|For old times' sake|
The bojack bumper sticker -- only $1.50!
To order, click here.
While we're all anxiously awaiting the outcome of The Most Important Election of Our Lifetimes, I hear rumblings that there's some monkey business going on at Metro.
At the risk of exposing myself as a lazy man, let me ask my readers what they've heard about this. By nightfall, I'll bet we have some good links to the latest scoop.
I'm a big land use planning fan, but I'm very, very suspicious of "unique" governmental bodies such as Metro. I can't believe the cities and counties can't do this work without all the additional bureaucracy (and another unwatched pot of tax dollars waiting to be wasted or stolen).
Maybe this issue will educate me further about Metro's pluses and minuses.
If you're elected next Tuesday, can we please stop calling it "the homeland"? And get rid of the "colors of terror" nonsense?
It sounds like the old Soviet Union. Or bad science fiction. Or "1984." Or the 19th Century.
We don't need p.r. mind games. We need leadership.
I just noticed last night that the ballot here in Multnomah County has one very misleading feature -- the caption on Measure 26-60. It's entitled "County Term Limits," when it's actually a repeal of county term limits that are already in place.
Especially since the corresponding caption on Measure 26-64 correctly labels that measure as "REPEALS 2004, 2005 COUNTY INCOME TAX FOR SCHOOLS, OTHER SERVICES," the headline on 26-60 is downright confusing. It really should have had the word "repeal" in it.
I wonder how many people will vote yes on 26-60 when they really mean no. (And of course, how many have already done so.)
Here's an odd news story. Exactly what is going on out there, folks?
So sad, what we're becoming.
The more I think about it, the happier I am that I voted yes on Oregon Ballot Measure 34. My misgivings about the voters taking these matters into their own hands have evaporated. The state Forestry Board members have frightening conflicts of interest, and there's no hope of getting a reasonable forest management plan out of the red-meat-Republican Oregon House.
As I concluded when I decided to vote for the measure, this is a war, wherein all is fair.
And to recap my other important votes:
Secretary of State: Bill Bradbury.
Portland Mayor: Tom Potter!
Portland City Council: Nick Fish!
Multnomah County measures:
26-58, salary commission to set salaries: No.
26-59, county lobbyist: Yes.
26-60, repeal term limits: No.
26-64, repeal county income tax: No.
Statewide ballot measures:
31, election postponed if candidate dies: No.
33, medical marijuana changes: No.
35, limits on pain and suffering awards in medical malpractice cases: No!
36, ban homosexual marriage: No!
37, government must pay to regulate property uses: No!
38, abolish SAIF: No.
Don't look now, but your ballot needs to be in by Tuesday night, and it's now Friday. If you haven't yet voted, do it now!
Whatever happened to moderate Republicans in Oregon?
Now we've got Mark Hatfield backing George "Pre-emptive War" Bush. Jack Roberts and his boy Jim Zupancic are out making "greedy trial lawyers" the issue of the day.
They're all getting behind tightie-righties like Betsy Close and Goli Ameri. And they stand by silently while misleading attack ads imply obvious falsehoods, such as Geraldine Ferraro or John McCain endorsing Ameri.
Kevin Mannix wins all the arguments over there, I guess. What next: Bob Packwood switching from box wine to Budweiser?
Earlier tonight I was complaining that I needed sleep. But now I realize that I must have dozed off in my office chair, and I'm dreaming. There's a crescent moon out there where a full moon is supposed to be. And the radio's telling me that the Red Sox won the World Series. John Kerry actually has a decent chance of becoming President. And now I look down and I've got no pants on.
Heh, heh, just a dream. See you in the morning.
Only when it was down did I realize how valuable it is.
UPDATE, 10/27, 10:40 p.m.: Not so fast. While it was up at my office, it's not currently up at my house. I know nothing about this, but I seem to recall there's some sort of "propagation" that has to take place with internet addresses. So for those of you (us) whose ORblogs is still down, please stand by.
Today has been one of those days on which I learn, the hard way, the value of saying "no" sometimes.
Like the youngsters say, "It's all good," but there sure is a lot of it. Time to head home for a late dinner and some vegetation. Something soothing on the stereo, or mindless on the tube. Kiss the kids. Hug the spouse. Pet the cats. Early crash. Long slumber.
I must have missed the memo on "meme." For the better part of two years, I've been reading this word in various places across the blogosphere, and I've never really understood what it meant. I didn't even know how to pronounce it. (Turns out, it's "meem.")
Finally, last night, I tripped across a pretty nice article in The New York Times that fills us in. Somewhat. It's still a little vague, but a fuzzy picture is better than being in the dark, which is where I was before.
An alert reader sends along this sordid tale.
Portland City Council candidate Nick Fish tells me he's still confident as the election moves into the final week. A poll in today's Portland Tribune has him up 5 percent over his rival, Sam Adams. He's got TV and radio ads going, and in response to some "constructive criticism," he's gotten some more lawn signs out. Fish still thinks he's going to win.
