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

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May 2005 Archives

Tuesday, May 31, 2005

A truly hap'nin' gal

There are so many fine blogs out there. Here's one called {A} , from somewhere down Eugene way. Full of heart and soul.

Can't forget the Motor City

The DJ in me has been working to come up with the world's best Motown compilation CD. The trick is, you get only 80 minutes max to tell the Motown story. It's hard. Even without the Jackson 5 and Gladys Knight & the Pips (I'm awaiting acquisition of some of their stuff in digital format, rather than messing with my old vinyl), I've got this:

Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell, Ain't No Mountain High Enough
The Four Tops, Reach Out (I'll Be There)
Diana Ross & the Supremes, Stop! In the Name of Love
Martha & the Vandellas, Dancing in the Street
Marvin Gaye, How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved by You)
Smokey Robinson & the Miracles, The Tracks of My Tears
The Temptations, My Girl
Stevie Wonder, Signed, Sealed, Delivered I'm Yours
The Marvelettes, Too Many Fish in the Sea
Edwin Starr, Twenty-Five Miles
Martha & the Vandellas, Jimmy Mack
Smokey Robinson & the Miracles, I Second That Emotion
The Temptations & the Supremes, I'm Gonna Make You Love Me
Junior Walker & the All-Stars, Shotgun
The Four Tops, Standing in the Shadows of Love
The Marvelettes, Don't Mess With Bill
Marvin Gaye, I Heard It Through the Grapevine
Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell, Ain't Nothing Like the Real Thing
Martha & the Vandellas, Honey Chile
Stevie Wonder, My Cherie Amour
The Temptations, Just My Imagination (Running Away with Me)
Marvin Gaye, What's Going On
Smokey Robinson & the Miracles, The Tears of a Clown
Stevie Wonder, I Wish
Smokey Robinson, Being With You
Diana Ross & the Supremes, Someday We'll Be Together

Thoughts, anyone?


Craig over at MT Politics says today's the end of his blog. If it holds up, it will be a big loss for the blogosphere.

I can definitely relate, however. I wish I had a nickel for every time I pondered this blog and said to myself, "What the heck am I doing?"

If you read blogs...

...then I assume you've seen this. LOL!

Scam of the Week

The O broke a nice little story the other day. Two paid assistants to U.S. Rep. Earl "the Pearl" Blumenauer are also on the payrolls of local agencies back home in Portlandtown. Tom Markgraf (right), a Blumenauer aide, also pulls down $100 an hour as a consultant to Tri-Met. And he puts in enough hours for Tri-Met that he makes some serious dough there:

Markgraf has received about $100,000 in no-bid contracts from TriMet since joining Blumenauer's staff six years ago, where his salary climbed to $65,000 last year for advising the congressman on transportation and other needs.
Pulling a similar manueuver is Robert Liberty (left), who, according to the O story --
was elected to the Metro Council in November but continues to work in Blumenauer's office as a part-time adviser on "livable communities" while helping set policy on urban planning, land use and transportation for the regional government.
The story then quotes a number of critics who call these dual relationships unethical. Their problem seems to be that since the local agencies get money from Congress, it's unseemly for Blumenauer's staffers to also be on the local pads -- particularly since the hometown agencies are often paying them, directly or indirectly, with federal funds. Of course, the congressman himself denies that there's any conflict of interest, since he, Tri-Met, and Metro are all working for the same lofty goals.

To me, the Markgraf situation is just another example of a plain truth. Any time you see a "semi-autonomous" public agency like Tri-Met -- run by people who are not publicly elected, but appointed by elected officials who are their cronies (in Tri-Met's case, Governor Teddy-Neil) -- you can be sure that hanky-panky with public money is in the vicinity. It's like the Portland Development Commission, which has been outed for some of its own howlers in recent weeks. "Semi-autonomous" is synonymous with "not accountable," and you see the results.

Records show Markgraf has received five no-bid "public outreach" contracts from TriMet and the Washington state Department of Transportation, and one bid contract from the city of Portland, since 2000. Of those, five were paid with federal funding.
It stinks to high heaven. Back where I come from, energetic prosecutors make careers out of tearing this sort of thing up. But in my 27 years in Portland, there's never been a law enforcement official bright, brave, and honest enough to take a pop at stuff like this.

I used to think that Oregonians were just naive. But now I'm beginning to think that they just don't care, and besides, the hideous conflicts just run too deep.

Anyway, it was an uncharacteristically sharp reporting job by The Oregonian. And then, true to form, the editors ran it on the Saturday of a holiday weekend, thus insuring that the fewest possible readers would see it. If you hurry, you can still catch the link before the World's Lamest Web Site makes it disappear from the free internet forever.

Sunday, May 29, 2005

Big Mike's got it right

Our federal tax system is so messed up; it badly needs an overhaul. The former frat president, now our President, has a blue-ribbon panel working on tax reform. But they're all economists, which to me means they're detached from reality and likely to come up with something utterly unworkable.

In contrast, late last year I mentioned that I was intrigued by Yale Law Professor Michael Graetz's plan for fundamental federal tax reform. The Graetz plan is eminently do-able, if the political will were only there:

1. Repeal the regular federal income tax on individuals, leaving only what is now the alternative minimum tax (AMT) in its place. Fix it so that single people with incomes under $50,000 and married copuples with incomes under $100,000 don't pay income tax at all. For everyone else, impose a flat rate of 25 percent on the excess over $50,000 or $100,000, as the case may be. "Index" all the income figures in the system so that they rise every year with inflation. Replace the earned income credit (a tax benefit for the working poor) with an equivalent break on low-wage-earners' Social Security and Medicare taxes.

2. Institute a European-style value-added tax (essentially, a sales tax collected and paid by manufacturers and distributors) of 10 to 14 percent on all goods produced or sold in the United States.

3. Drop corporate tax rates to 25 percent, but require corporations to pay tax on the profits that they're showing investors and creditors on their books, not the much lower profits that are now showing up on their cooked tax returns.

