More fun and games in the multi-modal mecca
Every day, another inspiring story.
|For old times' sake|
The bojack bumper sticker -- only $1.50!
To order, click here.
Every day, another inspiring story.
When my buddy Jack gets back off the road, he should start a blog. His daily posts are so good:
We left Atlanta around noon thoroughly impressed, intending to return for a longer visit some day. We then drove on down through Georgia-on-my-mind into sweet-home-Alabama, arriving in Montgomery an hour earlier than expected because of the time change. I can only anticipate so much. This is a remarkable place, the first capital of the Confederacy. Within walking distance are the very spot on the steps of the Alabama State Capitol -- top of Goat Hill -- where Jeff Davis took the CSA presidency oath of office in February 1861, and, in clear view from that spot, the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, where MLK Jr. kicked off the Birmingham bus boycott and, in effect, the civil rights movement, in 1956. Up one flight of stairs in the Capitol is the old Senate chamber, perfectly preserved, where 6 of the first 7 states to secede met and voted to form the Confederate States of America as a country separate from the USA. (See iPhone pic.) Around the corner is Jeff Davis's first presidential residence, and down the block from that is the Southern Poverty Law Center HQ and the new Civil Rights Law Center with a stunning Maya Lin sculpture out front, commemorating the 40 civil rights workers who died between Brown vs. Board (1954) and MLK Jr.'s Assassination (1968). Wow.
We had lunch down Goat Hill on Dexter Street at the oldest restaurant in Montgomery, a hole in the wall called Chris's Famous Hot Dogs, dating back to 1917. There's only so much one can do with a hot dog, but Chris's does it all, including liberally apply a secret chili sauce. I was enjoying it all afternoon.
I have the general impression that, among the southern states, Alabama and Georgia have made special, public efforts to deal with the dark past of segregation. We have been deeply moved in Atlanta GA, Birmingham AL, and now Montgomery AL by muscular, thrilling memorials to Dr. King and the civil rights movement. There are many streets named after MLK and even Rosa Parks. We go over to Selma AL tomorrow, and I expect to see more of this. It is exciting to see the high school groups and German tourists watching videos about Rosa Parks and Bull Connor and working their way through the exhibits at these rich memorial sites with intense, head-shaking interest. It ain't over -- there are still dozens of hate groups operating down here -- but perhaps because of enlightened political leadership, there seems to be a strategic attempt to acknowledge past wrongs and to move on. Reminds me of the impression I had during my few months in Germany 9 years ago, that the German people -- in contrast with the Japanese -- were openly dealing with their collective dark behavior during WWII in an attempt to put it behind them and a create a new future. I don't think it is an accident that Germany has done a lot better economically over the past decade than Japan, and, if I am right, I expect AL and GA to continue to outpace their neighboring states, except perhaps in pew manufacturing.
Startling Place Name: KIA Boulevard. And now, the rest of the story. As we were cruising toward the GA-AL border this morning, I saw we were coming to a town called West Point GA. Okay, interesting. Then I saw a sign for KIA Boulevard. Geez! That struck me as a pretty coarse way to commemorate our fallen heroes. Then I saw a massive automobile lot, one of the biggest aggregations of cars ever, down off the highway, next to a large KIA auto plant. So -- it wasn't about killed-in-action, it was about Korean cars. Many many Korean cars. And many jobs. This is just up the road from the AL BMW and Mercedes factories.
On to Vicksburg MS tomorrow, where we will spend two days picking around the battlefield park. One week left on the road. The Civil War siege of Vicksburg ended on July 4, 1863. The City of Vicksburg first celebrated the Fourth of July as an American holiday in 1948. Talk about NOT putting something behind you.
They're so badly disappointed; why vote?
Today we received the 100th press release of the year from the office of Oregon Attorney General John Kroger. He's now on pace for 133 for the year.
It's becoming clearer every day that Portland's creepy mayor is sabotaging the Sellwood Bridge replacement project. The county and the state legislature both agree on this. It's not clear whether it's malice, incompetence, or both, but when that bridge gets shut down or falls down, tying the south side of the city in knots, let's place the blame where it so clearly belongs. What a vicious little boy.
The surplus governmental layer known as Metro does so many good things for the Portland area. Here's one program you just can't live without.
Here's some awful news: Xmarks, the wonderful bookmark synchronization company that keeps all of one's computers in sync when it comes to remembering great places to visit on the internet, is going out of business. For those of us who have used that service, it's a big loss, and the hunt for alternatives is now on.
Portland needs to hold an election for new taxes to pay for a couple of these for the Sam-Rand Twins. The Fireman could speed to the scene when he and his "hit squad" are about to shake some poor S.O.B. down. Mayor Creepy could use it to "find Robin," if you know what I mean.
Here's an interesting document floating around at the Oregon Department of Transportation -- a virtual how-to manual for taking over motor travel lanes and parking spaces for bicycle lanes. On page 3, we find an interesting fact: Traffic "couplets" are sometimes all about bikes. And on page 4: If there's not enough room for a bike lane, do things to slow down the cars.
Boy, these are ugly times politically. Every campaign, every issue, has to involve demonizing someone. Here in Oregon, the Democratic Party has found someone to fit that bill, and they aren't going to let go. "So far, no Republican candidate has officially distanced himself or herself from Woods." Come on, Nigel. Sometimes guilt by association is so bogus that it doesn't warrant a response.
They're actually going to celebrate the insanity known as the Burnside-Couch traffic couplet on the inner east side of Portland with a "ribbon-cutting" ceremony the morning of October 12. It should be quite comical, especially if passing motorists express their views or a bicyclist takes a dive in front of the self-congratulatory platform party.
There's a passage in the Bible that used to be translated as "Wives, obey your husbands." My brother and I used to laugh pretty hard when that one came up in church. But now that scripture has become a bit of a political hot potato in a Florida congressional race.
Here's an interesting idea: Let's start making stuff in America again.
Problems: The economy's been globalized. We've signed up as a nation for "free trade." Our workers demand too much. Our consumers want the cheapest deal. Our investors want the lowest costs.
But wouldn't it be lovely?
Cruising through the south, our travel correspondent Jack writes:
More on the quilt that is this country. I have always been fascinated by South Carolina. I may be reading into things, but SC seems different from California. You think? It feels like the folks there are still trying to wiggle out of the Union. First, we were welcomed into the state by Gov. Mark Sanford's picture and a confederate flag. No asterisk in sight. Second, the sweet, smiling girl who waited on us for lunch used the term "y'all" four times in one sentence. Third, USC down here means Gamecocks, not Trojans. Fourth, religion seems to be a religion in SC. SC license plates aggressively proclaim "IN GOD WE TRUST." In contrast, neighboring NC benignly brags: "FIRST IN FLIGHT"; GA sweetly emphasizes peaches and FL oranges. I saw many billboards shouting Bible sayings. One said: "IT'S YOUR CHOICE: HEAVEN [on a blue and white background] OR HELL [on a red and yellow background]." We passed Bob Jones U, no longer tax-exempt. I saw two trucks with payloads of pews, of all things, stacked up to the gunnels. Pews appear to be a cash crop in SC. Seeing all the religious references put me in mind of the recent newspaper poll that said most Americans who go to church do not know the basic tenets of their religion. That makes sense to me, and somehow is comforting. Religion in America is mostly about community, helping people, trying to behave better, and coping with pain, not so much about following technical rules, at least not any more. I'd be interested in any contrary views.
Our good friend Eddie the Lawyer files this correspondence after a round-trip ride on the MAX line:
Rode the MAX into downtown from Lloyd today and sat behind three "denizens of Old Town" who were busy swapping drugs and banter. At one point one asked the other two, a couple of sorts, if they had heard the shooting the other night. They said that they hadn't because they had apparently "slept through it," which I took to mean that they live in the area. The lone ranger then said that the word he got was that the shooter "broke out an AR-15 and started blasting." That magnitude of firepower would certainly explain the number of shots fired. It would also appear to be just the kind of fact that the O would prefer to ignore. The talker also said that the shooter had been hit by some return fire and was, in fact, the kid who showed up a couple of hours later at Emanuel Hospital. Scary stuff, and I have to say, although I wish it were not true, that I am finding my frequent trips downtown on the MAX from Lloyd for various hearings and appearances getting creepier and creepier.
On that same ride, a very badly tweaked out woman got on at the Old Town stop and immediately began screaming as though she had been stabbed. The fellow who had been sitting in front of me telling the story I have related above rose to the fray immediately and did a commendable job of calming the woman down. He appeared to know her. Then, on my ride home, an obviously mentally disabled Hispanic fellow about 21 years old made the mistake of audibly and repeatedly muttering comments to himself about two very tough looking, "large framed" and frankly pretty bruised up East County girls grooving to their i-pods. They told him repeatedly, and actually pretty courteously, to shut up, but when he persisted they jumped him and just pummeled him into the floor. These were a couple of big, tough girls, and nobody knew what to do. Fortunately, matters got heavy just as we reached my stop, and I got the hell out of there. But it really seemed like a bad sign of bad times.
Now even Paul Allen's Tweeting.
Tri-Met's proposed budget cuts to the insane Milwaukie MAX project are out, and there are some real doozies in there:
# Reducing construction contingency by 6 percent: $10 millionThis boondoggle has had disaster written all over it right from the start. But now it looks as though life and limb may be falling into jeopardy.
# Reducing Ruby Junction light rail maintenance facility expansion: $3 million
# Deleting ice caps on overhead caternary system: $1.1 million
# Deleting track switch heaters: $1 million
# Decreasing insurance budget: $925,000
Here are this week's choices for players in our charity pro football underdog game. Advice, anyone?
14.5 DETROIT at Green Bay
13.5 CAROLINA at New Orleans
8.5 JACKSONVILLE vs. Indianapolis
8 ARIZONA at San Diego
6.5 SAN FRANCISCO at Atlanta
6.5 DENVER at Tennessee
6 WASHINGTON at Philadelphia
4.5 BUFFALO vs. New York Jets
3 CLEVELAND vs. Cincinnati
3 OAKLAND vs. Houston
3 CHICAGO at New York Giants
1.5 BALTIMORE at Pittsburgh
1 ST. LOUIS vs. Seattle
1 MIAMI vs. New England
Apparently, they're here.
Regular readers here know that two of our favorite topics are election porn -- the tacky advertising material that one receives in the run-up to an election -- and Tri-Met -- the psychedelic transit agency, which is currently hallucinating about light rail to Milwaukie.
Well, it looks as though for the next several weeks, it's all going to come together.
It's part of the natural progression of things in the Rose City.
Will the City of Portland bureaucrats come up with a creative way to keep this going? Or will they behave like a bunch of tone-deaf control freaks and shut it down?
Da Bearss did it again, ending the third week of our charity pro football underdog game on a high note for one player, pdxmick. With his 3-point pickup, the standings settle in as set out below. Gary, who scored big in Week 2, has moved right into the lead with two top wins; Sattelihu is the only player with three winning picks in a row.
This week's game lines will be posted sometime later today.
This week, it's close Marshall, shrink Benson and Jefferson.
Here's an Oregon blogger (out Gresham way, I think) who will still be blogging, just not from Oregon.
I've gotten a bunch of e-mail messages all day alerting me to this story. All I can say is that it is sad.
Please, Lord, put this one out of our misery.
Police estimate there were between 100 and 200 people on the street at the time of the Old Town shooting, and more than a dozen gunshots were fired.Yeah, like around 28 more than a dozen.
Video from the scene on KGW last night showed at least 62 numbered markers on the ground, on buildings, and on cars around the scene. Yes, that too is "more than a dozen."
UPDATE, 8:00 p.m.: At least they also have one of their few real reporters, Maxine Bernstein, on the story. She quotes an eyewitness as hearing 20 to 40 shots.
Meanwhile, the city's jerky mayor says gangster shootings are "'incredibly tragic,' but rare for downtown Portland." Two gang riots with gunplay in two weeks -- that's "rare"?
Portland's planners are following a time-honored Western tradition.
Virtually everything about the goofy Burnside-Couch traffic "couplet" on Portland's inner east side is baffling -- including the rules of the road:
"You’re essentially turning onto one-way streets," said Portland police Traffic Division Cmdr. Todd Wyatt. "So, you’re free to turn on red from the curbside lanes on the right and left." OK. But what about from that center lane? "I gotta tell you," Wyatt said, "I don’t know."Indeed.
Another Portland traffic officer told me, and I quote, "Maybe you should talk to the genius who designed it."
From David Gregory of NBC News:
My girl lost her first tooth. Got 5 bucks from tooth fairy. I told her I only got 1 dollar. Her reply, "the world changes."
Holy moly. This young baseball phenom is tearing things up. He just threw the fastest pitch ever recorded -- 105 miles per hour. How can you see it, much less hit it?
A reader writes:
If you want urban blight check out this PDC property. It was an original PDC project, now enclosed in shrink wrap, and I just noticed a sign up on it again last time I went to Costco. It was foreclosed upon by the bank and has been an eyesore and empty for three or more years.The property in question is on the southwest corner of SE 93rd and Woodstock, just next to I-205 down in Lents.
It's not clear that the place has been entirely empty. The city file has a number of serious housing complaints in it. The previous owner was an outfit called PSTN, LLC, which was apparently owned at least in part by someone named Parveen Ahmad. Occupied or empty, it sounds like that project's been a pretty bad scene, ever since the PDC gave it a pre-development grant back in 2004. Taxpayers, you've been punked.
Would that be a kick in the pants, or what? It could be the triggering event for the inevitable self-destruction of the mayor, among other things. But don't get your hopes up for too much drama. Keep in mind that two of the city's five commissioners are former public employee union heads. They may put on a big show, but don't expect old loyalties to fall by the wayside.
The government spooks just keep crawling further and further up your business.
Me too, Brainiac. Maybe you should act on your anger. Fire a couple of your Twitter staff and hire some gang intervention experts. Cancel a few bioswales and hire a few cops. Stop talking streetcars and start talking basic public safety.
You're not that angry.
