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

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February 2003 Archives

Friday, February 28, 2003

This just in

From How Appealing comes news that the full U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit has decided to let stand a previous decision by a three-judge panel of that court that the phrase "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance is unconstitutional. Thus, the active members of the court voted not to review the earlier opinion by Judge Ted Goodwin, for whom I worked when I first moved to Oregon nearly 25 years ago.

I think this means that unless the court "stays the mandate" in the case, it will soon be illegal for public school students to say the pledge in its current form, at least on the West Coast.

Usually when the Ninth Circuit denies a motion for rehearing, it does so without comment. Not this time! Really letting it rip in a lengthy dissent is Portland's own Judge Diarmuid "Close the Post Office" O'Scannlain, who gets hotter than a right-wing blogger, and raises his colleagues' blood pressure to boot. One colleague writes that Judge O'Scannlain's views are "disturbingly wrongheaded."

I can't wait to hear and read the Supreme Court dialogue on this one. Meeeeeoowwwwwwwwww!!!

What a fun weekend we have ahead! Let the name-calling and political posturing recommence!

UPDATE, 3/1/03: Leave it to Howard Bashman to educate us all on the timing of the Ninth Circuit's mandate and the procedures by which it can be stayed. How Appealing really is an internet treasure.

UPDATE II, 3/1/03: Egads, Howard has linked here, as well as to some much more serious academic commentators, and now I am exposed as an intellectual lightweight, content only to cackle with cynicism. Ah, well. First Amendment jurisprudence in connection with religion has always been a mess. Anyone seeking to find consistent doctrine in the area is likely to come away disappointed, wherever they look. Wish I had something of greater substance to contribute. But I do derive perverse enjoyment from one Republican appointee in Oregon attacking another with such vehemence! The Nixon Ninth Circuit vs. the Reagan Ninth Circuit -- he he!

UPDATE III, 3/2/03: I actually had a substantive thought about this today: What if the Supreme Court decides that Newdow is not suitable for adjudication because the plaintiff (the student's father) lacks standing? Presumably, in that case the judgment of the court below would be vacated. Does that mean the case will have no precedential value, even in the Ninth Circuit? If Mr. Newdow lacks standing, will West Coast public schools still be able to say the pledge in its current form? A valued colleague informs me this evening that they would, because a vacated decision is a nullity -- as if it were never rendered.

Until the next case, of course. And if a different Ninth Circuit panel gets it next time? Holy moly.

Send in the clowns

Just yesterday, I was thinking that I didn't yet have any good candidates for my annual list of the Top 10 Nitwits of the Year.

Today I have not one but two.

The Oregonian reports that legislators from the rural portions of the state (all Republicans, naturally) are outraged -- outraged! -- that the people of Portland and Multnomah County might actually raise local taxes to pay for the public schools that their backwoods constituents don't want to pay for. If the big city folks pay extra taxes for schools, they reason, the rural districts should get more money, even if those towns and counties don't pay any extra tax.

You wonder why the Oregon Legislature is the laughingstock of the nation? Ladies and gentlemen, I give you State Senators Ted Ferrioli, R-John Day, and Steve Harper, R-Klamath Falls:

The potential bailout of the state's biggest school district left some legislators fuming that smaller districts have no such safety net, and vowing to force Portland to share the money through the state's equalization formula.

"This is an end run on a formula that a lot of people have shed a lot of blood, sweat and tears on," said Ferrioli. "It's a philosophical poke in the eye to people who believe kids all deserve the same opportunity no matter where they live." ...

His sentiments were echoed by Sen. Steve Harper, R-Klamath Falls, who said he is ready to vote on a bill that would subject Portland's newfound school money to the equalization plan.

"They stole our timber money," he said. "So if they're going to generate money, it has to go back out to everyone else."

This is Oregon politics at its worst -- a very bad sign for the next two years in Salem, which promise to be as pitiful as the last two.

The truth is that 30 percent of the money that the Portland metropolitan area sends to Salem gets spent elsewhere. If that's not enough for these fellows, perhaps they should think about joining Idaho or California and seeing what kind of deal they get there.

The one saving grace in this sad scenario is that these dudes aren't too bright. The story goes on:

Ferrioli, vice chairman of the Senate Revenue Committee, said he expects to lead an effort to require Portland schools to share any new money they receive by making it subject to the statewide distribution formula. All that requires, he said, is the Legislature to pass a bill defining the city's business fees as "local revenue."
A little something this guy seems to be overlooking is that the governor of Oregon, who just began a four-year term, is a Democrat from Portland.

Nitwits of the year? Up to two now, and counting.

Around 22/7

Via Blort, proof that it's possible to have too much pi in one sitting.

Thursday, February 27, 2003

Political link o' the day

Here's a link you need to try. I hope you get through. (Thanks for this one goes out a blog whose full title is I Hate Stupid People... But Not You, I Don't Hate You).


Fred Rogers 1928-2003

Whiz kid

Nearly lost in all the crisis news about Oregon's public schools was an article in Tuesday's Oregonian about a 30-year-old elementary school principal out in the Parkrose School District on Portland's far east side. He's turning heads by having his public school renamed an "academy"; extending school days; revamping the curriculum; and (get this) requiring the kids to wear uniforms to school next year.

It's apparently going over well, according to the story:

While other Portland-area schools are being dismantled, Russell Elementary is undergoing what veteran teachers desperate for change call a "resurrection."

"This is really a little beacon of light for us," said third-grade teacher Wanda Dasler, who has taught in Parkrose for 20 years. "Everyone is so jazzed. It gives us new hope when we're in such a depressed time."

I propose a toast, VodkaPundit-style: Here's to the bright young principal, and here's to the parents, teachers and administrators who were smart enough and daring enough to give him a shot at being principal!

I wore blue and white uniforms to school for eight years. It was great. Peer pressure and competition over stylish or expensive clothes were largely eliminated. There could be a little of that regarding one's coat, but once in the classroom and at one's desk, everyone was dressed alike, and apparel faded into the background, where it belonged.

Some people think that little things like clothing aren't that important, but they can be to kids. Indeed, my big city prosecutor contacts tell hair-raising stories about ghetto children literally killing each other over a pair of Nikes.

