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

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Monday, March 31, 2003

Balm for the soul

If you need to retreat to a musical place that's quiet but still brilliant and full of life, may I suggest a Euro-jazz album recorded 25 years ago. Keith Jarrett, Jan Garbarek, Palle Danielsson and Jon Christensen's My Song contains the most unselfish virtuosity I've ever heard in a musical group. When the steady drone of bad news becomes too much, I pull out my vinyl copy of this one, turn it on, and head toward healing.

Sunday, March 30, 2003

May it end soon

Friday, March 28, 2003

Salem's priorities

The Oregon House is having a busy time these days. It just passed a bill that would allow some, ahem, exceptions to the state's existing land use laws. According to The Oregonian report, the bill "would ease state limits on urban sprawl, allowing hotels, mega-stores and townhouses on land where now they are banned."

Frighteningly for land use fans such as myself, the vote was 36-21. Leading the charge on this one was Rep. Tootie Smith, R-Molalla (pictured), a Christmas tree farmer. The new, improved Jack Bog is not going to say anything unkind about Rep. Smith, but this is not a piece of legislation that I favor. (How's that for mellow diplomacy?)

Also passing, 34-22, was a bill that would require a 24-hour waiting period for abortions. The sponsor was Rep. Betsy Close, R-Albany, a teacher, whom I gave a hard time here recently over phone company slamming and cramming issues. Also vocally in favor was Rep. Linda Flores, R-Boring, a small business owner. The ACLU folks are doubtlessly having a conniption about this one.

The alliance between rural conservatives and suburban conservatives is pretty evident in these party-line votes. As the Schmuck would say, you urban lefties are plumb outnumbered.

Read all about it

Portland-based political consultant Kari Chisholm has started up an e-newsletter called Politics and Technology. In the first issue, Kari was kind enough to spotlight this blog among the "fascinating, if only occasionally weird." To see the newsletter, you can go here.

Thursday, March 27, 2003

Blog Lite

I've got some personal things to attend to, and between that and the blues about the war, I'll likely be going light on the blogging for a while. But if you click on the masthead above where it says "Other Blogs," you will find a list of many interesting voices that are still going strong.

Wednesday, March 26, 2003

These look good

I'm adding a couple of blogs to the blogroll tonight. There's a pretty smart Oregon entry I've just noticed called Rantavation, and in the "Hap'nin' Gal" category, there's What If...? from Corvallis. Good readin'.

Guest host

Late-night TV watchers haven't seen David Letterman in a while. He's been off the air and recovering from a case of shingles. Get well soon, Dave!

In Dave's absence, his program has seen a series of guest hosts, for better or worse.

Well, blog readers, prepare yourself for another guest spot -- on this page! Laurence Simon of Amish Tech Support is planning to drop by soon as part of his 2003 Blog a Day Tour. I'm sure you'll give him your undivided attention when he gets here.

UPDATE, 7:12 p.m.: Laurence and I are still working out scheduling, but he should be here within the next few weeks. He seems like a nice fellow. Maybe because he's Amish.

Tuesday, March 25, 2003

Mine eyes have seen the glory

We finally got to see Michael Jordan play basketball in person tonight, and it was a great treat. MJ led all scorers with 25 and his team, the Washington Wizards, defeated the Trail Blazers by four points. The Wiz led the whole way, but it wasn't a comfortable lead most of the time, so it was an exciting experience.

His Airness was a joy to behold, with one highlight-reel slam dunk on a nice alley-oop pass, and a number of disarmingly difficult jump shots over close defenders. Man, he can still be quick when he wants to be. The Greatest teased his defenders, Ruben Patterson and Bonzi Wells, most of the game, and by the end it seemed pretty good-natured. Every time Michael touched the ball, dozens of flash bulbs went off. On his final trip to the free throw line, with only a few seconds left in the game, you knew you were participating in the end stages of an amazing career.

And then he walked off the Portland court a winner.

In addition to watching Michael's great game, it was also fun to see Wizard assistant coach Patrick Ewing and veteran reserve forward Charles Oakley (injured, I guess) in street clothes on the bench. Lots of great memories from those guys, too.

You've got to root for the Wizards to make the NBA playoffs, just to see more of Michael. His supporting cast is a funky lot, but when he's working up a sweat on the hardwood, it's special.

At the other end, the Portland team doesn't look good at the moment. With Scottie Pippen on the sideline recovering from knee surgery, the Blazers were disorganized. Damon Stoudamire and Jeff McGinnis shared minutes at point guard, and the Wiz's point man, the diminutive Tyronn Lue, was able to score 21 points -- not a good sign for the Blazers' playoff chances. If Pippen doesn't come back healthy, and soon, the Blazers could perform their usual first-round dive.

Their tres eccentric owner Paul Allen was at the game with a hottie in tow; Nike owner Phil Knight was also on hand in his courtside seats. Let's see, how many tens of billions does that come to in just those two chairs?

It's the end of an era for me. I'm dropping out of the little partnership I'm in that owns a couple of season tickets, and so this may have been the last Blazer game for the Mrs. and me for quite a while.

But it was picture perfect. Score one for the old guys.

Thoughts for the Day

"The only difference between Bush and Gore is the velocity with which their knees hit the floor when corporations knock on their door....

"George W. Bush will be as damaging to your issues as his father was in the late '80s. That's what you're going to get. Let's not turn this guy into a Genghis Khan. First of all, he doesn't know much. Second of all, he's lazy. And third, he avoids conflict. Those are all assets. And If Al Gore cannot beat a bumbling governor from Texas with that terrible a record, what good is he to begin with?" -- Ralph Nader, Oct. 31, 2000, on ABC News Nightline.

One down, one to go, one too late

From today's Oregonian comes the encouraging news that the City of Portland's plan to "regionalize" the Bull Run reservoir complex -- that is, to sell it to a conglomerate of water users controlled by suburban interests -- appears to be dead. The obituary for this pipedream ran way in the back of the Metro section, but it was the best news today's edition contained. Congratulations to City Commissioner Dan Saltzman for overseeing the pulling of the plug on this bad idea of his predecessor.

Now it's on to the city's other brilliant idea -- to have the city take over Portland General Electric. When last heard from, that beauty was still alive, and unlike the Water Bureau, the secret negotiations with the Enron folks are still being run by Commissioner Erik Sten.

Think about it: secret negotiations between the Enron folks and Erik Sten. Egads.

And be prepared for the grand opening of the expanded Oregon Convention Center next month. Despite the clearly expressed wishes of the voters, the mayor and her pals at Metro have taken a white elephant and turned it into a much, much larger, world-class white elephant. More on that as the ceremonies draw near.

For today, a sigh of relief that occasionally, common sense prevails around here.

Monday, March 24, 2003

"War," as in the song

I just put up a post about the musical question "What is it good for?" and the singer who raised it, over on Yakety Yak.

Good God, y'all

At a time like this, it's hard for a boomer like myself not to hear it in his head: a sudden blast of horns, and a strong, black man's voice.

War -- hunh -- yeah! What is it good for? Absolutely nothin'.

Back when it was Vietnam that was being marched about, this was quite a statement to be coming out of the soul music scene. Motown Records had decided that it needed to become more "relevant" to stay alive, that the moon-and-June lyrics of the early '60s were becoming obsolete, and that psychedelia and strong anti-war feelings were what the young people wanted to hear about.

War -- hunh! Good God, y'all! What is it good for? Absolutely nothin'.

And so along with psychedelic guitars behind the Temptations, and the loosening of the tight reins that had been kept on the writing ambitions of Marvin Gaye and Stevie Wonder, Motown spun out the bold hit single "War." The thundering voice that carried the Norman Whitfield/Barrett Strong tune belonged to Edwin Starr, a performer who may have just missed greatness, but who put out some undeniably high-quality sounds over the years. The Temptations had recorded "War" first, but the man behind Motown, Berry Gordy, decided that they would make too many waves if they featured the song as one of their singles. So Edwin was tapped to re-record it, and the rest is music history.

Starr has been quoted as saying that "War" was more about interpersonal relationships than about Vietnam. One site has him explaining it this way:

Nobody really understood what we were talking about on that song. It wasn't about Vietnam. It never once mentioned the war in Vietnam. It just so happened that, at the time, the war was going on, and the words just lent themselves to the occasion. Actually, we were talking about a war of people -- the war people wage against each other on a day-to-day basis. All the words are applicable to neighbors who fight with each other, you know, 'War, what is it good for?' That's what the song was about, at least for me.
If he's on stage these days, I'm sure he's getting a few requests for the song. It sounds like he may be tired of it.

Although he originally had a hit in 1965 with "Agent Double-0-Soul" on a label called Ric Tic before he joined the Motown stable, Starr made his first major appearance on my radio with a classic Detroit soul rocker called "Twenty-Five Miles," released on Motown affiliate Gordy. "Twenty-Five Miles" recounts a man's long but happy and ultimately worthwhile journey, on foot, back to his girl. Starr is credited as co-writer of the song with Johnny Bristol and Harvey Fuqua, but some say he wrote it himself. The opening of this single brings a smile to my face and a tap to my toe every time. There are a few simulated marching steps on top of a coy little organ and drum intro over which Edwin shouts gleefully:

C'mon, feet! Start movin'! Got to get me there.

