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

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September 2005 Archives

Friday, September 30, 2005

Compulsion, thy name is blog

I must be nuts. I just spent the better part of the day figuring out a way to have the latest 10 songs I've listened to automatically posted to the "Sounds" section of the sidebar on the main page of this blog.

But I'm proud to say, I have done it! Now I can spend the rest of my life wondering why.

Film at 11

Here's the rundown of video clips available for your viewing pleasure tonight on the Channel 12 news website here in Portland:

Featured Videos
Girl dead after hanging
Accused dad found not guilty
Boring shooting
Car theft spree
John Roberts sworn in as chief justice
Salem drivers urged to keep close eyes on cars
Man shot by homeowner after fleeing from attackers
Salem family seeks justice
Benson High teen robbed
Mom breaks stereotype of meth addicts
Teen magazine pulled from stores
Teen prostitution bust
Bed bugs infest Linfield College dorm

The third one's funny in and of itself -- who wants to watch a boring shooting? -- but taken as a whole, the list shows you what you'd get if you tuned in their newscast. Namely, 90% junk.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

"Precision-engineered from Reptilon"

With airfares going up, people are flying less. But SkyMall, the company whose catalogs sit in the seat pocket in front of you, isn't missing a beat. It's now listing its products on line as well.

The latest from Lars

Just got a breathless e-mail from Lars Larson (that's redundant, I know) in which he hawks Jason Atkinson for governor, along with a good old-fashioned money pitch:

Let me tell you how important this is to me. I have never used my email list to solicit funds for a candidate before. That is how much I believe in Jason Atkinson. He is the right man for the job.

So, would you please consider making a modest contribution to the "Atkinson for Governor" committee. A contribution in the amount of $100, $50, $25 or whatever you can afford will help Jason begin what promises to be an historic march to the Governor's office in 2006.

Please send your donation to : P.O. Box 1965, Wilsonville, OR 97070 or go to the link below where you can make a donation online. Although Jason won't turn down a large donation, Jason is focused on raising money from fellow common-sense Republicans who want to make a difference in Oregon. Any amount you can send Jason will no doubt be both appreciated and humbling.

And you know, Lars is an expert on "humbling"...

Anyway, it looks like Mannix is out, Atkinson is in, on the tighty righty side.

Me, too

Another illustration of the enormous educational potential of blogs:

"I know if I have nostril nugs on display, I do like to be told about it."

No, not that one, the other one

The political rumor of the week is that former Oregon Labor Commissioner (and one-time gubernatorial wannabe) Jack Roberts is planning to run for the upcoming vacancy on the Oregon Supreme Court.

Sounds good to me. I know Jack (who comments on this blog from time to time), and he's a great guy and a smart lawyer -- a tax lawyer, no less.

But if the rumor is true, his campaign is going to have to overcome one nagging little marketing obstacle: what you get when you Google-search for "Jack Roberts Supreme Court." Of course, it's this guy.

Missed opportunity

Now here's an international event that Portland should be sending an ambassador to. Grampy's in Mexico -- maybe the commissioner who's our "liaison to the International Council on Local Environmental Issues" ought to be there.

It also looks like something the governor should be attending.

Go ahead, it's just a game

You know you want to.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

It's over

Here's an interesting blog post from down Eugene way. Elizabeth was going to drop the bomb on Jeffrey over a six-inch sweet onion teriyaki chicken on honey oat. Ah, remember the good old days?

DeLay's guilty, insider says

A source close to House Majority Leader Tom DeLay said today that she saw first-hand that the Texas Republican had indeed committed the crime on which he was indicted.

"I saw and heard the whole thing," said Skippy, a squirrel who resigned last April from her position on top of DeLay's head. "He was definitely in on the scam." Skippy and DeLay parted ways over the intemperate remarks that DeLay made about federal judges in reaction to the Terry Schiavo case. She was replaced by a squirrel who was recruited from the staff of Sen. Trent Lott, R-Mississippi.

"I doubt DeLay will do time," Skippy said today on a brief break from her current job of gathering nuts on the Capitol Mall. "They never do. But he ought to."


What's a goofier expenditure of our tax dollars: Sending Mayor Potter and an entourage of PDC and similar ne'er-do-wells (including some Royal Rosarians and members of the Police Highland Guard) on a "sister city" junket to Guadalajara? Or putting an "eco-roof" on the Portland Building, doubling or tripling the cost of reroofing it?

Tuesday, September 27, 2005


Christoper Frankonis, alias the One True b!X, has officially announced the demise of his blog, Portland Communique.

It is such a big loss for the City of Portland, it's hard to believe, much less accept. Good luck and thanks to him.


Lest we forget, the 12th annual Portland Polish Festival was a blast. These folks have a winning formula, and they're smart enough not to change it as the event grows. Beautiful job, people. Sto lat!

How to tawk right

If ya's are gonna try to tawk Joisey, do it right, fa cryin out loud. Heah, listen to Pawlie, erright? An' don't do it at woik, or yas'll get yer a*ses canned, ya hear me? (Via PRS.)

Above the fruited plain

A fellow by the name of Albert Kaufman has posted some spectacular aerial photos of Mount Hood and the Gorge. He took them yesterday, and declared them "public property" on BlueOregon last night.

Kaufman's aghast at all the development and logging going on up there. See for yourself.

Not Craw -- Craw!

Don Adams, the comedian who played secret agent 86, Maxwell Smart, on TV in the late '60s, has left us. He was 82.

What a hilarious spoof that show was. With James Bond and The Man from UNCLE ruling the roost in popular culture, Get Smart was the ultimate sendup. People like Buck Henry and Mel Brooks were writing the gags, and so you knew you were in for laughs.

One of the bits I loved the best was, alas, one of the most politically incorrect ever to be seen on an American screen. You could never run it today, and of course, for good reason. But back when you could laugh at such things without even realizing how crass you were being, the showdowns between Smart and one of his arch-enemies, the Claw (played by Leonard Strong), were classic.

The Claw (pictured left) was an evil villain of Asian ancestry -- a distant cousin to Bond's "Dr. No." The Claw was so called because one of his hands was missing, a la Captain Hook. In its place, as I recall, was a powerful shoehorn-shaped magnet. (There you go -- two strikes already, both disability and ethnic stereotyping.) The Claw spoke English with a heavy accent, which was a good part of the joke. Picture Smart holding him off at gunpoint. Smart would turn to his sidekick, the lovely Agent 99 (Barbara Feldon), and say with a squinted brow, something like: "Well, 99, I see it's our old nemesis, the Craw."

Before 99 could respond, the villain would break in, growling: "No, not da Craw -- da Craw!"

The dialogue would come back to that more than once in every conversation between hero and villain, with the latter becoming more and more exasperated. Pretty soon you realized that the eternal struggles between good and evil, between life and death, were nothing compared to the confrontation between Smart's thick-headedness and the Claw's inability to correct him. "It's not Craw -- it's Craw!" I still laugh out loud when I say it, doing my best imitation of Strong. And in everybody's defense, the laughs are as much about Smart as they were about the Craw -- er, Claw.

I guess you had to be there to get it. But those of us who were, did, and 40-plus years later, we remember many other Smartisms. Who could forget the shoe phone? The secret entry to headquarters via the phone booth? The Cone of Silence? The dozens of other spy gadgets that never worked? We'll miss Adams, but perhaps not as much as we miss Max. (Via AboutItAll--Oregon.)

Alpha and omega

As I no longer have The New York Times delivered to the house, if I want it, I have to purchase it at a newsstand. This week, for example, I missed Monday's edition -- too busy. But on Sunday evening, as the coals were getting hot, I jumped on the bike and spun around the corner to Starbucks to pick one up.

I was rewarded with two beautiful articles in the Sunday magazine. First there were Joan Didion's exquisite reflections on death and mourning: "Grief turns out to be a place none of us know until we reach it." She does her best to show it to us.

Then Neal Pollack writes about the anticipation of joy -- the days preparing to become a father:

Later, in a reasonably accurate preview of what ideal fatherhood is actually like, I chased my 3-year-old nephew around the pool, my arms in the air, saying, "Rawwwrrrr!" while he shrieked to his daddy not to let the monster get him. If you can get past the initial infant-as-vegetable stage, suddenly fatherhood becomes a permanent role-play in which you are either the monster or the monster's victim. Sometimes you are also a bear or a lion or a dinosaur, but the principle of the chase remains the same. If, like me, you have no actual skills to teach your children other than ranting at the news, you can at least come up with new ways to scare the hell out of them.
There's your five bucks' worth right there.

Monday, September 26, 2005

On the wane

Downtown Portland's hit a rough patch. The Wild West gangster shootouts of last summer have not yet faded from memory, and last Friday's Business Journal further documents the decline with a story about parking. We're supposed to get all hot and bothered about Tom Moyer's little postage stamp park that's going to be built at SW Yamhill and Park -- as long as he gets to build 677 parking spaces underneath it. Meanwhile, operators of existing parking say that monthly customers are relatively few and far between.

And finally, civic leaders are acknowledging a significant part of the problem. They're euphemistically calling it a "rough element" that leaves behind the smell of pee:

Jones and other leaders hope proposed retail renovations around the nearby 10th and Yamhill facility will help even more. Critics have long maintained the garage, with its narrow enclosed walkways on Morrison and Yamhill streets, attracts a rough element.

