This page contains all entries posted to Jack Bog's Blog in November 2003. They are listed from newest to oldest.
October 2003 is the previous archive.
December 2003 is the next archive.
Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.
The New York Times ran its third Democratic Presidential candidate profile today: John Kerry. No wonder he foundered (not to mention floundered) when Clark showed up. The two of them cancel each other out. Vietnam War hero, now anti-war, always wanted to be President, very strong-willed, not well liked.
With Kerry, add: rich as all get-out, including marrying into a bunch of dough. Former Dukakis running mate. And not a whole lot of leadership record to show for about 20 years in the Congress. He busted Oliver North's chops and worked with McCain on finding MIAs, but that's about it.
As the kids say, this candidacy doesn't shizzle my bizzle.
Leave it to Matt to find a riveting site. After scrolling up and down for about 10 minutes, you'll ask yourself, "What the heck am I doing?" (And be sure to click on some of the links -- for example, you'll see Crown Point in a whole new light.)
The lack of activity on this blog over the last several days can be explained by the formula --
G + Ds + Sl + Co + Pg + Tr + Dk + Fz = Zz, where
G = gloomy gray skies Ds = short days Sl = long semester Co = company every day Pg = food galore Tr = elevated tryptophan levels Dk = wine at 2-3 times normal intake Fz = warm, fuzzy glow from holidays with family and friends, and Zz = crashing on couch, floor, etc. rather than blogging
Earlier today, I opined that the best Thanksgiving blog post of the year was from Jim Treacher.
But that was before I was directed here, and saw the news that Denise Howell of Bag and Baggage had her baby yesterday. Of course, she posted on the subject last night. Now that's a Thanksgiving blog post. Congratulations to her and the dad.
It's time for some year-end charitable giving. My wife and I have decided that we want to help some folks who don't have enough to eat. And so we're going to make some gifts to the Oregon Food Bank and the St. Philip Neri Parish Food Pantry.
How much? Well, that's where you, dear blog reader, come in.
For every visit to this site on Wednesday, Dec. 10, the Bogdanskis will donate 50 cents to the Oregon Food Bank, and 50 cents to the St. Philip Neri Parish Food Pantry, up to an aggregate total of $1,000. And so the first 1,000 visits that day will help feed hungry people in Portland and Oregon.
A "visit" will be defined as a visit to this site as counted by Site Meter. If Site Meter picks that day to go down, we'll use the much more complicated site statistics that my ISP provides. Obvious multiple hits by the same person within an hour of each other will be subtracted from the total.
Be sure to come back on the 10th and help break the bank. Egomania and charitable impulses will unite like never before.
Man, I didn't see anything I liked in there. Who is this guy? Some big military figure, with medals, lots of guts, and unbridled ambition. Despised by many of his former colleagues. Huge ego.
Most recent job: Golf instructor?
Hey, if I wanted to put a motivational speaker in the White House, since Matt Foley's dead, I'd have to go with Tony Robbins.
Maybe the Times has it in for Clark, but after reading the backgrounder, I must say I have no idea what his candidacy's about. Other than that the Iraq war was wrong. Which is nowhere near a winning platform in the general election.
The White House-backed Medicare prescription drug bill is causing quite a row in our nation's capital. Democrats say it will line the pockets of insurance companies, drug companies, and rich taxpayers, and undermine the future of Medicare. On the other side, Republicans say, gee whiz, they're just trying to free the seniors from having to choose between prescriptions and food.
When the AARP jumped ship last week and decided to support the bill, the Democrats started screaming. Ted Kennedy hasn't been this mad about anything in years (o.k., with the possible exception of what's happened to the Notre Dame football team).
The House passed the bill, pretty much along party lines, on Saturday. The final tally was 220 to 215. Voting against the bill were 25 Republicans; all the rest of the GOP representatives voted for it.
Only 16 Democrats voted yes. Among them: David Wu, Democrat (sometimes) from Oregon's First Congressional District.
UPDATE, Nov. 25, 2:41 a.m.: On Monday it was revealed that Sen. Ron Wyden is also planning to vote for the bill, although protesting and holding his nose the whole way. Ron's the ultimate warrior for the seniors, and so this must mean that it's the best deal they're going to get from Uncle Sam down at the drug counter, at least for a good long while.
When it was announced this week that PGE would be taken over by an investment group headed by former Gov. Neil Goldschmidt, we all howled. How could Neil actively campaign against the people's utility district without disclosing that he was involved in a pending private takeover of the electric utility that the PUD would have condemned?
Well, Goldschmidt's version of the facts surrounding the deal is that he was first offered a piece of the takeover bid, out of the blue, by the Texas investment group on Oct. 30. That was just a few days before the election, the day after his spouse had voted on a deal with the Texas group as a member of the state investment council, and just the day before Goldschmidt's op-ed piece against the PUD measure appeared in The Oregonian.
If that's true, it was probably too late to pull or change the Oregonian piece. In which case, we can't fault Neil for not disclosing in that article his personal financial interest in the outcome of the election.
Be that as it may, questions continue to swirl around Hizzoner's influence on public bodies -- and his receipt of more than a million in consulting fees from one such public body. Critics are insinuating that Neil has become the East Coast-style political boss of Portland and Oregon -- unelected, unaccountable to the public, but running everything, hand-picking candidates for public office, and making quite a living trading on his influence as a former elected official.
I don't know if I agree with all of that. But I will say that as a former New Jersey resident, I've always thought that Oregonians were naive in the extreme about the ethics of people in public life around here. Oregon enjoys no exception from human nature, folks.
And I'll add that at best, Neil is pushing the envelope, hard.
Look at it. Just an ordinary, nondescript, crummy, little roadway somewhere in urban America. Over the years, every inch of it has been dissected and mapped and agonized over. Images from every angle are there for our perusal, in books, on the internet. In our dreams, it's a huge and alien place, but the truth is, it's just another average stretch of city arterial road.
Picture it at lunchtime on a brilliant, gorgeous Friday in November 1963.
And then see the explosion, the awful explosion of the man's head. The star of the show, brutally destroyed, like a deer, falling over heavily in the tank-like early-'60s Lincoln. The crack of the guns, just a split second behind the crushing red blow, and then the smell of the gunpowder. The cars and the motorcycles race away. People are running, but they're not sure which way to go.
