This page contains all entries posted to Jack Bog's Blog in January 2004. They are listed from newest to oldest.
December 2003 is the previous archive.
February 2004 is the next archive.
Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.
Sing along with Howie (with apologies to Ray Charles)
I got no TV, and I'm still No. 3, and I'm busted
The pollsters all say that I'm fadin' away, 'cause I'm busted
From leader to loser in under two weeks
No wonder I got up and screamed like a freak
All I got left are some internet geeks, 'cause I'm busted
I went to Al Gore to ask for a loan 'cause I was busted
I hate to beg like a dog without his bone, but I'm busted
Then Gore told me, "Howard, I think it's too late
Your grip on reality's never been great
You spent $40 million in only two states, and now you're busted"
Well, I ain't a crank, but a man can go nuts when he's busted
I fired Joe Trippi 'cause he was a putz, and I'm busted
My vote count in Michigan's gonna be low
And I'll get my a*s kicked in New Mexico
I'll win an election, just where I don't know, 'cause I'm busted
I'm broke, no bread, I mean like nothing ... yeaaarghhhh ...
Well, the Godfather of Soul, James Brown, got himself busted again. This time, he was pushing his wife around and throwing chairs in his house. Cooped up for a few days in an ice storm, he must have snapped.
To make matters worse, he was really disheveled when the police arrived, and his mug shot is appalling:
"KERRY: DUKAKIS’S LT. GOV. WHO VOTES LOCKSTEP WITH TED KENNEDY "
"EDWARDS ISN'T JUST BEHOLDEN TO PERSONAL INJURY TRIAL LAWYERS, HE IS ONE HIMSELF"
"WHO IS HOWARD DEAN? An Ultra-Liberal On Social Issues Who Is Out Of The Mainstream And Wrong For America."
"CLARK IS NO CENTRIST, HE'S A LIBERAL CLINTON-GORE CRONY"
And the ads will no doubt wind up with "George Bush: The Compassionate Colonialist"...
You strike me as a smart and noble man. For the good of the party, please drop out of the race for the Democratic presidential nomination now.
Your loss in New Hampshire, which you spin as a "statistical dead heat for third place" but which was in reality a fifth-place finish, counts you out of the running. You skipped Iowa to put your eggs in the New Hampshire basket, even going so far as to move your personal residence to the latter state. It didn't work. The support base is too weak. It's time to withdraw.
What do you hope to achieve by hanging in there? Preventing the party from drifting too far to the left? More disheartening losses on your part could actually cause a shift to the left, as the media portrays your centrist views as out of touch with the Democratic mainstream.
In fact, by overstaying in the race, you do the party appreciable harm. If you continue to draw 8 to 10 percent of the votes and never come near the nomination, you deprive your supporters of a chance to vote for their second choices, who may very well be among the three or four real candidates left in the race. I doubt that many of your backers would vote for Dean, and so your continued presence on the ballot does nothing more than obscure the party's overall enthusiasm for Sens. Kerry or Edwards (or perhaps Gen. Clark).
I look forward to seeing you celebrate the eventual nominee at the convention. I know we will stand with you in working for the Democratic candidate in the general election. But right now, we need you to do what Congressman Gephardt did: Bow out gracefully. Allow all the voters, even those who would vote for you in an ideal world, to show their preference among the more viable contenders in the field.
Here's a followup to my recent rant about OSPIRG's pushy phone people. In addition to posting here, I left a comment on the OSPIRG blog, which got some attention. Here's the e-mail response I received earlier today:
Hello. I wanted to respond to your recent comment on the www.ospirg.org website. You did not appreciate being contacted on the telephone in the evening and stated that kind of call was not welcome. I have looked into the situation and believe we have accomodated your concern.
We have removed your phone number from the list of numbers we'll call in the future. Telephone outreach to our members is one of the ways we keep in contact, updating people on the campaigns and renewing support. However, it is simple enough to remove your number, and we have done so. Thank you for informing us of your preference. I have instructed our membership director to code your record so that you will not receive a call for campaign contributions in the future.
As has always been the case, a membership is good for a year from the date that we receive the contribution. In general we send out mailings a few times a year. If a member would like to be removed from mailings, or cancel their membership entirely, we can arrange that as well. Just let me know.
