This week's fresh new faces
Walter Mondale and Bill Webster join Don Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney in the limelight. What a bunch of hotties.
Walter Mondale and Bill Webster join Don Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney in the limelight. What a bunch of hotties.
My good friend and creative advisor Matt Whitman has demonstrated his websurfing prowess by alerting me to this fellow's site.
Not to be outdone in the bizarre idea department, City Commissioner Erik Sten now believes that the already cash-strapped City of Portland -- the city that can't afford all-night access to cops, good schools, or respectable mental health care -- should suddenly become a national pioneer on public financing of local political campaigns. Oh sure, we'll spend the extra $1 million a year that we have lying around. You know, the $1 million we were going to use on the ice skating rink...
They estimated the annual cost at $750,000, which could come from the general fund. Sten also tossed out other potential sources -- from an advertising tax to some sort of garbage fee that he joked could be used to "get the garbage out of politics."We're laughing, son, but not with you.
News item from KGW-TV:
Mayor Vera Katz proposed the city of Portland create a special fund that could help lower the costs for land and infrastructure as well as create tax abatements for businesses looking to move into or expand in the metro area.Let me get this straight: public money to lower the costs of land and infrastructure for private developers? Golly! Who would benefit from that?
I've stopped trying to guess the outcomes of pro football games on Sunday. Betting those state-sponsored sports book tickets here in Oregon just became too much of a losing proposition. As lamented in this weblog previously, it's darned tough to call the point-spread winners in the NFL these days, and if you do get lucky, the lottery folks don't pay good odds.
One nice byproduct of having wasted a few dollars on this over the early weeks of the season, however, is a renewed interest in the sport. How else would I have discovered that the Atlanta Falcons have a young quarterback named Michael Vick who is revolutionizing the game? I neglected football all of last year, and so I had never heard of the guy. Meanwhile, Vick's cousin Aaron Brooks is piloting the Saints to a nice year. And how would I have noticed that Portland's own Joey Harrington is keeping the Detroit Lions close in every game, although they're having trouble winning? But now that they've gotten my attention, I can follow along without wagering on the games.
College football is fun right now, too. Is Notre Dame No. 1? Shouldn't they be? I go with the New York Times computer and say yes, but what else would you expect from an East Coast transplant blogger?
Last week in this space I mentioned the controversy in a Southeast Portland neighborhood over a homeless dining service operated by a local Catholic parish. The neighbors have once again become fed up with the crime that lingers at the church-owned park next door to the dining hall long after the food service workers have cleaned up the plates and gone home. So bad has the atmosphere become that the city has declared the soup kitchen a chronic nuisance property under an ordinance designed to make it easier for the police to shut down crack houses.
I noted that the pastor of a nearby church had written some thoughtful comments in his own parish bulletin about the dispute. He noted that the real problem was the lack of an adequate government response to homelessness, although I mused that he had no real answer for the neighbors' legitimate concerns.
Tonight I heard him speak on the subject, and I must say his words were stunning. Of course, he reminded us all, consistent with the gospel of the day, that the commandment to love one's neighbors is not limited to those neighbors who are easy to love. What sort of commandment would that be?
But then came a remarkable addendum. He acknowledged that the City of Portland was pushing high-impact social problems and social services into Southeast Portland. No homeless dining operation, he said, is going to open in the West Hills or elsewhere on the west side, nor even in Northeast Portland, where the city is building its precious Convention Center expansion and looking to lure tourist dollars (see below). In addition to feeding the poor, the pastor said, the commandment to love one's neighbor should lead residents of Southeast Portland to point out the injustice in the districting of social problems and biased siting of social services by the city.
This was only part of a talk whose overall message was clearly to tolerate. But the true, true words and call to action were there.
Best homily I've heard in decades.
They're busy expanding the Oregon Convention Center, despite clear taxpayer sentiment that it's not worth it. And after sponsoring an event there yesterday, let me say amen to the taxpayers.