Of course, my friends over at the ACLU will be filing their lawsuit against the 30-year-old principal over the uniform requirement any minute now. I hope the ACLU loses on this one. Go, Russell Academy!

Are you hot?

The American Bar Association [insert right-wing boos here] has an article up in its Journal about lawyers who blog. With pictures of a few of them, no less. Denise Howell: hot! Howard Bashman: not hot!

Tuesday, February 25, 2003

I split a gut

Cousin James at Parkway Rest Stop sends us here, where some good bellylaughs can be had. A sample from Lancow's e-mail exchanges:

Dear Clairol,

I was wondering if you could change a yellow lab (dog) to a chocolate lab (dog) with your product. This is necessary because my dog, Chester A. Arthur, who is a yellow (light tan) lab, is being considered for a chocolate lab part in a local community production of "Paws and Reflect", a touching, very special story about a mentally challenged boy and his dog. I'm afraid that the director of the play will ignore Chester's many talents (fetches sticks and bones, jumps into and out of moving vehicles, doesn't go on the rug) and pass over her simply based on her color (I thought we were past such prejudice in our modern times!). To prevent this from happening, I'd like to use Clairol hair color to change her for the role. Possible problems I forsee might include...

Beach blues

Our weekend at the Oregon coast featured one day that was stunningly beautiful. The air was crisp and cool, but not uncomfortable in the bright sun. The sky was as blue as you've ever seen it.

As we strolled along the beach at Manzanita, however, we saw some other blue, which wasn't so pretty.

It was down below our feet.

It was the blue plastic.

Millions -- no, billions -- of tiny shards of light blue plastic now dot the sand at Manzanita (and I suspect at other Oregon beach spots too). No doubt the remnants of garbage dumping somewhere out in the Pacific, these are bits of plastic that have floated around in the ocean so long that all the other colors have been bleached out of them. No reds, no yellows, just blue, light blue, which persists despite the sea and sun to which it has been exposed, along with some white shards, which are by far in the minority.

We first encountered the blue plastic a few years ago on a trip to Hawaii. We were staying along Poipu Beach at the southern tip of Kauai, which was fine, but when we ventured along the island's east side, we found on the beaches literally tons of blue plastic, still intact and recognizable as the household garbage it was. There were whole dishwashing liquid bottles and other plastic tubs, along with a myriad of smaller shards down to the size we saw in Oregon over the weekend (which is about half the size of a dime).

It was sad when we encountered the blue plastic in supposedly pristine Hawaii, and it's even sadder when we found it here in supposedly pristine Oregon.

It got me thinking. Surely it wasn't the Town of Manzanita that dumped this garbage in the ocean. But it's in Manzanita that the ocean said "screw you" and gave it right back to us stupid humans.

We're all connected.

And some of us make pigs look good in comparison.

Probably the worst part of the whole thing is that I can't see how the blue plastic will ever get cleaned up. A couple of times a year, hearty Oregonians grab garbage bags and tools and set out collecting trash from the beaches. But the blue plastic pieces are so small, they can't be cleaned up that way. It would take a half hour to do a space six feet square, and the stuff's spread over about the middle third of the length of the beach -- in Manzanita, that's seven miles long by maybe 40 yards wide. There were even a few shards of blue plastic on the road leading to the beach. It's light enough to blow around, I guess, and so its coverage will only broaden.

Ah, well. We smile and enjoy the rest of the beauty of the coast. But as we step over the blue plastic, I'm once again ashamed of my species.

In blog ego news

I have made it onto the blogroll over on The Dub Side. Cool.

Monday, February 24, 2003


Land use alert!

The City of Portland's Bureau of Planning -- not every homeowner's friend -- has just released a "discussion draft" of something called a "regulatory improvement workplan."

In other words, they're getting ready to start screwing around with the city's land use rules again, so it's time to pay very close attention.

One of the items that's on the list of things to be "improved" are the rules regarding "conditional uses" in "single-dwelling zones." These are the rules that govern such things as sticking cell antennas on school buildings and opening gangster halfway houses in residential neighborhoods.

I've been through two battles under these rules so far, and let me tell you, the city code language is usually the crucial deciding point.

And so every Portland resident needs to take a look over here and get educated. You can bet the developers, cell phone weasels, and operators of high-impact social services will be keeping a close eye on this (and attempting to call the key shots). Neighbors and neighborhood associations had better do so, too.

Grammy whammy

Wow, and when I posted how much I liked Norah Jones's album last summer, I thought I was on to an obscure cult classic.

Too bad Springsteen didn't win much. Norah's record isn't that much better than The Rising. But I think the voters (a) were a bit turned off by the long and hard campaign waged by Bruce and Sony Records, and (b) are so desperate as an industry to show they're still relevant that they didn't want a guy in his 50s in the spotlight too long. Bruce will now feel wronged, and in a few years he'll get some prizes for lesser work. If he gets depressed, he can just look at Dustin Hoffman, who gave the performance of 10 lifetimes as Ratso Rizzo in "Midnight Cowboy," then watched the Oscar go to John Wayne for "True Grit" because his was overdue.

It makes little difference, anyway. But congratulations to Norah.

Another learning experience from the Grammy show: I finally sat through an entire song by Eminem. Why doesn't he just paint his face black, so that the exploitation will be as literal as his revelations about his psychological problems?

Sunday, February 23, 2003

Back on the blog

Just hit town after a wonderful weekend on the Oregon coast. A few bloggable topics there, but they'll have to wait a while. Here's something I read last night that's worth sharing. It's from an interview with Randall Kennedy of the Harvard law faculty:

Go into the world and try to find good people that feel genuine affection and love for you and disregard everything else about their background. Love is just such a crucial, wonderful thing, and if you are lucky enough to find somebody who genuinely loves you, grab that person and hold on to that person and nothing else matters.

Thursday, February 20, 2003

Off duty

Big day here today. Seven posts and 76 visits so far.

But now for something completely different.

Family and friends take center stage for the next few days. Blogging will resume here Sunday night or Monday.

Have a great weekend.