I hope this letter adequately addresses your concern.
Oregon State Public Interest Research Group
The Oregonian's editorial page today exhorts Multnomah County voters to vote for Measure 30, the state income tax surcharge. Perhaps the strongest argument that the editorial musters for a yes vote in these parts is its spin on the new county income tax: "County voters can't forget the original purpose of their local tax: to be a temporary lifeboat until state funding came through. The goal was never to secede financially from the rest of the state. The goal was to meet local needs until the state pulled itself together."
A few paragraphs later, however, The O makes this naked assertion: "With expected refunds if Measure 30 passes, about two-thirds of county taxpayers would pay lower taxes if the state plan passes."
I have to challenge that last statement. First of all, there's no guarantee whatsoever what (if anything) the county will refund if the state surcharge passes. But more importantly, even if the county pays refunds at the highest level estimated so far – by County Chair Linn – county residents as a group will pay more tax.
Linn says she'll refund "up to" 22 percent of the county tax; the tax is 1.25 percent of income. That amounts to a maximum refund of 0.275 percent of income. For most taxpayers, the proposed state surcharge is somewhere between 0.3 percent and 0.8 percent of income, depending on how high one's income is. Thus, it's a mathematical fact that the Measure 30 tax will cost Multnomah taxpayers as a group much more than they're going to get back, even if Linn's wildest dreams come true.
Assume that the total taxable income of all taxpayers in Multnomah County is $1 billion. I have no idea what it is – I'm just making that number up, but the actual amount doesn't matter for these purposes. Here's where the tax chips of Measure 30 would fall:
Total taxable income in county = $1,000,000,000
County tax at 1.25% = $12,500,000
Refund of 22% of county tax (maximum) if Measure 30 passes = $2,750,000
State income tax increase at 0.5% of income = $5,000,000
If The Oregonian is going to make a wild claim, such as that two thirds of county voters will save taxes under Measure 30, it ought to at least have the guts to back its assertions up with the numbers. Maybe I'm missing something, but I'd be shocked if the two thirds figure is anywhere near accurate.
UPDATE, 1/28, 7:53 p.m.: The same figure, which apparently comes from some Multnomah County official or another, is repeated in today's Willamette Week. Guess the local press is going to accept this rash prediction uncritically. Why not? It supports their editorial position.
It didn't even dawn on the county until recently that state and federal retirees won't be paying the county's new tax. There's a $1 million blunder. And The O and WW believe the bureaucrats when they say we'll actually pay less if we vote to pay more? That's Portland journalism for you.
Paar was Johnny Carson's predecessor on The Tonight Show, a place where he made a name as a skilled monologuist and interviewer. There and on a subsequent Friday night prime time show that I used to watch as a kid, Paar was a master of spontaneous entertainment. Unlike today's mostly formulaic talk shows, Paar's was one in which viewers were never quite sure what they were going to get.
Paar was temperamental. He famously stood up to the Network Weasels when he walked off his show for a few weeks in protest of censorship. When he came back, we felt that the proper order of the world had been restored.
Renee Mitchell had an interesting column in The Oregonian yesterday, in which she concludes that the Portland streetcar is a boondoggle. She writes: "[T]he city is helping pay the fare for a few select developers to get rich. It's not just the public who's taking advantage of a free ride."
John Kerry may not scream and shout names of states on national TV, or talk about the Confederate flag in positive terms, or adopt a condescending tone when discussing rural Americans. But he's surely not immune from uttering damaging quotations. Here's a sound bite from today's ABC News:
During a town hall meeting on the Dartmouth campus, Kerry noted that former Vice President Al Gore would be president if he'd won any number of other non-Southern states in 2000, including New Hampshire, West Virginia, and Ohio.
"Everybody always makes the mistake of looking South," Kerry said, in response to a question about winning the region. "Al Gore proved he could have been president of the United States without winning one Southern state, including his own."
"I think the fight is all over this country," Kerry said. "Forget about those red and blue states. We're going to change that now, and we're going to go out there and change the face of America."
"Everybody always makes the mistake of looking South." Johnny, the folks down south aren't going to forget that you stood up there in front of your little Ivy League preppy meeting and said that. What kind of nominee are you going to be with this on your recent record?
Maybe you can send Ted Kennedy down there to patch things up.