The size and scale of this place is truly ridiculous for a place like Portland. But perhaps more importantly, the existing structure appears to have been built out of cheap particle board, with pitifully little concern for acoustics. Yesterday, as our cooped-up guests tried to absorb complex tax law developments, we were serenaded through the wall all day by a bad lounge singer who sat at a piano across the huge, vacuous lobby from our conference room. The guy did a bad impression of Louis Armstrong singing "What a Wonderful World" at least 10 times as the day wore on. To the out-of-towners in the crowd, I am sure Portland seemed ludicrous.
After an overpriced rubber chicken lunch, several Convention Center staff members decided to have a loud, extended conversation in the hallway behind our conference room. Again, despite the doors being shut, we heard every word, almost as clearly as we could hear our featured speaker. When I eventually went out there to ask them to move, they actually said, and I quote, "Oh, are you having a meeting in there? We're sorry."
Readers of this blog know that the release of the album The Rising marked the beginning of one of those periods during which I listened to a single album over and over until it became the background music for my life. I've now moved on to the next phase of my relationship to that material, and some of the songs that jumped to the forefront during the first 200 listenings are now moving to the background.
The one that is getting to me most at this later moment is "Countin' on a Miracle," the prayer of a 9-11 survivor (apparently female) to her love, murdered in the tragedy. The number starts off as a standard '90s Springsteen rocker, but some odd chord sequences quickly take it out of the singsong rut that plagued some of Bruce's writing in his writer's block of that period. Soon it switches over to a Beatlesque bridge sung over a string quartet, which I love but some will surely complain is just a Brendan O'Neill overproduction, and then it lunges into an incredibly dark litany of the important aspects of the victim's life. A wailing guitar solo ensues, at which point if I'm the only one in the house or car the volume gets cranked up substantially and stays up for the rest of the track.
There's an apparent edit, a key change, and a verse that may turn out to be the definitive sound bite from The Rising:
I'm running through the forest with theI often wonder who first put a guitar in this man's hands. Who first showed that goofy-looking kid from Freehold around the fretboard? Can you imagine being that person? I have shaken the Springsteen right hand twice in my life (both many years ago), but I wish I could add that one.
Wolf at my heels
My king is lost at midnight
When the tower bells peal
We got no fairy tale ending
In God's hands our fate is complete
Your heaven's here in my heart
Our love's this
Dust beneath my feet
Just this dust beneath my feet
If I'm gonna live
I'll lift my life
Darlin' to you
I'm what former Vice President (and felon) Spiro Agnew used to call a "nattering nabob of negativism" when it comes to local government around Portland way. Especially the Mayor and the Port of Portland -- they're two of my Top 10 Nitwits of 2001!
But hey, they appear to have scored a big victory by luring Lufthansa Airlines to run a nonstop flight from Portland to Deutschland starting in the spring. That is a very good thing for our town, and let's all hope it works out better than Delta Air Lines' recent fling at running Japanese flights through here. So Portland International Airport will once again truly live up to its name -- 'cause when you live in the Northwest, no offense, but Canada just ain't international enough.
So to the Mayor and the Port of Portland: Don't say I said you never do anything right. From time to time, you do.
I don't pull out this card often, but I think it's past time on this one.
Several of my colleagues are headed back to D.C. this weekend on company business. And so I've finally gotten some crystal clear thoughts about the unthinkable. Heaven help us all.
I remember Harry Chapin's song about the University of Texas tower sniper of the late '60s. Like much of Chapin's work, it was cloying and pretentious to some, but I always felt the menace in the sniper's words as he fired his shots:
Am I?Creepy. Harry, if you're up there, pull some strings now.
I am a lover who's never been kissed.
I am a fighter who's not made a fist.
If I'm alive then there's so much I've missed.
How do I know I exist?
Are you listening to me?
Are you listening to me?
One of the most visited weblogs on the planet is the "busblog" run by a guy named Tony Pierce down in Los Angeles. (At least, that's what the blog says his name and home are, but it also warns that nothing therein is true.) I bookmarked this site way back last summer when I first started writing here, but I predicted at that time I wouldn't be visiting it regularly for long. It turns out I was wrong about that; there's something about the busblog that's addictive.
Anyway, yesterday was Tony's birthday and he put up, among other things, photos that purport to be him. If you haven't been over there, take a look. And if (like me) you've wondered what the guy looks like, this is a good time to visit. (But be forewarned: like a good street entertainer, he asks, quite effectively, for "flowage," a.k.a. money.)
