The stadium, the football building and the new $227 million Matthew Knight Arena, named for Phil and Penny Knight’s late son, the three most expensive buildings on campus.
And it would top the $65 million, 100,000-square-foot Lewis Integrative Science Building, now under construction and the most expensive academic building on campus, and the $75 million East Campus residence hall, also under construction and the most expensive student housing ever built on campus.
I have no problem with some sports on campus- but this Phil Knight big money sports obsession is out of control. Other campus buildings are very old & in need of replacing & updating, not to mention starving students struggling to pay tuition (my own kid one of them!). 
But to endow the sports realms so extravagantly while leaving the academics as a lessor interest is out of control. 
Not only does this new arena rely on having concerts & events other than games to make up $$$, that will take away from the City performing arts center, which is now dwarfed by the arena, with 2 theaters seating capacities of 
2500 (Silva), 500 (Soreng). Well at least they built a parking facility next to this place. But a spokesperson for the Hult Center said they can not compete. The first concert @ the arena will be Elton John. The 2500 seating capacity @ the Hult is too small a venue for him & other big name performers. Suddenly, the 2,500 theatre will seem like a small intimate setting compared to the arena. 

I don't mind a little college athletic activity, but all the big money & focus is going on the sports. One college Prof wrote an editorial saying he wished sports were not allowed at all at Higher Education institutions at all. They should just open special schools that only focus on sports & leave academia alone. 

You can see the Harlem Globetrotter for $108 a seat, courtside, or the cheap seats (obstructed view) $20. 

The mens BB game tickets run for $37 to $14 bucks, Women's BB game tickets run from $13 to $6 bucks. 
Meanwhile, the Oregon unemployment rate is at 10.6. 
Here is the icing on the cake:
The Ducks football team went to 
the BCS championships. If the athletic dept. wanted to have a post season celebration, why not throw a party at Autzen stadium, or the new Matt Court, the brand new $227 million dollar, most expensive basketball arena in the country -- at their own expense? 

The Ducks had an all win season this year, but lost the championship game. Still, they would have a parade, regardless of the championship game results. 

$26,000 to have a parade is nuts. The city paid for half of this parade.  The irony of the timing- the Eugene School district is poised to shut down 4 schools & possibly a 5th one in 2012, and seriously considering imposing a new tax to help fund elementary education. The very same week the Ducks had their parade, a count of the homeless was done in our area. 
Think the City of Eugene taxpayer money would have been better spent funding education or helping those in need?
I guess $26,000 is just pocket change for Uncle Phil, except he did not pay for this parade. 
All this after they LOST the championship game!
We never get this kind of crowd for rallies to end the wars. 




Saturday, January 29, 2011

oh shoot....



Seth Meyers makes a good point. Guns ain't what they used to be.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

What condition our condition is in.....

Ahh yes, the State of the Union address.... let us, "We the People" address it.
The speech was upbeat & lofty, but it did not address reality. We can't be focusing on high speed rail, when so many things are a "fail".

"We do big things" is not necessarily a good thing.
Big oil spill.
Big financial bailouts for banksters.
Big tax breaks for the most wealthy.
Big debt.
Big mess to clean up after 8 years of the Bush regime.
But there were some positives- So let's take a walk on the SOTU wild side...
 The good, the bad & the ugly


Thumbs up:

Solar on a shingle:
Already, we are seeing the promise of renewable energy. Robert and Gary Allen are brothers who run a small Michigan roofing company. After September 11th, they volunteered their best roofers to help repair the Pentagon. But half of their factory went unused, and the recession hit them hard.
Today, with the help of a government loan, that empty space is being used to manufacture solar shingles that are being sold all across the country. In Robert's words, "We reinvented ourselves."

Big Picture:
With more research and incentives, we can break our dependence on oil with biofuels, and become the first country to have 1 million electric vehicles on the road by 2015.
But REALLY clean, Mr. President
I'm asking Congress to eliminate the billions in taxpayer dollars we currently give to oil companies. I don't know if you've noticed, but they're doing just fine on their own. So instead of subsidizing yesterday's energy, let's invest in tomorrow's.

Needs attending to, for sure but schools are underfunded right now, big time. 

And yet, as many as a quarter of our students aren't even finishing high school.