New York Times token right-wing columnist David Brooks took out his little hatchet on John Kerry today. Accused him of flip-flopping on big issues as the mood suits him. To Brooks, I guess being a staunch fascist is better than being a flexible liberal.
Kerry can let most of this criticism roll off like water from a duck's back. But one thing that Brooks did is cause for legitimate concern -- he played the Ted Kennedy card:
If you look back over the span of John Kerry's career, you find that every few months or years he takes a hard look at some thorny public issue. Then, after some period of reflection, he unleashes his inner Moynihan and comes out with an interesting and politically dangerous speech.
The problem is that he almost never follows up. When he makes these speeches he habitually asserts that he will mount a long public crusade. But then he takes his controversial ideas, jams them into a jar and buries them in the backyard.
If you watch him campaign today, you will have no clue that he has ever had interesting thoughts on education, civil rights, poverty and so on. On these and other issues, he campaigns as an orthodox Democrat, comfortably in tune with Ted Kennedy and the party's major interest groups.
As I mentioned the other day, I think Ted's a major liability for Kerry. Kerry's political career is the beach, and as we all know, Kennedy's a dead whale. If Kerry gets the nomination, you can expect to see a lot of Ted this summer -- in the negative campaign ads that Bush backers will run.
The Midwest, the West, and especially the South are going to watch those ads with great interest. Ted's girth is a symbol to them. Bad news for a Kerry-led ticket.
One of my earliest memories is of a little red and green wood and metal folding table with bench seats. My parents bought it for my brother and me to share, and share it we did many a day.
In the morning, we would sit on the same side of the table, eating cereal or scrambled eggs with ketchup, in front of our family television set. This was a large wooden contraption with a tiny black and white screen near the top of the front, a bunch of round knobs immediately below the screen, and a large cloth screen covering a speaker below.
The TV fare in those late '50s years included none other than Captain Kangaroo, a.k.a. Bob Keeshan, who died today. It was a wonderful, gentle show for kids, with puppet characters like Bunny Rabbit and the lovable human sidekick Mr. Green Jeans. Parents could leave their kids with the captain for a while and be confident that nothing bad would happen -- in fact, there might be some benefit.
When Fred Rogers recently passed away, he was hailed as a pioneer in children's television. Indeed he was, but for my generation, Captain Kangaroo was the guy. We'll miss them both.
Now, readers, can you help me with a question? The Captain Kangaroo Show would open with a close-up shot of the captain's hand, jingling keys on his enormous keyring. And his theme song was a pretty classical piece (or at least a piece written in the classical style), with the strings singing out a happy tune to go with the image of the jingling keys.
Interesting news in The Oregonian yesterday that the Portland streetcar -- the public utility that shuttles Pearl District residents from Portland State University to Northwest Trendy-third Avenue -- is now costing city taxpayers $906,000 a year to operate. That's a 50 percent increase over three years, with no end in sight.
City Commissioner Randy Leonard, a regular reader of this blog, questioned whether the property owners who benefit from the streetcar (particularly in the Pearl District) shouldn't be paying more of the city subsidy. But that didn't stop Randy and the rest of their City Council from approving "a $9.9 million contract for a 0.6-mile line extension from Portland State to RiverPlace's cluster of housing and shops along the Willamette River." That will insure that the same guys who own the Pearl (which is largely exempt from property taxes) can also make more money from the tax-subsidized RiverPlace, where they also have properties.
It's the Joe Weston-Homer Williams private streetcar line, paid for by guys like me. I like to watch the streetcar go by when I'm downtown. I get to wave at my money.
I wish Randy would stop making speeches about boondoggles like this and start voting no.
In related news, the East Precinct of the Portland police bureau is hard up for money:
But years of budget cuts have led to a reduction in the number of officers, from 105 in 2001 to 92 today, said East Precinct Commander Cliff Jensen.
"We're on the edge, and I don't see it getting any better soon," Jensen said. "We don't have time for community outreach, or community policing -- which I believe in -- because we're running from call to call.
"It's hard to be 100 percent effective when you don't have enough resources."
Heaven forbid we should have enough cops when we can have streetcars.
Wait 'til we start paying the operating subsidy for the OHSU aerial tram (which will shuttle folks to and from yet another Homer Williams development). At that point, the East Precinct may have to close.
