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

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August 2003 Archives

Sunday, August 31, 2003

What they were thinking

Boo-boo of the Week

Demo prez candidate and cyberdarling Howard Dean managed to tick off a few folks in New York City when he commissioned an urban-artistic backdrop for a recent campaign appearance there. The piece came out as a graffiti version of a Dean for President billboard, and those who find graffiti ugly, offensive, and expensive noticed.

The Deanies are defending the choice as free expression, noting that they would never censor an artist. No, but they should have realized that those of us who spend time and money cleaning up after taggers don't find it amusing when a guy from Vermont (total graffiti incident count for 2002: 12) comes to town and basks in the glow of this particular form of vandalism.

Oh well. I don't mind Dean. He's the 2004 version of Nader, and at least he's staying in the Democratic Party. If he moves some of the corporate weasel candidates like Joe "Insurance Company" Lieberman over to the left a step, and he keeps the youngsters from doing something dumb like voting for a third-party candidate, he deserves my gratitude.

But head-to-head against Bush, he'd get creamed.

Friday, August 29, 2003

Kroeker resigns

Portland's police chief has resigned. Asked by the Mayor to leave.

UPDATE, 8/30, 1:40 am: Well, this is hardly the news that it was on Friday afternoon, but now that someone's left a thoughtful comment, it will stay up. I don't have strong feelings either way about the outgoing chief, but I do have some thoughts on the position he's leaving, which I hope to post about over the weekend.

Beat me to the punch

I was thinking of trying to come up with a nice post about Labor Day and my blue-collar roots, but then I opened up today's Trib and saw that someone else had already captured the spirit of the holiday perfectly.

There's a series of short profiles in the business section about waitpersons at various Portland eateries, and one of the four folks spotlit is my favorite of them all, Josephine Booth from the Burgerville down on NE MLK Blvd.

I've enjoyed many a turkey burger down there, and Josephine's friendly smile and cheerful greetings are so heartwarming that I always go out of my way to say hello to her if she's in the place when I am.

Here's the link to the Trib story. For her picture, you'll have to find a hard copy of the paper.

But that's it. That's the Labor Day I would have strained for hours to try to reach. A little story about Josephine, delivered right to my doorstep.

Our work here is done, Robin.

Have a great weekend.

At least he's leaving comments

I'll always remember my first Strong Bad E-mail. And I was introduced to it by my good friend Matt.

Matt's got a blog of his own, but since he fell in love and got engaged, he doesn't say much there. He's got a life; good for him.

But he does drop by here, and now that he can leave comments, he's contributing to the vast flow of blogalicious knowledge from this site.

Matt just left in our comments a great link to an ESPN column about the dangers of governments getting involved with professional sports teams. It is a beauty, and if you care about the Portland baseball stadium deal at all, on either side, you need to check it out.

It's particularly required reading for the Portland City Council, whom the columnist warns to watch their backs and count all the silverware with the baseball people. Point well taken.

Nice to hear from you, Matty.

Thursday, August 28, 2003

A "to do" list for government

Oregon State Rep. Max Williams, R-Tigard, has been pushing hard for a wide-ranging discussion of the fundamentals of the state's tax system. Williams is a former student of mine, for whom I have great respect, even though his politics and mine are incompatible on many issues. (And even though in the suits he looks a little like Rush Limbaugh.)

Williams, slightly to the left of Limbaugh, right.

I'm all for a free and open discussion of the kind Williams is advocating, and I look forward to 2004, when in one special session or another the Legislature is scheduled to have the dialogue that he wants. Williams is pushing for a retail sales tax, which Oregon has never had and which I oppose. But so long as everybody gets their say and then a fair vote is taken, I have no problem with that.

The problem I do have is that all the tax reform talk is going nowhere with the public unless there's also a frank discussion of spending priorities. One of the big reasons voters hate taxes is that they're constantly seeing the government spending their money on frills and frivolities, while letting basic needs go unattended.

There's an old spoof magazine cover that showed a cute dog with a pistol pointed at its head. "If you don't buy this magazine, we'll shoot this dog!" screamed the headline. Which wasn't funny, but it made a point that's apposite here. Whenever government wants to raise taxes, it threatens to (and often does) shut down crucial social services. In Oregon, the population is told "Vote for new taxes, or else the public schools will become the laughingstock of the nation." "Vote for new taxes or we'll close the libraries and open the jails." "Vote for new taxes or we'll unplug sick people's life support."

Not "Vote for new taxes or we'll have to leave the Convention Center as is." Not "Vote for new taxes or we'll have to do without a streetcar to the Pearl District." Not "Vote for new taxes or we'll have to get rid of the OLCC." Not "Vote for new taxes or we'll have to cut the Economic Development Department budget to only $100 million a year."

What's really needed most is a detailed discussion at all levels of government about spending priorities. There needs to be a fairly agreed-upon list of everything government spends money on, with the most important items at the top and the least important at the bottom. The public needs to show the politicians where everything goes on the list. And then when times get tough financially, government has to cut from the bottom of the list. Did you hear that, politicians? Not from the top or from the middle, but from the bottom.

What I'm proposing is sort of like what the state did with the Oregon Health Plan, back before it was bankrupt. A special commission was called upon to draw up a priority list of which items were important enough and effective enough for universal health coverage, and which items provided so little benefit that they weren't worth it. The dialogue was painful, and it took the commission a few tries to get a decent list that people didn't laugh or get angry at. But eventually the list gained acceptance, and it worked.

That's what all of government needs now. The public needs its chance to say where the money will be spent. Then and only then will they vote to pay more or different types of taxes.

The procedures and methodology for such a project could be either simple or sophisticated. But implementation of the concept is long overdue.

Max, good luck with the dialogue, but think bigger.

Train wreck a-comin'

Mark your calendars, Oregonians. There's going to be one heck of a train wreck here this winter, and it's all about your state income tax (and for folks in Portland and the rest of Multnomah County, your new county income tax as well).

As you've probably heard, the Legislature passed a "temporary" state income tax increase and went home. The governor signed it right away, and so now we're told that the top rate on Oregon income will climb above 9 percent for the first time in years. Since the Oregon income tax brackets are as thin as the skin on a tax collector's teeth, just about anyone with a job here pays state income tax at an overall rate pretty close to 9 percent. (We don't have a sales tax, but we're quite serious about taxing income.)

How big is the increase that was just signed? Well, it depends on one's income, but it's probably an additional 0.4 to 0.6 percent for most folks. By my reckoning (and my students can tell you, I'm not great at off-the-cuff math), for some well-off people the bump may get them up to 9.81 percent. But on average, let's call it an increase from 9 percent to 9.5 percent. All the percentages can get confusing, but that's about a 5.56 percent increase in your Oregon tax (0.5 being 5.56 percent of 9 -- I think).

But wait, don't pay yet. The opponents of the tax, including some frustrated legislators, will within the next few days begin collecting the 50,400 signatures they need to put a repeal of the tax boost before the voters. They'll have no trouble collecting the signatures, even if they don't forge them, so there's going to be a special election on this tax increase.

The date that's been set for the statewide election? I hear it's February 3.

February 3! So Oregonians will once again be voting on a state income tax increase at the worst possible time of year for most families -- just as the financial hangover from the holidays really hits home. I don't know about you, but the net worth of this household is always at a year-long low around January 29-31, and those credit card bills are positively screaming. And that's just when the voters will be blackening the circles and sending in their ballots. (Out-of-state readers, take note that all voting in Oregon, even by dead people, is done by mail.)

Although I applaud the Legislature for doing the right thing, it's probably an illusion. The repeal is likely to pass, and if it does, the public schools, the courts, and other government bodies around the state are going to be in the exact same bad, bad, bad spot next spring as they were this past spring.

Maybe worse.

I'm not a very good political prognosticator, but on this one, I'm pretty sure I'm calling it correctly. This is especially true because the voting in Multnomah County is likely to be far less in favor of the tax than it was last year, when Multnomah voters said yes twice to higher tax levies. The dynamic is going to be different in January '04.

How's that? Well, in reaction to last year's wreck, Multnomah County voters passed a 1.25 percent county income tax of their own. The county commissioners promised voters that they would "consider repealing" that tax in whole or in part if the state increased financing for schools and social services. But unless and until the state tax surcharge survives the repeal vote, that county income tax is going to stay in place. Which means it will still be very much on the books when the statewide vote goes down.

Indeed, keep in mind that there are many people who prefer to pay state and local taxes by December 31 for various reasons, and others who like to file their tax returns in January. And so by the time the special election rolls around, many Multnomah voters will have already paid their 1.25 percent to the county.

And when they sit down at the kitchen table to vote, their math will go something like this: O.k., I've already had my state and local income taxes increased from 9 percent to 10.25 percent because of the county tax. That's a whopping 13.89 percent increase for people in the 9 percent state bracket (1.25 is 13.89 percent of 9), and even higher for folks in lower state brackets. Isn't a 13.89 percent tax increase enough to keep the schools open? Why would I vote for a state tax that bumps the increase up to 19.45 percent? I'm all for schools, but a 13.89 percent single-year increase is too much, much less 19.45 percent.