Fall on the green grass and scream. Pound the Texas dirt with your hands for a good long while. Get up slowly and try to remember what day it was, and who you were.
To this day, the horror of it is still with those of us who watched it, next to our parents and grandparents, through our tears, on our little black and white TVs. And then a couple of days later they took out Oswald, on live TV, and we all simply could not believe that we had watched a real murder in Aunt Margaret's living room.
You wonder why these days the boomers are so hooked on The Sopranos? That weekend, it was as if our whole world had turned into The Sopranos. The guys in the neighborhood who had mob connections were used to it. The rest of us weren't.
There are a lot of aspects of Blog*spot (Blogger) that I'm glad to be through with, but their smart view of the world is not one of them. Their support group posted some excellent words of advice this week, in a piece entitled, "How Not to Get Fired Because of Your Blog."
Even if you're not a Blog*spot user, if you blog and have a job, they've got some things there for you to think about.
I've had these issues on my mind quite a bit lately. More on that before the year is through.
I got a warm, fuzzy greeting card in the mail today from Senator and Mrs. Gordon Smith. They told me they were thankful to count me as a friend, in times of tragedy and in times of happiness.
Sure, it's a robot-produced mass mailing, paid for by the "Friends of Gordon Smith." Granted, the dreamy photo of the senator and his spouse on the front of the card is pretty strange. Plus, I'm a registered Democrat! (How did he know that I voted for him?)
But it's still a nice card to get. As bad as his record is on the irresponsible Bush tax cuts, I like these folks. And my heart goes out to them. Their holidays aren't going to be particularly bright this year.
Top 10 dumb guy insights into the Michael Jackson Affair
10. Ever since he retired from basketball, he's gone downhill.
9. I knew all along he was a pedestrian.
8. At least the media are treating the story with quiet dignity.
7. It's a good thing the chimp can't talk.
6. I really thought Liz and Liza were going to straighten him out.
5. Does this mean it's all over with Brooke Shields?
4. The only one who knows the truth is Al Sharpton.
3. What a nightmare -- we're going to see him without makeup.
2. I bet he shows Charlie Manson how to moonwalk.
And the No. 1 dumb guy insight into the Michael Jackson Affair:
1. They're only doing this to him because he used to be black.
My buddy, State Rep. Greg Macpherson of Lake O., writes in his recent newsletter about the brewing tax revolt:
In the end the Legislature did what the people sent us to Salem to do. We made the tough decision ourselves instead of referring it
out to the voters. I believe there is a proper role for the initiative,
referendum, and recall. Some decisions should go to a vote of the
people because they raise broad issues of long-term public policy.
But voters who are asked to sign a petition should think carefully
about whether this decision is well-suited to a special election. To
make an informed decision, the voters must understand the impact
of further budget cuts on the education, health, and safety of
Oregonians. Will the voters have the time to study those impacts
the way their legislators did?
Voters should also think about the harm done to Oregon’s economy
by extending uncertainty over its budget. In the last few weeks we've
received two pieces of bad economic news: Louisiana-Pacific’s
decision to move its headquarters from Portland to Nashville; and a
downgrade in the state’s credit rating. In both cases our budget turmoil
was cited as a reason.
I don't sign petitions unless there's a darn good reason to do so. And there's none in this case. Taxes blow, but a replay of the budget fiasco that cost this poor fellow his life would be a lot worse.
Bush/Cheney '04: Elect us this time!
Bush/Cheney '04: Four more wars!
Bush/Cheney '04: Assimilate. Resistance is futile.
Bush/Cheney '04: Apocalypse now!
Bush/Cheney '04: Because the truth just isn't good enough.
Bush/Cheney '04: Deja-voodoo all over again!
Bush/Cheney '04: Get used to it!
Bush/Cheney '04: Compassionate Colonialism
Bush/Cheney '04: In your heart, you know they're technically correct.
Bush/Cheney '04: Leave no billionaire behind
Bush/Cheney '04: Less CIA -- More CYA
Bush/Cheney '04: Lies and videotape, but no sex!
Bush/Cheney '04: Making the world a better place, one country at a time.
Bush/Cheney '04: Or else.
Bush/Cheney '04: Over a billion Whoppers served.
Bush/Cheney '04: Putting the "con" in conservatism
Bush/Cheney '04: Thanks for not paying attention.
Bush/Cheney '04: The economy's stupid!
Bush/Cheney '04: The last vote you'll ever have to cast.
Bush/Cheney '04: We're gooder!
Bush/Cheney: Asses of Evil
BU_ _SH_ _!
Don't think. Vote Bush!
George W. Bush: A brainwave away from the presidency
George W. Bush: It takes a village idiot
George W. Bush: Leadership without a doubt
George W. Bush: The buck stops over there
Vote Bush in '04: "I has incumbentory advantitude"
Vote Bush in '04: "Because every vote counts -- for me!"
Vote Bush in '04: "Because I'm the President, that's why!"
Vote Bush in '04: Because dictatorship is easier
Vote Bush in '04: It's a no-brainer!
Vote for Bush & You Get Dick!
Who Would Jesus Bomb?
I'll never forget the year I lived in Crothers Hall -- the law dorm at Stanford. The vast majority of us first-year law students lived there, and a few second- and third-year law students did too. It was the place where we all went through the many phases that first-year law students do. The intensity of the year was such that I'm sure most alumni have dozens of stories to tell about their times as a Crothers resident. Heck, I've probably got one for every day I dwelled there. The interpersonal bonds forged under that roof are good for life.
"Well, the time slips away, and it leaves you with nothin', Mister, but boring stories of glory days." I won't go into the Tales of Crothers '75-'76 right now, but I've got them on my mind after reading this story about Stanford's plans to build a new law dorm, and turn Crothers over to the undergrads.
It seems a wealthy donor is pushing the school to build some huge six-story buildings that would house 100 more students than attend the whole law school. With many second- and third-year students probably preferring to live off campus (at least, they did in our day), that would leave a housing complex that was only one quarter to one third law students, and two thirds to three quarters... well... normal people.
It doesn't add up. Part of the beauty of Crothers was its isolated nature. The 1Ls got to live the lives of 1Ls in all their exquisite angst and nerdiness. We grew up, and learned, a lot. Injecting a bunch of other sorts into the mix would, it seems to me, defeat the purpose.
