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It's hard to believe anything you hear from Portland officials after a shooting by police. But they're saying now that the shooting of a man in the Lair Hill neighborhood this morning involved a horrendous mistake. The officer with the gun says he thought he was firing a beanbag round, but instead he was firing a live shotgun round. Fortunately he took a lousy shot and barely hit the victim.
Another day in Sam-Rand Portland -- with the mayor nominally in charge of the cops, and the Fireman hand-picking the police chief. May this be over soon.
UPDATE, 11:04 p.m.: It gets even more bizarre. The officer fired the shotgun at the suspect five times.
It was near the Caro Amico restaurant on Barbur, over by where some homeless people camp. He was allegedy hassling kids and supposedly had a knife. Apparently his life is not in danger. We'll get further details in a few days, after the officers get their story straight.
Send him off in style: Vote no on his two buddies, Mayor Creepy and Steve Novick. Weird isn't working!
We found ourselves in Laurelhurst Park in southeast Portland last evening, and we took a stroll over by the pond to see how the city's expensive duck poop cleanout project turned out. When we last looked at the project, it had come in at a 100% cost overrun -- $800,000. And that didn't include removal of toxic PCBs or installation of an aeration system. We didn't see or hear of any fancy ribbon-cutting ceremony when the project was complete -- no doubt out of bureaucratic embarrassment.
Anyway, our inspection revealed that the nasty, indeed poisonous, algae that had been infecting the water seems to have been eliminated. But other than that, the city didn't get any dramatic improvement for all its money. Indeed, some parts of the pond looked uglier than we remembered them:
Apparently they're trying to get plants to grow on and around these muddy islands. Maybe that will spruce up the look a bit.
A neighbor walking her dogs was a font of information. She told us that the PH level of the water is now too high because of a concrete lining that was installed under the water. She didn't know what they were going to do about that.
There were aeration pumps going in several locations in the pond. The motor that was running that system was pretty dang loud. You won't be having a moment of quiet reflection within 20 feet of that part of the lake shore.
Noticeably absent, thank goodness, were most of the water fowl and all of the people who used to feed them bread. On our brief visit, there were only a few ducks, and nobody was communing with them. Given how much it cost to clean up their predecessors' poop, that's a good thing for the taxpayers.
Wonder how things smell over in the Cully neighborhood, where the bad stuff they dredged out of there was being dumped.
Yesterday's announcement that the Admiral of the Fleet is retiring after a decade in Portland City Hall got lips flapping all over town. And it triggered (or coincided with) some other interesting developments as well.
First, Jim Francesconi let on that he isn't running for mayor this time around. We thought for sure the Scone would take another stab at it, but without the campaign checks from Tom Moyer's secretary, maybe his heart just isn't in it any more. (By the way, Moyer's June 20 trial date came and went without any news. How many set-overs are there going to be in that case?) We assume this means that Francesconi won't be running for a city commissioner's position, either. Right?
Oh, but wouldn't you love to see him and Nurse Amanda go after each other?
Meanwhile, before dropping his big news on us, Admiral Randy obviously tipped off Steve Novick, giving Novick a leg up on everyone else who might run for the seat that is being vacated. This is becoming a City Hall tradition -- Erik Sten pulled the same stunt with his pal Jim Middaugh just before Sten mysteriously disappeared from public life. Middaugh went nowhere anyway, and being Randy's hand-picked successor is strike 2 on Novick in our book.
Strike 1 was when Novick gave his glowing endorsement of "Legend" Dan Saltzman as the latter ran for re-election to the City Council last year. Now Novick will get the Saltzman crowd's ample money bags behind him, and if he's elected, he and the Legend will be scratching each other's backs for years. Add Jeff Cogen into the mix as a mayoral candidate, and that's way too much Saltzman influence for our taste.
And Novick's reported hiring of local political ramrod Mark Wiener may be strike 3 already. At best, it's a foul tip. We can see the nauseating direct mail pieces already -- he'll probably paint Novick as an outsider. Yeah, an outsider with the Dunthorpe crowd's money. Anyway, paying Winning Mark no longer guarantees victory, as the school tax construction bond people found out.
We thought Novick would have been a great candidate to run against Gordon Smith for the U.S. Senate three years ago, but Jeff Merkley not only beat Smith but also is acting like a real Democrat back in D.C. And so Novick's loss in the primary turned out to be no big tragedy. Since then, his novelty has definitely worn off, and we'd certainly need to see the whole playing field before we voted for him for the city commission.
Finally, in thinking about how Charlie Hales is going to play his serious residency problems, we're coming around to predicting that he's going to "discover" that he was an Oregon resident all along. Which would mean that he's going to be filing amended Oregon income tax returns and pungling up big back taxes plus interest. If we were the state revenue agents, we'd lard on some penalties, too, and see how contrite he is. The state budget could use the revenue.
It will be interesting when some reporter corners Hales's accountant and asks him how he could have screwed this up so badly. Maybe there's going to be a new accountant.
Whatever Hales decides to do with his taxes, misstating facts to Willamette Week can't be cleaned up quite so easily. Nigel Jaquiss nailed Streetcar Charlie pretty good. And for Hales to change his story with both the media and the tax authorities looks like a fatal misstep to us. We can't wait to hear what he'll have to say after he gets his next poll results, which probably won't be encouraging. And oh, what a push poll his mayoral rival, Eileen Brady, could conduct with all these questions. Think she's above it?
Tri-Met has come up with the perfect art work for one of the stations for the Mystery Train to Milwaukie. I kid you not, here it is:
If the $1.5 billion* of public money that's being blown on the new MAX line doesn't give you nightmares, that thing surely will.
* - Preliminary liars' budget. The bridge design isn't anywhere close to finished, and the funding is still sketchy, but the Tri-Met crew is rushing ahead with construction, before the public can come to its senses. This is how things go very, very wrong.
Whatever, Paul. Whatever, Nate.
Tiresome. Very tiresome.
And not the kind he enjoys. His congressional district is about to lose downtown Portland.
I wish it were a joke, but it's not. If you need a statement about the level of care taken by operators of nuclear power plants and nuclear bomb factories, this is a good one.
Portland's ranked 10th on this list of the most rapidly aging cities in the country.
You can't make this stuff up. The mayor of Portland now says he's starting up a big campaign against distracted driving.
Here are a couple of tips, offered by a friend of ours: No drinking. Don't drive with your fly open.
On the heels of getting gay marriage passed through a Republican legislature, the governor of New York has announced that he's closing the Indian Point nuclear reactor, which powers, and threatens, New York City. This is what is known as leadership.
Back in January, when Fireman Randy was trying to ram an immigration jail into the South Waterfront District without proper pubic hearings, we published the proposed floor plan of that facility on this blog. The floor plan showed pretty clearly that what was (and still is) being proposed for SoWhat fits quite well into the common definition of a jail, although it was (and still is) being passed off as an office building.
Since then, we've heard a few times from the folks at the federal General Services Administration, questioning how we got the plan. Now we have received a formal request from the GSA to take the images of the plan down from our website.
The request letter is here. It's a curious document, and we don't agree that the authorities it cites require us to do anything of the sort. But it hardly seems worth arguing about at this point. We have taken the images down, at least for now, and are interested in what readers think about whether that was the right thing for us to do.
UPDATE, 11:00 p.m.: Here's a version of the floor plan on the City of Portland's own website. It's a little less detailed than what we displayed, but not much.
Portland's pitbull says his time on the City Council will end in December of next year. We suspected this was in the cards. He's looked awfully unhappy lately, and he's got three government pensions coming. Now he'll be out of City Hall and on to the next thing.
You can be sure that he won't be leaving quietly. Just yesterday he confirmed quite clearly that anyone who stands up to him will walk the plank.
There is a lot that needs to be said about his tenure in office, but there is plenty of time to say it. For now, let's start with this: It will be a great relief to get him out of city government. And equally satisfying to force his evil twin, Mayor Creepy, to hit the road with him. We're not optimistic that they'll be replaced with the right kind of people, but at this point it will be difficult to do much worse.
The governor of Iowa has posted -- on Facebook of all places -- some photos, taken yesterday, of the flooded Fort Calhoun nuclear plant, just across the Missouri "River" from his state, in Omaha. This one's pretty telling:
That round white building slightly up left from center? That's a 38-year-old nuclear reactor. There is 38 years' worth of high-level nuclear waste in that complex. But remember, there's nothing to worry about.
The wildfire that's burning its way toward the Los Alamos Nuclear Lab in New Mexico is growing rapidly. And the more you look at the nuclear waste that's piled up at that facility, the scarier the fire becomes. Today the federal bomb-makers confirmed what anti-nuke activists have been saying for a few days now -- that there are tens of thousands of drums of nuclear waste sitting out in the open, essentially under a tarp:
Los Alamos lab officials are now confirming that tens of thousands of 55-gallon drums containing radioactive waste are stored in the open, near the site of the fire. KSFR had earlier spoken with two watchdog groups who characterized the number as 30,000....
They say the drums are on a paved area with few trees nearby and would be safe even if a fire reached the storage area. Officials have said it is miles from the flames. Watchdog groups put the distance at about three miles.
Beyond the drums, there is a horrible variety of nuclear waste in the ground all over the Los Alamos site. This interactive map of the various makeshift nuclear dump sites on the property makes it pretty clear that there's a lot of loose radioactivity in that neighborhood. If it burns, people downwind will be breathing it.
This is a pretty funny response by Charlie Hales, the Portland mayoral candidate who just Dudleyed himself. It wasn't the thousands and thousands of tax dollars he saved by not paying Oregon taxes on his out-of-state income. Oh no -- he claimed Washington residency for tax purposes only because he loves his wife and moved to her house up there. So let's just forget about it and elect him mayor.
Most comical of all, he's still hedging his bets:
If my tax preparer's review, which I requested, shows the need to correct the original returns, that will be done.
Wow. Charlie, you either legitimately lived in Washington for those years, breaking Oregon election law, or you still lived in Oregon and you broke the Oregon tax law. Neither is acceptable. But the hemming and hawing is making it worse. You need to pick one story and go with it. If you can't even account for your own home address, you're not fit to be mayor.
Sam Adams's version of the Portland Development Commission is now killing off real estate development deals that the agency once championed. Suddenly, if the projects don't increase employment in the city's officially designated economic "clusters," they aren't wanted. Which means that the much-planned, much-ballyhooed Centennial Mills project is on its last legs.
Given that Portland has made a name for itself as being inhospitable to business, it seems unlikely that most firms would want to locate here, unless an obscene subsidy from the city was in the cards. (Speaking of which, are we ever going to find out where the solar panel manufacturing plant is going?) If no "cluster" businesses show up, and the PDC won't play ball with anyone else, there's no longer any reason to have a PDC.
Eliminating that dubious slush fund would be a great thing for the city. In any event, "cluster" seems a particularly apt expression for what's going on over there, doesn't it?
The Republicans in the state legislature are blocking any state funding of the proposed "sustainability center" in Portland -- an extravagant experiment that will result in nothing more than super-high-priced office space for government agencies. No private firm in its right mind is going to pay premium rent to have its personnel sitting in 64-degree temperatures (80 degrees in the summer) and drinking recycled wastewater amidst the faint smell of glorified pit toilets:
"There are a multitude of concerns," said House co-Speaker Bruce Hanna, R-Roseburg. Top among them, he said, is that the building would require expensive lease rates and the Oregon University System plans to command two-thirds of the space.We all know that's never going to happen, barring some sort of quid pro quo scam. It will be interesting to see what the Wimmer and his bosom bud Sam the Tram come up with to address the latest concerns. But three cheers for sanity, however fleeting, on this one.
"When parents come and say 'How come our tuition costs are so high?' one of the answers is, we're building an incredibly high-cost building and obligating the university to rent space there," Hanna said.
He said he wants university officials and developers to figure out a way to get commercial firms to rent the bulk of the space. "If this building is really as fascinating as it sounds, the private sector ought to want to rent there," Hanna said.
We are not the world's premiere constitutional scholar, but this decision yesterday by the U.S. Supreme Corp., invalidating Arizona's "clean elections" public campaign finance scheme, strongly indicates that Portland's quixotic "clean money" system was also illegal.
Not to mention foolish. Not to mention contrary to the will of the majority of the city's beleaguered taxpayers.
As much as we're glad to see a bad idea get buried even deeper, we're sad to see the nation's High Court once again side with big money. Corporations seem to have more rights than real people any more, and real people of means have a clear advantage over everyone else. No wonder the middle class is disappearing. You can almost hear Justice Clarence Thomas humming "That's What Friends Are For."
When a hot case like Arizona "clean elections" comes into the Supreme Court these days, four liberal knees and four conservative knees jerk up in opposite directions. That leaves the deciding vote, time and again, to Justice Anthony Kennedy. He is peculiarly susceptible to ideas that sound good in theory, but are a disaster on the ground. One such is the notion, bouncing around for 40 years now, that spending money on political campaigns is included in what the Constitution means by "speech." Too bad, but barring a constitutional amendment, that one's now set in stone.
"Clean money" was a waste of tax revenue in Portland's case -- I'm sure we never got a penny back from Emilie Boyles, for instance -- but its future was properly decided by a public vote. The rich people didn't need, and didn't deserve, to have the Constitution dragged in to invalidate it.
Hey, guess what? The nuclear wizards in Japan have just admitted that 15 tons of radioactive water has leaked into the ocean from the Fukushima meltdown site. That's about 4,000 gallons. And if you don't think many times that quantity, and much nastier stuff, is leaking out of that place every day, I have some Japanese sushi to sell you.
Meanwhile, radioactive strontium has been found at the bottom of the sea near the meltdown. Our grandchildren who eat seafood will be ingesting it. Nuclear power is so nasty.
Fourteen rescuers had to be sent out after some teenagers thought it was a bright idea to go kayaking over Bridal Veil Falls out in the Columbia Gorge. Darwin would be proud.
Here's a Japanese TV news clip about the flooded nuke reactors in Nebraska. The opening footage is of the Fort Calhoun reactor. That's the Missouri River in the front... and on the sides... and in the back... But don't worry. Everything is fine.
Word from City Hall is that this is the latest fad being talked up by Sustainable Susan of the planning mafia and Bicycle Rex over at Metro. Sounds like what's coming for Barbur Boulevard. Heaven help us.
Gong!!! And he reportedly lied about it.
Great news for Brady, and right about now old Cogen's getting ready to pull the trigger. His buddies at WW just rolled out the red carpet for him with that story.
See ya 'round, Charlie. Go by streetcar, buddy.
Yesterday the Nuclear Regulatory Commission was telling worried observers that the troubled Fort Calhoun nuclear reactor plant in Nebraska was "watertight." Well, that was false, as today's news reveals:
Missouri River floodwater seeped into the turbine building at a nuclear power plant near Omaha on Monday, but plant officials said the seepage was expected and posed no safety risk because the building contains no nuclear material....If there's anything we've learned from Fukushima, it's that the nuclear industry and its lapdogs in government don't tell the truth until they're forced to. Some things don't vary across national boundaries. Expect the story in Omaha to keep evolving for the worse in the days ahead.
Omaha Public Power District spokesman Jeff Hanson said pumps were handling the problem at the Fort Calhoun Nuclear Station and that "everything is secure and safe." The plant, about 20 miles north of Omaha, has been closed for refueling since April. Hanson said the berm's collapse didn't affect the shutdown or the spent fuel pool cooling.
This story is just unspeakably sad.
It's apparently all the rage in India and China. Of course, in Oregon there is no official corruption, and so such a site would get zero traffic here.
This time, a wildfire that has them evacuating the Los Alamos Lab in New Mexico. This is the year for it, apparently.