Star Park, SmartPark's operator, and other interests want spruce-ups that would, among other improvements, seal-coat the stairwells, thereby helping to eliminate the urine smell that seeps into the structure's concrete.

I remember when the solution to these problems used to be this quaint commodity called police coverage. Ah, those were the days.

Retail downtown is hurting, corporations are moving their business headquarters out of the central city, and gas is $3 a gallon and climbing. In this climate, who needs another 700 parking spaces?

The Pearl District has sucked the life out of downtown, and it's putting a dent in NW 23rd Avenue, too. Imagine if all the retail and restaurant energy in the Pearl had been steered downtown -- what strength that would have created. Instead, shoppers and diners are being spread around to various different districts, with no apparent center. Downtown's being left to the panhandlers.

The city's raised parking rates at meters to $1.25 an hour, and rates at the SmartPark garages are going to follow suit after one more Christmas shopping season. Given the slacking off in car traffic, I suspect that revenues will only break even, and perhaps even decline, despite the rate increases. (SmartPark's revenues have been down over the last four years.)

And if you think it's depressed downtown now, wait until Meier & Frank is closed for renovation into a luxury hotel, and they start ripping up the transit mall for the upcoming, totally unnecessary, re-do. It's going to be even sketchier down there for a good long while.

Go by streetcar!

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Movin' on up

Senator Ron Wyden has married famed New York City bookseller Nancy Bass, according to press reports. It's no. 2 for Wyden, 56, who was divorced six or seven years back. It's the first marriage for Ms. Bass, 44.

The new Mrs. Ron is co-owner with her father, Fred Bass, of Manhattan's famed Strand Bookstore. She lives on Fifth Avenue in the Big Apple, has an MBA from Wisconsin, was once a manager for Exxon, and is a serious East Coast socialite. One of her pet projects at the Strand is selling "books by the foot" to folks who want them for their looks, not necessarily to read them. In like manner, she creates bookshelf backdrops for TV and movies.

An unlikely couple? It sure seems so. But at least we can all rest easier now, knowing that both our senators are big-time multi-millionaires. And think of how funny it's going to be watching Wyden play the role of the commoner when he's back among his constituents. Check out this story about how Ron roughs it at the Yankee games these days. Hands off the estate tax, Gatsby!

Time of the season

It isn't early fall if you haven't listened to the "Moondance" album by Van Morrison again lately. The dual foghorns on "Into the Mystic" should get you in just the right mood to pick pumpkins. I wanted this one so bad tonight that I burned a crude copy from a vinyl LP just to get it going.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Out and about

Nothing like a couple of hours running errands on a Saturday afternoon to show how cool Portland can be.

1. Best place to buy tickets for a concert: Aladdin Theater box office. An actual human being will find you better seats than you're ever going to get taking what the robot forces on you over on Ticketb*stards. And the event isn't even at the Aladdin -- it's at the Schnithouse.

2. Cool foodstuffs:
The Edelweiss German joint just around the corner from the Aladdin. You order a little liverwurst for old times' sake, and they ask you which of their three varieties you want. Oh, and the chocolate bars -- achtung, baby.

3. The stage is set: Cruise past Waterfront Park, where the benefit blues show for the hurricane victims will be held tomorrow. Curtis Salgado and Linda Hornbuckle? Say no more. (But we'll have to split our ticket with the Polish Festival.)

4. Endangered species: A good old convenience store on Northwest Trendy-third. Drive past all the mall stores disguised as small businesses, bask in the abundance of parking in the Plaid Pantry lot. Drink a V8. Buy five bucks worth of Powerball, 'cause the jackpot's up and you're dopey.

5. Denizens of the deep:
A fish run at City Market's always a good bet. If it's slow, the guy will show your four-year-old a live lobster up close. This year's great apple: honeycrunch. Wonderful, obscure Portuguese vinho is the perfect impulse buy. Try to ignore how expensive everything is.

6. The Nordstrom of groceries: Pick up some essentials at New Seasons. Navel oranges from Australia -- we live in a great era.

7. Fill up gas tank: Forty-three d*mn dollars. Geez.

The weather? Crystal clear, low 70s. And the soundtrack? A tape of Cajun music, like new, purchased yesterday at an estate sale for 50 cents.

That, dear reader, is a time sent from above.

Maybe the aerial tram [rim shot] will help

Portland's anemic mental health system sure does lead to some interesting moments on the city's lovely transit mall.

Oh, and don't put mail in any mailbox in town -- a meth head has the master key. And nobody does jail time for property crime around here any more.

And don't try to shop on NE Broadway today -- apparently the burglars are shooting at people now.

The livable city. Go by streetcar!

Friday, September 23, 2005

Running out

The biggest sports story in today's 0 was run in the tiniest type: "Running" Ann Schatz, former KOIN TV sportscaster, is leaving the Blazer broadcasting team. She's going to be doing play-by-play work for women's basketball on College Sports Television (CSTV).

Schatz (pronounced "shots") is one of my favorite Portland broadcasting figures ever. There's something about her voice and her delivery that lends excitement and authenticity to whatever she's talking about. Her courtside color commentaries for the Blazers were way beneath what she's capable of. But I doubt there will ever be room for a woman at the main table of men's basketball games -- the Blazers tried her out on the radio last year, I believe, and it was a no-go this year -- and so it's on to other things for Ann.

Too bad for Portland. I might tune in a women's game once in a while, just to have that voice coming out of the TV set again. And chalk up one more awkward move, sideways at best, by the Blazers.

Opting out

Well, it's time to fish or cut bait on the class action that's been brought against all of us Western Oregon Catholics over the archdiocese's bankruptcy. As I've discussed here several times before, I don't want to be part of the church's maneuvers to avoid paying its debts to those who were abused by priests. I believe that the federal judge in Spokane who threw out the church's similar theory up there was correct.

Hearing no better way to act on my instincts on this one, it's time to write the letter to the church's big bucks downtown lawyer, opting out of the defendant class. According to the notice I got, the deadline for doing so is October 3.

Here's what I've got for a letter (with personal data redacted):

Steven M. Hedberg, Esq.
Perkins Coie LLP
1120 NW Couch Street, 10th floor
Portland, Oregon 97209-4128
Re: Request to be Excluded from Class Action -- In re Roman Catholic Archbishop of Portland in Oregon U.S. Bankruptcy Court, District of Oregon No. 04-37154-elp11

We hereby request that we be excluded as defendants from the above-referenced class action. Our names are John A. Bogdanski and ***. Our address is *** NE ***, Portland, Oregon 97212 and our telephone number is 503-***.

From the fall of 1998 to the spring of 2002, we were members of The Madeleine Parish. Since the fall of 2002, we have been members of St. Philip Neri Parish. We have made cash and property donations at both of those churches, and we have also made small cash donations from time to time at Mass at other Catholic parishes in the Archdiocese of Portland.

Our donations were all made with the understanding that the gifts would be spent and distributed in the complete discretion of the Archbishop, acting through his agents, the pastors of the parishes. We were never under the impression that we retained any beneficial interest in the donated money and property, and we never understood that the Archbishop owed any fiduciary duty to us. In fact, we believed that his duty was to answer the call of the Holy Spirit in deciding how the gifts would be used, without regard to any duty to us.

Unless a subclass is formed to include parishioners and donors who share our views, we do not wish to be part of the class.


Not the happiest document I ever drafted. It will probably result in my being sued individually. But I don't see what else I can do.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

The things we do for love

Teacherrefpoet takes the plunge.

One giant, selfish step for mankind

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Have bow tie, will travel

My congressman, Earl the Pearl, has been making news. He was the Capitol Hill Nostradamus on Hurricane Katrina. Now he's made a list of top 35 members of Congress for taking trips at private groups' expense over the last six years or so. He's number 34 out of 633. That's just two behind Hillary!

Check out the story. He sure has embarked on some interesting junkets on other people's dimes. Istanbul (scroll down), Beijing, Switzerland, Rome, Mexico, Hawaii, Alaska... $86,770 worth. And here I thought he was working his a*s off in D.C. for me.

When he cried at that press conference announcing that he wouldn't run for mayor of Portland, it must have been tears of joy.

We still loves dreamers

They are at it again.

I'll bet a reader can tell me

I thought we were getting rid of "Sports Action," the Oregon "lottery's" pro football sports book "game," as a way of trying to attract the NCAA tournament to Portlandia. And yet I still see it in the paper. Those of you who with the stomach to follow what's going on in Salem, what happened?


Odd story across the banner of the 0 this morning about Portland Mayor Tom Potter. He's good, he's bad, he unifies the council, he takes too much control for himself -- I couldn't make heads nor tails of it. I defy you to read it and sum up what it's trying to say, in 50 words or less. "That's not exactly shocking," the article parenthetically observed at one point. The 0 ought to make that its next new motto.

At the very end, however, there was an interesting passage about the appointment of bureau managers:

The city's governing charter and City Hall precedent say that the individual commissioner in charge of a given bureau chooses his or her own managers. But under a draft produced in July, the mayor and his aides would decide which applicants got interviewed. All five council members, and interested citizens, would get a chance to question candidates. The mayor and the commissioner-in-charge would both interview the finalists.

All four commissioners objected, loudly. Hiring bureau managers was one power they weren't willing to give up.