The Funk Brothers machine then kicks in, and things are at their finest down in the Snakepit. As the singer sings and shouts his way through a gradual countdown to the last mile, he's joined by a group of backup singers, and by the end, the studio is about a foot off the ground: "Walkin'! I got to walk on!" Righteous.

Just as that hit was gaining airplay, or perhaps while it was still obscure, I happened to catch Edwin at Madison Square Garden. He was opening for the Temps, and between the two acts was nasty old Moms Mabley, a truly unique comedienne. It was the first concert I'd ever been to (except for a Herman's Hermits show with my parents as a very young kid), and I was in my true glory with my favorite singing group about to come on and my high school girlfriend of just a few months by my side. Starr hopped up onto the in-the-round stage and took command. Although his set must have been short, I distinctly remember him opening with Sly and the Family Stone's "Sing a Simple Song." The very first song at my very first grownup concert -- what a thrill. (As for the Temps, well, that's a whole 'nother post, or two or three.)

Starr's birth name was Charles Hatcher. Born in Nashville in 1942, he grew up in Cleveland, where he sang in a doo wop group in high school. After a stint in the military, he sang with a group put together by a guy named Bill Doggett. After scoring with "Agent Double-0-Soul," his R&B Top 10 hit that rode the popularity of James Bond, he moved to Detroit to make his professional move. According to biographer Steve Huey, "Starr capitalized on the song's novelty appeal by appearing on-stage in a spy costume complete with toy gun, but proved he was no one-trick pony by returning to the Top Ten a year later with 'Stop Her on Sight (S.O.S.).'" (As for "War," Huey marvels that it was "arguably the most incendiary song Motown ever released.")

Starr was definitely no slouch in the songwriting department. In addition to "Double-0-Soul," "S.O.S.," and "Twenty-Five Miles," he penned "Oh How Happy," one of the loveliest soul hits of the '60s, which was recorded by the Shades of Blue.

After "War," I lost track of Starr for a while, but fast-forward about 12 years to an early aerobics class, and he turned up again. One of the tracks that my wonderful aerobics instructor put us through our paces with was a disco number called "H.A.P.P.Y. Radio," which I was surprised to find out was written and recorded by none other than Edwin Starr. I've got a copy of his album of the same name -- a DJ demo that I picked up literally for $1 somewhere -- on the 20th Century Fox label. Apparently this was a follow-up to another disco hit of his called "Contact," but I guess I missed the boat on that one. Before he left Motown, Starr had added to his catalog with the soundtrack to the blaxploitation flick "Hell Up in Harlem," but it wasn't a hit, to be sure.

Where is he now? A few sites report that he lives in England, tours in Europe, and plays on the oldies circuit. Apparently he toured with Martha Reeves and Frieda Payne last year. It looks as though he also put out a live album of his hits not too far back.

Wherever you are, Edwin, you're still tellin' it on my stereo: Induction -- then destruction -- who wants to die?

UPDATE, 4/2/03: Edwin Starr died earlier today. Obituaries can be found here, here, here and here.

Sunday, March 23, 2003

Celebrity alert

Spotted having coffee and browsing the shops on NE Fremont Street in Portland this morning: Martha Stewart. Yes, the Martha Stewart.

Saturday, March 22, 2003

If it's OK to laugh

I'm not sure that now is the best time for levity about the state of our nation, but if you're ready for a little, go here.

Friday, March 21, 2003

Turn it off

During the First Iraq War, I was in a very tight relationship with a woman who despised our government for waging it. So incensed was she that she refused to watch any of it on television. I didn't have strong feelings about it, but I mildly agreed with her, and so I didn't watch any of it, either. When it was over, I realized that I hadn't missed anything. The papers and an occasional radio report were plenty, thank you.

Circumstances are different for me now, in the days of the Second Iraq War. The old amour is now just a friend, and my wife and I are not adamant foes or supporters of this military action. We don't want our child watching it, though, and so we're careful to switch the channel when a war bulletin comes on and she's around.

But even when she isn't, I still don't want to watch it.

The reasons for this are complex. For one thing, over the years I've lost the reverence I once held for the news media. Most media outlets, including all of the commercial television and cable organizations, are committed to one thing only, and that's keeping you there long enough to subject you to advertisements. The video folks also assume that the viewer is a dumb bunny, and that war logos and war jingles are necessary to alert him or her that, well, we are blowing up people and places and this is important. Then they have you sit and stare at the fixed and forlorn view from some God-forsaken building in "downtown Iraq," as one bubble-headed bleach blonde "journalist" was calling it the other night, with cuts to tapes of some bombs going off and buildings burning. Then it's live to some press conference featuring the "information" "minister" of Iraq. Hate him, hate him, is the apparent subtext.

To watch people dying and having their homes and city destroyed is not my idea of enlightenment or entertainment. It's just damn depressing. Right or wrong, we shouldn't have to be doing this. We hotshot humans, with all our knowledge and technology, still find it necessary to inflict violence on each other on a grand scale. Now we add to the sickness by sending real-time images of our violence to rapt audiences around the planet.

I can't watch it today.

So what to do now? Hop onto the blog and act like I have the answers? There's another dead-end pastime. What can I say that will advance anyone's interests at a time like this? It's overwhelming.

This might be a good time to turn inward. Peace on earth may be a pipedream, but what about peace around the house, the family, the neighborhood, the workplace, the blogosphere? That might be a good channel to stay with for a while.

Thursday, March 20, 2003

In other news

Here in Portland, the left has gone off its rocker. Anti-war protesters are blocking streets and bridges, and some of them even jumped onto the interstate freeways this evening to stop cars. Local TV coverage of this is "wall-to-wall," as they say, but to me it's not really worth all the attention. Yes, there are people in Portland who feel very strongly about the war, and who generally hate the local police, the President, and the entire capitalist system for that matter. They'll do anything to get attention, including risking their own lives and those of others. And many of them have nothing else to do on a weeknight. Fresh-ground pepper spray with that?

Actually, some very interesting things are happening on the local scene apart from the "little Beirut" routine, which has grown tiresome, even to those of us who are on the fence about Operation [Insert Catchy Euphemism for "Bulls**t"]. Yesterday the U.S. Senate blocked oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge by a vote of 52 to 48. Among the Republicans who jumped ship and killed the drilling was our own Gordon Smith. This was a courageous and principled act on his part, and one for whom he should be given maximum kudos. You go, Gordo! But it will probably get lost in the shuffle.

Also incoming (if you'll pardon the expression) is the news that Portland Trail Blazer player Damon Stoudamire is being allowed to walk away from drug charges after he and teammate Rasheed Wallace were caught red-handed toking up in Damon's speeding Humvee in central Washington State after a game last fall. Damon must get some alcohol and drug counseling, but if he does, the criminal side of this thing looks like it's going to go away. Wallace's hearing is a week from Monday, and even though he's a wild man, he knows well enough to hold those millionaire wrists out for a gentle slapping, too. The first rumblings from the prosecutors up in that area of the world was that all pot offenders must do some time, particularly if a moving vehicle was involved. Not if you're a super-rich celebrity, though, eh, fellas?

Wednesday, March 19, 2003

Sing along, everybody

Political Science
(R. Newman)
By Randy Newman
From Sail Away (Reprise Records, 1972)

No one likes us
I don't know why
We may not be perfect, but heaven knows we try
But all around, even our old friends put us down
Let's drop the big one and see what happens

We give them money, but are they grateful?
No, they're spiteful and they're hateful
They don't respect us, so let's surprise them
We'll drop the big one and pulverize them

Asia's crowded and Europe's too old
Africa is far too hot
And Canada's too cold
And South America stole our name
Let's drop the big one
There'll be no one left to blame us

We'll save Australia
Don't wanna hurt no kangaroo
We'll build an All American amusement park there
They got surfin', too

Boom goes London and boom Paree
More room for you and more room for me
And every city the whole world round
Will just be another American town
Oh, how peaceful it will be
We'll set everybody free
You'll wear a Japanese kimono
And there'll be Italian shoes for me

They all hate us anyhow
So let's drop the big one now
Let's drop the big one now

Tuesday, March 18, 2003

That's where it's at

Among the many war-related stories I have heard the last few days, true or not, is this one. Someone asked Colin Powell, "What about the fact that only 17% of Americans can find Iraq on a map?" To which Powell responded, "Unfortunately for Iraq, those 17% are U.S. Marines."

Time for us civilians to get better acquainted with the map:

On a related note, here's a much-linked-to blog that's apparently being written by a local in Iraq.


This is so cool that I'm glad I don't know how it works (yet).