We're still brooding about the all-out attack by the Old Boy Network against Sean Riddell, recently bounced as the chief criminal lawyer for John Kroger and the Oregon Justice Department. There's something about this flap that is tantalizing for armchair pundits. Part of us wants to think that it's an attack on Kroger, who's made his share of enemies in less than two and a half years in office. But maybe not. In fact, the more we think about it, the more it seems that perhaps the main thrust is to disgrace Riddell, in time to stop him from becoming the next Multnomah County district attorney. It's a job he's already said publicly that he'd greatly like to have.
The current D.A., Mike Schrunk, isn't getting any younger -- he's pushing 70 -- and the word on the street is that this is his last term. He might even quit early. Like his father before him -- a 17-year Portland mayor who was accused but never convicted of corruption during his tenure -- the younger Schrunk is the keeper of many secrets. If we had to guess, we would say that some people in town with a lot of money and power are keenly interested in who sits in that seat next.
Maybe they don't want it to be Sean Riddell.
Like "he" and "she." Go with "hen."
The flooding Missouri River has swamped a berm at the Fort Calhoun reactor plant, and the electrical transformers at the plant have been knocked out. And so now they're on backup diesel generators.
After that, it's batteries.
After that, it's iodine pills.
But as the government is quick to tell everybody, there's nothing to worry about. Honest.
UPDATE, 3:01 p.m.: The reason the "aqua-berm" failed? Plant workers accidentally deflated it. But it's fine. They've got this under control. Really.
UPDATE, 4:53 p.m.: "The operators later reconnected to off-site power once all the safety checks were made."
Another gang shooting in Portland this morning -- this one fatal.
The mayor, in charge of the police bureau, is right on the case: He Tweeted the news at 3 in the morning. "We will bring this killer to justice." A virtual Giuliani, that guy. Then he was off for donuts somewhere.
His constant message is that gangsters don't kill people, guns kill people. Meanwhile, a fatal stabbing in Old Town just as the bars were closing. Please, Lord, let's get somebody else in charge soon.
UPDATE, 1:08 p.m.: The police have arrested a suspect in the Old Town stabbing, and -- good news -- it wasn't gang-related. It was just a normal killing when the bars close downtown. That's a relief.
Things remain relatively quiet on the surface at the multiple nuclear meltdown site in Fukushima, Japan, but there's new trouble in reactor no. 3, the most heavily trashed of the four wrecked reactors. Apparently so much debris fell into the spent fuel pool at that reactor when it blew up, that the chemistry of the water in the pool has taken a turn for the worse. They're now dumping boric acid into it to reduce its alkanity; otherwise, as any hot tub owner knows, the racks that keep the waste fuel assemblies from going nuts could corrode away.
Meanwhile, they're handing out radiation badges to 300,000 children and pregnant women in the area surrounding the plant. Can you imagine what it would be like to wear one of those day and night? And gee whiz -- these people have been getting dosed with radiation for three and a half months now. Even if the colorful little meters don't show bad levels of radiation now, for some folks it's already too late. Urine samples taken from local residents in May showed that all of them had radioactive cesium in their systems. The nuke apologists will tell them that it was a "safe" level of exposure, but there's no such thing. Cesium causes cancer, and anyone exposed to it bears an enhanced risk.
How much extra a month are you paying to the electric company just so that your cable box powers up instantly, rather than taking a minute or two, the way your computer does?
I always make out like a bandit on Father's Day. This year was no exception. I received several wonderful gifts, but one was a real biggie:
Today we set it up and ran it over a little test area in the driveway:
It's been a decade or so since we last blasted the grounds. Now, needless to say, our summer agenda is set.
We had our annual summer business in Blujean yesterday, and when we tried to get a hotel room, there wasn't one to be found anywhere in town. There was a big track meet on, and every place was booked. And so we wound up staying in Cottage Grove, about a half-hour south. What a nice little town it is, and what a great stay.
Our lodging was at the Best Western right off the freeway, which was recently redone and is actually a nice little hotel. For dinner, we headed into town and ate at a legitimate restaurant and lounge called Stacy's. The beer was cold, the fried oysters were hot, and the tab was shockingly cheap. The free breakfast at the hotel was what you would expect, but a nice version of it.
Hardly 12 hours after hitting town, we were back in our car and headed north to our day's labor in Jocktown. But we'd gladly spend a day or two in Cottage Grove, any time. Apparently there are some nice covered bridges to be seen down that way, and who knows what else?
Watch out for the cops on the stretch of I-5 between Eugene and Cottage Grove. They were ticketing for speeding, both in the evening and in the morning. The speed limit through there is 65.
You know what bugs me? When a waiter brings you your check in an American Express folder, and then when you try to use an American Express card, they don't take it.
The folks who want to be Portland's next mayor are starting to amass war chests. Streetcar Charlie's showing $14,000 in the kitty, while Eileen the Founder has apparently piled up around $75,000. Meanwhile, we noted with interest that Willy Week dished out a serving of snide to Brady in this piece. They're probably shining up the halo for the fair-haired Cogen if he decides to enter the race.
The real estate development firm known as Portland State University and the car haters of Portland City Hall are conspiring to make life even more miserable for people who dare to drive their cars down around the university.
You know, like about a quarter of the students. Those people are just in the way of progress, aren't they?
In addition to enduring the rat's maze that's been made of the streets there, drivers will now be gouged for parking even worse than they already are. The worst part of it is that no one who's pushing the new plan wants to own up to it. Pretty disgusting, but not at all surprising. That's Sam Rand Portland, and a school that's run by Wim. Go by streetcar!
One of our favorite Blazers -- if not our very favorite -- has been traded. Andre Miller is now working for the Denver Nuggets. In the deal, the Blazers got Ray Felton, a guy with Andre-like numbers but in a younger body. Felton was great on the Knicks when they were terrible. He went to Denver last year as part of the Carmelo cluster, and George Karl didn't seem to know what to do with him.
Meanwhile Rudy Fernandez, who turned out to be not much, was traded to the world champion Dallas Mavericks for draft picks. As Rudy stunk up the gym in the playoffs against the Mavs, why they would want him is anybody's guess.
Paul Allen is now guiding his Portland toy through its most boring phase since Mychal Thompson retired. The looming lockout will cover it up for a while, but the Blazers are going nowhere, even when play resumes. Next season we'll set up a Sayings of Coach Nate Bingo Card with lots of "We have to scrap" and "We need to get healthy." There'll be a winner by Thanksgiving.
And how much do you want to bet Steve Blake is coming back?
This is pretty funny. Now the ultimate Old Boy of Oregon, Dave Frohnmayer, wants another Old Boy, John Kitzhaber, to start a criminal investigation of the state's own Justice Department over apparent destruction of e-mail messages by Sean Riddell, the recently resigned criminal chief in the state attorney general's office. Of course, the whole brouhaha started when Frohnmayer's clients, bureaucrats in state's shadowy Energy Department, awarded a highly questionable public contract to Kitzhaber's concubine, Cylvia Hayes. If Governor Retread goes forward with the suggestion, the public will be treated to many more months of Cylviagate -- it will be as if a summer amateur production of The Iliad got extended through the regular theater season.
Here are some people who are willing to make a big sacrifice for others.
An alert reader in Portland thinks she knows where the slightly tainted water from Mount Tabor Reservoir went:
I walk by City Hall every day. Monday night I noticed the landscaping (on the SW 5th Avenue side) was being watered. The following morning the landscaping was still being watered, as well as in the late afternoon (after work). Wednesday I walked by in the morning, twice around lunchtime and again after work. Sprinklers still going strong. This morning they are either still on or on again. My bet is that the switch hasn't been moved.Apparently the groundskeepers down there haven't read the water bureau's ample library of water conservation propaganda. Or maybe the Sam Rand Twins' magic beans are at an important germination stage.
So, the water bureau can recoup the lost money by charging City Hall for all of the sprinkler use -- in fact they may even be MAKING money. (Someone please invent a sarcasm font so I can use it here.)
They like standing water -- as in drainage ditches, which is what bioswales are. Connection? Now that the mosquito population in our area is getting nastier, it's a question worth asking.
Portland's erratic mayor has suddenly announced that he's abandoning the decade-old plan to run a streetcar down West Burnside Street. The reason is that "the money hasn't materialized" to build it.
Let's pause right there for a moment and reflect. That phrase sums up perfectly the mayor's tenure in office so far, doesn't it? It should be the new municipal motto on the police cars: "The Money Hasn't Materialized." When Portland's too broke even for pet projects, you know the fiscal situation is dire.
The killing of the streetcar is a major setback for bookstore magnate Mike Powell, who has wasted several years of his life sitting in charade meetings and pushing for a shiny rail car in front of his flagship store. Having missed out on the Pearl District condo boom on three sides of his property, Powell was hoping for new opportunities to slap 10 stories of particle board over his existing empire. But the mortgage weasels and condo flippers have left town, and now even the developer tool in the mayor's office won't play along. Powell's learning what the Multnomah County sheriff is learning -- there is no grownup dealing with Portland's heavily medicated chief executive and his throng of inexperienced staffers.
One has to wonder why the mayor is suddenly cleaning up his act. Given that he's unemployable outside government, and that he's up for re-election next year, he's doubtlessly polling like crazy. Maybe somebody has told him that constantly flogging junk like the streetcar isn't helping his chances for staying off the unemployment line.
But he's still talking about turning West Burnside and Couch Streets into a one-way "couplet," and now he says the motorized westbound traffic on West Couch would be reduced to a single lane. What a stunningly dopey idea that is. It's even worse than the East Burnside-Couch
rat maze couplet, which is now in place. Except for a small improvement in north-south traffic flow on 12th Avenue, that project turns out to have been a huge waste of money. It's still impossible to figure out why the city did it. The first instinct would be that it made some real estate tycoon happy, and in that neighborhood we'd be talking about old Joe Weston. But he supported the effort to recall the mayor, and so that can't be it. Whomever it was supposed to benefit, the East Burnside-Couch actually made life more hazardous for the city's precious bicycle commuters, which shows how ill-conceived the whole thing was.
Earl the Pearl and the Sam the Tram have made clear to Portlanders that if you're in your car, you're not welcome here. As a long-range economic strategy, nothing could be more out of touch with reality. Let's hope a new mayor gets here soon, leaves West Burnside a two-way street, tells the congressman to go find us some money for schools instead of streetcars, and spends some money making Burnside safer. There's a lot can be done without a couplet.
The problems with VCAD are fundamental defects in the system over which dispatchers, police officers, firefighters and paramedics have no control.... To top it off, the new VCAD system is actually slower than the old CAD system, and the newly added GPS feature is inaccurate (when it's working in the first place).... Many insiders question the no-bid contract arrangement with an inexperienced and unqualified company....But perhaps the nut of the piece comes from ace reporter Maxine Bernstein, who in her lead paragraph calls it "a new 9-1-1 emergency dispatch system that has been plagued with problems since it went live this spring."
Wow. "Plagued." Not "perfect" -- "plagued." Another computer success story from the City Council. You read about it on this blog first, on May 3.
This story speaks volumes about the people running Portland. They take a rule that was designed to make downtown more livable and use it to chase out someone whose presence added to livability. And without apology -- just the rude arrogance so common in the bizarre fun house known as City Hall. The politicians can be as mean as the cops, and that's saying something. The voters of this town deserve the bankruptcy that they are gradually getting.
Well, that was quick. No sooner had the City of Portland asked the state for an exemption from rules that apparently require covering of its open-air reservoirs, than lawyers for the state came back with a quick and dismissive "no way."
That, of course, is exactly what the Portland water bureau wants to hear, as it shovels mega-millions to construction and engineering pals for underground tanks that may create as many problems as they solve.
Ironically, the thumbs-down comes from the same state bureaucrats who keep telling us that there's absolutely, positively nothing to worry about from the fallout from Fukushima, Japan -- that no matter how bad the meltdown disaster over there gets, there's no way it could ever affect human health in Oregon. Funny how thin their skin got about the reservoirs.
Anyway, barring divine intervention, the decades-old, time-tested, open-air drinking water storage system now seems to be officially toast. The reservoirs will be disconnected, and in a few years they will probably be sold to apartment builder weasels to help pay for the Fireman's two city pensions. It's his City Council, and his budget, and he won this time, and now the ratepayers need to get over it.
Having sucked Portland dry, the "urban renewal" merchants have moved to the suburbs -- including Beaverton, where, led by pied piper Don "Eco-Brick" Mazziotti, the City Council has approved and sent to the voters a new private development regime to be financed with public money. Privatize profit, socialize risk -- ain't that America?
At least they're giving the voters a chance to weigh in -- more than you could ever expect in Portlandia proper.
Do you think it will pass in the November 8 election?
A new report by the Portland city auditor shows that the annual outlay for police and fire retirement and disability benefits, currently at about $100 million a year, is expected to climb to twice that over the next couple of decades, and isn't likely to drop back to where it is today until around 40 years from now. And by that, we're talking only about benefits for public safety officers hired before 2007; the city will continue to contribute additional dollars to fund pensions for those hired after that date, and their benefits will be smaller.
Unlike virtually all large employers in America, the city does not put any money aside in advance for pensions for police and firefighters hired before 2007. This results in a gigantic unfunded liability, which has been estimated at $2.549 billion as of July 1 of last year. (Retiree health care liabilities and underfunding of other employees' pensions push the city's overall unfunded liability to more than $3 billion.)
Since the city has to skim property taxes off the top every year to pay for pension benefits to police and firefighters, other public services will surely suffer as a result of the looming increases. That additional $100 million a year above what's being paid out now is going to have to come from somewhere. The total city budget is currently about $3.6 billion. A $100 million hit would be like a 2.8% budget cut across the board. Which services do you think will be cut -- schools and police protection, or streetcars and bioswales?
The voters of the city voted in some police and fire pension reforms in 2006, but as the new report shows, these amounted to a Band-Aid on a major wound. Police and fire pensions will be holding the city down for more than a generation.
It's been a slow news day at the Fukushima meltdown site, and so nuke disaster chasers have been splitting their screens between Japan and Nebraska, where two nuclear plants on the flooded Missouri River have declared low-level emergencies. One of the plants, Fort Calhoun, 19 miles outside of Omaha, is completely surrounded by water. The river is now actually higher than the ground on which the plant sits. Apparently a six- or eight-foot-high temporary rubber wall is keeping the muddy river water out of the plant basement.
Company officials swear that the building is watertight, and that even if the rubber wall gives way or is topped, there'll be no radiation leak. The plant was shut down for a refueling in April and didn't fire back up because it was known that the floods were coming. The facility's crowded spent fuel pool, however, remains a major hazard.
The scariest thing we've read about the Fort Calhoun situation so far is that the plant is now accessible only by water, and it's expected to remain that way for quite some time. Flooding on the Missouri is expected to continue for another couple of months. If something nasty does happen, getting a proper emergency response to the reactor site could be quite a challenge. Just to give some perspective, nearby Interstate 29 is under around 10 feet of water at the moment.
Down river a ways, the Cooper reactor is continuing to operate at 100% power, even though the flood waters were at last report just 18 inches below the level at which the plant would be required by nuclear regulators to shut down entirely. The operator, a public power district, says it intends to keep running the reactor until that level is reached.
Both plants would be in deep kim chee if a dam or levee upstream should break. The reactors may be able to handle a few more feet of gradually rising river, but a wall of water several stories high could lead to Fukushima-like problems. As long as the plants have electricity to run cooling pumps, they'll probably be fine, but it's not inconceivable that a big enough flood surge could cause a blackout and thwart the backups for an extended period. That would not be good.