Potter listened. The new-and-improved hiring guidelines maintain a bit of collaboration -- "Council members will consult each other," it says -- but leave most of the decision-making to the commissioner-in-charge.

Here's a real weakness in the city's antiquated commission form of government. Each commissioner gets to pick the managers of his or her bureaus. On one level, that makes sense, since the commissioner ultimately runs each bureau assigned to him or her. Might as well have good chemistry between the commissioner and the hired gun director, right?

But then the mayor has the power to reshuffle the bureaus among the commissioners -- once a year, I think it is. After the scramble, Erik Sten gets to work with, say, Randy Leonard's bureau chief picks. So much for chemistry. And when the manager gets canned, so much for continuity.

"Chaos" is how the article described our city commission government. I'm not sure that kind of word is appropriate for a "news" story, but it sounds right.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

More fun with Audioscrobbler

"Would you like cancer with that?"

This is a little spooky.

"They run you out"

I was having a nice conversation with a young entrepreneur a week or two ago. A really bright guy. He told me about his startup company, which has got a great product line, big ideas, and bright prospects. Toward the end of the conversation, I mentioned that I was a blogger, and told him I'd be interested if he ever had any thoughts about what it's like to be a small business in Portland (where his shop is currently based).

I didn't have to wait for a response. "Oh, we're getting out of Multnomah County," he said, matter-of-factly. "It's in our three-year business plan to leave before we get to be profitable. Our investors are expecting it. We can't stay here -- they run you out."

I think it's time that we Portlanders start figuring out a plan to fix this one. Waiting for city government to do it is a joke. They're too busy playing Monopoly with the Usual Real Estate Welfare Suspects, and the average Joe isn't invited.

Sir Isaac

I had the pleasure yesterday of lunching at an undisclosed location with the author of the pseudonymous Portland blog Isaac Laquedem. Given his secret identity, I won't say much more than that I enjoyed seeing him again. He is a true gentleman and scholar from the old school.

My in-person contacts with area bloggers have been great fun. I've been on the radio a couple of times with b!X (who appears to be stirring -- we hope that's a sign of things to come); and had lunch with Snethen; the Schmuck; and Worldwide Pablo. I've also fleetingly met Betsy.

Being a blogger has its benefits.

Visioning Portland's future

Monday, September 19, 2005

Can't explain

Times are tough at the Portland parks bureau. "We got no money to fix the Buckman Pool. We got no money to turn Washington High into a community center for inner southeast (despite many years of promises). The MLC pool in Northwest? Gotta close it. No money. We know you voted for a parks levy, but it wasn't for these things. That money's all been spent."

Poor, poor parks bureau.

Makes you wonder, then, what the heck this is all about. From this Wednesday's City Council agenda:

Commissioner Dan Saltzman

Parks and Recreation

*1118 Authorize commitment and expenditure of Portland Parks and Recreation funds for contribution to acquisition of Public Storage property in the South Waterfront for a neighborhood park (Ordinance)

The * indicates an emergency ordinance, which takes effect immediately if passed. Non-emergency ordinances require two readings and a 30-day waiting period before taking effect. Resolutions, reports, etc., adopted by Council are effective after adjournment.

And I'm looking in the bureau budget -- can't find it there, either.

Wonder what the "emergency" is. (Via an alert reader who self-identified as "Swimmer.")

Buzz kill

Today's eco-question: Not that I miss them, but where are all the yellowjackets this year?

Of sweeps and rugs

The old boys of Portland sure do seem anxious to get back to business over at the Portland Development Commission. Last week, John Russell and Bob Walsh, two developers who have previously served as chairmen of the PDC, published an op-ed piece in The 0 loudly announcing that, with a new sheriff in town, it's time to hurry up and resume covering the city with tax-subsidized high-rise junk:

The recent election of Eric Parsons, chief executive at Standard Insurance Co., as chairman of the Portland Development Commission completes a clean sweep of the three positions most important to its success: We now have a new mayor and the PDC has a new chairman and new executive director.
Now I'll admit there's been a "sweep" of sorts over there, but I think the jury is still out on the "clean" part. Parsons, the new PDC chair, has been on the PDC board since November 2003, when he was appointed by then-Mayor Vera Katz. He has been a board member throughout all of the PDC hijinks of the last year and a half, and he's been in the majority on every wrong-headed vote that came down the PDC pike during that time under former chair Matt Hennessee. The new board secretary, Doug Blomgren, is in an even more intriguing position, having been appointed to the board by Katz (reportedly at the behest of City Commissioner Erik Sten and then-City Commissioner Jim Francesconi) in September 1997!

What concerns some of us is that the "sweep" to which Russell and Walsh referred may be just another under the very large PDC rug. Until the new crew shows tangible signs of improvement, I think it would behoove that agency and the City Council to do the exact opposite of what Russell and Walsh want. They're urging the city to throw caution to the wind now that the bad old days are over. Not so fast, fellows.

One of their arguments for having the PDC crank up an ambitious and accelerated agenda really cracked me up:

However, with a payroll of more than 200 talented employees, the development commission needs to constantly "do deals" to show a return on the staff investment. So caution and timidity need to be mixed with a healthy dose of impatience.
Since we've got such a bloated staff, we need to do more deals! That's interesting. There's another option, guys: fewer deals and some pink slips.

If the PDC wanted to show us that a new era of openness and accountability has suddenly dawned, the latest on the Convention Center hotel project is an interesting way to do it. Never mind the fact that the public has never been asked -- and never will -- whether it thinks spending a couple of hundred million tax dollars to build the hotel is worth it. (And I hear there's going to be a 30-year property tax abatement, and so in present-value terms, it's like a permanent 77 percent tax cut for the hotel.) If that's good money after bad, we all just have to shut up and like it.

But now let's talk about who the developer is going to be. According to a preliminary PDC committee recommendation, it's Ashforth Pacific, a local firm whose CEO, Hank Ashforth, is, among other things, on the board of directors of the Portland Family of Funds. PFF is the investment bank that the PDC created and then simply handed off to private owners. The same PFF that's into the PDC for around $1 million in loans, with no idea when it will be able to pay them back. The same PFF that could very well be bestowing federal tax credits on the hotel development.

"Development can be a small, small world," chuckled the headline on the 0 article about this on Thursday -- the same day that the Russell-Walsh rah-rah opinion piece ran. Oh yes, so humorous.

Meanwhile, the audit that was forced after some truly scandalous PDC doings were uncovered earlier this year has produced some startling findings. According to the audit, employees at the PDC don't bother to follow the agency's contracting policies fully one third of the time, including (according to The 0) "contracts for everything from studies to construction."

Of course, the spin machine at The 0 buried the significance of this. The headline was "Audits say PDC rules OK, follow-through lacking." Sure. And naturally, as is their wont, the folks at The 0 resumed their eternal game of "Who Had the Pickle?" Somebody bought beer, some employees booked rooms at the Benson for themselves one night, some forms weren't signed, blah blah blah.

Hey, kids. Stop trying to snow us with the trivia. We want to know about the "studies and construction." Which contracting policies were violated in those categories, for how much, and in whose favor?

Anyone who thinks that suddenly the public is going to forget about the many problems at the PDC is making a "high-definition" mistake.

Sunday, September 18, 2005


The scene: Me at the grocery store, standing in front of the vending machine that sells lottery tickets.

The time: 6:35 on a Saturday evening.

The action: I fumble around in my wallet for some cash to feed into the thing. The Powerball jackpot's gotten up into the high eight figures, and so it's time for me to play. I know it's late, but I figure the drawing isn't for 25 minutes or so, and I still have time, if I hustle.

Dang, I only have a $1 bill and some $20s. These bandits don't make change, and it ain't worth a $20, and so I resign myself to betting only a dollar. "If I win on only a buck," I'm thinking, "I'll feel really, really, really lucky."

In goes the dollar. I look up at the screen and see that I have a $2 credit. Wait a minute. I guess the person before me must have left a dollar in there ungambled. Anyway, I push the buttons for two $1 wagers. The thing starts screeching as it prints out the little slip on its old dot matrix thingie. I pull it out to look at my numbers.

Hey, this isn't a lottery ticket! It's a slip that says "Powerball - void" on it! I look back up at the screen. "Draw break," it says, meaning that it's too close to the time of the drawing, I guess. "For refund slip, press 'yes.'"

I press "yes." Out comes a refund slip. "Must be redeemed today at customer service at this store -- $2.00."

I walk right over. There's nobody at customer service but two clerks. I collect my two bucks -- a winnah! -- a 100 percent return on investment. Then it's off to the produce section.

Creepy day

Four years ago today, the first batch of anthrax letters was postmarked.

The fact that the investigation has produced no arrests is even more depressing than the failure to capture Osama bin Laden. The anthrax guy's probably still running around the United States somewhere. If the top-notch officials in "Homeland Security" haven't figured it out yet, it seems unlikely that they ever will.

Maybe it's the local officials' fault.

Besides destabilizing the world, which we're quite good at, do we ever achieve what we set out to do any more?

Saturday, September 17, 2005

He's Number 1

I know many readers have tried this already, but if you haven't, check out what happens when you head over to Google, search for "failure," and hit "I'm feeling lucky."