The county may make noises that it's going to reduce the county tax somewhat if the state tax survives. Apparently the county has already given Governor Ted some such reassurance in the last day or two. But let's face it, folks, a 0.5 percent surcharge is never going to replace what the county will make with a 1.25 percent county tax, and so most of the Multnomah County tax is probably here to stay, at least for a few years. And the voters in this county are going to hear all about that from the nattering nabobs of tax negativism.

Without a big victory margin in Multnomah County, the state income tax surcharge has no prayer whatsoever. And I doubt it's there. On the contrary, Multnomah County voters such as myself would rather pay taxes to the county than to the state, and there's a fair amount of bad feelings between the Portland area and the rest of Oregon right now anyway. So I don't see a major win for the tax surcharge up here.

Before they left Salem, the legislators scheduled a special session on tax reform next June. But methinks they'll be back before that, when Governor Ted calls them back for an emergency special session, probably by Valentine's Day.

Multnomah County schools may still be o.k. at that point, but other schools and government agencies around the state had better be ready for big trouble.

Great moments in comedy

At last, an Episcopalian joke that will offend some non-Episcopalians as well.

Wednesday, August 27, 2003

In the mailbag

A good, old friend who shall remain nameless writes in:

Hey ó no baseball on the eastside. Put it in Beaverton, where people already have no expectation of being able to get from one place to another.

Actually I want them to suspend flights at the airport, which already has open space, mass transportation, plenty of parking and bad fast food, and put up an inflatable ball field. It won't cost much and when the team goes broke next year we can sell the inflatable to south america for soccer riots.

Personnel issue

Does Multnomah County need to pay $138,000 a year plus benefits to get a good library director?

Of course not.

Uncool Move of the Month

Steve Patterson, the new president of the Portland Trail Blazers basketball team, was in the paper last Friday, the day of the crucial baseball financing vote in Salem, saying negative things about bringing major league baseball to town. How's that for class?

What a sorry organization the Blazers have become. Once Paul Allen finally ships out the overpriced bad apples (which looks as though it will take a few more years), I hope he finds someone to buy the team from him. I wish the McMenamin brothers would take over the Blazers -- how cool would they make them? In the meantime, I'll see you at the Rose Garden, not.

Tuesday, August 26, 2003

Silver anniversary

Twenty-five years ago this month, a yellow Volkswagen with Jersey plates rolled up I-5, cut over on 217, and took U.S. 26 west a couple of exits to Rock Creek. It was yours truly, fresh out of law school, everything I owned in the car, California Bar Exam under my belt, skinny, with a long, scraggly beard, and moving to the Rose City for a one-year stint as a law clerk to a federal appeals judge in the Pioneer Courthouse.

Just a temporary stay, you understand, and then it was supposed to be back down the road, all the way to L.A., there to gain fame and fortune as a big-time corporate lawyer. And a part-time beach bum, if I could manage it.

Well, the VW never made it further south than Eugene, ever again. I fell in love with Portland and never left.

It was a heady time. Salaries were lousy, and the state was in a bad recession, but homes were dirt cheap, the commute was easy, the women were the friendliest I had ever met, the local music scene was good, the public schools were of the highest quality, and there was a wonderful, content, optimistic spirit among the people who lived here. It was just a not-so-small version of a nice small town.

The place has changed a great deal since then, mostly not for the better. But I still can't identify a better place to live. Although I've looked at some opportunities elsewhere, I haven't picked up on any of them. And now this is the place where I married (I even did that twice), where my daughter was born, where I've spent most of my life.

So here's to another 25. At least.

A "workaround"

My rant about the deficiencies in The Oregonian's website struck a chord with a number of readers. (I was afraid of comments on my blog before I switched to Movable Type, but now I see that overall, they're a very good thing. Keep 'em coming, all.) From my friend and research guru Rob Truman comes a suggested "workaround" -- i.e., a way to work around some of the headaches that one encounters on that site:

Saw your early morning post-o'-frustration regarding The Oregonian's horrific website and I did, indeed, feel your pain. This might help: try using Google News. Sure, sometimes it is balky, mainly because oregonlive.com changes/deletes/screws up links. More often it works:

Google news: http://news.google.com/
Search: (w/o the quotes) "source:oregonian searchterms"

For example, try this:

source:oregonian baseball kanter

Using the source: syntax also allows you to limit to the washington post, new york times, etc. For example, if you want a streaming version of the new york times online, search Google News for:

"new york times" source:new_york_times (quotes and underscores required)

If you then click on Sort by date (top right) it seems to pull up the NYT articles as they are posted online.

Thanks for the tip, Rob. I'll file that one for future late night use.

Unfortunately, even the Google trick won't work with the piece I was looking for. It was in Saturday's paper (on the front page of the Metro section, no less), and from what I can tell, that entire day just isn't in the oregonlive.com database.

As a legal researcher, I do have access to The Oregonian on Westlaw, and the story I want is there, all right. But I can't link it for my readers, even with the clever Google trick. Oh, well. It was the Kathryn Bogle obituary. I think I was able to give readers here the gist of it.

No parking

While I've been busy watching major league baseball in Portland unfold, the brouhaha about the planned renovation of the Pioneer Courthouse here in town sure has gotten interesting, hasn't it?

In the latest twist, the City of Portland has announced that it will not issue a municipal permit that the federal government needs to open the historic building up for private parking spaces for the federal appeals court judges who work there. The judges, on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, say they want the in-house parking for security reasons, but the parking change, along with the forced removal of the Post Office from the building, has many of us locals hopping mad.

The feds apparently don't need city permission to renovate the structure, but they do need one to move the existing driveway (which I guess postal vehicles were previously using). And what they didn't count on is the fact that the commissioner who heads of the city's transportation bureau, which governs the public's right of way over the sidewalks, is running for mayor.

Jim Francesconi, the commish in question, has stated flatly that the city won't grant the permit, period. The new driveway would have the judges making a left turn off SW Morrison Street, and in doing so they would be crossing over not just the sidewalk but also the light-rail tracks. That would be a no-no for any other landlord, says Jim F., and the U.S. General Services Administration isn't getting an exception.

Bully for him! As was well pointed out by Bix over the weekend, with this maneuver, Francesconi one-ups his likely rival for the mayoral position, Congressman Earl Blumenauer, who opposed the parking and the Post Office move but has lately thrown in the towel. Since his House colleague, David Wu, supports the entire federal plan, and since the courthouse is technically in Wu's district, not Blumenauer's, Earl of the Pearl has had to back off.

Enter Francesconi, who's made enough smart moves lately to make him look like an attractive choice for my vote. (Interestingly, some of the city's public statements on the courthouse have come from Francesconi aide Michael Harrison, who as I recall previously worked for Blumenauer.)

However the permitting flap turns out, the city's action points out the futility of trying to make the Pioneer really secure. It's a 19th Century building in the middle of a busy, busy downtown. Unless you close off the streets around it, which will never happen, it's always going to be vulnerable to terrorists. The judges having to walk a few blocks from a public garage isn't the real problem.

It's sad, but maybe in this day and age the Ninth Circuit belongs in a different building entirely. As I've said before, there are lower profile, less-targeted agencies who would make great tenants for the Pioneer Courthouse. The general public would get the building back. And there could be a Post Office on the main floor, for which the building was designed more than a century ago.

Brushes with greatness

A couple of obituaries caught my eye over the historic weekend just passed. Here were two remarkable people who were in my presence just briefly, but who truly impressed.

Kathryn Hall Bogle died last Thursday at age 96. Mrs. Bogle was an accomplished author who chronicled life as an African-American woman in Portland beginning in the 1930s. She lived here since 1911 and was prominent in her community all her life. Among many other activities, she worked for civil rights, promoted literature and music, did everything she could for children, helped found an Episcopal church, and travelled the world.

I met Mrs. Bogle at a neighbor's house on Christmas morning about 10 years ago. She was part of a small group that convened in that house every year on that feast day. Already well up into her 80s at that point, she was truly delightful company. My wife and I both immediately sensed the enormous strength and spirit within and around her. Her enthusiasm for life was contagious, and we were glad to share it with her, if even for a short time.

Mrs. Bogle's son, Dick, is familiar to long-time Portlanders as the former TV news man and ex-city commissioner. Every once in a while I catch his jazz show on KHMD radio. You can tell it's Dick right away, just by the music that's on -- always just a pleasure to listen to -- and once I know it's him spinning the disks, I don't touch the dial 'til he signs off. My sincere condolences to him and to the rest who mourn her loss.

The other passing I read about was Bobby Bonds, baseball star of the late '60s and '70s, who died Saturday. He was only in his 50s. Perhaps best known toward the end of his life as the proud father of baseball's greatest current slugger, Barry Bonds, the senior Bonds was one of the best all-around ballplayers ever to play the game. He combined great power hitting with speed, and set records for combining home runs and stolen bases. He could steal second base as well as any one, and he knocked out 30 or so home runs regularly.

