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

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December 2004 Archives

Friday, December 31, 2004

Home at last

Tomorrow or Sunday, we'll be seeing the photo of the first baby born in the new year. And as I do every year, I'll be thinking, "Dumb! Don't show me the first baby of the new year -- show me the last baby born in the old year."

I say this in my role as a tax lawyer. When a baby is born on Dec. 31, his or her parents get the same dependent tax deduction and child tax credit as if the baby had been born on the preceding Jan. 1. So the parents get a whole year's income tax benefit, even if they had to care for the baby for only a few seconds at the end of the calendar year. Parents of kids born at 12:01 a.m. on Jan. 1 have to provide a whole year's care for the same tax benefit in the year of the child's birth.

This is why you see so many very pregnant women splitting cords of wood on New Year's Eve. Their tax-savvy spouses are pushing them to get that tax deduction out into the world before midnight.

My soft spot for the last baby born in the year carries over into some other realms as well. I gave a lecture on the evening of Dec. 30, 1999 to a group of recent law school graduates who were preparing for the bar exam. It was a four-hour lecture, because tax is a complicated subject. No other West Coast state tests for tax knowledge on the bar exam, and thus it was a pretty safe bet that I had given the last tax lecture of the millennium on the entire planet, and the last bar review lecture of the millennium in the Lower 48.

Then there was the year that my Hood-to-Coast Relay team was part of the very last group to start the race at Timberline Lodge. The race organizers seed the fast teams toward the end, and except for me (who was there to provide comic relief in the van), the team I was on was darn fast. And so they started us in the last group.

As the weakest runner on the team, I was given the easiest series of race segments, runner no. 2. The first leg this runner handles is all downhill, from Government Camp to about five miles west. (The first leg -- Timberline to Govvie -- is not the place for a weak runner, because it's actually too steep a slope. You can fly down it with the huge assist from gravity, but injury is a real hazard because you're basically stopping yourself the whole way.)

As I stood in the dark with the other runners at the hand-off point in Government Camp at the start of our first segment, the runners from the first leg came churning in from their descent. The other teams had stacked some very speedy rabbits in my assigned leg, and as they took their teams' batons, the other folks with whom I had been standing around started absolutely flying downhill. I plodded along at my sickly, careful pace, while every single other runner passed me.

And that's when it hit me: Of all the thousands of runners in the Hood-to-Coast, I was the very last one. And as I couldn't pass anyone, I stayed in last place for the whole segment.

Tonight I likely racked up another "last" distinction, as I took a long (for me) run down to the east side of the Morrison Bridge along the Katz Esplanade. I wanted to be sure to break 200 miles run for the year 2004, and I was a couple of miles short with only a few hours left. So off I went. The rain was hard, the wind was brisk, the black water was choppy, and the temperature hovered around 40. There was literally not another soul on the esplanade between the Steel Bridge (where a couple of homeless guys were roaming around) and the Morrison (under which two more were hunkered down in their sleeping bags).

I love that run when I have it all to myself. And given how deserted it was, I suspect I may have been the last jogger of 2004 on that path. I'd like to think I was, anyway.

Here's to the last baby born in 2004. And a happy New Year for the rest of us.


For some prominent folks, the arrival of the new year won't be a happy time.

Thursday, December 30, 2004

Ted's good buddy

In case you haven't seen it, you owe it to yourself to take a look at the Salem Statesman-Journal's exposé of influence-peddling by disgraced former Gov. Neil Goldschmidt, and his domination of the agenda of current Gov. Ted Kulongoski. Among the findings in the newspaper's investigation:

- Kulongoski met with Goldschmidt and [his partner Tom] Imeson two dozen times in various venues and combinations during the 16-month period [from Kulongoski's January 2003 inauguration to May 2004, when Goldschmidt withdrew from public life]. That's more than he met with anyone else [including the Secretary of State or the Attorney General] except top legislative leaders and his staff.

- After Imeson directed Kulongoski's transition team -- a volunteer group that helped choose personnel and frame policies for the new governor -- he continued submitting names and feedback about potential Kulongoski staff members and executive appointments. With input from Goldschmidt, Imeson recruited or gave feedback about candidates for the Public Employees Retirement Board, State Board of Higher Education, Oregon Health and Science University Board, Board of Forestry, Port of Portland Commission, Northwest Power and Conservation Council and Public Utility Commission.

- Imeson doggedly pursued efforts to get client HealthWatch Technologies a state contract to track Medicaid overpayments. State managers were ordered to alter the selection process because of his pressure.

- Goldschmidt's firm set up two meetings among the governor, his staff and Bechtel and Parsons Brinckerhoff, two construction companies angling to build a major Columbia River bridge connecting Portland and Vancouver.

- Goldschmidt and Imeson lobbied Kulongoski on behalf of Weyerhaeuser after a federal jury found that the timber giant was monopolizing the alder log industry. After the consultants prepared talking points and arranged meetings with Weyerhaeuser officials, the governor voted the company's way in a State Land Board proceeding.

As the Portland Tribune pointed out in reporting on the Salem paper's series, the latter also revealed:

After Texas Pacific recruited Goldschmidt to head up its effort to buy PGE, [Imeson] arranged a dinner between Kulongoski and the firm's partners the night the deal was publicly announced.

Goldschmidt got the apparent boot from his back-room throne after his sex with a 14-year-old came to light. But the influence-mongering is just as immoral -- as if the whole state were his 14-year-old girl, ripe for the taking. And Ted was the state's caretaker while a lot of it was going on.

For a while there was some talk about the U.S. attorney, Karin Immergut, taking a look at some aspects of this. You wonder where she's looking.

If you don't stop Googling yourself, you'll go blind

It's time to do my duty once again as a shill for Marqui, the outfit that's paying bloggers (including me) to write about their communications management software (CMS).

Earlier this week, I delivered my bio to Marqui for posting on its paid blogger roster page. So far it hasn't shown up there, but here's what it said:

Jack Bogdanski is a law professor in Portland, Oregon, who has been blogging since July 2002. He writes about most aspects of his life on his general-interest site. He is not a techie or a marketer, doesn't generally do product reviews, and is being kept on the Marqui paid-blogger roster as part of some sort of affirmative action program or tax writeoff.
That pretty much sums it up. The rest of the crew seem to know way more about this CMS stuff than I ever will. They're able to evaluate Marqui's services much more critically than I.

Anyway, Marqui feeds its shills stories every week with the not-so-subtle suggestion (but not the requirement) that we write about the same topics. This week they sent along a "whitepaper" on something called SEO. Typical geeks, with the acronyms. This one stands for "search engine optimization" -- in other words, how to make your site appear often, and high up, when internet surfers run word searches on Google and other search engines.