Continuing a week in which he had already made front-page news twice, former Oregon Gov. Neil Goldschmidt today made it snow throughout the northern half of the state.
Just a day after announcing that he was heading an investor group that will buy Portland General Electric from Enron, Goldschmidt worked quietly behind the scenes to cause a major alteration in the region's weather.
"Last night it was 60 degrees in Portland," Goldschmidt told a news conference. "We didn't think that was a good situation. But today we are very excited to have independent, locally based snow on the ground, with the backing of strong northerly winds. We believe it is a solution that will work for homeowners, businesses, snow removal crews, and the ski areas."
The snow came less than a week after Goldschmidt was named as the new chair of the state Board of Higher Education. "Already we're seeing results on all our college campuses," said current Gov. Ted Kulongoski, who appointed his predecessor to the new post. "Students were all enthused today about the possibility of their classes being cancelled due to the weather."
The latest developments were greeted with suspicion by Portland City Commissioner Erik Sten, who had been working for months on an ice storm. "The jury's still out on this," Sten told reporters. "If this snow doesn't stick, we'll be right back in there with our ice proposal. It's very feasible." So far the city's initiative has cost taxpayers nearly $1 million.
Goldschmidt served as governor from 1987-1991. He was also former U.S. Secretary of Transportation under President Jimmy Carter and the former mayor of Portland. More recently, he has worked diligently on becoming very rich.
Many bloggers continue to write about comment spammers -- creeps who post commercial messages as blog comments.
With Movable Type, I can see all the IP addresses from which this type of spam is coming, and I can ban those addresses from my blog. Lately, I've banned eight addresses from which spam comments had come. I'm sure there's plenty more of that chore ahead of me.
A couple of questions for you, the reader, about this practice:
1. Am I doing myself any harm by banning these IP addresses?
2. Would anyone out there be interested in seeing my list of banned addresses? If you have MT too, presumably you could ban these folks before they hit your site. If all bloggers shared this information and used it, couldn't it really put a crimp in the activities of the blogspammers?
Now that the shock has subsided over the announced takeover of Portland General Electric by a group of institutional investors led by former Mayor/Governor/Transportation Secretary Neil Goldschmidt, it's becoming a little easier to take stock of what it will mean.
First and foremost: Neil Goldschmidt will soon own the nuclear waste pool at the defunct Trojan Nuclear Power Plant. I haven't checked my copy of the Book of Revelation yet, but as I recall, that's in there toward the end.
As noted yesterday, others will now join me in blasting Neil (as I have for some months now) for continuing to use the influence he gained in public service to line his own pockets. Enough about that for now, at least until he pulls his next stunt. (I note in passing that Governor Ted has now suddenly put him in charge of the state's public universities. Forgive me if I wonder how Neil, or his or his spouse's clients, are making money off that one.)
The good news is, the PGE purchase should put an end to the City of Portland's misguided effort to enter the electric utility business itself. Led by Commissioner Erik Sten, the city's crown prince of bad ideas, but aided and abetted even by his otherwise sensible colleague Randy "Howdy Neighbor" Leonard, this fiasco-in-the-making would have resulted in risk to the city's taxpayers and little benefit to its ratepayers. The final tally isn't in on what this quixotic adventure will end up costing the city treasury, but at last report it was $800,000. I'll bet it tops a million before Sten gives it up. And like his expensive prior campaign to force cable companies to lease their lines to other internet providers, what the city has to show for this amount of scarce change is absolutely nothing. Will somebody please run against this guy?
On its face, the deal as announced looks pretty good to me. PGE stays in private hands. It's run by a financially strong group headed by a couple of Oregon face cards, and so it should have the best interests of the residents and businesses of the region at heart.
But I say "should," because there's no guarantee. Goldschmidt's first and foremost legal duty as head of the new company is to maximize profit for the investor group, even when the public interest cries out against it. And although his presence at the top of this new electricity pyramid gives some observers comfort, I worry about it. This guy helped the Tram People put the screws to the Lair Hill neighborhood, and he'll do the same to the ratepayers if his investors (and his own wallet) tell him to.
Plus, there is no guarantee that the new owners won't sell PGE to the next bidder who comes along with cash in hand, even if the buyer is a known snake in the grass. Texas Pacific Group, the lead cash player in the investment group, has been known to turn some properties over quickly when a better deal appeared. Of the 50 companies TPG has bought into over its decade of operation, it's apparently sold out of 20 of them. Here the investors are paying $2.35 billion for PGE; if they're offered, say, $2.7 billion a few months after they take over, PGE could well be under yet another new management in short order.
Bottom line? I guess my reaction is one of mild relief, spiced with amusement but tinged with nagging concern.
You couldn't make up a wilder story than this. Portland General Electric is going to be sold to a new private utility, put together by none other than former Gov. Neil Goldschmidt!
So that's the bombshell he was dropping on Mayor Katz a few weeks ago!
I am not making this up. Read all about it here, here, and here.
Memo to Erik Sten: It's over.
Man, this makes Neil's little civic-minded op-ed piece in The Oregonian on Oct. 31 look even greasier than it first appeared. Of course he didn't want the people's utility district to succeed -- if there were many, many dollars of potential profit for himself at stake. You would think he would have disclosed that in his message to the voters. Ick!
I saw a vanity license plate today that said "HECTIC." I thought, What makes them think they're so dang special?
For the last couple of months and change, we've been vacillating among three speeds: very busy, extremely busy, and crazy busy. There's a little light showing at the end of the tunnel, but we're far from there yet.
Part of the intensity over the past week surrounded having to make up a class that I couldn't teach back in September because of the birth of my daughter. My course is so packed with material -- try explaining the entire income tax law in 56 hours -- that I couldn't just blow the missed class off. And so I taught a makeup session (two hours) on Friday.
Not every student could make the makeup, and as is my practice, I recorded the session for those who couldn't be there for the "live" show. Rather than rely on old-fashioned videotape, however, I decided to create a two-hour PowerPoint presentation with my voice dubbed over.
It's tedious work, but I'm pleased with the results, which I finshed this evening. Now students can just pick up the CD in the library, burn themselves a copy, and watch it at their own speed, anywhere their laptops will go, sometime between now and the exam, which is still three weeks away.
O.k., so cross that off the to-do list. On to the next item.