Bobby Bonds played his early career for the San Francisco Giants, but he had one season as a New York Yankee, in 1975, before being shipped around to a number of other teams. His Yankee year (an all-star year for him) was when I saw Bobby in action. I was on my way from New Jersey to California to go to law school, and I stayed about a month and a half with my friends in Milwaukee. (Portland-area folks, that's the one in Wisconsin, not the Portland suburb with the too-similar name.) One of the many things we liked to do was attend Milwaukee Brewers baseball games at County Stadium. The town had just gotten major league baseball back not too long before, after having lost it for a while, and the left field side of the stands wasn't even fully built yet, as I recall.

There were lots of good games that summer. One night (July 2) a young fellow on the Boston Red Sox by the name of Rick Wise pitched 8 and 2/3 innings of a no-hitter before geting knocked out of the box. For a long while there, we thought we were going to see him take it all the way, but a home run -- and then, improbably, another home run -- broke up his bid for history. (Turns out, the guy was from Portland. Who knew?)

But the best games were some tightly fought battles between the Yankees and the Brewers. I was probably the only Yankee fan in the place, screaming my head off (no doubt under the influence of "brats" and Pabst) for the Bronx Bombers. I remember one play in particular, when a Milwaukee player hit a single into a gap in center field, where Bonds was playing for the Yankees. A Brewer base runner tried to advance from first to third, but Bonds fielded the ball cleanly and threw a deadly accurate rifle shot to Graig Nettles at third, who tagged the runner out. I nearly jumped out of my skin, it was such a good throw. The Yankees lost that night (July 1) but I also recall seeing them get their revenge in a later game (Aug. 4), in which Bonds, then playing right field, hit a crucial sacrifice fly to knock in a key Yankee run. New York took that one, by a score of 2-1.

My hat's off to the nice people of Milwaukee, who allowed me to leave the stadium alive that night, hoarse and with a big grin on my face. Yankee Stadium crowds would not have been so, shall we say, respectful of diversity.

And my hat's off to Bobby Bonds, who had such a tremendous throwing arm to go along with all his other skills. He left this world way too soon, but God bless him, he got to take pride not just in his accomplishments on the field, but also in his accomplishments as a dad.

You know who has a crummy website?

The Oregonian. Here I am trying to find a story that I read in hard copy on Saturday. Wasting all sorts of time trying to find it. There's supposedly a 14-day search tool, but it's worthless.

And forget about "sidebars" and photos. The cheapies at The O (or more likely, its parent company, the Newhouse newspaper chain) won't spring for them.

Then every night all the current stories are taken down, and there's nothing on the "current day" page until mid-to-late morning.

Yuck! Is it just me, or does this thing bite?

Monday, August 25, 2003

Now it can be heard

Some people say we never landed a man on the moon -- that it was all faked. No, the event really happened, but the conspiracy theorists are partially correct. For homeland security reasons (in those days known as "national" security), the audio that was being piped in over the television that night in 1969 was not authentic, and in fact had been pre-recorded in a Miami radio studio about a week before the launch of the lunar landing mission.

To see the historic video footage again, only this time with the real dialogue, click here. (Not workplace safe; via Utterly Boring.com.)

Bob Borden's back from vacation

And he's got a great diary to show for it, including:

Hey, I went to the zoo today. My sister-in-law Liz, the kids, myself got in the old van and did all things zoo. It was pretty cool. I even fed a giraffe! I'd like to give you some line about how I lived through the kid's eyes but the truth is, I almost knocked those kids over to get to that giraffe.

Back to life, back to reality

It's been fun running a baseball mini-blogathon here, and now there are a number of other bloggable topics backed up for my attention. (Hey, Bill Safire, I said bloggable.) But it's the first day of a new school year (this is the earliest date we ever start), and so alas, I'll be busy with other things for a while. Like this:

Sunday, August 24, 2003

Moving the Expos

All the politics of trying to get a major league baseball team in Portland has obscured the question of the feasibility of moving the only team that's available right now -- the Montreal Expos -- out here. From a baseball point of view (as opposed to a business point of view), can it be done?

One difficulty is that the Expos play in the Eastern Division of the National League. That means they play East Coast teams much more than West Coast teams. If the Expos came to Portland but stayed in the Eastern Division, the East Coast teams would be saddled with too much travel to get out here to play them.

So the Expos would have to move to a different division, which poses some interesting questions. Here are the National League division alignments at present:

East: Atlanta, Philadelphia, Florida, Montreal, New York

Central: Houston, St. Louis, Chicago, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Milwaukee

West: San Francisco, Arizona, Los Angeles, Colorado, San Diego

If Montreal went to the West, the East would need a new team, to make 5. My thought would be to take Milwaukee out of the Central and move it to the East, leaving the Central also with 5. The Milwaukee team is doing very poorly, on the field and at the box office, and it hasn't been in the National League all that long. So moving it to a different division shouldn't be too traumatic.

Another idea would be to move the Expos to the American League, which would cause much more of a commotion. But Portland in the American League West would be exciting. Here's the current alignment there:

East: New York, Boston, Toronto, Baltimore, Tampa Bay

Central: Chicago, Kansas City, Minnesota, Cleveland, Detroit

West: Seattle, Oakland, Anaheim, Texas

I'd like the National League option much better myself. Those who need to see the Yankees in person every year can continue to take the train up to Seattle. Besides, if Montreal jumped to the American League, they'd still have to move Milwaukee or somebody to the National League East.

Dang, this is fun.

On the less glamorous, financing, front, it was great to see Randy Leonard up on the blog comments last night in support of baseball. With him and Vera in tow, only one more city council member needs to say, "play ball." The city should chip in for the stadium construction with some ticket taxes, parking taxes and other assorted taxes that it can impose on those attending the games. I'm not sure the hotel/motel tax is going to be available. Heaven knows it's already been promised for lots of other things.

At our house, we're budgeting for season tickets.

Saturday, August 23, 2003

Holy cow

In a stunning reversal, the State Senate just passed a revised version of the baseball stadium financing bill! If the House goes along, as expected, on Monday, the law's a done deal.

It will be interesting to see what the new fine print was that got the crucial four votes to change. New restrictive language could ultimately scare the big league baseball folks away. But whatever the revised bill says, this puts the chances of having the formerly Montreal Expos here next summer at better than even.

Way. Cool.

UPDATE, 10:07 pm: According to an e-mail message just received from my state senator, Avel Gordly, a key to the passage of the revised bill was the addition of language that no "public body" can be the ultimate "guarantor" of the bonds that will be used to finance construction of the stadium. That will present some challenges.

The new language means that no governmental entity can be on the hook for the cost of the stadium if things don't work out. This should actually make the politics easier for the City of Portland, because now the mayor can tell the major leagues, "Sorry, but you'll have to take the downside risk. We can't do it." But whether the major leagues or team owners are willing to take that risk remains to be seen.

Baseball fans have reason to be optimistic nonetheless. MLB doesn't have many (or perhaps any) viable options beyond Portland. The Expos are tired of spiltting their "home" games between Montreal and San Juan, P.R., and the other two potential locations have no financing plan to offer at all. The league would like to "contract" the team out of existence, but the contract with the players' union won't permit that, at least not for now.

And don't underestimate the creativity of the guys who are running the effort to get baseball here. They have moved mountains so far, all on a grassroots, volunteer basis. I'm optimistic that they'll get this done.

It ain't over 'til it's over

Well, the baseball bill is still technically, barely alive in the Oregon Legislature, albeit on a respirator and with a priest standing by ready to give Extreme Unction.

Apparently some sort of House-Senate committee is working on the bill to give some of those senators who voted no yesterday a chance to have changes made so that they can say yes.

As a baseball backer, I'm hopeful but not optimistic.

The original Senate vote yesterday was 18-12 against. Then, after it was clear the measure would fail, Sen. Ryan Deckert of Beaverton changed his vote from yes to no, so that the final tally was 19-11. I understand Deckert's switch was just a parliamentary maneuver, and so there remain 4 Senate votes that need to be changed if major league baseball in Oregon is to have a chance.

And here are 4 senators who voted no and really should have voted yes:

Avel Gordly of NE Portland. Over the last 24 hours, she's offered a number of objections to the bill, but if she's sincere about really wanting baseball but just worried about the details, there ought to be amendments that can be made right away to change her vote.

Kate Brown of SE Portland, Senate Democratic Leader. Here's somebody who wants to be in Congress, but who is going against the wishes of the governor, the mayor of Portland, the construction trades, and the sports fans on a very high-profile issue right at what could be the end of her state government career. Kate, there ain't enough X-ers and soccer moms out there for you to win a crowded primary for Earl's seat. I support you, but please! Reconsider.

Rick Metsger of Welches. Though he's parlayed his career as a sportscaster for KOIN into a nice political position, he's apparently forgetting where he came from. If his complaint that the financing bill doesn't contain assurances of minority contracting on the construction project is sincere, an amendment should be a simple matter. With that in place, he needs to get real and say yes to the people who gave him his original platform.