I've always gotten a kick out of this blog's placement on Google. When I check through the hit counts every now and then, I always poke around to see what readers were searching for when they landed here. I come in high up in the returns for all sorts of interesting queries, some of them downright comical. Unfortunately, the word "bog" is slang for toilet in some part of the world -- Australia, perhaps -- and so there are some fair doses of potty humor and downright perversion in the mix. "Cr*p in a bog" -- I'm No. 1 for that one on Google. But others are more flattering -- for example, appropriate to the date of this post, I'm proud to be No. 4 currently for "six geese a laying."

Over the years, I've also deliberately tried to move my way up in the rankings by using phrases that fake out the search engines. For example, I'm No. 1 for "Joey Harrington nude," and No. 6 for "Annika Sorenstam nude." And I'm part of a cabal that has made the true meaning of "wretched civic failure" plain to all the world.

It's no surprise, then, that money-making concerns deliberately set up their pages to reel in the search engine fish. Marqui's paper explains to someone thinking about this for the first time how it can best be done. Of course, Marqui has a solution to all one's search engine-manipulating needs: hire Marqui. You were expecting them not to say that?

If you'd like to see the whitepaper, you can go here, but be ready to give a name and e-mail address.

(Note: I'll be mentioning Marqui at least once a week on this blog, at least through mid-March. As noted here, they're paying me to do it. My other Marqui post is here. You no like Marqui posts? You no read.)

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

I have no idea

People send me crazy stuff in the e-mail. Here is a link to a home video to accompany (I'm told) a song by Romanian pop sensation Ozone.

Watch at your own risk

There are three problems with this video:

1. It takes a long time to load.

2. The server that it's on is likely going to pull it because it's eating up so much bandwidth.

3. If you watch it, you may not sleep too well for a while.

(From waxy.org.)

The guy who put Baby in the corner...

...has gone off to the big Catskills Resort in the Sky.

Jerry Orbach was one of our favorite actors. He had the classic face and voice of the Big Apple. So long, pal.

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Take this

The law school at which I teach is starting off the new year by throwing a major confab next Wednesday, Jan. 5, on Ballot Measure 37. This is the now-enacted law that requires land use regulators in Oregon to pay property owners money when new regulations (or new enforcement of old regulations) decrease the values of the owners' property. (It's the end of Oregon as we know it -- but don't get me started on that today.)

The "Measure 37 Summit," as it's being called, will be an all-day affair at the Oregon Convention Center (come and hear the wind whistle through Vera's White Elephant), with a live webcast available as well. Early registration ends tomorrow, Dec. 29. For more information, go here.

'Nother hap'nin' gal

I don't know how I've been missing The Littlest Blog. The author's had her own blog going for nearly a year, and she writes well.

Monday, December 27, 2004

I almost missed it

Hysterically witty law student blogger Jeremy Blachman was profiled in The New York Times yesterday.

New plan

Last year I wrote that my former co-worker, Greg Jenner, was working as one of the Bush Administration's top tax policy wonks. This past summer, he was nominated to be the Numero Uno tax policy official for the Bushies, and he was serving in that capacity on an "acting" basis. But Jenner, a former Portlander, was never confirmed for the permanent position by the Senate, and now he's abruptly resigned to return to private practice.

Hope everything's o.k. with Greg. Given my antipathy toward the Bush tax "ideas," I'm glad he's no longer involved.

(Another excellent tax news tip from TaxProf Blog.)

Schmuck's talking schmack

I'm starting to worry a little about John Dunshee, a.k.a. Just Some Poor Schmuck. Last week he railed about the "bum" who, in John's view, got what he deserved when he was shot to death while panhandling in downtown Portland. O.k.... assuming we can get on his wavelength about that... today he's on the Portland City Council's case for their plan to restrict sales of fortified wine and 40-ounce bottles of malt liquor in the St. Johns neighborhood.

John, let me put it to you in words you might use yourself: They're trying to run the drunken bums out of that neighborhood.

Does that help?

Sunday, December 26, 2004

How we look

Here's a new Portland photo site.

Tidings of comfort and joy

Linda has got a great Christmas story.

Saturday, December 25, 2004

God rest ye merry

The Ghost of Christmas Present is here, and he's in great shape. Big, round, fat, sassy, funny. After about the eighth glass of wine last night, we also spent a little time with the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come.

But mostly these days I'm communing with Christmas Past. As my bride and I share the holidays with our children, I see how the impressions of the season are made. And I think back fondly on the folks who made those impressions on me -- my grandparents, parents, aunts, uncles and family friends. They made do with so much less than we have today, and in many ways they managed to give us more.

Only a few of them are still on the planet, but tonight we'll drink a toast to all of them, here and gone. Their spirits are still very much with us, and for that we are most grateful.

Friday, December 24, 2004

Merry Christmas

There were in the country shepherds, who stayed out in the field watching over their flocks all night. And the Angel of the Lord came down to them, and a bright light shone all around them, and they were afraid. But the Angel said to them, "Fear not, for I bring you good news that shall give joy to all people. There is born for you this day, in the city of David, a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this is the way you shall know him: You shall find him wrapped in swaddling clothes, and lying in a manger."

When the Angel had said this, suddenly there were many other angels with him, who praised God, saying, "Glory be to God on high, and on Earth peace, good will toward men."

After the angels had gone from them up into heaven, the shepherds said, "Let us go now to Bethlehem and see these things the Angel has told us about." And they went quickly and found Mary and Joseph and the Babe lying in a manger. And they saw the child, and afterward went out and told others what the Angel had said to them. Everyone they told wondered at what they said. Then the shepherds returned to their flocks again, praising God for what they had seen and heard.

Internet classic

If you haven't seen this, set aside a few minutes and go over to check it out while it's still up: A frame-by-frame recreation of Michael Jackson's "Thriller" video.

The cast?

All Lego figures. (Via UtterlyBoring.com.)

Everything's fine, go about your shopping

More details are available today on the fatal shooting outside the downtown Meier & Frank store yesterday morning. It turns out that both the shooter and the victim were at least borderline mentally ill and homeless.

The Oregonian's spin, of course, is that everything's o.k., downtown is still wonderful, this could have happened anywhere, it's safer than L.A., bad timing with the holidays and all, but let's go back to our grand plans of streetcars, high-end hotels, aerial trams, and tax-free condo towers.

Swept under the newspaper's enormous rug is the fact that Portland has far too little by way of meaningful treatment for the thousands of mentally ill folks who fill our jails and walk our streets frightening people. Ex-Police Chief Mark Kroeker hit the nail right on the head some time back when he remarked that we have "open air mental health treatment" in this city.

That and an aerial tram. The Great Legacy.

Sing along

It's still my favorite.

Thursday, December 23, 2004

Business decision

[An office adjoining a workshop at the North Pole. An elderly gent in a red union suit is behind the desk. He has a pencil behind one ear and is holding a red land phone to the other. His back is turned to the computer screen.]