Road work

Went for a long run along the river on the Eastbank Esplanade tonight. Prime conditions -- upper 40s, light rain, light southerly breeze. The river is way up and rolling; you could feel the esplanade deck bobbing up and down ever so slightly.

Along the route, I thought about the fact that I've lived here in Portland for 24-plus years. And how lucky I am to be able to say so. It is such a great city, in a great region, blessed with great residents.

For the first half of my time here, my affection and gratitude were pure and unadulterated. Along about halfway through, though, concern and frustration about the politics of the place began to seep in. Maybe it's because I'm older, but now I see Portland as having so much work to do, and wasting so much of its resources on the wrong choices. I can't be content to just sit back in amazement and enjoy it any longer. So I do my little internet pamphleteer act here, and hope it will help bring about at least a tiny bit of change.

At the school where I teach, we have many activist students. One of the things they are taught is to be sure to stop working to save the world every now and then, so that they can get out and enjoy what it is they're trying to save.

Tonight I did.

Another Oregon blogger

Don't know how I've missed beerdrinker.org before now.

All wet

A showdown is set for Monday on the proposal to have the City of Portland turn over the Bull Run Reservoir system to a regional panel controlled by suburban interests. Conceived a few years ago by City Commissioner Erik Sten, who no longer runs the Water Bureau, this plan will have Portlanders drinking Willamette River water in no time.

The suburban players, who bring to the table delicious well water and intake pipes from the river, say that if they don't see some more positive signs from the city at Monday's meeting, the whole idea may fall apart.

Let's hope so.

Commissioner Dan Saltzman is running the bureau now. If you're like me and you think this is a bad concept that deserves a quick but quiet death, now might be a good time to shoot him an e-mail message to that effect.

That ain't hay

The new (old) head coach of the Oregon State University football team is getting a six-year contract, with a base pay that averages $745,000 a year. On top of that will come unspecified incentive payments that will push his pay up even higher.

We are very near the end of civilization.

Who knew?

There's no longer any need to get into a grocery store checkout line to find out what's really going on in the world.

Search of the Day

A recent visitor to this weblog was referred here by the following search:

"Yakety yak bomb Iraq"

Veddy interrresting

Turns out that the guy who's mainly pushing the proposed ice rink for Pioneer Courthouse Square is somebody named Kim Kimbrough, who has also spearheaded such efforts in his prior homes of Jackson, Mississippi and St. Louis, Missouri, where rinks apparently were tried and failed. Ice rinks have bombed in Norfolk, Virginia, and Manchester, New Hampshire, too. But here in the Rose City, this incredibly bad hack of an idea just won't die.

Great reporting on this by Alliance Watch, Portland Communique and others. You won't read this stuff in The Oregonian, which has already publicly been sucked into the rink backer group. Never underestimate the power of the blog.

Also fascinating, as reported by Willamette Week: 80 percent of Kimbrough's $11 million budget is public money, supposedly being spent to promote the city.

You would think having decent schools and other basic public services would be a better means of promotion.

Wednesday, February 19, 2003

What a waste

For the last two hours, folks in my neighborhood have been serenaded by the drone of the city street sweeping machine making its repeat rounds along our streets.

Add another waste of money to the long list of how we do things in Portland.

Sure, this block needs street sweepers -- exactly twice a year, once in mid-fall and once in late fall. Without them, the fallen leaves clog the sewer grates and make a real mess.

But all the leaves have been gone for nearly two months now, and there's nothing to sweep up. Why is the city that can't afford the basics so obsessed with making our curbs clean enough to eat off of?

Can't we switch over to seasonal sweeping, lay off the guy who's riding along here wasting his time and our money, and open a public school for a few extra hours?

And they wonder why voters are angry about their taxes.

Tuesday, February 18, 2003

Calling 'em as he sees 'em

In my recent telephone interview with Tony Soprano about the situation in Iraq, I thought Tony put things a bit harshly. But he's got nothing on the Grouchy Old Cripple in Atlanta, who really gets it off his chest here.

Stop the insanity

The fair city of Portland, Oregon can be a truly nutty place sometimes. Here we are all running around trying to figure out what to do now that the state, county, city, and schools are all certifiably broke. Parents of public school students of all grades are organizing volunteer schools that will start operating in May, when the schools close a full month early. They'll all be run off school grounds in donated or rented space. Former heroin addicts will be having their methadone cut over the next few weeks, and the county will not have the funds to prosecute them if they steal cars or their contents to raise money for heroin. Other drug treatment programs are also laying off workers beginning March 1. The lack of a functional mental health system is resulting in an obvious increase in the number of sick folks on the streets. And the police stations are closed at night and on weekends for lack of funds.

Meanwhile, in other Portland news:

Plans to build new light-rail links to the Clackamas Town Center and Milwaukie continue along. City of Portland's pledge: $40 million.

Meetings are being scheduled to extend the municipal trolley from the Pearl District to NE 21st Avenue. The pressing issue of the day: the precise route. Cost to the city: not disclosed.

And last night we had the first lecture by designers of the new aerial tram that will link the university hospital on the hill to the swanky new North Macadam development planned just south of the Marquam Bridge. Estimated cost of the public improvements needed for the project: $70 million. The city's share of that? No one will own up to it, but it's got to be at least half.

For heaven's sake, somebody tell me, who (if anyone) is running this operation?

Hello out there

This site had a visitor from South Africa in the wee small hours of this morning. That's got to be Ben.

Monday, February 17, 2003

Bullet points

Here's the Gettysburg PowerPoint Presentation.

Funny, nome sane?

Now you can have Snoop Dogg translate any web page into hip-hop using Tha Shizzolator. Be patient after entering your request. For example, here's a taste of Eugene Volokh, "shizzolated":

Ah, some might ax, but why is da Administration getting involved at izzall? Well, da standards fo' filing an amicus brief aren't hella demanding -- one has has some interest in da case, 'n something be like that might possibly help da court n' shit. That's da basis on which many organizations file amicus briefs, 'n on which da federal government does, too n' shit. The federal government files briefs in lots of cases that involve state government action but a federal constitutional claim. For instance, da Clinton administration filed an amicus brief in Hill v. Colorado urge da Court uphold state-law regulations of speech outside abortion clinics; but that's just one of many examples, know what I'm sayin'?