Can you imagine a world in which most people would no longer be filing federal tax returns? And one in which corporations pay taxes based on the rosy picture that they're painting for their investors? Graetz can. And he's one smart dude.

Francke talk

The Oregonian reporters who claim to have the "definitive" story on the 1989 murder of Oregon Corrections chief Michael Francke have responded to the Portland Tribune's challenge that they've overlooked crucial facts. The response, which mentions this blog, is here. (I had expressed extreme skepticism about the O's latest coverage here.)

Try as they might to convince that convicted murderer Frank Gable killed Francke, the O reporters essentially reargue the largely circumstantial case that convinced a jury of that fact years ago. They pooh-pooh an alternate theory that makes a great deal of sense and has never been disproved. What we're left with is a "Lee Harvey Oswald, crazed gunman, acting alone" kind of official story, which will never be very persuasive. And so we all muddle along with our suspicions. The fact that the O sent people out to look at everything again, and they didn't find anything to detract from the official view, doesn't add much.

I will say this -- if I were on a jury that saw everything that the O and others have written over the years, I never would have found Gable guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

Saturday, May 28, 2005

Follow your heart

Erin Brockovich-Ellis was in town today, and I had the pleasure of hearing her speak. It was all about pursuing justice, trusting one's heart, being persistent, getting to simple truths, giving people the chance to make informed choices, and sticking up for the underdog. She was warm, smart, funny, and very real.

I've sat through quite a few speeches in the same setting, where I looked at my watch a few times. Not today.

Friday, May 27, 2005

It's only a matter of Wen

I've been reading with great interest about how reliant the U.S. economy is on China nowadays. Specifically, how China continues to lend us billions of dollars every month. You wonder how we're financing the federal deficit? The money's coming from China. And when the Chinese, led by Premier Wen Jiabao, decide to stop lending so much money into this country, there's going to be hell to pay.

Interest rates are sure to rise, and housing prices are likely to fall.

Which gets me thinking about our own overheated little housing market here in the Rose City. We're slapping up luxury condo tower after luxury condo tower, with price tags for the units that are utterly ridiculous. $800,000 to live in an apartment at NE 16th and Weidler? Are you kidding? Three-million-dollar units in South Waterfront? Lunacy.

If Wen pulls the plug on his dollar-lending machine soon, there are going to be some empty condo towers. And if he waits a year or two, the folks who run up here from Cali and pay those prices are going to wish they hadn't. Their precious units will be worth a fraction of what they paid for them.

Thery'll get no sympathy from me. Although they'll probably get some kind of handout from the Portland City Council.

Will the housing crash happen? It very well might. Indeed, U.S. manufacturers are screaming that China's monetary policy unfairly subsidizes Chinese exports by keeping the value of the Chinese yuan low against the U.S. dollar. The U.S. companies want the yuan to rise and the dollar to fall against it, and they've got friends in Congress pushing hard to have that come to pass.

But if it does, China's likely to lower drastically the credit card limit that it's been granting to the United States. And that does not bode well at all for ludicrously overpriced housing. Enjoy, neighbors.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

PDC: Pretty Darn Comical

I see that the capable folks at my favorite quasi-accountable public money slush fund, the Portland Development Commission, are at it again. Outed for entering into a series of highly questionable no-bid contracts for "management coaching," and "consulting" by a recent college grad with no relevant experience, now they're commissioning an "audit" of their own contracting practices.

And who will perform the "audit"? An experienced national accounting firm, hired in a transparent competitive bidding process, with no previous ties to the PDC?

Bwahahaha! Surely I jest. It will be the same folks who already audit the PDC's financial statements. And as far as I can tell, they were hired for the latest "auditing" job by, you guessed it, a no-bid contract of the very kind that they're supposed to be scrutinizing.

The PDC version of "process" is funny. Appeals of the agency's actions -- including protests on issues of alleged conflicts of interest -- are decided by the same people who made the original decision. Now the audit of their contracting practices is being conducted by a firm with pre-existing ties to the very group they're supposed to be checking up on. It makes you wonder if there isn't something ugly under every rock that a thoughtful investigator would turn up.

You know who ought to be auditing the PDC? Someone with criminal jurisdiction.

Of course, the prospect of having Teddy's ODOJ or Team Goldschmidt Field General Schrunk do it is laughable. But where is the U.S. attorney? Too busy authorizing illegal searches of Muslim homes, I guess.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005


If you have a rule that a 60-percent-plus-1 vote is required for something, but that rule can be changed by a 50-percent-plus-1 vote, then it isn't much of a rule to begin with.

Something I learned in Orlando

Nothing touches me more deeply than what touches the hearts of my children.

Of goose and gander

I was only half-kidding yesterday when I suggested that if the City of Portland needs to buy Portland General Electric, then it needs to acquire Pacific Power as well. As the impending Buffett takeover (alas, that's Warren, not Jimmy) illustrates, potentially greedy private interests are out there waiting to take Portlanders' utility dollars, beyond the ratepayers who buy their electricity from PGE.

The city doesn't trust Enron's creditors from setting in motion a series of events that will hurt PGE customers, even with the state Public Utility Commission overseeing the proceedings. Why should they trust Buffett any more with Pacific Power's customers? And what happens when Buffett (aged 74) dies, and a grubby Enron-type group takes over his holdings?

If you're going to buy PGE, city commissioners, why stop there? Why not Pacific Power, too? And why not Northwest Natural, which supplies natural gas across the city, as well? Where does the "logic" (if you can call it that) stop?

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Where it started

Pril caught this story, which is very cool.

To arms!

Hey, Warren Buffett just bought Pacific Power! Wow! Erik, time to blow a few more millions! We must replace the corporate robber barons with the genius bureaucrats of Portland City Hall!

We'll condemn them if necessary! Call our out-of-state lawyers and Wall Street sharpies! Ryan Deckert, man your pea shooter! We must protect our future!