Funny story in The Oregonian yesterday about how the budget for the OHSU aerial tram project has been... ahem... revised. Instead of the $15.5 million that was originally projected, we're now up to between $24 million and $30.2 million. And counting.
Of course, ground's already been broken on the development at the foot of this Rich Men's Toy, and the tram is supposedly the key to the whole project. And so you can bet we'll be building Vera's Gondola regardless of whether it costs $30 million, $40 million, or $50 million.
There's all kinds of hemming and hawing about who will pay the 55-to-95 percent budget over-run. But let's face it, folks, the only private money in the picture is Homer Williams's, and you're not getting any of that. So it's going to be some group of taxpayers or another -- city, county, state, federal.
This is what the taxpayers of Portland need most right now -- a $30 million aerial freakin' tram.
And hey, Mr. Mayoral Candidate Jim Francesconi. Don't think we didn't notice that you've got your fingerprints all over this one. Those of us who think it's time for a change from this kind of nonsense are wondering whether you're really our guy.
Two nights in a row of major socialization here at the Love Shack. Last night, it was an overflow crowd (seven plus the host) for a poker game with yours truly. This evening, a baby shower for more than a dozen, sponsored by my wonderful bride.
It is great fun to share what you have with your friends.
We got an interesting insert in the natural gas bill this month. No, not smelling salts to revive me after seeing the amount due, but instead a little pamphlet explaining that the way they charge for gas is about to change.
Apparently, the gas company, NW Natural, is starting a new billing system called "WARM" (which as I recall is German for "GAY"). In this case, it's a cutesy acronym for Weather Adjustment Rate Mechanism. What it means is, when the winter's unusually mild and people use less gas, they're going to jack up your bill from what it would have been before WARM took over. "Slightly." When the winter's unusually cold, they're going to trim the bill down a bit. Again, "slightly."
How slightly? They don't say. How about a number example? Nowhere to be found in the little insert. They do emphasize over and over, though, that "you will be paying NW Natural just what it costs the company to serve you -- no more and no less." Ummm, and did we forget a wee little mention of some shareholder profit, too, fellas?
There's a web page on this over on the NW Natural site. But it doesn't get too much more specific than the little guy that came in the mail. So it's hard to tell how to react.
But react you must if you don't want to go WARM. The switchover to the new system is automatic, unless the customers opts out and specifies that he or she wants to continue to be billed the old-fashioned way -- so much per therm, with no weather-related adjustment. On its web site, NW Natural brags that other utilities have gone WARM with no notice and no chance to opt out. Here in Oregon, you get that opportunity. But if you don't say no to WARM by December 31, you'll be stuck with it 'til next November.
I have been known to rag on gimmicks like this. I like my utilities regulated, and I get uncomfortable when customers with a seventh-grade education are supposed to learn the nuances of utility ratemaking just to have a farookin' furnace.
But hey, at least we can opt out if we want. I'll probably stay in. I'm too busy blogging to deal with it.
If you're like me, and you're taking an interest in the Democratic Party's Presidential nomination catfight, you ought to check out The New York Times series on the Demo contenders. They kicked it off yesterday with Richard Gephardt.
I like Gephardt, and would gladly vote for him for President. As I've stated here earlier, however, I think the voting population will see him as having already had his shot. In a way, he's like Dole was against Clinton -- too many years on Capitol Hill, too often mentioned as a Presidential hopeful with nothing to show for it.
As many hits as Gephardt would take for being a Washington "insider," none would come from me. I think he's done a pretty good job on behalf of the party over the years. He's a decent fellow, who keeps coming back for more and more abuse even when the outcomes aren't going his way. (Compare Bill Bradley, an outside shooter who never could take too many hard fouls.) Gephardt isn't rich, but he doesn't overplay the "poor boy" speech. He's done a great job handling public disclosure of his daughter's sexual orientation, and he supported the war in Iraq, at least initially, a position to which I can relate. He's actually got a health care plan -- with a specificity that I admire.
And from a pragmatist's standpoint, I really like the fact that he is an accomplished, experienced political campaigner who wouldn't fumble the ball in a race against Bush:
David Dreyer, who worked for Mr. Gephardt from 1989 to 1993 and is now a corporate communications consultant, said of Mr. Gephardt: "Say what you will about Dick — he's 'too old,' 'too Washington' — but he does know how to do this. He knows how to run a long campaign. He knows that what he says today could come back and haunt him tomorrow. When he wakes up in a hotel room in the morning, he knows where he is. He knows who he's supposed to call."
Something tells me Dick Gephardt's not going to be our next President, but we could do a lot worse.
Indeed, I can't remember ever doing any better.
Hey, you hard-core lefties out there: If it comes down to Bush vs. Gephardt vs. Nader, don't be stupid.
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The Oregonian had some fine material on the editorial and op-ed pages today... for me to poop on!
First there was a letter to the editor from someone named Per Peterson, professor of nuclear engineering at UC Berkeley. According to this fellow, PGE shouldn't have to refund to ratepayers the money that it improperly charged them for the shutdown of the Trojan Nuclear Power Plant: "I think that 'consumer advocates' should be suing those who drove the decision to shut down Trojan, not Portland General Electric. That's where the real economic responsibility lies."
Why do we still have nuclear engineering departments at our public universities? The last commercial nuclear plant in this country was built around 30 years ago. That means we've paid guys like Professor Peterson 30 years' worth of salary to teach a generation of engineers something that has produced very little benefit to the American public.
We've got nuclear engineering professors at Oregon State, too. Big time money. For what? Mostly they just come around and shill for the nuke industry every now and then. I'd rather see a Department of Sorcery and Alchemy.
On the op-ed page, columnist David Sarasohn reminds us that Ralph Nader's still out there, and that he'll run for President again unless Sharpton or Braun get the Democratic nomination.
A few years ago, while I was in the midst of a neighborhood dispute, I had occasion to look up the real property records relating to some Roman Catholic Church facilities down in Southeast Portland. I noted in passing that they were all titled in the name of the Archbishop of Portland. It's been that way since the days of Stark, Pettygrove and Lovejoy. You got something to say to the owner of your neighborhood Catholic church? You go straight to the Archdiocese, because the real estate belongs to the Archbishop. I was told it was that way all over.