Ginny Burdick of the West Hills of Portland and down to Tigard. There are lots of construction execs and sports fans up in her district. They're smart enough to see that the baseball bill gives the state all the upside and none of the downside of having a team here. She ought to find a way to vote yes.

Here's what today's Oregonian had to say:

The vote Friday to kill a plan to bring big-league baseball to Portland was so Oregon. The debate in the Senate wasn't really about baseball or professional sports, it was about the kind of state this has become -- timid, suspicious, small.

Senators voted 18-12 against the plan to finance construction of a baseball stadium with future income taxes on the players and team management. Unless four lawmakers change their minds today, the plan is dead and so, probably, are hopes of bringing Major League Baseball to Portland anytime soon.

If that happens, it will be a real loss to the city and state. There will be no infusion of construction jobs in a state with the nation's highest unemployment rate. There will be no new entertainment amenity that would bring tens of thousands of fans downtown 81 nights a year to enjoy themselves, spend money and propel the city's economy.

The senators couldn't bring themselves to look at this big picture. They wouldn't trust the assurances of the treasurer and legislative counsel that the baseball deal was so tightly written that it would not put taxpayers at risk.

Instead, they worried the city of Portland wouldn't protect its taxpayers. They bemoaned the heavy lobbying effort for baseball. They wrongly claimed the stadium would compete with schools and other services for general funds. They objected because it wasn't clear that local contractors and minorities would get a fair share of the jobs.

So they brought the whole thing down. Now there is no need to worry about who will get the new jobs. There won't be any.

The Senate debate showed one difference between professional athletes and many Oregon lawmakers. From the front row, the lawmakers look a lot smaller than you imagined.

One way or the other, you know you'll find additional commentary here as the story comes to an end. Given the sensitivity of the politics at the moment, I'm holding my own tongue as best I can.

But as you know, I have a lot to say.

Friday, August 22, 2003

Strike 3

The baseball bill went down to defeat in the Oregon Senate, 18-12.

It will be interesting to get the roll call later, and reflect on the political careers of the misguided souls who voted no.

But for now, we'll just kiss goodbye the jobs, the tourism, the prestige, the excitement, and the good, clean fun that the Portland metro area isn't going to see. And go back to feeling like Mississippi.

Thursday, August 21, 2003

Under the Big Top

Ladies and gentlemen! Boys and girls! We're proud to welcome each and every one of you to the quaint, the colorful, the fantasmagorically grimy little circus known as Oregon Politics! You think you've seen it all down in California? Nonsense! Today we have all three rings in full operation to thrill and delight children of all ages! We guarantee you will not believe your eyes and ears!

In the far ring, we have POTUS! Imperial Wizard of the Electoral College! It's George W. Bush, visiting us here in "Little Beirut" to talk about his, um, accomplishments, and to pick up some campaign dough (the latter being his only undisputed accomplishment). Just the kind of thing that happens in North Portland all the time. Then he's off to central Oregon to brag about cutting down some of the trees that the environmentalists hold the most dear. Most of the smoke you'll see and smell, circus-goers, will be coming from the forest fires over there, but there'll also be a good deal coming from the Commander-in-Chief himself. Under this man's leadership, the entire free world is operating in extreme danger, without a net! Wave those circus lights at him!... Huh? Oh. For reasons of homeland security, don't wave the circus lights. But ladies and gentlemen, what do you say? It's a banner day for pepper spray!

Next! In the near ring, we have the Masters! Of! Fiscal! Disasters! The Oregon Legislature! Wait 'til you see how many gaily clad Republicans can climb out of that tiny anti-tax agenda! Yesterday, the State Senate passed an income tax surcharge, whereupon several legislators, including the Speaker of the House, immediately vowed to invalidate it by circulating public petitions to bring a referral ballot measure to the voters. That's being a good sport!

You'll see these zany lawmakers disappear, but then, lo and behold, they'll be back again come November or January. And why's that, you say? I direct your attention to that gentleman in the black cape, over on the edge of the ring. Yes, it's Bill Sizemore, peddler of lame ballot initiatives, who says he'll tell anyone who asks how to overturn the new tax! What's his secret, ladies and gentlemen? No one knows for sure, but last I heard, it was fraud and racketeering! He'll show you how to do it, but are you brave enough to try?

And who, ladles and jellyspoons, who is that grinning man flip-flopping all over the ring? It's the governor, Ted the Chameleon! Watch him as he changes from "I won't raise taxes until we've proven we can live within our means," right over to "If you don't like it, we'll have to close the schools" -- all in a split second, right before your eyes! How does he do it? And wait! Joining them all in the ring now are the Multnomah County Commissioners, who swore they'd "consider" repealing their new county income tax if the state increased its support for schools and social services! Will they defy political death and keep the local tax in place? You'll gasp in astonishment, folks, as they find new ways to spend your money! Ways you never dreamed of when you voted for the tax!

And last but not least! In the center ring! The State Senate decides whether the "Really Big Show" -- Major League Baseball -- will come to the Beaver State! The crucial vote could come today, it could come tomorrow, but for sure it's the bases loaded, two outs in the bottom of the ninth, and here comes the 3-2 pitch! The governor wants it! The mayor of Portland wants it! The real estate developers who run Portland want it! The Little Leaguers want it! The Pony Leaguers want it! (The current minor league team, the Portland Beavers, don't know if they want it or not, but don't heckle them about it or they'll come up there and kick your a*s.) So is Sammy Sosa going to be eating at La Sirenita next spring, or not? Watch as the Cranky Old Coot from Ashland and his Crew of Smalltown Naysayers try to team up with the Big City Earnests to stop it!

What a week! What a state! What fun! And so without further adieu, circus fans, it's on with the show!

Wednesday, August 20, 2003

Surprise, surprise

... to me, at least. The Legislature just passed the income tax increase, and they're grabbing their hats and heading for the door.

It's fine with me -- I'm good for another few hundred bucks a year, I guess -- but there'll be howling in the hinterlands of the state tonight.

It also makes you wonder why we even went through the charade of Ballot Measure 28 back in January. The initiative process is sacrosanct in Oregon, but only when the politicans agree with the outcome.

Wonder what's going to happen with the baseball bill. I heard a rumor that it was part of a package along with the tax increase. That sounded a little spurious, but stranger things have happened.

Like this tax increase.

UPDATE, 10:50 pm: Well, the baseball bill was re-passed by the House, and so now it's on to the Senate. There's a 24-hour waiting period, so the vote could come tomorrow late, or more likely Friday. It will be very, very close and very, very interesting.

A year ago tonight

We got up close and personal with this fellow:

Priority item

Just ask the members of the Legislature, and they'll tell you how busy they are. Busy. busy, busy. So many important, difficult issues. No time for anything but the most crucial matters.

Making sure their own relatives can take gifts from strangers appears to be too momentous an issue to pass up, however.

Yesterday, the Legislature passed a bill that relaxes the ethics rules that apply to legislators, and other public officials, in the state. The vote in the House was along party lines, with all the Democrats voting no. The earlier vote in the Senate, however, was something like 24-5.

There's a lot of smoke being blown about how this bill just conforms to what some Marion County judge said in a recent case, but stripped of the malarkey, it does all of the following, and more:

1. Lobbyists and other interest groups could pay for relatives of public officials to accompany the officials on "public business." Currently, such gifts are limited to $100 per relative per year.

2. Public officials and their relatives could accept unlimited gifts from individuals with no "perceived legislative or administrative interest." Currently the $100-a-year cap applies here, too.

3. Cities, counties and state agencies could make their own rules about personal use of cell phones, frequent flier miles, and other perks. Currently there are uniform statewide regulations about this.

Coupled with the new bill is a major de-funding of the state Government Standards and Practices Commission, which is the state's primary ethics enforcement agency. Already largely toothless, this commission just had its last bicuspid knocked out with new budget cutbacks. They're a done deal.

We're still reeling from revelations that our legislative solons like to take trips to resorts on thinly veiled vacations and charge them to the taxpayers. Now they'll just have the lobbyists pay. And they'll take the spouses along, too.

People in Oregon are so naive when it comes to corruption in politics and government. They're just convinced that it can't, and doesn't, happen here. As if somehow the Beaver State had a grant of immunity from the vices of human nature.

Yeah, right.

Earth to Salem: Giving or taking a bribe is not free speech.

As of Monday, Governor Ted was saying he'd sign the bill. After it made front-page news in the Tuesday Oregonian, however, he said he wasn't sure what he'd do.

I'll tell you what you should do, Governor. Show some backbone and veto this sleaze.

UPDATE, 8/23, 5:02 pm: For what it's worth, the editorial board of The Oregonian totally agrees with me.

Tuesday, August 19, 2003

Like I said (only better)

Echoing my comments of yesterday, New York Times columnist Paul Krugman today takes the administration to task for its "faith-based deregulation."

That one is right up there with "voodoo economics," the other Bush specialty. Beautiful turn of phrase.

The ultimate endorsement

Blogger extraordinaire Tony Pierce has declared his support for Major League Baseball in Portland!