Friday, September 16, 2005

We've been having fun all summer long

A thousand thanks to the many bright young staffers at Grant Park Pool, where swim lessons ended tonight (brrr) and the water gets drained out come Sunday. We had a fantastic summer and will miss heading down there. This is the City of Portland at its finest. Too bad we're building whole new "luxury" neighborhoods that will never have such things, and letting similarly nice public facilities fall apart so that we can have streetcars and aerial trams [rim shot]. Anyway, thanks again, staff, and good luck with your studies this school year!

No prob

Our leader speaks:

President Bush ruled out raising taxes to pay for Gulf Coast reconstruction, saying other government spending must be cut. "You bet it will cost money, but I'm confident we can handle it," he said.
We'll just take it from unimportant stuff like special education, food stamps, roads, unemployment, environmental and tax enforcement, and those other nasty "entitlements" that are keeping your grandmother alive. If people can pay $3 a gallon for gas, why not $1.50 to mail a letter? Plus, we can always just double our borrowing from the Chinese -- make it $2 billion a week.

The guy's doing a heck of a job.

Here's a story

Yesterday was another fine day for me. I had the great pleasure of meeting Bill Colby. No, not the old CIA director. The Bill Colby I'm talking about is currently a fellow at something called the Center for Practical Bioethics. He used to be a partner at a big-bucks Kansas City law firm. While at that firm, he took on a pro bono case that the old guys said would last a half-day. Instead, it lasted years. It changed lives, including Colby's. You might even say the case took one or two lives, depending on your perspective. It was the case of Nancy Cruzan.

Nancy Cruzan, aged 25, crashed her car in a bad accident near her Carthage, Missouri home on Jan. 11, 1983. The emergency responders were able to get her heart and lungs working, but she had lain without oxygen for a long time before they got there, and much of her brain was destroyed. She was left in a persistent vegetative state. Her bodily functions worked -- sort of -- but her existence could not reasonably be called consciousness. Her eyes were open; she had some limited reflex reactions; but, in the word that used to suffice in a less sensitive time, she was a vegetable -- kept alive only by a feeding tube. If Terry Schiavo is still fresh in your mind, you get the picture.

Colby's book, Long Goodbye, is about Nancy's family, and how they spent more than three years fighting to have the feeding tube removed. Once they realized that their daughter and sister was wihout a meaningful life, and that she could be sustained that way for three or four decades, they searched their souls and determined that that wouldn't be right. But the medical authorities in Missou refused to pull the tube at the family's request. If the family wanted to let Nancy die, they would have to invoke the legal system to order the state to allow them to do it.

The case went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court -- the Court's only major right-to-die case so far -- with young Colby, then in his early 30s, suddenly thrust into the limelight. The family lost in the High Court, by a 5-4 vote, but eventually "won" in a new trial in a local court, and they had their daughter's feeding tube removed. She died around three hours after Christmas Day in 1990.

There are very few visitors to this blog who wouldn't benefit from reading Colby's book. If you care about the theory of the right to die, bioethics generally, the right to privacy, abortion, parental rights, the influence of law over agonizing personal decisions, or just the story of a bright young man in over his head, Long Goodbye has valuable messages for you. Heck, even John Ashcroft (then governor of Missouri) and Ken Starr (then U.S. solicitor general) make appearances.

I have at least a mild interest in all those subejcts, but what ultimately kept me up at night, sometimes stopping to dry my own tears as I read, was the story of a father and his daughter. Colby's work is really a story about Joe Cruzan, Nancy's father, more than anything else. At one point toward the end of Nancy's life (and Joe's), a stranger sent Joe a postcard that read in part:

I pray to God that someone would love me enough to fight to let me die.

In Nancy's case, her father did -- at enormous cost.

The book has several pages of photos, and by the time you're done with the text, you could care less about Ashcroft, Starr, or the nine justices of he Supreme Court. The only pictures that matter are those of the parents, Joe and Joyce, and of course, those of Nancy. God rest all of their souls.

If my own gut reaction is any indicator, this is a story that you clearly should take a look at.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Stop me if you've heard this one

Q: What's George Bush's position on Roe v. Wade?

A: He really doesn't care how people get out of New Orleans.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

The usual suspects

Portland City Commissioner Dan Saltzman recently announced that he won't be taking "clean money" in his re-election run against challenger Amanda Fritz and others. Saltzman's going to take only the traditional "unclean money," and he apparently believes that the early bird catches the worm. His campaign finance report filed this week shows him collecting nearly $70K in cold cash already toward the campaign, with the general election still more than a year away.

Leafing through the 39 pages of disclosure in the report is pretty interesting. So far, Saltzman's taken more than $500 from a couple of folks, at least on paper. Someone named John Andrews, listed as an employee of Melvin Mark Co., kicked in $1,000, and Marjorie Saltzman (a relative, perhaps?) was good for another $1,000. All the other entries are $500 or less.

But when you look a little more closely, you see that, as I suspected, there are some noticeable instances in which persons and entities who may be related have contributed simultaneously, arguably with the effect of making those $500's add up to more.

For example, in addition to $500 from Jordan Schnitzer, Saltzman took $500 each from Lois Schnitzer, Schnitzer Investment, Schnitzer Steel, and Harsch Investment (which when last I looked was owned by Schnitzers). That's $2,500 total from people or companies with the same last name or some variation thereof, not to mention Ken Novack, listed as being employed by Schnitzer Investment (another $500).

There's $500 from Jim Winkler, and another $500 from Winkler Development. In addition to $500 from Homer Williams, Saltzman took $500 from Hoyt Street Properties, a name long associated with Williams (although he may no longer be an owner, according to some press reports).

There's $500 from each of these donors: Mary K. Mark, Melvin J. Mark, and Melvin Mark Jr.; and as noted earlier, $1,000 from someone identified as working for Melvin Mark. There's $500 from Richard Alexander, and another $500 from Carilyn Alexander, same address. Ditto for Alison Kehoe and Martin Kehoe, and Joan Kingsley and Wayne Kingsley.

Other aspects of the report also make for fun reading. Saltzman got to both sides of the feuding Naito clan, I think. Verne Naito coughed up $500; Made in Oregon, which I believe the other side of the Naito family controls, gave another $500.

Many of the other usual suspects are in there, but some of the amounts are comical. Long-time bank exec George Passadore, whose occupation is listed as a member of the Tri-Met board, pungled up only $250. Heck, Maria Rojo de Steffey could scrape up that much, and she did. Peter Kohler, who pulls down $600K-plus as the head of OHSU, could be talked out of only $100 for Saltzman. Robert Widmer, Mike Lindberg, and Bev Stein popped for only $100 as well.

Rounding out the all-star cast were $500 contributions from such folks as Kroger (the same outfit that runs Freddy's, I'm guessing), American Medical Response (the ambulance guys), lobbyists Northwest Strategies (which I think is Len "Slots" Bergstein), Mark Bruun, David Evans and Associates, the Trail Blazers, Mark Dodson, Wayne Drinkward of Hoffman Construction, Gerdling/Edlin Development, Douglas Obletz, Oregon Entertainment Corp. (is that the same one that runs the adult video store?), Chet Paulson, Plaid Pantry, Mike Powell, Pat Prendergast, Dan Wieden....

You get the picture. Although the good commisioner is going to put his best grassroots face on from here to election night, his booster club ain't exactly an OSPIRG meeting.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

The sound of burning tax dollars


I wish I had friends like Don Mazziotti and Matt Hennessee. Then I could get $1 million of taxpayer dollars "loaned" to me to start my business. And if I couldn't pay because I couldn't make my business work? The PDC would just let me repay the money whenever I could get around to it.

And I could blame my business problems on the City Club.

It must be nice.

UPDATE, 9/14, 1:47 p.m.: First link changed, to reflect my original intent. Tough day yesterday...

This is cool

You want the news? I'll give you the news: Rob Salzman is back.


Boris I. Bittker, the legendary emeritus professor of tax law at Yale, left us last week. He was in his late 80s and had been living in an assisted living facility for a short time. In the coming days, there will be many tributes. Likely none will do him justice. This is my feeble attempt to get my experiences with the man down into words.

Please bear with me. I have many fond memories.


Who was Bittker? He was one the pioneers, if not the leading pioneer, who turned the federal tax law into an academic discipline, just as the income tax was becoming a factor in the lives of everyday Americans. The law school casebook that he published in 1954 (at the age of 38) is now in its 13th edition. The professional treatise that he co-wrote on corporate taxation, now in its seventh edition, is still the starting point for any serious discussion of taxation of corporations and shareholders. His "big treatise" -- a five-volume masterpiece that was released in the early 1980s -- is still being updated, and it is heavily used by tax practitioners throughout the country. Capable co-authors have taken over the revising duties, but the Bittker genius is still evident in all of the publications that bear his name.

So strong were Bittker's analytical and writing talents that an entire publishing house, Warren Gorham & Lamont, was built with his treatise as its foundation. Now a part of Thomson, the WGL imprint remains a powerhouse. So many copies of Bittker books have been sold that he was said to have stopped drawing a salary at Yale long before he stopped teaching a full course load, and even overloads, there.

(In the early days, a Bittker book or two was published by a small Hamden, Connecticut publisher that was rumored to be owned by Bittker himself. Some even speculated that the company, which as I recall was called Federal Tax Press, might have been a dreaded "collapsible corporation." Any time I ever heard the matter discussed, there were wry grins all around. No doubt the master of the tax laws had a few tricks up his sleeve.)