This may be the ugliest time in this country during my lifetime of nearly 49 years. It's been a heck of a week, with North Korea, the Sniper, the Iraq mess, more Osama Tapes.
One of the saddest aspects of it all is the exposure of the rule of international law as the naive pipedream that it truly is. As if weapons inspections were the real issue in Iraq. Carter cops the Nobel Peace Prize while the Mideast explodes and the North Koreans spit in our face (although some will surely say we deserve it). I guess the Nobel Committee has become just like the rest of the capitalist world -- hooked on short-term returns without regard to whether any of it means anything over the long run.
Now military aircraft join in domestic police work. Police cameras at every major intersection record comings and goings, and we wish that they were even more precise and all-knowing. Toxic waste outfits go by names like "Envirocare." We're down to just a few big corporations in nearly every American industry. Our better products are made out of plastic.
It's everything we boomers had nightmares about, and more. It's starting to make Orwell look like a bit of a lightweight.
We and our World War II-era parents made a pretty good combination. We and our MTV-nurtured offspring don't.
I heard an interesting sermon tonight from a young priest (you talk about your dark moments in history). He was commenting on the Bible passage in which Jesus deflected a trick question about tax justice. He told the people to give the government back what it gave to them, but to do the same with God. Said the priest: Caesar's kingdom has passed away, Herod's kingdom has passed away, and the kingdom of the United States will pass away. He added something to the effect that the last of these may not be as far off as we think.
True perhaps, but not an uplifting thought as the October shadows lengthen.
On the way out the church door, I picked up a church bulletin that includes a letter from the pastor trying to respond to the angry neighbors of a soup kitchen at a nearby parish. Neighbors of the other church are so angry at the crime that accompanies the daily feeds that they have convinced the city to declare the church property a public nuisance. The pastor's letter noted that the real problem was the lack of public social services for this population, but other than that, he offered no solution for the obvious crime problem up the street.
Ugly, folks. From the U to the G to the ly-ly-ly.
Every day's headlines shake my faith in our government further and further, but at least the federal prosecution team working on the Enron case seems to know what it is doing. My hopes and prayers continue to go out for those who are going to take these crooks down.
Seeing the Imclone guy cop a plea was gratifying as well. Yeah, you should apologize to your daughter for making her a criminal, you creep! Not to mention all the faceless market traders whom you cheated out of their life savings! Have fun in jail. (Was that un-Christian? I think it was. OK, I "take back" those last three sentences, but not enough to edit them out.)
Portland, Oregon -- the city that can't afford to have its police stations open at night -- is having second thoughts about spending $1 million of public money to clutter up its Pioneer Courthouse Square with an ice skating rink all winter long. Business types and the Parks Bureau are asking some of the very same questions that were asked in this weblog last August 1. Once again, you read it here first!
If you're not in the mood yet, try this.
It's negative TV ad time in the statewide races here in Oregon, but this time with a bizarre twist: Now the plan is to appeal to the target candidate's core constituency and try to shake them loose from voting for their obvious choice. In the latest round of small-screen drivel, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ted Kulongoski faults his opponent, the GOP's Kevin Mannix, for voting to raise taxes, and incumbent Republican U.S. Sen. Gordon Smith attacks Democrat challenger Bill Bradbury for slashing taxes for timber operators while clearcutting his own timberland.
What is the point of this? I guess the hope is to neutralize the target candidate on his easiest issues, so that the sponsoring candidate's sterling record on other issues will win the day.
But gee, whiz! Do they really think hard core anti-tax folks are going to vote for Ted "What's Another Point on a 9% State Income Tax" K.? Do they really think enviro types are going to backlash against Bill's alleged timber shenanigans and vote for Gordon?
Do they really think we are this dumb? What do they pay the people who come up with these campaigns? Whatever it is, it's a waste of money.
I don't want to vote for "None of the above" for judgeships (an actual proposition on the current ballot in Oregon). But there are times when I wish we had this option for the other two branches.