Monday, March 17, 2003

Civics made easy

Like most Portlanders, I am pretty steamed about the disgraceful mess that Oregon state politics has become. In recent posts, I have nominated two rural state senators as nitwits of the year, but I have also confessed that I have a lot to learn about all the rest of the culprits in the Legislature who are holding the state down. I have vowed to do some research and report back to readers here.

As it turns out, this task may be easier than I first thought. To identify the worst legislators, one needs only open the daily paper while the two houses of state government are in session.

Today, for example, we read in The Oregonian that Oregon's Public Utility Commission (PUC) will not be getting the power any time soon to punish unscrupulous phone companies that "slam" and "cram" hapless customers. These are the practices whereby companies like Qwest and Verizon secretly switch a customer over to their long distance services without the customer's knowledge or consent, or suddenly start billing the customer for expensive optional services that the customer never ordered. I've had both of these things happen to me, and I've wasted many hours on hold with phone company jer -- er, customer service representatives -- getting things rectified.

In many other states, the PUC has the power to fine companies who are found to have engaged in such shady practices. For example, nine of the 14 Western states give the PUC this authority. But not here in the Beaver State, no sir! Here the chair of the House Business, Labor and Consumer Affairs Committee is killing any and all bills that would allow our PUC to fine the phone companies.

Who is this mighty chair? Why, it's Rep. Betsy Close, R-Albany. Her position and her explanation of it are most interesting. As The O reports it:

Regulators are seeking any potential power over slamming and cramming, two of the most common consumer complaints in Oregon. They had hoped that fining would give them the extra regulatory muscle many other states exercise.

But phone companies and legislators say the PUC can crack down on cramming and slamming without civil penalties.

"The telephone utilities really don't want the PUC to have that authority, and they seem to have found a comfortable ear in the Legislature," Public Utility Commissioner Lee Beyer said.

Rep. Betsy Close, chairwoman of the Business committee, said the bills her committee is considering would protect consumers without creating unfair business restrictions inconsistent with those in other states.

"I just have a general rule that I'm not going to put additional rules on businesses because of the poor economy we have," said Close....

So where does that leave the PUC? Well, if it wants to take action against an offending phone company, it has to find itself a lawyer and drag the company into court, rather than fining it in an administrative proceeding. More work for lawyers, more expense for the taxpayers, and less protection for the consumers. As one expert explained:
In states where the utility commission has been able to fine, slamming and cramming has dropped dramatically, said Brad Ramsay, general counsel of the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners, a Washington, D.C., association of state utility regulators. States charge as much as $70,000 per violation of slamming and cramming laws.

With fines, "slamming gets unprofitable real fast," Ramsay said.

Ms. Close, do your constituents really not want to make slamming unprofitable? Or are you listening instead to some group that donates to your political campaigns?

As for her assertion that added PUC authority will hurt the local economy, it rings hollow. What -- if it has to pay fines to the PUC, Qwest is going to pack up and leave Oregon? Spare us.

A little research on Rep. Close's voting record over the years makes it clear that she needs to go on the roster of legislative offenders. So add her to Sens. Ted Ferrioli and Steve Harper on the list of lawmakers that Oregon might do better without.

The other addition for this post is Sen. Charles Starr, R-Hillsboro, who is somehow running the Senate Education Committee even though his views on public education are right out of the John Birch Society library. He's warning parents to take their kids out of the public schools, and doing so gleefully because he apparently objects to the fact that the public schools aren't built around references to the good Lord.

He's already taken his lumps elsewhere in the past week or so, though. So let's leave my Salem bitch post for this week dedicated to Representative Close.

* * * * *

One final note: I'd like to welcome those who have been referred to this site by the blog Just Some Poor Schmuck. John, the fellow who writes that blog, is an Albany resident, and I would think he voted for Ms. Close. Also, he disagrees with everything I write about state politics, primarily because I am a lawyer and in his mind all lawyers are automatically arrogant, evil, and wrong. I suspect John will go ballistic when he reads this post. But it should be interesting to read his explanation of the fact that the status quo which Chair Close is so staunchly defending actually forces state agency disputes with the phone companies into the courtroom, where the lawyers are in charge!

So help him God

In President Bush's speech tonight, he invoked the oath he took as President:

The United States of America has the sovereign authority to use force in assuring its own national security. That duty falls to me, as Commander-in-Chief, by the oath I have sworn, by the oath I will keep.
Pointing to one's oath of office when taking radical action is a time-honored political practice. U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Marshall did the same 200 years ago in Marbury v. Madison, the decision wherein the Court asserted its authority to review the constitutionality of actions by the other two branches of the federal government. (Bush's nominees to the federal bench would largely disagree, but at least for the moment, Marbury is water under the bridge.) Marshall wrote:
From these, and many other selections which might be made, it is apparent, that the framers of the constitution contemplated that instrument as a rule for the government of courts, as well as of the legislature. Why otherwise does it direct the judges to take an oath to support it? This oath certainly applies, in an especial manner, to their conduct in their official character. How immoral to impose it on them, if they were to be used as the instruments, and the knowing instruments, for violating what they swear to support!
For the record, here is the oath of office of the President. Only the last four words of this version are controversial. They are not contained in the official version (which is spelled out in Article II of the Constitution), but Presidents customarily say them:
I do solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the Office of the President of the United States, and will, to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States. So help me God.
Opponents of Bush policies will no doubt note that the oath specifically refers only to defense of the Constitution, and not to defense of friends in foreign countries, or even defense of the "homeland" itself. They are also likely to opine that Bush's domestic policies have in fact offended the Constitution, particularly those pesky amendments sometimes known as the Bill of Rights.

Gotta love the Big Guy

Sunday, March 16, 2003

A year on wheels

It was exactly 52 weeks ago today that I took my wife's ex-boyfriend's clunky, rusty, bad mountain bike for a final spin. After grinding my way over Portland streets on that thing for nearly a decade, I was pedaling it up the hill to the wonderful Community Cycling Center on NE Alberta Street.

God bless the dedicated volunteers at CCC, they take in old bikes, teach folks how to fix them and take care of them, and then give them away to deserving youngsters or sell them for funds to keep their program running. Safety is their main message, and they won't help a child with a bike unless the child has his or her helmet on.

On that March afternoon, I was donating the old mountain bike, and hoping to shop for a nice used steel road bike.

And they had the perfect one for me -- a 10-speed Centurion Omega. This Japanese (I think) road bike was at least 15 years old -- there's a parking sticker on it from Oregon State U. dated 1986 and another sticker that indicates it originally came from Tigard -- but it didn't look to have too much mileage on it, and the capable technicians up at CCC had refurbished it.

It was a big change from the mountain bike, which was never very rideable and had become highly unreliable. Not being much of an experienced rider, it took me a while to get used to the feel of my new used bike.

But since learning its ways, I have ridden many happy miles on the Omega, particularly running errands around my Portland neighborhood. This is a fantastic city to bike in -- some say, the best among all the larger cities in the United States -- and the little Centurion is all I need to get out there and enjoy it. It has the distinct advantage of being nice enough to groove on, but not so nice as to shout, "Steal me!"

As much as I bemoan the City of Portland's inclination to throw money at frills, I must confess I love what it has done for biking. No doubt this is due in large part to former City Commissioner, now Congressman and someday probably Mayor Earl Blumenauer, who has commuted on his own bike for many years.

Cycling is great for a lot of reasons. For me, it's not the ecology thing that does it so much as the psychic benefit derived from riding. Fresh air is good for your brain.

Moreover, as a person who sometimes runs the same routes as those I bike, I have come to appreciate fully what a useful invention the wheel is. You can get places and combust calories without sacrificing knee cartilage.

The $80 I dropped at CCC last year was the best money I'd spent in a long time. Plus, I now get to write off the fair market value of the mountain bike. My conscience tells me that's about a $15 tax deduction.

Saturday, March 15, 2003

The Cat Warning System

We have two cats, both around seven years old. The girl kitty is Gloria, a.k.a. Brownie, and the boy is Ralph, a.k.a. Pinkie. We love them both dearly.

But Ralphie, who also goes by "the Man," has a wicked agenda most of the time. For example, whenever he goes outside, which is often, his first order of business is to head down the street and look for the neighbor cat, Simon. If he finds him, Ralphie promptly proceeds to kick his ass. Simon isn't much of a fighter, and his interactions with Pinkie have resulted in Simon's taking several expensive trips to the vet.

Eventually, the animal kingdom turf battles spilled over into the human realm. Simon's owners (apologies, you animal rights activists, but that's what most of us still call such people) have come over a couple of times, presented us with vet bills, and informed us that we need to do something with that bad boy Ralphie.

And so our diplomacy schooling has begun.

Our first reaction, of course, was that it couldn't be the Man's fault. Teach your cat to defend his sorry ass, or else keep him inside!

To which the neighbors' predictable retort was, Hey, Simon's just trying to sit on his own front porch. Either keep Ralph inside, or build some kind of pen to keep him in his own yard!

Keep Ralph inside? They must be dreaming. This guy whines mercilessly when he wants to go out. Persistently. For hours, if necessary. No way.

