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About November 2008

This page contains all entries posted to Jack Bog's Blog in November 2008. They are listed from newest to oldest. October 2008 is the previous archive. December 2008 is the next archive. Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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Law and Taxation
How Appealing
TaxProf Blog
Mauled Again
Tax Appellate Blog
A Taxing Matter
TaxVox
Tax.com
Josh Marquis
Native America, Discovered and Conquered
The Yin Blog
Ernie the Attorney
Conglomerate
Above the Law
The Volokh Conspiracy
Going Concern
Bag and Baggage
Wealth Strategies Journal
Jim Hamilton's World of Securities Regulation
myCorporateResource.com
World of Work
The Faculty Lounge
Lowering the Bar
OrCon Law

Hap'nin' Guys
Tony Pierce
Parkway Rest Stop
Utterly Boring.com
Along the Gradyent
Dwight Jaynes
Bob Borden
Dingleberry Gazette
The Red Electric
Iced Borscht
Jeremy Blachman
Dean's Rhetorical Flourish
Straight White Guy
HinesSight
Onfocus
Jalpuna
Beerdrinker.org
As Time Goes By
Dave Wagner
Jeff Selis
Alas, a Blog
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Sansego
The View Through the Windshield
Appliance Blog
The Bleat

Hap'nin' Gals
My Whim is Law
Lelo in Nopo
Attorney at Large
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The Non-Consumer Advocate
10 Steps to Finding Your Happy Place
A Pig of Success
Attorney at Large
Margaret and Helen
Kimberlee Jaynes
Cornelia Seigneur
Mireio
And Sew It Goes
Mile 73
Rainy Day Thoughts
That Black Girl
Posie Gets Cozy
{AE}
Cat Eyes
Rhi in Pink
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Ragwaters, Bitters, and Blue Ruin
Frytopia
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Type Like the Wind

Portland and Oregon
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Retired from Blogging
Various Observations...
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Jack Bog's Blog, by Jack Bogdanski of Portland, Oregon

« October 2008 | Main | December 2008 »

November 2008 Archives

Sunday, November 30, 2008

The bandwagon's going to get awfully crowded

December has often been a kind month to the Trail Blazers. I can remember several amazing winning streaks during that month, even in years in which the team wasn't too good.

This year, of course, the team is pretty darn good, and it's going into the month with a record of 12 wins and 6 losses -- tied for second best in the Western Conference, which is the better half of the NBA. Portland is one of only two teams in the league who have won all their home games so far, and today they beat the Detroit Pistons, a perennial powerhouse, albeit one that's on the decline these days as its players get creaky.

Between the bright young players who joined the Blazers in the last couple of years now coming of age, and the additions of Greg Oden and Rudy Fernandez, the Portland team is hitting on all cylinders. It has dangerous shooters, big guys who can score inside, and Brandon Roy, who's a threat any time he has the ball in his hands. So far, Portland has won with an inside-outside combination that has kept defenses on a yo-yo.

In past years, those defenses have eventually caught on to the Blazers, and the successes of December have turned to frustration in the spring. But given this Portland squad's athleticism, growing experience, and depth -- not to mention a .667 winning percentage at the end of November -- it's not going to fade away the way the Blazers of the recent past have inevitably done. Barring a collapse that seems highly unlikely at this point, the Blazers will be selling out most of their home games and competing in the playoffs. Depending on their opponents, perhaps they will even go a round or two into the post-season tournament.

It's still hard for me to look at Paul Allen without cringing, and I still think he's going to move his basketball hobby to Seattle at the first opportunity, but everyone else in the organization is smelling like a rose right now. The best moments since Y2K are here.

Now hear this

I'll be substituting for Marc Abrams on the Kremer & Abrams radio show this morning from 9 to 11 on KXL Radio, 750AM here in Portland. Kremer's the staunch Republican, and I am the lefty foil. He and his listeners lob whatever they can at me, and I try to defend myself. Some Sundays I succeed better than others. This week, when cornered, I plan to fall back on "Nyah nyah, we won." Tune in, and if I'm floundering, feel free to call in and bail me out.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Flush draw

Portland's making a big deal about the upcoming opening of its new public toilets -- designed by Fireman Randy himself! I believe they're calling them the Portland Poo's.

You wonder why, for a city that's obsessed with creating Fake New York, we can't get one of these.

On gossamer wings

The Mrs. and I don't get out as much as we used to. But here's a Portland performer that we'd better catch soon, before the rest of the world discovers her:


A holiday weekend message to the right

Granny Helen wakes up from her turkey coma and lets loose with a vivid rant:

Sarah Palin is back and my heart goes out to all our dear friends over there in Georgia. She's sort of like headlice. You can't just shampoo your hair. You have to boil everything afterwards.
The whole thing is here.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Ya tase me, ya pays me

Don't mess with a riled-up CPA.

It works wonders

The benefits of red wine.

"I dunked on Oden...

... twice."

How far we've fallen

The City of McMinnville just went out and bought an artificial Christmas tree for its outdoor display.

Oh, well. The retirees from L.A. won't notice the difference.

He hasn't changed much

Here are some pictures that include one of your old crazy grandpa.

Forget Geithner

We need a guy like this to be Treasury Secretary.

Club members in good standing

I am not alone in voicing some misgivings about the President-elect's choices of economic advisors.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Have a great holiday weekend


I-5 northbound: Forget it

It's a parking lot from at least Terwilliger to at least the Rose Quarter. Given the stoppages, we suspect it's bad from Wilsonville all the way up through the 'Couv.

A great man, all the way to the end


Deflation?

Not here.

Things to be thankful for

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

10


How China will conquer the world

They'll buy it.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Uncured turkey 'dogs

We had a great weekend in the pro football underdog pool. We went with the Jets over the previously unbeaten Titans, and were right on the money. The only way we could have done better was with the Raiders over the Broncos, but we simply weren't that brave.

We're still in third place, now 8½ points behind the leader and a mere 4 points behind the second-place player. (Both of the folks ahead of us are women with supernatural powers -- hard to outmaneuver.) Behind us are other hopefuls who are 8½, 9½, and 11 points in our wake.

This week's slate is intriguing. See any underdogs (in caps) on the list who you think can win their game outright? The point spreads are relevant only in that they indicate how many points we'll cop if our pick actually wins its game in the real world:

13 SEATTLE at Dallas (Thursday)
10.5 DETROIT vs. Tennessee (Thursday)
9 DENVER at NY Jets
7 SAN FRANCISCO at Buffalo
7 CINCINNATI vs. Baltimore
5 CLEVELAND vs. Indianapolis
5 ATLANTA at San Diego
4 NEW ORLEANS at Tampa Bay
3.5 WASHINGTON vs. NY Giants
3.5 CHICAGO at Minnesota
3.5 JACKSONVILLE at Houston
3 CAROLINA at Green Bay
3 ARIZONA at Philadelphia (Thursday)
3 KANSAS CITY at Oakland
1.5 PITTSBURGH at New England

On a preliminary look-see, we're attracted to the Niners, Cleveland, and Atlanta. But is this the week that the Jets screw up? Bengals at home against Baltimore?

If you like a 'dog in one of the three Thanksgiving Day games, you'll have to pipe up quick; otherwise, we've got 'til Saturday night to place our bet. With another winner, we'd be starting to look like a real contender for one of the three cash prizes. Please help us get there!

Getting sucked in


Embarrassment

How long before The New York Times gets rid of Charlie Rangel?

Seeing the light

The federal bailout gurus are tired of waiting for the banks to stop hoarding cash and resume making loans. So the government is going to start making loans directly:

To calm anxious markets, the Federal Reserve and the Treasury plan to announce a major lending program on Tuesday to jump-start frozen loan markets, administration officials said. The Treasury had signaled earlier this month that it was considering such an action for consumer loans, but the action to be announced will broaden the program to include business debt.

In effect, the program would create a government bank to finance hundreds of billions of dollars in commercial debt, like car loans, student loans and business leases. The Treasury is expected to contribute $10 billion to $20 billion in seed capital, which would come from the $700 billion originally provided to shore up the financial system. The Federal Reserve would lend the new entity as much as 20 times that amount.

This is pretty much what I suggested here on September 30:

Here's a different idea that we've been mulling over for the last couple of days: If the banks won't stop hoarding cash, it may be time for the government to step in and do the banks' jobs for them. For $700 billion, why doesn't the federal government just start a direct loan program, making loans to worthy homebuyers, students, and businesses?
The feds ought to stop pumping money into the banks. Let them go down now, rather than later. If real people need loans, Uncle Sam, then just lend them some money.

And have the agency run by somebody making $200,000 a year -- not $20 million. It can easily be done.

The first disappointment

The thing that worries me about the new Obama administration is the problem of overblown expectations. The President-elect has promised the nation change, change, change, and he has tapped into the population's fears that America has been heading in the wrong direction on many fronts. His election stands as a grand expression of hope, but when hope prevails, patience is often left by the wayside.

Look at the early 1960s. The Kennedy brothers bravely took on George Wallace and stayed the course toward desegregating the south, and after the assassination of JFK, Lyndon Johnson took up the mantle, however reluctantly. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was a landmark event in ending racial discrimination. But change did not come quickly enough to diffuse the anger that had built up over centuries, and over the next three years, race riots destroyed large chunks of Newark and other cities.

The challenges America faces today may not be as momentous as slavery and its aftermath, but they are the most serious we have faced in our lifetimes. So many are in distress, and fear runs so deep, that no amount of heroism from the White House is going to provide a quick fix. The Presidential honeymoon period is not going to be long enough to avoid disappointment among some of Obama's supporters.

So far, the Obama economic team is not inspiring a great deal of confidence. They are largely re-treads from the Clinton administration -- acolytes of Robert Rubin. Rubin's main agenda items were globalization and deregulation, which have turned out to be the one-two punch that landed this country on its backside with its head spinning. Rubin has also spent recent years advising Citigroup, the huge bank that squandered its wealth on bad risks and now, insolvent, needs to be nationalized. Being wheeled in as Treasury secretary is a Wall Street darling, the head of the Federal Reserve Bank in New York -- the same Fed that's led the charge to throw more than $7 trillion of public money at the shareholders of the big banks as part of a quiet, shadowy, and so far inept bailout effort for which no one is accountable.

In his introduction of these folks yesterday, Obama praised their "sound judgment and fresh thinking, both a depth of experience and a wealth of bold new ideas." To me these folks seem neither fresh nor new. Instead, we've just rolled the clock back to 1993, when the seeds of a lot of our current problems were being planted. I'm willing to give this crew some time to show that they've got ways to make the current situation better without ruining things for future generations. But I'm not confident that they do, and many Americans won't be willing to wait quite as long as I am to see some results.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Meeeeeeee-ow!

The City of Portland parking flap just got flappier.

And now for something completely different

The greatness that is America.

Trouble ahead, trouble behind

Through the grapevine we hear that there could be some fireworks soon among the poor souls who own property in the failing SoWhat District in Portland. Apparently the Mayor-Elect revealed recently that he plans to spend $10 million of the proposed $22 million of "transportation system development charges" in SoWhat for the light rail line that is supposed to run through the district on its way downtown from Milwaukie. These "charges" are one-time taxes on property owners in a given area to pay for transportation improvements in that area. We suspect that the owners were expecting their money to go for projects that would help people get cars in, out, and through the concrete jungle down there, but of course that would violate the 11th Commandment, Thou shalt not drive.

The Tramster is also reportedly considering additional local improvement district taxes to be levied on the district. If that isn't the last nail in the coffin of this ill-advised "urban renewal" fiasco, we'd be surprised.

Why a loaf of bread will cost $10 soon

Remember the controversy over the $700 billion bailout? Apparently that was just a smokescreen for the real ripoff. Today it's revealed that the feds have already committed behind the scenes to spend more than 10 times that much to prop up the nation's financial system, which seems ready to fall completely apart. That's $700 billion, plus another $700 billion, plus another $6,000 billion.

The aid is mostly in the form of loans, but most of the transactions are loans to banks who will not be able to pay all the money back. The Bloomberg financial media organization has asked to see the names of the borrowers, the amounts of the loans, and the collateral, but get this -- Fed chair Ben Bernanke refuses to 'fess up:

"Some have asked us to reveal the names of the banks that are borrowing, how much they are borrowing, what collateral they are posting," Bernanke said Nov. 18 to the House Financial Services Committee. "We think that’s counterproductive."...