Check it out in the comments below under "Squeeze play."

What further proof does anybody need? I rest my case. Play ball, State Senate!

Unfair and unfairer

For a while now, I've been griping about how inequitable the Bush administration's tax policies are. If it were up to them (and nowadays it largely is), the only federal tax would be a wage tax. Dividends and capital gains would be completely exempt.

What an awful system. Working people would pay 30 or 40 percent of what they make (counting their involuntary "contribution" to Social Security), and fat cat investors living off investments would pay nothing. But the White House looks the public straight in the eye and says, "That's right."

The federal estate and gift taxes are a great equalizer. They tax accumulated wealth as it passes from generation to generation. Of course, the Bushies plan to eliminate those taxes entirely, as well as turning the income tax into a wage tax.

Even without the Bush "improvements," the federal income tax had been getting less and less progressive. (By "progressive," I mean based on one's ability to pay.) An article that appeared yesterday in a journal called Tax Notes shows a disturbing trend between 1995 and 2000: The "Fortunate 400," that is, the 400 taxpayers in the country with the most income, doubled their percentage of the nation's income, but their rate of tax fell substantially, over that period.

In 1995 their share of total AGI [adjusted gross income] was 0.49 percent, so between 1995 and 2000 it more than doubled, to 1.09 percent in 2000.... Beginning in 1995, there was also a notable decline in the average tax rate faced by the top 400. This rate fell from 29.93 percent in 1995 to 22.29 percent in 2000.

The author, Professor Joel Slemrod of the University of Michigan, concludes that this was because more and more of the rich folks' income was coming in the form of capital gains, taxed at lower rates.

Imagine what will happen now that the capital gain rates are even lower, and dividends are also taxed at those low, low rates.

Then ask yourself, do we need all the additional tax giveaways that the Republicans in Washington are planning?


The Oregon Legislature's current session is one sick puppy. The State Senate just vomited out a state income tax increase, which seems doomed to failure in the House. This looks to be about the same size as Measure 28, which you may recall failed miserably at the polls on a statewide basis just seven months ago.

Some estimates of what the new bill can be expected to cost individual taxpayers and married couples can be found here.

Members of the Oregon House now get to decide whether to raise taxes and go home, or to say no and stick around Salem, where it's starting to smell a little stale.

I predict they'll say no and stay. Unfortunately, this one won't be over until the governor shuts down the state government for a few days. Which is starting to sound like a good idea to me, actually.

Monday, August 18, 2003

Squeeze play

I just got this urgent e-mail about the baseball stadium financing bill, which is coming up for the votes this week in the legislature:

Oregon Stadium Campaign Supporters: The time is here!

We anticipate a House vote today and a Senate vote as early as Wednesday, and we need you to flood the phones and e-mails of the following six Senators, depending on where you live:

Ginny Burdick, D-Portland (District 18)

Avel Gordly, D-Portland (District 23)

Rick Metsger, D-Welches (District 26)

Ken Messerle, R-Coos Bay (District 5)

Bill Morrisette, D-Springfield (District 6)

Kurt Schrader, D-Canby (District 20)

Check the maps provided above for the full area of each district. If you know of businesses and supporters in these areas, please forward this e-mail to them and ask for their help!

With this bill, we're confident of having Major League Baseball in Oregon. Without it, we're all but done. Your call or e-mail might make the difference. Don't be shy; don't be hesitant. Take the time to help -- and be positive in your correspondence, pointing out the benefits to Oregon economically and culturally.

Thanks for all that you've done so far, and thanks for this one last push.

David Kahn

The real villain

A guy named Robert Kuttner had an interesting op-ed piece in The New York Times on Friday. He blamed the blackout on deregulation.

Today Bohemian Mama picks up on a Greg Palast piece along the same lines.

I'm with these guys. The Almighty Free Market works only so well, and only with certain commodities. With energy -- as with air travel, and to a large extent with telecommunications -- deregulation has been an utter fiasco in practice. The benefits have been meager, and the abuses have been major.

They worried that the Vatican would secretly control JFK. With Bush, it's not the Vatican we should be worried about -- it's the Economics Department at the University of Chicago.

Shifting sands

Quite a few bloggers are moving their weblogs these days. Ernie the Attorney, one of my earliest regular blog reads, just switched over to TypePad, and his formerly Radio blog is now over there. There's a photo of him posted now, too. Funny, I never pictured him like that.

He mentioned my recent move this morning, and so here's tit for tat (no Google bait intended).

Saturday, August 16, 2003

Paradise by the dashboard light

Most of those pictures of the midtown Manhattan skyline in the blackout were taken from the same spot -- in Hamilton Park, across the Hudson River in Weeehawken, New Jersey. Little wonder -- up on a lofty bluff, it's the best view of midtown you're ever going to get.

I remember this locale with particular fondness. Not because it's the site of the duel in which Aaron Burr shot and killed Alexander Hamilton, although indeed it is the place. Rather, I think back to the many nights when I'd cruise to my girlfriend's house in Jersey City in my VW Beetle, pick her up, and we'd take a ride up that way to look at the lights of the city.

We would then proceed to make out like crazy up there.

So many songwriters have sought to capture that kind of night. Bob Seger and his beauty were in the alley or in the trusty woods, "working on mysteries without any clues." Meat Loaf and his girl struggled -- "Let me sleep on it" vs. "I wanna know right now, do ya love me?" Springsteen sang about the barefoot girl and the magic rat: "Together they take a stab at romance and disappear down Flamingo Lane." Much more recently, Joni Mitchell looked back on it lovingly: "Rock 'n' roll in the dashboard / Romance in the back of / Ray's Dad's Cadillac."

For that Jersey City girl and me, it was up on Boulevard East in Weehawken, at Hamilton Park. In the yellow Volkswagen. "Soul engines running through a night so tender."

Friday, August 15, 2003

A voice I trust

My friend and former partner Greg Macpherson, who embodies the rare "Cincinnatus spirit" in the Oregon Legislature, provides this fair and balanced update on the goings-on in the State Capitol:

One week ago, the current legislative session won the distinction of becoming the longest in Oregonís history. As a freshman member of the House, representing Lake Oswego and part of Southwest Portland, that was a not a record I wanted us to set.

The session goes on and on because the legislature has a constitutional duty to adopt a balanced state budget for the two years that started July 1, 2003. Despite passing that starting date six weeks ago, the legislature has yet to agree on a budget.

The impasse results from simple math. The stateís projected revenues fall far short of paying for basic services like schools, public safety and human services.

Virtually all legislators agree that the state must find new revenue to balance the budget. But they do not agree on how much new revenue to raise and where it will come from.

Last week the House Republicans and Democrats each selected four of their members to form a new negotiating group to seek a compromise. As one of the four Democrats selected to negotiate the budget, I have spent long hours discussing essential service levels and how to pay for them.

The greatest area of disagreement is over how much state support to provide for K-12 schools. Democrats seek enough funding to assure a full school year, manageable class sizes, and restoration of some programs cut in recent years. House Republicans say Oregon cannot afford that funding level.

The sides also disagree about how to generate new revenue. House Republicans propose that much of the needed revenue be taken from reserve funds and by selling bonds. Reserve funds have been set aside for dedicated purposes, such as fighting forest fires and assisting injured workers. Bonds are just another form of borrowing that must be repaid.

I regard such methods as fiscally irresponsible. Those who want to use them are like a family faced with a budget squeeze that cashes in their retirement plan and runs up the balance on their credit cards. Instead, a family member should find an extra part-time job to pay for essential needs that current income cannot cover.

Our disagreements result from a basic difference in philosophy. My Republican colleagues sincerely believe that public services, such as school funding, should be cut at a time when Oregonís economy is suffering. Some of them say the public sector should feel the same pain as the private sector.

I believe our economy cannot recover unless we maintain good public services -- especially a high quality school system. If business owners and managers decide Oregon provides a second-rate education, they will locate elsewhere.

That philosophical debate is playing out at both ends of the Capitol. Our negotiations in the House have a parallel group of Republicans and Democrats in the Senate also negotiating over the budget.

Late last week, the Senate negotiators achieved a break-through agreement over a spending level and the revenue needed to pay for it. But before it can be adopted, that agreement must be approved by both the House and the Senate. Finding a consensus is complicated by the fact that the Oregon constitution was amended a few years ago to require approval by 60 percent of the Senators and Representatives for measures that raise revenue, rather than by the normal majority.

August is proving to be a long, hot month in Salem. While many Oregonians enjoy a summer vacation, their legislature struggles on.

Fair and balanced

If there's one thing I pride myself on, it's being fair and balanced.

The morning after

The lights will hardly be back on a few hours when the chanting begins: "Safe. Clean. Nuclear power. No foreign oil. No more blackouts. Safe. Clean. Nuclear power."

In fact, the mantra was already on the New York Times op-ed page the morning of the blackout.

Thursday, August 14, 2003

Spooky night

Unless the power comes on in a hurry, it's going to be an eerie night in New York, Detroit, Cleveland, and other cities affected by the big blackout.