I hope he's right. As I've said here more than a few times, Adams is a Macchiavellian leftover from the Vera Katz era -- an era that we all need to put an end to, and fast. He was the mayor's economic development "expert" at a time when we lost businesses and jobs, with all our efforts going into ugly subsidized condo towers and gigantic wastes of money like the Convention Center expansion and PGE Park. Sorry, Sam, you need to do some penance for all that, in the state legislature or on the county commission.
But as a Fish fan, I'm not brimming with confidence. The Tribune polls are not the world's most accurate; even they show a huge undecided bloc; and maybe it's just my media habits, but I haven't heard or seen a Fish ad since the primary.
Guess we'll be biting our nails on this one right up to the end.
UPDATE, 10/26, 11:00 p.m.: I finally heard a Fish ad on the radio. It's an endorsement by (nondisgraced) former Gov. Barbara Roberts, and it aired on Radio America, or whatever the Al Franken network is called.
The usual weeknight routine at my place of work is being interrupted this evening by a memorial service. I didn't know the man, but I know there are a lot of very good people in a lot of pain right now. My sympathies.
They busted a notorious Portland graffiti "tagger" last week. This guy had been all over town with the spray paint, for weeks. He's 20 years old and lives in Beaverton. He had an accomplice with him when he was caught, but their story is that the one is the main man.
I'm not going to link to the news stories about this fellow because they came too close to glorifying him. Surely they gave him exactly the kind of publicity that will thrill him.
Here's what has to happen next. Multnomah County criminal court judges, please note:
1. Restitution. And if his parents insist on whining about what a "good kid" he is, maybe they'd like to pay for the damage he caused.
2. Mental health services. Graffiti taggers are sick people. This kid needs help. Maybe his parents should have to go in, too.
3. Communty service. I'd say 3 hours for every tag he confesses to, with some reduction if he rats on others in the "community of taggers" (as a busted graffitist once put it).
4. Last chance. Serious probation, with the next graffiti offense bringing real jail time.
Thanks to the Portland police officers who caught this guy in the act.
The old property tax bill came in the mail this week. We're up only 2.26 percent over the previous bill, which is a nice relief from last year, when we saw an eye-popping 8.89 percent annual increase.
Also in the mail this week came a brochure from the Portland Development Commission, which wants to know what we think about a proposed new "industrial urban renewal" zone in North and Northwest Portland. The brochure touts all the "job creating" advantages of fronting public money to clean up environmentally screwed-up sites so that industry can develop the property. Eventually, they promise, property tax rolls also increase, and so the tax dollars we invest now pay for themselves.
I dunno. I'm looking at that property tax bill, and 8.14 percent of what I'm paying is already going to something called "Urban Renewal - Portland." The brochure assures me that "this is not a new tax" and "it does not change with the addition of a new [urban renewal area]."
What I'd like to know, though, is exactly where that 8.14 percent of my property tax bill is going. Not explained in the brochure.
And who owns the property that we're going to clean up for them in the new urban renewal area? What's that property already worth? And can anyone give us a projection as to how many millions of dollars private industry stands to make off the project? Not in the brochure.
You'll pardon me for being suspicious. But the mailing contains a lovely statement from, and photo of, the chairman of the PDC, Matt Hennessee, who goes way, way back with a certain "disgraced former governor." As does the current CEO of the PDC, Don Mazziotti.
Gee, those guys wouldn't sell us a bill of goods just to make a buck for their buddies in the West Hills and elsewhere in corporate America. Would they?
Are you like me? Do you pay the "stupidity tax" now and then -- that is, play the state lottery?
I get into Oregon Megabucks when the jackpot gets big enough. And it's now the largest in state history -- nominally, more than $23 million. After taxes, it's probably something like $6 million plus in immediate cash.
The odds of winning the jackpot are roughly 6.136 million to 1, and you get two entries for a buck, and so I think the winner gets pretty fair odds when the jackpot's this big.
The next drawing is Monday night; if nobody wins there, we'll have another chance to be stupid on Wednesday and again on Saturday. Somebody's got to win it, and this could be the week.
If I win, I'll be sure to blog about it.
I hadn't checked in with Borowitz for a while, but I see he's still his usual self:
“Thanks to the failed policies of George Bush, it is now easier to get a nuclear weapon than a flu shot,” Mr. Kerry said.
Elsewhere, Teresa Heinz Kerry apologized today for saying that Laura Bush never held a real job, noting that for the past twenty-seven years Mrs. Bush has worked with the mentally impaired.
The oldies radio station here in Portland has suddenly added '70s music to its mix throughout the day. And while the '60s roll on, lots of music from the '50s appears to be on its way off the FM airwaves in these parts.
I suspect this decision was made as part of a a format shift at lots of other stations around the country that use the same playlist.
It's a little disarming when you hit the car radio button that used to give you Neil Sedaka, "Wipe Out," and the Chiffons, and out comes Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, or Joni Mitchell singing "Help Me" instead. But hey, it's been more than 30 years since the early '70s -- if that doesn't make it an oldie, what would? And no doubt the old-timers who mooned and Juned in their primes back in the '50s are getting too old to buy stuff that they hear advertised on the radio.
