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Jack Bog's Blog, by Jack Bogdanski of Portland, Oregon

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August 2002 Archives

Friday, August 30, 2002

Wonderful, intelligent, commercial-free music on the Internet

Radio Paradise. Check it out, then float the guy a few bucks to keep him on the air against all odds (and the Big Music Corporations). You can thank me later.

Ask your doctor about it

Do you know what's sick? Advertising prescription drugs on television. "Side effects are similar to sugar pill, including sore throat, dry mouth, and fatigue." What the heck is that supposed to mean?

It's all part of the decades-long Festival of Misguided Deregulation that's brought us Enron, telecom "slamming" and scamming, bankrupt airlines, the impending health care train wreck... and the list keeps getting longer.

Hello! FDR is considered a great figure in history for a reason!

Thursday, August 29, 2002

Bizarre Idea of the Week

Maybe the City of Portland should take over the state's largest electric utility. We've done so well with the Water Bureau, let's go electric!

Earth to Vera! Earth to Vera!

Here's an interesting wrinkle:

The city's resolution calls for quickly spending up to $500,000 of contingency money for advice from experts in bankruptcy, negotiations and utility operations.
How about spending some of that to open one police precinct for a few weekends, folks?

I smell Goldschmidt! Either that or Homer Williams wants to build condos over the nuclear waste pool at the Trojan plant.

Y'all come back now, y'hear?

My record as a host to house guests has been somewhat checkered over the years, but I just finished a successful stint in that capacity for in-laws from the East. What a nice week we had, even when their toddler and ours joined forces to gang up on the adults.

One experience that I have always particularly relished is playing tour guide around Portland. As frustrated as I get with the local politicos and powers around here, this is still a great town to spend time in. And just when we locals get cocky and try to show the tourists that we know every nook and cranny of the town, something new pops up to surprise us.

Escorting newcomers to such places as the annual Italian Festival, Jamison Square Park, the Bonneville Dam, and Multnomah Falls is easy. But even such seemingly humdrum spots as Oaks Park, the new food stands in the vacant lot on SW Fourth (where the porno shop used to be), and the Nike Factory Outlet Store show a little sparkle when folks are seeing them for the first time. One of our guests is a bicyclist, and he greatly enjoyed the bike-friendliness of the Rose City. A change from his usual routes in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn.

Our brush with greatness came when we were denied access to the main Nike Town store downtown because the Leader of the Free World was coming in to give a campaign fundraising speech across the street. We managed to leave the scene before the now-routine Portland Bush riot ensued, but we were buzzed by a military helicopter for a good 10 minutes as it hovered over downtown.

The folks of the lovely nearby hamlet of Corbett may have provided the highlight, though, as we stumbled across an anniversary party for the local grocery store and deli. The featured attractions were pony rides, and a wagon ride big enough to accommodate all 6 of us adults and 2 kids. The horses were all "rescued" animals, being cared for with great enthusiasm (and, as far as my city slicker eye could tell, with great skill) by an outfit called R & R New Options Equine.

As they say on TV, priceless.

Back on the blog

Time to catch up after too long away. Where to begin? Let's run backward from Wednesday....

I love reading The New York Times (painless registration required to link). Today Maureen Dowd voiced a sentiment I've been brooding about for nearly a year now: If we're going to invade a country in the Middle East, why not Saudi Arabia? On the other side of the page, Thomas Friedman bemoaned the flap that has arisen in North Carolina because students were assigned to read a book about (gasp!) the Koran! Why do some feel so strongly that if we ignore radical Islam, it will eventually go away? Understand your enemy, people.

Sunday's Times magazine featured a stunning piece about an the birth of an extremely premature infant who died shortly after birth. Not exactly a breakthrough in journalism, except that it was written by the child's mother, who truly bared her soul. And readers are the richer for it.

Also (still) in the news: the gruesome (but not surprising) discovery of the bodies of the missing Oregon teenage classmates on the grounds of the home of a friend's father. The most important story for me (and many others) is the question how the suspect was allowed to live his apparently perverted life for half a year without a thorough police search of his home and belongings, and, much more importantly, without intense police surveillance. This man was a prime person of interest from the moment of the first girl's disappearance, and yet the evidence strongly suggests that he somehow managed to commit the exact same type of homicide on another girl from the same school, same dance team, same apartment complex, weeks later.