Wass mo', there's a pretty clear reason why da federal government might want get involved here: The justification fo' da restriction -- preventing danger da U.N. building 'n its occupants -- implicates da federal government's security interests as much as that shiznit implicates da City's security interests. Just da sort of case where da federal government's input might be helpful, 'n certainly entirely proper n' shit.

Thanks to And so the story goes... for the link.

Yes, we went to a party, party

As promised, an update on Saturday night's DJ stint. It all went well -- 5½ hours' worth. The dance floor was busy for most of the night, and the celebrants' college-age offspring brought up the rear with a spirited rally just after midnight. The set that got the "shorties" out there featured, at their persistent request, island greats Bob Marley and Arrow, and then Al Green. They would have gone until 3 had their parents (and the hall owner) not pulled the plug around 1:30.

If I do say so myself, I picked the perfect Motown songs, which I laid on back to back in prime time. There are so many to choose from, but here are the best selections: Supremes, "Love is Like an Itching in My Heart"; Four Tops, "Standing in the Shadows of Love"; Junior Walker, "Shake and Fingerpop"; Edwin Starr, "25 Miles"; Temptations, "Ain't Too Proud to Beg"; Capitols, "Cool Jerk" (though technically not Motown, they were backed by the Funk Brothers); and for one of night's few slow dances, Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell, "Your Precious Love." Best mistake of the night: I inadvertently played "Danger Heartbreak Dead Ahead" by the Marvelettes, when I was in fact going for something else. But the goodwill of the rest of the Motown numbers carried it handily.

Naturally, the boomers also went for the Stones: "Under My Thumb," "Satisfaction," "Brown Sugar," "Let's Spend the Night Together." I pulled the trigger a little too early on "Start Me Up" -- before the beer and wine kicked in, and it got no response.

Apex of the night? Beatles' "Birthday," of course. And ashamed as I was of the cliché, Kool & the Gang's "Celebration" right after that.

Dud of the night? There were a few, but I've got to give the booby prize to War, "Me and Baby Brother." Yawn.

Track I inadvertently left home, and of course got a request for right away: B-52s, "Love Shack."

I've gotten spoiled in the digital era. Cueing up analog tapes has gotten way old. Next time around, I'll have to figure out how to burn everything onto CDs to eliminate that chore.

In sum, it was fun. But I'm glad I don't have another one coming up next weekend.

Sunday, February 16, 2003

In case you haven't heard

Google bought Blogger. I hope this does not mean they are going to rename it Booger.

Bojack's e-mailbag

In response to my post on cell phone antennas, Annie of Hood River (windsurfing capital of the West) writes:

We all need our cell phones? I refuse to buy into that. We have no conclusive evidence that they are safe, and they have been shown to be a cause for car accidents. I feel that a cell phone is an enormous ego gratifying machine that is unnecessary.

To which I responded:

You know, you are right. It's a convenience, not a necessity. It is a nice thing to have in the car in case of emergency, but let's face it, 99.99% of the time, it's "Honey, I'm on my way home, what's for supper?"

Saturday, February 15, 2003

Fact o' the Day

I just discovered that Oregon's U.S. Sen. Gordon Smith is on the Senate Finance Committee, one of the two key tax-writing committees of our Congress. Smith is one of 11 Republicans on the panel; the Demos have 10. That's 21 percent of the Senate on that committee, but it puts our pea-pickin' solon in a prime position to affect federal tax policy. The last time we had this much clout on tax matters was when our former senator, Bob Packwood, was in charge. For a while, he and Rep. Dan Rostenkowski (D-Ill.) were running the tax system. Then, well... they both had some problems, heh heh...

Smith's chief tax aide is listed as Rob Epplin, 404 Russell Office Building, e-mail rob_epplin@gsmith.senate.gov. Oregonians out there, got a view on the Bush tax proposals? Drop old Rob a line.

Your Saturday reading

Jennifer of Mellow-Drama sends us over to Jeremy, a first-year student at Harvard Law School who writes a heck of an entertaining blog.

Meanwhile, VodkaPundit steers us to the long-awaited definitive map of the Muslim world.

Hanlonvision, who knows but won't disclose who it is that's not cleaning out the lint screens in the clothes dryers (Ashcroft will get him to tell), sends us over to a blog called Chicago: Howtown on the Make, which says it better than I ever could:

Is it unfortunate that people are being forced out of their homes, and uptight Yuppies squawking on microscopic cell phones are taking their place? Sure it is. Is it something to whine about? Probably not.

What is called "gentrification" is a natural process in the urban phenomenon. If there was no gentrification, and its converse, a city would remain in stasis. What is happening now is that kids experiencing acute white guilt and bourgeois-denial are trying to point the finger at others so nobody points at them; its like Stalin's Seventeenth Congress of the Communist Party, where everyone's denouncing everyone else so that they can continue living in the Kremlin and eating.

And if you missed someone special on your Valentine's Day shopping list, take a look over here.

Friday, February 14, 2003

Bachelor supper

Whenever I'm on my own for dinner, as I was last night, I like to head down the street to the always-good Colosso Restaurant. I get a seat at the bar and order up some tapas and some Portuguese or Spanish wine. And I watch in wonderment as the lovely and talented Molly the bartender makes up concoction after concoction in her highly skilled way.

The key tool in her operation is a large manual juice squeezer -- the kind with the tall neck and the handle on the side, which brings a metal cup down and squeezes the fruit onto a metal grater. Every night, orange after lime after lemon meets its fate under our gal's swift and sure right hand. Fun to watch, fun to drink.

At our house, we got an amateur version of this appliance as a Christmas gift a few years back. And although it takes some effort and cleanup, we give it a pretty good workout. Nothing better than some fresh-squeezed juice, any time of day. Life is good.

After dinner, I had a little conversation with a couple of schoolteachers from Scappoose. Life for them is less than good at this time. I bought them a drink with some of the dough I saved when Measure 28 went down. They'll survive, but it won't be pretty.