It happened again on Friday. Another utterly unwanted phone book showed up on our front porch, wrapped in not one but two plastic bags. Straight into the recycling it all went.
That in this day and age a resident of green, sustainable Portland, Oregon can't opt out of this garbage shows how incompetent (or corrupt, take your pick) our state and local governments are.
Cruising down the Blue Ridge Parkway, our traveling correspondent Jack muses:
I've been writing more than reading on this trip, but I finally finished Isaacson's wonderful Einstein bio. I was fascinated to learn that Einstein left Nazi Germany in 1933, came to America, and became an American citizen -- he had other offers -- largely because of the American commitment to free speech. He had a big mouth and personally tested that commitment many times during the McCarthy red-baiting era, which he abhorred. The FBI developed a thick file on Einstein, and J. Edgar Hoover thought him a subversive. Reading all this reminded me of an experience I had in Vietnam. After each recon patrol, I would meet with my patrol team for an intelligence debriefing. We were small, tight units, so the discussion would often devolve into a bull session. Occasionally a Marine would ask me: "What the @#%* are we doing over here, Lieutenant?" I had a stock answer which I had picked up from a senior officer, sure to get their attention, something like: "I don't know about you but I'm over here to defend the right of people to burn the American flag." After they stopped throwing things at me, I would explain: "If we can put up with scumbags who burn our flag, that means your kids will never have to worry about going to jail for something they say." Then we would jump into a robust discussion, but they appreciated the point. Those of you worried about the Chinese overtaking the West economically should worry much more about what happens on the day the Chinese people decide that they have had enough of top-down limits on their political speech and activity. If we know anything from history, we know that day is coming.
He's got everything that Portland City Hall requires: He's an inventor with an ingenious project to keep excrement off the streets, he's into leash-free areas, and he's started his own energy district! Still waiting for a bicycle angle, however.
I'm not sure how many of them consulted our scientific prognostication system, introduced here the other day. (Six did go the same way as Lola the Magic Kitty.) But however they did it, the players in our charity pro football underdog pool have spoken, choosing their respective 'dogs for the week. They're now posted in our left sidebar, and here they are for the permanent record. Good luck and have fun, everybody:
Too funny. If this happened in downtown Portland after the bars closed, it would have been "a disturbance involving a group of people in Southwest Portland."
I didn't think so. But if you meet anybody who does, tell them there are some deals out there just waiting for them.
It's anger and suspicion. And this is just the beginning. Wait five years and see how everybody feels about his soccer stadium deal.
We've been tracking for a while the recent assessments against credit unions to cover the failures of some big "wholesale" financial outfits that they all deal with, and insure. In light of yesterday's news, those numbers are probably going to get worse, draining profits and exacerbating losses for even longer than previously expected.
To our untrained eye, it's looking more likely that a taxpayer bailout of credit unions may be necessary at some point. That, and a bunch of consolidations in which the stronger "retail" outfits swallow up the weaker ones, who won't be able to handle all the coming insurance tappers unless a miraculous economic recovery materializes soon.
Yes, they break the news they don't you to see on Friday afternoon. First, State Treasurer Ted Wheeler hands the state government a strong cup of coffee and orders it to sober up and stop its crazy borrowing sprees. Then Oregon government at all levels gets word that it can no longer put off dealing with the inevitable -- the amount it contributes toward state employees' back pensions is going to double effective next July. The City of Portland's hit from the so-called PERS system will rise by 116%.
We'll come back to these stories during the work week, when people are paying closer attention. Meanwhile, we look at the current governor's race and see a depressing choice between a guy who's going to wreck our children's future with irresponsible tax cuts, and a guy who's going to wreck our children's future with more insane borrowing and spending that creates some meaningless short-term construction jobs and further enriches the Goldschmodt crowd. (Can you say "Milwaukie MAX"?)
Time to enjoy a sunny day while we still can.
... go in style.
It appears that the transaction may hinge on getting the taxpaying public in a San Diego suburb to put up a bunch of money to build a new baseball stadium. Linchpin City, baby! Good luck with that.
The Spirit of Portland Award winners for this year have been announced. Congratulations to all of them.
But gee... Fireman Randy picked a building contractor from Beaverton; the mayor chose a retired college professor and Nike vice president who lives in Vancouver; Legend Dan picked a real estate investment and management company...
Aw, heck. Congratulations to them anyway.
Zucchini, that is.
Forgive our lack of enthusiasm for the "progressive" leaders in whom we placed so much hope and trust.
... no doubt they'll be back out on the streets.
Here's the newest commissioner of the Portland Development Commission -- the third appointed by Portland's peripathetic mayor. The third-to-last Potter appointment, Bertha Ferrán, already has had her name taken off the door.
The new director, Aneshka Colas-Dickson, works for a family construction company that among other things is a player in the proposal to turn the once-scary and long-abandoned Grant Warehouse property at NE Fremont and MLK into multi-family housing. Who in their right mind would finance a project like that in this economy is anybody's guess. But hey, we're senselessly building more junk boxes up on Killingsworth -- why not Fremont? And at this point, the city government is obviously figuring that anything's better than an empty lot.
Our friend Jack is still on the road, and still writing things that make us think:
Madison called our nation a "compound republic." As we travel, we are beginning to understand what he meant. I remember Jack Newfield calling Bobby Kennedy a compound person, as opposed to a complex person. That description always worked for me. Bobby, my early hero, had parts that were not fully integrated. And that was okay, I still loved him. Madison and his buddy Hamilton had the wisdom to know that differences and tribal behavior are hardwired into our humanity, productive of both good things and bad. So in crafting the Constitution, they accommodated and balanced these differences. They did not try to eliminate or homogenize them. As a tactic in this effort, the Constitution includes a deep bow to state and local sovereignty. State difference and sovereignty are still apparent to the traveler. Each state evokes a slightly different sensation, as a result no doubt of an accretion of local political choices. I earlier mentioned the striking difference between tidy southern Wisconsin and shabby rural Illinois. Today we saw another stark example as we drove from wealthy NY over into poor rural West Virginia. Rural WV is just a different world: roads are bad, farmland untended, cattle absent, trees dying, houses dilapidated. It is a dry grey landscape. West Virginia was separated from VA and welcomed into the Union in 1863 during the Civil War, partly because Lincoln, worried about re-election, wanted to pile up electoral college votes for 1864. Sherman's timely Atlanta victory put Lincoln well over the top in the 1864 election and mooted the importance of WV's vote, but the residue of those political machinations is an eternally poor WV separated from a rich VA, as different as the moon from the sun.
A word about NJ. I have a lot of friends from NJ, so I best be careful. When I was traveling back and forth to college in the early 1960s, the NJ Turnpike was godawful. One needed a gas mask to survive the industrial stink. Pig rendering, oil refining, yuck. That's all gone now, and NJ, the Garden State, is actually that: a lovely garden state. Today the only thing that stinks are the ball clubs. (Did I actually say that?) Actually, the Jets are pretty fair.
Tomorrow, it's on to Harper's Ferry WV, the place where the Civil War started according to some historians. Next day it is on to Appomattox VA, the place where it ended. Bookends.
With a nasty computer worm, apparently.
The oracular pronouncements of the Federal Reserve are usually filled with jargon. But here's a spiffy service that translates one Fed statement with the click of a mouse.
The other initial entries are the Grand Canyon, Yosemite, Yellowstone, and Hot Springs National Park (in Arkansas). Good company. Eventually all 50 states, D.C., and five conquered territories will be included.
Now that we're snail-mailing fewer letters and bills than ever, it appears that the Mint is going to pump out new commemorative coins year after year the way the Post Office used to do with stamps. It taps the collector market nicely, and we suppose it does no harm. The U.S. dollar commands less and less respect as a medium of exchange, but it sure is pretty.
This story suggests that either the Hotel Monaco or the Hotel Vintage Plaza might be sold. Maybe they're just bummed that Al Gore is getting his chakra released elsewhere.
Once he's out of jail, this guy could be mayor of Portland.
We don't do many book reviews on this blog. The biggest reason for that is that it takes us forever to get through a book. For many years, we hardly ever read books for pleasure. As we spent all day at work reading volumes of documents and heavy tax tomes, the last thing we wanted to do in our off-hours was read more printed words. But lately, it's our practice to have a for-fun book or two going all the time. It's just that they may be going for many months before we finish them.
Given the paucity of literary criticism on this site, it's not surprising that we don't get too many free review copies of books sent to us by publishers or publicists. Occasionally one will drift in, though, and so it was last year when, out of the blue, a copy of a new title called The Opposite Field arrived. We read a few pages, saw that it might be an interesting story to read at some point, and placed it on the nightstand with a bunch of other material that fell into the same category. At the time we had just picked up both The Great Gatsby and Brideshead Revisited for a quarter apiece at an estate sale, and we spent the better part of a year exploring those two old chestnuts, without another thought to the modern title.
Months later, we got a note in the mail from an address in Monterey Park, California, a suburb on the east side of Los Angeles. We once spent a few weeks housesitting in that city, but that was more than 30 years ago, and we couldn't imagine who this missive might be from. We opened the envelope and found a card that read as follows:
Well, whaddya know. And sure enough, the paperback version of the book showed up shortly thereafter. Now we had two copies of the darn thing. And so we resolved to get to it as soon as Evelyn Waugh finished picking through the ruins.
Katz, a magazine writer, has written a detailed account of his trials, tribulations, and triumphs as the commissioner of his son Max's baseball rec league, and as the coach of Max's team. He uses that tale as a vehicle for exploring the rest of his life as well, including growing up as the son of Vera Katz, the famous politician, by that artist guy she was married to.
It's quite a ride. The author is dragged into leading the league by its imminent demise; as he tells it, he has to take control or watch his son's opportunity to play organized ball disappear entirely. And like the protagonist in so many stories, he gradually finds himself in the middle of something bigger than he ever expected. Running the league takes over larger and larger chunks of his time, and finally it's dominating his life, defining who he is. It's pretty obvious that he loves it that way.
Unlike Katz's biological son, who seems to thrive, is his stepson, the son of the once-impoverished immigrant mother whom Katz married in a whirlwind, thereby giving her a solid footing in the United States. Katz's devotion to Max's baseball experience fails to work wonders on the other boy, and the eventual success of the revitalized rec league contrasts starkly with the deep decline of the stepson, and ultimately the fading of the marriage.
Of course, the apple doesn't fall too far from the tree, and Katz's persona through these many events reminds us quite clearly who his famous mother is. The author's not shy about telling you that he's a visionary, a tireless worker, the victim of his own desire to help other people, and the target of some anti-Semitism to boot. In one rambling passage he actually tries to compare himself to Ben Linder, which is mildly revolting. But maybe that's what memoirs are for -- to tell one's story with one's own spin. Brag it up. And to his credit, on the other side of the ledger Katz is willing to admit, and reflect on, many mistakes -- with other parents and their kids in the league, with Monterey Park City Hall, with his children, with his son's basketball coach, and especially with his women.
One startling aspect of the book is that it names names. Katz claims that no identities have been changed, and no events have been altered, shaded, censored, or embellished, to arrive at his narrative. Given how personal the events he describes are, and how deserving of criticism he finds his predecessors at the league, it's a wonder that he can get away with that. And what kind of person would want to? The rise and fall of his relationship with his wife, the deep problems of his stepson, his dating history -- it takes a certain kind of personality to air that all out so publicly. A kind of personality that's not eminently lovable.
But also surprising is how engaging the writing is. Regardless of how we felt about Katz's confessional bare-all moments, some of which were painful, we found the book to be a real page-turner. The messages may not be as profound as the author thinks or hopes they are, but the story line is remarkably strong. Given his many L.A. connections, Katz may have quite a movie property here, if the screenplay duties wind up in the right hands.
Anyway, we're glad that Katz was assertive enough to get his book into our hands, twice. When a person thinks long and hard about his or her life and tries to tell you what's been learned so far, it never hurts to listen. And if the speaker knows how to tell a fine story, which Katz clearly does, it's all the better.
There are a lot of misconceptions out there about the President.
You'll have to negotiate your way in with Mayor Creepy.
"With all the hatred in this world, in this good world, let us be kind to one another."
Stay thirsty, my friends.
There are some other jobs that I wouldn't be good at.
Maybe you need this on your iPhone.
I see they "broke ground" yesterday on the PGE Park re-renovation, which has actually been in progress for many months. Mayor Creepy's off somewhere getting a foot massage, and so Nick Fish stood in as Goofball Pro Tem at the ceremony. That's him with Little Lord Paulson, Paulson's water boy, and the used car salesman known as the "major league" soccer commissioner.
Scroll way down to the bottom of this new story to read about governor retread-wannabe John Kitzhaber's "unusual" home mortgage back when he was governor. It came from Goldschmidt crony Jerry Bidwell's stock brokerage firm, which was not a licensed mortgage broker. 100 percent financing, a five-year term, later extended -- and lo and behold, while the loan was still outstanding, Kitz put Bidwell on the Oregon Investment Council, where he could slosh around with Goldschmidt's wife in billions of taxpayer money. (Ironically, Bidwell was apparently a neighbor of Chris Dudley in Camas, Washington around that time.) Meanwhile, there was no disclosure of the mortgage on the governor's official financial disclosure forms filed with the state.
Between Kitz and his campaign manager Patricia McCaig, whom a friend of mine describes as "the daughter of Darth Vader," you'd be hard-pressed to find a less likable campaign. If Dudley becomes the next governor, the Democrats really have no one to blame but themselves.
A thoughtful reader writes:
Apart from the scope of the $$$ involved, what exactly is the difference between the woman in Vancouver who claimed to be the victim of an acid attack, and the Welches con man? They both claim(ed) to be the victims of something that was not true for the purposes of extracting gifts from sympathetic strangers. The woman in Vancouver is being prosecuted for felony theft charges because three individuals apparently gave her more than $750, which is the point where it becomes a felony. But why don't the authorities in Oregon pursue a similar strategy with the Welches guy?Indeed. David Wilson, the Welches con man, has been at for a decade or more, and he's stolen more by deception than the acid self-attacker ever has.