It's for the children!

That's a relief

I see that while I was away, The Oregonian ran its "definitive" story about the murder of Oregon Corrections Director Michael Francke. And I also note that, by golly, they didn't find anything to cast doubt on the official version of that tragic event. And hey, they spent a lot of time and money on it:

the deepest examination of the case since Gable's conviction in 1991. Over five months, reporters reviewed thousands of pages of documents, tracked down dozens of key figures, and spent more than eight hours interviewing Gable.

Frank Gable, the guy who's doing time for the murder, hasn't got a good alibi, so I guess he must be guilty.

Thank goodness. For a minute there, the official version sounded a little fishy. But if the hard-hitting investigators at The O say not to worry, it's a closed case as far as I'm concerned. When there's corruption in high places in Oregon, they're always all over it, and so if they're happy with the court verdict on this "affair," there's really nothing more to look at.


Did I miss anything?

I heard there was a bogus story in the WW about Sten and Potter flushing a copy of The Wealth of Nations down a toilet. Oh, and the "Portland" Trib is moving its offices to Clackamas County? Did I dream that? It's too rich. Let's see, Lars is cleaning his pistol in the Couv, Dwight Jaynes is commuting to beautful downtown Mollala, the Boyles have started lobbing in the grenades from Washington County, NG's banished from public view -- is there anybody left? Just Avel Gordly passing out St. Mark Hatfield holy cards.

By now I'm sure we've got "voter-owned elections," though, eh? So cute. I'm afraid the voters are going to have to show these boys just how much they still do own things around here. Excuse me, guys, there is going to be a public ballot measure of some kind on this soon. Way before 2010, or whatever the nonsense date you're flashing around. Your forcing the taxpayers to do it the hard way isn't going to help you. It's going down. All the OSPIRG kids you can bus up here from Eugene won't be able to save it.

But anyway, that's for another post. Right now, I'm just so glad to be back in the damp, musty, 55-degree weather. I've been killing myself this last week and a half with the countless decsions -- SPF 30, or just 15? Strawberry margarita, or mango daiquiri? Shamu, or Pooh? Time to get off that treadmill.

Friday, May 13, 2005

Gone fishin'

Guess what? I'm outta here. Barring unforeseen developments, I'll be gone until May 24. No blogging. Strictly Routine 288.

Now, everybody, behave yourselves while I'm away.

Jack Peek, keep your finger off the caps lock key.

Fireman Randy, don't let them hyp-mo-tize you any deeper.

Erik, stop pestering for toys and do your chores.

B!X, clean your room.

Lily, no potty talk when you're angry. (But I do love it when you're angry. You too, Sally.)

Betsy, if you have a kid-free weekend, avoid even the appearance of impropriety.

Mellow, no staying out too late with those guys playing the bongo drums out on Hawthorne.

Lars, be nice to teacher.

Dave Lister, show pity on the misguided among us.

Ron Ledbury, please limit all off-topic PERS-related comments to 1,000 words or less.

Schopp and Karlock, no more than two property tax scam links a day.

Than, no more scaring people.

Nick Fish, more pancake makeup, less lipstick.

Phil Stanford, don't stop raising hell.

And all you City Hall minions who lurk here every weekday -- you think I don't know that's you behind the "or.us" IP addresses? -- don't get too comfy. I'm still watching you.

I'm so glad we had this time together

It's time for me to check in again with Marqui, the communications software company that's been paying me good money to blog about it and link to its website once a month.

Things seem to have settled into a groove lately at Marqui. The uproar that its "pay to blog" program created appears to have largely subsided, and now the Marqui folks are all busy with the harder work of their "software as a service" for internet marketers.

Marqui's been getting some good and regular posts on its own blog, from marketing diva Janet Johnson and media contact Tara Smith. Perhaps that's why I haven't heard from them myself in a while -- I suspect my services may no longer be needed after my current contract runs out on Sunday.

If that's the case, it's been fun, Marqui. What a deal. Thanks a lot.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

New Portland blogger

Welcome to the blogosphere, Mike Donahue.

Take one tablet before voting, for ignorance

I've been so busy with exams, grades, and the end of the school year that I haven't gotten into downtown Portland enough. Apparently they are handing out smart pills down there.

The Oregonian editorial board took some this week. Not only did they roast the City Council for spending scarce tax dollars on politicians' campaigns without first putting the matter up for a public vote, but they also called them out on the shutdown on the Buckman Pool -- a clear breach of the public trust. Good for the O.

However, their editorial staff apparently missed the smart pill handout. Today they mistakenly reported that the City Council had "voted 3-1 Wednesday to let voters decide in 2010 whether they want to keep offering public campaign financing to City Hall candidates, assuming they approve the funding plan next week." Actually, as has been reported more capably elsewhere, that's legally impossible. What was actually passed was a weasel resolution that calls on somebody or other to draft up language that a future City Council can use to refer the matter to voters. But there's no guarantee that will ever happen. What is guaranteed is that we'll start blowing public money on local politicians' TV ads immediately.

But back to the smart pills. My pal, Commissioner "Fireman Randy" Leonard, apparently took a smart pill within the last week or so. He voted no on the campaign finance matter, and he's in the paper today demanding that the Buckman pool get fixed and stay open. Damn right, bud -- you're entitled to my opinion.

Obviously, no one gave a smart pill to Commissioner Erik "Opie" Sten. If he took one, it would kill him.

Ditto for Matt Hennessee, chair of the Portland Development Commission for 51 more days and counting. Recall that Mayor Tom Potter has called foul on the PDC commissioners' bogus decision to award the Burnside Bridgehead development contract to Opus Northwest rather than Beam. Well, today wise old Constable Tom called for the two companies to build the project together -- an extremely cool idea. Responded Hennessee: "I'm very happy that the mayor has exerted his leadership on this issue." No kidding, Matt. There hasn't a drop of leadership in any of the suits at the PDC any time in recent memory. Watch Potter and learn.