But I guess that was true only until the Archbishop started getting his chasuble sued off in the awful child sex abuse scandals that plague the church here in Oregon, as well as around the rest of the country. Now all of a sudden the church lawyers have a new theory: the property belongs to the individual parishes, rather than the whole Archdiocese. So if you get molested by a priest and sue the Archdiocese, there's nothing for you to recover because the Archdiocese is broke. The parishes, you see, have all the property -- it's "canon law."
Ah, who can forget the first time they saw the Monty Python Spam sketch? "Here, dear, don't make a fuss. I'll have your Spam. I love it."
Well, like the poor gal in the sketch, I hate spam -- particularly the latest variety, blogspam. This is where some clown posts a blog comment that's really an ad for something.
Fortunately, I use Movable Type, which makes it relatively easy to detect this junk, delete it, and ban the commenter from further accessing your blog from the same computer. But dealing with it's still maddening.
Well, somebody's fighting back. A fellow who runs a blog called Reading & Writing just figured out the identity of a blogspammer (not that hard to do) and sent him a bill, charging him for advertising! The spammer then wrote back in an exchange that revealed what a vile creature he actually is. You can read the whole tale here -- it's quite refreshing. (Thanks to UtterlyBoring.com for the link.)
I wish I had done that.
And so, to set myself up to maybe do the same one day, I've added a nasty-looking little message into the pop-up box where readers can comment on this blog. It tells blogspammers that if they post a commercial message, I'll be billing them $100 a day for every day the comment stays up. He he!
I'm afraid that the message looks a little off-putting, however. Unless you're a blogspammer, don't let it scare you.
Gee, I wonder what my grandparents would have said if you asked them what a "blogspammer" was. They probably would have guessed that it was some kind of head cheese (which my paternal grandparents actually preferred to the Spam of their day).
My rant about the Safeway stores here in Northeast Portland prompted quite a few good comments. Several blog commenters, and a few other friends to whom I relayed my tales of woe in person, have observed that part of my problem is that I still return my empty beverage containers for the 5-cent deposit charged here in Oregon.
They all stopped doing it long ago. They simply give their empties to needy friends, or leave them at curbside with their garbage every week for the shopping cart people to pick up. Thus, the poor get to deal with the filth of the Safeway and Fred Meyer bottle and can processing machines, and the surly teenagers who get to run them.
Cheapskate that I am, it's hard for me to give up on getting my damned money back myself. But hey, they're right, time is money, and avoiding aggravation-filled time is worth big bucks. So maybe I should follow their lead.
I'm not going to leave the empties out at curbside with my trash, though. I think it's a bad idea to encourage people to come around rooting through your garbage. They may take an empty can to feed their children, but they may also pick up a stray credit card receipt or two, get home on their PC, and start robbing you blind. And while they're out there with their stolen shopping cart, maybe a few things on your front porch will look good, too.
But I know the Boy Scout troop at the school across the street will take the empties. If I can just figure out which Sundays they'll be out there, I can turn the chore over to their eager little hands (or more likely, those of their dads and granddads). I won't get a receipt for my charitable donation -- there's the cheapskate in me talking again! -- but I won't have to deal with those awful machines any more.
Come to think of it, that's probably why the public has let the supermarkets get away with turning their bottle return operations into festering hellholes. The only people left using them are ghetto-ized folks who are really down on their luck, or dedicated Boy Scout parents who are willing to go through the worst for their kids.
A special greeting today to all my readers who have served in our armed forces. You don't have to get past the front page of the newspaper these days to see that the wolf is always at the door. Anyone who has spent time in uniform to protect and defend this country deserves our respect and gratitude, regardless of whether we agree or disagree with the wisdom or justice of any military actions in which they participated.
I must confess, when I was a young man I was too frightened of Vietnam, and too interested in my education, to sign up. There was still a draft when I turned 18, and Tricky Dick Nixon had eliminated college deferments, but I got a decent number in the draft lottery and managed to stay out of the service.
My dad was a vet, though, and an active member of the American Legion post (a veterans' club) across the alley in back of our house. I am proud to have the gavel from his year as commander of the post up on my bookcase, just below the flag they draped on his coffin. When World War II opened up, he decided to forgo the last several months of high school to join the Navy and ship out to the South Pacific. For the stay-at-home kind of guy that he proved to be once he returned, that took a lot of guts.
I remember going to services with the vets and their sons on Veterans Day. They'd attend Mass at the Catholic Church, then head over to the post for a "communion breakfast," followed by a ceremony at the boat club down on the Passaic River. They'd throw a wreath into the wretchedly polluted water, followed by a multiple-gun salute. It was pretty impressive to a youngster like myself, and as close as I have ever gotten to the discharge of a real firearm. You could tell that these guys had not been kidding around a decade and a half earlier when they went abroad to fight for freedom.
Happily, two of my favorite vets are bloggers. Cousin James has some great reflections on the day, and John the Schmuck points out some of the wonderful benefits in life he enjoys thanks to his tours of duty in Thailand.
My best to them and to all the guys and gals who served.
Well my name's John Lee Pettimore
Same as my daddy and his daddy before
You hardly ever saw Grandaddy down here
He only come to town about twice a year
He'd buy a hundred pounds of yeast and some copper line
Everybody knew that he made moonshine
Now the revenue man wanted Grandaddy bad
He headed up the holler with everything he had
It's before my time but I've been told
He never came back from Copperhead Road
Now Daddy ran the whiskey in a big block Dodge
Bought it at an auction at the Mason's Lodge
Johnson County Sheriff painted on the side
Just shot a coat of primer then he looked inside
Well him and my uncle tore that engine down
I still remember that rumblin' sound
Well the sheriff came around in the middle of the night
Heard mama cryin', knew something wasn't right
He was headed down to Knoxville with the weekly load
You could smell the whiskey burnin' down Copperhead Road
I volunteered for the Army on my birthday
They draft the white trash first, 'round here anyway
I done two tours of duty in Vietnam
And I come home with a brand new plan
I take the seed from Colombia and Mexico
I plant it up the holler down Copperhead Road
Well the D.E.A.'s got a chopper in the air
I wake up screaming like I'm back over there
I learned a thing or two from ol' Charlie don't you know
You better stay away from Copperhead Road
Born down in a dead man's town
The first kick I took was when I hit the ground
You end up like a dog that's been beat too much
'Til you spend half your life just covering up
Born in the U.S.A.
Born in the U.S.A.
Born in the U.S.A.
Born in the U.S.A.