Perhaps the distinction has to do with the relative competence and dedication of law enforcement in the two jurisdictions.
If you're fond of displays of various statistics that move in real time, you'll probably love this.
It doesn't happen often enough in this country, but it's great when it does.
A friend of ours who's a long-term Blazers season ticket holder just bought some extra tickets for some of the games that he figures his friends and family might be interested in attending. As a member of the faithful seat buyers' group, he was able to purchase them in a special offer last week. He had never bought extra tickets before, and so was experiencing for the first time the Blazers' "dynamic pricing" practices for individual game tickets:
Given the current demand for tickets, and to amplify the value of owning season tickets, we will continue to have dynamic pricing for individual game tickets. This means that each game will have a different price. The dynamic price is determined by a multitude of factors including opponent, night of week and tickets remainingSensing the opportunity to get a good deal, my buddy hopped onto the Blazers' website at the appointed hour and ordered some seats up in the 300 section for the Heat, the Lakers, and the Celtics.
- Your season ticket price will remain at an overall lower price than purchasing tickets on an individual game basis at the dynamic rates
- In addition to first access, you will continue to enjoy the lowest price for any additional individual game tickets you choose to purchase. Please note: there is no longer one, flat Season Ticket Holder rate that applies to all games.
- Dynamic prices may change as the season progresses
The Heat and Lakers ducats were $75 a pop (although the Celtics were only $25).
Yikes. And if that $75 price is the lowest available now, it appears that the Blazers will be marking the seats up even higher as game time approaches. Shades of the airlines, or the scalpers on the street.
We encountered something like this on our recent trip to New York. We went to a wonderful Broadway play. Orchestra seats down in front were priced by the theater at an enormous premium -- so that the extra bucks that the audience was willing to pay for that vantage point went to the house, and not to some guy out on the sidewalk. But of course, those were for choice seats, not those on the roof.
In any event, our buddy also noted when he printed out his tickets that they showed a list price of $22 each on them. Apparently that's what you would have paid if you bought a whole season's worth in that seat, but it was less than a third of what he actually paid for that single game. It might make it hard for him to convince would-be buyers that he ever paid the $75 apiece for them.
In any event, the scalpers haven't gone away. It's just that now, it appears, the Blazers are their own scalpers.
Here are the lines for this week's games in our charity pro football underdog contest. The underdogs are in caps. See any that will can their game outright (without the benefit of the point spread)?
14 BUFFALO at New England
10.5 DETROIT at Minnesota
10.5 CLEVELAND at Baltimore
5.5 SEATTLE vs. San Diego
5.5 DENVER vs. Indianapolis
4 ATLANTA at New Orleans
4 OAKLAND at Arizona
3.5 ST. LOUIS vs.Washington
3 CAROLINA vs. Cincinnati
3 TENNESSEE at New York Giants
3 CHICAGO vs. Green Bay
2.5 JACKSONVILLE vs. Philadelphia
2.5 TAMPA BAY vs. Pittsburgh
2.5 DALLAS at Houston
1.5 NEW YORK JETS at Miami
0.5 KANSAS CITY vs. San Francisco
BTW, there's still time to get into our pack. Fifteen of our players still have 0 points, and even our leaders have only 8.5. Pick a big 'dog this weekend and you could be atop the leader board by this time next week. If you're interested, just shoot me an e-mail message here and I'll send you the details.
Our allegedly cash-starved city, which says it needs a new property tax to buy fire trucks and is chasing people out of town with skyrocketing water and sewer bills, is still jerking around over a proposed "low-cost" city-owned broadband system. The utterly failed Opie Sten wi-fi experiment wasn't enough to prove that City Hall can't get this done. The insanity just goes on and on and on.
The police want you to turn in your unwanted prescription drugs this Saturday, so that the bad guys don't get their hands on them. These medications have also started showing up in drinking water sources, and so it's best to turn them over to the right place.
But forgive me if I'm not just a wee bit amused at handing them to some guys and gals who refuse to be drug-tested at work themselves.
You're not allowed to do that in Portland -- unless you're Fireman Randy. It's not exactly in the middle of nowhere. Quite a few homes and businesses are out that way. They'll smell the greatness.
You see, the rich are different from you and me: they have more influence. It’s partly a matter of campaign contributions, but it’s also a matter of social pressure, since politicians spend a lot of time hanging out with the wealthy. So when the rich face the prospect of paying an extra 3 or 4 percent of their income in taxes, politicians feel their pain — feel it much more acutely, it’s clear, than they feel the pain of families who are losing their jobs, their houses, and their hopes.The whole thing is here.
Meanwhile, the Republican sob story about the Bush tax cuts helping "small business" includes in that "vulnerable" group giant companies like Bechtel, Tribune Co., and PriceWaterhouse Coopers. Too funny, and yet awfully sad.
The Bush tax cuts were terrible social policy, and terrible tax policy. They have contributed mightily to the polarization of our country, and to the deficits that the tighty-righties are now suddenly so up in arms about. If the tax giveaways of the 2000's all expire come New Year's Day, it will be a positive change -- even if some low-income tax breaks get lost in the process. And unless someone can up with a working majority in Congress about taxes in a hurry -- and that seems highly unlikely -- expire is exactly what Bush Tax World is going to do. Good riddance.
No surprise here -- 1990s Japanese cars are the most stolen cars in Oregon. I wonder if the longevity of these vehicles has anything to do with it -- they don't steal many cars out of junkyards.
A moment of silence for Leonard Skinner, of Lynyrd Skynyrd fame.
It was a big weekend in our charity pro football underdog pool. Seven underdog teams won, and that meant points for many of our players. Nick and Sattelihu scored for the second week in a row, but those who chose Da Bearss in Week 2 are in the lead. The new standings are posted in our left sidebar, and for the sake of completeness, they're included below. Meanwhile, another week's lines are scheduled to be posted later today. Time flies when you're having fun! Cellar dwellers, cheer up -- there are 18 weeks to go, and we've only just begun.
I thought that when it came to land use questions, the Portland City Council members were supposed to stay neutral, at least until it's time for them to cast their votes on the issues of the day. But when you hear that Fireman Randy's chief of staff is pushing hard for a quick siting of the immigration jail in the SoWhat District, it's gotta make you wonder.
Then there's the Port of Portland, which will need the City Council's blessing before it can pave over wildlife habitat on West Hayden Island in order to build a terminal that it hopes will ship Wyoming coal to China. You would think that with a land use matter that significant in the offing, the council members would remain at arm's length from the Port.
But of course, you would be wrong. Mayor Creepy's off on another one of his junkets, and guess who's paying for it:
The mayor’s office says the Share the Road Cycling Coalition of Ontario and the Port of Portland paid for Adams’ trip as well as that of a staffer, Catherine Ciarlo, the mayor’s transportation director.No conflict of interest here, folks. Just go about your business.
Good luck with that.
And they all arrived at the same time!
Our new Portland water and sewer bill is here, and it's even more of a humdinger than usual. Substantial increases for water and sewer charges just showed up, and even on a pro-rated basis, they're pretty wicked.
As expected, the water and sewer rates rose, effective July 1 -- just as they had the year before, and the year before that. We are not the world's greatest expert on these rates, but having spent some quality time with our water bills from the last few years, we've come up with a compilation of the applicable figures for a single-family residence for the quarter, and for some previous quarters. Pardon the mind-numbing data, but check out the percentage increases over the last 27 months:
|Item||June 2008||June 2009||June 2010||Now||Latest Increase (Decrease)||Increase (Decrease) Since 6/09||Increase (Decrease) Since 6/08|
|Water Volume - Rate per Hundred Cubic Feet||$1.860||$2.070||$2.440||$2.733||12.01%||32.03%||46.94%|
|Sewer Volume - Rate per Hundred Cubic Feet||$5.70||$6.08||$6.50||$6.92||6.46%||13.82%||21.40%|
|Portland Harbor Superfund*||$4.96||$4.04||$4.52||$3.83||(15.27%)||(5.20%)||(22.78%)|
* - Assumes 1,800 cubic feet per quarter of sewer volume, and 6,500 square feet of impermeable surface.
As best we can tell, here's what the damages would be if we had been a Portland customer, being dinged for 1,800 cubic feet per quarter of water and the same amount of sewer, with 6,500 square feet of impermeable surface -- then and now:
|Item||June 2008||June 2009||June 2010||Now||Latest Increase (Decrease)||Increase (Decrease) Since 6/09||Increase (Decrease) Since 6/08|
|Portland Harbor Superfund*||$4.96||$4.04||$4.52||$3.83||(15.27%)||(5.20%)||(22.78%)|
|Water Volume and Base Charge Alone||$52.87||$55.77||$66.05||$73.98||12.01%||32.65%||39.93%|
|Sewer, Stormwater, and Superfund Alone||$158.83||$168.40||$180.10||$193.76||7.58%||15.06%||21.99%|
For many customers, 1,800 cubic feet is a lot of water, and so here are the water volume and base charge numbers based on smaller amounts of consumption:
|Water Volume Level||June 2008||June 2009||June 2010||Now||Latest Increase||Increase Since 6/09||Increase Since 6/08|
|400 Cubic Feet per Quarter||$26.83||$26.79||$31.89||$35.72||12.01%||33.33%||33.13%|
|600 Cubic Feet per Quarter||$30.55||$30.93||$36.77||$41.19||12.02%||33.17%||34.82%|
|1,000 Cubic Feet per Quarter||$37.99||$39.21||$46.53||$52.12||12.01%||32.93%||37.19%|
|1,500 Cubic Feet per Quarter||$47.29||$49.56||$58.73||$65.79||12.01%||32.74%||39.11%|
No matter how much or little water one uses, it's obvious that the cost of water and sewer is skyrocketing, especially water. In our interminably down economy, it's going to be a hardship for more and more people. This is quite a time to be asking them to pay for Jesse Cornett's campaign ads, Henry Paulson's hot dog vendors, a train to Milwaukie, and a streetcar to Lake Oswego. But hey, that's Portland, the city that nickels and dimes you to death.
This deeply disturbing story from Afghanistan reminds us that not everyone in a U.S. Army uniform is to be admired.
Here's an interesting website, just starting up, about the manufacturing of imagery in political campaigns.
... transit planners.
We got another view of the Chapman School swifts tonight, courtesy of some friends whose home provides a bird's-eye view (sorry) of the famous smokestack. What's going on there is not completely graspable by human comprehension.
Especially interesting is the huge crowd of spectators cheering on the birds' various moves. Louder cheers than at many sporting events. True Portland.
We're up to 32 players in our charity pro football underdog pool, and their picks for the week are all in. They're presently posted on our left sidebar, and for the "permanent record," here they are. Good luck, everybody:
And no, this is not just Google bait.
I'm old. I don't text.
Shortly after I got my iPhone last year, I started getting text messages for the first time. They were junk messages that I didn't even want to read, much less pay for. And so I pulled the plug on my texting capabilities, and I can't say I miss having one more thing to check for incoming communications.
That said, I don't know what to make of this. I can see a cell phone provider filtering out all spam messages, but just some, based on content? Seems like something worth worrying about.
Here's a living, breathing piece of rock history, just down the road a bit.
Our traveling correspondent Jack sent back some good observations from Massachusetts yesterday:
I love my Republican colleagues, but aren't we all tired of reading about the Tea Party and how both the GOP establishment and Obama are clueless in the face of it? They are clueless to be sure, but there is nothing new about the Tea Party. Every time the GOP is out of power, the right fringe comes to life, usually funded by murky Texas money, and challenges the center. The energy often produces a scary political figure. In my lifetime, this has happened at least five times. In 1948, after Truman surprised Dewey, the GOP, having lost 5 Presidential elections in a row, was afraid it was going out of business, so Joe McCarthy took center stage. The established party was bailed out by Eisenhower in 1952. In 1964, with LBJ pushing medicare and civil rights, the wingers came alive again and Barry ("Extremism in the defense of liberty") Goldwater came to the fore. Goldwater actually had some good ideas -- which would be roundly rejected by today's Tea Partiers as too moderate -- so he was nominated but had his butt kicked in the general. Then the GOP came up with Nixon Redux in 1968 as the solution to what ailed us, which back then was quite a lot -- and, as we recall, the Trickster almost brought the government down. Then Carter did his incompetent turn and the actor from California took the stage, restoring the nation's spirit, but destroying the labor movement and providing us with our first lesson that massive tax cuts produce massive deficits. Then, of course, W came along with his Texas-financed compassionately conservative facade and pulled both a Nixon (brought the country to its knees) and a Reagan (gave us lesson 2 that massive tax cuts produce massive deficits).
So now it is Sarah Palin on the rise, who surely will bring us to the promised land. What scares me about the current situation is that there is no Eisenhower on the horizon to save the GOP from itself. So there is a real possibility that Sarah, who makes W look like Lincoln, will be the GOP candidate. And it's even possible that she will win, unless Obama figures something out pretty soon. Then it really will be time to go to New Zealand.
You can't escape. The tentacles are long, strong, and many:
The City of Portland office of human relations is one heck of a confusing outfit. At first I thought it was the city's personnel office -- human resources -- but no, that's a separate thing. Human relations is apparently an office set up to protect minority rights and get streets renamed when minority groups demand it.
There's an interesting exchange going on over on the Portland Afoot blog about that publication's assertion that 40% of the property tax money being sought by Tri-Met in the transit agency's upcoming ballot measure won't really be spent on buses and related equipment. One of the numerous Tri-Met flacks asserts that absolutely, 100% of the tax proceeds will go to buses and related gear.
But even she admits that there's always been money in Tri-Met's basic budget for bus replacement over the years -- to be paid for out of farebox revenue and payroll taxes. If the ballot measure passes, the property taxes may all go to buses, but that will free up quite a bit of money elsewhere in the budget that can be used on anything Tri-Met management wants.
And boy, do they want that Milwaukie MAX line. So badly they can taste it.
There's one real howler in the Tri-Met spokesperson's statements: "100% of the money must, by law, be used for the stated purpose." Yeah, right. Tell that to Portlanders who voted in a tax for parks maintenance in 2002 and watched the money go to capital projects instead. "By law," my eye.