Thursday, February 13, 2003

Science experiment

The corporate weasels in the cell phone industry have a new pet place to install cell phone antennas: on and around elementary schools. Yesterday the Portland City Council voted 3-1 to allow a 75-foot-tall antenna tower to be erected on the grounds of Lynch View Elementary School, a public school on SE 169th, despite health worries on the part of parents and neighbors.

The school district, so hard up for cash that it's probably just about ready to put cigarette machines in the high schools to help keep the lights on, will get a big $1,000 a month or so under its lease of the Lynch View site to Qwest. The cell antennas will have nothing to do with the school's operations -- they're just a way of raising money.

What's wrong with this picture? Well, the cell phone industry will tell you, quite accurately, that there is no proof that constant exposure to cell phone radiation causes health problems. But it is an undisputed fact that there is also no proof that it doesn't! As the General Accounting Office explained in May 2001:

According to FDA and others, the research to date does not show that mobile phone radiofrequency emissions have adverse health effects but there is not enough information at this point to conclude that these products are not without risk. While most epidemiological and laboratory studies related to the radiofrequency emissions of mobile phones have found no adverse health effects, the results of some studies have raised questions that require further research.
Of course, there's never been a study done on the effects of long-term exposure to cell antenna radiation on children. The kids at today's schools are the study.

I don't blame the City Council for going along with this. Under federal law, the city is restricted in what it can consider in approving or rejecting a cell antenna site. Specifically, the city may not consider health effects. Since those {sarcasm} tenacious watchdogs at the FCC {/sarcasm} have determined there's nothing to worry about health-wise, the city can consider only such important things as "aesthetics" and "visual impact."

One thing that does worry me, though, is when I look at the list of fat cat contributors to City Council campaigns. Who's right up there at the top? Yep -- the cell phone companies.

Then the mayor, who publicly announces she's worried about the health effects of these monstrosities, recuses herself rather than vote no on the aesthetics of a 75-foot-tall tower in the middle of a neighborhood. She wouldn't cast a no vote for a hidden, illegal reason. When it comes to not ruffling those campaign contributor feathers, she is scrupulously honest.

Sprint on schools? The scenario has become so commonplace that The Oregonian, which carried a tiny story about yesterday's council action in its print edition today (seven paragraphs on page C3 of the paper delivered to my doorstep), apparently didn't even find it newsworthy enough to post on its web page.

A decade from now, if the research finally proves a health problem, that story will get more play.


We all need our cell phones, and the antennas have to go somewhere. But to put them on schools with so many unknowns is utterly irresponsible.

Shame, shame, shame on the Centennial School District.

Wednesday, February 12, 2003

Who wants to be a millionaire?

The coach of the Oregon State University football team has resigned to become the new coach of the San Francisco 49ers of the National Football League.

He leaves behind disappointed players and fans, and his OSU compensation package of nearly $1 million a year.

That's right, an employee of the cash-starved public university system making $1 million a year. Obscene, isn't it?

Please don't click on my e-mail link to tell me that a great coach recruits great players, has a winning team, and raises countless millions from ticket sales and alumni donations to pay for women's sports and academic programs. I've heard all the arguments before.

I'll say it again: For any employee of this state government to be making $1 million a year is absolutely obscene.

As we search high and low throughout the land for a new head coach, let's find one who can somehow manage to get by on, say, $300,000 a year.

Tuesday, February 11, 2003

It ain't me, babe

Recent visitors to this site were drawn here by the following unsuccessful word searches:

"Gruesome pictures of Donny Hathaway"

"Whimsical yak"

As Dave Barry would say, that last one would make a great name for a rock band.

Boogie nights

I'm getting ready to DJ a big birthday party this weekend. Three friends of mine are all turning 50 this month, and they're throwing a major three-way dance party shindig. I am honored to have been asked to supply the music.

Getting ready for one of these gigs is fun in itself. The rocking side of my music collection gets a real workout as I try things out in the den and compile some lists of potential tracks.

There's enough here for many hours of music. The challenge is picking the numbers that will tickle the dancers' fancy.

Of course, a crowd that's mostly 50-ish has its preferences. There's a "sweet spot" in there from '65 to '80 that has to be mined thoroughly. Tracks that pre-date or post-date that era have to be chosen with the greatest of care. The true mark of DJ success is when a cut from, say, the early '90s is recognized and appreciated. But you've got to be really careful with that stuff. There's a time and a place for "Bust a Move," but the window is open for only a short time.

This time around, it's finally hitting me that most of the favorite music that my friends and I share is many decades old. We are getting up there! When the Beatles gave us "When I'm 64," it was a quaint joke. Now we're listening to that one with a slightly different attitude.

One important aspect of playing DJ is suppressing one's personal revulsion for certain grossly overplayed songs that people love to dance to. For example, I probably wouldn't be disappointed if I didn't hear "Jump for My Love," "Billie Jean," or "Shout" again. But they're bankable, and they set the partygoers up for something a little more interesting.

I'm also giving myself 45 minutes or so at the start of the festivities during which the music doesn't necessarily have to be danceable, so long as it's fun and inspiring. But I've got several dozen songs to pick from, in a space where only 10 to 15 will fit.

There are still a few days left to make the tough decisions. We'll have a full (albeit not entirely bias-free) report here on Monday.

Monday, February 10, 2003

What if?

If Gore had won the election, would be be going to war with Iraq?

Would we be talking about radical changes in the tax system that would shift the burden of federal taxes away from the wealthy and onto the middle class?

If Gore had lost the popular vote but won the Electoral College, would he be pushing a hard-left party line, rather than reaching out to the middle?

"There's no difference between the Democrats and the Republicans," Nader said.

What a dope.

Yes, we have no bananas

My daughter and I stopped off on the way home from church yesterday at Irvington Market, a local specialty market, for some sandwich fixings. I'd been talking about turkey sandwiches with lettuce and tomato all morning. As we entered the store, we were shocked and dismayed to find the entire produce section closed down, packed up, and gone. The operator of the fruit and vegetable franchise, Porcini Produce, has called it quits. All that was left for sale were the fixtures of the once-proud operation. The other portions of the market -- the fish store, the deli, the juice bar, the coffee shop -- were all up and functioning. But the splendid produce was the heart of the market, and its absence gives the rest of the store a forlorn look and feel.

