Nice job, Albany parks!

Fake-bomb case: A test of justice

In the Portland fake-bomb case, American justice is being tested. The case illustrates again how fighting would-be terrorism chips away at the safeguards that are supposed to protect liberty.

Almost exactly two years ago, a 19-year-old native of Somalia, Mohamed Osman Mohamud, was arrested for trying to set off a bomb which, if it had been real, could have killed and injured hundreds of people in Portland's Pioneer Square. But the bomb was a fake, made by the FBI in an undercover operation to see how far the teenager would go in carrying out his wish to become a jihadi against America.

He's supposed to go on trial in federal court in Portland early next year. The judge now has agreed with the government that the identity of two undercover agents who worked with Mahamud will be kept secret. Part of the preliminary court procedings already have been held behind closed doors. So the case already goes against two principles of justice in a free country -- that the accused be able confront his accusers, which presumably includes knowing who they are, and that courts be open so the public can watch.

As the Oregonian reported, the judge said national security justifies these departures from the normal. I can see where undercover agents don't want to have their identities disclosed if they hope to keep working. But then the government might want to handle such a case differently.

This fellow had been under surveillance for months. He was even placed on the infamous no-fly list, and he's alleged to have e-mailed someone in Yemen. Maybe in a case like this, it would be better to keep up surveillance and then swoop in when an actual crime -- not a fake one made possible by the FBI -- is about to take place. (hh)

Why no ties: They bind?

Aaargh! This thing is choking me...

There was something in the news the other day about neckties. Well, actually it was about neckties and complete men's suits.

You may have seen the story in the Oregonian, where it first appeared. In a nutshell, Portland State University had arranged to provide formal tailored business suits for each of its 71 football players, and the team wore the suits, complete with ties in the school color green, when traveling to every away game. It reminded me a little of high school in Southern California, where the coach made us players on the basketball team wear dress shirts and slacks -- no jeans -- every day we had a game.

The story about the Portland State suits prompted Mike McInally, the editor of the Corvallis and Albany papers, to write a column moaning about how rare it is now for men to wear ties. Time was, of course, when men wore ties all the time, no exceptions. My grandfather never left the house without wearing a tie and a dark suit complete with a vest.

I'm not sure what it says that neckties now are hardly worn at all. Maybe it's that men finally realized a few years ago that the necktie has no useful function, so it seems silly to knot something around your neck that just might choke you. On the other hand, guys do all kinds of other silly things when it comes to garments, like wearing goofy-looking shorts that reach down to mid-calf. So more than likely, the demise of the tie is due to nothing other than a general slovenliness that has spread far and wide.

A few smart people became billionaires even though all they ever wore in public was T-shirts and jeans. So everybody else -- not even half as brilliant -- figures there's no percentage in trying to look dressed. (hh)

From: Ray Kopczynski: In my case, you'll never see me at work or meetings sans tie!  Why?  I'll admit that I'm "old school," but if you consider yourself a professional (in any endeavor,) then dress as a professional. Obviously, you can be very professional in many occupations where ties are *never* worn, so my comments are to "white collar" jobs...  As I counsel folks trying to find a job, "How you look DOES matter!"  I don't say that's necessarily fair, nevertheless, it is the real world.

A tip for Republicans: Reregister

Here's an idea for all those Republicans still smarting over the results of the general election. They may feel discouraged because everything they hear and read tells them they have to change their views on some things if they ever want to win elections again. That seems to be true across the country as the makeup of the electorate has changed, and it's certainly true in Oregon, where the Democratic strongholds led by Portland keep gaining in clout. The losers in this last election object that they can't change their principles. Of course not. But they can change their labels. Political labels have been turned around completely within little more than a single generation. In Oregon and to some extent nationally, Republicans used to be the ones who called themselves progressives. Think of Tom McCall and the other leading Republicans in Oregon in the 1960s and '70s. Mark Hatfield, Bob Packwood and Norma Paulus come to mind. Nobody would have called them conservatives, let alone right-wingers. And for a long time one of the most conservative members of the state Senate, May Yih of Albany, was a Democrat. So why worry about the labels? Which leads me to my idea, an idea that all those disappointed and disgruntled Republicans might want to consider. Let them keep their principles but change their registration. Let them all reregister as Democrats. Then in the next primary, they together with the remaining conservatives who have remained Democrats all these years, might be in a position to affect who runs for office in this state and who eventually wins. (hh)

Rising sea level: Where?

This rock formation on the Oregon coast has looked the same for 20 years, nearly swamped when the tide is in and like this when it's not.

We are supposed to be worried about the rise in sea levels brought on by global warming. But should we be -- worried, that is? How much of a threat is that in reality?

Most of the scientists writing about this say the oceans are rising because the great ice sheets on land continue melting, as they have since the last ice age, and that climate change is accelerating the process. So should we start planning to evacuate towns along the coast? Shift houses and farms and commercial buildings to higher ground? If it was up to me, I would wait a while. I would wait until the effect is visible with the naked eye.

Some studies suggest that the level of the ocean along the Oregon coast could rise about 2 feet by 2050, and more by the end of this century. But there's a chance it could also drop a fraction of an inch in the near future.

Looking for some concrete data, I checked the tide tables for Newport for the first six months of this year and compared them with the first six months of 2001. I noted the high tides during each month, both the lowest high and the highest high of the month. Then I averaged all the data points for this year with those 11 years ago. Assuming tide tables were accurate, there was no increase in the average high tide at all. It was 8.12 feet in 2001, and 8.11 feet this year.

That's a primitive way of looking at it, I know. But it's in line with how we experience the real world. We act on what we see. If the ocean at high tide is not getting noticeably higher, the Oregon coast is in no greater danger of being swamped than it's been in recent years. (hh)

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