The whole sales pitch for the Tri-Met property tax -- "It's for the elderly" -- stinks to high heaven. The elderly are already in the transit agency's budget, as they should be. We shouldn't have to pay extra for buses. Buses are what Tri-Met was created to provide, first and foremost. As long as they're still talking about building stupdity on rails like the eastside streetcar, Wilsonville WES, and Milwaukie light rail, there's only one thing to say when Tri-Met asks for money, of any color. And that is no.
Here's the Advance publishing empire at its worst: advertising thinly disguised as journalism.
Here's a list of 10 industries whose employment is down and said to be unlikely ever to recover. First and second on the list are state and local government, and construction. Here in Portland, I sure hope it's true.
The City of Portland sold its "urban renewal" bonds for the SoWhat District on Wednesday. About $65 million was borrowed, all to repay shorter-term loans that have already long been spent. We've asked the city to send us the maturities and interest rates for the new, permanent loans, but as usual of late, they're taking their sweet time honoring our request for information.
No matter. While we wait, this unofficial site already shows quite a bit of information about the bonds. There were two series of bonds -- one taxable (presumably because the money was spent for the benefit of private businesses), and the other one tax-exempt (because the money was spent for an arguably public purpose).
The biggest single chunk of taxable bonds went for 10 years -- $13,730,000 at 5.374%. But $4,015,000 borrowed for 12 years went off at 5.574%. Shorter-term taxable bonds will fetch between 2.571% and 3.96%, for $29,645,000 in total taxable bonds.
Hmmmmm. 5.374% or 5.574% -- that's some dang high interest for a 10- or 12-year loan, folks. And for what? To make guys like Homer Williams and Dike Dame rich. Sad.
On the tax-exempt bonds, figuring out the precise interest rate isn't an easy task. Apparently the bonds were not sold exactly at their face values, and so their stated interest rates don't reflect the true interest cost. The stated interest rates range from 3.75% for 12-year money to 5% for 20-year money, but those are rough estimates. For example, the 20-year bonds apparently sold for (that is, the city received) 104.861% of face value, which means that the top interest rate was something in the 4's. My guess is something like 4.62%, which would also be a pretty hefty interest rate for 20-year money when you consider that it's tax-exempt interest. But we'll have to wait for the official word from the city on the actual yields on the tax-exempt bonds -- if we ever get them. If and when we do, of course, we'll post them.
We've got 30 paid entrants in our second annual charity pro football underdog pool, which means that we have a $600 pool to donate to charity at the end of the NFL playoffs. And lo and behold, a reader out there, inspired by the story of last year's third place winner, Geno P.'s Mom, has pledged another $250 into the pot. And so even if no one else joins the pool, we've got $850 to play for.
Assuming that no additional entries show up, here's how the prizes will go:
First prize - $475 to player's favorite charityThere's still time to join in and play. With 19 weeks to go, no one's got too great a head start on you; 21 of our players still have 0 points. Just e-mail me here and I'll send you the address to which you should mail your entry fee. The official rules are here.
Second prize - $155 to player's favorite charity
Third prize - $100 to player's favorite charity
Fourth prize - $70 to player's favorite charity
Fifth prize - $50 to player's favorite charity
Not a good idea while you're driving a Tri-Met bus.
I remember years ago, while riding the Burnside bus over by what was then called Civic Stadium, I noticed that the driver had pulled out a small television set and was watching the Blazer game. Amazing.
According to police, this person did not in fact throw acid in someone's face. Indeed, this person in fact does not exist:
That's a relief, because she actually looks quite a bit like someone we know!
Oh, well. We can save this sketch in our file for whenever we need a female suspect in the future.
Look out, Portland! You-Know-Who will be partying in the bars tonight.
Our operating premise these days about local politics is that Multnomah County Chair Jeff Cogen is still BFFs with his former employer, Portland city commissioner (former county commissioner) Dan Saltzman. And so when Cogen takes on Portland's colorful mayor in a scratch fight over the Sellwood Bridge, and people speculate whether Cogen is getting ready to run for mayor, we think it's just as likely that "Legend" Dan is the one who will be doing the running against the Big Creep. That would leave Saltzman's City Council seat open for Cogen, who would then give Saltzman's family's money two votes on the City Council instead of its current one.
Meanwhile, over at the county, Cogen's BFF Karol Collymore is running for the county commission. And although we hear that Saltzman's nominally remaining neutral in that race, against Ron Wyden's BFF Loretta Smith, that may be just a head fake. If we're right that Saltzman = Cogen, and that Cogen = Collymore, then Saltzman = Collymore. In any event, it's nice to see the Saltzman purse so well represented in government.
Here is a terrible, and completely avoidable, tragedy. It almost makes one want to say that criminal charges should be brought against the parents, but hey, they've no doubt lost enough to learn their lesson.
Our Firefox browser is currently warning us that the Portland Tribune website is an "attack site," and that it's dangerous to go there. This has been going on since at least yesterday. Have any other readers out there encountered the same roadblock?
Over in the left sidebar of this blog, our meter of the City of Portland's unfunded pension and retiree health care liability just passed the $3 billion mark. That's quite a milestone -- scary, if you think about it -- and it's important to know where that number came from. If you asked the city, it would probably quote you a significantly lower figure. But the number that the city would likely offer isn't all that trustworthy.
The source for our data are the "official statements" that the city issues as sales documents before it sells bonds (i.e., borrows money). In those statements, the city makes representations to prospective investors about many things, among them the city's liabilities for retirement benefits and health care benefits for former city workers.
The city doesn't keep tabs on those liabilities on an ongoing basis. The calculations are complex, and they require the work of professional actuaries. The actuaries are called in once a year at most, and for the most serious examination of these matters, it's once every two years.
Take the city's police and firefighter pension and disability fund, for example. That's by far the largest single unfunded liability the city has. Nothing -- nothing! -- is ever put aside in advance to pay benefits to retired police and firefighters in the future. Everything is paid out of the current year's property taxes. And so the unfunded liability is huge. Anyway, the last time an actuarial consultant took a systematic look at that number was two years ago -- and they were taking a snapshot retroactively, as of June 30, 2008. That means that the last hard number the city produced on police and fire pension liability is as of more than 26 months ago. The figure at that time was $2,216,664,215.
A lot has happened since then, and on the economic side of life, it's all been bad. And so the figure today is probably higher -- much higher -- than what it was in June 2008. But what has the actual growth rate for the liability been? There isn't much of a reliable track record to go by, because the last time the actuaries did their thing, the city switched actuaries, and the new ones changed quite a few of the assumptions used in the calculations. The 2008 figure and the 2006 figure, therefore, were apples and oranges in a lot of ways.
Looking at the growth pattern before 2006, back in the day when the assumptions were not changing, we came up with an annual growth rate of 6.5%. If that's the right rate, then the $2.2 billion from June 2008 is $2.54 billion today. And that's just police and fire pension and disability.
Alas, there's more. The amounts the city has put aside for its other employees' pensions through the infamous PERS system are also falling short. As of the end of 2008, there was an unfunded liability of $259 million there. And now that the city has to report its unfunded retiree health care mandates, we see another $148 million or so as of late 2008. Those numbers, too, can be expected to grow.
And so is the City of Portland more than $3 billion in the hole on pensions and retiree health care? As far as we can tell, yes.
We took the family van in to the DEQ yesterday. Our rig is 10 years old this month. But God bless its catalytic converter, it passed the emissions test. Yay!
Then they told us how much the tab was for two years' registration: $145.
Yikes. We had to go back and look: The last time we did this, it was $75.
Part of it is that the state's hard up for money, and then there's another gratuitous new charge from Multnomah County, allegedly to replace the Sellwood Bridge. Bridges used to be taken care of out of gas taxes and basic registration charges, but nowadays if you want a bridge and you drive a car, you gotta pay extra.
When we moved to Portland 32 years ago, one of the best things about the place was that it didn't nickel and dime people. No road tolls, no sales tax, and dirt cheap car registration. But now forget that last part, and the other two benefits may not be long for this world, either.
And please spare us the comparison with other states' vehicle registration charges. They didn't just go up more than 93% over the span of the last year or two, did they?
Some of those other states have actual economies. Our decision to stake everything on Portland was based on a tradeoff between livability (we had it in spades) and the promise of monetary wealth (there was little or none). The lame-economy part hasn't changed, and so it's a real drag that the livability part is being sacrificed for government employee pensions, and the fattening of developer and construction company bank accounts. Oh well, we had two or three good decades here; it was quite a nice ride.
If we wanted to live in a condo tower, bad-mouth even modest private yards and lawns, and pay through the nose for the privilege of owning a car, we would live in New York or San Francisco, where we'd be getting rich.
Well, not exactly. But fearless state attorney general John Kroger has discovered that Oregon's vote-by-mail system allows housemates and relatives of dead people to -- gasp -- vote the dead people's ballots for them even after they've departed this mortal realm. In this case, Kroger's people prosecuted the dead guy's father, who was continuing to fill out and send in his deceased son's ballot.
If Kroger's caught one person doing this, how many others are out there, going undetected? And forget about dead people -- how many other ballots are filled out by someone other than the live person signing the envelope? Gee, we have no data. But vote-by-mail is great. Really. People now have heated conversations in their living rooms about candidates and issues -- conversations that never happened before.
Let's face it -- among his many other flaws, he's a deadbeat. And if his property isn't eventually foreclosed upon, it will be highly, highly suspicious.
Sometimes it's serious business.
Is the county chair standing on principle? Running for mayor? Both? Neither, and this is all for show?
A concerned reader writes:
I was driving home tonight and some idiot biker decided to answer his phone while riding. When he reached for the phone he swerved into my lane and I came inches from killing him.It should, but does it? Readers?
Does the hands-free law apply to these two-wheel idiots?
Here's a cute publicity stunt: On Friday, the City of Portland is going to turn two downtown parking spaces into a mini-"park" for a day. It's part of an international event called Park(ing) Day, where people all over the world will be doing this. (Interestingly, Republican U.S. Senate hopeful Jim Huffman actually did it, before anybody else probably, around 30 years ago.)
Let the jokes begin. Will there be an off-leash area for this guy? Will you get a $34 ticket if you sit on the grass and your derriere extends over the space line? Do you have to put a parking meter sticker on your forehead? What if it's one of the new ones, which aren't sticky? Will Jim Francesconi try to have one of the parking spaces sold on the sly to Warner Pacific College? Will hipster cyclists come roaring through on kiddie bikes, just for a thrill?
It's another big day in the history of Portland's reckless borrowing spree of the new millennium. Today the city is scheduled to sell the permanent bonds to finance around $64 million that's already been spent in the economically failed South Waterfront District, known by some of us as SoWhat for short.
A quick read of the sales pitch for the bonds -- which are being sold in a private negotiation with Bank of America and Citi -- reveals a sobering picture. It's a pretty bleak scene down in SoWhat, and these bonds aren't exactly top-tier. In fact, they're rated A1 by Moody's, and that's only the fifth-highest bond rating that organization issues. It's interesting that the mayor and his minions like to brag about the city's AAA bond rating. But that rating applies only to the city's general obligation bonds, of which there are only around $61 million outstanding. In contrast, today's borrowing will be $64 million for SoWhat alone, and not general obligations, of course. The city's overall total long-term debt load is about $3 billion, most of it not AAA, by a longshot. Add another $3 billion for unfunded pensions, and it's downright scary.
Anyway, today's sales document, known as the "official statement," reveals that the city is running one of its favorite trick plays to perfection on this deal. It's signing up for the long-term mortgage on its SoWhat infrastructure now, but the $64 million was spent long ago -- borrowed (probably from Bank of America) on "interim" lines of credit. At the time those interim loans were authorized by the City Council, it was too early to tell exactly what would happen in SoWhat. Now, when the interim loans have to be paid off to avoid default, it's too late not to issue the permanent bonds. And so the city's voters never really got a chance to challenge the spending. Classic Portland shenanigans, aided and abetted by the state legislature, which lets the city get away with it. The area's near-monopoly government bond lawyer, Harvey Rogers, probably drafts bills authorizing all kinds of ill-advised borrowing by the city, and when the city's lobbyists take them down to Salem, the lawmakers, many of whom can't balance their own checkbook, rubber-stamp them.
But we digress. At one point the document indicates that about $30 million of today's debt will be for 12 years, and the other $34 million or so will be for 20 years. That could change before the sale is finalized, but it's clear that the junk that's been built in SoWhat so far, won't be paid off for a long time.
There's an interesting appendix attached to the sales pitch. It's a study by the consulting company ECONorthwest -- a firm that tends to turn a nice buck issuing reports that support "urban renewal" and other City Hall pipedreams. In the report, the consultants project that condo prices will continue to drop pretty steeply, with a 38% crater over just two years. And to us, the money quote from the report comes when it states quite clearly that it isn't just the national economy that is causing the crash. Portland, they say, clearly overbuilt condos -- more than could be profitably sold even in good times:
The primary issue for the high-rise condominium market is one of oversupply. Simply put, too many high-priced condominium units were constructed between 2005 and 2008 than were warranted by the depth of the real demand for the product, irrespective of macro-economic conditions.Bingo. And they left out the fact that they're butt-ugly insults to our neighborhoods, too.
Another fascinating fact that we haven't seen mentioned elsewhere is that Comcast has a major property tax dispute going in Portland right now, including a huge battle over property valuation in SoWhat. The city's chart of big property owners in the district shows Comcast holding $74.8 million of assessed value, but down in a footnote to the chart, one reads that Comcast is alleging that the proper assessed value should be only around $13.2 million. That's a $61.6 million difference of opinion.
Anyway, I propose a toast to City of Portland municipal bonds and all the shiny toys they buy. Let's worry some other day about paying them off.