Requiring the Fed to disclose loan recipients might set off panic, said David Tobin, principal of New York-based loan-sale consultants and investment bank Mission Capital Advisors LLC.

"If you mark to market today, the banking system is bankrupt," Tobin said. "So what do you do? You try to keep it going as best you can."

"Mark to market" means adjusting the value of an asset, such as a mortgage-backed security, to reflect current prices.

This house of cards will be completely blown away by a year or two from now. If the Democrats were smart, they'd let it come down now, when they still could plausibly pin it on Bush.

I'll tell you one thing. If Congress doesn't get that list of banks, borrowings, and collateral out in front of the public posthaste, the leadership of both houses should be removed from office. Hey, Gatbsy Wyden -- wake the heck up!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Tell me on a Sunday

Announcing goofball rescues for big financial institutions that ought to be liquidated has become a Sunday tradition in Washington and New York. Today it's Citigroup that's going to be artificially kept afloat. The tax money will be transferred directly from our children and grandchildren to the incompetent swine who currently run that sorry bank, and to the shareholders to whom they pay rich dividends.

Details of the plan are still sketchy, but then again, details of how we're going to avoid another Great Depression are also still sketchy. Indeed, accounting for the hundreds of billions of dollars that Henry Paulson has already handed out to his friends is also still sketchy. Make that nonexistent.

We're sorry but it's time to go

Few things in U.S. politics are as ugly as a President's last couple of months in office, particularly when the other party is about to take the White House back over. Pardons, last-minute bureaucrat appointments, last-minute regulations -- it ain't pretty. Here's a call for Bush and Cheney to step down early and let Pelosi house sit for the final weeks, but you know there's no way.

Not a good fit

One of the great mistakes in the long decline of the Portland Trailblazers (now being reversed) was thinking that P.J. Carlesimo would make it as an NBA head coach. With his latest firing, it's pretty clear that he's just not cut out for the gig.

I remember the first time I saw P.J. on TV. He was coaching Seton Hall University's men's team. Within minutes of my starting to watch the game, he launched into a public tirade along the sidelines, completely embarrassing one of his own players, who had done something that P.J. didn't like. The whole Bobby Knight-Bob Hurley tough love thing.

But guess what? Carlesimo is no Bobby Knight, nor a Bob Hurley. He's just P.J. Carlesimo. Which is why no team he's been the head coach of in the professional ranks has ever really played for him. His place in history will probably be as the coach who so enraged one of his less stable pro players that the player actually tried to strangle him during a practice. There's no way the player should have done that, of course, but the fact that it happened was a pretty clear indication that P.J. just doesn't have the temperament to lead an NBA team. Indeed, I don't think even top-notch college players would take what he dishes out any more.

Right after the Blazers made Carlesimo their head coach in 1994, they named Bob Whitsitt as their general manager. It has taken until this year for the team to recover.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Fire up your crystal ball

We're still open to suggestion of an underdog pro football team that can win its game outright tomorrow. Help us win some bucks in the pool in which we play -- enlighten us with your prognostications.

So you think *you're* a foodie

This guy will trek a long way for the best cuisine.

Who needs "Hee Haw"?

That TV classic is long defunct, but our modern times have produced equally hysterical video entertainment.

Shock to our system

Hot off the e-mail circuit:

In the first two weeks since the election, President-elect Barack Obama has broken with a tradition established over the past eight years through his controversial use of complete sentences, political observers say.

Millions of Americans who watched Mr. Obama's appearance on CBS' "Sixty Minutes" on Sunday witnessed the president-elect's unorthodox verbal tick, which had Mr. Obama employing grammatically correct sentences virtually every time he opened his mouth.

But Mr. Obama's decision to use complete sentences in his public pronouncements carries with it certain risks, since after the last eight years many Americans may find his odd speaking style jarring.

According to presidential historian Davis Logsdon of the University of Minnesota, some Americans might find it "alienating" to have a President who speaks English as if it were his first language.

"Every time Obama opens his mouth, his subjects and verbs are in agreement," says Mr. Logsdon. "If he keeps it up, he is running the risk of sounding like an elitist."

The historian said that if Mr. Obama insists on using complete sentences in his speeches, the public may find itself saying, "Okay, subject, predicate, subject predicate - we get it, stop showing off."

The President-elect's stubborn insistence on using complete sentences has already attracted a rebuke from one of his harshest critics, Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska.

"Talking with complete sentences there and also to so, talking in a way that ordinary Americans like Joe the Plumber and Tito the Builder can't really do there, I think needing to do that isn't tapping into what Americans are needing also," she said.

Next bank failure: Citigroup

So it appears.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Have a great weekend


Great times for crustaceans

Maybe the financial crisis isn't all bad for everybody.

Z-Bo's heading to L.A.

Word on the street is that former Jail Blazer Zach Randolph's brief stay in New York is about to end. He's being traded to the Clippers. Look out, Compton.

But you tell me, over and over and over again

Brooding about our financial troubles on these shortening late fall days is no fun. For a moment there yesterday afternoon, I noticed a vague sensation that the electricity was going to go off, and not come back on for a long time. Of course, the feeling passed, the lights stayed on, and life went on as usual. But a shadow of of impending doom is still hanging around.

It reminds me a little of Y2K. Remember when we all fretted about whether the world was going to end when our computers all had to process the date of 1-1-00? At least back then, once we made it through the first morning of the new millennium, the threat was over. Not so this time. Every day feels a little like the eve of destruction.

Sold

The City of Portland's latest $15.4 million of general obligation bonds for firehouse improvements sold this week. The loan is a 19-year loan at what they call a "true interest cost" of 4.4753% a year. The bond buyers -- lenders, in effect -- were a group led by Morgan Stanley. The maturity schedule is here. It's a mere $26.63 of new debt per Portland resident -- nothin' to it.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Is the government rigging the stock market?

Here's an interesting YouTube video.

How to give public land away to condo weasels, quietly

The other day, Portland school board watchers warned us that the board was planning to change the rules for giving notice to the public before selling off "surplus" school district property, particularly real estate. The school board denied it was considering a change, but yesterday morning an alert reader left a comment noting that the public notice requirements had indeed been watered down:

The notification requirements were moved from board policy to administrative policy, which can be changed at the whim of the superintendent.

So a superintendent may change this policy at his or her whim, without board approval or public notice.

Wicked stuff. Super Carole, you're on notice: That's strike 1 for you.

Coincidentally, yesterday the city sent around an e-mail alerting us to a proposed new policy for the same sort of transaction, if entered into by the city's parks bureau. The draft of that policy is here. And hoo boy, does it ever leave lots of wiggle room for the city bureaucrats. They'll be able to get sales of parkland to private developers well on their way to fruition before the public ever finds out about them.

Check out the various "steps" that would be involved in the policy. All sorts of backroom dealings, studies, assessments, blah blah blah, would take place with nary a peep to the public. In step 5, the "stakeholders" get consulted -- I don't know who that is, but I'm sure the developers who are after the parkland will be in on the action way before that. It isn't until step 6 that we poor saps who supposedly own the city's parks finally catch wind of what's up. And at that point, it's not clear what level of public involvement will be allowed. It's all up to the parks czarina, in her discretion.

Remember, folks, these are the same parks people who had a good chunk of Mount Tabor Park sold off to Jim Francesconi's client, Warner Pacific College, before the public discovered what was going on. It was almost a done deal -- the mayor had been given the tour by the college brass and everything.

I don't know which city commissioner is going to get Parks when Big Pipe Saltzman heads over to the police circus in January, but whichever one it is, I hope that he or she promptly puts the brakes to this nonsense. This is Portland. These are our parks. If we're going to sell them off, the public has a right to know what's going on right from step 1.

This week's bozos

The parade of obscenely overpaid CEOs slithering into the Capitol and asking Congress for bailout billions continues. This week it was the auto industry executives. Rather than prove that they are smarter than the average guy, they illustrated how supremely stupid they are by flying in to Washington on private jets.

If American industry can't get along without high-price bunglers like these, then "managed bankruptcies" are in order. Mitt Romney, whose family knows a thing or two about manufacturing, put it succinctly in the Times yesterday:

Get rid of the planes, the executive dining rooms — all the symbols that breed resentment among the hundreds of thousands who will also be sacrificing to keep the companies afloat.... [D]on’t ask Washington to give shareholders and bondholders a free pass — they bet on management and they lost.
The same thing should have been said -- and indeed, still can be said -- to the banks.

Nobody should be making the kind of money that these fat cats pull down. Especially since they've run their companies into the tank. There needs to be a serious shakeout. Indeed, that is exactly what the bankruptcy laws are for.

If we're going bankrupt, let's get there as soon as possible

Last week, the City of Portland revealed that its estimate of its unfunded pension and disability liability for police and firefighters had been underestimated by as much as $400 million -- bringing the current total to nearly $2.5 billion. Billion, with a B. And growing every year at an astounding clip.

Suffice it to say, debts of this magnitude are not sustainable, and it would be patently illegal for a private company to let that kind of retiree liability hang around without anything put aside to pay it off. Somewhere down the line, either essential municipal services are going to be severely cut, or else those expensive pension promises aren't going to be honored. You can't have it both ways.

At a time like this, you would think that the city fathers would be looking for ways to tighten up on pension and disability benefits, rather than expanding them. But you'd be forgetting that Mayor Grampy and the city's street toilet commissioner, Fireman Randy, both feed with great gusto at the police and fire pension trough themselves, and so such thoughts will never, ever enter their heads. Indeed, the entire City Council is scared to death of the police and firefighters' unions, and the commissioners know that if they cross the bureaucrat labor bosses, they'll wind up with a lot of free time to drink coffee with Greg Macpherson down at Papaccino's in the near future.

And so what do we read in the news this week? They're planning to change the disability rules so that any firefighter who gets cancer while employed by the city will automatically get to retire on job-related disability benefits. The employees won't have to prove that the cancer had anything to do with their job -- they could be exposing themselves to all manner of carcinogens in their personal habits and hobbies, and it wouldn't matter. Cigs, chew, nitrites, paint fumes -- irrelevant. They'd still get to collect, automatically.

Now that's overstating it, but only a little. The proposed change would presume conclusively that a long list of cancers (but not all) were job-related. As reported the other day by Maximum Maxine in the O:

Under the latest proposal, the following 12 forms of cancer would be assumed to be job-related when diagnosed in a firefighter: brain, colon, stomach, testicular, prostate, mouth, throat, breast, rectal, multiple myeloma, non-Hodgkin's lymphoma and leukemia.

Oregon firefighters now have to prove such cancers are job-related to get workers' compensation or Portland disability benefits. The city's public safety disability fund considers occupational diseases to include heart disease, certain hernias, AIDS or AIDS-related diseases, tuberculosis, Hepatitis B and pneumonia.

Linda Jefferson, director of the Portland Fire and Police Disability and Retirement Fund, and Yvonne Deckard, chairwoman of the fund's board, say the fund's costs could increase significantly if the 12 cancers are added, noting that the city's firefighting force is the largest in the state. They counter that medical studies found firefighting was a "probable" cause in only three of the cancers -- myeloma, non-Hodgkin's lymphoma and prostate.

Given that the police and fire pension fund is itself a kind of cancer -- on the city's financial future, that is -- I suppose that this change is deliciously appropriate. But the three commissioners who are all gung-ho about this -- Fireman Randy, Sam the Tram, and Nick "Sardine" Fish -- ought to have their heads examined. On the City Council, the main occupational disease seems to be financial irresponsibility.

ORslogs

They say that this dry week or so that we've been having in Portland is about to come to an end. Well, at least some of us stayed dry.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

We won

Here are some truly amazing photos of Barack Obama and his family on election night.

Hold onto your wallets, Portland

I just saw Sam the Tram and about a half-dozen other bureaucrat-looking folk standing on the northwest corner of North Vancouver and Broadway. They were gazing south, and an older, bald guy was pointing over toward the Rose Quarter. Obviously, somebody has some big plans for something -- but what?

Somebody finally indicted Dick Cheney

I vote that we hold him and Alberto in Guantánamo pending trial by a kangaroo court.

A dad's tears

Gus's dad.

Intellectual Property Excess of the Month

This seems pretty grubby.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Avast, ye swabs!