A cat pen? What, are they kidding me?

But after several of these front-porch chats, with some raised tempers and bruised feelings knocking around, we realized that we had to do something to keep those two cats apart.

Our first attempts at accommodating the feline combatants were primitive. We noticed that Simon's outside time was pretty predictable, and so we vaguely agreed that he would be allotted several designated hours of the day when he could be outside, and the rest of the hours would be Pinkie's time.

The arrangement lasted only a short time. Cats don't like schedules, and within a few weeks, the inevitable interaction occurred. In fact, the long layoff between battles made Ralphie even more of a Mike Tyson sort. Another nasty vet bill, more steam emerging from human ears.

The Cat Scheduling System (CSS) was a dismal failure.

And so I devised the Cat Warning System, hereinafter sometimes referred to as the CWS.

In the earliest stages of its development, the CWS was crude. I went down to the pet store and purchased one of those plastic yellow signs that mimic an official traffic warning sign. On it was the silhouette of a cat in a crosswalk. When Ralph was out, we would post this sign on the dogwood tree along the curb in front of our house. I also purchased a ceramic cat ornament, which the neighbors were to hang from a beam on their front porch when Simon was out. Whoever got their sign out first had priority; only when that sign was withdrawn could the other cat go out (and his sign must then be posted).

This worked well for a while, but it got darned tiresome. To get out to the dogwood, we had to walk several yards in whatever the weather. And we couldn't see the neighbors' porch without walking out into the elements roughly the same distance. Eventually we got tired of the dark, wet and cold, and we just left our sign posted full-time, for weeks. Our bad.

Next, failure of human communication compounded the failure of human energy. Rather than complain that our sign never came down, the neighbors just started posting Simon's, too, and letting the two boys attempt peaceful co-existence from time to time.

Until the Man kicked his ass again. Another vet bill. More heated human conversation, in which traps and county Animal Control officers were mentioned.

And then it dawned on me: Technology must have the answer! Rather than the signs, how about a system in which we could each use a remote control to turn on a light as a warning? We could each identify a lamp that would be lit only when our respective cat was on the street. We could post ours where they could see it, and they could post one where we could see it. Same rules as before -- whoever gets the light on first gets first dibs on the fresh air -- but this time, no one would have to get wet to post or observe a warning. Whaddya think? I asked the neighbors. It sounded good, we agreed, so let's give it a try.

I've got to hand it to myself. Sometimes my ideas are decent. We determined that the easiest place for the neighbors to see from their house was the window in our garage, and that the easiest place for us to see on their property was their upstairs bathroom window. So we each got a cheap desk lamp out for the designated spot, and I picked up a couple of remote switches down at Radioshack for around $20 apiece. We hooked up our lights and were ready for peace of mind for all the species.

Then came a setback. Both of the remote switches I bought were on the same frequency, so that when the neighbors clicked theirs, it turned on both their light and ours. Not good! "Both-lights-on" was the sign of impending kitty disaster. These false alarms would make the system unworkable.

But did we let this hold us back? No!!! I boldly pulled out another remote switch, which we had used for Christmas lights, and returned the second conflicting switch to Radioshack. Now our remotes blessedly limit their signals to their respective lights, and so the Cat Warning System has moved out of its beta testing mode and into permanent usage.

Our friends scoff at our system. One if by land, two if by sea? they sneer.

But we endure the ridicule gladly. We now know Simon's whereabouts at all times, and Simon's folks know Ralphie's as well. And no one needs to leave the cozy indoors to obtain this priceless information. We also recall the two guys' customary times from the ill-fated schedule days, and that knowledge helps us predict which light is likely to be on at which times.

I am proud to testify that since the Cat Warning System has been fully implemented, hostilities have been eliminated entirely. I shudder to think what may occur if somebody forgets the light and the two of them meet up in a driveway some dusky evening, but as long as the system's working, that won't happen.

So we can all relax and enjoy our pets -- and our neighbors.

Friday, March 14, 2003

What it's all about

When good tax increases go bad

The tax package to bail out the Portland public schools and other social services is finally being detailed to the public, and the news is a bit disappointing. The gals and guys of our city and county governments have taken a fine idea and screwed it up, at least somewhat.

In late January, Multnomah County voters voted in favor of Measure 28, which would have raised state income tax rates from 9 percent to 9.5 percent. The rest of the state said no, and our schools and other social services were plunged into a catastrophic state in which they are still wallowing.

Multnomah County Commissioner Lisa Naito had a great idea: Let's impose the 0.5 percent tax increase as a county tax, to benefit schools and other services here in Multnomah County. Great idea, Lisa!

Then the City of Portland got involved. Next thing you know, an increase in city business license fees was suddenly on the table. Then the chamber of commerce (called the Portland Business Alliance) got involved, including conducting some sort of voter survey that was discussed in some sort of closed meeting with our elected leaders (so typical of the way business is done in Portland).

And now the details of the emerging package are made public.

And it includes an income tax increase, all right. But not to 9.5 percent -- to 10.25 percent!

Also, contrary to earlier published reports, the county either doesn't have the authority or doesn't have the guts to impose the tax without a public vote.

So it's back to the polls again, with ballots due in late May, to save the schools, blah blah blah. But if they were asking you for an extra $100 a year before, now they're up to $250.

If they were asking you for $300 a year before, now they're up to $750.

Leave it to our local politicos to screw this up. I may hold my nose and vote for this thing, but if they think I'm too stupid to notice that it's 2 1/2 times what I offered to pay in January, they're mistaken. And if the public says, "No, you missed your chance," I promise you I won't be here ranting and raving about it.

Going once, going twice

What should be done with Portland General Electric?

PGE, the state's largest electric utility, is up for grabs. Now that its parent company, Enron, has been exposed as the disgraceful house of cards that it was, folks around Oregon have been talking about the next owner for PGE. Word from the Enron bankruptcy is that Enron (or whatever it's called these days) won't be emerging with PGE -- one of its few legitimate businesses -- still in hand.

So who will get it?

The would-be buyers have been kicking the tires, but only a few are left. The City of Portland is expressing a strong interest. And the Naderite public power advocates in Portland, who have been trying for years to get PGE or large chunks of it into public ownership, are getting ready to launch yet another initiative campaign to form a public utility district (PUD) to run the company. With the Enron scandal continuing to make headlines, the public power folks sense, probably quite correctly, that the time is as right as it's ever going to get.

Private power companies are wasting no time in fighting back. Preemptive strike television ads are already appearing, arguing that public power is a bad idea. One of the private firms' likely motives is the fact that PUDs get first call on power produced by the federal Bonneville Power Administration, which as any visitor to the dams on the Lower Columbia River will attest, creates one huge flow of electricity by turning the once-raging river into a series of lakes.

The uncertainty about the future of this once-proud Orgon enterprise is quite disconcerting. Particularly the City of Portland's wanting to become a player in the energy business.

The city (led by Commissioner Sten) likely has little or no idea what it's doing. It can't run a water bureau. The last time it played big businessman and went behind closed doors to hammer out a contract with a cigar-chewing operator in secret, it came out with the Civic Stadium fiasco that will be costing municipal taxpayers a bundle for years. (Ironically, the stadium was soon thereafter renamed PGE Park). And the city's last foray into keeping utility rates down was to embark on a costly and futile campaign to force the cable TV companies to allow other internet providers to use their wires.

Please, Erik, give it a rest. Your heart may be in the right place -- it would be nice if the city could save the ratepayers some money -- but you have no clue.

Has anybody at City Hall noticed that there's no private utility making a serious play for PGE? Has it dawned on anyone that there's a good reason why other prospective buyers are dropping out of the bidding like flies? Could Enron and its creditors be looking to pull one last fast one on an unwitting sucker? Portland taxpayers, be afraid -- be very, very afraid.

But if City Hall does the smart thing and quietly backs off, who will the lucky purchaser be? It could be the PUD folks, led by my old law school classmate and former law firm co-worker Dan Meek. It's great to have a smart (and smart-mouthed) guy like Meek telling it like it is -- Enron skimming Oregon tax payments from PGE and then not paying any Oregon tax, for example -- but he may be too clever by half. When he appeared next to the likes of Don McIntyre in TV ads last fall, unfairly slinging mud at the judges of Oregon, Meek lost major points in my eyes. (I think he was bitter after a big loss in the State Supreme Court a few years previously.) He doesn't always demonstrate the level head that might make a PUD work.

But Meek sure as heck knows more about the energy business than most folks at Portland City Hall will ever understand. And so he might in fact turn out to be a formidable force. Another PUD election will be very interesting indeed.

But where are the clowns? Send in the clowns... don't bother, they're here. "They" being the Oregon Legislature, of course. Although Enron didn't pay Oregon income tax from PGE's operations, our state's fine downstate representatives are throwing a monkey wrench into the bankruptcy proceedings by bitching that public power would mean less revenue for the state. They're talking about blocking a public takeover, although one wonders whether Governor Ted would get behind that.