I would have thought that, within the bounds of the law (and perhaps slightly outside thereof), the police and the FBI would have been tailing this fellow morning, noon and night. Whatever his constitutional rights were, I would have assumed that he would not be allowed to pick up a second girl on the way to school and murder her, too.

But then again, it was unthinkable to me that suicide bombers could commit the atrocities of 9/11/01 on U.S. soil. Or that they would be allowed to train at U.S. flight schools until they had the skills to fly jumbo jets into skyscrapers and the Pentagon.

Or that corporate executives would even try to get away with widespread looting of public companies at the expense of ordinary investors and employees.

Implicitly, I have assumed the good faith and basic competence of the FBI, the FAA, the INS, the SEC. Lately I am seriously questioning those assumptions.

The government wants us to surrender some civil liberties to ensure our safety. How about as part of the deal the government adequately funds public safety and white-collar law enforcement, and actually does a decent job with them?

Sunday, August 25, 2002

Great life, crummy blog

And vice versa, so they say. And for me it's certainly been true the last week or so. A swarm of amazingly good events all packed together! These memories should come in handy in February...

Wednesday, August 21, 2002

More on the Ninth Circuit

This from Thomas Sowell at TownHall.com:

For years, there have been various proposals for dividing the controversial 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, which covers an enormous amount of territory. My own preference would be to cut each 9th Circuit judge in half, with a few exceptions like Alex Kozinski.

Notes from the mosh pit

I love my bride. God bless her, she called me yesterday mid-afternoon on her cell phone and said: "I'm at the line at the Springsteen show. They're giving out numbers. The first 300 people with floor tickets get to stand in the very front in a roped-off section. They're up to number 178. Get down here."

This was a surprise phone call. I was planning to go down to the arena about an hour later to check out the scene casually. Me being the Bruce fanatic of the house, you would think my wife would have let me do the reconnaissance and pushing onto the line. It is a fine, fine thing that she didn't.

I hung up the phone, grabbed our floor tickets, bolted out the door, fired up the car, and made it down there in record time to join her. We stood in a self-organized, self-policed, and largely well behaved line for several hours, but it was worth it -- we did indeed get to stand about 3 to 8 feet from the stage in a very roomy standing room area for the whole show.

When you are this close at an E Street Band concert, it's impossible to be objective. We loved it, of course. And although it was great to rock out to the old anthems, it seemed that the newer the material was, the better I liked it.

If you have doubts about Springsteen's new album, you might want to see him perform it live. His dedication and commitment to it is fairly infectious. Not a single number he did failed to please me.

But then again, it's impossible to see straight when you are spitting distance from Bruce.

Tuesday, August 20, 2002

Tonight's the night

Normal living will resume tomorrow.

Friday, August 16, 2002

This just in from Mayor Vera Katz

If contractors who do business with the City of Portland wish to state that fact in advertising and promotional materials, they should have to pay the city a fee for the privilege of doing so.

This the same week that her "chief of staff" (I gag) announces the city's supposed new pro-business initiative.

It would be funny were it not so sad.

Long live the Pioneer Post Office

Suddenly, out of nowhere, Sen. Gordon Smith and Rep. Earl Blumenauer have turned against the plan to boot the Post Office out of the Pioneer Courthouse in Portland as part of a renovation. There's something fishy about this -- the plan has been around for a few years, and only now, as they run for re-election, are these two lawmakers extolling the Post Office's virtues. In fact, just last November, they were bragging about being the big leaders behind re-doing the courthouse. Did I hear somebody say "focus group results"? Regardless, it is gratifying that the post-9/11 steamroller for turning yet another federal landmark into a walled enclave is getting some second thoughts.

As Gordon-and-Earl-Come-Lately are now pointing out, there has been a Post Office in the floor plan of this, the oldest building in the city, ever since its erection in the 1870s. Common folk have been walking up its beautiful stone steps with their everyday business for generations. If the Ninth Circuit judges can't live with the threat that this poses, then maybe they, not the citizenry, should be the ones to move. Surely the General Services Administration (Uncle Sam as Landlord) can find another, less precious building suitable for conversion into a bomb-proof concrete bunker if the judiciary really needs it. And at least for the moment, one doubts that it does. The Ninth Circuit judges currently walk to and from their nearby parking garages with hardly a soul noticing or recognizing them. Moreover, let's face it, if someone really wanted to take out one of the appeals judges, there are plenty of opportunities to do so away from their place of work.