Fair enough & good to say sports are not king.... 
We need to teach our kids that it's not just the winner of the Super Bowl who deserves to be celebrated, but the winner of the science fair; that success is not a function of fame or PR, but of hard work and discipline.
Good riddance to that piece of work, legislators telling teachers how to teach was never a good idea. 
Race to the Top should be the approach we follow this year as we replace No Child Left Behind with a law that is more flexible and focused on what's best for our kids.
Hooray! College tuition tax breaks are a godsend, because tuition is very expensive. 
Of course, the education race doesn't end with a high school diploma. To compete, higher education must be within reach of every American. That's why we've ended the unwarranted taxpayer subsidies that went to banks, and used the savings to make college affordable for millions of students. And this year, I ask Congress to go further, and make permanent our tuition tax credit – worth $10,000 for four years of college.




Meh, not so much
Not so fast, that includes tax cuts for the wealthy...
We did that in December. Thanks to the tax cuts we passed, Americans' paychecks are a little bigger today. Every business can write off the full cost of the new investments they make this year. These steps, taken by Democrats and Republicans, will grow the economy and add to the more than one million private sector jobs created last year.

Yea but what about the Toxic waste?
At Oak Ridge National Laboratory, they're using supercomputers to get a lot more power out of our nuclear facilities.
Big market for hiring a new employee pushing 60 years old?
One mother of two, a woman named Kathy Proctor, had worked in the furniture industry since she was 18 years old. And she told me she's earning her degree in biotechnology now, at 55 years old, not just because the furniture jobs are gone, but because she wants to inspire her children to pursue their dreams too. 
This is what happens when you spend so much on wars for so long...
 Meanwhile, when our own engineers graded our nation's infrastructure, they gave us a "D."

Good for some laughs~

 For some trips, it will be faster than flying – without the pat-down (high speed rail)...

Then there's my favorite example: the Interior Department is in charge of salmon while they're in fresh water, but the Commerce Department handles them in when they're in saltwater. And I hear it gets even more complicated once they're smoked.



Seriously, I don't agree~
They made changes, but failed in Human Rights, they are successful because of slave labor type conditions, unfair pay & practices. Hold off on putting lipstick on that pig!
Meanwhile, nations like China and India realized that with some changes of their own, they could compete in this new world. And so they started educating their children earlier and longer, with greater emphasis on math and science. They're investing in research and new technologies. Just recently, China became home to the world's largest private solar research facility, and the world's fastest computer.
Why do they always push these lofty goals soooo far into the future?
 I challenge you to join me in setting a new goal: by 2035, 80% of America's electricity will come from clean energy sources. Some folks want wind and solar. Others want nuclear, clean coal, and natural gas. To meet this goal, we will need them all – and I urge Democrats and Republicans to work together to make it happen.
But what about the other part??? Jobs!
America will once again have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world.


Sounds like fuzzy math to me...
And use the savings to lower the corporate tax rate for the first time in 25 years – without adding to our deficit.


Whoah, hate to burst you bubble here Mr. President....


Have you read the news? We've have e coli in spinach, sprouts, lettuce, beef, & eggs. People have died. 
Funny you mention air & water, but did NOT mention the Gulf Oil Disaster. Plumes of burning oil thick black smoke, and water unsafe with chemical dispersant & crude oil. 
This pisses me off...
People paid into these programs for years... cut the military budget big time, but leave medicare alone! Make pharmaceuticals (big pharma) stop gouging the system. 
This means further reducing health care costs, including programs like Medicare and Medicaid, which are the single biggest contributor to our long-term deficit. 
The courts should decide what is frivolous & what is not.... leave the government out of it. 
 Still, I'm willing to look at other ideas to bring down costs, including one that Republicans suggested last year: medical malpractice reform to rein in frivolous lawsuits.
NO! Just plain NO!
Starting this year, no American will be forbidden from serving the country they love because of who they love. And with that change, I call on all of our college campuses to open their doors to our military recruiters and the ROTC. It is time to leave behind the divisive battles of the past. It is time to move forward as one nation.
Now that gays can serve openly in the military, therefore college campuses should be able to recruit our kids for wars? Let's not pretend this is a career choice. I do not favor the Government/Military soliciting college kids. 
Will the President be sending his kids off to war as soon as they are college age?
Don't be soliciting our kid to fight your neverending wars. 

Ugh!
In Pakistan, al Qaeda's leadership is under more pressure than at any point since 2001. Their leaders and operatives are being removed from the battlefield. Their safe-havens are shrinking. And we have sent a message from the Afghan border to the Arabian Peninsula to all parts of the globe: we will not relent, we will not waver, and we will defeat you.
All very heartwarming-- but here in the US 48 miners died in 2010. 
Brandon started a company in Berlin, Pennsylvania that specializes in a new kind of drilling technology. One day last summer, he saw the news that halfway across the world, 33 men were trapped in a Chilean mine, and no one knew how to save them.
But Brandon thought his company could help. And so he designed a rescue that would come to be known as Plan B. His employees worked around the clock to manufacture the necessary drilling equipment. And Brandon left for Chile.
Along with others, he began drilling a 2,000 foot hole into the ground, working three or four days at a time with no sleep. Thirty-seven days later, Plan B succeeded, and the miners were rescued. But because he didn't want all of the attention, Brandon wasn't there when the miners emerged. He had already gone home, back to work on his next project.