Once upon a time, my spouse made the mistake of joining OSPIRG, the Oregon State Public Interest Research Group, in response to a door-to-door solicitation.
Now, years after she's stopped giving them money, they're calling our house at 9:25 p.m. with some urgent message or another, including, no doubt, to ask for more money. What is worse, they are bypassing a message that we pay good money to the phone company for. When you call our home, before our phone rings, you are first warned that we do not accept solicitations, and instructed to push "1" to get through only if you are not a solicitor.
Apparently, OSPIRG telemarketer Audrey Albrecht doesn't understand English. She went ahead and interrupted our night by pushing "1." At 9:25 p.m. Which is why I told her director, Jonathan Jelen, that OSPIRG should never, never, never call our home again.
Before putting yourself on OSPIRG's phone list by giving them money, you may wish to consider this story.
I know quite a few trial lawyers, and nothing takes over their lives like a trial. "I'm in trial this week," they'll say, which means, "Don't come anywhere near me until this is over."
Well, this week I'm getting a taste of what their lives are like. I'm serving as an arbitrator in a dispute. Arbitration is an informal, "alternative" dispute resolution system, but when the stakes get high enough, it feels an awful lot like courtroom litigation -- just in a hotel conference room. And so it is for me this week. (We're in a recess at the moment.)
Being an arbitrator, like being a judge, requires one's full attention. It's tough work, and it's confirming my respect for the folks in the black robes.
In the midst of a hellaciously busy day today, I made a nice find. There in the penny tray at the convenience store was a 1944-D nickel, which, as readers may know, is made in part of silver. (Nickel was more important than silver during World War II, when the former metal was needed for weapons or ammunition or some such.) "I'll put a quarter in there if you let me take that nickel," I told the clerk. She smiled and replied, "Go ahead and take it -- it's the 'take a penny' dish."
So I did, leaving a shiny, boring quarter behind.
Sure, my new nickel is a bit dinged up and dirty. But it's a nice piece of history at a very good price.
Did you see that concession "speech" by Dr. Dean? He sounds as though he needs a good, long rest -- and it's only January. Better find another candidate, kids.
New Hampshire will now be more interesting than anyone expected. Dean may suction some votes away from Kerry. Then there's the Lieberman factor, another New Englander -- all the better for my boy John Edwards, who looked truly Clintonesque up there tonight.
Why did Iowa Democrats vote for Kerry? Mostly because they think he has the best chance to defeat Bush.
Kerry-Edwards, Edwards-Kerry. Both strong tickets, but I like Edwards-Kerry's chances better.
A while back we commented here about the dispute between the good folks of Bandon, Oregon and the people who make Tillamook Cheese, over the Bandonites' right to use the word "Bandon" in the names of their businesses. Tillamook, which makes a cheese that it calls "Bandon" (even though it isn't made in that town any more), is hassling real Bandonites about the name.
You know it doesn't make much sense
There ought to be a law against
Anyone who takes offense
At a day in your celebration
'Cause we all know in our minds
That there ought to be a time
That we can set aside
To show just how much we love you
And I'm sure you would agree
It couldn't fit more perfectly
Than to have a world party
On the day you came to be
Happy birthday to you
Happy birthday to you
Happy birthday to you
Happy birthday to you
I just never understood
How a man who died for good
Could not have a day that would
Be set aside for his recognition
Because it should never be
Just because some cannot see
The dream as clear as he
That they should make it become an illusion
And we all know everything
That he stood for time will bring
For in peace our hearts will sing
Thanks to Martin Luther King
Happy birthday to you
Happy birthday to you
Happy birthday to you
Happy birthday to you
Why has there never been a holiday
Where peace is celebrated
All throughout the world?
The time is overdue
For people like me and you
Who know the way to truth
Is love and unity to all God's children
It should never be a great event
And the whole day should be spent
In full remembrance
Of those who lived and died for the oneness of all people
So let us all begin
We know that love can win
Let it out, don't hold it in
Sing it loud as you can
Happy birthday to you
Happy birthday to you
Happy birthday to you
Happy birthday to you
We know the key to unify all people
Is in the dream that you had so long ago
That lives in all of the hearts of people
That believe in unity
We'll make the dream become a reality
I know we will
Because our hearts tell us so
The ballots have arrived at our house for Measure 30, the Oregon statewide income tax increase, with a voting deadline of Feb. 3. This is the income tax surcharge that the Legislature put in place last summer, only to have it dragged before the voters by initiative petition.