Sure, security at the courthouse can be enhanced. But such improvements are not totally incompatible with the historic mail station in the building. The Pioneer can and should be left with its beautiful little postal windows intact, and tenanted, if necessary, with public offices that are in less danger of being attacked.

Thursday, August 15, 2002

Now maybe everyone will be happy

When I last saw Los Lobos perform two years ago, I was disappointed. They shared the bill with two other acts, and they seemed to squander their shortened set. Rather than reach into their own huge songbook, they frittered away their time with long, loose, and pointless covers of Neil Young's "Down by the River" and Marvin Gaye's "What's Going On."

On the former number especially, the Lobos appeared to be sending out the message that they had grown tired of their own catalog and were now satisfied with faxing in some heavy-metal noodling. Don't get me wrong, a Los Lobos cover song can be electrifying -- I once felt a crowd nearly levitate when they surprised it in an encore with a note-perfect rendition of "Cinnamon Girl" -- but only after the audience has had a good taste of the group's own beautiful cross-cultural mix.

With this in mind, I am greatly enjoying the group's new album Good Morning Aztlan. Not only do these songs stand up exceptionally well on the stereo, but they will also provide excellent opportunities for David Hidalgo to flex his electric guitar muscles on stage. Several of the new numbers rock unabashedly. And when the band is ready to pay homage to late '60s-early '70s soul, Cesar Rojas can step up and do "The Word."

There's plenty more on this effort. "Luz de Mi Vida" is the first song in Spanglish that I will commit to memory. "Tony y Maria" is a chilling folk tale of the long road from Mexico to L.A. (and back). "Round & Round" concludes the disk with a dense soundscape of exquisite guitar work, and Hidalgo's impeccable, birdlike voice flying high above it all

The Cal-Mex influences that made Los Lobos famous drift in and out, but at heart this is a very appealing rock album. Turn it up, and congratulate "just another band from East L.A." on its continued musical growth.

Monday, August 12, 2002

That time again

We folks in academic life don't have much to complain about. But this is the roughest time of the year. The days are hot but they get shorter and shorter, and the start of another school year is just around the corner.

The envy of all our friends with "real jobs," we are often asked what we do with the three or four months we get off every summer between tours of duty. Every spring we make an incredibly ambitious list of summer projects, and we get around to several of them, but not nearly all, before we run out of sand in the hourglass, and it's back to the show.

Oh, well. Although we didn't conquer the world this summer, there were some truly fine moments, crystal clear and hot and good. And there are still a couple of weeks to send the season off in style. "Don't know when this chance might come again/ Good times got a way of comin' to an end..."

Saturday, August 10, 2002

Typical timing

I reconnected with the Catholic Church a few years ago -- just in time for the worst crisis in many a decade. I just found a very enlightening interview in the National Catholic Reporter with a psychologist who has treated many ill clergymen over the years.

I'm still pretty depressed about the recent revelations, but here at least is a rational framework for examining them.

Married priests, women priests -- they are coming eventually. Why must His Holiness make us wait another century?

Friday, August 9, 2002

The Gov

Oregon Gov. Kitzhaber's reckless stand against the State Legislature's school funding plan is perhaps the final chapter in an 8-year term that has been largely a disappointment. Although I am a registered Democrat and very leery of the Oregon version of the Republican Party (there's a long blog entry for another day), I have never understood why the public was so enamored of this guy. Strutting around in blazer, tie (sometimes), and jeans (yuck), this former doctor doesn't have much to show for his stay in the Governor's Mansion. His official web biography states it this way:

During his first term as governor, Kitzhaber oversaw the expansion of the Oregon Health Plan, which reduced the rate of uninsured Oregon children from 21 percent to eight percent. In addition, Kitzhaber's welfare reform plan, known as the Oregon Option, has reduced the number of welfare caseloads more than 50 percent, saved more than $200 million in the state budget, and helped nearly 20,000 Oregonians find work.