The late spring/early summer season has surely arrived. Today we made our first graffiti cleanup run of the year around the block. Six small tags -- no match for Graffiti-X and a scrubby. Take that, you mentally ill tagger fools!

'Net gain

While the recent demise of oldies station KISN-FM has been mourned here, a nice byproduct has been the inauguration of a streaming version of the station's AM successor. Go here, click "Listen Live" in the upper right corner, and there you have it.

It will still sound tinny in the car, but now we've got it in stereo on the internet, which is a very good thing.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Grinding 'em out

It's that time of year -- I'm grading exams. And with a self-imposed deadline looming, I'm not coming up for air for a while.

As Linda Richman used to say on Coffee Talk, "Talk amongst yourselves."

Tuesday, May 10, 2005


Just a few minutes ago, we had our 350,000th visit to this blog since we opened in July 2002. Number 350K was a mainstream visitor -- an Earthlink user on the West Coast (a former Mindspring subscriber, perhaps) running Windows 98 and Internet Explorer. Whoever you are, please come forward and pick up your prize, a lifetime free subscription to this blog.

We hosted our last 50,000 visits in 54 days. Thanks for stopping in here, everyone, and now on to 400,000.

Erik knows best

As I recall, tomorrow's the day when our fearless leaders on the Portland City Council are going to vote to spend our property tax dollars to finance local political campaigns.

That's right. Take more than a million bucks each election (including six figures in administrative overhead, I'm sure, if you were honest about it) and hand it over to politicians. So they won't take money from anyone else.

First it was called "Clean Money." Then when somebody asked where the "dirty" money was, they changed the name of it to "Voter-Owned Elections," or some other Orwellian moniker.

Whatever you think of the proposal, you've got to admit that it's a radical enough move -- and that financial times at City Hall are tight enough -- that the whole concept ought to be voted on by the public before it's implemented.

But it won't be. Because the council knows darn well what would happen. It would go down in flames.

That never stops the Portland City Council. Look at the Convention Center. Look at north side light rail. Look at having PGE taken over by a public utility district (PUD).

The voters say no, but the boys at City Hall just ignore that. They know what's good for us. We don't. It's nothing new.

But we were led to expect more from Mayor Tom Potter and Commissioner Randy Leonard. In his campaign, the mayor promised to listen to the public, but he's got his earplugs in on this one, chirping right along with Commissioner Erik Sten, godfather of "Clean Money," whose endorsement pushed Potter's recent mayoral bid over the top. And for his part, candidate Leonard said he was "different -- thank goodness," but when it comes to his new buddy Erik's wet policy dreams, he's the same as all the rest. And now that he got himself quoted in The New York Times over the Joint Terrorism Task Force, you can expect Fireman Randy to sign on to even more of Erik's expensive, fruitless, public-be-damned "big ideas." In return, Sten will have his back if and when we ever try to shine a bright spotlight into the financial black hole that is the city's police and fire pension liability.

"Clean Money" is an o.k. idea, albeit a bit obvious. My problem with it has always been how to pay for it. Even Congress didn't have the guts to just take campaign finance money out of tax revenues. Instead, they ask income taxpayers to state on their tax returns whether they would like to earmark $3 of their taxes to go to publicly finance the Presidential election campaigns. The vast majority -- close to 90 percent -- say no. Sten floated a number of ideas for funding "Clean Money" locally -- a tax on pizza deliveries was even in there at one point -- but they all fell flat. So essentially we're left with property taxes as the default option. And there won't be a checkoff option on your property tax bill, that's for sure.

As I suggested here a while ago, the public could force "Clean Money" onto the ballot, but it would take around 18,000 valid signatures, and they'd have to be gathered in the next 30 days. This is a sufficiently outrageous stunt that it deserves such a response, but you wonder whether anyone around here cares enough any more to take to the streets for smart government.

A lot of good people seem to be taking to the highway instead.

Monday, May 9, 2005

More NBA excitement

Third day in a row -- not one, but two, blowouts in the pro basketball playoffs. I hurt my jaw yawning. At least the good guys won this time.

Ground Zero, version 2.0

I went to high school just across the Hudson River from the World Trade Center. We used to look out the windows in the late '60s and watch them build the towers. We were closer to them than many people in Manhattan were.

My nephew went to the same high school. And in 2001, he and his classmates watched the towers fall. They saw the second jet turn and hit.

On the front page of today's New York Times, the focus shifts from the place where I went to high school to the places where I lived -- the industrial east side of Newark, and the nearby township of Kearny. The many hazardous chemical plants, the shipping ports, the rail corridor -- all make the area a prime target for terrorism, which would be very, very bad news for the people living nearby.

And the security in place is not good.

UPDATE, 11:56 pm: Cousin James, who still lives there, adds his thoughts.

How unappealing

There have been some new twists in the Rope-a-Dope-Opus Caper, formally known as the Burnside Bridgehead project. When we last left this saga, Beam Development, the Portland-owned concern who got totally snookered by the Portland Development Commission, had filed an appeal of the highly dubious decision by the PDC commissioners to give the right to build the condo palace to Beam's competitor, Opus Northwest. Since then, as b!X has capably reported, the PDC's head honcho, Don "the Don" Mazziotti, has decreed (or announced that the PDC's acting chief lawyer has decreed -- hard to tell) that the appeal process for the project is going to be changed.

A review of Mazziotti's memo (pdf) reveals a number of curiosities. Most significantly, it announces to the commissioners that the appeal will be decided, not by the PDC chief executive, as stated in the request for proposals, but rather by the PDC commissioners acting as a group. According to the memo, the decision was made by the PDC's unnamed "interim general counsel":

The Interim General Counsel has concluded that because the decision-maker was changed from the Executive Director to the Commission, the party/entity reviewing the protest should be changed from the Executive Director to the Commission. Therefore, the appeal should go directly to the Commission.