Pirates have generally been a good source of comedy. But maybe not so much any more.

Everybody, step one rung down

The recession is starting to take a heavy toll, and it will be a deep and long economic trough. Some prognosticators warn that we won't fully recover in our lifetimes. I tend to agree.

Bean over at The Vig had a great post about this on Friday -- a YouTube video of Peter Schiff, who called the recession with uncanny precision. Bean also linked to Schiff's current outlook, which is grim indeed:

We believe that the growing imbalances in the U.S. economy, its twin budget and current account deficits, its lack of domestic savings, and the erosion of its industrial base, have now reached a point where a severe recession, culminating in a substantial decline in the over-all American standard of living, is imminent. The Federal Reserve, Congress, and the President, for political expedience, are likely to continue seeking to delay this adjustment, unfortunately in ways which will exacerbate its severity, making the inevitable recession that much worse, and increasing the probability of a hyper-inflationary outcome, which would render the U.S. dollar, and all U.S. dollar denominated financial assets, practically worthless in terms of real purchasing power, potentially creating a situation of extreme financial, political, and social unrest.
The New York Times' token conservative, David Brooks, sounded similar themes today (although he didn't mention which administration has presided over the unfolding disaster):
In this country, there are... millions of people facing the psychological and social pressures of downward mobility.

In the months ahead, the members of the formerly middle class will suffer career reversals. Paco Underhill, the retailing expert, tells me that 20 percent of the mall storefronts could soon be empty. That fact alone means that thousands of service-economy workers will experience the self-doubt that goes with unemployment.

They will suffer lifestyle reversals. Over the past decade, millions of Americans have had unprecedented access to affordable luxuries, thanks to brands like Coach, Whole Foods, Tiffany and Starbucks. These indulgences were signs of upward mobility. But these affordable luxuries will no longer be so affordable. Suddenly, the door to the land of the upscale will slam shut for millions of Americans.

The members of the formerly middle class will suffer housing reversals.... Suddenly, the home of one’s own is gone, and it’s back to the apartment complex.

Finally, they will suffer a drop in social capital. In times of recession, people spend more time at home. But this will be the first steep recession since the revolution in household formation. Nesting amongst an extended family rich in social capital is very different from nesting in a one-person household that is isolated from family and community bonds. People in the lower middle class have much higher divorce rates and many fewer community ties. For them, cocooning is more likely to be a perilous psychological spiral.

[I]t won’t only be material deprivations that bites. It will be the loss of a social identity, the loss of social networks, the loss of the little status symbols that suggest an elevated place in the social order. These reversals are bound to produce alienation and a political response.

At one time, I dreamed of being rich and independent -- in a mansion, traveling to all manner of exotic locations, able to live without working, living off investments, and keeping myself busy with discretionary worldly pursuits of my own choosing. That was then. Nowadays, I'll be happy to keep my excellent job and stay relatively comfortable working to the end of my days.

Already I've had it better than my parents could ever have pictured having it themselves. Every generation hopes that its own children will be able to say the same thing, but now it seems that we'll just have to settle for handing them off something that's not too much worse than where we are today. May the Lord help us make it so.

Tweeter looking for a woofer

It's hard to believe, but we're already at Week 12 of the pro football underdog pool in which I play. Last week I over-studied the pickings and went with Baltimore -- a poor choice -- and two players right around me correctly chose Cleveland and Denver. (Nobody took the Jets, which was way easy money.) And so I slipped from second place to third place, with a small pack still coming up close behind me.

Reader Mark left some good ideas in last week's comments -- he thought we should go with Kansas City, Cleveland, or the Jets. Two out of three ain't bad, but of course, we get to pick only one 'dog per week.

It's time for a winner, people. Can you see an underdog (in caps) that can win its contest outright this weekend? The points listed next to each game are how many I'll win if I choose that winning 'dog. Otherwise, they have no significance:

10.5 CINCINNATI at Pittsburgh (Thursday)
10 SAN FRANCISCO at Dallas
9.5 OAKLAND at Denver
9 ST. LOUIS vs. Chicago
8.5 DETROIT vs. Tampa Bay
5.5 NY JETS at Tennessee
3.5 KANSAS CITY vs. Buffalo
3.5 ARIZONA vs. NY Giants
3.5 SEATTLE vs. Washington
3 HOUSTON at Cleveland
3 INDIANAPOLIS at San Diego
2.5 GREEN BAY at New Orleans
2.5 MINNESOTA at Jacksonville
2 NEW ENGLAND at Miami
1 CAROLINA at Atlanta
1 PHILADELPHIA at Baltimore

A lot of close games there -- could be time to go for three or three and a half points with a sure thing. Preliminary thoughts: Niners, Jets, Arizona or Indy.

False alarm

This afternoon we got this breathless e-mail message:

Portland Public Schools is planning to change their policy concerning the disposition of real property. They are planning to discontinue the notification of the City of Portland, Multnomah County, Portland neighborhoods, and the public when they are planning to declare a property surplus /(see pages 8 - 15 of PPS Final Board Book).

The 1979 Portland City School Policy was developed during the comprehensive plan process and is still ORDINANCE (Ordinance 150580). It states very clearly the intent and importance of a public partnership among School District #1, local government, neighborhoods, and the public. The above policy changes by PPS #1 seem to be in conflict with the City School Policy, Comp Plan and State Law.

If you are able, please check into this policy change and let Portland Public Schools know of your opinion about the need for the public to remain part of this process and tell others about it.

As today was apparently the comment deadline on this issue, we took quick action and e-mailed Cameron Vaughan-Tyler at the school board to protest the deletion of the notice requirement.

She promptly responded, and it turns out that our e-mail correspondents were mistaken:

There is nothing in the proposed policy that would discontinue notification to the City of Portland, Multnomah County, or the Portland neighborhoods.

The notification is clearly stated in the policy. I can send you the whole policy if you like, but here is the piece you are referring to:

The policy directs the following:

(1) Superintendent’s Surplus Real Property Recommendation: The Superintendent shall develop and adopt administrative directives establishing a process for developing recommendations to the Board on surplus properties. The process shall include at a minimum the following components:

(a) Notification of the Portland Public School Board,
(b) Notification to the City and County, and other public agencies as appropriate, providing an opportunity to purchase the property, and notification to the local neighborhood association, and the public at large.
(c) A reasonable time for public response or comment.
(d) A summary of the factors considered in the development of the recommendation.

In other words, there's nothing in the current proposal that would change the existing notice rules. School board watchers are wise to keep an eye on this whole topic -- there are condo tower developers salivating over Lincoln High School, school board headquarters, and other school properties -- but in this case, the watchdogs appear to have sounded a false alarm.

UPDATE, 5:52 p.m.: Or maybe not. One commenter to this post suggests that further changes are quietly being discussed.

Lean Cuisine -- now with bits of blue plastic

So don't eat it.

PSU on Portland population: City didn't give us the numbers

We revealed yesterday that the population of the City of Portland didn't grow at all in the year ended July 1, according to preliminary data released by the Portland State population research center. We e-mailed that group to ask if there wasn't some clerical mistake. We just got a response, and there's no mistake. But the reason the number didn't change is curious:

If we do not receive housing and population data from city staff, we hold the city's population constant from the previous year. We send an annual questionnaire requesting the data, and follow-up with reminder messages if we have not received the completed questionnaire.

Risa Swirsky Proehl
Population Estimates Program Manager/Demographic Analyst
Population Research Center
Portland State University

Are the cities and towns writing their own numbers when it comes to the annual PSU population report? That doesn't sound too scientific. No wonder the U.S. Census Bureau's numbers are different.

If I were the Queen of Spain

... I wouldn't give interviews.

Feels like home

I see that Don "the Don" Mazziotti, the Goldschmidt protege who ruled the Portland Development Commission through the Vera Katz years, is really ramping his local maneuverings back up. His reappearance comes several years after his unceremonious departure from his PDC gig when the agency went under new management at the hands of Grampy Potter. For a while there, the Don was working for the Harold Schnitzer real estate firm, but that must be over, because now he is sowing his oats in the public sector again. Big time.

Not only is the Don the lead huckster for the Merritt Paulson $85 million* stadium-parking lot scam, but he's also just been named to the board of the Portland Family of Funds (PFF). That's the shadowy private company that was "spun off" from the PDC with public money during the Don's PDC tenure, with ambitions to become a billion-dollar "community investment bank." Lately, it siphons off tax credits for projects like the toney Gerding theater in the Pearl District -- millions of dollars in federal "new markets" tax credits that were meant to rebuild low-income areas of town.

The PFF has always had a funny odor about it. Its first CEO was a guy named Norris Lozano, who, like the Don, was not a well-liked fellow. Lozano had a checkered past when it came to finances, and at one point the state taxing authorities were after him for some serious back taxes. He parted company with the PFF about a year ago, and was last reported running a real estate financing outfit in Santa Monica.

Lozano's replacement as the PFF CEO is Carl Talton, who also happens to be a founder and the current board chairman of the PFF. Talton worked for Portland utility companies for three decades and served as chair of the PDC from 1995 to 1998. He retired from the PDC board, and Katz replaced him with Matt Hennessee, who was chair when the Don was the CEO at PDC. Since then, Talton has been a regular appointee to various state boards; Governor Ted must love him (or fear him, or at least need him).

Joining Talton and the Don on the PFF board are none other than Hank "Convention Center Hotel" Ashforth; Marty Brantley, the Channel 12 exec who among many other board appointments sat on the PDC board with Talton; and Les Fahey, a former CPA and current business consultant.

That's it -- just those five guys, according to the PFF website. Controlling tens of millions in tax dollars, in a private company. And the CEO answering to a board of which he is also the chair. Wow.

Any time I prowl around the internet looking for the lowdown on the PFF, I find something interesting. The latest thing I've noticed is that it's a "mutual benefit corporation," which as I understand it is sort of like a business league. It's a nonprofit organization, in that it doesn't have shareholders, but unlike a public benefit corporation, it does have "members." I wonder who those members are.

The other thing that you never hear discussed is that a lot of the tax credits that the PFF throws around get spent in New York. It crows about its latest allocation of tax credits -- $65 million, awarded last year -- but according to this press release on a deal it closed this past summer, half of the tax credits "are reserved for projects in New York."

The last couple of years of the Don's tenure at the PDC were a laugh riot. That agency single-handedly kept the local blogosphere buzzing for months on end. Expense account abuses, executive coaching excesses, rigged public processes, scathing criticism from the City Club, sex scandals -- it was quite a scene. And the fun appears to be on the verge of resuming. With the Don now on board at the PFF, and Sam the Tram about to take over Vera's old desk and pump the PDC full of his and her real estate buds, it's going to be quite a wild ride.

* Preliminary liars' budget figure.

Monday, November 17, 2008

What sheriff's deputies do during their shifts

It's not like in Barney Fife's day.

Portland's pork wish list

Off to Congress we go, looking for a few hundred million for public works projects. Not a bad idea, I suppose, but boy, they sure do give those infernal streetcars prominent play, while the Sellwood Bridge replacement is an afterthought, way down the list.

Lots of lies in the liars' budgets, of course. The eastside streetcar "will generate $1.5 billion in private investments along the line." Uh huh. This will occur shortly after monkeys fly out of my derriere.

The Buckman community center is in there, though -- that one's long overdue. Sadly, there won't be enough for everything, and it's easy to see what will be cut from the list once the fiscal realities become apparent. Hint: It won't be anything shiny that sells high-rise apartments.

UPDATE, 9:47 p.m.: Well, that was fast. Suddenly the Trib story linked to in this post has been changed, and far from wearing the optimism that it did a half hour ago, it now leads with the news that no major federal funding for these projects can be expected in the lame duck session of Congress. Well, of course not. I assumed that the plan was to get the pork out of the next Congress, which will be ladling it out liberally.

Tell it like it is

I trust the ratings of S&P and Moody's Investor Services about as much as a lab rat would trust a research biologist.

Bubbling over

These are hard times for residential real estate, that's for sure. Builders, realtors, flippers, people trying to sell, people trying to borrow and buy, mortgage peddlers, publishers of real estate ads -- they're all suffering. So much so that the Street of Dreams may be downsizing to the Street of Particle Board Apartments.