I see they're putting an "open-air plaza" in where Hank Ashforth and the Hoffman Construction boys have been trying to force Portland-area taxpayers to build a white elephant Convention Center hotel. A nice, green plaza... that can easily be dug up and forgotten when they finally figure out how to get the hotel scam passed by their friendly politicians:
Stephanie Soden, a spokeswoman for the Metropolitan Exposition and Recreation Commission, which oversees the convention center, said the site could still one day serve as the home to a convention hotel. For now, the spot will become an "exhibition plaza" that serves as an extension to the center’s main plaza.Uh huh.
Potter's PDC and Fearless Wheeler knocked it down for a while, but one kiss from Cogen, Kafoury, and Stacey and that hotel zombie will be rising from its slab. You can bet the Sam-Rand Twins and Judy Shiprack are still raring to go. Keep your jugular vein covered.
We could be in for lots more laughs in the weeks ahead.
It doesn't help that the party's poster children are guys like crooked Charlie Rangel. His ethics trial may not hurt him in his own district, but it could wind up costing votes in key districts around the country. People have patience for guys like Rangel when they're not hurting. But there's so much hurt out there right now, and he's certainly not an appealing sight.
A woman's camel is stuck in a hole in Oregon City.
Well, of course he does. Because it could eventually lead to drug testing of him. Like the blood-alcohol test the police didn't give him when he recklessly crashed his truck into some folks out at Jantzen Beach. Allegedly reeking of beer and with his pants unzipped.
Portlanders often wonder why their police are so out of control. Could it be because the civilian leadership is a revolving cast of knuckleheads?
Players in our charity 'dog pool, check out the four lines that were missing this morning:
8.5 JACKSONVILLE at San Diego
2 KANSAS CITY at Cleveland
2. NEW YORK JETS vs. New England
1.5 CINCINNATI vs. Baltimore
And so here's the final, full card for this week:
Now that consumers have wisely decided to shun products made with high fructose corn syrup, Big Food is going to change the name of that loathsome substance to "corn sugar." Heaven forbid that people should ever know what they're eating.
The many, many layers of government we "enjoy" here in the Portland region have many, many p.r. flacks sitting around pumping out advertising. The City of Portland has a small army of bureaucrats who come to work every morning and start Tweeting out puffery on behalf of the likes of Mayor Creepy and Fireman Randy. Entirely too many -- and often they're touting some favored private business.
Multnomah County has taken it relatively easy in that department, but as a recent find at our local public library reveals, they're not immune from public relations overload:
There's more to this fold-out flyer, but you get the idea.
It's a grey day in our community when the government is advertising welfare and jails.
Not all of the betting lines are available for this weekend's pro football games, and so players in our charity underdog pool will probably want to hold off making their selections for a bit. But the games we have so far are posted below.
Speaking of which, there's still time for anyone to enter. Sure, nine of our players have already scored points, but not many points. And besides, it's a season-long pool, with 19 weeks left. More than two thirds of our 30 or so entrants came up short this past weekend, and so you've got lots of company if you're starting off fresh this week.
Without further ado (or is it adieu?), here are the Week 2 'dog lines so far. Players, don't forget to e-mail your pick (just one per week) to the official e-mail address, firstname.lastname@example.org:
For a minute there, I was sure this story was from Portland.
I allowed myself the luxury of nine and a half hours of sleep last night. Divine.
Now where was I?
Ron Blue Jeans Baseball Hat calls himself a "progressive," but that's such a lie, it's pitiful.
He'll be back in the minority party again soon enough. Maybe then he'll retire to the Hamptons, where he's most comfortable.
Poor Obama. He's in with a really shabby crowd.
The Chiefs prevail -- the fifth winning underdog of the weekend -- leaving our standings as listed below. Nine of our more than 30 players get on the board. The betting lines for next weekend will be announced tomorrow:
While we tend to the mundane here at home, our friend Jack is still on the road, and happily for us, writing back:
September 11 flags still flying in beautiful back country New York State. Cooperstown is in the middle of nowhere, but it is a gorgeous nowhere. Fall colors are threatening. In a few more weeks the countryside will be ablaze and, sadly, we will be long gone...
My dad loved baseball. He was a decent left-handed pitcher on sandlot teams in the Bronx, and he joyfully took me and my bro to Yankee games. First game I remember was in 1948, the summer Babe Ruth died. Joe DiMaggio was Yankee centerfielder and his bro Dominic was Red Sox centerfielder, playing next to some guy named Williams. Years later I was a high school catcher. So our trip to the Hall of Fame this morning was special for me....
If you are a baseball fan, you must visit Cooperstown some day. I'll leave you to the website for details. My only comment is that the part of the Hall where the inductees' plaques hang is set up like a Romanesque cruciform church, with the central altar dedicated to the five initial inductees (Ruth, Cobb, Wagner, Matthewson, and Johnson) and the side altars to the others. It is set up to evoke awe, like every church. We found ourselves whispering. I saw an older man in a Red Sox jacket staring at the Ted Williams plaque with tears coursing down his cheeks. Quite something....
Economic and Political Report: Not that you asked, but it feels to your inexpert observer that there is a limpness in the land, having driving 4000 miles so far. Lots of little shops shuttered, many foreclosure signs, "for sale" signs with DRASTICALLY REDUCED banners. We also find many restaurants darn close to empty, and are often the only people in our B&Bs. On the other hand, the trucks are rolling along the highways, so who knows? On the political front, applying the same sharp scientific analysis -- which in this case means reading local newspapers and listening to local chatter -- it seems clear the Democrats are about to take it in the shorts, primarily because of the limp feeling in the land. I am not saying anything new, but now I feel it.
Political Sign of the Week: "Elect Enea For Coroner," in Mohawk, N.Y. I wonder if there's a pro-life candidate in the race. (groan)...
Cool Place Name: Lovers Lane Road, near Pembroke, N,Y. Like to know the back story.
Somehow, it isn't working out the way the 20-something planners were told in their Portland State urban studies classes. Even the developer weasels who pull those kids' strings are cutting each other's throats.
Portland's being wrecked, at taxpayers' expense, for no good reason. It's really time to call a halt to it. Instead, Mayor Creepy and the Latest Kafoury keep babbling about more and more "urban renewal." Wait 'til the credit card bills get here.
An alert reader who followed our link of the other night to the Portland commissioner's blog scrolled and clicked around a little and discovered that Nurse Amanda is pushing to have the city start billing people for the medical treatment they get from the city's firefighters who respond to 911 calls:
I proposed dedicating $100,000 in the 2010-11 budget to implement the Office of Finance and Management's suggestion to look at charging patients' medical insurance for medical services provided by PF&R, a request that Nick [Fish] and Dan [Saltzman] supported. The money for that study was reduced to $25,000 during discussions, then disappeared from the adopted budget. OMF said charging insurance companies could bring in $7 million annually, which would be more than enough to fund equipment replacement. [Portland Fire and Rescue's] study in 2008 suggested much lower projected income. An independent study should be funded either now from contingency, or in the 2011-12 budget, to find out whether billing insurance could be a significant revenue recovery mechanism.Gee, I thought that sort of thing was covered by all the property taxes we pay. Guess I was wrong again -- the tax money must go only to bike paths and streetcars. Ah, me -- time for another $25,000 (or $100,000) study! Keep studying it until the consultants give the politician the answer she wants to hear, I guess.
As the alert reader points out:
All this could be answered in a phone call to someone in the business. Medicare doesn't pay for this. Oregon Health Plan, even if it will, pays a token amount. (Ask any medical provider.) Uninsured patients don't pay anyway. So it's up to the big area players: Kaiser, Blue Cross, Providence. And since a high percentage of 911 callers end up not going by ambulance, my guess it that they too will say no.Opie Sten and Mother Vera may be gone, but the dopey ideas live on City Hall. It must be something in the water down there.
The projected $7 million of revenue is based on this: Estimated $7 million revenue / PFB runs about 45,500 medical calls a year. If everyone pays, about $155 for the fee. If half pay (still generous), the fee becomes $310. The public is going to LOVE this.... And the city is going to send the citizens to collections over it? Not if the Council wants to get re-elected.
There's your $25K study.
They're always burying the reports of wayward police officers in the distractions of the weekend. Here's the latest: a Portland policeman busted on drunk driving charges. A Scott Westerman Facebook friend, no less. According to the O, the officer, Scott Dunick, had already been taken off the streets a couple of months ago while the police bureau investigated alleged drug use.
The folks putting out the newsletter Portland Afoot have a humdinger of an issue this month. They call it "The Scapegoat Issue." Alas, its contents are not on line, but in it, the Afoot editors name some names of people to blame for Tri-Met's appalling trashing of its bus service: former Tri-Met general manager (and long-time Goldschmidt lieutenant) Tom Walsh; Mae Yih of Albany, of all people; and the current Tri-Met general manager and pusher of all things light rail, Neil McFarlane.
Most notably, the self-proclaimed "low-car" publication has some highly skeptical things to say about the irresponsible Milwaukie MAX project. They note that's there's an extra $50 million sloshing around in the upcoming Tri-Met ballot measure that could easily be subverted -- that probably will be subverted -- to the Milwaukie boondoggle, instead of restoring recent service cuts to existing lines. "Don't trust your ballot," they warn bluntly. "About 40% of the cash wouldn't be used for the stated purpose."
When the Chris Smith set cries foul on a transit tax and a light-rail project, you know they both stink. Anyway, this issue of Portland Afoot is worth a look, if you can find it around or are willing to pay them to send you one.
While we wait with amusement to see how America reacts to this spring's crazy, Wydenesque hash of health care "reform" -- when (and if) it finally takes effect -- here's a little taste of Congress messing with our minds. If you have a "flexible spending account" or "personal choice account" where you work, it allows you to pay your out-of-pocket medical expenses with pre-tax dollars. You designate part of each paycheck to the plan, and it holds the money to reimburse you. Under the tax rules, you're able to include reimbursements for over-the-counter drugs and remedies in that plan. And so cold remedies, cough syrups, aspirin, athlete's foot spray, topical antibiotics and other first aid items -- all are eligible for reimbursement out of the plan, which means that there's no tax on the money you spend on such items.
All of that is going to change come January 1. Under health care "reform," now you'll need a doctor's prescription for the over-the-counter drugs, or else you won't be able to reimbursed for them out of the tax-exempt plan.
Got that? You need a prescription... for nonprescription, over-the-counter drugs.
I guess Congress figures people will stop using their plans for things like aspirin and Nyquil. Screw that -- I'm going to the doctor and demand that he write me a prescription for every little anti-sniffle pill I need. That wicked hangnail needs Neosporin? Doc, please write me a scrip.
This is how our Congress fights the rising cost of health care. This is also why the American empire is fading so fast.
Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, is getting an emergency cash advance from its state government because it has spent too much money on employee pensions and dumb ideas that it can't afford. A cautionary tale for Portlanders? Nah -- that assumes that they're listening.
Now that the Kyron hoopla has died down, maybe we can obsess about this one for a while.
When cyclists think red lights and stop signs are merely advisory, sometimes it's the last thought they ever have. All you rah-rahs who promote biking by every Tom, Dick, and Harry who can afford a two-wheeler, without taking responsibility for safety training and respect for the rules of the road -- this thud's for you.
This is pretty disgusting.
A first-time reader writes:
So, unfortunately I seem to be one of the newest people to meet David Wilson. As I googled his name and found your website I cant help but feeling duped. He gave me the typical lines about knowing where Welches is and asked for twenty bucks. As I decided whether or not to help him I figured that I would take the chance hoping that if he was telling the truth at least I could help him out of a tight spot. The way I look at it, he had a pretty good story and if he was lying he probably needed that twenty pretty bad. In the end you just have to hope for the best in everyone even if people like him will take advantage of you. Next time I'm just going to need to ask more questions.To the nearest bar, no doubt.
Corner of NE 7th St. and NE Weidler St. It was about 11pm. He was wearing a hat, t-shirt, shorts and "Croc"-like slip-on shoes. He also still had a beard. When he left he walked east on Weidler.
Former Oregon Secretary of State Bill Bradbury has been handed a plum three-year assignment on the Northwest Power Planning Council at a nifty $107,000 a year. You wonder how many hours a week that entails.
His salary as secretary of state was $72,000.
Interestingly, the highest paid employee in the secretary of state's office currently is former Portland City Auditor Gary Blackmer, who's pulling down a cool $140,964 plus beni's.
The players in our charity pro football underdog pool have spoken, and here are their picks for this weekend's games:
7 CAROLINA at New York Giants - Bob, Paul, Flowers by Dorcas, Doug
6.5 DETROIT at Chicago - Anthony, Larry Legend, Rich M., genop's gal, Eric
6 OAKLAND at Tennessee - Biggest Cubs Loser, genop
5 MINNESOTA at New Orleans (Thursday, and the underdog did not prevail) - Matt, PJB, Michael K., Drewbob, Ricardo, Gary, Ed
4.5 KANSAS CITY vs. San Diego - Annie
4 CINCINNATI at New England - Flowers by Dorcas Husband, Jim, Bad Brad
4 ST. LOUIS vs. Arizona - Maker's Mark, Hank
3.5 WASHINGTON vs. Dallas - Andy
3 SEATTLE vs. San Francisco - pdxmick
3 CLEVELAND at Tampa Bay - Gordon
2.5 BALTIMORE at New York Jets - Broadway Joe, Nick, john dull, AKevin
2.5 PITTSBURGH vs. Atlanta - Sattelihu, Umpire
2.5 DENVER at Jacksonville - Conrad
Nobody chose Philadelphia, Buffalo, or Houston.
Good luck to everybody with a 'dog in the hunt today, tonight, or tomorrow.
Here's the end of an old tradition: From now on, Social Security numbers will no longer tell you where the person lived when they got their number. My creaky old number, starting with "144," was issued only to people in New Jersey; my kids' "541" and "542" show that they were born here in Oregon. Under the new system, announced a few years ago but just now being implemented, the numbers are going to be randomly assigned, including some that start with 7 or 8, which has never been the case.
There still won't be any 000's, though, or 666's (guess they're afraid people will revolt if their newborns are given the mark of the devil). And none at 900 or above.
Besides making identity theft a little harder, the change is supposed to postpone us having to go to a 10-digit, rather than a 9-digit, number. Under the new system, we're told, there are still 435 million numbers available to be handed out.