The idea of America endures. Our destiny remains our choice. And tonight, more than two centuries later, it is because of our people that our future is hopeful, our journey goes forward, and the state of our union is strong.
In summary:
The prez sez the union is strong-- so suck it up all you people living in tent cities, homeless, unemployed, uninsured, overtaxed, and soon to be socially insecure, as social security goes belly up. 
This was a lofty speech, sidestepping a lot of important details, glossing over others, too much of a feel good speech, lacking in some whole truths. 
The president chose to wear blinders- still calling coal clean, nuclear & oil "safe".
To his credit 9-11 was mentioned only once & the bulk of the speech actually focused on the U.S. & not obsessed foreign issues & wars. 


It's not easy being President. He was handed the job w the country in ruins. 
I don't blame him for the numbers of unemployment or the devastating results of the subprime mortgage meltdown, and big finance failures- that was all in full swing when the decider, Bush 2
was at the helm. Funny, how the charts & graphs show the numbers of the Obama admin (unemployment, welfare, homeless) with a decided amnesia of the Bush 2 regime- as if everything was just fine before Obama took office.  In reality we were already $13 trillion in debt. 
Once you get there, the interest of such debt becomes a slippery slope. The debt rises by $4.17 billion per day. Obama did not mention the need for congress to have to raise the debt limit above $14.3 trillion. They need to start having that conversation soon, because those numbers are whizzing by mighty fast. 




The speech seemed like a lot of rainbows & unicorns to me. It all sounded good, for the most part-- but not reality based.  
While he talked about an increased focus on education-- locally, they are closing 4 schools & letting go of more than 100 teaching staff -
It is ripping up the community & a big deal. Based on a 30 million dollar budget shortfall & lower enrollment. 




High speed rail sounds cool & all, but we have people living in tent cities. A whole new wave of foreclosures are about to hit. 

Nuclear, coal & oil are safe & clean once again & not even mention of the biggest man made environmental disaster in US history- the Deepwater Horizon disaster. 11 people died, and BP was ill prepared to deal with their mess. It put a stranglehold on many businesses, and tainted the sea life for many species, and for the regional sea food industry. 

Feel good rhetoric made for good TV, but the speech could have ended with "and now back to reality".

Interested to know your take on it. 




Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Homeland Security-- Let's Review....

Ok kids, time for us to review current events:
December 2010, Janet Napolitano, Secretary of Homeland Security makes an announcement:



Ask a Wal Mart Manager for security assistance?

January 7: Jared Loughner buys bullets from his local Wal Mart & goes on a shooting spree the next day.
6 people are killed, 20 people injured.

January 23: Two people were killed in a Washington State Wal Mart parking lot. Two officers were injured.
As reported by news station KIRO:
"Two Kitsap County Sheriff's deputies were wounded in the shootout, but did not suffer life-threatening injuries. The suspect, identified Monday as Anthony A. Martinez, 30, of Salt Lake City, and a woman who was with him were killed. The shooting happened at about 3:45 p.m. on Sunday after deputies received calls about a man walking around with a gun at the store.
When the deputies arrived at the store and tried to talk to Martinez, he ran and the woman followed him, the Washington State Patrol said. The deputies followed, and Martinez turned and fired shots at them with a semi-automatic handgun.
Both deputies were hit and unable to return fire, police said.
"The one deputy that was wounded was actually doing first aid and trying to help the more seriously injured deputy, and he was so focused on doing this, he didn't even really realize how badly he'd been hurt," Boyer said.
Martinez was shot by a third sheriff’s deputy, a female officer, the Sheriff’s Office said. The young woman was also shot during the altercation, but it is not yet known by whom.
The woman who was with Martinez was also killed. Eyewitnesses said she was hit when she ran toward Martinez and into the crossfire between him and police. Police said they still aren't sure who shot the woman.
The state patrol said they are investigating the possibility that the woman is Astrid Valdivia,13, a runaway from a foster home in the Salt Lake City area."


So do we really think this Wal Mart as supplemental Homeland security scheme is a good idea? They sell guns & bullets inside the store.


  I'm guessing there will be mention of the Tucson shooting, and perhaps a moment of silence for those who were killed.  This country, and the NRA lobby are not willing to make any adjustments on who can get guns, or enhanced clips that fire more bullets than average police officers are allowed to carry. Words to honor & recognize are nice, but actions speak louder than words. 