Got in a little hometown jam
So they put a rifle in my hands
Sent me off to Vietnam
To go and kill the yellow man
Come back home to the refinery
Hiring man says, "Son if it was up to me"
Went down to see my V.A. man
He said, "Son don't you understand"
I had a brother at Khe Sahn
Fighting off the Viet Cong
They're still there, he's all gone
He had a woman he loved in Saigon
I got a picture of him in her arms now
Down in the shadow of the penitentiary
Out by the gas fires of the refinery
I'm ten years burnin' down the road
Nowhere to run, ain't got nowhere to go
Born in the U.S.A.
I'm a long gone Daddy in the U.S.A.
Born in the U.S.A.
I'm a cool rocking Daddy in the U.S.A.
Born in the U.S.A.
The Oregonian's resident right-winger, David Reinhard, weighed in over the weekend with his view of Howard Dean's candidacy. His message? "Don't underestimate Dean -- he can win. Republicans, be very, very afraid of Dean. Democrats, you should nominate Dean."
If the Democrats start taking advice from guys like Reinhard, they deserve to lose. And they will.
Our friends, our children, and we had a fantastic time today at the Dan Zanes concert. Brooklyn-based Zanes, formerly of the rock band the Del Fuegos, now makes the finest family music around. In the mosh pit down at the Aladdin, the kids and their parents were having equal amounts of fun as Zanes and his superb band hit all the right notes.
Three years into kiddie music, I have found no one else out there who brings the generations together so well. Bruce and Steve Earle-type vibrations, but with the little ones in on it, too. The basic message: Start your own family band.
You have got to love a guy who gets everyone's attention and then tells them that.
If there's a kid on your gift list, give a Dan Zanes CD. Child and parent alike will thank you. And if you sneak a listen yourself, you may find yourself ordering another one, even if there are no little music makers in your house at the moment.
Among the corporate supermarket powerhouses here in Portland are the California-based Safeway stores. Over the years, I've had a few different Safeways in my household shopping rotation, but after several really lousy experiences of late, I'm swearing them all off. I don't care if they're giving stuff away; I intend to eliminate completely my appearances within their walls.
My discontent with this chain has been growing as I have watched the fairly rapid deterioration of the store on Northeast Broadway near Lloyd Center. Substantially renovated within the last deacde, this was until recently a clean and decent, though somewhat cramped, place to shop.
But something's happened. The shopping carts are all disgustingly filthy, and most of them are broken. Here in Oregon, there's a nickel deposit on carbonated beverage containers; well, at this store the bottle return machines are in the scary basement garage. It is an absolute den of contagion, and often the machines are out of order. One night I was told by a teenage clerk that they simply would not accept bottles that night, because all the machines were on the blink. When I complained to the manager on duty, I got a blank stare. This seems to be standard Safeway policy: Make the bottle deposit operation (which is required by Oregon law) uniformly as awful for the customer as possible. They don't hassle you when they charge you the deposit, but they sure are a**holes when it's time to pay you back.
The shelf-stocking policy at the Lloyd store is also simply weird. There are quite a few items that the store keeps one of. Not one case -- one unit. Try buying canned Safeway lemon-lime seltzer there. Just try. It's a popular item, good and cheap, but there is room for only four six-packs of it on the shelf. And there's never any there. Never. Maybe you can track down one of the kids who work there and see if he or she can bootleg you a couple of sixes out of the back. Although that does the trick on occasion (the wait is only around 10 minutes), the usual answer is no.
But the real capper at the Lloyd Center Safeway store is trying to go to the bathroom. There's only one, unisex rest room, in the back of the store next to the pharmacy, and it is so heinously filthy that you will run for your life rather than touch anything in it. I recently flushed the toilet using my foot. Every known variety of human bodily discharge is there for your visual, tactile, and olfactory absorption.
And getting there is half the fun. To gain entry to this fine comfort station, which is locked (presumably to prevent drug overdoses and prostitution), you first must figure out that you need to go back up to the front of the store. There, after you wait who knows how long to talk to a "customer service" person who's busy on the phone attending to the Mysterious Safeway Agenda, he or she will page the security guard, who is the only person with a key. Then back to the locked bathroom door you go to wait some more. He'll be there in, say, five minutes or so.
Promising my bladder that I'd never return to the Lloyd Center store, I thought I'd try the Rose City Safeway, up where Northeast Fremont meets Sandy Boulevard. Last night was the last time I'll do that. I made the mistake of trying to return empty cans. To begin with, the concrete under my feet at the bottle return machines in the frigid parking lot was so sticky that I nearly pulled a hamstring just trying to step to the next machine. Half the infernal machines weren't functioning, of course, and the one that was, decided that it wasn't going to take Canada Dry Ginger Ale. "Not carried at this store," said the petty little red screen on this noisy robot.
But while I was shopping, I noticed that indeed, that product is carried at this store, and so I asked the "customer service" gal (around 20 years old) if she could give me my deposit back. Since making contact of any kind with the empties is not her job, she hailed a teenage clerk, who informed her, with touching frankness, that he wasn't going to do it, either. So then she paged another teenage clerk, who appeared after around five minutes.
This kid's first order of business was to spend another five minutes verifying that indeed, they do accept this type of can. First he tried to put one through the machine himself to make sure I wasn't lying or hallucinating. Then he had to check with his boss to make sure I wasn't trying to cheat Safeway out of the buck I wanted back. (It says "Oregon deposit - 5 cents" right on the can.) Finally, begrudgingly, he vocalized the count as I -- the customer -- counted the cans out by hand. He then wrote me out a little makeshift slip for the $1.35.
But then, then came the highlight of all my Safeway days and nights over lo, these many years. When I went back to pick up my cart full of groceries and resume shopping, I discovered that someone had taken it from where I left it. I searched around that spot for about 20 yards in every direction. No sign of it. So I returned to the "customer service" queen. Oh, yes, she's right on it once again -- pages yet another teenager. He takes a quick look through the store's cooler, finds nothing, gives me the bad news and the trademark Safeway Blank Stare. And then right back to bagging groceries he goes.
We are now looking at about an hour of my life down the drain.
I got my $7 bottle deposit in cash and left. And I will never, ever, ever willingly return. To any Safeway store in Portland.