After a while, we'll get used to it, I guess. Any change to the playlist over there is generally welcome. Those guys usually take the same 100 songs and beat them to death for months on end. "You Were on My Mind"; "The Letter"; "Secret Agent Man." Enough!
When Devo comes on, though, I'm checking myself into a retirement home.
Sometime his morning, this blog passed the 200,000-visit mark, according to Site Meter. That's 43 days since we passed 175K, and 115 days since 150K.
Glad to be of service. Love to watch the odometer turn.
This election season is getting weirder and weirder. Now The Oregonian, which recently out-ed David Wu for his assault on his college girlfriend 25 years ago, is asking his opponent for Congress, Goli Ameri, to stop quoting The O's story on the subject.
"We strongly object to the use of our reporting in any political advertisement, particularly in attack ads, which by nature are meant to inflame rather than inform," Sandy Rowe, editor of The Oregonian, said in comments published in Friday's edition of the newspaper.
I am not making this up. The Oregonian now says it doesn't want to be quoted in any political ad.
How totally, utterly bizarre. Hey, Sandy, just what did you think was going to happen?
When I was a kid, one of the children's publications we used to read had a feature called "Fun Facts to Know and Tell."
I couldn't help but think of that column when I read the following facts in today's paper:
The United States carries the biggest deficit and debt loads among the world's advanced economies, borrowing a daily $1.7 billion from abroad, mainly from China and Japan.
So the money we're putting in rich people's pockets through the tax cuts is really just being borrowed from the Chinese. Wow. So the American kids who are dying to supposedly "democratize" Iraq are doing so while our leaders put us further and further in debt to the last communist superpower. With serious nukes.
We vote these clowns back in, we deserve everything we get.
Earth to Vera! Earth to Derrick! Where the heck are you? Apparently not busy with public safety.
It will be interesting to see what the response to the latest shooting incident is. And compare it to what the reaction would have been if it were in the Pearl District.
The major political parties are sending people around to collect Oregon voters' ballots and deliver them to the county elections offices on their behalf.
Anyone who would hand their ballot to someone they don't know personally is a fool.
I don't care if they're wearing an ID tag.
I don't care whether they look honest and official.
I don't care that they mean well.
I don't care that they'd be risking jail if they took your ballot and didn't deliver it.
With all the vote fraud going on in this country -- and especially given all the additional opportunities for fraud that Oregon's wacky vote-by-mail experiment creates -- people need to exercise the utmost caution.
When your ballot is complete, put a 37-cent stamp on it, walk it to your nearest public mailbox, and drop it in.
Don't hand it to a stranger.
Don't even leave it out on your own mailbox for the mail carrier to collect.
And be sure to follow all the instructions for completing the ballot. If it's deficient in any way, you can be sure that this time, there will be somebody at the electons bureau to challenge it.
It can really cause you to slim down, all right.
One good reason to vote early is to enable oneself to forget about election politics for a couple of weeks. Campaigns always get tiresome by the end, but this time around in Portland and Oregon, the late-inning proceedings are taking some especially ugly turns.
Take mayoral candidate Tom Potter. He's livid (or at least saying that he's livid) that there's a political action committee with his name on it (Go Potter Go Committee) running around endorsing a candidate in the Fish-Adams City Council contest. Potter has steadfastly avoided picking a horse in that race, and he says it's wrong for the PAC to appropriate his name and then take a stand that he doesn't support.
I agree with him, but I'm not sure what the solution is. Surely he had no objection to the PAC using his name when his own race was the only one the PAC was speaking out on. So it's not the use of his name per se that's the problem. What should the rule be, then? That a PAC with a candidate's name on it can't take stands in other races? Or that it can't take those stands without the named candidate's permission? Potter may be right, but fashioning a remedy implicates some sensitive free-speech issues.
Then there's the guy who's been inserting parody position statements about statewide ballot measures into the Oregon Voter's Pamphlet. For example, under the discussion of Measure 36, which would ban gay marriage, this author, N. Dennis Moore (his or her real name?), has filed -- as the first several statements "in favor" -- some wicked send-ups of the arguments of the measure's backers.
"Marriage is not sacred," he says. "Marriage is for wimps and sissies!"
Oregon public policy should define marriage in accordance with divinely inspired Scripture. Therefore, marriage licenses should be granted only to those persons who have been certified by professional psychiatric examination to be too weak-willed to abstain from sex.
Oh, by the way, although Jesus never said a single word condemning homosexuality, if heterosexuals can't get married, homosexuals shouldn't be allowed to marry either—well, unless they're too weak-willed to abstain. Sissies!
The sissy institution of marriage must not be perverted by sinners who are capable of abstaining! The sacred union of church and state must prohibit the immoral union of men and women capable of the discipline of sexual abstinence. We are not saved by either faith or good works. We are saved by religious-right legislation!
Freedom of religion and equal treatment under law is simply the special right to sin, because our tradition is the one and only truth! And our tradition (that is, our personal moral opinions) should become law.
AGREE WITH US OR BURN IN HELL!