I remember the East Coast blackout of '65. The overwhelming impression: dark. Really dark. Inky dark. And quiet. Dead silence, only the sounds of gas-powered vehicles. You turned on the battery-powered transistor radio, and got only white noise.

Tonight people in the 'burbs back there will get quite a view of the close-up Mars, and the back end of the Perseid meteor shower, competing with the suddenly welcome light of the almost-full moon.

But it will be hot -- sticky, nasty hot.

Heaven help the laboring moms, the people in emergencies who can't get help, the people who are going to be tempted to do something awful while the lights are out.

Here's hoping for a quick restoration of power, some great photos, and some great posts later on Parkway Rest Stop.

UPDATE, 10:49 pm: As I hoped, Parkway Rest Stop has the story, and the AP has some pretty nice photos.

UPDATE, 3:31 am: The Times also has some good shots in a slideshow marked "More Photographs" on Friday's front page.

The good news is...

At least he didn't try to take it home in his pants pocket.

The new Evil Empire

There was a brief but absorbing dialogue today on a tax law professor bulletin board to which I subscribe. The good part started when one of my fellow tax profs spoke out against the anti-tax movement, but his thoughts were of broader import. He mused:

There are polls conducted over long periods of time in which people are asked (1) Is the government on your side? (2) Is it captured by special interests? (3) Is it doing a good job?

In 1962, the answers to all three (both posed negatively and positively) were 80% in favor of the government. Only outliers, the silly 20%, were anti-government.

If you ask the same set of questions now, 80% answer the questions against the government and only 20%, old-fashioned folks, are pro-government.

Our social fabric is falling apart, and an ornery stick-in-your-face attitude rules the land. There are countries where the government will do nothing except for a bribe, which tortures its citizens and suppresses its gross national product, that get higher ratings than the US government does. We have replaced our assumption that the extended republic will best protect the rights and interests of the people (Madison) with the assumption that all politicians are corrupt and evil. We have transferred our anger at the evil empire from the USSR to the US. We will cut off its allowance, starve its employees, and strangle it at the root. If you want to know why you get better service from McDonald's than the IRS, it may be because the McDonald's people are getting paid more, both in psychic reward and money. We have seen the enemy and he is US.

(You can see I come from another planet, namely 1962. Those were the golden years.)

The responses were just as interesting, including this one:

None of this is a surprise. My American Civilization professor predicted it back in 1971 (perhaps not as gilded an age but it shone nonetheless). He was the renowned Dr. Anthony N.B. Garvin, and his premise was simply that the nation's culture was becoming overwhelmed by a self-focused absorption.

He died before he had a chance to comment on the materialistic 80s, the opportunistic 90s, and the whatever-we'll-call-it 00s. What little sense of "good for civilization and society" that remains just doesn't have the strength to shift the culture. It will take something far more of a culture shock than what's been transpiring during the past few years. Yes, there are kind, caring, law-abiding, generous people, but most are, as [X] explains, turned off by government that is under the control of a few wealthy and powerful cliques, of all political stripes, and that has lost sight of the Cincinnatus philosophy of the founders. Positions in government, especially the elected ones (and predominantly in the federal and state legislatures), are viewed less and less as opportunity to do civic duty and instead as power objects in and of themselves.

So the tax system is falling apart. It needs to be changed. But protest in the form of rebellion (passive or active) isn't helpful when the protesters offer no alternatives. In my "dialogues" with them I ask them to explain how government and society would work if there were no taxes, or no income tax, and there is no response. None. So I don't view the movement as a reform movement, in or out of the system, but as the "withdrawal from responsibility" that found its modern cultural origins in the protective isolationism of the 50s. So in my "dialogues" I invite protesters to withdraw to some island, create a government, and to invite me to visit when it's up and running smoothly. No response, of course.

Nothing that I see in the Congress, in politics, in the media, in popular culture, in the attitudes of my students, and in the mentalities I saw on my 9000+ mile cross-country driving adventure this summer gives me reason or hope to think anything will change for the better in the near future. I fear that in 2030, if we live that long, we may end up calling the 00s the golden years (and 1962 and 1971 as platinum).

To which another replied:

The relentless anti-tax rhetoric that the public has been subjected to since the infamous Roth hearings and the presidential election that followed greatly exacerbates the problem, as do economic policies that see tax cuts as the solution to every problem. In an environment that vilifies taxation, becoming a tax protester (or purchasing a tax shelter) is simply a do-it-yourself way of achieving the end which the even the president says is good: pay less taxes.

The anti-tax spirit is alive and well at the highest policy levels. For a frightening look at how policy is made and where it is going, I commend to you the interview with Grover Norquist which is featured in the Summer issue of the Tax Section NewsQuarterly, currently in the mail.... Norquist is the president of Americans for Tax Reform, and is thought by many to be one of the most influential men in Washington.

Which brought on:

One funny thing about many people in the anti-tax crowd was brought out in the article in last Sunday's NY Times Magazine about Stephen Moore (who tut-tuts about new spending, but rather indulgently). They appear not to understand basic long-term budget constraints, under which a dollar of added government outlays today, if it doesn't reduce expected future outlays (which more likely it would increase), implies added taxes with a present value of a dollar.
Someone then made a crack about Arnold and Warren Buffett, but it turns out that Buffett himself spoke out eloquently against the dividend tax cut.

Some smart people in this post, folks. It's amazing that I get paid to read what they say.

Wednesday, August 13, 2003

An open letter to Dwight Jaynes

Dear Mr. Jaynes:

I'm writing to you as publisher of The Portland Tribune. This is in reference to yesterday's front-page story in the Trib about the potential for gang violence in North and Northeast Portland. Even assuming that this story merits a screaming banner headline, what purpose is served by running a large, sexily lit photo of an identified gang member on the front page, above the fold?

Don't you think this kind of treatment glamorizes the gang life to impressionable young people? Perhaps I can understand the need for the warnings, but do we have to turn the gangsters into celebrities?

If it were a different publication, I'd accuse you of using sensationalism to sell papers, disregarding the harm it can cause. But your paper's free, so I guess the harm is all there is.

This reminds me of your similar "inside the mind of Ward Weaver" feature from last year's holiday season. You gave an attention-desperate accused murderer exactly the coverage he craved.

In general, the Trib deserves all the awards it gets. It's a great contribution to the life of our city. But please stop marring its record with irresponsible practices such as this.

A faithful reader,
Jack Bogdanski

If they don't win it's a shame

The proponents of building a major league baseball stadium in Portland (which I support) have been doing some maneuvering down in Salem. The old financing bill, HB 3606, has apparently been abandoned, and the new bill is Senate Bill 5.

I think they used the old "gut and stuff" procedure in the House -- odd, but neither sinister nor unusual. They take a bill that's already been passed by the other house, delete its entire contents, insert new contents, and vote on it. If the new version passes the second chamber (here, the House), it then goes back to the original chamber (here, the Senate). At least, I think that's how it goes.

Anyway, the amended Senate Bill 5 has apparently been approved by a committee in the House. Now it has to be passed by both the full House and Senate. The House approved the old baseball bill, and is likely to approve the new. In the Senate? Well, as best I can tell it's war.

The Senate President just labeled that fine legislative body a "disgrace." The governor is threatening to shut down the state unless the legislators grow up. The baseball backers are just hoping that the senators will stop poking each other in the eyes and knocking each others' heads together long enough to say yes to their financing plan.

You can read all about it (and send an e-mail to your state senator!) over at the Oregon Stadium Campaign website.

Tuesday, August 12, 2003

Pop quiz

Which Portland city bureau produces the most horse manure?

(a) Police Mounted Patrol

(b) Planning Bureau

The correct answer, by far, is (b).

A gangster halfway house across from a school on SE 13th is fine with these folks, but car dealerships on a six-lane highway like SE 122nd aren't. Let's turn the whole city into a wine and cheese bar. The last real business to leave can turn out the lights.

As usual, Randy Leonard's got it right. The rest of the council is apparently out looking for a latte.

Turning to politics

H: See us now und hear us later, vee are on zee ballot und vee are going to kick Gray Davis's girly heiny out of Sacramento!

F: Ja, vee vill wipe him up like so much baby poop!

Monday, August 11, 2003

Help! I need somebody...

If you're reading this, you've found my new weblog location. I've been fooling around with my new blogging tool, Movable Type (which, as my cousin James would say, can make one's hair hurt, even great hair like his). Now I've got the new location looking the way I want it to on my browser, Internet Explorer 6.

However, before I stop posting to my old Blogspot blog and move the official hit counter over here, I want to make sure that the new site looks right for my readers as well as for me.

So click around on the permalinks and comments, and leave me a comment here as to how everything looks.

Barring big problems, the formal "cutover" will be in a few days.

Thanks for your input.

UPDATE, 8/12, 3:24 pm: Well, hearing no objections, I pulled the trigger. The old site is officially shut down and everything new is going here from now on. Thanks for the comments, folks. It is great hearing from you.