The checkout clerks at Safeway make a big deal out of trying to pronounce your last name. I'm sure their headquarters requires them to do it. Hey, Safeway, stop wasting people's time with that. Get busy with a freakin' washrag and a mop, restock the shelves when they're empty, and start hiring some help with at least a slight clue about actual customer service.
Tax policy literature is not just for nerds. If you can bear to take a look at this article, you will see that federal income taxes have fallen to their lowest levels in many decades -- both as a percentage of the gross domestic product and as a percentage of all federal revenues. But federal payroll taxes are now at their highest in U.S. history when compared with total federal revenues.
It's all consistent with the Bush vision to turn the income tax into a wage tax. In this Republican moist dream, people who live off dividends, rents, and interest would contribute nothing to the federal Treasury -- government programs would all be paid for entirely by people who work for a living.
We've gone quite a ways in that direction already over the last three years.
All of you middle-class Bush backers out there: Look in the mirror. Can you say, "Sucker"?
Here in Portland, we have the "city commission" form of government. This is the same one they have in most major cities with a population of less than 10,000. All the bureaus are managed on a day-to-day basis by the elected politicians, who initially know absolutely nothing about the areas they're assigned to. Just when they figure it out, they switch to another bureau.
This is supposed to insure that the lifelong bureaucrats who work in the municipal agencies don't get too much power.
And of course, what it really does is insure that the lifelong bureaucrats who work in the municipal agencies have entirely too much power.
Mayor Vera "Lame Duck" Katz is going to reshuffle the bureaus one more time before she steps down, and the 86.3 people who follow city politics carefully are all abuzz about who's going to get which new assignment.
An unnamed source has given me a handwritten list, purportedly in Katz's own handwriting, with her tentative choices for the new assignments. I can't vouch for its authenticity, but the list is written on some very, very ostentatious designer stationery, which indicates it's coming from the mayor, all right.
Here is what it reveals:
Buy PGE: Sten
Buy Portland Beavers: Sten
Sell Water Supply: Sten
Abandoned Resources: Sten
Tram Color Scheme: Katz
Sister Cities Where It's Warm and I Won't Have to Drive: Katz
Secret Planning: Saltzman
Neighborhood Involvement Appearance: Saltzman
Quiet Rage: Saltzman
Outrageous Noise: Leonard
Harley Riders Liaison: Leonard
Homer Williams Wealth Building Committee: Katz, chair; Sten, co-chair
Zoning Out: Katz
Something That Will Make Him Look Bad (Police Review?): Francesconi
Salvage Local Economy: Vacant
Vision for Portland: Goldschmidt's clients
All bloggers worth their bandwidth keep a constant tally of how many folks are visiting their sites, and where they're coming from. And there are "ratings" services such as The Truth Laid Bear and Technorati, who give us the rankings of who's hot, who's not as of any given day.
The blogosphere isn't like television, where a couple of times a year (May and November being the biggies, I think), the ratings that a show gets in a particular period count way more than they do at any other time of the year. For example, the David Letterman baby show the other night was a big hit in a key "sweeps" week, but I wonder if Dave and Regina planned it that way. Back in February, did they used the "CBS Rhythm Method" to time the conception? (The way this works, on the nights when you're not supposed to have sex, you watch CBS, which gets you out of the mood.)
What if blogs had "sweeps," and we were all particularly hungry for hits right now? What would we be blogging about?
I can understand television stations foisting trash like this on us. It's "sweeps" time for their ratings, which means they'll be doing "news" stories about prostitution, nude dancing, celebrity pecadillos, cute fuzzy zoo animals, fad diets, and all sorts of other non-newsworthy oddities all month long. They have to. By nature, they're whores for ratings.
But it's not sweeps month for the Trib. I wish they'd stop capitalizing on the deaths of those two poor teenage girls whom this man is believed to have murdered. We don't need another interview with him -- ever.
UPDATE, 6:18 p.m.: A judge has issued a gag order putting an end to the interviews with this fiend. Good for the judge, and shame, shame on the revolting media outlets who made the order necessary.
The project has also already forced Pacific Metal out of its longtime home in the North Macadam district. And of course, that company's getting the heck out of Dodge. Relocating within Portland isn't a viable option, so they're off to Tualatin.
And so another 140 jobs and another property taxpaying business leave Portland. To be replaced by? Tax-abated luxury condos! Thanks, City Council!
Anything for Homer. The city has looked the other way from his shaky track record and the felony record of his partner. I guess we shouldn't be surprised that the bodies have started falling. There'll doubtlessly be plenty more before the lovely condo towers block our views.
A little boy wanted $100 very badly. He prayed for weeks, but nothing happened. So, he decided to write a letter to God requesting $100. When the postal authorities received the letter to "God, USA", they decided to send it to the President. The President was so amused that he instructed his secretary to send the little boy a $5 bill. The President thought this would appear to be a lot of money to a little boy. The little boy was delighted with the $5 bill, and sat down to write a thank-you note to God. It read:
"Dear God, Thank you very much for sending the money. However, I noticed that for some reason you sent it through Washington, D.C., and those a**holes deducted $95 in taxes."
Got a nice e-mail message the other day from my old friend, ex-state Labor Commissioner, and one-time gubernatorial candidate Jack Roberts. He wrote:
I just stumbled upon your riff on the 5th District congressional race (dated Oct. 7th). You're right, of course, that Jim Zupancic lost to Greg MacPherson last year, but it was one of the closest and most tightly contested races in the state with the result hugely affected by Bill Bradbury's shameless gerrymandering of the district lines to take in a chunk of Multnomah County voters.
At the same time, Greg was an excellent candidate and has been a good legislator. In fact, when you think of two guys of the quality of Zupancic and MacPherson slugging it out in one district, and compare that to the choice voters faced in some other districts, it is just one more reminder of the vagaries of politics.
Jim Zupancic and Jackie Winters are both friends of mine. I endorsed Jim before Jackie got into the race, at a time when it was my hope that we could avoid a destructive primary (I have a little experience with them). When Jackie got in, I continued to support Jim as the more electable candidate, as well as the one who could distinguish himself for many years to come in the United States Congress. He has received a broad base of support from Republican legislators across the political spectrum, which says something considering he was never a member of that body, where Jackie has served for the last eight years.