Another Moore statement "in favor" proclaims: "Traditional morality must become Oregon public policy. All of it. And the older the tradition, the better. The separation of church and state be damned. " Elsewhere, he shouts, "VOTE TO TURN THE CLOCK BACK!" and "LEAVE IT TO BEAVER!"
Funny stuff, to some of us. And no doubt someone paid the requisite fee to have these messages printed in the pamphlet. But is rapier wit what we want of that document? Moreover, is it right that someone who clearly wants a measure to fail can publish an argument against that measure in the "pro" section of the pamphlet, by couching it as a parody of the proponents' position?
I don't think so. Sooner or later, this sort of thing will get completely out of control, and something will have to be done. But again, fashioning a remedy will be a tricky business.
Which is why the Mrs. and I are going to get out the No. 2 pencils and get our ballots out of here soon. Whereupon we'll be free, if we wish, to ignore the sad and homely political process until the long-awaited night of reckoning, Nov. 2, 2004.
Leave it to my readers to help me solve life's little mysteries. Yesterday I wondered aloud, "Who's posting those large 'Vote Early' signs on all the telephone poles in my neighborhood?" One observant reader has pointed out that the fine print at the bottom of the sign refers you here (the site of a pro-Kerry group). Another notes that by having the faithful in Democratic stronghold neighborhoods vote early, canvassers for Kerry can concentrate their hounding on voters who haven't voted, thus producing a bigger "blue" turnout. They won't be wasting their time preaching to the choir.
I learn something new every day. Thanks, folks.
All over our part of Portland, somebody's put up large, expensive-looking signs on the utility poles that say "Vote Early." They're all illegally placed.
What is the point of this? I know the line about how voting early gets political canvassers to stop bugging you -- once they see that you've voted, they move on (if you'll pardon the expression) to others. But is that all this is about?
What is it about voting early that's worth all the expense and trouble that the sign-hangers are going through? Are they afraid that if people don't vote early, they'll forget to vote at all?
And who are "they"? The Bushies? The lefties? Since it's Portland, I would guess that it's the Democrats. Why are they going through this?
To me, it's just more confusing noise in a political atmosphere that's already charged with a cacophony of messages of dubious validity.
Whoever it is, I sure hope they plan to take all those signs down once the opportunity to "vote early" is past -- say, by the middle of next week. Meanwhile, I await the graffitists' clever "additions" to the curious message.
George Bush is accusing John Kerry of fear-mongering.
Takes one to know one.
Be very careful driving this afternoon. Jenna and Barb are coming to town for a 4:00 gig out in Beaverton. After that, it's happy hour!
The Sunday Oregonian is a real money saver. With a pair of scissors, you can clip and save a bundle at your local retailers.
Take today's edition, for example. Now, rather than running out to buy ipecac to keep in your medicine cabinet, you can just clip this and keep it handy for the next time you need to induce vomiting.
Interesting stories in today's New York Times -- further proof that Saturday's a great day of the week for that grand old rag. First, did you know that the U.S. Department of Education recently paid $700,000 to a consultant to rate various news organizations in terms of their acceptance of (or opposition to) the No Child Left Behind Law? There's even a prominent Portland and Oregonian mention. The consultants also produced a couple of videos that sing the benefits of that law in the guise of a "news story."
Elsewhere, we're being told that bright minority kids in some New York City high schools are being forbidden -- forbidden! -- from applying to certain Ivy League colleges. Their chances are too slim, and their counselors are too busy to fill out the paperwork. How awful.
A nice fall day here in Portland.
Too bad there's a stinking field burn in progress down in the valley, just when the wind's blowing this way.
Once again a small handful of farmers take the convenient way out, and literally a million people pay for it with unpleasant, unhealthy air to breathe.
Where's the ballot measure on this cr*p?
Here's another thoughtful endorsement of Oregon Ballot Measure 35, by none other than the Leader of the Free World.
As posted prior to previous elections, here's whom and what I'm voting for this time around. But this year, not only am I going to tell how I'm voting, but I'm also going to list an enthusiasm (E) factor, signifying on a scale of 1 to 10 how strongly I feel about the race or issue; and a confidence (C) factor, indicating how likely I believe that my vote will come out on the winning side.
Therefore, if I give a high E score to my vote, it means that I really, really believe in the vote, and I urge all readers to vote likewise. A low E score means that I won't hold it against you if you vote the other way. A hgh C score means that I think I'm voting for a winner; a low C score means I realize that I'm spitting into the wind.
POTUS: Kerry/Edwards, E10, C6. If America re-elects the Evil Chimp, we deserve everything bad that happens to us over the next four years and beyond. God help us, folks, we don't need three or four more Scalias and Clarence Thomases.
U.S. Senate: Ron Wyden, E5, C10. Ho hum.
U.S. House, 3d District: Earl Blumenauer, E5, C10. Yawn.
Secretary of State: Bill Bradbury, E8, C9. The sooner Betsy Close gets out of public life, the better, as far as I am concerned.
Portland Mayor: Tom Potter, E6, C8. Tom's emerged as a major bag of hot air, but he's got the Scone beat by a mile. And Potter might actually be able to do something with the Police Bureau, which has been without an intelligent leader for many years. The big downside: with Potter holding the nominal title of mayor, Erik Sten will be running most things.