Sticks and stones

John down at Poor Schmuck ripped into me the other day. Name-calling and everything. He didn't like my post about inappropriate siting of locally undesirable land uses (LULUs) in Portland neighborhoods. Nor did he approve of my praise for Rep. Earl Blumenauer's opposition to repealing the federal estate tax. And he takes issue with my opposition to the proposed third runway at Portland Airport.

I won't claw back with quite the same viciousness, but I would like to answer a couple of his criticisms. John found this "hilarious":

Here's Jack, the loyal liberal who is all for drug treatment, helping criminals ease back into society and helping the less fortunate, complaining about Drug Treatment Centers, Halfway Houses and Methadone clinics being built in his neighborhood.
John, I'm not "all for" methadone. It's being pushed on all sorts of people who could get off opiates altogether with the right treatment. Methadone is another very addictive, and potentially fatal, drug. It should be administered only as a last resort. And if it's going to be centralized in private clinics, those places belong in areas other than residential neighborhoods. Downtown would be good; the industrial central southeast part of town would also be good. Prescription by individual doctors or at hospitals would make even more sense. And if clinics have to go in residential neighborhoods, the neighbors should get a fair hearing ahead of time. Which they don't.

Gangster halfway houses in residential neighborhoods? No. Not in any residential neighborhood.

As for the estate tax repeal, I'm don't really see the relevance of my occupation (tax lawyer) or Earl Blumenauer's social status (rich heir, according to John). But if John wants to continue to send 40-50% of his salary to the revenuers while fat cats like Cheney pay 20% on the dividends they live off of, well, that's John's prerogative. It just sounds unfair to me.

Turning to the airport expansion, it's unnecessary and will greatly decrease the livability of the entire east side of Portland. (Except for a few folks right next to the airport, though, nobody's caught on yet.) If a new runway is needed -- and there's absolutely no evidence that it is -- it needs to get much further from town. I'm quite aware, John, that PDX was originally built on the outskirts of town. But it's in the middle of town now, and it shouldn't get any bigger or more obnoxious. They ought to bring those big noisy jets right into, say, Salem, coming in over... oh, I don't know... Albany?

John, I'm still waiting to buy you a burger and a Coke, shake your hand, and talk about all the things that we agree on. I'm not as liberal as you think.

UPDATE, 8/12, 2:07 am: There was a nice article in The New York Times (not John's favorite paper) on Monday about a new drug that promises to push methadone aside as the heroin addiction treatment option of first resort. It's called buprenorphine ("bupe" for short), and individual doctors prescribe it at their offices, not in those infernal methadone clinics. Between bupe and Medicaid cutbacks, some methadone clinics may go under. I will not weep for their owners.

Sunday, August 10, 2003


It's almost that time of year again.


Thought for the day

From pinktalk:

I hate people who are all, "I don't even own a teevee, I have trouble enough just keeping up with my subscription to The New Yorker!" Gag.

Saturday, August 9, 2003

Welcome to www.bojack.org

It's about time I had my own domain, just so I can be master of something. I plan to move my weblog over here (there's a month of my life up in smoke), and to use this site to stretch out my internet skills just a bit. But that's in the future. For now, catch up with me at either of these two places:

My primary home page

My weblog, "Jack Bog's Blog"

I hope to see you there!

Thursday, August 7, 2003

Salem spotlight

The latest news on another fine member of the Oregon Legislature.

Earl for Mayor, not

One reason why I hope my congressman, Earl Blumenauer, doesn't run for mayor is that he's doing a darn fine job in Congress. I kid you not -- he's as good back there as they come.

Just take his view on repeal of the federal estate tax, which is lusted after by the White House and all its neocon buddies. The Republicans have the public hoodwinked into thinking that the "death tax," as they put it, breaks up family farms and businesses. There's not a shred of evidence that it does that.

But what most people really don't get is that this tax affects only the super-rich. As Blumenauer amply demonstrated in a truth-telling floor speech earlier this summer:

I invited a number of tax professionals in my community, CPAs, tax attorneys, financial planners, to come down and talk to me about how the effect of this proposal actually works. It was fascinating, giving these people a grant of immunity, and I urge any of my colleagues to do the same with tax professionals in their community.

They said, number one, under existing law anybody who could not shield at least $5 million of an estate was really guilty of malpractice.

Number two, they said it was not the estate tax that broke up small business. It was idiot sons, and they said in their experience when they watch great inherited wealth after three generations, it looks like it becomes a genetic defect. It was fascinating what they told me, people who in the main were Republicans who work in this every day.

Anybody who's worth $5 million and has been paying income tax of only 15 percent on the living they make off dividends should have their kids chip in some more when they die. And the rest of us, who see 40 percent or more of our hard-earned wages go up in smoke every month, shouldn't.

And that's just how the estate tax works.

Earl gets it, and he knows how to call it. Too bad he's going to chuck the House and re-enter municipal politics.

Joke o' the Day

I love the internet. Here's one making the rounds:

An elementary teacher started a new job at a school in Los Angeles and trying to make a good impression on her first day, explained to her class that she's a Lakers fan. She asked the class to raise their hands if they too are Lakers fans. Everyone in the class raised their hand except one little girl.

The teacher looked at the girl with surprise and says: "Mary, why didn't you raise your hand?"

Mary replies, "Because I'm not a Lakers fan!"

The teacher, still shocked, asked: "Well, if you're not a Lakers fan, then who do you support?"

"I'm a Sonics fan, and proud of it," Mary replied.

The teacher could not believe her ears. "Mary, why are you a Sonics fan?"

"Because my mom and dad are from Seattle and my mom is a Sonics fan and my dad is a Sonics fan, so I'm a Sonics fan too!"

"Well," said the teacher, in an obviously annoyed tone, "that's no reason for you to be a Sonics fan. You don't have to be just like your parent all of the time. What if your mom was a prostitute and your dad was a drug addict and a car thief, what would you be then?"

Mary said, "I'd be a Blazers fan."

Good Link o' the Day

Izzle Pfaff is really on a roll right now.

Wednesday, August 6, 2003


Guess who just pleaded to conspiring to aid the Taliban, and will now do seven years in federal prison?

Man, I'm sure his buddies are a little embarrassed. "He's innocent! He's a nice guy! He's a scapegoat! There's no case!"


They missed one

The Portland Trail Blazers (new slogan: "We're still mediocre louts, but now we're on a budget") have announced a new contest to pick the best photo from the team's last season.

I urge you all to write in my favorite, which through some oversight has been omitted from the formal nominations:

On the street where you live

Over here in Northeast Portland we have a monthly "shopper" newspaper called The Hollywood Star. Portland has a Hollywood district, and that's what it's named after. The Star part is just a play on the usual connotations one has about things from Hollywood.

One thing the Star does extremely well is cover local land use issues. There's always a bunch of shenanigans going on with land use in the Rose City, and it's good to keep up with them. The periodic updates run several pages each issue.

The only downside of this feature is what it will do to your blood pressure if you're a taxpaying, law-abiding homeowner on the east side who would just like to retain the character of a nice neighborhood.

This time around we have a controversy a couple of blocks from where I used to live regarding the plan to knock down a recently abandoned nursing home and put up a new one that's about three times as tall. The neighbors hate the idea, but the owner is giving them the proverbial digit. If you don't like my supersized nursing home, he says, I'll lease the space to a drug treatment center. See how you like that. You signed up for a nursing home when you bought a house here, and you should have to live with one as big and as tall and as ugly as I want to make it.

Great neighbor, huh?

The locals have appealed to the City Hall planning bureaucrats, but the odds of them getting any help from that quarter are slim indeed. That's the same planning department that told the same neighborhood a few years ago that a commercially run halfway house for convicted gangsters straight out of prison is technically (I am not making this up) a "disabled" "family," and so the city couldn't keep it from locating in a residential neighborhood and a block from an elementary school. And the city didn't. And the neighbors moved.

I finally moved out myself after another commercial outfit sneaked a methadone clinic into the neighborhood over Christmas without so much as a courtesy notice to the neighborhood association. They're still there / He's all gone. In Portland, a methadone clinic, which brings 400 struggling heroin addicts and ex-addicts into a neighborhood every day, is zoned the same as a Baskin-Robbins.

I think we need a methadone clinic in the new North Macadam development. Let's spread the joy.

Then there's the airport, the infernal, constantly droning Portland Airport, that's pushing to expand, expand, expand, even though the economy here stinks and there's nobody new flying here. The Port of Portland (motto: "Megalomania in Government") is hell bent on sticking a new runway down the throats of about a quarter of the city, which doesn't want it. And the city seems poised to give the Almighty Port what it wants.

When homeowners complain about the noise, Portland government pulls out the oldest line in the book. {nasally voice of Mayor Katz} We don't control airport traffic. That's the FAA's responsibility. We don't run the airport. That's the Port of Portland. Here, let me transfer you. {/nasally voice of Mayor Katz} But here's the city's chance to say no the proposed monstrosity on all sorts of grounds that are appropriate, and the council's going to quietly say yes.