It made sense for the Executive Director to be the final decision-maker on a protest when the Executive Director was also the final decision-maker on the selection of a developer for the project. But it does not make sense for the Executive Director to be the final decision-maker on a protest where the Commission selects the developer. If this were done, the illogical result would be to have the Executive Director reviewing a decision of the Commission.

The deviation from the original request for developer proposals was justified this way:

In December, 2004 the selection process was modified to both change the decision-maker from the Executive Director to the Commission and extend the timeline for a decision. On December 10, 2004 an email was sent to the Commission describing the change in the process to make the Commission the decision-maker. Attached to that email was a project update that was being distributed to the public. This project update also showed the change in the process to make the Commission the decision-maker.

On January 4, 2005 the Executive Director sent a memo to the City Councilors which described the revised schedule for public input. This memo identified the revised process including the identification of the Commission as the decision-maker.

On January 19, 2005 an email was sent to representatives of each of the three proposers which detailed the remaining process, which indicated that the final decision would be made by the Commission.

It is clear that all affected and interested people were informed that the selection process and time line had changed. The selection process continued until the Commission made its final decision on April 27, 2005.

Although this change in the process to make the Commission the final decisionmaker was distributed widely, there was no formal addendum to the RFP changing the decision-making process. Consequently, the protest process language was not changed to reflect that the Commission was now the decision-maker.

The memo also notes that the original request for proposals reserved the right to "[r]evise the solicitation, evaluation or selection process including extending the deadline or canceling without selecting a developer."

All true, but none of it alters the fact that the change in the process was announced the day after Beam filed its "protest." I'm no expert on Oregon administrative law, but for an agency to announce a change to an appeal process after the appeal has been filed seems highly unusual, even if there is some reasonable justification for it.

Even more curious to me is the idea that a "protest" would be decided by the same party that issued the original decision, which was the case even under the original bid request. That really offers the frustrated member of the public little comfort. Typically, a "protest" or "appeal" is made to a higher authority, rather than to the original decision maker. Not at the PDC, I guess.

Continue reading "How unappealing" »

New toy

Way down the sidebar to the main page of this blog, I've made it my practice to fill up space with "On My Stereo," a listing of what I've been listening to. (In case anyone cared.) Up 'til now, it's been a manual-entry sort of deal, showing album names, and it goes back to the days of physically putting CDs into, and taking them out of, a player.

With so many of my CDs now loaded onto a hard drive, and with random shuffle becoming the order of the day, I've been wanting to shift to a listing of individual song tracks, but I couldn't figure out a way to do it without keying in all the song names, which even I wasn't nerdly enough to do.

Well, I just acquired some software that gives me a way to automate the process to a large extent, and so lo and behold, we will now list what's on "the stereo" (a quaint term that will soon go the way of "hi-fi," I suppose) track by track, rather than "album" by "album" (another dinosaur word) If the listings take hard turns, or even U-turns, it could be a random shuffle, it could be a break between listening sessions, or it could be a mood swing.

Any track that I switch off before it makes it all the way to the end of the song won't appear. That's a function of the software I'm using, but I think it also makes the listing a better representation of what I'm using for a soundtrack these days.

Just looking over the latest listings, my favorites were Chickenwolf (which was a new one for me) and Marvin and Tammi's "Ain't No Mountain High Enough." The latter is a great example of why records were invented. It's about as perfect a 45 as was ever made.

T: No wind, no rain Or winter's cold Can stop me baby (M: No, no, baby) 'Cause you are my goal

M: If you're ever in trouble
I'll be there on the double
Just send for me,
Both: Oh baby!

Just typing that gave me chills. Anyway, if there's anybody out there who pays any attention to the nether reaches of the sidebar, enjoy.

Saturday, May 7, 2005

Doubly disappointing

Here I thought it was going to be an interesting evening in front of the tube watching the pro basketball playoffs. Two Game 7's -- how could you go wrong?

Two blowouts, with the bad guys winning both games, that's how.

UPDATE, 5/8, 9:40 pm: Another day, two more blowouts on Sunday. It's like watching paint dry.

Friday, May 6, 2005

The short hairs (Rated R)

One of the funniest things I do, and I do it a few times a year, is have my back waxed. I was born with the hairy back gene, and since I made fun of hairy-backed guys to no end when I was a kid at the beach, I can't take my shirt off in public when that natural sweater is on there.

And so when the weather gets nice, or a trip to a sunny clime is coming up, I pay a visit to my good friend Michele the Esthetician, who spends a most interesting 45-minute interlude depilating my back and shoulders.

It hurts. But we carry on a conversation about other aspects of life, as if nothing untoward is going on. Only occasionally do we dwell on the fact that my poor, pasty little Polish-Irish back is on fire. Toward the beginning of our relationship, I asked Michele if she would wear a Nazi costume during the procedure, but she declined.

Today as I once again pushed down the blood-curdling screams that were fighting their way out of me with every painful rip, I mentioned to Michele how funny the whole concept of back waxing is. "It's a standard joke for me," I said. "I tell people I'm having my back waxed. They laugh."

"That's nothing," she said, whereupon she launched into the story of her recent trip to a national esthetician convention in Las Vegas, where she witnessed the actual waxing of a man's scrotum before a live audience of dozens of beauticians. The demonstration was being conducted by the world-renowned "Wax Queen," who had just finished removing all the body hair from a young female before the same group. In both cases, the crowd was shown the minute details of the process on a large projection screen in the Las Vegas Hilton ballroom.

With the female model, the job was called "the sphinx," in which all hair is removed -- and we do mean all, from every bodily crevice, except typically not from the head. This is to be distinguished from "the Brazilian," in which a thin vertical strip of hair (which I once heard referred to as a "landing strip") is left just above the female genitals. With the guy, he left his shirt on, but removed all of his clothing below that, and the Wax Queen proceeded to wax off all the hair from the sac that contained his testes and epididymus.