In short, it's a muddled mess at this point. But as a taxpayer of Portland, and a noncustomer of PGE (at our house, we get the juice from Scottish-owned PacifiCorp), I'm rooting for some as-yet unnamed corporate white knight to buy PGE. And if that doesn't happen, a PUD that I'm not in.

We taxpayers don't need to have the city involved in the cut-throat, risky, shady business that deregulated energy has become. At least not with the level of utility expertise (and I use the term advisedly) that's in charge of the city's interests at the moment.

Thursday, March 13, 2003

So he says

William over at Phact Patterns declares his blog defunct. We'll see.

Fighting back

The sorry state of government in Oregon makes me angry. I've already said, here and elsewhere, Portland, let's secede from Oregon. But that's not going to happen. So now what?

Another instinct is a symbolic tax protest. You know, have everyone hold back, say, $25 from their state income tax and send it to the Portland School Board or the County Mental Health program.

That's a really bad idea. I have the world's greatest job, and if I willfully screw around with my own taxes, I'll lose it. Tax protest: not cool.

But I do think some sort of loud consumer boycott by Portlanders of the regions of the state where the bad legislators live is worth trying. Let's see, the state senators from Hillsboro, John Day, Klamath Falls are behaving like bad boys? Let's not do business with companies in their districts. Folks from places like Hood River and Ashland would be particularly disturbed, I think, by a group in Portland telling folks not to vacation there. Perhaps then the hardness of their positions in Salem would soften a bit.

Who's going to lead the charge? I can't, at least not based on what I know now. I probably couldn't name half the 30 state senators or 10 of the 60 (I think it's 60) state representatives. Indeed, I've deliberately closed my eyes and ignored what goes on in Salem. It's too ugly. But it's clear that the problems there are starting to impact my daily life. So it's time for Civics 101. I'll share what I find here.

Perhaps in the end, the best tactic for the rural vs. urban battle in Oregon is a peaceful one. We've got to know our enemy better, and figure out ways to make him like us more. Portland should probably treat the rest of the state like a needy country that has a resource which we need. (That resource being a fair shake in Salem.) There may be some untested ways to build bridges, and somebody ought to be trying to dream them up.

But first we need to get their attention. And a consumer boycott sounds like a good way. Don't vacation in [fill in the blank]!

The other main thrust has got to be the Portland suburbs. Measure 28 was killed off in places like Oregon City and Tigard. Folks in these cities just don't get it. They need to. And on this front, there's no excuse. Portland needs to work on the minds and hearts of its near neighbors.

People are dying out there. Let's stop sitting around whining and start working.

Tuesday, March 11, 2003

Bloggers warned of health hazard

Check out the bad news here.

Here's an idea

Oregon's politicians evoke all sorts of metaphors these days, but they mostly have the same theme. You know, the ones about arranging the deck chairs on the Titanic, fiddling while Rome burns, etc.

Today one Portland city commissioner chooses this point in our history to propose that the city devote some of its scarce energies and resources to building a city-operated wireless internet system for the downtown hotels.

I'll give you three guesses which commissioner it is.

Here are some hints:

Think nonfunctional billing computers for the Water Bureau. Think hundreds of thousands of tax dollars to study taking over PGE (with all negotiations in secret). Think selling the Bull Run reservoir to the suburbs. Think charging people who do business with the city for the privilege of saying they do so. Think having the city publicly fund political campaigns. Think more hundreds of thousands to fight a losing battle with the cable companies that no other city was crazy enough to try.

Yeah, the idea guy.

Steele alert

Adjunct Professor of Law Master Sgt. John "Jack" Steele demonstrates the Socratic method.

And as the sergeant himself might put it, I hope to Christ you dim bulbs will just start checking in at Parkway Rest Stop every gott-damned day so that I don't have to keep reminding your sorry asses to get over there. Do I make myself clear?

Monday, March 10, 2003

Welcome to our nightmare

The dismantling of government services in Oregon has become so stunning and horrifying that it deserves a weblog all to itself.

I can't bear to do it, and so I'm going to limit my posts on this subject to one a week.

Here is this week's.

Today we read in The Oregonian that the highly effective street detox program known to many as the "CHIERS van" will be lopping eight hours a day off its schedule. From now on, if there's a drunk or junkie strung out on the sidewalk in downtown Portland between the hours of 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., he or she will lie there until the Portland Police Bureau gets around to scooping the poor soul up and taking him or her to jail or to a hospital. The Central City Concern folks, who run the Hooper Detox Center, have had to cut back their humanitarian, and livability-saving, efforts, because their government funding sources are drying up.

You folks out in the suburbs who oppose tax increases, remember that as your kids are stepping over these people on your way to the Rose Festival.

But even worse than that tale are the stories of the people who are dying because of the harsh budget cuts enacted at the state and local levels.

Actually. Literally. Dying. As in, today.

Friday's Oregonian carried a story about a 37-year-old patient at the Salem Hospital Psychiatric Medicine Center who smuggled in a handgun and killed himself, apparently distraught because he was losing his "meds," which had previously been supplied by the state. The dead man, Michael Shay, had his prescription drug benefits eliminated at the end of February. He killed himself March 5.

Then yesterday we read the heart-rending story of a 36-year-old seizure sufferer who lost his state-supplied anti-seizure medicine at the end of January. Eight days after his supply ran out, he suffered a massive seizure and was hospitalized. As of the weekend, Douglas Schmidt was unconscious and in critical condition at Legacy Good Samaritan Hospital in Portland. A television story I saw last night said that his kidneys were failing, and that his family was preparing to end life support.

There's plenty of blame to go around for this. Right-wing members of the legislature who are determined to stick it to Portland -- they refuse to fund public services if it means a few hundred bucks a year from their backwoods constituents, who have lazily neglected to retool their own local economies. Their sage wisdom in this time of life-and-death crisis: "They stole our timber money." Also at fault are the cul-de-sac suburbanites from the outskirts of Portland who quietly support the same backward policies. And the governors, both new and old, who, when it has come to proposing a workable solution to these funding problems, have had nothing to offer.

To a large extent, all of us Oregonians are to blame. All of us. As Richard Harris of the Hooper Detox Center described it in today's paper, we have landed on Planet Stupid.

It's worse than that, Richard. We are living in shame.

What can be done? Let's leave that one for another day. For now, let me just say, Plenty. But it takes guts, which neither the politicians nor the voters of Portland and Oregon are showing any of.

Sunday, March 9, 2003


Just got up a long post on Yakety Yak. Music fans of the '60s, take note.

Saturday, March 8, 2003


My wife got a compilation CD for Christmas entitled "A Year in Your Life 1963, Vol. 1." It's an obvious cheapie (the price tag was still on it), with only 10 songs, and in those days the hits were only about three minutes long. But it's the thought that counts, right?

A week or so after Christmas, we put it on the machine. I was pretty skeptical. This kind of disc is prone to bad remakes, unlistenable clashes in style, and poor sound quality. Surprisingly, this one had none of the above. It kicked off with the Vandellas doing "Heat Wave," and stayed in an excellent nostalgic groove. We've already got copies of most of this stuff somewhere in the vast archives, but it was a nice mix conveniently compiled on a single CD.

The strong familiarity of the collection was jarred, however, when the last track came on. It was an oldie called "Everybody," which I remembered but hadn't heard in years. It had a fine folksie feel. Obviously a white boy was belting it out, but with an unusual amount of soul. There was almost the feel of an old spiritual:

Everybody, everybody,
Everybody's, had a broken heart now.
Everybody, everybody,
Everybody's had the blu-u-u-u-ues.

I'm no musician, but it sounds like the thing is changing key in mid-verse, and there's handclapping, and a hootennany feel (and here I mean that in a good way) that really gets going toward the end. Gospel singers and everything.

I'd grown to miss that sound. When I was in high school, the group just ahead of us was at the tail end of listening to groups like the Kingston Trio, and Peter, Paul & Mary were in their prime. Nowadays, all you're likely to hear of that ilk is "You Were on My Mind," a fine number, all right, but one of the most overplayed songs in the prevalent oldies radio rotation. So it was refreshing to hear this one again.

Naturally, my trivia-packed brain turned to the question, Who was that singing "Everybody"? Try as I might, I couldn't place it. Gene Pitney? Nah. So I headed over to the CD case lying over by the player and took a look. Let's see, that one was recorded by...


It was no typo. That indeed was Roe, whom I remembered exclusively for such bubblegum classics as "Dizzy" and "Jam Up and Jelly Tight" in the late '60s. Since my friends and I were all trying to get high on No Doz and bad pre-mixed screwdrivers at the time (I think the stuff was called "Tango"), we turned up our noses at this guy. Give us the heavy Cream and Led Zeppelin, thank you. Tommy Roe? That was for the 11-year-old girls. (This coming from the big bad 13-year-old boys, of course.)