Monday, January 24, 2011

Judicial Oversight?

Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas failed over the course of at least 5 YEARS to report his wife's income from a conservative think tank, on his financial disclosures.
Between 2003 & 2007, Virginia Thomas was paid $686,589 by the Heritage Foundation, according to a Common Cause review of IRS records.
Clarence Thomas failed to note the income in his financial disclosure forms for those years, checking a box titled "none", where "spousal noninvenstment income" would normally be reported.
Federal judges are bound by law to disclose the source of spousal income.
"Without disclosure, the public & litigants appearing before teh court do not have adequate information to assess potential conflicts of interest, and disclosure is needed to promote the public's interest in open, honest & accountable government." (Register Guard Newspaper reports).

Clarence Thomas is a Supreme Court justice-- the highest court in the land.
To have this "oversight" happen 5 years in a row-- for a total value of more than half a million dollars, rings new meaning to the term "Blind Justice".

Will Thomas have some kind of legal consequence, or is a Supreme Court Justice above the law?
You know average citizens would be nailed to the maximum extent of the law.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

parenting for peace


When leaving movie theater today, there was a video arcade to the right as you exit. There we saw two small children, about age 5, like the one pictured above, so small, they could barely see the screen shooting the guns, as two Moms stood nearby, casually chatting.  Poor kids did not know they were being programmed to think that guns & shooting are fun & games. 
It was a heartbreaking vision really, especially in light of the recent shooting spree in Arizona. 

When my kids were young, I attended a parenting for peace conference @ the local university. Bottom line, you as a parent have the absolute power & final word to say no to toy weapons & all kinds of violence. 
Refuse to buy toy weapons. Have visiting kids check in their toy weapons @ the door. They even invited us to watch cartoons & count how many incidents of violence were portrayed in a 1/2 hour show. 
We embraced these theories entirely.  We let our kids play edutainment games, rather than shoot-em-up mindless violent games. 

Look at top video games-- they have titles like Red Dead Redemption,  Call of Duty, Modern Warfare, 
Gears of War, Call of Duty - Black Ops,  Soldier of Fortune (allows players to torture & brutalize enemies), Thrill Kill, Mad World, Manhunt, Grand Theft Auto. 

Many of the worst are so violent, there are lawsuits as to if they should even be allowed. 
What good can become of logging time with "games" described as "nothing is too vile or unrealistic, in the face of death, blood and mayhem. 

Some would argue a little fantasy violence is an outlet for frustration & harmless. 
The parenting for peace conference stated that our kids are too young to make such choices, and would just as easily be happy building things with legos, or playdough. We are not obliged to buy in to the culture of violence. 
I would contend that we need to fill our lives with things less violent- especially for the kids. 






Saturday, January 22, 2011

I heart the Raging Grannies



January 21 is the one-year anniversary of the Citizens United decision by
the Supreme Court, which upheld the "personhood" of corporations and
allows them to funnel as much money as they want to influence elections.
Since they have a lot more money than most individuals, of course this
gives them great power.

How did it come to be that corporations are given the rights of persons,
in the first place?  For a great exposition of how this happened,
basically through a clerical "error", check out Jim Hightower's Lowdown at
http://www.hightowerlowdown.org/node/664

There are lots of groups organizing to try to change this.

Citizens United Against Citizens United, a project of Public Citizen, is
dedicated to restoring our government to citizen control.
http://www.citizensunitedagainstcitizensunited.org/
Anna White <awhite@citizen.org> is a great point person to contact if you
want to organize an event and want suggestions/help.

Move to Amend Coalition http://movetoamend.org/  has a bunch of great
links, and has a great list of steps to take to organize an action at
http://movetoamend.org/action/local-actions-january-21st-first-anniversary-citizens-united-decision

http://www.freespeechforpeople.org
is  working to enact a constitutional amendment that puts people ahead of
corporations.

The Coffee Party's motto is  Wake up and stand up!  They are another place
to announce Citizens United decision anniversary events to get the word
out.
http://www.coffeepartyusa.com
They are linked to Movement for the People
http://www.movementforthepeople.org
On this site, for a $20 donation, you can order a video called "Pricele$$"
to use as an organizing tool.

Here are some key phrases I have heard that could be made into banners or
signs:

We the people, not we the corporations

End corporate personhood

No government of, by, and for the corporations

It's a Democracy, Not an Auction


Separation of Corporation and State


Save Democracy: Close the Corporate Wallets!

Power to the Voters - Corporations have no business buying elections

The Supreme Court got it wrong: Corporations are not citizens