Great timing. We're broke right now.
I sized this one up pretty well back in August, and not much has changed since then. The key voters are in Multnomah County, where a big win is necessary for the tax boost to pass. And the logic of your average Multnomah County voter right now is likely to be this:
O.k., I've already had my state and local income taxes increased from 9 percent of income to 10.25 percent of income because of the new county income tax. That's a whopping 13.89 percent increase for people in the 9 percent state bracket (1.25 is 13.89 percent of 9), and even higher for folks in lower state brackets. Isn't a 13.89 percent revenue increase enough to keep the schools open? Why would I vote for a state measure that bumps the increase up to 19.45 percent? I'm all for schools, but a 13.89 percent single-year increase is too much, much less 19.45 percent.
Since I first wrote that, the county has made a nonbinding commitment to reduce the county tax by "as much as" 22 percent if the state measure passes. But that's only if the county gets good collections from its new tax -- a prospect that's highly uinlikely, since there's no mandatory county tax withholding from wages, and many average workers won't be able or willing to pay it. Also, the forecast comes from County Commission Chair Diane Linn, who's become quite the master at retracting public statements. First she promised the new library director an astronomical salary, then had to take part of it back. Last week she announced that county workers would be paid for the snow days, only to reverse course a day later.
If Linn's most optimistic nonpromise comes true, the county would retroactively reduce the new county tax from 1.25 to 0.98 percent, and issue a refund. Meanwhile, the state income tax would increase by 0.50 percent of income, leaving Multnomah voters with an aggregate tax increase of 1.48 percent of income. So up here we're basically voting on a tax increase of 0.23 percent of our income -- another $115 if your income is $50,000 -- with all of the new money being sent outside the county.
I can't see it passing.
The other news is that the proponents of the measure tell us there will be no immediate special session of the Legislature if it fails. There will just be pre-ordained, painful budget cuts (except in Multnomah County). A special session on tax reform is still on the schedule for the summer, but that group's apparently going to be looking into the future, rather than trying to fix the present.
Cousin James has moved his fine blog, Parkway Rest Stop, from Blogspot to the happier world of Movable Type. The new site is here, up and looking good thanks to Craig of MTPolitics. If you're a PRS regular, please change your links. If you've never been there, you owe it to yourself to go.
It looks as though I'll be getting some more publicity for this blog in the print media sometime soon. The other day I did a telephone interview with the Catholic Sentinel, a weekly newspaper published by the Catholic Archdiocese of Portland.
Why me? I asked the reporter. My blog isn't about being Catholic, and although it occasionally expresses my honest feelings on matters of spirituality and morality, those feelings are usually not quite congruent with the teachings of the church. The reporter's interest in me reminded me of the age-old question whether something constitutes "Italian food" merely because it's cooked by someone who's Italian.
She responded that her beat is local Catholics (sometimes local fallen Catholics) who are doing interesting things. I'm flattered that this includes me.
If you've got thoughts about blogging generally, the Catholic aspects (if any) of blogging, or this blog in particular, the reporter would also like to hear from you. Her name is Kristen Hannum, and I've put a link to her e-mail address here.
I'm a little uneasy about being written up in the Catholic press. It's just a matter of time before they find stuff like this or this, and I get excommunicated.
So George the Rocket Scientist wants to start throwing billions at putting humans on Mars, and establishing a colony on the moon.
On the moon, I'm sure it will be either a penal colony or a military base. And then Chief Justice Thomas, who'll still be around, can tell us whether the Constitution applies in space. ("It doesn't specifically say so in the document, so the answer is no.")
You know, the whole idea of "manned" space flight makes no sense any more. With computer technology and robotics, we can do all the space exploration we really need to do with no humans getting any higher than Courtney Love. It's a lot cheaper, and a lot safer, that way. I'm tired of watching us throw our money away putting astronauts into space, then shed our Presidential crocodile tears when we can't get them up or down through the 100,000-foot level in one piece.