In other American nuke news, it's becoming increasingly clear what many critics have suspected for a long time: Nuclear power plants routinely dump radioactive liquid into groundwater and nearby bodies of water. In other words, they're killing us slowly. When something bad happens, they compare the latest dose to "background" radiation, but what they don't say, and people need to realize, is that the "background" consists in part of nuclear waste that the nuclear weapons-and-power industry has itself dumped into the environment over the past 70 years. And no level of exposure to ionizing radiation is without health risk.
Our bag full of biking and walking goodies arrived the other day from the City of Portland -- hand-delivered to our doorstep. It had in it all the gear we ordered, including an umbrella and a pedometer along with a slew of bike maps and other "multi-modal" propaganda. It's stunning how many millions of dollars have been spent on this stuff -- we figured we might as well get our share.
But included in the package was something we didn't order -- a whole bunch of water conservation gadgets from the water bureau. Shower heads that don't give out much water, faucet aerators that restrict flow, toilet leak testers, brochures galore -- even a garden hose nozzle that automatically frustrates you if you try to water too long. But the best part was this:
Ah, the mission of the water bureau -- it's forever growing.
But most distressing, the water swag all came in a clear plastic bag! A plastic bag, people -- from Portland City Hall, for crying out loud! Plastic, hideous plastic, awful plastic, which is destroying life as we know it! It clogs our recycling machinery, it suffocates the whales, it exacerbates Peak Oil! And yet the water bureau is still using plastic bags. Disgraceful. When it comes down to a choice between propaganda and care for the earth, we seriously wonder where the Sam-Rand priorities lie.
So you were tagged in that photo from the wild party you attended six years ago. Don't be surprised if you can't get to first base with prospective employers now. And even getting the picture taken down probably won't help, because there are going to be archives.
A reader in Portland writes:
I noticed what looks to be a planned replacement of two perfectly good wheelchair ramps on NE 51st and Thompson. It strikes me as odd, spending limited monies to replace relatively new ramps, instead of installing new ones where none exist. Maybe I just don’t see the big picture.The reader sends along these photos:
About the best we can figure is that (a) the other two corners at that crossroads don't have ramps; (b) the two that are pictured above have ramps that spill into the intersection diagonally, rather than at a 90-degree angle, as the city now prefers; and (c) since city crews are installing new right-angle ramps on the other two, they figured they might as well replace the diagonals as well. Maybe the idea is not to confuse visually impaired people who can't see that they're going from one angle to another.
Still, you wish the bureaucrats would make up their minds and stop redoing what's already been done. As the reader points out, there are plenty of other corners in town that could use any ramps, at any angle. Not to mention the miles and miles of dangerous streets in town that aren't paved at all.
The State of Oregon has launched a new unclaimed property website -- a place to which Oregonians can go to find out if any of their wealth has been turned over to the state because they didn't show up at the right place and time to say it was theirs. If this includes you, apparently you can contact the state and get your money back any time. Otherwise, it "escheats": the state invests it and uses the earnings for schools.
When we hear of sites like these, of course we head right over and run our name through the search engine to see if there's anything there for us. In this case, as always, the answer is no. But just for fun, we ran some other familiar names through, and wow! Quite a few hit something. Here's some of what we found -- we've sanitized street numbers on home addresses:
2208000 AVAKIAN BRADLEY ***** NW LONE ROCK DR PORTLAND OR 97229-**** <$50 Description: CREDIT BALANCE/ACCTS RECEIVABL Reported Year: 2008
2726721 BOULE M MARGARET BOULE MARGARET M **** SW MONTGOMERY DR PORTLAND OR 97201 $50 To $100 Description: UTILITY DEPOSIT/REFUND Reported Year: 2010
2611706 DAME THORNDIKE BELMORE II **** NW EASTWAY CT BEAVERTON OR 97006-5453 <$50 Description: PRINCIPAL PAYMENTS Reported Year: 2009
1775143 DEFAZIO FOR CONGRESS >$100 Description: ACCOUNTS PAYABLE Reported Year: 2007
1271206 KNIGHT PHILIP ***** SW CLOUDREST LN HILLSBORO OR 97123 >$100 Description: CHECK PROCEEDS Reported Year: 2004
2294442 GOLDSCHMIDT NEIL SNOWDEN DIANA E 222 SW COLUMBIA SUITE 1850 PORTLAND OR 97201 >$100 Description: DIVIDEND CHECK PROCEEDS Reported Year: 2009
2778780 JAQUISS NIGEL J JAQUISS DONALD B **** SE OAK ST PORTLAND OR 97214-2063 >$100 Description: DIVIDEND CHECK PROCEEDS Reported Year: 2010
2778782 JAQUISS NIGEL J JAQUISS DONALD B **** SE OAK ST PORTLAND OR 97214-2063 Unknown Description: UNEXCHANGED STOCK OF SUCCESSO Reported Year: 2010
2292583 KATZ VERA KATZ MELVIN **** SW PARK AVE APT 901 PORTLAND OR 97201-**** <$50 Description: DIVIDEND CHECK PROCEEDS Reported Year: 2009
2448376 KATZ VERA KATZ MELVIN **** N W JOHNSON PORTLAND OR 97209-1310 >$100 Description: DIVIDEND CHECK PROCEEDS Reported Year: 2009
1405060 KATZ VERA **** NW JOHNSON ST PORTLAND OR 97209 >$100 Description: REFUNDS DUE Reported Year: 2005
2727532 KROGER JOHN FOR ATTORNEY GENERAL % PAC WEST CENTER 1211 SW 5TH A 97204 >$100 Description: UTILITY DEPOSIT/REFUND Reported Year: 2010
2191038 LARSON LARS K 0234 SW BANCROFT S PORTLAND OR 97239-4237 $50 To $100 Description: CHECKING/MONEY MARKET ACCOUNT Reported Year: 2008
2037552 LARSON LARS K 211 SE CARUTHERS PORTLAND OR 97214 <$50 Description: CASH IN LIEU FOR FRACTIONAL SH Reported Year: 2008
2037553 LARSON LARS K 211 SE CARUTHERS PORTLAND OR 97214 $50 To $100 Description: UNDELIVERED SECURITIES Reported Year: 2008
2037574 LARSON LARS K 211 SE CARUTHERS PORTLAND OR 97214 <$50 Description: UNDELIVERED SECURITIES Reported Year: 2008
1362914 LARSON LARS K **** N HAYDEN ISLAND DR SLIP 1 PORTLAND OR 97217 $50 To $100 Description: CLAIM CHECK PROCEEDS Reported Year: 2005
1534524 LEONARD RANDY FRIENDS OF **** NW JOHNSON APT 1 PORTLAND OR 97209- >$100 Description: MISC OUTSTANDING CHECKS Reported Year: 2006
Should be a most interesting day at City Hall. Here's a one-sided spin on it from the PBJ. You can be sure the neighbors will be describing it a little differently.
Those of us watching the meltdown disaster at Fukushima have literally been watching two video feeds for weeks now. One is from an on-site camera (albeit at a pretty unhelpful angle) supplied by the plant operator, Tokyo Electric (a.k.a. Tepco). It is here. The other is a telephoto stream from miles away, supplied by a Japanese television network. It is here.
One thing we've noticed over recent weeks is that there are an awful lot of big steam or smoke events happening at night. Sometimes it's hard to differentiate the emissions coming out of the trashed reactors from fog rolling in off the ocean. Given how scandalously secretive and misleading Tepco has been throughout the disaster, we suspect that they conduct some of their desperate, experimental operations at night, in the hope that the darkness will add a little deniability if needed.
Anyway, early this morning, Japan time (late yesterday morning, our time), a big mess of smoke or steam seemed to come pouring out of reactor 4, the furthest to the right and the furthest away from the Tepco cam. (It's in front of the middle of the three vent towers.) A viewer who recorded the video stream at the time has apparently enhanced the images with colorization, and doctored up that way, the clip shows that something serious was going on at that reactor. Skeptics, feel free to laugh, but for those with open minds, the clip is here.
That green plume seems to be headed south, straight for Tokyo.
Yesterday we noted that when it comes to offering meaningful opportunities to young adults, Portland was in the lower middle of the pack among American cities, next to Orlando, Fla. Perhaps it was that mention of Orlando that led a reader to send us a link to this story, about how that Florida city has joined Denver, Indianapolis, and a half-dozen other cities in installing "meters" on its streets for contributions to fight homelessness. Rather than hand cash to a stranger whose use of the money is questionable, shoppers and business people are urged to drop their spare change in a more controlled place to provide aid to those who are struggling to survive.
In reading that article, we discovered another fascinating feature of Orlando's relationship to street people: It restricts panhandling to designated areas on the streets that are marked with blue boxes painted on the pavement. It also forbids public begging after 7 p.m. These sound like eminently sensible ideas, but of course in Portland they would immediately be shouted down. Someone would surely say that the state constitution forbids anything like that. And even if such a regime survived a legal challenge, you'd have to get the police motivated to enforce it, which seems unlikely.
Which is why, unless you like bucket drumming and aggressive punks with dogs, the private-property mall will remain a preferred way to shop in Portland for many years to come.
They haven't even broken ground yet on the Oregon Sustainability Center, but already Portland State University's nutritional experts have begun planning the menu for the innovative communal food court that is expected to be located on the ground floor of the building near the streetcar stop. The entree selections, designed to reinforce the LEED-platinum facility's overarching theme of "net-zero" waste, are being described as "predominantly Asian fusion." They're previewed here.
When it comes to providing meaningful opportunities for young adults, Portland ranks 36th out of 65 big-city metropolitan areas. It's right between Albany, N.Y. and Orlando. In contrast, Seattle ranks ninth.
A reader who's been hyperactive in the quest to stop Clackamas County from blowing tens of millions of property tax dollars on the Mystery Train to Milwaukie sends along this document -- the text of a petition that would require new "urban renewal" schemes to come up for a public vote. Who knows whether it will succeed? But it's an encouraging sign that somebody's trying to end the horrible distortion that "urban renewal" has become, in the Portland area and elsewhere.
Now they're into home invasion.
It was the perfect story to break on a Friday afternoon, when public attention was drifting off for the weekend: Oregon attorney general John Kroger was "accepting the resignation" of his chief in charge of criminal matters. But it was a remarkable announcement on a number of levels -- certainly worth pondering under the fluorescent lights of a back-to-work Monday.
First of all, what actually happened? Did the deputy, Sean Riddell, resign, or did he get canned? The announcement seems to have it both ways, but it certainly indicates that he was disciplined:
I am announcing today that Sean Riddell, Chief Counsel of the Department of Justice’s Criminal Justice Division, has resigned his management position.... I am very proud of our record and of our attorneys’ integrity and commitment to public service. I acknowledge, however, that we have made mistakes in a small number of high profile cases. This week, I learned that in addition to these errors, Chief Counsel Riddell had deleted a large number of government e-mails under the mistaken belief that they had been backed up on computer tape. Although we were able to recover many of the deleted e-mails, an unknown number have been lost permanently. The Department of Justice must scrupulously uphold its obligation to preserve government records. As Attorney General, the buck stops with me. I take full responsibility for errors made under my leadership.Don't you love it when the boss "takes full responsibility" by firing an underling?
Also curious is the suggestion that the department doesn't back up its e-mail every night and keep it for a number of years. Unless Riddell was scrubbing his account every afternoon before he went home, one would have thought that copies were being kept. Even more puzzling is why he deleted the e-mail messages. Depending on his motivation, the matter could have merited a more serious punishment than mere loss of manager status. On the other hand, the e-mail issue may be just a pretext for demoting Riddell, whose tactics on the job have made him many powerful enemies.
In any event, Riddell didn't get completely fired. He's going to be reassigned somewhere else in the Department of Justice, after a nice mini-sabbatical. One wonders if he still harbors ambitions to become the next Multnomah County district attorney. This episode may have put the kibosh on that dream.
Perhaps most significantly, the announcement also shows Kroger on the defensive -- the first time we've seen him that way since we first met him nine years ago:
I will not always be a perfect Attorney General. I cannot promise to never make mistakes. But, what I can promise is when there are errors in practice or judgment, they will be accompanied by accountability. As Attorney General, I will get up every day and work as hard as I can to protect Oregon and uphold the rule of law.That uncharacteristic bleat sounds like an invitation for some opposition to Kroger if he runs for re-election next year. But who would take him on? Greg Macpherson, whom he defeated for the Democratic nomination in '08? Union votes and union money propelled Kroger to victory in that race -- their raw revenge against Macpherson's pension reforms as a legislator -- but that was before the union in Kroger's own shop discovered that he's not their favorite boss ever.
On the Republican side, about the only viable candidates we can think of are Jack Roberts and Ron Saxton. Would either of them take a shot at the incumbent? It seems unlikely, but not as unlikely as it did a week ago.
At any rate, Riddell's departure is another in a series of setbacks for Kroger's program to reshape the attorney general's office from its slumbering state under his predecessor, Hardy Myers (uncharitably, but perhaps aptly, nicknamed "Hardly Matters"). Kroger's profile, established during his election run and pitched ever since through relentless press releases, consists largely of fighting crime, protecting the environment, and most recently, enhancing public access to government documents. In two and a half years, he's wound up firing both his criminal chief and his environmental chief for misconduct, and his legislative package on public records seems to be stuck in a Senate committee with time running out on the lawmaking session.
It's not the strongest performance he's ever turned in.
Now that Anthony Weiner's gone, maybe it's time for another boring update on the worst man-made environmental disaster in history, currently unfolding at Fukushima, Japan.
First, the really awful, but not at all surprising, news: Children 30 miles from the nuclear meltdown site are showing up with health problems like diarrhea, nosebleeds, and constant fatigue, and their worried parents are attributing it to exposure to radiation. And there seems to be no escaping it, as the grass on the ground is unsafe as far away as 120 miles from Fukushima.
Nosebleeds are, unfortunately, just the beginning of the health problems that are coming. Here's a revealing graph, showing increases in thyroid cancer in Belarus after Chernobyl. The red line is children under 15; the blue, ages 15 to 18; and the yellow, young adults (19 to 34). It's a grim little chart to go with your Cheerios.
Meanwhile, back at the trashed reactor site, it turns out that there is yet another pool of radioactive waste to worry about -- not the spent fuel pools, but another one. This one is on the top floor of what's left of reactor no. 4, which was down for refueling when the earthquake and tsunami hit. The pool holds some sort of equipment that gets irradiated during the miraculous process of producing atomic power. Apparently the equipment gets so radioactive that it has to sit in a pool of water when it's out of the reactor core -- otherwise, it will release a lot of radiation into the air. And that's just what it did two weekends ago, when the water in the pool in which it was sitting somehow disappeared. Who knows how much deadly crap flew into the air before they refilled the pool -- or where the water went?
About the only encouraging sign we can see from our armchair this morning is that the populace in Japan is catching on to the unholy domination of its government by corporate interests. In the case of Fukushima, the theft of public health for the sake of private profit is too brazen to miss. And some people in that usually staid society are so upset that they're speaking out about it.
As well they should. Tokyo Electric is going to have to be nationalized eventually. If the government had any power and guts, that day would have been about three months ago. But it appears that Tokyo Electric owns the government of Japan -- not the other way around. It might take a revolution for that structure to get inverted to what it's supposed to be. When the birth defects start showing up on YouTube, maybe it will happen.
We were having some trouble shaking the funk of the weekend's dark news yesterday, but the Mrs. and the girls really came through. In addition to a shower of great gifts, we were treated to a couple of homemade pizzas in our recently installed new oven. Including our custom order of mushroom, onion, and anchovy. Divine!
We also chased the darkness off by scrolling to the R&B genre on our music player, hitting the shuffle button, and taking in everything that followed. Like the man said, music is healing.