Though a major star in the tax pantheon, Bittker had many other scholarly interests throughout his career. His writings included works on the Constitution, race relations, civil rights, federal courts, and jurisprudence. A collection of his essays, compiled in 1989, ran more than 700 pages and showed the breadth of Bittker's interests and erudition.

Along about the age at which most folks retire, Bittker decided to put aside the tax code and spend more time with constitutional law. One result was an elaborate treatise on the Commerce Clause, released in 1999, when he was aged 83. "I bequeath the income tax to you," he wrote me back in the early '90s. As if those shoes could ever be filled.

In recent years, Bittker also saw one of his visions fulfilled as Yale started publication of Legal Affairs, a law journal designed to re-emphasize "the link between law and actual life" -- a link that's too often missing in high-end legal scholarship these days.


With all due respect to all the other wonderful people for whom I have worked over the years, Bittker was without a doubt the best boss I ever had. I served as his research assistant for a semester when I was in law school, and after graduation I did some modest drafting for him in connection with his "big treatise."

My first contact with Bittker was an unobtrusive notice tacked up on the Stanford Law Review bulletin board sometime early in 1977: He was looking for a recent law school graduate to serve as his research assistant for the following academic year. Being only a second-year student at Stanford, I had no hope of fitting that bill, and although I enjoyed my tax courses, my grades in them were somewhere north of pitiful and south of outstanding. But I had a strong personal (read: romantic) interest in being in Connecticut that fall, and through John Kaplan of the Stanford faculty, I approached Bittker with a slightly modified counterproposal.

There ensued a series of generosities on Bittker's part that revealed him, sight unseen, to be a remarkable individual. With his help, I was able to formulate a proposed course of study as a "special student" at Yale Law School that was so strong, it stood on its own merits as an educational experience rather than a mere facilitation of "spousal equivalency." As a result, the Stanford administration, which always coveted Bittker's talents, granted me a leave of absence for a semester, and agreed to accept any academic credits I might succeed in earning at Yale.

As it turned out, Stanford's decision was made for the right reasons. The romance of that spring wilted considerably by summer. But in any event, thanks to "BIB," as he often signed himself, I found myself in New Haven late that August, eagerly enrolled in courses with Marvin A. Chirelstein (an excellent educator and author on finance and taxes) and Ellen A. Peters (who soon thereafter joined the Connecticut Supreme Court). Of course, as promised, I also signed up for substantial independent research in tax with Bittker.

The Yale experience was stimulating and exciting -- I marveled at all the Ivy League hoopla, and almost instantly began working for a local volunteer radio station at night -- but my personal finances were a disaster. Again Bittker came through, not only with paid employment as a source-checker on his treatise, but also with magnanimous advances.

These kindnesses were only a beginning, however. As my mentor, he showed the utmost patience. Traditional law school tax courses, which were all I had had in the field, generally do not get around to research. Thus, the elementary tasks that led me deep into the bowels of the Yale law library also prompted seemingly endless questions of the type asked only by the greenest of newcomers. I wince now as I recall myself parading, sourcechecker's green pen in hand, down the second-floor corridor to this intellectual giant's office, there to stammer my way through the day's problems -- where and how to find basic sources, what everyday abbreviations meant, how a relatively simple aspect of the statutory scheme worked.

Despite a whirlwind of other activities around him, Bittker never failed to explain things to me, clearly, kindly, carefully, several times where necessary. I grew in leaps and bounds.

Working with a Bittker manuscript was every bit as good as, if not better than, reading a finished Bittker text. Even at an early stage in his drafting, one could enjoy masterful exposition with extraordinary style -- literate, crisp, lively, good-natured, often humorous. The sparkling metaphors, the literary allusions, the perfect balances between rule and rationale, restatement and anecdote, seriousness and whimsy -- all were there, even in early drafts. What set the drafts apart, though, were the fragments they contained -- half-notes to himself, tangential questions scribbled down for additional thinking, reminders of needs for additional verification or analysis. These took the source-checker into rooms of ideas that were closed to visitors by the time the mansion was opened for public viewing. The Yale cafeteria workers were on strike that fall, and the law library was under a noisy reconstruction, but my concentration never flagged. I rightly sensed myself to be an insider to a truly special process.

Continue reading "Boris" »

Monday, September 12, 2005

Bring back b!X

Portland's hardest-working blogger, known as the One True b!X, has been absent from the scene for what seems like an eternity now. He announced burnout more than a week ago, and his posting had slacked off quite a bit in the week or two before that announcement.

His Portland Communique has been a valuable asset to anyone with an interest in public life in the City of Portland, and it would be a shame to lose it. Readers who share my view about that are urged to drop the guy a line and tell him we miss his blog.

"Time is a wasting asset"

The late Chief Justice Rehnquist gave a whole speech on this topic years ago. And a wonderful talk it was. No kidding, check it out.

What I'd say to Teddy

A group of "blue" Oregon bloggers is reportedly getting ready for a conference call tonight with Sen. Ted Kennedy on the nomination of Judge John Roberts to be chief justice of the United States Supreme Court. I'm afraid I'm not "blue" enough to want to be in on that call, but if I were, I'd say two things:

1. Please give Roberts a relatively easy ride. Compared to the next nominee you're going to see, and the one after that, he's moderate. If you give Roberts a hard time, you will just be crying wolf. There is no way that his nomination won't be confirmed, so what are you gaining by grilling him? Then, when Karl Rove sends you the next Scalia or Thomas in a few weeks, with another one likely before the Dems are back in the White House, you will have already lost face with your moderate colleagues and the American public. Compared to Rehnquist, Roberts is a wash. You really need to save the ammunition for the more alarming cases that are likely to be coming down the road soon.

2. What is keeping you from retiring? You are a net liability to the party. If you really want to help your constituents, you should handpick a successor and get out of the way.

Sunday, September 11, 2005


On the checkout line next to me at the market this afternoon was a nice-looking silver-haired couple. Each was wearing a navy blue t-shirt bearing the emblem of the New York City Fire Department over the heart. The shirts said "Engine 9, Chinatown." I noticed that both the man and the woman had genuine Big Apple accents. They were laughingly discussing the puny savings they have recently achieved using grocery store affinity cards.

When the gal nosed over to pick up something off the impulse-buy rack in my line, I couldn't resist saying something. "I like your shirts," I said. She pointed over at her partner and said, "Over there's the real deal." I gave him the thumbs-up and said, "Thanks."

He just quietly smiled.

Sunday visitors

Had quite a few folks here today -- a couple of thousand, actually -- looking for this on a link from here. When Instapundit gives you a traffic spike, it's an "Instalanche." I guess I just had a "Volokh-ano."

I wish I knew who created that interesting Photoshop image, so that I could give him or her proper credit. Thanks for the yuks and the cheap hits, whoever you are.

Your house is waiting

Shirts in the closet, shoes in the hall
Mama's in the kitchen, baby and all
Everything is everything
Everything is everything
But you're missing

Coffee cup's on the counter, jacket's on the chair
Paper's on the doorstep, but you're not there
Everything is everything
Everything is everything
But you're missing

Pictures on the nightstand, TV's on in the den
Your house is waiting, your house is waiting
For you to walk in, for you to walk in
But you're missing, you're missing

You're missing, when I shut out the lights
You're missing, when I close my eyes
You're missing, when I see the sun rise
You're missing

Children are asking if it's alright
Will you be in our arms tonight?

Morning is morning, the evening falls, I got
Too much room in my bed, too many phone calls
How's everything, everything?
Everything, everything
But you're missing, you're missing

God's drifting in heaven, devil's in the mailbox
I got dust on my shoes, nothing but teardrops

-- Bruce Springsteen

Saturday, September 10, 2005

One disaster after another

Here's a heartwarming story about the Bush Administration's response to 9/11: Billions of dollars set aside to make low-interest loans to help 9/11-impacted businesses get back on their feet, were squandered. The Small Business Administration's oversight of the ultimate lending of the program's $5 billion was virtually nonexistent. Loans went to a dog boarding outfit in Utah, 55 Dunkin Donut shops around the country, 14 Quiznos sandwich shops, 52 Subway sandwich shops, 14 Dairy Queens, a toney McMinnville winery, a Portland rock-climbing gym, and scores of other businesses who couldn't possibly have been further removed from the tragedy of that day. Some of them made up humorous stories about their supposed ties to the 9/11 massacre, but many were never asked; they were never even told why they were getting such a good interest rate. Little of the money -- less than 11 percent -- went to New York and D.C., where all the destruction and death was. The banks who lent out the funds made out like bandits.

Just another fine job by the Bush Administration. Run by a C-minus student, and it shows.

And there's three more years of this to go. You asked for it, Ohio! Better spend 9/11/05 praying -- for the victims and their families, but also for the rest of us. And checking out that disaster survival kit in the basement.

Friday, September 9, 2005

Reaction pours in

"FEMA director Michael Brown relieved of hurricane responsibilities" -- News headline

Quotation of the Week

"I want us to see how we can take the energy and collaboration that orchestrated this remarkable effort, and turn it toward solving some of the pressing needs in our own community. Imagine what we can accomplish toward ending homelessness, for instance, with the same drive and determination we have shown this week."

Cheap thrills

What are you waiting for? The Ringling Brothers Circus is in town, and the best seats in the house (not the most expensive ones, but the best) are a big $24 apiece.