I had suspected for a while that the days of the produce operation might be numbered. Construction is scheduled to begin soon on a new mixed residential-retail development a few blocks away, on the site of the old abandoned Farrell's Ice Cream Parlor. Rumor has it that the first-floor tenant will be Zupan's, a specialty grocer that is developing into a small chain around town. When Zupan comes into a new neighborhood, other small grocers in the vicinity usually take a hit. Zupan's Southeast location in the Belmont Dairy put a dent in the produce aspect of Pastaworks on Hawthorne a few years ago, though when I last checked, Pastaworks was still hanging in there. Zupan's Southwest Macadam store may have even played a role in the death of the once-prosperous Burlingame Grocery on Terwilliger Boulevard. Police say the owner of Burlingame burned down his own business a while back. My last visit to his largely empty store one night before the fire indicated to me that the competition was hurting him.

But the Irvington produce shop has gone down long before Zupan arrived. Now it stands vacant and hollow, just down the street from another produce ghost, the Holladay Market. That once-prime retail space has dwindled down to next to nothing over the years, and there's no apparent program in place to bring it back.

With the economy the way it is, I doubt we'll be getting another produce shop in the Lloyd Center area before Zupan's opens. It's a treacherous business -- even Don Kruger, who founded the Irvington Market years ago, appears to have gotten out of it -- and I doubt that anyone will be ready to take up the challenge.

Perhaps the spectacular New Seasons Market up at 33rd Avenue and Killingsworth Street had something to do with the Porcini departure. That store's opening has coincided with a noticeable decrease in traffic at the Nature's/Wild Oats store at 15th Avenue and Fremont Street. Luckily for us consumers, the result of the competitive marketplace has been fantastic produce all year long. Right now we're into juicy peaches and strawberries that melt in your mouth, and this is February! Life is good. God bless America.

Anyway, my daughter and I finally got some serviceable lettuce and tomato at the friendly little convenience grocery at 15th Avenue and Brazee Street. We came home to Mama and had some turkey sandwiches that couldn't be beat. The fresh como bread from Grand Central Baking was perfect.

Over lunch, we bid a fond farewell to the produce people at Irvington Market. Many a great meal came from there.

Saturday, February 8, 2003

Uplifting Story of the Day

Thanks to VodkaPundit for the link to this.

Was it something I said?

First William takes me to task for disagreeing with the Bush tax program. Then John starts in, ridiculing my Columbia omen post. (See his Feb. 3 post.)

Now I've got that Roberta Flack/Donny Hathaway tune running through my head: Where is the love?

The early, early shift

Somehow, in the course of returning from my East Coast trip of last week, my internal clock has been radically changed. The last three days now, I have risen from bed well before dawn after a full night's sleep. Those who know me are well aware that this is a 180-degree turnaround from my normal schedule, in which sleep takes place from around 3 a.m. to around 11 a.m.

Portland weather has been cooperating with the new approach. The days and nights here have been crystal clear, calm, and relatively mild all week, with no change in the pattern in sight.

Getting up early and staying up sure is interesting. One does manage to get things done, Army-style, before 9 a.m. But man, try jogging at my usual time of 7 p.m.! Last night I was so tired out there on the road, it would have been comical had it not felt so bad. It was like sleepwalking -- very painful sleepwalking. And when I got down to the gym for my usual stretchout, I just lay on the mat and realized that I could have fallen sound asleep right there for many hours.

Typical me: Staring at CNN and ESPN loops at 3 a.m. just before conking out. Me last night: On the couch struggling to stay awake through the half-hour 10 p.m. newscast!

We'll see where this leads, but as I say, for the moment it's... interesting.

Thursday, February 6, 2003

Spare change

Just a week after the proposed Oregon income tax increase went down to a resounding defeat in a statewide vote, local politicians in Portland are scrambling to impose the same tax increase on their own constituents. Although the ballot measure increasing personal state income taxes from 9 to 9.5 percent bombed elsewhere in the state, it passed in the City of Portland, and in Multnomah County, which is dominated by Portland. And so my friend County Commissioner Lisa Naito and City Commissioner Erik Sten are proposing to impose a new 0.5 percent income tax at the county or city level.

I'd be for it. As it turns out, both Portland and Multnomah County give up more income tax revenue to the state than they get back in money and services, and so paying the tax locally would keep more dollars in the area closest to home. And as I said during the Measure 28 debates, it's only a couple of hundred bucks a year or less for most people.

The county apparently has the power to adopt this tax by commission vote right away. Portland, on the other hand, would have to get the power to levy this kind of tax by a citywide vote before the City Council could actually impose it. So I'd give the county the favored post position in the horse race to our wallets.

As a tax lawyer, however, I don't envy the folks charged with the tasks of drafting the local income tax, and setting up an administrable system of collecting it. I assume the tax returns and payments would be processed by the state Department of Revenue and forwarded to the county or city government. The state would doubtlessly take a cut, but that's unavoidable. Establishing an independent local collection machinery would probably be prohibitively expensive. Auditing could be done at either the state or local level, I suppose.

One knotty problem will be taxation of folks who don't live in the county (or city), but work here. If modeled after the federal and state income tax laws, the new local income tax would tax local residents on their worldwide incomes, and nonresidents of the local area on their local-source income. For example, if Multnomah County imposed the tax, I would assume that it would apply to salaries earned by Washington and Clackamas County residents who work in Portland. An interesting case would be bank account interest. If a Beaverton resident banked at a branch in Beaverton (in Washington County), obviously Multnomah County couldn't touch the interest income. But what if the Beaverton resident banked at a branch in downtown Portland? Presumably that interest would be subject to a Multnomah County income tax. What fun.

Good luck with all this, Lisa! By the time you pay the lawyers and accountants to get the system set up and operating, you may have spent the entire 0.5 percent that you've raised.

But let's hope not.

Wednesday, February 5, 2003

Who needs the groundhog?

The daphne is in bloom, and its scent is powerful and wonderful. We have three of these bushes around our front yard, and they have truly prospered from the mild winters we have been having. Just a few of these flowers fill the house with their heady aroma, a sure sign that spring is either here to stay or just around the corner.