But hey, the entrepreneurial spirit lives on. One area realtor is showing awareness of the current realities by compiling and posting a database of desperate sellers who have been waiting a long time for anything like their asking prices. That SoWhat condo they wanted $1.2 million for in March 2007? They'll take $800,000 for it now -- probably a fair amount less.

Meanwhile, an alert reader sends us a link to this little stinker in the shadow of the aerial tram [rim shot] in Lair Hill. Originally listed at $429,900, it's now down to $299,900 -- a 30 percent price cut, and still languishing, apparently. The ghosts of that once picturesque neighborhood are laughing.

City of Portland's population has stopped growing, says PSU

The population experts at Portland State University have released new preliminary estimates of the populations of Oregon's counties and cities as of July 1, 2008. For Portland, they're showing 568,380 residents as of that date. Funny thing -- that is the exact same number PSU reported for July 1, 2007 (see page 18 of this document).

Unless there's some mistake, PSU is saying that the city's population growth over the 12 months ended July 1, 2008 was zero. Multnomah County grew by 1.1 percent, to 717,880 from 710,025 residents, but none of the growth was in the City of Portland?

That can't be right. Look for a correction from the PSU statistical wizards shortly. My guess is that the city will show about the same growth rate as the county.

Hillary's problem

She'd make an excellent secretary of state, but her and her husband's crooked ways with money are a little too obvious.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

They should have called it the 2009 Confusion

The hybrid Cadillac Escalade.

Proud to be an dolt

Republicans who are wondering what happened to their party need look no further than guys like this fellow. He still doesn't get it.

Another reason to not want to be President

No e-mail.

For Sunday morning

For more, or if you can't see the video, go here.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Should Portland join in begging for a pension bailout?

The cities of Philadelphia, Atlanta, and Phoenix are pounding on Congress' door this weekend, crying out for billions of federal dollars to help alleviate budget problems being caused by their large unfunded pension liabilities -- the expensive contract promises they once made to now-retired city employees. These cities have some money put aside to pay the pensions, but the numbers of retirees are swelling, and the obligations to pay each of them a set amount every month for life are beginning to have a serious impact on the municipalities' budgets.

In one important sense, Portland is worse off than any of these three cities, because Portland has nothing put away to pay its retired and disabled police and firefighters, except for those hired in the last two years. Portland's unfunded liability for these pensions currently stands at nearly $2.5 billion, and the city's got to come up with it all on a pay-as-you-go basis. In other words, the money goes straight from property tax collections in any given year to the retirees and their spouses who are still alive and collecting that year. Nothing is put away for the future.

When you stack the Portland pension liability next to those of Philadelphia, Atlanta, and Phoenix, Portland's is by far the worst on a per-resident basis. According to a recent study by the Economy League of Greater Philadelphia, sponsored by the Pew Charitable Trust, here is the comparison of the three cities currently asking for bailouts -- and I've added Portland's picture in at the bottom. The Pew report uses "the most recent available audited financial statements," which I take to mean as of June 30, 2007; I use Portland's from that date:

CityUnfunded actuarial accrued liabilityPopulationUAAL per capita
Atlanta$1,275,249,000486,411$2,621.75
Philadelphia$3,915,200,0001,448,394$2,703.13
Phoenix$425,368,0001,512,986$281.14
Portland$1,919,501,000568,380$3,377.14

Of course, given the financial disasters of the past couple of months, things have gotten worse for all these cities, but it's clear that Portland's pension picture is as bleak as any. Of the 10 cities profiled in the Pew report, only Boston, at $3,589.54 per capita, was deeper in hock than Portland.

And so rather than traipsing off to Prague to watch them build streetcars, shouldn't Sam the Tram be taking a less glamorous sojourn to D.C., and leaning on Earl the Pearl and Gatsby Wyden to fork over some dough before we join Philadelphia in the Big Financial Flush?

On the other hand, what the heck? Maybe it's better to let the city go bankrupt in a decade or so and get rid of the spendy government pensions that way. If the police and firefighters don't think it can happen, they ought to check with their uncles, the airline pilots, who found out the hard way about unfunded pension obligations.

The latest from Pill Hill

We noted this week that OHSU is asking the upcoming session of the Oregon Legislature for tens of millions of dollars for construction of a new campus in the SoWhat District in Southwest Portland. Although officials at the medical school have provided few details about the proposed development, sources tell us that the plans are well along in the drafting.

Coming soon to OMSI: Apartment towers

There's another public-private partnership being hatched in Portland. This time it's at the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry, which is always tottering on the brink of financial disaster. It's all pretty vague for the moment -- a half billion or so is the initial liars' budget -- but you can smell the Gerding Edlen all the way from the aerial tram.

The timing of this, of course, is breathtaking. OMSI should run an exhibit on delusion. It would be cheap -- they could just replace the walls around their executive offices with glass panels.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Have a great weekend


Are you, or have you ever been, a blogger?

I'm withdrawing my name from consideration for a position in the Obama cabinet. I don't have time to answer the 63-part questionnaire -- particularly question 10.

Echoes of hate

The 20th anniversary this week of the beating death of Ethiopian student Mulugeta Seraw at the hands of racist skinheads on Southeast 31st Avenue in Portland is prompting some remembrances of that event and the sensational legal actions that followed. Meanwhile, Morris Dees, one of the key lawyers in the case, is busy trying a similar one in Kentucky. Alas, there's a guy with job security.

Plot thickens -- slightly -- in Chasse killing case

The Multnomah County district attorney's office says it's looking into the apparent change of story by Portland police officer Christopher Humphreys concerning the senseless killing of James Chasse a couple of years ago. If Humphreys is proven to have lied to investigators, he could face police discipline and even criminal charges.

But before getting too excited, consider that the Multnomah d.a.'s office is a complete black hole when it comes to police wrongdoing. They never find fault with the men in blue, no matter how egregious the misconduct.

I hope Obama gives Oregon a U.S. attorney who won't be afraid to come in and break up some of the gangs that run this town. Or maybe Kroger will do something.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Change they can't believe in

The Green Dragon Pub in inner Southeast Portland is reportedly about to be bought out by Rogue Brewing, and among the city's beer cognoscenti, worry about this development seems to be the order of the day.

Turnaround artist

A friend of mine, Richard Harris, has had this day named in his honor by Portland Mayor Tom Potter. Harris has been doing great work for many years as the head of Central City Concern, a nonprofit outfit that not only detoxifies the inebriates found on the city's sidewalks, but also helps thousands of people get out of addiction and into decent jobs, homes, health care, and lives.

Harris is retiring from the directorship of CCC this year. He's currently serving as the interim director of the state's Addictions and Mental Health Division while the search goes on for a leader to fill that position permanently. A good man.

Fireman Randy: Cops need a blog

That and his other perceptions about that certain bureau that he's not going to run are published today in a new report.

Portland debt clock ratchets up for bad pension news

As reported here yesterday, the City of Portland has announced to the world that it had been underestimating the magnitude of its unfunded liability for pension and disability obligations to its police and firefighters. According to the latest pronouncement from the city, prior figures (about $1.9 billion as of July 1, 2007) understated the liability by anywhere from 13 to 20 percent.

To reflect the new, grimmer reality, we have increased the unfunded pension liability on our City of Portland debt clock (in the left sidebar of this blog) by the low end of this projection, 13 percent. In about a month, the city will reveal its revised estimate of the actual unfunded liability, and we can "true up" to official July 1, 2008 numbers (which will probably be higher) at that time.

With the change in place, unfunded pension and disability liabilities and retiree healthcare subsidy liabilities now total approximately $2.47 billion. Overall city long-term debt is now about $5.41 billion, or roughly $9,375 for every resident of the city.

Gulp.

"I was doing a very good job at not overtly noticing her lack of arms"

A great blog story here.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Aaa, FWIW

The City of Portland's new bonds -- borrowing around $15 million to pay for fire station upgrades -- will bear the highest rating, Aaa, according to Moody's. So reports the city's debt manager, Eric Johansen. The bonds are scheduled to be sold next week.

Unlike most of the nearly $3 billion in bonds that the city has outstanding, these will be "general obligation" bonds, which means that the city is promising to raise whatever taxes may be necessary to pay them off. That gives Moody's comfort.

Of course, if Moody's bond ratings really were reliable, the nation's financial markets wouldn't be in the tank. A lot of paper that was rated "Aaa" a year ago has gone bad, wickely bad. As one large institutional investment manager recently put it, bond ratings are basically "comparing b.s. to more b.s." Nonetheless, a top rating is better than a lower rating, everything else being equal.

Speaking of which, a whole slew of outstanding Portland bonds were downgraded last week, because the bond insurance companies from whom the city bought default insurance have themselves taken serious turns for the worse. Now a bunch of Portland debt that was once rated Aaa has been pushed a few notches or more down from the top of the ratings -- mostly in the Aa range, but one A3 and another Baa1. The insurance companies' ratings (Baa1) are now mostly lower than those the city would have gotten without the insurance, and so the hefty premiums that were paid for those insurance policies have now become a waste of money (at least from the bondholders' standpoint).

The downgraded bond issues include:

Sewer System Revenue Bonds (underlying rating Aa3)
Water System Revenue Bonds (Aa2)
Limited Tax Revenue Bonds (General) (Aa1)
Limited Tax Revenue Bonds (Visitor Develop. Initiative) (Aa1)
Limited Tax Pension Obligation Revenue Bonds (Aa1)
Limited Tax Improvement Bond (Aa1)
Airport Way Urban Renewal and Redevelopment Bonds (Aa3)
Oregon Convention Center Urban Renewal and Redevelopment Bonds (Aa3)
South Park Blocks Urban Renewal and Redevelopment Bonds (Aa3)
Downtown Waterfront Urban Renewal and Redevelopment Bonds (Aa3)
River District Urban Renewal and Redevelopment Bonds (A3)
Limited Tax Housing Revenue Bonds (Aa1)
Hydroelectric Power Revenue Refunding Bonds (Baa1)

The official bad news from the city can be found here.

Borrowing money is becoming really, really expensive for Portland. Maybe we don't need new streetcars and a new minor league stadium right now.

Colwood Golf Course: The Empire strikes back

This just in from a reader who is involved in the fight to keep the Colwood Golf Course in Northeast Portland as a greenspace instead of paving it over for airport industrial:

I came home to a letter from Ball Janik today... the Colwood Partnership is appealing the City Council decision denying their rezoning request to the Land Use Board of Appeal.

Gotta hand it to the Port, they don't give up easily...


New cop union boss: Officers who killed Chasse were in the right

Nothing like showing the rank and file what a tough guy you are over the body of a skinny, mentally ill guy who was brutally and needlessly killed by a notorious "thumper" on the force. For shame.

Wall Street bailout, Plan D

King Paulson has now changed his mind yet again about what we're supposed to do to save the economy. Pretty edgy, for a financial savior.

U.S. adds $1.2 trillion to national debt in under six months

Better have the kids learn some Chinese.

As Dr. Demento is to music...?

The next National Security Advisor may be a well known Reedie.

Apocalypse? Not now.

So far this year, temperatures in the United States have been mostly below normal.

Portland pension liability may jump $400 million overnight

It's a heck of a time to be borrowing money, but the City of Portland is back at the Wall Street well, looking to borrow more than $15 million to fix up and rebuild a few fire stations. These will be "general obligation" bonds -- meaning the city agrees to pay in all events, come hell or high water -- and if they don't get a top rating from the trained bunglers brilliant analysts at Moody's, that will be big news.

But rating aside, the sales document for the new bonds contains a startling revelation about the city's unfunded liability for police and fire pension and disability benefits. As regular readers of this blog know, the last time the city estimated this unfunded liability, as of June 30, 2007, it stood at about $1.9 billion. Projecting the normal rate at which this amount has grown over the years, and adding in around $90 million of health care subsidies for retired city workers, our debt clock puts the frightening number at nearly $2.2 billion as of today.