We just got back from the Friday matinee, and there was nobody there. It's a very mellow scene. They've Disney-fied it a bit. They're bending over backward to assure you that they're being good to the animal performers. They don't even call themselves a "circus" much. And they even throw a few bones (if you'll pardon the expression) at trying to make it somewhat educational.

Plus, it's great to be in the Rose Garden without that creepy Blazer feel all over the place. All in all, a great deal.

Your PC neighbors can stay home and watch their soybeans sprout.

Finally, some good news

(Via Rob Salzman, formerly of AboutItAll-Oregon).

Big Pipe nixes clean moolah

Portland City Commissioner Dan Saltzman, who voted in favor of "voter-owned elections," has announced that he won't be taking public financing for his re-election campaign. So all you developers and West Hills happeners, get out your checkbooks!

One thing to note, though -- like Mayor Potter, Saltzman's limiting contributions. He wants to hear only from the little people, I guess, because he's restricting gifts to only 500 bucks per donor.

So if you really want to make an impression, you're going to have to do a little extra work -- teamwork, that is. Suggest to your spouse, each of your kids who still wants to see your will, and everybody on your staff who likes having a job that maybe they'd like to donate $500, too. It's their constitutional right, and yours.

Thursday, September 8, 2005

Yes, he is

A picture may say a thousand words, but this screenshot says millions.

Guess who's coming to dinner

I noticed elsewhere in the blogosphere this week that some of the residents of the Buckman neighborhood in southeast Portland were being called on the carpet for having the nerve to question whether they'd still be safe with 500 or so refugees from New Orleans living on cots at Washington High School for an extended period.

This criticism seemed really unfair to me, for several reasons. First, there has been lots of trouble, including rape, at the Houston Astrodome, where other Katrina victims have been housed. Second, the Buckman neighborhood always gets society's problems brought within its boundaries for "treatment," and then when the ribbon-cutting ceremonies are over and the novelty wears off, the politicians forget their promises regarding security. Third, I've never been so scared on any streets anywhere as I was in downtown New Orleans -- and the knowledgeable locals told me to be even more wary than I was when I first got there. If the punks who menaced me in broad daylight in the French Quarter are coming to Buckman, then the folks down there have every right to be concerned.

Now from Salt Lake City, another evacuee resettlement site, comes a story that confirms that the Buckman neighbors are justified in asking their un-PC questions. Some of the new Utah neighbors have, in their pasts, committed major, violent crimes: "seven murders, six sexual crimes, numerous armed robberies, a few batteries of police officers, and one kidnapping."

You put people with those kinds of records a block away from St. Francis Park, with nowhere to go and nothing to do for months on end, and you are asking for trouble. For evacuees and neighbors alike.

Don't get me wrong, bringing evacuees here is the absolute right thing to do. They all deserve sympathy, respect, compassion, dignity, help. Most of the hundreds whom Portland takes in will be model citizens, and many of those with crimes in their past will not repeat their misdeeds here.

But some will. No one seriously believes that everybody in that crowded gym is going to be a cuddly Fats Domino figure, eating Mayor Potter's gumbo and singing "We Are the World" all day and night. So let's do this right. Mr. Mayor, after they take your picture kissing the babies, please keep enough cops on the scene, just to be on the safe side.

UPDATE, 9/9, 12:29 a.m.: I just learned that some members of Portland's African-American community have taken great umbrage at the security questions being raised, and some angry members of that community spoke at a sometimes-tense Buckman neighborhood meeting Thursday night.

If the mayor's going to "bring us all together," as he has promised to do, he's going to have to help us all walk a tightrope here. African-Americans are outraged right now, and rightly so. But the folks down in Buckman, who spend their summers chasing drug dealers around on their own because there aren't enough cops, are justifiably worried that this move is very experimental, and it carries some risks for them. Both "sides" are making valid points, and both feel aggrieved. But their grievances are not with each other. It's a sad, sad day when the folks in northeast Portland and the folks in southeast Portland are fighting with each other when their real, mutual nemeses are elsewhere, like in the White House. But ain't that America, 2005.

Although I'm going to catch holy heck from some readers about this post after the sun comes up in the morning, I'm standing by it. I'm not trying to fan the flames unnecessarily, but for everybody's sake, this project cannot be left to the kind of policing that's responsible for the horrible summer nights we had downtown this year. Please, Mayor Potter, work some magic.

If it's not "financially feasible," stay in California

It's a little unseemly during the most mortifying two-week period in recent American history for me to jump back onto the City of Portland's property tax shenanigans. But before the saga of the denial of the tax abatement for the Alexan luxury tower in the SoWhat district becomes a dim memory, I want to continue my followup on the intriguing, if relatively unimportant, questions that it has raised.

What is Portland trying to achieve with all the property tax abatements that it is handing out to developers of condo towers and apartment buildings? In the case of the Alexan, the City Council said the denial was all about the lack of low-income housing for families. The city had conditioned the abatement on a satisfactory level of low-income housing in the building. Although 48 studio apartments at upwards of $850 a month, before parking fees, technically met the guidelines established by the Portland Development Commission and the 200-employee city Planning Bureau, the city commissioners said it wasn't good enough. The 3-to-2 vote was swung when Commissioner Dan Saltzman, who's got to run for re-election next year on a skinny portfolio, came on board in opposition.

But a subsequent exchange on the red hot blog of Commissioner Sam Adams (who along with Fireman Randy joined Saltzman in voting against the abatement) reveals that low-income housing hasn't been what the Portland tax giveaway program was really designed to promote. Mostly the city has been looking only for "density" -- the mantra of the "smart growth"-Metro-wreck-Portland-to-save-Newberg crowd. As long as it's "dense," new housing can qualify for a 10-year property tax holiday in Portland, even if everyone who can afford to live in the development is rich as Croesus.

Take the Merrick Apartments (a.k.a "Burgerville Manor") over on MLK and Multnomah. A ridiculous project, still with lots of vacancies, at least from an exterior inspection. It's got all sorts of problems. The much-touted ground floor retail space went over like a lead balloon. As a salvage move, a big chunk of it has been leased to a realty firm, John L. Scott, for its offices. Retail entrances on two sides of the building are locked, and so they'll stay. So much for pedestrian-friendly. We got another Subway sandwich joint, though. Whoopee. (Unlike the one in our troubled downtown, this one even has a restroom.)

The location is rotten for families, and at least at the outset, the developers were hoping to charge high enough rents that no one would have called the place "affordable housing." I saw a guy outside the other weekend washing his Porsche out of a bucket in a metered parking space. And yet it got a 10-year abatement of taxes. Why? Well, because... it's... "dense."

John Warner, PDC housing guru, explained it this way:

Throughout the 30-year history of the tax abatement, the program's purpose has not been to provide low-income housing. The purpose has been to stimulate housing development in the central city and urban renewal areas by helping to make projects financially feasible. The program has been successful in this regard, producing over 5,000 apartment units. The Alexan project is no exception to this history.

In September 2004, the Portland City Council changed the program to require some affordable units in projects that receive the tax abatement. The Alexan project is the first project to apply for a tax abatement since the affordable housing requirement was added to the program.

The Alexan�s developer and the Bureau of Planning and PDC staffs have never argued that the purpose of the tax abatement was to provide low-income housing. The justification for the tax abatement has always been to make the project, not just the affordable units, financially feasible.

I hate to see Portland become an apartment tower jungle, especially since all the jobs are fleeing to the suburbs. But it's particularly galling to know that the people building these things are paying zilch toward the cost of public services for a full decade. Who needs this?

For Pete's sakes, people! If luxury apartments and condo towers are not financially feasible, then just DON'T BUILD THEM!

Ah, but the beat always goes on in Portland. I was reading in The Hollywood Star the other day that the guy who wants to put a six-story condo project at the already-traffic-choked corner of NE 33rd and Broadway is going to ask for his own 10-year property tax abatement on the ground that it's "transit-oriented development." Give me a break! Sure, the Max tracks run just below there along the Banfield Freeway, but there's no station within nine blocks. And the closest station toward downtown, where presumably the transit-oriented jobs are, is at Lloyd Center, which, hello? Is around 27 blocks away.

A grand total of two buses go by that corner, the 10 and the 77. This qualifies for a 10-year property tax abatement? Does anybody who builds apartments on a bus line now get a tax holiday around here?

And here I thought George Bush was the only one who couldn't manage a tax system.

Wednesday, September 7, 2005


"Yeah, I heard your damn warnings. Go stick 'em where the sun don't shine! I don't care how bad it is, or how bad it's going to get. And I sure don't care what you think of me. I'm sticking it out right where I am. I'm a grownup, and I know what I'm doing. Now go away and leave me alone before I shoot your a*s!"

-- America, November 3, 2004

Coulda been a contender

On Sunday, we finally got around to something I've wanted to do all summer: take the kids to a Portland Beavers baseball game. For those of you who don't follow such things, the Beavers are a minor league team at the AAA level, just one step below the major leagues. They play their home games at PGE Park, an old, city-owned stadium which was spruced up and renamed in a financially unwise, overly expensive, but aesthetically pleasing refurbishing a few years back.

It was a day game -- exactly what I had wanted, as for me day baseball is so much better than night baseball. And the weather turned out perfect. Partly cloudy, low- to mid-70s. We snagged a parking spot on the street a few blocks away, stepped right up to the ticket window, and bought four good seats.