Only the little people

Last month I used this space to take a look at President Bush's proposal to stop imposing the federal income tax on dividends that Americans receive from corporations. I noted then that this change could be the beginning of a gradual shift away from an income tax and toward a wage tax. My comments included this:

The President says dividend income shouldn't be taxed. Maybe if he gets re-elected, next term he'll say interest shouldn't be taxed, either -- bonds should be treated the same as stock. Sounds plausible. Then the real estate lobby jumps up, and the next thing you know, rents aren't taxable income, either. The oil and mining folks grease a few campaign palms, and before long royalties are exempt, too. Somewhere in the shuffle, the tax on capital gains, already very low, and the tax on other income from property sales can be dispatched as well.

At that point, the only kind of income that will be left to tax is income from labor. Now that's a hot dream for the GOP.

Well, I was wrong about our fearless leader. He does not in fact plan to switch over to a wage tax eventually.

He plans to switch over right away.

Last week, just before we all had our attention spans confiscated by the Columbia disaster, the White House released a tax proposal that was labeled an expansion and simplification of the IRA rules. The proposed tax law changes would do those things, all right, but they would do much more. They would create new types of savings account called "lifetime savings accounts," or LSAs, and "retirement savings accounts," or RSAs. The new LSAs wouldn't have to be used for retirement; they could be used for any purpose, and their tax-free nature would still prevail. With RSAs, the money can be spent freely as soon as the taxpayer reaches the ripe old age of 58.

In effect, these changes would forgive the income tax on many different kinds of income from property. As one analysis explained it:

The new program would allow individuals to sock away up to $15,000 of their after-tax income each year into two separate accounts, with no taxes on any earnings from their savings. Each year, the maximum contribution would rise with inflation. All of the money in the new Lifetime Savings Account could be taken out at any time tax free, while the money set aside in the expanded Retirement Savings Accounts would remain saved until age 58, except in cases of death or disability.

"That's going to take care of almost everybody's saving," said Gary V. Engelhardt, an associate professor of economics at Syracuse University. Except for the wealthiest families, the $30,000 that a married couple could put aside every year would be more than enough to cover what they can afford to save. "Effectively all your saving is going to be sheltered," Engelhardt said.

If Congress were to pass the Bush plan, here would be the new scorecard: Dividends wouldn't be taxed at all any more. And neither would rent, interest, capital gains, or royalties, so long as the real estate, bonds, CDs, bank balances, or other income-producing assets are held in the new accounts. Taxpayers would be permitted to add $15,000 a year of new assets to their LSAs and RSAs, so that after 20 years of lifetime saving, the balance would be $300,000, plus the earnings on that balance as it grew over the 20 years. At 5% return, a 20-year investment plan like this would result in a tax-free account of about $496,000. At that point, the account would generate nearly $25,000 a year of tax-free income if earning 5%. That may not be enough to live off, but combined with unlimited tax-free dividends on stocks, of course it would be. (Note that the contribution limits would be increased each year for inflation; the numbers here are in constant 2003 dollars.)

For a married couple, the numbers would doubtlessly double. So after 20 years the balance would be around $1 million, and the tax-free interest, rents, capital gains, and royalties would run nearly $50,000 annually. Plus all the tax-free dividends you can eat.

Leona Helmsley once went to jail for her belief that only the little people pay taxes. Under the Bush plan, her distorted view would become the law of the land. Those who can afford to sit back and live off their investments -- corporate stocks, and other assets in the LSAs and RSAs -- would pay no federal tax whatsoever. Meanwhile, people who have to work for a living will continue to be taxed twice -- first under the income tax, and second under the Social Security tax.

"Saddam is the devil!" Bush tells us. "I weep for the brave astronauts!"

Hey, I've got one hand over my heart saying the Pledge of Allegiance, "under God" part and all. But with these guys running things, unfortunately you have to keep your other hand on your wallet. They are bold thieves, indeed.

Tuesday, February 4, 2003

"If I wanted a kitchen that smelled like a French whore, I'd make some calls"

Another day in the life of Bob Borden.

Monday, February 3, 2003

Blogging bummed

The number of blogs written by Oregonians about their home turf continues to grow. A new one is The Oregon Blog, run by "Emma Goldman" (not her real name). She's in a bit of a tizzy these days about Measure 28, a tax increase referendum that went down to resounding defeat (despite my vote in favor) last week while I was away.

I share most of her exasperation.

It's really too bad about 28. It wouldn't have cost the average Oregonian much at all -- even pretty well off people would be looking at a few hundred bucks a year in new taxes -- but the cynics in the Legislature didn't have the guts to pass it themselves. And as I said all along, they gave it the ultimate kiss of death by having the public vote in late January, when everyone was broke from the holidays. It was set up to fail.

Now come the painful budget cuts at the state and local levels, and oh, will they hurt. We'll have the shortest school calendar in the country, far fewer police, no prosecution of "nonviolent" criminals, even less of a mental health "system" (it was a cruel joke even before these cuts), junkies jonesing in public with their methadone suddenly yanked, poor sick folk dying without their prescriptions, bad roads -- the list goes on and on. It's starting to feel like Mississippi around here.

Who were the 55% of the voters who voted against 28? I suspect there are a number of different types in this group. The most hardcore are a collection of self-proclaimed "libertarians" who would prefer that all government be shut down, and that everyone fend for himself or herself with a bomb shelter and a gun collection. Don't laugh -- in the Beaver State, particularly in its southern and eastern regions, there are a lot of "freemen" sitting in their darkened shacks with canned food and shotguns. I'd venture to guess they make up more than 1% of the 55%.