Father's Day is always a wonderful day around our place, but it's a little difficult to stay focused on the festivities today, in light of this. Listening to music produced by the man himself doesn't take the edge off -- at all. So far, about the best we've gotten in terms of help is here. But still, it's a different kind of day.
It's hard to believe, but we actually feel sorry for the band leader. The foundation of his music has crumbled away in just a few short years. Things obviously won't ever be the same, but what will they be? It's a much heavier question when you're 60 than it was when you were 20.
Maybe more than just a moment. Things just aren't going to be the same without the Big Man.
Yesterday we called the City of Portland planning mafia out on its spurious claim that the city's population is expected to nearly double in the next 25 years. Based on population growth within the city limits over the last 10 years and the last 20 years, the growth over the next 25 can be projected at less than 30%. Somebody at City Hall noticed that we had noticed, and they took the false claim down.
Today we were watching a horrifying science fiction video by Tri-Met about the bankrupting Mystery Train to Milwaukie, and they repeat the same premise on a regional basis: that the Portland metropolitan region's population will double in 25 years. Again, the real numbers don't support that premise. According to the Census Bureau, the Portland metro population increased from 1,927,883 in 2000 to 2,226,009 in 2010. That's 1.45% a year. At that rate, in 25 years, the population will increase by 43.26% -- not even half.
Like the City of Portland, Tri-Met is simply lying to sell something that shouldn't be bought. They're bald-faced lying about it with nearly every sentence.
Here's an interesting page on YouTube -- it collects the videos that we've linked to lately on this blog. Google is scary.
Scouring our various sources for news of the nuclear meltdown in Fukushima, Japan this morning brings up several troubling items.
First, as we suspected, Tokyo Electric's plan to filter the radioactivity out of the nasty water that's accumulated by its desperate dumping on the molten reactor cores has failed in the first hours of its implementation. The water's too radioactive for the equipment. A part in the filtration system that was supposed to last a month reached its radiation exposure limit in five hours.
Much highly radioactive water has already leaked into the Pacific and the groundwater under the nuclear plant, and unless a miracle occurs and a realistic filtration system can be concocted, eventually all of the tens of millions of gallons of accumulated wastewater will wind up in that same place. And if a major aftershock to the 9.0 March 11 earthquake occurs, further structural damage to the reactor and turbine buildings will hasten the flow of the contamination. Plus heaven knows what else.
The damage already done has apparently reached the rivers in the area as well as the sea. According to a Tweet by the Daily Yomiuri, "Shipments of 2 species of fish from a river in Fukushima Prefecture have been halted due to radioactive cesium more than 4x legal limits." The rivers could be picking up the radioactive particles from snow melt off nearby mountains on which fallout from the three mid-March explosions at the reactors has settled.
Meanwhile, 6,000 miles away, inspectors at an airport in France have turned away a shipment of green tea from Shizuoka, Japan, that was found to have more than twice the legal limit of radioactive cesium in it. Shizuoka is on the other side of Tokyo from Fukushima. Cesium has a half-life of 30 years, and contamination from cesium will remain for centuries.
Are the Japanese learning any lessons from this disaster? There are signs that they are, but given their lack of energy resources, they're in a desperate spot. They need nuclear if they want to continue to live in the style to which they've become accustomed. And so even with the obvious staring them in the face, they are still likely to press on with dangerous reactors and enormous health risks -- as this story confirms.
Finally this morning, several readers have inquired about this article, in which two writers theorize that Fukushima fallout caused a spike in infant mortality on the west coast of the United States in the month after the earthquake and tsunami. We commented on that posting here. Looking through the statistics that those authors used -- from the Centers for Disease Control -- we compared infant mortality in Portland in the 12 weeks following the meltdowns with infant mortality in Portland in the same 12 weeks last year. We found that the number of infant deaths was actually higher the year before -- 24 as opposed to 18. We're skeptical of any link between the radioactive clouds and infant deaths -- although we are extremely concerned about the long-term effects of such exposure, especially on children and fetuses.
1. Where will we get the money? We can't get started on construction until we have every penny lined up and every aspect of its design fully planned.
The planning types who are warping Portland's neighborhoods never stop with lines like these:
In the next 25 years, Portland is expected to grow by more than 130,000 households, nearly doubling our population.Expected by whom? Someone who's been smoking the funny stuff?
To double in 25 years, the population would have to be growing 2.8% a year. According to the Census Bureau, between 2000 and 2010, the actual population growth within the city limits was 0.99% a year -- from 529,121 to 583,776. At that rate, the growth over the next 25 years will be 27.86%.
Over the last 20 years, the rate was even slower: 0.92% a year. And for part of that time, the city had an actual economy.
Whatever the bureaucrats are selling with the supposed population boom as its basis must be bogus.
A planned six-and-a-half-hour reggae festival on Fourth of July, run by a private promoter, has neighbors of the Washington Park amphitheater up in arms. They're complaining about the noise, but if the wind blows in the right direction and they just calm down and take a deep breath, it might not be so bad.
A reader writes:
Just been introduced to your blog... While snooping around I saw the sidebar photo of the con man from Welches. Wish I'd seen it last month. Gave the guy $40 in downtown Gresham.It's a pretty typical pattern for grifters. When people catch onto you in Portland, you move to the suburbs.
When some clueless Portland punk urinated in the city's drinking water reservoir at Mount Tabor Park the other night, the city sanctimoniously announced that it would have to drain the reservoir and dump the water. But did it really have to? The water at that particular facility is treated with chlorine both before and after it arrives, according to this story, written after the Washington Park E. coli scare of November 2009:
But the bureau avoided having to declare a boil-water alert five weeks earlier after E. coli also was confirmed in an open Mount Tabor reservoir. The difference in that case was that all the water leaving the Tabor reservoir is treated with a dose of chlorine, a disinfectant that kills E. coli and other bacteria. As result, the reservoir was simply taken off-line, drained and cleaned.The kid who did this needs a few days in jail, or maybe some sort of rehab. But the $30,000-plus cost of draining the reservoir? Maybe the water ratepayers should write that down as a theater expense.
In fact, all water leaving the Bull Run Watershed — Portland’s main water source — is treated with chlorine. But because the chlorine dissipates as the water travels through the distribution system, it is boosted with more chlorine at the Mount Tabor reservoir, where the E. coli was found on Oct. 21.
If that water had not been treated with chlorine, the bureau would have had no choice but to issue a boil-water alert for much of Southeast and Northeast Portland — as it did later for areas served by the Washington Park reservoir. Since that reservoir does not include a chlorine booster, the bureau was forced to issue the boil-water alert for the westside of Portland and a number of adjacent water districts when E. coli was confirmed there on Nov. 27.
The merry mailman just brought us this:
We don't remember ever getting this sort of notice before. Maybe it's because the state law requiring it is only 20 years old, and they haven't done one of these amendments since it went on the books?
Anyway, no notice from the city would be complete without a sales pitch, and so the reverse shows us the wonders of "urban renewal":
Trains on the streets and Paul Bunyon statues, people -- that's why we have crumbling schools and more gangsters than cops. But hey, the minions at the PDC are running out of busy work, and so we need to throw them some more tax dollars and find some more neighborhoods to "save." Fight blight -- go by streetcar to a drum circle!
The Blazers continue the absurdity of talking about a serious pro basketball career for Greg Oden and his legs of glass. It's gotten a little creepy.
Executive summary: "Don't blame me."
It's interesting that he reportedly made it to the front porch before the homeowner stabbed him. That may make the stabbing less than justified from a legal standpoint. But no jury in the world is going to convict that homeowner. In fact, a lot of people are going to say that they wish he'd done more.
Do you actually read all the terms and conditions before you download software? I know you check the box that says you do, but do you ever actually read them? Me neither. Every once in the while our iPhone makes us "accept" new terms, and it offers us upwards of 50 pages of legalese that we have to swear we have read and agree to.
If this bothers you, there's now a website that may help set things right. Let Richard Dreyfuss read the Apple license to you.
Here's an interesting political ad on BlueOregon:
No mention of what office he might be running for -- just "Don't forget me -- I'm blue!" Perhaps his friend Deborah "the Latest" Kafoury is going to hop off the Multnomah County commission and run for Portland City Council; then Reverend Chuck can take another run at the county gig. It would be fun -- like bringing Erik Sten back to Portland and putting him back in office.
Recently revealed security cam footage from Portland's Mount Tabor Reservoirs certainly seems to bolster the city's claim that the reservoirs must be covered for reasons of the public health. Viewer discretion advised, but the footage (some of which is pretty disturbing) is here.
The president of the U of O (a petty dictator's best friend) has been given a stern, stern reprimand, and a mere one-year extension on his half-million-dollar-a-year employment contract, by the state's board of higher education.
You know, it would be nice if the state board of higher education included more people who actually have some recent experience teaching students and performing academic research. Nah -- that would be too radical an idea. It's not about education any more -- it's just another corporation.
The Stanley Cup is in the hands of the Boston Bruins after a not-so-exciting 4-0 victory in a deciding showdown game in (the real) Vancouver. The team from British Columbia looked pretty anemic all night, and the Beantown goalie was once again a wide, high brick wall.
Wish we still had our Bruins jersey from our college days. We saw Randy Bachman of the Guess Who wearing one in concert, and from then on we had to have one. Santa came through, and we lived in that thing for a couple of winters. We had no particular affinity for that team, with Bobby Orr and Derek Sanderson -- it was just a cool shirt. It would be even cooler this evening.
It's gettin' real, indeed. (PG-13.)
Windows informs me that there are 22 "important updates" that my computer needs to make.
One of Portland's unemployed "creative class" was busted for peeing in a reservoir at Mount Tabor this morning. The city will no doubt use this as further justification for disconnecting the reservoirs and building bazillion-dollar underground tanks that will substitute new problems for old ones. Instead of prosecuting the guy -- they didn't even give him so much as a ticket -- City Hall will probably give him a medal.
I thought we were supposed to have security to prevent these kinds of incidents from happening, but construction pork is sexier than service pork, and so I guess we don't have adequate security up there. Instead, we're going the big-dig route.
The money quote from the O story came from David Shaff, who heads up the water bureau. "It has nothing to do with scientifically," he said. No kidding, man -- that should be the agency's motto.
The things you find surfing the internet. Here's an interesting document filed with the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (motto: "Rubberstamping with the Highest of Standards Since 1954") by Reed College in Southeast Portland. In connection with a license extension application, which has been pending since 2007, the NRC asked Reed what backup electricity it has at its "research" reactor on the college campus.
The answer is, none.
The electrical system is shared with the rest of Reed College. The HVAC system for the reactor is separate from the rest of the campus ventilation system.It's nice to know that the control rods will automatically fall into the core and stop the nuclear reaction (if everything goes according to plan), but it's not exactly reassuring that everything else will shut off. No alarms? Wow.
The loss of electrical power to the facility results in the deenergization of all the systems at the reactor. There is no backup electrical supply system. Although much of the instrumentation has UPS backup supplies; they are not taken credit for in the analysis. The reactor will shutdown due to the control rod magnets deengergizing and the control rods falling into the core. The HVAC system, instrumentation, and alarms will all denenergize. The HVAC system fans will turn off and the dampers will fail as is. Thus the ventilation system will not go into isolation if the facility looses power. The accident analysis analyzes this condition as a leakage scenario.
On a broader plane, a potentially bigger concern is that the Reed reactor is 43 years old:
The facility and its components were constructed to comply with the building codes of the City of Portland, Multnomah County, and the State of Oregon in 1968. All modifications have been made in accordance with the applicable codes.Forty-three years is old for a nuclear reactor. Instead of running it for another 20 years, which is what Reed is proposing, maybe it's time for the facility to be decommissioned. That would cost about $1 million.
The facility was installed in accordance with designs provided by General Atomics and the architectdral designs by Farnham and Peck, registered architects in the State of Oregon.
It's doubtful Reed will see it that way. In its initial license renewal application, it had proposed to "uprate" its reactor to a higher power level. It withdrew that request in January of 2010, but it's still seeking 20 more years at the existing level.
It's interesting to us how docile the Reed neighbors and the rest of the city's residents are about that particular facility. Did you know that spent fuel from Reed is trucked through Portland streets to I-205, then to I-84 and out to the nuke dump by Craters of the Moon in Idaho? Me neither.
The culture up at the nation's worst nuclear waste dump, the Hanford Nuclear Reservation on the Columbia River in south central Washington, is notoriously corrupt. Has been for decades. But now it's not just the greenies calling them out for it. Check out this scathing report by the federal Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board on the big, porky waste treatment plant being built up there. When something unreasonably dangerous is going on at Hanford, it's made clear to workers that they have two options: hush it up or lose their jobs.
Nigel Jaquiss wraps up Oregon's Cylviagate scandal here.
It turns out that the car that the University of Oregon football player was driving 118 miles an hour on a suspended license at 4:30 the other morning was a rented car. It was rented by Hertz to a University of Oregon employee, who says she then sub-rented it to the player, Cliff Harris, for cash.
Really? Obviously that was a breach of her rental contract with Hertz, who would tend to look askance at a suspended driver behind the wheel at any speed.
But more importantly, she says the deal didn't violate NCAA rules, because Harris and a friend really did pay her for the sub-rental. She deposited $300 cash in her bank account last week, and that's whom it was from and what it was about. Uh huh.
I'd say enough is enough. The NCAA needs to step in and impose sanctions. The Ducks' national championship should be revoked immediately.
We were downtown today -- a fairly rare occurrence any more -- and we happened by the site of the old Greek Cusina, which Fireman Randy's zealous minions shut down for multiple fire safety code violations. It's been empty ever since the City of Portland "hit squad" raided the place, but now it's been branded on both street sides with the Fireman's infamous scarlet letter:
These signs are supposed to warn firefighters responding to a call on the property, but is there anyone on the firefighting force who doesn't know the history and condition of this building? To us, the signs seem a lot more about you-know-who telling the world about who's its daddy. "The owner of this property has incurred the wrath of..."
I'm thinking that maybe we ought to put that U on the front of a T-shirt. I'd wear one. But what would it say on the back?
A reader who lives way out on the Idaho side of Portland writes:
I am seeing instant results with this new Operation Cool Down. I ride the train every day. Now I see officers on many train rides. Yesterday evening and again this morning there were multiple cops arresting gang-banger types at my MAX stop. They are finally cleaning these sc**s off the street.
And it's really nice. Things seem less depressed, and it makes the outlook optimistic. I think citizens should demand we keep this up and fund even more officers. I am sure we can find the funds from pet projects. The first thing our leaders should be worried about is the safety of the citizens. To have other top priorities would be insanity.
The home team has won every game so far in the final round of North American pro hockey playoffs. And now there's only one game left, tomorrow at 5 p.m. The Vancouver Canucks will host the Boston Bruins. We've been checking in and out of these playoffs since they started, but with everything on the line in one game, we may have to pull up a chair and try to watch the whole thing. As best we can tell, a low-scoring contest would favor Vancouver, and a high scoring affair would almost certainly be won by Boston. Have we got that right? Anyway, as we've been saying for two months now, go Canucks!
We've continued to bang away at the problem we've been encountering with our iPhone, in which iTunes wouldn't recognize the phone and would freeze up whenever the phone was plugged in. (We are on Vista and a cheapo iPhone 3G; see our previous posts here and here.) It appears that an external hard drive that we have hooked up to the computer might have been getting in the way and causing the mess.
The drive in question is a Western Digital MyBook, and it's been known to hang our Windows Vista computer up from even booting. Leaving aside the iTunes issue, quite often when starting or restarting the computer we have found it necessary to cut power to the MyBook drive and let Vista boot up before plugging the drive back in. We tried changing the drive boot sequence at Windows startup, but that didn't solve the problem.