SC: Heck no, I'm not thinking about retiring. No way! I'm as healthy as a horse.... Actually, it's getting easier, because the toys are so much lighter. In the old days, the stuff weighed a ton. The old Radio Flyer wagons would give you a hernia. And some kid who deserved a record player would break your back. Nowadays, we do most of the stuff in plastic, and geez, a JuiceBox hardly weighs a pound or so... No, I never get tired of it. [Enter Elf.] It gets better every ye -- hey, Safire, my computer guy just walked in. I've got to go. I'll catch up with you after the New Year.... Give my love to that babe Maureen Dowd, will ya?... Atta boy.... Merry Christmas to you, too. [Hangs up.]

Fascist old coot. Hey there, Bruce, did you get my message?

Elf: I got here as soon as it came across my Blackberry.

SC [turning to computer screen]: Well, it's Excel again. I had both the "Naughty" and "Nice" sheets open, and I was having trouble. The Ferguson kids hid their grandfather's toupee the other night, and I was trying to move them all from one sheet to the other all at once. I tried to click and drag, but that just screwed everything up.

Elf: O.k., let's do this together. Highlight the rows with the Ferguson kids in them.... Good. Now right-click. No, right-click there. Click on "Cut." Now go over to the "Naughty" sheet -- no, wait! You don't want to put your cursor there. That will erase the row you're on. Go down to the bottom of the sheet. Wow, that's a long list for "Naughty."

SC: A lot of Republicans on there.

Elf: You might want to think about using Paradox for this next year. O.k., there. Now paste it.

SC: Then can I hit the A-to-Z to [phone rings] -- wait, I've got to take this.... Hello? Oh hi, Heather.... About the homecoming on Saturday afternoon. Yeah. Two whole chickens, they've got to be hot. Irish soda bread, that's right. The real stuff.... A case of Heineken, four cold bottles of Moet.... Yes. And make sure the hot tub is running at 105.... Fine.... Hey, is Shirley there? I want to make sure she's got the travel all set up.... Well, have her call me when she gets back.... Great, see you then. [Hangs up.]

All right, so where were we? O.k., then I hit the button A-to-Z and it reshuffles it? There. What a pain. All right, thank you, your geekiness.

Elf: Santa, while I'm up here, we need to talk seriously about the situation down in I.T.

SC: Now? Twenty-four hours before Christmas? For cryin' out loud, Bruce, we've jacked up your budget higher than anybody else's around here. At some point, we've got to draw the line on the cash flow out.

Elf: I know, sir, but I don't think we're getting enough bang for our buck. Whenever we work on one part of the system, some other part falls out of date. Every time something happens, it seems like we have to get the same information out 10 different times and 10 different ways. Your blog is getting stale, the subscriber list is out of date, we've got to file reports with all the charity regulators -- we can't do everything at once with the setup we've got now.

SC: So what should we do, then? I can't handle this kind of decision. It's what I pay you for --

Elf: I've been looking into subscribing to some software -- [Phone rings.]

SC: Hold on, this could be Shirley.... Hello? Shirley? Have you got itinerary set yet?.... No, it's got to be Max's place on Flamenco Beach.... Ten nights should do it.... I don't care what it costs. Tell him I want the upstairs unit.... Just me and Mrs. Claus.... Great. And tell them to keep the lights on so that we can find that confounded airstrip. That hairpin turn right at the end is a doozie.... Great. Thanks a lot, Shirley. Merry Christmas to you, too. [Hangs up.]

They don't make them like that any more, my friend.

Elf: There's been a marketing guy hanging around from an outfit called Marqui. They say they have communications management software that could help us.

SC: Wait. Break it to me gently -- what are they going to charge?

Elf: They say maybe five grand to start, then maybe a grand a month.

SC: Huh. And I suppose they're paying you to make this pitch to me?

Elf: Actually, yes, but I can still be objective. Besides, we've spent more and gotten less over the years.

SC: Tell you what. Let's meet with these Marqui guys. But not until I'm back from Culebra. In fact, let's make it after the Super Bowl. Can you hold it together with gum and scotch tape 'til then?

Elf: Sure.

SC: Great. Now if you'll excuse me, son, I've got to get ready for tomorrow night. It's going to be one of the craziest routes yet. Thank goodness for Mapquest.

This sums it up

The outgoing mayor of Portland suffered a dislocated shoulder yesterday from patting herself on the back so vigorously over the long-overdue plan to do something with the downtown Meier & Frank department store. Right in keeping with the ongoing reality disconnect at City Hall, the plan is to turn the upper floors of the store into a chi-chi hotel.

Meanwhile, outside the store, we continue to have festive holiday scenes like this. All part of The Legacy.

Station ID needed

Yesterday afternoon and evening (say, from 5 to 7) I heard some of the most interesting Christmas music ever, on the radio at 1450 AM here in Portland. Does anybody know who was DJ'ing that? As best I can tell looking around this morning, it was either KBPS (public radio) or KPSU (Portland State).

Whoever it was, it was great.

Age has its privileges

Yesterday I braved the Christmas shopper traffic and got the gift that everybody wants this year.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

You know what's really fun?

Introducing a 4-year-old to "Nuttin' for Christmas" and "Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer."

Nothing like a little silliness to take the edge off the holiday rush.

Holy smoke

The interesting photos keep a-pourin' in today. Check out this Christmas card from the Yamhill County Interagency Narcotics Team:


Our photo of Mr. and Mrs. Lars Larson prompted a lot of commentary here yesterday. Blogger Chris Snethen sends along another photo, which he says is of Mrs. Larson at a Republican victory party last election night:


I read in the paper the other day that Portland Commissioner Randy Leonard is recuperating from "routine prostate surgery."

That's a contradiction in terms if I ever heard one. Fireman Randy, best wishes for a speedy recovery. I don't ever want to read in the paper about that region of your anatomy again.

Except maybe the brass parts, heh heh.

Musical interlude

The sounds of the season are all around us.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Hey hey, ho ho, we don't want your Home De-pot

If you oppose the concept of a Home Depot or other big-box retail bomb on the east end of the Burnside Bridge, here's a place where you can go to join like-minded folk taking action.

While you're at it, tell the PDC to come up with a new idea for housing besides condo towers. Even the groovy "third option" for the site has one or two of those. Ah heck, don't get me started, it's Christmas.


Twisty's back!

Now that's a nice Christmas present.

Changing of the guard

Looks like things are heating up a bit at Portland City Hall. No wonder. It's a historic time over there.

Fa la la la la

Got an e-Christmas card this morning from blue Oregon's favorite couple.

'Tis the season of sharing, so now you have it too.

CLE time

As a lawyer, I'm required by law to undergo 15 hours of continuing legal education, or CLE, every year. Now, as a tax law specialist I spend way more than that amount of time just keeping up with the constant changes to the tax laws, but under the CLE requirement, most of the time that I spend treading water with the Internal Revenue Code doesn't count. I've also got to spend time listening to others talk about new developments in the law.