But as it turns out, that estimate is way low, because the city's about to "restate" the police and fire pension liability at a much higher figure. The bond sales document explains:

As of June 30, 2007, the City’s actuary estimated that the unfunded actuarial liability of the FPDR Fund was $1.9 billion. That liability was calculated using a discount rate of 6.04 percent. The City has been reviewing and revising the discount rate and assumptions utilized in the calculations of the actuarial valuation, actuarial accrued pension liabilities, and net pension obligation, to match more closely the funding and investment returns that could be achieved given current economic conditions. In 2005, the FPDR Fund’s actuary used a discount rate of 6.63 percent to value the FPDR Fund, and in 2006 the FPDR Fund’s actuary used a discount rate of 6.04 percent. Based on discussions with the FPDR Fund’s actuary, the City may further reduce the discount rate used to value the FPDR Fund liabilities to a rate of between 4.5 and 5.0 percent. This change is projected to result in an increase to the unfunded actuarial liability of the FPDR Fund of between 13 and 20 percent. Any such change is expected to be reflected in the City's June 30, 2008, financial statements currently being finalized.
If we throw, say, an additional 18.25 percent onto the prior projections, the unfunded liability is more like $2.6 billion than $2.2 billion. Which means that the prior accounting was $400 million off. With a stroke of the pen, that's roughly another $700 in present value -- essentially another $700 on the credit card balance -- for every man, woman, and child who lives in the city. (The total city debt would sit at about $9,600 per person, and be heading toward $10,000 fast.)

Even if every police officer and firefighter in the system quit working today, the city would have to put $2.6 billion away in today's dollars to be sure there was enough to pay eventually all the pension and disability benefits that it already owes them all. Keep in mind, there has been no money put aside to pay this debt -- nada. It's all going to be paid off with future property taxes. Have a nice day, and remember, go by streetcar!

Missing persons

Zillionaire sports team owner Mark Cuban has some advice for Obama: Get some real entrepreneurs on your economic team.

Barbie: Bratz dolls must be destroyed!

Literally.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Get along, little doggies

Last weekend was a total bust in the pro football Underdog Pool in which I play. There were only two underdog winners -- Denver and the Giants -- and no one in the pool had either of them. And so I remain in second place, with a few other players breathing down my neck.

Several commenters on this blog liked the Giants, and one even had the Broncos on his list of four 'dogs with potential. Being a "value investor," I went with the lowly Lions, who weren't even decent.

It's Week 11, and although we're past the halfway point of the season, it's still not time to rest on my laurels. It's a 17-week regular season, and we play into the playoffs. I need the underdog (in caps on this list) who will win its game outright, without the benefit of the point spread. If I'm right, I get that many points toward my cumulative season total (currently at 34):

14 DETROIT at Carolina
11 OAKLAND at Miami
9 CINCINNATI vs. Philadelphia
8.5 HOUSTON at Indianapolis
7 ST. LOUIS at San Francisco
6.5 BALTIMORE at NY Giants
6 DENVER at Atlanta
4.5 KANSAS CITY vs. New Orleans
4.5 CLEVELAND at Buffalo
4.5 SAN DIEGO at Pittsburgh
4 MINNESOTA at Tampa Bay
3.5 NY JETS at New England (Thursday)
3 JACKSONVILLE vs. Tennessee
2.5 SEATTLE vs. Arizona

Readers, whom do you like in that pack? My first impression is that Houston, Baltimore, or Denver might be worth a shot. If I wanted to play safe, Jacksonville at home looks good, but I wouldn't go with that unless no other underdog shows enough promise. What do you think? (BTW, leaving the pool aside, there are a few interesting contests on this slate, aren't there?)

UPDATE, 11/13, 10:31 a.m.: Late add:

1.5 WASHINGTON vs. Dallas

UPDATE, 11/14, 4:40 a.m.: And:

3.5 CHICAGO at Green Bay

For taxes, Portland is world-class

Remember Portland Mayor-Elect Sam the Tram's 20-cent plastic grocery bag tax? We assume it's still on the drawing boards. Meanwhile, a similar plan is meeting some resistance in New York City -- and there, city officials are proposing just a 6-cent tax per bag.

Salem suddenly awash with cash for toys

In Oregon, forestry is a wonderful science. Recent advances by the state's arborists have culminated in the development of new species of trees on which money grows. There's no other way to explain this week's news rolling out of Salem.

First we've got the governor's plan to increase gas taxes and vehicle registration fees to raise hundreds of millions of dollars to pay for transportation projects. Now, a lot of that makes sense, as those charges haven't been increased in years, even for routine inflation, and it doesn't take too long a drive in most parts of the state to come upon a road or a bridge that's fallen into disrepair. But it's the fine print that drives you nuts: "He also would borrow $600 million, raise the tobacco tax by 2½ cents and take $16 million in lottery money to pay for railroad, mass transit and port projects."

Ah, yes. Those "port projects." Hey, Governor Ted, come on. At least if we're talking about the Port of Portland (run top to bottom by the governor's cronies), it's a cash cow. They've got money for a completely unnecessary new office building out at the airport, and a costly headquarters move -- let them find their own pork. And "mass transit"? No doubt more streetcars to try to save the moribund condo-oops-apartment developer set, and too late at that. Just what we need.

Then there are the good old boys at Oregon Health and Sciences University and Health Club, who have their hand out for a huge pile of dough to build their dream campus down in the failed mud pit known as the SoWhat District:

The immediate translation: On top of its inflation-adjusted base appropriation from the state -- $88 million -- OHSU is asking Gov. Ted Kulongoski to request an additional $40 million to plug the medical school funding gap, plus $10 million for programs designed to address a looming shortage of doctors and nurses, particularly in rural areas of the state....

OHSU hopes the state will tap its borrowing capacity to stimulate OHSU construction on Portland's South Waterfront. Specifically, the university is asking the state to issue $175 million in bonds -- paid back by taxpayers -- to help fund the first building in a new South Waterfront medical campus. OHSU has a $40 million anonymous gift to use on the project, and hopes the collaborative nature of the project -- the building would house programs from all the major schools in the Oregon University System -- will persuade the Legislature to chip in.

Recession? What recession?

When the tighty righties complain about the "tax, borrow, and spend" cycle that the Democratic Party usually brings us, I'm usually not impressed. At least the Democrats spend money on helping people, rather than killing them. And by adding taxes to the Republican mix of "borrow and spend," at least the blue lawmakers make a gesture toward fiscal responsibility.

But when you see us go deep into hock for junk projects like a new Port of Portland headquarters, miles and miles of spendy streetcar toys, and Oz-like palaces for the rich docs at OHSU, you feel a little ashamed of how our "progressive" leaders act -- and to whom they answer -- once they get themselves elected.

You kids with no medical care: Hang in there, we'll get to you... eventually.

They can run, but they can't hide

Once you've Googled somebody, and run them through Zaba, here's a new place to track them down: 123people.com.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Latest bankruptcy: Circuit City

Only the strong will survive this recession.

Height of absurdity

This is sick on too many levels to count.

OnPoint update reflects continued hard times

We continue our series of quarterly snapshots of the operating results at OnPoint Community Credit Union -- a barometer of the economic times in Portland's neighborhoods. As might be expected, the third quarter (ended September 30) was pretty rough, and of course, that's before Black October set in.

The financials show ever more loan delinquency, and other investments that are losing value as well. The whole sad story, as officially reported to the National Credit Union Administration, is in this Excel file. Here are the numbers that we've been following with our untrained eye over the past year:

Item9/30/076/30/089/30/08Quarterly increase (decrease)12-month increase (decrease)
Total investments$239,660,803$298,019,625$246,342,512(17.34%)2.79%
Federal agency securities$97,766,028$153,595,595$140,786,482(8.34%)44.00%
Total reportable delinquency - total delinquent loans$3,525,641$9,944,789$14,302,88443.82%305.68%
Total reportable delinquency - indirect lending$1,659,211$3,736,341$977,090(73.85%)(41.11%)
Total outstanding loan balances subject to bankruptcies$4,595,702$6,218,843$9,979,22060.47%117.14%
Ratio of delinquent loans to total loans (percent)0.170.450.63    
Ratio of total delinquent loans to net worth (percent)1.564.095.74   

Delinquent loans are those delinquent for two months or more.

Year-to-date net income for the quarter ended September 30 was $16,329,466, down 18.12% from the same quarter last year ($19,943,990). For the second straight quarter, deposits fell, from $2,278,482,461 to $2,221,206,727 -- a 2.51% drop. Deposits a year earlier were $2,236,379,220, and thus for the year deposits fell 0.68%.

Do it right

I see that OHSU has come to its senses and is agreeing to a $2 million liability cap to replace the obscene $200,000 malpractice limit that the Oregon courts have tossed out.

It's about time.

But please, please, please, Oregon Legislature: When you enact the $2 million cap, set it so that it is automatically indexed for inflation every year. May I suggest that the adjustment be based on the cost of medical care?

Failure to increase the cap routinely for inflation is the root cause of the current supposed crisis in OHSU liability exposure. It is really, really easy to fix.

Paulson stadium in Lents would need huge parking lot

The insanity of Portland taxpayers forking over $85 million or more in the middle of a recession to re-do PGE Park yet again, and to build a new minor league baseball stadium out in Lents Park, defies description. One aspect of the plan that's gotten little attention is the fact that the new stadium in Lents will need at least 1,500 new parking spaces, if not more.

The paradise-paving need was discussed at an October meeting of the Portland Parks Board, where Henry Merritt Paulson III and his local henchman, former PDC boss Don "the Don" Mazziotti, made their snake oil pitch. The minutes are here; among them are these nuggets:

Don Mazziotti said the footprint for the stadium wouldn’t be as large as one for a major league team, but it would be about twice as big as the baseball stadium in Keizer. They need a minimum of seven acres, with direct access to light rail, available business services, and good automobile access....

Mary Anne Cassin asked how many jobs would be coming to the area that would support the Beavers move. Greg Peden said most of the jobs would be employees moving from their current jobs at PGE Park. Other jobs could come from businesses moving near the ballpark, or businesses already located nearby who would see an increase in their business, i.e. restaurants.

Mary Anne also asked if there was any flexibility in the number of parking spots required. Merritt said a minimum of 1500 spots is needed, maybe more....

Zari said that Don Mazziotti has met several times with Comm. Saltzman. She said that other sports fields and users would need to be accommodated if this project is to work. However, she said Comm. Saltzman spoke about how this project sets a precedent with regard to losing open space and allowing additional parking in a park. Zari said there needs to be no net loss to PP&R, as Lents is already in a park deficient area.

Fifteen hundred parking spaces? Whoa! Just by way of comparison, the long-term lot at the Portland Airport holds only 1,400.

Notice how weak the "jobs" claim is: Most of the new jobs will come from cannibalizing existing jobs at PGE Park. The rest is supposed to trickle down to restaurants and similar businesses around the new Lents ballpark. Really? How many restaurant jobs in the vicinity of PGE Park are the Beavers responsible for now?

Meanwhile, the "major" soccer league that Paulson and the city are courting for the latest remodel of PGE continues to limp along on the margins of viability:

This season the league suffered its first decline in average regular-season attendance and television viewership on ESPN2 in three years. Half the teams in the league saw a decline in average attendance in 2008, causing the league’s average attendance to fall by 1.8 percent, or to 16,459 a game.
Fireman Randy and Sam the Tram are so enamored of this project -- but then again, they loved the idea of moving the Sauvie Island Bridge to the Pearl District for a bicycle bridge. They were talked out of that one -- let's hope they come to their senses on this, too. Let's not blow nine figures and pave over a park for two sports stadiums to accommodate a soccer team in a second- or third-tier league that's going nowhere fast.

And let's be clear on where the pressure is coming from on this. It's not just Paulson who will make out on the deal -- there are doubtlessly some fat-cat construction companies who will also go to the bank with the city taxpayers' dough. A true Arlington Club special.

Historic transition meeting


A nation of laws no more

Bush and his Pentagon order U.S. military invasions of any old country any time they want. Remember Congressional declarations of war? How quaint.

Let the games begin

The 2008 Weblog Awards

Here's a place to go to nominate your favorite blogs (cough) for honors. Voting on the nominees (being named now) will begin in early December.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Ooooops!

Here's an interesting Twitter post from Aaron Hockley:

The pyrotechnics at Trans Siberian Orchestra have set off the Rose Garden fire alarm system throughout the building.

Oregon State Bar site hacked?

An alert reader reported this morning that the Oregon State Bar website had been hacked. He sends along this screenshot of what it looked like before it was fixed.

Shower the people

Politicians in Jersey City, N.J. often go to jail. But it is the first time I can recall one being locked up for this.