And she doesn't like what she sees.
I agree with her. Butts are gross.
When the bars let out in downtown Portland, it's a good time to get the heck out of there. Here's the latest closing time gang fight, with at least one man shot, last night. But ya gotta love the headline in the O:
The gunplay wasn't "downtown" -- it was "in SW Portland." Uh huh.
Ever since I attended the Edward Tufte program this past spring, I've been on the constant lookout for killer graphics. Here's a good one -- a visual display of how wealth in the United States has increased under Republican and Democratic Presidents. It shows pretty convincingly that everybody does better under Democratic Presidents -- but especially the poor.
There's still some time to get a pick in in the first week of our charity pro football underdog pool. The deadline for picking an NFL underdog that can win its game outright is tonight at 11:59. The available choices are here -- the rules are here. If you like the game, you can mail your entry fee tomorrow or Monday and your first week pick will still count. Charities benefit, and you show your gridiron prognostication prowess. Win-win!
I must be missing something. Is the Ducks football game not on television? The almighty Ducks, slighted in favor of Raymond reruns and judo? Too funny.
UPDATE, 6:19 p.m.: Ah, there they are -- on ESPN2. They didn't seem to be there at game time.
What will all those riders do?
Ride shuttle buses, apparently.
Will the bus drivers check for payment of fares? That would be a big shock to many streetcar riders, who usually scoff at the farebox, with impunity.
Anyway, for two weeks, we'll see what Portland should have put in place (if anything) on these streets, instead of expensive, slow, inflexible fixed-rail transit. Then we'll go back to basking in the toxic glow brought to us by Mother Vera and her spawn, Sam the Tram.
On the neighbors' nerves, that is.
It's easy to share the outrage over this one.
The City of Portland is about to start a five-year project of removing non-native plants from the slopes of Mount Tabor. Cutting out the choking ivy and digging out aggressive shrubs probably won't raise any eyebrows, but there is also going to be a fair amount of herbicide spraying. The city says it will be careful, but since the park sits atop several open drinking water reservoirs, some folks are concerned. Moreover, there's not a community consensus that all of the non-native trees should go.
The report outlines what is envisioned to be at minimum a five year project of plant removal and replanting on the steep and fragile slopes of Mt. Tabor Park. Although the city quotes from the Mt.Tabor Master Plan 2000, "Protect and enhance the environmental aspects of the park," this project takes a twisted approach, including spraying pesticides throughout the park and near our water reservoirs. The city will use chainsaws and pesticides to remove mature non native trees, many which are historic in nature and are a living history of the Mt Tabor Park and area. It includes removing non-native under story plants, deemed invasive, yet at the same time many of these plants and trees provide important food sources and nesting habitat for birds and wildlife.[Photo courtesy Miles Hochstein / Portland Ground.]
Phase One is scheduled to take place across the natural areas on the west and south faces of the park, listed as "Non-Restricted Herbicide Use Zones". (See map on final page of report for zones) In the draft report, it states, "In Phase One of the project, herbicide use is not restricted; in Phase two, herbicide use requires additional notification to and coordination with PWB" This language is not included in the final report.
This project is part of the Tabor to River project and the spraying of pesticides in our watershed is being paid for by taxpayer dollars going to the Bureau of Environmental Services to match federal stimulus dollars that must be spent by the end of this calendar year. There's the rush and the rub. While much of the work will be carried out by private contractors, apparently because the project is managed by BES no plan is required because no permits are being pulled. Of greatest concern is the lack of a final landscape plan that takes into account the entire scope of this project.
Compare the recent project detailed in the news regarding Forest Park and the clearing of a pipeline. The private business had to present a complete plan and paid $107,000 in permits to parks to cut 313 trees. The Forest Park plan has such detail that it includes how many snags will be left standing and that no downed trees would be removed but instead be used to improve wildlife habitat. The Tabor project includes scant details and simply describes the park as a "Landscape in Transition" for a minimum of the next five years; and with little concern for wildlife or erosion, it states, "Downed trees will be chipped... "
Five years in municipal and bureaucratic worlds is a lifetime. Just think of the past five years and all the plans and reports made for our beloved Mt. Tabor that have been abandoned along the way. This project depends on stimulus money for the first phase and no funds are available or identified for the following phases. At the end of the project, BES hands it back to Portland Parks and Recreation to maintain. This is a joke because the maintenance budget is always axed by the Parks Bureau, and is a big reason for many of the problems with our parks' natural areas. Five years is a long time to envision a civic project that has no plan and has had little meaningful or widespread community engagement.
Is it the collapse of the housing market and a shrinking market for nursery stock and chemical applications that are putting our parks and our health at risk? Regardless, there are better ways to spend this money at Mt. Tabor that most people could agree upon. For example, remove the worst invasive plants, such as English ivy, clematis and knot weed, replant areas that have already been cleared before clearing more areas, replant dead and dying mature trees with large caliper, specimen trees, and make a comprehensive landscape plan. Or use the one Olmsted plan created for Mt. Tabor Park over 100 years ago!
The city is offering a walking tour on Saturday, September 11, rain or shine, at 9-11 a.m. Meet at the main parking lot of the park to tour the project site.
It could have been worse. God help the people in San Bruno.
Now that the Florida pastor won't be burning the Muslims' sacred book, maybe the rest of us can figure out how to burn less of their oil.
And these guys may well have saved somebody's life. Way to go.
A horrible scene just south of San Francisco. An exploded gas main, apparently.
In our charity pro football underdog pool, we have seven players choosing Minnesota to win its game outright tonight: Matt W., PJB, Michael K., Drew, Ricardo, Gary, and Ed. And so far that's a winning pick, although there's still a half to play.
The other players have until 11:59 p.m. on Saturday to get their picks of the week into us. Good luck, everybody.
UPDATE, 8:35 p.m.: No go for our players tonight -- the world champs held court.
Years ago, when we moved into our current home, the Mrs. did some wonderful landscaping that we still enjoy today. One of the early improvements, however, involved removing a shrub whose leaves smelled like peanut butter. We never did figure out what it was, but we still talk about it once in a while.
One person's weed is another person's glorious plant. Today Lelo tells us all about said plant (a tree, actually) and why she loves it, here.
We're up to no. 7 nationally. And Oregon moves up from no. 15 to no. 11.
Now you can't even take photos of the planes.
So now we see what they're doing. We've been wondering, Why is the Port of Portland (and its handmaidens on the City Council) so hellbent on paving over scarce wildlife habitat on the west end of Hayden Island? They say they want a shipping terminal there, but in this economy, what's there to ship?
Today we see the answer: They'll be using that terminal to ship coal from Montana and Wyoming to China.
Then the Chinese can burn it, and the mercury from the coal emissions will be rained down on the Pacific Northwest. Great.
I thought Mayor Creepy recently stood up and declared himself the leader of a "coal-free Oregon." Like everything else he says, that appears to have been a bit of a joke.
They're draining the lake down in the Portland 'burb for a new sewer project. It says here they'll be "trucking sediment" in October. I wonder where to. Speaking of which, has anybody seen whether Portland's started scooping the poop out of the Laurelhurst Park duck pond and trucking it to the Cully neighborhood "park site"?
Here are our politicians publicly groveling before some House chairman for funding for streetcars, bike lanes, and bioswales -- most of which the majority of city residents couldn't care less about, and much of which the city can't afford to maintain once they're built. These projects will all create jobs, they tell us. But aside from short-term construction jobs, the only employment they're creating is for domestic servants at the Dunthorpe palaces of the construction and developer types who will be the prime beneficiaries of the federal pork.
The Minnesota Vikings visit the New Orleans Saints at 5:30 p.m. West Coast time to mark the start of another pro football season. If the Vikes are your pick this week in our underdog pool, we must receive that pick by e-mail before game time.
Here in Portland, you tell the Sam-Rand Twins what they want or hear, or else. Now Mayor Creepy and the Fireman have fired the entire citizen's budget advisory panel at the police bureau.
How long will the residents of the city put up with these guys? Not only is it bad for the average person's morale, but it's also extremely unattractive to businesses, when City Hall is an out-of-control middle school student body run by a couple of mean, dim-witted kids that nobody likes.
What a hero! Bill Wyatt, running the Port of Portland, has agreed to take a mere $321,000 out of the public coffers this year. Thank you, Bill, and God bless you.
Here's an interesting campaign tidbit: The trade unions (at least the private industry ones) are going with Tom Hughes for Metro and Loretta Smith for county commissioner over Bob Stacey and Karol Collymore. I thought it would be all tighty-righties and grumps like me going that way, but it's interesting that some labor groups are making those calls.
Remember those mildly scary Metro recycling songs we pointed to a couple of weeks ago? Now we see what they're for. I am not making this up -- Metro is running a puppet show. And they're currently paying puppeteers $14.77 an hour.
They ought to bring in Neil Goldschmidt for one of these gigs. Kind of like letting David Bragdon drive the zoo train before he left town. Crouched down behind the stage, Neil wouldn't have to show his face, which of course he isn't allowed to do any more. And let's face it, he's experienced at the job. He's been the pulling the strings on Metro, and the Port, and Tri-Met, and OHSU, and who knows what all else in Oregon government, for 20 years or more. He'd be perfect.
The flap over GOP gubernatorial candidate Chris Dudley's avoidance of Oregon income taxes while a pro basketball player takes a wicked turn today, as Willamette Week's intrepid muckraker, Nigel Jaquiss, insinuates that Dudley may have in fact underpaid his Oregon income taxes, as opposed to legally avoiding them.
Jaquiss suggests that although he bought a home in Camas, Washington, Dudley, who also continued to own a home in Northwest Portland out toward Kyronland, might have still been an Oregon resident for tax purposes. Dudley, of course, claimed that his domicile for tax purposes was in Washington. Even Jaquiss admits that tax residency can be a tough call sometimes, but the question he's raising is potentially quite troublesome, and WW, which will surely endorse Kitzhaber come November, isn't shy about asking it.
As a tax lawyer, I find it interesting that the electorate is being treated to such a prolonged inquiry into Dudley's state tax situation from well over than a decade ago. Apparently, he isn't giving the Kitzhaber camp much else to shoot at. Meanwhile, the criminal investigation into state contracts held by Kitz's significant other passed onto and off of the news pages in a couple of days. That little problem is a lot more current, a lot more relevant, and a lot more serious.
Two of Portland's least likable fellows, Mayor Creepy and sports pundit John Canzano, went at each other on the radio for a while yesterday. It's refreshing that Canzano is pointing out what a poor excuse for leadership the city has right now. But the trigger for his ire? The city didn't give enough money to Canzano's idol, Little Lord Paulson, and now His Lordship is packing up his baseball team and selling it right out of Oregon. Waaaahh!
Now, that's funny.
What really happened here? Henry III carpetbagged into Portland, bought its minor league soccer and baseball teams, and immediately decided that the Beavers didn't work. He wasn't on a the scene but a month or two and already he was talking about "re-branding" the baseball team. But he soon gave up trying. As he wasn't turning a dime of profit with the Bevos, he figured he could make a lot more dough by beefing up his soccer operation. And so if he couldn't get the city (or some other sucker municipality, like Beaverton or Vancouver) to build him a brand new baseball stadium with little or no money shelled out on his part, he'd fold the baseball team and stick with soccer. The old stadium, which the city had just blown $30 million on, would be the perfect scapegoat.
Even the Sam-Rand Twins, The Don, and Mother Vera Herself couldn't easily sell two new stadiums to the rest of the Portland City Council, nor could they ram that prospect down the throats of the local citizenry. And when the going got tough, Paulson took the easy way out and pulled the plug on Portland pro baseball. No other city in the region was stupid enough to pick up the slack, and so now the AAA-class Beavers will be moving to California under new ownership.
The Beavers' leaving town is nothing new. They've done it any number of times over the years, and sooner or later, the minor leagues have always come back to Portland. The Single-A-class Portland Rockies were an example of the eventual return. But this time around, since Paulson soccer is taking over exclusive use of what was formerly the city's multi-use stadium, baseball will have no place in Portland to come back to. And now that the city's going another eight figures into hock to remodel the existing stadium, it's approaching the point where it may not be able to raise the money to build a new ballpark, even if it wants to. (Not to mention the fact that the laid-off and angry public is starting to catch on to what rotten investments these public stadium deals generally are.)
With all the money the Paulsons have at their disposal, they could have kept pro baseball in the Portland area if they really wanted to. But they didn't, and so now it's gone. Yes, Sam Adams is a pretty crummy mayor, but not building two stadiums for the New York robber barons -- which he and the Fireman tried hard to do -- was a good turn of events for Portland.
Jake at utterlyboring.com takes us for a cruise.
The bureaucrats' latest foray into something that's best left alone: Now the city is going to get into the business of selling heat, air conditioning, and hot water in the Pearl District. Today they put out for a $50,000 contract for a consultant (no doubt already hand-picked) to keep things rolling:
The City of Portland’s 2009 Climate Action Plan (http://www.portlandonline.com/bps/index.cfm?c=49989&) established the goal of producing 10 percent of the total energy used within Multnomah County from on-site renewable sources and clean district energy systems by 2030. To support this goal, the City hired a consultant to perform a feasibility study of a neighborhood district energy system to supply space heating, space cooling and domestic hot water to existing and new buildings in the North Pearl District. This study documented the potential business case for a district energy system in the North Pearl District....How to pay for this grand experiment? Why, we'll simply borrow the money from Bank of America. It will be like getting the whole system for free.
For the past year, the City has been working with partners to analyze and gauge the feasibility of a range of neighborhood-scale utility investments. The City finds that District Energy (DE) investments are likely to be among the most economically viable and environmentally beneficial strategies to reduce energy use and carbon emissions....
The City of Portland, Bureau of Bureau of Planning and Sustainability is seeking proposals from individuals, firms, teams or consultants, hereafter called “Proposer(s),” with demonstrated experience in district energy development, financing and ownership, and proposes to engage the successful Proposer for the following services:
a. Convening stakeholders, investors and suppliers with the intent to support installation of at least one DE system.
b. Performing research and reporting on district energy (DE) ownership, financing and development strategies, including an analysis of opportunities and barriers.
c. Developing an outreach plan and providing education to the community about the benefits of DE systems.