To insure compliance, the rules require every active member of the Oregon bar to submit a report every three years, laying out his or her CLE activities for the triennial period just concluded. And it so happens that my cycle ends this year, and so I'm putting together now my CLE list for the period Jan. 1, 2002 through Dec. 31, 2004.

As usual, I'm quite a few hours shy of the 45-hour minimum, especially in the mandatory areas of ethics, child abuse reporting, and "elimination of bias." Thus, during the final two weeks of the year, I'm engaging in the festive solstice ritual of Listening to Audiotapes of CLE Presentations Past. From here to New Year's Eve, on my sound system Johnny Mathis's "I'll be Home for Christmas" and Guy Lombardo's "Auld Lang Syne" are being pushed aside for some fascinating spoken-word material. Yesterday it was "Child Abuse Reporting -- Recognizing the Danger Signs." Today, just to spice things up, I think we'll go with "25+ Years of Female Litigators in Portland's Major Law Firms" -- a scintillating three-hour program. After that it's "Annual Ethics Update," and maybe a hearty helping of "Estate Planning: Fixing the Common Problems."

Woo hoo. Happy Festivus.

Monday, December 20, 2004

Double fantasy

For the second year straight, I've been killing time by participating in fantasy pro basketball. This year I'm in two different leagues put together by Tony Pierce of busblog fame. And this week, I'm proud to say, after seven weeks of competition, both my teams are in first place out of 16.

Sunday, December 19, 2004

But do you recall?

Last year we reprinted a nice column by our favorite church lady about Santa Claus. This year, Comentario Loco has steered us to this backgrounder on the most famous reindeer of all.

Dust 'em off

One great thing about Christmas posts is that they're like Christmas decorations. You can pull them out year after year, and they're still good. In fact, the older they get, the better. You mix in a few new ones, but you can't be shy about hanging up the proven performers. Like this one. Or this.

He's back

I knew from personal experience that it would be hard for him to stay away. And so Rob of AboutItAll-Oregon has announced that he's going to resume blogging.

Good for him. Good for us.

Friday, December 17, 2004

Mr. Velveeta

Some people just can't take a joke. But today I met someone who can.

Kevin Cosgrove is the editor-in-chief of OregonLive.com, the well known website owned and operated by the same folks who bring us The Oregonian. From time to time, folks in the local blogosphere rag on that site pretty hard. Most of the criticism has to do with the difficulty readers have getting at the content of the newspaper via the site. And even when bloggers find something good on it and blog about it, we tend to take a slap at the site in passing.

Not too far back, while mentioning a good blog hosted by OregonLive, I called it and the paper "all the same Velveeta to me."

Cosgrove promptly sent me an e-mail message entitled "Mr. Velveeta here." Next thing I knew, he and I were having lunch together (his treat -- my second blatant conflict of interest in a single day) and discussing various aspects of the blogosphere, his site included.

My conclusion? OregonLive's current state reflects major, major corporate politics. The Advance (formerly Newhouse) publishing empire is feeling its way into the digital age very slowly, being careful to come up with a platform from which all the players in its multi-faceted operation can work together smoothly. It's a daunting task. And of course, the tight-fisted, closely held giant is not about to buy a system from Microsoft if it thinks it can devise one on its own.

So don't expect OregonLive to look like The New York Times site any time soon, or ever for that matter. But expect it to improve, slowly but surely.

Thanking Cosgrove for lunch, I vowed not to call him Mr. Velveeta any more. No, no, he said, please do.

My kind of guy.

Who are these guys?

In the nearly two and a half years that this blog has been up and running, I've been bragging that I don't take ads, and promising that I won't.

Well, now I'm breaking that promise -- sort of.

You may have read about an outfit called Marqui that is paying bloggers to blog about it. It's based in Vancouver, B.C., but I hear it's about to open up shop right here in Portland. Anyway, Marqui sells a service that techies call a CMS -- I think traditionally that's meant "content management software" but Marqui prefers to call it "communication management software." (Can you tell how clueless I am about this?) If you'd like to see and hear an animated demo of what it's about, just go here.

The Marqui folks think they've got a great product (I think it's more a service than goods), and they were looking for a cool way to spend a few hundred thousand bucks to spread the word about it. And that's where the bloggers come in. Rather than buy traditional advertising, Marqui has decided to see if it can get itself mentioned on some established blogs, rack up some Google hits, and reach its audience a different way (and perhaps a slightly different audience as well). The novelty of the approach is also likely to attract some free publicity. Sounds edgy, but it's got potential.

When I heard about the program a week or two ago, and with two college funds always in the back of my mind, I e-mailed Marqui to inquire, and well, here I am on the roster. As of today, there are just over 20 of us bloggers who have been offered, and taken, the bait.

So what does it mean for this blog? Well, for the next three months, once a week I must make, as the lawyers put it, a "textual mention (with URL link) about Marqui and its Communication Management Software." I've also got to put a Marqui logo up, which I've done. As far as I can tell, that's it, and Marqui says "it wishes to give [me] the freedom to make any comments, positive or negative, about [their] service." Oh, and I'm encouraged to learn more about the company and its customers, about which Marqui will no doubt be educating me beyond my wildest dreams.

Why would I do this? It's several hundred bucks a month, but it's also intruding into the very body of the blog -- my precious little journal. I'm reminded of one of my favorite albums as a kid, "The Who Sell Out." Is it worth it?

Well, for one thing, I don't think it will be too intrusive. All I have to do is mention these folks and link to them once a week. I'll probably do more, but that's up to me. Besides, this makes me feel like a professional writer again -- paid to go out on assignment, as it were -- and I like that.

But perhaps most importantly, this could be the start of a new phase in the evolution of blogs. Blogging is like rap music: It was looked down upon by the established artists when it first appeared, but it's here to stay. There could come a day when it takes a serious bite out of the advertising industry. And if it does, it will be kind of neat to have been there at the dawn of that trend.

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Radio news

Bloggers will be the subject of a half-hour OPB radio show starting tomorrow at 4:30 p.m. In Portland, that's at 91.5 FM. The guests on the panel will be... well, why not just tune in and hear for yourself?

Elsewhere, rumor has it that Portland City Commissioner Randy Leonard and a fellow named Larry George are going to host a weekly radio show called "Oregon Crossfire" every Sunday morning from 7 to 9 on KXL (750 AM in Portland). It's a little early, but likely worth waking up for.

The morning after

Thanks to everyone who made yesterday's Buck-a-Hit Day such a success. We reached our goal of 1,250 hits just before 3 p.m., and we metered more than 1,800 hits for the day.