Next among the victorious opponents are the Californians who began streaming into the state in 1989, fleeing the World Series quake and bringing with them their Reaganite hatred of all taxation. Liking what they found in Oregon, they have decided to stay and consume the beauty of the place, running it into the ground while steadfastly refusing to make any investment in it at all. These are the folks who packed up the moving vans when then-Gov. Goldschmidt declared Oregon "open for business." Now that the ex-guv and his real estate buddies are all millionaires many times over, the middle class of the state gets to deal with the crowding, the pollution, the traffic jams, some of the least affordable housing in the nation, and absolute impotence when it comes to funding adequate government. The California transplants' kids are now out of college, and their grandkids go to private school, so their attitude is, Gas up the SUV and screw the little folks. There they are in the cul-de-sacs down in Tualatin, living out the San Jose life at Portland prices. There's at least another 10 to 20% of the vote against. As one analyst has noted:

Indeed, the measure was heavily defeated in the two Portland suburban counties, losing by 21,000 votes in Clackamas County and by about 12,000 in Washington County. These are important counties simply due to sheer numbers; between them, they accounted for almost 250,000 votes, or just under 25 percent of the slightly more than 1 million ballots cast statewide.
Next come the union-haters, particularly those who despise organized schoolteachers. Any tax increase looks and smells to this crowd like a pay raise for a teacher. God forbid.

The most significant group, however, are those who are as open to suggestion as anyone else, but who see massive waste in state and local government. I've got to admit that I'm in this camp a lot of the time. Government in Oregon wastes so much money. And the idea behind this group's "no" votes is that by starving the government of revenue, we will force our political leaders to see the light, cut waste, and fund only the most essential government services.

The problem with this tack is that it ignores politicians' and bureaucrats' mentality. The folks in the city halls and Salem agencies all must have their toys -- their trams, their trolleys, their legions of design planners, their "chiefs of staff" and all the minions below them -- and they'll lay off cops and let roads fall apart rather than give up those toys. The counter-argument is that the voters will eventually turn the rascals out, in favor of a smarter, more capable set of managers. But that won't happen if public service becomes like running a hopelessly bankrupt business, which in fact it has already become in Oregon. Would you run for office in Oregon? I sure wouldn't.

This last segment of the opposition doubtlessly believes that the proponents of Measure 28 were crying wolf, just as they did when our California-style property tax limitation measure passed many years ago. The sky didn't fall the way it threatened to back then, and these voters surely think that it won't now. I wasn't too worried back then, either, but I'm bracing for the worst this time. This is going to be one dirty, unhappy, dangerous place, very soon.

So what to do now? Well, the Portland City Council likes to tilt at windmills: Let's buy PGE! Let's have campaign finance reform at the municipal level! Let's buy the minor league baseball team! Hey, let's build an aerial tram for the rich doctors!

Here's one idea Erik and Vera aren't smart enough to study, but they should: Let's secede from Oregon!

Sunday, February 2, 2003

Call me crazy

I can be a superstitious person, all right. All this weekend I just kept hearing little voices telling me, "It's an omen." The U.S. space shuttle, with an Israeli Air Force man on board, tragically disintegrates just as America prepares to launch another war in the Middle East. I guess I spent too much time around The Iliad and The Aeneid when I was in high school and college, because I keep flashing back on the signs that the Greek and Roman gods would send just before key events in war.

The Greeks had a spectacular one in The Iliad. Just before the Greek troops sail off to invade Troy, the king of the gods sends a horrible sign:

Not long ago, when our Achaean ships
gathered at Aulis, bringing disaster
for Priam and his Trojans, we sacrificed,
on holy altars placed around a spring,
hundreds of perfect creatures to the gods,
the immortals--underneath that tree,
a lovely plane tree, where bright water flowed.
And then a great omen appeared, a snake,
blood-red along its back, a dreadful sight,
a thing Zeus sent up into the daylight.
Out from under the altar that snake slithered,
darting for the plane tree, where there lay
tiny, new-born sparrows, eight fledglings,
huddled under foliage at the very top.
The ninth one was the mother of the batch.
The serpent ate the infants, screaming with fear.
The mother fluttered around here and there,
lamenting her dear chicks. The coiled serpent
snatched the crying mother by the wing.
Once the beast had gobbled up the sparrow
and her chicks, the god who'd made the snake appear
did something to it there for all to see.
Crooked Cronos' son changed that snake to stone!

So what did it mean? The Greek warrior recounting this story to his troops outside the Trojan city walls put quite a spin on this omen:

"Counselor Zeus has made manifest to us
a tremendous omen. It has come late,
will take a long time to be fulfilled,
but its fame will never die. Just as that snake
swallowed the sparrow's brood, eight in all,
with the mother who bore them the ninth victim,
so for that many years we'll fight over there.
In the tenth year we'll take Troy, wide streets and all."

The Romans had another omen story, which they told in their nationalistic rehash of Homer, The Aeneid. This scene came at the end of the same war that kicked off with the Greek snake snacks. The Trojans had found a huge wooden horse outside their city's walls, and they were about to pull it inside. It had been left by the Greeks, who had from all appearances given up on their assault and sailed home. A Trojan by the name of Laocoon (which we were taught to pronounce LACK-oo-ahn) ran up to warn the crowd not to do it.

He made a long speech, including the famous line about "Greeks bearing gifts," but it fell on deaf ears. And after he made a sacrifice -- he was on rotation as a priest that year -- out of the sea arose a huge sea monster, who ate Laocoon's two sons and killed Laocoon as he tried to defend them.

On further reflection, I guess Laocoon's demise wasn't so much a warning as a trick. The god Apollo, who was on the Greeks' side, sent the serpent to let the Trojans think that Laocoon was a kook who got what he deserved. But the Trojans had also been warned by the seer Cassandra not to bring the horse inside the city walls, and they didn't listen to her, either.

So if you're like me, and you have a tendency to behave like a fool and talk about signs, what does this one mean? Does it mean the war will be a spectacular American failure? That there will be seven years of war before America succeeds in its mission? That six times as many Americans will die as will Israelis? Or is it a trick sent by an enemy god, trying to make us feel vulnerable, weak, and uncertain of our chances for success when what we need to do is press ahead?

While I'm in the lunatic mode, I'm also noting all the 16's in the story. Launched on the 16th, 16 days in space, 16 minutes from touchdown. I spent last week at a law school academic competition in Florida, where the shuttle was supposed to land. The winning team on that Saturday afternoon? The Florida team. Number 16, of course.

[Iliad translation by Ian Johnston, Malaspina University-College, Nanaimo, B.C.]

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