Here in the friendly confines of the internet, I was able to confirm that before he went bubblegum, Roe had another musical life, including "Everybody," which made the Top 10. He was a teen phenom from Atlanta who broke out of the gate with "Sheila," a Buddy Holly sound-alike number so good it could have been Holly (1936-1959) himself. In the oft-told tale, Roe wrote the song for an ex-girlfriend named Frieda, but the title got changed before he first recorded it with his teen group, the Satins. Neither the group nor the single was going anywhere, but the talented Roe was soon out on his own and went up to Nashville to cut a few tracks. He redid "Sheila" at the tail end of a 1961 Nashville recording session with Elvis's backup singers, the Jordanaires, and ABC-Paramount threw the cut onto the B side of a single called "Save Your Kisses." A Baltimore d.j. decided to play "Sheila" instead, and the response to it was so great that it became Roe's first hit, at No.1 on the pop charts. It was popular in England, too, and Roe, then 20 years old, found himself travelling the world.

On the ensuing tour, Roe went through England playing on a bill with Chris Montez, an L.A. kid whose song "Let's Dance" was his best known number. Also on the tour was a little-known group called the Beatles, who were trying to get heard in the States. They befriended Roe, who says he tried to get the Fab Four a record deal in the U.S., only to be laughed out of record company executives' offices. (According to Roe, the ABC geniuses told him, "Tommy that's the worst piece of sh*t we've ever heard.") Legend has it that on that tour, Roe broke up a fistfight between Montez and John Lennon -- a believable tale given the latter's ability to rub people, particularly competing performers, the wrong way.

Roe wrote "Everybody" on the Queen Elizabeth on his way home from that tour. He went to the now-legendary, then-startup, Fame studios in Muscle Shoals in Alabama to record it. There were egg crates on the wall as soundproofing, and the echo chamber was the bathroom. The cut, released on an album called "Something for Everybody," also included the modestly successful singles "Come On" and "Party Girl." The latter two tracks were more popular in England than they were in the U.S.

After a couple of slower years in which the British invasion got all the attention, Roe dropped his first true bubblegum hit on the world: "Sweet Pea." This catchy number, peaking at no. 8, was followed by "Hooray for Hazel," which made it to no. 6, and a spooky slow cut called "It's Now Winter's Day," which just missed the Top 20 in 1967. Two years later, the teeny bopper classic "Dizzy" was in the stores, and it rose to the very top of the charts. "Heather Honey" (1969) was a minor hit, and then "Jam Up and Jelly Tight" finished at no. 8. There were some other singles thereafter, including a pointless remake of "Stagger Lee" that charted, and then the reign of Roe was over. His career gradually slowed, and with the disco era it stopped completely.

At the height of his popularity, Roe appeared on a teeny bopper afternoon TV soap opera called "Where the Action Is." This was a hysterical train wreck of an idea by Dick Clark -- a serial daytime drama interrupted by scenes like Paul Revere and the Raiders showing up out of nowhere to lip-synch a song on the beach.

Roe wrote all his own hit songs, and around the web there is mention of his writing some songs for the Tams, an Atlanta-based soul group, as well. As best I can tell, however, the Tams' few hits, including "What Kind of Fool (Do You Think I Am)" and "Be Young, Be Foolish, Be Happy," were penned by others. And that's about it as far as traces of Roe writing for hire.

In later years, Roe did some country music, and he still makes some rounds on the nostalgia circuit to this day. Screaming fans and the Beatles waiting in the wings to go on are in the past, however; in the wings today are likely to be the slot machines of an Indian casino.

I stopped in my favorite music store, Music Millennium, the other day and picked up a cheap copy of Roe's greatest hits to see what was there. His place in rock history became evident even in that setting. The fellow who checked me out of the store looked at the disc cover and said, "When we first opened the Millennium store [March 15, 1969], this picture was one of the ones in the window. Tommy Roe had a record that had just come out."

The disc shows that Roe was a chameleon, who changed his musical backdrops around several times. But he also was not afraid to send the same sound out several times until the public got tired of it. For example, around the time he was doing "Everybody," he also crooned the very different song "The Folk Singer," a slow story ballad that could have been one of the Everly Brothers or Perry Como. Yet "Come On," a Rick Hall-Dan Penn tune that followed "Somebody," had much the same sound as "Everybody." (Alas, the chorus lacked just a smidgen of the soulful punch of its predecessor.) And with "Everytime a Bluebird Cries," the general thrust was to recapture the feel of "Sheila," but with Kinks-style harmonies and upfront electric guitars.

Without a doubt "Sweet Pea" (1965) was the big turning point. The fresh sound brought to Roe by new producer Steve Clark (or, as one account goes, by an assistant producer named Curt Boettcher) was (to my knowledge) completely original -- not derivative of anything else. But then "Hooray for Hazel," which is probably the Roe song I like least, retread the same ground a few months later.

Time out for "It's Now Winter's Day." This was a slow, pretty number about the angst of a southern boy alone in the big city in the depths of the short months. A bizarre addition to the record, however, is some organ screeching that creeps from one side of the stereo to the other at the beginning and end of the song. I guess this was Steve Clark's (or Boettcher's) attempt to emulate songs such as "Susan" by the Buckinghams, in which baffling sound effects and miscellaneous noisy musical noodling would interrupt an otherwise normal little track.

The rumbling Holly drumbeat of "Sheila" actually supported something relatively new in "Dottie I Like It." This was a nice attempt to combine Roe's two big hits ("Sheila" and "Sweet Pea") into one package, and add some new fetaures. In fact, it worked well. There's even a hint of some psychedelic guitar in there to make things interesting. For some reason, though, this one was a hit only in England. It's one of two relatively unknown gems on the disc, the other being "Heather Honey," which deftly combines sticky sweet pop with country. (You can almost hear the inspiration for a young Billy Joel in the vocal and piano work on "Heather.")

But between those two was "Dizzy" (1968), which has got to be one of the top 5 on anyone's list of bubblegum faves. On this one, big strings joined the "Sweet Pea" mix, and Roe's key-change hooks breathe life into what would otherwise be a pretty standard chord pattern. It grows on you like a fungus.

Thereafter, it's a slow fade to the end of the series. "Jack and Jill" is "Dizzy" meets "The Beat Goes On" or Ray Stevens. "Jam Up and Jelly Tight" proves that a dirty song can be passed off as something else if it's dressed up sweetly enough. Musically, Roe had already been there and done that, but hey, it fit right in there with Archies' "Sugar Sugar." In 1970, Roe released "Stir it Up and Serve It," a straight-ahead rock number that marked another potential turn into Hitland. It was good, but there was no way it was going to get much attention given the end of the Beatles, the emergence of Crosby, Stills & Nash, Neil Young, and the many other excellent rock acts that crowded the airwaves of the day. "Pearl" was as good as many other ballads of the time -- Glen Campbell, B.J. Thomas and others hit it big with a lot less -- but Roe's number was up. A big seller it wasn't to be. (Again, you can hear Billy Joel in there.)

On the whole, riding down Memory Lane with Roe for this post has been an enjoyable experience. The guy was front stage for several big moments in rock 'n' roll history, and he was able to write and perform great songs in several different sub-genres. In all of his illustrious recording career, however, for my money nothing matches the exuberance or energy of "Everybody":

One time or other, everybody listen to me,
You lose somebody you love
But that's no reason for you to break down and cry

I said a-hey, everybody, everybody, everybody's
Had a lonely moment
Everybody, everybody
Everybody's had the blu-u-u-u-ues

You tell 'em, kid.

UPDATE, 3/10/03: A true gentleman, Tommy Roe writes:

A very interesting post, and thanks for passing it along to me. Glad you enjoy "EVERYBODY," I think it's one of my best songs. I wrote one song for the TAMS, "YOU MIGHT AS WELL FORGET HIM," which did quite well in England, and is included on one of their albums. I think the rumor about writing their hits came because I was a partner in the publishing company that published their songs.

Thanks again,

Laughed 'til I cried

Blort shows us the real reason why your dog goes outside.

A great groove

At this very moment, I am hearing, for the first time in my life, "Tramp," not by Otis Redding and Carla Thomas, but rather the original version by Lowell Fulsom, who wrote the song and recorded it first.

We lost Lowell four years ago last Thursday, but he's very much alive in these headphones. Go, Lowell! No wonder the hip-hop DJs sample this one so heavily.

How taxing

Yikes! Somebody out there -- way out there -- is actually blogging all the opinions of the United States Tax Court. Thanks (I think) to Bag and Baggage for uncovering this.

I couldn't possibly focus on this blog at this late hour. But given my day job, I'll have to post some sort of reaction after I've had a chance to read it.

A new Oregon blog

Check out Oregon by AboutItAll.com.

Dude, you're shooting a Dell

Between this story (thanks, Ernie) and this post from Brendan Loy, I don't think I'll be purchasing a Dell laptop any time soon.