We're particuarly grateful to all the folks who put links on their blogs yesterday sending people here. In the order in which we noticed them, they include:

Various Observations in Written Form
Alas, a Blog
The Daily E-Mail
The Secret of This Girl (in the U.K.!)
Kalimar, who posted on LiveJournal
SM, who posted on Indiebride
Random Mentality
House of Swank
Thoughts from the Oasis amidst the Corn
Let's Try Freedom
A Nutter Blog
Sarah's Bloglet
Lean Left
Engineers Anonymous - California Chapter
Persistent Illusion
Tony Pierce/Busblog

Lots of new blogs for us to follow here (along with a couple of old favorites). We urge you to try them out, too. If we left someone off the list, please let us know and we'll get them mentioned here as well.

Last but not least, a special thanks to radio talk show host Lars Larson, who, bless his misguided little Republican heart, sent several large bursts of readers this way. We disagree with him most of the time, but he's got a following, and they did a nice thing here yesterday. Sincere thanks to him and to them.

And now, the most important part: We're off to write those checks.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

We did it!

We reached visit no. 1,250 of the day at 2:59 p.m. Which means that checks totaling $1,250 will soon be on their way out our door.

Thanks to everyone who has visited here today, and especially to those who have sent other readers this way. I'll post a complete list of contributors to the cause a little later today.

All day, as I've been thinking about how much fun this is for me, I keep calling to mind the real heroes -- the people who give of themselves without a blog, without any publicity, or without any credit whatsoever. They're the people we need to honor and thank the most.

UPDATE, 7:37 p.m.: The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak. I'm crashing, and will have to hold off on the thank you's until first thing in the morning. 'Til then, all you linkers out there know who you are, and how grateful I am.

Welcome to Buck-a-Hit Day II

Welcome to the second annual Buck-a-Hit Day on this blog. By visiting this site today, you have caused me to give $1 to a charity that feeds or shelters needy people here in Oregon. The Mrs. and I will give another $1 for every additional unique visit to the site before midnight tonight (as determined by SiteMeter), up to a maximum of $1,250.

Last year, we reached 1,000 hits by 4:20 p.m. It will be interesting to see what happens this year, when we've hyped this a bit more mildly.

Our charities are the Oregon Food Bank; the food pantry of St. Philip Neri Parish; and Daybreak Shelter for homeless families.

Thanks for coming here today. If you are a newcomer, I hope that you will look around the site a bit and come back again another day. (If you've got some time to hang around, I really enjoyed making this. And here's something you don't hear every day.) Please don't hesitate to get out the word to others who may want to visit today.

UPDATE, 4:15 a.m.: A good thing has happened already. A guy who calls himself Teacherrefpoet (he being a teacher, a sports referee, and a poet) has posted a link to this site for the cause. And so I've discovered his blog, called Various Observations in Written Form, which ain't bad.

UPDATE, 4:43 a.m.: I'll be changing the time stamp on this post throughout the day to keep it up on top of the main page.

UPDATE, 12:39 p.m.: We just passed the 900 mark. Great! Thanks so much, folks!

UPDATE, 3:07 p.m.: We made it!


I'm a big backer of bringing Major League Baseball to Portland. For what we spent on the PGE Park fiasco and the always-empty Convention Center expansion, we could have had the local share of a stadium financing package. And while Governor Ted (who knew? who knows?) is ready to o.k. an Indian casino out in Cascade Locks, he turned down an offer to have a tribe build the stadium for free if only he would have approved a casino in Portland itself. That 40-mile difference is costing us hundreds of millions.

Anyway, the major leagues have decided to move the Montreal Expos to Washington, D.C., but ever since that announcement was made, there's been trouble. Today we hear that the District of Columbia is now suddenly requiring private owners to put up half the cost for the stadium -- a demand that could very well kill that deal. (The rumblings on this score have been audible for at least a month.) Which could conceivably bring Portland back into the running, except for the fact that the City Council still isn't quite "getting it."

I know many Portlanders think that a major league baseball stadium is a waste of money. But so is public financing of political campaigns, which the City Council is about to approve at a tab of $1.3 million a year. For the record, at 5% interest, $1.3 million a year for 30 years would raise roughly $20 million in immediate cash toward the local $150 million needed to build the ballpark.

"Guess the Dictator or Television Sit-Com Character"

Now this is uncanny. Try it.

His halls are decked

We have been watching the inside of Misterblue's home for many months now, thanks to the cameras he's got installed in various places. However, this is the first year we are getting to see the Christmas version, which is particularly neat.

Right now the remote controls for the lights appear to have been disabled -- at least, they're not working from my computer -- but they'll probably be reactivated at some point. I don't know why, but I get a real kick out of turning his lights on and off from my house.

He's worth a visit in any event.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Bah, humbug

Just to get everybody in a giving holiday mood, I guess, the Portland Tribune ran a big front-page spread today about homeless people who have babies -- including comments from critics of the "welfare state" that supports such families.

This is a legitimate debate, but a week and a half before Christmas? Yuck.

Where the bucks are

The IRS has just posted a huge bank of .xls spreadsheets wherein one can see various statistics of income from the tax year 2001, for every zip code in the country. If you like statistics, you could spend hours leafing through this stuff.

Did you know that in Oregon that year, there were 1,515,309 federal income tax returns filed by individuals and married couples? The adjusted gross income (AGI) reported on these returns was $66,031,596,000. So the average return showed AGI of $43,576.32.

The total for the whole country was 126,018,336 returns, with AGI of $5,976,568,114,000, or an average AGI of $47,426.78. So Oregonians were making 8.12% less income (or at least, they reported that much less on their tax returns) than the average American that year.

(Compare Beverly Hills 90210, where 10,570 returns showed AGI of $3,140,811,000 -- an average of $297,143.90.)

There were 297,271 Oregon returns with AGI under $10,000 (19.62% of the returns); 388,334 with AGI between $10,000 and $24,999 (25.63%); 396,757 with AGI between $25,000 and $49,999 (26.18%); and 432,947 with AGI of $50,000 or more (28.7%).

Just for geeky fun, I took my own zip code in northeast Portland, 97212, and looked at the same figures. There were 12,147 returns filed, showing AGI of $677,759,000 (an average of $55,796.41). Of these, 2,221 were under $10,000 (18.28%); 2,517 between $10,000 and $25,000 (20.72%); 2,864 between $25,000 and $49,999 (23.58%); and 4,545 at $50,000 or more (37.42%). Conclusion? My zip code is quite a bit better off than the rest of Oregon and the nation.

But where are the real money-makers around here? For kicks, I took the zip code where I work, 97219, and gave it a whirl. There were 18,444 returns filed, showing AGI of $1,188,920,000 (an average of $64,461.07). Conclusion? Folks are getting richer up where I work than down where I live.

How about central Lake Oswego, 97034? You find 9,458 returns, and AGI of $1,022,718,000 -- an average AGI of $108,132.59. Conclusion? Now that's really a rich community by Oregon and national standards.