So much valuable time is wasted on mindless Internet surfing. Probably even more than is wasted on health-jeopardizing cigarette breaks. Now you can have it all.
The Portland Tribune has some great stuff in it today about that slight odor arising from the North Macadam development project in Southwest Portland. They're finally asking the right questions about the ridiculous aerial tram feature that's supposedly the key to the plans. Who will pay to build the tram? Of course, readers of this weblog have already been pondering this question for more than three months, after it was asked here on July 8.
Hey, Trib reporter Todd Murphy, nice going. But don't forget the follow-up question: Who will pay to operate the tram? There isn't a mass transit project in the country that turns a profit. So who will bear the loss on this one? Not OHSU or Homer Williams, that's for sure.
Another interesting tidbit in the Trib was apparent evidence that our mayor regarded the tram as a foregone conclusion more than a year and a half before she voted for it.
City Commissioner and electric-exec-wannabe Erik Sten provided an interesting attempt to change the subject:
City Commissioner Erik Sten suggested the focus on responsibility for paying for the tram may miss a more important point: how the city, OHSU and North Macadam landowners and developers divide the estimated $70 million in infrastructure costs.Do we need any more reason to vote for outsider Randy Leonard for City Council?
"I think for the public to get a square deal on this thing, you have to analyze how much does the public put in the entire infrastructure down there," Sten said. "If we pay more for the tram, we should pay less for other things."
I have my Portland Trail Blazer tickets for the upcoming season, and for the second year running, I am more than happy to part with most of them. If you are interested, take a look here.
I'm starting to see a few hits coming in via links in other people's weblogs, including Howard Bashman's legal tour de force called How Appealing. I have tried to find the links in some of the other blogs, but they must be buried deep in the archives, 'cause they're not readily apparent. Anyway, thanks to all the "referors" and welcome to all the "referees."
Today's been split between writing a scholarly article on a tax subject and having a blast with my family. That and a pretty good run along Alameda Ridge here in Portland, and I am right as rain. A very lucky guy, despite going 0-3 on my little football ticket -- doh!
... And come Sunday afternoon, you realize that it's hard to predict the NFL these days. Oh, well -- keeps it interesting. (Cuss, swear.)
New Orleans - 3.5 vs. Pittsburgh; Carolina - 3.5 vs. Arizona; Kansas City - 4.5 at Jets.
I always looks good on Saturday night...
The Saturday papers: Back in my days as a daily newspaper reporter, the old-timers around the newsroom always said that nobody reads the paper on Saturday. Well, I always do. The paper's skinnier, and so you can polish the whole thing off over lunch.
Today's offerings are particularly good. From The Oregonian comes a nice piece on yesterday's City Club debate between City Council candidates Serena Cruz and Randy Leonard. I voted for Cruz in the primary, but after reading this article, it's becoming clear to me that Leonard is the real agent of change, whereas Cruz is more of the same. Readers of this 'blog know that I agree with Leonard that the City Council has become dysfunctional, and so it looks like he will get my vote in a few weeks. Cranky middle-aged white guys, unite!
On to the national and world scenes in the Saturday New York Times (painless registration required to read online): Two law professors take some well-aimed shots at the medieval public access rules at the United States Supreme Court. A local critic raises some pointed questions about some of the more pie-in-the-sky plans for downtown Manhattan. And Bill Keller, who's been there, explains why the Russian people are rolling their eyes at George W., and at us, his constituents. "Why do they hate us so much?" Read this.
Yep, Saturday's a great day to read the papers.
Does she deserve this persecution? Assuming that she broke the law -- and she's not even formally accused of that yet -- it was just over a few hundred thou. That's chump change for this lady. If she lied to the public and/or to the authorities about her supposed little stop order, though, now that would be her tragic flaw. Very much like "I did not... have... sexual... relations with that woman... Miss Lewinsky," and "It depends on what 'the' means."
Moral: When you're busted for something small, cop to it and move on.
A prolonged dockworkers' strike on the West Coast. I have no idea who's wrong and right on this one, but these gentlemen need to grow up and cut a deal pronto. And where are our politicians? You would think they would be falling all over each other to serve as mediator. Too busy with campaign sniping, I guess.