Sending humans into space when robots would do is just a bunch of macho cowboy posturing from Texas and Florida. It's like having someone stand out in sub-zero temperatures to make ice cubes when you've got an ice maker in your freezer. History will laugh at how foolish it has become.
And don't tell me we really need to know what years in space will do to a human body. Let's spend that money to figure out how to stop cancer cells from spreading without killing the patient. We can do that on the ground. On this planet.
Well, the Information Age sure has its good sides. Today I got birthday wishes from people who would have had no idea it was my birthday had it not been for the miracle of the computer.
For example, the guys at the front desk at the gym wished me well as I left; they must run your membership number through the computer, while you're sweating it up upstairs, to make sure you're paid up. Of course, the member's DOB comes right up on the screen.
This morning at 6:40 a.m. the local oldies (appropriately) radio station wished me well on the air, and told the world that I was turning 50. Thank goodness I have an earlybird friend who heard it in his car and told me about it later in the day. As observant readers of this blog know, I would have had a better chance of hearing my name mentioned at 3:40 a.m. than at 6:40 a.m. The latter is REM Cycle 1 Time for me. I think I may have missed a chance to call in and win a prize.
Anyway, how did the radio station know? I guess they asked my DOB when I signed up on the internet as a "loyal listener" some time back. The morning DJ must have just called up January 15 on the old PC early today, and there I was.
All this technology clearly makes our lives better, doesn't it?
Fifty years ago this evening, on the east side of Newark, N.J., I was born.
I don't know what to make of the new age I step into today. Part of it's depressing: I hear I'll be getting my first letter from the AARP soon. And is there any doubt I am in the second half of my career? (Maybe I'll work past 75, but I hope not!) Hair getting grayer and thinner, teeth getting longer, every day.
But things could be so much worse. A high school classmate of mine died a couple of weeks ago when a truck rear-ended him. A friend of ours found out yesterday that he's out of a job as of next week. A student recently had to drop my course because his mom had a devastating stroke at the age of 47.
Me, I feel 28. I have two young kids and a job that has me surrounded by bright young people in their 20s. I'm in halfway decent shape, and I'm sure a heck of a lot wiser than I was a couple of decades ago. I feel like Sally O'Malley, the goofy character that Molly Shannon used to play on Saturday Night Live -- the spritely dame in the too-tight red jumpsuit with the too-big hair, prancing around crowing to the youngsters that she was "fifty years old -- that's right, five-oh," as she'd "kick! and stretch! and kick!" That gal would wear that outfit for a week at a time, spraying a little Febreze on it as needed. But she always won out in the end.
I may be headed over the hill, but at least for today, I feel like I'm standing on top looking around.
The sanitation engineers finally made it to our block yesterday, after a two-week absence. The snow/ice storms set them back a full week, so they came on the regular day, just a week late.
Man, were we ever waiting for them. In front of our place, there had to be a good can and a half worth of trash for the landfill, plus two overflowing recycling bins with lots of the detritus from the holidays still lingering around.
Everything in the bins had gotten soggy with the frozen-then-melted precip. The proceeds of a major cat litter box cleanout were lurking at the bottom of one of the cans. The usual nasties from a household that uses disposable diapers were included, of course, only aged. It wasn't pretty.
Here's to the nice men (and woman) of Dave's Sanitary Service, and to all the garbage haulers around Portland, who are having one wicked week this week. As the solid waste management director at our house, I was very glad to have them stop by.
I've found these articles very valuable in getting a read on the candidates. I missed No. 8 -- I was out in the boonies of central Oregon and far from a Times outlet -- and so I didn't see what they said about Dennis Kucinich until just now. But from what else I've seen and read over the last few weeks, Dennis seems like the wittiest guy we're never going to vote for.
The Times piece on Edwards was pretty reverential. It certainly didn't dissuade me from my view that if nominated (admittedly a long shot), Edwards could actually knock George Bush out of office. Alas, I can't say the same for any of the other eight.
Edwards is sharp, intelligent, fearless, slick, very charming, and most importantly, a self-made success. He's sued the daylights out of big corporations on behalf of little people, which he used to be one of. He takes advice straight from Slick Willie himself. Edwards is not a career politician, and will save the world some other way if he doesn't make it to the White House. Plus, he's 50 years old, and he's got beat-up shoes and Timex watches to go with the spendy haircut -- hey, I'm down with all that.