Anyway, the other night, a lightbulb went on above our head. Maybe that drive was also contributing to our iTunes-iPhone freeze problem. After some trial and error, we strongly suspect that's the case.
Here is the procedure we have come up with to work around the conflict. Some of these steps may turn out not to be necessary, and we'll work on trimming them down, but this sequence has resulted in successful recognition and syncing of the iPhone twice in a row now, which is something. These steps may or may not work for you, and they could brick something on your system, and so try them at your own risk. But they are:
We've been meaning to send a shout out to a couple of guys who have contributed to this site over the years. My friend Doug the Mountain Climber, whose photos have graced this blog and its masthead many times, is finally getting his wonderful imagery recognized. He's part of a formal show coming up this Friday evening at the Portland Art Museum's rental sales gallery. Mazel, dude.
Then there's designer Bill Badrick, who hasn't thought inside the box in a long time. Remember his idea for a eco-roof covered bridge across the Columbia? Anyway, his slogan, and his illustration of his bridge idea, were honored by the site Infrastructurist as the best offered to jazz up an Urban Land Institute report on the sorry state of our nation's infrastructure. Bill's always got a good tip for us, and we're pleased to see somebody else notice that he's got vision. Way to go, Bill.
Portland's ill-conceived "clean money" campaign finance system -- in which the taxpayers financed meaningless amateur campaigns by several City Council candidates -- will be formally laid to rest this week, several months after the long-delayed public vote on the program killed it. Emilie Boyles, Jesse Cornett, Streetcar Smith, John Branam -- "voter-owned elections" just got dopier and dopier.
The demise of another quixotic Stennism means there will be no tax money for Amanda Fritz, who's up for re-election next year. Fritz got two rounds of "clean money," losing once and winning on a rerun, and she kept telling us that there's no way she could have been elected without it, because she just couldn't handle the time commitment required by campaign fundraising. But now she'll have to try. And she's reportedly starting by throwing $25,000 of her own money into the pot. Given how much she seems to be enjoying the limelight, it seems like a good investment for her and her doctor spouse.
So far, we haven't heard of anyone challenging for the seats held by Fritz and Randy Leonard, who's also up next year, and so it may not take more than a few thousand for either of them to hold onto their thrones. The mayor, on the other hand, is probably going to be looking for work a year from now, no matter how much money he raises and spends.
So there we were on our way to a nighttime work session last evening around 8:30, driving by the corner of Williams Avenue and Morris Street, which is the northeast corner of Dawson Park, near Emanuel Hospital. The cops had one lane of Williams and part of Morris blocked off, and there was crime scene tape all over that part of the park. We expected to see something come across one of our news sources later on about what it was about, but we haven't seen a word. Anybody know what happened?
At the site of the catastrophic triple meltdown in Fukushima, the plant operator, Tokyo Electric, is taking its sweet time testing workers for exposure to radiation. But they can't put it off forever, and when they do test, they're getting some not-so-good results. So far 31 workers have tested so high for internal exposure that the government is pulling them off the site and getting them medical attention.
It's not clear who those 31 folks are or what they've been doing, but whoever and whatever, that's 31 fewer people in the trenches trying to keep the disaster from getting worse. You wonder how many more employees and contractors are both skilled enough and reckless enough to take their places. And how long will the next wave be able to last? And the wave after that? We're three months into this incident, but it will be three years or more before the potential suicide missions are concluded.
Elsewhere, one person who's been following the Fukushima story closely has done a study of airborne beta radiation levels in the United States since the accident, in an attempt to see which areas have gotten how much. This person, who's not really identified, has come up with this report. If he or she is right, San Diego, Eureka, Salt Lake City, Arizona, and of course Hawaii got the worst of the initial blasts. We certainly can't vouch for the analysis, but it's an interesting read unless and until something more authoritative comes along.
You don't need a degree in statistics to understand this. It is so unspeakably sad what we have done to each other and to the planet. Meanwhile, radioactive cesium is showing up in Japanese whales. If you think the massive ongoing ocean pollution being caused by this disaster isn't going to affect America, perhaps you should think a little harder.
We were saddened to read that legendary saxophonist Clarence Clemons, best known for his work as the perfect sideman and stage foil to a musician named Bruce Springsteen, has had a stroke and is laid up in a Florida hospital. We've written about Clarence on this blog several times, as you can see here. We have nothing but affection for the big guy from Red Bank and hope he gets back to where he belongs, eating caviar, as fast as you can say "Kid, you better get the picture." Even Lady Gaga gets it.
Here's one of Eugene's student athletes driving 118 miles an hour on a suspended license at 4:30 in the morning. Probably on his way to an anthropology study group meeting.
Don't bathe for a few weeks before being called in.
Our beloved Blogmobile is getting up there in age. It just got its eighth registration sticker, although we haven't cracked the 100,000-mile mark yet. It runs on just gas, but we figure the greenest thing we can do is run it into the ground.
Last week it got some stuff done to it -- new brakes in the front, and the hideous timing belt replacement. That set us back a bit. And so it was with some trepidation that we noticed last night that the heater wasn't working. (Yes, during Rose Festival, sometimes you turn the heat on in the car at night.) It was blowing o.k., but what was coming out of the vents wasn't any warmer than the air outside.
We called the dealer and chatted with a nice service guy who instructed us to take off the control knob on the heater and see if the back of it was busted. Sure enough, it was. A $9 part. They had it in stock. We were heading out in that direction anyway. We popped the new one on. And within a half hour of the call, the problem was fixed.
Then the sun came out, and we needed air conditioning to keep cool the fruit we just bought at the roadside stand. It worked, too -- anemic as usual, but par for the course. Expensive disaster averted -- knock on wood.
I found myself an old man amidst the hipsters of Mississippi Avenue in north Portland yesterday afternoon. Lucky us, there was some kind of bike race going on. The streets were a rat maze of detours, and the place was teeming with statement-makers. All that was missing was Fred Armisen.
I finally parked the car and headed to the pizza place for an event. After dutifully waiting in line, I ordered my slice and handed the young woman behind the counter a $20 bill. It was the older type of twenty, with the smaller portrait of Jackson and without the security stripe on it. I didn't even notice, but the counter person did. She held it up to the light, peered at it for a while, and informed me that she would have to go ask her manager whether she could accept it.
She left, and after a while she came back and announced that they don't take those bills there any more, because "they might be fake." It wasn't worth a single breath arguing about. I snatched the money out of her marginally employed hand, grabbed my old man hat, and walked out.
Call me a sorehead, but that is the last money I will ever try to spend at the establishment known as Mississippi Pizza.
Last week, the IRS put out a list of 275,000 nonprofit organizations around the country that were being stricken from the rolls of tax-exempt charities because they hadn't filed proper reports with the taxing agency in a long time. This purging was required by a law Congress passed in 2006; it's apparently just now taking effect.
The revenuers also released state-by-state lists, which a blogger might regard as an open invitation to go hunting through for tasty news tidbits.
Here's the Oregon list. Unfortunately, these tables allow for only a certain limited number of characters in the organization's name, and so in some cases, it will be hard to figure out just who has been bounced. Also, keep in mind that a lot of these groups are long defunct, and some will seek to be reinstated. But still, there are some interesting names on there:
NORTHWEST NATURAL GAS COMPANY 220 NW 2ND AVE PORTLANDHappy hunting, folks. Let us know what you find.
OREGON LEATHER FRATERNITY 4200 SW 107TH AVE APT 1802 BEAVERTON
PHILIP H KNIGHT CHARITABLE ONE BOWERMAN DR BEAVERTON
OREGON ASSOCIATION OF ORTHOPAEDISTS PO BOX 2082 LAKE OSWEGO
AMERICAN EDERATION OF STATE COUNTY & MUNICIPAL EMPLOYEES 3913 OR LOC W 10033 SW TRAPPER TER BEAVERTON
BOYS TO MEN MENTORING PROGRAM 4820 SW BARBUR BLVD APT 58 PORTLAND
PSU FAULTY TRUST FUND 111 S W FRONT AVENUE SUITE 303 PORTLAND
SO AND SO AND SO AND SO 525 SE 16TH AVE PORTLAND
GRAY PANTHERS OF PORTLAND INC 1020 SW TAYLOR ST STE 610 PORTLAND
MULTNOMAH COUNTY SHERIFFS POSE PO BOX 90353 PORTLAND
BETTER BUSINESS BUREAU FOUNDATION 333 SW 5TH AVE STE 300 PORTLAND
SPIDER WOMAN 4305 SW CORONADO ST PORTLAND
MULTNOMAH BAR FOUNDATION 520 SW YAMHILL ST STE 800 PORTLAND
WILLAMETTE SHORE TROLLEY 888 SW 5TH AVE STE 300 PORTLAND
CLASSICAL CHINESE GARDEN SOCIETY 1941 SE 31ST AVE PORTLAND
PORTLAND POLICE FOUNDATION 5949 NE 30TH AVE PORTLAND
It's important to note here that the Portland police actually arrested someone in connection with one of last week's five gang shootings in six nights (not to mention the two gang stabbings the next night). Over the weekend it was announced that this fellow was picked up on Friday. The mayor, of course, promptly Tweeted it to his flock.
The new ramp-up of enforcement efforts apparently has increased the police bureau's anti-gang team to 17 uniformed officers from 10. Sounds like a plan to us. We wish they'd lay off about a dozen government p.r. flacks around town and make it 25 or 30. We also wish they'd wise up and make this staffing level permanent. We've had these "Operation Cool Down's" before, and they always seem to peter out, while the strength of gangs never stops growing. It's a long-term problem that needs solutions with less flash and more substance.
Portland's crazy pension and disability system for its public safety officers really presents a challenge for a writer. You want to call it bankrupt, but it's actually way worse than that. Most employers fret if the money they have put aside for pensions is less than 70 or 80 percent of the accrued liability to pay future benefits. With the Portland bluecoat pension system, the amount put aside is 0 percent. The whole thing is entirely unfunded; whatever needs to be paid out in any given year just gets sucked out of current property taxes. The system is insolvent to the infinite degree.
A private employer who tried that would probably wind up in trouble with the IRS, the federal Labor Department, Brad Avakian -- somebody. But if you're the City of Portland, you get to party on.
Anyway, that's not the main point of this post. Instead, we're brooding about this weekend story by Maxine Bernstein of the O, in which the police pension fund is trying to recoup money that it mistakenly overpaid to retirees. Everyone seems to admit there was an error, but now the retirees are saying that the taxpayers should just have to eat that mistake -- they're not going to allow their future cost-of-living increases to be docked by the overpayments they previously received.
It's really telling when law enforcement people won't make things right. It reminds us a little of what happens after they needlessly kill somebody.
In a crazy world in which Mark Cuban's team could come out looking like the good guys, the Dallas Mavericks won the world championship of pro basketball this evening. Dirk, the Jasons, and Shawn Marion got it done, with the help of a pretty good set of role players and a coach who surprised a lot of people with his talent.
On the Miami side, we harbor no ill will toward the trio of spoiled stars. They will be putting themselves through their own personal tortures over the summer. Most fans were glad to see the mighty Lebron take another fall, but we feel sorry for the people who are going to have to live with him on that team next season.
When they told us that we have to stop driving because the carbon dioxide we produce is wrecking the planet, we pretty much bought it, although now we're more skeptical about that proposition than we were at first.
But when they told us we had to blow Portland's livability with tacky high-rise apartments because the population of the city was growing so quickly, we immediately called them out as lying. Portland's population has been growing at a rate of a little over 1% a year for many years now. There's no million people who are going to show up here soon.
So now they've got a new line. Yes, the million people are coming, after all, because when the climate in the rest of the world gets intolerable, they'll all come flocking to Portland, where the climate is going to be great.
Ya gotta hand it to the people who sell this stuff. They never quit.
I am not making this up: The University of Oregon has suddenly entered into a strategic partnership concerning "environment and development" with the government of the West African nation of Gabon, one of the most corrupt in the world. Apparently, few on campus heard a peep about it until the announcement of the done deal was dropped like a stink bomb by the university president, Richard Lariviere (left), on Friday. Lariviere actually had face time with the corrupt "president" of Gabon, Ali Bongo Ondimba (right), in Washington, D.C. earlier that day.
Many of the folks on the faculty in Eugene are beside themselves over not only the partnership, but also the way in which it was handled. We don't blame them. It's one thing for the spineless fellow in the White House to kiss up to tyrants who have oil, money, and position in the U.N. But the U of O doesn't need to go there, especially not under the radar. What a shabby lesson to teach the students. And the greenwash on the whole affair is breathtaking. "Sustainability" trumps human rights, folks -- you'll be hearing a lot more about that in the years ahead.
What makes matters worse is that several of the other state universities, including Portland State and the medical school, also reportedly played a role in a "consortium" that brought about the new "research center." It's a shame how obsessed the entire state university system has become with corporate prestige and money. Its leadership is all about the next fancy deal. The last time we checked, education was not about deals. Then again, maybe the state universities aren't really about education any more.
The Sunday New York Times is here on our doorstep, as it has been just about every Sunday morning since we can't remember when. Certainly 20 years, probably more like 30.
It's the only dead-tree news product we pay to have delivered any more. The daily Times and all of the O went by the board a while back. We like the kids to see what a newspaper is like, but it's doubtful they'll ever read one regularly.
This report, from the FCC of all people, has gotten us thinking again about the decline of the local news media. It's a long read, but the super-condensed executive summary is here: "there is a 'shortage of local, professional, accountability reporting' that could lead to 'more government waste, more local corruption,' 'less effective schools' and other problems."
People say that all the blogging and aggregating that's being done will fill in some of the gaps, but as a person who's done a fair amount of all that, we don't see it that way. Bloggers without day jobs won't be blogging for long, and bloggers with day jobs rarely have the time to dig in and do the time-consuming work that real journalism requires when it's done right.
Consider this nice interview that a reader sent me a link to recently; about two thirds of the way down, the smart interviewee says this:
Bill Moyers: I remain indebted to those reporters who go where I can’t go, who talk to people I can’t reach, and come back. I’m still indebted to them. And as you say, you were spit out by the forces at work in the journalistic world. And now journalism is spitting out reporters like teeth.Scary, scary stuff. When I was a kid growing up, journalism was really hitting a stride, which culminated in bringing down Nixon. We were told the Fourth Estate would save us, and that it was important and needed constant protection, but we didn't listen all that carefully because it was so mighty that it seemed invincible.
David Simon: Left and right. You know, listen, I was not the last. That’s true. And it’s heartbreaking. And I say this with no schadenfreude just because I got a TV gig. It’s heartbreaking what’s happening, and I feel that the republic is actually in danger.
There is no guard now assessing anything qualitatively, no pulling back the veil behind what an official will tell you is progress, or is valid, or is legitimate as policy. Absent that, no good can come from anything. Because there is an absolute disincentive to tell the truth.
Bill Moyers: I read something you recently told The Guardian in London: "Oh, to be a state or local official in America" — without newspapers — "it’s got to be one of the great dreams in the history of American corruption."
David Simon: Well, I was being a little hyperbolic.
Bill Moyers: But it’s happening.
David Simon: Yes. It absolutely is. To find out what’s going on in my own city I often find myself at a bar somewhere, writing stuff down on a cocktail napkin that a police lieutenant or some schoolteacher tells me because these institutions are no longer being covered by beat reporters who are looking for the systemic. It doesn’t exist anymore....
But it wasn't stronger than corporate greed. The bean counters and their mentality took over publishing and wrung every last penny they could get out of it, leaving news media so vulnerable that the internet dealt it what seems to be a mortal blow.
Let's hope -- however unrealistic it seems -- that it comes back, somehow, to some degree, from where it is now.