A little bit of Oregon history has died with this fellow. Too bad I missed him in his prime -- he seems to have been quite the character.
It's that time again -- time to crank up our charity pro football underdog pool for the second year. It's a season-long game in which players try to pick one NFL underdog each week that will win its game outright -- without the benefit of the point spread. Winning players receive the number of points that their underdog was predicted to lose by -- and the player with the most points at the end of the playoffs in January is the winner.
The entry fee is a Jackson, and all proceeds go to charity. The top finishers in our underdog standings get to say to which nonprofit organization (501(c)(3)) the money will go. Last year, we sent more than $420 to worthy charities, and this year the pot promises to be substantially greater.
Entry fees aren't due, however, until next Wednesday, the 15th -- which means you can play this week's 'dogs now, and if you like the game, pay first thing next week. Your first week pick will still count.
It's easy to enter -- just send your pick by e-mail to email@example.com. That's the only way to enter this year; picks posted in comments on this blog or by e-mail to any other address will not count. The deadline for entries is 11:59 p.m. Pacific time on Saturday night (or prior to kickoff if you're playing the Thursday game).
The official rules are here, but enough of that -- on to the first week's lines. Do you see an underdog (in caps) below that can win its game outright? Good luck, everybody!
7 CAROLINA at New York Giants
6.5 DETROIT at Chicago
6 OAKLAND at Tennessee
5 MINNESOTA at New Orleans (Thursday)
4.5 KANSAS CITY vs. San Diego
4 CINCINNATI at New England
4 ST. LOUIS vs. Arizona
3.5 WASHINGTON vs. Dallas
3 SEATTLE vs. San Francisco
3 PHILADELPHIA vs. Green Bay
3 CLEVELAND at Tampa Bay
3 BUFFALO vs. Miami
2.5 BALTIMORE at New York Jets
2.5 PITTSBURGH vs. Atlanta
2.5 HOUSTON vs. Indianapolis
2.5 DENVER at Jacksonville
Feel free to leave comments below, as advice and kibitzing is always appreciated. But don't forget -- only e-mail entries to firstname.lastname@example.org will be counted in the game.
When you mention "Blumenauer" in an outgoing e-mail message, Thunderbird suggests changing it to "Blunderer."
When you blow up dams, these guys show up. Interesting that even Jason Atkinson is fixing to stop them.
We blogged last week about the obscene compensation packages collected by the chief executives of the Portland area's public companies. Here's another study on the subject, by the Portland Business Journal, which shows that the heavy, heavy rain also falls on the seconds, thirds, and fourths in command. Heck, I even know two of the guys in the top 40!
They also report on corporate directors, here. It looks like $200,000 a year is the going rate to sit on a high-end board around here. Peter Kohler picked up a nice $168,000 from Standard Insurance. Way to go, Doc! And thanks for the SoWhat District.
As regular readers here know, the powers that be are proposing to build an immigration holding tank and detainee processing facility in Portland's SoWhat District -- a facility where people will be deported for not jumping through the hoops to enter the country legally. But the people pushing that project sure seem to be having a hard time accepting the fact that they have to jump through hoops themselves. They're bending the city's land use rules to the breaking point and beyond, rather than allowing their plan to receive the full public review that the law requires. And the municipal bureaucracy, apparently with the vocal support of a certain city commissioner's office, is going right along with them.
The neighbors who are concerned about the siting of the facility in SoWhat have been asking questions about the city's process to date, and the information they've been able to wrest from planning officials is troubling, to say the least. First off, the project has been in the works since last spring, or perhaps even earlier, although the first anyone outside the inner circle got even an inkling of it was in July, and the first anyone actually shone a spotlight on the jail aspect of the deal was in August. By May 10, city permit specialist Kara Fioravanti had already reviewed an application for the new facility and made an "initial determination" that the facility resulting from the planned renovation and expansion of an existing bank office building would indeed be a "detention facility," triggering a high level of scrutiny under city land use rules.
We've been through that question on this blog at some length, here. Of course it's going to be a "detention facility." There will be people in handcuffs, in federal custody, behind bars, being guarded by sworn federal officers -- and at least some of the guards will be armed. Up to 100 prisoners -- there's really no better name for them -- will be trucked to the facility and kept in locked rooms, under guard, up to 12 hours, while they await hearings before an administrative law judge. There will be not one but two fences around the detention area.
But of course, when there's money to be made by a developer, all common sense is thrown to the winds, and the endless hemming and hawing begins. The architects who are pushing the project hired a lawyer who made an impassioned plea that the immigration detainees really aren't in "judicially required" detention because a deportation proceeding is a civil, not a criminal, matter. "[A]ny detention that occurs in the facility in question," he write, "involves neither a judge nor court."
It's a cute argument, but in the end it seems pretty lame. The federal statute in question specifically states that the detainees are under "arrest," subject to bail and parole. The person they are appearing before in the facility is specifically called an "immigration judge." The place is going to be a "detention facility" -- the developer and architect types need to get over it.
It's interesting that the lawyer sent a copy of his letter to Patrick Prendergast, a prominent local developer. So far, the landlord of the building -- 4310 Building, LLC -- has been identified as being connected with the Lindquist Development firm. How Prendergast gets involved in the deal has not yet been a subject of public discussion.
Anyway, a month and a half after the lawyer sent out the letter, the city's Fioravanti reversed herself and ruled that the proposed jail isn't going to be a "detention facility" after all -- just an "office." So characterized, the project would be immune from any meaningful challenge by the neighbors. If it's just an "office," the facility is allowed as of right, and all the locals can complain about is stuff like the color of the paint on the barbed wire. No discussion about traffic. No discussion about neighborhood character. No discussion about safety.
Perhaps sensing the extreme weakness of the lawyer's theory, the folks pushing the project have some other suggestions about how the jail really isn't a "detention facility." One is that the office part of the building is going to be so much larger than the part with the cells in it, that the jail use is secondary, or subservient, to the greater office use. In other words, if you put a jail in a big enough office building, it isn't a jail any more.
You would think that by now, someone on the City Council would quietly step in and stop the foolishness. But quite the opposite, apparently -- word from the SoWhat neighbors is that Commissioner Randy Leonard's chief of staff, Ty Kovatch, has sternly lectured at least one of them about the facts that the jail really won't be a "detention facility," and anyone who says otherwise is lying.
Sure. When Fireman Randy uses a word, it means just what he chooses it to mean, neither more nor less.
In any event, we now arrive at that moment that we reach so often in Portland land use matters. Will the neighbors lawyer up and put a stop to this? Or will the unholy alliance of the developer dudes, their BFFs in City Hall, and the sweethearts at federal immigration, get away with mocking the law? We'll know soon -- these guys will have the jackhammers going at the absolute earliest opportunity. All along on this one, they've been hoping to get to "You may be right, but it's too late now!" Don't think they've given up on that goal, even though, much to their frustration, somebody's noticed what they're up to.
The state trooper in that nasty wreck in Beaverton a week and a half ago was apparently in the wrong.
Which is probably why the details released at the time were so sketchy.
And when did they announce what actually happened? Saturday afternoon of Labor Day weekend!
If you don't think government at all levels is screwing with your mind, you aren't paying attention.
The denizens of Beijing are letting nothing go to waste.
Our old friend and a good friend Jack has retired from being a lawyer and is doing a lot of traveling and writing. We recently had the pleasure of spending a few hours with him and his family here in the Rose City on one of their travel swings. Right now, he and his wife Belinda are on a cross-country drive from their California home to the East Coast. Jack's been writing every day, and yesterday's posting had an interesting tale in it:
Before letting go of South Dakota, I must mention our breakfast at Bob's in Sioux Falls this morning. Since our B&B lacked B, Belinda located a spot on the way to the interstate called Bob's. From the outside it was unprepossessing to say the least. Inside was a tiny space with one table and a short-order stove surrounded by a counter full of grizzled local farmers who looked like they ate breakfast wearing a hat every day for thirty years, and probably in that same seat. There were a few spots open at the counter so we sat, feeling from Mars. No one acknowledged us, and their own interactions were monosyllabic at best. The guy sitting next to Belinda had a KOREA VETERAN baseball cap on and looked like a poster boy for emphysema. We ordered, and the food was pretty good. A young couple with a baby came in, and he started asking questions of the older guys -- turns out everyone knew each other, except us of course. After we finished, the short-order cook came over and asked : "How'd I do?" We said fine and he asked us where we were from, and when we told him everyone looked up. The cook brought over a notebook for us to write in. The entries went back to 2002. I wrote something. By now, we're part of the family. The cook picked up Belinda's Fodor's and asked if Bob's was in it. It isn't, but he told us that Bob's IS in the standard roadtrippers' bible called Road Food. Not only in it, but, he said, in it consistently for 42 years! Well, maybe, but it was a terrific place. When we left, everyone gave us a big send off.
Now I will do my David Brooks imitation. When we first sat at the counter and were being ignored, I picked up the sports section of the local paper for something to do. I learned that the local college football team, the U of SD, had its butt kicked yesterday. The headline was: "Coyotes See Positives After 38-7 Loss To Central Florida." I'm thinkin', hmm. On the west coast or east coast, I don't think the headline would be about positives after a licking like that. This is my fourth driving trip across the country, and each time I am reminded that there is a fundamental WYSIWYG decency and optimism in the middle of our land that is not in evidence in the big cities on the coasts. There's a groundedness and a patience out here, and it may very well be one of our most valuable national assets. Maybe I ought to go back some day to Rushmore, set aside my left coast cynicism, ignore all the peripheral crap, and just appreciate those monumental granite faces for what they are. Okay, now it's time for the Kurt Vonnegut coda: And so it goes.
Here's a remarkable picture, but we suspect that Freud would have a field day with it.
Brian Hines sums up the Blue predicament:
It seems to me like today's John Kitzhaber is almost exactly like yesterday's, just seven-plus years older (he was Governor from 1995 to 2003). Yet Oregon is in markedly worse economic shape, and faces much worse budget problems.
Wearing blue jeans and cowboy boots while dispensing a string of wonkish policy prescriptions in a laid back professorial manner isn't going to cut it with the Oregon electorate this time around.
Dudley's campaign recognizes that. I sure hope Kitzhaber's advisers do also before it is too late.
There have been 128 previous Labor Days in our country, and surely some of them were bleaker for American workers than this one. But we must say that this year, the nation's workforce looks as beat up as it has ever been in our boomer lifetime. The unions are fading -- except for the government employees' unions, and even they have to be looking over their shoulders these days. It's going to take a while, but their day of reckoning is also coming.
National unemployment officially stands at 9.6%, which is a bad enough number, but then one realizes that those statistics have been kept in a dishonest way for many years. The real number of people out of work is higher, much higher, than that. And some people are realizing that they aren't going to be able to collect unemployment forever. What's next for many of them is pure welfare.
What can be done? It's hard to see any easy way out. We've pretty much stopped manufacturing in the United States. "Protectionism" is out, and global trade is in. With the occasional exception of plants like the Intel installation out on Portland's far west side, there are few factory jobs left in America. Countries whose residents are far, far worse off than American workers do all the making of goods any more, and multinational corporations go where the labor is cheaper to make their profits. Making profits is what they are set up to do.
Both political parties have been perfectly willing to play along with this. Nobody made more money for multinational corporations than Bill Clinton, and so it's hard to lay the current problems solely at Republican feet. Reagan was a union breaker, but Clinton accelerated a domestic job loss that's hurt labor much worse. Technology provided a boom, but the whole point of a lot of technology is to automate tasks previously performed by unions. What's good for Silicon Valley is bad for Detroit.
Without workers, there are few consumers. Without a large army of optimistic consumers, there won't be an economic recovery.
Perhaps what we need is a new type of certification -- sort of like the "LEED" craze that the real estate sharpies have developed to market to the greens -- that gauges how much the proceeds of particular goods benefit workers in our own country as compared to stockholders, overpaid executives, and workers in other lands. Sort of what the union label used to mean. The hippies here in Portland have their "buy local" thing going, and that's good as far as it goes, but we'd like to see a similar campaign in which "local" is the United States, and somebody trustworthy (not the corporate marketers) does some hard analysis of which products are more "local" than others when it comes to jobs.
Many of us would likely be willing to pay a premium at the store to do a small part to bring American labor back to its feet. Paying the money to the government in hopes that it's going to help just isn't too appealing as the darkness stubbornly lingers.
We've got a feeling of accomplishment at the hacienda today -- we held another successful yard sale yesterday. I say "we" -- the Mrs. does all the actual setup, selling, and strikedown, and the serious task of prepping for the day, while I handle the signs on the street, run the music (gotta have good music to do retail), change $20 bills, keep the crew fed, and do a little entertaining of the young 'uns during the six hours when customers are around.
Even on the holiday weekend, the traffic to our sale was impressive. Among the stuff that went down the driveway were a bunch of my pants that I haven't worn in years for one reason or another. I couldn't believe it. The kids got some school supplies money, and we all gained some storage space in various corners of the house. Next up are stops at the consignment store and Goodwill, and then another year of the tradition will be officially in the books.
Our children have been pretty good about letting go of their stuff -- more so than I. I found myself feeling a little blue as I surveyed our goods out on the hanging rack and the tables. "We're selling the Furby game? That's it for the flowered jacket? And the fuzzy brown hoodie with the hearts on it?" Yeah, Dad.
Then there are the neighborhood signs, which we've used over and over for almost a decade. A few years ago, we had to patch over where they said "Babies." This year "Tots" was replaced by "Bikes." ("Kids" was already there.) The year that "Teens" goes up, some of the sale items may have a tear stain or two.
We noted recently that our congressman, Earl Blumenauer, was proposing shifting Social Security to a means-tested, rather than insurance-like, system. And apparently some other folks noticed. Since then, old Earl has been backpedaling faster than Ginger Rogers in her prime.