Michelle had theretofore never seen anything like that in her life. Since the male subject was Hispanic -- taking time off from his regular job selling wax for the Wax Queen -- it was, as Michele put it in her inimitable style, "much darker genitalia than I'm used to seeing." And it was uncircumcised! "I don't think I've ever seen that 'live' before," Michele said, "only on a cadaver when I was in school."

The Wax Queen showed the group just how to hold the scrotum during the slathering on of the hot wax and the ripping out of the pubic hair. The audience had lots of questions for her. Some of the queries were lame: "What's the difference between a scrotum and a testicle?" But a few were quite cogent. "What if the man gets an erection during this?" Said the Wax Queen: "Ignore it. It's not sexual. Men get erections all the time. We're estheticians. We deal with it."

Do people ever get injured having their scrotum waxed? "Of course," said the Wax Queen. "You're working with wax. I once split a scrotum."


Michele summed it up thusly: "The title of the session was 'Nooks, Cracks and Crannies,' but I decided it should have been called 'Backs, Sacks and Cracks.'"

By this time, I'm howling with laughter, and the tears rolling down my cheeks are a unique mixture of physical agony and amusement. I couldn't imagine what life would be like for a guy who needed his scrotum waxed.

Friend: "Wanna do lunch on Thursday?"

Guy: "Um, I don't think so. I'm going in to have my scrotum waxed at 11:00, and I don't think I'll be in the mood."

Or: "No, I'm going in to have my scrotum waxed, and then I'm going to have to get right back to work."

Do people ever do it themselves? "I think I'm going to just stay home this weekend and wax my scrotum."

And what about the esthetician? "I'm so nervous. Today I'm waxing my first scrotum."

By the time I stop chuckling about Michele's story, my back will have long since calmed down.

Won't you please, please help me

I must confess, I don't know what to do with the election ballot that's sitting on my desk. For those of you not from Oregon, all voting out here, even by dead people, is done by mail. And on the ballot, due a week from Tuesday, are six races, all contested, for positions on various education-related public boards.

These are folks who want to take a turn presiding over the steady dismantling of Oregon's once-proud public school system. You can debate why it's happening, but there's no denying that trend.

Anyway, I'm inspired by Barry over at Alas, a Blog, who earlier in the week "asked the blog" for help, and got it. He was looking for ideas to round out a cartoon he was drawing, and he got some amusing ones from his dedicated readers.

My predicament is nowhere near as much fun, of course. But if any knowledgeable folk would like to enlighten me as to whom to vote for in these races, and why, I'm all ears:

Multnomah Education Service District Position 2: Sonja-Jean Harju, Sy Kornbrodt, Jim Davis, George Shepard. My early reaction: Kornbrodt and Davis are these, shall we say, offbeat characters who always have their pictures in the voter's pamphlet, aren't they? So they're out. And I've got a definite bias against folks with hyphenated names, particularly first names.

Multnomah Education Service District Position 3: Harry Ainsworth, John Sweeney.

Portland Community College: George Hendrix, Jim D. Harper, Richard F. LaMountain. My early reaction: Any relation to Jimi? Again, name trouble with LaMountain.

Portland School Board, Zone 4: Steve Buel, Sheryl J. Butler, Steve Kayles, Juanita V. Johnson, Dan Ryan, Charles McGee, III. My early reaction: I see a lot of Buel lawn signs. Between Juanita and LaMountain, I feel like I'm trapped in a Donovan song.

Portland School Board, Zone 5: Sonja Henning, Cy Nisenfeld, Steve Gunther, Jim Christiansen.

Portland School Board, Zone 6: Trudy Sargent, William J. McCloskey.

Thanks in advance for your help, folks.

Thursday, May 5, 2005

Pink slipped

My favorite blogger, Tony Pierce, got his walking papers yesterday. No longer will he be flying the big chopper as a super-agent for the XBI. A "layoff," supposedly, but the many fans of the busblog are suspecting otherwise.

No matter. If he can't hang with Tony, the Man ain't worth worrying about. The stars are putting the Blog King of L.A. into play, and it will all be good.

Hurts now, though. Not as bad as the hellish Night of Steve Bartman, of course, but it still smarts. Get on over there and flow a 111-year-old brother some love.

Uh oh

Dear Lord, please may the thing that this person was searching for not exist.

PDC meltdown!

It's an amazing day. The Portland area's most roguish government agency and pork pot, the Portland Development Commission, is now officially in a state of complete and utter meltdown.

Even the lethargic watchdogs at The Oregonian are smelling blood. Today they ran a front-page story in which they call into question the no-bid contracts by which a guy named Nathaniel "Than" Clevenger did p.r. work for the PDC over the last couple of years. Clevenger is a friend and political advisor to PDC chair Matt Hennessee (whose career in public life was pronounced dead by Willamette Week yesterday). Coincidentally, Clevenger also just happened to serve as p.r. flak for Opus Northwest, the company to whom the PDC commissioners voted last week to award the potentially highly lucrative contract to turn the east side of the Burnside Bridge into another condo canyon.

In the article, Mayor Tom Potter (bless his soul) is not only wondering aloud about Clevenger's contracts, but also calling for the final word on the Burnside deal to be delayed until after Hennessee and PDC CEO Don "the Don" Mazziotti are out of office come June 30. The losing bidder, Beam, has filed an appeal of last week's highly odiferous decision by the PDC board, and Potter wants the new CEO, not Mazziotti, to rule on that appeal. Good for the mayor; I hope he's successful.

Meanwhile, Clevenger himself seems to have gone off the deep end. B!X, who deserves an award for his reporting on the Burnside fiasco and on Clevenger's role in particular, reported last night that he had received an e-mail message from Clevenger that included the following passage:

How many people did you employ? Or, did paying an intern to help your rumor-mongering business not factor in your parents monthly support of your hobby? But enough of this childishness, how about you and me in a public debate. You bring your slander and innuendos. I'll bring a group of friends and some chips 'cause I know you can't really afford to buy snacks on your parent's allowance. Oh, but you'll have to crawl out from under that rock you live under to do it. Name the place, I'll bring my friends, you bring yours (if you have any). I'd like to see you address me in public the way you do in your site - you sissy. I'd say more, but am sure you'll print every word I write and I recognize children may be reading this. I know infants are. If you don't set a date, I'll find you at Stumptown and we can make a big show of it. Game?