A friend down the street reports that she and her husband were awakened last night to a ruckus from one of their neighbors' yards. It sounded like some rowdy folks at a party were goofing around imitating dogs.
Turned out it wasn't human partygoers. It was the Irvington coyote. Indeed, it was two of said coyotes, real ones, and they were killing something.
Until now, we've heard of a lot of sightings, but only of a lone coyote in any one location. This was a duo, and it sounded as though they got something. The friends are still asking around the block about exactly what it was that they got.
Congressman Anthony "Look at My" Weiner says he is checking into psychological rehab and "taking a leave" from the House of Representatives. Given that his term is only two years, you wonder why he doesn't just resign. But hey, living one district over from David Wu, maybe we shouldn't be pointing fingers.
But don't worry -- the mayor's on the case. Yesterday he issued another press release and went to another meeting, and so any day now we can expect results.
As always, the Goofy One leads off his latest spiel with a heartfelt plea for everyday residents to come forward and rat out the murderers. Somehow people are supposed to trust the police bureau to keep them safe if they do this. The fact that they don't shows that they're far more reality-based than the person making that pitch. This police bureau hasn't done real well with the whole trust thing.
Oh, and now there's an official mayoral gang web page: mayorsamadams.com/gangs. Nothing like a web page to stop gangs. There's a "Dear Portlander" letter there -- a really long letter that took Amy Ruiz a long time to write -- telling us all the stuff that the city is trying without success. This is progress, apparently.
We still don't see a Facebook page, a Twitter feed, or a Droid app for the mayor's gang initiatives, but they're surely coming. They'll probably roll those out when the weather gets hot and the bullets really start flying.
What's most bizarre about the mayor's latest response is the revelation in the O that he apparently didn't even know whether the police had had a gang enforcement team before he took over the bureau:
He started a draft of the letter by saying the gang problem has "come roaring back" after "the past leadership eliminated the local gang enforcement task force'' despite his objections. But the mayor learned this morning at the Gang Violence Task Force meeting at North Precinct that the past chief never eliminated the gang enforcement team, but instead reduced the number of officers assigned to it.This week, there's also mention of "air support" coming on line for the new enforcement efforts -- police helicopters, apparently. Nothing like cop choppers to lift everybody's spirits in the community.
In his final letter, Adams changed the word to "cut" the gang enforcement team. The team was reduced between 2001 and 2007, but under former Commissioner Dan Saltzman, the gang enforcement efforts were buoyed by a separate Hot Spot Enforcement Action Team of officers, and funding for gang outreach went up.
There's only so much even a highly skilled leader can do to stop senseless violence when it's gone as far as it already has in this town. Pity that we're getting so much less than that.
Government employees usually get to collect benefits from their employers' retirement plans long before the rest of us do. Some of them get to knock off at age 50, if they've been on the public pad long enough. One of the obvious steps to get the government pension plans back on the road to solvency would be to make the workers wait until they're 65 to start collecting their benefits. Andrew Cuomo's pushing for such a change, at least prospectively, in New York, and it would be refreshing to see Oregon politicians make serious moves in the same direction.
About as refreshing as a cold day in hell -- and about as likely.
The Goldman Sachs crowd is truly nauseating.
Oh, the many joys of Portland's vibrant new neighborhood. Go by streetcar!
I see they've taken a poll that shows that the new Multnomah County library taxing district will pass handily. This is the district that's being set up supposedly so that the county commissioners can't de-fund the library and spend the money on foolishness like a Convention Center hotel.
So what will happen? A new taxing district will be formed, property taxes will increase to cover the library, and the money that used to be spent on the library can now be spent on the foolishness. Mission accomplished for Cogen & Co.
According to this publication, by 60 cents a month for residential. In other news revealed by the flyer, the city's planning to cut garbage service to every two weeks, but institute weekly food scrap pickups, "sometime in the coming year."
A reader writes:
I work downtown and go for regular lunchtime walks. Typically there is a big horde of bums, punks, and other low lifes hanging out in Pioneer Square by the Courthouse MAX stop. Well guess what? Now that the Rose Festival is here the bums are not there and are scattered around and not such a visual and smelly blight for visitors.Is there in fact something seasonal going on? Perhaps a reader in the know can enlighten us.
So if the City can move these "people" for the Rose Festival, why not for the rest of the year.
Here's an interesting story out of Portland City Hall: Sue Keil, who recently bailed out of the top spot in the mayor's Transportation Bureau, has now agreed to serve as interim director of Commissioner Nick Fish's Parks Bureau. Apparently her retirement wasn't about wanting more leisure time.
Tokyo Electric, the private outfit that owns the melted-down nuclear reactors at Fukushima, has been preventing even greater catastrophe by pouring water over the trashed facilities, and in the process creating astounding amounts of highly radioactive water. Much of it has wound up in the basements of the reactor and turbine buildings, and some of it is in trenches and tanks around the plant. But a lot of it -- no one knows how much, really -- has spilled into the ocean. And the facilities on land can't hold much more.
Water will have to continue to be dumped on the reactors for many months before a Chernobyl-style entombment can even commence.
The utility's been talking for weeks now about setting up a system on site that would filter the radioactivity out of the collected water, and make it suitable for reuse as coolant. But the more one reads about that plan, the less likely it seems to be successful. For one thing, the filters and the sludge they create would be so radioactive that no one could get near them to dispose of them. The materials would constitute high-level radioactive waste in and of themselves. And where would they dispose of them?
TEPCO estimates that about 2,000 cubic meters of sludge will be generated through the treatment of radioactive water at the plant by the end of this year, and intends to keep the toxic substance in the plant's intensive radioactive waste disposal facility.It's a long way from a done deal, to be sure. The ocean seems likely to continue taking a major hit.
However, the facility can only hold 1,200 cubic meters of the sludge because radioactive waste generated in the plant's ordinary operations is already kept there, forcing the utility to build a new facility to keep the sludge on the plant premises.
However, because it is so highly radioactive, the sludge is extremely difficult to manage. Areva acknowledges that it has never handled sludge generated through the treatment of water emitting more than 1,000 millisieverts of radiation per hour.
While radioactive waste generated in the plant's ordinary operations is regularly transferred to a reprocessing plant in Rokkasho, Aomori Prefecture, the final disposal site for the sludge and other waste generated as a result of the Fukushima nuclear disaster has not been determined.
In other Fukushima news, the U.S. government continues to warn its citizens to stay 50 miles away from the Fukushima reactors. The official evacuation zone established by the Japanese government is only about 12 miles, however, and there are an estimated two million people still living within that 50-mile radius. Pity the kids and the pregnant.
The Japanese tea industry seems likely to take a major hit from the nuclear disaster. The latest news is that there's radioactive cesium above government safety levels in tea produced more than 180 miles from the meltdown site. Some of it has been recalled, but the world is likely to look at all Japanese tea with a wary eye for the indefinite future.
Perhaps the most telling story to come out of Japan this week is this one: People are so upset with Tokyo Electric that there are going to be 150 police, including a riot squad, at the company's annual meeting in a few weeks. Many of that country's institutions will be sorely tested before the nuclear crisis subsides.
One of the great things about Rose Festival weather is how perfect it is for watching the final throes of the winter indoor sports seasons on the tube. If we were sweltering in 90-degree heat somewhere, it might be hard to get psyched to watch guys play ice hockey and air-conditioned hoops. But when a great day is mostly-dry-might-break-70, settling down in front of the NBA or NHL finals seems pretty natural, even if there is daylight blasting through the window during the first half of a night game.
We recall the NBA playoffs in the early '80s, when matters dragged out into late June, and even Portlanders gave up and went out in the yard rather than watch the season's denouement. The league eventually wised up and moved to the schedule we have now.
This year, both sports have produced entertaining final rounds, with 2-2 ties heading into this evening's action. In basketball, Dallas won tonight at home over Miami, sending that series back for a game or two in Florida starting on Sunday. Each team has won one game on its opponent's court, and so Dallas has the advantage. But it's one game at a time at this point, and there seems no chance that one or more of the Miami Big Three isn't going to play out of his mind this weekend. The series seems likely to head to a single-game showdown on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, on the ice, the real Vancouver won the first two games at home, then dropped two to Boston back in Beantown. The way the hockey playoffs work, the venue shifts back and forth for each game from here on out. So they'll play in Vancouver tomorrow night, Boston on Monday, and if there is a Game 7, in Vancouver on Wednesday. By then, June will be half over, but the games that have entertained us through the darkest months will finally have been brought to a close for another year.
We're definitely rooting for the Canucks, although they looked pretty anemic the last couple of games. In hoops, either outcome is o.k., but tonight we noticed that we're pulling slightly for the Mavericks. We still don't hate Miami, but they aren't exactly lovable, either.
Although one State of Oregon web page says that monitoring of airborne radiation "is no longer being updated as this is not considered a local hazard at this time," apparently the state is still doing some monitoring, and they're posting results on a different page, here. Given all their bold-face "chest X-ray" happy talk, we recommend continuing to watch Salem like a hawk on this issue, particularly if a big aftershock collapses one of the trashed reactors in Japan entirely.
... clutching forks and knives, to eat their bacon."
[E]ntrepreneurs have to be dogged and passionate. “It’s like going into a bar filled with 100 beautiful women. You ask the first one, ‘Will you go out with me?’ And she says no. You ask the second one out, and she pours her drink on you. The third one slaps you. Well, most people would give up at beautiful woman No. 2 or No. 3. An entrepreneur is the one who gets all the way to No. 100. And marries her and lives happily ever after.”The whole thing is pretty interesting, here.
They're going to allow cameras in some federal trial courtrooms in 14 districts around the country beginning on July 18. Electronic media devices have been banned in all federal district courts, most federal appeals courts, and the U.S. Supreme Court for many decades now, but the judiciary is now begrudgingly letting them into the district courts for three years on an experimental basis under tight restrictions.
Only civil cases will be covered, only if both parties consent, and they won't be "live." Here on the West Coast, they'll be in Seattle and San Francisco only.
Sheesh, can you spare it?
Not allowing small, unobtrusive video cameras and microphones in courtrooms has always seemed a bad policy to us. The public should get to see just about all that goes on in the legal system, with limited exceptions for things like the appearances and identities of confidential informers and jurors. Reliance on the mainstream media to gather and report all the newsworthy stories developing in our judicial system is a vain hope -- particularly these days, as organized media is falling apart at the seams.
As much as some of the old timers on the bench want it to fail, "televising" court proceedings (if that's even the right word for it any more) is long overdue, and will do much more good than harm. Let's hope it finds its way to the Oregon courts -- all of them -- soon.
There are so many reasons, but one is that its natural state is as a floodplain. Paving this bald eagle habitat over with asphalt, adding the stench of diesel engines, ballast discharges, and other harbor pollution, will be such an insult to the environment that Portland will deserve ridicule as a center of world-class "green" hypocrisy.
Somebody, please tell Eileen Brady that she needs to promise to kill this. The rest of the face cards running for mayor will gladly let the Port of Portland get away with it; maybe she'll stand up.
Today we kick off a new feature on this site: helpful tips on how to live a better life, brought to you by the Portland Bureau of Transportation, Sam Adams, Commissioner in Charge.
You know, when you're only going a short distance and there's decent weather, you should really consider walking, particularly if you're obese and feeling stressed about your future. It's better for you, and it's better for the earth. The last thing you should do is drive. Travel smart -- walk to wellness -- take the Ten-Toe Express for a happier, more virtuous life!
For example, if you are traveling from Portland City Hall to Lincoln High School -- a distance of only 0.7 miles -- you could get there in 14 minutes by walking at an easy pace. By the time you get into your car, drive around on the city's maze of one-way streets, hassle with streetcars, buses, trains, and cyclists, and find yourself a parking place at one of the city's high-priced meters over by the high school, you could have walked there for free. And if you drive, you're causing traffic congestion and polluting the earth. So get out there and walk!
If you must drive, do so defensively. Expect the unexpected! And remember:
This has been a message from the Portland Bureau of Transportation. Next week: Trip options at Jantzen Beach.
Now the federal Education Department has its own jackboots.
It's time to announce the winners of our "Weird! Isn't Working" essay contest. The results have been verified by the Florida Secretary of State's office, and the winners, selected by a vote of 99 of our readers (alive and dead), are:
1. AL M.
2. Texas Triffid Ranch
Each will receive a first-edition "Weird! Isn't Working" bumper sticker, and we'll throw in a bojack.org bumper sticker as well. If the winners would just send us an e-mail message with their snail mail addresses, we''ll get them out right away.
And in breaking news, last night we came across a third "WIW" sticker that got a little dog-eared at the bottom of our briefcase, and we're going to send that one out to third-place finisher Gannicott. Maybe he can iron it out.
Thanks to everyone who wrote in -- the comments really were excellent -- and if you'd like to buy a "WIW" sticker, just send a message here and they'll fill you in on the details. I think they're still charging five bucks, including shipping and handling.
Well, that ends our competition. See you and the bumper sticker out on the road. We leave you with the winning entries:
"We are in the process of creating what deserves to be called the idiot culture. Not an idiot sub-culture, which every society has bubbling beneath the surface and which can provide harmless fun; but the culture itself. For the first time, the weird and the stupid and the coarse are becoming our cultural norm, even our cultural ideal." -- Carl Bernstein (American Journalist, b.1944)
America: I give you PORTLAND ORYGON!
Yeah, it's great to be "edgy." It's great to be "expressing your individuality" by dressing and talking exactly like everyone else in your pod. It's great to sleep until 11 because you don't have a real job to go to, or sit around all day talking about obscure zines and movies because you're going to get around to doing one or the other one of these days. And you know what's going to happen when the money runs out?
Hey, I'll tell you exactly what happens when the money runs out. You won't have anything invested in the area, so you'll leave. You'll move back to your parents' little suburban enclave, where they'll have your bedroom looking exactly the way it looked when you graduated from high school 20 years ago. You can go back to having a nice big bowl of Cookie Crisp at the kitchen table every morning before going off to brag to your high school classmates (or their kids) about how you lived in edgy, innovative Portland. You can tell pretty much the same lies about your life in Portland that you told when you first moved out there: that you were popular, you were successful, and you Made A Difference.
Yeah, you're all set. All you have to do is wait for your parents to kack it, and then you have a prepaid place to stay for the rest of your life. That is, if they didn't have to sign a reverse mortgage to pay for your little games through your thirties and forties. The rest of us, though, have to clean up your messes, and would prefer if you put on your big-boy pants and stopped acting like Ruprecht in the film "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels."
And yes, this can be applied both to hipsters and the City of Portland management. Do I get a cookie?
Sam replaced the shears in their holster. His scalp tingled. He felt liberated. No more lies. No more deception. His path was chosen. He knew the press would be harsh, the public disdainful. But Randy would understand. He always had. The challenges would be many -- a different restroom, more complex wardrobe choices on junkets, a new style of bicycle. But it was time. His time. Too long he had labored at keeping Portland weird. But it wasn't the city that was working for him anymore. It was time for a change. Weird just wasn't working. Sam reached for his preferred provider list and found the dog eared page. "Gender Reassignment Therapy." He mouthed the words "This is for Samantha" as he reached for the phone.........
Reports are filtering out of the nation's capital that Portland's congressman got excited one night a while back and sent this photo to several planners.
If, like us, you check in on the live video from the meltdown at Fukushima from time to time, you might have noticed that the addresses that were working a while back are now dead. But the feeds are still going. The distant cam set up by a Tokyo television station is now here. The much closer (but still not all that revealing) cam set up by the plant operator, Tokyo Electric (a.k.a. Tepco), is now here.
Meanwhile, a bunch of strontium-90, with a half-life of 29 years, has been picked up more than 38 miles away from the trashed reactors. The official evacuation zone is only about 13 miles around the plant.