Portland City Council: Nick Fish, E7, C3. Fish has feet of clay, but he deserves the office more than his opponent does. I'm starting to think Adams is going to pull an upset, though. Whatever Fish has done with his campaign money, I haven't seen a word of it in months; meanwhile, the new, blue-collar-looking Adams signs are everywhere. This is going to be darned close.
Multnomah County Commissioner: Lisa Naito, E4, C8. Lisa's not a portrait of competence, but her opponent is a bozo of the lowest order.
State Treasurer: No endorsement. Too much hanky-panky going on with public money.
Attorney General: Hardy Myers, E3, C9. The corruption in Oregon's state and local government has finally become so blatant that this guy can no longer completely ignore it. But he's not exactly a ball of fire when it comes to the cleanup (or anything else).
State Representative, 45th District: No endorsement. I've been gerrymandered into a district that I have nothing in common with. And our representative, Jackie Dingfelder, is ding-y indeed.
Metro Councillor: No endorsement. We need strong land use planning, but we don't need this layer of government to do it. And Rod Monroe, although a stellar shooting guard when he played for the New York Knicks years ago, has a slight Goldschmidt odor about him.
Multnomah County measures:
26-57, requiring runoffs: Yes, E5, C8.
26-58, salary commission to set salaries: No, E2, C2. This lets the politicians off the hook. If they think they deserve a raise, let them vote for it.
26-59, county lobbyist: Yes, E6, C8. It's a shame that county governments should have to hire lobbysists. You would think that elected representatives at higher levels of government would routinely consult the county on matters of interest to it -- for free. But there's no sense in having Multnomah County at a disadvantage compared to all the other counties, which have these. So let's pay Len Bergstein or whatever the heck his name is a few more tens of thousands a year out of the public trough. Or maybe Bev Stein needs another gig.
26-60, repeals term limits: No, E7, C5. It's time for Lisa and Diane to start thinking about their next jobs.
26-61, county officials can keep one office while running for another: No endorsement.
26-62, shorten term of civil service commissioners: Yes, E4, C8. Er, sure.
26-63, dead candidates replaced: Yes, E6, C9. Sounds good to me.
26-64, repeal county income tax: No, E8, C8. If asked, I won't vote to renew this tax unless and until there's mandatory withholding and better enforcement. But we voted on this a while back, and the tax won, fair and square. So let's live with it for another year and a half.
Statewide ballot measures:
31, election postponed if candidate dies: No, E7, C2. This measure makes sense on its face, but it leaves too much open for the Salem "political process." You want authority to call off an election? How about telling me for how long?
32, mobile homes taxed as houses, not motor vehicles: Yes, E2, C8. Whatever.
33, medical marijuana changes: No, E7, C8. I don't care how screwed up the current law is or how sick you are, nobody should be allowed to have six pounds of pot in their house.
34, state forest logging restrictions: Yes, E4, C2. I've got misgivings about this one, but on reflection I've decided that forest conservation in this state is actually a war at this point, and the bad guys are winning. So here's a vote for the good guys.
35, limits on pain and suffering awards in medical malpractice cases: No, E10, C4. I've already outlined my feelings here. Right now in Oregon, you can find out more about the past screwups of the guy who's painting your deck than those of the doctor who's about to operate on your newborn baby's brain. When that's fixed, and the proposed limit is something like $5 million for a lifetime of excruciating pain, maybe I'll consider this kind of measure.
36, ban homosexual marriage: No, E7, C1. What kind of people are we who would constitutionalize discrimination? We're about to find out.
37, government must pay to regulate property uses: No, E10, C2. Some people just can't handle the modern world. They believe we're all still in some state of nature, and every time they have to stop for a red light, they expect a check to compensate them for the inconvenience. Turn off the Rush Limbaugh Show and get a grip, people.
38, abolish SAIF: No, E7, C9. SAIF has always been borderline crooked, if not outright crooked, but this isn't the answer. The boys at Liberty are every bit as cut-throat and venal, and their weak advertising campaign shows how little their complaints matter to the average Oregonian.
Our Portland city fathers (and temporarily, mother) are very interested in the health of our downtown -- so much so that they're about to drop many millions of tax dollars to rip up the transit mall (again) for light rail. This, along with more fancy streetcars, million-dollar solar parking meters, and cobblestones in front of the Brasserie, is supposed to help bring downtown back to a vibrant state.
But if they really loved downtown so much, wouldn't they first create an atmosphere down there where this kind of stuff wasn't happening?
Just when I hit the busy time of year, Congress goes out and passes a second big federal tax bill for this fall season. This bill was spawned by the tawdriest features of our foreign trade policy, and it lives up to its ugly ancestry.
The new law, which W is prepared to sign, makes an effort (albeit a half-hearted one) to remedy the most blatant violations of the World Trade Organization rules that are present in our tax laws. Members of the WTO aren't supposed to use their tax laws to subsidize exports, but the United States has done that for decades -- including in the old days, when our tax laws broke our promises under the old GATT treaty regime.