Just up the ridge from us in northeast Portland is 97213. Total returns were 14,823, with AGI of $592,464,000, an average of $39,969.24 -- considerably below the statewide average. Conclusion? People really are just scraping by up there.

One last run -- my old stomping grounds, inner southeast, 97215. There were 13,073 returns, with total AGI of $478,583,000 -- an average of $36,608.51. There's the lowest I've come up with so far.

To sum up the income numbers:

USA - $47,426.78 Oregon - $43,576.32 Beverly Hills - $297,143.90 97212 - $55,796.41 97219 - $64,461.07 97034 - $108,132.59 97213 - $39,969.24 97215 - $36,608.51

I'd be interested if any readers are nerdly enough to draw their own interesting conclusions from these tables. Please post 'em here. (Via TaxProf Blog.)

Monday, December 13, 2004

Blog casualty

The blog AboutItAll-Oregon is defunct. This happened once before -- for a couple of months, as I recall. One can only hope that the current stoppage will also be temporary. Best wishes to Rob Salzman, proprietor.

They 'R' Closing

Just got back from the Lloyd Center Toys 'R' Us store, which has announced that it will soon be closed. Everything in the place is 20 percent off, but all sales are final.

Just thought you'd like to know if you haven't already heard.

Skeletons in the closet

New Portland schools chief Vicki Phillips left behind some pretty shoddy business practices in her old job in Lancaster, Pennsylvania -- according to this report by the Pennsylvania State Auditor's office.

Another great day for Portland schools. (Via KGW.)

Sunday, December 12, 2004

Come back Wednesday

Just a reminder: Buck-a-Hit Day will be here this Wednesday. Just stop by this site that day and I'll give $1 in your honor to feed and shelter people here in Oregon (up to $1,250).

Saturday, December 11, 2004

Big-time news

The flap over the proposed Texas Pacific Group takeover of Portland General Electric made the front page of the business section of The New York Times today. The Times ran photos of TPG bigwig David Bonderman and our own Commissioner Erik Sten. The story, by Times tax expert David Cay Johnston of all people, kept referring to the company as "Portland G.E.," and it didn't have much good to say about TPG. Read it here if you like (and if you're registered at The Times -- but of course you are).

The new Oregon state budget

Whoop, whoop

Readers, help me with this one: Portland Tribune columnist Phil Stanford says that if Commissioner Erik "the Idea Man" Sten's proposal for "clean money" public financing of municipal campaigns is successful, Stanford's going to run against Sten for mayor. Seems that Phil has some great plans for his $200,000 handout from the city's taxpayers.

Man, so do I.

But should I run for mayor, or just try to get the job of Stanford's campaign manager? Since he's setting up headquarters in Maui, it might be nice for me to just run the campaign office for him while he does all the hard work of snorkeling and eating pu-pu platters. On the other hand, if I run against him, I'll get my own war chest to play with, but I'm going to have my hands full all day, body surfing my way through the Carribean and posting inspirational messages to the Portland electorate on my $8,000 laptop.

Or how about this for a plan: I run for mayor, get the $200,000, spend it, and then throw my support behind Phil at the last minute?

Decisions, decisions.

Friday, December 10, 2004

Scheduled outage

The server on which this blog resides hasn't been feeling well lately, and it's going in to the doctor tonight at around 10 for a few hours of therapy. See you on the other side.

The tax you have proposed is no longer in service

The proposed Portland city tax on cell phone service, and on land phone services such as call waiting that currently aren't locally taxed, is dead -- at least for now. Commissioner Randy Leonard, who was spearheading the plan to impose the tax, has backed down, given that he can't get two of his four current colleagues to go along with him. I haven't kept track of the complete head count, but I know that outgoing Mayor Katz refused to give her support to the plan, which reportedly ticked Fireman Randy off pretty good, since the Lady in the Tiger Suit had egged him on to undertake the whole issue to begin with. The Big Pipe was also a nay, and I assume the Scone was on the negatory as well.

So what does this mean?

First, it's a nice little victory for Lars Larson and all the nattering nabobs of the wignut airwaves, who have been shrieking their opposition to the new tax as if it were the plague. For those who think tax is spelled "b-a-d," it's a shining moment.

Second, it means that people who use land phones will continue to pay city taxes on those phones, while those who use cell phones won't. Is that fair? Don't tell me it's because the land phones use telephone poles in the public right of way. Cell phone signals pass through our airspace -- indeed, right through our bodies -- and their safety has never been conclusively proven. Plus, cell phones cause traffic accidents, and the emergency responses to those suck up public dollars. There's no reason to tax the two phones differently. If anything, cell phone users should have to pay more.

Third, given the fiscal abyss in which the city says it finds itself, the issue is sure to resurface after the new council members, Grampy and Vero, show up in a few weeks. Portland and Oregon are staring down the barrels of some vicious revenue shortfalls, and we'll be down to the last year of the local income tax levy to boot, and so I suspect that the cell phone tax will look like the least of several evils at some point soon.

In the meantime, though, there's $6 million a year in new revenue that the city won't be getting. That means we'll have to lop off some unnecessary programs to live within our existing means.

Yoo hoo! City Council! Here's $1.3 million a year you can start with.

Try the chowdah

One of the nice things I get to do in my job is occasionally show folks from out of town around Portland. Introducing this place to a newcomer can really reopen one's eyes to how special it is. Yesterday I took a guest on a walking tour through part of downtown, and then a ride through a few of our close-in neighborhoods.

My guest's reaction to downtown was one that I hadn't heard before, in more than 20 years of such tours: "This reminds me of Boston." I proceeded to tell him the story of the famous coin flip which decided the city's name. I resisted the temptation to observe that the taxpayers here do get scrod on a regular basis....

A streetcar named Liability

There's been quite a flap over the last couple of weeks about the $300,000 settlement that the City of Portland is going to pay a group of anti-war protesters who said (and I believe them) that they were wrongfully battered by Portland police during demonstrations. The city downplayed the settlements as small in amount and "routine" in nature. That, quite understandably, rankled civil libertarians, who don't like anyone trivializing incidents in which police pepper-sprayed people who were exercising their First Amendment rights.

An equally interesting wrinkle, however, was buried in lower paragraphs of a couple of the stories about the settlement: the City Council had authorized a payment of $87,500 to Andrea Andrews to settle her lawsuit stemming from the Portland Streetcar rear-ending her Volvo in December 2001. As explained by The Oregonian:

In the $87,500 settlement involving the streetcar, Andrea Andrews filed a lawsuit in December 2003 seeking more than $400,000 for noneconomic damages, medical expenses, time missed at work and lost business income.

According to her lawsuit, Andrews' 1987 Volvo station wagon was rear-ended on Dec. 27, 2001, by a trolley while she was stopped at a traffic signal at the intersection of Southwest 11th and Main Street. Andrews said she was preparing to make a right turn onto Main Street while waiting for a pedestrian to cross the street.

To me, this part of the story also raises a host of troubling questions.