Dad's little sleeping bag deal

Here's an insider's view of a genuine piece of Portland business history.

Well now, everybody, have you heard?

Darwin's buddies need a helping hand, and may soon be getting it.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Technical difficulties

I'm trying to watch the end of the Blazer game, and the signal's breaking up badly. Is this my ancient TV, something going on with Comcast, or a KGW problem? It's crunch time in the fourth quarter -- what a time for the feed to go kerblooey.

Data breach at OnPoint Credit Union

We got this in the mail today.

Span plans that you can scan

If you haven't been following the Sellwood Bridge replacement saga because you couldn't bear to go to all the meetings, now's your chance to see what they're planning, from the comfort of your computer. The county just put out a draft environmental impact statement, and it's chock full of interesting stuff about the future of that Willamette River crossing. The whole raft of documents is here; an interesting chapter that holds the options up side-by-side (replete with photos and diagrams) is this one.

Oh, and if you've got half a billion lying around to pay for it, they give an address where you can send it in.

And I almost drove off the road

Heard on the radio in the car yesterday: Christmas music.

Dumb and mean, to the bitter end

Now that the election is behind us and they don't need to help McCain any more, the Bush bureaucrats will be delivering their farewell shots in the form of nasty new regulations. Poor people, bend over.

Community service

Here's a law prof whose blog made a real difference on Tuesday.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Our new state of mind

Tonight we had a little Obama victory party:


Have a great weekend


Hello down there!

We just had a visitor to this site from O'Brien, Oregon.

Off to a great start

Our new President-elect is pretty darn good when he's off the teleprompter, too.

Which 'dog will hunt?

Still looking for sage advice on this weekend's pro football games. I need an underdog who can win its game outright. I'm thinking Niners over Cards; Lions over Jags; Oakland over Carolina; or Seattle over Miami. Any thoughts on those four? I can pick only one, of course.

If elections were horsehoes

What did I tell you in the wee small hours of Wednesday? Jeff Merkley won the U.S. Senate seat, and the suspense was because of the time it was taking to count votes in Multnomah County.

But what I wasn't able to predict with accuracy was the margin of victory. By the time they finished tallying up votes yesterday, Merkley had beaten incumbent Gordon Smith by 52,000 votes. On Wednesday afternoon, my projection was 15,000; and later on Wednesday, 35,000.

I did about the same on Measure 64, which I thought would fail by fewer than 10,000 votes. It wasn't as close as I thought, but it was close nonetheless -- fewer than 17,000 votes out of nearly 1.6 million.

This was my first attempt at amateur election-calling, and although I came up with a pretty good crude projection system -- looking at Multnomah County on the one hand, and the rest of the state on the other -- I see now that something a little more detailed is called for. What I should have done was go through the turnout and interim vote tallies on a county-by-county basis. And in these days of quick internet reporting of results and spreadsheet programs, that's actually doable from a blogger's armchair.

Next time there's a close statewide race, I hope to be able to say "I told you so" not only as to the winner but also as to the margin. For the wonkier out there, I may even post the spreadsheet as we go along with the count.

The internet age is an amazing time.

Brown and Westlund were no Barack Obamas

Now that we know who won everything in Oregon, it's interesting to leaf through the results and compare margins of victory. Obama absolutely stomped McCain in the Beaver State -- 56.64 percent to 40.56 percent. But that 16-percentage-point victory was not matched by two Democrats running for statewide office.

In the race for Secretary of State, Kate Brown defeated Rick Dancer (who ran a pretty good TV ad, I thought) by 50.97 percent to 45.93 percent -- only a 5 percent margin. In the race for State Treasurer, Ben Westlund defeated Allen Alley by 51.11 percent to 45.32 percent -- less than 6 percent between them.

And so not only were there a surprising number of Obama-Smith voters, but there also were a fair number who voted Obama-Smith-Dancer-Alley. On the whole, it seems to us that Oregonians really didn't like McCain or really loved Obama -- enough to get quite a few conservatives to jump ship, but at the top of the ticket only.

Breaking news: Bush rescue effort a confused mess

Wherein Wall Street finds much in common with Bourbon Street.

Hold the fondue

Yesterday we got in the mail one of those cellophane-wrapped packages of postcards advertising local businesses. As I opened the package and flipped through the glossy cards on the way to the recycling bin, it occurred to me that many of the retailers with coupons in this pack probably were skating on thin ice these days.

Clothing boutiques. Home remodelers. Furniture shops. Car dealerships. Theater companies. Fancy restaurants.

"Here's one," I said to the Mrs. as I held up a card. "'Urban Fondue.' I don't know -- in an economic downturn, one of the first things to think about cutting out is the fondue."

It's a heck of a bad time to be selling luxuries, or even high-end versions of essentials. Nordstrom got killed in October, with same-store sales down 15.7 percent.

Whole Foods also took a beating. Their problems may stem more from their recent acquisition of Wild Oats than from customer defections, but still, identical-store sales in October were down 3.3 percent from 2007. Not to mention that they got sued last week for price gouging.

Even Costco's same-store sales were down 1 percent from the same month a year before. Folks are sucking in their guts and making do with less. A lot are probably wondering what kind of fondue you can make out of government cheese.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Now they can retire

From what I've been reading and hearing, as President, Barack Obama will appoint successors to three U.S. Supreme Court justices: Ruth Ginsburg, John Paul Stevens, and David Souter. And who knows? Maybe others.

Yoo hoo! B.! I'm available!

The Sam and Randy Show, Episode 267

The plot thickens on the Henry Merritt Paulson III sports stadium scam -- another $100 million on the backs of Portland taxpayers, for another worthless white elephant. Now Mayor-elect Sam the Tram wants to put the new stadium where the Memorial Coliseum is presently. There must be some developer ready to make a killing in that neighborhood -- probably old Joe Weston -- and of course, there isn't a real estate sharpie in town that the new mayor won't do flips for.

The central location might gain a little more support from the public than the previously proposed placement in the Lents neighborhood, but if Lents is left out, will Fireman Randy, the city's new expert on sports franchises, go along with the deal?

In any event, it appears the City Fathers have decided that we're going deep into hock and buying yet another civic stadium -- now they're just squabbling about where it's going to go. It's a good thing we just voted to spend more millions in the city's "children's initiative." I hope they teach the kids how to live in a bankrupt city that can't afford even a decent level of basic services -- because that is where Portland is surely heading. Go by streetcar!

One-shot deal?

My friend Steve Stark, who kept tabs on the Presidential campaign from start to finish, has some interesting reflections on what the election means for future contests:

Yes, Obama carried Virginia for the Democrats for the first time since 1964, and Colorado for only the third time since 1952, as well as North Carolina and Indiana. The Southwest also leaned more toward the left than it has in the recent past, turning those states into toss-ups in future elections.

Obama's victory in some formerly red states is the culmination of long-standing demographic shifts that have seen more liberal voters move into traditionally conservative territory, such as northern Virginia and parts of North Carolina. So the Democrats seemingly have begun to secure footholds in these regions.

The problem for the Dems is that the 2010 census and the re-drawing of the political map that follows are likely to nullify some of these gains. It's estimated that Texas is likely to pick up three electoral votes in the next census; Florida could increase its total by two, and Arizona, Georgia, California, Nevada, and Utah may each gain one. The loser states are likely to be New York and Ohio, dropping two each, and Illinois, Iowa, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Missouri, and Pennsylvania each losing one.

That translates into roughly a 10-vote gain for the Republicans. That might not seem like much, but in a close election it could tip the balance.

The full column is here.

Change you can get wet in

Fall is falling, all right. Last night the jack-o'-lanterns that were turning into moldy mush on the front porch got tossed. One went into the worm compost bin and the other into the yard debris cart, for the city to take in the morning. Meanwhile, the Mrs. toasted up a bunch of the seeds that had come out of said pumpkins, with some fine seasonings on them. Great snacking material.

We'll need all the treats we can get now. Darkness is falling mighty early each day, and will do so for the next three or four months. And we just pulled out a winter jacket -- it's not supposed to break 50 tomorrow.

Our littler one told us today that she wants some ski poles.

Another bright idea from Miss Congeniality

Too funny. Sarah Palin wanted to give a speech before McCain on Tuesday night. McCain's people told her what America had just told them about her: No way.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Read the whole thing


Photo courtesy Jared Wilson.
Hello, Chicago.

If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible; who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time; who still questions the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer.

It's the answer told by lines that stretched around schools and churches in numbers this nation has never seen; by people who waited three hours and four hours, many for the very first time in their lives, because they believed that this time must be different; that their voice could be that difference.

It's the answer spoken by young and old, rich and poor, Democrat and Republican, black, white, Latino, Asian, Native American, gay, straight, disabled and not disabled – Americans who sent a message to the world that we have never been a collection of Red States and Blue States: we are, and always will be, the United States of America.

It's the answer that led those who have been told for so long by so many to be cynical, and fearful, and doubtful of what we can achieve to put their hands on the arc of history and bend it once more toward the hope of a better day.

It's been a long time coming, but tonight, because of what we did on this day, in this election, at this defining moment, change has come to America.

I just received a very gracious call from Senator McCain. He fought long and hard in this campaign, and he's fought even longer and harder for the country he loves. He has endured sacrifices for America that most of us cannot begin to imagine, and we are better off for the service rendered by this brave and selfless leader. I congratulate him and Governor Palin for all they have achieved, and I look forward to working with them to renew this nation's promise in the months ahead.

I want to thank my partner in this journey, a man who campaigned from his heart and spoke for the men and women he grew up with on the streets of Scranton and rode with on that train home to Delaware, the Vice President-elect of the United States, Joe Biden.

I would not be standing here tonight without the unyielding support of my best friend for the last sixteen years, the rock of our family and the love of my life, our nation's next First Lady, Michelle Obama.

Sasha and Malia, I love you both so much, and you have earned the new puppy that's coming with us to the White House. And while she's no longer with us, I know my grandmother is watching, along with the family that made me who I am. I miss them tonight, and know that my debt to them is beyond measure.

To my campaign manager David Plouffe, my chief strategist David Axelrod, and the best campaign team ever assembled in the history of politics – you made this happen, and I am forever grateful for what you've sacrificed to get it done.

But above all, I will never forget who this victory truly belongs to – it belongs to you.

I was never the likeliest candidate for this office. We didn't start with much money or many endorsements. Our campaign was not hatched in the halls of Washington – it began in the backyards of Des Moines and the living rooms of Concord and the front porches of Charleston.

It was built by working men and women who dug into what little savings they had to give five dollars and ten dollars and twenty dollars to this cause. It grew strength from the young people who rejected the myth of their generation's apathy; who left their homes and their families for jobs that offered little pay and less sleep; from the not-so-young people who braved the bitter cold and scorching heat to knock on the doors of perfect strangers; from the millions of Americans who volunteered, and organized, and proved that more than two centuries later, a government of the people, by the people and for the people has not perished from this Earth. This is your victory.

I know you didn't do this just to win an election and I know you didn't do it for me. You did it because you understand the enormity of the task that lies ahead. For even as we celebrate tonight, we know the challenges that tomorrow will bring are the greatest of our lifetime – two wars, a planet in peril, the worst financial crisis in a century. Even as we stand here tonight, we know there are brave Americans waking up in the deserts of Iraq and the mountains of Afghanistan to risk their lives for us. There are mothers and fathers who will lie awake after their children fall asleep and wonder how they'll make the mortgage, or pay their doctor's bills, or save enough for college. There is new energy to harness and new jobs to be created; new schools to build and threats to meet and alliances to repair.

The road ahead will be long. Our climb will be steep. We may not get there in one year or even one term, but America – I have never been more hopeful than I am tonight that we will get there. I promise you – we as a people will get there.

There will be setbacks and false starts. There are many who won't agree with every decision or policy I make as President, and we know that government can't solve every problem. But I will always be honest with you about the challenges we face. I will listen to you, especially when we disagree. And above all, I will ask you join in the work of remaking this nation the only way it's been done in America for two-hundred and twenty-one years – block by block, brick by brick, callused hand by callused hand.