There's nothing like a baseball game, especially with the little ones in tow. They didn't pay too close attention to the game, but they enjoyed the scene, and they seemed content to watch me watch the action. "If they throw you a bad one and you don't swing at it, that's a ball," I announced, no doubt annoying everyone else around us. "And after four balls, you get to walk over to that base over there."

"Is that cheating?" asked daughter no. 1.

"No, honey, that's what you're supposed to do. Now if they throw you a good one and you don't swing at it, that's a strike, and you only get three strikes. Like the song says, 'It's one, two, three strikes, you're out.'

"Oooh, he swung at a bad one."

We ate some pretty decent ballpark fare -- the prices were high, but unlike at the Blazer games, it somehow seemed like it was for a good cause. I chowed down on a bratwurst with kraut -- my first in many years, so don't tell Dr. Lou -- and relaxed with the girls while the players went through their paces. We didn't know a single one of their names, but we were together as a family in a nice place on a great day. If we wanted to, we could listen to what the friendly announcer was saying, because the sound system was just loud enough. But mostly we were too busy concentrating on the sights, the smells, and the company. I was grinning from ear to ear.

Now, on the way into the stadium, I had filled out an entry form for a raffle to win a grill. The contest was sponsored by the Oregon Chicken people, and the prize was a Traeger pellet grill. I had seen one of these in action before, under the well-tempered spatula of none other than Master Chef Randy Leonard, of all people, and I would have been willing to let go of my beloved 20-plus-year-old Weber for this kind of upgrade.

Wouldn't you know it? About halfway through the fourth inning, a couple of park personnel came by. "Are you Jack?" They invited me to head down to the seating area behind home plate, just next to the visiting Tucson Sidewinders' dugout, to participate in the final phase of the contest to get the grill.

And so at the next break in the action I said goodbye to the girls and headed down there, where I assumed a position on the bench next to seven other folks who had been weeded out of the crowd of several thousand for a chance at the big prize. We were soon separated into two groups of four, and told to await further instructions.

What a great vantage point. We were actually sitting right at field level, with nothing but a mesh screen separating us from home plate, seemingly 25 feet away. I've watched a fair amount of baseball in my life, but never from such a good seat. From there, it definitely does not look like a video game any more. It's leather and wood and brown dirt and sweat and spit and brute strength and speed.

After a while, some young gals came by and explained how the grill would be won. Between innings there would be two simultaneous games of musical chairs on the field, which would narrow the field down from eight to two. The two survivors would then join the Oregon Chicken mascot on top of the Beavers dugout for a chicken dance contest. The better of the two chicken dancers would take home the grill.

While we spent the next inning or so brooding about this news, one of the other three people in my group recognized me. It was Glenn Robles, a former student of mine and now a well-established trial attorney in town. It was fun catching up. We both said we weren't sure that we really wanted to be in the chicken dance, but I think we were both lying.

From time to time, I would wave up at the wife and kids. I knew what the Mrs. would be thinking. As soon as she saw those musical chairs, she'd know I didn't have a chance. Not quite pushy enough. She, on the other hand, would have been a lock for the dugout roof. If you've ever seen my bride at an outdoor show with general admission seating on a lawn somewhere, you know that she can dash through the admission gate and hustle down to bogart a seat with the best of them. The pressure on me was mounting.

Continue reading "Coulda been a contender" »

Tuesday, September 6, 2005

"Brownie, you're doing a heck of a job"

The same former frat president (now our President) who's ultimately in charge of federal disaster relief is also sticking our necks way out on the economy, war and peace, the "struggle against tera" (or whatever it's called these days), international relations, energy policy, civil rights... As I've been saying since the election, we as a nation will now get what we deserve. Thanks to everyone in the red states, and to the Democratic National Committee, for making it happen.

Operation Roundtrip

The Portland Business Alliance and the city's police bureau have teamed up to institute a groundbreaking new program to help cure the homelessness problem currently plaguing downtown. Called "Operation Roundtrip," the pilot project will find immediate shelter for 100 of the estimated 6100 people currently living on Portland streets.

The plan, which is going to commence implementation this week, involves the following steps:

1. Gather 100 homeless youth and adults from Portland streets.

2. Transport them by bus to Portland International Airport.

3. Fly the group to Baton Rouge, La.

4. Bus the group from Baton Rouge to the outskirts of New Orleans, where they will be released.

5. Homeless group reconvenes at crisis relief locations in New Orleans.

6. Red Cross flies group back to Portland.

7. Group is housed by Red Cross at Washington-Monroe High School for the next six months.

"This is the kind of innovative public-private partnership that makes our city great," a City Hall spokesman told the media. "People want a solution to the homeless problem, and this is a great opportunity to get moving on it."

On the journey from Portland to Louisiana, guests will be taught rudimentary Cajun slang expressions. "We don't want these people to stick out in the crowd," the spokesman declared. "We want them to feel how strongly we care about them."

Whose fault is it?

Ours. All of us.

Monday, September 5, 2005

America the Ugly, cont'd

This is just too, too terribly sad.

Vicki Walker for Governor

My favorite politician in the whole state (or anywhere, really) announced today an exploratory campaign for governor. State Sen. Vicki Walker from Eugene will be taking on Special K in the primary, and perhaps Ron Saxton in the general.

Am I ever down with Vicki for Governor. Because Neil G. doesn't deserve a third term.

Why not the Convention Center?

The City of Portland has decided to house hundreds of victims of Hurricane Katrina at Washington High School in the city's Buckman neighborhood. City Hall insiders report that the first and most obvious choice for a relocation site, the Oregon Convention Center, was considered and rejected Friday afternoon at a high-level meeting in the mayor's office. Here now are the --

Top 10 Reasons the Hurricane Victims Won't Be Housed at the Convention Center

10. There's only one Starbucks in the whole place.

9. PDC experts are predicting a major surge in convention business any time now.

8. Obscure clause in City Charter requires building to be empty 85 percent of time.

7. Food quality could lead to charges of racism.

6. Don't want to disturb Greater Portland Metro Pretzel Benders Association meeting in early October.

5. Grave danger that evacuees would start squatting in the many empty units in nearby Merrick Luxury Apartments.

4. Refugees unlikely to be able to afford the $3 bottles of water.

3. Don't want to get the place all yucky until after we spend the $200 million on the hotel.

2. Desperate plea from manager at nearby Burgerville: "We are already low on the Walla Walla onion rings."

and the No. 1 Reason the Hurricane Victims Won't Be Housed at the Convention Center:

1. Voodoo practitioners in the group would immediately sense the curse.

Are these people's 15 minutes over yet?

If you can handle a somewhat slow pdf load (and I do mean load), dig this:

"Ambition is still a little bit of a dirty word in Portland," he says. "For some reason, people get here and they slow down. And they get stoned a lot."
The Stennies show up on this blog and criticize me for being "down on Portland." But then they fall all over pretentious "geniuses" like this who are just duping them.

Maybe these two need a grant from Harvard, and they can go resume sitting around with their good buddy the architecture critic and telling each other how wonderful they are. (Via My Whim is Law.)

Sunday, September 4, 2005

Topic A - holiday weekend edition

Some thoughts on the New Orleans Disaster:

1. There are 500 or so refugees coming to Portland soon, I am reliably informed, and many of them will be staying at the old Washington High School at SE 11th and Stark. Up to 1,000 total may be coming to Oregon. That's just 50 more than the number of politicians who will be taking credit for it. But I'm expecting an outpouring of love and support by the everyday people in these parts that will make the whole nation proud. Apparently Portland is one of 19 centers for refugee shelter and resettlement around the country.

And guess what? The grossly under-appreciated Buckman neighborhood gets another social service project. Unlike many of society's other problems with which Buckman has been saddled, this one will be a labor of love in which people from all over the region will join. Maybe they could take one of Buckman's two methadone clinics back to the suburbs with them.

And hey, the city could show its appreciation by postponing construction on the aerial tram in SoWhat untiil the Buckman swimming pool is fixed. As if.

On a more serious note, I hope our city fathers know what they are getting themselves into. Judging from this report out of Houston, there had better be armed police officers, and plenty of them, ready to keep an eye on things at the shelter around the clock.

2. The proposition that "God punished evil with Katrina" is utterly repugnant to me.

God apparently does believe, however, that the Democrats should have the U.S. Senate back.

3. Chertoff (Homeland Security) and Brown (FEMA) are so pitiful. The one guy's previous job was as commissioner of some Arabian horse league. Make up your own joke. I'm in a foul enough mood, the best I can do is that his career is now on its way to the glue factory.

You can bet that these two fine and capable attorneys will both be looking for work in the new year, if not before.

4. I'm not at all surprised at the utter lawlessness in New Orleans after the flood. I visited there once, and although it was truly a magical place, I have never, ever in my life been as intimidated as I was by the thugs walking around the French Quarter, 24/7. (And I have lived in Newark, N.J., and New Haven, Conn. -- scary places nos. 2 and 3 on my list, respectively.)

Now upwards of 100 N.O. police officers have deserted, and two have taken their own lives. Again, I am not surprised. It was a largely lawless place even before the storm hit. Life as a peace officer in that atmosphere was hard enough.

5. O.k., it's laced with profanity, but I think this blog post speaks for a lot of people right now.

UPDATE, 11:21 p.m.: The TV talking heads are predicting 800 to 1,000 refugees in Oregon. No word on exactly how many will be at Washington High, but it sounds like they might all be in Portland. And fortunately, Potter's running this one. No long vacation for that guy. He spent his weekend getting this together. I am so glad we have him.