But even the watered-down version of his mental meanderings is being called into question:
My other problem is here: "Somehow you can’t look at reduction in benefits for wealthy people 30 years from now without threatening retirement security for middle-income people in the next decade. Well, that’s nonsense." Actually, it’s math. Progressive-price indexing, which is what Blumenauer is talking about here, doesn’t work unless the indexing dips all the way down into the middle class. The type of policy Blumenauer describes – "reduction in benefits for wealthy people 30 years from now" – does nothing for long-term actuarial health. You would have to basically eliminate benefits at the high-end to provide the actual revenue savings necessary. Setting aside the dangerous ground of turning a universal benefit into a means-tested program for the poor, the only real savings can derive from making this a broad cut.
The other evening, I had my second victory celebration in less than a week, with the "owner" of the Teutonic Knights -- the winner in our World Cup soccer game-by-game pick 'em contest of earlier this summer. He's someone I've known for years, but he took me to a kind of place I'd never before visited -- a soccer bar.
It is called North 45, and it's over on Northwest 21st. We had some outrageous Belgian ale and spectacular steamed mussels out on the lovely patio. There were guys in soccer jerseys, and autographed soccer jerseys on the wall. As the Coasters used to say, "That's a suit you'll never own."
Yowsa, could the Democrats actually lose control of the U.S. House of Representatives? I hadn't realized it was that bad. What a disaster.
It appears that two races in our neck of the woods could make a difference. Up in the 'Couv, Brian Baird is stepping down from his gig as worldwide scuba diving guide. He's often seemed like a Republican in disguise, but if you complain about it you're told, "He has to be that way -- he's from a conservative district." We are about to see how true that is. Coming in to pitch for the Dems is Denny Heck, a high-powered media and internet expert and longtime figure in state politics. Over on the GOP side, they're running Jaime Herrera, a youthful state legislator with a Molly Bornado vibe. Heck and Herrera ran close in the "top two" primary, but now it's down to just the two of them.
Meanwhile, back in Beaverton, David "Wu Wu Wu" Wu is up for a seventh term, this time trying to swat down Rob Cornilles, a highly polished Tualatin sports marketing consultant whose halo comes in part from his BYU diploma. Wu hasn't had a decent opponent in a while, but Cornilles has come out swinging against Wu's record while promising to vote moderately himself. The district has historically been a bit of a wild card, and this is no ordinary election cycle. A lot of voters are none too pleased with the "new normal." Wu is doubtlessly sweating -- at least a little -- for a change.
Two of the dead were killed by Taser. Plus a sixth guy was shot and wounded. The rug's gonna look a little lumpy with all that swept under it.
The rich are better off with a smaller percentage of a fast-growing economy than a larger share of an economy that’s barely moving.Found here.
I believe we may have another blogchild.
Ha! Ha! Let's all have a good laugh at the Republicans. This week they put out a press release that said Ron Wyden wasn't really representing his constituents in "the Evergreen State."
Silly Republicans. New York is the Empire State.
Just a reminder that our charity pro football underdog pool kicks off this coming week. The big daddies will start banging on Thursday night, and our players will be trying to pick one underdog team each week that can win its game outright. Winners score the number of points that their victorious team was favored to lose by, and the player with the most points at the end of the playoffs wins the game. The prize is that the highest-scoring players get to steer our pool of entry fees (20 bucks a player) to their favorite nonprofit charitable organizations.
Although the first games are next weekend, entry fees aren't due until September 15th, which means you can play the first week before you even pony up. For more details on the game, check out the complete rules here. To enter, shoot us an e-mail message here. We've got 16 paid players so far, and there's room for many more.
Just to whet the appetite, here's Week 1: Minnesota at New Orleans; Carolina at NY Giants; Atlanta at Pittsburgh; Cleveland at Tampa Bay; Denver at Jacksonville; Indianapolis at Houston; Miami at Buffalo; Detroit at Chicago; Oakland at Tennessee; Cincinnati at New England; Arizona at St. Louis; San Francisco at Seattle; Green Bay at Philadelphia; Dallas at Washington; Baltimore at NY Jets; San Diego at Kansas City. Underdogs and points will be announced on Tuesday.
When I'm 70, don't let me fly any airplanes. Thanks.
The people jamming Milwaukie light rail down everyone's throats have been busy of late:
A regional committee that controls transportation spending in the Portland area today approved spending additional money to fill a budget hole for the Milwaukie light rail project. After an hour of heated discussion, the panel also agreed to borrow $12 million to speed public transit planning in two more corridors."A regional committee that controls transportation spending in the Portland area"? Who the heck is that? Nobody knows. We didn't vote for them -- the Goldschmidt gang's shadow government probably just appointed them. "Regional Flexible Funds"? It's straight outta George Orwell.
With the unanimous vote by the Joint Policy Advisory Committee on Transportation, the region will borrow against an expected $2 million to $3 million a year in Regional Flexible Funds to generate $27.4 million for the Milwaukie project, $6 million for planning mass transit between Portland and Lake Oswego and $6 million for planning along the Oregon 99W/Barbur Boulevard corridor. That adds to $72.5 million already allocated to the Milwaukie project from the flexible funds program, and helps make it possible for construction to start next summer.
Borrow, spend on worthless crap, borrow, spend on worthless crap, borrow... The beat goes on. The fall of this region, and of our country as a whole, is going to be spectacular. Pity our poor children.
A friend and reader writes:
California has 57 Fortune 500 companies. Oregon has 2. What makes California more business-friendly? Its tax rates, environmental rules, state regulations, and general state government ineptitude cannot be said to be more business-friendly than Oregon. And compared to Delaware, which is the business-friendly corporate Mecca? Delaware has 1 Fortune 500 company. It appears that there is something else at work that attracts business to a region that is more important than the perception of a state as business-friendly, or not.
There was also a 6.3 in the Aleutian Islands this morning. Thoughts and prayers are in order for everyone affected. One day we'll need them, too.
I love trains -- but not when I think about how much they're costing taxpayers.
There's a bad moon on the rise.
A long-time reader wrote us the other evening as follows:
On our way back from dinner tonight, we found a ticketed car share vehicle (for being over the line -- when it clearly wasn't). The ticket read 11 AM, and we took the pictures at 6 PM -- maybe it was over the line earlier in the day? I can't understand the comments the officer made. I wonder who pays the $34 on a car share?
Anyway, we had some of the neighbors laughing/spewing vitriol at the parking nazis when they saw us taking pictures. It was pretty funny.
"Over space line" -- one of my favorite City of Portland ripoffs. I paid that one once, but these days I tend to keep my visits to downtown to a minimum. It's interesting that in less than eight years, the fine has more than doubled, from $16 to $34. Thirty-four stinking dollars for "over space line." Will the last middle-class consumer to shop in downtown Portland please turn off the lights when you leave?
Up in Seattle, they've got plenty of time on their hands to yuk it up.
"Will the defendant will please rise and face the monitor? The jury foreman will Tweet the verdict."
A couple of southeast Portland residents (one a scientist, one not) sound off against Portland's mad rush to disconnect its reservoirs and build huge underground tanks for its drinking water instead. Most Portlanders don't realize it, but that one's pretty much a done deal. Remember the public hearings? Me neither.
It's all part of the City Council's borrow-and-spend disease -- what you get when you elect people with big egos and no money skills. Eventually they'll be mixing Columbia and Willamette River water in with Bull Run water -- something nobody wants, but it will mean many hundreds of millions in construction pork for the CH2M Hill types.
Where will our children live? We're getting the strong feeling that it won't be here.
Those tighty-righty troublemakers over at Oregon Politico, who have been posting government bureaucrat salaries and benefits for a while now, have just branched out into Oregon state government contracts. Check it out -- a billion, literally, for Cisco Systems; at least $620.5 million for U.S. Bank; another $230 million for Hoffman Construction. Cha-ching, cha-ching, cha-ching! Good thing there's never any graft in Oregon; where I came from, the kickback was traditionally 10%.
The nonsense that goes on after a police officer shoots and kills someone defies belief. Here's a story out of Spokane that just screams.
Without it, he claims, there will be "a revolution in the financial system."
Really? What do we have to do to get that here?
Portland City Hall just gets stranger and stranger. I love canning and the people who do it, but forgive me if I'm tired of paying taxes to be preached to about it. All the while advertising for commercial outfits, of course. Thanks, Sustainable Susan!
Let's just fix up the wonderful city we already have.
In all our years in Portland, we'd never gone to see the swifts at the Chapman School in the northwest part of town. Apparently, they've been showing up for about 16 years now. But the other night we caught the early bird (literally) version of the 2010 show, and it was pretty spectacular. (Except perhaps the part in which a local hawk dines to his heart's content.)
We blogged a month ago about political consultant Len Bergstein getting into the fray against the Lake Oswego streetcar. Today we learn for whom he is fronting -- a group "headed by Lake Oswego attorney Jonathan Harnish, Dunthorpe resident Elaine Franklin and Lake Oswego mother Marilyn Brett."
The Elaine Franklin? Does that mean her husband, Bob Packwood, is against it, too? Wow, this might be even more fun than we first thought.
Shocking, I know -- but apparently people aren't that enthused about bringing back a 63-year-old retread whom everybody thought had been term-limited out of office. Between Kitz and Wyden, there may not be a clothespin strong enough for Democratic voters' noses.
Here we go again.
Speaking of over-the-top federal bureaucrats and air travel, this makes one's blood boil. When the Democrats in Congress get dinged in November, and they wonder why the progressives stayed home, they can look to this sort of shenanigans for their answer.
One of the fascinating things about my boyhood haunts in northern New Jersey was how homeowners would paint some of the concrete around their properties green. From an airplane, it looked like grass -- and maybe it kept the house a tiny bit cooler in the blasting heat of the summer.
Here in Oregon, we haven't quite reached that point. But we're getting close. According to a KGW story last night, now the state transportation gurus are painting the brown grass along Interstate 5 green rather than watering it.
UPDATE, 11:42 a.m.: Here's a link to the KGW story.
I just tried to download some updates to some iPhone apps. Before I could do so, Apple insisted that I agree to the new version of iTunes's "terms and conditions." O.k....
At the bottom of the first page of legalese that constituted such "terms and conditions," I noted that it was "Page 1 of 55." I could read all 55 pages, or just click on "Agree" at the bottom of that first page.
Gee, which do you think I did?
A wonderful day to start the month, with a downpour, a brilliant clear sky for sunset, and good work done. The highlight of the day was celebrating with Ricardo his win in our World Cup Soccer bracket contest from earlier this summer. As he savored his victory beverage, he signed up for our next sports prediction adventure -- the second annual NFL Charity Underdog Pool, in which all proceeds go to worthy nonprofits selected by our winners. Ricardo's entry goes into the pot, where there's still plenty of room for more players who want to predict the behavior of the big daddies of American pro football -- see here.
The Republican senator from New York sure has done well on a public servant's salary. Even the O is catching on.
It is worth asking what was accomplished by spending tens of billions of dollars to prop up the market for a bit over a year with these tax credits. First, this allowed millions of people to sell their home over this period at a higher price than would have otherwise been the case. The flip side is that more than 5 million people bought homes at prices that were still inflated by the bubble. Many of these buyers will see substantial loses when they resell their house.The whole thing is here. [Via TaxProf Blog.]
When the United States initially advanced the Bush family's mindless vendetta by invading Iraq, the common wisdom was that our country's military could never withdraw from that land without starting a bloodbath. But now, seven and a half years and thousands of young American lives later, we're declaring our "combat role" in that country over. We're wishing the Iraqis luck, and pointing out that they should maybe sorta get a government together sometime real soon. We'll leave some kids behind to show you how to use Uzis, but that's it.
Unless everything we've been reading throughout the war is wrong, the violence in Iraq is now going to ramp up to unprecedented levels, and a leadership extremely hostile to the United States will soon be back in control.
Is that an accurate assessment? And if so, then wasn't the whole "Operation Iraqi Freedom" (thank heaven we've gotten rid of the Bush-Cheney catchy names for killing) a complete waste of time?
Oregon's minor political parties don't want their party names abbreviated on the ballot. Since Secretary of State Kate Brown and her election folks are planning to do just that for the November election, the whole thing is going to county court down in Salem.
You can't blame the small parties. They sit up all night dreaming up names for themselves like Working Families Party, and then Brown puts them down as "WFP." I mean, WTF?
And if Brown prevails, will they be changing their names to something that abbreviates as MOM, USA, POT, LUV, SEX, FUN, KKK, GOD, or HOT? Will the state Supreme Court have to rule on the proposed abbreviations? Will the DMV's custom license plate rulings be regarded as precedent? Ah, the joys of democracy.
Back in New York City, where a debate rages about whether the city's water system needs to be filtered, somebody's taken out a microscope and looked at what comes out of the tap. And they've found -- yikes! -- these guys.
In Portland, a similar debate about water treatment is in progress -- although it's a stretch to call a verbal interaction with Fireman Randy a debate. Anyway, you wonder what critters you'd find in Portlandia's tap water under high magnification. Readers? Water Bureau tweet staff?
In the war of the Bald Eagles vs. the Port of Portland Bulldozers out on Hayden Island, the wildlife and its defenders have scored at least a modest victory. Now the City of Portland and the state DEQ say they are taking another look at the Port's practice of routinely dumping dredge spoils from the Willamette River on the west end of the island. It seems that the dredging picks up low levels of DDT and hydrocarbons, which of course are not healthy for any living things. Good for the Audobon Society and others who are fighting the Port over their current abuse of the property, and over the much more destructive plans they have for the site in the near future.
A reader in central Portland writes:
Little Miss Ella needs a home! She's now 3 months old, has had first two series of shots, etc. She is very sweet, smart and affectionate. She loves to play and will keep you laughing!E-mail me here if it's that time in your life.
She was supposed to stay with my friends who have taken care of the Mama kitty and kittens, but they have had a huge emergency surgical bill for one of their dogs, and just can't afford to keep her.
Please think about it and let me know if you can take her. I will deliver her anywhere within a 10 hour drive!
Dang, that's a lot of bud.