We're now under heavy WTO sanctions for our misdeeds, and so it recently became clear that there was going to be a corporate tax law revision soon. There had to be one. And when the Gucci Gulch lobbyists see that tax legislation is inevitable and imminent, they spring into action, proposing one pet tax perk after another. If there's a congressional election just weeks away, the lobby groups get an even stronger hand than the one they normally play.
Sometimes Congress is smart enough not to load the tax bill up with pork. But definitely not this time.
The latest law runs hundreds of pages, and there's something in there for every powerful member of Congress. The New York Times scratched the surface this morning with this analysis, but it will take months before the full impact of the changes is known. Some of them affect only one or two favored taxpayers; others affect broad segments of the population.
Good news for Vancouverites and all other Washington state residents: Your state sales tax just became deductible on your federal tax return if you itemize your deductions. For someone in the 25 percent federal tax bracket, that means that for every 7 cents you pay in Washington sales tax, you'll get 1.75 cents back in federal taxes. Cool for you.
But before you Oregon sales tax advocates (including my state senator, Avel Gordly) jump up and say "Us too!" -- the new federal deduction is allowed only if the state has a sales tax but no income tax.
That's never going to happen in Oregon.
For a while now, I've been enjoying The Appliance Blog, the daily journal of a Sears appliance repairman in Springfield, Oregon. It's one of the best reads in the Pacific Northwest zone of the blogosphere.
At times, though, the posts leave the reader dying to know more about the service calls in question. For example, here is a recent entry, and my embellishment, to illustrate the kind of content expansion I'd like to see:
2003 Sears Kenmore Top Freezer Refrigerator (Frigidaire built): Leaking water in refrigerator section in defrost cycle, Needs upgraded ferrule, part#240365901, replaced, worked great.
The appliance owner in this case was an attractive woman in her mid-30's, who came to the door in a very brief spandex workout suit. "I don't know what's wrong," she said as she led me by the hand to her kitchen, which was filled with the fragrance of French perfume. "Whenever I try to break the ice, the walls of the fridge just get covered in sweat. The water beads up and drips, drips, ever so slowly and languidly into the vegetable compartment. And when I reach in for a zucchini, it's wetter than I've ever felt."
1999 Maytag SxS Refrigerator: Not giving ice from front ice dispenser, Found bad Control Board, part#61003425 and Switch-Limit, part#61005520
This unit was owned by a retired trucker who reeked of Salems and bad rye whiskey. Before working on the ice dispenser unit, I had to clear large wads of what appeared to be animal hair from the drain grate. Halfway through changing the control board, I felt something wet and warm on my right ankle. Looking down, I saw to my surprise a small, shaved terrier who was relieving himself on my Doc Marten workboots. "Sorry, pal," the trucker said. "He's been having some problems lately."
I just came across the site where the city is showing off the first cut of winning designs for the great new real estate trend in Portland -- 15-foot-wide houses on 25-foot-wide lots.
Along with the forest of lousy condo towers we're paying the developers our tax dollars to build, now we're egging them on as they find every house in the older neighborhoods with any breathing space around it at all, and take away all the breathing space.
What Gragg-alicious junk. And when they sell it as the only way we can defeat urban sprawl, the great herd of sheep says "baaaaaaaaa."
I guess one way to cut down growth is to ruin the great neighborhoods of the city so that the old-timers move out of them. Then the "creative class" can take over and build us all a bright future. All part of the fun at the Theme Park. Saddest of all, Fireman Randy's in charge of this one.
Democratic VP candidate John Edwards will be in Portland Wednesday evening for what's being described as a "rally and debate watching party" at an as-yet undisclosed location.
Can you imagine telling your grandkids years from now that you watched the third debate with Edwards and a few thousand of his closest friends from the Portland area?
Too bad I'll be teaching Estate and Gift Tax at the time. Ironically, if Kerry and Edwards lose and Congress goes more strongly Republican, it will likely be the last time I ever teach such a course.
Interesting op-ed in yesterday's New York Times about which presidential campaign has the better logo.
It's Bush by a landslide.
That of a New York City Saturday afternoon -- morning here out west: the Jonathan Schwartz radio show on WNYC.
The Oregonian today endorsed Goli Ameri for Congress, over incumbent David Wu.
In the all-important race to see which of these two is more annoying, however, it remains a statistical dead heat.
"I'm cute! Watch me bungee-jump!"
"When I disagree with Tom DeLay, I will tell him so!"
Puh-leez. It's like Gilbert Gottfried vs. Yoko Ono.
At b!X's suggestion, posted in a comment to my post yesterday on Oregon Ballot Measure 35, I've taken a look at Measure 34, regarding logging in the Tillamook and Clatsop State Forests. Like him (apparently), I can't quite figure out what to do with it.
I start with a general presumption against ballot measures. Although I think they're very useful in case of an emergency, too often they're just the work of some disgruntled group or other that didn't get its way under the normal government processes. They invite us to micromanage from our armchairs matters that are best left to elected officials and professional bureaucrats.