And Tepco is now planning to release radioactive water from another reactor complex into the ocean. These guys are just one bad news item after another.
Many people in Japan are going to have to decide how much contamination they are willing to spend the rest of their lives avoiding or ignoring. And alas, many others will have no choice in the matter.
Down in funky Sacto, the wimps can't appreciate Rose Festival weather.
And the night's still young. What has happened to our city?
He won't be running for mayor, so that he can keep funneling federal money back to Portlandia for streetcars and trains to nowhere. If he gets us many more good deals, soon we'll be broke.
With Saltzman and Blumenauer both out, look for Jeff "This is the Future, My Friend" Cogen to jump in, and get the Willy Week endorsement.
Man, they hate that. Which is why we may need a federal law to guarantee that it's legal, at least when there's no undercover activity involved. Whaddya say, Oregon reps in Congress?
Here's a snapshot of the mayor of Oregon's largest city on the latest of his
exotic vacations sustainability missions, this one last week in Sao Paolo. That's him in the red shirt.
Apparently women aren't allowed to ride bicycles in that country.
The (yawn) Stumptown Coffee sale-or-maybe-not is breathlessly dissected here.
The latest, greatest helmet is made out of the heavy boxes you get at Costco.
The O had a grim story on Sunday, noting that mortgage foreclosures in Oregon were up 236% in April. Many of the filings are likely to run into problems due to questionable document-keeping by the lenders, but the surge in the number of actions shows that the housing market in the Beaver State is not yet on a road to recovery.
Meanwhile, an alert reader predicts that the latest wave of foreclosures will likely continue. He notes that he's been "seeing several more ads (locally and nationally) for attorneys in Portland from firms concentrated on representing financial institutions in foreclosure and bankruptcy. Some are out-of-state firms that have established field offices in the metro area for this." He points us to one recent example here, and here's another one roughly on point.
In other depression news. the PBJ is writing all week about private sector job loss, in Portland and elsewhere. Between 2008 and 2011, the Portland area's private employment dropped by 66,600 jobs out of 891,800 -- a 7.5% decrease. It's no better anywhere around the Pacific Northwest, either; Boise's down close to 11%, and Seattle's also down by more than 7%. It looks as though we've got it bad, and that ain't good.
No wonder one of the transit agency's directors is bailing for Corvallis. With a $4.20 toll charge to get in and out -- way more if you bring your car any more -- downtown Portland hardly seems worth the trip.
We knew the theme "Weird! Isn't Working," and the new bumper sticker with the same message, would strike a chord with our readers. We have no fewer than 16 entries in our essay contest, in which the top two vote-getters will get free stickers mailed out to them tomorrow.
Readers, if you haven't read all the entries, here they are: We've got 13 here and another 3 here. Al M. left a comment in each batch, but his first one is short enough for Twitter, and so only his second comment is in the running.
Once you've taken a look at all the comments (or not), cast your vote for your one favorite here. We'll close off the voting at midnight tonight and announce the winner tomorrow morning. Good luck, contestants!
The civil rights division of the U.S. Department of Justice is coming out to Portland to launch a major investigation into an alleged pattern of civil rights abuses by the city's police bureau.
It's about time. There's so much blood on that bureau's hands. No one in the state seems to want to do anything about its mean streak. Maybe a swat team from D.C. can force some real change.
In the meantime, imagine the sideshow as the city's hopeless mayor, who currently runs the police department, struggles to get himself re-elected through all of the scrutiny. If the feds know what they're doing, they'll take a cue from the FBI and keep him a minimum of a football field away at all times.
Yesterday the Portland water bureau announced that it had fomally appealed to state environmental regulators to grant the city a "variance" from federal rules that would require construction of a spendy new ultraviolet light treatment plant up in the Bull Run reservoir facility. We wonder whether they're sincere in their desire to avoid building the plant -- they love big pork projects for their construction contractor buds -- and today a reader sends along a link that adds to our skepticism.
Check out this press release from last Thursday by a company called Telvent. It brags that the city is using it to create a fancy new water testing system, including "remote monitoring of the new water treatment plant." It seems rather odd to be designing and implementing a new testing system when the state of water treatment is still up in the air. But perhaps it isn't up in the air at all -- it's just being made to look that way.
Two state-commissioned reports floating around today on the contracting scandal involving the governor's girlfriend are awfully disturbing: one for the ugly details it paints of official corruption, and the other for the breathtaking way it whitewashes the whole affair. In the end, nothing was done in the wake of the revelations other than funnel tax money to lawyers in the Old Boy Network. Ain't that the Oregon way?
There are two different threads going at Portland City Hall about citizen advisory committees. And they seem to be moving in opposite directions.
First we have the ever-less-relevant Portland Development Commission -- with a governing body hand-picked by the mayor, for better or usually worse -- threatening to put its advisory boards on even shorter leashes than they are on now. Then you have "Legend" Saltzman proposing a new -- independent, woo-hoo -- board to play a role in setting water and sewer rates for us hopeless Portland residents who need to wash and flush. Big hoopla.
It's all kind of silly. Citizen advisory boards are purposely populated with nattering nabobs (yes, that's you, Streetcar Smith) who tell the politicians what they want to hear. And if they don't, they're ignored or disbanded. It's been that way forever, on every level of government, and neither of these proposals is going to change that.
Are you talking about a directly elected PDC board, or a directly elected water and sewer rate-setting board that can't be overruled by the City Council? Then call me. Otherwise, let me sleep -- I've seen this movie too many times.
We're keeping our essay contest on "Weird Isn't Working" open until 6:00 Portlandia time this evening. Discuss that theme, and if you're one of the two top vote-getters among our readers in a vote that we'll take tomorrow, you'll receive, absolutely free, a "Weird! Isn't Working" bumper sticker, soon to be the rage among all Portland grownups.
You can leave your essay entry as a comment to this post, or along with the comments left on yesterday's post. We'll gather them all up tonight.
And remember, to make sure that this isn't confused with a City Hall Tweet-fest, we explicitly require that your essay be longer than 140 characters. Anything 140 characters or shorter will be disqualified. Good luck, authors!
UPDATE, 6/9, 2:25 p.m.: We have winners.
After nearly three months of hemming and hawing, the government of Japan now admits that in each of the three melted-down reactors at Fukushima, the nasty radioactive lava known as corium has broken through the reactor pressure vessel and flowed down into the containment vessel that surrounds the reactor core. The reactor vessel has a shell of six to eight inches of steel, but it's been weakened at Fukushima by the combined effects of exposure to sea water and extreme heat. Besides, these reactors are old -- beyond their design lives -- and there are a number of vulnerable spots where pipes and tubes get connected.
With the corium out of the reactor vessel, the containment vessel is the last hope to keep the melted fuel within the plant. It's basically a thick concrete pad all around and beneath the reactor; the earth and the groundwater are immediately below. The classic drawing is here; the containment vessel is that yellow part.
The groundwater beneath the plant is already being contaminated from radioactive runoff from the desperate efforts to cool the mess. But if the lava itself falls into the water table, along with bubbled-off concrete, then a large, shallow underground steam explosion could occur. Given that the plant is right next to the ocean, there isn't all that much earth between the surface and the groundwater.
In other news that reveals how entirely bogus the pronouncements from the government and plant operator Tokyo Electric have been, yesterday they changed their estimates of how much radiation was released from Fukushima in the early days following the meltdowns:
According to news reports, NISA [the Japanese nuclear regulatory agency] now estimates the total amount of radiation released into the atmosphere in the first week of the crisis at 770,000 terabecquerels. This compares with NISA's previous estimate, released on April 12, of 370,000 terabecquerels for the first month of the crisis. NISA has pointed out that most of the radiation was released in the first week.So more than twice as much radiation was released as they said -- perhaps much more than twice. You really can't trust what they're telling you over there.
And that's just the airborne stuff -- what we've been breathing the last few months. It says nothing of what's been dumped into the western Pacific Ocean, where a lot of our seafood swims.
Meanwhile, here's a YouTube video from the outskirts of Tokyo that's sure to be going viral. It appears to have been shot within the last day, 135 miles south of Fukushima. Although the Geiger counter is pretty mellow when it's above ground level, watch what happens when the holder places it down near the sewer grate. The reading jumps to more than 5.5 microsieverts per hour. Even the recently (and obscenely) relaxed Japanese bureaucrat standard for playgrounds much closer to the meltdowns is 3.8 microsieverts per hour. At that level or above, the kids aren't allowed outside.
Obviously, there's been a fair amount of radiation in the air over Tokyo, and the rain has been washing it onto the ground and into the sewer system. It's not exactly safe there. Heaven help the people of Japan, and everyone around the world who's in the shadow of one of these ultra-dangerous facilities.
This blog received 105 comments on its various posts yesterday. That's really cool. Thank you, readers, for being here.
Portland strives to be oh-so-European, but in the real Europe, things seem to be moving in the opposite direction. Witness a story about the 20-to-35-year-old set in Spain, which is actually taking to the streets to say that it's fed up with sitting around with nothing to do. As one of the instigators of the demonstrations has pointed out, Spain is not exactly a grassroots kind of place, and so this is a big deal:
Many of the new protesters say they are disgusted with the unions that do little to represent their interests and with both of Spain’s main parties, which they view as corrupt and unresponsive.Here in Portlandia, you don't see this sort of thing. You get the earnest Bus and OSPIRG kids on the one hand, and the anarchists with the hoods and the spray paint on the other. None of them seem to be asking the right questions, or inspiring the many PBR retirees in between.
We've noticed a couple of ongoing stories in the news of late that we must admit we don't give rat's tuchis about: the sale of Portland's Stumptown Coffee, and Congressman Anthony Weiner's Greg Oden-like lewd cell phone photos sent to women other than Mrs. Weiner. Both stories were initially denied, then proven to be true. But it's hard to tell which one is less important. What do you think?
If, as this article says, the district has "an excess of money and a lack of projects," then don't goof around making it bigger. Shut the district down, give that money back to the schools and county social services, and lay off a half dozen people at the do-nothing Portland Development Commission.
It's "for the children."
Dragged kicking and screaming by its residents and businesses, the Portland water bureau is asking the environmental bureaucrats in Salem to let it off the hook from a federal mandate to treat its water supply for a bug that it has never had and probably never will. If the request for a "variance" is turned down, they'll build a giant ultraviolet light treatment facility -- the kind of big money engineering project that gets City Hall quite aroused. Oh, and it would be at Bull Run, where the consultants sit up at night and bay at the moon.
Let's hope that the state has the good sense to recognize the science and the practicalities of the situation and get this waste of money off the table. It's bad enough that the water boys and girls are hellbent on disconnecting the reservoirs in town in favor of their spendy new underground tanks that will create no fewer problems than they solve. That alone has gotten Grandma's water bill higher than her blood pressure.
One of our most widely read blog posts ever is this one, bemoaning the plum tree that graces our neighbors' parking strip. The neighbors don't like it, we don't like it, and it's seen better days. Google send all sorts of readers to that post, looking for "plum tree." It's hard for us to tell whether the searchers want one, are caring for one, or are hoping to get rid of one, but whatever the motivation, in they come by the dozens, especially in the summer.
Anyway, in chatting around the neighborhood, we've been hearing that there's no way the tree police at Portland City Hall will let a property owner cut down a mature street tree like that. But guess again: One day last week, we heard the unmistakable sound of a chain saw out the window of Blog Central. When we looked out, another plum tree a few doors away -- same size and vintage as the one we clean up after all summer long -- was being cut. To our surprise, it was not just being pruned -- the length of time the job was taking soon revealed that it was out-and-out being taken down.
We saw those neighbors (our former partners in the Cat Warning System) a little while later, standing next to the neat stack of wood that the arborist had left behind on their strip. How in the world did they ever get the city to let them take out that tree? It turns out that they had called the city forester for some advice on how to prune the thing. And the person they sent out allowed as how the tree was old, somewhat diseased, and at the end of its life. He gave the green light for them to take it out.
We left the neighbors in their newfound light and air, and it seemed like just hours passed before the wood pile had been whisked away. Then somebody showed up and planted a new tree in the space.
It's a sunset maple. It looks a little shocked to be there, but that's probably just temporary. We hope and trust that it will grow tall and strong.
We had to congratulate the folks down the street for the transition. No more plums to scrape up, no more red juice on their floors, and likely no more damage to their sidewalk. They say they're going to plant a little rose garden under the tree, at least for its younger years. An extra bonus.
As for the plum we originally wrote about, next door to us, it's still there. But it may be time to sell short.
On Saturday, we unveiled a new bumper sticker that should be popping up all over Portland in the coming weeks and months. Some friends of ours came up with it, and they'll surely peddle quite a few of them. So many grownups in town have had it with the whole "weird" thing.
We're putting one sticker on our car, and we've passed one on to a friend, but that leaves two more in our possession that we're ready to give away. How to select the lucky recipients? Let's see if we can build on the sticker's message with an essay contest. Leave your entry in the comments to this post. The topic: "Weird! Isn't Working." Discuss. And as an antidote to all the Tweeters, let's say that to be eligible to win, an entry must be longer than 140 characters.
We'll collect the entries and put them up for a vote in a day or two. Top two vote-getters get free bumper stickers from the first edition, which seems unlikely to last. (Meanwhile, to buy one for $5, you can shoot an e-mail inquiry here.)
Here are some thoughts we've had as we've pondered the sticker: To whom is it directed? The hipsters? Not really. For the hipsters, weird doesn't have to work. To them, the concept of "work" is alien -- Portlandia is, after all, where these young people have come to retire.
No, the message seems more directed to our many local politicians and bureaucrats who earn a nice living and pension pandering to weird. They are old enough to know better, and indeed, they tell us every day that Portland is the city that does, in fact, work. Right now, it doesn't, and weird isn't helping. Weird needs to go back to being the inside joke of a small group of cute, funny bohemians -- and not the official platform for the waste of a nice working-class city.
UPDATE, 6/9, 2:24 p.m.: We have our winners.
Remember the grammar school that burned in southeast Portland? You remember -- Fireman Randy showed up and struck a pose on the roof, they relocated the students to a vacant school up the road a way, it was in all the media. Now that the school district's overreaching bond measure has failed, they say there's no money to rebuild Marysville. But a reader asks some important questions about that party line:
It's hard for me to understand why this school hasn't been rebuilt. Almost every property coverage policy that I issue (and the market standard) includes replacement cost valuation, meaning the policy will provide enough funds up to the limit to replace the damages. The policy (ISO CP 00 01 and CP 10 30) also provides the option of paying the replacement cost to the policy holder and not rebuilding.Indeed -- how much did the school board collect on the Marysville fire insurance, and where has that money gone?
This leaves a few options to what happened to the money from the policy:
(1) The school district took the check from the policy and refuses to use it to rebuild the school.
(2) The limit on the policy was below the actual cost to rebuild, which means:
(2a) The insurance advisor for the district was negligent to offer appropriate limits, or
(2b) The school district intentionally chose an inadequate limit.
Either situation leads me to believe the reason why the school is not under construction is due to negligence on behalf of the school district.
Why are the reporters so incompetent they don't ask these questions, and blindly print the scapegoat of the largest bond in Oregon history not passing in the worst recession since the Great Depression? Infuriating, but understandable why they are the legacy media.
Here we are living downwind from the worst nuclear disaster in history -- at least the second-worst, by anyone's reckoning -- and the State of Oregon has decided it's not worth it to run radiation monitors and report the outputs any more. No hearing, no notice, the bureaucrats just stop.
Why do we have an Oregon Health Authority, if not to monitor conditions that could harm our health? Maybe we need to make a few phone calls and send a few e-mail messages about this to the people in Salem who are supposed to be watching out for us. The Oregon health director is Dr. Melvin A. Kohn. His e-mail address is email@example.com and his phone number is 971-673-1222. The governor is also a doctor. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org and his phone number is 503-378-3111.