Real nice. And late into the evening he was still at it over on Communique, ranting and raving through comment after comment. He even got into it with City Commissioner Randy Leonard, who, as "Than" is about to learn, doesn't suffer fools gladly.

You know what's needed right now? For Messrs. Mazziotti and Hennessee to leave their PDC positions two months early. By resigning today. As for Clevenger, if he actually wrote that e-mail and those blog comments, it's time for a major chill pill.

Mr. Clevenger, just as you offered free advice to Mr. Hennessee, let me offer some free advice to you: Take out a map and see how far it is from Virginia to Portland. If your claims to fame in Portland are being the one-time PDC public involvement expert, and the political brains behind Matt Hennessee, then you are lucky not to be on welfare at this point. The last thing you need to do is to start bullying people who are telling it like it is.

Perhaps you should give Kim Kimbrough a call, and schedule some golf dates. Because just like Kim, you are pretty much packing your own suitcase.

UPDATE, 5:47 p.m.: A document that purports to be the Beam protest letter is making the rounds. For what it's worth, I post it here (pdf).

Oh, how I miss the No. 2 on rye

(What Manhattan deli served up a corned beef and tongue sandwich called "Tongue's for the Memory"? The Carnegie Deli.)

When my brother and sister and I were growing up in Down Neck Newark, our mother always had some sort of job going outside the house. We needed the bucks, and she'd wait tables and do secretarial work to make ends meet.

One of the places she worked, for many years, was a delicatessen uptown called Hobby's, where Sam the owner ground out one gigantic, New York-style deli sandwich after another. Mom would put on her uniform and head out around 10 in the morning. She'd walk up to the corner and hop on the number 1 or number 34 Public Service bus, which she would take one stop past the city's main intersection, Broad and Market. Then she'd walk a short block over to Branford Place, and Sam's palace of cured meat, to serve lunch to lots of local celebrities. These included most of the high-powered lawyers and judges who worked at the nearby courthouse, and the reporters who covered them. Mom wouldn't get out of there until around 2:30, and get home just before my brother and I returned from school.

Once in a while we would go to Hobby's with someone to pick Mom up. And it was on those trips that we kids learned about the wonders of cole slaw and Russian dressing slathered right on a huge sandwich of corned beef, pastrami, and tongue -- tongue! -- on some serious Jewish rye bread. Or chopped chicken liver sandwiches -- oh, man. These things were so huge, it was a challenge to get your mouth around them. You'd need a Dr. Brown's cream soda to wash it down. The grown-ups even drank Cel-Ray, the good doctor's celery soda, but as I recall that was a little too daring for us wee ones.

It was a thriving restaurant, but as anyone who's worked in such a place knows, it was tough work for everyone involved. I remember in particular the meat slicing machine, which Sam worked so skillfully. One false move with that thing, and you were heading out to the hospital with the tip of your finger in a napkin, with ice packed around it (which I think actually happened one day). Sam's mother-in-law played the role of the cashier, which we were led to understand was standard operating procedure in Jewish delis. It's funny, because when I first moved to Portland and was working in the Pioneer Courthouse, there was a similar outfit right across the street, called Dave's -- "Jewish soul food," my boss called its fare -- and sure enough, there was the mother-in-law behind the register as you paid your bill and picked up your tray.

Dave's is worthy of another post all its own, but what got me thinking about Hobby's this morning is this story. Like my mom, Sam is now retired. But his sons still run the deli, and they're sending free salami over to the soldiers in Iraq. I'm sure it will taste great to the fighters in the desert, but if they start to think about those monster sandwiches that you can get at Hobby's, they, like me, are going to be homesick.

Wednesday, May 4, 2005

Thirty-five years ago today

A truly bleak day in our history.

Exam Day

For the next two days, I put my students through their paces on final exams. I'm from the old school of law school: In my larger classes, one exam at the end of the term determines a student's entire grade for the course. Needless to say, this creates some, ahem, pressure on the pupils. At least by the time they take my course, they've been through this routine for a year or more, and so I'm not the first law professor who's applied the heat.

Unlike many of my peers, I administer the exams myself. It's always an odd feeling, leaving the room after handing out the questions. For the first time in the semester, if something's not clear to a student, I won't be there to help. Quite the contrary -- I'll soon be taking their answers home and playing judge. Including judging myself, of course.

It's not a role most professors enjoy, and I'm no exception. I just do my best to keep my game face on in the exam room, and to be as fair and careful as possible in scoring the exams. I want everyone to succeed, but a grading curve must be produced.

As I've mentioned here before, once the pile of exams is before me, I engage in all sorts of work avoidance rather than do the grading. So don't expect a lull in the output here in the coming days.

Tuesday, May 3, 2005

Dumbest Thing I've Heard in a While

"The consumers are smart, and they're discerning, and I think there are consumers in Portland, Oregon, who would pay $1,000 a square foot for the right penthouse," said Kathy MacNaughton, a broker with Realty Trust Group Inc.

Sure. Move to Portland, Oregon and pay $3 million to live in an apartment building. There's your smart consumer.

A stroke of genius

Hey, I've got a great idea. You know all those illegal aliens who are running around the country? Let's make it impossible for them to get a driver's license. We don't want to actually test them to see if they know how to drive. Let's have them all drive without licenses!

When they run us over, we can say, "I'm proud to do my part to make this country safe from Osama bin Laden."

Bonzi, glad you're gonzi

My friend Doug really knows basketball, and he really knows people. When the Trail Blazers shipped Bonzi Wells (left) out to Memphis last season, and Wells was talking about how thrilled he was about his "fresh start," Doug said: "Give it a year or so. By the end of next season, he'll be pulling the same stuff he's been pulling here."