This one has all of those downsides, particularly the micromanagement part. The text of the measure alone is more than two pages long in the voter's pamphlet, filled with mind-numbing details. (And whoever wrote it doesn't know how to operate a computer spell-checker.)
The statements in support and opposition are very well-orchestrated. Although signed by various folks, many of them appear to have been written by a single hand on each side. (I've been offered the "opportunity" to sign ghostwritten voter's pamphlet statements myself, but I've declined.)
As far as I can tell based on the time I've had to look at this, Measure 34 would restrict logging in state forests out by the coast. Among its supporters are my friends David Moskowitz and Frank Amato, two guys who live to fish recreationally. If they're signing on, the measure definitely means a lot less clearcutting on state lands. Among the measure's benefits, they tout the prospect of more high-quality drinking water for human beings, as well as fish habitat.
The opponents include not only timber cutters whose livelihood is threatened but also a slew of local officials out that way who want the revenue that they receive as a result of logging operations in the state forests. They say that if the measure passes, teachers will be laid off, the 9-1-1 center will have less resources at its disposal, etc.
Along with these rational arguments comes the usual raft of emotional stuff. Proponents say that allowing extensive logging breaks a sacred promise that was made when these forests were planted, replacing trees lost in the historic Tillamook burn. Opponents accuse the measure of being sponsored by radical, out-of-state environmental groups.
So what to do? My heart's strongly with the environmentalists, but my process sensibilities tell me they should have fought harder and won this battle in the bureaucratic proceedings. And there is definitely the question of money, or lack thereof, in the state right now.
So to me, it's a standoff so far. Maybe your comments will help me come to a decision.
I just took another listen to Marvin Gaye singing "The Star Spangled Banner" at the 1983 NBA All-Star Game.
Man, this is why they invented the microphone. If you've never heard this performance, hunt it down and give it a whirl. You can thank me later.
I'm voting no on Oregon Ballot Measure 35, which would cap personal injury pain and suffering awards at $500,000.
The insurance companies would have you think that passage of this constitutional amendment will prompt them to lower doctors' malpractice insurance premiums around here. They've even got some of the doctors believing them. I don't.
If some doctor shows up for your or your kid's surgery drunk, or distracted by his stock portfolio, or in a hurry to get to her country club for a round of golf, and he or she screws up, leaving the patient in agonizing pain, or impotent, for a long period of time, to me there are plenty of times when that's worth more than $500,000.
Another way to lower malpractice costs is to weed out incompetent doctors and drum them out of business. When I hear that we've accomplished major reforms in that department, I'll think about screwing over further the victims of their foul-ups. Not to mention the possibility of better regulation of the insurance industry.
If doctors are being negligent and reckless with your health, don't blame your lawyer for the consequences.
The vice president, I'm surprised to hear him talk about records. When he was one of 435 members of the United States House, he was one of 10 to vote against Head Start, one of four to vote against banning plastic weapons that can pass through metal detectors.
He voted against the Department of Education. He voted against funding for Meals on Wheels for seniors. He voted against a holiday for Martin Luther King. He voted against a resolution calling for the release of Nelson Mandela in South Africa.
It's amazing to hear him criticize either my record or John Kerry's.
Let me add something I know a little about: Nasty Dick was one of a relatively few members of Congress to vote against the Tax Reform Act of 1986 -- universally viewed as the most sensible piece of federal tax legislation passed in the past 50 years.
The other day I was ragging on Delta Airlines for the cruddy service it provided to my family and me as we journeyed to and from Atlanta last weekend. As an alert reader pointed out, there's an interesting Portland connection to the near-bankrupt Atlanta-based Delta these days: The airline's CEO, Jerry Grinstein, is a key player in the Texas Pacific Group's plan to buy Portland General Electric. He is one of the directors of Oregon Electric, the TPG affiliate that would take over the PGE system.
Grinstein may also turn out to be a key witness in the investigation into Diana Goldschmidt's alleged conflict of interest relative to TPG and the PGE deal. Lady Di voted as a member of the Oregon Investment Council last Oct. 29 to invest state pensioners' money in TPG. According to her husband Neil's version of the events, TPG first offered him the position of chairman of the board of Oregon Electric on Oct. 30. And as state investigators hover around asking whether Mrs. G. knew about the pending deal with her husband when she cast her vote on the council, the suits at TPG are swearing that they never told her. (Meanwhile, Governor Ted has seen enough, and fired Mrs. G. from the council.)
You have to wonder how much Grinstein, who is described as a long-time good friend of the disgraced former governor, told either or both of the Goldschmidts before Oct. 29. According to the Portland Tribune, Grinstein knew about TPG's plan to take over PGE as early as 2002. Apparently he was the inaugural director of Oregon Electric long before the Oregon Investment Council vote. And people in the State Treasurer's Office were reportedly aware of TPG's plan by the summer of 2003.
Are we to believe that Neil didn't know by Oct. 29 that he was going to get a piece of the action? Or that if he did, he didn't tell his wife?
I guess it would be easy enough for Attorney General Hardy Myers to subpoena Grinstein's appointment calendar and phone records, and those of the Goldschmidts, to try to find out.