If there's nothing to worry about, then the public should see the numbers. It doesn't cost that much, and whatever it costs, it's worth it.
Arnie Gundersen: Well, I am in touch with some scientists now who have been monitoring the air on the West Coast and in Seattle for instance, in April, the average person in Seattle breathed in 10 hot particles a day.
Chris Martenson: What? I did not know that.
Arnie Gundersen: Well, the report takes some time to make its way into the literature. The average human being breathes about 10 meters a day of air, cubic meters of air. And the air out in the Seattle area are detecting, when they pull 10 cubic meters through them, this is in April now, so we are in the end of May so it is a better situation now. That air filter will have 10 hot particles on it. And that was before the Unit Four issue. Clearly we all can’t run south of the equator to our second homes in Rio or something like that. But it will stay north of the equator for anyone who has a Leer jet and can get out. But I guess what I am advising at that point [if the Fukushima reactor 4 building collapses -- JB] is keep your windows closed. I would definitely wear some sort of a filter if I was outside. I certainly wouldn’t run and exercise until I was sure the plume had dissipated. This isn’t now. This is, as you were saying, this is worst case. If Unit Four were to topple, I would close my windows, turn the air conditioner on, replace the filters frequently, damp mop, put a HEPA filter in the house and try to avoid as much of the hot particles as possible. You are not going to walk out with a Geiger counter and be in a plume that is going to tell you the meter. The issue will be on the West Coast, hot particles. And the solution there is HEPA filters and avoiding them.
UPDATE, 6/9/11, 2:23 p.m.: Despite contradictory messages on the state's web pages, apparently there's still some monitoring going on. Further details are here.
The former Portland police recruit who alleged she was pushed off the force in retaliation for ratting out who she said were crooked mentors, has had her claim tossed out on Friday by the jury hearing her federal lawsuit. The judge in the case can still give her a partial victory, but her main claim has been bounced.
Regardless, things were said under oath in that trial that the public needed to hear about.
"Adams said he can't win...."
Some of our favorite warm weather libations here at Blog Central involve tonic water, a delightful mixer. In the summer months, we make many a trip to the store in search of this beverage, and we invariably come home, six-pack in hand, wondering why it is so darned expensive. Costco doesn't sell it, the big grocery stores rarely give you a deal on it, the higher-end grocers gouge you for it, and the cheaper store brands, which aren't much cheaper, are pretty bad. About the only decent store brand comes from Whole Foods, and if the temperature in Portland breaks 73 degrees Farenheit, they're out of stock by noon the first day of the "heat wave."
What gives? It can't be that much harder or more expensive to produce tonic water than other sodas, can it? Why is it so scarce? Sounds to us like another one of those corporate conspiracies. If only John Kroger would get on this one, there's got to be actionable wrongdoing at the bottom of it.
It's an idea whose time has come.
A reader wrote us late Saturday night:
Three hours ago, at 8th and E Burnside (b/t Doug Fir and Imago Theater), I ran into your favorite Welches con man. I see from your most recent post on the issue that he was at Biwa (a couple blocks away) last week.When David scores a hit, he usually retires to a nearby bar to drink and gamble away his ill-gotten gains. Wonder which watering hole he's patronizing over that way -- probably this unidentified joint on Grand.
Anyway, he talked to me for about a minute. Then I realized who he was, got totally annoyed, and told him I didn't have time (I really didn't have time -- I was trying to find my friends).
Now that the Portland police bureau's Twitter name is going on the backs of the police cars, does that mean people should Tweet their emergencies, rather than calling 911? If not, don't you think that some people will misunderstand and do that anyway?
And whose idea is touting Twitter on the cars -- yours? Who's really running the police bureau, anyway?
Up that way, the city has voted to bestow a $108 million bailout package on the private company that's running bike sharing. At 5,000 bikes in the system, that works out to $21,600 per bike.
It's hard to believe we don't have this in Portland. It's obviously bikey, it privatizes profit potential while socializing risk, and its business model makes no sense. That's right up the Sam Rand Twins' alley. I guess none of the Goldschmidt people wanted to get into it.
We've had an ironclad rule throughout our adult life: No bumper stickers on the car. But a friend of ours has come up with this one, and she's sent us a copy, and we're sorely tempted like never before:
They're selling them for $5 a pop, and for now you can get more information by e-mailing them here. Our city needs to see this, in as many places as possible. Indeed, our world!
Here's some heavy news from the Japanese meltdown site: The water in the basement of Fukushima unit no. 1 is so radioactive that just the steam coming off it is creating radiation levels of 3 to 4 sieverts an hour upstairs, where steam from down below is entering through a "crevice" in the floor. Exposure of 3 to 6 sieverts leads to severe nausea, loss of appetite, hemorrhaging, infection, diarrhea, peeling of skin, sterility, and death if untreated. Nobody but the robots who took the latest measurements will be entering that space any time soon.
Barring a miracle, a lot of that water is going to wind up in the Pacific Ocean, and it would be extremely hard to believe that a great deal of equally nasty liquid already hasn't.
If you think the bulletproof glass at the bank is a drag, wait 'til they put it in at the drugstore. Here's a story about a sad trend -- reported from Seattle.
When our smart-aleck nephew won our football pool last winter, he directed that part of his winnings be donated to the George Bush Library Foundation. Not only did it get a bunch of readers' goats, but since we wrote the check, we are now on the mailing list for this:
Young people nowadays. (Sigh.)
Our buddy Bill McDonald tells it like it is in his latest tune. (Music starts right up when you click.)
We got the latest water quality report from the Portland water bureau in the mail the other day. As usual, it is 12 full-color pages, just shy of 8.5-by-11 inches, and allegedly costing the city 29 cents per copy to produce and mail (about 335,000 copies last year). It's required by federal law, but it's a lot slicker and more extensive than it needs to be. What federal law requires could probably fit on one 8.5-by-14 inch sheet that got tucked in with your water bill. But that wouldn't satisfy the hungry maw of bureaucratic public relations, and so we all get the fancy version.
For all its page length, lush photography, detailed graphics, and propaganda heat (including the official version of why we need to spend zillions satisfying federal mandates about problems we don't have), the brochure leaves something to be desired. Most importantly, it shows no trends from year to year -- it's just a snapshot from 2010. Having kept last year's version of the flyer, we can fill in that gap.
One trend that jumps right out is a big jump in the amount of radon, a radioactive gas, detected in the water. In the 2009 brochure, the average concentration detected was 145 picocuries per liter. In the 2010 brochure, it's up to 310 picocuries per liter. No explanation is offered for the increase. A metal known as vanadium is also up, from an average of 0.6 parts per trillion in 2009 to 4.9 parts per trillion in 2010. To our untrained eye, the rest of the readings stayed in the same range, except for lead in the distribution system (not in homes), which thankfully declined from a maximum of 5 parts per billion in 2009 to 0.15 parts per billion in 2010.
Curiously gone from the new brochure is all mention of pharmaceuticals and personal care products, such as Advil and birth control drugs, which have been found in the system in the past. There's no mention of what current testing shows about those. Maybe they've stopped looking -- the city's website shows the last test for those substances as being in August 2009.
Anyway, you can see that 29 cents on your next water bill. It's in there right next to neon rose sign.
Portlanders no longer have to leave their homes to observe the skewed priorities of City Hall. Nowadays they can just sit back and let the mail carrier bring the evidence to their doorsteps. The other day we received yet another ditzy come-on from the city's transportation bureau, exhorting us never to drive a car again:
Notice: It's an "order form," by which one can order all sorts of free car-hater swag. Five years ago, we actually took the city up on this, and a bureaucratic minion pedaled out to our house with bike maps, brochures galore, and one of those thingies you wrap around your pants leg to keep the chain grease off it. But now the array of materials that they're hawking has expanded to the point of self-parody.
You've got your five different bike/walk maps, your copy of the crosswalk laws, your Portland-by-Cycle biking kit, your "perfectly fitted bicycle helmet guide," your free digital pedometer, your bus/MAX guide, a free ad for Zipcar, "useful information geared towards the older driver," and even a pitch from the Water Bureau -- a "SmartDrips conservation kit." All that and more, absolutely free, people -- and free is a very good price.
But the best part of all are the bonuses you'll get if you act now:
Having pondered our local government for many years now, we're beyond asking questions like "How much is this costing the taxpayers?" and "Is this what government should be doing?" We've now reached the point of "What planet am I on?" and "What did I eat to make me dream this?" and "Where are my children going to live, because there's no sane future here?"
Maybe we'll go for the umbrella. After all, we paid for it.
UPDATE,10:00 p.m.: As a smart reader points out, you can also order your swag on line. Don't take our umbrella!
Only in Portlandia: The new cop cars are going to have a Twitter address painted on the back.
I wish I were making this up.
This one involves a car dealer selling you a new car but telling you it's used.
Calling John Kroger! Look in that barrel -- fish!
The lush pastures of Portland government flackdom have drawn another reporter away from her once-proud, now-dilapidated professional home of many years. Government p.r. -- it's where journalists go to retire.
We wrote a few weeks back about a problem we were encountering with our otherwise wonderful iPhone. Whenever we plugged it into our Vista computer, iTunes would come on, but be stuck. It wouldn't allow any operation until the iPhone was disconnected, but as soon as the phone was unplugged, all was well. Windows Vista was recognizing the phone, but iTunes wasn't.
What made it crazier was that the problem was sporadic. Occasionally the gods would smile and the phone would be displayed and sync up as was supposed to. But usually it wouldn't -- frozen iTunes was what you got.
When we blogged about this, we were crowing that we had found a solution, but then we discovered that it didn't really work. And so it was back to the drawing boards. All the Apple forums we could find on the internet turned out to be of little or no help.
We never give up without a fight when gadgets aren't working, and after several weeks of fussing around in the middle of the night, we've learned some more about what is going on, and we've come up with some coping strategies that have had some success. Given that many others have encountered the same difficulty, we're posting an update here.
When the iPhone gets plugged in and iTunes freezes up, it's apparent immediately. But what's a little more subtle is that it doesn't stay frozen forever. After about three minutes of sitting there stoned, iTunes goes back to functioning properly, except that it doesn't show the phone as a connected device. Windows sees it (you can see it in Vista Explorer on "Computer"), but the iPhone doesn't show it.
We have discovered that once iTunes gets to this point, one can click on the "Help" tab in iTunes and run something called Diagnostics, which of course also works if iTunes is recognizing the phone the way it should. Under that tab, iTunes runs four tests on the system. It's the third and the fourth ones that are of interest here, and so you can uncheck the first two boxes. The third test is device connectivity, and the fourth is device sync.
When the phone is plugged in and iPhone doesn't display it (but has recovered from its 3-minute stone-out), the device connectivity test takes a while. But it eventually shows, among other results, a green light next to the line "iPhone found." Next, the device sync test fails. If iTunes is running properly in all respects, this test is performed in a separate DOS-looking box that opens up automatically. But when the iPhone is hanging up, it doesn't open that box, instead showing a red light next to the line "One or more sync tests failed." There's a help button next to that line, which sends you to a bunch of Apple support pages that have not, in fact, helped.
What's revealing is what happens when you click "Next" again. Up comes a report that shows the outcome of the tests just run. And it shows that iTunes in fact is seeing our iPhone:
Here's a fascinating proposal to eliminate the corruption and hypocrisy in college athletic programs: Adjust team scores on the field or court by the players' SAT scores, and by how much money their schools are paying them to play. In this day of technological wizardry, it is entirely do-able!
Despite its $6.4 billion of long-term debt, the City of Portland hasn't yet reached this stage -- but when it does, hoo boy, is some outside expert going to make a ton of money.
Oh, the places you'll go. (Possibly including municipal bankruptcy.)
A writer on this highly informative bulletin board about the meltdown at Fukushima in Japan sums up the current situation pretty well:
three reactors with probably completely melted cores, all fuel pools hot, some probably damaged, some filled with debris, corium creeping around and probably eating its way through various levels and pipes, the building structures are cracked, damaged terribly and leaking like fish nets, the water table looks to be in jeopardy, there's leakage into the ocean, there are periodic smokes that disperse radioactivity hither and yon, and nobody seems to really know what to do about it. Oh, and they're not being careful of their workers, to say nothing of the people of Japan or the international community.And the drama will continue for many years. Agriculture for hundreds of miles around the plant has been gravely wounded, tourism to the country is in the tank, a large "dead" zone will remain for generations (including the coastal waters), beaches will soon be closed to, and shunned by, vacationers, the country faces a permanent energy crisis, earthquakes continue to roll in several times a day, and there's no telling how much more radioactivity will be spilled and belched by the meltdown.
The claims that "it's not as bad as Chernobyl," foolish to begin with, will seem downright quaint in a few years' time.
The Legend seems to say as much here. He can now return to his full reclining position.
Ah, the joys of Portland's daily newspaper. Here's a story published at lunchtime:
By dinnertime, there's a whole new spin on the same facts:
The editors' hands over there are as heavy as they are clumsy.
The west end of the Buckman neighborhood has gained national notoriety as one of the 15 worst neighborhoods in the country for property crimes. But don't worry, the cops say -- the numbers are inflated because of all the homeless guys wandering the streets down there. Well, that's a relief.
Here's a big story in the media world: The publisher of the Portland Tribune is jumping ship to become a public relations vice president at Oregon State University. No word on whether the exec, Steve Clark, is also going to resign from the Tri-Met board of directors; presumably he'll soon be moving to Corn Valley.
And so yet another Portland journalist leaves for greener grass as a government flack. It's a disturbing pattern.
It's been a muddy spring, and the Rose Festival carnival in Portland's Waterfront Park is a sloppy mess as usual. A year ago tomorrow, they actually shut the operation down for a while to dry out, and this year may call for the same.
According to this television news report, "Clearly the waterfront greens need a drainage fix, something that will begin to be more seriously addressed next year." Wonder what that's supposed to mean, and who'll be paying for it.
Here's an example of government headed 180 degrees in the wrong direction. But look on the bright side -- we are going to have more streetcars.
Another one of John Kroger's high-profile, big, bad investigations goes nowhere, according to the O and WW. Between this, the Sam Adams free pass, and the recent botch of an important criminal case, Oregonians must be wondering whether his re-orientation of the state Justice Department into a criminal prosecution shop is anything more than a blizzard of press releases. Kroger's up for re-election next year.
A reader who knows our fondness for the latest gadgets sends along this shot from a 1987 issue of Popular Mechanics -- less than 25 years back:
As overall inflation since then has been about 100%, those are some eye-popping prices. Ah, but the future was bright. Wonder what we'll think about today's tech ads a quarter-century hence.
The curmudgeonly Randal O'Toole gives the "urban renewal" types an earful here. If you read the whole thing, he's got quite a list of boondoggles from all over. And Charlie Hales shows up as a poster child for cronyism in one of them. An interesting policy paper to counter the Acts of the Planning Apostles.
Having been around and paying attention for several decades now, we find this analysis of America's economy since World War II pretty compelling.
After exhausting the first two coping mechanisms, the only way Americans could keep consuming as before was to save less and go deeper into debt. During the Great Prosperity the American middle class saved about 9 percent of their after-tax incomes each year. By the late 1980s and early 1990s, that portion had been whittled down to about 7 percent. The savings rate then dropped to 6 percent in 1994, and on down to 3 percent in 1999. By 2008, Americans saved nothing. Meanwhile, household debt exploded. By 2007, the typical American owed 138 percent of their after-tax income.The bottom line: Prosperity isn't coming back without a strong middle class. But maybe that statement is redundant.