Does this mean that we, the property taxpayers of Portland, are paying for the torts of the streetcar drivers? Isn't the streetcar in some sort of separate corporation? Doesn't that entity have insurance? Does this mean that the city taxpayer subsidy of the streetcar, which was pegged at $906,000 a year in the most recent stories I've read, should be increased to $993,500 for this year? How high will the subsidy go when the pending extensions of the streetcar are built?

And can you imagine the size of the bill that's going to be handed to the city's taxpayers when the OHSU aerial tram has its first accident?

Thursday, December 9, 2004

On the flip side

The other day I gave the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation a hard time for sponsoring newspaper ads that are trying to influence the state Public Utility Commission's decision on whether to allow Texas Pacific Group to take over Portland General Electric.

It's only fair, then, that I say something nice about the foundation when it does a good thing for Portland, as it has here. It's pungling up more DOS/Windows bucks to support the successful Gateway to College program at Portland Community College. You've got to tip your hat to that.

Thanks, Gateses! And hey, if you ever want to create an endowed chair for a tax law professor....

Wednesday, December 8, 2004

Congratulations, Dan Zanes!

Dan Zanes, who makes the coolest "family music" you've ever heard, has been nominated for a Grammy award for his album "House Party." I blogged here a while ago about how much we love Dan's music at our house. We still feel the same way.

Dan wrote his fans an e-mail message today that said in part:

i received some wild news today. our house party cd has been nominated for a grammy award. it feels great to think that friends gathering in a basement with their voices and instruments, old and new songs, and a 25 year old reel to reel tape player, can, with a tremendous amount of support and encouragement and help, get to this point. i really appreciate that you have all been a part of the fun and music so far.

The guy's a sweetheart.

Winter light

As weak as it is to blog about the weather, today's is worth it.

A monsoonal night and dawn have given way to a spectacularly clear and warm morning here. The temperature is in the 50's. The sun is bright and showing off its southerly angle -- something that it doesn't get to do too often in these parts.

Portlanders, whatever excuse you can find to go outside, use it now.

Tuesday, December 7, 2004

Family affair

One of the real good guys on the Portland scene is Central City Concern, which (among other things) helps addicted people try to start better lives. CCC does everything from scooping inebriated people up off downtown streets (in the Chiers van) to providing alcohol- and drug-free housing for families in need. And it doesn't waste a lot of money doing these things -- CCC's always impressed me as a no-frills, strictly business kind of place.

They've got a special project going at the moment: They're asking people who can afford it to "adopt" one of their families for the holidays. The goal is for each donor to put together, for one of CCC's 97 resident families, the makings of a holiday meal and some modest gifts for the childen. An alternative option is just to provide the gifts, leaving out the food part.

You can read all about it here. It will take some time and money, but it will make you feel better than another designer whatever. I'm sure there's no rule against an office full of people teaming up to make a CCC family their own. So help them out if you can.

You better watch out

Santa's pretty busy these days. (I hope he's got a good lawyer after the last little move he throws in.)

Bumpy landings

Yesterday was my last teaching day of the fall semester, and things ended not as smoothly as I would have liked. In one course, I had just a wee too much material backed up into the last class, and time ran out with me having about another 10 minutes' worth of brilliant things to say. That's a rookie mistake that an old hand like myself shouldn't be making. I must make some adjustments for the next time around.

When I got back to my office, feeling a little shaky after my final performance in that class, I got my copy of a short article that I had written for a student-run law journal. As I eagerly turned the pages to see how it came out, I found to my horror that the student editors had managed to screw up one of the tables included in the article, leaving it glaringly incorrect. A change was made after the last version of the article that I was permitted to see, and the mistake was totally out of my control. I'm sure they'll print some sort of correction at some point, but you have to wonder if readers will ever see that. My overall reaction is to wish that I had never written the piece, or at least not submitted it to that particular journal.

There was one other annoying episode, but I think I've brooded enough about that day. Suffice it to say, some days the big bear eats you.

Sunday, December 5, 2004

Buck-a-Hit Day Dec. 15

It's time for our second annual Buck-a-Hit Day. This year it will be held on Wednesday, December 15.

The drill will be similar to the one we ran last year: For every visit to this site between midnight and 11:59 p.m. PST that day, my family and I will donate $1 to charity. This year, we'll up the ante a little from last year, and donate up to an aggregate total of $1,250. Of each dollar donated, we'll give 40 cents to the Oregon Food Bank, 40 cents to the St. Philip Neri Parish Food Pantry, and 20 cents to Daybreak Shelter, a shelter for homeless families. And so the first 1,250 visits that day will help feed hungry people and shelter kids in Portland and Oregon.

Visits will be counted by Site Meter. If Site Meter goes down, we'll use the site statistics that my ISP provides. Obvious multiple hits by the same person within an hour of each other will be subtracted from the total.

So be sure to come on by again on Wednesday the 15th. And tell your friends. As I predicted in introducing this event last time, egomania and charitable impulses will unite like never before.

Saturday, December 4, 2004

The latest celebrity paternity scandal

There's a new kid in town

Interesting profile in the Times this week of Bruce Anderson, a wild and woolly local pundit who recently left Anderson Valley in Northern Cal for new digs in Eugene. Anderson caused many a stir as "the town muckracker and ranter in chief" down in Boonville (in Mendocino County), where he ran the weekly Anderson Valley Advertiser newspaper (now under new management). Lately he's started a new rag in Eugene called AVA Oregon, and it looks like we'll all be hearing from him sometime soon as he surveys his new surroundings. Watch out, Jack Roberts and the rest of you down in Blue-jean!

Mutual Admiration Society

Thanks to Nick Fish, who I wish was about to be sworn in on the Portland City Council, for his kind words about this blog in yesterday's Portland Tribune.

Thursday, December 2, 2004

Blogs as a threat to freedom

Mark it on your calendars. Today was a big day in the history of the blogosphere. My blogfather, Eugene Volokh, had a piece published on the New York Times op-ed page, where he was identified as a blogger (with his site named) as well as a law professor at UCLA. And the point of his article illustrated with rare clarity how blogs have changed forever the landscape of journalism, and the role of media in society.

Any vicarious thrill I felt as a blogger, however, was more than counteracted by the chill in my bones caused by reflection on the implications of Volokh's article.

His focus was on the issue whether journalists should enjoy a First Amendment privilege to shield the identities of their sources. There are several cases pending around the country in which journalists are being threatened with jail time for refusing to reveal who disclosed certain information to them. Volokh argues, pretty persuasively, that the presence of blogs changes the framework within which the legal battles are being waged. He asserts that, under the Constitution, no legal distinction can be made between mainstream media, with audiences in the millions, and home-grown internet pundits, with audiences in the thousands or even hundreds:

Because of the Internet, anyone can be a journalist. Some so-called Weblogs -- Internet-based opinion columns published by ordinary people -- have hundreds of thousands of readers. I run a blog with more than 10,000 daily readers. We often publish news tips from friends or readers, some of which come with a condition of confidentiality.