I wrote back and asked Roberts, among other things, what he's doing these days. He responded:
I'm currently heading up an economic development agency down in Eugene called the Lane Metro Partnership. It was formed back in 1985 by Lane County, the cities of Eugene and Springfield and the Eugene and Springfield Chambers of Commerce. We try to recruit and retain local manufacturing businesses (or, as we're supposed to say these days, "trade sector businesses") to help diversify and strengthen the local economy.
It's interesting and challenging work, particularly for someone who spent the last 13 years in elective office. In politics, you tend to concentrate on the things that are wrong with your state or community and how you'll promise to fix them. In economic development, you're trying to convince individuals and businesses that your state or community is a great place to live, work and run a business. By shifting your focus from what's wrong to what's right, it gives you a very different perspective on things.
As a Republican, particularly coming off a seemingly interminable Republican primary for governor, I was constantly hearing people complain about overregulation, particularly regarding land use and environmental protection. But when you ask these same business leaders what are our strengths in attracting new business here, invariably they come back to "quality of life." Sure, they'd like lower taxes, less bureaucracy and red tape, etc., but not one of them really believes we would have a better economy if we just lowered our environmental standards or increased traffic congestion.
I don't know if I'll be reentering the political arena myself in the future, but if I do, I think I'll have a keener sense of what's important to Oregonians and the Oregon economy because of what I'm doing now.
Doesn't sound like Jack's out of politics for good. It was good to hear from him.
Television funny man David Letterman missed his show last night, despite it being the start of the all-important "sweeps" period for television ratings. He and his girlfriend, Regina, were reportedly in the process of giving birth to their first child. Still no word yet, many hours later, on how it's going. Our thoughts and prayers are with Duck-Faced TV Boy and his mate.
UPDATE, 12:21 p.m.: Rumor has it that Paul Harvey (of all people) announced that it's a girl, 6 pounds and some ounces.
As a long-time registered Democrat, I would like to see this nation kick Little Lord Fauntlebush out of his current playpen. Unlike many of the true believer idealists on the left, however, I'm not interested in revolutionizing politics or making a bold, new statement about what the Democratic Party stands for. I just want to get rid of Bush and Cheney.
I want a Presidential challenger who can win. Nothing else matters.
I remember back in '88, when Jon Lovitz did his hysterical sendup of Michael Dukakis on Saturday Night Live. He was in debate against Bush Sr., played by Dana Carvey. Bush was showing his dumb and prissy sides, but it was clear that he was going to win the White House. "I can't believe I'm losin' to this guy," moaned Lovitz's Dukakis.
If the Democrats aren't very careful, we'll be saying the very same thing next October. When I read on the 'net comments that "the jig is up for Bush," "people are fed up," "growing chorus of resentment," "his days are numbered," I shake my head. The President has an enormous advantage, and unless and until the opposition coalesces around one or two credible candidates, he's an odds-on favorite for re-election.
So I'm looking for a winner, and like any handicapper, I go to the list we're picking from:
Who's electable out of this bunch? Heck if I know, but at the risk of being labeled a racist, I'm going to cross Sharpton and Braun off right away. Between their race and their individual baggage, they're not electable. I'm not saying that's right or just, but it's reality.
So that leaves the Seven Dwarfs.
I'm going to toss Gephardt, even though he was all over The New York Times last week. This guy's been running for President for what seems like 15 or 20 years. He's never even made it close to the nomination, has he? Not a winner. Gone.
Lieberman? Lost in the last election. Trying now to sound like the brave, honest politician who's willing to do unpopular things when they're necessary. But hey, he's doing unpopular things! Plus, he's owned by the insurance companies, which is going to make his health care platform smell a little funny. And again, rightly or wrongly, I note that he is Jewish, which would make him a first for our great nation. Unfortunately, on that score, to quote Lloyd Bentsen, he's no Jack Kennedy. President Lieberman? Nah.
Dean? Great campaign so far, but he's not electable. Let's take the Democratic Party way back over to the left, he says. He's entirely too honest. It's refreshing, but so was Nader. Dean's a Dukakis waiting to happen.
So who's still standing? Kerry, Edwards, Kucinich, and Clark.
Kerry's got a problem in that he looks as shady as a Kennedy, but without the sex appeal. He's a rich boy Democrat who'd be running against the rich boy Republican. That's going to be a hard image to sell. He can't out-Yale a Bush.
Kucinich doesn't have a very trustworthy image, either. He's born again on abortion rights, but he was pro-life for years. He's way more anti-war than the average Joe. When they find out he's a dove and a vegan, middle America will say no.
So: Edwards or Clark? The general's going to fade, just as McCain did last time. We admire him, we respect him, but we aren't going to make him king. Maybe Vice King.
That leaves Edwards. Rich but self-made. Young daddy, JFK-style. Enemy of the insurance companies. Almost as slick as Bill Clinton. Just hawkish enough.
Hey, I've gotten this blog listed over on Daily Whirl, an outfit that will gather headlines from all sorts of law-related blogs for you, if you're so inclined. For those of you who come here questing for legal news, it's worth a look.
Meanwhile, in today's legal news, a former county attorney now in private practice gets in deep doo-doo for his creative installment payment plan for a money-strapped female client. What a credit to the profession.
Big front-page banner headline story in today's Oregonian about a group of 40 or so clowns who bike recklessly and at high speed from the Oregon Zoo down to downtown every Sunday night. Forty miles an hour downhill on city streets, in the dark, with no helmets.
How interesting. And now that it's been glamorized so prominently, there will be 80 dopies up there instead of 40, quadrupling the odds of somebody getting killed.
The New York Times is in the same league. Big front page story yesterday about how scientists have now developed a super-lethal form of mousepox, and how they could probably do the same with human smallpox.
The message? It's only a matter of time before the terrorists get their hands on vaccine-resistant human smallpox and wipe us all out.
Again, interesting, even terrifying. But what's the sense of running a front-page story on this?
Thanks to big science for showing us how bioterrorism can be done.
And thanks to The Times for giving every outraged extremist the idea that he or she can do it.
What next? How about "news stories" like "You could drive the wrong way down the freeway"? Or "You could buy a machine gun and take out your co-workers"?
Miles run year to date: 82
At this date last year: 122
Total run in 2015: 271
In 2014: 401
In 2013: 257
In 2012: 129
In 2011: 113
In 2010: 125
In 2009: 67
In 2008: 28
In 2007: 113
In 2006: 100
In 2005: 149
In 2004: 204
In 2003: 269