And as usual, Doug was right. (Headline stolen from here.)

Monday, May 2, 2005

Quotation of the Week

"It's outrageous, even for McMinnville."

Audio Cheez Whiz

I seem to have hit a nerve out there by even mentioning that KISN-FM has been replaced on the Portland radio dial by something called "Charlie." Lots of disgruntled listeners commented on that post -- along with just a couple of "gruntled" ones, who like the new format.

I since came across an article in The New York Times pointing out that this is a national phenomenon. And it's not just oldies stations that are disappearing -- even "alternative" rock stations are being uprooted for automated playlists and talk formats. Music on the free radio may be headed the way of the recorded music industry -- becoming obsolete with the advent of satellite pay radio, and the computerized gadgets with which we can program an entire soundtrack for our lives without corporate help.

It's no coincidence that the robot '80s and '90s radio stations like Charlie are promoting themselves as being "like an iPod." The problem is, they're like an iPod that's been loaded by your white trash cousin, who has lousy taste in music.

Another hap'nin' guy

Don't know what took me so long, but I just stumbled across Oh Dog, You Sleuth!

Paging Mayor Potter

Lots of colorful language was being flung around over the weekend concerning the Portland Development Commission's outrageous selection of a developer for the east side of the Burnside Bridge. B!X is calling it a "rogue decision," and The O says the neighbors are "sulking" (a choice of verb which reportedly is ticking off the neighbors no end).

I did my best last week with "cancerous cyst," but let me add some more fuel to the rhetorical fire: The PDC is utterly out of control.

Once again, they screwed up the p.r. big time. Never has the "us and them" attitude that the PDC adopts toward the taxpayers of the city been more apparent. PDC chair Matt Hennessee (right) told The Oregonian on Thursday: "At the end of the day, if it fails, guess who people would look at? It's not the neighborhoods." That's the cooperative spirit, Matt!

Of course, on one level he's certainly right. For example, blame for the continuing, now breathtaking, failure of the Vanport Square project on MLK Boulevard is falling squarely on Hennessee and the other commissioners -- where it belongs.

But the Burnside deal is a lot worse than just a public relations fiasco. It would have been impossible to have any good p.r. on this decision, because the substance of it is so wrong. As my litigator friends are fond of saying, You can't polish a turd.

Even Randy Gragg, The O's resident apologist for all Pearlite scams, got part of this one right. The PDC ripped off local developer Brad Malsin's idea, delayed the decision in the name of "public process," and then in effect fed Malsin's superior plan to its favored developer, Opus, so that it could get the deal. Then the overwhelming public input that the added process produced was conveniently discarded:

The PDC put out a request for proposals, suggesting a big-box retailer such as Home Depot would be a good anchor for a housing and office development. Opus and another developer, Gerding/Edlen, responded in kind. But Malsin, a developer from the neighborhood, opted for a different scheme: flex work space, local retail, artists' lofts and condos. Neighborhood advocates and eastside businesses rose up against the big box and embraced Malsin as their visionary.

Hennessee stepped in and lengthened the public process, allowing more public input but also giving the other developers the chance to shift to more Malsin-like, big-box-free proposals.

If Malsin was actually wronged in any way, it wasn't because he lost. Rather, it's because he spent $200,000, in essence creating the PDC's new request for proposals.

The rest of Gragg's spin (which was duplicated in an O editorial on Saturday) is bunk -- Opus was a sounder bet financially, we can't take chances with public money (*cough!*) -- but even he in all his soul-patched folly discerned the smell of this particular brand of rat.

Heaven forbid that, when the PDC is doling out the Real Estate Welfare, it might actually favor a bright local guy. it's a nice message to the "creative class": Move to Portland, where we'll immediately slop our inferiority complex over onto you. Fat cats like Opus get the real work -- you wait tables.

So, where is Mayor Tom Potter, at whose pleasure all of the PDC luminaries are currently serving? He was quoted last week as saying he'll take up his reaction with Hennessee privately. As soon as he gets done addressing that well-tailored Lake Oswego suit, I hope the mayor will clue us taxpayers -- who are going to pay yet another developer to build us some more condo towers -- in on what he thinks of the decision.

As bad as the Rope-a-Dope-Opus caper is, it doesn't worry me nearly as much as the selection process for a new CEO for the PDC. For some reason, the mayor is insisting that a replacement for Don "the Don" Mazziotti be found and sworn in by July 1. But all that does is give the existing PDC commissioners the right to pick Mazziotti's successor. Already the search committee is lined with the usual suspects from the Hennessee-Goldschmidt web -- the same place that the current majority of commissioners, and Mazziotti, came from.

Mayor Potter, if you really want change at the PDC, don't let this band of rogues name the next chief! Insist that your newly appointed commissioners, and not the current gang that couldn't shoot straight, make that call. What's the rush? Either get the decision put off until after July 1, or take Matt Hennessee and Janice Wilson to breakfast at the Fat City Cafe, and ask them to read your lips, if you know what I mean.

Sunday, May 1, 2005

I think there may be a concentration camp named after me

O.k., I'll admit it, sometimes I sit up at night and Google myself, despite the risk of blindness. It's never too revealing. It turns out that my surname is very common, and you can't tell much about me from it (other than the fact that my father's father's father's side was Polish). Still, it's interesting to see who else bears the name. You get people like this:

Any family resemblances there? The first guy looks a tiny, tiny bit like my grandfather. Maybe I'm Jewish?

Anyway, the image search pulled up an odd picture tonight, one that I hadn't seen before:

Following along to see where the image comes from, I get sent here, where there's nothing but indecipherable (to me) Romanian. But as I click around, I find this site, which I believe describes a Hungarian novel on which a movie is based, and the sign is apparently taken from the set of the movie.

Doesn't sound like a happy place, that's for sure.

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