The First Amendment can't give special rights to the established news media and not to upstart outlets like ours. Freedom of the press should apply to people equally, regardless of who they are, why they write or how popular they are.

Yet when everyone is a journalist, a broad journalist's privilege becomes especially costly. The I.R.S. agent [who wishes to leak someone's tax return illegally], for example, no longer needs to risk approaching many mainstream journalists, some of whom may turn him in. He can just ask a friend who has a blog and a political ax to grind. The friend can then post the leaked information and claim the journalist's privilege to prevent the agent from being identified. If the privilege is upheld, the friend and the agent will be safe -- but our privacy will be lost.

Volokh concludes that only a very limited journalist's privilege should be allowed. He draws the line between "leakers who lawfully reveal information" and "a leaker [who] tries to use a journalist as part of an illegal act -- for example, by disclosing a tax return or the name of a C.I.A. agent so that it can be published." I'm very uncomfortable with that line -- there's nothing except politics to stop Congress and the legislatures from arbitrarily declaring illegal a disclosure that causes little or no harm but advances justice or the legitimate political process. But Volokh's got a point: It will be awfullly difficult to extract from the current Constitution any distinction between big media and blogs, particularly given the current literalist mindset of many neocon judges, with whom I suspect Volokh sympathizes. The lack of such a distinction in turn poses a host of policy, and legal, problems. And those problems seem unlikely ever to be resolved in favor of the civil libertarians.

In some ways, the privilege issues are a symptom of the all-encompassing challenges that technology, and the internet in particular, pose to our traditional notions of government. Take the Freedom of Information Act and its state and local counterparts, for example. Several decades back, when these laws first required that government records be opened to anyone who asked to see them, we all applauded. But when someone decided to request and get the entire files of a state motor vehicle agency and post them on the internet, many people didn't like that. And so, rightly or wrongly, we started stepping back.

In the old days of paper records and photocopies, there used to be a certain "practical inaccessibility" to many public records, even those that were technically, legally available. There was simply no one (except the rare crusader such as b!X) who had the time to make the requests, spend the time, and pay the fees that it took to obtain, and sort out, meaningful information buried in voluminous public records. Of course, the computer changed all that. If you can get the records in a decent file format, you can now learn in minutes, without leaving home, what it used to take months to find out. When the computer eliminated the important practical barriers between the public records and the public, our ideas about what should be open changed.

The problem is that when the file drawers are closed to keep their contents off the internet, they're also closed to the folks who want to make an occasional request for a single record that's quite important to them. Technology blows things wide open for a short time, but then information is sealed more tightly than it ever was before. It's an alarming trend, but alas, not one that we're likely to see the end of any time soon.

No more shirts-and-skins here

Tough news for gym rats yesterday about the YMCA on Broadway near Sandy Boulevard in Northeast Portland -- it's closing. The building's nearly 80 years old, it needs $7 million of renovation, and the folks at the Y aren't in a position to pay that kind of dough. Note to the City Council: All the more reason to get going on that Buckman neighborhood center, and pronto.

No word yet on what will happen to the soon-to-be-closed building. I can't even venture a guess -- six stories of condos, or eight, or ten? So long as they're pricey and ugly, I'm sure they'll be speedily approved by our city fathers.

PGE 2.0

There was an interesting ad in The O yesterday, touting all the wonderful advantages of the proposed takeover of Portland General Electric by the Texas Pacific Group. It seems Eric Parsons, the main bigwig over at Standard Insurance, thinks it's a peachy idea, and he's lending his name and photo to the effort, now before the Oregon Public Utility Commission.

The fine print down at the bottom of the ad is what's really interesting, though. Although the Standard exec is an unpaid volunteer endorser, apparently the Texas Pacific campaign has the financial backing of a little storefront outfit called the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

O.k., maybe I missed the meeting. What the heck is the Gates Foundation doing in this picture? I assume they're getting a piece of the deal? And this is what the foundation is spending its tax-exempt money on -- grassroots lobbying for a regulatory outcome? Ain't that America.

Wednesday, December 1, 2004


One of the topics that got lost in the Thanksgiving blur was a Willamette Week cover story profiling Portland Tribune columnist Phil Stanford. In particular, the article detailed Stanford's relentless crusade, begun when he was at The Oregonian years ago, to prove that the murder of Oregon Corrections chief Michael Francke was not committed by Frank Gable, the Salem thug who's doing hard time for it, but instead by someone connected with corruption in the state's prisons.

Stanford revved the story back up with a vengeance over the summer, shortly after the Neil Goldschmidt statutory rape scandal broke. He had been sitting on the Goldschmidt story for quite a while when the Willamette Week decided to go for it; Phil even wound up apologizing in print for not having run the tawdry news sooner himself. Apparently he doesn't want to be saying he's sorry for a similar silence in the Francke case.

Stanford's got some other pet themes that I enjoy reading. Lately he's been ridiculing the City of Portland's pollyannish plan to finance local political campaigns with tax dollars. After a couple of shots at the proposal, one fairly extended, the columnist boiled his objections down yesterday to this:

Those "Clean Money" guys down at City Hall crack me up.... If they really wanted to eliminate big campaign money, all they'd have to do is place a limit -- say $25 or $100 -- on contributions to their own campaigns. Tom Potter did it, and look where it got him.... But of course that's not what's going on here. What they want is to have all that nice, clean tax money handed to them so they don't have to do the dirty work of collecting contributions.... Can't blame them for trying, though. If I were a politician and thought I could get away with it, I'm sure I'd do the same thing....

You tell 'em, Phil! I'm all for getting developer and union cash out of city politics -- the recent campaign finance disclosures, posted on the internet for the amusement of all, have been enough to curl my thinning Polish-Irish hair -- but I can't see doing it out of property tax dollars. This is a city that's so broke that the mayor has a canned little speech for everyone (including an under-budgeted Police Bureau) about how tough times are, that there's no money for anything. It's the city with the highest combined state and local tax burden on individuals west of the Mississippi. And we've got money lying around to be on the cutting edge with this? Funded differently, it's worth a try; paid for out of property taxes, it's a disgrace.

Of course, it's going to happen, at least for a while. Commissioner Erik Sten, whose upcoming re-election bid would be one of the first beneficiaries of the new system, has got the votes on this from City Council newbies Sam "Vero" Adams and Tom "Grampy" Potter -- the first of many Brilliant Ideas that we'll see implemented over the next few years. So guys like Phil and I can howl all we want. (Meanwhile, over on Portland Communique, Christopher Frankonis, who knows from experience about the rigors of fundraising, thinks it's a great proposal, and he never changes his mind, so don't bother arguing with him about it.)

Anyway, here's to Phil.

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