Continue reading "Read the whole thing" »

Measure 64 is close, and going to get closer

Oregon Measure 64, restricting payroll deduction of union dues from government employees, was named this blog's Most Misleading Campaign of the election, on both sides. And it's going to go right down to the bitter end of the vote count. Right now, the measure is passing statewide by around 15,000 votes. In Multnomah County, where there are still more than 100,000 votes to count, it's being rejected by a margin of 62 percent to 38 percent. Unlike Merkley-Smith, where the Multnomah vote should bring it home for the lefties, on this measure it's going to be a real squeaker.

Merkley ahead, could win by 35,000

It's taken all day, but the worm has clearly turned in the Merkley-Smith U.S. Senate race. Statewide, Merkley's now ahead, 705,961 to 701,236. There are still apparently around 125,000 votes to count in Multnomah County, and around 210,000 in the rest of the state. Merkley should win the remaining Multnomah votes by around 49,000, and Smith should win the rest by about 15,000.

The Dems won't get their filibuster-proof supermajority in the Senate, but they will very likely get Jeff Merkley joining the Senate ranks.

Gordon Smith keeps hanging on

This morning has not been kind to Jeff Merkley in his race against Gordon Smith for the U.S. Senate. Smith has increased his score in Multnomah County to 29.3 percent, and if he gets more than 30 there, it was said to be a bad sign for Merkley. New numbers from Clackamas and Washington Counties show Merkley ahead, but only by a hair, in each of those places.

Statewide totals at this hour:

Smith 628,725 47.54%
Merkley 617,883 46.72%

While we wait for further results -- now in the afternoon of the day after the election -- maybe the ardent supporters of Oregon's vote-by-mail system can tell me why, if it's so wonderful, vote-by-mail is taking so awfully long to process. It is not inspiring confidence.

UPDATE, 1:10 p.m.: I still project Merkley to win. There are still around 160,000 votes to be counted in Multnomah County, and Merkley should win those by at least a 50,000-vote margin. Outside of Multnomah County, there are around 330,000 votes left to count, and Smith should win those by around 23,000. Merkley should squeak out a win by about 15,000 votes.

UPDATE, 7:51 p.m.: It now looks as though Merkley could win by as many as 35,000 votes.

Question for Ted Wheeler

Someone should ask the Multnomah County chair what the heck the problem is with his new leadership over at the county elections bureau. Here it is quarter to one in the afternoon the day after the election, and they've managed to count only 200,601 out of the 360,551 votes cast? What's up with that?

'Dogs never sleep

This is truly a historic time. Yes, I've picked winners in the pro football Underdog Pool in which I play five weeks out of nine, putting me in second place. My secret? I shamelessly beg for advice from my readers, and they offer great tips. The sage advice of Geek Squad led me to choose the Jets over Buffalo last weekend, and sure enough, old Brett Favre came through.

The season is still young, however, and the slates of games keep a-rollin' at us. Here's this coming weekend's schedule. See any underdogs in here (in caps) who can win their games outright? The number of points is relevant in the pool only in that that's how many I will earn if I pick that 'dog and it wins its game without the benefit of any point spread. (Last week, the Jets picked up 6 for me.) Here ye be:

15.5 KANSAS CITY at San Diego
10 SAN FRANCISCO at Arizona
9.5 OAKLAND vs. Carolina
9 SEATTLE at Miami
8 ST. LOUIS at NY Jets
7 DETROIT vs. Jacksonville
4 BUFFALO at New England
3.5 DENVER at Cleveland (Thursday)
3 CHICAGO vs. Tennessee
3 NY GIANTS at Philadelphia
2.5 GREEN BAY at Minnesota
1 NEW ORLEANS at Atlanta
1 HOUSTON vs. Baltimore

The Giants -- an underdog? Arizona -- a favorite? Will the Jets follow up a nice road win with a dud performance at home in front of the Jersey Meadowlands boo birds? Should be an interesting week. Please help me out -- I'm battling other pool contestants who have supernatural powers.

Why Merkley's going to win

Last night voters went to bed thinking that the race between Gordon Smith and Jeff Merkley for Smith's U.S. Senate seat was too close to call. But a careful look indicates to me that that's probably not the case.

At this hour, the latest return numbers are on this order of magnitude, from the KGW website:

47% Gordon Smith (490250 votes)
47% Jeff Merkley (484722 votes)
6% Dave Brownlow (57778 votes)

Over on the Oregon secretary of state website, we find:

Smith 472,538 47.25%
Merkley 469,304 46.92%
Brownlow 55,649 5.56%

But those counts apparently include far less than half the vote from Multnomah County, where Merkley is winning something like 68-28%. For example, the secretary of state's numbers from Multnomah are:

Smith 36,060 27.93%
Merkley 87,756 67.96%
Brownlow 4,845 3.75%
Write-in 461 0.36%

That's a total of 129,122 votes, but in Multnomah County the official turnout page shows that there were 360,551 votes cast in that county. In other words, there are still more than 225,000 votes yet to be counted in Multnomah. Indeed, at this hour the Multnomah website itself has counted only 133,908 of the 360,551 votes cast.

If there are 200,000 Multnomah ballots still sitting in a pile, uncounted, Merkley should win those by about 136,000 to 56,000. That's an additional 80,000-vote margin. Could Smith win the rest of the uncounted votes around the state -- maybe 550,000 -- by more than that? Can Smith win the rest of the uncounted vote by 315,000 to 235,000? Keep in mind that there appear to be uncounted votes from populous Washington and Clackamas Counties in that mix, and Merkley is leading in both of those counties.

Outside of Multnomah County, the secretary of state's returns are:

Smith 436,478 50.11%
Merkley 381,458 43.80%
Brownlow 50,804 5.83%
Write-in 2,231 0.26%

At that rate, if there were 550,000 uncounted votes outside Multnomah County, Smith would win by 275,605 to 240,900 -- nowhere near the 80,000 lead that Merkley's going to pick up in Multnomah.

This is starting to sound a lot like the 2002 gubernatorial race, in which it took until the day after the election for Multnomah County to finish counting and crown Ted Kulongoski the winner. (BTW, happy 68th birthday, Governor Ted.) Unless I'm missing something, by the end of the day today Merkley will be the new U.S. senator-elect.

UPDATE, 1:27 p.m.: I'm staying with this projection. More here.

The best candidate of them all, by far

I was really wrong on this one.

A year ago, I thought there was no way that America would elect to the White House a young black man with a Muslim name.

I thought there was no way that a rookie senator from the Midwest could overcome inexperience, obscurity, and prejudice to make a strong run at the Presidency.

To me, John Edwards seemed a better candidate.

Was I ever wrong about Edwards. He proved to be a shallow, creepy little man.

Meanwhile, the fellow from the Midwest proved to be much more than he originally appeared. A stunningly capable campaigner, he beat the Clintons, a feat that many considered impossible.

Then came the general election, in which he ran a perfect campaign. Master communicator. Unflappable under pressure, and eminently cool under attack. Tenacious to the script, but excellent at thinking on his feet. Prolific fundraiser. Tireless road warrior. Surrounded by campaign wizards who made the Rove proteges on the other side look like amateurs.

He chose a polished, experienced running mate who made mincemeat of the opposition in the biggest television event of the campaign.

Granted, they had help from the current administration, who screwed up one important thing after another. But that alone would not have been enough for a blue victory. It all depended on the guy at the top of the ticket, who proved more than up to the task.

And look where we are this morning -- a nation that just made some serious history.

Ladies and gentlemen, the President-elect is the greatest politician in America today -- if not the world. Let us hope and pray that he is anywhere near as good a leader.

And as for me, may I be this kind of wrong more often.

Al Franken barnburner

It's almost 3:00 in the morning in Minnesota, but with 96 percent of the precincts counted, they're showing:

Al Franken (Dem)1,151,15642%
Norm Coleman (Rep)1,150,09142%
Dean Barkley (Inp)416,33915%

Nice to be back home

Hanging around and blogging at KGW on election night was a real kick, but it's great to return to the friendly confines of bojack.org. An amazing night -- beyond words, really. It almost doesn't seem real. After all we've been through in the new millennium, it's harder than one might expect to open up to the celebration.

Oprah looked like she was happy.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Off and running at KGW

We're situated and blogging away on KGW's website for the rest of this evening. My blog on that web site is here. I just made a brief appearance on KGW Channel 8, and I expect to show up on Comcast Digital 308 a fair amount in the hours ahead. See you on TV!

Election Day widgets


Is it the same Phil Busse?

The genius who ran the unforgettable Portland City Council campaign of -- er, what's his name -- last spring?

Now in legal trouble for being a toad and shooting off his big mouth about it?

It can't be the same guy, can it?

Oregon gets it right

Licensing of people who prepare income tax returns for pay, that is. Oregon requires that such folks take classes, pass a test, and continue their education over their careers. The federal Government Accountability Office says that's the way the federal government should go for all paid preparers across the country.

Some light reading for Fireman Randy

He and his new best rich-guy buddy Henry Merritt Paulson III are preparing to sock the City of Portland's taxpayers with another $85 million (at least!) to build a new minor league baseball stadium and rehash the existing one for "major league" soccer. But before he goes any further with this, Fireman Randy ought to head over here and click around a little. He'll find quite a few statements like this one:

[B]uilding sports stadiums does not make sense as a tool of taxpayer-subsidized economic development. From a state and local perspective, sports stadiums do not create jobs, and, in fact, they use resources that would be better expended elsewhere, such as on building schools and shoring up crumbling infrastructure. Rather, state and local governments compete with each other to lure or retain professional sports teams in a senseless race to the bottom for larger public subsidies subsidized by the federal taxpayer. As a result, not only are other, more important public safety projects ignored, such as repairing structurally deficient bridges and aging water distribution and treatment systems, but granting a federal tax exemption to bonds issued to build these stadiums means more stadiums and more expensive stadiums are being built than if there were no federal subsidy. Furthermore, stadiums are essentially private. Sports teams are privately owned by extremely wealthy individuals. The practice of providing taxpayer subsidies to the building of sports stadiums is a transfer of wealth from the many to the wealthy.
The author -- a hard-core Reagan conservative?

Nope -- try Dennis Kucinich.

Tuesday's child

Today I feel as though I am getting my country back.

It's a tragedy what's been done to it, but I'll take it back. I still believe in it. I want to do whatever my part might be in helping it get back on its feet. I think most people do.

It usually takes a disaster to get folks to face up to their weaknesses. We have reached that stage now, which is the first step toward healing.

Today a man who is half African and half white is being elected President of the United States.

It is a big day, to be sure. But the true enormity of it is beyond my vocabulary. Maybe 100 years from now, historians will describe it just right. Let's hope they can say, at the very least, that it was a true turning point for the better.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Why wait 'til the last minute?

McCain and Palin have finally released a half-fast statement about her medical history -- literally, the night before the election. Well, at least we know that her cozy doctor friend is carrying on with the "miracle delivery" story. Sorry, no actual medical records, people. And above all, no questions will be taken.

That boob on your tube

I'll be popping up from time to time tomorrow night on KGW-TV, Channel 8 here in Portland. As I did on primary election night in the spring, I'll be live blogging on the KGW website and saying stuff on camera on the telly once in a while. Last time I had quite a bit of air time on KGW's affiliated cable news network, NWCN, as well, and I think there may have been some additional live streaming video on one of the two internet sites.

The most interesting race for me will be Merkley-Smith, and the party breakdown of seats in the U.S. Senate. After that we have the duelling ballot measures, 57 and 61, and eliminating the double majority rule, 56. The PCC and zoo money measures ought to be fascinating as well... California Prop. 8... Karen Minnis's old seat... Should be an action-packed night. Other races I should be focusing on?

Once I've got a page going on KGW tomorrow, I'll post a link here on this blog and send readers over there for the evening.

UPDATE, 11:14 p.m.: It looks as though there will be a lot more coverage on the website than on the air tomorrow evening, with the serious input starting once the polls close in Oregon at 8:00.

UPDATE, 11/4, 1:56 a.m.: A reader correctly notes that there will be lots of KGW coverage throughout the evening on Comcast Digital channel 308. I suspect that's where I'll be.

Make up your own joke

The Oregon Convention Center just went out and hired a "sustainability coordinator."

Sign o' the times

A great Portland restaurant, Genoa, will be closing its doors in less than three weeks.

Call the winner: Smith or Merkley?

If you haven't already done so, take our poll here.

Major endorsement


Soul mates

Here's a same-sex couple whose bond everyone will acknowledge.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Andrew Sullivan's Crock o' the Week

On the Sarah Palin medical records secrecy issue and related maternity questions: "Only this blog has really pursued this story for two long months."