Preserving Oregon's environment remains a priority for Kitzhaber, and during his first term he developed and implemented the Oregon Plan for Salmon and Watersheds. This is a collaborative plan that encourages federal, state and local government agencies to work with private landowners to restore watershed health and recover endangered salmon species.

Education and opportunity for Oregon's children also has been a centerpiece of Kitzhaber's administration. He has fought for stable education funding, implementing the Education Act for the 21st Century, increasing investment in Oregon's colleges and universities, including freezing tuition, and juvenile crime prevention.

Taking the last plank first, while he has fought for stable funding for schools, he has failed, failed, failed, as this year's fiasco of special session after special session of the Legislature has proved. As for the environment, a program that "encourages" folks to do things hardly seems like a major accomplishment. And for him to take credit for welfare reform is somewhere in the general direction of Al Gore's internet. OK, he knows what he is talking about on the Oregon Health Plan, but that plan was created before he was elected governor, and it has not been flawless under his leadership. When the medical director of the plan defiantly surrendered his license to practice medicine rather than undergo treatment for alcoholism, following his arrest for driving under the influence, I started to wonder about Kitzhaber's political "doctor card."

I remember when "Kitz and Katz" ran the Legislature and were the pundits' darlings, but that was many years ago. Kitz's time as governor largely mirrors Katz's time as mayor of Portland. They haven't really made much of a positive impact. Their tenures have been... well... the best word I can come up with is odd.

Wednesday, August 7, 2002

What are they smoking?

I read in the Portland Tribune yesterday that a blue-ribbon panel has sent a report to the Portland City Council on how to revitalize the city's economic climate. Unfortunately, having the entire council resign, the city charter completely rewritten, and half of the municipal bureaucracy laid off were not among the recommendations.

What was prominently mentioned in the story, however, was the proposal for -- and I am not making this up -- drumroll, please...

Another expansion of the airport!!! According to the front-page portion of the story, "upgrading the airport for more national and international flights."

As we say on the 'net, ROTFLMAO.

Ladies and gentlemen of the council and the blue-ribbon panel! Head out to the airport. Any time of the day or night. Put down your ribbons and your mirrors for an hour and look around.

It's half-empty. Empty gates. Empty concourses. Empty baggage rack after empty baggage rack. Pretty deserted shops. A giant sucking sound down empty halls.

There's plenty of room for lots more flights in the existing, half-empty facility. There's just no reason for them to come here right now, or frankly, any time in the foreseeable future.

Take away two middle-class golf courses in relatively close-in Northeast Portland -- which is what the megalomaniacs at the Port of Portland are determined to do -- and add more aircraft noise to the entire Northeast quadrant of the city: That is going to help attract people to live and work in the City of Portland?

Last I checked, PDX was one of the most unpopular airports in the country. Ripping it up for a couple of years to overbuild it some more isn't going to help it recover its reputation among passengers and taxpayers.

Where do they come up with these blue-ribbon suggestions? How much did we pay these guys for this kind of insight?

Hmmmm... Call me paranoid, but could it be that some of the council's precious real estate buddies have land near the airport that they are having trouble developing or selling?

Tuesday, August 6, 2002

More on "The Rising"

To heck with the Grammys. Let's cut straight to the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry. I'm serious.

You absolutely have to listen to this.

Thursday, August 1, 2002

Rinky dink

The Portland City Council and some downtown merchants are trying to find $12 million to put an ice skating rink on Pioneer Courthouse Square for four months every winter, beginning at Thanksgiving. Their theory is that it will bring more people to the area, especially in the slow months between Christmas and spring break.

Of course, this $12 million will include at least $1 million of public money, and the council seems eager to spend it.

I doubt that this is worth the effort. The real problem with the square and surrounding blocks is not the lack of public amenities. It's the creeps that have taken over the area, with nary a cop in sight. The day earlier this year when a 30-year-old "panhandler" aggressively solicited me -- including following me, way too close, and putting his hand on my arm -- that was my last discretionary day at the square.

Now the city that can't afford police stations open at night, or a working mental health system, or any answer for heroin addiction other than a downtown methadone clinic, is ready to pony up for an ice rink.


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