An Edwards-Clark ticket would be formidable. For that matter, so would Edwards-Lieberman, Edwards-Gephardt -- or how about Edwards-Hillary?! But of course, no one's admitting to being willing to settle for the VP nomination at this point, and so it's pretty dang difficult to envision the second face on the Democratic ticket. But I hope we can get "Johnny" up there at the top.
Edwards has got a good shot at third place in Iowa (he just got a great endorsement by the biggest Iowa paper), and with a little luck he could take first place in South Carolina. The only thing that scares me away from him is the fact that he's going with Hootie and the Blowfish for campaign fundraisers. Yuck! Gee whiz, Senator, call Springsteen and Mellencamp. Or maybe Santana for the California crowd.
In any event, remember, my fellow lefties and centrists, the goal here is to beat Bush at all costs. I'll say it again, Edwards is the guy. As he put it himself in a recent New Hampshire speech: "If I can be on a stage with George Bush in a debate in 2004, with my background, what I've spent my life doing, wouldn't you love to see it?
It's an especially cruel Monday here in Portland, as many of us are returning to work and school after being away for several weeks. First there were the holidays, then the snow week.
So here's a thought for your Blue Monday: Portland is the sixth most stressed-out city in the United States. This news comes from a study done by an outfit called Fast Forward, which ironically is based right here in the Rose City. KGW-TV reported on it over the weekend, and Rob of AboutItAll.com beat me to the punch in digging out the study.
So there we are, right behind New York City, Vegas, N'Awlins, Miami, and No. 1 Most Stressed-Out, Tacoma. Detroit is No. 9; Jersey City, No. 19; Gary, No. 31; Newark, No. 55. Least stressful of the top 100 metro areas? Albany-Schenectady-Troy, N.Y., followed by Harrisburg-Lebanon-Carlisle, Pa.
Portland -- more stressful than Detroit? Way more stressed-out than Newark? Just the thought of it is getting me uptight... that, and the mayor on TV last week, blathering incoherently about how city workers should get back to work, when the streets were so bad you'd break your neck just trying to get to your car. Then there's that architecture dandy in The Oregonian gushing about the hideous, out-of-place crap that they're slapping up in the name of "urban infill." Hey, and let's have the city buy the National Guard Armory at an inflated price and turn it into a toney theater for the Pearlies, more tens of millions out of the homeowners' pockets for another white elephant. And what's with the Packers at the end of the game -- were they on the take? I can't handle this any more, people! I'm going to snap, I tell you!
I'm grading exams these days, a big old pile of pain for both the exam takers and the grader (that'd be me). I've got it down to a system, including erasable color pencils, classical music on the radio, and a big old nasty Excel sheet. But there's no room for complacency -- the grades we assign in law school courses often have a big impact on the students' futures.
When it's time for a break, such as now, almost any pastime will do. This time around, a moment of reflection on the famous words of Willy the Shake:
The quality of mercy is not strain’d,
It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
Upon the place beneath. It is twice blest:
It blesseth him that gives and him that takes.
’Tis mightiest in the mightiest: it becomes
The throned monarch better than his crown;
His sceptre shows the force of temporal power,
The attribute to awe and majesty,
Wherein doth sit the dread and fear of kings;
But mercy is above this sceptred sway,
It is enthroned in the hearts of kings,
It is an attribute to God himself;
And earthly power doth then show likest God’s,
When mercy seasons justice. Therefore, Jew,
Though justice be thy plea, consider this,
That in the course of justice none of us
Should see salvation: we do pray for mercy;
And that same prayer doth teach us all to render
The deeds of mercy.
Obviously, Portia was not working with a mandatory curve.
Leave it to our neighbor, a Montana guy, to know what to do under melting-ice-on-snow conditions such as we're experiencing today. He warns that if water is allowed to puddle up on top of the ice near one's house, there'll be water in the basement when the crust finally melts. Apparently, the puddles are too much for the ground to absorb all at once.
His solution: Wherever you see a puddle on top of the ice crust near the house, poke a hole through the ice and let the puddle drain into the snow below. That way, the ground gets the water more gradually, and it has a better chance of absorbing it.