Andrew, put down the mirror and give me a break. This site is clearly the place to go for detailed investigation into the maternity matters. Or you can go here or here.

And many others have raised the medical records secrecy question, for example here and here.

If this is the best claim you have to an exclusive story, you're not as hot as you think you are.

We missed a few

Last night we blogged about all the last-minute election porn that's been showing up in our mailbox. This afternoon, catching up on a week's worth of paperwork, look what we discovered: four more pieces that arrived over the last few days! Two from No on 61 and two from No on 64:




What a use of the earth's resources.

Bad moon rising

Just seen on television: a Christmas commercial for Lowe's.

The latest on the bailout

Big events in the financial crisis always seem to happen on a Sunday. Sure enough, today Bush Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson appeared on "Meet the Press" with several of his advisors, and the conversation heated up quickly.

Reader poll: Smith or Merkley?

Let's face it, we didn't give any Democratic challenger a chance against Gordon Smith for the U.S. Senate seat currently up for grabs in Oregon. But the blue tsunami may actually be strong enough to sweep Jeff Merkley to victory. I think it's going to be close. What do you think?

Who will win the U.S. Senate race in Oregon on Tuesday?
Jeff Merkley
Gordon Smith
  
pollcode.com free polls

Is it over yet?

The flow of election porn at our place has reached orgy-like proportions in the final days before the election. Two different Charles Lewis pieces arrived at the same time -- your "clean" taxpayer dollars at work -- plus the things in life that "dirty" money can buy: Yes on 62, No on 63, No on 64, No on 65, and yet another P.C. ballot measure checklist from the "Defend Oregon" people.

What an enormous waste of money. Here we have the Sellwood Bridge falling down, and what are we blowing our dough on? Pure foolishness.





Anyway, only two more mail delivery days until the votes are counted. Hallelujah.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Most Misleading Campaign of the Year

It seems every election has its rogue campaigns, but in recent memory, none have been so disappointing as the fight over Measure 64. The proponents are rattling on about how this "campaign finance reform" measure prevents using our tax dollars for political purposes, and outlaws evil-sounding "commingling of funds" and other horrors. The opponents tell us that passing this initiative will jeopardize our very lives, because it will prevent firefighters, nurses, and teachers from speaking out about safety issues. Oh, and Bill Sizemore! Bad, bad, bad -- read no further.

Although the spin on both sides is fast and furious, no one's talking about what this measure really does. Here's what it's actually about -- the crucial example from the official Voter's Pamphlet:

* A public employer could not deduct part of the employee's wages, whether or not at the employees request, and transfer that deducted money to an organization that uses all or part of the money to support or oppose candidates, political parties, initiatives or ballot measures. Organizations that use public payroll deductions include unions, charities, insurance companies and financial institutions.
In other words, it's another another skirmish in the nasty war between the tighty righties and the government employees' unions. Yes is anti-union, and no is pro-union. All the rest is blown smoke.

So much so that we hereby name both sides on Measure 64 our Most Misleading Campaign of this election.

A moment of nonsilence

I just finished MC'ing a memorial ceremony, and am heading out to attend another one. These things are never easy, but they are an important part of life.


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In Vino Veritas

Chloe, Pinot Grigio, Valdadige 2013
Edmunds St. John, Bone-Jolly Gamay Noir 2013
Kirkland, Pinot Grigio, Friuli 2013
St. Francis, Red Splash 2011
Rodney Strong, Canernet, Alexander Valley 2011
Erath, Pinot Blanc 2013
Taylor Fladgate, Porto 2007
Portuga, Rose 2013
Domaine Digioia-Royer, Chambolle-Musigny, Vielles Vignes Les Premieres 2008
Locations, F Red Blend
El Perro Verde, Rueda 2013
Chateau Ste. Michelle, Indian Wells Red 2
If You See Kay, Red 2011
Turnbull, Old Bull Red 2010
Cherry Tart, Cherry Pie Pinot Noir 2012
Trader Joe's Grand Reserve Cabernet, Oakville 2012
Benton Lane, Pinot Gris 2012
Campo Viejo, Rioja, Reserva 2008
Haden Fig, Pinot Noir 2012
Pendulum Red 2011
Vina Real, Plata, Crianza Rioja 2009
Edmunds St. John, Bone/Jolly, Gamay Noir Rose 2013
Bookwalter, Subplot No. 26
Ayna, Tempranillo 2011
Pete's Mountain, Pinot Noir, Haley's Block 2010
Apaltagua, Reserva Camenere 2012
Lugana, San Benedetto 2012
Argyle Brut 2007
Wildewood Pinot Gris 2012
Anciano, Tempranillo Reserva 2007
Santa Rita, Reserva Cabernet 2009
Casone, Toscana 2008
Fonseca Porto, Bin No. 27
Louis Jadot, Pouilly-Fuissé 2011
Trader Joe's, Grower's Reserve Pinot Noir 2012
Zenato, Lugana San Benedetto 2012
Vintjs, Cabernet 2010
14 Hands, Hot to Trot White 2012
Rainstorm, Oregon Pinot Gris 2012
Silver Palm, North Coast Cabernet 2011
Andrew Rich, Gewurtztraminer 2008
Rodney Strong, Charlotte's Home Sauvignon Blanc 2012
Canoe Ridge, Pinot Gris, Expedition 2012
Edmunds St. John, Bone-Jolly Gamay Noir Rose 2012
Dark Horse, Big Red Blend No. 01A
Elk Cove, Pinot Noir Rose 2012
Fletcher, Shiraz 2010
Picollo, Gavi 2011
Domaine Eugene Carrel, Jongieux 2012
Eyrie, Pinot Blanc 2010
Atticus, Pinot Noir 2010
Walter Scott, Pinot Noir, Holstein 2011
Shingleback, Cabernet, Davey Estate 2010
Coppola, Sofia Rose 2012
Joel Gott, 851 Cabernet 2010
Pol Roget Reserve Sparkling Wine
Mount Eden Chardonnay, Santa Cruz Mountains 2009
Rombauer Chardonnay, Napa Valley 2011
Beringer, Chardonnay, Napa Reserve 2011
Kim Crawford, Sauvignon Blanc 2011
Schloss Vollrads, Spaetlese Rheingau 2010
Belle Glos, Pinot Noir, Clark & Telephone 2010
WillaKenzie, Pinot Noir, Estate Cuvee 2010
Blackbird Vineyards, Arise, Red 2010
Chauteau de Beaucastel, Chateauneuf-du-Pape 2005
Northstar, Merlot 2008
Feather, Cabernet 2007
Silver Oak, Cabernet, Alexander Valley 2002
Silver Oak, Cabernet, Napa Valley 2002
Trader Joe's, Chardonnay, Grower's Reserve 2012
Silver Palm, Cabernet, North Coast 2010
Shingleback, Cabernet, Davey Estate 2010
E. Guigal, Cotes du Rhone 2009
Santa Margherita, Pinot Grigio 2011
Alamos, Cabernet 2011
Cousino Macul, Cabernet, Anitguas Reservas 2009
Dreaming Tree Cabernet 2010
1967, Toscana 2009
Charamba, Douro 2008
Horse Heaven Hills, Cabernet 2010
Lorelle, Horse Heaven Hills Pinot Grigio 2011
Avignonesi, Montepulciano 2004
Lorelle, Willamette Valley Pinot Noir 2011
Villa Antinori, Toscana 2007
Mercedes Eguren, Cabernet Sauvignon 2009
Lorelle, Columbia Valley Cabernet 2011
Purple Moon, Merlot 2011
Purple Moon, Chardonnnay 2011
Horse Heaven Hills, Cabernet 2010
Lorelle, Horse Heaven Hills Pinot Grigio 2011
Avignonesi, Montepulciano 2004
Lorelle, Willamette Valley Pinot Noir 2011
Villa Antinori, Toscana 2007
Mercedes Eguren, Cabernet Sauvignon 2009
Lorelle, Columbia Valley Cabernet 2011
Purple Moon, Merlot 2011
Purple Moon, Chardonnnay 2011
Abacela, Vintner's Blend No. 12
Opula Red Blend 2010
Liberte, Pinot Noir 2010
Chateau Ste. Michelle, Indian Wells Red Blend 2010
Woodbridge, Chardonnay 2011
King Estate, Pinot Noir 2011
Famille Perrin, Cotes du Rhone Villages 2010
Columbia Crest, Les Chevaux Red 2010
14 Hands, Hot to Trot White Blend

The Occasional Book

Saul Bellow - Mister Sammler's Planet
Phil Stanford - White House Call Girl
John Kaplan & Jon R. Waltz - The Trial of Jack Ruby
Kent Haruf - Eventide
David Halberstam - Summer of '49
Norman Mailer - The Naked and the Dead
Maria Dermoȗt - The Ten Thousand Things
William Faulkner - As I Lay Dying
Markus Zusak - The Book Thief
Christopher Buckley - Thank You for Smoking
William Shakespeare - Othello
Joseph Conrad - Heart of Darkness
Bill Bryson - A Short History of Nearly Everything
Cheryl Strayed - Tiny Beautiful Things
Sara Varon - Bake Sale
Stephen King - 11/22/63
Paul Goldstein - Errors and Omissions
Mark Twain - A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court
Steve Martin - Born Standing Up: A Comic's Life
Beverly Cleary - A Girl from Yamhill, a Memoir
Kent Haruf - Plainsong
Hope Larson - A Wrinkle in Time, the Graphic Novel
Rudyard Kipling - Kim
Peter Ames Carlin - Bruce
Fran Cannon Slayton - When the Whistle Blows
Neil Young - Waging Heavy Peace
Mark Bego - Aretha Franklin, the Queen of Soul (2012 ed.)
Jenny Lawson - Let's Pretend This Never Happened
J.D. Salinger - Franny and Zooey
Charles Dickens - A Christmas Carol
Timothy Egan - The Big Burn
Deborah Eisenberg - Transactions in a Foreign Currency
Kurt Vonnegut Jr. - Slaughterhouse Five
Kathryn Lance - Pandora's Genes
Cheryl Strayed - Wild
Fyodor Dostoyevsky - The Brothers Karamazov
Jack London - The House of Pride, and Other Tales of Hawaii
Jack Walker - The Extraordinary Rendition of Vincent Dellamaria
Colum McCann - Let the Great World Spin
Niccolò Machiavelli - The Prince
Harper Lee - To Kill a Mockingbird
Emma McLaughlin & Nicola Kraus - The Nanny Diaries
Brian Selznick - The Invention of Hugo Cabret
Sharon Creech - Walk Two Moons
Keith Richards - Life
F. Sionil Jose - Dusk
Natalie Babbitt - Tuck Everlasting
Justin Halpern - S#*t My Dad Says
Mark Herrmann - The Curmudgeon's Guide to Practicing Law
Barry Glassner - The Gospel of Food
Phil Stanford - The Peyton-Allan Files
Jesse Katz - The Opposite Field
Evelyn Waugh - Brideshead Revisited
J.K. Rowling - Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
David Sedaris - Holidays on Ice
Donald Miller - A Million Miles in a Thousand Years
Mitch Albom - Have a Little Faith
C.S. Lewis - The Magician's Nephew
F. Scott Fitzgerald - The Great Gatsby
William Shakespeare - A Midsummer Night's Dream
Ivan Doig - Bucking the Sun
Penda Diakité - I Lost My Tooth in Africa
Grace Lin - The Year of the Rat
Oscar Hijuelos - Mr. Ives' Christmas
Madeline L'Engle - A Wrinkle in Time
Steven Hart - The Last Three Miles
David Sedaris - Me Talk Pretty One Day
Karen Armstrong - The Spiral Staircase
Charles Larson - The Portland Murders
Adrian Wojnarowski - The Miracle of St. Anthony
William H. Colby - Long Goodbye
Steven D. Stark - Meet the Beatles
Phil Stanford - Portland Confidential
Rick Moody - Garden State
Jonathan Schwartz - All in Good Time
David Sedaris - Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim
Anthony Holden - Big Deal
Robert J. Spitzer - The Spirit of Leadership
James McManus - Positively Fifth Street
Jeff Noon - Vurt

Road Work

Miles run year to date: 345
At this date last year: 211
Total run 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
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