Friday, March 7, 2003

No First Amendment problem with this pledge

One Nation Under a Groove
(G. Clinton, G. Shider, W. Morrison)
By Funkadelic
From One Nation Under a Groove (Priority Records, 1978)

So wide can't get around it
So low you can't get under it
(So low you can't get under it)
So high you can't get over it
(So high you can't get over it)

(Dy-yi do do do do do do)
This is a chance
This is a chance
To dance your way
Out of your constrictions
(Tell, sugah)

Here's a chance to dance our way
Out of our constrictions
Gonna be freakin'
Up and down
Hangup Alleyway
With the groove our only guide
We shall all be moved

Ready or not here we come
Gettin' down on
The one which we believe in:
One nation under a groove
(Can I get it on my good foot, good God)
Gettin' down just for the funk of it
('Bout time I got down one time)
One nation and we're on the move
Nothing can stop us now
(Aye aye aye aye aye)

Feet don't fail me now
Givin' you more of what you're funkin' for
Feet don't fail me now
Do you promise to funk?
The whole funk, nothin' but the funk?

Ready or not here we come
Gettin' down on the one which we believe in
Here's my chance to dance my way
Out of my constrictions
(Do do dee oh do)
(Do dee oh do)
(Do dee oh do)
(Yeah, you can dance away)

Feet don't fail me now
Here's our chance to dance our way
Out of our constrictions
Gonna be groovin' up and down
Hangup Alleyway
The groove our only guide
We shall all be moved
Feet don't fail me now -- heh heh
Givin' you more of what we're funkin' for
Feet don't fail me now

Here's my chance to dance my way
Out of my constrictions

(Feet don't fail me now)
Givin' you more of what you're funkin' for
(Feet don't fail me now)
Do you promise to funk?
The whole funk, nothin' but the funk?

One nation under a groove
Gettin' down just for the funk of it
One nation and we're on the move
Nothing can stop us now

Do you promise to funk?
Do you promise to funk?
Do you promise to funk, the whole funk?

One nation under a groove
Gettin' down just for the funk of it
One nation and we're on the move
Nothin' can stop us now
(Here's my chance to dance my way
Out of my constrictions)
(Hi hi hi hi)

Do you promise to funk?
The whole funk, nothin' but the funk?
You can't stop us now

Tony Pierce

Meu menino bonito

Parents of toddlers are always on the lookout for soothing but interesting music and images to help the little ones wind down when they hit the wall and need sleep. Based on a New York Times review (usually a riskless proposition), I clicked over on Amazon and picked up a copy of "Ninna Nanna," a collection of classical lullabies sung by Portuguese soprano Montserrat Figueras.

They are wonderful. Gorgeous.

"Rockabye Baby," this ain't. You probably haven't heard a single one of these songs before. Which makes it all the more pleasant for the parents. Whoever selected the lullabies is most intelligent. And Ms. Figueras is quite talented and skilled.

And after a while, this album has the desired effect, all right. Not recommended for the CD player in the car!

[P.S. This was completely unsolicited and uncompensated praise for this work. If Amazon suddenly floats me a commission, I'll let you know.]

You pay either way

When someone steals your car in Oregon these days, the police won't go after the thief because they have no money. If they do, the district attorney won't prosecute the thief because the d.a. has no money. If he or she does, the local court won't arraign the thief because it has no money. In the highly unlikely event the thief is eventually convicted, he or she won't go to jail because the sheriff who runs the jail has no money.

To all the people who voted against Measure 28: You saved yourself $100 a year in taxes. Now you'll pay more than that in increased car insurance premiums.

Besides, the extra state income taxes would have been deductible on your federal tax return if you own a home. The car insurance premium isn't deductible at all.

Are we having fun yet?

Yin and yang

Some people liked it, and some people didn't. (Glad they're both out there.)

Searchin' every whi-i-ich way-ay-ay

My idea of creating an index for this blog is a great one, but it's so time-consuming that I haven't been able to face it. Life is short, and so in the meantime, I've put a Google site search box down at the bottom of this page. It's neat to see the blog the way Google sees it. Try "Joey Harrington nude"!

Thursday, March 6, 2003

Say cheese

I saw them putting up red light photo enforcement equipment this afternoon at the intersection of NE Broadway and Grand Avenue in Portland. The camera I saw is aimed at traffic on Broadway, which is one way going westbound. I didn't see one pointed at the traffic on Grand (northbound), or anything at nearby Broadway and MLK Boulevard, but I suspect they are soon to follow (if they didn't get there later today).

This equipment makes it easy and cheap for the city to give you a ticket for running the light. Your paying the ticket and your increased auto insurance premiums will be not so easy or cheap.

Eve of destruction

The Beaver State is in trouble, and I mean real trouble.

Its court system is falling apart.

Remember what was said in your eighth grade civics course: Without three independent branches of government, the American Way won't last. "Checks and balances" are essential to the functioning of a democratic republic -- sound familiar?

In Oregon, the phrase may soon become a historical footnote. Consider the three different sets of threats to Oregon's judicial branch, all now rearing their ugly heads at the same time:

1. Starvation for funds. The Oregon courts are broke. They've laid off several dozen workers in the last year, and attrition accounts for dozens of additional lost positions. The county courthouses throughout the state are now closed every Friday for lack of funds. Courts are refusing to hear cases against those charged with property misdemeanors, because they don't have the resources to process the cases. That's probably o.k., because most county prosecutors don't have staff to handle the cases, either. And funds to pay lawyers to represent the poor in criminal cases was cut off, and then reinstated at a puny level.

I kid you not: If you're busted for burglary, shoplifting, car prowling, or prostitution in Oregon today, you will be arrested and released. Your first court date will be July 1 (when the next budget year begins), or later. That's four months from now. It sounds like science fiction, but it's the unfortunate reality.

The funding picture may change come the new state fiscal year that starts on July 1, but don't count on it. The outlook for the two-year budget cycle that begins on that date is not good. Four-day-a-week trial courts and amnesty for thieves and prostitutes may become permanent fixtures in Oregon.

2. Issue-oriented, political campaigns for judgeships. Oregon is one of 39 or so states in which judges have to run for re-election. Their terms are for only six years, not for life as they are in the federal courts. Current Oregon rules forbid judicial candidates from running for office based on promises of how they will rule on particular issues. The idea is that judges should be elected on the basis of their character, intellect, and integrity, and not financed and promoted by special interests looking for favors from the bench.

All that is about to change. The U.S. Supreme Court just last June struck down Minnesota's rule that limits what judicial candidates may say during their election campaigns. By a vote of 5-4, the High Court said the state's rule impermissibly restricted the candidates' rights to free speech. That rule banned judicial candidates from announcing their views on political and legal issues likely to come before their courts.

The Supreme Court ruling may sound good at first, but it isn't. The idea of having three branches of government is to have them balance each other off. If judges can run on issues, they will become nothing more than another legislature, jumping at every gyration in the opinion polls. Electing judges at all is a risky business. The Founding Fathers knew this, which is why federal judges -- including the U.S. Supreme Court justices -- are never subjected to a popular election, the way they are in most states. Allowing candidates for the bench to make promises to voters about how they will rule will be fatal to the whole checks-and-balances system.

The Supreme Court's dimwittedness on this issue is nothing new. Its controversial 1976 decision that campaign contributions are "speech" protected by the First Amendment has led to the intractable campaign finance mess that we face as a nation today. And under the Supreme Court's jurisprudence, there is no way out. Money talks in America, and its right to do so is guaranteed by the Court's reading of the U.S. Constitution.

Now the special interests also have been given a constitutional right to run candidates for judgeships who will publicly bow to the campaign donors' wishes. How unwise. If you thought previous Oregon judicial elections have produced some bad results, wait until you see what happens under the new Supreme Court decision. Imagine a State Supreme Court with seven Ed Fadeleys on it. It will be here within a decade or two.

3. The constant drone of anti-judiciary ballot measures. Last fall voters statewide rejected two ballot measures that would have hurt the state's judicial system pretty badly. One would have required that all candidates in judicial elections run against "none of the above," and if "none" won, the judicial position would remain vacant unless and until someone eventually beat "none" at the polls. The other measure, less pernicious but still highly disruptive, would have required the appeals court judges in Oregon to be elected by district. For the first time, every region of the state would be legally guaranteed to get a State Supreme Court justice, even in eras in which the most qualified candidates for the job might hail from elsewhere. "None of the above" was defeated pretty handily, but the districting almost passed (and probably would have if its companion measure had not dragged it down).

The campaigns for these ballot propositions were particularly nasty. Proponents of the measures, which were largely bankrolled by one rich, angry right-winger, pulled no punches in attacking the state's judges. They blamed them for all kinds of societal ills, including decisions made by federal judges regarding the Pledge of Allegiance and Klamath Basin water rights. The Oregon jurists, of course, were not organized, wealthy or brazen enough to buy ad time in their own defense. And although the state's lawyer organizations opposed the ballot measures, they didn't make much of a splash. Many attorneys are afraid to speak out in ways that might alienate their clients.