Folks, the airport is unfortunately located too close to the middle of the metropolitan area. It would never be built there today. If we need a new runway, put it at the Salem airport.

Why do we read about these issues only in offbeat papers like the Star and on cranky old Jack's weblog?

Because our municipal leaders have mastered the art of burying important livability concerns. They make deals in smoke-filled rooms long before you hear about them.

I'm sure the airport expansion is a done deal. The only item left on the to-do list is figuring out how to build it before anyone notices.

Oh, there'll be a public meeting on the new runway, all right. But the bulldozers will start building it first.

Tuesday, August 5, 2003

"Here's one you can hit, Jackie"

The last big male figure from my childhood has left us. From New Jersey comes word that my Uncle Bill has died.

Bill, married to my father's sister, was always around when I was a toddler and early grammar schooler. He and Aunt Eleanor had one child, a son, who is about my brother's age, and the three of us kids were buddies from the time the youngest could walk.

Bill, quick wit and chewed-up cigar always at the ready, would join my dad and us boys after supper for wiffle ball, and later hardball, out on the sandlot off the alley behind our house. Bill would lob in some nice fat pitches in his underhand style so that we kids could get good hits and run around the bases.

Every summer, the two families would head down the shore for two weeks, sharing a bungalow in Seaside Park. Nightly trips to the boardwalk, hours and hours getting burned on the beach or the crabbing dock on Barnegat Bay. If the crabs didn't bite, we'd go buy them, then spread out the newspapers and feast. Maybe a trip to the miniature golf course or the batting cages after supper. Card games, lots of card games, in those days.

And Bill had a great connection for tickets to the Yankee games. I will never -- ever! -- forget seeing the green grass of the Yankee Stadium outfield for the first time. It was a night game, and a kid named Bill Terry (or maybe it was Bill Stafford) pitched the Yankees to a 1-0 or 2-0 victory. The two dads and three sons cheered and watched for stray foul balls. And there were the big Sunday doubleheaders he took us to, with Mantle and Maris taking their bows before the adoring throngs as they hit 115 home runs between them one year.

When I blog here about Seaside, or the day JFK died, or riding down the Parkway with the radio on, Bill's in all those pictures. Asking for a receipt, always the receipt, at the Parkway toll booths. Reaching for it out the window of his big green Oldsmobile. Relighting an Antonio y Cleopatra for the third or fourth time.

When Bill's wife died at a heartbreakingly young age, some grownup disagreements (which I was mercifully out of the loop on) pushed him out of the frame. I didn't see him for more than 30 years, but I did catch up with him last summer at my dad's funeral.

I was so surprised to see him after all that time. I made sure to pat him on the back, and to tell him how much I now appreciated all the things he and my dad did for us boys when we were knee-high. I told him a couple of times.

That was one of the best things I've ever done.


The hideous aerial tram that will be built and run as part of the North Macadam development project is fast becoming the symbol of what many Portlanders feel are City Hall's misplaced priorities. In today's skinny Tuesday Tribune alone, there are two unflattering mentions of this Toy of the Rich Developers and Doctors.

Dwight Jaynes, publisher of the Trib, weighed in with these thoughts:

Just one brief mention of major league baseball last week, and the e-mails started anew. The city is getting ready to fork over something like a quarter of a billion bucks to developers for that South Waterfront improvement and it barely gets talked about.

I mean, we're getting ready to fund a tram down the side of the West Hills, just to keep the folks at OHSU happy. That's OK. We're going to provide money for development near the Willamette that not only will block a lot of people's view of the river but also will largely be millionaire housing.

But build a ballpark? Oh, heavens, there's so much alarm when the state has a chance to come up with $150 million that probably won't cost the taxpayers a dime.

What, those needle-nosed skyscrapers and that tram are more beneficial to the average citizen of Portland than major league baseball? Sorry, I don't think so. Not even close.

My sentiments exactly, Dwight.

Meanwhile, reader James Jenkins out in Randy Leonardland wrote this letter to the editor:

While the Portland City Council is planning on spending millions of dollars in public funds on the South Macadam Project -- a project that has seen little public review -- many of us on the east side of the Willamette River are wondering if the city limits now stop at the river.

Twenty years ago, residents on the east side were promised a main sewer line to be built down Southeast 174th Avenue. As the City Council continues to polish the Pearl District, we still wait for our promise to be fulfilled.

Our project can be built at a fraction of the cost of the Macadam project, yet time and again, residents are told there are no funds on the budget for our much-needed sewer line.

Maybe if residents demanded an aerial tram over 174th Avenue, we could get the city's attention. We don't need one, but it certainly captivates the City Council.

I hope these folks vote.

Back in Bloggerland

We're up and running again after a Blogspot outage of nearly two hours.

Outages drive bloggers nuts. I'm sure quite a few frustrated Blogspot customers spent their downtime wandering over and checking out Movable Type. I know I did.

Moving this blog is not something that I want to do. But for a number of reasons, it may be time.

Monday, August 4, 2003

Good judgment

It is reliably reported that my friend Rives Kistler, currently a judge of the Oregon Court of Appeals, is being promoted to the Oregon Supreme Court. He'll serve at least until an election scheduled for 2004.

This is a great appointment by the governor. Kistler is a man of great intelligence, discretion, compassion, and integrity. He'll be impartial, fearless, restrained, and about as nonpolitical as a judge can be. The nomination will doubtlessly catch some flak because it leaves the court without a female member. But Kistler is a fine candidate for the position, and so, bravo, Ted.

Odd bedfellows

I don't often agree with Just Some Poor Schmuck, but I must admit I had the exact same reaction he did when he read this story.

The real stuff

A couple of stories in today's paper lend a little perspective to the start of the work week.

First, the body that was found on Mount Hood over the weekend isn't who they thought it was. They were looking for a fellow who got lost snowshoeing up there back in the snowy season. When they came upon a skeleton up where they were looking, the recovery team broke the news to the guy's loved ones. The word "closure" was all over the news Saturday night.

Well, closure ain't what it's cracked up to be... especially in this case. Upon further review, it turns out not to be that snowshoer's body. Now they're trying to figure out who it was that they found up there.

You've got to feel for the family. God help them.

Meanwhile, down in the valley, a train hit a car, killing a pregnant passenger in the auto. Her baby, however, survived after a caesarean. He's two and a half months premature, but at this writing, alive and kicking up on Pill Hill.

If you pray, there are lots of folks to do it for in that scenario, too.

You there, goofing off reading blogs at work. You been whining about your life? Take a good, clean, deep breath and count your blessings.

Verbum sapientibus

There's a nasty little intestinal bug making the rounds in Portland. Portlanders, wash your hands a lot, and be careful what you eat!

Sunday, August 3, 2003

Search o' the Day

Someone was here looking for:

new york times bill keller's first wife

Saturday, August 2, 2003

Do-it-yourself tax cut

We all know how enamored the Bush administration is with lowering taxes. But one of Bush's Tax Court nominees, Glen Bower (that's him on the far right), apparently has taken the grand old Republican passion a wee bit too far on his own tax returns. Apparently a few of his "business" expenses were so audacious, and his persistence in deducting them was so obnoxious, that now his nomination is, as his good buddy Bush Sr. would put it, "in deep kim chee."

As my grandmother used to say, "Show me your friends, and I'll show you who you are."

Friday, August 1, 2003


Cousin Jim has got the new logo up at his great blog, Parkway Rest Stop. It looks swell! Congrats to him.

Moving day

Man, I'm beat today -- the perfect mental and physical condition for a fun yard project like harvesting worm "doo."

As explained here previously, worms eat my garbage. Our compost bin is populated by thousands of redworms (the little guy on the left, not the larger nightcrawler on the right), who consume all our unwanted vegetable matter. There's about four years' worth of peels, eggshells, coffee filters, etc. in our bin right now, most of it reduced to a beautiful, odorless black compost by the digestive systems of our little buddies.

Some friends of ours recently bought their own compost bin, and I asked them if they wanted some worms to help them keep it going right. They said yes, and so was born today's project.

I opened up the little door at the bottom of the front side of our bin, scooped out a couple of buckets full of the contents, and sat down on a plastic yard chair to pull out the worms for our friends' bin. I dropped them, one or two at a time, into a plastic box lined with straw. The "castings" (there's a lovely euphemism) went onto a screen to dry out a little. That's the good part, and it's staying in our yard.

Nearly everything I worked through was useful. Just a few peach pits (they take a long time to break down) and a few bananas labels (they're forever) went into the trash. All the rest was either worms or doo.

It's not as ugly as it sounds. The rich, earthy stuff is easy to handle and seemingly neutral. Though one's hands get an evil-looking black in the process, the stuff washes right off. I used a garden hose and got it right down onto the rose bed.

There are neater ways to "harvest" the compost, but I actually enjoy pulling the little guys out by hand.

I can't wait to get that wonderful compost into our soil, and I can't wait to see our friends join the Worm Compost Movement.

And now it's time to put this barely functioning brain into siesta mode. Have a magical midsummer's weekend, everybody.

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