Portland Tribune columnist Pete Schulberg takes a slap at bloggers today:
I'm bleary-eyed from the blogosphere. There sure is a lot of fuss being made about the armchair pontificators sitting in front of a laptop at home, posting rants and rages about everything from the presidential race to "Who is polling negatives about Sam Adams?" — as was headlined on the Portland Communiqué blog compiled by Christopher Frankonis (See communique.Portland.or.us/)....
Frankly, I’m already getting tired of all the attention the Web site logs — compressed to Web logs and finally "blogs" for short — are getting as the new and exciting driving force in the media during this political season...
[I]t’s more than a tad disconcerting when media pundits point to bloggers as a way to somehow make the traditional media better and more accountable, with the knowledge that the blogging public is looking over their shoulder.
For starters, read most blogs and you’ll soon find that the majority of topics being discussed, dissected and disseminated are ones that were first reported by the mainstream media. And generally, the sources are newspapers, which have the personnel and the resources to get the story in the first place...
Something tells me that when the blogosphere loses its shiny new allure, there will still be newspapers — and even CBS — leading the way to news.
I don't know, Pete. Here you are, former TV news pretty-boy, now reduced to writing the TV column for a semi-weekly. You're writing a column -- a very late column -- about bloggers. And you think your organization has more clout than they do?
I've been a Nick Fish supporter all year, ever since I first took a look at the contrasts betwen him and his opponent for Portland City Council, Sam Adams. To me, all I need to know about Adams is that he was the "chief of staff" (these City Hall types are so self-important) for Mayor Vera Katz. Sorry, that's an automatic dinger right there.
One thing I've particularly liked about Fish was that he represented badly needed new blood for city government. His campaign themes have reinforced my hope that he would be a voice of change in a city that has gone mad, speeding like a crack addict on tax-subsidized condo tower development and all the theme-park toys that go with it, at the expense of basic needs. I've also hoped he would talk some common sense in a City Hall that has thrown more than a precious $100 million at fiasco projects like the Convention Center expansion, luxury boxes for minor-league baseball at PGE Park, and the ill-fated reservoir covers (which I hear are going to be on Craigslist next weekend).
Now, I'm no innocent, and I know that it takes money to win an election, but when I clicked on the latest campaign finance disclosure reports for Fish and Adams, I expected to see the campaign images reflected there -- Fish the edgy outsider, Adams the pet candidate of the entrenched West Hills interests.
That's not what I found.
Oh, yeah, Sam's got some of the usual suspects with their checkbooks open behind him. You see entries like these:
But then you go to Nick Fish's report, and well, stand back, people:
And the list goes on. There are quite a few hotel companies pitching in a grand or so apiece -- you wonder if they're the same people. Plus unions galore.
Is this the contributor list of an "outsider"? It sure doesn't look that way to me.
I'm going to leave my endorsement of Nick Fish intact. I still think he deserves the job more than Adams.
But I'm no fool. Even as a teenager, I knew when I was going out with a girl who had been around.
Just returned to Portlandia from a long weekend in Atlanta. I traveled to that warm, sunny city to give a speech to a large group of lawyers and accountants about tax law. The audience was warm and appreciative, even though most of them had been sitting around listening to speakers for the better part of a mind-numbing week.
My wife and kids came along for the ride, and we had a great time once the official doings were over. We stayed at a great hotel -- the Grand Hyatt up in the toney Buckhead part of town. We took a fun day trip yesterday out to a place called Stone Mountain, where there's an amusement park of sorts at the foot of a large loaf of granite that sticks up about 500 feet or so above the tops of the Georgia pines. An offbeat spot, to be sure, but just right for a little family fun. They've even got an aerial tram that rides up the side of the mountain, past the large relief sculpture of the three Confederate generals that's been blasted into the granite wall. Up top? A snack bar and a great view of the smoggy landscape. Back down below, we got in a long playground session, visited the pumpkin patch, caught the pie eating contest, petted the farm animals, and skirted the edges of a large, loud chili cook-off. All in a day's work out at Stone Mountain.
As I rode up in the tram, I couldn't help but think of the skylift that Portland's taxpayers are about to build for the oh-so-important physicians. I hope the thing gets overrun with tourists, and the white coats have to wait 15 minutes to get a ride. Next thing you know, it will be closed, or made prohibitively expensive, to the public who paid for it.
Anyhow, for a few days we were a million miles from the foibles of those who live under the volcano. The fried chicken was excellent, the people were friendly (by and large), and the weather was highly cooperative.
The one blue note, and it was a big one, was another trip on Delta Airlines. I've blogged about these folks before, and they're not getting any better. Their new slogan appears to be, "We're insolvent, and it shows!" Somewhat dirty planes, no towels in the lavatory, no envelope to put your boarding passes in, and at their Atlanta headquarters airport, torn-up gates and long, long security delays. You pay for your food on Delta now ($8 for a sandwich), and you wind up busing your own garbage to the back of the plane while the flight attendants close the curtains and work on their resumes.
Awful. Those guys deserve what they get.