Unfortunately, the bad ballot measures will be back. For example, Sen. Ted Ferrioli, R-John Day and already nominated by me for Nitwit of the Year honors, will apparently push another districting measure onto the ballot, and who knows? Perhaps this time it will pass. And we probably haven't heard the last of "none of the above," either, not to mention other ill-advised ballot measures to which voters are likely to be subjected regarding the state's justice system.

The clear thrust of these measures has been to destabilize the courts and politicize judicial elections, and combined with the U.S. Supreme Court decision, they are as dangerous as dynamite.

In sum, it doesn't look good for the judicial branch in our fine state unless the average person gets moved off his or her couch, and soon. If we want democracy here, we need to (a) push for better funding for the courts; (b) reward judicial candidates who take the high road in campaigns, and punish those who run on particular issues; and (c) fight the ballot measures that will continue to threaten the vitality of the judicial system.

The courts of Oregon have been functioning just fine until now, and they certainly don't need these horrible changes. Quite the contrary.

Can I get a witness?

Wednesday, March 5, 2003

He's back

James offers more of his tale of the professor who said things like: "This is a gott-damned law school, Kozloski, not an eighth grade social studies class, where the text books contain little definition sections and pictures of the friggin' Lincoln Memorial."

Under God, dammit

Judge Goodwin has stayed the mandate in his controversial pledge of allegiance case. Makes me think of that classic Maurice Williams and the Zodiacs hit "Stay": Please, please, please, tell me that you're goin' to!

But the last song at this dance will be done by the Supremes, of course.

And a whole chicken for Clarence

Though he may be delinquent in his blogging these days (further proof that great life = crummy blog), Matt sends along an interesting item. Here are what purports to be standard riders to Bruce Springsteen's contract with concert promoters regarding certain details of the arena and backstage operations in connection with his shows.

Although most readers may be interested in the food items (including sax man Clarence Clemons's beluga caviar and whole roasted chicken), I'm more impressed by the security requirements. Bruce shows always have great security -- ample but unobtrusive. Part of the reason why is that the ARTIST (as he's known in the contracts) demands that it be so.

For some reason reading this legal document makes me want to go to another Bruce concert. The last one here was fantastic.

I wonder how many different caterers in how many different cities around the world are hired to fill this order. Do they get to see the show? Do they get to meet Bruce and the band? The guy or gal who makes sure that the soy milk is the right temperature -- does that person come away from the arena with a rosy glow? Or is it just another boring gig?

Tuesday, March 4, 2003

Goes with gumbo

I just had a great Fat Tuesday lunch down at the Corbett Fish House, where the sign says: "Give a man a fish, and he eats for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you give him an excuse to sit around all day drinking beer."

I spent my solitary lunch perusing my hard copy of the March ABA Journal. Reading the article on law bloggers, I felt the way I always do when I read in the mass media about good friends. Seeing them recognized on a large scale for something that I've known about for a while gives me a sense of smug satisfaction. I feel as hip as I did in the mid-'70s, when Bruce Springsteen went from a word-of-mouth Jersey phenomenon (which I had been talking up to anyone who would listen) to the cover of Time and Newsweek in the same week. Ah, I said to myself, I knew him when.

Getting a link from the likes of Howard Bashman or Denise Howell, however, is in many ways better than the Springsteen handshake. After all, Bruce never got up on stage and said, "This guy Bogdanski has a couple of interesting songs." Whereas a mere mention from the How Appealing pulpit sends my hit counter spiking through its concededly low ceiling.

A wonderful side benefit of the blogger article was that it led right into a very fine piece by James McElhaney of Case Western Law School on the hearsay rule. He demystifies the rule and makes it accessible, which, when last I checked, is what we law profs are supposed to be doing. Good for him.

I loved my evidence class in law school, mostly because I loved the guy who taught it. I didn't do well on the exam, and I didn't think it was all that good of an exam, but the chance to "visit" for four hours a week with John Kaplan was a great honor.

John's probably up there goofing on Mister Rogers right now.

Monday, March 3, 2003

That felt good

After a long layoff, I just posted something on my music-related weblog, Yakety Yak. Nice to break the ice over there again.

Long time gone

Note: This post originally appeared on my now-defunct music weblog, Yakety Yak.

It's been entirely too long since I last posted here.

Back when I started this and another weblog, I was still marvelling at how easy it was to start a blog, or any number of them. It took a while for me to figure out how hard it is to do a good job with more than one, or even with one, for that matter. My partner Fred also appears to have hit some bumpy spots in the road, which have taken him out of the action. So it has been up to me to keep yakkin', and, well, I haven't been up to the task.

Not that there hasn't been enough on-topic material to keep track of. We've had the death of Maurice Gibb of the Bee Gees, Phil Spector's arrest on murder charges, and whatever it is that's going on with Billy Joel. These news items all could have, and perhaps should have, inspired some remembrances and other observations here. But, as comedian George Wallace once said, I've been busier than a one-legged man in an ass-kicking contest.

I haven't been away from the music all this time. In fact, I managed to DJ a dance party a few weeks ago, an experience that I managed to write about in my main weblog. And I've been cooking up a post about a familiar name from the '60s and '70s for a while now, but it's a "working" hour or so away from being ready. My goal is to get it up here within the next few days.

In the meantime, there's been plenty to read. The Sunday New York Times has suddenly begun to run lengthy front-page profiles of some of the legends of early rock and R&B. So far they've covered Bo Diddley (still bitter), Chuck Berry (grateful despite some hard knocks), and B.B. King (somewhere in between). They make for some interesting reading, but you'll have to do some painless registration stuff when you get to the Times site.

Finally, a note about a recent internet search phenomenon. Apparently someone has come up with a parody of the Leiber and Stoller/Coasters classic "Yakety Yak," the namesake of this blog. Legions are asking Google to find the song using the key line "Yakety Yak -- bomb Iraq." It's not on this page, folks. Try here.

I hope to see you back here in a few days.

Keeping my day job

Sorry I haven't been blogging this morning. I've been working on my Partnership Tax class this afternoon. It goes something like this:

Sunday, March 2, 2003

Dough, a dear

Jeremy's musical take on mandatory pro bono work is an instant classic. I laughed, at least.

When you get there, scroll up and down. He's on a roll.

Building a bunker

Push is coming to shove for the Post Office in Portland's Pioneer Courthouse. When last heard from, the postal station was being bounced for good at month's end, and that means postal workers start packing in two weeks.

The courthouse renovation -- made necessary by valid seismic concerns -- is controversial in many respects. One big sticking point is the creation of a parking garage in the basement for the Ninth Circuit judges who work in the building. Apparently their having to walk to nearby parking garages is being portrayed as a security risk, just as the presence of the Post Office is.

But that raises some interesting questions: Are the judges ever going to leave the courthouse? To go to lunch? To go to the bank? To do some shopping downtown?

Is it possible that, like all government operations, the court just wants ever more space, and is unwilling to move from the oldest and coolest building in town to get it?

Minting phrases, not mincing words

Portland City Commissioner Randy Leonard tells it like it is, for better or worse. The other day he suggested that the rural legislators who are threatening to disrupt Portland's bailout of its bankrupt public school system should "shut up."

He was also, shall we say, candid when he noticed that the architect "experts" studying potential sites for a major league baseball stadium in Portland aren't inclined to select Leonard's pet site near Interstate 205 in the Lents neighborhood in Southeast Portland. As The Oregonian described it:

Leonard caught wind of disparaging remarks made about the Lents site in some of those meetings and also took exception to HOK's evaluation that surface parking would not be possible on the 130-acre site along Interstate 205 between Southeast Foster Road and Flavel Street.

While Leonard favors the freeway access and future light rail access of the Lents site, HOK clearly leans toward a pedestrian friendly, downtown ballpark.

"That is so elitist, so Pearl (District). I mean, please," Leonard said. "There are so many people who live and work outside of that core area. It's not in the taxpayers' best interest. Don't count me in." ...

"They looked at that [Lents] site and couldn't find a wine and cheese restaurant nearby and dismissed it," Leonard said.

You tell 'em, Randy.

Actually, although some fans are drooling over the Main Post Office land in the Pearl District, the people who have plunked down a half million or more for their groovy lofts in that neighborhood can't possibly want a stadium there. Heck, they've been complaining that too many riffraff east side kids are playing in the water fountain at Jamison Square Park until 8 or 9 on summer nights. I can't imagine they'll be ready for 25,000 fans, along with their cars and litter, streaming through their 'hood at 11:30 or midnight after an extra-inning game. And 81 games a year. And probably winter and spring uses of the stadium for other purposes.

My favored plan would be to put the stadium over at North Broadway and Dixon -- near the Rose Garden, and right on the super-spendy light rail line currently under construction.

And on Commissioner Leonard's site? Why, the Indian casino that's going to pay for it all.

Think about it. Right on I-205.

It's perfect.

As is Leonard's new catch phrase for phoniness in local government: That is so Pearl.

Saturday, March 1, 2003

Easy on the eyes

Just stopped by Bag and Baggage and was wowed by the new skin:

And there's way more to it than that. I'm so envious! Congratulations to Denise Howell.

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