What a guy. He's even volunteered to poke some holes for us.
I just went over to check out MTPolitics.net, and got a very strange error message. Turns out, the guy's temporarily over on blogspot. Whew! For a minute there, I thought he must have been eaten by a griz.
ICE MELTING AND FALLING OFF STRUCTURES AND TREES WILL BE A HAZARD TO LIFE IN LOCATIONS OF NORTHWEST OREGON AND SOUTHWEST WASHINGTON WHERE SIGNIFICANT ICE HAS ACCUMULATED. AVOID STANDING UNDER TREES... TOWERS OR ROOF EDGES WHERE LIMBS... SHEETS OR LARGE CHUNCKS OF ICE MAY FALL AS THE ICE MELTS. -- Statement by National Weather Service
I hate those "hazards to life." Let's stay in. Pass the popcorn.
Today I did something I hadn't done in more than a decade -- I shoveled snow, in Portland.
Shoveled ice, to be more precise. On the ground was about two inches of snow covered by one to three inches of solid ice -- so solid that a grown adult could stand on it without breaking the surface.
Given that things are supposed to thaw out tomorrow, I suppose I could have let this task ride. But I'm avoiding grading exams -- a state in which any other task is more appealing. Then my next-door neighbor shoveled his sidewalk, which really forced the issue. The lawyer in me started thinking, "The city says it's my responsibility. The neighbor did his. If somebody breaks their a*s on my sidewalk, will I be liable? Do I trust my homeowner's insurance that much?"
Man, that ice was tough to break up, and heavy to toss. Fortunately, I had my trusty big-ass shovel -- the kind Grandpa Bogdanski (my namesake) used to use to shovel the coal that heated our house when I was a kid. Ah, Grandpa -- also known (but not to us kids, officially) as "the Beak," for the big schnozz he had from his youthful days as a prizefighter.
Tomorrow, when the last dusting of snow that I left behind starts to melt, our walkway will be super-nice. I'll bask in the glow of that as I pop the Advil and dote over the hot tub.
When I mention people in this blog, weird things can happen to them. Not much more than a week ago, Ray Davies's song "Father Christmas" served as the holiday theme here. In the song, the narrator tells of being mugged by a gang of poor kids when he played Santa outside a department store. Life imitates art, of course, and from Blargblog comes word that the legendary singer-songwriter was shot in the leg by a mugger in the French Quarter of New Orleans on Sunday night. (As Blarg put it, "You really shot me.")
The former Kink was foolishly chasing the robber after the assailant grabbed the purse of a woman who was with Davies in the Quarter. The wound apparently is not too serious, and Ray is reportedly all right.
The Quarter can be creepy this time of year. My wife and I were down there just after New Year's about a decade ago. The crowd for the Sugar Bowl (which was in progress when the Davies robbery occurred) had just left town, and the Quarter was cold, surprisingly deserted, and downright scary. The shopkeeps and bartenders all warned us to be very, very careful on those streets. Several thugs got right in my face -- me, the eminently muggable, middle-aged white guy tourist -- looking for trouble. I was intimidated. Don't make eye contact, keep moving, try to find a lit and populated area.
Ah well, I'm sure that Davies, who sometimes tours as "the Storyteller," will apply his brilliant, acerbic wit and musical cleverness to this event; no doubt he'll turn out some solid entertainment as a result. Thank heaven he wasn't killed.
It's a little after 11 on a Sunday night, and already they're cancelling school for Monday in various school districts in the Portland area. This is ridiculous given the facts that the roads are all perfectly clear at the moment, and that the prediction is for snow to resume here sometime late tomorrow afternoon.
Pretty soon they'll be calling off school days based on the Farmer's Almanac. You wonder why kids don't respect school authorities? It's because the authorities often don't deserve it.
Are the holidays over now? I hate to say it, but I hope so. They drive me nuts, this year especially. Wonderful in their own way, but in the end exhausting, physically and emotionally. I need a new program for next year, starting around November 1. Somebody out there, remind me.
Oh, well. Let's wash the rancid egg nog off our chin and move on. It's 2004. There's so much to do.
Including blogging, of course. Stay tuned for the Top 10 Disappointing Public Figures (formerly Top 10Nitwits) of 2003, and the Top 10 Favorite Public Figures for the year as well.