Meanwhile, County Sheriff Bernie Giusto has intervened -- he says he can take hundreds at the otherwise-empty, brand-spankin'-new Wapato Jail. I dunno. Given the charges of racism that are flying around, I don't think housing the refugees behind bars and barbed wire is such a great idea.


What's goofier: This or this? (Both via TaxProf Blog.)

Farewell to the Chief

When he was first named to the Supreme Court by President Nixon, William Rehnquist was seen by the liberals of the day as a grave threat to civil liberties. Then-Chief Justice Burger and Justice Blackmun, the "Minnesota Twins" whom Tricky Dick had previously appointed, were also scary to those who had revered the Warren Court. But Rehnquist was young, he was smart, and it looked as though he would take no prisoners advancing right-wing causes. Some predicted that he would eventually damage the Court itself.

As I recall, the suspicions about him were heightened when it was revealed in one of the Watergate tapes that Nixon had wished out loud to his aides that that nice fellow "Renchburg" down at the Justice Department might throw cold water on some aspect or other of the investigation that eventually led to Nixon's resignation. I'm sure "Renchburg" had known nothing about the President's desires for him at the time, but that sort of White House "recognition" did nothing to quell the fears.

The worriers may have been quite right about his political leanings, but they were wrong in their assessment of Rehnquist as an institutional threat. Regardless of whether one agrees or disagrees with his opinions -- Bush v. Gore was just one of many that were a little hard for some of us to swallow -- he did a good job as a justice, and a good job as the chief. There was a quiet dignity about him, even a playful side at times, and he seemed quite cognizant of the respect and dignity that everyone deserves. He was very human. He battled an addiction to painkillers at one point, and he held on to his position at the Court to the very end despite an awful terminal illness that would have pushed a less dedicated soul into a hasty retirement.

Now we face a future in which the new justices coming on board will likely make the late Chief look moderate. May God rest his soul, and help the rest of us.

Saturday, September 3, 2005


First there were "web logs," then "weblogs," then "blogs." Fine.

But when did some lame copy editor come up with "web blogs"?

One more time

Rob Kremer of the Kremer and Abrams Show on KXL radio has decided to do a live show tomorrow (Sunday) morning, rather than have the station play a rerun. Since his co-host Marc Abrams is still on vacation, I'll be filling in again. Nice of Rob to ask. Nine to 11 a.m., 750 AM here in greater Portlandia. Same place that you hear everybody's favorite, Lars Larson, and his soothing words of wisdom on weekdays. Listen in, call in. If you're in church, you can whisper into your cell phone.

Hard to believe

Gore's going to run for President again. Kerry, too.

Hate Bush? Then please write these guys each a letter and beg them to forget it. Hillary, also.

Black people loot, white people find

This week's events shook me to the point that I didn't make my usual runs of the blogosphere. But thanks to my blogbuddy Tony Pierce in L.A., I was just now able to catch up on one heck of a screwup by Yahoo. I know how they feel, but that's a bad one.

Friday, September 2, 2005

You ask a silly question...

Newspapers and magazines fill up their unsold advertising space with "house ads" -- ads that tout the papers and mags themselves. There's a doozy of a house ad in today's O -- it's on page 3 of the Metro section of the edition we had delivered. In it, the newspaper enthusiastically pats itself on the back for its recent stories on the Portland police and firefighters disability system. The text of the ad is pretty funny:

When The Oregonian reported the huge cost of Portland's police and fire disability program, readers reacted with outrage. Readers demanded change. The city has responded, with a series of proposed charter amendments to reform the system.

Reports like this don't happen easily. They take weeks of digging in the best of circumstances -- reading reports, conducting interviews, tracking down stacks of obscure statistics. When the agency in question stonewalls -- as the disability board did -- the analysis takes that much longer, and the work is that much harder. But this is the kind of hard-hitting and informative journalism that defines Oregon's largest daily newspaper and makes us a watchdog on issues that matter to all of us.

Oh, please. As if no one else had noticed the problems in the system? And the advertising department left out the part about "We also dug up some drinking and spousal abuse stories from Commissioner Leonard's past, and splashed them around for no good reason. Might as well have some fun smearing someone while you're doing the hard, hard work of investigative journalism."

Then there's "Reports like this don't happen easily." How utterly unprofessional. Can you imagine any other paid service provider having the nerve, not to mention the perverted self-image, to say something like that to its clients?

Perhaps the silliest part of the ad, however, is the glaring headline: "If we didn't blow the whistle on the police and firefighter disability program, who would?" Gee, let's see: the Willamette Week, the Portland Tribune, the Portland Business Journal, bloggers, the City Club? Or hey, how about the Washington Post? You know, the people who have beaten you to nearly every really big scandal story that's mattered to anyone around here for decades.

The Oregonian's track record as an investigative publication is weak at best. It will take many years of work as good as, or better than, its police and fire disability stories to make it worthy of serious recognition in that realm. To run quarter-page ads declaring itself a leader in the area is, to be honest, pathetic.

Elsewhere, the O's house ads are trumpeting the advent of something they're calling "high definition news." I'm wondering what that can be. Perhaps it goes something like this. Here's the old, low-definition Oregonian:

Now here's the new, high-definition version:

We'll get to see for sure if that's what it is on the 18th.

Peak America

There's been a lot of talk lately of the "peak oil" crisis. Supposedly we're about to be confronted with noticeable scarcity of crude oil, and our economy, heavily dependent on petroleum products, is due to collapse. Soon, say the proponents of this theory.

I'm not sure I can buy that, but especially in light of the week's events relating to the disaster in Nawlins, I'm convinced that the weaknesses of America have reached the point that our best days are behind us, at least for many decades.

It got me thinking, when were we riding our highest? Before the ruin of the Crescent City. Before 9/11. Before Bush v. Gore. Before the internet bubble burst.

Sometime in the late '90s -- '97 or '98, I guess -- we had Peak America. We couldn't (or wouldn't) keep it going, and there was nowhere to go but downhill.

I don't want to talk, write, or read about whose fault that was. Our descent into constant, meaningless bickering and blaming is the cause as well as the effect of many of our present difficulties. I just want to hear some reflections on what to me is an undeniable truth: America is in decline.

And more importantly, what we can do about it.


Check out this story from last October's National Geographic. (Via The Faithful Skeptic.)

It isn't just Measure 47

Yesterday's In Portland magazine (inside The O) blasted Oregon's property tax system, pointing out the unfairness of comparative tax levels for houses in different parts of town. The story lays the blame on bad old Measure 47 (Son of Measure 5), which essentially froze property tax assessed values in 1995, allowing them to rise only 3 percent a year. Unlike in some other places, the tax assessments don't change when the property is sold. And so if you live in a neighborhood where the real market appreciation has been huge since 1995, you get a tax break compared to a neighborhood where the appreciation hasn't been so great. The "hot" neighborhoods get taxed on assessed values way below market reality, whereas in declining neighborhods, the assessed values and market values are relatively closer together.

Fair enough point, and Willamette Week Lite did a pretty decent job with the story. Even ran photos of Super Vicki and her modest home -- I suspect she'll eventually wish they hadn't done that, although she appears to have cooperated with the article, furnishing a quote that supported the author's obvious point of view.

But there's more to our property tax weirdness than the effect just noted. As the recent rounds of discussion here about the now-rejected tax abatement for the Alexan apartment tower revealed, the process of assessing new construction has some reality detachment as well.

The tower was going to cost $60 million to build, but the city was projecting property taxes of only $750,000 a year, which is another way of saying the assessed value was going to be only around $34 million, by my calculations. How does that happen? If it costs $60 million to build the thing, that's surely the best indicator of its market value on the day it opens. So how does the initial assessed value of the new building get cut down to just over half of that? Surely that isn't a function of Measure 47, is it?

The Alexan saga has spun off several new avenues that I've got to explore when time permits. That one is high on the to-do list.

Thursday, September 1, 2005


It's one thing to read about something like this when the setting is somewhere in Asia or Africa.

But this is quite another.

Thousands of refugees from Hurricane Katrina boarded buses for Houston, but others quickly took their places at the filthy, teeming Superdome, which has been serving as the primary shelter. At the increasingly unsanitary convention center, crowds swelled to about 25,000 and desperate refugees clamored for food, water and attention while dead bodies, slumped in wheelchairs or wrapped in sheets, lay in their midst.

God help the "Fat Man"

Music legend Fats Domino is missing in the Ninth Ward of New Orleans, where he had planned to "ride out" the storm. And many other famous music figures there have also been impacted.

UPDATE, 6:26 p.m.: Looks like Fats made it to safety. Praise be.

Most days, yes

A friend of mine sends along this image with the question, "Don't you feel like doing this to at least one person a day?"

America the Ugly

"If Bush didn't have us blowing hundreds of billions in Iraq, we could have reinforced the levees of New Orleans."

"Listen to those liberals. Now they're blaming Bush for the hurricane. What a bunch of moonbats."

Dear Lord, what has happened to my country? A city of a half-million people has been destroyed. Hundreds, maybe thousands, are dead. Demon-possessed people are looting what's left and shooting police officers in the face.

And this is how we're talking to each other about it?

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